Compost: Let it happen!
You could call me an urban composter, although my home city is more suburban in size and style. I have a bin in the backyard, a bucket in the kitchen, and a small pitchfork and shovel in the garage. These are my tools, and this is my story.
I gather more kitchen garbage than I ever thought possible and dump it in the bin. Layered with grass clippings, weeds, and the occasional pile of leaves, the mixture, well, rots. Slowly but surely, it decomposes and becomes again one with the soil. I stir it once in a while with a pitchfork or turn the layers with a shovel, but that’s about all. Compost, as they say, happens. And it often happens not because of my efforts, but regardless of what I do.
My bin is simple. It looks like a large black garbage can, but it has no bottom. The lid is easy for me to take off, but somehow the raccoons haven’t gotten into it. Husband bought it for me several years ago, assuring me that it is made from recycled plastics.
Regular ingredients in my compost include coffee grounds, banana peels, apple cores, potato peelings, and melon rinds. Children prefer not to eat the heel of the bread? Compost. Bag of chips down to the crumbs? Compost. Shucking corn on the cob from the farmer’s market? Compost. Some of my more unusual ingredients have included wax paper covered with cookie crumbs, the paper wrapper from a fast food sandwich, and paper towels used to wipe up a spill. We’ll add small amounts of grass clippings because large layers tend to mildew and not mix well with the rest. The contents of our pet rabbit’s litter box can go in the compost on occasion, but again, not too much or it simply won’t decompose completely. In the autumn, the fallen leaves will provide the final top layer before winter sets in and it‘s too cold for the process to work.
There is very little that can’t go in the compost. Eggshells might work in warmer climates; here, they still look like eggshells months later. Meat, dairy, and seafood are not good ingredients because they decompose slowly or because the smell will attract wildlife you might rather not host in your backyard.
I was chatting with a teaching colleague in August, discussing the fast pace of our jobs and how weeding and composting give me such pleasure. My coworker, an environmental science teacher, understood completely. She knew that sometimes, we just have to sit back and let nature’s cycles take life at their own speed.
In our climate (northeastern Wisconsin), composting only works for about half the year. Every spring we spread the previous year’s compost on the garden, and then the whole cycle starts again.
Yet, in this fast paced, oft-wasteful world, it feels good to take action on a small scale. Composting does that for me.
This post is a reprint of a guest post written last September. I'm getting ready to spread the spring compost layer, and it feels great. We had a frost warning a few nights ago, reminding me not to plant too soon, but the compost and rototilling can happen any time. Stumble It!