The Road to Microherding

At least twice a year, the Iowa air is saturated with pesticides and fungicides.  Additionally, multiple times a year the crop lands are saturated with synthetic nutrients.  While the goal may be disease and pest control for crops, the effects have been a slow and steady process of chipping away at the macro and microorganisms that make up the soil food web.  Ultimately this affects anything that depends on soil to survive, that would be…everything.  Pesticides cannot be  specific to one bug, they damage all bugs and organisms.  In the same fashion, a fungicide is not specific to one fungus, it affects all fungi.

After decades of applying fungicides and pesticides to crop lands, the beneficial soil organism population is dwindling.  Without these organisms the soil food web is broken and an onslaught of issues arise.  The soil’s ability to retain water is reduced, thirsty plants become susceptible to disease, plant growth slows down, nutrient cycling comes to a halt, and the nutrients wash and blow away.   In this way, the three feet of topsoil that existed in Iowa just 150 years ago, has eroded to a 6-8 inches of top soil.  Currently Iowa loses soil at the rate of 10-15 tons per acre per year.  To put this into perspective, there are about 30.7 million farm acres in Iowa, the amount of soil lost is equal to the weight of 2,049,837 elephants.  Remember please, this is annually.

Soil erosion is a big deal.  All parts of the ecosystem are subject to an onslaught of difficulties when it happens.  The Dead Zone ( 6-7,000 sq. mile hypoxic zone in the ocean void of marine life) in the Gulf of Mexico is a direct result of the erosion and nitrogen run-off caused by current animal husbandry practices and farming practices that over use synthetic fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides to their crops.  Remember the Dust Bowl of the 1930′s in America?  Three million people were displaced because of it.  Why did it happen? Farming practices that consumed soil instead of enriching and building soil.  The fact is, poor farming has resulted in devastation throughout the world.  China now has what they call “the fifth season”, in which they hunker down and seal their houses in preparation for the annual dust bowl to take place.  Why are there literally tons of dust in the air? Erosion. Erosion makes it difficult to farm, graze animals, feed people, house people, have clean drinking water, have pristine rivers and oceans, the list goes on and on.  So if you don’t get it by now, I became a Micro-herder because of all of this, and living in the bread basket of America opened my eyes to it.

My Grandfather-in-Law once said, “One thing they’re not making more of  is land”.  While this is true, what we can make more of is soil.  Via thermal composting, making soil is what I do; I am a Microherder.  A Microherder is  a steward to microorganisms.  Beneficial organisms are not different from people in that they need oxygen, water, food, and of course, a dwelling.  Essentially, Microherders create an environment for the organisms of their choice in which to flourish.  Sourdough bakers, beer brewers, kombucha, sauerkraut, and yogurt makers, gardeners and composters are examples of those who microherd.

I enjoy cultivating the beneficial organisms that keep soil from becoming dirt.  In the last five years I have gained much knowledge of thermal composting, what works, what doesn’t work. I am also learning that the more I learn, the less I know.  Yet, with each compost pile I build I learn so much more.  Eventually this blog will become a website, so far, this is where we are at.

Let’s build some soil!

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3 responses to “The Road to Microherding

  1. Pingback: Go micro: five ways to get small

  2. Hi, Molly, You have many accurate thoughts. Composting accumulates useful life force, whether from compost piles we make or by our encouraging the land to compost mown cover crops as I plan to do on my upcoming organic farm in NC. John Jeavons promotes bio-intensive gardening and focuses us on planting cover crops on half the garden area, and the other half as production crops. I plan to interplant in cover crops as living mulches we will mow like lanes between crops. Thus the soil food web will constantly be nourished. No erosion, good aeration and water retension and gentle nutrient and moisture release to the production crops. I also plan unique greenhouses which are part geothermal and are bubble-insulated. That way, whilst building the soil food web through planting and overseeding covers with added rock dusts as microbe foods, we shall achieve your goals. I hope to meet you one day and thanks for doing what you do to share with others the miracle of life in God’s soils. An old friend was with Maharishi University and I noticed you are/here. Brava!More positive energy being personally composted and accumulated for service and joy. Namaste and God’s best to you, Molly.

  3. Dear Molly.
    Although I live in north west France I am English. I am almost 78 years old and have started my first compost pile, one metre by one metre, held in place by a similar wire fence to the one you used in your video. Please can you advise me what I should do when the compost pile stops staying hot after I have turned it many times? The pile has not completely become a crumbly soil like texture it still has some lumpy bits in it, but is quite dark in colour and moist and looks very like the one in your video where you test for water content. I started this pile late October or early November and for much of that time it has been 65 degrees centigrade while turning regularly but it has dropped to just above ambient temperature which is six degrees c and continuing to turn it has not produced any increase. The water content is as per your video. Many thanks, Roland.

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