The Joy of Compost

When we became one household many years ago, we discovered that over the years of living in shared houses, Noel and I had ended up with a large amount of cinnamon. Which meant that as a combined household, we had twice a large amount of cinnamon. Now, I like cinnamon, and use it regularly, but not nearly enough to go through about two pounds of the stuff before it loses its scent (and taste, and usefulness in the kitchen).

So when we had the Massive Declutter this winter, I pitched about half of it, and being an earthy-crunchy kind of gal, I pitched it into my compost heap.

Let me tell you about the compost heap here at Casa Decrepit. It's a very low-stress compost heap: we pile things on it, water it occasionally, and once or twice a year we give it a good turn. We're not too worked up about getting tons of perfect compost from it for our nonexistant garden, and we don't get enough waste from the few plants we have that we've really got to get that thing burning or we're knee-deep in dead leaves in a month. I've used it in planting beds, but have never done anything so exotic as making compost tea or anything like that. I look on it as a way to get additional value from the foods I buy, and a way to keep certain wastes out of the landfill (though now that Alameda has food scrap composting citywide, it's less of an issue). A compost heap also attracts beneficial critters like red worms and those funny pillbug like things that hang out in trash. It may also attract less enjoyable fellas like snails and rats, but so far snails is the extent of it in our heap. No animal products in the bin helps a lot with that issue, by the way.

Someday, when we are rich and famous, I will buy a small chipper to shred things before they are composted. Then I will be compost queen, and all sorts of things will go in the compost that cannot go in the current heap. Now, I put branches and so forth in the city bin and let them reap the benefits of my neighbor's overgrown wisteria.

Anyway, the time had come for the annual turning of the heap, and I set forth with my trust garden fork, hose, and assistant. Rosie chomped at the water as I damped down the heap (there was lots of dry grass on top, so a wetting down was in order), then retired to the far end of the yard to observe from a place of safety.

The top of the heap came off nicely: mostly mowed grass from the last few weeks, it was light and compacted into a mat. I broke it up and lined the bottom of the moved bin with it. Then older, more broken-down grass from the middle, then paydirt.

This winter my friend Elaine gave us a bucket of bunny poo. It sounds like a horrible gift, but it's like gold for compost heaps. That bucket of poo ate through the entire heap in a week. Down where the bunny poo had settled was the beginnings of a really nice batch of compost.

And it smelled like cinnamon.

posted by ayse on 04/23/04

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