Waste not, want not is something that can be taught by making compost. I’ve confess I’ve never much cared whether my vegetables are organic or bought at the neighborhood supermarket. I’ve always thought that the term “organic” is just a marketing ploy targeting a particular group of consumers to whom I do not belong. They are worried about pesticide residues; I’m more concerned with taste.
That’s because I’m a foodie. Taste and texture are all-important. I can take up to 15 minutes at the supermarket feeling each avocado on display to make sure I get the ripest, most perfect avocados on offer. To that end, the first time I had access to a patch of land, I became enamored with the idea of growing heirloom vegetables: huge imperfect Brandywine tomatoes cracking open to reveal sweet red flesh and Country Gentleman corn, white as snow and bursting forth with buttery corn flavor.
I pored over seed catalogues and gardening books and then threw myself into the process of gardening. To my delight, my children shared my interest in all things related to dirt, seeds, flowers, and vegetables. There’s something godlike about growing things.
Like James, I decided to make a compost pile. The teens did the heavy labor and dug a deep hole not too close to the house.
This way, the wind wouldn’t waft composting smells and flies into our open windows. The kids took turns schlepping kitchen detritus out to the compost pile, building up layers of vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and dirt.
Here and there, a kid would turn the soil with a shovel. They were fascinated to see and touch the rich results of this experiment: dark, almost black compost you just knew would make a terrific growing medium.
Watching what we’d always thought of as garbage turning into soil made us understand the preciousness of potato peels and egg shells. Even after we moved to an urban apartment and had no land to speak of, throwing vegetable peels away felt like a criminal act.
Composting is a lesson in recycling resources your children (and you) will never forget.
More How-To articles on composting:
Mulch, Rot and Invigorate the Compost Heap (Part 1)
A Half Empty Bin and Some Worms (Part 2)
Make Your Own Vegetable Composter for Under $10