"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau




Winter Composting – My Experience

By Rachael White-Simard

Since we moved out into the country 16 years ago, composting has been one of the things that I have tried to incorporate into my daily life . . . and into the life of my family. I love the idea of a closed waste cycle and I try hard to accomplish this. My buying habits have changed, the way my kitchen functions has changed and how tasks are delegated has also changed. I love the idea that I can contribute to the success of my vegetable garden through my compost bin or just decrease the amount of waste that goes to the local landfill. Like other transitional lifestyle changes, composting has been implemented in stages in our house and as the process continues to evolve we learn accommodate to the size and shape of our family.

Some of these stages have included always keeping a pail close by when preparing meals; emptying the pail each night; not leaving uncovered compost pails on the back step (the skunks love this one! My husband, not so much!); getting all members involved in the concept of composting whether it be turning the pile throughout the spring and summer months or just helping by taking turns throwing out a pail, no matter what the weather.

Our compost pile has been transformed three times since its inception. It started with an Earth Monster we purchased from Seine-Rat River Conversation in La Broquerie; it was then transformed into a single sided pallet structure (5x5 ft.) behind a flourishing crop of poison ivy (not a good idea) and most recently, it has doubled its size to accommodate fall cuttings and winter composting, a structure that is 5x10 ft. and secured in the ground. This new structure has also renewed my commitment to composting and to reducing the waste that leaves our house. Along the way, I have figured out that by storing my compost pail in the freezer during the summer months, I keep the fruit flies at bay, and the freezing speeds up the decomposition. Who knew! This discovery gave me the encouragement I needed to commit to winter composting thereby extending my composting to 365 days of the year. My family is overjoyed, to say the least – okay, maybe it’s just me!

As with many things in the transition lifestyle, I have found that winter composting is not as easy as it seems; but with a little problem solving and adaptation to my household, I have been able to realize my goal. Composting 365 days of the year came with some unforeseeable problems. There have been sizable snow banks the past two years that have limited our access to the pile. What to do? The snow banks were too high to walk through; a shovelled path seldom lasted more than a few days until the next big wind or snow fall; and -30 F temperatures often left me holding the bucket – somehow the kids were not enthused about dumping organic matter into a bin in the back yard. I was about to give up.

We discovered a simple solution to this problem when my daughter decided she wanted to create a fairy tale path through the wooded area adjacent to the compost pile – this was the solution. This path provided me enough coverage from the winds and snowfall – simple really. I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful as you try to align your personal practices with your goal of simplifying your lifestyle.   

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