Friday, May 22, 2009

TTPs or A Jump Off the Deep End

Cameron says...

If I may borrow a term from the military, I'd like to talk about the TTPs or Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures we plan to employ on our homestead. Our intentions are to do “organic” gardening, (which I say as if to distinguish from all the other types of gardening. What else was there for the first umpteen millennia of recorded history?) including orchard keeping, raising chickens, keeping a couple cows and/or goats for milk, beekeeping, canning and preserving, and pottery. To start with. These are the activities we intend to learn and practice to keep a good food supply going. Depending on how much land we have, we might also start a small fish hatchery or stock our lake or pond as well as harvest timber from our forest if we have one. Of course, we may have to either build a home based business or produce a surplus of crops to sell on a small scale locally or work part time away from the homestead. But for the most part, we want to be self-sufficient and sustainable in our own rite. Oh, and one more thing.

We’re going to compost humanure.

Yes, I said “humanure”, and yes, it is what it sounds like. It is the recycling of human waste by composting it and returning it to the soil where it would be used to—yes—grow food. I’ve always been somewhat of a revolutionary. I am fascinated by new ideas that make sense even if those ideas are not widely accepted. I am also fascinated by new possibilities, even if attaining those possibilities would make others look at me as though I am diving into the deep end of a pool with no water. Now before you go calling any government agencies on us, consider a few things. Every day you eat chemicals that are known to the State of California (and probably a large number of other entities who disclose neither their identities nor their knowledge of the facts) that can cause cancer. Those ingredients don’t include the pesticides and chemical fertilizers that were used in growing the peas in the casserole or the broccoli in the summer medley. You also drink water that came from your toilet and was recycled and treated with chemicals in an industrial plant. Using recycled biological waste to grow food is the same as drinking water from the toilet except that composting humanure uses natural means while recycling and treating municipal sewage uses chemicals. Composting the excreta of any species allows earthworms (whose raw feces, called castings, is considered to be finished compost in and of itself) microbes, and heat to destroy harmful bacteria and mix up the remaining nutrients and elements into a usable fertilizer. This is not the process of dumping feces directly on a tomato plant. This is the process of allowing nature’s magicians to do the job for which they were designed by providing a link for material at the end of the ecological chain to return to the beginning of the chain. And, as evidenced by the existence of man without technology from the beginning of time until the Industrial Revolution, I’d say nature is doing just fine.

Besides, people reuse human waste in Asia all the time. If you want to tell 1.3 billion Chinese people that the agricultural system that has sustained them for the last 7000 years is wrong, feel free.

In my experience telling people about this part of our plan, I have already met with what you might call “violent opposition from mediocre minds,” to be intimate with Professor Einstein. The civilized, modernized, urbanized Western mind thinks itself to be above what it perceives as dirty, tedious, or humble. I would submit that working in the garden is all three, as is saving and transporting one’s own feces from a collection point to a compost pile. However, it is in these and all other humble actions that true peace and contentment are found. You might say that work, all its attendant forms, and all its costly, dirty consequences are the best kept secrets of happy, secure people. To finish this thought, I will defer to my new friend Joseph Jenkins, who wrote a book I’ve come to love lately: The Humanure Handbook. It is part instruction manual, part philosophy treatise and part political commentary. I’ve only read the first four chapters myself, but I plan to finish as soon as time allows.

Concerning why composting is not appealing to many people—This passage addresses the root of the problem of commericalistic, urbanized fundamental beliefs about mankind’s relationship with the earth. Mr. Jenkins had been invited to speak at a convent about humanure. Surprised by this invitation, he asked his host about their interest in his book.

“'We are the Sisters of Humility' they responded. 'The words “humble” and “humus” come from the same semantic root, which means “earth.” We also think these words are related to the word “human.” Therefore, as part of our vow of humility, we work with the earth. We make compost, as you’ve seen. And now we want to learn how to make compost from our toilet material. We’re thinking about buying a commercial composting toilet, but we want to learn more about the overall concepts first. That’s why we asked you to come here.'

“This was deep shit. Profound. A light bulb went off in my head. Composting is an act of humility. The people who care enough about the earth to recycle their personal by-products do so as an exercise in humility, not because they’re going to get rich and famous for it. That makes them better people. Some people go to church on Sunday, others make compost. Still others do both. Others go to church on Sunday, then throw all their garbage out into the environment. The exercising of the human spirit can take many forms, and the simple act of cleaning up after oneself is one of them. The careless dumping of waste out into the world is a self-centered act of arrogance — or ignorance.....” (pp 69-70)

In essence, we want our homestead to utilize the infrastructure which the Master Scientist, Mother Earth, has given to us as a free and everlasting gift. To depart from the wholesomeness and the ease of use of this natural system is, in our opinion, to take a jump off the deep end.

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