MythBusters: Composting Edition

Five lessons we have learned since starting to compost.  Let’s bust some myths.

 

Guys, I have an announcement to make.

We have been legit composters for 1 1/2 years now.

Can you believe it?

 

And not only are we legit, we have actually been successful too.  Damn, it feels good to be a ganster composter.

 

 

For people who haven’t done it before, it seems like a lot of work, but in all honesty, it really isn’t all that hard.

Basically, you throw together any green and brown waste into a bin, then sit back *brushes hands off*, and let nature do its thing.

And over the past 18 months, I can definitely say that we have learned a thing or two about this whole composting thing.  As we were just getting started, I constantly heard a lot of things that made me worried that I couldn’t handle the truth about composting.

People would constantly ask questions or say things like:

 

Don’t you need a lot of space?

You’re gonna need a big composter so you don’t run out of room.

Get ready because it will start to smell.

Where are you going to find all your brown material living in a city?

It won’t take long for you to give up because composting is hard.

 

I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive.  I didn’t want to mess it up.  But after a few months, I had some realizations.

Maybe these were just myths after all.

So let’s jump into it  (the myth busting, not the compost).

 

Myth 1: You Need A Lot of Space

 

First off, there are many ways to compost.

Some composts require large plots of land (hopefully where the resident’s quarters aren’t too close to where the compost magic happens), while others can involve just a small barrel.

Being that we live in a city and do not have a ton of space, our composter is not of great size.  It is easily placed on the side of a house and doesn’t take up all that much room.

 

 

And after a short scroll through Amazon, it looks like there are even smaller composters, like ones that you can have on your kitchen counter or under you sink.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen numerous posts about composting in FIRE Facebook Groups and honestly my take away from them is that there is not one right way to compost.  If you have a lot of space and land, great, but if you don’t, that doesn’t mean you still can’t have a composter.

 

Result of Myth 1: You need a lot of space

 

Myth 2: You Need a Big Composter Because You Will Run Out Of Room

 

When I first got my composter, I worried that it wasn’t big enough.

It was 37 gallons, split into 2 sides.  One side was marked with a “+” and its where you add your ingredients to and the other side was marked with a “clock” and that’s where where you wait for it break down.  Seems simple enough.

 

 

But, it just seemed too small and I figured it would fill up within a few weeks and then I would be SOL.  But since it was a gift and because I didn’t know any better, I just went with it.

Well to this day, it has never filled up.

Why you ask?

Because even as you add to it, it continues to break down, obviously enough.

We had one time that we got close to full on one side, so I just started adding to the other side and within a few days, it had gone back down on the original side.  There was no reason to sweat.

 

Result of Myth 2: You will run out of room if your composter is small

 

Myth 3: It Smells

Being a relatively new composter and living in an area where most people do not value composting, I got a lot of strange looks when I’d tell people of my new hobby.

A common questions I would hear is, “Doesn’t it smell?”

Now, I’ve never actually put my nose in the open compartment and taken a big breath, but I regularly take the green and brown waste out and open the compartment and to my surprise, I’ve never noticed a smell.

Being inquisitive like I am, I do sometimes peak in to see what all is happening.  I’ll get the occasional worm or other creature that is relishing in its glory of being surrounded by rotten food, but never a smell.

And let me tell you, I am super, duper sensitive to smells.  I have an extremely active olfactory sense so I’d notice even the slightest smell.

The only thing I have really noticed an increase in sometimes is fruit flies, but I’ve learned that when that happens, it means the compost needs a little more brown material.  So I just add in a little shredded paper, egg carton, or cardboard and voila, problem solved.

 

Result of Myth 3: It smells bad

 

Myth 4: Brown Material is Hard to Come By

 

Another aspect that I was worried about in the beginning was coming up with enough brown material to equalize the components in the composter.  I had this feeling that living in the city, where there’s not a lot of trees or plants, might make finding adequate brown material rather difficult.  But in actuality, it hasn’t been.  I’ve just had to be creative and store up some brown material to be used when needed.

Here’s a list of items that can be used as brown material:

  • leaves
  • grass clippings/ pulled weeds (note these need to be dried first)
  • tea/ coffee grinds
  • egg shells*
  • paper & newspaper
  • cardboard
  • wood chips
  • corn stalks
  • dryer lint

As far as the leaves, grass clippings, weeds, and dead flowers, sometimes I’ll add a few directly into the composter right when I pull them from the garden, but most of the time I’ll just place them in a bin to let the dry out for a few days, weeks, even months before adding them to the mix.

 

 

Being that Mr.Wow and I drink loose-leaf tea every day twice a day, our compost gets plenty of tea supply on a regular basis.

Many websites mention that egg shells are great for compost, while others say you should refrain from putting them in your mix.  I actually bake mine and them crush them up and throw them directly into my garden.  But point being, if ever in a pinch for more brown material, I could easily throw them in.

Paper and newspaper is also easy to come by.  As long as it is not glossy or super colored, I just toss it into the shredder and pop it straight into the composter.  I will also throw in ripped up paper towel and toilet paper rolls.  My neighbor has even donated her big box of newspaper so I have stuff to pull from when my pile runs low.  Let’s just say that I have barely made a dent in her box, since I never tend to run low from paper I already have.

Additionally, dryer lint can also be easily put right into the composter.  And unlike the Countdown to FI family, we still use a dryer to dry our clothes so that means plenty of dryer lint to be used as brown material.

 

Result of Myth 4: You won’t find enough brown material

 

 

Myth 5: Composting is Hard

 

Since starting this endeavor, I always had the impression that composting is hard and that if done wrong, I could really mess it up.

But in all honesty, I have dedicated very little time to my composting hobby and have had great success so far.

A typical composting session includes picking up the small bin we have in our kitchen which collects food scraps, walking it out to the composter just outside of our house, opening the compartment, dumping contents into the bin, closing the lid, walking back into the house, rinsing out the kitchen bin, and then washing my hands.  When all is said and done, it probably takes about 1 minutes.  Much like compounding interest, the rest just happens as I work, sleep, or blog ;o).

 

Result of Myth 5: Composting is really hard work

 

Summary of Results

 

So as you can see of the 5 myths I thought were true when first starting to compost, I quickly learned that none of them held any water.

You do not need a big composter or a lot of land in order to compost correctly.

It shouldn’t smell, but just add in some more brown material if it starts too.

Brown material is not hard to come by, but sometimes you might need to be resourceful depending on where you live.

Composting is NOT hard.

 

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a little video for your viewing pleasure.  Thanks Mr. Tako for inspiring me to produce my own little short clip.

 

 

There you have it. The 5 lessons that I have learned from composting over the past 1 1/2 years.

26 Comments

  • Team CF August 8, 2018 at 5:28 am

    Hahaha, nice one my dear composting waffle(s). We don’t compost at this time (we have a organic bin that being collected every two weeks). Simply because we cannot use the compost, but once we have a spot with more space and vegetable patch, we will certainly start too.

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 5:38 am

      You definitely should! It is easy and actually kinda fun.

      Reply
  • Mr Crazy Kicks August 8, 2018 at 6:29 am

    Nice work! Your garden will be very happy too 🙂

    For now our chickens get first shot at the scraps. Then their waste goes in a big pile that I’ll rotate out each year. When we don’t have chickens I’ll just use a garbage can with some holes drilled in it. But the composter you have is much nicer 🙂

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 7:33 am

      DIY composter is definitely another option! And chickens they’ll work as well, the problem for us is that we don’t have chickens, nor do I think we are allowed by the city to have them. Maybe some day?

      Reply
  • 5 AM Joel August 8, 2018 at 6:50 am

    Dude, thank you so much! It’s the smell myth that has held us off so far. Now we have no excuse and definitely need to try it!
    5 AM Joel recently posted…Daily Date – How waking at 5am boosts my performance

    Reply
  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials August 8, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Having experienced the magic of WoW composting for myself, I can confirm all of the above. No stink! Also, just in case anyone else comes to visit the WoW’s, the little container of white stuff is NOT coconut flakes (funny how similar baked egg shells look like coconut flakes….) Don’t ask me how I figured that out.

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 7:35 am

      I totally forgot about that! Haha, I should add a picture to the post. Don’t want anyone to make that mistake!

      Reply
  • Jeff D August 8, 2018 at 7:33 am

    And the Oscar for best supporting actress goes to Mrs. WoW in a documentary. Honorable mentions for the director and the composter. And totally compost should never stink. It should have an “earthy” smell. Which is duh, but I’m sure Mr. Crazy Kicks would also confirm.

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Wow, I am honored for the award! The video was a blast to make. Thanks for taking the time to watch it!

      Reply
  • Heather August 8, 2018 at 8:06 am

    I’ve been meaning to look into home composting. I recently moved from SF where they take care of it for you. I now live in bear country which could post a problem, but if it doesn’t really smell… I might take my chances! How long does it take to breakdown into usable soil?

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Not sure about the bears, but there might be bear proof composters out there or things you can do to keep them away. To be honest, I actually haven’t even used the compost matter yet, I just keep adding and adding. It typically breaks down in about 4-5 weeks. Some say it only takes 2-3 weeks, but some things might not be completely broken down at that point.

      Reply
  • Mrs. Sweetspot August 8, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Lol, I live on a giant plot of land so #1 & #4 never occurred to me as a concern. But I was worried about the other 3. You’re right on all points 🙂 And, we now only generate a bin of trash every 2 weeks, which feels awesome!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Yes, as soon as we started composting, I noticed immediately that the amount of trash we generated greatly decreased. Like you, between composting and recycling, I’d say that we barely fill a small trashcan in a few weeks. Keep up the good work Mrs.SS!

      Reply
  • Mrs. Groovy August 8, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for the lesson! This is yet one more thing to figure out when we have a home again. I’m quite naive about the benefits of composting but I take your word for it.

    I hear we’re talking soon? Looking forward to it!
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Building Groovy Ranch: Update 28

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 8, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      When your ready to get serious about composting, hit me up and I’ll give you all the deets. Looking forward to our chat!

      Reply
  • Josh Jensen August 8, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Hey Mrs. WOW,
    Nice write up! My wife and I have been composting quite a while, we highly recommend leaving out the weeds as browns! Unless you like having more weeds in your yard when you use the “black gold” for planting veggies.
    I use my spent grain from home brewing in the compost, and let me tell you, THAT will make the place stink really bad (rotten milk) for 2-5 days after you put it in. Unless you cover it up well with brown leaves, but that may not work in your rotating bin.
    Finally, please do not shoot and post vertical videos. That makes me a sad panda.
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 9, 2018 at 5:49 am

      I usually let the weeds dry for a few days/weeks before putting them in the composter and have never had an issue. Haven’t tried the grain yet so good to know that it will make it smell, might just leave that one out for now. And thanks for the tips on the video. It was my first try at posting a video with my article, so I guess it was more of a proof of concept and seeing if I even liked doing it, than making it a masterpiece. Your advice is noted for the next one I attempt.

      Reply
      • Josh Jensen August 9, 2018 at 12:13 pm

        The video music and credits were cool! I think I’m just jaded on vertical video, since I work in the music video industry and those drive me crazy.
        You could probably get away with a pound or two of spent grain without a stink. It does make for excellent compost.

        Reply
  • FIRECracker August 8, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    “When all is said and done, it probably takes about 1 minutes. Much like compounding interest, the rest just happens as…”

    Nice! It’s easy and it’s good for the environment. I never know where the organic materials end up after we through them out in Canada, and I’ve never seen a compost bin in any of the European cities we visited. Good to know it’s easy to do…maybe we’ll start a composting revolution 😉

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 9, 2018 at 5:50 am

      In all your “free” time right now, between traveling, blogging, and booking ;o)

      Reply
  • freddy smidlap August 9, 2018 at 6:56 am

    we made a composting attempt in buffalo, ny a couple of months ago. the plastic bin must have been too soft and the rats chewed a hole in it so we ditched it for now. we might give it another shot with a metal rat-proof container or just buy one like you have. thanks for the info.

    fyi: for some reason i didn’t get an email alert for this post that came out yesterday.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…We Bought a One Week Vacation Using Dividends!
    freddy smidlap recently posted…We Bought a One Week Vacation Using Dividends!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 9, 2018 at 7:56 am

      Rats in the compost? I thought it was bats in the belfry. Either way its no bueno! Luckily, we haven’t had that issue yet. Thanks for the heads up about the email, we are looking into that right now. Been making some changes to the site and could have pressed a wrong button by accident.

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 13, 2018 at 7:08 am

    I’d still like to do this at some point. I thought the brown stuff would be hard to come by in LA but I guess not! Of course now I’ll be in a space where I can’t compost based on logistics, but hopefully someday soon!

    Reply
    • Mrs WoW August 13, 2018 at 8:42 am

      What logistics are we talking about here?

      Reply

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