Finished my compost bins

I finally finished my compost bins over the weekend. I decided to build a triple-bin (turning bin) system, each approximately one cubic meter (3’x3’x3′.)

Compost Bins

The bins are constructed entirely of cedar (renewable, weather resistant, and generally termite resistant), using cedar fence panels and 2x4s. The lids are made from cedar 2×2 deck-railing slats, covered in a square, wire mesh (to keep the birds and squirrels out.) The bins are held together with cedar-rated Deck Mate screws, which I had left-over from another project. (It’s pointless to use nice, weather resistant wood if you’re just going to join it with cheap, rust-prone fasteners. Spend the extra money on rust-free nails/screws/staples so you don’t end up with rust stains running from every joint.)

For those new to three-bin compost systems, here’s how they work:

  1. New compost materials are put into the bin on the left. (You can still turn materials in this bin like normal.)
  2. Part-way through the composting process, you shovel-out the materials in the left bin and move them into the center bin. (This provides opportunity to fully flip/aerate the pile.)
  3. When done, shovel the center bin’s pile into the right bin. The right bin stores ready-to-use compost.
  4. Once you have a cycle going, you can have a new pile starting, while still having a steady stream of available compost.

It’s hard to tell in the picture above (by design), but the front of each bin opens for easy access. The doors are held on with a simple gate latch:

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The screen lids lay on top of each bin, resting on simple guides made from exposed screws. The mesh is attached using staples:

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Using cedar raised the materials cost a bit, but the extra durability should be worth it in the long run. All said and done, the materials were a bit over $100 for the whole unit (which is still significantly cheaper then buying a pre-made bin this size.)

For more on composting, see:

Tomatoes and peppers off to a good start

Last year was the first time I intentionally tried growing anything meant for eating, though it was limited to just a few herbs (oregano, mint, rosemary, etc.) This season, I thought I’d expand the gardening to include a small selection of more fruitful plants. I dropped by a neighborhood “community garden” plant sale and picked up a small variety of peppers and tomatoes.

After giving them a nice, sunny plot in the back yard (and a little water in the mornings), the whole batch has tripled in size and begun budding and/or flowering. Since I’m pretty much making up this “gardening” thing as I go, I’m assuming that this behavior is a good thing.

The shot below shows one of the Jalapeno plants that has started to bud:

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Hazardous Waste Collection in Austin

This past Saturday, the City of Austin held a Hazardous Waste Collection Event at a north Austin high school. The demand was overwhelming — so much so, that hundreds of people (including myself) were stuck in traffic for several hours trying to drop-off old paint cans, automotive fluids, expired household chemicals, etc. The turnout was a great success — but the event was a planning disaster. Traffic backed-up for miles… cars sat idling for hours only to be eventually turned away at the 1pm cut-off time.

The only positive thing to come out of it (for me, at least), was learning about the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in South Austin:

Residents of the City of Austin and Travis County may bring up to 30 gallons of hazardous waste, generated in the home, to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility free of charge.

The facility is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 12 noon to 6 p.m, and the first Saturday of each month, 7 a.m. to 12 noon.

For more:

[Update: 2008-05-07]
With my old paint cans still in boxes, I went down to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility this past Saturday morning. There were zero cars in line. It took no time at all.

Tailpipe Tally

TailpipeTally provides an online tool for comparing various vehicle fuel consumption and emissions ratings against the latest hybrid’s (Prius and Civic, for example.) Much to my surprise, my Subaru didn’t score all that bad. Yes, it pushes out more Carbon Dioxide (which while not a health threat, is a “greenhouse gas”), but it produces fewer harmful gasses then the hybrids:

emissions table

(via treehuger)