Confessions of a Composter
Most who know me well, have seen me spirit food scraps from restaurants. Yes. I admit. I am one of THOSE people.
I can’t stand to see waste. I think it may be a disease, as it is getting worse as I get older.
My possible disease diagnosis aside <wink> .. I’m getting quite a nicely rounded bio-cycle. Food for human consumption enters the cycle (via my own gardens, grocery, gifts from other growers…and um…restaurant take-away… What isn’t immediately consumable is given to the chickens.
What my free-range feathery little girls who run about the lawns with happy little smiles on their beaks then do, is give me eggs! What chickens can’t eat, goes into the compost. The chickens also produce manure; and that, along with their straw bedding, is regularly put into the compost, too.
The compost eventually gets dumped into the garden. The chickens eat bugs from the compost after random spreading there and further spread it out in the garden with their scratching. And I get eggs.
The compost improves the soil, helping grow abundant good food in the garden…and the cycle revolves. Did I mention I get eggs out of the deal too!? So I have learned that the more organic resources I can introduce into this little bio-cycle, the more powerful the food growing cycle is.
Now please note, I live within CITY limits…in a neighborhood. But fortunately, I also have a few acres of space for gardens! (yay me!) This style of healthy living is possible even with small patio gardening. (you should fore go the chickens if there is no room for them to be happy) You can compost in small places and keep vigorous plants in that soil in containers on your deck even. I’ll tell you how:
There are some really nice home use and commercial composting equipment you can pay a pretty penny for and if you want to go that route, that’s fine. I prefer to look around first to see if there is something I can reuse or recycle before I go buy new things.
Let’s call it creative composting. You can have a compost bin made out of just about anything. Look around, what have you laying about? Some cinder blocks? An old tarp? Old wooden pallets (these work great because you can stand your rakes and hoes, even Shepard’s crook flower holders to prettily screen your pile, in the outer wall). Old unused small dog kennel? A few 5 gallon plastic pails? Discarded window screens (just wire them together).
We use the big bulk food plastic barrels that would be discarded by huge food processors and go to a landfill to never break down. They are great for rain barrels too. Since turning your compost is important, you need access into it with a pitchfork…or in the case of my compost barrel…John has made a lid that fits tightly on the top and I just knock it over and roll it around a bit and stand it back up. When the time comes to put it on the garden, we just roll it there. He did drill some small holes in the sides and bottom for proper drainage and aeration.
Essentially, you just need something that will contain your compost, give it some aeration and drainage, and allow you to turn it in some manner.
Start your compost with brown matter. No…not poo. Lawn clippings, leaves, even cardboard/newspaper. Yes…paper is organic and will return to the earth as nutrients instead of a landfill if you mix it in a compost pile. You can even toss in some soil to introduce the microorganisms that break down matter into soil. Then you can begin tossing in your household scraps. Keep throwing on the brown matter. But there are somethings you shouldn’t put in your compost:
- used cat box litter (could spread disease)
- bones (won’t break down)
- large quantities of fat in one glob (add shredded newspaper with it and stir the pile)
- Meat (just be cautious as this may attract unwanted interest in your compost…I have never had a problem)
- non-organic items (plastic, heavily glossy mailings…)
Definitely add your coffee grounds; paper filter and all!
See an earthworm after a rain? Put him in too, to help break things down.
It works well to have two barrels as it takes about three to 6 months for a good compost to do it’s job. I fill one and let it sit for a month or two (still need to roll it around once in a while) while I start to fill the other. About the time the second one is getting full, it is time to put the first one on the gardens.
We have two kitchens at Bygone Basics/Amanda’s Bequest. We keep two small compost buckets in the kitchen and dump them daily into the larger one out doors. We just use a bucket we’ve found to re-use for this purpose, but you can purchase kitchen compost containers that are specifically made for this in many home-improvement stores.
Composting is a great way to boost your plants and food output, reduce your trash bill, keep a lot of paper and waste out of the landfill, take care of livestock manure, and of course, get eggs!
(did I mention I LOVE eggs?)
If you haven’t already, have a look at our websites:
Bygone Basics: www.bygonebasics.com
Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Farmstay Bed & Breakfast: www.amandasbequest.com