Composting for Beginners | Musings of a Modern Hippie

Photo credit: Joi Ito


I don’t currently have a garden to add compost too (working full-time, millions of deer/turkeys/rabbits/coyotes in the backyard, neighbor who believes the back of his property is the perfect grave site for old machinery – a few dozen roto-tillers, lawn mowers, old cars, batteries, and sundry other thinly veiled excuses for my laziness). I would LOVE to have a garden. I know how much work goes into maintaining them. I see my 90 year old neighbor in his toxfarm every day. My parents had one when we were kids (a garden, not a tox farm) and I was fortunate enough to experience first hand, hard child labor with no pay. I’ve been thinking a lot about composting lately. Every time I peel a non-organic apple for the little one, or cut the rusty parts off my romaine that’s spent a little too long in the fridge.

I also know that to start up a garden that would actually survive against my black thumb and aforementioned issues would require a bit more cashflow than I am willing to invest at the moment. In the long run it would save us money and probably even generate some if I can figure out a way around the town’s crack down on people selling stuff in their front yards. (“Jimmy said you would know where I could get hooked up with some non-Monsanto corn?” Please come to my back room, I think I have exactly what you are looking for. *shifty eyes*) But until I can convince the husband that we NEED an 8 foot high privacy fence surrounding our 1.2 acres, I’ll have to continue to support my local growers and whatever organic stuff Wegmans can get their hands on for me.

In the meantime I need to figure out how to compost. At least to reduce our landfill waste. But I’m basically throwing away gold that could be going towards my sad flower beds or filling in the small ponds that form in our yard after a heavy rainstorm.

At my parents house it was just a matter of taking the bowl of kitchen scraps out past the apple tree to the edge of the yard/start of the hay field, getting as close as we dared to the huge mound of swarming yellow jackets, and winging the contents of the bowl as far as possible while sprinting away the second the slop left the bowl. Not even looking back to see if the stuff got close. I don’t think my suburban neighbors would appreciate such a mound adjacent to their properties. And I’m certainly not as fast as I use to be when running from bees, nor do I fancy tromping through 5 feet of snow in the middle of winter to dump a few banana peels.

So of course I immediately Google “composting” and found a cool site that looks to be geared toward beginners like myself.  I think a compost tumbler is going to work well for us. Now where to put it. Convenience would place it right outside the front door or even next to the garage, but they aren’t the prettiest looking things and our house is already more shabby, less chic on the outside. Maybe next to the garage would be ok and not offend the neighbors too badly. After all, I’m doing my part for the environment right?

A side story: This weekend my family had an End of Summer party at our cottage. In the evening we had a campfire. Most of us are very particular about what we throw on the fire and we can be quite vocal about our reasons. My 84 year old grandpa decided to toss a plastic cup, much to our quite vocal dismay. I believe I even yelled “we still have to live on this planet!!” (knowing that he was thinking what he tells us all the time, “I only have a few years left.”) His response was “It’s only one cup!” My sister of course whispered “Said the billions of other people who do the same thing.”

Yes, he’s from a different generation, so we do cut him some slack. Trust me, that WAS cutting him some slack. He didn’t get any lectures, although I think my other sister said something about the ozone layer. I wonder, if we are fortunate to live as long as my grandparents, will there be things that our grandkids will scold us for? Not composting, maybe? Using disposable toilet paper, kleenex, paper towels, napkins (all of which, except the used toilet paper, can go into my compost bin!)? I’m absolutely certain life will be vastly different in 50 years than it is now. I hope I am able to adapt as well as my grandparents have, or at the very least humor my grandkids. Love you Gma and Gpa!

Back to my compost project. Oh, I haven’t told my husband yet that I am going to start this. He’s good at humoring my whims though.

Amazon has some awesome bins of all shapes, styles, and colors, ranging from small ceramic kitchen collectors to huge commercial looking bins. I just have to find what I’m looking for. A big drum with a handle that I can dump stuff in and turn as needed to aerate. Something that will dump out easily into a wheelbarrow so I can transport (or sell? Now there’s an idea!) to my location of choice.

I’ll post a picture when I get it, so you can see the final location as well.

Is it weird that I’m so excited about something like this?

LONG OVERDUE UPDATE 4/22/12 (Earth Day!):

I purchased this bin from Amazon.

I also bought this kitchen counter bin from Amazon, along with the bags and replacement filters that they suggest:
It works well. It was a bear to put together though. Being Little Mrs. Independent, I had to do it myself despite their warning that this is a two man job. (I figured 2 men = 1 woman, right?) The thing is monstrous though, so the issue was trying to hold the sides together and wrap my go-go-gadget arms around it to secure the screws. I did it though. In your face, manual!

The green bin sits next to my sink. (Full disclosure: at this exact moment, the bin is still sitting on a shelf just inside the garage. We moved it out there for the little dude’s birthday party a month ago and I’ve yet to empty it. Now I have a bag full of scraps sitting on my counter. I WILL empty both today!)This is convenient so that I don’t have to run out back after every meal. I empty this once a week or when the funk becomes unbearable depending on my level of laziness and funk tolerance.

The black bin sits outside the back door. It is close enough that I can add stuff in winter, and actually is well enough contained that it doesn’t smell or attract bugs.

Composting for Beginners - Musings of a Modern Hippie

A picture of GardenFAIL 2011 (see March 2011 post) and composter in the background.


Composting for Beginners - Musings of a Modern Hippie

A view from my kitchen window.

It sits right below my kitchen window. I’ve been tempted to just leave the lid open and toss things out the window as I need to, but that’s just asking for a family of raccoons to move in.

Overall I’m happy with this project. It’s insane how much waste breaks down. I have over a year and a half’s worth of kitchen scraps, yard waste, and cardboard in this bin and it’s not even close to being full.


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