Today we engaged in the process to clear the field before the winter comes. We like to gather up all the dead plant material from the field and pile it up in a corner to begin the composting process. We call these piles “carbon caches” and will later mine these piles to combine them with a nitrogen source (green weeds, manure, food scraps) to make our compost piles over the course of the year or longer.
Not all of our dead plant material goes into the carbon cache, however. In the picture above you can see us piling up the dry bean plants that we will burn in the old stainless steel washing machine drum, also seen above. We will harvest and sift the ashes which will become “culinary ashes” that we will use to make posole (hominy) or add to corn meal for a nutritional boost (the alkalinity from the ashes releases niacin and other amino acids).
We will use the ashes for nixtamalizacion (the process of cooking maize in an alkaline solution) and can also complete this process using lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide).