zondag 23 maart 2014

Numbers and what is behind it.

This high it will be in April.
Hendrik: "A few years ago I started making compost... with everything I had available. At that time we had not an ounce of usable compost, so I used our little kitchen waste in addition to any natural material that could reasonably be composted. Wet or dry, hard or soft, it did not matter. By trial and error, we now have past two 'compost seasons' and now I know what to do and know what I want. And not least, along the way, I became aware of the enormous wealth in which we live. And do not get me wrong, this wealth has nothing to do with money. What I mean by this is that we have the freedom and the resources to do what is good for us.

With the compost I made Stella has set up a thriving vegetable garden, despite her newly discovered pretty nasty clear cell cancer. She was operated twice, last spring and summer and it took her the whole year to recover. And now she is already up and about with even more spirit and joy, embracing life. Enjoying it like a victory. The medical care here in Portugal appeared to be a big help. And we are thankful that the state provides good medical care for everyone. You know how important this is when you are confronted with an acute disease that needs operating, like she was.

That I can do this work, despite my old bones. And that Stella has found the strength, to proceed with the ordinary things to do in life, despite her illness. All this together I call wealth."

Planting pregerminated beens.
That is why we find it so important to tell that an apparently poor grassland not needs to cause poverty. You just need to know how you can make something out of it... like making compost from some grasses and herbs and a little dung from a vegetarian animal. Add some seeds, a little water and... voilà... food.

Measurement is knowledge. Knowledge is power.

Hendrik: "Last year I have mowed about 600 m2. of grassland. About 500 m2. down by the river and the other 100 m2. on the hill around the house. The most in the form of hay and grass. I shredded the grasses and made small packages of the hay.

The container, in which I make the packets of hay, has an average diameter of 40 cm. and a height of 30 cm. The content I estimate at 35 liters. If I stamped down the hay well, a packet of approximately 10 to 12 liters remains (one third of the container).

With the harvest of 600 m2. grassland I have filled up 13 big bags with materials (grasses, hay and relatively few kitchen and garden waste). A big bag can be filled with at least 100 packets of hay (prepared with grafting fluid). The average content of a big bag I estimate at 900 liters. I think that it can not quite contain a m3. This means that I have composted 13 x 900 liter material, is equal to 11700 liters. This I conclude to 12000 liters.
So, 600 m2 grassland has delivered 12000 liters material to be composted...
Either 1 m2. grassland brings 20 liters grafted hay.

On going the composting process the volume reduces. More or less, quite depending on the nature of the material, woody and stiff, or wet and sticky. Mostly I see that an average of 50% compost remains. So from the 12000 liters material, about 6000 liters of compost was left.
So 600 m2. grassland yields 6000 liters compost...
Thus 1 m2. of grassland proceeds 10 liters of compost.

This is such a nice round number, that I myself can hardly believe it. But I have watched it over and over and again I come to this number. What is important is that it is based on a dense growing crop. And also high. The hay was up to 80 cm. high when I mowed it. 10 liters per m2. is certainly a nice guide number. For example, to calculate what would yield more ... keeping livestock, or making compost for livelihood.

2014 - March
What is not included in this figure, are the costs of labor and the stuff that you have to invest. For me it did cost quite some trouble mowing, to take the materials up the hill, store it, process it. If all those costs would be calculated, then I do not know whether, on balance, it pays to compost grasses. It depends on how you calculate and where the emphasis lies. Does it lie with the work, or the mechanization and is the quantum of revenue in relation to the financial return? For me, however, it was (and is) worth it. I experience lots of fun doing it. And what was I supposed to do, in order to remain in condition? Go walking perhaps? Then I can just as well take some hay with me..."


A previous test showed us how much water hay can hold. As follows:
Hendrik: "One package of hay that I make in a small container, has an average volume of 10 liters and weighs 850 grams. This package I immerse for 24 hours in grafting fluid and after 48 hours of draining, the package weighs 2425 grams. It can hold 189% of moisture.
The same with 12 packets of hay, as a whole. These dry packets weigh 11200 grams. After 24 hours of grafting, and 48 hours of draining, together they weigh 38000 grams. The 12 packets can hold 240% of moisture.

So I wondered how much water compost can contain. After some back and forth, I will rely on an average of 50%. This I base on the following calculations:

I scoop out the fresh compost from the big bag in a bucket of 15 liters. The contents of the bucket I weight: 13900 g. This compost I let dry for a month. Weight: 6300 grams. The difference is 7600 grams, is equal to 221%. Conclusion: The water compost can hold is more than twice its own weight. But it was with the footnote that the compost was not yet completely dry after a month.

For composting I prefer dried materials. So, rather hay than fresh grasses. Because than I am sure that the moisture in the material includes grafting fluid and not the moisture that is naturally present in the plant. So when I talk about the moisture in the material, I mean the effective moisture, full of bacterial live, necessary for composting. To start with.
This is followed by a process, which should yield compost after 3 months. But what I took from the big bag after 3 months, this winter, I found a bit disappointing. I blame the cold weather. But not as an excuse. Because there was more to it.
The hay that we have used for our composting includes grasses that may have a lower CN ratio than the necessary 19/1. Like for instance straw. These grasses need to digest a longer time. Because, the more protein (nitrate) is present in the material, the faster the digestion takes place.

In most cases, the compost appeared to be ready after 3 months, but not yet entirely digested to the bone. Not what you like to see that compost looks like ... That beautiful black earth in your hands, that makes a nice photo. To get it this far you need more time.

Bacteria continue to 5 degrees Celsius above zero. They are just a bit slower than at higher temperatures. A compost pile is still well active between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius. Such a pile feels cold, but it is still active. If we would leave it untouched for some months it would still digest properly. So, we need patience.

What one can do also, is the re-piling of the compost with fresh manure, for further heating. If you have manure. We have not. So we can not look at this closer. But we do know from experiences in the past, that manure can be a big help with the composting of grass crops. And it is absolutely necessary for the composting of straw. So if you have manure, then this is an absolute must, in order to speed up the process."

Great giant beet leaves and delicious, that you eat like spinach.
Cut it and it grows again. Many times as long as the soil can deliver.

We regularly have put fresh compost on the bottom of the pots in which we plant. On which we put good friable compost on top. The plants mostly also root the bottom layer in the pot. After the harvest, the contents of the pot is sieved. In this way we obtain again good friable compost, which we can use for the next cycle. Fresh compost at the bottom and old on top. In a ratio of 1 fresh to 3 old. Because fresh compost will also extract nitrogen from its environment for further digestion. When the roots have reached the bottom layer of the pot they are already strong enough, so that they can handle this process well. Perhaps it is the other way. They seem to help in the digestion of the compost.

Here we see a test with lettuce. Four pots with lettuce (yellow labeled) we filled with fresh sifted compost. The other pots we filled with fresh sieved compost on the bottom. On there some old compost mixed with some rock dust (from rock as to be found on our land). In the ratio from 1 fresh to 3 old.

The lettuce in the four pots with fresh compost encounter a distinct disadvantage in growth, as the compost is taking nitrates for the benefit of its own digestion. This lettuce is darker in color either, which shows that there is sufficient nitrate present,  but this does not lead to plant growth however.

With this experiment we have discovered that a combination of minerals (or rock dust), together with well-ripened compost, is a good growth medium. A spoonful of rock dust on about 10 liters of compost was sufficient.

This stone is soft enough to drill. Soft stone is calcareous and has a pH of 7. All the harder types of stone are more acidic.  But a lower pH does not really matter if we have to believe microbiologist Elaine Ingham: "The plant controls its pH itself, around its roots."

New findings, 2017:

Over the years we have been using more and more soil (stone dust), in the garden and in the pots also. Once we had a good idea of what Elaine Ingham meant with the 'mineral stock in the soil', we understood that the soil in fact is mineral. She rightly says: "If you do not have your rocks anymore, you need to worry. The rocks contain your mineral stock."

Here in Portugal we first learned about rocky land. The Dutch delta, in fact, only knows alluvial soil. A layer of sea-clay, or river-clay on a layer of sand. Or only (excavated) peat on sand. Around the villages we still find the many cultivated plots of land, where in consecutive years animal manure was brought. So... for us soil always was something that needed fertilization. Not so much the compost, but good animal manure, because peat 'does not represent anything' and sand 'does not represent enough'. And indeed, sand contains a lot of quartz, which is too difficult to digest to be really useful. The alluvial clay often is too compact and will always need extra organic matter...
So we always were busy with manure and compost. But now, here in Portugal we have stone dust, stardust!


?... meditating ... :)


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