Involving Family: Composting

A Guest Post by Pastor Jen Petersen

Under our kitchen sink are two containers.  Like any good Dutch home, the garbage can be found behind the left cabinet.  Behind the right, you’ll find a small bucket that used to be white.  Every once in a while, when my mom is over babysitting, she’ll scrub it back to its original shiny white plastic – I have no idea how she does it.

The bucket is now black on the inside.  For several years, we have used it as our compost bucket.  We fill it with coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit and veggie scraps from the kitchen, eggshells and the like.  And a couple of times a week, the bucket gets dumped in the large bins behind the garage.

We’ve been composting for about 5 years, shortly after we moved into our home.  My husband asked his parents if they might be able to get some old apple crates from his hometown.  They rented a trailer and hauled two wooden crates stamped with “Aebig Apples,” the old family apple farm, now sold off to other families.  (I’ve heard that old pallets work really well, too.)

Out of the two crates, we’ve created three separate sections – one that’s compost ready to use, one that’s resting and turning to be next years usable compost, and one in which we are currently collecting our kitchen scraps and yard waste.  Jeff and our two boys turn the compost with a pitchfork throughout the year and each year we harvest enough compost to feed our small back yard garden.  This winter they even built a snow compost man in front of the bins!

Our boys (5 and 3) are wholehearted partners in this composting endeavor.  In the kitchen, they know which items go in the compost bucket, which items go to recycling and which items go in the garbage.  They have, on embarrassing occasions, scolded grandparents (and once or twice even friends we were visiting) for not composting.

And, while we don’t encourage our children to shame our loved ones, I have to say that I’m kind of proud of them for wanting to teach others how to compost.  I’ll say it – I’m a little proud of the fact that, with our family of four, we rarely fill our large City of Grand Rapids garbage bay in a week.

And I also recognize that we have a lot of room to improve.  Eli is in Kindergarten at C.A. Frost Environmental Academy in Grand Rapids.  I’m grateful for a school that will teach my children care for the earth.  I know there will be plenty of times that my children will scold me for my less than stellar practices toward the earth.

Composting allows our kids to learn that all trash is not useless.  They already have a sense that some waste can be reused and some waste just takes up space.  They are learning that, if we want our earth to give us good food, we have to feed it and care for it.

And it’s really not too hard to get started.  All you need is a container with some room for air to flow through and a way to turn the compost.   You need a balance of green (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, etc) and brown matter (dried leaves and other similar yard waste, soil, etc.) and you need to keep in moist.  Done properly, compost doesn’t stink or attract animals.  The piles develop a rich earthy smell of dirt, but they shouldn’t smell rotten.

I’m certainly not an expert on composting.  I encourage you to check out your local garden center or recourses on-line for more complete instructions on composting.  This site has lots of good information: http://vegweb.com/composting/