Composting Basics: by Ken Freestone

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Materials provided by Ken Freestone, Master Composter
www.greenmichigan.org
ken@greenmichigan.org
Composting
Decomposer organisms work best with as varied a diet as you can feed them. The ingredients are all around us. Almost anything that once lived is a candidate for the compost, so try for lots of variety to get a good mix of textures and plant nutrients. In composting jargon, woody materials that are high in carbon (autumn leaves, paper, peat moss, sawdust, cornstalks, hay and straw, etc.) are called “brown” ingredients. Materials like garden refuse, manure, tea and coffee grounds, feathers, hair, and food scraps are high in nitrogen, or “green.” Some materials can actually be both: fresh grass clippings are “green,” for example, but dried grass is “brown.”

For successful results, you can use the simple rule that compost needs to be about half “brown” and half “green” by weight. Don’t bother to weigh your ingredients, though: an estimate is fine. Composting soon becomes a matter of instinct, like the cook who bakes without a recipe. If the pile doesn’t heat up, you know there’s not enough “green” in the mix, while a smell of ammonia means it needs more “brown.”

Materials to Use
Green
• Algae
• Bone meal
• Coffee grounds
• Eggshells
• Feathers
• Flowers
• Fruit and fruit peels
• Grass clippings (fresh)
• Hair
• Manure
• Seaweed
• Tea Leaves
• Vegetables and peelings
• Weeds

Brown
• Buckwheat hulls
• Coffee filters
• Corn cobs
• Cotton/wool/silk scraps
• Grass clippings (dried)
• Hay
• Leaves (dead)
• Paper
• Peat moss
• Pine needles
• Sawdust
• Straw
• Tea bags
• Wood chips
• Wood ash

This list is far from complete. Anything organic can, in theory, be composted — some more easily than others. But common sense suggests a few exceptions. The following materials may cause problems in a backyard compost pile.

Materials to Avoid
• pet wastes can contain extremely harmful bacteria
• meat, fish, fats and dairy products are likely to smell as they rot and may attract four-footed visitors
• insect-infested or diseased plants may persist in the compost
• materials contaminated by synthetic chemicals or treated with herbicides or insecticides should never be used
• weeds with mature seeds, and plants with a persistent root system (like crabgrass, ground ivy, or daylilies), may not be killed by the heat of the compost
• leaves of rhubarb and walnut contain substances toxic to insects or other plants so most people choose not to compost them.

Water
• Your compost pile should be as damp as a wrung-out sponge — moist to the touch — but no water should come out when you squeeze a handful.
Too dry?
• You can poke holes in the pile and water it from the top with a trickling hose. Better yet, pull the pile apart and rebuild it, wetting each layer as it goes on. Very fibrous materials such as dead leaves may need to be soaked in a bucket for an hour or two.

Too wet?
• A soggy pile should be turned so that clumps of material are broken up, letting air in and water out. If the compost is absolutely soaked, you can spread the materials to dry in the sun, or scatter peat moss through the pile as you rebuild it with the drier materials in the center

Better Lawn Fertilizer Made Locally

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As I sit in my yard watching my kids play on my thick, green lawn, I reflect how far I’ve come to get to this point. Ever since I moved into my home, I’ve wanted a great lawn but I wanted to do it in a more  environmentally-friendly way. Living down the street from the “Joneses” of the neighborhood with their awesome looking lawns, it was hard waiting to find the right fertilizer to make my lawn just as great as theirs.

Six years ago I began a mission to find the greenest, most environmentally-sound fertilizer that would actually work. I started with the normal sources, shopping at chain hardware stores. The supplies were very limited for what I was looking for in a fertilizer. I tried the few that they had and got mixed results. Most worked for a short period of time but didn’t live up to the hype on the bag, and some simply didn’t work at all. Then I tried buying fertilizer from a catalog claiming to be organic and kid friendly. This stuff was expensive, without the additional shipping costs, I was already thinking it wasn’t worth buying it even if it did work. Turns out, the mail order fertilizer didn’t work.

Was this going to be an impossible task? I was about to give up this year until I met a groundskeeper who told me about Nutri-Plus, which is made locally. He raved about how well this fertilizer worked on his buddy’s lawn. After what I went through in the past, I was skeptical to say the least, but I trusted him so I bought a couple of bags. This stuff was cheaper than most of the big-box store fertilizers that you can buy.
The fertilizer is 50% dried, pelletized chicken manure and 50% fertilizer. They also carry Nature’s Supreme Poultry Fertilizer Crumbles, which is 100% poultry manure. It works just as well, but I suggest putting it on your lawn a little thicker. Oh and FYI it only smells for a few hours after applying it to your lawn, trust me. So all I can say is this stuff ROCKS!! My lawn is lush and green like it has never been before. Two of my neighbors — who aren’t the type to notice things like this — have complimented me on my lawn. And remember the “Joneses” down the street? Well, he asked me to buy him a couple of bags!

A side benefit I noticed is that it chased away the moles in my yard. I can’t prove it was the Nutri-Plus,  but all I know is that the moles I’ve trying to chase out of my yard for he past three years are now gone. Both fertilizers are produced by Herbruck Poultry Ranch, just out side of Saranc MI.http://www.herbrucks.com/responsibility#sustainability

You can buy them locally at De Bruyn in Zeeland, Van Wieren Hardware in Holland, Flowerland in Grand Rapids  and Graafschap Hardware.

My actual Lawn 

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Recycling

What Do I Do With My Recycling Discussion

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On Nov. 9th 2015 the Herrick District Library hosted an America Recycles Day Event and invited local businesses and organizations to come and briefly explain the services that they offer. Ever wonder what happens to your recycling? Join us as we follow the journey that some of your most common recyclables take over the course of their life cycle.

In conjunction with America Recycles Day.

Speakers include:
Ken Freestone of greenmichigan.org
James Cherney: Goodwill
Dan Broersma: Herman Miller
Jerry Ford: Comprenew
Nic VanderVinne: Kent County
Stew Whitney: Ottawa County
Kim Buckley: CHEF Container
Pete Hoffswell: Makers Group
Daniel Schoonmaker: West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
Doug Padnos: Padnos

Energy

Consumers Energy Customer Rebates for Appliances

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Here is were you can find rebates for your home appliances.

PRODUCT QUALIFYING MINIMUM EFFICIENCY WHO’S ELIGIBLE REBATE
Clothes Washer ENERGY STAR Certified Consumers Energy Electric Customers Only $ 25
Clothes Washer ENERGY STAR Certified Consumers Energy Gas Customers Only $ 25
Clothes Washer ENERGY STAR Certified Both Consumers Energy Electric and Gas Customers $ 50
Programmable Thermostat Programmable Both Consumers Energy Electric and Gas Customers $ 10
WiFi-Enabled Thermostat Wi-Fi-Enabled Both Consumers Energy Electric and Gas Customers. Must be purchased after July 1, 2014 $ 50
Room Air Conditioner ENERGY STAR Certified Consumers Energy Electric Customers Only $ 20
Dehumidifier ENERGY STAR Certified Consumers Energy Electric Customers Only $ 20