Eat and be eaten

It’s a foggy morning in the Delta.  The accumulated heat of the summer is fighting against a sporadic North wind.  The Northern winds will get organized, overwhelm the warm soil, and the geese and ducks, along with their attendant tourists and hunters, will flock back from the frozen North, but so far they are only a trickle.  For now, the vibrant colors  means the Ozarks gets the visitors.  We had a couple of batches at Meadowcreek in the last four days.

food chainOur deluxe resident chef outdid himself for both groups of visitors.  He prepared breakfast for a fastidious  army.  The presentation of the hand-made hash browns was magnificent.  it looked like a macaroni cake. And it all tasted great–from sausage gravy to scratch biscuits to free range eggs.  My job was to round up the breakfasters, which I failed at.

I’d looked everywhere for them, but then, when I’d given up and the lumberjack chef and I had already eaten, there they were.  They’d been up exploring the ghostly conference center..  Nighttime is a little scary up there.  They did spot the resident owl.

When reminded of repast, an artist, an artist-teacher and an ecology professor came down to dig into their forgotten feast.  Their compliments were unending and their pleasure enticing.  I can’t promise you such an enjoyable and satisfying breakfast every time you come to Meadowcreek–only if the lumberjack is there.

Since it was Sunday, they had to get back home to prepare for the week’s lectures.  I remember the little nexus of anxiety in my core on Sunday evenings back when I had a full teaching load.  No more.  It’s been more than 30 years since I escaped the lecture preparation cycle.  (I did have a momentary relapse when I agreed to a Fulbright in Ukraine, but I think that’s excusable.)

Nowadays, I just facilitate the facilitators of our workshops. The one we did on Halloween went exceedingly well for a first try.  Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we’ll have to see how many resilient, job-generating businesses result–since that was the goal of the workshop.  

Meanwhile I began the process of recycling the egg shells and other remains from our hearty Meadowcreek breakfast.  Taking out the garbage is a task that usually falls to me.  I’m not sure why folks don’t want to work with garbage.  I enjoy it.  I used to love to scavenge usable furniture and other household goods from refuse left on the curb.  Near the end of the school year in college towns is the best. Some of my fellow garbagemen earned substantial sums reselling rich kids’ discard.  Just drive around a college town and pick up what the sorority girls and frat boys can’t get into their sports cars for the trip back to their hedge fund father..

I haven’t done that in a while, but I am the Meadowcreek garbage man.  I especially like feeding our compost piles.  We have a new one next to the dorm. Compost piles are always slightly sad to me.  Much like graveyards.  I’ve been able to suppress my fear and grief at graveyards lately, but compost piles still cause momentary melancholy.  This one is especially fraught with memories.  The exterior is cherry branches from a beatiful limb which used to hang over the kitchen entrance.  It wasn’t low enough you had to duck, but you could stroke its speckled bark whenever you walked under it in to breakfast.

I’d dissuaded our more practical residents from cutting it down.  We did have to prune more and more branches as it gradually descended into the dorm roof.  Whenever one touched the roof, we cut it off to avoid damage to the shingles.

Then, one day when I was gone, the entire limb split from it’s trunk and fell on the roof and entrance.  One of our sturdy lumberjacks got it out of the way, saved a few five foot sections to make some furniture, and left the branches to become a compost pile.

Leaves have penetrated all the crevasses between the branches now.  I just dump our meal remains deep inside this stack.

The compost rule of thumb is one third each of green material, brown material and soil.  The brown material is mainly carbon, the green material supplies some nitrogen and the soil provides the digesting worms, insects and microorganisms.

Nitrogen is needed because the microorganisms need it to grow and reproduce.  If they don’t grow and reproduce, there will never be enough of them to colonize the whole pile and turn it into rich dark soil.  Brown material alone will never compost.  Sawdust added to a garden can actually take up nitrogen from the soil and cause weak growth the next season.

Each of us can supply nitrogen to a compost pile.  Instead we send it down to the sewer or septic tank.  Why?  So wasteful.  If you can, please add your daily nitrogen excess to your compost pile.

At Meadowcreek we like compost piles and recycling everything we can.  We know that resilient systems are always composed of eaters and eaten who are also eaters.  These is no waste in a resilient system.  All outputs from a resilient system are valued and  needed inputs to another system.

For dozens of examples and further exploration of this topic see our free online book, Roots of Resilience by clicking this link:

And when you come to Meadowcreek, just enjoy your breakfast, take your pictures and don’t worry about the garbage.  I’ll take care of that.


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