Monday, May 9, 2011

Compost Failure

I am not a compost expert. I have actually failed at composting. Here's how. When I lived in Seattle, my (awesome) landlords allowed me to garden and compost in the yard, and even surprised me by dropping off a black compost barrel for me to use. It was basically a huge plastic barrel with an open bottom, slits on the side, and a twist off top. I used it, but I moved away before the compost could mature and be used. Sad times.

When I moved to Boulder, I had the amazing idea that I would compost in a big plastic storage bin. Except I didn't drill holes in it to allow for air flow. I kept the lid on. And I didn't add enough brown material. The result was a compost failure of epic-ly smelly proportions. I had started it with the intent of converting it to a worm bin, but I never did, and I couldn't bear to throw my scraps out, so the stench just kept building, until the compost disaster encompassed two bins.

I knew I needed to face my failure. I needed to be brave. I needed a solution. I still wanted worms, but I still didn't feel up to building a worm bin. So I did something radical. I took a step back, and thought of the simplest possible solution.

I dumped my compost. I started with a big pile of leaves, collected from my yard, and dumped the compost on the leaves. I nearly fainted from the smell, but I persevered and interspersed the gooey, rotten compost with layers of leaves, paper, and small wood chips, and covered the whole thing with more leaves. I took a step back, and walked away. I WALKED. AWAY.

Within two days, the pile had reduced in size drastically. I assume it was all that pent up moisture draining into the ground. In another few days the pile was a mere ghost of its former self, and the smell, although not entirely gone, no longer made me want to vomit. Soon, my compost was heating up and decomposing like compost gone wild. SUCCESS. 

Now the compost pile is much loved by birds, squirrels, and bugs. Especially squirrels. They like to remove my layers of leaves that I use to cover food scraps to get to the tasty goodness buried within. And by remove, I mean burrow through and toss to the four winds. I like to bury new food scraps in the pile by digging a little hole to help get them in the middle of all the hot decomposing action. 

I share this story of my miserable, lazy, personal failing with you, to let you know that, even if you fail at a project, you probably haven't ruined it forever. Even if you have, you can try again, and you will probably avoid making the same mistakes. Trying to claim responsibility for your daily needs with something like composting waste is worth doing, even twice. And, if I ever get a worm bin, I'll let you know.

Squirrel noms!

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