March 10, 2010
Another lovely day, another opportunity to work outside. Today’s mission was to clean out the compost pile, which had acquired an unfortunate collection of twigs, sticks, dead vines and wood ashes right on top. Naturally, all that stuff was just dried out, and in the way of the business end of the pile.
Clearing that mess out of the way, I was pretty excited to finally see the result of all the kitchen scrap collecting I’d forced my husband to do throughout 2009. We had a juice jug in the fridge — clearly marked “FOR COMPOST” so no one would try to drink from it. I shudder at the thought. Into that jug went coffee grounds, scraps of vegetables, fruit, bread, egg shells, pasta, banana peels, cereal and leftovers of any non-dairy or non-meat item we consumed. My husband tired of it, but our pile grew, so he gamely went along with it.
We probably added three or four pounds of kitchen waste to the compost heap each week, with the side result that our trash smelled far better and we weren’t having to take it to the dumpster as often. We also recycle incredible amounts of plastic, paper, cardboard and other wrapping materials, to the point that it almost makes more sense to have a large can for recycling and a small can for real trash.
Our compost bin design is super cheap. We bought a 4-foot length of chicken wire and fastened the ends with wire to make a really crude mesh bin. We stuck a plastic pole in the middle and covered the top with a black plastic yard waste bag, which we fastened to the edges with those heavy-duty paper clips they use in offices for big stacks of paper.
The plastic bag idea was good in theory, but not so much in practice. Water pooled along the edges, which I dumped regularly to discourage mosquitoes, but those damn bugs will lay eggs in any drop of water so it didn’t seem to matter much. The plastic pole kept leaning, so eventually we just discarded it. The bin probably got about halfway full by the end of the season, and not once did it smell bad. It always smelled sweet, earthy and pleasant–except when rotting melons were right on top.
Today when I cleaned out the bin, the heap only occupied the bottom quarter of the bin. But it was a beautiful sight to behold, after all the debris was gone: crumbly, black, sweet compost. God bless bugs and worms. They made me some dirt!
I spread it out over the big raised bed, the perennial-grapevine bed and the two sunniest beds, and there’s enough left to put a little bit on the shadiest northern bed. It’s so gratifying to have a long-term experiment turn out exactly as I’d hoped.
The compost jug is back in the fridge as of today, and Compost 2010 is officially underway again!