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But Will it Compost?

A couple great advantages to living rural would have to be dumping grass clippings in your own backyard and having a good deal of space for composting.

Our compost bins cover approximately 50 sq. ft. of space and take a full year before ready to move to the next phase in the process—incoming, working, and finished. Our short summers and cold winters are not optimal for a backyard compost heap, but we're in no hurry, here.

We compost all winter long, adding at least a gallon pail of kitchen scraps to the pile each week. Of course, nothing is decomposing during the six months of sub-zero temperatures; but keeping a series of three—or even four—bins, each in its own stage of the process, ensures that there will be something ready to use each spring.

Certainly, I do feel rewarded for my efforts when I can finally use the finished product; however, I confess that even a fresh pail of garden scraps and the well-stocked working-compost bin hold a certain attraction for me.

A while back, though, as I was turning the pile, I picked out several items that I was almost certain wouldn't compost. I'm well accustomed to watching for those small sticky labels from bananas, apples, avocados, etc. But how does this other stuff even get in there?

Hmm. I'm probably keeping my compost pail too near the trash can.

My love of gardening began waaaay back, in my mom's garden. She would let me draw up the plans for her vegetable plot, which always included a winding flower-lined path leading to our swing in the poplar trees. And as a teenager (although anyone who knew me as a teenager will have a hard time believing it), I had my own subscription to Organic Gardening magazine and I daydreamed about someday turning yard and kitchen scraps into rich organic soil. No word of a lie.

In recent years, Organic Gardening became Rodale's Organic Life—more of a lifestyle publication, intended to reach a wider range of readers, I suppose. And now, as I understand it, Rodale's media brands have been acquired by a larger magazine as of January this year, and Rodale's is no more. However, you can still check out an Organic Gardening Archive to see what the whole health/wellness/organic trend looked like back in the day. I've hung onto just one magazine (December 1980, probably because the other dream I had was to do with growing apples). And I've kept three other publications by Robert Rodale: Build -it-yourself Homestead (1980), The Best Gardening Ideas I Know (1978), and Organic Gardening Harvest Book (1975, by the OG editors); I actually still refer to the Harvest Book when blanching and dehydrating.

But to stay on topic . . . 🙄

If you're finding you're really keen on the composting idea but don't actually know where to start, I will suggest letting Red & Honey give you the basics, while making the whole process sound as simple as it really is.

Tom Bartels at Grow Food Well offers great info and tutorials in a few different methods, including worm composting (as in, not composting worms, but in letting the worms do the composting for you :)

And then you will want to follow up with the Small Footprint Family's comprehensive lists: 100 things in your house that can go into your compost pile as well as 10 things that should never go into your compost pile. Personally, I will continue to put my onion and grapefruit peels in, and will likely never incorporate leftovers and spoiled foods. However, with a list like this, I can almost guarantee you'll find at least a dozen answers to the question, But will it compost?


It is important to our friends to believe that we are unreservedly frank with them,

and important to the friendship that we are not. --Mignon McLaughlin


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