When we get stink we have committed the the composting sin of anaerobia. Virtually any bad smell in compost is directly attributable to not turning...
Now I know it has been cold, and for some of us, snowish. Very snowish. Such times try mens souls, but they try our compost heaps aeration even more so...
So let those without sin cast the first stone! I thought so; not a lot a rocks flying, because we are all sinners, all of us guilty at some point of not turning, of letting the pile go untended. I too have sinned!
But fear not! For this sin can be readily forgiven! All you need to do is turn over a new leaf. Turn your heap over, and let the light shine in! Turn your heap and let the goodness of oxygen redeem your wayward compost! Add the true organic goodness of more carbon and turn, turn, turn your stinking miasma back into black gold!
How can it be that the ground itself does not sicken?
How can you be alive you growths of spring?
How can you furnish health you blood of herbs, roots,
Are they not continually putting distemper'd corpses
Is not every continent work'd over and overwith sour
Walt Whitman, from This Compost, from Leaves of Grass
Yes Walt! It's true! The best of soil is dead things rotting! It is not the rotting but how it is rotted that is good or bad...
And there is nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so
Will Shakespeare, from Hamlet
OK Will, I hear ya, and even anaerobic culture can produce good stuff (Kombucha? Saurkraut? Kim Chee, anyone? Bokashi is still good compost, right)?
"In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."
Umm, okay Eleanor... so choosing the specific organisms makes us responsible for the outcomes, be it cole slaw or hydrogen sulfide stenches. I can own that. I think you know Walt; Will, Eleanor...Eleanor, Will.
"Purely untutored humanity, it is true, inteferes comparitively little with the arrangements of nature, and the destructive agency of man becomes more and more energetic and unsparing as he advances in civilization, until the impoverishment, with which his exhaustion of the natural resources of the soil is threatening him, at last awakens him to the necessity of preserving what is left, if not of restoring what has been wantonly wasted."
George Perkins Marsh, from Man and Nature
Right George right (a bit wordy, but absolutely correct; Talk to Will about brevity, he's really good. And I think you know Walt. This is Eleanor; Eleanor, George). Same proto-farming hunter/gatherer societies in New Guinea for six or seven thousand years with no eco-damage to speak of, we have been here two hundred years and we have Love Canal, Three Mile Island, and the Mecondo well on our record. Which is civilized?
But on the same token, George if we start deciding exactly how to compost by choosing and picking biologies, aren't we curtailing biodiversity? By being completely aerobic we are curtailing the bad guys (yes Will, good nor bad, got it) like E.coli and fecal coliforms, too is that so bad?
So maybe a compost gone anaerobic but brought back to aerobic is the way of the world? Perhaps that's how nature does? Certainly smelled that way last low tide...
Sulfur and brimstone? Work of the devil or anaerobic decomposition?
So I say bring it back alive. A compost that conquers the evils of anaerobia will likely stay that way easier (it's got it's shots, basically). It will take all those corpses Walt is always going one about. Even the roofers and plumbers...
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant
that you will not live to harvest
Say that the leaves are harvested
When they have rotted into the mold
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every two thousand years
Listen to carrion--put your ear
close and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come
Wendell Berry, from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front from The Country Of Marriage
Wendell, glad you could make it, I want you to meet some folks...