Monday, February 6, 2012

Ongoing Nurture - The Compost Bucket Defined

We began photographing our compost buckets because they were another facet of the emotional process of nurture...This excerpt from Three Quarks Daily article defines the microbial process... 
9/5/11 Gut Feeling
We’re exposed first to our mother’s microbial flora during birth; these are the pioneering settlers of our gastro-intestinal (GI) tract.  In the following weeks our gut becomes fully colonized with a diverse array of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Although our gut microbes are generally about an order of magnitude smaller in size than human cells, when counted by the trillions, they add up. 
....diverse community of saprophytic organisms (etymologically derived from sapro = putrid, and phyte = plant) and of an accompanying host of small animals that feed directly upon the decay or that nibble on the saprophytic microbes involved in decomposition.  The outcome of all this caliginous toil is the liberation of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and elements otherwise trapped in the death’s charmless chambers.  The carbon burbles through the soil and back into the atmosphere, the nutrients spill into the soil and are scrambled over by microbes and plants all obeying life’s blind will to amplify. 
One should not be deceived by the daintiness of an intermittently protruding mushroom or toadstool.  These are merely wardrobe malfunctions in the great show of mouldering – unseemly exposed tips of a grand underground organism whose digestively capable filaments (called hyphae) can extend as a network over many miles… yes, miles.  Fungi, in fact, are celebrated among the world’s largest organisms.And this is the enigma of soil diversity therefore: so many animals live on the same diet with little specialization of feeding habits.  How can this be so? 
Animals feed upon microbes to get at get their carbon fix and in doing so take in more nitrogen that they can process.  To deal with this animals excrete that excess.  The bottom line: the piss of armies of small animals sustains this green earth.  Nitrogen gets into soils in other ways, of course, and soil critters perform other functions, but it is hard to overestimate the influence of tiny soil animals – mites and springtails (primitive wingless insect-like critters) – in orchestrating rot. 

We are all shuffling along the waiting line into the Kingdom of Decay. The workings of the upper five centimeters of the Earth’s surface may repay the considerable effort it takes to learn about it.  The payoff may be felt not only in contemplating our collective environmental future but in contemplating our personal demise.

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