Sunday, September 06, 2020

A weekend project

This weekend I took on another project, this time one I actually did myself. I also completed it. Yesterday, I assembled a compost bin (photo above) I bought three weeks ago. It, in turn, is part of a larger project, one I’m only just resuming. And there are stories for all of those parts.

When one has a house with a yard (often, even usually, called a garden in New Zealand), it means maintaining the gardens. Even when everything is mature and growing well, there’s still work to be done. I’be blogged several times about mowing my lawns, but there’s far more to do, since there was nothing here when I moved in. I called this larger project “terraforming” the un-landscaped property, and ultimately it will include planting the garden as well as landscaping work.

However, one ongoing project, aside from mowing the lawns, will be weed removal. Some of them I could poison, or I could use my preferred method of pouring boiling water on them (I prefer that because it’s safe for the dogs). Sometimes, though, the weeds either get away from me or they’re too stubborn for either of those methods, and pulling them out is the only solution.

However, once a weed is pulled out, where does it go? They can’t be thrown into the ordinary household rubbish, and hiring a service to collect garden waste is out of the question when I have so little garden waste. I could collect it and take it the waste transfer station, for a fee, and even they don’t necessarily accept all weeds.

The obvious solution, especially because I have such small needs, is a compost bin here at home. And that’s where this particular project began.

I knew I wanted one that rotated (to make it easy to turn the compost), and there are quite a few varieties on the market—horizontal, vertical, big and small. I knew I liked the horizontal ones, and I first thought about getting one like we had at our last house in Auckland (a photo of it is in a post from May, 2018). That bin is quite large, but its main drawback was that the hatch cover screws on and gets stuck: I hammered my fingers several times trying to get it open, and I also had trouble getting it back on and closed when I was done. It’s one redeeming quality was that it had wheels, making it easier to move around, but that was somewhat negated by the fact that when it was fully loaded, it was very heavy. It also only had one large chamber

I ruled that one out because of all its negatives, and because I decided I wanted one with two smaller chambers, rather than one large one. I was first drawn to expensive ones (as usual…), including one with two entirely separate chambers that rotated independently, and one with a sort of crank and ratchet system to help rotate the bin (because everything was plastic, I was dubious how long it would work).

In the end I went for a simpler one with a plastic divider between the two chambers. The packaging may provide a better idea how it works:

The bin before assembly. This is as close to an "unboxing" post as I'm likely to get. 

The idea is that you fill one side, then when it’s full, you let it sit to cook while you fill the other side. Then you empty the first side, and start over. The doors are interchangeable, and one has a “+” on it to indicate which side the new material goes in to. Meanwhile, you rotate the whole thing to keep turning the compost to help it cook faster.

The bin I got was probably the fiddliest thing I’ve ever put together: Not difficult, just fiddly. It had 54 screws (I’ve learned from experience that when I’m assembling something, it’s important to check all the pieces are there, and to count the screws provided to make sure there’s enough. There were).

The bin I got isn’t perfect: It doesn’t have wheels, which would be nice, and it doesn’t have any sort of locking pin to keep the opening on top. Our one in Auckland had both, though they were often very hard to use. I could probably improvise some sort of locking pin, but that’s not critical.

On the other hand, the plastic parts seem pretty robust, and them using locking nuts (rather than ordinary ones) made it quite easy to assemble by myself, in around an hour, which was including the time it took to count the parts and read the assembly instructions (another thing experience has taught me to do).

The next step is to pull a bunch of weeds and chuck them in the compost bin. Soon, I’ll spray the lawns with a “weed and feed” liquid that kills broadleaf weeds and fertilises the grass (I know lots of people who swear by it), and this will reduce the number of lawn weeds I’ll need to manually remove. Basically, I want to get the lawns established as well as I can before summer (though at the moment there are predictions of a cool, wet summer, so drought-like conditions may not be a problem this year).

It would help if the weather had cooperated so I could mow the lawns regularly, but the days have been too wet, too cold, or both. It’s now been a month since I mowed the back lawn, and it’s as long now as it was then, when it had a six week growth. The front lawn, meanwhile, has barely grown at all (it clearly needs the most work of the two): It’s been about three months since I last mowed it! On the other hand, the weeds in it are getting quite long, which is, again, why I needed the compost bin.

Now that I have the bin, I’ll have somewhere to put weeds when I pull them, and that means it’ll be somewhat easier for me to keep on top of the job, energy/stamina permitting, of course. At least now I don’t have the barrier of trying to figure out what to do with the weeds I pull out.

This weekend’s project was quite small by itself, but it’s an important part of the larger project to landscape the property and establish nice gardens. That’ll probably be the main project I talk about in the coming months. Right now, though, one more thing is checked off the list.

Update – September 7: Today I pulled the weeds in the rain garden out in front of the house (which really should be a story on its own), and that plus a few other rather large weeds from the front lawn that I also pulled filled half the new compost bin. Oops. As they start to wilt and break down, there will be more room in that half, but I thought that was funny. And typical.


Roger Owen Green said...

I haven't decided what weeds are yet. I mow the lawn; I'll have to do so today! I must say you are very industrious on the domestic front!

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks. I do try.