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Compost Springs Eternal

So, it’s been a year and then some since my last post.  Life, I guess.

What’s new?  We’re a year older, hopefully a year wiser.  Still composting right along.  Here’s the garden layout this year:

garden may 2016We’ve planted 24 tomatoes, 4 crookneck squash & zucchini, 8 assorted eggplant, beets, sweet potatoes, various cucumbers, edamame (ambitious), hot & sweet banana peppers, and basil, plus lots of seeds that haven’t sprouted yet including carrot sand bush beans.

Aren’t the roses breathtaking?  The red rose is William Shakespeare, a prolific, fragrant David Austin beauty and the gigantic pale pink climber in the trees is an old rose called Cecile Brunner.  In a true recycling move, my husband fashioned a trellis/canopy from two old teak garden umbrella frames to prop up this giant rose.  Ingenious, gorgeous and green.

Here’s the current state of the compost pile:

We hauled FOUR wheelbarrow loads of compost in early spring to enrich the vegetable beds and the roses (over 20 old bushes at last count) and I can report that the soil is absolutely beautiful in the boxes.  Rich, dark, loamy and full of earthworms.

compost pile 5.2.16But I digress.  Starting with an empty box in February, we’ve already built up a huge quantity of kitchen scraps, clean garden scraps, old leaves and more.  We’ve just started cutting the grass again, so the pile starts to build quickly.  Notice the squash (I think) sprouting in the front by the shovel.  I love re-seeds!  When it gets a bit bigger I’ll transplant to a garden box.

Of course, it’s always a balance between green and brown.  This time of year I’m keeping a pile of old leaves and dirt alongside the pile to balance things out.  I’ve also added compostable containers (cut/tear into small pieces), coffee grounds and lots and lots and LOTS of eggshells.

On the food front, I’m on Day 15 of a Whole 30 food reset.  If you’re a newbie, check out this link for all the details.  Simply stated, it’s a strict elimination-style diet of protein and vegetables/fruit.  That means a lot of scraps to compost!  I felt great before, but I feel even better now.  I guess my diet was pretty clean because I only suffered one day of discomfort and hit the “tiger blood” stage in the first few days.  Hooray!

Here’s the latest compost bucket:

daily bucket 5.2.16

If you’d like to check out my Whole 30 progress complete with food and compost photos, follow me on Instagram at #mydailycompost.

Happy Spring y’all!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Gardening, The Daily Bucket

 

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Grounds For Composting

There are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe me, but “cheap” is probably not one of them.  Today, however, I tried a really cheap trick.  And it did not work.  At all.

For years I used a classic stovetop moka pot and never thought twice about what to do with the coffee grounds.  They went in the compost bucket.  Well, for Christmas, my husband splurged and got me a Gaggia Classic espresso machine, possibly to cut my coffee shop habit.

After weeks of adventures in brewing espresso, including spraying boiling coffee and/or hot milk on floors, walls, appliances,dogs, etc. and incurring lovely brown stains on my white subway tile, I’m pretty proficient.  I have not mastered latte art (not for lack of trying either) but have decided that homemade espresso is infinitely better than drive through.  It’s a bit  more work, but just like anything else we make at home, it’s worth the time.  (My secret recipe is to sweeten the latte with a splash of pure maple syrup.)

I’m not sure why, but it kills me that all my shade grown, organic coffee grounds are going in the compost after just thirty seconds of brew time.    That coffee is expensive and you have to pack it in like crazy to make two (delicious) ounces.  Each time I brew I wonder if I can use the grounds twice…

coffee grounds 2.15

Probably most of you are laughing at me right about now.  I admit I never even considered re-using the grounds from a regular coffee pot or even the moka pot,  so I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good idea.  Maybe I’m in the reuse, recycle mode and am just trying to make the most of my foodstuffs.  Anyway, I gave it a try.

Ha ha.  The liquid, I can’t call it coffee, was the color of tea and the taste was absolutely disgusting; unbelievably bitter and burned tasting.  Big surprise, right?

Learn from my mistake, espresso grounds are not reusable, except in the compost pile.

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Compost How To, Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Composting Valentine’s Day

Confession: I love all the hearts and flowers and corny cards associated with Valentine’s Day.  Instead of thinking of it as a money-making holiday created by the candy and greeting card industry, I much prefer to remember it as the Catholic feast of Saint Valentine, a Roman priest martyred for marrying Christian couples.

I’ve got plush heart pillows on my soafs and pretty hearts hanging in my windows and of course a sparkly red wreath on my door.  Of course I’ve already made heart sprinkled sugar cookies and spent an entire episode of Downton Abby (just started season two) putting candy in mini bags with pretty red ribbons for my girl’s ballet pals.

So I made these lovely little Linzer tarts (tortes?) for my loved ones this weekend.  They are essentially a crisp almond meal cookie filled with raspberry jam.  I’ve got my own secret recipe but this one is similar. There is minimal compost from cookies naturally, but they are so pretty I had to share.

Valentines Linzer Tarts

The cookie-making bucket looked like this.

Brussels, Potatoes & Steak

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • brussels sprouts trimmings (really questionable quality sadly)
  • shallot skins & stem ends
  • eggs (for the cookies!)
  • carrot sticks (left over from lunchbox)
  • blueberries (left over from lunchbox)
  • In addition to the Linzer tart cookies, I also made a some quickly seared hangar steaks with this sauce paired with roasted brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes.

Here is the bucket for both Valentine’s Day family dinner and Sunday Supper.

Valentines Scallops & Sunday Supper Fittatta

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • lots of egg shells
  • lemon halves
  • bits of wilted salad greens
  • tea bag
  • orange peelsshallot skins & stem ends
  • espresso grounds
  • WhatI made with all of that:

Valentine’s Family Dinner

  • Scallops with Fresh Linguine
  • Caesar Salad with homemade croutons
  • Sunday Supper
  • Rich Vanilla Pudding with Strawberries & Lizer Tarts

My middle boy was a bit under the weather so our intended meal with friends and family was cancelled.  A sensible idea but when I cancelled dinner I didn’t make the meal… which resulted in hungry mouths at  seven wondering “what’s for dinner?”

frittatta eggshells 2.15

Frittatta to the rescue.  These never used to be in my rotation since I made my fair share of quiche and scrambled eggs, but quiche needs a crust and scrambed eggs really screams breakfast.  Enter the frittatta.  Made in my ten-inch cast iron pan with eggs, milk and whatever bits and pieces I have on hand, this meal is fast, fresh and super easy.

The Sunday frittatta included smoked salmon and shallots sauteed  in butter and some    almost old mozzerella.  A quick simmer on the stove and a minute under the broiler and dinner was served along with a quick Caesar spin-off, some sesame bagels and more Linzer tarts of course.

Hope your heart was happy this weekend.

 

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Can I Compost: Date Pits

Last night I was making this truly delicious salad and I had a small handful of date pits.  Trash or compost bucket?

date pits 2.2015

Ordinarily I do not compost pits from stone fruits or seeds from vegetables like squash, peppers, cucumber, etc.  The pits are rock hard and take years to break down, but the soft seeds tend to germinate immediately, take root and send up volunteers all over the garden.

Date pits are a bit different. Not too hard, not too soft, pliable, but still a really big seed.  Hmmm… I had to do a bit of research.  This info reminds me a bit of the old Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood “field trips” that fascinated me when I was five (and when I was the mom of five year olds). It’s definitely worth reading if you are interested in where and how your food is grown.

My verdict was: compost. I’m pretty sure I won;t be growing a date palm in my garden!

Here are the rest of my kitchen scraps for the day.

kale salad

 

What you can see (clockwise):

  • yellow onion peels and stem ends
  • strawberry tops (lunch box)
  • carrot peels (lunch box)
  • Lacinto kale stems (especially in a salad I’m not a fan of the big stem crunch)
  • apple peels (sautéed in butter and topped breakfast pancakes)
  • garlic skin
  • lemon half (morning hot lemon drink)
  • lime & mandarin orange halves (salad dressing)

But back to the dates… and the salad… my daughter refused to eat it because she is not a date fan, but guess what?  Neither of us could not stop eating.  It’s really a keeper.  Give it a try.  And if you do, substitute bacon for almonds (I was out of nuts) and be prepared to reach for seconds.

 

 

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Toss It Tuesday: Pea Shoots

Aren’t these gorgeous?  Local, organic pea shoots.  I scooped them up in the grocery and couldn’t wait to get them home.  I planned my whole dinner around them because they were just enticing. So fresh, so fabulous.

Toss It Tuesday Pea Shoots 2.10.15

I roasted some small red beets.  You can do it too because they are infinitely better than the pre-cooked beets you can now find in the refrigerated cases.  Individually wrap each beet in a bit of foil and bake for about an hour at 400 degrees.  This method bakes and steams at the same time for perfect earthy goodness.  Cool, unwrap, and working one at a time, rub off skins gently with a paper towel.  Full disclosure: your hands will get bright pink, so work carefully with the paper towels or slip on some plastic gloves.  Slice your ruby red jewels into quarters and they are ready to eat.

For the salad I put a handful of pea shoots in a small bowl, added the sliced beets, some crumbled feta cheese and toasted pecans.  For dressing, I sloshed on a quick vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, and walnut oil.  It was gorgeous.  (This picture does not do it justice because it was late in the evening. and there was no natural light.)

Beet & Pea Shoot Salad 2.2015

The salad was absolutely delicious; all the right notes of fresh, earthy, creamy, crunchy.  Whatever, with some crusty bread, it was a simple, satisfying meal.

About an hour later, my daughter complained of a tummy ache.  Then my husband felt a bit off.  Soon after, I joined them in feeling not terrible, but not good.  Nothing worsened, but we all agreed that all signs pointed to the pea shoots as the source of our ick. This episode kind of confirms my standard gut feel not to buy sprouted seeds.

So, on the compost pile they go. I kind of hate to toss them; they are still so pretty, but I like the idea of them quickly cooking away in the bottom of the compost pile.

Just so you know, the next time pretty, perfect pea shoots catch my eye at the market I am walking quickly by.

 

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Don’t Forget the Flowers

What brightens your spirits in the middle of winter?  My secret pick-me-up is a stop by the supermarket floral department (Trader Joe’s is my absolute favorite).  Flowers keep me happy when the sun is not shining and let’s be honest, a little bouquet of daisies or spray roses costs as much as a specialty coffee from corner shop and it lasts a whole lot longer.

My favorite treats are the mini potted individual bulbs of hyacinth, tulip, or daffodil.  You can find them everywhere this time of year.   I buy a few, pop them in my own white ceramic pots and “plant” them around the house for little bursts of happiness wherever I turn.  **sigh** Spirits lifted.

To be fair, we’ve escaped the bitter chill of winter in Atlanta so far, and it is sunny and nearly fifty degrees as I write this, but still.  There are a lot of gloomy gray days left in this season and I like to be prepared.

Back to the blooms … they don’t last forever but don’t be hasty and toss them in your trash. Now, I’m not suggesting you plant the bulbs in your yard.  It’s a time for snuggling on the sofa, not digging in the dirt.  Forced bulbs rarely bloom again, but they are a great treat for your compost pile.  They may send up a few leaves, but I can almost guarantee that unless you’ve got a hardy daffodil that simply has to bloom, you’ll only get a few leaves in your garden as a reminder of your bulb’s former glory.  Save yourself and feed your garden.  Compost.

Here’s a look at the pretty hyacinths that scented my kitchen for two weeks.

hyacinth bulbs

Are here is a glimpse of the leaves & spent pink blossoms from two bunches of stock (that’s really the sad name of a pretty, fragrant flower) that I have in my living room and foyer. Remember, to help cut flowers last as long as possible, change the water and trim the stems every few days.  I know that’s extra work, but it really helps extend bloom time.

You can also see butternut squash peels in the bucket. You can’t see the red onion skins, thyme stalks, dirty mushroom stems (ugh) and carrot peels but they are there.  I roasted all those veggies and mixed them with some brown rice, fresh arugula and a quick vinaigrette for a simple, filling but not heavy, school night dinner.

spent stock roasted veggie bowl

Here’s to sunny skies and fresh blooms in your neck of the world …

 
 

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Composting Love

It’s no surprise that I’m a big fan of Sunday supper, where everyone can come together to share the day, rehash the week and enjoy a delicious meal.  It’s something I try to serve up each week, regardless of who is sitting around the dining room table, but with kids in all directions and one out of the house, those times when our immediate family is all together are infrequent and all the more precious when they happen. This week, due to college schedules, we got to enjoy Saturday breakfast instead.

The day dawned rainy, which was just what my family needed.  Not just a balmy drizzle but a cool, pouring rain, satisfactorily hammering against the windows.  The kids were snug in their respective beds, my hubby was snoozing on the sofa with a dog, and I was enjoying one of those great moments, an unexpected gift of grace.  How lovely to have my all kids home, asleep on a rainy morning, with no immediate pressing schedule (time enough for that later) and me awake to enjoy it.  The only way to improve the morning would be a great breakfast to start the day.  After a bit of quiet time, I started frying bacon.

It had the intended effect.  My husband opened his eyes and we shared a “wow, life is pretty great” moment.  I popped some cinnamon rolls in the oven.  (I had this in the fridge; not homemade but not bad.)  Kids started coming downstairs and flopping on sofas.  I started scrambling eggs with shallots and spinach and arugula.  Orange juice and cups of tea, our definition of cozy, were consumed.  A little sweet cantaloupe.

We didn’t all sit at once and we didn’t all actually eat, but we shared the morning and our love of rainy days and a whole lot of unspoken love.  And then it was time to pack up my oldest and get him out the door for a two week trip.  The spell was effectively broken, but my middle boy loaned his brother his own nicely tailored blazer for the conference and THAT was a silent act of love.  His sister folded all his tee shirts.  I put a warm loaf of homemade bread in hands as he climbed into his car and we stood in the drizzle waving goodbye.  I don’t know what everyone was thinking, but I was thanking God for those little fleeting pockets of time.  And for the inspiration to start frying bacon.

Here’s the breakfast bucket…

Saturday Breakfast 7.19

What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • cantaloupe seeds (I normally don’t compost seeds but these local melons were so delicious I wouldn’t mind some volunteer plants in my spring garden)
  • cantaloupe rinds
  • lots and lots of eggshells, a dozen to be exact
  • shallot skins and stem ends (hiding under all those eggs)
  • a whole lot of love (hard to see but you know it’s there)

I wonder if all that love will compost … actually, I think it’s the ingredient that really makes our compost great.

 

 
 

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