July 18, 2016

A post about compost

A post about compost

I couldn’t decide how to start this post.

Option A: If you told me when I was 18 that I’d be spending my mid-20s placing post-it notes on my family’s garbage can that read “STOP! Did you compost?” I would have rolled my eyes at my future self.  Although I am currently rolling my eyes at my current self, so at least I’ve witnessed a sprinkle of personality consistency throughout the years.

Option B: Lately, as I’ve been spending a lot of time studying for my online classes, I haven’t been spending as much time on my step count. I’m beginning to take pride in the fact that some days my phone claims I weigh in at a whopping 147 steps. Oh no!!! But sitting is the new smoking!!!! There are some days, though, that my step count is significantly over the recommended 10,000 a day. This is usually due to activities like foraging sticks from my backyard to lay the foundation for a compost pile.

Last summer, my garden was an absolute flop. I think I produced a measly one tomato as well as a few leaves of basil, like helloooooo mini caprese salad. Though the basil barely counts as produce because I bought it already grown from Whole Foods and then just shoved it in the ground. That one tomato made the whole experience worth it, but the place of the garden set me up for failure. It was relatively shaded, and consequently the old box has been sitting there all winter and summer. I had no idea what to do with the box. I decided to put it to good use and save some money and make my own compost pile.

What I’ve learned so far from composting:

  1. Don’t put an already moldy tomato in the compost bin. The mold gets worse and reaches its fingerlings across the entire bin. Kind of like how a tongue feels in the morning before a good brushing – smelly fuzz everywhere.
  2. I’ve been much more conscious of waste. When you’re taking the time to decide what should be composted and what shouldn’t be – e.g. using the skin – you feel bad about throwing things away. Also here’s something fun. I drink a lot of tea, and tea has been shown to be a mild weed killer.
  3. New habit formation. Post it notes are admittedly a little rudimentary, but they work.
  4. Greater appreciation for the food I create. Growing things in the garden, and then using its scraps to put back into the garden that provides food is kind of a beautiful metaphor. More nutrients for my nutrients. A true circle of life.
  5. I am capable of starting a new project amidst the chaos that is my life right now and following through with it. And it was fun!

Here’s what you’ll need – I followed the directions from here.

  • layer of brown (sticks, hay, straw, egg cartons, pizza boxes, etc.)
  • layer of green (food scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags)
  • soil
  • water

Start with brown layer (this serves to irrigate the pile), add a green layer, soil on top, moisten with water. Continue this sequence of layering until the pile is about 3 feet high. Cover the pile with something like tarp to prevent animals from getting into it.  Every few weeks, use a garden fork or shovel to turn the pile, moving the center contents to the outside, and the outside to the center. Once it’s black, crumbly, and sweet-smelling, it’s ready to be eaten by your garden! Yum, your garden will just love this hot new recipe. Feed yourself and feed your food.

If you’re in the city, there are organizations that pick up your excess food for you. My sister lives outside of Boston and they use Bootstrap Compost.

You can also buy a compost pin if you don’t have the outdoor space, like this one here.

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