Friday, February 17, 2017

Is Mother Nature in Menopause?!

If you know personally or have heard about the symptoms related to menopause, then you probably understand where I’m going with this. Last weekend I was out turning over my compost as I did three weeks before. I’ve been cleaning out garden beds as well, happy to be outside in the dead of winter.


Typically I never turn my pile in the winter and even if I wanted to (I don’t) it is frozen solid, but not this year. Mother Nature has kicked Old Man Winter out. Sure, he’s been allowed to come back here and there but not without a price to pay. Mother has been wreaking havoc with tornados and flooding while old man winter pays her back by dumping huge amounts of snow.

Moldy pineapple and birthday flowers in the center.

Luckily for our area, we haven’t been in the middle of their fight, just on the fringes. The hot flashes affecting us have allowed my compost pile to cook even though the calendar says February. My pumpkin from Halloween is but a mere stem and a bit of orange mush, there are a couple old hollowed out corn cobs to be found, as well as moldy skin of a pineapple, but the peels of other fruits and veggies as well as my coffee grounds have been transformed into what we all seek: that lovely organic matter-compost.


Pumpkin stem at the bottom. Can you find the millipede and worms?


Like a frightened child I wonder what Mother will do next and if it will have a negative impact on me. Will her banishment of Old Man Winter (except for a few short visits) and hot flashes lead to a change in what insects I have to deal with in my garden this summer, or other issues? Dear readers, if you have knowledge of what we can expect, please do share. Meanwhile, I’m going out to play in my compost pile.

Guest Blogger,

Jenny Lohmann

Friday, February 10, 2017

Compost Experiment: Can You Compost Paper Muffin Liners?

Guest Post from compost-lover Cher Mohring
 

I love a yummy lemon poppy seed muffin!



But what about the paper liner?
 
 
Can you compost it?  Let’s see . . .
 
 
First, I put the liner in a plastic mesh bag and buried it in the office worm bin.

 
Five days later...
 
When I check on it 5 days later I found some hungry worms in the bag. And the liner was noticeably smaller. So I reburied it.
 
Then, five more days later...
 
Not as many worms, but a little bit of liner left, so I decided to bury it for a third time.
 
By day 14: no worms, and no liner!
 
The answer to my question . . .YES you can compost paper muffin liners!
 
 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who Else Wants to Build a Compost Garden?

If you are like me, you spend a fair amount of time in the winter dreaming of the warmer days to come when you can get out in the garden and get your hands dirty. Recently, I visited a community garden in Walnut Hills that included a really cool garden I had never seen before: an African Keyhole Garden.

Why is this special? This type of garden bed has a compost bin in the center to provide water and nutrients to the surrounding plants.

A compost bin in the center of a raised garden bed. Brilliant!

We all know the fantastic benefit compost has for our soil. But I never considered actually building a garden around a compost bin.

African Keyhole Gardens originated in (you guessed it) Africa as a way to provide families with small-scale vegetable gardens. The climates where these gardens flourish are hot and dry and the soil is very poor quality. With African Keyhole Gardens people build a circular bed around a compost bin. By adding food scraps and other materials to the bin, the surrounding bed receives a steady supply of water and nutrients.

The “Keyhole” piece comes in because the bed is not a complete circle. A keyhole walkway gives access to the center compost bin.

Here are a few photos of the garden in Walnut Hills.
 


 
A shout out to Gary Dangel, community garden enthusiast and fellow composting nut with Elevate Walnut Hills  for giving me the tour! It was Gary's idea to weave the compost bin out of grapevines with a very pretty result.

If you want to build your own African Keyhole Garden, I recommend checking out the creative and varied designs here.
 
 
 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I am Frozen Just Like My Compost Pile

Guest Blogger Brad Miller

Winter has fully arrived and both my compost pile and I are frozen.  Since your pile freezes during the winter and goes dormant, the food scraps tend to build up uncovered.
One trick I learned was to save a bag or two of leaves from the fall. As my layer of food scraps build up on top of the pile, I then spread a layer of leaves over it. Based on how long winter lasts I can have many alternating layers of food scraps and leaves.
Once spring arrives and the compost pile warms up, having the leaves layered with the food scraps will help the materials break down until you can turn your pile. Just remember as you look outside at the frozen winter wonderland and your frozen compost pile, spring is only a few months away.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

World Soil Day

With all the hustle and bustle of the major holidays, you probably overlooked a very essential yet little known holiday just around the corner. December 5th is World Soil Day!

Of course we love soil! As composters we do our part to replenish the soil so why not take part in the celebration and raise awareness on the importance of soil to life on earth?
 
Perhaps you can give the gift of homemade compost to a gardener in your life, or share the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations videos, posters, infographics, and even t-shirts to help spread the joy of soil. You will also find great information on what we can do to help reduce the threats to our soil.



 

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Squeezing Every Penny out of my Produce

Like most of the people on this planet, I love food. My love affair with food and my lack of budget to dine out every night, results in a fair amount of cooking which I enjoy almost as much as eating the food.

Over the last year, I’ve come to appreciate even more the value of food. Everything we eat tells a story filled with the labor of the farmer, the soil and water to grow the food, the fuel to transport the food, and the energy to keep the food fresh in the store and your home. Everything we eat requires…

So many resources!

So, when a recipe calls for half an onion, I am faced with a choice. I could throw caution to the wind, chop the whole onion, and toss it in hoping for the best. I could store the half-onion in my fridge for a few days waiting for another recipe needing half an onion. I could, of course, compost the other half of the onion. But as much as I love compost, I hate to see perfectly edible food not used.

Just think of the resources!

So I’ve started something new. I took a gallon-sized freezer bag and labeled it “BROTH.” Every time I have a half-onion, carrots about to go bad, or the ends of mushrooms or leeks, I place them in the freezer bag and into the freezer. Last weekend the bag was full so I pulled out my stock pot and made a giant pot of delicious vegetable broth.

 

The spent veggies I pulled out of the broth? My compost welcomed them with open arms (millions of tiny outstretched arms). It felt good to make something out of the veggies before composting them and I generally pay good money for broth at the store. My efforts were rewarded with a delicious soup that evening.

If you want to feel an unnatural emotional attachment to a fruit, check out this fantastic video detailing The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry from the Ad Council and NRDC. Like any good drama, it is filled with romance, promise, and despair. J


 

 

 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Compost Ghost: A Halloween Ghost Story



Darkness comes early this time of year. So often, by the time I have a chance to take the kitchen scraps out, the sun has long set and I only have the light of the moon and a dim porch lamp to guide me back to my compost pile.

I don’t mind though. I walk this path every day, leaves crunching under my feet, the familiar rock path winding through small trees to the back of my yard. I still hear crickets chirping and our resident owl’s occasional call “who cooks for you” echoing across the yard.

I lift the lid of my compost bin and am about to pour out the contents of my kitchen collector when I see it. A tingling runs up my spine, goosebumps prickle my flesh, that sinking feeling of dread gnaws in my stomach.

What is that?

I lean closer into the bin, squinting in the darkness.

A white gossamer shape stretches across most of my compost. My heart races. A ghost? Could it really be a compost ghost?

Naturally, I do what any logical person does when confronted with something unknown. I pick up a stick and poke it. The fine thin arms like spider webs seem to reach out and grab the end of my stick.

Ah! It’s attacking!!!

The light of the moon hits the filaments and now I see. Now I understand.

Actinomycetes! A natural bacteria that looks more like a fungus, actinomycetes grow in the soil and sometimes in compost bins. Their enzymes help break down cellulose, bark, and woody stems. They give your finished compost a nice “woodsy” odor.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I drop my stick, empty my kitchen collector, and bury the food scraps, and the actinomycetes, in leaves.

“Compost ghosts,” I chuckle to myself as I walk back to the house. But I pick up the pace all the same.

 

Happy Halloween, composting friends!

Other ghoulish composting stories:
Was Frankenstein an Outstanding Composter?
How to Practice Compost Witchcraft
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs Your Compost is a Zombie
Smashing Pumpkins