Sunday, July 21, 2013

Waste Not, Want Compost

One of our top to-do list items from day 1 has been compost bins.  Not thinking about it when we bought the house, we learned there is no garbage pick-up in the country.  Makes sense thinking about it, but we never thought to ask.  For years, we dragged our city bins to the curb and magically they were whisked away to start fresh for another week.  Here, we take our garbage to designated dump-off sites.  It has taken a bit to work out a schedule that works for us but usually, Andy loads the car up and takes our garbage in bags to the site on Wednesdays.  A huge pain and one of the few things we haven’t adjusted to.  We also don’t have a garbage disposal (a big no-no with septic systems).  We have gotten pretty used to not having a garbage disposal, but just seems wrong to throw vegetable scrapes and egg shells away in the garbage.  SO- solution… composting!  The only experience I have with composting is the one summer my mom decided to order worms and do a bin.  All I remember is throwing vegetable scrapes in the bin and being bored senseless waiting for the “magic” to happen.  Worms move really slowly.  Now that we have tons of space, though, it is the perfect system for us.  We can reduce our garbage waste (and lower the garbage bags Andy lugs to the garbage dump site) and get free compost for our vegetable and garden beds (still working on building our beds but we will get there).

I found a compost bin plan in a University of Iowa pamphlet (here is a link to the plans: and decided to use recycled pallets Andy could get at work instead of 2x4s. Since Andy is so overloaded with other projects going on around the farm, I decided I could tackle this one!  I should say right now, that, while I don’t regard myself as useless in the tool-know how department, I am pretty inept.  I can hang pictures on the wall, put together basic furniture (out of a box) and hang curtains but that is about it.  Most of my projects take three times the time that it would take Andy and usually is done in a very round-about way.  Regardless, I figured I could tackle screwing some pallets together.

He was going to be gone in the evening so I had him set aside any of the tools he thought I might need.

 I didn't even bring down the level that he left because REALLY!?! A level?!? For a pallet compost bin?  Not gonna happen.  Also, I love the measuring tape and triangle thing… put those back in the box right away.  The clamps turned out to be really nifty, though, so I was glad he threw those in.  I set up the first two pallets and put a clamp at the top and a clamp at the bottom, making sure they were tightened and the pallets were pretty straight and even.

From there, I put screws in diagonally; two in the top, middle and bottom, first drilling a pilot hole in each spot.

 I set up the next two pallets but was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and gnats so I ran back up to the house for bug spray and my boots seeing that the next pallets were going in a more grassy area and I was freaked out by the possibility of snakes laying wait in the tall grass for an unsuspecting city girl to get too close.

(My Bogs have turned out to be the best thing I have purchased since moving to the farm).  The next pallet went up much more smoothly now that I had a rhythm going.  I also got smarter about where to place the clamps so they didn't get in the way of the drill.

 I am building a three bin system, which is supposed to be the most efficient with decay.  I realize when I get to connecting the fourth pallet (you need seven total for the three bins) that unbeknownst to them, Lululemon made a sweet pocket in their yoga pants for screws.  Much easier!  Thank you Lululemon!
Now I am really moving, and getting cocky, when…

I broke the pilot bit off when I only had one more pallet to put on.  Andy said he hasn't even done that before.  Well, I guess that ends day 1 of the compost bin build.  To be continued after a trip to the hardware store for another bit.  Not lookin’ too shabby, though.

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