Thursday, December 15, 2016

I am Frozen Just Like My Compost Pile

Guest Blogger Brad Miller

Winter has fully arrived and both my compost pile and I are frozen.  Since your pile freezes during the winter and goes dormant, the food scraps tend to build up uncovered.
One trick I learned was to save a bag or two of leaves from the fall. As my layer of food scraps build up on top of the pile, I then spread a layer of leaves over it. Based on how long winter lasts I can have many alternating layers of food scraps and leaves.
Once spring arrives and the compost pile warms up, having the leaves layered with the food scraps will help the materials break down until you can turn your pile. Just remember as you look outside at the frozen winter wonderland and your frozen compost pile, spring is only a few months away.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

World Soil Day

With all the hustle and bustle of the major holidays, you probably overlooked a very essential yet little known holiday just around the corner. December 5th is World Soil Day!

Of course we love soil! As composters we do our part to replenish the soil so why not take part in the celebration and raise awareness on the importance of soil to life on earth?
Perhaps you can give the gift of homemade compost to a gardener in your life, or share the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations videos, posters, infographics, and even t-shirts to help spread the joy of soil. You will also find great information on what we can do to help reduce the threats to our soil.



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Squeezing Every Penny out of my Produce

Like most of the people on this planet, I love food. My love affair with food and my lack of budget to dine out every night, results in a fair amount of cooking which I enjoy almost as much as eating the food.

Over the last year, I’ve come to appreciate even more the value of food. Everything we eat tells a story filled with the labor of the farmer, the soil and water to grow the food, the fuel to transport the food, and the energy to keep the food fresh in the store and your home. Everything we eat requires…

So many resources!

So, when a recipe calls for half an onion, I am faced with a choice. I could throw caution to the wind, chop the whole onion, and toss it in hoping for the best. I could store the half-onion in my fridge for a few days waiting for another recipe needing half an onion. I could, of course, compost the other half of the onion. But as much as I love compost, I hate to see perfectly edible food not used.

Just think of the resources!

So I’ve started something new. I took a gallon-sized freezer bag and labeled it “BROTH.” Every time I have a half-onion, carrots about to go bad, or the ends of mushrooms or leeks, I place them in the freezer bag and into the freezer. Last weekend the bag was full so I pulled out my stock pot and made a giant pot of delicious vegetable broth.


The spent veggies I pulled out of the broth? My compost welcomed them with open arms (millions of tiny outstretched arms). It felt good to make something out of the veggies before composting them and I generally pay good money for broth at the store. My efforts were rewarded with a delicious soup that evening.

If you want to feel an unnatural emotional attachment to a fruit, check out this fantastic video detailing The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry from the Ad Council and NRDC. Like any good drama, it is filled with romance, promise, and despair. J




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Compost Ghost: A Halloween Ghost Story

Darkness comes early this time of year. So often, by the time I have a chance to take the kitchen scraps out, the sun has long set and I only have the light of the moon and a dim porch lamp to guide me back to my compost pile.

I don’t mind though. I walk this path every day, leaves crunching under my feet, the familiar rock path winding through small trees to the back of my yard. I still hear crickets chirping and our resident owl’s occasional call “who cooks for you” echoing across the yard.

I lift the lid of my compost bin and am about to pour out the contents of my kitchen collector when I see it. A tingling runs up my spine, goosebumps prickle my flesh, that sinking feeling of dread gnaws in my stomach.

What is that?

I lean closer into the bin, squinting in the darkness.

A white gossamer shape stretches across most of my compost. My heart races. A ghost? Could it really be a compost ghost?

Naturally, I do what any logical person does when confronted with something unknown. I pick up a stick and poke it. The fine thin arms like spider webs seem to reach out and grab the end of my stick.

Ah! It’s attacking!!!

The light of the moon hits the filaments and now I see. Now I understand.

Actinomycetes! A natural bacteria that looks more like a fungus, actinomycetes grow in the soil and sometimes in compost bins. Their enzymes help break down cellulose, bark, and woody stems. They give your finished compost a nice “woodsy” odor.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I drop my stick, empty my kitchen collector, and bury the food scraps, and the actinomycetes, in leaves.

“Compost ghosts,” I chuckle to myself as I walk back to the house. But I pick up the pace all the same.


Happy Halloween, composting friends!

Other ghoulish composting stories:
Was Frankenstein an Outstanding Composter?
How to Practice Compost Witchcraft
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs Your Compost is a Zombie
Smashing Pumpkins

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Here's a Neat Trick for Harvesting Vermicompost

Have you ever tried to harvest vermicompost from your worm bin? Instead of spending hours picking worms out of the desired vermicompost (a.k.a., worm poop), we tried this simple method of getting the worms to separate themselves. Check out this video to see how it works.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bounty of a Lazy Composter

Hi, I’m Cher your guest blogger for today.

Anyone who has heard me talk about composting will confirm that I readily admit to being a lazy composter.

I do not chop my food scraps into tiny pieces to help them decompose faster. I do not worry about monitoring my compost for moisture – if it looks dry I take the lid off before it rains. I do not turn my compost every two to four weeks. 
And between you and me, I am not even avid about covering up my food scraps with carbon rich material. I just got myself two compost bins so I always have room (my lazy composting takes a little longer than active composting).
I may be lazy, but I’m no procrastinator.  I knew I was going to need room for my fall leaves, so I harvested one of my compost bins for the first time in two years.  The result:

I had so much finished compost I had to find innovative ways to store it until I could use it. I utilized my old recycle bin (I no longer need now that I have a 95 gallon recycling cart). I also used empty cat litter buckets and some old plant pots. And when I got really desperate, I repurposed a sturdy bird food bag.

Buddy was impressed.
Mission accomplished! Look at all the room I created for my leaves.

To conserve room and energy (my energy) I set my mower to bag the leaves and just emptied the chopped up leaves into my compost bins.   

Cher is a Program Specialist for the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ever Composted 70,000 Pounds in a Year?

Guest blogger Catherine Walsh

We have a couple of gems in our area – composting gems, that is. Two venerable institutions have taken matters into their own hands, so to speak, and addressed a large waste stream for each of them through on-site, in-vessel composting (composting in a very large, metal contraption).

Findlay Market, located right smack in downtown Cincinnati, is special for many reasons – it’s an historic landmark, it has continuously operated in the same iron-framed building since 1855, it’s an economic driver for the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, and it’s a really fun place to do your grocery shopping or just walk around. On top of all that, Findlay Market operates the first Class II composting facility in an urban area in the state of Ohio.

Class II composting facility, you ask? Well, that’s a designation that indicates it’s not a backyard composting pile (like the one at your house), but a regulated and managed operation that is permitted to accept and process food scraps from a business, in this case from Findlay Market itself.
Since it started managing food waste in 2010 by actively composting it in the Earth Tubs, Findlay Market has kept an average of about 70,000 pounds per year from going into the landfill. That's something to crow about! 

In-vessel composting system at Findlay Market.

Up the hill from Findlay Market is another long-lived institution that provides our region with education, community service, and some pretty darn good basketball. Xavier University, located in Norwood, Ohio, is home to more than 6,000 students, many of whom live and eat on campus. In fact, in a week during the school year, 30,000 meals are served and, about 3,500 pounds of food scraps are generated at the main student dining hall.

In 2013, Xavier installed in-vessel composting equipment and began to work toward the goal of keeping all organic waste out of the landfill. With the help of grant money from Ohio EPA, Xavier purchased special equipment they use to dehydrate cafeteria food scraps before processing that material in their in-vessel composting units.

The magnificent compost that this generated throughout the school year is the "X factor" that groundskeepers use to keep the 189-acre campus healthy and looking beautiful.

Thanks to all you regular readers and backyard composter for doing what you do. And thanks to these two major institutions for committing time and money to turning food scraps into a valuable resource for a healthy community.

Earth Tubs used to compost food scraps and yard trimmings at Xavier University.