Gardening Eden

author Michael Abbaté's Blog

Pile it On, Part 2 November 19, 2009

Filed under: Composting,No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 12:46 pm

Yesterday I talked about the Ten Commandments of Composting.  The First Commandment was to pick the right composting bin.  You want your bin to be a container that allows air to enter, keeps rodents and rain out, keeps heat in and looks more attractive than just some pile of rotting leaves and fruit, especially if you have neighbors.  A bin will also do one more thing – it will save you space in your garden.

You can build your own bin or buy a prefabricated one.  They need to have open bottoms, covered top, and enclosed sides that still allow air to enter, but with openings too small for mice or other pesky varmints.

Another option is to use a prefabricated plastic bin.  There are several common types.  The predominant version is like an open-bottom garbage can.  Compost goes in on top (with lid removed, of course), and out comes wonderful organic compost out the trap door at the base.  Of course, it is not quite so simple as this!

Remember, one of the keys to composting is that you need to turn the pile every few weeks to keep air circulating and speed the decomposition process.  This type of bin is actually a bit difficult to reach into with a gardening fork or spade to turn the material.  Often it is easier to just lift the bin up off the composting pile, move it a few feet away, then spade all of the compost into the newly moved bin, aerating and turning the pile in the process. 

My choice is the BioStack composter.  It consists of three stackable sections. 

The beauty of this alternative is in the turning process.  The Biostack allows you to take one level off at t a time, move it, shivel in the compost, then add the next section and so forth.  This makes turning the pile relatively easy and keeps the pile contained at all times.

I got mine from Smith & Hawken, but with them going out of business recently, I am not sure if the Biostack is still available.  There are other versions of the same principle, however.

There are many other types of bins to choose from. Spend an inspirational evening at home googling “compost bin” and let your eyes wander far and wide!  

You’ll see bins that make the turning process very easy – they rotate on a spindle.  I’ve never used one of these, but I have heard that since compost tends to be pretty wet, these bins get a bit leaky and full of water, with no place for the moisture to go.  Give it a try though and let me know how they work! 

For more info, go to http://www.howtocompost.org/ 

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com

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Pile it On, Part 1 November 18, 2009

Filed under: Composting,No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 9:45 am

If you have been following our No Waste November efforts for any time at all, you realize that we would be hopeless if it weren’t for our home compost pile.  Into it has gone our yard debris and also lots of stuff that would normally have gone in the trash, including kitchen waste, paper towels, tissues, cotton swabs, and waxed paper. 

The ten commandments of composting are: 

    1. Pick the right bin
    2. Keep the bin out of extreme heat or cold
    3. Chop material down as much as possible to help break down more quickly.
    3. Balance the 4 ingredients of compost:  Air, water, browns (dry organic material) and greens (moist organic materials) at a ratio of 5:1 to 20:1 (browns:greens, by volume)
    4. Mix “greens” (fruit and vegetable trimmings, lawn clippings, weeds, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and “browns” (leaves, paper products, waxed paper,chopped woody prunings, sawdust from untreated wood, ashes from fireplace/fire pit)
    5. Add water to keep ingredients as moist as a wrung-out sponge
    6. Turn pile as often as practical to speed process (every two to 12 weeks)
    7. Keep out meat, dairy products, grease, and pet feces
    8. Add kitchen scraps
    9. Keep out rodents
    10. Monitor the pile every 1-2 weeks 

The benefits of composting are many.  First, you keep material out of the normal landfill waste stream.  Second, you promote a natural decomposition process right at home.  And finally, you get to benefit from a magical transformation from trash to the most wonderful organic compost that will help your garden thrive and produce lots more compostable material! 

For more info, go to http://www.howtocompost.org/ 

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com

 

Wipe That Filthy Look… November 17, 2009

Filed under: No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 10:41 am

One of the most common waste products we have come across is the paper napkin.  Almost every meal or snack, whether eating out or at home, comes with these convenient little facewipers.  If you eat at a fast food restaurant, you probably stuff more than you’ll ever need into the bag, your pocket or your purse.  And the ones that don’t get used, get tossed.  After all, since you’ve touched them, they are no longer “clean”.  I suppose it wouldn’t be impossible for Vicki and I to go through 20 of these in a day, what with 3 meals, a morning latté, and an evening snack. 

Even though paper napkins will compost pretty well, we’ve tried to cut down on the amount of disposables we use.  The solution?  That time-honored symbol of gentility and refinement:  the cloth napkin. 

Cloth napkins are a great way to reduce your waste stream.  Sturdy, substantial and ready to take on any job from a sip of coffee to a full rack of ribs, cloth napkins are the best.  For those times where they aren’t pressed into great service, we actually just leave them at our place-setting for the next meal.  So far, we are H1N1 free at our house! 

Our cloth napkins even have a reputation.  When we arrived at Amber’s house for dinner tonight, knowing all about our No Waste November, she said, “I almost called you and told you to bring your cloth napkins.”  I wish she had.  Paper napkins make me feel so….dirty. 
 

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com

 

Two Weeks In… November 16, 2009

Filed under: No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 9:28 am

Week 2Week two of No Waste November was both dismal and ironic.

Dismal?  A large number of un-recyclable plastic wraps, bags and film.

And supplying the irony? How about a plastic lined bag which once held the most eco-sensitive of beverages:  a Fair-Trade Certified Organic ground coffee?   If that doesn’t do it, how about a bag from Bob’s Red Mill organic flaxseed meal? We may be healthy, but we’re still making trash.

I suspected that going to University of Oregon football game with 60,000 other fans would be a massive waste producer.  So, I thought ahead and strategized ways to be extra green.  However, even bringing in my own water bottle, along with peanuts in my own Ziplock bag did not prevent me from contributing some dribbles to the waste stream.  A couple stadium hot dogs yielded paper/foil pouches, and even buying the reusable commemorative plastic cup (which came home with me), did not prevent the waste of a lid and straw.  Oh yeah, and one of the dogs came with 7.5 potato chips in a colorful plastic chip bag.  Wonderful.  At least the Ducks beat the Sun Devils 44-21.

Since we purchase very little processed foods, I have come to think that it is the protein section of the grocery store which is most problematic for us.  Dairy and meat products, especially, are difficult to purchase waste-free.  String cheese comes encased in plastic, blocks of cheese in plastic wrap, yogurt comes with un-recyclable lids.  Even during a week where we found a source for milk in a reusable glass bottles (like your grandma had) from Noris Dairy (http://www.norisdairy.com), we still emptied another paper carton of whipping cream.

A Styrofoam meat tray once held Italian sausages for probably seven days, and now will spend the rest of eternity in a landfill.  Imagine that – seven days of utility in exchange for a millennium of waste.

So this week, we had a total of 26 un-recyclable items.  Everything still fit within a single 2-quart plastic bag.  But the No Waste goal remains elusive.  Family is coming to visit in a week, so we better buckle down and produce virtually nothing in the next seven days!

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com

 

Sunday November 15, 2009

Filed under: No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 12:25 pm

It’s Sunday, the day of rest.  Let’s practice the Sabbath and waste no words…

 

Living the Old Life November 14, 2009

Filed under: No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 10:51 am

As the economy has faltered, we have seen the fleeting nature of careers, money and material possessions.  Consequently, many people are starting to return to a focus on the truly important and meaningful things of life: 

  • Community
  • Family
  • Faith

These are often characteristics that we see in the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents.  As we look back, their simpler ways are appealing.  These children of the Great Depression enjoyed lifestyles that saved money, conserved resources, and minimized waste. 

Many people across the country are trying these retro ideas: 

FOOD:

    • Cook dinner at home
    • Buy local food
    • Know your farmer
    • Grow your own
    • Eat smaller portions
    • Raise chickens
    • Can and preserve fruits and vegetables
    • Bake 

OTHER: 

    • Compost waste
    • Knit
    • Walk
    • Participate in community efforts – “barn raising”
    • Throw nothing away – reuse everything possible
    • Make gifts and cards
    • Hang clothes to dry
    • Use cloth napkins
    • Enjoy hand me downs
    • Shop at thrift stores
    • Use handkerchiefs
    • Get to know your neighbors
    • Make household cleansers from non-toxic materials
    • Quilt
    • Barter
    • Use layaway rather than credit
    • Entertain at home
    • Live close to work 

Many of these are discussed in detail in the second half of Gardening Eden: Becoming a Gardener.  Try these and discover an old way to live. 

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com

 

The Art of Borrow November 13, 2009

Filed under: No Waste November — Michael Abbate @ 8:43 am

What if you find yourself needing a particular thing – repeatedly – but not constantly?  You need a pickup truck to haul something three times a year.  You need a gasoline-powered roto-tiller once every spring to prepare your garden for planting.  You need a powerful kitchen mixer with a pastry paddle to make bread every couple months. 

Your personal finances may allow you to purchase the truck, the roto-tiller, the KitchenAid.  However, when the item sits unused for 98% of the time, is it really necessary to own your own? 

One way to reduce waste is to buy less, and this more conservative and sustainable way to live starts next door. 

If you know your neighbors, you can perfect the art of the borrow, while saving resources and waste.  Buy less, share more, and expand your community relationships. 
 

Gardening Eden: How Creation Care Will Change Your Faith, Your Life and Our World, by Michael Abbaté, published by WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, 2009.  ISBN  978-0-30744-499-8.   For more info: www.michaelabbate.com