The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


composter and wheelbarrowMy Mother is an avid compost maker. As a child I remember her endlessly drifting down the garden with kitchen scraps and bunches of dead flowers. In those days passing horses and carts were not unusual and she would rush out of the house with a shovel to collect the manure droppings for the compost. We all thought she was mad.I got the composting bug a couple of years ago. Our county council was offering cut price composters to residents so I thought I’d have a go. Until then we had a large compost heap that was organised and turned by John Coe, who helps us in the garden. This heap mainly consists of grass clippings and leaves, so as not to attract rats. Now I would have a rat proof container that I planned to use for vegetable scraps and the droppings from the chicken house.

The composter arrived. It was big and came with a small green bin for the kitchen. John Coe eyed it suspiciously, muttering that his sister had one once. Even now he hates it and his only uses it as a prop for the wheelbarrow. As you can see we use a builder’s barrow. They are generally better balanced and designed to work in constricted areas and can turn on a tiddlywink. John’s compost heap towers beside the composter and is turned and used soley by him for “important projects”.

So even though I’m the only one to use the rich compost from the bin, I enjoy the complete process. From emptying the bulging kitchen bin to opening the composter’s little front door to extract shovel loads of dark homegrown compost, thick with worms.

Now I can appreciate my mother’s addiction to composting. I got really excited when I realised that the composter could break down any organic matter. We recycle eggshells, paper bags, cardboard, coffee grains and tea leaves as well as the usual vegetable peelings. Fragrant tea leaves stop the green kitchen bin from smelling rank. All this would refuse would have been sent to landfill in the past.

Sometimes it’s a drag taking the heavy bin down to the composter, at the end of the garden, but we share the duty and the end result makes it all worthwhile. It feels good that, in a tiny way, we are doing something for the environment.

Tips and Tricks:

  • If you want to invest in a composter, it’s well worth ringing your local council to see whether they have a discount scheme. If they do, they are probably promoting water butts, as well. Last year we bought a couple of cut price water butts from our local council.
  • Don’t let your compost get too wet or too dry. Shredded newspaper will help to dry it out and vegetable kitchen waste will increase moisture.
  • Never compost meat, fat or bones.

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