Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Dark Side of Compost..

What do you get when you mix grass clippings, pine litter, fruit and vegetable scraps, water and sun? Hopefully it will eventually be compost, until then you get some serious bugs! Since I began the pile, several ants, flies and some bugs I cannot name have taken residence in there. It makes sense though, doesn't it? Garbage decaying in hot sun with high moisture content is a natural draw for any 6 legged scavenger. I shudder to think what crawls around in there after the sun goes down. I guess I thought since I was doing something noble with the refuse, it would not be like other garbage. I considered it special because some day it would be compost and help my garden produce fine vegetables for all to enjoy. Maybe someone should have told the bugs. After further research, I learned that this is not unusual. Hopefully when the pile heats up it will kill everything. This would be a lot easier if I could just pick up a bag of compost at Target.
One thing I will not be needing from Target is chicken broth. I froze the bones and skin from some organic chicken breasts I cooked a couple of weeks ago and simmered them for a few hours with some vegetables that were on their way to the compost pile (if you know what I mean). It contained carrots, celery, red onions, green onions, garlic, salt and pepper. When the water was a respectable shade of yellow and the flavor was reminiscent of homemade chicken soup, I removed it from the heat and let it cool completely. Afterward I strained the liquid and froze it in 2 cup portions (which is approximately the volume of a traditional can of broth). I am particularly proud of this for a couple of reasons, the first being that it was organic. This was not my intention but it just happened that everything I put in it was organic. The second is that it cost me nothing. I know, I paid for the original materials however this was stuff that was heading to the garbage. The celery and carrots had gone limp, the onions were getting slimy and I had more fresh garlic than I could use before it was past its prime. As far as the chicken bones go, they are only good for supporting the body of a chicken so really I had done all I could with them. The hardest part of the whole experiment was trying to find enough containers to freeze the 2 cup portions in. This yielded the equivalent of 9 cans of broth...woohoo!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a research problem. When I want to learn something new I read everything I can on the subject. Before the advent of the internet, I was limited by my ability to get to a library and what their collection held. With the internet I can spend hours poring over new information. Since I want so desperately to be able to grow food we can eat, I have been reading a lot about gardening. In addition to numerous websites, I also have a local gardening booklet from the Nevada Cooperative Extension, The Sunset Western Garden Guide, The Complete Guide to Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs, planting guides from Star Nursery and some bargain book from Barnes and Noble about organic gardening. From these I have learned that not all experts about gardening in the desert Southwest agree with each other. I am so overloaded with conflicting information that all I can do at this point is dig a hole, put in some seeds and hope they grow. My husband blessed me by having irrigation installed for my raise beds so I went ahead and planted some seeds today: lettuce, carrots, broccoli and brussel sprouts. According to some sources this is the correct time to do so while others say to wait until September. I guess I will know who is right come winter...

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