Animals are so funny – they live on a clock just like human beings. A raccoon has been showing up in our yard almost every morning, at just about exactly 3:30. Today my husband actually woke up before the dogs started to bark, right on schedule.
After a few nights chasing the dogs all over our back yard, we decided to bring them in when we hear the first bark. My husband shinnies down the stairs and calls them in from the front porch and shuts the door. We bought them a new bed for just this purpose, it sits inside the front door. They lay there quietly until I get up.
Well today I couldn’t go back to sleep. Things creep into my mind – don’t you hate that? The first thing that crept into my mind is, we need to dig a new compost hole, the old one is so full it’s like a dinner invitation.
You can see where the creature has scratched all around the outside edge of the heavy wooden lid, trying to get in.
As I hang my wash I watch the blue jays scratch in further to retrieve the grubs that live in the hole, making the system work. While it’s fun to watch the blue jays making their meal out of my composter, I realize, the lunch counter is attracting too many customers.
So yesterday, in blatant violation of Cal Waters odd-even watering rule, I set a hose at a tiny drip over a new spot a couple of feet away from the current site.
Drip, drip, drip – wow that ground is hard. After six hours it had only sunk in about three inches.
Why compost? We compost our non-meat table scraps because they add more flies to your garbage can. We wrap our meat waste – bones and packaging – and the can still stinks sometimes. We don’t want to add messy table scraps – we can smell that in other people’s cans when we ride our bikes out on garbage night, and we don’t want to deal with it.
In-ground composting is the best system we have found. When we used an above ground system we had rats and every other manner of outdoor pest, just like a garbage can that didn’t get picked up every week. Finally we just started digging a hole, about two feet across, about four feet deep. At first we used a board with a rock on it for a lid, but our natural neighbors demanded we get more sophisticated.
One good cover we used was an old Rubbermaid garbage can with the bottom cut out. They have the latch lock on the lid, even a very smart raccoon will take a while to figure that out. But, plastic rots eventually, and we didn’t always have an old can to cut the bottom out of last time, so my husband made the nice heavy duty wooden lid with some leftover plywood.
I can just imagine that damned raccoon, flustering away at that wooden lid – ha ha ha you little sucker! But, he does his best around the outside of the hole. As hard as the ground is, he’s managed to scratch holes into the dirt, all around the lid, you can see the little finger marks where he’s been working away. I almost feel his frustration.
I feel same when I am scratching out my new composter in that rock hard dirt. I’ve had the hose drip-drip-dripping all night, I will get back out there today. The old hole is not only full, the grubs have fled – they make their move at the first sign of a dip in the temperatures. We are blessed with black wasp larvae – they look like big maggots, but they’re flat and dull, and OMG! – they stink like Death. The black wasp mommas come every Spring, we’ll notice them flitting around as soon as the temps are in the 80’s, and then one day, our compost hole will be a moving mass of grubs. It’s fun to dump the kitchen bucket in there, like slopping hogs, and come out the next day to see they’ve eaten almost all of it. You can recognize egg shells and avocado skins, other hard stuff, but everything soft just disappears.
Don’t fall in there!
As soon as the temps start to get down into the 50’s at night, they come slithering out of the hole en masse – we saw them when we lived with a smaller yard – and migrate, somewhere. I’m going to guess they dig into the ground and incubate, there are usually a bunch of little tiny holes around the composter after they leave. In Spring we wait for the black wasps to come back and start the whole thing over again. A-MAY-zing.
Sheesh I love Nature, that gal!
The only drawback to the in-ground method is, you don’t get any dirt. By and by, I believe it improves the soil, but you can’t harvest any fresh compost for your garden. When we need compost, we can sift a little out of our above-ground yardwaste composter, but when we want to refresh our whole garden, we go to the Worm Farm. They make a regular champagne product at a price even your average beer drinker can afford.
Every couple of years we go out and get a pick-up load to work into our garden dirt. It’s really reasonably priced, especially if you go in with your neighbor or friend. Add it to your lawn this Fall – in Spring your grass will be so green it will hurt your eyes.