Tag Archives: compost bin

The Compost Bin That Thought It Was a Snake Cage

17 Mar

Last year Michael made a compost bin. Before he made the bin we used to pile up our organic material in a corner of the backyard, which worked okay but we eventually realized things were mysteriously disappearing from the pile.



We see them all the time in our neighborhood, and they are nice and fat. We have possums as well, and coyotes, even though we live only about a mile from downtown. We don’t have a  fence in our backyard either, so we make it pretty easy for things to get in.

The city has been doing work in our alley, and one afternoon this past winter I was in the garden harvesting lettuce when two water utilities workers walked up. One of them wrinkled up her nose, and with a disgusted look on her face and tone in her voice said, “Excuse me. What is THAT?” and pointed to the compost bin.

I told her it was a compost bin. Her blank stare told me she didn’t speak garden, so I explained how we put our organic table scraps and other materials in the compost and use it to enhance the garden soil, kind of like fertilizer. She looked at me at me in disbelief and retorted, “I thought you had a SNAKE in there.”


This time it was my turn to give her a blank stare.

I guess she doesn’t know much about snakes, either, since I’m pretty sure if I was keeping one as a pet I probably wouldn’t leave it outside in the winter.

Her lack of knowledge about composting made me sad. I bet her grandparents had a garden, and they would have known about composting. Mine did.

It’s hard to believe that so many families have forgotten about gardening and healthy eating. Granted, we live in a large city, but I bet people used to garden here in the city not that long ago, especially in the poorer parts of town.

Last weekend we drove to a small town in Oklahoma for a niece’s wedding shower. Outside of working at the local lumber mill or chicken processing plant, there are very few jobs. Most people struggle to get by, and the phrase “leading lives of quiet desperation” played through my head the entire time we visited.

There is one grocery store in the entire town.

When I was a little girl my grandmother and my cousins’ grandmother had gardens and canned vegetables each summer. My grandmother’s garden is where I discovered the incredibly rich, savory goodness of homegrown tomatoes.

I didn’t see any gardens this year, and I haven’t seen any for a very long time. I haven’t even seen any of the local farmers selling their produce on the sides of the roads like I used to.

We’ve given up so much for convenience.

Having said all that about the decline of gardening in general, I do see a resurgence, especially here in the city. Several friends have started their own backyard gardens, and a few even have chickens.

Maybe I’ll paint snake images on the sides of the compost bin in honor of the water utility worker. I think it would look kind of cool, and would harken back to the ancient image of the snake as symbolic of rebirth and transformation.

A fitting symbol, indeed, for a compost bin.

Here is our compost bin:

Except for the two by fours on top, all the wood used was recycled. Michael also installed a drip line on top to keep the compost moist (since we get so little rain). Two simple latches on the side keep the front door closed.

Being able to open the front door makes it easy to access the compost material when it’s ready to be used in the garden.

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