Mini-Theme Composting!

Right now we are in the chilly fall season the ground is starting to be consistently frozen and winter is well on its way. Back in the spring through the ground was nice and soft and summer was literally just around the corner. We had just moved back to Colorado and were staying with my mom. Finally we were in a place where someone actually owns the house and the yard, we were ready to compost! My mom however, wasn’t as ready. Especially not a small/big or any size of compost pile. Especially given all the coyotes in the neighborhood. So we had to look for other options. We could buy a composter, I liked the ones that rolled, but wanted the ones with worms. We would have to bring the worms in for the winter, so that was a definite no. So we looked at our rolling options, while there were many very cool, very different ones, they were all very expensive. Well very expensive for us.

So we did the only other thing we could find online, we made our own container barrel composter. It works great, but it took a while. While we were making it though, we figured we would teach the snug about composting. Thus started the mini-themes. Simple projects that we would continue to learn about as they develop.

The first thing we did was learn as much as we could about composting. I couldn’t find any book at our library for kids, which was a bummer. There are some good composting books out there, but that is the fun challenge of themeing, learning all you can with the resources you have.

While I had a ton of adult access to information about composting, I wanted something more for kids, so I found this.

Kids Composting Education Link.

It is simple and easy and perfect for understanding the basics of composting. It is even great for people just trying to understand composting. As simple as composting turns out to be, it is a little intimidating to start with.

After we went through the whole slide show, we had a better understanding together about what we needed in order to have a successful compost pile. But we still needed a container. So we found this, an instructional video about turning a garbage can into a compost bin.

So we went out and got a cheap garbage bin, since we didn’t have one to spare. In the video it says to put holes in the sides with a hammer and a nail. This didn’t work for ours, the nail kept slipping. The snug did not help with this part, we took this opportunity for her to gather the ingredients we needed. We ended up using a power drill instead.

It worked great. We put evenly spaced holes all over the bin.

You can use any size nail or drill bit, but you don’t want it too big that stuff starts falling out or too small so that air is unable to circulate.

So while my husband, handsomely drilled hole after hole into our garbage bin, snug and I got busy collecting.

We have our water, lots of brown items (items that have lots of carbon), leaves, twigs, shredded newspaper, then some green items (these are high in nitrogen). Leftover vegetable scraps and coffee grounds, we also used some dirt too, not pictured. While we have a pretty even number here of brown and green stuff, you want more carbon, so either more brown items or brown items that have a higher carbon content.  I am still trying to figure out what has what.

SO you add the brown stuff first.

We had to break the big twigs apart.

There is the start of it, lots of brown. Leaves, newspapers, twigs, a little dirt.

Coffee grounds next, because we weren’t sure whether it was a brown or green ingredient.

Now lots of green. This is when all those weeds in your yard become really handy.

Looking pretty good. Not a lot, but we didn’t want to fill the bin up right away. That is one of the bummers about composting in a garbage bin, you have to be slightly restrictive about what you put in. Not all of the green things you go through in your house will be able to fit and you have to smash down the brown stuff to be able to put more in.

Next comes the hard part. Or at  least hard for me. You have to add water, enough so that it is like a lightly damp sponge. You don’t want it to get it too wet or it won’t do anything, just sit there and smell bad. We learned the hard way about that. So if this is your first attempt at barrel composting, I would say less water is more. As long as it is not absolutely, completely dried out.

Now is the fun part. Rolling the barrel all over the yard to get everything nice and mixed up.

We did this once a week. While adding things occasionally. It mainly takes a lot of experimenting. At one point about a month after we made the composter, it got way way too wet!! It smelled terrible! We had to dump it out, spray the bin out and try again. We put a ton of the stuff back, but added a ton of brown stuff and stayed away from green for a while. Then we just let it sit, for  a couple of months, rolling it occasionally, but not adding any water. It was doing great by the time winter arrived. While we haven’t gotten any dirt out of it yet, it isn’t overflowing, no matter how much we add. Which means it is working and that is the beauty of composting. Things are going to decompose no matter what you do, so even if you keep messing up your bin, if you leave it alone for long enough it will work itself out.

Snug had a lot of fun with this. She enjoyed adding things throughout the entire summer and we are very excited for the spring when we can have nice healthy compost to add to our garden.

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