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Friday, May 21, 2010

A composting we go, a composting we go, high-ho the dairy oh....

I've mentioned before that we had a garden both last year and this year.  We also compost, as a way to fertilize our garden without using chemical fertilizer.  This also helps us reduce the amount of trash we are actually sending  out to the landfill.  If you think about it, it makes absolutely NO sense to put food scraps.. eggshells and peels and the like into a plastic bag that will takes hundreds or thousands of years to decompose, when the food scraps themselves will decompose in a matter of months.  But I digress.

Composting is an art form that I apparently do not understand and my husband does.  (There are many things that go this way...) But we do try to keep it relatively simple, as our daughter has to be able to do it, and our son will once he's bigger and cleaning up after himself more.  We keep a bucket in our kitchen (ours is a joint compound bucket from when we tiled at the other house.) Into the bucket we throw:
  • fruit peels
  • vegetable ends (celery stalks, bases of carrots, etc.)
  • coffee grounds
  • egg shells
  • cooked grains (rice, quinoa, etc.)
And a few other things.  After some trial and error, and a bit of research, we determined no meat. My hubby wanted to include meat for a while to attempt to reduce our actual waste trash to zero, but after a month of feeling like I was dying from the smell I vetoed that.  When the bucket gets full, we take it out and toss it in our compost bin.  Now a friend of ours has a fancy compost bin that hangs out above the ground and has a crank to turn it, but that sucker sells for about $300 or so.   Yeah, right.  Our compost bin is a large plastic trash bin with holes drilled in the bottom to let the "juices" flow out.  (Why is so much that I write about so gross??)  Apparently this bin has to be "stirred" and/or rolled fairly often to help break down the food.  It also needs to sit in most full sun most of the time.

Here is what I have learned about composting myself:
1.) Your actual trash bin never smells. (Unless you forget and leave decomposing fish heads in it....but that's for another story.)
2.) Even if you don't include meat, your inside bin will start to smell from time to time, even when you keep a lid on it.  This is especially true in the hot summer.  Clean it regularly.  To clean, take it outside, empty it, and then rinse it out with the water hose.  Scrub with an enviro-safe cleaner (I like Shaklee's Basic H2).  Leave it out in full sun for about 3 hours.  The smell will be gone.
3.) Do not get lazy about emptying it.  If you do, the lid won't stay on properly, and the thing will smell.
4.) Often your visitors will simply not understand composting.  Explain as best you can, then relax.  It's not worth fighting about.
5.) Do enforce composting on your kid's friends.  It exposes them to (probably) something new and makes them think.
6.) Assign the person in your family who can smell the least or has been whining the most to deal with the large compost bin out back.

Can you compost if you have an apartment or a place with no yard? Yes, absolutely.  But you will be doing it on a much smaller scale, and you'll want to have something with a much tighter lid that a compound joint bucket.

I really need to do something about the bucket.  It's quite ugly.....

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