Saturday, December 29, 2007

Winter Compost?

As promised, I spent some time chopping an entire case of celery I found on the sidewalk recently and turned it into my compost pile. In fact, this seemed like a good time to turn the whole pile, shoveling it from one bin into a neighboring bin, tossing in the celery as I went along.

Composting is a slow, meditative act and good for the soul. It is perhaps the closest thing I have to a religion. It affirms my faith in the natural process when otherwise there is so little to celebrate about man's role in the order of things. Humans are a destructive force on the planet. Composting is a daily act of creation.

The compost pile I started last month was running hot (more than 110 degrees) for a couple of weeks, then it went cold. That means the bacteria that heat the pile have less to feed on, or they need more oxygen. Turning the pile supplies oxygen. Celery gives them more to feed on. Ideally, I would toss is a bag of grass clippings to speed things along. Unfortunately, my lawn mower is broken.

Composting in winter is a struggle. Life slows in the cold. Some micro-organisms survive at temperatures near freezing. But the process mostly grinds to a crawl. If it gets cold enough, the pile will actually freeze. Last year I broke the handle on my forked spade trying to bury kitchen scraps in the compost pile. (They just don't make spades like they used to.)

In that case, the kitchen scraps will stay well preserved until the sun climbs back in the sky and things warm up again. I'm guessing I will have some excellent compost to spread on the garden beds when it comes time to plant seeds in the spring.


The Baklava Queen said...

I love turning compost, too, but hadn't given much thought as to the why. You've articulated it beautifully... there's a deep sense of satisfaction in seeing, feeling, and smelling good soil that I made from compost... then working it into the garden to enrich the vegetables that I'll eat. Feels good to close the consumption cycle in this way.

In fact, I should get up to the compost pile tomorrow and do some digging myself! :-)

Pattie said...

If it weren't raining in Atlanta (will we beat the record for most dry year on record? It's down to the final inch, between 1954 and 2007), I'd be out there turning that compost pile right now! What a great, rgeat post, especially the paragrpah about the meditative nature of composting.

Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, I feel like I'm really getting something worthwhile accomplished when I compost. We hardly have any trash any more.

Pattie, I sometimes wonder if I should have my compost under a shelter so the rain doesn't leach out the nutrients. I'm just not concerned enough to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

hi, I live in a chicago apartment and want to start composting. Is this doable? I just don't wantto waste anymore. it is winter now... I do have a balcony, soil, rubbermaid containers, boxes, shovels, and scraps to compost. can u offer any guidance