Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Update and Winter Composting (part two)

Happy Winter Solstice!

I apologize for my lengthy break from blogging. I admit I've found it difficult in the past to sustain my blogs for any great length of time. Generally life gets in the way, and in this case, it most certainly did: I started graduate school in September. In late 2009 my employer told me I would have to earn an M. A. in English in order to maintain my position as an English teacher at a local college. Thankfully, my husband works for Marquette, which means I can go to school virtually for free. So I applied to Marquette's M.A. in English program and was accepted last spring. Needless to say, taking two graduate courses this fall, along with teaching English 101 at two colleges (Marquette and Bryant & Stratton) kept me very, very busy. I managed to survive the semester, but the pace of my life was so fast and furious that, for the sake of my sanity, I decided to slow things down a bit. So next semester I'll only teach at one school and take one graduate course. That leaves me time to focus on my friends and family and the coming gardening season.

Having a bit more time on my hands will also allow me to train to become a Master Gardener. This is something I've wanted to do for years and I'm positively thrilled that I'll finally be able to take the Master Gardener class at Boerner Botanical Gardens this January. I'm also hoping to have more time to update my blog. Though I have given up on blogs before, I don't want to let go of the Blue Bungalow. It's very helpful for me to articulate my gardening, composting, and sustainability discoveries, and I hope you'll share your discoveries with me. I may not write much, but I aim to at least put up some pictures now and then. And if I have time, I will try to post updates about my experiences as a Master Gardener trainee.

Today, in the interest of sparking conversation, I want to pose a question: how do you compost over the winter? As I wrote last year, in the past I have found myself wrestling with how to compost effectively during the cold months. My worm bins tend to get overloaded in the winter, and in order to access my backyard bin I have to trek across an ungodly amount of snow-covered dog droppings strewn across the back lawn. Heading back there a couple times a week to dump a tiny kitchen scrap bucket into a frozen compost bin isn't all that appealing.

This year I am trying something new, and so far it seems to be working out well: I'm using a five-gallon plastic bucket as a temporary compost bin. The bucket is right outside my kitchen door; every day I fill it with kitchen scraps. It's been slowly filling up over the last two weeks. When it's full I'll make the trek to the backyard bin. My hope is that I won't have to do this nearly as often as before because the five gallon container is much bigger than the little ice cream bucket I used in the past.

Perhaps as the winter wears on I may muster the courage to try using five gallon buckets as *indoor* compost bins. I would keep them in the basement, filling as needed with scraps balanced with carbon-rich material and compost. I'd probably dump the bins in the outdoor compost bin in the spring, or, if I have finished compost, put them directly into my gardens. I've yet to try this because the idea of having rotting food in the house (without worms to break everything down) unnerves me a little. What if my garbage-eating golden retriever discovers this unsavory feast? Or the buckets attract vermin? Or my guests learn of this potentially embarrassing habit and brand me a garbage hoarder? What if I load up the buckets and then forget about them, or don't balance them properly and wind up with a disgusting or even dangerous mess?

I know what you're probably thinking: excuses, excuses. Come January, I'm going to have to get serious about winter composting. After all, not only do I want to dispose of compostable material responsibly and cut down on the waste we send to the landfill, but I also need as much compost as I can get this spring.

Anyone had any luck with indoor composting in five gallon buckets? Do tell.

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