The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Dirty little secret

Soaking cardboard to go in the worm bin.I have a dirty little secret.  I'm an organic gardener, and I don't compost.  Ssh!  Don't tell anyone!

Every organic gardener I know is obsessed with their compost pile, with the perfect mix of browns and greens, the perfect temperature, the perfect moisture content.  But I'm lazy, lazy, lazy.  I take my food scraps and I toss them to the chickens, then I let the chicken manure drop straight into the soil.  I only harvest the results two times removed when I mulch with grass clippings.  I also truck in horse manure from a neighbor and use pulled weeds to build new raised beds.

My worm bin does create compost from the few food scraps chickens won't eat, but only a gallon or two at a time.  Just right for our potted citrus, but not for much else.  Lately, I've been experimenting with ways to increase our output, and my newest experiment is to soak cardboard and add it to the bin.  I've been looking for a good use for our junk paper and cardboard --- so hard to recycle when you live an hour from the nearest recycling center.  It's early days yet, but I have high hopes that the cardboard will add to our vermicompost.

On the other hand, if you want to go the traditional composting route, you might want to check out this page of composting pointers which Everett put together. It's got short, sweet, and to the point articles about why and how to compost.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'd love to hear more about composting with worms since I just started a few weeks ago. :-)
Comment by Brandy :: Young in the Mountains Tue Jun 23 07:53:39 2009
I have been adding damp cardboard to our worm bins and they use it up just like the newspaper and computer paper. It works great!
Comment by Tracy Tue Jun 23 10:16:30 2009
Did you shred either one, or just toss it in whole? We don't have a shredder, but I hope that just means that it'll take the worms a bit longer to munch their way through.
Comment by anna Tue Jun 23 20:34:15 2009
Brandy --- Worms are super easy. If you click on the "worms" link in the sidebar, you can see our entire journey. We made our own worm box and outdoor worm bin in no time and have done very little else except toss in food now and then. Are you growing yours indoors or out?
Comment by anna Tue Jun 23 20:37:04 2009
We also have slacked on our composting since we also feed 95% of our food scraps and greens to the chickens.
Comment by Devin Quince Wed Jul 15 16:37:21 2009
It's hard not to give scraps to the chickens --- they just seem to enjoy them so much!
Comment by anna Wed Jul 15 18:36:05 2009
I'm a recent follower and am still reading through the old posts, so I hope you have figured out how to dispose of your junk mail by now. If not, go to YouTube and search for "make fire logs from junk mail" and you will get several different ways to turn junk mail, newspaper, writing paper, cardboard (mix or match any of them) into artificial fire logs to help heat your place this winter. As far as papermaking goes, it's about halfway between making handmade art paper in a blender, and making papercrete. I'm sure it would only take Mark a few minutes to figure out how to make/improvise the necessary gear.:-)
Comment by John Sun Aug 14 19:31:04 2016

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