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Compost

A friend gave each of the older babies a doll when Bunter was born. The kind with a diaper you can change so you can learn to be a good baby owner? Bun Bun named hers Oh For Pete’s Sake. It’s the same name she suggested for Bunter. Bunlet named his Compost. Pretty much the best baby name ever, am I right? Bunlet likes to make crying noises and then stick Compost’s pacifier in. Very sweet, though do I really need more crying in my life?

Anyway, I actually wanted to talk about the other kind of compost. I have been composting for years. My mom always did when I was growing up, so having a bowl of scraps on the counter is normal for me. My mom just threw the scraps in a big pile in a corner of the yard. When I had a yard of my own, I figured I could do better. It’s simple, right? You add some kitchen scraps, some other stuff, and you turn it and you get magic-nutrient rich dirt for your garden! The yard came with a bin, so I used that for a while. But I never turned it, so it was just a pile of egg shells and lemon peels. No nutrient rich dirt for my garden. So then I got a tumbler, because that would solve the turning problem, right? But I didn’t put in enough BROWNS, and then there was a heat wave, and it turned into foul, horrifying sludge. And also the tumbler fills up quickly and then you can’t add new stuff until it’s dirt. So what do you do in the meantime?  So I added in some trench composting, where you did a hole and dump your stuff in. That should be a perfect solution. It’s certainly a perfect solution for the wild animals. I’m going to have the fattest racoons and skunks in the kingdom. And a yard strewn with grapefruit peels. Now winter is coming. What are you supposed to do in the winter?

Obviously there’s loads of information on the internet, but the internet either a) makes it sound really simple or b) makes it sound really complicated (cut everything into two inch pieces!). So here’s what I want to know: If you compost, what do you do?

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. California mom #

    We have a large bin in the backyard that we got from our local landfill (we took a class). The husband turns it. Maybe once a month? Our little bin we keep under the sink for food scraps fills every week or 2 (and we have a spare). Our only issue is sometimes gnats fly out of it when it’s opened. Although there are raccoons and squirrels around m, they don’t try to bust in to my knowledge. Neither do the deer or other critters.

    December 9, 2015
  2. That gets the slowmamma award for best name EVER!!!!!!! Even I, worshipper of compost that I am, never thought to use it as a name. Bunlet is awesome!

    As to compost, it shouldn’t be complicated. I vote for a two system approach. The heap outside I use for some cardboard, leafy items like old lettuce and yard waste with a few coffee grounds, peels and egg shells in the mix. I keep a bail of hay around (free from the nieghborhood nursery halloween display) that I typically use for mulch but also add to the compost anytime I add something that the varmints might find appealing (burnt beans?). Turning it is a nice idea and one that I engage in on occasion but it does just fine with no turning- simply takes longer and I just dig from the bottom when I’m hankering for some. The important part is the moisture. That you do have to pay attention to. In my case, I’ve had to water my pile but in your case you may have to throw a cover over it to avoid waterlogging.

    As for all the other compostables, I strongly urge you to consider worms. They are sooooooooooooo cool. You could buy or make a sweet worm hotel (I have one like this: https://www.etsy.com/listing/64413244/on-sale-3-bin-worm-composter?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=worm%20bin&ref=sr_gallery_3). Set it up in your basement and let it go. So much fun for the kids!

    The rest of our compost goes in the city bins. They have super hot systems that can rot almost anything. If your fine city isn’t on the bandwagon, we can hope that they will get there soon (bun bun’s first political action?).

    December 10, 2015
    • That worm farm is so pretty! The kids already love the worms in the current compost heap… Does it really work? Talk me into this! (What do you mean by the REST of your compost? Should I get a row of six of them to handle my many scraps? Do you end up with more worms than you can redistribute?)

      December 16, 2015
      • Of course those brilliant children of yours already love worms! Can you imagine that a child who names his doll “Compost” would be anything but excited about worms?????? It DOES work and it is easy and you will have very good fertilizer for the garden. The downsides are that it takes a while to get going (at first the few worms you have will be easily overwhelmed by your scraps so you need to take it slow). The worms are also a bit picky. They don’t like grease so you can’t scrape your dinner plates into the bin (for this you will need to wait for your next project: chickens!!!). Still, it is worthwhile. In the beginning you will just watch them make babies and then you will really get to feed them. If you ever get tired of them, into the garden they go. You might also donate some to your kids preschool.

        Another tip: the compost heap can really benefit from a little starter nitrogen to get the process going. For this, I seriously recommend the LIQUID contents of Bunlet’s potty. I know it sounds a little icky but it is useful and it is also thought to send a signal to other animals to stay away. I refrain from using my own for this purpose but I don’t mind the kiddos. g gets to pee on the pile whenever he feels like it.

        December 27, 2015
  3. We have a bin that was formerly a tote for industrial liquid bins, like a big metal cage with a bar across the top. It keeps most animals out, surprisingly. Open/wire sides. Composts amazingly well. In cold city we had one made of wood and chicken wire, but with a lid. Both open at the bottom for ease of annual turning/ moving top layer back in and using bottom layer. We just keep throwing stuff in all winter (it’s warm enough to keep rotting here, but it froze solid in cold city) and have a pitchfork to deal with it in the spring.

    December 10, 2015
  4. Nicky #

    Bah! Yes, to everything you have said. Except my yard doesn’t seem to get the critters. I have a tumbler that has two compartments so you can add to the second while the first is working. In reality, it’s too small and I should have two full-size ones. But I also struggle to add enough browns, and the flies go crazy for it. Yuck. So my solution is two tumblers! And a garbage can of dry leaves next to them. My tumblers freeze solid in the winter, of course. I keep adding until they’re full, then go add to the pile behind my fence. (Still my property.) I have heard of anaerobic composting in a 5 gallon pail in your garage, but I haven’t tried it. My only experience with vermicomposting was a friend who did it, and had lots of fruit flies. Not ok in my house.

    Good luck, let us know if you solve the problem!

    December 10, 2015
  5. Megan #

    We have two bins we got from the landfill, and put wire underneath them for added rodent protection. I mostly use one and the other is backup during the winter when things slow down. They have little doors on the bottom for pulling the finished dirt out. I don’t cut anything up or turn it unless it gets wet and stinky (damp New England), and we throw a lot of oak leaves in them in the fall. I also compost things like toilet paper tubes and brown paper bags to up the browns, but mostly I don’t worry about it and it all seems to work out.

    December 10, 2015
  6. the frugal ecologist #

    My favorite method is a 4×4 square bin turned each time I go out with a pitchfork/hoe that stays in the bin. 4 recycled pallets work great. This is my fave in terms of aesthetics, speed and lack of smell.

    Right now we use something from home despot called the earth machine. Very good for keeping out rats, raccoons, etc. If you want to use the compost you really need 2 bins. Let one compost completely while you continue to add to the other.

    December 10, 2015
  7. Winter Blue #

    Two regular black bins. Fill with kitchen scraps, but nothing cooked, nothing w grains, and (obviously) no meat. Turn w a pitchfork irregularly. Paper towels (rarely used but if I have one that’s just damp), shredded newspaper and /or dry leaves are my browns. If it gets too dry, add a bit of water. When one gets full, pull some close to finished compost from the other and start filling the second. The first one can hopefully be used in the garden. Make sure they are in a sunny spot.

    December 11, 2015
  8. We bring ours down the street to the neighbourhood community centre. Right now, until then, it lives in our kitchen. COMPOST!

    December 11, 2015
  9. Compost is a FABULOUS name! (Says the professional onomsat here).

    We lucked out, in Tilburg and Heidelberg they had municipal composting — compostables got their own bin, and were picked up with the trash and the recycling. In Heidelberg especially, where EVERYTHING is recycled, we ended up having only a very small bag of trash every other week. It was great.

    They don’t have something like that in Durham, so we’re thinking of doing some sort of composting in the back yard after we move. I’m not sure how, exactly, since we don’t have that much space.

    December 11, 2015
  10. Oh! I just remembered: When I was in high school, one of my pet snakes only ate worms (as opposed to the goldfish that the other ones ate), which meant I grew worms in the basement. We had a decent-sized plastic tub filled with dirt and worms which we tossed food scraps into. (They thrived on a diet of tea leaves, cereal dust, the tops of carrots, and newspaper). This turned out far more worms than I needed for Quizzle, and also pumped out some fabulous dirt, so the dirt and the extra worms would go into my sister’s garden (which only somewhat mollified her about the fact that she was living in the same house as a snake).

    I had completely forgotten about this; this may be the route that we go in our new place. It takes up little space, it is clean, it can be done indoors (we kept them in the basement), and it doesn’t smell.

    December 11, 2015
  11. Cr #

    We compost in a manner akin to your mother. I have two piles, organized by folding fences. I fill one up with kitchen scraps, browns (leaves or grass clippings or straw), loose cardboard (like egg cartons). Then it sits while I do the same with the second pile. When the second pile is full (takes about 6 months), I turn the first pile. The bottom is usually all compost, the top stuff might need more time, and if so I just toss it on the top of the second pile. Now second pile will keep sitting for another 6 months and I will start filling in the opened spot of pile 1.

    This is lazy composting. So I only “turn” at the time of “harvesting”. Otherwise I ignore them totally. I get compost twice a year, once in spring (not very much compost then usually) and a bunch in late fall. I fertilize everything in the fall, I don’t till the garden in the spring– it’s ready for planting with the fall compost having seeped in throughout the winter.

    I’m in New York City, it does get below zero in the winter…haven’t had a problem with animals but we do have quite a dearth of wildlife here.

    Oh and I bag up all of our leaves and then use as my browns all year, supplemented by a bale or two of straw if I can get one.

    Best of luck. I love following along with your family. I want to add that “Oh for Pete’s sake” is an equally impressive baby name!

    Xx

    December 12, 2015
  12. I have no idea about composting, but your kids have an awesome sense of humor already. Much like their mom!

    December 15, 2015
  13. SRB #

    This has all been very helpful to read! Right now, I have a bowl of scraps on the counter. When that gets full, I put it in the green bin under the sink. When that gets full, I put it in the BIGGER green bin in the garage. When THAT gets full, I put it out at the street and the town picks it up and takes it…somewhere? I don’t actually know what happens to it after that. Mrrrrrp.

    I have been trying to decide between getting one of those spinning compost things or a rain barrel. Rain barrel seems more my speed, methinks.

    December 15, 2015
  14. I guess this has made me realize that getting rid of the scraps is not a problem–the heap method works fine for that. But it doesn’t work so well for the ever having any compost for my garden problem, because what’s at the bottom of MY heap tends to be not at all well broken down when I need it the spring. So…y’all are kind of talking me into the worm thing. Pros: sounds like a more effective way to turn scraps into nutrients. Cons: Am I going to end up with A BILLION WORMS? Plus, worms are gross. But I dunno, I think I might try it out!

    December 16, 2015
    • A billion worms is not a bad thing, when you have a garden to dump them into.

      And I can assure you that one of Bunlet, Bunter, and Bun Bun will find worms to be AWESOME rather than gross, so you can shift any worm-handling duties onto them.

      December 17, 2015

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