Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: May 2014

DIY Compost Tumbler

Ever feel like you’re drowning in trash? If you live in the city you might not think about your trash at all, but here in the country you either pay an arm and a leg to get your refuse picked up or you haul it to the dump yourself. Always looking for a deal, we do the latter.

In the winter, transporting the trash cans in the back of the truck is no big deal. The summer? A totally different story. Know what temps close to 100 degrees F do to trash? Yeah …

Maybe with all of this background information you can understand my need to reduce, reuse and recycle. ‘Round these parts I’m known as the Recycling Nazi. Don’t judge … it’s free. My motivation for homemade vegetable stock came from my desire to reduce the stuff in my trash can. But a container of vegetable scraps cannot compare to my secret weapon. Want to know what has me so excited?

Composting.

I know what you’re thinking … composters cost a small fortune.

Not if you harness your inner redneck. Don’t pretend you don’t have one hiding in there.

All you need is a locking trash can and a drill. Combine that with a little composting knowledge and you are a downright threat to sanitary engineers everywhere. Have I piqued your interest? *rubs hands together and laughs maniacally* Great, read on my little rednecks.

Step One
Drill 1/8 inch holes all over your trash can – except the lid – about 1 inch apart. The size of the holes allows for air flow and water drainage without allowing bugs to enter.

I taught Youngest (7-years-old at the time) how to operate a drill with this project. Now we have to keep the drill up where he can’t reach it … whoops.

Step Two
Layer compost materials. Always completely cover your green materials (vegetable scraps, freshly cut plant material, tea bags, rinsed nut shells, bread and freshly-used coffee grounds) with your brown materials (newspaper, cardboard egg cartons, paper sacks, dried out plant material, washed egg shells, and toilet paper tubes) to thwart ants and flies from seeking out your composter by the thousands.
* Do not add any animal protein (watch for this in store-bought bread), hot peppers or acidic items (tomatoes/citrus) to your compost pile and watch your salt content.
** The eggshells and nut shells will not completely break down in the composter, but they offer great texture in clay soil. 

Green material.

Brown material. Make sure you shred it before adding to the composter.

Step Three
Keep the compost wet, not soaking, but like a wrung-out sponge.

Step Four
Once nature takes its course and the material beings to decompose, throw the trash can on the ground and roll that puppy around every week or two. If you want the finished soil during the same growing season that you started composting, you can speed the process up by purchasing compost starters (made up of hungry little microbes itching to break down some stuff) at garden centers.

Keep a recycled container next to your sink to hold the green material until ready for composter. Make sure it has a locking lid and wash it well before refilling.

Step Five
Dump the nutrient-filled soil into your garden, or planters, and watch your plants go crazy!

Step Six
If trash reduction and free soil are just not enough for you, and I would be so proud if they weren’t, place the composter in a long shallow plastic tub and use the liquid runoff (A.K.A. compost tea) as fertilizer. 

Greenhouse Interior

The good news?
The inside of the greenhouse is finally done.
The bad news?
It’s too hot to plant anything inside of it.
You’d think between the clearing, homeschooling, writing, gardening, cooking, cleaning, and woodpiling that I would have found more time to get it finished before spring officially sprung.
Sadly, no.
Thanks to my boys, who shoveled most of the dirt over a three week period, I can mark that project off the list and move on to one of the thirty others waiting for me.

The pictures just don’t show how big these beds really are. I have to climb on the dirt on my hands and knees to reach the back wall.

We fashioned built in beds like the ones featured on Ana White’s website. Our modifications included:

  • Treating the interior wood to prevent termites.
  • Chicken wire was laid over the grass to thwart burrowing animals.
  • A layer of cardboard covers the chicken wire to thwart the hardy Texas weeds.
While I have found scorpions, I haven’t found any snakes in the greenhouse. *fist pump*    
  • The bed walls are crafted out of galvanized metal instead of plywood…again to prevent the termites.
  • We mixed the remnants of our burn pile with dirt and horse manure (donated by a neighbor who was all too happy to be rid of it) to create an indoor compost pile of sorts.
  • We cut a window in the back wall so that we can remove the plastic to cool it down in the summer. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure you could decompose dead bodies in there during the summer. Living bodies for that matter … it gets that hot.
    The beds are huge! The walkway and doorway are just wide enough to fit a wheelbarrow inside. The funky trapezoid in the back wall is the removable window.