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carbon cycle

The devotees of The Global Warming mythology scurry about, screaming and yelling all sorts of things, but some of what they have to say is correct. Their anti-burning crusades have accidental bits of merit, but to make the most sense of it you must understand the carbon cycle.

Carbon is a major part of our air. Plants use solar energy to convert carbon gas into organic carbon-based molecules. This takes a whole lot of energy. Much more importantly, it STORES a whole lot of energy in those carbon-based organic molecules. That energy can be released as heat when you burn dried organic carbon (grass, trees, paper, etc.) It can also be used as fuel by herbivores who extract the energy by eating the carbon-based organic molecules.

It can turbo-charge the plant growth in your soil if the carbon molecules are used as mulch and fertilizer. The heavy work of converting inorganic carbon to organic carbon has been done by plant photosynthesis. Now everybody and everything can take advantage of that energy store in their own way. Unless you purposelessly burn it as a way to dispose of it.

Compost is 8 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen – more or less. Put a bunch of poop in with your organic carbon. Keep it moist. Turn it once in a while. VIOLA! Rich, powerful compost and soil that is BLACK with high-energy organic carbon. Rocket fuel for your garden. A treasure, not a problem.

I find fish emulsion to be a convenient downtown source of nitrogen to help digest the carbon… just mix a bit in a bucket and slosh it on your compost. Of course food scraps are major protein sources for your compost (and don’t go believing anybody who tells you this or that doesn’t compost … if it came from nature it will happily go back via the compost heap). Bags of steer or poultry manure are also good on a small neighborhood scale. Just try to keep that 8:1 carbon/nitrogen ratio going as evenly distributed as possible.

Some would-be instructors say, “Don’t put meat in your compost” … or cardboard … or cotton … or fat …. Foolishness. If it has been more or less unconverted from the way nature grew it, she can take it back in your compost heap. I once had a badly wounded 4-point buck come die in my yard. He quite literally disappeared into my compost heap. I never did find a trace.

Do not put huge pieces or major masses of any one thing cuz that will slow the process. DO make sure the carbon and nitrogen stay in reasonable balance. Do make sure it is moist. Stir it up once in a while.

I used to make the most wonderful compost I’ve ever seen in 100 cubic yard batches, using a tractor and dump truck, adding rock powder and oyster shell to the raw pile to insure a broad spectrum of trace minerals. I sold it for triple the rate plain compost. I sold out every batch and when I finally did the cost accounting, had to quit giving it away. But in your own yard, labor is free and quality is king.

I’m a simple homeowner with a wheelbarrow and shovel now. I turn the pile by adding to one end and taking from the other rather than turning the whole thing over weekly. It gets watered every time the garden gets watered. It’s a poor substitute, but it works eventually.

Garden supply shops sell drums and frames made for the purpose. Others string scrounged pallets together to contain a heap. Learn to use any one of them and they will work fine. Remember the keys are in the carbon/nitrogen ratio, keeping it mixed, keeping it aerated and keeping it moist. It is simple, but will not work at all if you don’t get any one part of it right.

Compost heaps digest everything and keep that carbon in your ground. It is money in your soil bank and a foolish shame to use unproductive fire to release the organic carbon energy into the air.