From Dust You Have Come. To Dust You Shall Return.
Perhaps you are looking at the above picture and thinking, “This is supposed to be a food blog. Why am I looking at pictures of garbage?” The answer is simple: you’re not looking at our garbage. You’re looking at the fertile soil of next year’s garden!
When we began our life together, our mutual love of food and cooking only grew as we inspired one another. Both of us had at least one grandparent who was an avid gardener, and we both had a set of grandparents who were dairy farmers. The love of gardening seemed to skip a generation for both of us, but has come alive in our small suburban backyard. We began with three small raised beds, and our garden adventures have grown larger each year.
One of the objectives for us in this venture is the belief as home-cooks that fresh is best. The flavor of a just-picked strawberry cannot be matched. The flavor of homegrown tomatoes is impossible to match—you are simply never going to find something that delicious in a grocery store.
The other major objective for us is returning to the source of our food. This is one of the reasons we both wanted chickens in the backyard. But we love having a connection with the food we prepare. It’s a way of returning to our roots and has built an incredible connection with our grandparents, both living and deceased.
One of the arts that sort of skipped a generation is compost. Living in the suburbs, we assumed composting was not an option for us until we learned about compost barrels. Here is a picture of ours:
Balance your “brown material” with your “green material.” Brown material consists of dry products—for us this usually means straw, wood shavings from the chicken coop, or shredded newspaper. Green material consists of any produce remnants, eggs and eggshells, and any produce that has gone bad. Produce remnants consists of: strawberry hulls, citrus peels, chopped avocado peels, carrot/potato peels, the ends of celery, outer layers of onion, etc. I wish we could say that food never goes bad in our fridge, but that would be a lie. We try to waste as little as possible, but sometimes mold grows on berries or a tomato goes soft. Instead of adding these to a landfill, it is incredible to be able to “recycle” these items by adding them to the compost.
Spin your compost barrel once a day. Your compost may have a mild odor, but it should mostly just smell like wet dirt. If it starts to have a strong odor, you need to add more “brown material” to balance out the compost.
If you are composting rabbit, horse, or chicken droppings, these need to sit at least 6 months before being added to live plants. We add our compost with chicken droppings to the garden beds after the growing season is over. Fresh manure can “burn” live plants, but having at least 6 months to sit allows the manure to turn into gardening gold.
Do not add meat products to your compost. It will disrupt the balance, and attract rodents.