Friday Favorite: Composting

I cannot believe it’s already the last Friday of the month! Where did this month go?! Did the month go by quickly for you as well?

April 2014 calendar free printable

The good thing? As the month goes on, we’re seeing more and more signs of life here in Massachusetts. The forsythias are finally blooming (always one of the first signs of spring here in New England)!

Forsythia bloom

The crab apple in our backyard is starting to bud. This tree was one of the most wonderful surprises when we bought our house. When we moved in, it had just started flowering and though it only lasts about a week, it is quite a sight to see. It should bloom in about a week or so (always around WHH’s birthday) and I’ll be sure to share pictures.

Crab apple budding

While we’re on the subject of the great outdoors, and since it’s Earth Month, I have to tell you about one of the most-used items in our household: our simplehuman Compost Pail that we received for Christmas nearly four years ago. This thing has gotten daily use since that time and it still looks (nearly) brand new (the hack job the previous owners did on the backsplash is a whole ‘nother story…):

SimpleHuman compost pail

In keeping with a whole health mentality, it was important to us to start composting once we bought our house. Aside from the personal reasons (enriching our own soil), composting can have a larger part in helping to decrease the amount of methane generated via landfills and therefore cut down on climate warming gases. Climate change can have huge effects on our health, from air quality to allergens to a host of animal-, food-, and water-borne diseases. This issue is not going away unless we make conscious efforts to change our ways. And given that the severity of this past winter is probably linked to climate change, I’ll do whatever I can to make it better!

Felt pads on bottom of compost pail

We added felt pads to the bottom of our pail

Shall we take a peak inside? I promise you, it’s not scary. In fact, this picture is a good example of what not to do: don’t forget to take the tags off of your fruit! Those were a couple of apples that had gone bad (for once we had too many!) and we roughly chopped them up before tossing them in. The food will break down more easily if you chop it into smaller pieces instead of keeping it whole or in large pieces, such as a watermelon rind.

SimpleHuman compost pail open

As you can see, the cap has lip in it in which you can put charcoal filters to help with any aromas that might escape. We’ve never bought any replacements, however, and have never had a problem with smell. We end up emptying it about once a week and I can’t tell you how much it has reduced our weekly garbage!

So where does it go when we empty it? To our makeshift compost bin:

Trash barrel compost bin

We had an extra bucket and decided to use it for this purpose. We poked holes in the top to allow for some slight respiration, if you will.

Trash barrel compost bin cover with holes

Shall we take a peak inside this one? It’s a bit scarier, but believe it or not, does not smell at all. I take that back–it does smell, but not like you think it would. It smells earthy. Like really damp dirt.

Trash barrel compost bin inside food

And here it is once WHH turned it and added some yard waste to it to mix it a bit better:

Trash barrel compost bin top off yard waste

We try to mix it up with a good old-fashioned pitch fork and then layer in some yard waste every month or so, just to keep an even balance of nitrogen and carbon (more on that later). We can go months without emptying it. When the sun hits the barrel, even in the winter, it gets quite warm inside, and ends up “cooking” the mixture down.

So what happens when it does get full? It goes off to our larger compost pile beside our vegetable garden, where it joins more of our grass clippings, some leaves, various other yard waste, and Wilbur’s used hay.

Compost pile outside

WHH will turn the larger pile and then bury the newer mixture near the bottom of the pile to keep it all “cooking” evenly. That’s really all there is to it. We do it the cheap and easy way, but you can get fancier and have a tumbler compost bin or cage in your compost pile.

So what do you do with all of this black gold? If you don’t have time for or interest in gardening, you can use it as fill around your yard or topsoil around your trees and plants. If you are more of the gardener type, you can use it as a near-organic source of nutrients for the soil. We try to keep it as natural as possible and don’t use any fertilizer, but we do buy manure to add a little somethin’ somethin’ for our veggie garden. I love being able to go outside and pick what I want for dinner!

Garden foods

We were still picking from our garden into late fall last year.

Peppers eggplant tomato from garden

Plus, you never know, you might get a rogue acorn squash that decided to grow out of your compost pile, which we were pleasantly surprised with last year:

Acorn squash from compost pile

That giant acorn squash plant on the right outside of the garden grew from our compost pile!

Here’s a quick list of what we do put in our compost bin and pile:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Leaves, grass, and hay
  • Charcoal from the fireplace (once it’s been out for a few weeks)
  • Occasionally, rabbit manure
  • Newspaper

And here’s what we do not put in:

  • Anything animal-derived (no bones, flesh, dairy, etc.)
  • Anything cooked (unless it was fruit or veggie cooked without any added oils)
  • Anything containing oil
  • Typical carbohydrates (breads, pasta, etc.)

You want to have about a 3:1 mix of “browns” (carbon-rich materials such as wood chips, straw, branches, and leaves) to “greens” (nitrogen-rich materials such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps). We honestly don’t pay attention to this much and ours comes out okay. I’m sure if we made more of an effort it would be even better. So you’ll get out of it what you put in, but even minimal effort is worth it!

That’s just the quick and dirty way, but if you’re interested in learning more, here are a couple of useful links to help get your started:

EarthEasy Compost Guide

EPA’s Composting at Home

In running news, I’m heading out to do stage 15 this afternoon along the river. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten this far! It’s been such a long time coming. I still don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but for the first time in over a year I’m seriously thinking about training for races. Sure, there’s still that crazy marathon idea I have in the back of my mind, but I need to start with a 5k or two and then a 10k!

Return to running stage 15

Questions: Do you have a garden? Do you compost? If you compost, do you have any secret tips? If you don’t compost, would you think about trying it? Any races you’re eyeing lately?

 *In an effort to maintain transparency, please note that Amazon links are affiliate links.

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6 thoughts on “Friday Favorite: Composting

  1. Very interesting! I have never really thought about doing this but recently saw my friend had a small compost bin in her kitchen as well. Hmmm..something to think about/investigate!

  2. We compost in our country home and have a big compost pile like yours. In Paris we don’t have that option. Yet ! However, we recycle a lot !

    • It can be really hard to compost in the city, which is a bummer. I know that Portland, OR (where else?) has curbside composting! At least you’re doing as much as you can and do compost where you have space!

  3. […] So how do you make it? It’s super simple. First, get yourself some coffee grounds, used or unused. I use the ones that we brewed that morning and make sure to grab them before they end up in our compost pail. […]

  4. […] I’ve also been known to “ruin” ice cream so I won’t be tempted to eat it. What about the guilt of wasting food? I’m not wasting it because it goes down the pipes one way or another: either your body processes it or it doesn’t, but it all ends up in the same place. I feel much worse about throwing rotten fruits or veggies I didn’t get to into our compost. […]

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