My Dream Starts With Composting

For the From Left to Write Book Club we read Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which inspired this post.

When it comes to eating healthy, we make considerable attempts... I cook our meals from whole foods (the vast majority of which are organic). If I could make almost all of our food from scratch, I would happily. I'd love to bake our bread and pasta, can jams and tomato sauce and make our own salsas and pesto. But, right now, it just doesn't seem possible. We live in a small house with a tiny kitchen and I have about three square feet of usable counter top space. We also have an odd shaped yard with old, beautiful trees that don't allow for much direct sun.

I dream of a large kitchen with space to grow herbs in the windows all year and a large island I can use for rolling out scones ad chopping vegetables for soup. I imagine I would have room to use my Kitchenaid mixer (the wedding gift that's been sitting in the box for over six years) and maybe even have a faucet over the stove top. If I'm really laying it all out there, I'd like a cozy booth in the corner for the kids to hang out while I make dinner. Outside we'd have a sunny, large space where I could have a large vegetable garden and a couple of fruit trees and bushes. I'm not opposed to keeping a few chickens for fresh eggs. I'm not asking for much, right?

When we first bought our house more than three years ago (seriously, where does the time go?) I declared that we would start composting and I would have a vegetable garden. Our composting started during our first summer and we were diligent and determined to compost everything possible. We purchased a composter, tucked it next to the house, and started filling it every day. By the end of the summer Matt and my dad had built out my vegetable garden in the only usable space on our property.

Look at all those scraps ready to compost... Better in here, than in a garbage bag.
The following summer was crazy (remember I had shingles?) and we traveled a lot, so we settled for a few tomato plants that did alright, not spectacular. I figured it was because we planted them late and weren't always on top of watering with our busy travel schedule. We weren't great at plants, but we learned a lot about composting and started to enjoy it.

W getting excited about opening his pet worms to eat all that food.
By our third summer I was determined to grow my own vegetables. We checked the composter after its winter break, added some early spring additions, three containers of worms, and waited. A couple of weeks later we had the compost we were hoping for - It was awesome.

Look at that awesome compost! Took a year, but worth it.
We were ready to plant the garden and a week before Baby B was due, I bought seed packs and filled our garden with strawberries, green beans, shallots, zucchini, carrots, cucumber and three types of tomatoes. I had no plan. I over packed the hell out of my little garden (did I mention it's 6 feet by 3 feet?). But, I was nesting and starting to fear that it was now or never... So, I planted as quickly as I could. Matt wrapped wire around the garden to protect it from squirrels and we waited. And waited...

Strawberries are W's favorite food... This is the only one we grew.
Needless to say our garden did not thrive. All in all, I think we got 20 green beans, 1 cucumber, 10 tomatoes, 1 strawberry, and 1 half inch carrot out of the garden. Pitiful. I realized that my little garden spot only got partial sun and vegetables need SUN to grow. And the way I stuffed the garden full of seeds didn't help, I'm sure. We again had really good compost. But, no matter how great your compost, a garden needs sun.

One day I'll have my dream kitchen and garden. Until then I'll continue to compost and grow what little produce I can, because there is something real satisfying about making your own compost. Give it a try.

Could you live an entire year eating locally or the food from your garden? Barbara Kingsolver transplanted her family from the deserts of Arizona to the mountains of Virginia for their endeavor. Join From Left to Write on February 21 as we discuss Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.


Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

At least you tried! I'll bet that strawberry tasted really good.

Michele Spring Fajeau said...

You just made composting look easy and somehow, fun. I'll have to add it to my "one of these days" list.

Some Suburban Mom said...

Me too, Michelle! I grew up never having thought or talked about anything remotely resembling gardens or composts....we ate directly from the middle aisles of the grocery store. Canned and processed everything. This book and the ideas in it are really opening my eyes. Great post!

Janin said...

We planted a blackberry bush that bore a grand total of -3- blackberries. Just enough for each of my boys and I to have one. (lol) That was 2 years ago. It's growing, but it hasn't produced any berries since. We'll see if it makes a come back this year (;

Joy Weese Moll said...

I am insanely in love with my compost. Glad to know I'm not the only one.

Have you tried lettuce, spinach, parsley, chard? All grow well from seed and will tolerate some shade. In fact, in Chicago, you may be able to grow lettuce through the heat of the summer in a shady spot.

Marlene said...

Bravo to you for planting a garden! I'm sure you learned so much that you'll be ready next time. You've inspired me to start researching composting. One question though, does it attract a lot of wild animals?

Stacy said...

Your first paragraph? That's me. Small kitchen, and shady yard with a corner of intense sunlight. Where's the middle of the road??
I compost too! I love doing it, it cuts down on our trash and makes me feel like I'm making a good effort. I had a worm composter for awhile but found it too difficult to maintain throughout the winter months. It did make fabulous coffee-grain like compost. Now I just use a countertop composting bin and toss it in the woods behind my house, but at least I'm feeding the wildlife and not adding to the landfills, right?
I also plan to build a small raised bed this spring and hopefully grow some herbs and veggies.

alison abbott said...

I started composting last year and can't wait to use it in my pots this year. It's amazing how much waste it saves from the trash. We do have a bit of a problem with racoons, so far bungee cord has helped. It's fun to read about your experience.