Here at GeekDads, we get bonus points for all projects that combine power tools and small children. So despite the relative lack of technology involved in this weekend’s Compost Bin Project, I still get plus five points for letting my 5 year old drill with reckless abandon.
The compost bin has been a long time in the coming here at the Hornik house. Despite the kids’ Uncle David’s religious commitment to the compost bin, until this weekend if it couldn’t go down the garbage disposal, it got thrown out. But thanks to a few days at nature camp and a school project, my kids were in a compost bin building mode this weekend. One might think that the compost bin is just a pail into which one throws half chewed carrots. Wrong. There is a fair amount of design and science that goes into compost bin creation these days. First of all, to oversimplify, there are a couple of types of compost bins one might opt for — one with creepy crawly things in it and one without. While the former would have been pretty darn fun to create, more reasonable heads prevailed and we went with the wormless, maggotless version.
I certainly don’t want to pretend that this post is a composting how-to, so here’s a link to some really simple instructions on how to create your own compost bin. They are essentially the instructions we followed. First thing first, find yourself a big bin of some sort — a garbage can will do unless, of course, your wife says "that thing is so ugly, there is no way that you’re using that." It needs to be tall enough to house a pretty sizable amount of compost since the compost is a bit like sourdough starter and helps decompose the newly added matter. Once you’ve got yourself a tub, pull out the power drill and let the kids drill a bunch of holes in the bottom and top of the bin. While you need a lid to help maintain the moisture level in the bin, if it is air tight, a whole bunch of counterproductive things will happen that deter decomposition.
With your newly drilled bin, throw in some shredded news paper at the bottom (hint: don’t throw in your mom’s favorite sections of the Sunday Times or she will be somewhat less supportive of the project). Then comes the sour dough starter — find some good old fashioned soil or, better yet, pre-composted material to fill the bin up to nearly the half way point. If you get lucky, as we did, your neighbor may have a bin of the good stuff right next door.
After filling up the bin with with a goodly amount of compost and shredded paper, it is time to add some compostable material for good measure. Part of the fun here is the discussion of what is, in fact, compostable. The basic rule is that if it came from the earth it can return to the earth. But this basic rule can lead to some talmudic debates about what is intended by the phrase "came from the earth." Why doesn’t a hamburger come from the earth but the coffee filter does? To try to settle the confusion, my eldest attempted to give some guidance with this sign.
With the guidance of Julian’s sign, the kids then proceeded to go out in search of compostable material. This is definitely something worth thinking about. There is nothing quite as unsatisfying as creating a compost bin and then having nothing to throw into it. Warning: your kids will raid the fridge and if you have nothing ready to be composed, they will make do with the next best thing, perfectly good fruits and vegetables. My kids did manage to come up with some marginal materials — slightly aged artichokes, wilting roses and the tops of strawberries they promptly consumed — and took great pleasure in dropping them in the compost bin.
We’ll see how long the kids maintain their love of composting all things compostable. But for the time being, we’re lowering our total amount of garbage and the kids had a great time making the compost bin. That’s a win-win. Highly recommended on all fronts.