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Waste Not, Want Not


Hi there, I hope your Summer season is heating up just enough to make your peppers kick! I'm still waiting on my peppers and okra to produce fruit, but the tomatoes are just about ready to pick! Here is a photo from last year's bountiful Star of David okra, I cannot wait to test out new pickling and gumbo recipes with the Clemson Spineless and Red Burgundy okra this year!

I wanted to check in with everyone and share a garden project that I completed last week. While deep in a Youtube rabbit hole filled with gardening, tiny house living, and travel inspiration I stumbled across a video by Growing a Greener World, Episode 1005: Modern Homesteading - Transforming the Urban Garden Experience. In this gem of a video, Jessi Bloom, owner of NW Bloom Ecological Services gives a tour of her homestead and permaculture system.


I profoundly resonate with her way of life; choosing to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle makes sense. If we want to enjoy the bounty of Earth, we must respect the land and live in a way that creates harmony between all species.

The act of composting creates a beneficial cycle for yourself. You get the opportunity to build beautiful soil for your garden, your indoor plants, or you can even create a business out of collecting food scraps and selling finished soil.

At around minute 8 in the video, the topic of composting comes up. Composting simply means to break down organic material. The process of composting diverts waste from going to a landfill and allows the organic material to truly complete its life cycle and brings new viability to the Earth, and more specifically, to your garden! There are 3 main composting methods that one can utilize depending on their goals and location; Aerobic, Anaerobic, and Vermicomposting.

Aerobic Composting


Air is integrated to aid in the process of breaking down the organic material with Aerobic Composting. Oxygen provides energy for aerobic bacteria to break down the food waste. This has been the main technique for any food scraps coming from my kitchen, droppings from our rabbits Jack & Diane, garden waste (trimmings, spent leaves, or dead plants) as well as leaves and other yard debris. I have a few aerobic compost piles which I turn with a shovel to keep the air circulating. As bacteria break down the material, it heats the pile which makes the process go by faster. After a while, these piles magically turn into garden gold!

Anaerobic Composting


​Unlike the previous method, oxygen is not a factor in Anaerobic Composting. For a simple anaerobic system, you only need to either bury your food scraps in a hole and cover it with soil or buy/create your own food digester. This is a passive system, meaning that you let the Earth do the work. There is no turning necessary as you just let the waste decay in your underground bin and let the anaerobic bacteria, fungi, and worms take over the process.

Vermicomposting


Vermis is Latin for worm - Vermicomposting safely uses worms, oxygen, and moisture to break down materials. Worms convert your food waste to beautiful, nutrient-rich humus. While I do find worms in my aerobic compost piles, I do not have a vermicomposting set-up yet. This is definitely on my wish-list!

I was inspired by the passive composting system mentioned in the video as it would solve a new problem that I have been facing. Our family recently added 2 puppies to the compound and they both love to dig in our fresh compost pile. This is the pile that is under our rabbit hutch and where we toss the food scraps directly from our house. Most of the scraps are harmless but every so often, there will be an eggshell, grapes, or coffee grounds thrown in and we don't want the dogs eating that - not to mention, we don't want them to roll around in the pile either, they get dirty enough already.

So, I got to work and purchased a 20 gallon galvanized steel garbage can to build my food digester. There are models that you can buy, the Green Cone and Green Johanna seem to be the most popular; however, I love to save money and this seemed like a simple DIY project.

Materials Used:

-20gal Galvanized Steel Garbage Can ($25, Home Depot)

-Nail

-Hammer

-Drill

-Drill bit

-Shovel

Simple Steps:

1. I started by using the hammer and nail to make dents in the can where I wanted to drill the holes. This serves as a visual aid and makes drilling easier.

2. I then drilled holes on the bottom and halfway up the sides of the can. The holes serve as a way for liquid to drain out of the can and allows all the beneficial creatures to enter. You want to do the drilling on a tarp or in an area where you can easily pick up the small metal shavings as they are a hazard to wildlife.

3. After drilling, I dug a hole that would allow the can to sit in the ground about two-third's deep and was slightly wider than the can. This was the hardest part - where I decided to place my food digester is in-between two oak trees which enviably meant that I had to cut a few roots to get the hole to the size that I needed.

4. Once the hole was dug out, I laid some fresh soil in the hole, placed the can on top of that, and then added a mixture of soil and rabbit droppings around the can to ensure it would stay in place and to aid in the decomposition of the fresh food scraps that we will add. To deter raccoons and opossums from trying to peel the lid off the can, my husband, Frank, strapped a bungee cord through the handles. He is always coming up with clever ideas to help the garden work efficiently! This will solve the issue of the dogs getting into the fresh compost piles.

I'm looking forward to learning more about this method and to see how it compares to the aerobic compost systems I have. If you have any experience working with food digesters, please let me know what you think of my DIY build and helpful advice is always welcome.

I enjoy being able to share simple ideas like this to get people thinking about what they can do with their waste. A lot of people are still tossing food waste in their garbage can which then goes to a landfill where it's out of sight, out of mind and causing problems. Even if you are not able to start composting where you live, there is a good chance that there is a local composting business in your area which will pick up your food waste to turn it into beautiful soil. (Check out Compost Community if you are in the Leon County area!) Worst case scenario, if you are unable to do either of these things, you are still able to be aware of your actions and aim to reducing the amount of waste going to our landfills.

If we can work towards wasting less and creating things from materials that we already have, we might be able to change our mindset to want less and that in turn, reduces waste in our landfills. That's what we're all trying to do anyways - To continue learning and adapting our life to become happy, healthy humans who respect our home, planet Earth. Let's keep growing together, asking questions, and reaching towards those goals.

Remember: Good soil grows good food!

Helpful Links:

https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-farming-practices/composting/

https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/guide-to-vermicomposting-zmaz83jazshe

http://www.biogen.co.uk/Anaerobic-Digestion/What-is-Anaerobic-Digestion

https://unclejimswormfarm.com/different-kinds-composting/

http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/compost/HomemadeFoodDigester.pdf

 

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