For a very long time, becoming a “Composter” was NOT on my list of things to do. When I finally gave in, I did it because I felt pressure to ‘do the right thing’. But I did it dragging my feet. I had visions of a smelly, steamy, fly infested heap of rotting grossness and I didn’t want to deal with it.
Oh, how overjoyed I was to find my stereotypes about composting to be (mostly) unfounded. I’ve come full circle in my thoughts and feelings towards composting over the years. Now, it’s one of my favorite things!
I mean, for one thing, where can you literally dump in trash and have it turn into luscious food for the plants that will in turn feed you? How awesome is it to throw in the gallons and buckets and mounds of chicken poo into a bin, stir it with leaves and grass and vegetable scraps and have it turn into something that looks and smells good? Something that you can actually stick your bare hands in, put up to your nose, inhale deeply and actually appreciate the scent!
It thrills me every year when I am getting my gardens ready to skip running to the nursery for bags of overpriced nutrients because I’ve made them myself instead! I love telling people how the chickens and I make our own dirt! By the wheelbarrow full! I’m averaging around 20 heaping wheelbarrows full per year. Dark, beautiful dirt. I feed the earth and it feeds me.
And, it teaches a new generation the value of turning your trash into treasure. I hear it all the time. Like when 11-year-old Jake dumps a wheelbarrow full of freshly made dirt into the garden and says, “That’s beautiful dirt, look at it!”
And when 14-year-old Jordan says, “You know, I just realized something. We don’t throw any food away. We either feed it to the dog, the chickens or the compost bin.”
Yes! We’re part of a cycle that is running like it was intended (at least in this area). We take from the earth, give back to the earth, and all grow healthier together.
And we do it without chemicals. Without added expenses (you can even build your own compost bins from free pallets if you want). It saves on the garbage bill and from filling the landfills with things we can actually recycle back into the land and use. The food we grow from compost is nutrient dense and requires less watering.
And it’s fun! I’ve gotten into the habit of turning my compost with a snow shovel. When the chickens see me pick up that shovel, they come running, ready to gobble up any worms I surface with my turning. We all have a great time.
I’ve learned that compost bin will churn out dirt with or without my help. If I help, it turns faster. But if I neglect it, I am still rewarded with rich treasure.
If you don’t compost, I encourage you to try it. NOW is actually a great time to get started, as there are lots of scraps from the garden to throw away, and the fall leaves are soon to be falling from the trees. Both things are great for the compost pile.
Plus, it’s easy to start. Just grab yourself a compost bin, or make one yourself. Fill it with your grass clippings, leaves, food scraps, chicken poo, chicken bedding, etc. (here’s a list of what to avoid composting).
Alternate your layers. For example, if you throw in a bunch of juicy beet skins and wet rusty lettuce, add a layer of straw or dried leaves next. This will help keep the fly population uninterested in what you’re doing, and virtually illuminate the smell. (Here’s a few more smell-reducing tips, too.)
Occasionally stir the contents (which, as I’ve said, is optional and probably not the best advice to give, but it’s true. I found it out by experience).
I actually have two bins and I fill one up before I move to the next so that they are at different stages of ‘done-ness’. Depending on what you’ve put in your compost bins, how often you stir it, how wet or dry it is, it will take 6-12 months to turn into useable materials for your garden spaces.
When I finally unpack the treasure I’ve been allowing to transform, I feel like a kid at a party! Mounds and mounds of dark brown, earthy smelling dirt. For free. It feels so very satisfying! And even after years of doing it, the feeling never gets old!