|June 5, 2014
Bob Bell's compost help provide fertile ground for local gardening
By Lailani Upham
Bell checks the mulch pile for readiness. (Lailani Upham photo)
RONAN — Bob Bell’s compositing business is more like a hobby and service to the local community. “I never thought I’d be doing organic farming,” he said. It just kind of happened he added.
Bell, a CSKT tribal member, said it all started out with a conversation with a friend that turned into an interest in helping others with their growing and gardening endeavors across the Flathead Reservation.
The conversation was about starting a community garden, said Bell.
He said it was all fun and games until the work started. He loves the work; it’s what keeps him going each day.
CSKT tribal member Bob Bell walks along his piles of composting material that are “cooking” to perfection. (Lailani Upham photo)
Most folks go into business hoping to raise a dollar and although it is a need for Bell to keep going he looks at as a reward to help someone grow a healthy and productive crop. That is the big difference in Bell’s business – he does it because he loves it and cares and it has no chemicals.
His composting material is all a natural process and no chemicals are ever used he said. “We don’t want chemicals in the ground,” he said. Doing it right and being right is his motto.
His main and possibly magical ingredient? Left over Mackinaw carcasses from the Mack Days event each year. One way he can tell if he has a weak spot that needs to be mixed up is if he spots magpies or ravens picking at the “Mack Days” piles.
Bell takes a handful from a cut grass pile to feel its warmth. The grass naturally heats up and is nature’s way of breaking things down. Putting grass clippings in the compost helps to make soil rich in nutrients. (Lailani Upham photo)
Bell keeps up the process all year round.
Recyclable grass, leaves, wood chips and stinky fish are all reusable into a great ground soil of nutrients – nitrogen.
The breakdown of the fish turns to nitrogen explains Bell. For microorganisms, carbon is the basic building block of life and is a source of energy, and nitrogen is also necessary for such things as proteins, genetic material, and cell structure.
Bells is proud of the idea that nothing is going to waste and can be used for good. The composting usage reduces the amount of materials that go into landfills, which cuts down on the waste stream.
SKHA lawn maintenance makes a dump addition to Bells composting spread. Instead of taking the clippings to the garbage Bell is able to turn it into rich ground for anyone needs a boost in gardening. (Lailani Upham photo)
Bell offers a couple community gardens and has more room to grow. So far one patch is growing corn, beans and squash – what is known as the “three sisters” – vegetable that compliment and grow evenly together.
Another spot in his corral garden is sprinkled with a special soil of pine needles and leave – and it produces a nice crop of beets and carrots.
In the heart of that garden is a bush called comfrey. Comfrey is a common name for plants in the genus Symphytum. Comfrey species are important herbs in organic gardening. It is used as a fertilizer and as an herbal medicine, according to Wikipedia.
Bell says he garden is open to anyone that wants to come and plant and work do the work. “That’s what it’s here for – for those who want to grow their own foods,” he said.
Bell maintains a community garden for the Amish near his composting piles. Corn, beans, and watermelon are a few of the seeds planted in the rich soil. (Lailani Upham photo)
Bell’s desire is to help people in farming gardens. His fee is actually very inviting for some to start their own gardens and be successful. Bell just wants people to know he is here and open for business.
For a ton of compost that equals closely to a three quarter ton truck load is about $60, he said.
He is located west of Ronan past Westland Seed. For more information call Bob Bell at (406) 360-1637.