Lessons from my composter

I didn’t anticipate just how much I would learn, and I mean really learn not just “know in an academic way”, when I lifted the black plastic tardis from my compost pile. But learn I did when the deed was done yesterday evening…

This is a pile of vegetable matter that has been accumulating for nigh on 4 years, very slowly and very gradually. The composter is not really in an ideal location (on concrete, in the corner of my very overshadowed yard getting minimal direct sunlight) and I wasn’t really convinced it was going to do much – but every time I went to add new stuff the old stuff had reduced down so something was going on in there.

Due to the small volume of “waste” vegetable matter I have to feed my composter I have been thinking of changing to a smaller system involving a series of plastic-storage-box-type containers which have the three Rs of my composting views (“recent”, “rotting” and “ready”) to make it easier to use the “ready” when it’s, well, ready. Particularly prompted by my continued drive to maximise all available growing space (and hence compost is a great bonus as I’m filling new beds or nurturing existing ones) last night became The Time. [2015 update: the three Rs haven’t been necessary as I’m still only creating a very small amount of compost and haven’t yet managed to make much use of it due to my limited growing in the local area – but there’s still time!]

So, what were these much vaunted lessons from my composter? Well…

Composting works OK, this sounds like a silly one. Of course composting works – otherwise there’d be a heck of a lot more detritus lurking around the planet. But this was the first time I’d initiated the process myself and pulled the lovely crumbly soil-like remnants out. I’ve now got 2 big plastic tubs of composted vegetable matter to go wherever I need it next. And all for the sake of not sending my vegetable waste to landfill. Or, indeed, anywhere beyond my house. Hurrah!

Plastic really doesn’t degrade I was particularly unimpressed when I lifted the tardis off and saw some clearly recently-added plastic bags towards the top of the compost. There have been at least two sets of tradespeople in my yard who could have left these (one for next door who had some scaffold up to reach the roof, the other the solar panel installers) but I was rather naffed off to discovered they’d decided not only to dump their rubbish rather than take it with them but in so doing had dumped it into my composter. Boo. However, I also found ribbons of packing tape (from cardboard I’d added without taking the tape off) and, most fascinating of all for me, tea-bag sized plastic pockets. All the paper that had been inside had degraded, but the plastic covering remained. I am fairly certain I know which tea-bag “envelopes” these were, but it was disappointing all the same to discover they weren’t simply paper but had been plasticised. No more composting of those. So that’s the plastic that I came across. But the contrast of lovely crumbly soil and completely intact plastic was a stark reminder that although plastic has its benefits, until we find a way to recycle or decompose it, we’ve got a serious waste problem on our hands.

Beasties get everywhere This one I had already been pondering given the sparse vegetation that managed to grow in my yard gets utterly slugged every year. I’d never quite worked out where the slugs came from given the yard is basically a concrete jungle in a wider concrete jungle but the answer became apparent: from the composter. But it wasn’t just slugs. Worms, woodlice, millipedes, allsorts and they all merrily found their way to my composter and then hung out. That’s AMAZING! The ability of beasties to accumulate like that, and just generally to get around, I think is awesome. So, hats off to the beasties.

Creating something of value from “waste” is thrilling Now life has settled a bit (at least for now) I have had more energy to spend on maximising the resources I’ve got, rather than simply buying more-more-more. I started composting because it was in my bones that this was a good idea, but getting my “yield” is truly thrilling. It’s not a huge yield (but then I don’t put a huge amount in) and it’s a yield all the same that means I won’t need to get as much compost for my next new container. Plus it’s a yield I really didn’t do much work for at all. Having even this small amount of rich soil means I will be purchasing less potting compost which has been shipped around from source to warehouse to shop (and goodness knows where in between) and is wrapped in (yet more) plastic. It’s a small victory, but for me it’s the small victories that are achievable are the ones to go for – because a whole bunch of small victories do add up.

So, overall, whoop for composters!

In other news: yesterday I was down in Wilmslow playing at their annual scarecrow festival with Batala Lancaster. Originally I was scheduled to be playing dobra but one thing led to another and the second parade (we did two parades and a static set) I was playing a bass 1. When I first joined the band I was playing bass, and bass 1 is the larger of the two bass drums our band has – it has a wonderful resonance when playing and when we’ve been thin on the ground with bass players at rehearsal I’ve often been one of the ones to switch over to have a play on a bass for a while. Anyway, this was my first gig playing bass and I was rather impressed with myself! Huzzah!

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