Saturday, October 29, 2005

Composting 101 – Compost Bins and the Third Eye

At first, burying things in the backyard, or trench composting as it is called, was fine. It’s basically free unless you need to buy a shovel. However, there’s a limit to how much you can bury. Burial is a good method for vegetable peelings and eggshells, but not for leaves, grass clippings, ashes from the barbecue, or whatever else. So MaGreen and I decided that we needed a bin.

There’s an overwhelming selection of bins at stores and on the internet that range in price from about $60 to $200. (Or you can have one designed and built to match your Japanese garden for $600 like MaGreen’s Aunt Patricia.) MaGreen and I, though, are cheap. And it seems a little counter-intuitive to me to spend money on a container to let things rot in. Maybe the “compost tea” that the expensive compost bins produce is the best thing since chocolate, but I would rather start out with something simple and FREE. We’d rather spend our money on a new organic cotton mattress or buy tickets for a vacation or donate to Oxfam.

Miah read somewhere on the internet that it’s easy to make a compost bin with shipping pallets. So we started looking for pallets on the side of the road, next to dumpsters, and behind strip malls. For about a month, we couldn’t find one. I’m not terribly skilled at scavenging. When my parents raised me they always discouraged me from using discarded or used stuff. “We can buy you a new one,” they would say. Having grown up in India right after independence, my parents saw scavenging as something people do to survive, not something that a person with an education and money should do for fun. It wasn’t until I started hanging out with artists, musicians, and writers that my third eye – the garbage eye – opened up.

Miah eventually spotted three shipping pallets in a lot close to our house. I shoved them in the trunk of the car – as in the dickey or boot for all you Brits and Indians - and drove them home. After that first sighting, we started to see shipping pallets everywhere just waiting for us. All of a sudden, the whole city seemed awash in pallets. Scavenging is sort of like birding. Once you’ve learned to spot your first hummingbird, you start to see them everywhere.

Well, to cut this story short, I picked a spot in the corner of the backyard to create the compost. I had to dig up an oleander bush, which MaGreen wanted me to do anyways because it is poisonous and she didn’t want our little girl to chew on the leaves. Then I dug little trenches to put the pallets into so they wouldn’t fall over. I made two four-sided bins with the neighbor’s fence as the backside. The front side swings open. I used an old plastic bag as a sort of hinge. I used the leaves from the dug-up oleander bush to inaugurate the pile.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Your third eye is the garbage eye! I love it!

I had a pallet composter, too, at my old house. But there's no room in the yard at my current house so we just drilled holes in a garbage can and shove it all in there.

Compost ho!