Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Riches in Refuse

The Prime Geek and I spent a few days pouring over ads for various composter designs, ranging from the simple drum style to some incredibly complicated models that come complete with spinner, inner agitators, and some odd drainage system that required you to hook it to both a hose and the downspout. Time and time again we came back to the central question – What do we need to get kitchen scraps to rot successfully? The spinners, while quite nice, seem more than a little superfluous. Lights? As I rarely see the need to dispose of anything under cover of darkness… well, nothing I want the neighborhood dogs to dig up anyway, these seemed rather a waste as well. Drainage and water monitoring? If it needed water I figured I could handle walking the hose over to the composter, and besides that I really wasn’t too fond of the idea of a pile of garbage right next to the house (and directly under a window. Have I mentioned we don't have central air and all the windows are open in the heat?).

That left us with the basic models. They all seemed to be constructed on similar lines; heavy-duty plastic containers with lids and holes for air to flow. The colors and shapes varied from model to model, and while some might find the ability to color coordinate their garden tools to their house a definite must… well, I think I’ve made it pretty clear so far in this blog that we’re not that kind of people. Frankly, we tend to mock those kind of people.

We did hit one small snag early on in deciding what we wanted. The Prime Geek had asked me what my folks had done and I had cheerfully described the three box system with a nine apartment hutch arrangement for the rabbits built over. After a blank moment of staring at me, he asked if the rabbits were really a requirement to making this work.

“No, not really. We had just been looking for a way to make raising my 4-H projects a little neater, and dad had his students build it for me as a class project.”

As we have neither anxious students vying for an A, nor 17 Netherland dwarf rabbits to contain, we decided to dismiss the bunny bunkers as a requirement for the composters. For now. Although… it could be construed as an excellent way to fertilize the yard without chemicals. I was shut down pretty hard by the Prime Geek over the rabbits. You might not know it to look at him, but he can get awful high-strung about some thing. Strange. Anyway, my father's plans wouldn’t work for us. We would need something a tad more traditional.

A large heavy duty container, with holes for drainage, and a way to shake the material inside for proper, well, rotting. We could buy a basic unit - $75. We might be able to modify a rain barrel -$45 plus a lid. But…. a quick rummage in the garage and a jaunt down to the basement for the drill soon had us in the home stretch.

Cheap Ass Composter (for those with few aesthetic requirements)

1) One Large Plastic Trash Can WITH Lid – in our case left fortuitously by the previous owners of the house.
2) Drill with widest bit available – ¾ inch works fine

Set can on its side and begin to drill holes in the sides and bottom approximately 8 inches apart, all over the can. (We’re not looking for precision here people, just drill a hole and move on to the next. If crafting runs in your blood and you can’t leave well enough alone, feel free to make a pattern or design, but that’s only if you really feel you must.) Repeat this process on the lid. Once all holes are thoroughly drilled, set in the corner of your yard where you want the composter – might I suggest taking into consideration midwinter walks in the snow when making this call? You don’t want it next to your home, but if its too far away in a hidden corner, you are not as likely to wander out in sweatpants and a coat to get your kitchen scraps in it as you might be with it near the garage door. Easy access is the idea here.

To get started? Easy peasy. Layer in a good thick layer of browns – dried grass clippings, leaves, straw, etc - then a layer of greens – kitchen scraps, peels, pits, egg shells, that zucchini that just started waving to you in the back of the fridge. Layer and repeat.

Yes. There is a lot more to it. As I stagger my way to a healthy compost pile I’ll try and fill in the holes. On the other hand, there are a ton of people out there cleverer than I who have figured this whole procedure out, why not check them out? A few of my favorites are : - this blogger is a real favorite. I check in at least three times a week and I’ll confess a sad little fan girl secret for this one… not only do I read this site regularly… I bought the book.


Anthony said...

I always love to hear stories about people getting into composting. Nice post! I'll have to bookmark your blog and check in on your composting progress.

And thanks for linking to and reading my blog. It's nice (and also strange) to find that I have regular readers. :)

Rey B said...

Whatever you do don't start reading at