Kitchens (I Swear it’s the Last One): Waste

Here’s an issue never tackled in fancy kitchen books, beyond the boring recycle sorter.

I have so many categories of waste in my kitchen, it’s hard to keep up. And you should too!

First, and most obvious, the trash. The things we throw away. I love the term throw away. Ever stop to appreciate how poignant it is? Yup, let’s just toss all this shit…. somewhere…. I don’t care where, just– somewhere not here! When people get up in arms about dumps being opened near them I have zero sympathy. I think if we all had to keep our own trash in our own backyard the world would be a far better place.

That said, I do most certainly utilize the city’s sanitation services (actually, did you realize you have no choice? If you live within city limits you are required to pay for trash pickup). And to collect our trash in the kitchen I use this nifty petroleum product.

When we moved here, I’m not sure I’d ever bought a trash can before. Always just made do with whatever receptacle I could scrounge. But, I’m rather fond of this one I purchased. I think it’s a perfect size (15? gal), and it’s got one of those foot pedal closing tops. Especially nice in a place with so many buggies.

Now, short a fancy-pants recycle sorter, I use paper grocery bags. Simple, straight forward. Nothing interesting there.

But let’s move on to our composts. Here’s where things get complicated. Even my compost gets sorted! I have a (wormless) worm box (I will get the worms someday, but so far it’s just a surprisingly low odor compost box). Onion skins go under the sink currently, I’m saving them for a dying project. Citrus rinds go in the trash unfortunately, because wormies apparently don’t dig ’em. Coffee grounds go into a quart sized plastic container by the sink because– 1. then they don’t fill up my other compost bucket too fast 2. they don’t need dumping as often ‘cuz they don’t really get funky and 3. by the sink is where I’m standing when I want to dump coffee grounds. All other veggie items go in this old-school canister which sits right by my cutting board, the flour bag is for eggshells.

Eggshells need to be ground up, or at the very least broken up. The shell towers I love to make, one stacked right inside the other, do not compost well, worms or otherwise. Even broken up, they don’t really compost, but at least they look okay in your garden soil (old dirty shell towers look like hell), and all that calcium will eventually disintegrate and be awesome for your dirt. They’re much easier to break up once dry, so I collect ’em in a little box (like for cornmeal or what have you), or recently I started using this flour bag, ‘cuz that’s what I happened to have. Works great actually. When the bag (or box) fills up, just close the top, and squish thoroughly. The shells will pack down then and you can repeat the fill and squish process until the bag is full full. Then store till spring in a dry place (if they get wet, the egg will rehydrate and could go grody). Dump all your stored shells into a bucket or something and crush to your personal specifics. I don’t mind looking at up to dime sized pieces of shell. So I don’t worry much about it. If you’re lucky enough to have chickens, and want to save on the oyster shell for their calcium needs, just crush the hell out of those egg shells and feed ’em back to your ladies. I know it sounds kind of sinister, but some human type creatures have their placentas saved, dehydrated, ground up, and put into gel caps which they then consume for the nutritional benefit…. so– to each her own.

Then, those egg cartons. We eat a lot of eggs. Oh how I miss my chickens. Yes, the egg cartons are supposedly a superior bedding for worms, so I’ve been saving ’em up, and as you can see, they are beginning to rise from their grave for a second coming. I’ve got to sit down one day and rip ’em up. Oh the many things I need to do. A woman’s work, so they say, is never fucking finished.

I’d be happy to rip up egg cartons if someone would come and wash all the poopy diapers, pick up the toys I keep tripping on, and mop up the many and varied bodily fluid spills all over my floors.

On another note, here’s a few habits I’ve recently started up that I’m proud to show off.

When you have bitty kiddos, there is a lot more food waste. The Toddler just can’t tell me how hungry she is when I dish her up. At home in Cordova, I happily fed all those scrappies to my chooks. They, in turn, layed me beautiful eggs every day. Nice deal, for me anyhow. Here, every time I throw good food into the compost it kills. Ow. Ow. Stop hurting me. (Did I mention missing my little chickie-poos?) So, I’ve started saving some of the more edible scraps.

Bread scraps I stack up on top of the toaster oven till nice and dry, then stick in my bread cubes/crumbs bag (I’m working on a stuffing recipe with homemade whole wheat. It takes a lot more liquid.)

Granola and milk leftovers I pour into a jar in the freezer. When the jar’s full I use it in bread. It’s good, would be great for a raisin cinnamon loaf. Just occured to me the other day, I could use it for muffins too…

Meat and potato types I’ve put a couple of times into another freezer jar, but honestly haven’t used yet. These items usually just get recycled straight into the next night’s dinner anyway.

Lastly, what about all the potential RePurposes? They have to go somewhere while they’re awaiting divine brilliance. I have two of my lower cabinets half taken over by a catastrophe of various containers. I don’t like it. What to do with these ‘between jobbers?’ They don’t really need to be using up my valuable kitchen space. Here’s where a garage is handy. One could have a devoted shelf area in the garage for containers awaiting repurposing. Then one could actually go out and see what one had available. Instead of constantly battling a dark and pandemonious pile of plastics and tin cans every time you went to put the leftovers away…

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Well, friends. That about wraps up the Reality Kitchen series. I do want to do a Fantasy Kitchen post someday, but, wow, imagine how long that could go on??? Better take a break before I lose any readers.

Vermicomposting, Here I Come

Yup, it’s been on my list since we got here. I’ve got a rubbermaid tote waiting to be drilled, two giant trash bags full of shredded paper I found by a dumpster at the university, and a friend waiting to give me the worms. Why is it taking me so long, you ask? I dunno. No good reason.

Today I woke up thinking worms. Just did a little internet research and found a great web site by a total worm fanatic. One of those weird and brilliant people who’s always testing boundaries and challenging the frontier. How about making a worm bin out of some old Levi’s?

This will be my second worm bin, the first was a total failure. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be so easy, and no,  I don’t know what went wrong. After not very long it bred something entirely different, and since I didn’t know what the hell, and those tiny white wormy things were composting my stuff (sorta), I let it go on for some time before accepting that I had killed my worms.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it before, vermicomposting (vermi means worm) is a great compost pile alternative for city folks. A worm bin is much smaller, works much faster, and shouldn’t produce hardly any smell. So you can supposedly have it in your house, right under your sink even. In fact the worms need to be kept from freezing, so unless you live somewhere with mild winters (like New Orleans) you’ll need to keep them inside. The upside of that is that they keep composting straight through the winter.

Worms need a moist but never wet environment and a continual supply of food. An ideal worm bin is made from wood, which can breath, but plenty are made out of plastic, and I’ll be making mine from a rubbermaid tote. You just have to drill holes for air flow and drainage. Then you need bedding (any moisture absorbing, easily digestible carbon material like shredded paper or cardboard) and a few handfulls of dirt. The web site link above has some decent instructions for getting started, but like many mad scientist types, he doesn’t do a very thorough job of explaining things for beginners. The classic book on the subject is Worms Eat My Garbage, which is thorough for sure, but you don’t really need to read a whole book on the subject to start a bin! (But then, look at me, I read the book and still killed my worms…) If I find a good in between beginner source I’ll be sure to post it.

And watch for my next Building a Worm Bin post, which I intend to document!