August 24, 2015
I’ve been thinking about compost.
Yeah, I know. I need a life.
But seriously, this week as I was prepping and canning and freezing and running a ton of stuff down the disposal and throwing another ton of stuff in the trash, I found myself really hating to let all those potential soil nutrients go to waste.
Of course, to make use of soil nutrients, I’d have to have some targeted soil to nurture. Which is something I’m seriously contemplating taking the plunge and doing next spring — just a few raised beds for tomatoes, a few squash and cucumber vines, moving my herbs from pots to a bed. I’ll have to hire someone to do the heavy lifting to set everything up. Then I could have my little baby garden, which would be all the garden I could make time to handle.
When I was a kid, we had what I privately thought of as the “garden from hell.” That sucker was an acre and a half, but it felt like nine square miles when you had to hoe it, or pick it. (I never really minded planting it too much.) Because after all, we “put up” everything we ate that was growable in our little piece of the universe.
And we had a compost pile. Up at one end of the garden, Daddy had erected a small enclosure, about three by three feet, fenced in chicken wire. Into that went all the vegetable scraps, peels, trimmings and so on, not to mention the leftovers scraped off plates after dinner. They all went into a lidded bucket that lived beneath the sink, and when it got full it was my job to take it out to the compost pile.
I’d dump it and try to keep splatters from hitting me, generally unsuccessfully. I hated the damned compost pile.
Daddy would add grass clippings to it. And when we were putting up veggies, we’d add all sorts of goodies — pea hulls, bean strings, tomato peels, potato peels, fruit peels and cores, corncobs and shucks — though we frequently fed the shucks to the cows, and they did love them — just any kind of trimming or unused portion of a vegetable or fruit. When something in the garden was through bearing and got pulled up or cut down, it went onto the compost pile.
About once a week, Daddy would throw a layer of dirt shoveled out of a nearby section of garden on top of it. If we had a particularly dry spell and thought of it, we’d turn the hose on it and wet it down thoroughly from time to time.
We’d do that all summer, and ignore it all fall and winter, except for dumping the ubiquitous compost bucket on top of it. And come spring, it would be the richest, most glorious mix of enriched topsoil and natural fertilizer you ever saw. Mama would load up wheelbarrow loads of it and take it to her flower beds. We’d carry along a bucket of it and add a scoop to the bottom of each hole as we were planting tomatoes and peppers. We’d put it in a line down the trench where the leaf lettuce seeds were about to go.
Cannibalistic little plants. They loved it. Thrived on it.
If I take that plunge to have some little raised beds, I’m going to do compost. I’ve thrown away enough stuff in the past week to make a good start on a compost pile — corn shucks, pea hulls, peach peels, tomato peels, not to mention the stuff I pitched from the fridge because it was too old. I’ve already got a spot picked out, out of the way, out of sight, where I can have a fenced bin; I think I’m going to use pallets instead of bothering with a fenced enclosure. Partly, it’s a reach back to where I came from; partly, it’s my Mama talking about children starving in China when I wouldn’t clean my plate. I just hate to waste everything I’m throwing away. Might was well get some use out of it down the road.
It just makes sense.
Here’s a tutorial on building a compost bin. It doesn’t have to be that complex. It can be much MORE complex. Essentially, an open bottom, aerated sides, but something to hold the stuff in a relatively cohesive area. Not very deep — three feet would be a maximum, I’d think.
I don’t kid myself I’m going to go live off the grid and be self-sustaining, and all that. Ain’t happening. I love me some Kroger too much. But there’s no reason I can’t take my 21st century wastefulness and curb it a little. Things are liable to last a little bit longer for the grandkids if I do.
You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em contemplate that for a bit. And step a little bit lighter on the world.