Friday, February 22, 2013

Composting: Let Me Count the Ways

Composting?  We grew up with it.  Peter (Marash Girl's dad) grew vegetables in the garden in the back yard in Newtonville, Massachusetts. To replenish the soil in the garden, he would often add cow manure, but soon began vegetable composting.  He built a stone wall that created a closet in which to compost, the compost that came from the garden's leavings and would be returned, ultimately to the soil of the garden.  To hasten the process, Grandma Jennie (Marash Girl's mom) saved all of the vegetable peelings/leavings and put them through the blender (the precursor to today's food processor) before sending them out to be added to the compost "closet" and Grandpa Peter (Marash Girl's dad who was following the lead of his dad who had had a garden in that very back yard until the day he left this world for a better place) put all of the yard leavings -- branches, leaves and other items which would take too long to break down -- through a (very noisy) chipper which blew right into the compost "closet"; after each addition, he would add powdered lime.  After the leavings had broken down (a year or two later), Peter would shovel the new soil from the bottom of the pile in the closet (which was closed in on three sides only), and add that fresh soil to his garden.

And there was another system that Marash Boy's Uncle Yesayi used in Lee, Massachusetts, a system somewhat less work intensive, but a system that did work!  He hammered five  6 foot stakes into the ground in a circular pattern of about five feet in diameter, surrounded the stakes with chicken wire, and adding vegetable peelings and old plants from his garden to the fenced in area, each time adding leaves, powdered lime and some soil over the compost pile.  When the vegetable leavings on the bottom of the fenced in heap had turned to soil, he would simply lift the chicken wire slightly from one side and shovel out the fresh new soil on the bottom, adding it to his garden before planting that spring.

Another system (not as desirable to Marash Girl's way of thinking) was used by a friend in the Washington, DC area.  He dug a hole three feet deep the circumference of his old, no longer in use, out door garbage pail cover (we all have one of those in our back yards, right?), covered the hole with the garbage pail cover to avoid curious animal onlookers from interrupting the composting process, and added vegetable leavings from his kitchen under the garbage pail cover until the hole was filled, at which point he would remove the garbage pail cover to another site, cover that hole (now full of vegetable leavings) with soil and leave it to compost, beginning another hole in another spot in his back yard, moving the antique garbage pail cover to cover the new composting site.

Marash Girl herself was left two large black plastic cones as covers for compost piles in the back yard by previous renters in her house in Newton Corner  She has been using the cone system, throwing soil and leaves over the vegetable peelings she places under the cones, and adding water occasionally to hasten the composting process.  Trying to find powdered lime in the local garden centers was for naught; the stores sold only lime stone pebbles, but tried to sell some chemical to add to the compost, a chemical which for certain was "natural", but not the simple lime that Marash Girl had used, or seen used, all her life.

Finally there are new fangled, expensive, large and ugly, (usually green plastic) composting bins that one must turn after each addition and, before turning, add some purchased (all natural, of course) chemical to hasten the composting process.  Marash Girl, who had considered asking for one of these new fangled composters for Christmas, never received one (thank goodness), as she had the opportunity to experience the ugliness and unpleasantness of the process for two weeks during a visit in Takoma Park, Maryland.  Opening the cover and pushing all the partially decomposed vegetable leavings down in order to add the new vegetable leavings was unpleasant, to say the least. 

It was then that Marash Girl remembered her mother's blending the vegetable leavings before adding them to the back yard composting "closet".  Marash Girl will be sure to try that using her simple black composting cones as soon as she returns to her back yard in Newton Corner, Massachusetts.


  1. I like the new way of composting

    1. That's just because YOU do it in YOUR back yard!