Farts. The Savior Of Humanity- And All life, Actually

It might be possible that we can trace our existence to bacteria farts.

Hang with me here a second.

This morning, I reached my hand into a hot compost pile and grabbed ahold of the building blocks of life on earth.

Cupped in my hands were more microorganisms than humans on earth, upwards of ten billion in just a few handfuls. That’s mesophilic bacteria, fungi, nematodes, even a few arthropods and earthworms.

Are you bored yet?


Let’s Talk About Farting Again

So these happy bacteria start to feast on the stuff I put in a pile. The simple sugars found in green plants.

Then they fart methane and CO2, which increases the heat of the pile, which breeds more good bacteria and bacteria eating stuff. When the pile cools a bit, the nematodes stop by, attracted by the bacteria farts. The nematodes are eaten by the arthropods (insects, spiders, rolly polly things, centipedes, earthworms, etc.).

Then the fungi spores flying around the air attach themselves to the pile to work on the brown material.

All of them work to break down this green and brown material into the minerals necessary for plants to do their thing, which is to say, turning the carbon and nitrogen in the soil with the sun’s power to fart oxygen into the sky.

Source: US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Elaine Ingham, Oregon State University

So oxygen is basically plants farts.

Those plants love that carbon, so they hold on to it for dear life. That’s what we call carbon sequestration. Those plants love it so much, they suck it out of the air and trap it in the soil.

It’s a staggering feat that nature does when we let it do its thing. It takes those leaves, food scraps, those wood chips, and that grass and eats away at it — all the discarded junk that the world decided it is done with. It turns that junk into stuff that plants need to fart oxygen.

And we take it for granted! We arrogantly assume that hamburgers grow on trees.

And without those farting mesophilic bacteria, we’d have no life around here. Yet we fertilize, use herbicides and pesticides to kill the pests and weeds around when we neglect those most basic microorganisms. The building blocks of our very existence!

So that’s where I begin. I begin with the soil and meditate on that. I think about the dance that’s happening around there all so that a few trillion electrical signals can be sent from below ground to the plants above.

And I think about the world that could be if we just paid attention to the stuff below our feet a bit more. If we all understood the life that’s built from plants and animals and the tiniest of creatures, perhaps we’d grow better food.

It starts in our own backyards.

So Here’s Your Assignment If You Want To Save The World.

  1. Take all your green material that you have around the house—food waste, yard clippings, etc. and put them in a pile. Coffee grounds and used tea leaves even count as green. Animal waste works, but don’t use cat or dog stuff. If you don’t have enough, ask your neighbors. They’ll gladly give it to you rather than pay to have it hauled away. (⅓ of the pile)
  2. Then take a bunch of brown stuff—straw, dead leaves, finely chopped wood chips, etc. And put them in a pile with the green stuff. (⅔ of the pile)
  3. Keep it a couple of feet high and a few feet wide. Water it a little bit, but not too much. If you water too much, it’ll get stinky. Too much green, and it’ll get stinky. Water it too little, and it’ll take forever because the bacteria won’t have a place to swim around and fart in. Too much brown and it’ll take a year.
  4. Then turn that pile a couple of days per week for the first few weeks. It’ll be hot. Make sure to turn it so that it doesn’t get stinky in the middle. It should smell like the forest floor. Then after a month or so, just let it sit there for a month or more.

What you’ll have is some of the finest soil that the world has to offer you. Rich, black gold. That’s free! Then put that on above your plants and watch them thank you for your efforts with green beans, beets, peppers, or tomatoes. Or leave it there and use it to help you enrich your garden next year. And do it with your kids and teach others to do it.

Then do it again.

And bask in the glow of farting bacteria and plants.

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