The Never-Ending Compost Story

As years go by, it seems to me that most of us try and live with less. We become more aware of how precious life is and how little other things matter. We accept the idea of changes in weather patterns and plant life surrounding our homes. We see that there are fewer bees, birds and butterflies. There are also fewer of us but those who are left keep fighting the good fight.

I'm not sure what that may mean at your house. Maybe you are a rabid recycler or a year-long gardener. Maybe you donate to causes who make the world better and watch TV the rest of the time. Me? I'll take whatever you've got as long as you want the planet to survive and you say it in a nice way. Oh, and you have to be kind to animals.

Here at Shafferville, we have specialized in composting for many years. Of course, there's that recycling thing we talked about a few weeks back, but that's not enough for us. Nope. We are composters. It started years ago when Mr. S lived in the infamous Sheep Shed in Oceanside. The compost area was conveniently located outside of the kitchen window. I thought it was kind of icky. He said it was composting. We just threw all of our trimmings out of the window. In 1979, this made us very cool. The garbage pit by the window was a respectable and remarkable ecological composting effort to save the world. At least we thought so.

After other antics, we moved back home, bought a house in Netarts in the early 90s and started composting again. This time we read an article in Sunset Magazine so we thought we were legit. Following the open window toss in Oceanside, we moved on to a four sided wire cage in Phase 2 at Netarts. In this level of composting you have to move things around with a pitchfork.

The bonus with this particular method is that you get rats. Lots of 'em.

It turns out that rats loved all the same vegetables and fruit we did. In all fairness, I have to say that things did compost but it smelled icky and took forever. Oh, and I must tell you that I HATE rats.

You'd think old people would just throw up their hands and yell hallelujah on the subject of composting and saving the earth. Some of them do but I'll wager that the majority say things like, "Hey... the planet isn't my problem... I'm gonna die anyway!" Of course this is always followed by a hearty laugh. God love 'em. They don't give a hoot about pollution because their ship has already set sail and they are no longer the captain.

This might be fine for some... but not the Shaffers.

After the rats destroyed our insulation and caused a few other problems we moved to Phase 3 of composting. We bought a used composter of the type distributed and sold by sanitation companies. Sounds good, eh? We thought so because it was only $20 and it looked high tech. Sleek, black lines, lid, front bin door and all the bells and whistles the wire thing lacked. It took us a few years to realize that there was no bottom in the composter. Trust that it did not take the rats that long. They have friends in the mole-vole world who can dig a custom tunnel into anything for nothing. Damn.

Beavis the Weather Cat killed so many rats that we nominated her for an award. She died at age 14, leaving us heartbroken and defenseless. It was then that we moved on the Phase 4 of composting. We bought another composter so that we could move icky stuff from #3 into #4. This may sound scientific but it's not. We finally figured out that people who have bottomless composters should add bottoms. We also discovered that the addition of the second ENCLOSED drum composter gave us much better results. With few days of sun, composting is iffy business on the Oregon Coast. As you have guessed, we don't care. This is war.

We finally got rid of the rats and were able to manufacture great compost by Stage #5. We used every bit of it and the weather cooperated by giving us great sunshine. We applied compost to everything... beds, baskets, bins and guess what? Our compost is special. No seeds required. It will sprout cucumbers, melon, tomatoes, tomatillos, squash, dill, onion and garlic. All you have to do is put our Shaffer Magical Compost in the sun and water it. There are some weeds and flowers but hey... we're headed for Stage 6! :)

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