Cottage Composting Made Easy


Ah…the sweet smell of a compost pile…almost as inviting as the smell wafting from the outhouse…Ha Ha! Not if you are doing it right. A compost pile really shouldn’t smell if it is properly maintained, or at least it shouldn’t smell as bad as the outhouse.

Composting is an individual thing if you ask me. Some folks truly enjoy it, others do it because it seems to be the right thing to do and others fall somewhere in between.

Composting can have mixed results and if not done properly, a backyard composting can be more trouble than it is worth. Particularly because of varmits like rats, and skunks and other critters that love to get in the compost and roll around….

On the other hand, a composter saves on the amount of garbage you have to carry out, and also reduces the amount of waste going to landfills and all the enviromental issues that brings.

One of our cottage neighbors had a great deal of trouble with skunks, which was fine until they started turning up at my place and some of the other neighbors.

He was quite an outdoorsy guy and took to trapping them, and I don’t mean live trapping either. He got about 20 one summer alone…20 skunks…imagine. All of them were visiting his composter regularly.

Finally, one of the other neighbors made the old fellow understand that it was the food waste in the compost that was attracting the critters.

He also had visits from raccoons as well, but it was the skunks who really got into it.

After he stopped putting food waste like meat and fish into the composter, the skunks disappeared, or at least paid fewer visits, much to everyone’r relief.

It’s not that we don’t like wildlife, but having a lot of skunks around is not all that great, no matter what the animal lovers reading this may believe. Try crawling under your cottage to work on the water pump only to meet up with a family of skunks, or take your dog out for a walk and have him get sprayed…you’ll soon rethink your stance on too many skunks.

In my mind, skunks are great going in the other direction, and some distance away. For all intents and purposes, I don’t mind them at all, just not under the camp or too close for comfort.

Of course, as I mentioned, skunks aren’t necessarily the worst creature that might decide to visit your compost. Bears love them, as do coyotes and raccoons, none of which you want to close to the cottage. Oh you do? Yeah sure, well if that’s true, throw some old meat, fish or bread into your composter and watch for a few nights, you’ll have company.

Anyway, I digress. Composting…that is what I was going to write about. By all means have a cottage composter. Use it for leaves and yard waste, lawn clippings, weeds, small bushes and the like, just don’t put food in it, or be very careful if you do.

Composting takes some time and some effort. First of all you should have some form of compost structure, like a box or a commercially produced composter, with a cover and holes for ventilation. This doesn’t have to be too elaborate and if you are a cottage handyman, or handywoman, and most cottagers are pretty good swinging a hammer, you can build your own box out of some old boards.

Build your composting box some distance from the cottage, hopefully downwind, at least downwind of the prevailing winds you experience around your place.

As a composting box, I have found a large cardboard box works pretty good. It’s amazing how long the box will last, and eventually it becomes compost just like the contents.

The compost should be turned regularly with a shovel or pitchfork, and adding a little dirt and water at regular intervals does wonders for speeding up the process.

I put leaves, weeds, grass clippings, and some vegetable waste in mine, along with some earth, sprinkled on top every so often. Eventually you will have some nice dark earth to mix into your flower or vegetable garden, or spread around your lawn or trees.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a composter, I believe it is the right thing to do, as that old fellow on television says about whatever product he is pitching. But at the cottage I am very careful what goes in my compost and what doesn’t.

I also throw a few mothballs around the outside of the composter regularly which is said to make it less attractive to critters from the nearby wilderness. I don’t know if that really works but I do it anyway. The last thing I want to do is open up my composter and find myself staring at a rat or raccoon or even worse, a skunk….especially if he is facing away from me.

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