Making Compost

My life has suddenly become rather focused on compost in the last few days. I’ve been, as I’ve mentioned in the past, rather interested in food waste for awhile.

While my interest in compost has remained about at the level mentioned in the linked post, my compost solutions have improved. Sort of.

They’ve improved in that I have a couple of potential methods now to compost some of this stuff. I spoke in the above link about “a specific composting system” that Bill and I would acquire some two or three years ago. And we kept putting it off because we didn’t know what to do with the finished compost. I’d chat with folks, but no one needed it.

Well, serendipity struck. That system? It’s an electric, indoor composter. And we’d been eyeballing it for awhile, but then a friend had to move and gave us hers. It’d been unplugged for a bit (and remained unplugged for QUITE a bit more at our place), but we had it. We just didn’t have a spot for compost yet. And she emphatically warned me that the machine wouldn’t handle everything we’d have to throw at it.

Serendipity again. I finally decided to email the local community garden, and see if I could join. After filling out an application, they said yes! I don’t have an assigned plot yet, but I have committed to gardening and being a community member there.

And they have a compost system! And, hopefully, I’ll be able to use my finished compost there!

I’m almost more excited about this than I am about the actual gardening. Not because I do not love growing my own tomatoes, but because I’m neither good at growing my own tomatoes, nor will I ever grow enough to supply myself. But I can make sure that my organic1 materials are being fully used up.

This was already important to me. But I’ve finally just started reading, American Wasteland by Jonathon Bloom, and it’s REALLY getting to me. I’m only a few chapters in, and the point is being driven home about nutrient cycling2. And methane gas. I could go onto an ecological lecture about “nature will find a way,” but you all already know that. The basic gist is, we can use these nutrients in a way that most benefits ourselves and nature as we want it to be, or we could let anaerobic bacteria use these nutrients. But they’re gonna get used.

Anyway, back to my compost situation. I’m pretty excited about it. I’m already saving scraps, so I can figure out where and how to best put them. I’ve looked at this LifeHacker post about puree for faking compost and decided that while THAT won’t be what I do, puree is not a bad idea for while I’m storing scraps. (Takes up less freezer space.) And I’m learning the rules, if not quite ALL of the “whys,” of my community garden’s compost rules. For example, no cooked foods (don’t want to attract the not-so-friendly neighborhood Rodentia sp.) and no “old, uncooked tofu” (I have no idea why, but I assume it has something to do with the microbial community that made it tofu, but possibly something else about the production process).

I plugged in the electric composter a week ago yesterday. I was supposed to add some stuff & then let it go for a week before adding more. Yesterday, late in the evening, I added more. I must admit, I’m a hair intimidated. I’m concerned that what I added last week (strips of corn husks that didn’t work out for tamales) will have been wrong somehow. I’m also concerned I’m going to fail at properly balancing the stuff (baking soda and sawdust) that keeps it from stinking. And, frankly? It’s kinda loud. Bill called it, “annoying as shit” this morning. He’s not wrong. We’re going to have to see if we can muffle the occasional bigger noise it makes. And then, eventually, I have to hope I’m going to get permission to use my compost in my bed.

Interestingly, I’ve been emailing about compost with the garden managers, which is why I know about things like “no cooked foods” and I’ve learned that they have “compost duty” and this is partially who coordinates with the MASTER COMPOSTER.

Guys, this isn’t just some title they give the person at the garden. No, it’s a real, awesome thing. And, at least once before, the garden has had a workshop with someone who IS a Master Composter.

Got to admit, this may be a new life goal. Eventually. Not for a long time, though. I still have to get my Cicerone certification first.

But I can be just doing regular compost between now and then. And I love that. And I will, undoubtedly, learn more about it just by doing. Can’t get more wonderful than that.

Except maybe, maybe, growing my own tomatoes in a bed treated with my own compost.

1 By which I mean “carbon-based” and not “grown in a specific manner regulated by law.” On this blog, that’s an important clarification.

2 And grr at myself. Why? Because until I typed that, I’d not thought about nearly failing my written comprehensive examination for my M.Sc. And now I’m frustrated at that again.