Welcome to the Lucy and Ricky show!
As some of you know, Erik is a complete and utter compost wonk. A heavy book about the science of decomposition is pleasure reading for him. He has a really, really big thermometer and knows how to use it.
We’ve kept a compost pile for years and years, but only in the last two years has it become an obsession for him. One of his more recent projects has been to make an gigantic bin in our back yard. This is the sort of bin you could use to dispose of bodies. He became so persnickety about the proper usage of the Wonder Bin that I was afraid to take scraps out there. Emptying the compost pail became his duty.
Then, one day, something went wrong in compost nirvana. You’d have to ask him for the details of his crisis, but the upshot was that he didn’t want anything new to go in the bin.
“But…but…” I said, pointing at the full compost pail on the counter.
“I’ll deal with it,” he said.
One day passed, and the next. He put a big mixing bowl on the counter next to the overflowing pail and started throwing his scraps in there. Flies gathered. 10 lbs of rotting scraps on the counter bothers Erik not a whit.
Of course the notion of putting it all in the trash never crossed our minds. At this point, it’s unthinkable, like driving around without a seat belt.
“This can’t go on,” I said, when a second mixing bowl of scraps joined the first, and the fruit flies started passing out party fliers to the whole neighborhood.
“It will have to go in the green bin,” he said with an air of grim decision.
The green bin is the dedicated wheelie bin given us by the city to collect green waste. We use it only for green waste we can’t compost, partially because we need as much compost as we can make, and partially because I hear the city often uses the green bin material as landfill covering.
I just couldn’t put it in the green bin, so I went out in the back yard, collected a couple of the old tires rolling around back there (we’re classy that way), stacked them up under the avocado tree and started my own alternative compost pile.
I did not tell Erik about the AlternoPile because I knew he’d squawk about it. “There’s not enough mass!” he’d protest. Or maybe he’d cry, his face blanching with horror, “Your nitrogen inputs are way too high! For God’s sake, stop this madness!”
Sometimes things just gotta rot without you thinking about them, you know?
I also was not worried he’d discover my sooper seekrit pile because Erik has a particularly advanced form of man blindness. He couldn’t find a boa constrictor in the fridge. I don’t have to hide his Christmas presents. And I figured a couple of tires under the tree were not going to attract his attention for a long while
To his credit, he did notice it, after a couple of weeks, and asked, “Did you plant something in the tires?” Because I was in the bathroom and didn’t have to look him in the face I was able to say, “No honey, I didn’t plant anything in the tires.”
He investigated no more, and the secret pile continued. Yesterday he finally rebuilt his compost pile, and now it’s accepting scraps again. The game is up. I’ll let the tires sit and stew. In a few months I can move them and will leave behind nothing but a little pile of compost.
If you’ve been thinking you can’t compost because you don’t generate much green waste, or you don’t have space for a big bin, or just don’t want to screw with it, I’d say try it anyway. My two tires absorbed our green waste for weeks, and would have continued to do so. That’s kitchen waste for two people who cook a lot, but no yard trimmings, obviously. I’d dump the pail in there, and cover the scraps with handfuls of hay or dry leaves.
Sometimes the level would raise high, but this stuff shrinks fast, so it maintained a level one tire deep most of the time, and would have done so until compost started building up at the bottom. Eventually I would have put the top tire on the ground and shoveled the contents of the bottom tire into the top tire, basically turning everything upside down. This would speed things along a bit, and would reveal any finished compost at the very bottom.
Caveats: This system doesn’t generate heat through mass, so will be much slower than a real compost pile. It is best used when the weather is warmer to help things along. And again, this isn’t what you do if you want compost for your garden. This is just one way to quietly return your kitchen waste to the earth.
When Erik sees this post he’s going scream, “Luuuuuucy!!!!” and proceed to write a rebuttal explaining why a tiny compost pile is a bad idea, but no matter what he says, I believe composting can be as simple as this.