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“Waste Not” or Citrus Guilt

Surely you’ve heard the platitude, “Waste not, want not.”  Composting all my kitchen scraps and repurposing them for another use surely qualifies as not wasting, right?  Turning all those bits of food into a super nutritious food for my veggies and plants is recycling in the best possible way, right?  So, why was I feeling a bit of guilt?  Citrus guilt to be exact.  See this pile:

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It’s just the remains of a typical smoothie making morning for the kids.  We love oranges and grapefruits, tangerines, and lemons and limes.  Plus, each day I drink this funky concoction of half a lemon, hot water, a teaspoon or so of apple cider vinegar, and a generous glug of honey.  It’s apparently good for digestion and I’ve gotten used to its weird, sweet, nose stinging scent in the morning.  (Don’t worry, I follow it with some good old tea.  See yesterday’s post.)

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Anyway, all that adds up to a lot of citrus surplus.  My clay soil is already acidic and here I was adding lots more.  Citrus peels, I was regularly reading, would be better put to use making my own citrus cleaner instead of being tossed without a care on a compost heap.

So I bought a functional carafe with a cork lid from Ikea, enough white distilled vinegar to last my entire life, and the grapefruit halves from breakfast.  I dutifully removed any juicy bits, stuffed the peels in the carafe, covered it in vinegar, and put it on the windowsill for two weeks.

Of course I checked it virtually every day for the first week and the smell was unbearable.  I like vinegar in my salad, not so much in my house cleaning efforts.  Still, undeterred, I continued to soak my citrus.  Somewhere into week two it lost the overpowering vinegar stench aroma and became if not pleasant, at least bearable.  It was almost a nice whiff of citrus.

I decanted it into a scrubbed Method spray cleaner bottle (I didn’t want suspicious kids or relatives wondering what weird concoction I was using now.  You see, I may have been known to put raw milk in the organic milk jug on occasion, but that is another story), I diluted it with water per directions, and poured the remaining concentrate into the giant mason jar for storage in the outside fridge.  I even put a handwritten canning label on that mason jar.

Call me content.  I wish I had a picture of my virtuous face.  Fist pumps and three cheers for the self-sufficient housekeeper!  I’ve earned my superhero DIY girl scout badge!  I’m halfway to homesteader!

And then I used it.  Hmmm… Did I say I LOVE Method products?  I got rid of harsh chemicals in kitchen, bath, and laundry a LONG time ago and keep bleach around only for truly necessary jobs (like cleaning compost buckets).  I had been happily using Method grapefruit counter spray for years and liked its fresh clean scent.  (Disclosure: they are NOT paying me for this glowing review.  I really do use, love, and recommend their products.)  Anyway, how could a mass-produced, store-bought chemical solution compare to MY. OWN. HOMEMADE. CLEANER?

Well, it did not compare.  Not in my scent snob book.  I guess it got things clean enough.  The counter felt a little filmy to me and the stainless was streaky (nothing new) but I was using MY. OWN. HOMEMADE. CLEANER. and that alone made it worth it.

A little vinegar smell?  Well, okay, that was there.  My son loudly let me know that the kitchen reeked.  My daughter scrunched up her delicate nose and told me she could smell it but it was not too bad.  And it wasn’t really.  I moved on to the bathroom and it shined the fixtures nicely.

But I realized every time I left the house and came home, the overwhelming smell when I reentered the house was … gross.  Not fresh.  Not clean.  I was wrinkling my own nose trying to figure out what I detected.  Dog?  No, more like the cover up of some rotting food. Maybe I had left some old oranges on the counter to mold.  Maybe it was the built up smell of old vinegar.  But, I thought, that smell is supposed to evaporate.  Dissipate.  Disappear.

Still confident in my superpowers I dutifully used up my grapefruit spray and even brewed another bottle of orange peels with thyme.  They were so pretty fermenting on the counter and I had that virtuous glow again.

But that smell.  It was dissipating all right and then collecting somewhere and LINGERING.  And smacking me in the face when I walked in the door.  Two nights ago, I poured the contents of that cleaner down the drain.  I recycled the Method cleaning bottle and retired my carafe.  I pulled out a fresh bottle of REAL Method and inhaled it’s lovely scent.  I wiped down every surface in my kitchen.

Here is what I tossed. (Notice the bit in the spray bottle looks clumpy.  I had added some castile soap after reading another post that I cannot find about how it really ups the cleaning power of the vinegar spray. Sorry, not for me. It’s just clumpy and note even pretty anymore.)

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Today I put my citrus peels directly in the compost bucket.  I will happily toss them on my compost pile later and know that come spring, when I lovingly top dress my acid-loving David Austin roses, they will soon be smelling sweetly.  And so will my house.  I’m using that cool carafe for sangria!

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Compost How To, Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Compost & Recycling: Hand In Hand

This blog chronicles my family’s commitment to compost, but it recently dawned on me that My Daily Compost tells only a portion of our eco efforts.  We’ve been voluntarily backyard composting for over a decade.  Why?  Putting perfectly good food down the disposal felt wrong and since my kids eat a pretty fruit & veggie heavy diet, I had lots of good looking peels, skins & rinds.  Compost was the obvious answer.  We bought a slick looking compost bin that instantly weathered and provided lots of rich soil for our newly built garden boxes and lovingly tended home-grown veggies (and roses).

Fast-forward five years and we moved into a home without gardens or a disposal.  Imagine!  It was a tricky time with a newly arrived preemie baby, so I guiltily tossed my scraps in the trash and looked the other way.   After nurturing our transplanted roses with store-bought compost and finally building gorgeous new vegetable beds, it was a no-brainer to quickly build a much simpler compost bin from the cast-off pallets from some home-improvement project.  Yay!  I felt virtuous again!  It was the perfect little home eco-cycle: grow food/eat food/compost waste/add composted waste back to garden/grow new food. Perfect.

Now we only grow a fraction of what we eat thanks to hot, humid, often unpredictable Atlanta weather.  Plus, we are committed to organic gardening, which can be a little more complicated.  What do we do with the packaging from all the rest of our food?  Recycle, of course.

So, we belong to that generation that saved up and sorted our glass, plastics, magazines  and newspapers and drove them to the recycling center periodically.  We’d happily sort and run around trying to find the appropriate bins to dispose of everything, feeling the virtuous green glow of earth friendly vibes.

Today recycling is even easier.  My trash company picks up nearly every plastic, cardboard, glass and paper product and it all goes in one bin.  No sorting!  (Although I sometimes wonder how and when it’s sorted and where it goes …)  And since we read our news and pay many bills online there is much less paper waste.  We’ve completely eliminated plastic water bottles and of course I use my own bags.  The few plastic bags we do accumulate are recycled at the local grocery store or put to use for trash.  The goal: to eliminate as much unnecessary waste as possible.

Here’s a peek at my recycling for the week:

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I couldn’t keep all those containers on my counter, so here’s the rest of my stuff, minus the few sports drink bottles my son & his friends drank & promptly put in the bin while mulching our backyard.  (Trees were being cut down in our neighborhood and I scored an ENTIRE DUMP TRUCK full of pretty rough mulch – FREE.  After three solid weekends of my husband hauling, it cost me $200 to have teenagers finally finish the job.)

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So, how about you?  Are you a recycler?  A composter?  A wanna be?  Start small.  Start simple – and like a popular sports company says, “just do it.”

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Compost How To

 

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Memorial Weekend Cookout

Time to celebrate the good old US of A with a classic weekend cookout.

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Things you can see (clockwise from top):

  • Charred corn husks
  • Watermelon rind
  • Rose petals

Things you can’t see:

  • More corn husks
  • Tomato tops
  • More rose petals & leaves
  • Chive tops & spent flowers

What I made with all of this:

  • Roasted Corn
  • Gouda Stuffed Grass-fed Burgers with Tomato
  • Chive & Buttered Fingerling Potatoes
  • Watermelon

You might have noticed that nearly every compost bucket has old rose petals.  Well, they come from the plentiful new bouquets that we pick fresh each day, just like these:

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They are my daily happiness!  The top giant pink flower is a “Sarah Bernhardt” peony, next to a deep purple german iris, the two nodding pink roses are “Abraham Darby”, a David Austin English rose, and the last pink side view rose is “Gertrude Jekyll”, another David Austin English rose.  Separately, these flowers have exquisite fragrance.  Together, it’s a heady perfume that scents the entire room.  Can you smell them?  Guess what the secret is to these beautiful blooms?  You guessed it: COMPOST.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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Scrumptious Spring Scraps

This bucket almost looks like my shopping basket at the farmers market … except, if you look closely, these goodies are decidedly wilted, dried out, and moldering.  Plus, I’m not in the habit of buying just eggshells.  You?

Things you can see (clockwise starting from top):

  • rose petals from my daily garden bouquets
  • thyme stems
  • garlic skins
  • eggshells
  • kale stems
  • half a lemon
  • stem & core of a red pepper
  • blueberries that look fine here but were sitting in a closed lunchbox for two days – disgusting trust me!Image

What you can’t see:

  • lots more rose petals & leaves
  • 2 onion skins
  • too dirty to get clean mushroom stems
  • 2 banana peels
  • battered outer leaves of romaine lettuce
  • several more juiced lemons

What I made with all of this:

  • Banana Smoothie (noticing a pattern here?)
  • Lemonade (because it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!)
  • Romaine Salad with Peppers, Black Olives, Feta & Creamy Herb Dressing
  • Kale, Mushrooms & Black Eyed Peas with Onion & Garlic (super yummy btw)
  • Scrambled Cheesy Eggs

Notice how the colors scream S-P-R-I-N-G?  Fresh greens, beautiful new roses, spring chicken eggs … ahhh, colorful compost bliss.  What’s in your bucket today?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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