Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rotten!

It seems that we are officially composters.

There have been rumblings about this in our house ever since we moved here last July and it has finally come to pass. In the past few months Joshua and I looked on as Jay shredded newspaper after newspaper and then eventually built his own composter from plastic tubs. Then he went to the feed store to adopt some worms and, voila, now we have a compost pile.
There's been a small learning curve for me. I have to remember to keep our food waste rather than dumping it down the garbage disposal like I used to. I also have to remember not to turn off the garage light if I get up in the middle of the night. Apparently the light in the garage reminds the worms to stay in the nasty stuff where it's dark, so it's best to leave it on. That way I won't step on piles of worms on my way out to the car.

And I also have to remember what can be composted and what cannot. This is obviously not rocket science, but sometimes I have to ask to make sure. Meat is right out, but paper towels are OK as long as they don't have cleaners or other non-organic waste on them. This is a relief to me since we go through more paper towels than I'm really comfortable with. I was beginning to think that our paper towel usage was cancelling out the environmental good we were doing by using cloth diapers. But now they get eaten by worms and put in my garden! It almost makes me feel a little better about using plastic at the grocery store.

Hopefully we'll have a great garden to show for it.

16 comments:

Kat E said...

I would love it if you could email me some details about this! We have a septic system so no garbage disposal, and I have also been feeling terrible about paper towel usage. At the state fair last year we saw a vendor selling worm composting systems--he had bumper stickers that said "Promote Global Worming" ;) It's encouraging that you can build your own with simple supplies...

Jenny said...

me too, me too! I'd love to know how to do this...

Jay said...

I waded through several sets of free plans and considered a few kits/ready made systems. I also consulted with some friends, and found the OSCR Jr. to be the best option for us. Big props to the folks in Klickitatcounty, WA for posting a pdf of the plans, photos of the finished OSCR Jr., and thorough instructions. Google also knows a lot about worm bins.

Ruth said...

Hi there!

I really hope that composting works for you. My husband and I are manic re-cyclers. We go to ridiculous lengths to ensure that everything that can be recycled IS recycled - our car boot (or trunk?) is often full of plastic milk bottles waiting to go to the local re-cycling dump (other stuff is collected from home).

BUT. We did not get on with composting when we tried it. We put the composter at the bottom of the garden - about 20 meters from the house -and yet we were inundated with small flies. The composter seemed to attract them and they came into the house. So we gave up and I'm afraid to say that our food-rubbish goes into the bin.

Don't want to put you off though - and if anyone knows how to compost without the flies, do tell! (My mother composts and has no flies.....?

Jennifer said...

We did composting one year........

yea.

We did composting one year. :)

Let us know how it goes. And thanks for the link!

anna said...

I also raise my hand to say "been there done that". I hate composting. I love the concept of it, I love the benefits of it and I love the end product from it but I abhor smelling wet composting food oh and stirring it....ick ick and double ick. I know I know the worms are where it's at. Jesse has the worm bed all made and we even tried it at the last house but I let the worms die so alas we haven't tried it again. Maybe this summer. This is my ideal composter though...I think I would like it at least...
Kitchen Composter
I think my abhorration to composting comes from lugging bags upon bags of bad Kimchi back to the compost pile on the island and seeing rats running around...total gross out!!!!
I love my garbage disposal and I'm proud of it.

Jenny said...

Not to rain on your parade, MB, but thank you to your been-there-done-that friends. I think composting may wait... a while... ;) It's a great idea and given a lot of space, maybe, but I think the little backyard might not be ready for it!

Mary Beth said...

I asked Jay to comment again about flies and such. Our composter is in our the corner of our garage. No flies, no rats, no smell.

anna said...

I will say that when we used the worm bin there were no flies, no rats, and no smell...all that was from our open compost heap in Korea. Like I said the worm bin is the way to go if you're going to compost inside the house/garage. I'm just not ready to make the effort at my current stage of newborn, toddler, preteen life but probably this summer I see us getting the worm bin out again. Sorry for the horror stories

jay said...

From what I understand, the flies get access to the food waste to lay their eggs, either before or after it reaches the compost heap. This problem was traditionally dealt with by burying the compost under a layer of mud or a thick layer of dry mulch. Nowadays, the plastic tubs perform the function of fly exclusion and make it a lot easier to add waste. The vent in the lid of our bin is covered with cheesecloth.

Frankly, I don't think composting's worth the effort unless you have a place to use the compost. I also wouldn't bother if you just want to increase the fertility of your lawn. I like a lush, green lawn, but not as much as like to avoid mowing. I'm planning on using it on the vegetable garden and fruit trees, and if there's a surplus, it will go in the pasture. The pasture's vacant currently, but stay tuned. I'm sure any arriving tenants will be introduced here on Pastor Mom.

Mary Beth said...

Huh. You never know what you'll learn when your husband comments on your blog.

First, I didn't know there was cheesecloth in our bin. The rule in our house is that if it's your big idea, then it's your responsibility. (Except for the cloth diapers. Not my big idea, but now that I'm home all day I get the responsibility for washing them). Ergo, I have not gone anywhere near the compost bin.

Second, do we have fruit trees? Are we going to have fruit trees?

anna said...

ROFLMO!!!!!
This is precisely why Jesse doesn;t read my blog. ;)

Sarah said...

I think the flies are often a result of the compost being too damp. Putting more brown stuff (paper, dry leaves, that sort of thing) is supposed to help.

I cpmosted for a bit and really liked it - I preferred it to throwing stuff away - it did make me feel virtuous :)

We've moved to another rented house and left our compost bin behind. We're hoping to buy soon and I'm hoping to have a garden to do some more composting in.

Jennifer said...

Very interesting! I have learned so much reading these comments.

Our composting didn't fly (heh) because we didn't use worms, and because we live in a suburb where people do not appreciate the fine art of being crunchy (or the smell of compost bins). Maybe I will try again one day now that I have all this great info.

Mercedes said...

My dad is a huge gardener and we always had a compost pile growing up. It was always outdoors in a corner of the yard (we always had a big yard), and my dad dumped the grass clippings on top of the pile to keep away the flies. But, we did have all nature of rabbits and mice and other critters making their nests in the pile. I know exactly the smell of compost that everyone has commented upon and the gory ick of the compost after it has done its thing. I have not gotten myself around to composting yet -- I buy compost and use it to plant everything. The stupid clay soil we have -- seriously, I swear you could cut out a lump of clay, throw it on a potter's wheel and make plates -- is so poor that if I plant anything and want it to grow, I have to first dig up the clay, then crumble it up as best I can (throwing the huge clay lumps away), mix it with topsoil and mushroom compost. Very time consuming. So, I guess I am saying I could definitely make use of compost -- I just haven't gotten there yet. Wonder what my husband thinks of composting, now that I think of it?

erica said...

Hope the bins go well. When I spent my 7th grade year at a crazy, "free-range learning" kind of school, we were allowed to pick our science curriculum as a class. We choose "vermicomposting". The teacher's let us research it, put it together, and the whole enterprise was to sink or swim on our middle-school research and development abilities.

Guess what? We wound up with a fruit fly paradise in the corner of our classroom. (There's a reason why middle schoolers don't run the world!)

But, I'd love to try it again when we get a house...