‘Yellow Is the New Green’

Wherein I find support for peeing on the compost pile in this morning’s NYTimes OpEd section.

Urine might be one way forward. Before engineers scoff into their breakfast, consider that since at least 135,000 urine-diversion toilets are in use in Sweden and that a Swiss aquatic institute did a six-year study of urine separation that found in its favor. In Sweden, some of the collected urine — which contains 80 percent of the nutrients in excrement — is given to farmers, with little objection. “If they can use urine and it’s cheap, they’ll use it,” said Petter Jenssen, a professor at the Agricultural University of Norway.

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How soil type affected the 2008 election map

cotton map

This map shows a strong correlation between 2008 presidential election results (red counties = McCain, blue = Obama) and cotton production in 1860 (each dot = 2,000 bales).

Long story short:

  • Marine deposits from Upper Cretaceous period form Selma Chalk, which underlies the area in the crescent through Mississippi and Alabama.
  • That area, and other soils suitable for cotton production, attract plantation owners who concentrate slave labor on the most productive soils growing the most lucrative cash crop, King Cotton.
  • Despite migrations after emancipation, the areas where cotton was king continue to have a large proportion of African-Americans.
  • African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for Obama, producing the blue streak through the otherwise red south.

This correlation was first noted on by Allen Gathman. a genetics professor at Southeast Missouri State University, with further elaboration at The Vigorous North and Strange Maps.

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Compost with a view

I never have enough room to pile up the leaves. So I took a couple old pallets and some stems from last year’s Miscanthus floridulus to make a nice big area on the slope out of sight behind the shed where I can dump them. And it’s got some borrowed scenery, too.

compost with a view

I use the plastic compost bin mostly to keep the dogs out of the kitchen scraps.

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NY Times: How Green Is My Garden?

click to go to full articleIn an op-ed in this morning’s New York Times, Thomas C. Cooper, garden designer and former Horticulture magazine editor, encourages gardeners to become ‘backyard biomass producers’ and feed their lawn waste into energy sector.

IF the government wants to reduce its dependency on imported oil and, in the words of the Department of Energy, “foster the domestic biomass industry,” it has only to stop by my backyard with a pickup. The place is an unlikely but active biomass production center — especially at this season with countless autumn leaves eddying in every nook and cranny — and I’ll happily donate my production to the cause.

Is he serious?

I have two concerns with his reasoning:

  • The energy we collect and store in the biomass of our yards is tiny compared with what we burn.
  • That biomass is best used by being returned to the soils in our yards.

Cooper says he’s overwhelmed by how much biomass he produces. But do you know any other gardeners who complain about having too much compost? Sure, put your woody waste on the curb for local recycling. But for goodness sake, rake the rest onto your beds, around the base of your trees and shrubs, or put it in a modest-sized compost bin.

Improving your soil is a better use of that biomass than burning it.

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