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compost 101

April 28, 2009

a very informational book, Rodale Book of Composting, helped get me started.  it was even available to me at my public library – score!  the book is easy to understand and provides a range of options for going at it.  wow-zas there’s a lot of information that one can learn about composting!!!  i read it cover to cover, wishing there was a beginner’s outline limited only to the need-to-knows.  i found it odd when my blog search turned up no results on a basic how-to compost.  so here we go.  pardon the lack of technical terms contained herein.  this post is aimed at providing the level of detail i was searching for, in a manner that can be understood.  i refer you to Rodale’s Book for all the juicy details, scientific data, special terms, etc.

i was drawn to the introductory chapter which engaged my growing sense of personal responsibility for earth friendly waste management.  i’m hooked on ideas that are easy, make a difference, and evoke the “why not?” reaction.   ever since i began recycling, i have noticed myself consider the kinds of materials i bring into my home when i make purchases.  i relish in the small amounts of trash i generate.  i have started looking to make packaging-free purchases when i can, or at least choose the recycle-friendly packaged product.  go away plastics.  composting will take my efforts one step further.  i’ll be able to reduce my trash contributions even more.  i’ll be able to avoid sending food scraps down the disposal – not a good place they go once you think about it.  not only that, i will soon have generated my own organic gardening materials, meaning my trash will turn into a product i would otherwise have to pay for, so it will save me money.  ooh, ooh, ooh!  i like!!! 

construction was my first concern.  i have plenty of yard to build a bin, so i opted for the old fashioned concrete cinder block approach.  another easy way to get started is to buy one of the $fancy schmancy$ pre-fabricated self contained composting bins.  i bought 40 cinder blocks and modeled it off of the structure pictured in Rodale’s:


oh, and in case you, like me, over estimate your strength, those cinder blocks are heavy.  like so heavy i could not realistically get them from the truck to the stack.  thank God for brothers and friends of brothers who will indulge their Hippie sister friend.

in texas, it seems the only option for composting is the high heat kind.  i can’t imagine the lower heat kind would survive a texas summer.  this is grand b/c the composting happens more quickly and can happen open air.  this high heat composting method needs good ventilation to aerate my pile.  it needs to stay moist.  it should be positioned so that it drains well.  if possible, a shady spot is best. 


that’s the best shade i could find for the bin.  the other tree areas on my yard are positioned on built up areas of the yard so water would drain right into the composting bin if it were nearby.  see that pile of IKE limbs sitting to the right of it?  they will soon be chopped into smaller pieces and used along the bottom and throughout my composting heap to help aerate my pile.   once i have some compost ready for use, i’m going to use it to plant vines around my cinder blocks so they eventually become totally covered and greeny.

basically, my inner city, home composting will consist of 1) yard clippings; 2) kitchen scraps; 3)  vacuum dumpings; and 4) manure (of the barnyard variety – human, cat, dog, and bird droppings are not to be used since they carry disease); and 5) wormy friends.  come to find out, manure is an essential element to producing a good compost product.  there’s a chemical balance you need to achieve not only for aiding in decomposition but also to ensure the final product contains the essential organic elements of a good garden grower.  the books suggests contacting a horse stable or the zoo to avoid paying for poo.  i’m going to ask the transition group for suggestions on where i can obtain free manure for my pile. 

there’s a big question about smell.  obviously, i do not know the answer yet but they tell me my pile should not stink.  if it does, it’s an indicator that i’m doing something wrong.  i’m hoping their stink-free theory holds true, particularly since i will not have any animal flesh or biproduct scraps in there. 

i’m hoping to employ Mr. Possum as my compost bin Watchman:


Sam and i discovered him a few weeks ago.  i imagine the compost bin will peak his curiosity.  i hope he returns for a look see.  he’s darn cute.



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