Sunday, February 22, 2009

Compost happens

You learn something new every day. In my case, I learn many new things every day. Like yesterday: I learned how to build an urban composter, how to design a community garden with kids, and how to get involved in the local food justice movement. I learned that DC has a Department of the Environment. (Not only that, but the DDOE will help local homeowners build a rain cistern and get a tax break for it.) Yes, I had volunteered at the well-attended, 2nd Annual Rooting DC forum.

I eat a lot of produce. No, I mean A LOT. And I cook. A LOT. Between weekly trips to the farmers market and my recent discovery of the fabulous Washington's Green Grocer organic produce box, I wind up with a lot of clippings and such, not all of which can be salvaged for a vegetable stock. I don't generate much trash that isn't either recyclable or compostable, and all of the vegetable waste has been nagging me for years. I'd always been convinced that I couldn't compost in the city because of the rats. (I tell you, I love animals, but these Rodents of Unusual Size are aggressive. I think they beat up cats and little old ladies for fun. They chewed right through the plastic trash bins out back. And I almost fainted when one ran over my foot one night.)

The solution, according to the fearless leader of our composting workshop, is to get an old school metal trashcan and lid, available at your local hardware store. Drill holes in it. Dump in your peels and eggshells and coffee grounds. Add some dry leaves or shredded newspaper. Stir it around with a shovel now and then. So long as you don't try to compost protein or smelly, cooked food, rats aren't really interested. Neither are roaches. Of course! I loved the practical advice of our dry-humored presenter and am all geared up to get myself a can and start drilling holes in it. I love projects. (We also learned about indoor composters. I am happy to go into detail with anyone interested in learning more or who wants help building a composter -- just drop me a line.) I think I'll head to the hardware store around the corner tomorrow....


  1. Ack! Apparently the local hardware store on my corner that has been around for the past 30 years closed a couple of weeks ago. Not only that, but the next closest hardware store is charging $30 -- $30! -- for a special order 30-gallon metal can. Good lord, I know I live in Columbia Heights, but I don't need a designer can. I'm going to drill HOLES in it. Give me an old school Oscar the Grouch can.

    Does anybody around here have a metal trash can with a lid, or know someone in the area who does, who might be willing to give it to a good cause (me)? I could maybe work out some kind of exchange for, say, baked goods.

  2. I finished reading all your posts and can't wait for the next one. When I start composting out here in the burbs I hope the only rats I have to deal with are the bushy, squirrel variety.

  3. I thought cockroaches would eat anything. I hope you find a cheap trash can and post the results of the project

  4. Bravo on urban composting! Did you see the recent NYTimes article on this?
    And have you noticed that every food blog/mag/article is all about comfort food lately? Recession = mac & chz, I guess. I think that's why Epicurious is tackling beg. bread baking.
    Thanks so much for reading R&V, keep up the great posts on your blog!


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