My Composting Journey

I want to start writing about my compost pile. What a topic, I know. But composting is something I love to do and now that I have had some success at it, I want to write something that I can read again one day, when I am no longer capable of traipsing out to the pile, a 5-pound bucket full of rotting food scraps in tow. I also have found a few interesting things, and I am sure I will find more. Hopefully this log will continuously remind me of all the glory in it.

So about two years ago I was reading things on Pinterest about composting. What to toss in, what to leave out. How to build a system for it. Ya know. Well, I became so excited. I come from a farm in Northern Illinois. My mother would toss things out, to the dogs, to the elements. My grandmother, who is originally from West Virginia, composted all of her vegetables by throwing them out the back door into the wooded area next to her house, which was in the middle of a nice neighborhood in Rockford, Illinois.

I wanted to compost! But we were renting a small duplex, in a small town in Southern Illinois. Our house was one of the first on the block, and there was not much of a yard or any trees to camouflage a pile of rotting food. Too bad, I thought. Mother Nature doesn’t care about curb appeal. So I started collecting some old food while I searched for a suitable vessel. I guarded the tomatoes carefully, and still do, because I once read that if not allowed to “breath” and decompose properly, tomatoes release methane gas. I would have to confirm this with some research, so don’t take my word on it. However, this scared me into putting my foot down and vowing to help all food that entered my house to leave it in a natural way.

I quickly spied a container for my tomatoes, and some old frozen hash browns, and a pile of newspaper. Our trusty neighbor Roger, who lived across an empty lot that occupied most of our block, had some old plastic bins sitting outside of his garage. When he got home that night, I asked him for the big, gray one. “Of course!” he laughed, before changing the subject to his new litter of bastard puppies. I scooped up the bin and brought it home. My “material” quickly went in. I placed the bin behind my house. It was one of the first things a person would see as they drove onto our street.

So it began! I was the curator of a plastic bin of rotting organic material and I loved my position. When it rained heavily, I would sneak to the back of my house and dump out some of the brown, smelly water. Flies buzzed all around me as I added all of the “green” and “brown” I could get my hands on. A lot of times, so no one would suspect, I would clean out my fridge on Wednesday nights (garbage pick-up is Thursday ’round here), and take the rotten spoils to the bin in the dark. In the hot, summer daytime, a stiff breeze would threaten to bring about the downfall of my whole operation.

The bin was full and heavy by the time we decided to move the hell out of there. We found a place with a great yard, one of our main wants in a home. On moving day, my husband and mother gave me pleading looks. “What do you want us to do with the ‘dirt’ you’re making?” they asked, fearing my answer.

“Well, I’m not leaving it behind,” I said, with a shrug and a sheepish grin. I had worked too hard on that compost to dump it out now and leave it behind. My dear, dear husband, lifted the smelly cocktail into the back of our truck and drove it the fifteen miles to our new home. I unpacked it first, sieving off some of the water before dumping the entire bin over onto a pile of brush and weeds.

I still have the compost pile and its bigger than ever. I’ve also still got that gray, plastic bin.

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