After the Meal

Notes on a little self-published book and on composting.

I wanted, for my own benefit as well as yours, to explore composting. Some of you may want to zone out now and come back for my next blog entry. AND I KNOW that composting is not DIRECTLY related to the purpose of the RealisticChef. But I very often think of composting while in the kitchen making breakfast or lunch or dinner, so we are going to go there.

The thing is, I feel so wasteful when I throw away veggie peelings and egg shells and all that. But I also don’t know the first thing about composting. I also don’t have a garden. In regards to that last thing, I am am going to ignore it. Perhaps composting will lead to gardening. Perhaps I will just return the composted soil to the earth around my lonely rose bush or back behind the swing set. This is just a beginning. Whatever. I have wanted for years to break down composting into a few simple principles and rules and post them on the fridge. Then I could get a pretty bowl like Rachel Ray and throw the compost stuff in there every time I cook. Then I could throw it in the yard. Voila! Composting.

Then last week I was talking about self-publishing and one of my best buddies snagged a book off her shelf which she bought online from a self-publishing group. She says she loves it and uses it a lot. She said I could borrow it and I gave her a half-hearted okey UNTIL I wandered upon the page titled “Compost for Beginners.” What I had been waiting for! And since the author begins her explanation with a sentence containing the words “easiest,” and “cheapest,” I thought I should break it down for me and for you, too.

  • A compost “bin” can be as simple as a pile in the corner of your yard. That’s what I am going for.
  • Start your pile with six inches of paper scraps, dead leaves, and straw. Then throw on two inches of grass clippings and food scraps. Finish with 1 inch of garden soil. Hm…
  • Do this like six more times as you can manage and then water until it is damp.
  • Add more stuff (like from working on the yard or cutting up veggies) as you acquire it. Turn everything over once or twice a month. It should generate it’s own heat after a month or so, and is ready when it is dark, crumbly, and smells like fresh earth.

Now you feel very environmental and at one with food. Maybe.

Here is a list of things to compost (according to the EPA):

  • Cardboard
  • Clean paper (napkins, too)
  • Coffee filters and grounds
  • Dryer and vaccuum lint
  • Fireplace ash
  • Fruits and veggies
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair and fur
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nut shells
  • Untreated sawdust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Woodchips
  • Wool and cotton rags
  • Yard trimmings

Here is a list of things NOT to compost (again, according to the EPA and other sources):

  • Animal poo (some say yes, some say no)
  • Walnuts, walnut shells, and black walnut tree leaves or twigs
  • Coal or charcoal ash
  • Dairy products and eggs
  • Diseased or insect-infested plants
  • Fast, grease, lard, or oil
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps
  • Yard trimming treated with pesticides
  • Breads
  • Heavily printed or coated paper
  • Rice
  • Stubborn weeds
  • Used personal products (tampons, diapers)

And here is the name of the book that I used for the first part of this blog: Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs.

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4 thoughts on “After the Meal

  1. You know, one thing to note, as I have had compost for years, is that at least in this area, the compost always gets maggots. It’s pretty gross, and the compost actually MOVES, but once they’re done, you have coffee ground textured compost. They really get the job done. I don’t know whether they’re legit or a sign of my bad composting skills, but we’ve always gotten them.

  2. You know now that I’ve gone back and read that list, who knew rice and bread products couldn’t be put in compost?! I wonder why. Maybe that’s the root of my maggot problems.

  3. Our house in built into the side of a hill and we are surrounded by acres of woods, ground cover, and a pond in the back yard. That said, I will add all the critters that come around, so I’ve been throwing food scraps down the hill. I realize that may invite unwanted critters: voles, mice & such. However, if I could get a turning drum type composter, I might reconsider.

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