Earth Day 2013 Activities & Thoughts

As I thought about writing this post, I chuckled a little bit.  I had to actually Bing for confirmation of today being Earth Day because let’s face it..as homesteaders, EVERY day is Earth Day!

image courtesy of earthday.org

image courtesy of earthday.org

However, if people want to use Earth Day to give away free stuff, then I’m more than happy to take advantage of that!

Free Stuff:  Many thanks to MissiontoSave.com for pulling together a pretty cool list of free stuff available today.

Free Entrance:   It’s National Park Week!  National Parks across the US are offering free entrance this week.  Not sure where the closest Nat’l Park is to you?  Use the handy locator to find one.  Sure, many of us feel like our homes are already filled with wildlife-why would we want to go to a park to see more?  Well, because it’s free!  And it’s a great way for our kids to understand the importance of not just their parents, but us as a nation preserving large sections of land for all to learn, enjoy and appreciate.

Free Lesson Plans:  Speaking of our kids, The Educators’ Network has made available free lesson plans/ideas for teaching our kids about Earth Day, climate change and beyond.  the Green Living Section of About.com also had some good general info from the history of Earth Day to more activities for kids.

On a more serious note, here’s my Earth Day disclaimer: I really do find the idea of a single day (or even week) celebrating the Earth as laughable.  I decided to just delete my rant here about how every day should be Earth Day.  Instead, let me just say that I am honored and blessed to be among the growing network of people, families and farmers who are trying to get back to a life that is more respectful of the Earth God has created for us.  Thank you for all you have taught me and all you will teach me.

Poop is worth it’s weight in gold?

Those of you who have had to rehab large tracts of land know what I’m talking about…turkey litter.  It’s the fertilizer of choice here for pasture land (did you know Missouri was the #2 producer of cattle in the nation?  Nope?  We didn’t either…) and it’s worth it’s weight in stinky gold.

Our poop is the shiz.comPic courtesy of ect coop

Our poop is the shiz.com
Pic courtesy of ect coop

We have asked every single human that we have come into contact with for connections.  I even stopped by the local Ag Extension today and asked if they had a hook up for litter and/or topsoil and oddly both of these ladies looked at me like I was on crack.  While we have found Missourians to be absolutely warm and lovely people, they don’t give up the good stuff to “ferners” (You know-people from Texas) quite so easily.  Finally someone shared the helpful nugget that it is actually more profitable for these poop producers (aka large poultry farms) to ship it up north than to sell it to their neighbors.  Huh.

So, to The Bing I go…I have discovered some local (local being companies within 200 miles) providers and intermediaries.  I’ve sent messages to several of them, all in Sheldon’s name (because that post on good old boy mysogeny is for another day) and now we just wait.  For poop.  That we have to pay for.  What a life.

Composting for beginners

I’m so looking forward to spring although it’s with a little trepidation. We are a bit behind in getting the garden ready compared to previous years. However, the one thing that we have been great about is beginning our compost pile. We’re lucky in that we don’t have to worry about “smell free” compost options since our compost pile is a good distance away from the house. But, you know, one of the things that I have really noticed is just how smell free our compost pile is. And while I know a certain bit of earthiness is to be expected, I think that I’ve learned that sometimes stink doesn’t always mean good compost. And we have some beautiful compost. Just ask our little rescue cat, Soleil. She is obsessed with the compost pile but thankfully doesn’t add her own “signature” to it:

 

Soleil “helping” me with the pig pen by holding the dirt down with her body…

So how to get started on your own little pile of compost? Well, we started composting a bit in our suburban house-mostly in the winter. We would allow our garden beds to go dormant and add in rich materials to increase the nutrients in the soil for spring planting. Even in our little suburban jungle, we always had a pretty good harvest of fruit/veg that were ideal for our zone. But, what to do if you want to be more thoughtful than we were (hello-standing on the back porch having zucchini throwing contests to see who can hit the garden-not thoughtful composting)…then you first need to think about a few things:

1) Do I have the patience to keep up with it?  Composting is not just about throwing stuff in a pile.  That’s called being a redneck…composting is about the thoughtful throwing of stuff in a pile and then maintaining that pile so your leftovers turn into nutrition for future fruit, veg and trees.

2) Do I have a place to do this?  While you need very little space to compost, this probably isn’t a good fit for you if you live in a one bedroom loft with no garage, patio or outside space.  Even the best compost units take up some space, so decide if this is something you can live with and if so, where will it go?

3) Do local laws/restrictions need to be considered?  While I can’t say that I have heard of any cities/counties restricting composting, you just never know.  I still think about the guy from the Pacific Northwest who was cited for using rain barrels on his property because the city felt like he was taking water away from other residents.  Sometimes gov’t can be crazy…but I think crazier than government is a Homeowners Association, so check with yours to make sure that you aren’t breaking the neighborhood law.  And if you are-well, then get them to change it and compost anyway!!

Beyond what I think are the basic considerations above, there are plenty of simple articles that can help you get started like the EPA’s site (actually aimed at business, but good info all the same) and another good site from the state of California.  Many will walk you through adjusting the content of your compost pile so that it’s not too acidic or nitrogen rich, etc.  For us, we’re just not that high-tech yet…but I would imagine that we will be someday.  For now, here is a list of things that we typically compost in our “casual compost” pile:

Vegetable/Fruit trimmings (no tomatoes or citrus)

Rotten vegetables (we all have those hairy little carrots that get forgotten at the back of a crisper)

Used coffee grounds/filters (not talking your K cups people)

Lawn trimmings

Egg shells (I only use our egg shells-not any we buy from the grocery and I rinse them before putting them in.  Probably lose nutrients rinsing them, but that helps me with the “oogie” factor)

I have heard of some folks who compost meat waste from processing without any negative effects but we’re not remotely there yet.  It’s an interesting idea.

Used chicken bedding (while we use chicken poop, we do not compost dog/cat poop at this time.  We’ve read that the risks outweigh the benefits)

Beyond tossing in these things, we go out to stir it to make sure that it’s getting all of that great decomposition throughout the pile.  We don’t have any trouble with smell, vermin or flies…and that to me is the sign of a great pile.  Well, that and how much our plants will love it!

So-what do you like to compost and how do you manage it?  Would love to hear from some other folks!  Until then, happy composting!