Friday, August 27, 2010

Conflict Composting: Composting Essentials

Twenty-five years ago I was studying International Development at Bethel College in Kansas. One required course was International Agriculture. This was a practical class with a real garden containing real soil and plants. While the instructors, Paul and Mary McKay, incorporated all the ‘state of the art’ sustainable agriculture practices known in that day, what I remember most was making a compost pile. It has stuck with me all these years that what I would rather do is grow soil than food.

Compost needs a few essential things to work really well. Those include green matter providing the nitrogen (fresh grass clippings work well here), brown matter providing the carbon (leaves, cornstalks, sawdust) and some source of the microbes (either rich soil or manure of some kind). The right amount of moisture is needed as is some air. If conditions are right the microbes start to eat the other matter and can create enormous amounts of heat.

I spent the morning helping my brother-in-law make a compost pile from his years of accumulated yard waste. Grass clippings, wood chips from a downed tree, leaves, vegetable stalks, husks and cobs were all heaped in separate piles. He had gotten a steaming pile of cow manure complete with swarming flies for the composting venture. We layered these materials together in a wire bound bin in the garden. In the center of the compost pile was a chimney to let the center breathe and let heat escape. The picture to the right is the composting 'layer cake' we made.

While laboring to bring these materials together, I began to think of conflict transformation as actually conflict composing. In the next few blog postings I will attempt to spin this metaphor out. Stay tuned . . .

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