compost and other dirty words

I give you all permission to make the changes to your homes that you dreamed about on Thursday.  Send me pictures, ok?

I love April because I’m not behind on anything yet.  According to this schedule, I’m completely fine!  But in another month, I’ll still be looking for plants… putting up garden fence… hauling compost.  Late to the party.  I need more kids to help out around here. Make a note: have more children.

Now, your kitchen scraps, plant leaves, paper, and other organic trash has a better home than the landfill: in the compost.  You may think composting is something only manageable in the boonies, but YOU’RE WRONG.  And, I mean that in the nicest way possible.  Saturday, The Franklin Farm was host to its 2nd annual “Till -n- Turd.” Smack-dab in the center of G-Rap!  Basically, Holly convinces a bunch of people that they should come over and spread cow poop all over their yard. It’s awesome.

From Holly:  My husband and I have a “cow share” so that we can have raw milk. Basically, we own a portion of a cow and therefore have legal rights to its “by-products”  of raw milk and… manure.  Our farmer composts the manure until it’s just about the best organic fertilizer ever, and we get to pick up a truckload of it for our use.  We drive back from the countryside, through the center of the city to our little homestead with a truckload of poop. It gets spread by the bucketful throughout our yard, then tilled into the garden beds.

We’ve got three trash bins in our kitchen:

  • Reuse: That’s the compost, getting turned into soil for “reuse.”
  • Recycle: The (free) city recycling program. That is, by far, the largest bin.
  • Reduce: The regular trash goes into the smallest of the three bins, thanks to the other two.

Because of our recycling and composting and intentional shopping, it takes 2 or 3 weeks to fill a city garbage bag, even with a newborn in disposable diapers. I’d like to say it’s because we care so much about the earth, but honestly what kept us doing the separating in the beginning was the saved money and the bragging rights that our garbage had been cut down to 1/4 of what it was before was started composting and recycling. Now it’s just so normal we don’t even need motivation: it’s just the way life is.

The garden, meanwhile, is still smelling like …ahem… the country today. I know it will pay off this summer when our produce just seems to produce much more than other friends in the city with gardens. Thanks to a day of spreading composted manure around our yard, and a few days of noticing that smell, our tomatoes will be weighed down with fruit, our watermelon will produce well over a dozen fruits per plant, and the whole yard in general will be “going to town,” as they say.

Do you have a recycling and/or compost system?

At TexasNorth, we have LOTS of animal by-product.  Awesome.  You are welcome to it ANY TIME.  I’m not kidding.  I very much want a compost tumbler (like this one) that will sit neatly off the back porch and make beautiful potting dirt, but another person I live with thinks I’m crazy with a k.  That’s fine.  That’s just FINE.  Right now, the table scraps that don’t go to the barn cats or chickens go in a horribly un-cute 5-gallon bucket on the back porch.  Eventually, this bucket makes it out to the big bi-product piles and mixes in.

The unsightly bucket sits next to some very chic 30-gallon metal trash cans.  One holds aluminum and plastic soda pop cans and the other holds metal and plastic I take to the Rockford transfer station once a month. The black signs are just scrap wood painted with chalkboard paint.  The bins are large enough that I’m not changing bags every week and can handle a party or two before overflowing.

Gardening daunting to me.  I’m terrible at it.  But, help abounds.  The web is full of fun people and places that can help you grow one or 40 plants in an apartment, a 40-acre farm, or anywhere in-between.

  • My favorite gardening supplier is HERE.  I want one of everything in their catalog.  They makes me feel like I can grow broccoli, which is not true and has been proven many times… but they make me feel that way and I like them.
  • This is a great website to help you in your garden.
  • Triscuit has a super fun new website that will help you plant your own garden and talk to other folks… plus the design is cute cute cute.
  • Here’s a great site to find out more about heirloom seeds.
  • Local Harvest will help you find the closest garden to you that sells shares of their product… all you have to do is pay once a season and pick up the goods!  They also have a seed section.

So, dig in.  Get your hands dirty, plant some tomatoes on your porch if nothing else, and reap the harvest of the season.  It feels amazing, and tastes even better.


About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

13 responses to “compost and other dirty words

  • Katie

    Oooooh! You’ve addressed one of my absolute favorite topics! Thank you!

    Composting isn’t just for farmers or country dwellers or people with acres of land either – my boyfriend and I are apartment dwellers in the New York City area and avid vermicomposters (composting with red wiggler worms). We started out composting in a large bin in our kitchen and have moved on to this system, which makes harvesting oh so much easier:

    We also use this to collect our scraps during the week:

    I can tell you from personal experience that our kitchen garbage smells much LESS now because organic matter isn’t decomposing in there anaerobically, and, we have much less garbage to throw away. By composting, we produce a ton of organic fertilizer that I spread among my houseplants and give away to lucky friends who have yards and gardens. And, since our compost is not seed-free, I’ve grown tomato plants on my fire escape, which have produced yummy tomatoes, all from the seeds of previously composted tomatoes!

    I can honestly say that composting in my kitchen is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done and am happy to answer any questions for those who might be interested in trying vermicomposting.

    • texasnorth

      Best. Comment. Ever.
      I’ve done lots of big time worm composting at the outdoor science center I used to work at but have yet to bring them home to TexasNorth. It’s on the “to do” list 🙂

      Also, I’m betting it takes Chris and Erica (coworkers of mine at said outdoor sciece center) about 3 minutes to jump all over your comment with applause.

  • Jim

    We have about a cubic yr composter; sq with lid and side doors for removing soil, behind the garage. Not a roller because friends had too many problems with theirs. I stick a shovel in once every couple weeks to move the stuff around. It works great, had it for over 2 yrs and cut our disposal lots.

  • Renee

    Best Blog post ever and best comment ever. Thank you. I love this kind of stuff.

  • LoLo

    Oh how I want to be a gardener!! I dream of it, check out library books on it, pace our yard planning for it, buy seeds intending to do it, try to bribe my husband into carving out a section of “his” yard to let me do it…Do I have a garden?…NO

    I did manage to plant some basil and cilantro this year. I also added shasta daisies and zinnias to the beds for color. I guess that is a start. Maybe next year i’ll finally get that raised bed I have been dreaming of.

    Until then, I just might give this composting thing a try. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll have some rockin’ organic fertilizer to spread out in my new garden!?!

  • Cortney

    Can I just confess that I think the Burpee Catalog is the sexiest piece of mail we get around here? Makes me want to grow one of EVERYTHING.

    Matt and I briefly composted when we first moved to this house, and every year I say we’re gonna invest the money in a really good set up and start again….and every year something happens, like, one or the other of us loses a job, or I go and get pregnant, or whatever 😉 The soil in East Tennessee is crap (red clay) if you don’t amend the holy heck out of it, so we’re facing very slow going just on our landscaping, let alone a real garden (M’s parents have a great one, though, and usually supply us with enough squash and cucumbers and beans to satisfy my summer veggie needs). I always put out some herbs and a few tomatoes, though. For two years straight I have tried peas only to lose all my plants and wind up using the trellis for the out-of-control tomatoes instead. This year, in the spot where I usually do my tiny veggie plot, I’m going to try straw bale gardening. I like the idea of using that as my growing medium, and then the whole thing eventually becoming compost for the rest of the garden. We shall see. In the mean time, I had to satisfy my dirt-digging ways with a container garden on the deck. I like to overload the pot with different layers and heights. I’ve got a long planter that today got two tiny but gorgeous new heirloom tomato plants (Big Rainbow and something German that I am currently forgetting), a few hot banana pepper plants, and a sprinkling of oregano, basil, and tiny dwarf zinnia seeds. My mad science experiment–may be a disaster, but if it works, it should be gorgeous! And tasty!

  • Brittany

    Very exciting! I have been looking around for ideas to start a garden with the kids and not feeling very confident. Great links and now, gulp, feel like I am ready to go. Wish we lived near by to get some smelly stuff, but will have to make it work with what we’ve got. Best of luck to you and your garden!

  • Lou

    Jeff and I have two plastic garbage cans in our kitchen. One is for trash and the other is for recycling. Jeff took a sharpie and drew a trashcan on the lid for the trash and the recycling symbol on the lid for recycling. It is awesome and when we have parties we don’t have to keep answering which one is trash and which one is recycling. We started a compost bucket this week which is so funny considering your blog. We don’t have a garden yet but, I am guessing that we will have to start one so that we will have someplace to put our compost. My dad also just retired and has started gardening in some raised beds on the side of their house. He is addicted to the heirloom seeds website.

  • Margie

    Love this post. Don’t do much of it, but love it. Holly is seriously inspiring. And the pictures on the first comment – awesome!

  • annie

    you are our inspiration for all things natural! Know anything about compost and bears?

  • mc

    Love this post. I was just going to concoct a post about our snazzy composter found here: – check it out. It’s amazing, though not really necessary if you have the space for a good compost pile in the yard that you stir every once in awhile.

  • mc

    oh, oh, also, now that I read that first comment on vermicomposting, I just wanted to share that I got to hear Will Allen of downtown Milwaukee’s “Growing Power Inc.” speak a couple of years ago at a GA Organics conference- along with Micahel Polland- and his place is SO COOL- you should check it out when you decide to do vermicomposting again:)

  • Jessica

    You inspire me to compost and recycle more! Thank you!!

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