Organic Food.....Part One
The one task that never ends, busy or not busy: compost. We get trash pickup one day a week out here in the mountains. Our choice is to throw all of our food scraps from prep......300 to 500 pounds a week....into the dumpster and let it sit all week, stinking and drawing flies and rats....or compost it and turn it into the world's best soil.
The work is a bitch. It is like making a garbage lasagne: layering pineapple skins, orange peels, fennel and leek stalks, egg shells, sardine bones and all that into a pile with straw and chicken poop. There are sights and smells that mere mortals rarely see: pizza dough baked into beautiful loaves by the chicken shit powered heat engine of the pile. Oranges that were rejected by my anal retentive crew.....still eminently edible after two or three weeks marinating in.......well.
Also, it is physically exhausting turning this muck over with a pitch fork. It is the time during the week that I actually drip with sweat....despite working most days in a 120 degree kitchen.
Good compost requires four ingredients: material (kitchen trimmings), nitrogen (chicken poop from Bob The Egg Man), cellulose (hay, straw and oak leaves) and oxygen (me turning the stuff over every couple of days). The compost pile is like a British carburetor...it needs to be finely tuned. Too dry, bad. Too wet, really bad. Too much straw, bad. Too much material, really bad. Too little poop, really bad. Too much poop, hard on the neighbors.
I try to time my compost turning times with the rhythm of the Camps. I used to work at the crack of dawn, figuring no one was up. Wrong. The Cachagua people party until late, but they have to get up early.....bitterly hungover.....to work to pay for their sins. Compost stench at 6:30 am is not a good plan for hungover redneck wage-earners with weapons and giant trucks.
Now, I shoot for dusk. Folks are home, they have had a few pops....they are mellow.
As recompense, I offer the finished product to anyone that has a garden. Only the old Mexicans take me up on the offer. Everyone else is too busy working to have a garden....or even flowers in front of their trailers.
This is normal life to a significant portion of the population. I commiserate about my compost turning anaerobic with the Tassajara monks....with the Rana Creek geeks....with Bob the Egg Man. I commiserate about the difficulty of training someone else to help with the compost......
No..... it is too important. If it gets fucked up, it is too ugly to contemplate. You have to do it yourself. The stuff has to be turned to keep it aerobic.
Bob the Egg Man knows: "I have turned compost every day of my life.....except when I was in Vietnam."
Oh, well....I guess we can let you slide for THAT duty......But you know the Viet Cong were composting.....
Bob: "Oh, yeah. Every village. We just burned our shit with gasoline and occasional C4......"
You have to love a guy who remembers Vietnam with affection because it was less hard than running an egg ranch in Pajaro....
And I love watching the look that Egg Man Bob levels on the Pebble Beach ladies who: don't say please or thank you; interrupt Bob when he is talking; ask if his chickens are free range.
Talk about Anger Management.
Composting is 5% of the work involved in producing organic food.