Composting by Design (Human Design)

Here’s a week-long experiment, stepping WAY outside my normal mode of writing…

You can probably tell that I’m addicted to composting — who else would design a business around compost coaching?

Something I don’t talk about all that much is a secondary area of fascination: Human Design. I’ve just finished my first year of Professional Training (PTL1 complete — yeeha!) I know I’ve got years and years of study to do before I can really, truly pivot my business towards this energy work, but all the same I’m curious to see where the two worlds of composting and Human Design meet.

For this year’s International Compost Awareness Week (2–8 May, 2021) I’m going to play with bringing them together.

It’s lucky that there is a fairly logical bridge, which is Anthroposophy. This is the larger body of work of Rudolf Steiner that gave birth to not only Biodynamics but also Waldorf Education, Eurythmy, and lots of inspired approaches to medicine, nursing, architecture, religion, art therapy etc.

Step One for me this week is to pair each day of the week with the planetary influences. There are colours and grains, and all sorts of other things connected with each day — even a Eurythmy gesture, a musical tone and a meditation exercise:

Step Two is to take the planet of the day, and look up the Human Design transit for that day. This is the neutrino stream raying onto and through the earth for that day, which is influencing all of us at once.

It’s a little like a weather report.

Sunday 2/5/21 (for Auckland, New Zealand):

The Sun’s energy is connected with our life-force, personality, and how we express this. When I look back on a week’s activities, it’s often the composting that gives me the strongest sense of achievement, something that has made an actual, tangible, physical difference in the world.

My Human Design chart has the sun in Gate 5 Line 5, which is all about waiting. ‘Waiting as an aspect of enlightenment’ used to be something that made me ever so frustrated, but recently there’s a sense of trust growing, much like knowing the compost takes its own time. We can show up and be available, but there is natural timing for everything.

The Return — Rationalization
The natural and spontaneous process of transformation and renewal

Confession: the courage to admit the mistakes of the past.

Is there a sense of transformation and renewal in the air this week? And within that natural and spontaneous process, is today a good day to take a good look at our collective composting systems and acknowledge what’s not working?

For me, I’m looking at my long windrow of green waste and questioning whether I was overly ambitious with what has become a very short time frame to move house. If I was here for another year, then these would become magnificent garden beds, but I suspect it’s not going to work for my landlords or the property developers who will soon be looking over this space with dollar signs in their eyes.

Monday 3rd May (in Auckland, New Zealand)

Monday is associated with the Moon, which in Human Design system is where we can locate our driving force.

This is fast moving energy, the moon often passes through 3 gates in a day in order to get through all 64 gates of the I-ching each lunar cycle. Today the moon is passing through gates 60, 41 and 19 — these are all located in the root centre, giving our universal daily ‘driving focus’ a bit of physical fuel or sense of pressure.

Does anyone else hate the feeling of having limited resources? I sure do. And yet, it’s when things are limited that I get most creative. I remember a sense of play this time last year, when the shops were shut and I wanted to build garden beds. That’s also when the people around me were MOST receptive to the Blue Borage method of composting. I’m all about making use of your existing resources rather than spending lots of money on the fanciest looking equipment.

Where do you experience limitations, and are you getting creative to find ways to get even better results as a result of this challenge?

Globally, we are running out of good top soil. Eventually we will run out of soil to grow food, which will lead to food shortages. Is NOW the time to deal with this limitation by treasuring all compostable resources such as food waste and garden waste, and to prioritise composting in home gardens, apartment complexes, parks and workplaces? If yes, what would that take? Is it about radical legislation, or more about consumer driven ‘guerilla’ composting?

The limitation of very little space between these trees led me to create a compost enclosure that could be moulded to fit the space, and light enough to carry around the garden on my own. A big bonus is that it blends in.

Tuesday 4th May — Mars

In Anthroposophical circles, Tuesday Mars day, and you may see many Waldorf teachers wearing red or pink. Mars was the god of War, and represents assertiveness and the use of initiative to make things happen.

It makes me think of Climate Action marches, Extinction Rebellion and how frequently we hear the voices of youth demanding change.

In Human Design, Mars represents Immaturity — this is in terms of energy that is impulsive, demanding and forceful. It’s what has us speak without thinking and act without considering the consequences.

Where is Mars today?

For me, this means initiating new projects, so it’s a perfect time to be stuck at home dismantling my garden and pondering next season’s projects... how could I begin building a dozen workplace gardens with biodynamic composting designed into them, starting in June?

Mars energy helps me work with assertiveness to build structures where compost is valued, part of our food system and not seen as waste. ‘Good Food for All’ would probably be my battle cry.

Questions to ask yourself inside this energy…

Are there problems that seem insurmountable, where some help from the God of War would help get these projects into your calendar?

Are there structures so rigidly embedded within your organisation that it will take a Mars-fuelled-rebellion to change the system? (I’m thinking of food scraps transported 80km from their source, to make compost and then send them 80km back into the city as bagged soil. Is the era of compost couriers coming to an end?)

Wednesday 5th May — Mercury

Mercury, often nicknamed the Messenger of the Gods. Also called the God of financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication, travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, merchants and thieves. It’s about flexibility and negotiation.

In Human Design, Mercury indicates what must be communicated.

So where is Mercury right now, and what’s to be communicated today?

Hmmm…. how do we view composting through this lens?

One suggestion: If we forget about the past and the future for just a moment, and look at the situation we are facing RIGHT NOW, just look at it, what impressions do we get?

I had to go to New Lynn mall yesterday, and passing by the food court at lunchtime, I noticed how they have staff working extremely hard to keep the food waste invisible. The staff themselves are almost invisible, very discreetly taking up minimal space and not attracting attention to their work. The tables kept empty, trays stacked neatly, and food scraps vanished away to some invisible loading zone… there’s a saying that we sometimes see best when we aren’t looking, and hear the most when we aren’t listening. Reflecting on food halls in shopping malls, I feel the question arising: “Why do we work so hard to make food waste invisible?”

Another image for today is the talk I gave at the Auckland Food Show last year, when Ceres organics invited me to come and present in their Healthy Hub. What an exciting concept, to pair organic food with biodynamic compost! I bet every single one of the food related businesses at the Food Show has a plan for dealing with food waste the best way they can — wouldn’t it be interesting to meet them one by one and see what they have come up?

The Auckland Food Show November 2020: Katrina talking about Composting at the Ceres Healthy Hub.

Thursday 6th May — Jupiter

Within Anthroposophy Jupiter represents the intelligence to see order and simplicity inside complex systems — the ability to see the whole picture and separate essential from non-essential. It’s big picture thinking.

For Human Design, Jupiter communicates Law and Protection, both personally and societally.

What does this look like?

For my birth chart, Jupiter is in Gate 19 Line 3 — it’s energy dedicated to supporting the people around me. “Gate 19 fuels two essential human mandates: the need to have access to basic resources like food and shelter, and the need for spirit.”

No surprise then, that my love of biodynamic composting and building food resilience is fulfilling the ‘law’ inherent in my design!

Today, Thursday 6th May (in New Zealand), Jupiter is in Gate 30 — The Gate of Feelings. “Freedom recognised as an illusion and limitation accepted as a fate.”

“The strength derived from knowledge and experience that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward.”

What does this mean for composting?

Let’s consider the case of composting in school settings, and the impact of our recent free lunch programme in schools. Imagine a school that’s ticking along nicely with managing green waste and food waste, and then gets the very generous daily delivery of food, enough food to feed every child a healthy lunch. Hurray!

Except…

The lunches are delivered to the full school roll, and delivered in single use packaging.

Suddenly, there’s a large volume of uneaten lunches to be rescued or composted, and a massive volume of packaging to deal with (70,000 lunches each day around Aotearoa New Zealand)

I don’t know of many schools who could quickly expand their composting to meet this need — do you?

It’ll be fascinating to see how each community finds their own solution to food waste. My hope is that as we evolve our food system as a society and that the final stage of composting is kept local, integrated into the cycle of growing food, and that we can design the compostable packaging out of the whole process.

My ideal picture has always been urban farms located close to each school, employing local people (owned by locals?), with cooking facilities close enough to transport the food and the food waste by foot or bicycle.

I had five years living in Japan where the school lunch programme is something worth studying, there was a cook/nutritionist in each and every school, with a trolley of food delivered to each class each day, where the week’s ‘lunch monitors’ would set up a mini cafeteria in the classroom. All pots and plates were returned to the kitchen at the end of the meal, and the serving uniforms taken home at the weekend for washing and passing onto the next lunch monitor. I was working part-time, but basically a housewife with three lunch menus on the fridge — my husband’s school, my elder daughter’s school, and my younger daughter’s daycare. My task was to try to plan dinner each night that wasn’t the same thing as what any of them had eaten that day for lunch, or were due to eat the next day.

I had the opportunity to meet Michael Bryan-Brown from Green Mountain Technologies back in 2018 and I put the question to him “How can we effectively manage food waste in schools?” His answer was simple: large scale worm farming. He sent me to the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, which led me to Rhonda Sherman and her 2019 publication ‘The Worm Farming Handbook’

Michael Bryan-Brown, President and Chief Engineer at Green Mountain Technologies based in Washington, USA.
Worm farming — a fabulous solution for dealing with food waste. You can study the behaviour of worms with a tiny system (pictured right), and then design the system to suit your community’s needs with the help of Rhonda Sherman’s book. The examples she shows are bespoke, some made with materials most people can access at low cost.

This is now my worm farming bible, and it travels to every composting consultation with me. I’m hunting for adventurous groups willing to design and build some of these very clever systems, to turn their food waste into worm castings with minimal labour and valuable outputs.

Want to learn more? I have an online course for making an in-ground worm farm here.

Friday 7th May — Venus

How does Venus influence our composting choices?

Within Anthroposophy, Venus represents nurturing, caring energy, with a bounteous capacity to look after others.

In Human Design it’s about sociology, and our values. There’s a relationship between our values (Venus) that become our laws (Jupiter) and then the consequences of our actions are handed to us the judge (Saturn).

Today Venus is in Gate 8 Line 3 (moving to Line 4 from about 10am)

This gate is called ‘Holding Together: the Gate of Contribution’
“The basic worth realised in contributing individual efforts to group goals”

This sounds like very collective energy, but it’s not, it’s about the individual acting on their own. It’s saying that we be lone wolves, doing our own thing, and still contribute to what community groups are doing.

I’ve never been inclined to take part in community gardening initiatives… it’s not that I’m antisocial, but I prefer being in nature alone, and I love having my food growing really close to the kitchen so that I don’t have to plan too far ahead. I also like my composting happening right outside the house — the thought of driving somewhere with food scraps seems like so much energy.

Luckily the whole realm of composting is changing and adapting to suit people like me. Instead of community gardening, it’s now possible to access composting at urban farms — people can take their food scraps to a community compost operation in the same trip as picking up a weekly veggie box.

Another clever initiative is the platforms that connect composters with those who need somewhere to do composting. ShareWaste and MakeSoil are the two that I know of, but there may be others as well.

Something I’d like to see is for large companies with mountains of compost to make space for their customers to help out with the issue of food waste. My local fruit & veggie store has a bin of unsold lettuce leaves and broccoli stalks, and people can help themselves to that material for chicken food. Imagine if there was a way to pick up material for worm farms as well?

BP do this well, with bags of coffee grounds left at the front door with a big sign letting gardeners know to help themselves.

Is the problem too big for individuals to make a dent with one bucket at a time? I often think about how bees and worms work… bees can only carry tiny amounts of pollen, and the stomach of a worm doesn’t hold much, but collectively these animals make truckloads of honey and soil. Could we as humans each start to contribute just a little each day as well?

Two little buckets a day doesn’t seem like much, but if this amount of food waste were taken from supermarkets by each shopper, then surely it would make a difference?

I’d love to hear your suggestions for how individuals can help address our composting needs. You can add your ‘future as now’ vision here.

Saturday May 8th — Saturn

In Human Design Saturn acts as the judge, teaching us restraint and discipline. There’s a strong connection between our values (Venus), our laws (Jupiter) and where Saturn is positioned in our chart.

Today, Saturn is in Gate 13 Line 1: a gate of Fellowship, being the Listener. “Universal ideas and values in an ordered framework which inspire humanistic cooperation”

Line 1 is called Empathy: “The ability to relate and commune with everyone with equanimity”

How do we listen to compost?

What do we all have in common as a universal idea and value?

I found this hard!

Until it struck me, that instead of listening to everyONE, we could listen to everyTHING. And listen to compost itself. What’s it saying?

And the universal value could be something along the lines of ‘good food for all’: how do we feed the population of the world a healthy diet?

My answer to these questions is that compost is begging to be linked to food. Can we extract the concept from the waste conversation, and put it firmly into our food system?

And secondly, can we prioritise access to land for growing food, so that we can see what a local, seasonal diet looks like? Here in Auckland that would look like thousands of urban farms, so that no matter where you live, you can walk to a small farm growing seasonal vegetables, meet the farmer, learn about gardening, buy some vegetables, and get any excess food waste turned to compost.

I’d love to hear your Saturnian vision, and have a survey here for gathering visions of the future role of compost.

Listening to compost itself — what is it asking us to do?

More to follow:

Compost Coach based in Titirangi, West Auckland, New Zealand. Using biodynamics to help home gardeners make top quality soil. https://www.blueborage.co.nz/