"My Compost pile, situated in a hidden corner of the garden, constantly changes with the passing months. The rich efflorescence of rotting vegetable matter creates a daybook of both the memorable and mundane meals that grace my table."
--John Pfahl, American photographer
The great power of blogland, and the reason that I can't quit it, is its capacity to capture the beauty and poetry in the mundane--an instant electronic "daybook," as photographer John Pfahl calls his daily composting. Millions of people all over the world have digital cameras at their disposal, as well as access to the networked pixel-displaying device that we're staring at to share these images.
What emerges is literally a snapshot of fleeting beauty that can be shared almost instantly. The photographs I see on blogs and on Flickr have opened my eyes to the quotidian delights around me--the deepened colors of submerged lake stones, light and shadow on a summer floor, a mound of strawberries in a plastic basket.
What I'm finding beauty in lately is the simple act of composting our kitchen scraps. The first time I noticed the beauty in this ritual was in my son's preschool classroom. I usually hang out a little bit after dropoff to just observe. First thing in the mornings the children sit down at their communal table and cut fresh vegetables for snack. They chat sociably as they chop. All of the scraps that don't go into my son the Human Composter are tossed into a small bowl that is then taken outdoors and dumped in a compost "cage."
The ease of the routine and the beauty of returning nature's bounty to the place it began were great motivators for me. After we got home one day my son helped me set up the covered compost bin we had gotten from our local recycling center. Our under-counter bin in the kitchen works great so far, though we'll see whether the warmer temperatures will create a gooey, smelly mess with a swarm of fruit flies attending it. (I guess I'll learn to find beauty in that as well, but perhaps I'll have to go down to the microscopic level to see it.)
Just as I had gotten over my anxiety about composting, Smoothpebble published "Black Gold," her poetic com-post. Her photos epitomize beauty in the mundane and are reminiscent of Pfahl's "The Very Rich Hours of a Compost Pile" series from the early 1990s. Pfahl's inspiration for the compost series was the 15th-century illuminated Book of Hours, Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Illustrated by a number of artists over a span of decades, the masterpiece illuminates the beauty of daily life across the seasons.
A Foothill Home Companion's Flickr group, Remains of the Day, could be Pfahl's Flickr child. The group brings together daily compost vignettes. Like Pfahl's series, the photos serve as daybooks of how the bloggers care for their families and, in a small way, the planet in a manner that's simple and beautiful.
I have of course been noticing the clever, beautiful ways in which bloggers handle kitchen scraps.
Photo of repurposed vintage cooler by maya*made
There are any number of nice, shiny, new covered kitchen compost containers to buy, but of course it's far more appropriate to use a cleanable bowl or other repurposed bucket you have on hand. My favorite compost solutions for the kitchen are repurposed vintage containers. The coolest has to be this vintage cooler at maya*made's mom's barn. I love how it's being used in the exact opposite way of its original purpose, and yet it's a perfect re-use with its airtight lid and convenient handle. In her urban West Coast abode, Maya's mom uses an old lidded metal pot in her kitchen and a rusty fence (from the estate of an 83-year-old Master Gardener) to enclose her outdoor compost bin. I love how her choices encompass so much history and meaning.
Maya tells me that the outdoor caged compost "bin" (below) in use at the barn is super-easy to make. I hope she'll do a tutorial for all of us soon.
Photo of compost bin, repurposed cooler,
and wheelbarrow by maya*made
My knitting friend (and new blogger; yay!) Laura lives in an old farmhouse, and her kitchen compost pail fits the vintage aesthetic beautifully, though it's not vintage. Her family uses a small covered enameled stock pot from the Martha Stewart line at Kmart. Head on over to Laura's blog to say hello and check out her gardening and upcoming composting images. Of course, you'll also be drawn in by her lovely beaded knitting patterns. (I had a chance to learn some knitting basics from Laura this past Sunday, and she is a true spatial genius!) She'll be offering workshops at Squam later this spring, and if Maya isn't enough of a draw for you, access to Laura's gentle, hands-on knitting help should be.
Photo of thrift-store treasures by Resurrection Fern
Can you spot Resurrection Fern's thrifted kitchen-scrap collector in the photo above? The repurposed rooster cookie canister is one of Margie's many great thrift-store finds; she has an excellent eye for beauty in unexpected places--and an eye for a good deal.
I hope to hear what type of kitchen compost bucket you use and any tips you can provide for a novice composter.