Montanoso Midden

The Montanoso midden is an ongoing collection of food waste, leaves, ash, and other matter inspired by middens and terra preta, both of which Andrew learned about from the book 1491.

Middens are waste heaps containing kitchen scraps, shells, or other objects that archeologists can use to study old societies. Coastal oyster shell middens were deposited over centuries and harvested by settlers to make tabby concrete for use in construction in areas where lime isn’t otherwise available.

Terra preta is a human-enhanced soil found in the Amazon. It is constructed from charcoal, broken pottery, and organic matter. Terra preta is much richer and more fertile than surrounding soils and is less susceptible to nutrient loss.

The Montanoso midden is different from a compost pile in that it isn’t meant to be turned, moved, or harvested. It is built in place in layers over time. As such we can deposit items that you wouldn’t normally want in a compost pile: bones, charcoal, pottery, etc.

The Montanoso midden was started after a septic repair in January 2022. The concrete lid of the septic tank was falling apart and replaced with a new one. The old lid was discarded over the edge of the hilltop, leaving disturbed soil and a concrete mess.

The midden was started to cover up the old lid and improve the appearance of the area.

The active Montanoso midden will move over time. It can be used for targeted soil enrichment or to backfill behind terrace walls.