"The exercise or practice of an art, science, or technology"

The photo to the right is of me making compost. Lots of compost. Why? During the time we spent at Cornell University my family and I lived on the edge of an abandoned gravel mine, which we reclaimed over about a ten year period. In the process I've made about a thousand tons of compost, using the tractor you see here.

We composted bull manure, generously trucked in by a large dairy breeding operation, which has quite a few very well cared for bulls. After it was composted, spread a few inches thick and seeded, you'd never know our fields once looked like parking lots.

We didn't bother to till the compost in. Over time it is being incorporated the old fashioned way, as described by Charles Darwin, one of the first scientists to appreciate the importance of organic matter recycling:

"The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly plowed, and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."

Darwin, C.R. 1881. The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits (Chapter 7). Murray, London. Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882).

Not many people know that worms were one of Darwin's earliest subjects, and that he continued to study them for half a century, founding the field of soil biology in the process. I'll close with another quote from Darwin, which compost researchers will surely appreciate:

"I love fools' experiments. I am always making them."

From Life and Letters of Charles Darwin [1887], edited by Francis Darwin.