Sunday, August 19, 2012

still-sound 96. Composting is fun

It's true.  Composting is fun.  You should try it.

You need an outdoor space and vegetal waste.  I'm sure you have the latter if not the former.  I only have a small terrace right now - too small to accomodate a composting bin.  Just to think of my current landlord's probable reaction both fills me with dread and a small amount of delight.  I miss composting though.  When I lived in Long Beach there was a no- man's land between our house and the fence of our neighbor's property.  A useless space that was secluded from any activity, so I designated it the compost alley.

The man in this picture is enjoying his compost in a medium-sized wooden structure.  I nicked the picture from  These frames are easy to make and readily available for purchase, but were too large to fit into my compost alley.  Instead, I fashioned a compost bin out of a big trash can.  The largest I could find at Home Depot.  I drilled large holes all around it.  If you choose to do the same, remember that more is better than less in this instance.  You will need plenty of air to reach the decomposing matter. 

I then started to fill the bin with all fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen.  I was shocked by how much I accumulated.  This is, in fact, the reason I decided to compost in the first place.  I was frustrated by the amount of waste I generated.  The recycling bin seemed to fill up in the blink of an eye and I hated the idea of leaving a legacy of inorganic, undecaying garbage somewhere out of my sight and existence...but surely in someone else's.

This is what I would throw into my compost bin:  fruit peelings and cores: carrot tops: leaves that settled into compost alley; coffee grinds; crushed up egg shells; avocado pits; hair clippings from when I would trim my hair; dead flowers that, when alive, used to grace my living room; more coffee grinds; the little bits of salad leaves that I'd forget about in the fridge and turn brown and mushy; and god only knows what else.

Do not include any of the following things into your compost bin: animal waste of any sort including dog poo.  Twigs and of course branches aren't great either.  They take so much longer to break down and I found myself constantly combing them out.

I would shovel deep down into the bin and turn the compost twice a week.  Sometimes I would lay the bin on its side allowing more air to reach the surface area (thankfully it had wheels making the process easier - it gets heavy pretty quickly). 

When you start getting shovelfulls of matter that resemble and smell of compost rather than rotting garbage, move it to another heap. I had large trays for this, covered with plastic sheets, weighed down by rocks.  After another month or two I would then collect the finished compost into the large bags that potting soil comes in.  You have no idea how satisfying this process is.  To make rich, nourishing dirt from garbage.

When we left Long Beach for Echo Park two years ago, we advertised many things on craigslist in an attempt to minimize belongings and lighten the move.  No one was interested in my collection of Dwell magazines.  One person eventually bought the electric guitar we received from Volkswagen as a promotional gift with purchase.  The ad for a free, ventilated bin with wormy, fertile compost received an overwhelming response.  I could barely keep up with the inquiries.  In the end, an elderly woman from Orange County came to pick it up with her husband.  They drove an immaculate Oldsmobile, barely fit the compost bin in the trunk and drove away.

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