Urban Composting

We do heavy-duty composting here on the farm, what with all the manure and animal bedding we have. Or, to be more precise, we will be doing heavy-duty composting this spring — once we shovel the whole winter’s worth of bedding out of the barn, and I build the composting bin that Mrs Yeoman Farmer has had on my “To Do” list.

But for those of you who are thinking about farming someday, and are trying to start small by acquiring skills right where you are now, composting is an important technique you can begin learning today. The New York Times has details about this new trend:

Composting in New York City is not for the faint of heart. It requires commitment, space and sharing tight quarters with rotting matter and two-inch-long wiggler worms that look like pulsing vermicelli.

But an increasing number of New Yorkers have been taking up the challenge, turning their fruit skins and eggshells into nutritious crumbly soil in an effort they regard as the natural next step to recycling paper, bottles and cans. Food accounts for about 13 percent of the nation’s trash — it is the third largest component after paper and yard trimmings — and about 16 percent of New York’s.

. . .

Happy worms eat about half their body weight in a day, and the compost is ready for harvesting in about four and half months, Ms. Pulverman said.

. . .

Experienced composters said that saving food scraps soon becomes part of a daily routine, and that the payoff is worth the extra work.

“To be actually able to reuse your food is amazing,” said Ben Stein, 30, a computer programmer who, along with his wife, Arin Kramer, 29, a nurse practitioner, composted for six years in their apartment on the Lower East Side before they moved to a brownstone in Brooklyn last year.

In Manhattan, they kept the bin under the bed, which Mr. Stein said led friends to think, “it’s disgusting, and you’re absolutely crazy.” In Boerum Hill, they can compost in their backyard (where microbial activity and decomposition slow down or stop in the winter, but pick up in the spring).

As for us, almost all of our table scraps and vegetable waste are already recycled — into eggs, via being fed to chickens and ducks. But for those of you lacking poultry…don’t be afraid to try feeding the worms!