Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
(disclaimer: the following views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of the management of this station or blog, although they should)
So, obviously I have some explaining to do. My wife and I DO have an area that resembles a compost pile. Actually we have two areas. One is “resting”, whatever the hell that means and the other is “the new pile”.
We toss stuff into the new pile just like we did with the old pile, wave our magic pitchfork over it and pray that someday it will be compost. And then we wait. A long time.
But, first, some background before the real gardeners and permies come and take away my permaculture card and scorch earth my gardens.
A little while after most folks begin to garden they start to look for ways to make their gardens better. And after some research they come across topics like sheet mulching, raised beds, row tunnels and of course composting.
Everyone is supposed to compost. Everyone. Just listen to gardening podcasts or lectures or TED Talks or read MotherEarthNews and pretty soon you’ll begin to think that if you’re NOT composting then you might as well go out and start clubbing baby seals.
You end up being guilted into composting because, well, it’s just what you’re supposed to do! And besides that it’s fun and easy and soooooooo good for the world that there’s special angel halos just for composters.
So you start researching about this fun and easy way to take your food scraps and turn it into gold. Kinda like spinning straw into gold, but, funner.
You buy your cute little compost bucket and after you eat your apple you dutifully toss the core into the bucket, smile and wait until you have more scraps to fill the bucket so you can take it to your designated compost area and dump it in.
Here’s my first problem. We don’t produce much composting waste here. Maybe you’re the Walton family and have a dozen kids and cousins living with you and produce industrial amounts of waste, but, here on the micro-homestead there’s just me (Ray) and Mrs. Ray (aka Randi). And so we don’t produce much in the way of scraps each day.
If fact, it could take a week or more for the two of us to fill our cute little compost bucket and by the time we’re ready to take it outside some of the items have decided to go ahead and begin the process all by themselves.
So, we take our cute little compost bucket, now filled with 4 egg shells, two banana peels, an apple core, some coffee grounds and the peelings from 3 carrots (yes I know we shouldn’t peel the carrots, but, just go with us here) and we plop it onto last weeks plop.
Since we’re not the fastest garbage producers our little compost pile really looks rather pathetic. It kinda looks more like a couple of bears threw up than a nice neat compost pile, but, it’s our duty to compost so forward we go.
My next issue with composting comes at this point. Food scraps need to be mixed with something in order to create the right conditions to eventually be compost and now my head begins to hurt. I have to pull out my permaculture periodic table to find out if what I have before me is carbon or nitrogen.
I’m a simple guy and really never cared what my garbage was, but, it’s important to the mix and so I look at my permaculture cheatsheet. Well, it turns out that I not only need to determine WHAT it is, but, there seems to be a ratio needed between the carbon and nitrogen, also known as greens and browns.
But, really I don’t care. I just want compost. I don’t want to know if something is 100:1, 80:1, 20:1 or 1:500. I just want my garbage to be compost. Well, it seems as though I have to add some brown stuff to my green stuff. Looking around I don’t see a lot of brown stuff because sometimes it’s summertime and brown just isn’t in season and so I need to go back to my cheatsheet and find items that are considered brown and add some.
But, really, all I want is compost. Not a formula created by compost geeks that gives me an aneurism each time I have to reference it. After I’ve figured out the right ratio and finally added whichever green or brown was lacking, six months later I finally have enough compostable material that now I get to enjoy the fun part of the process: turning the pile.
Turning the pile is so much fun and sooooo easy that people have had to invent ways to have extra fun doing it. Like compost balls that you try to roll around your yard or compost tumbler barrels that small people can’t turn because they’re so heavy. Just think of all the family time spent bonding while turning those puppies!
Finally, after all of the adding garbage and lawn rolling/turning and ratio computations the day comes when we can open the bin and pull out our cereal bowl size of compost. Seriously, cremation urns contain more material than I can get from composting.
And I’m not even sure it’s any good since I forget to keep it covered and most of the nutrients have probably been leeched out from the rain hitting it.
We’ve been struggling for at least three years to come up with a solution to assuage our guilt to produce compost and we have an answer. After some serious research we have begun using “worm feeders”.
The worm feeders work wonderfully for us and for the amount of scraps we have each week. The premise is this: you get 4 inch wide pvc pipe and cut it to 12 inch lengths. Drill holes around the bottom half so worms can go in an out of it. Then bury the pipe in your garden bed with about an inch sticking out of the ground.
You probably visit your garden on a regular basis and so you can bring your daily scraps with you and drop them into the pipe. Cover the pipe with a lid (we use terra cotta planter bases) and the worms will come to your buffet, gorge themselves and then do what worms do best. You’ll end up with worm castings (can you say garden gold?) AND soil aeration as they move through you garden. No big piles, no oozing mess, no turning or tumbling and you don’t have to cart the compost to the garden. It’s already IN the garden!
I’ve said before that I’m a lazy gardener and this works really well for me.
Do you compost? Like some ex-smoker, I’ve tried and quit several times over the past few years, but, this is pretty much a no brainer.
And if I need large amounts of compost I've happy to go and buy it.
What system do you use? Let us know in the comment section.
Ray is part of the Ray and Randi duo, who actually don't live on the farm. They have a micro-homestead in Gilmanton, but are VERY active over at IFP and are guest bloggers for them.
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