The Joy and Simplicity of Composting

As a child, my (Gerry) parents had a compost pile out in the wooded area of our back yard. My dad kept some chicken wire fencing in a small circle with compost materials in the middle. I think he started with some dirt and leaves and just added the compostable materials to the pile, stirring them occasionally as they disappeared into the dirt. At the time, I remember compost material as being parts of vegetables like the end parts of tomatoes, carrots, etc. I knew that when mixed with the compost pile, and as they decomposed they could be added to garden soil to give more nutrients for whatever was growing. It always seemed like a fun little task to walk the compost up to the wooded area and dump it in. 

That is where the magic began! I couldn’t quite pin down what the magic was, but knew it got a stamp of approval from mom and dad. Nowadays, there are fancier compost containers, like the one we have in our backyard. You dump the compost in a container, give it a spin, and inside the bin, the magic happens on it’s own. I still like the idea of taking compost, whether it is coffee grinds, or veggie scraps and walking them out to the container. If you spin it enough times, smoke will come out of the bin. This means things are working hard to decompose. In a month or so,, we’ll have a garden that our compost will serve to add nutrients to the soil. In the meantime, I am hung up on the process of repurposing so much otherwise discarded material that comes from our kitchen. This gives me a great sense of fulfillment and an opportunity to work along with nature. 

A few years ago, when Shannon and I began composting, we researched all the ways that were best, finding what seemed like hundreds of chemistry lessons on the topic. There are articles that could easily deter many into wanting to steer clear from the process all together. There are even services that will come and pick up your compost and take care of it for you, which is great if you live in an area that either doesn’t allow composting due to a small space, or no outdoor space, but if you can, you should do it yourself, because it is very easy. 

Your composting bin doesn’t have to be fancy. We turn ours manually.

Simply stated, compost is made of greens and browns. Greens are nitrogen rich leaves, grass, and food scraps. Browns are carbon rich things, like paper and wood chips. As much as I’d love to say, “don’t try this at home, leave it to the trained professionals,” because I love saying that, in this case, I definitely recommend trying this at home. It’s easy to start, and though you will find a lot of technical ways to compost, we will make it simple, and walk you through how we compost:

Step 1– You can begin with a pile in your yard, or, we have a small outdoor compost bin that is the perfect size for us. We manually turn it, but you can get automated compost bins that turn themselves.  

Step 2– It’s all about chemistry, however, whether you have a pile, or a bin, just place a few scraps of leaves, sticks, and some torn up newspaper pieces, and then add your food scraps to it. If you have a pile, you’ll need to churn the pile with a long stick or pole, each time you add to it. 

Step 3–  We have a wooden bowl on our countertop, with a beeswax wrap to cover, where we place our daily scraps, such as coffee grinds and veggie scraps, then, each evening, I take it out and add to the compost bin. You can use a jar, or any type of bin in your kitchen to place items in to take out daily. 

Step 4– When it comes time to prepare your garden, or planting, use your compost to add to your soil. That’s it! 

You really can’t screw it up, unless you add meat to it, or other items that cannot be composted, which throws the chemistry off. Just remember, no animal products (though you CAN add egg shells) no onions, peppers, nor garlic since it affects the acidity, but just about anything else that you imagine that could rot, throw it in. 

It is important because only 5% of food waste is composted and 20% of discarded waste is food waste. It will help our landfills and reduce methane emissions. You’ll have a natural fertilizer, weed killer, and soil nourishment. Thus saving you on fertilizers and weed killers. There is a reason the nickname for compost is, “black gold.” Spring is here! It’s a great time to get outside, get your hands dirty, and have some fun! Once again kids, please, please, do try this at home!

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