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Composting for Beginners

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie

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Back in 2010, when I really started to get into gardening and waste reduction for environmental reasons, I became interested in composting as a way to reduce our landfill-bound trash but also for garden supplementation. I very much wanted to have a garden, but I was working full-time out of the house, had a baby, and wasn't in a very healthy state - physically. I knew how much work went into maintaining them. My parents had a garden when we were kids and I was fortunate enough to experience first hand, child labor with pay in green beans.

That being said, every time I peeled fruit for the little one, or cut the rusty parts off my romaine that spent a little too long in the fridge, I thought about starting a compost pile. My parents had one of those as well, though theirs was toward the back of their property, and was a magnet for yellow jackets and other stinging critters. Whichever of us siblings was tasked with the dreaded job of emptying the compost bowl, feared for their life as they stealthily made their way to the pile - ninja style, chucked the bowl of scraps as hard as they could, from a good 10 ft away, and made a mad dash back inside before the stingers caught on, not stopping to check if the scraps actually made it ON the giant pile, or just ended up scattered across the yard around it.

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie
Photo credit: Joi Ito

Fast forward to 2010 and I knew that in order to start up a garden that would actually survive against my black thumb and aforementioned issues would require a bit more cash flow than I had to invest at the time. I knew in the long run it would save us money, but I was also worried about trying to generate some income by figuring out a way around the town's crack down on people selling stuff in their front yards.

"Jimmy said you would know where I could get hooked up with some non-Monsanto corn?" Please come to my back room, I think I have exactly what you are looking for. *shifty eyes*

In the meantime, back then I focused on supporting my local growers and what ever organic stuff my local grocer could get their hands on for me.

So I turned to composting as a good first step. To reduce our landfill waste and enhance our yard. I was basically throwing away gold that could go toward my sad flower beds or filling in the small ponds that form in our yard after a heavy rainstorm! The question was, where do I start?

I don't think my suburban neighbors would appreciate a giant bee mound like my parent's pile, adjacent to their properties. And I'm certainly not as fast as I use to be when running from bees, nor do I fancy tromping through 5 feet of snow in the middle of winter to dump a few banana peels.

So of course I immediately Googled "composting" and found a cool site that looked to be geared toward beginners like myself. I figured a compost tumbler would work well for us. It's large enough that I don't have to empty it very frequently, it's off the ground, and closes to keep the critters out, and seemed easy to turn over. It will also be easy to empty into a wheelbarrow to spread around the yard.

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie
Lifetime 60058 Compost Tumbler, Black, 80-Gallon

Next step was to figure out where to put it. Convenience would place it right outside the front door or even next to the garage, but they aren't the prettiest looking things and our house was already more shabby, less chic on the outside. Maybe next to the garage would be ok and not offend the neighbors too badly. After all, I'm doing my part for the environment right? Ultimately I decided to place it in the back of the house, just outside the sunroom doors. Close enough that I wouldn't have far to travel in winter.

A side story:

One weekend my family had an End of Summer party at our cottage. In the evening we had a campfire. Most of us are very particular about what we throw on the fire and we can be quite vocal about our reasons. My 84 year old grandpa decided to toss a plastic cup on the fire, much to our quite vocal dismay. I believe I even yelled "we still have to live on this planet!!" (knowing that he was thinking what he tells us all the time, "I only have a few years left.") His response was "It's only one cup!" My sister of course whispered "Said the billions of other people who do the same thing."

Yes, he's from a different generation, so we do cut him some slack. Trust me, that WAS cutting him some slack. He didn't get any lectures, although I think my other sister said something about the ozone layer. I wonder, if we are fortunate to live as long as my grandparents, will there be things that our grandkids will scold us for? Not composting, maybe? Using disposable toilet paper, kleenex, paper towels, napkins (all of which, except the used toilet paper, can go into my compost bin!)? I'm absolutely certain life will be vastly different 50 years from now. I hope I am able to adapt as well as my grandparents have, or at the very least humor my grandkids. Love you Gma and Gpa!

Back to my compost project.

Amazon has some awesome bins of all shapes, styles, and colors, ranging from small ceramic kitchen collectors to huge commercial looking bins. I went with the big tumbler and I also bought this kitchen counter bin from Amazon, along with the bags and replacement filters that they suggest.

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie
Exaco ECO-2000 2.4 Gallon Kitchen Compost Waste Collector

It works well. The large tumbler was a bear to put together though. Being Little Mrs. Independent, I had to do it myself despite their warning that this is a two man job. (I figured 2 men = 1 woman, right?) The thing is monstrous though, so the issue was trying to hold the sides together and wrap my go-go-gadget arms around it to secure the screws. I did it though. In your face, manual!

The green bin sat next to my sink. I used it for a few months, but found that it grew mold too easily which was impossible to fully clean off. So I've since switched to a stainless steel pot. This is convenient so that I don't have to run out back after every meal. I empty this once a week or when the funk becomes unbearable depending on my level of laziness and funk tolerance.

The big bin now sits right below my kitchen window. I started leaving the lid open so I could toss the scraps right out the window, and amazingly I haven't had too may issues with critters.

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie

Overall I'm happy with this project. It's insane how much waste breaks down. Over a year and a half's worth of kitchen scraps, yard waste, and cardboard in this bin and it wasn't even close to being full.

Do you compost?

Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie
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