I have to say, as wonderful and amazing as composting is, it is guaranteed to make you look like a weirdo in the eyes of your friends and neighbors.

We started composting four years ago, but the strange looks and stranger questions haven’t stopped.

Here’s our composting tale. It’s more than just rotting organic material.

Composting in the city has a way of giving you some strange looks, and stranger questions. We've officially become the weirdos of the neighborhood.

When we mentioned to my parents that we wanted to start composting, they offered us two giant wooden boxes, coffins if you will, that were sitting at their cabin. Knowing they’d be perfect compost boxes, we arranged to pick them up.

By ‘pick them up,’ I actually mean more of a dragging/pushing/shoving/screaming at/swearing at/pulling muscles/getting slivers kind of event.  In case you didn’t get the hint, these boxes were HEAVY.  I actually thought I was dying at one point during the lift into the car.

When we brought our giant matching coffins home we laid them out in the driveway before moving them to the backyard.  Practically every stranger walking by on the street had something to say about it.

“Is that a… COFFIN?!”

“Why, yes, yes it is. Nice isn’t it?”

For some reason, we enjoy completely confusing the people on our block. It happens all the time.

After moving our coffins to the backyard, we had to find something to put in them. We had started saving kitchen scraps using one of these on our kitchen counter, but there wasn’t much and I wanted compost fast.

It was early in the Autumn and we didn’t have many leaves falling yet, but our neighbors did, AND they were nice enough to bag them up and leave them by the road for us!  You should have seen the looks on their faces as we stole their trash.

Composting in the city has a way of giving you some strange looks, and stranger questions. We've officially become the weirdos of the neighborhood.

For our first batch of compost, we followed one of the ‘recipes’ in our compost book very closely.  It claimed to make perfect compost out of mainly leaves, which was pretty much all we had.  We layered on sections of leaves, dirt from the yard, and the few food/yard scraps we had in a carefully orchestrated manner.

Kind of like garbage lasagna.

We excitedly watered the materials until they were spongy but not soggy, just like we were supposed to. That night I had dreams that my husband was watering the compost for hours and hours on end. I woke up mad that he ruined our garbage lasagna, then realized the many levels of ridiculousness of that thought and fell back asleep.

We cared for this first batch of compost like a new born baby, watering it and turning it once a week to aerate the material.  You wouldn’t believe how excited we were when we first started noticing that what had once been mostly leaves was now mostly soil!  Hooray for compost!

Is that a coffin?! and other questions about our urban compost system

I named our pile Marjory, after the all-knowing Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock.  This hilarious description from muppetwikia says it all, “Though Marjory enjoys her work, she frequently attempts to offer not just temporary solutions but to encourage the Fraggles and the other species to come together in harmony, and to become more self-reliant”

Even after naming our heap after the amazing Marjory, our excitement for compost wore off over time.  In fact, over the course of about a month.  We got more and more lazy about turning the compost until we just plain didn’t care anymore.

The box that once held our garbage lasagna was now more of a garbage stew.

Bits of matter were strewn about all willy-nilly.  We tossed in whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted and we let the chickens turn it for us by letting them loose on the pile.

And you know what?  It still worked.

The wonderful thing about compost is, matter is going to decompose whether you pay attention to it or not.

Composting in the city has a way of giving you some strange looks, and stranger questions. We've officially become the weirdos of the neighborhood.

These days our compost chores are a bit less intense.

We do our best to add more dry brown material than green material, but we don’t obsess over it. When we want an extreme upper body work out without going to the gym, we turn the pile. The chickens still take care of most of the turning for us. Easy peasy!

Here’s a short list of things we compost:

  • All kitchen scraps except meat and dairy, which go to Nico or the chickens
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags (the majority of the pile, we’re caffeine addicts)
  • All dust/dirt/hair that we sweep off the floor
  • The contents of our vacuum cleaner reservoir (which look disturbingly like a dead animal when thrown in the box)
  • Straw from the chicken coop
  • Chicken poop
  • Old used up rags
  • Leftover flat keg beer from parties
  • Weeds
  • Woody bits
  • Pet hair (the amount that comes off Nico during brushing could form a second dog)
  • Leaves
  • Spent plants after harvest
  • Junk mail (this is my favorite, the worms work as our shredder)
  • Whey from cheese making
  • Egg shells

Our finished compost gets made into potting soil, dumped into garden beds, and used to side dress growing plants for a nutrient boost.

It seems as if you can never have enough of the stuff for all its various uses.

I highly recommend that everyone start a compost heap of their own. If you have a yard, you have no excuse not to. It takes much less work on your part to just rake all of your leaves and grass clippings into a corner of your yard than it does to bag them up and drag them to the road.

If you don’t have the ability to make your own compost and you’d like some, think about calling your town or city, most regions take all of your leaves and make compost out of them to return to you, free of charge.

How nice!

I highly recommend the following books on composting if you’re looking to get started:

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