When Tilled into Soil at that Point
When tilled into soil at that point, compost doesn’t act at once like powerful fertilizer and won’t immediately contribute to plant growth until it has decomposed further. But if composting is allowed to proceed until virtually all of the organic matter has changed into humus, a great deal of biomass will be reduced to a relatively tiny remainder of a very valuable substance far more useful than chemical fertilizer.
For thousands of years gardeners and farmers had few fertilizers other than animal manure and compost. These were always considered very valuable substances and a great deal of lore existed about using them. During the early part of this century, our focus changed to using chemicals; organic wastes were often considered nuisances with little value.
These days we are rediscovering compost as an agent of soil improvement and also finding out that we must compost organic waste materials to recycle them in an ecologically sound manner.
The closest analogies to composting I can imagine are concocting similar fermented products like bread, beer, or sauerkraut. But composting is much less demanding. Here I can speak with authority, for during my era of youthful indiscretions I made homebrews good enough have visitors around my kitchen table most every evening. Now, having reluctantly been instructed in moderation by a liver somewhat bruised from alcohol, I am the family baker who turns out two or three large, rye/wheat loaves from freshly ground grain every week without fail.
Brew is dicey. Everything must be sterilized and the fermentation must go rapidly in a narrow range of temperatures. Should stray organisms find a home during fermentation, foul flavors and/or terrible hangovers may result. The wise homebrewer starts with the purest and best-suited strain of yeast a professional laboratory can supply. Making beer is a process suited to the precisionist mentality, it must be done just so.
Fortunately, with each batch we use the same malt extracts, the same hops, same yeast, same flavorings and, if we are young and foolish, the same monosaccarides to boost the octane over six percent. But once the formula is found and the materials worked out, batch after batch comes out as desired.
So it is with bread-making. The ingredients are standardized and repeatable. I can inexpensively buy several bushels of wheat- and rye-berries at one time, enough to last a year. Each sack from that purchase has the same baking qualities. The minor ingredients that modify my dough’s qualities or the bread’s flavors are also repeatable. My yeast is always the same; if I use sourdough starter, my individualized blend of wild yeasts remains the same from batch to batch and I soon learn its nature.
My rising oven is always close to the same temperature; when baking I soon learn to adjust the oven temperature and baking time to produce the kind of crust and doneness I desire. Precisionist, yes. I must bake every batch identically if I want the breads to be uniformly good. But not impossibly rigorous because once I learn my materials and oven, I’ve got it down pat.