Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Call it a Wrap for Kitchen Waste

Composting is an art and you don't want it to stink. After years of practicing at the P-Patch community garden, I had the creation of compost down. That came in handy when former Seattle Mayor Nickels let it be known that everyone in town had to start separating kitchen waste from garbage.

That announcement coincided with our moving into a house. Soon my aim was not merely to separate and recycle, but to create as little garbage as possible. When you live in an apartment or condo you dump your trash bags down a shoot or in a container, without ever really getting an idea of how much garbage it is you produce, something you can gauge better when you have to haul the bins to the curb yourself. The two of us have always recycled with care; separating plastics, cans and glass from other trash, but once we had our own yard, we, well, I, became obsessed by separating this from that and the other.

Some Friday mornings we don't have any bins to take to the curb.

Greens, peels, teabags, coffee grinds, it can all go back into the garden. That is, after some extra care. You can bury a mixture of browns and greens or dump it all in the composting bin. Don't take the "brown and green" to literal though, the art of composting tells us coffee grinds for instance are considered "green", not brown. This has something to do with nitrogen. Don't ask me what exactly, you can read all about it in this blog post by Interbay P-Patch Master Gardeners.

If you bury your mix, cover it with a foot of dirt and leave it be. Composting materials in a bin have to be turned. You'll find excellent composting advice on the composting blog of the organic master farmers at the Seattle Interbay P-Patch. I especially like their post on "the good and the bad and the ugly" regarding your compost.

My composting routine starts early in the morning as I stand at the kitchen counter peeling and coring the apple I'll cut into my cereal with yogurt. We always have one or two rinsed yogurt containers in the sink that are lined with a small piece of paper towel, to keep things from sticking to the bottom, so I dump the peel in there. As soon as my tea has steeped I toss the teabag on top. Gary drinks coffee in the morning so his grinds land on top of the peel and tea. Later we'll add the hard vein of Romaine lettuce and the skin of a sweet potatoe. By the end of the day, it's a wrap!

I've got a memory of outdoors markets such as the Albert Cuyp in my former hometown Amsterdam, that often comes to mind as I wrap my kitchen waste. Some of the greengrocers would place a cauliflower or a pound of Brussels sprouts or whatever, in newsprint. The image of large calloused hands carefully placing crisp vegetables in the middle of a paper with old news, folding the four corners to the center, turning the package over, to repeat the procedure once more, is etched upon my mind.
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