OK, so I’m in bed watching Suzy Bartels’ YouTube video on hay bale gardening during the wee hours of the morning. She’s talking about adding high nitrogen fertilizer to the bales during the third week and I’m zoning off. Then she says: “Peeing on them is the best thing, or you can go to Agway and buy somebody else’s pee. They call it urea. It’s still just pee.”
I practically fall out of bed.
When I was a kid, I was taught to say, “I have to tinkle.” As I got older, “I have to go to the bathroom.” I remember in high school, my cool friend Meggie called it “piddle” which is cute if you are talking about a puppy. But the word “pee”? Nice girls didn’t say that.
So, let’s just call it urine, for the sake of science, and figure this out. I start Googling again.
· One site explains that urine is a natural source of agricultural fertilizer with negligible risks. In fact, urine treated and disposed of is more of an environmental problem than when it is used au naturel as a resource.
· At the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, researchers have been studying urine recycling for 15 years. Our digestive system strips the “waste” down to basic mineral forms that plants just suck up.
· An article in Scientific American magazine reports that in Finland researchers are growing beets, cucumbers, cabbages, and tomatoes using urine as a sustainable fertilizer.
· Each year the average human produces 500 liters of urine, full of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, all craved by plants. Five hundred liters would fill three bathtubs.
· Urine is practically sterile. Astronauts on the International Space Station drink the darned stuff after it has been purified.
This late-night research is boggling my mind. Memories flood in like high tide.
Flashback:We are in Avalon, NJ, for a summer vacation with several families. A friend is visiting. One of the moms thinks the girl is ill mannered because she “forgets to flush”. It turns out her family was conscious of our limited resources before ecology and recycling became household words. She taught us this little water conservation ditty: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
Flashback: I’m studying at Penn State’s Marine Science Consortium at Wallops Island, VA. I’m chasing after my duck-footed professor as he dashes off into the dunes. I don’t want to miss the family of ghost crabs or a tasty patch of salicornia I think he is racing toward. He stops, spreads his legs apart, his hands busy in front of him. “The pose.” I turn and scamper in the opposite direction, laughing at my naiveté.
Flashback:Just the other day I’m giving my son “the lecture” after spotting him outside the house in “the pose”. He is aiming at the rhododendron, but tells me he is looking for groundhogs.
“We may be outside the borough, but this is a college town. The police call that open lewdness or indecent exposure or, at the very least, urinating in public. You’ll get in trouble. And what would your grandmother think?”
Back to Reality: A new day is dawning. I’m enlightened. I still won’t say the P-word but I do have a plan.
“Hey Richard, are you doing anything the third week in May? I’ve got a job for you…”
No. 2 Thought:“There is no doubt about it, the basic satisfaction in farming is manure, which always suggests that life can be cyclic and chemically perfect and aromatic and continuous.” –E.B. White