How to Manage Surplus Carbon Loads

Perspectives: Making garbage into greatness

At our house, we turn junk mail and other paper into eggs and apples in just a few short steps.

  1. Dig a hole or get someone to dig one for you.
  2. Fill the hole with paper and jump up and down, or get someone to jump on it for you.
  3. Throw some dirt or straw or weeds or mulch or pine needles or manure or something that will rot on top of the paper. Wetting the ingredients speeds up the conversion immensely. Many organisms will greet this carbo-landfill with enormous enthusiasm. Snails, slugs, earthworms, pillbugs, centipedes, crickets, mites, and fungi are some f the first paper munchers to arrive. Predator species like spiders, toads, wasps, birds, and snakes, soon follow, along with varieties of excrement eaters like mites, fungi, protozoa, and bacteria.
  4. Plant irises or agapanthus and and an apple tree next to the hole. Every morning you can harvest snails by the bucketful on the way to the hen or duck or chicken house where their protein and calcium make happy fowl. The apple will thrive on the gently falling rain of micro-feces and one day you will return to the house with eggs in one basket and apples in the other.
  5. Other Carbon Digesting Options: Put a hole in the henyard and let them shred the paper.
  6. Reuse this hole many times, and add old pieces of wood for termite treats for the birds.

(this is an excerpt from a longer version to be printed next edition).

Reusing Tree and Shrub Prunings

Whaddya do with all that stuff? At my place, we’ve found a number of quick applications that serve several functions. If it’s three inches or more in diameter, the branches could become fungal substrate, fenceposts, trellis materials, polewood, fuelwood, or carving wood. Smaller materials can become mulch, basketry, paper, trellis materials, fuelwood and propagation wood.

If you have enough space, make a brush pile or a brush berm on contour or a brush dam to keep your gully from eroding or a brush pea trellis or a barrier to protect your young trees from deer. Brush piles are great habitat for birds, toads, frogs, snakes and spiders as well as being outstanding condensers of fog and dew. By adding straw and manure and water, brush piles can grow surprising volumes of potatoes, squash, fungi and sunchokes, while remaining quite fireproof.

A long, tall brush berm on contour makes a good fence for managing livestock movement. If you think about it long enough, you’ll probably come up with some ideas of your own for ways to deal with these renewable resources. You just call (or write) and let me know what you find out. I’m always glad to learn more.

Keith Johnson is the Director of Sonoma County Permaculture. He is a designer, consultant, and nursery manager.

What you have in your mind?