Welcome to 2012!
So far, in this household, this year has had a Make Better theme. For instance, The Ole’ Husband is quitting smoking and joining a gym. I am currently going through our refrigerator and cabinets to dump any expired thing and am deep-cleaning the house before Chinese New Year (it’s good luck to have a spotlessly clean house on Chinese New Year. (January 23. Get scrubbing!)) Additionally, I am making a number of changes to my health routine (details to come in a later post). But – by far – my favorite life-improving 2012 activity occurred last Saturday when we built a compost bin!
This may not be exciting to anyone other than myself and my fellow apartmates (the other three couples who live in our apartment complex), but – OMG – we love it.
You may already be aware of the benefits of composting, but just in case you’re not, let me evangelize you. Compost is great because:
a) Uneaten fruits and vegetables are no longer wasted! Ever felt guilty about not eating your peas? Well don’t! Because when you add them to your compost pile, they decompose over the course of several weeks and, along with whatever other vegetables you toss in there, create a magnificently rich soil perfect for gardening. If you’ve ever tried to grow vegetables and have been unimpressed by the results – try using homemade compost – you may be pleasantly surprised at how much better produce tastes and looks when grown in it.
b) You’ll take your trash out less often! You will be amazed at how much more slowly your garbage can fills up when you’re tossing all fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, flower clippings, lawn trimmings, beer, wine, egg shells, et cetera into the compost. (And seaweed! Not that seaweed is necessarily taking up a lot of room in your trash cans, BUT it is worth mentioning that seaweed is chock full of iodine and if you’re using your compost to grow veggies, iodine is an excellent thing. If you do compost and do collect seaweed to add, make sure you grab the fresh wet stuff to avoid salting your compost pile to death.)
c) Composting is Nature’s way of amending soil. Most vegetables and grains today are grown in fields whose soil has been sucked dry of natural nutrients. Add them nutrients back in with compost!
d) It’s fun! And educational! And rewarding!
Just yesterday afternoon when I arrived home from work, I walked straight to the back patio to look at our beautiful bin and it’s luscious contents. Gazing upon such beautiful confluence of kitchen debris decomposing together is so therapeutic for me. All this stuff that would otherwise take up space in the garbage and eventually go to utter waste in the landfill is now being turned into rich, beautiful, nutritious soil just like it was meant to!
If you do want to compost but don’t want to have to build a bin – good news! – you don’t have to! I have seen compost bins at Costco and a hundred places on the internet (they may not be as totally adorable as ours, but they’ll get the job done). Just make sure that whatever compost bin you buy / build will allow for air circulation. Air circulation is key for proper decomposing and will keep the pile from stinking. Should you like to recreate this particular Bin of Awesome in you own backyard, see below for building instructions. If not, skip the last half of this post (because it’s boring) and VIVA 2012!
(3) 10′ 1×8 pine boards $9/ea (+ one extra 30″ scrap which we had lying around)
(1) 6′ roll of chicken wire $9
A random 12″ length of rope from the dude at the nursery $0
Staple gun staples
(1) 10′ 1×4 pine board $5 (+ a little extra for the lid)
To make transporting the boards easier, we had the fine folks at Home Depot cut the 10′ boards into 4 equal 30″pieces. (If this is cheating on our “DIY” project, I don’t want to know.) Once we got home, we began by laying ten of the twelve 1×8 boards out longways drawing a line 5/8″ long beginning at 2″ in from the short side of the board and 1″ down from the long side at all four corners (4 notches per board). Then, we used the jigsaw to cut the sides of the notches (the 1″ down part), and employed the chisel / hammer duo to pop the little wood pieces out (Place the edge of the chisel’s blade along the 5/8″ line, keeping it at a 90 degree angle to the board, then use the hammer to whap the handle, pushing the chisel into the wood, and popping out the notch.) The idea is to turn the boards into notched Lincoln Log logs. We did the same for the smaller boards, but only cut down 1/2″ from the long side of the board instead of 1″, and only on one length (two notches per board). We set the leftover two 30″ 1×8 boards aside.
As we finished cutting the notches of each board, we stacked them – Lincoln Log style – and watched them become a bin. Two of the 1×4 lengths started the base of the bin. From there, we added the 1×8 pieces. Once all ten 1×8 pieces were stacked, we added the last two 1×4’s to the top. No glue or nails required!
Then we unrolled the chicken wire and stapled it along the inside of our newly formed bin. The more staples, the better!
With the leftover two pieces of 1×8 (plus an extra 1×8 scrap piece, and two 1×4 scraps we had laying around), Ole’ Husb made the lid. He used the rope to make the handle.
If you, like us, are planning on never moving your compost bin, it is okay to leave the bin like this without further structural support since gravity is keeping this stuff together. But, if you would like to freedom to move your bin around, you should consider nailing slats of wood (maybe 1×4’s) on the inside of the bin vertically to connect the boards to each other. Otherwise, you’ll have a big compost-y mess and a busted bin to deal with when you try to lift it.
One important thing to note, since air is essential for compost, it is a good idea to turn your compost every so often. We purchased a Garden Claw (see first photo) and it has already proven to be very useful and fun to use. A simple pitchfork will do the trick, too, but the Garden Claw kicks ass (and is also useful for aerating lawns and prepping soil for planting).
A toast to compost!