Life Underneath the Surface

There was a piece of smoked salmon in the frig that sat there too long and went moldy. As I buried it in the compost pile, I thought about how, in a short time, the worms and microorganisms would turn it into black, fresh smelling soil. Every food scrap from our kitchen for over 40+ years has now been incorporated into garden soil.

   A few weeks ago, I buried some freeze-dried packets of food and an apple inside a paper bag in sand dunes, so that I could get to it on my hike. Just 2 days later, when I dug it up, something had chewed through the paper bag and eaten about 1/4 of the apple. I looked out over the 4-mile long sandy beach and realized that there is life beneath the surface as far as the eye could see, based on the life I found in that one square foot of sand.

   On the subject of gardens, I’m often amazed that when you plant seeds, the plants shown on the seed packet sure enough do grow. The seeds are instruction packets for the elements, telling soil, sun, air and water what to form.

   I got about 4 hours of sleep last night. I’m pretty comfortable in the back of my truck. I sleep in neighborhoods away from street lights, never at the beach or other cop-patrolled areas. It’s a beautiful sunny fall day in Santa Cruz, I’m down here to go to a surprise birthday party for an old and dear friend.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

8 Responses to Life Underneath the Surface

  1. Aloha, been doing the same in returning everything in the kitchen back to the garden. There is no waste and I am always amazed how the microbial activity gives me such nice compost. Thanks Lloyd. I enjoy your blog. Yoo hoo it's nice to enjoy your wanderings and gives me inspiration to do the same – as I go about living my life.

  2. I suspect there are limits to what you should worry about. The stuff from the kitchen will decompose no matter where you send it, so it's best it's sent to your garden compost, which will in the end help produce homegrown food. That way you aren't adding to the trucking of the waste and the trucking of the food. That and as I said, it's gotta decompose somewhere. What else do you do with it?

  3. We should do all we can to prevent the release of CO2 through decomposition. Sun drying and storing in a cool dry place – like the pyramids of Egypt will go a long way towards sequestering this compound.
    Think of Gaia

  4. Whoa, that anti-composting "releases CO2" sentiment above is pretty zany. Humus-building could sequester all anthropogenic carbon emissions and more. Household composting is negligible in the US, but it still sequesters more carbon than it releases if that compost is put into production growing plants. The soils of the earth could be many feet thicker than they are, and that would be a lot of carbon in the right place — not in the air, ocean, or (again, wacky idea:) in some kind of egyptian artificial stasis.

  5. A.J.: Right! Composting is win-win. Not only in terms of sequestering carbon, but in providing food for plants and not dumping it in landfills. When I'm in cities, I find it counter-intuitive to throw food scraps in the garbage.

  6. Denying the time honored Egyptian tradition of sequestering carbon (a practice said to come from extra-terrestials) will only result in extreme temperatures. That is why the Eqyptians did not need air conditioning.

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