Dumping a 5-gallon BPA free plastic bucket full of food scraps from the Hingham Food Pantry organizers and deliverers is a study in both physics and chemistry. The ingredients, as we call the inputs from coffee shops, restaurants and residents, is pretty frozen on these below 32 degree days. The contents tend to roll off the existing pile of compost, especially if there are round apples and onions.
The amount of apples is alarming. The large quantity is due in part to the extra delivery of apples that are brought to the food pantry from places like the Greater Boston Food Bank and nearby Trader Joe’s. There are so many apples, which are nearing the end of their prime, they become overwhelming and taxing for the volunteers and workers who work at the pantry to sort and present the apples to those in need. Some apples have blemishes or soft spots and therefore it is easier to put aside the whole box. The farmers and teachers and student interns at the Farm are pleased to place them in compost piles, cut some for the chickens and goats (in moderation for the horses), and perhaps even to sort through and consider making a pie or applesauce, once the apples are sorted. There is much work to do and when life gives you apples, you eat them (once a day) and make them into something for consumption.
In terms of compost, we are always accepting items to add to the piles. And as for the frozen state of compost these days, there is some warming that occurs in the piles. For instance, in a pile that was recently added to, along with manure and leaves, there is likely some warmth in that pile, due to the healthy chemical reaction that occurs when carbon materials interact with nitrogen materials. And when a pile is warm, then even on a frozen day, it is possible to dig away at the pile and make room for the newly collected apples, coffee grounds, rotten bananas, old soft squash and even a few cardboard food containers. It is harder to turn the whole pile but easier to keep collecting as people keep consuming and scrapping in the name of compost and taking part in the diverting of trash.
Speaking of diverting trash, we farm teachers and three high school seniors from Scituate high school spent all three lunch periods announcing a one-day compost collection with our buckets and homemade signs encouraging classmates and students to ‘Give a Scrap’ and ‘To Make Compost, Not War’. Yes a rind is a terrible thing to waste when it comes to thinking of the worms and all the beneficial effects of making compost.
The custodians seemed pleased as they made their daily rounds, with 17.5 pounds of compost ingredients that were not placed in the rolling trashcans. They are also hopefully pleased when the barrels do not contain plastic bottles which sit in the blue recycling bins.
The chefs in the kitchen brought out some baby carrots (10#) for us to add to the buckets. Perhaps if the new high school garden had grown more carrots (which store very well in winter) then the food service director would not have needed to order those plastic bagged baby carrots in the first place. But that is another forthcoming column on a possible USDA grant to improve the food system and vegetable sources for improved meals at the Scituate schools, all six of them.
After the three lunches, we took out the buckets to the compost pile at the high school, added leaves and will await the magic of rich organic compost to occur. Physics and chemistry are happening in the classrooms and outside the classrooms. Students at every school can participate in the act of compost and thus also care for the environment. Let’s make more compost and grow better food.
We will repeat the effort at the Lester J. Gates Scituate middle school on Tuesday since 6th, 7th and 8th graders can also help change the world, one peel, skin, ground, rind and rolling apple at a time.