Monday, November 14, 2011

To Compost or Not to Compost

Well, I don't know if that's really the question or not, but it's working for us. We've been talking about starting a second compost bin since the one we started when we moved in two years ago hasn't really been given a chance to cook, and therefore be used as, well, compost.

And isn't that the point?

We went to Home Depot to buy some fencing and posts and after tallying the nearly $100 worth of supplies in our cart, I thought there must be a better way.  And if not better, at least cheaper.  Down the aisle there were a bunch of cheap buckets, huge cheap buckets and it gave me an idea...wouldn't a trash can of some sort work fine if we drilled holes into it for circulation?

I suggested it to T and he remembered that he had a big square trash can at the warehouse, with a lid, that they hated because the bags they had never stayed around the top.  So we concluded that free sounded plenty good to us.  After returning our goods to their appointed places on the shelves, we sauntered off feeling creative and rich with ideas and promise (grin).

The Project

First, you need a power drill with a large drill bit...and someone to trust you with said power tool.


Don't ask me the size of the drill bit, because I have no idea -- no really, if you want to know, I'll get the info for you but I don't think there's any real science here.  I'm just making it up as I go along...

I'm a symmetrical kind of gal so I just drilled about six holes in each side...

...eight in the bottom...

...and four in the top.

Basically, I know the receptacle needs enough space for air to get through to feed the "fire", enough drainage so that the bottom doesn't just get gunky and wet.  Our other bin actually sits flat on the ground, which is ideal, but I'm guessing this will work as well.

Oscar, eat your heart out!

I moved the new compost bin to the garden right next to the other one. Knowing it's coming on winter and this thing is a little more rickety than I'd prefer, I figured a little landscaping brick in the bottom will keep it securely in place.

It might prove to be a pain when it comes time to move compost material out of the container, but this is an experiment after all, so we'll just see what happens over time.

If I've learned anything at all in my 41 years it's to leave space to succeed, or to fail. It doesn't really matter much which, because I'm going to learn something from it either way. And learning from our experiences is what this trip on the earth is all about. This is what I LOVE about my life! Got an idea? Try it! Roll with it and see what happens. We don't learn from sitting on the sidelines...we learn by jumping in with both feet and squishing our toes around in the mud...

Or in a big sloppy mess of food scraps and yard waste that won't decompose. Really? Won't decompose? It's going to decompose one way or the other, I promise why not give it a go?

Now, where was I?


Next, I built a base that will allow for air to move through...

...sticks work great for this.

Next, we're going for combination of brown and green -- this balance of dry and wet is what gets things moving.  Too wet and the "fire" goes out.  Too dry and it can't hold its has nothing to work on.  Knowing that I'll be adding more wet than dry as the fall and winter move on, I'm starting with quite a bit of dry to stir into over time.

So, I started with leaves and smaller sticks...

added the "green" of my spent mums and other flowers that are almost ready to be done for the season,

added some water...again, knowing that there is so much dry to start, I want to give it a little help.

Along come the happy kitchen scraps that will keep on coming all winter long.

See the other bin over there?  Happily cooking away!  It will be uninterrupted for the season except for the occasional turn to keep it processing.

OK, the grey guy is a little bit of an eye sore, I admit...neighbors, you can thank me later.  The holes are likely big enough for the littlest critters to get in, hopefully not to get much out (notice the chicken wire on the other one where critters chewed their way in the first winter).  Again, we'll see.  The brick on top is due to a broken clasp on the lid.

Hey, we do what we can with what we've got.

I'll be putting new scraps in every week (rule of thumb is all organic material except any kind of meat or bones) and turning it every week or two (take the pitch fork to it and stir it around a bit).  I don't worry a whole lot about how much true cooking takes place over the winter, or how good the wet/dry balance is...I can get it going much better come spring and warmer temps.

What I am glad for is to have space to get something ready for use at some point in the not so distant future.

So, how about you?  Do you compost?  What system works best for you?//

What's For Dinner Tonight?
It's an exceptionally busy week so after last night's production, I imagine the bulk of the week will be quick and easy.  Tonight, I went for flatbread pizza, this time loaded with fresh garlic, spinach, mushrooms, pesto sauce and freshly grated mozzarella cheese.  It always amazes me how something this easy can be so good -- and get veggies in me at the same time!

I have to admit I was jonesin' for some roasted squash like last time.  Mmm, mmm, good!

Have a great night!

P.S. The traps have been empty since yesterday!  Hooray!

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