#233  No such thing as Waste, No such place as ‘Away’! – Composting our way out of the meta-crisis with Nicky Grady Scott 

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Join us on a deep dive into the transformative world of composting with Nicky Grady Scott, a master composter and educator whose expertise is revolutionizing our approach to waste and regenerative cycles. In this enlightening episode, Nicky shares his journey from a passionate 16-year-old working with compost to the establishment of community-led recycling projects that have evolved into thriving businesses. Discover the science and simplicity behind composting, the importance of soil health, and how we can all contribute to a flourishing future by turning our “wasted resources” into rich, living soil.

Whether you live in a high-rise or have acres of land, Nicky’s insights offer practical guidance on creating compost, understanding soil’s water retention, and the alchemy of air, water, and fire in the composting process. Tune in to learn how you can be part of this global movement towards sustainability, food security, and job creation. Get ready to be inspired to transform your food scraps into a force for regenerative change!

In Conversation

Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible and that if we all work together, there is still time to create a future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m Manda Scott, your host and fellow traveller on this journey into possibility. And this week’s guest is someone whose work I’ve followed for a long time. Nicky Grady Scott is a master composter, author of several books on composting, a YouTuber with some fascinating videos on composting, host of composting master classes in person and online all around the world, and someone who has set up local groups to help people create proper jobs so that working with everything that we produce from all that we eat is not just left to a few enthusiastic volunteers who are going to burn out over time. In short, Nicky is the person in my firmament who I go to to find out about the how and the why and the where and the what of this key part of our regenerative cycle. There is no question that growing our own food, eating locally and then recycling everything that we don’t eat and yet have taken from the earth is a key component of everything that we need to do to bring about that flourishing future that our hearts know is possible. So I’ve been looking forward to speaking to Nicky for a long time, and we finally tracked him down on holiday in Cornwall. So people of the podcast, please welcome Nicky Grady Scott, master composter.

Manda: Nicky, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. How are you and where are you on this drizzly afternoon?

Nicky: Yes. Pretty drizzly. I am on the Reign Peninsula, which is the bit of land, the secret bit of Cornwall opposite Plymouth, with my daughter and son in law and my wife, Julie. I’m very well, thank you very much, apart from the weather outside is a bit miserable.

Manda: It is. It just doesn’t feel like it’s almost the summer, does it? And as I understand, you are very close to becoming a grandfather. Congratulations.

Nicky: Yeah. I’ve just been taking pictures of my daughter in her swimming costume, just going off for a swim in a swimming pool, looking very unlike her usual shape shall we say.

Manda: There we go. But then a new person in the world.

Nicky: Yeah. Yery exciting.

Manda: And so everything that we are aiming towards with Accidental Gods is creating a future for these new people to grow up in, that will be worthwhile. That will be connected, that will be generative, that will be an integral part of the web of life and a different way of being as humanity. And it has seemed to me for a long time that composting, learning how we can reuse everything that is organic, that we currently see as waste, is one of the key arcs forward to a different way of being. And you are master composter extraordinaire. So can you tell us the basics of why you think it is an integral part of the future?

Nicky: Well, you just said two of the key trigger words for me. One of which is waste, the W word, which we try not to use because I consider them wasted resources. And if you think everything should go into a loop and that there is no such place as away. I ran a composting workshop many years ago at Monkton Wyld actually, on food waste. And they had been saving their food waste for me kindly for weeks and weeks and of course it was disgustingly putrescent and horrible, and there had obviously been rats around. And the poor women who were on the course, they were nearly all women, they were feeling sick by it. But they said to me at the end we dealt with it, you know, we sorted it out. And one of them said to me, we nearly left but then we realised what you said was, yes, there is no such place as away and it’s up to all of us to deal with it. And she went away all energised, which was great.

Manda: Brilliant. I love that people are encouraged to stay and keep going and see what we can create with the stuff that definitely isn’t waste whatever we’re going to call it. So before we launch into all of the many things that you are doing, I’d like to situate people a little and give them a sense of how it became your life’s work, because most of us just have a non waste bucket in which we collect the stuff that definitely isn’t waste, that we’re going to compost and more or less turn it into something usable. And for you, it’s your life’s work. So give us a bit of a flavour of how Nicky Scott came to be doing this.

Nicky: Well, I guess it all went back to when when I was 16, I went to Dartington Hall School, which was a long story which I couldn’t possibly go into here. But I ended up going to Dartington Hall School, which was probably one of the most progressive democratic schools in the country. And I know that you know it because the Schumacher College was the bit that I actually lived in. And one of my teachers there was called Dick Kitto, and he wrote a book on composting, and he wrote a book on organic gardening, and he had a little composting business just outside Totnes. And I got paid on a Saturday to go and help on his composting business. And he was the one who taught me that there is no such thing as waste, basically. And going around the Totnes market getting fruit and veg, he went to the pig factory and he got blood and hair and stuff like that, and spent mushroom compost and made the most beautiful compost. And he and I remained friends after school. And when I was very unhappy, having been at art college and really not finding my groove there, kind of thing, he said why don’t you study at Henry Doubleday’s Organic Gardening? And there I learnt a lot more about composting toilets, humanure, how to make compost, comfrey of course, and all that sort of thing.

Nicky: When you get the bug of composting and you see the heat coming off big piles of compost and you smell that proper composting smell, not the horrible putrescent smells, but properly understand what’s going on. And this amazing everything’s being broken down almost to a molecular level, and things are dissimilated, and it’s part of the death cycle, but death is renewal as well. So you then get renewed into life and you make that life which is going into the soil. So you’re feeding the soil with more life and health, and building the health of soil and plants and then us and our gut biome and everything’s connected. And the more I find out, the more I realise I don’t know, you know, and it just goes on and on. So I find it endlessly fascinating, that cycle.

Manda: And then having studied at Henry Doubleday, where did you go from there? I’m intrigued. Just because this is a pretty non-conventional career path, but it sounds like it was designed exactly for where you are.

Nicky: Never really had a career path as such. I’ve just sort of fallen from one thing to another. I mean, I’m also a musician. So I got slightly obsessed with writing songs about food to start with. And then Shirley Pegna, who was in my band with me, said we should write a food opera, Nicky. We should get together and write a food opera. We wrote a theatre music piece called The Food Game. There were lots of songs about the whole of the multinational food system, and we toured it around the country. We managed to get funding from Oxfam and Christian Aid, and in fact we had to play at the Oxfam conference in order for them to change their constitution so they could fund us, because they weren’t allowed to fund any UK projects before us, because it all had to go overseas. So we performed at their annual conference at 9:00 in the morning, I think it was, which was quite a challenge. But we did it and they agreed that they should fund us. And that became The Food Game, which was based on the work of Susan George who wrote Food for Beginners, amongst other things, and Frances Moore Lappé, who wrote Food First. And there’s still the Food First Institute in the States. Both fantastic books. And so our work, our play was based on that. And and it was really a kind of light hearted, accessible look. But all all the work that I’ve ever done, really, I’ve wanted to demystify these complex subjects and get to the heart of the matter, that’s been my sort of driving force I think, with compost and with food systems. Yeah.

Manda: Thank you. And that, I’m thinking, was probably at least a couple of decades ago. And it seems to me that now the wider world is getting to grips with the fact that ultra processed foods and the entire industrial food system is doing it’s best to kill us quite slowly, while addicting us to their products. And you’ve been basically telling people about this since the 90s?

Nicky: 1981 i was at Henry Doubleday. 1985 I think it was that we started touring with the Food Game. And then about 1992, I started the  community composting project in Chagford, where I live on Dartmoor, which has morphed into proper job community business now. It started as just volunteers on a heap on the end of my allotment, but it is a business now.

Manda: So that’s 30 years for it to evolve into proper job. And I am thinking that compost is one of these global things. Everybody, anywhere, we all eat food, therefore we all have things that we can turn into compost that we’re not going to call waste as a by-product. And everybody can begin to get to grips with that sense of life and death as a cycle, which seems so missing from a lot of modern culture. So can you talk us a little bit through the progression just in Chagford? We’ll take that as a local area that can be scaled or translated anywhere in the world, of how you get from a heap at the end of your allotment to proper job, and tell us what proper job is.

Nicky: Yeah. Okay. So I think the initiative was when I started at Henry Doubleday’s, I was actually doing a double dig system and my neighbour, my fellow student, was doing the no dig system and was laughing at me all the time because he was just resting on his hoe whilst I was digging these great big trenches and slicing worms in half and all that sort of thing, which I didn’t enjoy. And so I vowed then that I wouldn’t dig ever again, and I’d be a no dig gardener. And of course, if you’re a no dig gardener, you do kind of lust after any sort of organic matter. So with our sort of fairly remote community on north east Dartmoor edge, the council would bring big builders skips for us back in those days, for bulky household waste. And of course, loads of people would just empty bags of hedge clippings and grass cuttings on top of the other stuff that lots of people were rootling around in, to get useful things from, because there were good things. So I rang up the council and said surely you should provide a separate skip for all the garden clippings, grass cuttings and so on. And luckily the guy that I talked to at the council thought it was a great idea. And I found out later that he had written the recycling and reuse strategy for Devon County Council. And he was a New Zealander. So he’d come over and wrote to the council and said, you don’t have a strategy for what you’re doing, and so they invited him to to write it and then he became my biggest supporter in the council.

Nicky: And I ended up working for Devon local authorities because the idea took off, and I was on a radio show, actually and then other people were inspired to start projects in their own communities. So we started off back then in the early early 90s doing that, and then we had we had bits of grant funding. We went from a £600 grant initially, and then the second grant we got was £120,000, spread over five years. So that became a real double edged sword, which is partly what I’ve been talking about this weekend, when you’re starting community ventures; you’ve got to be very wary of what you ask for! Because it becomes a real challenge then to (A) fulfil what you said you were going to do, and (B) you can lose the goodwill of people that have previously just been volunteers that you’ve been having a jolly time with, and then suddenly it’s a sort of ‘them and us’ situation. So you have to be very careful how you set up community projects, because I was then paid and the volunteers that we’d been working with suddenly just disappeared. They went, well, you’re being paid so you can do it. That kind of attitude. So I didn’t know, there are lots of ways of overcoming that now, and now I know the sort of steps I should have taken.

Manda: So talk us through that. Tell us if we were starting afresh, if I were going to do it near here, what would I do differently? Because that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I would have been, wow, we’ve got £120,000, let’s have a party! And you’re saying this is potentially going to create havoc. So what should we do?

Nicky: Well, there are various tools you can use. One of the most useful tools that I discovered, and it took quite a long while to implement, was the Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats method. Where the main thing that happens really is that when you’re creating a new project  and you present it to a group of people, there’s a whole mix of things that happens, and people’s emotions can overide their other things. So you need to separate out, for instance, the information is a key thing. So you say this is what we’re going to do, this is how much it’s going to cost, this is where we’re going to do it, this is who’s going to do it. All those kind of things. This is how we’re going to pay for it, you know? And nobody’s allowed to talk about anything apart from the information. And that’s the white thinking hat.

Nicky: And the red thinking hat is about emotion. And you can look at emotion and then people can say, well, how does that make you feel? Does it make you feel good or bad? You know, quite often I was getting things thrown at me like, oh, Nicky’s come up with another idea and I get fed up with with that, because we can’t cope with too many things going on, we’ve just got to focus on this idea. And I like to think of synergies and other things that we could do. And then there’s hats to deal with the synergy side and the optimism side and the devil’s advocate side. But you work with them one at a time. That way, you clear the air really quickly and you can focus on the project in hand. And it’s just amazing how well it works. But people were very resistant to even trying it in the first place, but once they got the the hang of it, they loved it and it worked really well.

Manda: So have you been using this now in Chagford with the people who vanished? Have they come back, or have you got a new set of people who are who are now beginning to work with you? Can you talk us through? I’m really curious about this and I think people listening will be too. Because learning to… manage is the wrong word…but learning to flow with our connections seems to me one of the key things that is missing from our trauma culture. We don’t know how to have the intelligent conversations with each other, the emotionally intelligent conversations. And this, the various hats, sounds very like sociocratic thinking. We did some sociocratic circles within the Thrutopia writers association, and exactly that: here is the proposal, have you any questions? Here is the proposal, have you any thoughts? Here’s a proposal, how do you feel about it? And then here’s the proposal, do you do you agree or not? And if not why not. And it definitely opens up space for people to answer each of those questions for themselves first and then for each other. And we got more done in a couple of meetings than we had done in the whole of the previous year. But you’re right, people were and still are to an extent quite resistant to being asked, how do you feel? For instance, when that’s not generally something that they’re asked in meetings. So can you talk to us, without obviously naming names and keeping it as neutral as possible, but just the process of this and what you’ve learned and perhaps how, if we assume that anybody listening could start this in their community, what would be the blueprint for maximising the potential of what they’re doing.

Nicky: Yeah, there’s a few things to say there. I think the most important lesson I learned, was our project is called Proper Job for a reason. And it actually wasn’t my idea to name it that, but it was very well named. And I was speaking at a conference many years ago, probably over 20 years ago, because we actually formed as a cooperative in 1995. And I was speaking at a conference called a Small Scale Composting Conference, and I was struck by the way that every single speaker that came up to talk talked about the volunteers that ran their project. And when I got up to speak, I said, we’re called Proper Job, and we’re called that because we don’t have volunteers, we pay people to do the work. And I’ve got a big round of applause for that, because local authorities and the government seem to think that volunteer projects are a way of doing things. And I think that you can set something up that can be really, really good, but almost immediately it goes into entropy. So people start, they do it for a while, very enthusiastic, but they’re not paid so they think, oh, well, you know, it’s raining today, so I won’t go this week.

Nicky: And they lose it. And then people drop off and you get the same few people that are running the project and then finally the whole thing just falls into oblivion. And we wanted to add many resilient spikes and other things to the project so that it wasn’t dependent on one person, one thing. The monies were a big help, obviously. We can get money through recycling credits in Devon for the compost, which is diversion from disposal. We actually charge people to bring stuff to be composted, and we sell the compost at the end. So we have three income streams on one product there. But really we have lots and lots of other things that are happening, like clothing, textiles, we’ve got furniture, we’ve got books, we’ve got bric a brac. They’ve got lots and lots of things happening on the Proper Job site. To the extent that they’re saying, I think we should get rid of the composting now because it’s taking up the most space on our little site. Ironically,  but it’s still going at the moment.

Manda: So to be clear, Proper Job then is managing recycling for the whole of the area?  When you say you’ve got bric a brac and books and textiles, tell us a little bit about what else it’s doing. But then I want to hone back in on the composting.

Nicky: Well, it’s a reuse, not recycling really. Although we do, I say we but I’m actually not a director or trustee anymore. But they have lots of different streams. So there’s a whole thing called clean streaming. There’s a community in Japan that’s doing it with I think they have over 60 different resource streams. So the cleaner you can stream your resources to the extent that the CD cases, for instance, or a mobile phone or the little squeezy things for food that children have, they can all be separated out. And tetra packs and lots and lots of things that the council don’t necessarily take or your local authority don’t necessarily take. But don’t forget I think there’s over 360 different collections, modus operandi in the country for recycling. So this is one of the challenges, that every single district council and county council and unitary council have slightly different things that they do. So there’s lots of different variations, which makes it very confusing if you’re moving from one place to another. But we try. So it’s a reuse project and we have a shop in town as well. The Uptown Shop, we took over sadly when the post office closed down, taken that over. So we’ve got a presence in the town centre as well, which is very good.

Manda: Okay.

Nicky: So composting is still there, but it’s fallen down a bit.

Manda: Because it’s not making as much money? Or because people don’t want to get involved? Because this is our food that we’re talking about. This is creating something in which we can grow things we can eat. It’s fairly crucial. Why is it low on people’s priority listings?

Nicky: It’s not that it’s low so much as it’s scale. So obviously we want to pay people. So in order to create the income, we can create more income from clothing and books and bric a brac and furniture and so on. And the compost itself also takes quite a lot of energy and work, and we have to turn it. The local authority actually pay for the shredding service with shred material. We have to turn it with a local farmer and tractor, and then it has to be sieved and bagged. So there’s quite a lot of processes and work involved in doing that. And although we get recycling credits, we get a bit of money, but it’s not very much and it’s actually going down, not up. And we can sell it. But there are more projects. I mean, when I was the coordinator, when I was employed by the local authority, it fluctuated, like I say, because because of volunteer fatigue, projects would come and go, pop up and die, fairly regularly. But there were over 25 at any one time when I left, about 25, 26 projects. And now there’s this money through the South Hams District Council, largely thanks to Jackie Hodgson, who’s been a long term green councillor there. So she has turned the councillors round and they’re very supportive of it now. And we’re not only doing community composting, but we’re looking at street wise composting, a bit like the transition streets from the Transition movement, which obviously came out of Totnes in the first place, which is her patch. And then demonstration sites and doing a road show and converting the wheelie bins that they’ve taken away because they’ve stopped doing garden waste collection.

Manda: Okay, so one of the keys is to get a green councillor in. I’m wanting to keep this as global as we can. And I also want people to leave with an idea of what they can actually do. So let’s look at three separate scales. There’s somebody living in a high rise block who is cooking their own food. Let’s assume they’re not going out and just buying microwave meals and sticking them in a microwave, because that’s not going to create a lot of compostable material. Then let’s say somebody with a garden and then let’s say somebody who’s maybe got an allotment or a bit of land and is is actively growing their own food. Without necessarily going into all the detail of a two day master class, because we’ve only got another 40 minutes. Let’s have a look at what each of those could do on that scale. And then I’m really interested in what projects exist that you are keying into in terms of teaching people. But let’s start with I’m on the 10th floor of a high rise. I do buy Whole Foods and cook my own food. I’ve got a certain amount of potato peelings and offcuts. What do I do with it?

Nicky: Well I suppose the biggest challenge, is there’s two things to say there, generally. You need to have some sort of growing space generally in order to do any composting. My sister, who’s a very keen grower and lives on the fourth floor, but she has got a balcony, in London in Kentish Town, edge of Camden Town. And she actually had a wormery on her balcony for a while, which worked, but it couldn’t deal with all her food waste. And I suggested she have a bokashi fermentation system, but that only really worked when she got herself an allotment on the edge of Hampstead Heath. So she now can carry her bokashi bucket up and put that in her allotment and use that. I worked with a project in Hackney and their big high rise blocks, and they were having big problems because people were blocking the chutes with cardboard. So they would get their furniture flat packed, they were shoving the cardboard down the chutes, blocking the chutes. Food waste was going behind, rats were coming up, flies were getting in, cockroaches, you name it, it stank, obviously.

Nicky: And the council were trying to force them to change their habits. It wasn’t until the community project that was based there, very keen on reggae the guy there, so he knew everybody on the estate and he got them all together and he asked them a question. He didn’t tell them what to do, he asked them what were their problems on the estate, and of course, the flies and the rats and the smell and the blocked shoots came up and he said, well, do you want us to help you with that? If we give you bokashi buckets and we take away your cardboard for recycling and composting? And of course, they had 100% compliance because nobody wanted to be part of the problem. And it worked really, really well. And the council wanted to spread it to other estates, but it just shows that it can it can happen with the right political will. And there are other projects like that in London, loads of them actually. There’s loads of projects doing anaerobic digestion instead.

Manda: So just for people who’ve only joined recently, give us the absolute edited highlights of what Bokashi is and what anaerobic digestion is and how the two complement each other. And can you explain for us why did it not work for your sister until she got an allotment? Because most people don’t have an allotment. So if I were in the whatever floor of a high rise and I want to do something constructive, what can I do?

Nicky: That is a tricky one. That is tricky because you need to have some sort of garden. I mean, my sister did have a bit of shared garden on her low rise block. If you’re in a high rise, unless you’ve got somewhere you can actually garden, so some sort of community garden. But there is a growing community garden movement in London, as there is all over the place and there are lots of links into the health service. So I would encourage people to find out what’s going on and link up with their community gardens and link up with like minded people, and maybe start your own project because there are loads of them around. They’re just sometimes a little bit under the, you know, hiding away a bit sometimes. So you need to seek them out.

Manda: So what is a bokashi bucket and what is anaerobic digestion?

Nicky: So Bokashi is a Japanese word and it was Professor Higa in Japan. So it’s a mix of the more beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that thrive in anaerobic conditions, i.e. without air. So it’s like the antithesis of composting, if you like. So with composting you need to have air, but you also need to have water, it needs to be aerobic. With bokashi you’re actually squashing the air out. So it’s more like making sauerkraut, that’s probably the best analogy. When you’re making sauerkraut, you’re squashing it down, you’re adding salt in that case, and you’re using the bacteria there. Or kimchi. You know, any of these fermented foods are made like that. So it’s fermented, but it’s your food scraps that you’re putting in there and you’re putting these microorganisms in, usually impregnated onto bran. And you sprinkle a bit of bran and then you squash it down in your bucket and you have a set of two buckets, and then you have another set of two buckets. And when one’s full, you put it to one side and leave it to ferment until the other set is full. And then you can empty the first one. You can either just put it straight into the ground, dig a trench and put it into the ground, or you can put it into your composting system if you’ve got one. So that’s fermentation, bokashi.

Nicky: Anaerobic digestion is a bit different. It’s when it’s actually digesting at a particular temperature, and you’re capturing the gases that come off it, primarily methane, which you can trap and you can use it as energy. So you can burn it to cook on or to heat, anything like that, or produce electricity.

Manda: I have a friend who runs his car off it.

Nicky: Yeah, there used to be a guy who ran his car off chicken shit. Same sort of idea. Years ago.

Manda: But that’s a much bigger unit. That would be something that you would have on the ground outside your block of flats, and everybody would bring their food down and put it in.

Nicky: Yeah, generally. I mean, the smallest one, the one I first saw was at Camley Street Wildlife Park behind King’s Cross, and that was in a small shed, and I think it was sort of quarter of a tonne, something like that, maybe half a tonne capacity, very small scale. But it can be scaled up. They’re usually much bigger though, you’re right. And it’s explosive, so it’s a lot more tricky to get, you need to have technical help with it.

Manda: Okay. So I was about to ask why does every council not have anaerobic digestion running. And possibly the fact that it’s explosive might be an answer. I also think locally somebody decided it was fun to chuck a mattress in or something. You’ve got to really make sure that what goes in is what can actually be digested, and not just what somebody wants to get rid of.

Nicky: Yeah, yeah, well you wouldn’t get a mattress, but it’s true that you get stuff put in. And the amount of stuff that I found when we did a compost food waste collection scheme in Chagford for a while, before the animal By-Products legislation kicked in. But I got quite a lot of my cutlery from those buckets, lots of teaspoons and bits of coffee machine and that kind of thing were chucked out.

Manda: So it requires people to care enough about what they’re collecting. With the Bokashi, just before we go off that, I read somewhere recently, and it may have been one of your blogs that rats are clearly an issue with a lot of food waste if it’s got carbohydrates, fats, proteins in it, it’s basically anything other than peelings, but that in a bokashi system, the fermentation is such that you’re not necessarily going to get rodents running towards you with great glee. Is that the case?

Nicky: Absolutely. Well, that was the big driver for the project in Hackney was there were rats everywhere when there was just food waste in the bins. But as soon as it was being fermented, they don’t seem to recognise that it’s food at that stage, because it’s gone into a different cycle. And also it’s not spilled on the ground, it’s clean, it’s in the bucket and then in that case it was going into an in-vessel composter, which is the system that we then use with lots of schools. So another way of doing it. So with the work with Growing Devon Schools that I’ve done, we were helping schools to select a system that would aerobically compost it with air, into various sorts of tumbling and turning machines that would rapidly accelerate the first stage of composting again. So the rats really didn’t have a chance to get in there.

Manda: Right. And once it’s got to a certain level of bacterial breakdown, it’s no longer rat food and you’re okay.

Nicky: Yeah. Exactly, exactly.

Manda: All righty. And then let’s just talk a little bit about no-dig gardening, because I don’t think we’ve ever covered that on the, on the podcast. And I am a huge Charles Dowding fan and continually going through the ‘please don’t dig my raised beds’ conversation around here. So could I, if I lived on the whatever floor and, and I knew somebody who had an allotment or a few raised beds, could I take the product of my bokashi buckets and put that straight on to a raised bed, and then you could grow in it? Or does it need another step between the bucket and the growing always?

Nicky: No. But you wouldn’t put it on top of the system. So you do need to dig a little trench. You just need to cover it with soil really for for it to work. I don’t know, I’m not really a bokashi expert, but that’s what they do. I’m a composter not a bokashi, but I do know people that know about that stuff, and that’s what they do. I don’t think even Charles would go that far. I mean, Charles would be putting into his composting systems.

Manda: Okay. Yes he does. And then we spread the compost 3 to 4in at the end of the season, and then you just plant into it. It’s grand. So that would scale up then. I think we’ve pretty much covered if somebody had a reasonable sized garden, they can collect more because you’ve got plant cuttings, you’ve got lawn clippings if you cut your lawn. Although nowadays, of course, we don’t cut our lawns except for a little path in the middle because we’re in no mow. However, there may be the odd lawn clipping, which in my experience makes very hot compost very quickly. You’ve got to be quite careful with the grass cuttings. If we were designing an ideal system for, let’s start with a village community. So you’ve got people with land that they’re maybe not doing very much with. It’s got some sheep on or some cattle and a relatively small 100 house community where people are switched on enough that they won’t necessarily be mixing paint cans with their with their compost. What’s an ideal setup? What’s a community setup that we could get going that would make the best use of whatever we are producing in terms of organic material?

Nicky: So it really depends on your community. Every community is different and this is what I found being the coordinator of Devon Community Composting Network, because there are loads of communities, villages, small villages all over Devon. And the thing I learned very early on is they’re all different. Social, you know, everything is different about them. So there’s no simple, clear answer to that. But there are some very simple common factors. For a start, in Devon we’re only dealing with stuff that’s come from a garden because of the complexities of the animal by product legislation, which is not insurmountable. And there are plenty of projects with the mycelium network who were doing lots of food waste projects, small food waste stations, and we will be going back to that. And we have done that in Devon. But it really depends on scale and it depends on what you’re getting in. We found, for instance, that one district in Devon, they hadn’t appreciated how big people’s gardens were in that district. And so when they set up a council project, they suddenly realised they had so much garden material coming in and the food waste that they were collecting, that they were having to put it all through a very expensive animal By-Products legislation, you know, verified thing. 80% of it was garden material and only 20% of it was food, but if they’d separated it, they could have put the food waste into an anaerobic digester and got power from it. Or they could have composted it aerobically and it would have been much less of a problem, and it would have saved them huge amounts of money, actually.

Nicky: So there’s no there’s no quick fix to it, but there are loads and loads of examples that people can look at. On the Devon Community Composting Network website, you will see lots of snapshots of projects and you’ll see more on the Complexity University site. You will see the food waste solutions all globally. And I suppose the third thing to say is it depends on your legislature where you happen to live. And of course in the UK we have quite strict legislature around a lot of this stuff. In other countries it’s not a problem at all. Even France, where I’ve worked they’re much more relaxed about this stuff, you know.

Manda: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Let’s not go into the legislation. It’s just going to do bad things to my blood pressure. You spoke about the mycelium network. Tell us a little bit about that, because that website looks really exciting. And it’s obviously a whole different layer of things being done. Talk to us about that.

Nicky: Yeah. So I think of them as the new kids on the block in a way. So they started off as a brewery, Old Tree Soil. They’re doing brewing and kombucha. And Tom Daniel, who’s the sort of mastermind behind that, he goes to festivals and has kombucha stalls and does lots of things, and he’s helped set up these kind of stations using tumbling compost bins for food waste, usually quite small, in places like Brighton and Lewes. And now it’s moved out to Frome. So there’s some very good projects in Frome and then all over the country, sort of exploding all over the country. And they have a very good forum when you join up, so you can post questions and get answers. And there are topics on biochar and bokashi and all these things that you can look at. So if there are questions you’ve got, you can go to that site and it will really help you and people post videos, and what’s going on all over the place.

Nicky: But the bottom line, we haven’t really talked about, is this kind of passion for soil, for building soil. So the relationship between compost and soil is really what gets people going, because we’re losing our soils at an astonishing rate because of industrial agriculture. And this is a way of rebuilding soils, mending soils and healing the earth. Growing more perennials, no till. All these things are linked inextricably and that’s what really excites people. I mean, the compost itself is enough, but growing food locally and healthy food and building your gut biome and all these things that people are  becoming more and more aware of, is what makes it all so exciting.

Manda: Definitely. And I’ve put a link to mycelium network into the show notes. Definitely worth signing up to them. Talk to us a little bit then about how things are changing, because we’ve been talking about regenerative farming on the podcast for the last four years. About the change in the soil biome and the gut biome, and it feels as if it’s just beginning to gain traction a little bit in the mainstream. If you have an edited highlight, because there are people listening to the podcast for the first time on every episode, so they may not have heard it. If you can give us an edited highlight of that story, please do. But also, I would be really curious to know whether it’s reaching the ears of policymakers, because it seems to me that we are heading towards quite a major standoff between the industrial lobby, who think that chemical farming is the only answer and it’s the way we feed the world, which is plainly untrue. But they have a lot of people who don’t go into the depths of the science, who are prepared to believe it, because we’ve been told it for all our lives. Tractor is good spraying land good, fertiliser good, glyphosate good. And people find it quite hard to step away from that. And then there are the people who have stepped away from it and who really understand that it’s not. How is that conversation changing, over the time that you’ve been working with this? Tell us a little bit first about the edited highlights of soil biology really, first. And then let’s talk about the politics.

Nicky: Well, I guess it goes back to the early days of the Soil Association, which was formed just after the Second World War. And the reason they were forming it was because they could see the way that chemical fertilisers, particularly, and herbicides were going, was destroying the soil. That’s why it’s called the Soil Association. So they wanted to keep that. And also the peckhamists. A lot of the founders of the Soil Association were also founders of the Peckham Experiment, which was sort of pre National Health Service, about looking into social health. So set up in Peckham with very, very poor people. When I was then I was at Henry Doubleday’s, which was 40 years after that or so early 80s, which has now become Garden Organic. And they did a TV series back in the day called All Muck and Magic. And that’s what we were called, we were called cranks, we were called the All Muck and Magic Brigade. And I think it was Schumacher who said, A crank is a very useful device for starting revolutions. But, you know, it was a cranky idea and it was very fringe and niche. And of course it has stayed there and it’s sort of gone away, but now it’s coming back with vengeance, I think. And one of the main drivers, I think, or one of the drivers, is that it costs a lot of money to spray chemical fertilisers all over your soil, and you’re getting less and less return.

Nicky: Something I learned when we did the Food Game program, actually looking at the work that Frances Moore Lappé had done, with using pesticides and herbicides. Was that you’ve got an ever diminishing return. The more you sprayed, the more you knocked out the predatory insects and the more you had to spray. To the point where it was not economically viable to spray. So farmers in Mexico growing cotton had no choice but to carry on farming, but they had no money to buy the pesticides anymore. So they stopped and their crops started coming back up again, not quite to where they were before they started using the horrible stuff in the first place, but they got they got back there. And that’s what can happen to soils, is they can regenerate. So this is a whole regenerative agriculture movement that’s happening with agroforestry and all the different associated branches of it which there are, which are amazing. And in fact, we had the first regenerative accredited farm on Dartmoor, people that I know, just only four miles from where I live, which was the first accredited farm right up near Grimspound on Dartmoor.

Manda: Who’s accrediting regeneration?

Nicky: I don’t know. I don’t know who actually accredits it, but there is a new kind of thing that’s coming on, because there are some people who are cashing in on it, you know, a bit of greenwash as well is happening. But nevertheless, there’s some really good stuff happening. And you know, it is growing.

Manda: So we’re taking a bit of a segue here. We’ll come back, there’s other things I still want to talk about. One of the narratives that we’re being told by people who want to herd everybody into cities and then rewild everything else, and/or feed us ultra processed foods and precision fermented proteins and all of the idiocy, is that soils cannot grow, that we can’t increase soil volume. It’s in this mindset perfectly possible to take, say, the Great Plains of the Americas, which had eight, ten, 12ft of extraordinary topsoil and reduce it to half an inch. And that has happened, so they can’t deny it, but we can never build it back up. And I listened to Joel Williams who’s an extraordinary soil biologist and he said the paper that told them that was based on a hundred year old ryegrass lay. And over a period of a couple of years, they failed to build any soil, but it was still a hundred year old ryegrass lay. The inanity of this makes my blood turn to smoke. However, it seems self-evident to me, and even on the land that we have here, that provided we get the soil biology right, get the right mix of bacteria and fungi within the soil biome, get the right carbon sources on the land. It’s really easy to grow soil, actually, and increase the biodiversity of plant species and I am therefore assuming the soil biome and the life in the soil. Not just the bacteria and the fungi, but all of the single celled up to multi-celled other species within the soil. However, that’s completely anecdotal and it’s only mine. Have you got people working with you or people in your environment who are actively building soil depth?

Nicky: Yeah. Definitely.

Manda: Excellent. Tell us about it, please.

Nicky: It’s not rocket science as they say. I mean, it is true that soils that have been very, very depleted will have lost a lot of their biodiversity. And there are various soil organisms which are going to possibly take hundreds of years to come back again. But that doesn’t mean that the soil can’t be built very quickly, actually, with the right way that things are farmed. I’m also on the Moor Meadows group, so we’re looking at Meadows a lot. And we’ve lost something like 97, 98% of our wildflower meadows. But within Devon, and it was started as a Dartmoor initiative, we’ve got so many people who are creating meadows or re-establishing meadows or just grazing the land in the way that starts to rebuild it, rather than destroy it. And learning how you need to move stock around, all the mob grazing stuff that Alan Savoury has been doing in Africa. And that’s happening over here with Fernhill Farm that my wife works with the sheep. They’re doing it, the 3LM process, and they’re taking carbon samples, they’re sampling these fields regularly to prove how much more carbon is being sequestered, how much more is being held in the land.

Nicky: I mean, one of the projects I’ve been working with is the Blackdown Hills Eco hub. Carolyn Dare there doing amazing work with the Trim Plants nursery, working with Plymouth University. They’re building vertical green walls, not only for biodiversity, but by putting by putting biochar in, you can help to sequester carbon but create this kind of coral reef, as I’ve heard it put, in the soil, that will generate more life. So you’re creating this wonderful resource for all the micro biology that’s going on in the soil to live in, because you vastly increase the surface area of the soil.

Manda: So you’ve mentioned biochar a number of times. Can you give us the edited highlight of what it is and how it works?

Nicky: Yeah, sure. So biochar was really sort of rediscovered. It was originally called terra preta. It was an ancient Amazonian civilisation, where they found soil there. Because rainforest soils, as you probably know, are kind of mostly cycled in the canopy. You know, the biomass is cycled in the canopy. And yet they found in the in the Amazonian rainforest, early explorers found soils going down several metres, deep black soils. So the forest, the rainforest was actually managed in the way that we haven’t really fully understood yet. The civilisations that are in there. So they were growing with these soils. So what it is, if think of when you’re burning wood, to put it very simply you can make a charcoal, you can burn wood but stop it at the stage where the char is formed and douse it. And then you mix it in with your composting process. Or you can use compost teas, comfrey teas and things to put the biology into it. So the biome. So you’ve got the bio char; it’s a char with biology. And then you put it into the soil. And not only does it hold on to nutrients and life, but it holds on to an enormous amount of water. So one of the best places we store water is in healthy soil. It’s not in tanks but the soil. So it really helps to hold the water carrying capacity of the soil, which is really important in these changing turbulent climate that we’ve got, you know.

Manda: Totally.

Nicky: So important. And that coupled with no dig of course, and using mulches; good cover mulches and things, you can really help to go through a very long dry patch. Difficult to comprehend right at the moment when we’ve had unremitting rain, but it will come, you know.

Manda: Undoubtedly. And I read something recently that fully regenerated soil can hold 10,000l of water per acre. And I don’t know how long a time span it takes, but one of the tests for good regenerative soil is to take a can of beans and cut both ends off. So you’ve got basically a metal cylinder, fill it full of water, see how long it takes for it to go away. And I read they tested an ordinary organic farm and a genuinely regenerative. So we’re not talking mintle and glyphosate, which is what some people are calling regenerative over here, which is very sad. Proper regenerative, actual building soil. And they could never fill the can on the regenerative soil. They just poured the water and it just went away and went away. With the organic, and it was a proper organic farm, but it had been ploughed and the soil had been degraded, they put the can on, they filled it up, they got really bored after 20 minutes, and they went away and had a cup of coffee and came back an hour later and it still hadn’t soaked away. So I think the water holding capacity of the soil is something that people are not yet getting their heads around. And need to, because it’s not simply that we want to store water in the soil. It’s also we don’t want the soil to be swept off onto the roads and into the rivers, because then there’s even less soil. This is how we end up with 12ft of of Midwest beautiful prairie being half an inch of degraded grit as their top soil. You’ve spoken very briefly of compost and comfrey tea a couple of times. So can you again, just tell us what they are and how we might make them and how we might use them?

Nicky: So I studied at Henry Doubleday Research Association. Henry Doubleday was the guy who worked on Russian comfrey, which is a hybrid. So it’s an F1 hybrid and has that hybrid vigour. Now, often in the organic movement, we don’t like hybrids because they’re a bit like the leylandii, you know, it grows up really fast. But it’s really a useful plant because you can cut it like up to four times a year at least. And then what I do is I cut it, put it into a barrel, but with a hole in the bottom. Most people get this wrong and they put water with it. You don’t want to put water with it, it’s horrible, disgusting. You put a hole in the barrel and you mount the barrel on a couple of blocks and I put a bit of pond liner under it, and divert the juices that start pouring after about ten days. And you get this concentrated chocolate dark liquid that comes out, which is your comfrey concentrate, which is very rich in potassium and other trace elements, because the roots of the comfrey can go down as much as a fruit tree, you know, they can go down 12ft. And they’re dynamic accumulators, so they’re taking nutrient from the soil and working symbiotically with the soil. So you can use that concentrate and normally what I do is water it down and I feed my squashes and my tomatoes and all my fruit and flowers. They love it. They really love it. But you can put it on anything. But you can also soak your char in it and soak it up.

Nicky: Compost tea is different. I’m not a big expert on that, because you really, to do it properly, you need to take a lot of compost, mix it with water, preferably rain water, and people add different things to it, like seaweed meal and molasses, and they put a bubbler through it so they they oxygenate it with a lot of bubbling action and then strain it to take the particle size out and then put it on the field. And what that does is it increases the biology that’s in there, all the microbiology that’s in the compost, it can rapidly be increased and fed up. But I’ve never had the bubblers and the power to do that. So what I’ve just done instead is you can do what’s called a compost drench, where you just take some compost and stir it into a bucket of water and sieve it out and feed it. It’s not as efficient, but you could use that to soak your biochar in as well. So that’s another way. Or just put it into your compost. I actually mostly just layer it into my compost heaps and then that does the job as well.

Manda: Excellent. Because you’re increasing the bacterial content. But also I’m guessing different species within your bacterial thing.

Nicky: I mean when you’re talking about compost and soils, we’re actually talking about all the kingdoms of life we’ve got going in there. So that’s another thing to remember.

Manda: Say a little bit more about that.

Nicky: All the kingdoms of life should be present in healthy soil. And if you’ve got a healthy soil, then a square metre of soil, not a cubic metre, but just the surface square metre down to wherever it is, because it’s probably not going to be a metre deep, but that living portion of it will be supporting at the top of the food chain, a vertebrate. So that could be a grass snake, it could be a mistle thrush or whatever, a bird. And then you’ve got your hundreds of worms and your slugs and snails, and then you go down through the insects and the invertebrates, and you’ve got the protozoa and you’ve got the bacteria and the numbers go bigger and bigger and bigger until they’re absolutely, mind bogglingly huge. And that’s numbers at the bottom.

Manda: Yeah. I read somewhere that a teaspoon of proper living soil has more bacteria in it than there are stars in the galaxy, which I thought was kind of impressive.

Nicky: Yeah.

Manda: I read a little bit recently and I experimented a bit with foliar sprays. And the one that I did was just nettles. Packed nettles into a jar with brown sugar and really packed them down. So it was a kind of a fermentation in the presence of sugar. And it produced something that smelled much nicer than the comfrey tea that I’ve ever made. And he was diluting it down and suggesting that we used it as a foliar spray, because if you spray it very lightly on the leaves, it’s absorbed and also then provides the same nutrient balance. But the plants are more able to use the glucose component by absorbing it through the leaves. I didn’t completely understand the science. Am I getting that right? Is that something that you know about?

Nicky: I mean, I’ve always found problems with with spraying things that my sprayers always break down and get clogged up and things. But ideally you need to spray underneath the leaves when the stomata underneath the leaves are fully open, which is usually not in the full brightness of the day, but in the early evening when they’re respiring. So you can you can definitely get them in there. And of course, what’s happening through photosynthesis is that the carbon side of it, the carbohydrates, the sugars and starches are going down through the plant and into the soil where they are feeding the fungi particularly. And the fungi can bring in through the mycorrhizal network, through the very microscopic hyphae of the fungi, can be sort of going quite a long way to extract minerals from the parent rock. So you get this wonderful transfer, and then you also get bacteria that will go around, completely envelop the root system of the plant, and stop pathogenic viruses and bacteria getting into the plant. It really annoys me when people say, well, compost is not a fertiliser, it’s merely a soil conditioner. And that’s when I start fuming because what is more important than having a healthy soil that grows healthy plants? You know, you’ve got to have that. Everything works symbiotically. Everything’s in a bigger picture. And it’s incredibly complex. We don’t even begin to understand what’s going on there, we know it’s highly complex. And it’s the same with composting. Oh, and that’s one thing that I wanted to say earlier, actually, talking about complexity is that because these things are so complicated, and when you read composting books and I’ve read a lot of them..

Manda: You’ve even written one, which we will link in the show notes.

Nicky: I always say, you know, people make it sound very complicated, like, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to add the grass cutting, you’ve got to layer this, you’ve got to do that. Now all you have to do is think conceptually that all biology needs air and it needs water. And so the things that you’re putting in, like your grass cuttings, are full of water, fresh grass cuttings full of water, fresh fruit and veg full of water. So you need to get the air in there. And so you need to have things like woodchip, um, fresh, you know, some twiggy stuff, some dry plant stems which you can keep. You can store that dry material very easily so that when you’re tipping your lush wetter material in, you can layer it with the air material. So all you need is air and water. That’s my mantra. Air and water. And when you get it right, then the bacteria in the initial part of the composting, the bacterial population explodes exponentially. And that’s what gives rise to the heat that comes off. So you’ve got basically you’ve got air, water, fire from the bacteria. And then what you end up with is something very like Earth. But it’s compost, of course. So I love that sort of alchemy of it.

Manda: Yes. It’s beautiful. Thank you. So you’ve talked about complexity a number of times too, and you mentioned Complexity University. Tell us a little bit about that and your involvement with it.

Nicky: Well this is actually going back a couple of years now, but I was approached by someone through a mutual friend who said you should talk to Nicky. And she was working in Bristol at the time and asked if I would be kind enough to, there’s no money involved, but if I’d be kind enough to talk to groups in India, two groups in India, one in the Canary Islands, one in the Khoikhoi in South Africa and one in Hawaii. And so I had delightful zoom calls with these people from various huts and tin shacks and stuff all over the place who were collecting food waste from their from their communities. And I think the funniest bit of that was an Indian woman who interrupted at one point and said, yes, Nicky, but what what do you do about the monkeys stealing the food? So I’d never had a problem with monkeys coming and stealing my food before, so it made me laugh.

Manda: What do you do about the monkeys stealing the food now that you’ve thought about it?

Nicky: I don’t know. I have been to India and yes, they are very, very cheeky.

Manda: So did they form Complexity University on the back of this or was Complexity University already there?

Nicky: Yeah. And they one of their projects is the Gigaton Challenge. So it’s a global project mostly happening in the southern hemisphere at the moment. I’ve been trying to persuade them to to come north a bit as well. But that’s what they’re working on. So it’s young people 18 to 30 year olds mainly and they’re amazing. Look them up and see what they’re doing, they’re very inspiring.

Manda: Another link I’ll put in the show notes.

Nicky: But there’s stuff happening all over the world. I was talking the other day with a woman in Australia who’s working for the local authority in Australia. I was talking to Morag Gamble on another podcast. And so I wrote to her afterwards because she’s doing community composting in Australia. So this movement is all over the place. And it’s great. That’s what I find so inspiring and hopeful, you know, that there’s so many more people that are switched on to this now.

Manda: Yeah. And I think I need someone from the gigaton Challenge on the podcast. It says ‘Tired of waiting for somebody, somewhere to take action on the climate crisis? So are we. This is why we’ve decided to take matters into our own hands. Since October 2020, 95 teams and 960 citizens from cities worldwide have taken part in the Gigaton Challenge and together have reduced 2181 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Be part of this ambitious global climate strategy with equity at its heart’. And that seems really, really important. It’s also about food security and job creation as well as emissions reductions. It’s really inspiring. Well done that, man. So you were there helping them to work out how to reduce emissions from their food waste? Or how to farm more regeneratively and sequester carbon in the soil? Or both. Or neither.

Nicky: Really just a very practical hands on how do you compost this stuff? How can you do it with the resources you’ve got? So they told me what they had, you know. I mean, the great thing about composting is it’s so practical. It’s very, very simple. You don’t need to be, I mean I can’t even put up a shelf properly, you know, I’m pretty hopeless on that sort of side of things. But the technology of making compost is so easy that you can just make it on the ground. You can make windrows, you can put it in a pit. In hotter countries, they like pits because it keeps it moister, whereas in wetter countries it’s on top, you know. It’s this air water balance all the time that you need with composting and you need the warmth. So there’s the three requirements that you need and get it in the right form. So I’ve helped projects in Greece for instance, which is really hot and dry, obviously. And showing them what it is, but it’s exactly the same principles wherever you are.

Manda: And you’ve written your own book, How to Make and Use Compost The Practical Guide for homes, schools, and communities, published by Bloomsbury. Tell us a little bit about that. How it came about.

Nicky: Yeah, I was very excited to be asked to write that initially by Green Books, and that was my kind of life’s work. In fact, my sister said, I can’t believe you’re writing a third book about composting. Surely you’ve said it all? But I’m now rewriting it and going into a third edition, because there’s been so much like we’ve talked about here today. The mycelium network, new advances in understanding about biochar and bokashi. There’s so much that’s coming along and applications for it that I think I need to write a fourth book, actually, and another book, an even bigger one. But yeah, I’ve got to get cracking on that and do it now.

Manda: Ok. Have we any idea of a publication date? I mean, people could buy this one, but…

Nicky: I’ve got to do it by February 2025. I’ve only just just signed the contract on Friday, actually. Finally.

Manda: You heard it here first. That’s the easy bit of writing any book is signing the contract. The harder bit is actually writing it. But you know what you’re writing, you don’t have to work out characters and plot. Trust me, you have the easy job.

Nicky: No, I don’t know how you do it Manda.

Manda: Sometimes neither do I. I’m working out the characters and the plot of the sequel to Any Human Power, and that’s a very interesting process. Anyway, we’ve run out of time, and I suspect your family will be coming back quite soon. Is there anything that we haven’t spoken about that you wanted to tell people about compost and composting and how to do it?

Nicky: Well, Manda, having just run a two day composting masterclass, when we got to the very end of it, I said, we haven’t even done the module on compost and soils yet. So yeah, there’s loads that we haven’t talked about actually. But you know, we’ve only got an hour. We had a whole weekend. Because we had so much to talk about. I mean, people want to know the nuts and bolts of actually getting a community composting project together. So I’ve written a guide for the South Hams, which I could make available if people want that, that might be useful.

Manda: That would be grand.

Nicky: And, you know, like I’ve said before, I like to try and keep it simple. I suppose the thing is that I never take no for an answer. Quite often when you come up against the bureaucrats, their first response is, oh no, you can’t do that. Because they can’t be bothered. You know, it’s like too much for them to get their heads around. But if you say, well, we’ve already got the permissions, all these permissions, so you’ve got to help us really. So don’t take no for an answer, just get on and do it I would.

Manda: Right, right. Because nobody can complain about you turning food into soil. It’s really got to be uncontroversial that one.

Nicky: Exactly.

Manda: Fantastic. Nicky thank you.

Nicky: Thank you.

Manda: It’s been a pleasure to speak with you. And I hope people will go away and do stuff. Make sure that there is nothing that they call waste. And that’s all turned into something that becomes living soil, that grows really healthy food. That would be amazing. Thank you.

Nicky: That’d be great. Thank you. Manda. Thank you very much.

Manda: And there we go. That’s it for another week. Enormous thanks to Nicky. For gathering into one place, into one heart and mind and soul all of that vast body of knowledge that opens up the gateways to understanding our connection with the earth. What we eat is so fundamental to who we are. And as he said, we’re only just beginning to get to grips with the links between soil biology and our own gut biome and everything that leads from one to the other. There’s so much still yet to know, and yet the little that we do know tells us how intricately linked we are, how vital it is that we grow living food in living soil. And the way to build that living soil is by understanding how to make the best compost and then doing it. And as I hope was really clear from the conversation, this is something we can all take part in. Wherever you live, however you live, you can begin to create compost somehow, and then you can find places where it can be returned to the earth, and then you can take part in the growing cycle. Truly, I cannot emphasise enough how much this essence of eating real food, growing real food and becoming part of the cycle of that, is key to our healing. If we’re ever going to rediscover what it is to be an initiation culture, and we’ve talked about this a lot on the podcast over the past few months, then becoming a part of the living cycle of food and soil is essential for each of us.

Manda: So please, if you do nothing else this week, think of ways that you can begin to make some living compost wherever it is that you live. If we could all get rid of our green bins and instead create living soil where we are, I think we would be several steps forward on the path that we need to take. So off you go, people. That’s your homework for this week.

Manda: We will be back next week with another conversation. In the meantime, thanks to Caro C for the music at the Head and Foot, to Alan Lowles of Airtight Studios for the production, to Anne Thomas for the transcripts, to Faith Tilleray for all of the work behind the scenes. And we just launched the new three pillars of the Heart Mind programme in the membership of Accidental Gods, and it was an astonishing amount of work. So if you’re in the membership, please go and look. If you’re not in the membership, you can always give it a go for a pound for a fortnight, see if you like it. Anyway, it was work. And thank you, Faith. And as ever, if you’re still here, an enormous thanks to you for listening. And if you know of anybody else who wants real practical advice on what compost is and how we can make it, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.

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