Thursday, June 26, 2014

Waste Not, Want Not and Other Old Sayings that Helped Me Compost.

Hi, I’m Cher – Michelle’s guest blogger for today. I grew up in the country, and my family never raked leaves unless we wanted a pile to jump in. In 1993, I purchased a home on a residential street in North College Hill and after watching my neighbors dutifully rake all their fall leaves, I followed suit. 

But raking wasn’t the only problem. At the time, North College Hill had a pay as you throw waste program. There was no extra charge to recycle, but you had to purchase stickers for every garbage can you put to the curb. I was house-poor, but knew I couldn’t put leaves in the recycling bin. So I called the thriftiest person I knew, my grandfather (“Peepaw”), for advice. 

Gordon Maham "Peepaw" with a giant turnip
Peepaw’s favorite saying was “a penny saved is a penny earned.” He was a smart man and an avid gardener and told me to just make a pile in my backyard where the leaves can decompose instead of paying to throw them away. He said in a couple of years I could dig up the compost to use in my garden, which went right along with another of his favorite sayings, “waste not, want not.” 

I got right to work wheelbarrowing all my leaves to an appropriate place in my back yard, because Peepaw said, “when a task is once begun never leave it till it’s done” (I always hated that saying). I could have turned , watered, and balanced my carbon rich leaves with some nitrogen rich material to speed up the decomposition process. But I remembered my Peepaw always saying “let’s simplify more,” so I just left my pile alone to do its thing in its own time.

A couple of years later, I removed overgrown bushes that had been planted decades ago.  The soil was almost completely clay, so I mixed wheelbarrows full of my leaf mold compost. It added nutrients, improved the soil’s structure, and increased water retention before I planted some beautiful flowers and hostas.
I saved thousands of pennies by avoiding landfill costs and not having to buy top soil or compost, produced no waste, and best of all, it was really simple. 

Can you think of any other old time saying that relates to composting?

“Be a Peaceful Planet Person” -Gordon Maham

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Confessions of a Lazy Composter

Guest Post from Nate Stroup

I, like you folks reading this blog, think composting is a worthwhile endeavor with plenty of benefits.  Because of this, I have all of the “necessary” tools to compost:
  • Two black plastic composters behind my garage, near the vegetable gardens, where the compost gets used the most.
  • White ceramic compost crock to hold the kitchen scraps.
  • Compost turner – long handled tool to keep everything aerated and working in the composters.

This must mean that I always keep on top of my composting, right?  Wrong. 
Actually using the tools to get the composting done would help. I confess to being a lazy composter. Someone who just keeps filling the crock and not emptying it until it is overflowing.  I don’t always bury my food scraps.  I don’t work the compost enough to get the heat going.   The good news is, even when I’m lazy my compost pile is still hard at work.

Years ago, I was taking the compost crock out back and while going down the stairs, the lid fell off on the walkway and shattered. Well, my laziness got the best of me and it took me a few months to buy a new crock.  In the meantime my kitchen composting was relegated to when I felt committed enough to take scraps to the composter immediately (a.k.a. when the weather was nice and I wanted to go outside). 
And yet, my compost pile was still out there, decomposing without my help.

Once I bought another crock, it was smooth sailing for a while, until- OOPS- my son made the same mistake causing yet another hiatus in our food-scrap composting. New house rule: we no longer keep the lid on when we move the compost crock off the counter. 
And still my pile composts on.

Careful guys, don't drop that crock!
And just when you thought we solved our compost crock drama, a new problem arose:  the filters from my compost crock ran out.  These round filters do a great job of keeping fruit flies from finding their way into the full crock and keep odors from making their way out. So, I buy the filters online but I also do many other “important” things online, like update Facebook, check my fantasy football team, and search for videos of funny dogs.
Guess how long it took to buy new filters for the crock – a year!  That’s right, a whole year of depriving my composters of valuable materials to make wonderful soil additives. But my composters are still there, patiently waiting for more food scraps and working on what little I do give them.

Well, seeing these blog entries in my inbox enough times reminded me that I really needed to order the filters (with some help from my wife, who was ordering other garden supplies).  I am happy to say that we are back in business, making compost for our gardens and diverting some waste from the landfill.

Whew!  I feel much better having confessed that for the entire internet to read.  So don’t feel bad if you get off track.  Forgive yourself, find the system that works best for you, and you will again see the benefits of composting!

Now, if I could just remember to use that compost turner to get all that stuff heating up a little quicker…