Yesterday I celebrated the momentous completion of my back-deck, air-stack compost bin ~ a task which has taken me over a month of puttering out in the cold between extensive weekend travels.
When I signed the lease for this abode last November, it pleased me that the dwelling was as self contained as an apartment, yet still bright and opening out on ground-level into some degree of natural beauty. With no yard maintenance of any sort required, my family and I would be free to simply lock our door and head back to Pakistan at any time, without bothering anyone to monitor a garden, lawn or snow removal. However, it was equally pleasing that the kitchen had a large wooden deck beyond its sunny patio doors, with potential for potted plants, bird feeders and plenty of outdoor breakfasts. Of added value were the stairs down off the deck to a hiking trail through dense woods and along a creek running for miles ~ not only past a community garden, but onward to one of our city’s largest and most central parks. With one swish of a pen, all seemed too good to be true for a middle aged fellow making a sudden and precarious move back to the hometown he hadn’t lived in for a decade or more.
The only problem: composting.
Without a useable spot of earth for even a small household compost bin, what would my family and I do with our daily organic kitchen scraps? I had heard of “terrace composting” for city dwellings in apartments, but most of my research only yielded results on composting with worms to break down table scraps (which was not a direction I wanted to go), or trendy but expensive “spinning” compost devices ranging anywhere between $100.00 to $600.00.
Being a strong proponent of trying to zen my way toward simplicity, and not just “buy” it, my continuing research for an economical and practical solution lead me to the solid waste management website by the Toronto city council. Their suggestions for simple, small compost ideas included building directions for an “Air Stack” terrace device (easily fashioned from a rubbish bin or rain barrel), wire mesh and sticks, tickled my inspiration, imagination and motivation.
For approximately $65 I was able to secure a bin, a roll of wire mesh, three bricks and a galvanized steel tray (intended for a water heater, but the perfect size to catch drainage from my compost) from a local hardware store. In addition to the basic purchased materials, I acquired three pieces of scrap wood form my father’s garage, a handful of plastic fasteners from among my uncle’s old boxes of odds & bobs, some old news papers, twigs from alongside the foot-path behind my home, a bundle of sticks (average length 30 inches) from a recent hike and a piece of plastic mesh recycled form a recently consumed crate of Moroccan clementines. Lastly, I placed an old plastic sheet (that had once served as a mattress cover I believe) under the drainage tray so the wooden deck would not be damaged or discoloured in any way by the galvanized steel.
Perhaps things can indeed be bought on on-line which provide a certain degree of ease and maybe even a little happiness… but no price can be placed on the feeling of accomplishment one feels after using one’s own hands and determination to bring a vision into existence.
Since our little family of four relocated here to Ontario, our dedicated reducing, reusing and recycling of all bottles, cans, paper products and plastic materials has meant that we have only been averaging 3/4 of a garbage bag per week (ie. 3 bags per month). Now that we will, once again, be able to compost all organic matter from our kitchen, my hope is that we can decrease our monthly trash by at least 1.5 bags.
Next project: a Bird feeder made form the wood of the Moroccan clementine crates mentioned earlier. …Or for those who want further inspiration for those delightful wooden boxes, here’s a Facebook Page devoted to ideas (Can you believe somebody actually made a FB page for wooden clementine crate craft ideas? Can you believe I actually searched for one and found it?)
Pass me the potatoes peels please….oh yeah, and the husks from those peas and the grounds from those teas.