Compost Commitment

From Lisa Barnes

So we finally did it. I set up a compost system. It took me forever to commit. Worms, no worms, tumbler, stacker, indoor, outdoor…. Once I started reading and went to a few community classes the info came fast and I was overwhelmed. I also asked lots of fellow moms and got their experience and feedback. I realized I just needed to try something. I could always change once I had some success or failure. I finally went with the BioStacker by Smith and Hawkin which is subsidized by Marin County, where I live. It was easy to put together. I did it in the living room. It was a fun space for hide and seek and pop goes the weasel before it went outside. Of course now, they wouldn’t venture inside it.

It seems to be good. Although things aren’t breaking down as quickly as I was envisioning, it also isn’t stinking and just has a few small flies. O.K. right? They aren’t the big yucky horse flies, but look more like little fruit flies. Luckily our resident deer, foxes, turkeys, skunks and squirrels haven’t disturbed it. I always wonder what I will find when I go out and open the lid, and so far I’m grateful nothing has scurried in and surprised me (or at least not that I can see).

Because I cook so often, I have lots of “green” waste, but not so much of the “brown” waste. I have the nice looking stainless steel crock to collect everything in the kitchen. It’s fun when new visitors come over and peak inside when I’m cooking. I guess they’re expecting to find something tasty. My cousin reached in and got a handful of egg shells. Sometimes I fill the entire crock after one meal of entertaining. Now I realize I have to throw some things in the trash to keep things in balance. No more pineapple tops and watermelon rinds. While I now know composting is a science, it’s also lots of trial and error for a newbie composter like myself. If it smells bad, I know to back off the heavy produce scraps and just put them in the trash (and try not to feel too bad about it). I know it should be wet as a sponge, but I’m not putting my hands in. So I eyeball and make a judgement about watering. I tend to err on the dry side. Seems less yucky and inviting (to those scurrying things I mentioned above).

I create “brown” waste with shredded newspaper and throw in bark from the yard. With our house we inherited a rock quarry rather than a grassy yard. I hope someday to have more natural brown. If only the compost would break down rock – we’d be doing great.

For now, I’m being patient as I add, shovel and turn. The other irony is that the compost books say you have to have a 3 cubic foot pile to start working. Well that’s the size of my whole stacker. I can’t provide everything all at once. Where would my green waste go if the compost was already full? What’s the point in that? I also can’t imagine turning it when it gets above my waist. I guess I’ll see soon enough.

I’m happy with the compost so far. The goal is to reduce my trash (which is working), and hopefully make some “black gold” for the garden. Which brings me to my next post. We’ve planted a garden, stay tuned….
Lisa Barnes
is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry and lives in Sausalito, California.