What I’ve Learned About Compost

HOW TO COMPOST

These are true for any compost, whether it’s done in a bin, in a pile, or in the ground. (There are more tips later specific to bins and piles.)

  • Compost needs about 50% green ingredients, 50% brown ingredients, and oxygen.
  • “Green” is anything with moisture. It can be any color. Food scraps, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, (non-pet) manure…
  • “Brown” is anything dry. Dry leaves, brown paper bags, wood chips, egg cartons…
  • Green is nitrogen-rich.
  • Brown is carbon-rich.
  • The compost needs oxygen to work. That’s why it’s important to turn bins or flip piles when making compost, to let oxygen get to different parts of the compost.
  • If there is too much green, it will get very stinky. If this is happening, add more brown. (Also, too much green means too much nitrogen, which means it could burn plants if it was used as fertilizer in this stinky form.)
  • No meat, dairy, fish, or animal food oils can go in the compost, unless it’s bokashi (see below).
  • Pet waste is bad because sometimes it has bacteria that can survive the heat of the pile.
  • It helps to cover the compost at the end with a layer of only brown in order to keep the smell enclosed.
  • Whatever size the compost starts out, it will end up being much smaller when it’s done. (Sort of like cooking fresh spinach)
  • If you’re trying to make organic compost, make sure yard trimmings you use (fresh grass, brown leaves, etc) come from a yard that doesn’t use pesticides.
  • We chop up twigs and branches with shears before adding them to the compost. Making everything into smaller pieces helps the compost digest more quickly and easily, like chewing for our tummies.

COMPOST COOKS INTO CLEANLINESS

A few years ago, a farmer friend of mine taught me that compost piles get hot and they are actually cooking the carbon-rich brown & nitrogen-rich green scraps. They get so hot, about 140 degrees, that the creatures one might worry about staying inside the pile (bad bacteria, bugs and any rodents who might smell tasty treats inside the pile) can’t live there anymore. It’s too hot so they leave. Pretty cool, huh? (Pun inaccurate and not intended.) A pile covered in winter snow will still cook inside and sometimes steam will still rise off of the covering snow! When it’s done, there will be only good bacteria and healthy, nutrient-rich compost.

WHY TO COMPOST

Composting food scraps and brown waste returns back to the earth what came from the earth and lets it become nutrient-rich soil that grows more plants, instead of landfill trash that becomes methane gas.

Also, when compost is added to a garden, it amends the soil by nourishing it. As the soil gets richer, plants in healthy bacteria-rich soil don’t need pesticides or chemical fertilizers. They can be next to plants with disease and not get sick. It’s like our human immune systems: we need good bacteria (probiotics) and nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. Plants are the same way. And the same way that we have to keep eating those things, so do the plants.

Helping the plants immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients and tasting better too 🙂

Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water! It also reduces the city’s need to collect yard waste, saving resources.

Even if you don’t have a garden, putting compost back into the earth anywhere is healing for it, from the lack of methane gas to the gain of nutrients. Overall, it’s a cycle that benefits people, the plants and the planet.

WHAT TO COMPOST

  • Fruits & veggies
  • Peels, skins & cores of fruits & veggies
  • Herbs & spices
  • Nutshells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Pits & seeds
  • Grains & beans
  • Tea bags without the staples
  • Shredded brown paper bags, paper egg cartons, toilet paper rolls
  • Brown, dry leaves from our pesticide-free yard
  • Chemical-free hair
  • Chemical-free fingernails
  • Down feathers from the sofa or birds outside
  • Vacuum cleaner or sweeping dust (haven’t done this one yet, but want to!)
  • House plant leaves & cut flowers (for the green bin)
  • No meat, dairy or animal products (bones, butter, fish skins)

WHERE TO STORE FOOD SCRAPS

Store the food scraps you’re collecting in the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to compost.

WHERE TO COMPOST

These are some options of how people compost. I’m sure there are more, but these are what I’ve heard. You can put your food scraps and brown compostable waste in:

  • your yard in a compost pile above ground
  • a pit in the ground with or without doors to seal it
  • a fenced in compost area
  • a plastic compost bin that turns
  • a wooden compost bin that allows for air circulation
  • a homemade compost trashcan with holes drilled in the sides

NO ROOM TO COMPOST? PUT YOUR FOOD SCRAPS IN…

  • the freezer or fridge (so they don’t smell) until you’re ready to do any of the following with them
  • your green or brown bin from the city
  • your outdoor or indoor worm bin (no acidic food or shells)
  • an indoor bokashi compost bucket (more info below)
  • or donate your food scraps to an community organization, farmer’s market or restaurant that accepts compost. L.A. Compost collects food scraps on Sundays at the Motor Avenue Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Atwater Village Farmers Market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

COMPOST INFO SPECIFIC TO BINS

  • Make sure you put in brown stuff. Just food and it gets stinky and won’t become compost.
  • Make sure it doesn’t get too heavy to turn. Turning gives it the oxygen it needs to work.
  • While water is added to open-air piles, the enclosed nature of bins seems to use the moisture of the green ingredients to help cook the compost, instead of needing water. But if things get too dry, try gently adding in some water when you go to turn the bin.

COMPOST INFO SPECIFIC TO PILES

This is info for composting not in a container, but in a large pile above ground:

  • One cubic yard is the magic size for the pile to really heat up.

LAYERING & WATERING

  • Make a layer of green, about half an inch thick, then a layer of brown, same thickness, alternating as you go, and gently watering the whole time.
  • Each time we make a double layer of green & brown ingredients, we mix them together with a pitch-forky hoe. (I’m sure that’s the proper name for it.) Then we make another set of layers and mix them and so on. Doing it slowly like this makes it be thoroughly mixed. It also lets the water get in there to hold it together like a glue so the pile can get really tall and reach its cubic yard goal.
  • Without watering each layer, it apparently doesn’t cook!
  • The water should be saturated to where you could wring the compost out like a sponge. But if it’s trickling down the sides, it’s too much.

FLIPPING OR TURNING THE PILE

  • We’ll go back and turn or flip the pile 3-4 more times before it’s done.
  • To “turn” the pile, have a second space as large as the one the compost is in where you can put the pile. (In the photo above, we moved it from the left space where the pitchfork is to the right.) I thought we would flip it in place, which seemed hard, messy and confusing. Putting it next to where it was, made it so easy to flip! That may seem obvious to some, but living in apartments for most of my life apparently has made my brain not think of space as an option. This blew my mind, ha!
  • The top layer will have cooked the least because it was exposed to the air.
  • The inside will be more cooked, even ashy sometimes, or still steaming!
  • When we flip the pile, the top layer becomes the bottom layer and the bottom becomes the top, so the whole thing will get a chance to cook evenly. 
  • We shovel the top layer onto the empty spot and repeat the same watering/ mixing as we did for each layer before.
  • More new green or brown can be added in every time a pile is flipped.
  • A pile can be turned every three days to finish the project more quickly.
  • Turning it once a week is fine.
  • Turning it every 3 weeks or whenever is fine too, it’ll just take longer.

INGREDIENT TIPS

  • Horse poo really has a hard time breaking down. (Another gardening friend recently said that chicken poo or sheep poo work wonders! And cow poo, too, because their four stomachs break the food down more than a horse’s stomach does.)
  • If we see something that is stuck in a clump, we break it up with our hands.
  • The Hollywood Orchard (where we made this pile) doesn’t worry about avocado pits or too much acidic fruits. It’ll all break down eventually.

FREE PRACTICE 

If you can find a free class or a place to go help someone do all of this with a pile, great! I learned so much from experiencing it in person.

In LA, the city gives some free workshops and discounted compost bins and worm bins. Kiss the Ground also has free compost workshops sometimes, listed on their FB page. You can also look up Grow Good, they give free classes from time to time. Here’s an LA Times article with more info.

March – November of 2018, the Burbank Recycle Center has a free compost workshop the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm, you just have to RSVP.

My favorite option of course is for people to join our beloved Hollywood Orchard mailing list, ask to be informed when we get together to work on our compost pile, and then come play in the dirt with us!

If you get to work with others, or you’re trying on your own, either way, let it be okay that trial and error is part of the exciting learning process!

 

COMPOSTING INDOORS & COMPOSTING MEAT & DAIRY | BOKASHI

My favorite compost video is of a guy in Hawaii who is playful and hilarious and simply shows a covered bucket and says, “This is BO-KAA-SHIEEE. It’s from Japan. It’s meat compost. Haven’t heard of it? It exists! That’s all I’m going to tell you. Look it up.” Ha!

So I did! And now I know that meat, dairy & animal oils can be composted too! And we can compost inside!

Bokashi bucket composting is a type of composting that takes two weeks to ferment food, including meat & dairy. All kitchen scraps go into an airtight bucket with bokashi, a mix of wheat bran, molasses, and specific microorganisms such as yeasts, actinomycetes, lactic acid bacteria and photosynthesis bacteria. The good bacteria breaks down the food and the lack of oxygen keeps the bad bacteria from growing. It’s essentially pickled compost. Or probiotic compost. Once the microbes in the bucket have made it safe, it’s added to soil or compost outside and soil microbes finish the process. Pretty neat!

Japan has done it for hundreds of years, but recently a professor clarified the exact ratio and type of microbes needed to make it safe, which allowed the practice to reach more people. For fellow curious friends, here is a site where bokashi microbes and buckets are for sale and this site has great frequently asked questions about bokashi.

 

WORM BINS

If you don’t have brown waste (dry leaves, brown paper bags, twigs etc) and you only have food scraps, your situation is perfect for a worm bin. The worms only need food scraps and are happy to help you on your composting quest.

WHY HAVE A WORM BIN?

After the worms eat food scraps, just their poo is left over and it’s called “worm castings”. It’s used to sprinkle on the soil around plants as a fertilizer!

In some worm bins, there is even a spout at the bottom to drain their “tea.” In this case, “tea” is pee. Just like their poo, it can be poured on the soil or sprayed on the leaves of plants- they love it!

“Worm tea” can also be made by putting a glob of poo in some water, letting it sit for a few hours and then feeding it to your plants as a wonder-working fertilizer.

Worm castings are filled with enzymes, good bacteria, and nutrients. Worm poo contains no salt, has a neutral PH of 7, and is water-soluble, so it is immediately absorbable by plants and can’t burn even the most delicate ones. Extreme PH levels, either high or low, make it impossible for plants to absorb nutrients and worm castings help prevent these extreme levels.

It contains nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, carbon and nitrogen. The good bacteria in the worm guts ends up in the castings, continuing beneficial activity in the soil too. And a light oil is on the castings when they come out, which erodes over time, creating a time-release effect for the quickly-absorbable nutrients.

And don’t worry, there is surprisingly nothing gross about earthworm poo. You can stick your face right near it and inhale deeply and it smells lovely! It’s as clean and refreshing to us as it is healing for the plants.

WHICH WORM BIN DO I BUY?

The square worm bins often fall into themselves. I recommend buying the circular 3-tray Can-O-Worms. It used to be available on Amazon, but today I’m only finding it on GrowOrganic.com. If it’s not available at that link when you’re looking, just Google Can-O-Worms with the dashes (if not, lizard food comes up), and look for a black circular thing with 3 levels (each level has handles). Shorter ones with less levels are more available online, but the taller one will make it easier to harvest the worm castings. It’s usually about $120.

You can also make your own worm bin, but I’ll come back and write more about that another day.

can-o-worms 3 trays

THE RIGHT KIND OF WORMS

There are actually different kinds of earthworms! Some are meant for worm bins and some aren’t. Red Wigglers are happy to eat food scraps because they are epigean, meaning they are found above ground, actively decaying rotting vegetables, compost and manure. (Anthills are epigean too, above ground. Fascinating. To me, at least.)

Other earthworms are meant to have humus and soil as their main food and won’t do well in a food scrap environment. And Red Wigglers won’t do well in soil when it dries out.

So be sure to put the right worms in your bin to keep them safe and happy. I think the worm below is not a Red Wiggler. It’s the kind likes soil. The Red Wigglers are much more red. But I’m not sure. So I buy Red Wigglers to be sure…

WHERE TO BUY WORMS

I buy them at the Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) in Los Angeles. They have a little fridge of live things and the Red Wigglers come in a $15 container that looks like a pint of ice cream.

Farmers also sell them at markets or if you go directly to their nursery. Some people have businesses selling worms online. Or if you have a friend with a worm bin already, you can take a handful of them and over time, your bin will be full of worm families!

LEARNING THROUGH EXPERIENCES 

For International Compost Awareness Week in May, Rosario Dawson, Amy Smart, Adrian Grenier, Kendrick Sampson, Paul Blackthorne, & Kiss the Ground (a non-profit in LA) worked together to get the word out about how composting restores the cycle of life.

They had a Compost Challenge with daily challenges, but the big one was to post a short video or photo sharing your Compost Story, what you do with your left over food scraps.

Fellow soil lovers shared their Compost Stories with Kiss the Ground on social media and it let me see how there are so many different ways to do it and how I can make it easier for myself. It was very helpful and inspiring to hear, and see, other people’s ways of composting!

I recommend searching the hashtag #compostlife or @kissthegroundca on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to hear more ideas. Here is my compost story:

MY COMPOST STORY PART 1 | THE HOLLYWOOD ORCHARD PILE

May 10, 2017  I’ve been participating in making and flipping the Hollywood Orchard compost pile over the past few months. From this experience, I’m getting to learn even more fun things about composting! The Hollywood Orchard made a big compost pile this morning! (It’s even taller in the shadows.) This particular day, the pile was a mix of:

  • local rabbit poo
  • local horse poo
  • fruit & veggie fiber remains from a juicery
  • straw
  • clipped up loquat tree trimmings
  • dry leaves from a yard

We make thin repeating layers of these ingredients, each layer gently watered the whole time.

The pile will get hot even by tomorrow! We are prepping for when the Cheremoya school kids to come visit the Orchard in Beachwood Canyon in two days. We’ll put a potato and deep in the pile tonight to cook & show them how hot it gets inside! And randomly, all of this happens to coincide with International Compost Awareness Week! #hotpotato

MY COMPOST STORY PART 2 | OUR BIN

May 11, 2017 This is Shane & I’s homemade compost bin! A trash can with drilled holes in it. We’ve had it for years, but as it filled, it was too heavy to rotate (aka roll around on the driveway)! And then we stopped adding brown stuff, so… whew! It is an intense/ rich/ thick pile of wet stuff. At the beginning of April, we started adding brown again though. But it’s still hard to truly mix the brown in to the bottom of the muck.

So we’re saving carbon-rich brown yard leaves, torn-up brown paper grocery bags, egg cartons, & toilet paper rolls to eventually mix with this nitrogen-rich giant wad of old food we have in our compost can. We’re either going to mix it in a fancy compost bin that we can turn easily, or build a pit topped with a raised-garden-bed-type box with cellar doors to keep out critters, or just find a spot to make a pile in the open, now that we saw how to do it at the Hollywood Orchard. Whatever we decide to do, our layers of carbon & nitrogen will be ready and abundant!

But in the meantime, we made our own worm bin! Worms don’t need brown carbon like compost does, and since we naturally have more food scraps (which fall under “green”), a worm bin makes sense for us.

Also, we used to only compost foods that are organic and other things that are chemical and pesticide free. But because of The Compost Challenge, we realized we were just throwing non-organic food in the trash and wasting it! So now we’re also starting to put non-organic food in our green bin to be composted by the city.

We keep our food scraps in our refrigerator before transferring them to the compost to avoid smells or a parade of ants. We need to get better tupperware for the fridge door to keep it all easily accessible and organized (Organic/ Non-organic/ Worm Bin). We also need to find inside-the-house storage for our new habit of keeping brown paper things for the compost.

We keep the most chopped up, less acidic and soft organic food in a separate tupperware for the worms. They like it.

As for non-food items, we’ve worked up to having all natural, basically edible, shampoo, conditioner and hair gel so that we can compost our hair with our organic compost. Hair is incredibly nitrogen-rich! So are our fingernails! So I don’t use any nail polish or nail polish remover and our body soap is also all-natural ingredients. So we can organic-compost our fingernails too! Fun fact: There are companies who even make hair-mats that cover the base of plants to keep moisture in and add nutrients!

I’m madly in love with the fact that what our body exhales (carbon dioxide) and sheds (nitrogen in the form of hair and nails) naturally feeds the plants and trees around us, and what the plants and trees exhale (oxygen) and shed (fruits & veggies) naturally feed us. How magical. (I even love mites- because they are eating our dead skin!) Imagining a world without this cycle of togetherness leaves me thinking of gross piles of hair and fingernails with no where to go! But in reality, the cycle we have is amazing! I technically have no excess, because it all has a place that helps the world in some way… Even the “gross” stuff becomes beautiful!

 

KISS THE GROUND’S RESOURCES

Kiss the Ground made this deliciously passionate video about how to keep our soil healthy with compost and how when carbon is in the air, it’s bad, but in the ground, it nourishes life:

 

They also shared about the intricacies of what the soil is doing:

 

Their Compost Story video below also extends into the details of why composting is important. Many school teachers shared it with their classes during the Compost Challenge. I thought that was so cool! Kiss the ground also has a lot of other wonderful composting posters, tools, and content on thecompoststory.com & kisstheground.com.

 

One last helpful summary of How to Compost, made by Kiss the Ground…

Thanks for listening. I would love to hear your compost story if you feel like sharing!

Updated on September 20, 2018

RESOURCES

More ideas for what to compost: https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/making/what-to-use/

Purchase a bokashi bucket & microbes: http://www.bokashicycle.com/howitworks.html

FAQs about bokashi: https://www.gardensfromgarbage.org/home/faq_about_bokashi_composting

The Hollywood Orchard: https://www.hollywoodorchard.org

The Hollywood Orchard’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HollywoodOrchard/

Kiss the Ground: http://www.kisstheground.com

Kiss the Ground’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kissthegroundCA

The Compost Story: https://www.thecompoststory

Very interesting article about how NYC is starting to compost: https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/06/02/nyregion/compost-organic-recycling-new-york-city.html?_r=0&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mindbodygreen.com%2Farticles%2F6-things-you-need-to-know-today-april-7-2017%3Futm_source%3Dmbg&utm_medium=email&utm_content=daily&utm_campaign=170606

Great info about worm castings: https://www.tastefulgarden.com/Worm-Castings-d114.htm

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Food Waste: Throwing Away More Than Food

“As much as 40% of all the food produced in the United States never gets eaten according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council… Americans throw away $165 billion dollars worth of food every year. That’s about 20 pounds per person, every month… The US Department of Agriculture says Americans throw away enough food every year to fill 730 football stadiums… US per capita food waste has increased by about 50% since 1974.” John Oliver just taught me so much about food waste in America. This is basically a recap of the episode. If you have time to watch it, he’s much funnier than I am! If not, here are some things I learned, plus some experiences and research he inspired me to share.

We’re throwing away that much food while at the same time, according to the USDA, “in 2013, 49.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households.”

Throwing away this food not only keeps it from hungry families, it results in landfills creating methane gas, wasted money we spent to buy the food, wasted money paid to the people who grew it, and wasted water and resources used to make the food. For example, throwing away one egg wastes 55 gallons of water.

Some food is thrown away because we usually won’t buy the last few fruits or veggies because we think the last options have something wrong with them. But if it’s made it as far as getting on a shelf, it has already passed strict USDA standards for pretty produce. So there is most likely not anything wrong with the lonely, pretty produce on the shelf. Where does the non-pretty produce go? It’s labeled “#2 Produce” by the USDA and as soon as that happens, “It can lose 2/3 of its market value to a farmer.” So it usually goes into the trash.

Also, confusing food-date labels cause many people to throw food out before it’s gone bad. “Except for baby food, the federal government doesn’t require any food to have a safety date on it. The states have varied laws about it, with nine states not requiring labels at all.” The food-date labels we see are put on by the manufacturing companies, but aren’t as official as we think. Some could be putting earlier dates to encourage us to buy products more often or to protect themselves from lawsuits. Or some could be putting accurate dates. Either way, “many grocery stores throw out food before its sell-by date.” And they don’t donate it.

I’ve was told in 2008 by friendly employees at Whole Foods that they used to donate food to homeless shelters at the end of each night, but now they don’t because they got sued by homeless people who got food poisoning from their donation. I have repeated their words a few times over the years. I believed them and I think they believed themselves. John Oliver thought that too! But he found out that “there has never been a case where a food donor has been sued.” And he found out that that’s because the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act covers “any food donated to a charity by saying you can not get sued if you make a food donation in good faith.”

But donating costs companies money and time because of overhead like boxing, storing and delivery coordination. Oliver suggests tax breaks to incentivize companies to donate. Large companies already get those tax breaks, but small companies are written into the tax code in a way that Congress has to continually renew their donation tax breaks. So local restaurants and local farms may not know if they will get the break at the end of each year.

In 2015 (when this video was released), the Fighting Hunger Act of 2015 was proposed to make the tax breaks permanent, but it eventually became the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 and all food donation language was removed.

In researching it, it would have increased the deficit by $1.9 billion by 2024. It also gave the same tax breaks to any corporation whose gross income from the business of farming was more than 50% of their gross income. The executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger said the bill didn’t “carefully separate the farmers who would be able to give away more food from big corporations that are just going to get another tax break.”

Nonetheless, it seems like this shouldn’t be tabled and our government should be spending time and energy on finding ways to help small businesses more easily help the hungry in our country.

And there are many other efforts being made to reduce food waste. Smithsonian Magazine said in 2015, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency recently called for a 50-percent reduction in food waste by 2030. Meanwhile, Portland launched a citywide composting program a few years ago, and at the retail level, the former president of Trader Joe’s recently opened a store near Boston that sells surplus food donated by grocery stores at rock-bottom prices.

Even simple changes can have big effects. A few years ago, college cafeterias across the U.S. began to go trayless. Carrying two plates at most rather than trays piled high with all-you-can-serve and all-you-can-eat daredevilry forced students to think about what they really wanted to eat. The seemingly simple move, which more than 120 colleges chose to adopt, helped reduce food consumption and waste by 25 to 30 percent in some colleges.”

Oliver proposes solutions from: “Resolving to eat uglier fruit, to taking expirations dates with a pinch of salt, to no longer worrying about getting sued by high-powered lawyers representing the hungry… We all have to address our relationship with food waste.”

I think the best expiration date decider is my nose.

Also, I found a new company called Imperfect Produce in Los Angeles that can deliver a small box of organic imperfect fruits and veggies to my door for $15-$17. (www.imperfectproduce.com)

And I volunteer at the Hollywood Orchard (www.hollywoodorchard.org), a nearby non-profit that collects free fruit from neighborhood trees and donates it to local charities. Food Forward, Food Finders and many others are in LA. There are also many non-profits across the country like Feeding America who act as delivery-middlemen between food vendors (grocery stores, restaurants) and food providers (soup kitchens, food banks). (Here is a blog where I got to celebrate the joys of Hollywood Orcharding…)

Shane and I also rarely waste our own food. We keep our leftovers at restaurants. And we eat them. We keep other people’s leftovers, with their permission of course. And we eat them. We buy in small, fresh portions from the grocery store and buy in small, fresh portions again. We try to use up what we have, but if we can’t, we compost what is left. We also compost the peels and pits and extra bits that come off of what we do use. We make up new meals with whatever is there. We get it wrong sometimes, but that is part of the freedom of putting our health first. Having fresh food is worth it.

 

We try to eat seasonally and it teaches us that we aren’t in charge. We try to flow with the food and we learn from it. We try to make decisions to live in a way that leaves time to make our meals, go to the store often, chop the contents of our CSA box, and know what is in the fridge, pantry and garden. It’s taken a long time to clear time for that time. But we are grateful for the growth over the years and we’re still growing.

Watering our garden, learning which plants like what amount of light and what kind of soil, learning the organic way to keep pests at bay, watching our garden grow… Picking our own olives and curing them for weeks and weeks… Growing a tree from seed knowing that it won’t make its own fruit for seven years… Learning that you can dip a branch in a hormone powder, stick it in the ground, and it will grow a tree, because plants have and need hormones in order to create just like us… Seeing that the difference between a fertile gerbera daisy seed and a non-fertile one is that the fertile one is swollen… A male butternut squash flower is a cone, but the female is swollen… They can get pregnant like we can. And it takes time for them to bear fruit, just like we do.

And all the beautiful creatures that are involved in making one fruit, the bees, the hummingbirds, the earthworms, the bacteria in the soil, the minerals in the rain water, even the gas from decaying sea plankton that has evaporated into the clouds and rained down has something beneficial for the plants…

When we waste food that goes into a landfill instead of composting back into the circle of food, we waste all of these things. We waste the time, the light, the water, the creatures, our time and energy used to earn the money we wasted to buy it; we waste the nourishment, the extension of our own existence, and the delicious and delightful experience it comes in.

I hope you and your family, or just you, are able to make steps toward enjoying and using each bit of food you have. Thanks John Oliver & Co. for this new knowledge and inspiration.

heart ruth signature

 

Resources:

Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver | Episode at top of the page

Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2015 Passes House http://www.borgenmagazine.com/fighting-hunger-incentive-act-2015-passes-house/

Why Don’t Some Grocery Stores Donate Food to Poor People http://www.businessinsider.com/why-dont-some-grocery-stores-donate-food-to-poor-people-2014-10

This Is How Much Water You Waste When You Throw Away Food http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-trashing-food-wastes-water-too-180957239/

Why I March Alone, With You

thewholeruth-i-march-alone-with-you-whyimarch

This morning, I ended up writing to my friend Jenna about the march and why I’m going. Thank you Jenna for helping me hear my feelings. I was feeling them, but I couldn’t put them into words. Thank you for inspiring me…

I’d like to share my reasons for going to the Women’s March. I have the strong intention of going with others so that I feel safe, but at the same time, I intend to have a very individual experience.

It wasn’t until the last year or so that I realized that I’m the only one who is living every moment of my life with me. And there have been lots of moments in that amount of time. So my opinions are very specific and detailed. When I’m at the march, maybe some of the people there will agree with five opinions I have and maybe someone else would agree with five of my other opinions. But to find someone who agrees with all of my opinions would be strange, because they haven’t had the experiences I have had. And I have not had theirs.

Accepting this individuality lets me feel joy that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel for most of my life. I had it in my head that the only experiences that mattered in my life were the ones that related to other people. So if I didn’t have someone who related to my memories that were wonderful, joyful, I wouldn’t talk about them. For like 20 years. But they are my reality and they matter to me. Now, even if no one else was, or is, there for a past or present magical moment, I can embrace the outpouring of my own positive feelings. Or even if someone is there, but they don’t like something I like or don’t feel joy while I do, I feel it. And I’m doing the same thing with negative experiences I had too. It is beyond difficult to look at them, but it is healing not to be afraid of them anymore. They are relevant, to me. And no one else has to relate for that to be true.

This doesn’t make me feel lonely. It did at first because I only knew how to receive love through relating. Now nurturing myself with love is a byproduct of my honesty with myself. Acceptance of my reality makes me feel a fullness inside myself. I know myself better than I did a year ago and I like to hang out with myself. My self-love is new and can be pummeled by old punishing habits, but the teeter-totter is slowing switching sides.

Because of where I am in my journey, I’m not going to the march to join with the opinions of others or to have my experience feel large. Tomorrow is about me being enough.

If I could go naked, I would. I know that’s illegal. And that it also makes people think of sex, which isn’t what I mean. But I like how it could represent being vulnerable by shedding my layers, shining a light on the core of who I am and being content with that core. I mean it in a bare, open, simple way.

And as for the sex part of it, I feel like embracing my sexuality, as opposed to getting caught in caring about society’s many judgments of sex, has helped me embrace my whole self, my needs and my intuition. Someone once told me, “My sexuality is divinely connected to my spirituality.” It helped me see that my intuitive flow would hit my judgment of my sexuality and get blocked. I couldn’t be honest and spiritually full until I celebrated my whole self.

But, I will be at the march with clothes on because I’m just happy that I’ve been able to clarify to myself what my intentions are. And again, I like honoring the truth of my opinion and I don’t feel that tomorrow is a day where I can express it visually in an honest way.

There will be people there whose truth tomorrow is to do the opposite of what I’m doing, to tell vibrant visual stories and create clarity with color and meaningful art. I’m so grateful for them. I’ll just be doing something slightly similar in a slightly different way.

I guess I mean that just me quietly being there is enough. Showing up in whatever way feels good and possible tomorrow is enough. Maybe it will be bright. Maybe it won’t. (Watch, tomorrow morning I will wake up excited to wear hot pink glitter everything…) But giving myself permission to keep it simple is new for me. Anything more will be an added treat. Today I’m enjoying the honesty of discovering the present in the present. I guess there’s no other time that one would discover the present.

I also will be marching knowing that I am keeping some of myself for myself. I had never done that until recently. I was “all or nothing” and in turn gave my all and had nothing left for myself. I feel that it’s encouraged and rewarded to over-work or over-give. And that we’re only familiar with overdoing so those words shorten to become simply “work” or “give.”  I think it is a common thread among women. But I see that men do it too, in a different way. And often we’re both left with an emptiness that we might think the other doesn’t have.

My dearest aunt passed away last month and her memorial is the Saturday after the march. I know that in the past I would have not heard my inner voice saying that I want to be emotionally present with my family. I would have stepped into the wonderful whirlwind energy of the march and gotten whisked away and later resented myself for not noticing my needs. I would have given my all. But my “all” has changed. It’s still my all, there’s just less budgeted for other people now. “I need to be present at the memorial, to feel through the sadness of this experience, for my health and my heart. I need to grieve.” And I feel that marching in a way that leaves space for me, for my life after the march, is another way to stand up for myself as a woman. I’m allowed to matter: my past feelings, my present feelings and my future ones. Protecting space in the world for myself is kind.

It’s funny to me that to stand up for myself as a woman, I need to stand up a bit less for women tomorrow, but in doing so, take a stand for women by treating myself as I wish all women were treated.

Living this way looks a bit less exciting from the outside, but it makes my life on the inside much richer. And that is what I’m hoping tomorrow’s act and others like it will help make possible for women everywhere.

I feel the same way for men too. I think in a society where they are told they are weak if they have feelings, they say things like, “We don’t talk about that.” And their silence is a way of staying safe in the society they live in. In the same way that I didn’t embrace negative and positive feelings in the past and the present, it was eating me alive. I think it would be easy to resent the feminine in females because they are taught to resent it in themselves. I resented it in myself for so much of my life because I fell for the same story they are often told.

I am grateful that I’m able to now stand more often in my truth. I wish that blessing for all the humans on the planet.

So what am I doing tomorrow? I’m standing in the opinions I already have and saying that someone else doesn’t get to tell me that I’m less-than. We are all of value. It’s nice to get to be with others who will be standing in their own opinions too. I’m standing up for the fact that we all get to have different opinions and I like that.

So whatever opinion you go to the march with or don’t go to the march with, whatever way you express it, whatever point you are at in your journey, I’ll be standing up for it. I believe we are all here alone, together.

#whyimarch #womensmarch #womensmarchla #alonetogether #respect4sisters #respect4all #weareallofvalue

www.womensmarch.com | Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

https://www.womensmarch.com/sisters | There are 673 simultaneous sister marches worldwide

www.womensmarchla.org | Women’s March in Los Angeles, C.A.

womensmarchla

The life’s work of these two men, [David Bowie & Alan Rickman] for me, represented the ying and yang of everything I have ever wanted to be as an artist. Works that were universally emotive and meaningful without losing a sense of fun and wonder. Works that never took themselves too seriously. Works that didn’t give everything away…

Our job as artists is not to convince, it is to inspire.

To inspire curiosity, to inspire thought, to inspire learning…Support things and people that inspire. Strive to inspire yourself.

Jessica Berson

We’re Only as Sick as Our Secrets

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“We’re only as sick as our secrets…” I’m so grateful to see the other side of speaking shame out loud. I was raised with the good intention of respecting humility and somehow, claiming tiny, or large, shames seemed too selfish.

I like that this man talks about his friend who considered suicide a better option than speaking his truth. I rarely hear people talk about what a life-or-death situation silencing oneself can be. Being our true selves is more important than how society may judge that truth.

For a long time, I wanted to live in a world where society is more respectful of truth than judgmental of it. Now I see that it was me who was falling for the judgement. And slowly accepting all of my imperfections gives me a fullness inside that doesn’t need to search as often for the opinions of others.

Although, ironically, in my sharing my fears, I was blessed with people who were doing the same thing and are very encouraging. I think people’s lives would be saved, and richer, if the message in this video was spread more often.

#gratefulfortruth #evenifitfeelsscary #progressoverperfection

Freedom To Be Myself On Stage, and Off

My mom gave me the July issue of Elle magazine for my birthday. It is about women in comedy and I wish every magazine was just like this one. I read Bridget Everett’s article about her comedy icon, her mom. I only know Bridget’s work through rave reviews and photos in Time Out New York magazine. They never took us off of their mailing list after we moved to LA and we kept getting them for free! It was our only bathroom reading for the first three years in LA and our regular bowels made it very hard to detach from NYC. My quiet toilet time would be a magic portal to New York art, music, literature, dance, theatre and other-worldly fearless night talent.

So I weirdly love Bridget’s raunchtastic cabaret shows and volcanic personality without ever seeing her perform! I recently got to see her move and speak as Maria Bamford’s best friend in Maria Bamford’s genius Lady Dynamite on Netflix. Bridget was hysterical as expected, so was Maria, as expected, and the whole show, as expected. Go watch that show. Anyway, all that being said, I was excited to read Bridget’s article in Elle:

My mom is an 82-year-old retired schoolteacher who raised six kids largely on her own, and she has no idea how funny she is. For starters, she always walked around the house naked, which was pretty wonderful growing up because she’s a big woman. It showed me that it’s just a body; it’s no big deal. She would go to the grocery store without a bra, so we’d call her “Beaver Tails.” She just didn’t care! But she’s totally beloved in my hometown. She’s turned into this old lady who rides around on a Jazzy with a cane, going through Kmart poking soldiers and thanking them for their service, then trapping them in conversations.

There’s so much in my performance that’s performed by her. Not wearing a bra on stage. Interacting with the audience. She was a music teacher, and when I was younger, my older brothers and sisters would all get shitfaced, and we’d stand around the piano singing songs from Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie and our favorite show tunes. That’s basically what I do for a living now.

When I moved to New York to sing, the only real singing I was doing was at karaoke bars, where I would just go crazy. It was mayhem. Literally ripping my shirt off, grabbing guys- it was the only outlet I had, but when I was doing it and getting reactions from the crowd, I thought, Oh, maybe I can take this to a legitimate stage and do crazy covers of songs and tell crazy stories. It’s a shamelessness and a freedom, which definitely came from my mother.

She came to my show at Joe’s Pub once, and I was so nervous. I mean, I sit on people’s faces and motorboat them. But there she was cheering the whole time, and at the end she came up to me and said, “That was freedom in motion.” It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

This inspired me. It made me cry. It reminded me that what I want most, what I have always wanted but didn’t realize until recently, is freedom to be myself. I looked for it and found the freedom part in improv. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, but only as a character. And so, after doing it on and off since I was ten, I stopped improvising. It perpetuated my addiction to pleasing others, to the fight or flight chemicals in my body, to getting a high from rescuing or fixing. And it gave me a false sense of freedom.

Once I saw that freedom was what I lacked and craved, I wanted to transfer that feeling I get on stage into my real life. It was mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, dumb-founding to imagine that I could simply have that wild abandon in my life. Not just on stage. I’m so happy on stage. I can taste the joy. The only times I had felt that in life was when I was helping others to the detriment of my own life. I only knew it as a high from a distraction. From creating a false, unreliable reality. A reality that kept me stuck in the same place, without progress or real growth. Alive, but chock full of old fears and confusion, which meant I was chock full of sadness too.

So I am retraining my brain to listen to itself. To learn that there are many things, people, outcomes I want to control so that I feel safe. But that not trying to control them leaves just me. And even then, I am learning not to control myself. I used to spend every millisecond of every day telling myself no. No, do it later. No, do it in a different way. No, do it more efficiently. All of these things usually led to it never getting done at all. I watched my life pass by. There were so many times I could see that because of my procrastination, I clearly missed opportunities.

I will say this next part in the past tense, although I am still currently practicing changing it in the present: My procrastination came from perfectionism, which came from fear of not doing it well, which came from fear that people won’t love me unless I’m perfect, which came from experiencing abandonment as a child, which gave me a fear of being left behind by the pack and dying. So I was used to being in fight or flight, all the time. The fear of death was a daily motivator and I had no idea.

So now I am learning to rely on what god is to me, my instinct, my higher power, a thing all around me that is also my inner voice. It looks out for me. Then when I remove controlling others or myself, there is not an emptiness, there is a flow to life. A momentum that is peaceful as a breeze in the summer sky. It moves forward. Naturally, organically, and truthfully. (This is not my default setting yet and is an uphill struggle. But neuroplasticity means that any-age dogs can learn new tricks. And happiness is a worthwhile treat.)

I’m getting to know myself better and am excited to put my newly-discovered calm motion into what I want to do. I thought that I needed to take myself out of improv because art didn’t let me be myself. But there is art that does. And there is improv that does too, I just wasn’t doing that kind. I’m excited to allow that freedom for myself in writing and creative aspects of my life. It’s new for me to see that I can have both freedom and be myself and it can exist in an artistic space too. I’ve only known being other people for so long. On stage and off. But art is expansive and we create our space within it by existing, in any way we want.

Thank you, Bridget.

And Bridget’s Mom.

And my Mom 🙂

The Hollywood Orchard & Green Wish

LOVELY LEMON VERBENA LOQUAT JAM

Shane and I hosted a mini jam-making session in our backyard yesterday! Delightful Chef Minh Phan, of Porridge & Puffs, was our fearless leader!

Photos by Katie Fritchel, Minh Phan & TheWholeRuth

ABOUT HOLLYWOOD ORCHARD

Since 2011, we’ve been part of the Hollywood Orchard, a beautiful community who collects fruit from neighborhood trees, preserves it in pop-up kitchens with the help of loving chefs, and then donates the remaining harvest to local food banks. In one afternoon, about 50 people can pick up to 2000 lbs of free fruit that would have otherwise gone to waste! The Orchard was founded by caring community leaders, and lovers of fruit, Bill & Tamara Pullman.

Photos by Bridie Macdonald, Kyle Soehngen & TheWholeRuth

OTHER ORCHARD ACTIVITIES

Orchard Supply Hardware sponsors us and we got to be at the ribbon cutting for their new store on La Brea!

We also have musical shows where Orchardistas play and sing and share their talents. And sometimes artists come and draw the shows.

LOQUAT PICK

Back in April, the Orchard picked and froze 7 gallons of loquats, a fruit that I see on trees in town all the time, but I never knew was edible!

Photos by Bridie Macdonald

JAM

Yesterday this little team used that harvest to make 60 jars of delicious Lovely Lemonverbena Loquat jam! It was a peaceful and laughter-filled day.

Thank you to Orchardistas Tamara Pullman, who helped set it up, Allison Brooker for designing lovely & educational labels, and Angela Gygi, Katie Frichtel, and newest addition, my old friend Jenna C. Johnson for all their hard work and for jamming out with us in our yard!

Photos by Katie Fritchel & TheWholeRuth

WHERE WILL THE JAM GO?

Who gets to eat this lovely, lip-smackety creation? Guests at a fundraiser dinner, Friendsgiving, hosted by Green Wish and Union Restaurant in Pasadena!

WHAT IS GREEN WISH?

Green Wish is a local green non-profit who sponsors other local green non-profits. It’s packed full of environmentally-passionate people like Raphael Sbarge, Scott Harris, Ed Begley Jr., Rachelle Carson-Begley, Fayna Sanchez, Libby Ewing, and Sharon Lawrence. We are honored to be included in the group of charities they are supporting along with the great  HoneyLoveMuir Ranch, and Food Forward. Friendsgiving dinner will raise money for all of us!

Here is a little story of how Hollywood Orchard came to be friends with Green Wish…

THE L.A. RIVER

My fiancé grew up in a small town in Ohio. His littlest sister was (and still is) best friends with Chelsea Peters as a kid. Chelsea now lives in LA. She introduced me to her amazing friend Fayna. Fayna said she was helping throw an event. It was the screening of the documentary A Concrete River, about the LA River. I didn’t even know we had a river in LA! So I figured I should go watch it and learn.

It was a beautiful documentary, directed by Raphael Sbarge, who is also on Once Upon A Time and Murder in the First! I learned that the large divot in the ground filled with cement and a sliver of water that I see whilst atop bridges is our river! The river rises with the rainy season and when the Native Americans lived along the edges of it, they would have to move their huts if it rose into a flood. In the 1938, when non-Native Americans lived along the edges of it, a severe flood happened and they couldn’t move their infrastructure. Over five-thousand buildings were destroyed, 15oo buildings were damaged and many roads were washed away or buried in debris. One-hundred and fifteen people passed away.

So the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers channelized the river by digging deeper along the riverbed and putting in miles of cement. It has helped with the floods since then, but even the floods of 1964 and 2005 were too big for our man-made fix. But there are downfalls to channelization. It kills wetlands and their wildlife, which also have a natural cycle that keep surface water clean. It also straightens the path of the river which makes the water flow faster and can therefore cause more soil erosion and flooding in the sections downstream from the channelization. And it reduces fish population.

These may not seem like such a bad thing, but they make so much of a negative environmental impact that the government has mostly stopped channelizing rivers. If they do it, they must create wetlands somewhere else to offset the damage. And in many cases where channelization was put in years ago, the government is going back and removing the concrete they laid in the first place! I find it amazing that they are able to be objective, humble and honest about their well-intentioned yet harmful behavior.

And that’s exactly what happens in A Concrete River. Ironically, the very same U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that put the cement in is ready to take 11 miles of the cement out! The film shows how people who have been fighting for the river’s wildlife for 25 years and the government are working together to get the project approved. They are 2/3 of the way there.

If you ever want to spend time with the river, there are bike paths along it and you can even kayak! The same people who are in talks with the Army Corp help L.A. locals learn about and experience the river. They are a non-profit called the Friends of the Los Angeles River, led by river-lover Lewis MacAdams. He is a warm soul and extended an open invitation to The Frog Spot.

In their words, “Located along the breathtaking Elysian Valley bike path, the Frog Spot is Friends of the Los Angeles River’s summer gateway to the LA River. At the Frog Spot, visitors to the river can take a break for a poetry reading, take a yoga class, learn about the about the river’s history and ecology, enjoy a cup of coffee, or see live music every Saturday night.”

MEETING GREEN WISH

It was wonderful to learn about our precious local resource. And wonderful to meet so many kind souls who have been caring about it and for it for so long! During the talk-back, we learned that Green Wish sponsored the film and that they help green non-profits raise money, market themselves and find volunteers.

I ran into Hollywood Orchardista Jodi Long at the event and we both thought Green Wish would be great for the Orchard. But Jodi luckily said, “Well, let’s go talk to them!” They said they were interested in us and said that we could apply! I went and thanked Fayna and told her about the Orchard and that maybe Green Wish will give us a grant. She replied that she’s on the board of Green Wish! I had no idea! At the very end of the event, I was starting to understand where I was, ha!

So, long story long, I was excited to be a teeny cog in a series of wheel people who helped the Orchard apply for a grant. With the intense efforts of Emilee Moeller, Becky Waer, Angela Gygi, and Larry Markes, the Orchard recently received a grant from Green Wish! Thank you to Fayna Sanchez, Jodi Long, Libby Ewing and Victoria Bogner, for bringing Green Wish into our lives!

MEETING UNION RESTAURANT

Green Wish and Union Restaurant Pasadena are hosting the Friendsgiving dinner fundraiser for all of the charities. It will be the first of many Green Wish fundraiser dinners there. The jam we made in the yard will be a treat for the guests in their gift bags. We’re also donating Hollywood Orchard’s hand-squeezed tangerine juice to be used by Union’s chef, Bruce Kalman, who is incorporating food from each charity in each course of the meal. (Fun fact: Chef Kalman has been on Beat Bobby Flay and did indeed do that!)

Our first meeting for the dinner was at Union Restaurant. Even being there in the day when it’s closed, I could feel the passion and love they have for food! That meeting was also when Green Wish presented us with our first check. Such an honor! And Muir Ranch owner, Mud Baron, brings the most beautiful homegrown flowers with him everywhere and takes photos of people with flowers on their heads! Sounds silly, but it’s an instant joy-causer! It made the meeting even more special. Enjoy more flowerjoy on his Instagram! #flowersonyourhead

#GREENWISHUNION FRIENDSGIVING DINNER

Here are some Greenwishers at the Pasadena Farmers Market prepping for Friendsgiving: Chef Bruce Kalman, Ed Begley Jr., Sharon Lawrence, Scott Harris, & Raphael Sbarge

Photos by Jules Exum

Friendsgiving dinner is Sunday, November 15th. It’s going to be a magical, and tasty, night.

#GreenWishUnion, To join us: http://bit.ly/1MoY4Ky

Thank you to Katie Frichtel, Minh Phan, Bridie Macdonald, Jules Exum, & Kyle Soehngen for your gorgeous and sincere photos!

“Doormat and Boots”…a love story

everything this woman says is exactly what i’ve been working on for the past year. each word resonates with me and feels warm to read. i’m mid-this. but i feel so much better already. i have more inner presents to open and wrestle or acknowledge or celebrate, but growth is happening and i’m grateful.

Basically Well

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Being a doormat, at its roots, is the same as being the dirty boots.

One lays there and takes on All, while the other wipes off an ugly collection of experiences. Neither are balanced and both love from a deep place of pain, in a very selfish manner, out of control and self preservation. Underlying, in both, are similar wounds that cause a fictional story to rerun in their minds, with titles like: “You are not enough” or “You don’t matter” or “You can’t do anything right” or “You are insignificant” and “Prove your love” The titles might be slightly different, their circumstances of origin slightly different, but, the central moral of the story is always the same. It is those old, often used, yet, absolutely true words “You cannot fully love another unless you’ve truly loved yourself first”.

Now, these are merely my words, written out of observation, personal…

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