Thursday, September 29, 2011

Compost Like George Washington


George Washington, our first president whose handsome mug graces our $1 bill, also built the nation’s first known compost bin! (Woo hoo, history!!!) Not surprisingly, the father of our country has much to teach us about backyard composting.

Cover Your Pile
Washington was worried about too much rain leaching nutrients from his “dung repository” so he built a roof and open-walled structure over the 31 x 12 foot compost pit. Covers are, of course, also great for keeping out unwanted pests and maintaining the proper amount of moisture in the bin.

Compost Everything Possible
Washington believed you should throw trash “of every sort and kind” into the compost pile. Obviously he didn’t have to worry about plastic trash but he was on to something. If you look into your garbage there are probably items you could be composting.

Along with “leaves of trees, corn stalks, thistles, and coarse weeds,” Washington also likely composted “tanner’s bark, woolen rags, cuttings of leather…hair, bones ground or powdered…human urine and soap suds.” Eww, sometimes it’s good to live in the 21st Century.

Location, Location, Location
A compost bin has to be convenient to use, otherwise most of us will be too lazy to compost. Washington’s compost pit was actually close to his Mount Vernon mansion and very convenient to the horse stables.

George Washington believed that agricultural advancement was important for the new America and he fashioned Mount Vernon to serve as a model for the “new” science-based agriculture. Washington made composting an integral part of that model. Hmm, composting as an integral part of America…I like the sound of that.

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.” -George Washington

Visit the Mount Vernon website for more information www.mountvernon.org/visit-his-estate/preserving-his-estate/archaeology-projects/repository-dung/history.

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