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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Composting in the city

I grew up in a very rural area, so big city living still has a few drawbacks for me, like neighbors so close you can reach out your windows and touch each other, and having very little property.

However, we overcome a lot of obstacles. If we want to play in a stream, we head up to Mt Charleston and frolic in Deer Springs. If we want to see farm animals we schedule a field trip to JR Pony Farms. Different, but fun anyway.

When we were looking for a house it was very important to me to get a "decent" piece of property. If anyone knows Las Vegas neighborhoods you know this is hard! Most houses you walk out the back door and there's an unfinished little strip of backyard. I wanted a pool area, a backyard area, and a swingset area. We were patient and found a house perfect for us! We'll never move. It has enough inside space, and just the right amount of outside space. It has my designated areas, but also has a huge side yard.

Brian's science for years was his beloved garden. We have raised flower beds, raised herb and vegetable beds, fruit trees, bushes, roses, and so much more. As part of this gardening space we also made a compost bin.

For awhile we were very good about saving our scraps and composting them. Eventually, with the advent of a pregnancy and a new baby, the work of turning it became too much and it all went to seed...literally! It started growing flowers and pumpkins in it! We stopped using it for awhile and it sat empty.

Now, while Brian is not on a gardening kick, he is on a "green" kick. We recycle everything, and we're back to composting.

I actually like composting. I like the good, dark. rich soil it produces. I like watching it turn into nutrient rich usable soil.

I've been trying to compost everything and anything, but household scraps don't add up that when I saw my neighbors Christmas Tree out at the curb, I thought to myself, "Hmmmm, can I chop that up?" So I called her and asked, and not only did I get that tree, but also a 2nd smaller one she had in her family room!

Yes, I literally cut it into pieces, down to the trunk.

Christmas Tree

I cut slightly bigger pieces for the right will become compost later than the left bin, which is cut much smaller.

So, here I've got tons of evergreens in my pile...need to try to mix it up with other stuff. And then I remember my good old paper shredder! And, just that week, the Assessors Packets were delivered to our houses. This is a newspaper looking thing, about the size of 3 Sunday papers. So I called a different neighbor up and asked to have hers. Between hers, and mine, it took Brian and I a day to feed all the paper through the shredder and dump it into the pile!

Now, in addition to all that, we do still save kitchen scraps. I have a "kitchen bowl" on my counter that stays there for loose scraps, leftovers, heels of bread, etc. When it gets full (or smelly) it goes out to the compost bin. Pretty easy!

Because I have so much need right now for excess to mix with all of the tree, I'll be contacting local grocery stores for their produce refuse. I've walked out of Walmart before with garbage bags of corn husks...really! Ask! Don't be afraid! Especially when you couple your request with recycling AND teaching. Hard to turn you down!

In the past, we've also made compost with the help of worms. This is called vermicomposting. Here's a picture of the Vermicomposter

Inside the Vermicomposter. See, it has drainage abilities and all!

It worked GREAT! Anyone who has just kitchen scraps to compost and wants an easy way to do it, this is it! They do need to stay indoors. But the container doesn't smell. The only drawback for me is...I hate worms!!

There are different ways to use the bin, and the way we chose was to section it off in quarters. The idea is, the worms will be where the food is. Put the food in one quadrant, worms there! After they've made their poopies and turned it all into nice soil, you can get it out of the other quadrants.

Yeah, except, they LOOSELY stay in their quadrant. I might find some of in the far left corner, I might find half of one I just cut off in the top right....ewwwwwwwwwww. It just didn't work out well for me as far as being able to RETRIEVE the compost. But the composting part worked wonderfully well. Totally rich soil!! So, if you like worms, vermicomposting is for you!

We used a company called Topline. They sell the vermicomposter, worms, started kits, books, you name it, they have it!

Well, hope this encourages you to start composting! If you live in Las Vegas and you want to save your kitchen scraps and bring them to me, feel free! You can always freeze them until you see me next! I'll include them in our compost bin.

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