Monthly Archives: February 2011

Project Compost: Do’s and Don’ts

Because a photo of compost is boring. Huge earthworm found here.

In follow-up to last week’s post on restarting the compost bins, I’ve put together a list of compost do’s and don’ts that may make the whole process a little easier.

Again, I am no composting expert and much of what I say is probably quite unscientific, but it is a record of things that have/have not worked for us.

DO:

  • compost most vegie scraps, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds
  • take a sniff of your bins occasionally – there should not be a rotten smell at all. if there is, the heap may be too wet or you may need to add some dry hay/garden waste to the bin
  • look out for insects in your pile – a good pile is squirming with worms and other helpers
  • ensure you keep the lid on tight – not only to keep possums, cats, dogs etc out of the bin but also to keep the heat generated in the bin, in the bin. this helps speed up the composting process

DON’T:

  • compost corn, breads, rice or pasta – these can attract rodents
  • compost meat or fish – these types of bins don’t reach sufficiently high temperatures to kill any potentially harmful bacteria
  • compost human waste or dog/cat poo. for basically the same reason as above.
  • add water to the heap unless it’s totally dry – the scraps and garden waste should provide enough moisture

If I think of anything else that’s similarly important, I’ll be sure to add it to the site. And if you’ve got any questions let me know – I may not know the answer but I could likely find out.

No Angel

Tenuous photo link: I’m drinking a beer.

I’m no angel. Like everyone, I’m busy. I’m a busy mum and wife and sister and daughter and writer. I like things to be simple where possible. I like to do things efficiently where possible. I don’t like making extra work for myself.

I like wearing make-up. I like having my hair done (and getting it coloured!) I like eating lollies. I am a big fan of coffee. I love wine. I shop at Target. I travel. I used disposable nappies on both my little ones until they were six weeks old and would fit into the cloth ones I bought.

If my goal was to live completely without chemicals, and in a carbon-positive way, then I would be making very different changes to my life.

My goal instead, is to simplify life.

I love that I’m learning about green cleaning because, yes, it reduces the amount of unnecessary and harmful chemicals in the house, but also because I now have four spray bottles in my cleaning cupboard, rather than the dozens I had before. Things are simpler.

I love that I use only a handful of daily beauty products and the vast majority of them are completely natural.

I love that I try to reduce our household garbage by recycling, shopping smarter and reusing more, because it means I’m more mindful of what I buy, which in turn means less stuff in general.

But I’m so not an eco-bully. Or a green-snob. Just sayin’.

xxx

Project Compost: Restart

Our sad compost bins.

 So the garden has been roundly neglected of late (more on this and what I’m doing to rectify the situation in a later post) and the poor old compost heap has seen many better days too. It was really flourishing pre-renovation, as I’d been working on it for about six months and had two big bins worth of garden gold almost ready to go. The little fairy wrens in the yard loved all the bugs that scattered every time I opened the lid and the willy wagtails were well pleased when I’d share some of the insects with them.

Then the builders came in and knocked both bins down, spreading my compost all over the backyard, on day one of the reno.

I get a really awful, wasteful feeling in the pit of my tummy every time I throw away food scraps (similar to the feeling I get using disposable nappies, truth be told) and I think about restarting the ol’ compost bins – stat. Then life gets in the way, as usual, and the next time I think about it is when I’m tossing tonight’s salad scraps in the bin.

But no more. This week fortnight-ish I will buy some manures, chop some garden waste and start the bins again.

I thought I could offer a very very basic rundown of how I build our compost bins, in case this is something you’re interested in. Once it’s set up, it really is a super simple way to cut down on your rubbish dramatically, and as a bonus you get the most beautiful plant food imaginable – for free!

*NB There is a huge amount of information out there on composting. There are books and blogs and websites all dedicated to the science of it. I’m not offering any scientific advice here, just a basic overview of what I do at home. This is likely not best practice. Probably not even close.

You need to get yourself two or three bins. Bunnings sell simple compost bins for around $30 each. These have a flip-top lid and an open bottom (the bottom needs to be open to allow worms and insects in, as well as allowing you to turn your heap easily). Place the bins somewhere they will stay pretty dry, and somewhere that makes depositing your scraps easy.

To start, I buy a couple of bags of manure from a farm nearby. Any type will do really, but chook poo is good. I add a layer of this to the bottom of the bin, followed by some grass clippings, some garden cuttings (if these are in large pieces, try breaking them up or running the mower over them first), some hay and a bucket of kitchen scraps. I generally keep these layers to around 10cm deep each, with the exception of the dense grass clippings, 3-5cm will do there. I also make sure not to compact the layers down as composting requires lots of air.

The compost bin has officially begun! I now add our kitchen scraps over the week, occasionally covering them with a handful of hay or leaves. Once the layer of scraps reaches around 10cm I start the layering all over again.

After around a month or so I lift the whole bin off the pile and move it to one side, leaving the entire pile exposed. I then use my shovel and garden fork to work through the pile, separating any big chunks and aerating the whole lot. Then I shovel it all back into the bin. I keep adding, layering, moving and aerating until the bin is pretty much full, then I leave it alone for a while. Depending on the weather it may be three months, it may be more. Occasionally, if I remember, I may turn the pile to help speed things along and get an idea of how the compost is cooking.

Once bin #1 is cooking, I start bin #2 using the same method. The theory being that once the compost in bin #1 is ready to use in the garden, bin #2 will be ready to cook. Then bin #3 is used for depositing scraps etc, while bin #1 stores the usable compost and bin #2 cooks away. In reality, the length of each stage varies and there will be times where you have two bins cooking and no usable compost.

At this early stage in my gardening career I can’t worry about that so much, only take pleasure in the knowledge that my scraps will be fertilising my garden sometime in the near future. Hopefully yours will too!!

To stop this post from becoming any lengthier, I’ll put together another post for later in the week that outlines the things you should and shouldn’t compost in this type of pile.

Green Cleaning: Lemon + Baking Soda = Sparkly McGee!

Lemons are nature’s zesty cleaning power-bombs and this green cleaning recipe uses that to its fullest advantage.

All you need is one dirty sink (or any metal surface in your kitchen, or porcelain, enamel or fibreglass in your bathroom), half a lemon, some bicarb soda and about five minutes.

Before. Ugh.

Sprinkle the lemon half with some bicarb, and also sprinkle the sink with a little of the powder too – this works best if the sink is pretty dry before cleaning. Use the flesh side of the lemon to scrub the sink. It takes a couple of minutes for the sherberty fizz to take all the grime away, but it absolutely works and smells citrus fresh too!

If you have some tougher grime or stains then use the skin side as a scrubbing brush. I was surprised by how well this actually works, but the skin really does pick up the stains.

After. The plug hole needs a vinegar soak to bring out the stains but its totally clean. Honest!

I actually used the skin and some extra bicarb to scrub some rust spots on the knife I used and they came out straight away. Lovely!

Ol’ Rusty Before.

‘Ol Rusty no more.

Super easy and super useful. I like this recipe because it gives me a way of using up the shrivelly lemon halves I sometimes collect in the fruit bowl. Plus it smells so good!

As for the rest of the week, we’re busy preparing for Isy’s second birthday on the weekend. It’s a bubble party so should be awesome!

Hope you’re having a good week! X