Love and Fires and Compost

Neil was away last week, in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, and before that, we had diocesan council, and so we really hadn’t had much family time this month so far. So, needless to say, when he came home on Friday afternoon, we were all happy to see him.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember last Valentine’s Day, when I sustained second-degree burns after moving a pot of boiling chicken stock from the stove to our basement refrigerator. Or rather, to our basement floor, when the operation was aborted by a huge trip and fall by yours truly. Neil had a chance to prove his romantic feelings toward me that night and for several weeks afterward, as he rushed me to the sink to get cold water on my wounds, and then drove me to the emergency room, the pharmacy, and home, and tended to my wounds for weeks. Needless to say, none of us really wanted to repeat that experience this year, and so I stayed away from boiling liquids for the day. Neil played with the kids outside and assembled a compost bin (more on that later), and we ended the day with a nice dinner at home.


I remember when we got married, I read all kinds of internet articles about newlyweds bemoaning the fact that they’d never have the butterflies of a first date, a first kiss, and all the other, ahem, firsts that follow. I don’t remember feeling that sadness when I married Neil, though. New love is exciting, sure, but Neil was also very calming to me, and he still is. And besides, we get to experience all kinds of new firsts together. First first-grade Valentines party! First rodeo! First fire in the fireplace at the rectory!


In case you were wondering, having an Eagle Scout husband can come in very handy sometimes, even if you’re not the camping type.

Speaking of that, and back to the compost. I We decided to start composting as part of our Lenten family “project.” I’m always torn when writing about Lent. The very idea of telling people what we’re doing seems to go against what the scriptures say about it.

^^^^ That video clip has next to nothing to do with fasting or piety or alms or whatever else they talk about in church on Ash Wednesday. But it’s funny. You should watch it.

And yet, I’ve gotten so many wonderful ideas from people that have shared their Lenten disciplines with me. One year, my brother gave up plastic shopping bags for Lent. If he couldn’t fit something into his reusable shopping bag, or worse, if he forgot his shopping bag in the car (how many times have we all done that?), he had to find a way to get his purchases home without one of those ubiquitous plastic bags.


Another family we know gave up electronics on Sundays, and spent their time cooking together instead, often sharing their meal with a friend or neighbor. We belonged to one church that directed its community Lenten energy toward a gift for Heifer International. A lot of my friends are trying the 40 bags project. I like the idea of it, but after two moves in a year and regular hand-me-down donations of outgrown clothes, I’m not sure I have forty bags of stuff to clean out. (We may have already reached forty bags in the eight or so months that we’ve been here, between overbought diapers and pullups, outgrown clothes, food donations during Advent, and random trips to Goodwill.) But the idea is causing me to look at our closets in a new light, and maybe use some things that we’ve been ignoring for a while.

We’ve committed to trying the composting thing for Lent this year, because I’m horrified at how much food waste we produce. Generally, home cooks are pretty savvy about using odds and ends resourcefully. Out of stale bread, I can make french toast, bread pudding, croutons, or bread crumbs (stored in the freezer). From any number of scraps, I can make chicken stock, and if I’m careful, it won’t even result in a trip to the burn center. We recycle. We try to eat locally. But still, the amount of food we discard is staggering. The vegetable peels, stems, and cores alone are a huge culprit.


I’ve wanted to try composting for a while, but I was dissuaded by local ordinances or practical concerns. My solution to the local ordinance problem this time: don’t bother looking them up. Ignorance really is bliss!

I’ve done a little bit of research on the mixture of materials we need to be successful at composting, and I’ll let you all know how it goes. Until now, my most formative composting experience came from my grandparents’ house in the country, where there was a giant heap and a pitchfork. With our two dopey dogs and two curious kids, I think that would go over like a lead balloon, and so we bought a container that we can seal up and rotate to keep things moving. Composting appeals to me because unlike something more drastic like giving up our cars or trying to become a zero-waste household, we don’t have a huge investment outlay to try it. Whatever we’ve spent on containers will come back to us in saved garbage bags and “free” garden fertilizer. It’s something we can do as a family, and the kids have already gotten into it.

I’m also giving up my beloved Keurig coffee every morning, for similar environmental reasons. I’m using the French Press instead, and composting the coffee grounds. Apparently coffee grounds and tea leaves are really good for compost, and we’ve been drinking a boatload (heh) of tea this winter. Rowan (age 7) wants to give up his bad dreams for Lent. Ben (age 3) claims not to have bad dreams, but maybe he can help with Rowan with his. We’re all going to try to be more intentional about reaching out to people in non-online ways, maybe through a personal note or a drawing. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like to get a drawing or a hand-written note from a first-grader, can you?



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2 responses to “Love and Fires and Compost

  1. Rachel

    Composting scares me for so many reasons. Bravo. I like that you shared your ideas for Lent. The message came across and it wasn’t the obnoxious cries of the person who gave up chocolate and reminds everyone everyday of that fact:).

    Stacy Abena gave me the idea to give up yelling. Not just AT my children, but even yelling downstairs for them to come to dinner. It provides peace and calmness that you don’t realize is even missing. I am far from perfect exercising this task, but I try!

    Addison gives up saying potty words. Although it is already not permitted in family settings, she tries to not say them with her friends, too. No poop jokes on the bus…oh how will she survive

  2. Pingback: The Other List | The Contessa-Curessa Project

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