We wanted to start composting but we had to take into consideration that there are a lot of rats in our neighborhood. Washington DC was built on a swamp and there are many underground creeks and small water ways. So much so that when the DC government began to build the convention center near our house it was suggested to us that we get flood insurance.
Where there is water there are pests and where there is rotting or not rotting food you will find pests. It seems everyone who lives in DC for a long enough time has a ‘Rat Story’. Here is ours: When our daughter was still breast feeding one night she was in bed with us and I woke up to slight clatter in the room. I shook John and said there is something in the room. He turned on all the lights and assured me that nothing was there… We have had some recent intruders (rodents) so we were a little on edge. He assured me so we turned off the lights and in about as long as it took for him to say “don’t worry” a RAT jumped on his head! He sprung up and chased that rat down the hall throwing books from the night stand in the direction of the beast. When John returned we determined that there were no funds to spend the night at the Four Seasons and the morning was coming soon, our restaurant was going to need us. So we barred the door, put a towel between the threshold and the door and slept with the lights on. When we woke the next morning we were horrified to see where the rat had given birth in the TV room and after talking to the exterminator we found out that the Mama rat was hungry and was interested in the smell of breast milk. This was very creepy but made sense to us in that we had no food in the house for we had a restaurant full of food at that time and there was no need to stock the larder at home. The beast had chosen the wrong house. John and the exterminator convinced me that it was only a mouse but now I know otherwise. About four years ago we had the side of our yard dug up and sheet metal put in–never to see a rat indoors since.
So when we became more serious about our garden we wanted to start composting. Our concern was directed to the quality of life issue of getting pest free sleep. We discovered an incredibly fun solution in the worm farm. A worm farm is a multi layered housing unit about the size of a milk crate. Fill it with rich deep dark soil let your large juicy supple worms go and feed them the peelings or compostable waste from your kitchen. The worms eat the kitchen waste and create castings which are the richest compost available. There is a spigot on the worm farm so you can drain out the juice into a watering can and pour the concentrated nutrients onto your plants. Easy, fast, effective method if space is an issue.
More recently we took over the abandoned lot next door to grow tomatoes and greens for our neighborhood. Encouraged by this our neighbors asked us to think about the larger lot behind us on Marion St. (more about this in an upcoming blog post). SO more compost is necessary, we went to Greater Goods on U street near 17th street and bought a Sun–Mar 200 Garden Composter. The neat thing about this composter is that it is a barrel hooked up to an apparatus that allows the thing to spin on its side. This means that the usable compost accumulates in a center compartment giving you the option to use how ever much or little you need–you don’t need to use the whole batch or wait for the whole batch to be ready. And yes it is sealed so it will not attract rats!
We are having fun stuffing this contraption with garden, kitchen and flower waste and spinning the barrel. Making compost is a lot like making bread, that is to say that the similarities lie in the marrying of raw ingredients in order to let them rise/ripe into a substance that cultivates a metamorphoses and that product is food.
By the way I am giving a talk that I will post later at Greater Goods titled: July is Not Too Late to Plant a Garden!