Sunday, June 25, 2006


(Originally posted on Saturday, June 24, 2006 by Tim)

I?ve managed to get bitten by the composting bug. I think the start was when the 2 cubic yards of topsoil I ordered was only 1 to 1.5 yards and was full of nails. Actually, it?s probably a result of the garden bug and having orange clay two inches down in our yard. I?ll write more about the garden later.

While I was reading up on composting I found a bunch of advertisements for these bins that you turn every day or so to get compost for the garden in two weeks. ?Wow! Compost in two weeks! I?ve gotta get one of those!? These were my exact thoughts including the explanation marks. I was a man on a mission. I then looked at the price of these bins. They range from $150 on up and I?d have to wait for it to be shipped (and shipping cost, don?t forget shipping cost). They are just plastic containers mounted on a frame with an axle that makes them easy to turn. I figured that I could build my own cheaper.

What I had in mind actually involved no building at all. I could just buy a 50 gallon garbage can and roll it around the yard every day or two for mixing. Solid in my plan, I drove to Home Depot to find they didn?t have any cans over 32 gallon. Curses! Fortunately, we live in strip mall heaven so I got back in the car and drove to Lowes and was able to find a 45 gallon can.

The first thing I added to the can was grass clippings from the yard mixed with leaves left over from last year (or the year before but who?s counting). To my dismay, I filled the can with only 25% of the clippings from mowing the front yard alone. Hmmm, maybe I need more cans. I decided that I?d best see if the can idea worked before I set up platoon of cans in the backyard.

In the end, the can idea works. It takes longer than two weeks I think, but I stopped rolling the can around in the yard weeks ago. I had done a lot of asking around about how different people did their compost bins. To one question, I always received a uniform answer.

Q: How long does it take your system to generate compost?
A: I don?t know.

There?s an important realization imbedded in this answer. People don't know how long it takes to make compost because they don't use it very often. The only time I would use the stuff is in Spring when I turn the garden. Once the excitement of starting a compost pile wore off, I realized this. Rolling the can around the backyard isn?t much fun either. There will be no gaggle of compost cans in my backyard after all.

So now my goal is to build a compost bin. As usual, I?m trying to do it in the cheapest way possible. My first idea was to build a ?box? by restacking the wood pile in a shape that allowed a cubic meter of compost pile. This idea was a bit of a disaster. Not only was there barely enough wood for two sides, but there was poison ivy growing on wood pile. Three weeks and an intense treatment of anti-inflammatory steroids later, I?m ready to make another attempt at building a compost bin.

This time, I?ve decided to build the bin out of used pallets. I called around multiple places and it seems that most everyone is good about recycling these things these days. There are a couple of industries in Christiansburg that bring their pallets to the dump, but I never managed to get in contact with them. I finally managed to find a source of pallets at a receiving warehouse.

I first attempted to pick the pallets up last week. I figured I would put one or two in our Honda Accord and make 2 to 4 trips (I figure I need 4 pallets). Unfortunately, all the pallets available were too big to fit though the doors or in the trunk. I asked the guy at the warehouse if they had an smaller pallets and he (while looking annoyed) said that they rarely get smaller pallets and they don?t hold on to them when that happens. Discouraged, I drove home thinking about how I might borrow a truck without too much effort.

While recounting my woes to Cat, she mentioned that I could strap pallets to the top of our Honda Civic. If you?ve seen our Civic, you will have noted that it has been lacking a garage for most of its natural life. In addition, it has lived in Los Angeles (high ozone) and I?d swear that someone decided to apply wax to it using a medium grit sandpaper. Needless to say, we?re not worried about any damage to the paint as a result of the transport of pallets on its roof. Once again, I set out for the warehouse to obtain some pallets.

My plan was to pick up four pallets in two trips. I would do them on separate days as the warehouse is on my way home from work. When I showed up yesterday, I poked my head into the office and asked the guy if it was still OK to take the pallets. He said it was fine, but was generally grumpy in the exchange. Now I?m not sure if grumpy is his baseline state or if he was regretting agreeing to let me have the pallets. I figured I?d best get while the getting was good and take all four pallets in one trip. The result is in the picture above.

First, I placed a piece of cardboard on the top of the car. While I don?t really care about the paint job, I?m not going to go out of my way to destroy it. This turned out to be a better idea than I thought as the pallets had some slightly protruding nails. Next, I stacked all four pallets on the roof (wondering if the roof could take the weight) and poorly secured them with one loop of rope. Pallets are heavier than I thought and I didn?t want to ask any of Grumpy Guy?s staff for help. Go go weight lifting. Maybe that?s why I?m a bit sore today. I then drove home trying to not go faster than 45 miles per hour in fear that the pallets would blow off. Being that I live in rural Virginia, I ended up with Bo and Luke revving the engine of the General Lee behind me for the last few miles. Fortunately, I made it to the turn off to my house before they broke out those dynamite tipped arrows they are so fond of.

One funny thing is that it rained last night. I was too lazy to unload the pallets when I got home. I just pulled the car, pallets and all, into the garage. Our garage is small and short, but I made it with several millimeters to spare.

Outside of composting, I?ve been continuing to work on beans and rice recipes. My current favorite is the one below. It?s a little bit bland if you don?t go heavy on the cheese and salsa.

Beans and Rice

½ lb dry black beans
1 small onion, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 cobs corn, decobbed
¼ cup cilantro
black pepper
2 cups brown rice (dry)
cheddar cheese, grated

The night before, place black beans in a pot, cover with water, and cover pot. Allow beans to soak overnight. The next morning, drain the beans and combine them in a crockpot with the onion and enough water to cover the mix. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Add diced jalapeno and decobbed corn. Increase crockpot temperature to high and cook for an additional hour. During this time, cook the brown rice according to the directions on the package. After hour, add the cilantro and salt and pepper to the beans to taste. I add 1-2 tsp of salt, but I like things salty. To serve, add one scoop of rice to a bowl. Add one scoop of beans on top. Add a layer cheddar cheese (the amount depends on how cheesy you are, I add lots). Top the mix with a dollop of salsa.

No comments:

Post a Comment