My cousin is an organic vegetable farmer in Ontario, Canada. We have an on-going 20-year conversation that has made its way through e-mails, AOL Instant Messenger, and now iPhones. Many of our messages are just nonsense, but we will talk about anything and everything. Sometimes we get into some meaningful chats. Around the one year anniversary of my dad's passing he sent me a text saying he was thinking of me. Then he went on to talk about carrots. He can be quite poetic. Carrots were an important part of my dad’s life the last three months. Three-times daily carrot juicing became a rhythm of my parents' days. His words also reflect the way Dad did things, methodically and deliberately, with experience. He was quiet, but rhythmic in his consistency in my life.
Carrots are a big part of the growing we do. We are known for them. They pay our salaries. We take great pride in them. We put a significant effort into growing perfect carrots. We seed them a couple times in the spring and then one big seeding in late July. It's the last chance to plant carrots to get a Fall harvest and it's a tricky time of year to do it because it is so hot. In the best weather carrots are finicky. Fall carrots are the best carrots.
I have wanted to compost for a long time and even had some meager attempts at doing it years ago when I lived with my parents. But, without having my own place for so long I never really owned it like I should have to make it successful. Plus, I got caught up in the seeming complication of it. Like I often do, I felt like I couldn't do it perfectly so I was paralyzed to do anything at all.
Now I'm in a house and working toward some homesteading practices I have been dreaming about to keep our family healthy, sustainable and frugal. I found the Living Homegrown Podcast to start learning a little before jumping in. The episode on Composting 101 pushed me—succeed or fail—to just start. So while I'm no expert, here's what I've been doing.
TURN IT // Give It Some Air
I have a good size backyard, so I decided to stop worrying about what container to put my compost in and just start a pile by my back fence. Every week or so I go turn my pile over to loosen it up to make sure it has air. I wasn't sure if my pile was starting to smell a little funny when I approached (which means things are out of wack), but was encouraged by the deep earthly smell I caught wind of when I flipped the bottom of my pile over.
BROWN LAYER IT // Give It Some Carbon
While I used to worry that I needed to source some herbiside-free hay, I realized I had tons of brown (carbon) stuff all around the house. I was able to collect plenty of dead leaves, twigs, shedding Crape Myrtle bark, (even corrugated cardboard!) etc. from around my property.
GREEN LAYER IT // Give It Some Nitrogen
Throughout the week I keep my food scraps in a container in the fridge. Soon enough I will invest in a countertop odor-free bin, but for now this system seems to work. I dump them, along with grass clippings and other green stuffs on top of the brown layer. Apparently the ratio of brown to green should be about 7:1. Odor is a giveaway that this ratio may not be quite right, so I'm keeping that in mind. But honestly, I'm not worrying too much about that right now.
DIRT LAYER IT
I finish by piling dirt on top, usually just covering up the food scraps.
Depending on how dry the pile looks or what the rain-prediction is for the week I will soak the compost with water.
What about all you real food growers out there? Any compost tips I need as I figure this thing out?
Six years ago on a St. Thomas resort in the Virgin Islands, my husband and I were kicking back on our honeymoon. We met this Virginia couple also staying at the resort. We saw them often during our stay but I mostly remember taking a very choppy jet ski ride on the Atlantic Ocean with them (behind a "tour guide" who left us all far behind in his wake). So we chatted the few times we bumped into each other. We seemed to hit it off. We went home and found them on Facebook and became "official" friends. Besides the occasional basketball smacktalk, we really didn't communicate for years.
We couldn't have known that six years and three + a half kids later, they would invite us into their home and it would be time spent in great conversation, in a home exemplifying love + hospitality, plus the bonus of constant mischievous laughing between the kiddos.
So, it isn't only that they live in this house that I find incredibly beautiful outwardly–lovingly put together with their own hands, reclaiming and salvaging the perfect pieces over time–but it's that they are beautiful people who have made it into an authentic home. They love people with reckless abandon and take risks, like on us, not only inviting us into their home but exemplying love, hospitality, and generosity far beyond our wildest imagination.
Thank you, Trey + Rachelle. I look forward to our next visit.
We built our home to have others in it with us. That was the whole point.
Well... we heard Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, NC was THE place to go pick apples and eat Apple Cider Donuts. So, off we went for our annual apple picking excursion. Although nothing beats being in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, we did miss the larger-than-life deliciousness of Patterson Fruit Farm Apple Fritters back in Ohio. Sorry, Sky Top Donuts, good as you may be, you got nothing on them.
Hi. I'm Suzanna.
I like running outside, eating real food and crafting beautiful images. I am captivated by documenting everyday life–revealing what authentic, adventurous and lovers of life we all are.