Returning to Our Roots // Composting Basics
Hello, my lovely friends! How is your week going so far? The sun is finally shining here, warming us up a bit more every day. It's really refreshing to spend the morning taking in some bright light coming in through our kitchen window rather than hiding in a dark hole. It tricks your brain, though, because as soon as I step outside I remember that we are still stuck in the middle of winter! Oh, for it to be spring. I need to stop asking time to speed up, though! I have so much work to get done, I can feel the pressure easing its way in around me. That little bit of sunlight is helping to break up the cloudiness in my mind.
Did we inspire any of you to start composting with our post on waste free living? I remember reading a blog post on composting about two years ago and thinking, "That's so cool! But I'll never do it." So silly of me to think! Honestly, I can't believe it's taken me this long to do it. It's really such a simple task that means so much to what our life is quickly turning into. When it comes to sustainable living, I think one of the first steps you can take is learning how to compost your waste. It's been a life changer so far!
*I am being lazy and using some photos from last summer! AGH, tiny Tad. It just kills me how much he has changed so quickly!
Where do I even begin? That's the first question that came to mind when I began. Then, Will it smell really terrible? That was the question my parents asked when I suggested we try composting. Well, I could see how it could if you were composting inside your home. In our case, we'll be composting in a pile outside (in the way back of our yard, for that matter) and we just collect our weekly scraps in a small bin in the kitchen. It's been working really well! I just dumped a huge pile of vegetable scraps in this morning (that I used to make stock) and felt really good about it. That's the part I'm liking the most so far about living waste free... feeling good after performing my tasks and feeling bad when they don't come through. But let's talk about how to get started...
You'll want to know exactly what compost is and how it works! Compost is, basically, bug poop. Yup. There it is. Compost happens by creating a pile of nitrogen-rich (green) materials and carbon-rich (brown) materials and allowing them to generate heat and feed microorganisms, who help to break down the material and create carbon dioxide. This becomes glorious compost, or black gold, according to most gardeners! How amazing is nature? I mean, why wouldn't you want to give back to your garden what it gives to you. That is the balance of all life, of love.
Here are lists of Brown and Green materials that you can add to your compost pile:
- Dried Leaves
- Wood Shavings + Chips
- Potting Soil
- Dryer Lint
- Dried Flowers
- Hay + Straw
- Pine Needles + Cones
- Food-Soiled Paper Towels
- Shredded Newspaper
- Nut Shells
- Bread + Grains
- Fruit + Veggie Scraps (No Citrus)
- Coffee Grounds + Filters
- Tea Bags
- Fresh Leaves + Plants
- Grass Clippings
There are a few different ways you can keep a compost pile. There are special bins that can either be manually turned with a fork or can be tumbled/rotated. If you're going to get a bin, I suggest finding one that can be rotated - a lot less work than reaching into a bin and turning the pile. You can also create a compost bin out of wood that makes it less inviting to pests and other critters. For now, we are just making a "true pile" that's out in the open. We live in a farming community, so it's not too uncommon to see. We're hoping to upgrade in the future, but this will work for now.
If you have an outdoor pile like us, then you can begin building your compost by starting with brown material such as soil, twigs (if you have large branches, make sure you break them down), straw, and other bulky materials. This will act as a base. Then begin adding in your green materials by bulkiness. You'll want to turn your pile once a week by poking around and flipping what is on the bottom to the top. This helps the breaking down process. Another thing you can do to help is to cut up your scraps (like banana peels and eggshells) into smaller pieces. A compost pile is ready for use when it no longer looks like the raw materials you put in it. This can take a couple months or longer! The more you can help it break down, the better.
Now you know how to make compost! You should probably know what not to compost. That's always a good idea, right? Here are some things that you shouldn't compost. Some are obvious while a few others might surprise you!
- Weeds with Seeds
- Oil, Fats, and Grease
- Cheese + Other Dairy
- Diseased Plants
- Coal + Charcoal Ashes
- Colored or Glossy Paper
- Pet Feces
- Dead Animals
- Large Branches
- Pressure Treated Lumber
All of these things can be difficult to compost as a beginner. Quite a few of them would also attract the bugs you don't want into your pile along with maggots. Yuck! Remember me mentioning the bad smell before? Compost really shouldn't have a very pungent odor. If your pile smells sour, it might have too much nitrogen happening. This can be solved by adding more brown material in, something dry and bulky. You don't want your pile to be too wet! Let some oxygen in! There was a farmer I talked with in the past who said that you could add your dead chickens to a compost pile... I've tried researching to see if this was true, and the only result I come across is to never add dead animals and raw meat to your pile. If you've heard otherwise, let me know! I'd be interested to hear if this was a real thing.
A good way to test your compost is by leaving it in a plastic bag, sealed, for a week and checking to see if it smells sour! If it still smells, then it's not ready to be used.
I would love to hear about your composting adventures and if you have any advice for me!
Here is a list that hangs by our trash + compost bin to remind us of what can be composted and what cannot! It's not a complete list, but rather more of the typical items that we use in our house. I thought that you all might be interested in having a list for yourself to help remind you and your family which waste goes where. Click the "download" button below to download this file for free! (: