Building an outdoor compost bin was the very first thing we did when we started working on the new yard last spring. We made our bin on the cheap by upcycling a busted futon frame that was left in the yard by former occupants. So far the bin has worked beautifully, but like all one-bin systems it has its downsides. Keeping the bin aerated is a chore, and the fresh, ready-made compost is a pain to extract from the very bottom of the pile. The bin is also open to vermin, and while nesting rodents can be discouraged simply by keeping a well-maintained pile, I have had at least one unwelcome occupant in my years working with D.I.Y compost piles.
Homemade bins are very viable and often far superior to the cheap black plastic contraptions sold by the City (our kept falling apart and eventually housed a wasp nest), but they are not ideal. For that reason I have longed to try a really good composting system, specifically a tumbler that makes easy work of turning a heavy pile. Still, when eartheasy contacted me about trying out the Jora JK125 Tumbling Composter I was intrigued but extremely hesitant as I wasn’t sure where or how I would cram a second composting unit into an already jam-packed, narrow urban yard.
Over the years, my motto as an obsessive plant hoarder working within exceptionally tight spaces has been, “I’ll make it fit.” And somehow, magically, I always do. The only reason I was able to to manage it here is because the Jora is a self-contained unit. It smells a bit when the balance of greens and browns is off, but even then we’re only subjected to a marginally funky smell when the lid is opened. Beyond that, it’s a really easy composting system to live with. I specifically located my D.I.Y bin way at the back of the garden, away from the house, but I was able to cram the Jora into our outdoor seating area, nearly touching the table I eat at. So far so good. Some people decorate their outdoor living areas with decorative water features, attractive container plantings, or charming woodstoves. I sit down to dinner next to an industrial-green, powder-coated steel, 33 gallon compost bin.
Last night, I gleefully laid out the collection of items I had purchased from the flea market onto the floor and imagined how I will use them in the future. Most of the items were purchased for the garden and some will make an appearance in the photos I take for future book and assignments.
Most of the items that show up in my work projects are also used by me in my home. Few are purchased for one-time usage and then shuffled out the door. Perhaps it would be better that way, but I am a collector, always have been. Still, I can’t recycle the same plates, bowls, and fabrics book after book, photo after photo, so to keep things fresh, I collect an affordable hodgepodge of items that I like, primarily from thrift shops. I’ve never really been into sets anyway. It’s one part of my job that gives me an excuse to indulge in a whim that I would be otherwise forced to curb. It is why I go to the effort of dragging home dirty curbside “treasures” on my bike and why I fill up my luggage with special canning jars when I go away on business trips. In truth, I was doing these things before it became a part of my job — this just gives me the justification I need to continue.
Part of a burgeoning collection of rusty witches’ cauldrons. Some are used as pots. Some just sit there. What can I say? I like them.
“Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” – The Carpenters
I’m not going to mince words — the weather is shit right now. It’s grey and cold and the coffee I drank two hours ago has been unable to penetrate its dreary, low energy malaise. I feel like a zombie and I look like one, too. I often joke that I’ve spent so much time in the company of plants that I’ve become one. But the plants are bright, colourful, and standing up straight today — we are not in sync at all.
If you can stand to be outdoors, the overcast haze makes the perfect conditions for photographing the garden. I dragged my sorry ass out there this afternoon to capture some recent changes to the garden and photograph these books. The lemon balm is reaching a nice size now and I was reminded on sighting it that a fistful lazily torn and brewed in a cup of hot water is a good rainy day remedy. I added slices of fresh ginger and ginger honey purchased at the market to mine.
The cup is empty now and while I can’t say that I am feeling any more chipper than before, I am at least cheered by the prospect of more drinks made with fresh (rather than dried) herbs from the garden in the coming months.
Okra Earrings in Sterling $54.00: I am always on the lookout for vegetable themed jewelry that takes advantage of their elegant beauty. These do that.
Wearable Planter Jewelry $20.00US: Months back everyone was sending me links to these wearable planter necklaces with the subject line, “This is SO YOU!” to which I thought, “But no plant can live in such a tiny pot!” And that upset me. “No, I’m sorry, but I will not hang a dead plant set inside a pretty little vessel around my neck, thank you very much.”
But time has passed and I’ve softened. So fine, you guys win. They really are SO ME. Especially the orange. And if you’re reading this site, they are probably SO YOU, too.
Give the Gift of Seeds About $20.00: I agree, seeds are one of the best gifts to give, especially on Valentine’s Day since the holiday is used to mark the beginning of planting season in some climates. You can’t go wrong with the Hudson Valley Seed Library — they have some of the most artistic packages around, and if you buy a gift membership, your loved one can choose the plants their heart (and stomach) desires most.
In Canada, Cubit’s Organics has a six-pack offer, with free shipping.
Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City by Dan Pearson $19.79 US: You can’t go wrong with a book, and I think that the Holidays are a great opportunity to gift books that friends might not buy for themselves otherwise. I found this beautiful, diary-like garden book at a local cookbook shop and was instantly drawn to its quiet, contemplative mood. Vibrant, full-page photos that are printed on contrasting matte and high gloss papers helped a lot, too. It’s the perfect book for inspiring new dreams as you while away the winter (and its stupid, ass face).
I may have to “gift” a second copy to myself.
All remaining images are the property of their respective websites.
CobraHead® Long Handle Weeder and Cultivator $59.95 US: I rarely promote tools and products on this site because I know from experience that one does not require legions of such things to grow a successful or beautiful garden. However, a few good-quality tools that will not break in hard, compacted, urban soil are indispensable and worth the investment.
My favourite tool bar none is the regular, short-handled Cobrahead®. It is still my #1 go-to tool for most tasks and I leave it perched on the edge of one of the raised beds where it is always available for quick use. I still have the original that Cobrahead® sent me in 2003 and it looks and functions exactly as it did back then, only with a lot more dirt on it.
A few years ago, Cobrahead® sent me their long-handled version to review. While it is a very good tool for weeding or meeting unfriendly strangers in dark alleys on the way home from long days at your community plot, we’ve found that its best use in our garden is as a compost turner (I say “we” here because as the official compost turner, Davin uses this tool more than I do). When the tool was stolen from our community garden, I felt panicked as to how we would ever effectively turn our compost again. The thin hook really gets in there and grabs chunks easily in a way that I’ve never been able to easily accomplish with a shovel or fork. And the long handle ensures that I don’t have to hoist my body right into the bin to work it around well.
GIVEAWAY: Cobrahead® is giving away one Long Handle Weeder and Cultivator (U.S & Canada only) and one short-handled CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator (Worldwide). Please leave a comment below and I will chose a winner at random next Wed. Dec 14 at 5pm EST. Your entry can be as simple as “Count me in.”