making dirt

Composting!  I love it!  I first became actively interested in composting when I read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.  I was impressed and inspired by how her family is able to use composting as a way to reduce waste in her home.  Learning that I could reduce waste, while adding good nutrients to my garden soil, made me excited to get a pile of our own going.  

So, last fall, Dan built us a compost bin out of wooden pallets that we got from my uncle's manufacturing company.  It's a simple design, but it works great.  We then began adding leaves, yard waste, and kitchen scraps.  As we got it started late in the season, it didn't reach a healthy composting state before winter.  This meant that it froze solid pretty early on in the winter and once it finally thawed in May, it was a bit on the stinky side (because it was unbalanced and not really composting).  After a month of adding greens and browns (nitrogen and carbon), it heated up and began to really break things down quickly!  We now have quite a bit of finished compost that is ready to go into the garden this fall! 

After composting for a year now, there are a few things that I've learned.  

  1. I love it!  This is weird, I know, but the reason I love it is that I feel less wasteful when I find nasty celery in our fridge because I'm putting that nasty celery to use by turning it back into dirt.  I've also found that our trash can in our kitchen stays fresher longer, as we're not filling it with as many things that get stinky.  
  2. We waste less!  We're just not throwing as many things away, because we're compositing more.  I'm also more mindful of what food I toss, because I'm taking the time to decide between compost or trash with each and everything that I toss from the fridge.  I've found that I'm using more of what I buy and tossing less.  
  3. It's easy!  It's pretty easy to keep a compost pile in the kitchen and bring it outside every day or two, or three.  The hardest part with composting is fighting fruit flies in the house in the summer.  We've solved this buy keeping a bowl for compost scraps in the fridge and just emptying it more often than we need to in the winter.
  4. The soil is fantastic!  Because we didn't have any ready compost in May, I wasn't able to add any to our garden.  However, in July, I planted some lettuce and kale on our deck in boxes.  When I planted them, I added half dirt/half compost to the boxes and we were amazed by how quickly and how well those greens grew!  There was a definite difference between what I grew in the boxes and what I grew in my garden.  I'm excited to get the compost added to the garden for next year's plantings!  
  5. It's fun!  It's so fun to watch those corn husks slowly disappear and that dark, moist organic matter to appear!  Sometimes, when I walk by the chicken coop, I stop by the compost bin just to stir it for fun (weird, yes, but fun!!)

If you're interested in finding out more about composting, there are a few books that I've found to be helpful.  

Happy dirt making!!