Our Garden in Spring

This year we’ve left our cool season garden in longer than we really needed. We wanted to watch everything go to seed; to see our garden’s entire life cycle. I’m glad we did. I’m amazed how beautiful our vegetable plants are at this time of the year. I’m sad just thinking that this is our last spring here. I’m going to miss our garden.



Garlic – Beets behind




Vision and Action; Transition

“Vision without action is merely a dream.

Action without vision just passes the time.

Vision with action can change the world.”

The Transition Movement combines a wonderful vision with meaningful action. Watch In Transition 1.0 for some inspiration:

Links – Week 8, 2010

Photo by: Christolakis


This week I want to feature the blogs of some fantastic urban homesteads. It’s inspiring to see what amazing things can be done on a smallish city or suburban block.

Little Homestead in the City

Eco-pioneers living a homegrown revolution on a sustainable, real-life original urban homestead in Pasadena, California.

Happy Earth

At Happy Earth, we’re on an adventure in urban sustainability, exploring how we can retrofit a typical house and lawn into a healthy, efficient home with an abundant food garden. For us being sustainable is really about living happier, healthier lives and feeling good about doing things that are good for us, the planet and our community. It’s about wholesome food and lower bills, meaning more time for family and friends, and less time working. Happy Earth is also about sharing stories and providing practical, independent information about sustainable living in Wollongong, Australia.

Down to Earth

I write about my ordinary day to day life of working in the home, vegetable and fruit gardening, slowing down and being mindful, cooking simple food, keeping chickens and worms, composting, green cleaning, stockpiling and preserving. I hope what I write about encourages and supports you towards your own changes.


There’s nothing quite like The Onion to add  some humour to the big issues:

U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

“You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this—this so-called ‘money’—really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

According to witnesses, Finance Committee members sat in thunderstruck silence for several moments until Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) finally shouted out, “Oh my God, he’s right. It’s all a mirage. All of it—the money, our whole economy—it’s all a lie!”

Ok….back to real news:

The Sovereign Debt Disaster

Wherever we look at the world economy today, we see a wall of risk…and potential financial catastrophe. We see a large number of virtually bankrupt major sovereign states (US, UK, Spain, Italy, Greece, Japan and many more) teetering atop a financial system that is bankrupt, but is temporarily kept alive with phony valuations and unlimited money printing.


The peak oil crisis: Some perils of 2010

Last week we discussed a new report outlining the outlook for global oil production and noted that the conventional wisdom in the peak oil community now says that global oil production will start its inexorable fall circa 2014. After that supplies will inevitably get shorter and oil prices higher unless the global economy has collapsed so far that the amount of oil that can be produced is no longer relevant.

This does not, however, mean that we will have smooth sailing with respect to oil prices during the next few years, as there are many geopolitical and economic events that could occur as early as this year. Most of these potential developments are likely to drive oil prices higher, but one or two could drive prices lower.

Peak Oil: Looking for the Wrong Symptoms?

If I were to ask 10 random people what they would expect would be a sign of the arrival of “peak oil”, I would expect that all 10 would say “high oil prices”. Let me tell you what I think the symptoms of the arrival of peak oil are

1. Higher default rates on loans
2. Recession

Furthermore, I expect that as the supply of oil declines over time, these symptoms will get worse and worse—even though people may call the cause of the decline in oil use “Peak Demand” rather than “Peak Supply”.

Preparing for 2014-15 “Oil Crunch” Forecast by UK Industry Group

What can cities, businesses and individuals do to prepare for such energy price volatility, buy hybrids? Actually, the report asserts, “there is real danger that the focus on technological advances in cars is making consumers and government complacent.” More urgent steps need to be taken by policymakers in particular to avert this impending crisis. 

What the Olympics Can Teach Us About the Price of Gas

This is the first Olympic Winter Games conducted on snow that was brought to the slopes by diesel trucks and helicopters — because not enough fell in British Columbia in the year of “Snowmageddon.” It’s also the first Winter Olympics that has featured athletes protesting the energy policies of the host nation — i.e. Canada’s increasing emphasis on the incredibly polluting process of producing crude oil from tar sands.


Avatar: The Prequel

The movie I have in mind (set in a world that Avatar hints at) would lack the blue-skinned Na’vi people, but it would still feature Jake Scully, this time in his real body, on the most intriguing planet of all: Earth. And given a global audience that can’t get enough of Cameron’s work, how many wouldn’t pay big bucks for a chance to take a Pandora-style, sensory-expanding guided tour of our own planet? It would be part of a harrowing tale of environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and perennial conflict in the twilight years of humanity’s decline. Think of it as Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand.

Green Roofs Are So Last Year; Rooftop Farms Are The Growing Thing

Green roofs are wonderful things, keeping buildings cool and reducing heat island effects. But you usually can’t eat them. Now, rooftops around the world are being put to productive use as sources of food.

How to make Compost

Last night I was talking to Mum on Skype about composting. She was frustrated that none of her food scraps were breaking down in the bin she was using. I started to explain that there is more to composting than just throwing all your scraps in a pile and waiting for them to magically turn to compost. I told her I’d send a link to my post on composting and then I realised I never actually wrote that post! So here it is. How to compost….for my Mum.

Composting involves mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. The decomposition process is fueled by millions of microscopic organisms (bacteria, fungi) that take up residence inside your compost pile, continuously devouring and recycling it to produce a rich organic fertiliser. Once you know a few simple principles it’s pretty easy. Nature does her job beautifully.

The Compost Bin (The Oven)

First things first. You need a proper compost bin. Most people say you need a pile no smaller than 3′ x 3′ x 3′ (1 cubic metre), but I’ve found a large, well aerated rubbish bin does the trick.  In a previous post I explained how Brendan and I made our own Compost Bins for free.

Decide on the location of your compost bin based on function and aesthetics. Your neighbours probably don’t want to see it, but you want to keep it away from buildings as the decomposition may cause wood to rot.  From a functional standpoint, you’ll need a place with good air circulation. Partial shade is a good idea so the compost doesn’t get overheated. Also make sure the spot of land where you place your heap gets good drainage.

We decided to place ours in the corner of our small courtyard. It has easy access to the garden and a water source and is easy to get to from the kitchen, but it is out of the way and utilises a space that wouldn’t have been useful for much else.  This photo was taken last summer when we had about 4 hours of full sun per day on that side of the garden. In winter it’s in full shade.

How to build Compost (The Recipe)

I like to think of compost making as a recipe of sorts. There is some science to it, but it’s also an artform. Just remember that you need each of these ‘ingredients’ for your compost to work properly and then you can adjust the recipe to suit your conditions.

Organic Materials

The most obvious ingredient for compost is organic waste. This can come from your garden, your kitchen and from a variety of other sources around the home. In addition to our own organic matter, I collect food waste and coffee grounds from work so I can build my compost pile very quickly. Ingredients that can make good compost include:

Browns = High Carbon

  • Ashes, wood
  • Bark
  • Cardboard, shredded
  • Dried Leaves
  • Newspaper, shredded
  • Peanut shells
  • Peat moss
  • Dried Pine needles
  • Sawdust
  • Stems and twigs, shredded
  • Straw

Green = High Nitrogen

  • Clover
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Food waste
  • Garden waste
  • Green Grass clippings
  • Hops, used
  • Manures (No dog or cat waste)
  • Seaweed
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Weeds (I don’t compost weeds that have gone to seed)

I include roughly a 50:50 mixture of brown ingredients and greens, I tend to layer them and always finish on a brown layer as it stops pests getting into the pile.

To speed up the process of composting, chop or shred larger items so they break down more easily; turn the pile regularly; add big meals to the pile rather than small, regular ‘snacks’; full sun will heat up the pile and speed up the process, but be careful it doesn’t get too hot and catch on fire.


The microbes in the compost pile require water for survival. Too much water means your organic waste won’t decompose and you’ll get a slimy and smelly pile but too little water and you’ll kill the bacteria. The more green material you put in, the less water you’ll need to add. In general your compost should be moist, but not sopping wet – think the consistency of a wet sponge that has been rung out.


Oxygen is also required by many of the microorganisms responsible for successful composting. Give them adequate ventilation and they will take care of the rest. You can make sure that the bacteria in your compost gets sufficient air by turning the pile often using a pitch fork or spade. We can usually leave ours for a few months without turning and it still breaks down nicely, but if the pile gets too wet we spend more time airing it out.


As they eat, the organisms responsible for composting generate large amounts of heat, which raise the temperature of the pile and speeds up decomposition. A compost pile that is working well will produce temperatures of 60-70 degrees C (140-160 degrees F). At these temperatures almost all weed seeds and plant diseases are killed. A “very hot” compost pile will generate temperatures of up to 80 degrees C (170 degrees F) for up to a week or more. You can use a compost thermometer to measure the exact temperature, but we don’t get that technical.

How do you know when it’s cooked?

As organic material in a compost pile heats up it breaks down and takes up less space. A compost pile can shrink up to 70% as it “cooks.”

Compost is finished when it’s a dark, rich color, crumbles easily, and you can’t pick out any of the original ingredients. It should have a sweet, earthy smell. If it’s too stringy or lumpy, it may need more time. We usually sift ours through nursery flats and put any big pieces back in another pile, leaving us with lovely, dark compost. It can take anywhere from three to 12 months to produce compost depending on temperatures, what organic matter you’ve used, how fine the waste material was chopped, how often you’ve turned it etc.

How to enjoy it

We add compost to our soil twice per year, before planting begins each season. We simply spread the compost in a thick layer on top of existing soil, cover with straw and then water it down. Within days earthworms have worked the compost into the soil and the improvement in soil quality can be seen almost immediately.

Here’s what ours looks like before we ‘sift’ it and put it in the garden.

Finding our Place – Adapting in the City or Country?

Sharon Astyk wrote a very interesting post a couple of weeks ago about Reconsidering Cities. It got me to thinking about whether the right decision for us is a few acres outside a small country town or a large house block in a medium-sized city. We go back and forth on this question very regularly, so today I’d like to spend some time determining the pro’s and con’s of each option.

I apologise in advance if this is not at all interesting to anyone but me, but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. If you do happen to have some thoughts that I’ve missed, I’d appreciate if you could leave me a comment.

This thought process is part of our five-year plan. For the next five years we intend to keep working, saving money and maybe starting a family. We also intend to keep working on our self-sufficiency plans and making our vision become a reality. OK…onto the two options I can’t seem to decide upon.

1. Adapting in the City

There is really only one city I’d be interested in living in permanently when I return to Australia. Here are a few statistics to put it in perspective.

  • Population ~320,000
  • 31% of the population are aged between 20-39. Only 14% of the population are aged over 60.
  • Over 40% of the population are working in government administration and defence.
  • 68% travel to work in a car, 6% walk or cycle and 5% catch the bus.
  • Median Household income is $1400 per week.

It’s very much a government town, with much of the population well educated and well paid.

My vision for adapting in the city

We’ll be living in a small house (2-3 bedrooms) which is likely to be a post-war brick or weatherboard ex-government house. We’ll be on a block that’s about 500-600m² (5300-6500ft²) which is in the inner city area (within 7km drive of the city centre). We’ll be within walking distance of local shops, restaurants and cafes and can cycle to most places within the inner core of the city because it’s extremely bike friendly. We’ll have made our property as sustainable as possible given the climatic conditions:

  • By Australian standards, summers are hot and winters are cold (snow is rare although frosts occur 25% of the year). Good insulation is a must, as is an efficient heating source to stop us freezing in the winter.
  • We’ll add solar hot water and solar electricity panels to the roof. It’s a very sunny city, with mean daily sunshine of 7.6 hours/day and completely clear days 27% of the year.
  • The average annual rainfall is 629 mm (25 in) with an average of 108 rain days per year. Rainfall is reasonably evenly distributed throughout the year.  Unfortunately in El Nino years the region is prone to drought and bushfires. We’ll add rainwater tanks and a grey water system to the property to maximise the usage of all available water, but the lack of rainfall is a still a concern to me.

Most people require a car to live here, but the design of the city is such that small ‘townships’ have been developed to cater to residents. Each neighbourhood has at least a local store  and it wouldn’t be too difficult to ‘relocalise’ much of the population. Farmers markets and food co-ops are already up and running and bus transportation is available.

Because it’s a reasonable sized city, I imagine we’ll find plenty of like minded friends in the community and will find many opportunities to get involved with sustainable solutions to the issues of peak oil and environmental degradation. There is a fabulous weekly market where local people can sell their home-made products and home-produced food. There is plenty of culture with fantastic museums, art galleries and theatres. There are a lot of parks and recreational areas throughout the city, making it easy to get out into nature regularly. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails all over the place, making it ideal for us.

Both Brendan and I will be working part-time jobs. I imagine I’ll be working in some type of government agency which deals with the environment or energy. Between us, we will probably be running a couple of home based businesses. With a population of young government workers, the disposable income in this city is likely to remain higher than what could be expected in other parts of the country. This would make this city a good place to operate small service-based businesses with low overheads.

Because of the high cost of living in this city, we’ll have to maintain an income within the real economy to pay for the mortgage, food, transport and services. We will not have a tremendous amount of free time available to become self-reliant, so we’ll be relying more on a large community over an extended area for food and services.

Pros of adapting in the city

  • Access to culture (museums, art galleries, theatres, cafes and restaurants)
  • Potentially a larger group of like minded people.
  • More options for employment. Jobs typically high paying. Better ability to run home-based businesses for income.
  • Lovely natural environment with great hiking and biking trails.
  • More opportunity to influence leaders and people to prepare for a future with less.

Cons of adapting in the city

  • Prone to drought and bushfires.
  • Vast distances to family.
  • Car dependent culture unless able to afford inner-city living.
  • Must keep working to afford the cost of living. (Rent alone would be a minimum of $500 per week for an old house)
  • Expensive housing. Median house prices in a low-priced inner-city suburb are more than 8 times the median income. Prices rose 230% last decade.

2. Adapting in the country

The town we are considering is Brendan’s childhood hometown which is located on a plateau at the top of a mountain range.

  • Population is 2643 including the outlying areas.
  • 25% of residents are over 60. Only 15 % are aged between 20-39. It is a town full of older residents as young people tend to head to the city after school.
  • 28% of the population work in agriculture, forestry & fishing.
  • 48% travel to work in a car, 19% work at home and 10% walk.
  • The median weekly household incomes is about $400-499 (compared with the state median of $800-899 per week).
  • The unemployment rate is double the state average.

My vision for adapting in the country

We’ll be living in a small home (2-3 bedrooms) which is likely to be an old weatherboard house. We’ll either be on a large block (1/4 – 3/4 acre) within walking distance of town or we’ll be on a few acres less than 10 km out of town.  If we are in town we’ll be within walking distance of local shops, schools and a couple of restaurants and cafes. We’ll have made our property as sustainable as possible given the climatic conditions:

  • Summers are mild and winters are cool and windy. The town doesn’t receive snow and frosts occur less than 10 days per year. Insulation will be important and a good wood fire will keep us warm on those cold, wet nights.  
  • The average annual rainfall is 1979 mm (78 in), making it the wettest town in the state. In a dry country, this much rain is a rarity. If we live out of town, we will not have to rely on town water at all.
  • Despite all the rain, there is still quite a bit of sun (31% of days throughout the year are clear and sunny). We’ll add solar hot water to the roof and may look to use a combination of solar and wind energy for electricity.

The local community is quite well set up and all the essentials are available for purchase in town. Some of the businesses are resupplied by traveling salesmen, which seems a quaint reference to a bygone era.  If it’s not available in town, we’d have to drive one hour to the coast or one hour inland to a small city. A local bus goes to the coast once per week for the day. The region is extremely fertile and plenty of food is being grown locally, although I’m not sure that a local food movement is up and running formally yet.

It’s a small town and much of the population is elderly. While this may be good for learning skills from our elders, I’m a bit concerned about the viability of a town with such a small proportion of young adults. This situation may change as more people become aware of the need to adapt to a changing world.  On the plus-side, the town at the bottom of the mountain has a thriving cafe and arts scene with many local people already living ‘alternate’ lifestyles. The shire is already part of the transition town movement and I can imagine that we could get involved and bring much of that activity up the mountain.

As you can imagine with all that rain and sunshine, the town is surrounded by green, rolling hills and national parks. The town itself has retained much of its original character and hasn’t suffered too badly from modern times. In fact the local bakery still uses a wood-fired oven and the Gazette is the last Australian newspaper printed by the letterpress method. Apparently it’s the last independent newspaper in Australia.

The town is currently very reliant on vehicles to bring everything in from the coast or via the inland route. Occasionally the mountain will be cut off for a week due to flooding of the waterfalls. The train line closed in 1972, but I imagine it could get back up and running under the right set of circumstances. There is still an active group of residents who are doing some fantastic work to preserve railway vehicles and the equipment of a bygone era.

Because there aren’t many options for employment in town, I imagine Brendan and I will both end up working at a variety of things such as in local businesses, working at home and volunteering in a variety of ways.

We should be able to afford to purchase our home outright and with a small income from investments, we could be financially independent to the point that we can choose the type of work we partake in. We’ll have time to grow some of our own food. We can also get involved in self-sufficiency on a community level.

Pros of adapting in the country

  • Plentiful water and food
  • Close to family
  • More affordable housing
  • More time due to financial independence
  • Beautiful location with access to National Parks, rivers and countryside
  • More opportunity to interact with the local community and make a difference on a more personal level

Cons of adapting in the country

  • Cultural activities different to what I’m used to (local theatre and blues festivals, rather than cafes and museums)
  • Elderly population. Potentially more difficult to make friends our age.
  • Employment opportunities limited.
  • Potentially cut-off from the outside world if car usage has to decline.

I just can’t decide which option is for us

I need some new perspectives. Have you chosen one over the other and regretted it or do you love how you live? What do you see the future becoming, and what would you choose if you were in our position?

Thanks for any comments you wish to provide.

Birds in our Ecosystem

Well….after yesterday’s little downer I’m going to share some happy news. Our courtyard garden is becoming a real little ecosystem. Over the last six months the number of insect visitors has really increased. While we don’t see many honeybees, we get plenty of native pollinators and quite an assortment of butterflies. The birds soon realised that our garden had become a good place for an easy feast.

House Sparrows come in every day in a flock and pick over all the vegetable plants. I love nothing more that to see them pull off juicy green caterpillars because it means one more I don’t have to remove. Just recently a fledgling joined the flock on a tour of the garden. It’s so cute and fat and I could watch for hours as  it’s parents feed it tasty morsels.


Photo by: Sheedypj

Another regular is the little Black Phoebe. It likes to perch on the cherry tomato plant and catch the fruit flies hovering near the compost bins. I love that he wags his tail while waiting for his next catch.

 Black Phoebe - Santee Lakes - 09-29-2007 - 001

Photo by: herpindiego

The biggest surprise came the other day when a Peregrine Falcon arrived. The smaller birds scattered in time, but I was very excited to find a higher order predator in the yard. You know your little eco-system has come of age when that happens.  The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal on the planet, capable of diving to speeds in excess of 200mph (320kph)! Their prey ranges from sparrows to ducks, which may be why it’s sometimes referred to as the “Duck Hawk”.

Because of the use of pesticides, especially DDT, the California Peregrine Falcon population was reduced to just two known productive pairs by 1970. After the banning of DDT, the species recovered enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List in 1999 and numbers are now on the increase.


Photo by: Bird Friends of San Diego County

Having grown up in Australia, I loved kookaburras, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and magpies. I hadn’t really got attached to any American birds, but now having regular visitors to the garden has really made me want to learn more about the creatures I’m sharing my space with.

Independence Days – My husband has left me…

….and gone to Australia for the month. Sorry…didn’t mean to scare you all! I’ll be joining him late next week and I can’t wait. For the next couple of weeks I’m going to do my best to preserve as much food as I can and eat up all the rest. I dare say there will be quite a bit of experimenting in the kitchen for the next 10 days. Here’s my weekly update for Independence Days:

Plant Something: We have a couple of spares patches of dirt in the garden where lettuce, beets and squash used to be. I had planned to leave any new planting until I got back from Australia in October, but if I do that it means nothing to harvest until about December. That’s too long to wait, so over the weekend I started some onions and beets. I hope they survive with little care while I’m away.

Harvest Something: I continue to collect about 5 pounds of tomatoes every couple of days. Cayenne Peppers are slowing down, but I still collected more than a dozen this week. Jalapenos are turning red and are still plentiful. A few heads of broccoli needed to be harvested. It’s become a bit of a game to see how long we can leave them before they bolt. So far we’ve been lucky given the extremely hot weather. A bucketful of beautiful smelling Basil. About 15 pounds of oranges. The juice has been welcome during this hot spell. A few longneck yellow squash every couple of days.

Preserve something: Making pesto from our Basil. Spaghetti sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. Freezing squash. Freezing Crabapples. Drying Cayenne Peppers and Jalapenos.

Cook Something New: I tried making Homemade pesto for the first time and I’m happy to say it was a huge success. We’ve used it on homemade pizza, but I plan on trying it in new recipes soon. We also made homemade ginger ale which was a big winner and will be made again.

Reduce Waste: We are being more vigilant with collecting the grey water from the laundry and using it on our front lawn. We don’t give the lawn much water (We think it’s a waste, but since we rent it has to stay), so the laundry water is managing to keep some semblance of green out there.

Learn a New Skill: I’m still working on increasing my skills at preserving food. New this week was pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. Both of these are great because we love Italian flavours in our food.

Caterpillars…the latest invasion of grubs

After being out of town for two weeks, the caterpillars decided to have a party all over my broccoli plants. I usually am happy to share, but there were so many I had to do some selective culling. These sacrificial ‘pillars were left for the birds. The next day, all the birds must have found out about the feast because they came into the yard and cleaned up the broccoli plants for me. If they keep this up, I won’t have to get my hands dirty collecting caterpillars.


I got the fright of my life after coming across the biggest caterpillar in the world on one of my cayenne pepper plants. I don’t know what this guy has been taking but he’s a monster compared to all the other caterpillars in the garden. I initially decided to leave him be so we could watch the metamorphose, but after some research I discovered he is a Tobacco Hornworm and could demolish whole plants overnight. I didn’t have the heart to kill him so I had Brendan come out to try and relocate him. We tried our hardest to pry him off with kitchen tongs, but there was no hope of getting him off that plant. Eventually I cut the whole branch and ‘relocated’ him elsewhere. (Hope my neighbours don’t read this 🙂 If we had left him, he would have become a Hummingbird Moth.

Tobacco Hornworm

Cayenne Peppers 101

First cayenne peppers

One of the earliest successes we had in the garden was the cayenne peppers. Of course, we cheated just a little bit and bought six plants as seedlings. We put three directly into the ground, one into a large pot and we experimentally tried two plants in a straw bale. While those in the straw bale managed to stay alive they failed to thrive and started turning yellow. Eventually they looked so sick that I pulled them out and planted them in the ground. After a little bit of nursing they are now doing very well.

The plants grew easily and the one in the pot flowered very quickly. In hindsight, I would have pinched off those early flowers. Once flowering, all other growth ceased and it is now only a third of the size of the other plants which were slower to flower. Consequently it’s also produced less fruit.

The cayenne peppers got to their full size quite quickly, but it took at least another two months for them to start turning red.  It took some patience to leave them there, but our first taste of a green pepper lacked any sort of heat so we were determined to give them some time to spice up.

Eventually we had some ripened red peppers and a good sized bite left me with tears in my eyes.

ready to harvest

We love spicy food, so these peppers will be used all year around. At this stage I have over 80 peppers drying in the kitchen and another couple of dozen have been pickled. We still have plenty left on the plants, so I suspect we are going to have to grind some dried peppers into flakes and give them away to anyone who enjoys spicy food.

drying cayenne peppers

How we made our own Compost Bins for Free!

Free Compost Bins

Earlier this year, we started making a concerted effort to reduce waste. We’ve been recycling what we can for as long as I can remember, but there still seemed to be a bag of garbage going to landfill every week. After taking notice of what our trash consisted of, it became apparent that a large portion of it was green waste. We thought Zoe (our German Shepherd) was eating most of our food scraps, but in reality, she couldn’t eat banana or orange peels or any type of onion. All this was pure waste and clogging up landfill. We decided to rectify the problem with a compost system.

Given that we had just decided to start an organic vegetable plot, composting seemed like a natural addition to the garden. Compost is wonderful soil builder, and without it the soil would quickly become leached of nutrients.

When we started looking for compost bins, we soon came to the conclusion that they were very expensive piles of plastic. We are trying to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ we buy, so a recycled compost bin became a must. Thankfully we didn’t have to look far. I soon found a couple of friends who had some old bins which had seen better days. The bottom was falling out of them, which proved to be ideal for our needs.

Within 15 minutes, Brendan had turned someone else’s trash into our treasure.

Materials Needed:

  • Large trash can with lid
  • Cutting instrument (strong pair of scissors or saw)
  • Drill with large drill bit
  • Shovel


  1. Cut the bottom from the bin.
  2. Using the drill, make holes along the sides of the trash can.
  3. Prepare the ground where you want the compost bin, and dig a slight depression so that the bin sits down below ground level.
  4. Lay some straw or dry leaves in the bottom of the bin.
  5. Your ready to get started building your compost pile!

So simple that even I could have done it….(but Brendan does it so much better).

Read More:

How to Make Compost