If you’ve gotten the basics in How What Where to Compost Part 1, below are tips on how to compost in a bin vs. a pile. “Bin” in this context means an enclosed plastic bin.
It can be as simple as a trashcan with holes drilled in it…
Or a more expensive stationary bin that may be open on the bottom, allowing bacteria, worms and other goodies to help the compost accelerate…
Or it may be one that can rotate in place…
Click the images for more info. Bin-wise, I’ve only used a trashcan with holes drilled in it, so I don’t have experience with the other items. I thought they’d be fun to share to get ideas flowing if you’re bin-curious. And here are some more types.
EQUALITY: Put in an equal amount of “green” and “brown.” It doesn’t have to be at the same time, but within a few days of adding food scraps or green, add brown.
ADD BROWN: Be sure to put in “brown” stuff. Only adding food, without carbon-rich dry brown items, makes the bin too nitrogen-rich, which is stinky and doesn’t make the chemical reaction that creates compost.
WATER: Also, while water is usually added to compost, it’s sometimes possible for enclosed bins to use the moisture of the green ingredients to help cook the compost. But if things get too dry, try gently adding in some water when you turn the bin.
NOT TOO HEAVY: Make sure it doesn’t get too heavy to turn. Turning the bin gives the compost the oxygen it needs to work.
ROLLING IT AWKWARDLY IS FINE: When we were using a plastic trashcan with drilled holes, we’d slightly tip it and “steer” it, rolling it along the drive-way at an angle to rotate the contents inside.
TARP OPTION: If the type of bin you have is stationary or isn’t rollable, an option is to dump out the compost onto a tarp, turn it and then put it back in the bin.
MOVE-IT OPTION: If your bin is open to the ground at its base, some people pick up the whole bin off the compost, put it down in a new spot, then return the compost.
PITCHFORK OPTION: You can also use a pitchfork to repeatedly push into the pile and lift it straight up. This is hard for me to do.
MIXING TOOL OPTION: Some people use a handy compost mixing tool, designed only for turning stationary compost bins! Stick the bottom in and twist the handle to aerate the pile. People say they work wonders. Click to read their good reviews:
1 CUBIC YARD: One cubic yard is the magic size for the pile to really heat up.
BROWN + GREEN + WATER: Make a layer of green, about an inch thick, then a layer of brown, same thickness, then mix, gently water the layers the whole time you’re mixing, repeat until done.
MIX EACH LAYER: To reiterate, instead of mixing it all at the end, we mix each layer. Doing it slowly lets it be thoroughly mixed which helps it cook. It’s physically more manageable to me too.
HOW TO MIX: We use a pitch-forky hoe. (I’m sure that’s the proper name.)
GLUE: Watering while mixing lets the moisture go deep into the layer to hold it together like glue. This lets the pile get really tall and reach a cubic yard.
NO MOISTURE, NO HEAT: Without watering each layer, it apparently doesn’t cook!
SPONGE GOAL: The pile should be saturated to where you could wring the compost out like a sponge. But if water is trickling down the sides, it’s too much.
HOW TO FLIP/ TURN
Next to the pile, have a second space as large as the one that holds the pile.
Shovel the top layer onto the empty spot and repeat the same watering/ mixing for each layer like before.
The top layer will become the bottom layer and the bottom becomes the top.
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!
So flipping allows the whole thing a chance to cook evenly.
More new green or brown can be added every time a pile is flipped.
At the end, cover everything in a layer of brown to reduce smells.
For a visual, in the photo above, we moved the pile from the left space, where the pitchfork is, to the right.
(I thought we would flip the pile 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, but living in apartments for most of my life has apparently made my brain not think of space as an option. Having a 2nd spot blew my mind!)
If you don’t have an extra plot to flip the pile, some people dump out the compost onto a tarp, turn it and then put it back in its original spot. Or you can try the pitchfork or mixing tool options above.
Turning or flipping a pile can be done once a week.
Turning it every 3 weeks or whenever is fine too, it’ll just take longer for the pile to be “finished.”
A pile can be turned as often as every three days to finish the project more quickly.
Whether it’s every 3 days, once a week, or however long, turn the pile 3-4 times for it to become “done.”
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.)
We still use horse poo though.
If we see something that is stuck in a clump, we break it up with our hands.
The Hollywood Orchard doesn’t worry about avocado pits or too many acidic fruits. Our philosophy so far is that it’ll all break down eventually.
Remember to chop up whatever large things go in the pile, food, twigs, etc., to help it “digest” more quickly. What does large mean? A whole orange is better halved or quartered, a branch is better in 3 inch pieces or at least smaller than it started.
We usually use sheers to chop the ingredients. Whatever container holds the ingredients beforehand, a bucket, a trashcan, or whatever, we stick the sheers in and just chop around crazy until it feels like the right size. Or until we’re too tired to keep chopping.
PILES IN WOODEN BINS
This option is sort of a mix of the other two. It’s like an open-air pile in an enclosure. I don’t have experience with this, but will soon! We’re currently making one. I’ll update as we learn more. Below are some examples (click images for info). Here are more.
These guidelines are true for any compost, whether it’s done in a bin, in a pile, or in the ground. (More info: Compost Bins vs. Piles)
Compost needs about 50% green ingredients, 50% brown ingredients, oxygen and water.
“Green” is anything with moisture. It can be any color. Food scraps, grass, leaves, coffee grounds, (non-pet) manure…
Green is nitrogen-rich.
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.)
“Brown” is anything dry. Dry leaves, brown paper bags, wood chips, egg cartons…
Brown is carbon-rich.
It helps to cover the compost with a layer of only brown to keep the smell enclosed.
The compost needs oxygen to work. That’s why it’s important to turn bins or flip piles when making compost, to let oxygen reach different parts of the compost. Also, make sure there is air circulating around the compost.
The compost needs moisture, so add water to give it more oxygen and help it cook.
No: No meat, dairy, fish, or animal food oils can go in the compost, unless it’s bokashi (More info: Compost Indoors or Meat & Dairy = BOKASHI). No pet waste because sometimes it has bacteria that can survive the heat of the pile.
Shrinkage: Whatever size the compost starts out, it will end up being much smaller when it’s done. (Sort of like cooking fresh spinach)
Organic: 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. Anything that is non-organic, we still compost in our city’s green bin.
Chop it: 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.
IT 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.)
When a pile is flipped, sometimes there is ash inside. A pile covered in winter snow will still cook and sometimes steam will still rise off of the covering snow! The Hollywood Orchard hosts a 6th grade field trip for the local school and a few days before the kids come, they put an egg and potato inside the compost so when the kids arrive, they can see the egg is hard-boiled and then play hot-potato with the weird stinky potato!
When the compost has been turned a few times to allow the whole thing to cook, there will be only good bacteria and healthy, nutrient-rich compost.
WHAT TO COMPOST
No meat, dairy or animal products (bones, butter, fish skins) or pet waste
Fruits & veggies
Peels, skins & cores of fruits & veggies
Herbs & spices
Pits & seeds
Grains & beans
Tea bags without the staples
Feathers from the down sofa or birds outside
Fresh house plant leaves
Store-bought flower bouquets (only for the city green bin if your goal is organic)
Shredded brown paper bags
Paper egg cartons
Toilet paper rolls
Brown, dry leaves (you can get them from parks sometimes, ideally they’d be from a pesticide-free yard)
Vacuum cleaner or sweeping dust
Ash from a firepit that used wood
Dry house plant leaves
Wood chips (ideally chemical-free/ non-treated)
COLLECT THE COMPOST
Collect your food scraps in the freezer or fridge, so they don’t smell or attract bugs. You can keep them in glass or plastic tupperware, or you have regular plastic bags, you can use those and wash them out and re-use them. Or use compostable bags. Or to create less waste, you can keep them in a bowl with no lid or a brown paper bag that can be tossed in to the compost.
You can also collect scraps in a smell-absorbing compost bucket on your counter-top. (We use this one. During the summer ant-parades, we keep it in the fridge.)
WHERE TO COMPOST
When you’re ready to compost, 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
It seems like it’s possible that everyone can participate in some part of the compost cycle. But getting started may be difficult without seeing the magic in action. In my experience, composting can a passionate team sport or an invigorating ice-skating solo. Reading about it may be all you need to start on your own, but it can also be helpful to find some experienced folks who will let you watch their process or answer questions about how they do it. You could also find a free class or offer to temporarily help a community garden with their compost. I learn so much by helping flip the pile every so often at our beloved Hollywood Orchard.
If you want to do it in a group, there may be compost hubs or compost co-ops near you that you can join.
Whether working with others or solo, I suggest trying to get comfy with the idea that trial and error is part of the process no matter what, and it can be exciting and beautiful.
For folks in Los Angeles:
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.
The Burbank Recycle Center has a free compost workshop the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm from March – November, you just have to RSVP.
The Hollywood Orchard in Beachwood Canyon offers opportunities to work on their compost pile where the compost-curious can learn via hand-on practice. Join the Hollywood Orchard mailing list and ask to be informed of when we get together to work on our compost pile, then come play in the dirt with us!
Whenever you’d like. Composting can seem tricky, but I feel like you’ll know when you’re ready. To me, love is the main ingredient. Add some to the compost, and some to yourself. It lets you keep trying until you figure out what works for you.
Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy… Anything that is alive is made of carbon, including us.
When we sweep leaves away from our lawns, we’re sweeping away that area’s food. Those leaves, flowers, seeds and natural debris, that are often seen as mess, would normally stay and break down into food for the soil and become food for the plants in that space.
It is often said to rotate crops because one type of plant will eat certain nutrients in that spot and another type of plant would eat other nutrients, letting the depleted nutrients build back up for a while. But naturally, a tomato plant drops its seeds in the same place and grows again. Why? My guess is that a tomato plant would normally die in its spot, make green & brown waste, mix with rain or snow and other fallen leaves, and become its own food next year, replenishing the soil’s nutrients. Without humans taking away their “mess,” they feed themselves. It seems the seeds would ride the wind or in the belly of an animal and end up popping up in new places too, but they’d have peace-of-mind knowing they carry a cycle of food with them where ever they go.
But why do we care about feeding the soil to feed plants? Firstly, because CARBON.
When the soil is depleted, it can’t pull carbon into itself or keep it there. Carbon dioxide in the air is pollution. Carbon in the soil is healthy. It becomes food for the soil’s bacteria. Anything that is alive- plants, animals, soil- is made of carbon, including us. There was a balanced cycle of carbon dying and becoming new life, but we added too much carbon to the atmosphere with fossil fuels and took away the ground’s ability to absorb carbon with our agriculture practices. This combination is creating pollution that is killing the planet that keeps us alive.
Ryland Englehart, co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a non-profit in LA, shares that between carbon extraction via fossil fuels and our agriculture practices, “We’ve moved 880 giga-tons [880,000,000,000 tons] of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which is heating up the planet and destabilizing our climate. Now, the oceans have absorbed a lot of this excess carbon which is resulting in ocean acidification and accelerating a mass extinction of sea life… Where do we put this excess carbon to get this cycle back into balance? The answer is literally… under our feet. It’s the soil.”
When plants photosynthesize, they pull carbon out of the air and turn it into sugars that go into their roots feeding bacterial colonies, mycorrhizal funghi, and aggregates. These creatures increase the root capacity by the thousands, turn the sugars into nutrients for the plant and create an environment that can store carbon for decades. “Plants pump it in and soil stores it. Nature’s living technology is amazing!”
Making our own compost and returning it to the land, pulls more carbon into the ground which helps heal climate change. (More info: watch this Kiss the Ground video.)
Also, putting the missing link back in the cycle by composting creates less landfill trash that would become methane gas.
When compost is added to an edible garden and the soil gets richer, the plants in the 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), nutrients and minerals for our organs to fight off disease. When our immune systems are strong, we’re less likely to catch something that would infect a less healthy person. Plants are the same way.
And the same way that we have to continuously eat nutrients to maintain our health, so do the plants. As we keep eating and creating food scraps, plants keep needing the scraps. Their need keeps landfills thinner and eventually, our bellies fuller. All while eliminating the need for hormone-disrupting, pollution-causing chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Helping the plant’s immune system ends up helping ours too. The garden food ends up having more nutrients for us, tasting better, and ultimately providing healing and prevention for many of our chronic diseases.
Plus plants in healthy soil need less water, which saves water. And people composting on their own land also reduces their city’s need to collect yard waste, saving more resources.
Lastly, if you are able to turn a pile, studies show that being around soil bacteria reduces depression (It’s the probiotics in the soil). And I believe any nature calms us in some way, from being around a lush forest to being around one fruit from one tree, even putting its peel-scraps in a bucket in my kitchen.
Overall, all pieces of the cycle benefit people, soil, plants, animals and the planet.
These are just my reasons though, why do you compost if you do?
The average chicken wingspan is 2-3 feet. There is a current California law that says egg-laying hens must be able to open their wings fully without touching an enclosure or another hen.
California’s Prop 12 will take away space for these hens to move around, but it will also take away their cages.
I wanted to know which option was better, but in my research, I learned more than I expected: There is a second current California law that contradicts the first in many ways. Both are being used by farmers now.
How do we know how to vote on Prop 12 if we don’t know which law to compare it to, or if the second law will continue to stand?
Prop 12 is misleading in layers, like a confusing and un-delicious croissant. But I love croissants and even the the worst croissant is still a croissant, right? Well, it’s really up to each person’s tastebuds. I can see why anyone would want a croissant at anytime, but I seem to have lost my appetite.
Hiding the Definition of the Prop
Prop 12 says there will be a temporary time where hens are confined to 1 square foot of space, with that time ending in 2022 when hens become cage-free.
But Prop 12 uses a definition of cage-free that means 1 to 1.5 square feet of space.
And the definition is technically left out of the proposition. Instead, Prop 12 says in 2022, the hens will become cage-free based on The United Egg Producers 2017 Guideline’s definition. If the public doesn’t look up the guidelines, the definition is very rarely mentioned in the press and will most likely go unnoticed.
And while people who want a more-free-type-of-cage-free may not be aware of the content of the vote, the LA Times is telling the public that one-square foot is exactly what those people want:
“The new initiative sets the standard initially at 144 square inches per bird — one square foot — which is the level at which a hen is considered by activists to be cage free.”
Although it took me two days of researching to come across Prop 12’s cage free definition, it is in one obvious place: The CA Official Voter Information Guide. It’s in the fine print, but there nonetheless (see the little letter “c”):
Prop 2: The Original “Cage-Free” Prop from 10 Years Ago
The chicken-spacing law we use now came from Prop 2, the original “cage-free” prop proposed and approved ten years ago in 2008. The prop was marketed as cage-free but still included cages.
Proposition 2 didn’t write out exact spacial requirements, but says it’s illegal to confine “a covered animal in a manner that prevents the animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal’s limbs, or turning around freely… ‘Fully extending his or her limbs’ means… fully spreading both wings without touching the side of an enclosure or other egg-laying hens.” Prop 12 would take away these requirements.
Since many of us aren’t measuring chickens regularly, I’d like to share a visual of what is being considered. I think the graphic below, although it is old and discusses Prop 2 instead of Prop 12, brings some visual clarity to the current discussion. The graphic is from The San Francisco Chronicle 2016 article “What is does cage-free mean, exactly?” about Proposition 2.
The part of the graphic that estimates 1.5 square feet as the Prop 2 requirement is incorrect. Prop 2 requires enough space for an egg-laying hen to open their wings without touching an enclosure or another egg-laying hen, which is larger than 1.5 square feet.
Please note that organic egg-laying hens get 3 total square feet: 1 inside, and 2 outside on soil.
2016 PROPOSITION 2 GRAPHIC
Prop Writers Working with Former Prop Opposers
Prop 12 is written by the Humane Society who wrote Prop 2 in 2008. (Prop 12 is simply edit suggestions for Prop 2.) But the Humane Society misled the public by marketing Prop 2 as cage-free, when they knew it didn’t have wording in it that addressed cages (because they wrote it).
The Humane Society co-wrote this new 2018 prop with The United Egg Producers, but the United Egg Producers opposed The Humane Society’s original “cage-free” prop in 2008.
The UEP is “a cooperative that represents members with 95% of the egg-laying hens in the United States” according to The Gianni Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California.
It is the UEP’s definition of cage-free that Prop 12 is using. Using the guidelines for cage-free from a group that opposed the original cage-free bill feels wrong to me.
New Prop vs. What We Have Now
When Prop 12 says “hen,” it refers to a duck, goose, chicken, turkey or guinea fowl, which are all different sizes and have different spatial relationships given the same amount of space: 1 square foot. For example, an average chicken hen has a 2-3 foot wingspan, but a smaller turkey’s average wingspan is about 4.9 square feet. Neither of them could open their wings in one square foot of space, but the turkey would be even more cramped. On the contrary, Prop 2 says they would all be able to open their wings and turn around.
Prop 12 will undo the ability for hens to spread their wings and fully turn around, laws that Prop 2 established. After Prop 2 passed, egg producers sued saying Prop 2 was “unconstitutionally vague” because it decided spatial requirements based on a hen’s wingspan and ability to turn around. But the Superior Court of California and the Federal District court said Prop 2 is not vague, is measurable, and enforceable, and just because plaintiffs didn’t like it didn’t mean it was unconstitutional. I’m paraphrasing, but the judge really was that sassy about it. The court also said:
“All Proposition 2 requires is that each chicken be able to extend its limbs fully and turn around freely… Because hens have a wing span and a turning radius that can be observed and measured, a person of reasonable intelligence can determine the dimensions of an appropriate confinement that will comply with Proposition 2.”
Prop 12 adds temporary times where the hens can be cruelly confined (no more than 24 hours in a month). Prop 2 doesn’t have temporary times.
Prop 12 names someone who would enforce the prop, unlike Prop 2, which named no one. But the two new groups enforcing Prop 12, The Department of Food and Agriculture and the State Department of Public Health, wouldn’t announce their rules of how to implement Prop 12 until September 1, 2019. So we’re voting to agree on rules that don’t exist yet.
Prop 12 would give the hens scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas. These are vital to the bird’s health, not extra amenities. But Prop 12 doesn’t specify how many of these items will be added per amount of birds, or at all. The dominant birds get protective of these areas and if there aren’t enough areas added, it can cause fighting, anxiety, and attacks which sometimes lead to death. I think it’s important for us to know what we’re agreeing to… How many areas are being added? Some chicken farms in California have thousands of hens. How many perches for the whole farm?
With Prop 12, if a buyer says they knew a seller tried to sell them products from animals that were cruelly confined, that seller can defend themselves with a good faith certificate from their supplier that says the products weren’t cruelly confined. This doesn’t sound very ethical to me.
The Humane Society | Letter from a Famous Farmer
I wrote to a famous farmer, at least famous to me, who humanely raises animals for meat. I trust this farmer and value their opinion so even though they live out of state and they won’t be voting on Prop 12, I asked their opinion about the proposition and its advocates. This farmer has never met me, we’ve never communicated, there’s no financial gain for them, and barely anyone will read be reading this blog, so I figured they wouldn’t write me back. But they did. They said I can share their response.
Their response was that the HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States) has been in the pocket of big agriculture from the start, that way HSUS gets a seat at the table. It didn’t surprise this person that a slight of hand is occurring over this issue. They said to look at who is in favor of the Prop: the HSUS, who they know to be fraudulent, and Big Egg (the United Egg Producers), who are trying to protect their turf.
The farmer’s philosophy is that we don’t need laws to protect animals, we just need people to think about their food source as much as they think about entertainment. Then the demand for humanely-raised food would naturally happen, and the other types of food wouldn’t be produced anymore.
I agree with this most of this idea, especially the part about thinking more about our food sources. But we’ll come to a crossroads when trying to vote with our wallets if the labels we go by are misleading us to think animal welfare is happening when it isn’t. It made me wonder what the definition of cage-free means on the current boxes of eggs in the store.
But the main point now is that it was beyond good to hear from this farmer. It let me be more open to the idea that the Humane Society of the United States might not be an angelic as I had assumed.
A Misconception About the Humane Society
Many people think the Humane Society is affiliated with the Humane Societies in their town, like an umbrella organization for local chapters. I learned from researching that the Humane Society of the United States isn’t affiliated with local humane societies. On the HSUS website it says clearly, “Local humane societies and SPCAs are independent entities and are not run by the HSUS or any other national entity.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does work with local chapters on training, evaluations, publications and other professional services.
But it does stand out to me that they seem to give the public the impression that they are affiliated with local chapters. Again, it seems misleading, which is a pattern of behavior at this point to me.
The Humane Society’s goals are more about preventative animal protection through legislature. That sounds good, but it may mean that they end up being focusing on fundraising for lobbying, which can be so important, but can also sometimes lead people down the distracting path of greed.
Who Doesn’t Like the Humane Society?
This one is a hard one for me. I think it’s hard for humans to discover that things that make us feel safe aren’t always what we think they are. Endorsers trust the Humane Society to protect animals. Opponents say that the Humane Society is scandal-ridden.
I’ve learned that Big Meat sure doesn’t like HSUS. And I learned that Big Meat exists. I guess I had thought about it with dairy, but that’s all. Anyway, it’s easiest to learn negative information about HSUS through meat lobbyists.
But PETA is opposing this HSUS Prop too. And I learned that it’s naive of me to think that PETA and HSUS would be on the same side of every issue. I’m learning that no one is ever on the same side of every issue.
I found a No Kill Shelter advocate who is doing a very honest and informed job of exposing the truth about HSUS’s behavior in regards to no-kill shelters. Nathan Winograd and his wife have written the All American Vegan cookbook and run the No Kill Shelter Advocacy.
In a blog about a Minnesota vote that was upcoming, that would grant animals the protections he describes, he speaks soberly and with great experience on his website NathanWinograd.com:
“Publicly, HSUS has stated that it is against the gas chamber, against heart sticking , for rescue rights, believes in transparency, supports bifurcated holding periods, and that all animals should be held for a period of time… Of course, those public statements are designed for just that: public consumption. And public consumption means donation dollars…
But when it comes to its private actions, when it comes to meetings behind closed doors with legislators where taking a stand has a life and death difference, HSUS sides with those who want to continue killing with impunity. And if they get their way… that is exactly what will continue to happen: animals will continue… to be killed when there are empty cages and despite rescue groups willing to save them. And they will continue to be marched from the front counter where they are surrendered straight to the kill room…”
He shares that HSUS has stopped bills like this one multiple times. And he shares his experience where a HSUS employee told him the non-profit was going to start voting for no-kill shelters, but lied:
“Despite the fact that HSUS had worked to kill similar bills in Texas, New York, Florida, and elsewhere, I was more optimistic about shelter reform legislation succeeding in Minnesota because two HSUS representatives—a Board member and Jennifer Fearing, the person in charge of sheltering policies for HSUS—personally assured me at a meeting in San Francisco just over a month ago that the days of HSUS claiming “neutrality” …but then working to kill shelter reform legislation were over. They shook my hand, looked me square in the eye, and promised it would come to an end, only to violate that promise a few weeks later at the first opportunity…”
Later while reading about Prop 2, I was surprised to see that Jennifer Fearing was the campaign manager on the “Yes on Prop 2” campaign.
There is a great interview with her in the Capitol Weekly from 2008. She seems like she loves animals, especially her sweet dog. But the language in the interview brings up that the HSUS advertised Prop 2 as cage-free, even thought the prop was written by HSUS and included still included cages.
After more than a year of studying the ag industry, particularly in California, I still feel comfortable relying mostly on a report that was done by a California-based poultry economist for the industry that concluded that the difference in pricing for hens raised in cage-free environments versus in the confining cages this initiative seeks to phase out is less than an additional penny per egg.
This is important to me because the HSUS deceived the well-meaning public with a proposition last time, which adds to their level of untrustworthiness. She goes on to say:
The only opponents were really facing on this [Prop 2] are the egg industry.
That was in 2008. Today Prop 12 is written by HSUS and their opponents, the egg industry, but the proposition is being advertising as only written by the HSUS.
The common misconception of “cage-free” is a beautiful idea of hens walking freely on grass, but it is different than the actual definition we’re voting on, which is: 1 to 1.5 square feet of concrete space in a building with no enclosures where hens can’t open their wings or turn around freely.
Like the misleading that happened with Prop 2, Prop 12 is giving the public the impression that the prop offers more than it does. The grassy-chicken-freedom many of us are imagining as “cage-free” is fueled by the ads and even the logo for the Yes on 12 campaign:
Here’s a deeper layer of misleading that is currently happening, which confuses me the most | CCR 1350
I was feeling like Prop 2 was the better option, but then I learned that it may not be being enforced, and not just because no one was appointed to enforce it.
In 2013, five years after Prop 2 passed with 63% of the public’s vote, the California government created California Code Regulation 1350, which covers the same subject as Prop 2, and is contradictory to it.
CCR 1350 defines spatial requirements based on amounts of space instead of animal behavior. It allows 8 hens to be in one cage and receive 116 square inches each, which is less than a square foot, which means they can’t open their wings, which means it contradicted Prop 2, even though Prop 2 had already been approved.
But CCR 1350 also has 8 options of spatial amounts. 1/8th of those options may comply with Prop 2, depending on the size of the hen. But the other 7/8ths do not comply with Prop 2. (The full CCR 1350 and graph is below in the extra reading section)
Prop 2 and CCR 1350 went into effect on the same day, January 1, 2015.
Both laws are being used at the same time even though they are contradictory. (One says they have to have space to spread their wings, the other doesn’t leave them space to spread their wings, except in one of its eight options.)
Is the government allowed to write a law that contradicts a law that the people voted in?
This simultaneous-laws-concept seems to be left unchecked because people who voted for Prop 2 haven’t heard about it. Also, maybe because they wouldn’t know what to do about it if they did.
Also, because the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in charge of CCR 1350, says that 1350 isn’t contradictory to Prop 2, but that they can’t really check because they’re not in charge of enforcing Prop 2.
But no one is currently in charge of enforcing Prop 2.
And, ironically, these are the very people who will be in charge of enforcing Prop 12 if Prop 12 passes.
It is disheartening to me that the California Department of Food and Agriculture who wrote the second law (CCR 1350) which undermined the one on which the public voted (Prop 2) would potentially regulate the new law (Prop 12). It is also disheartening that there are two separate conflicting laws that egg farmers can use right now. Instead of the public being shown that the prop we voted to pass can be ignored, we are being offered a new prop.
But since Prop 2 and CCR 1350 already co-exist, isn’t it possible that Prop 12 could also co-exist with CCR 1350? It seems possible. If you know the answer, will you share it with me?
It’s also disturbing to me that the Voter Ballot Guide doesn’t mention these CCR 1350 regulations. Here is a list of voter guide sites that discuss Prop 12, but do not mention these CCR 1350 regulations:
Easy Voter Guide, which is a collaboration by the League of Women Voters Education Fund and the California State Library
Democratic Socialists of America LA’s voter guide
CA GOP voter guide
Fox News’ A Guide to the Propositions on the Nov. 6 Ballot in California
LAWebsite.Net made by LA Podcast
League of Women Voters Presents Pros and Cons 2018 State Propositions Video
Knock L.A. Progressive Voters Guide
Many of those voter guides have been so incredibly helpful to me in other ways, but the only voter guide where I saw CCR 1350 mentioned was BallotFYI.com. I also saw it in the San Francisco Chronicle, but not the LA Times.
What I’d Like
I’d like to keep Prop 2’s freedom for the hen to move around, vote to eliminate CCR 1350, keep the part of Prop 12 that takes away cages, add a specific ratio of nesting boxes, dust-bathing areas, scratch areas and perches per amount of hens, add an enforcing agency to Prop 2, and vote on the rules of implementation.
If I compare Prop 12 to Prop 2, I don’t think Prop 12 is as good. I really like moving around. If I were a hen, I could still get a little jail workout with Prop 2. I might be in a pen with some assholes that aggressively won’t let me work out. But Prop 12 still would feel worse to me because I’d be even more claustrophobic, potentially with the same assholes.
If I compare Prop 12 to CCR 1350, I would still get more space with Prop 2, because it in itself is the rule that I’m guaranteed to have enough space to spread my wings. Everything else isn’t that guarantee.
But the problem is that I don’t think egg producers aren’t abiding by either law right now. The CDFA is supposedly enforcing CCR 1350, and the courts said that any law enforcement is capable of and allowed to enforce Prop 2, but in the almost 4 years that Prop 2 has been in effect, it’s only been enforced once.
Last couple of layers | Controlling Out-of-State Farmers
There are other parts of Prop 12 that are also weird, like telling out-of-state egg farmers they can’t sell in California unless they use our rules. That is weird to me because it seems to be illegal to tell other states what they can do. But also because Gov. Schwarzenegger already signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1437 into law in 2010 and it tells out-of-state egg farmers they have to abide by Prop 2.
Prop 12 is literally just edits to Prop 2. So why pretend we’re adding this new idea about out-of-state, when it already exists? What’s the difference between having it as a separate law with Prop 2 or as part of Prop 12?
One might think the reason is so that if people fight the validity of the out-of-state part of Prop 12 after it is in effect, and it turns out not to be valid, that the whole prop would become invalid. But it says right in Prop 12 that if any part of it isn’t constitutional, they’ll cut that part out and the rest will stand. Also, maybe no one but me was thinking that except me. But I’m happy I checked.
Six states are currently suing to fight the validity of Assembly Bill (AB) 1437. The out-of-state part of Prop 12 and AB 1437 seem like a waste of time, money and mental/ emotional/ spiritual resources to me.
I’d like us to focus on what we do have the legal ability to change for the better.
What that is is unclear to me.
What To Do
I really can’t tell which is better, to vote yes or no, only because the whole thing has been so surprising that I wouldn’t be surprised that I’m missing something. I feel like people who are going to the chicken farms and can see what the farmers are actually doing (vs. what they’re supposed to be doing on paper) would know the best next step. If you’d like a trustworthy source on why to vote yes, I enjoyed this blog: Yes on Proposition 12.
This seems like a Lesser of Two Evils situation. It seems people will vote based on their philosophies about that philosophy. One may try to vote for the less of the two evils. Another may think the opposite evil is less. One may be really confused about how to tell which is less in the first place.
But my current philosophy about this philosophy uses the metaphor of relationships. If I’m in a bad relationship, it is unhealthy for me to think, “This is as good as it gets.” If I think, “I haven’t dated, I don’t know if there are better options,” I may never leave to see if there are better options. And staying gives my brain and heart practice with the lesson that trying to live a full life is off-limits. It’s not a healthy muscle to strengthen because then I end up applying it to other situations.
I’m learning to matter. Part of that lesson is learning that when someone gives me two choices, there are probably more options, I just have to give myself permission to ask for them, or to say no to the two choices and trust that in the unknown future, a better option is waiting.
The other part of that lesson is noticing when someone is trustworthy. And knowing that their trustworthiness can change. It’s pliable, so I have to stay mindful and aware. I used to be someone who wanted to have a switch flip and know everything will be okay. But now I see that I need to continuously be mindful about my relationships to keep myself safe and connected. I used to think that was exhausting. Now I see that being mindful is like eating: it’s normal to have to keep doing it.
In this metaphor, I’d be deciding whether to continue a marriage with Prop 2 or get divorced and start dating Prop 12, but find out CCR 1350 got a marriage license with me- even though we’d never met. Whether I stay or go, I’ve got to do something about this weirdo who keeps telling people we’re together when we’re not. Or in non-metaphor words:
Whether I vote no or yes on this prop, the California government has shown they are untrustworthy by undermining the result of the people’s vote. Other laws are upheld with seriousness. The 63% of the people who voted Prop 2 into law didn’t just have their law ignored, they had it defied. As far as I understand, this can happen again. My main take-away from all of this is that I want to continue to pay attention past the vote.
That’s Great, But Seriously, What Do I Do?
To conclude, my opinion is that I support everyone in going with their gut. And the most important part is finding out if the government will uphold the vote afterwards.
If you’re like, f-this, I think there should be no cages no matter what, I totally get it. If you’re like, no way in hell, they need more space, I totally get it. If you’re like this is a shitshow, I still don’t know, AAAAA! I totally get it. Even if you’re like, I don’t care, emotionally, I understand how people can come to that conclusion.
This all seems like a giant distraction with no real change occurring within the government.
Where the change is clearly growing and being nourished is within the public’s level of caring and education. Good on us! That’s hard to do with all of the other parts of life swirling around.
I’m grateful to have learned a lot about the history and present regarding the welfare of the egg-laying hens in California.
This is a living document, meaning, I was passionate about sharing what I’m learning, but will keep adding to it once it’s published because it’s too much information and I’ll never share it otherwise.
If you’d like to read more details about how I got this information, there are more resources, stories, and more of an in-depth background in a longer version below…
I wish you self-care, love, gentleness and nourishment. May we all trust that doing the simplest acts of kindness towards ourselves, like receiving a long-slow breath, can add up to a life we feel grateful to live. Politics isn’t the only answer. The little positive things really can add up.
DEEPER READING BELOW
The extra sections below are for folks who would like more details.
Federal District & Superior Courts Decide Prop 2 is Clear
Measuring the Birds
Two Current Law Options: Prop 2 and/ or CCR 1350
Current Law #3
FEDERAL DISTRICT & SUPERIOR COURTS DECIDE PROP 2 IS CLEAR
The argument against Prop 2 is that because it doesn’t specify exact amounts of space, it’s too vague and therefore too difficult to enact.
In 2012, egg producers went to the courts to prove that Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague by filing the lawsuit Cramer v. Harris et al in the Federal District Court for Central District of California. On February 4, 2015 Prop 2’s constitutionality was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In regards to Prop 2’s level of enforceability, the court said:
“Proposition 2 establishes a clear test that any law enforcement officer can apply, and that test does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo to determine if an egg farmer is in violation of the statute.”
The court also said that just because the egg producers don’t like Prop 2 doesn’t mean it’s not constitutional:
“The mere fact that Plaintiff dislikes or disagrees with the policy or language of Proposition 2 is not sufficient to sustain a Constitutional challenge.”
That same year, 2012, another group of egg farmers filed the lawsuit ACEF v. California et al in the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno, also claiming that under the California Constitution, Prop 2 is unconstitutionally vague. But in 2013, the Superior Court dismissed the case, but granted leave to amend. Their response was:
“The fact that the statute defines confinement limitations in terms of animal behaviors rather than in square inches or other precise measurements does not render the statute facially vague.”
The courts were saying Prop 2 is possible. Measure the birds.
MEASURING THE BIRDS
There are five species covered in the Prop, and each of those species has hundreds of types.
I spoke with a family farmer at the Hollywood Farmers Market who sells humanely-raised meat, and raises chickens for eggs, but only uses the eggs for her family. She taught me that most commercial egg farmers use one kind of hen to maintain uniformity. They often use White Leg Horn chickens for white eggs, and the larger Rhode Island Red chickens for brown egg production.
I thought it seemed possible for the farmers, who know what breed they’re using, to evaluate the breed’s wingspan and make space accordingly. But I still wondered if maybe it really was as hard as farmers were saying to find out how to measure the birds.
My family farmer friend said that smaller farms tend to have multiple breeds together free to roam on grass and they have so many less chickens that it would be easy for them to get the breed measurements. She let me know about the websites where she buys her chicks. This little detail made me realize it would be insane for someone to be in the business of egg farming and not know basic information about their product.
It also seemed that going by the size of the different hens would be in the best interest of the hens. I am a human, and so is my friend John, but he is more than a foot taller than me. So with this in mind, going by the wingspan leaves room for different breeds to have space, but also for different sizes of the same breed to have space, for the Johns of the chicken world to have equal wingspan treatment as the Ruths.
I think we live in a society that is used to a one-size fits all mentality. Diet books are for everyone, even though our immune systems, environment, stress-levels, hormones, and genetics are all different. When it comes to care for living things, a one-size-fits-all rule isn’t often realistic or effective. It disrupts the “care” part.
In the case of a Prop 2, I could seeing a chart working though, if they wrote out a slightly above average amount of space for each of the species and each of those breeds.
What I hadn’t thought of was that this animal-behavior based idea could also fit into a chart using math. Joy A. Mench and Richard A. Blatchford, both at the Department of Animal Science and Center for Animal Welfare, University of California, Davis, authored a paper published in Oxford Academic’s Poultry Science in April of 2014, eight months before Prop 2 went into law.
I don’t understand math well enough to understand what it is saying. But I’ll share it here anyway. And there is much more info at the link above.
The floor area [cm2 (in2)] used by hens when performing particular behaviors, as well as the height [cm (in)], wingspan [cm (in)], and wing flap floor area [cm2 (in2)] with 2.54 cm (1 in) added to the length and width of the hen
MORE ON A COMPARISON OF PROP 2 & PROP 12
According to the CA Voter Information Guide, Prop 12 would consider the following illegal:
(1) Before 2020, any amount of space where laying hens can’t spread their wings
(But they can still be in a cage.)
(2) Between 2020 and 2022, any amount of space less than 1 square foot
(Even though now they wouldn’t be able spread their wings and they can still be in a cage.)
(3) Any amount of space less than 1-1.5 square feet and it’s called cage-free, even though it’s similar to what was happening in 2020 and 2021, because it’s not in a cage
(Even though they can’t spread their wings.)
Can’t spread wings or turn around
Can be in a cage
Limited to one-square foot
Limited to one or one and a half square feet
Now until 2020
2022 on, cage-free
MORE ON TWO CURRENT LAW OPTIONS: PROP 2 AND/ OR CCR 1350
I thought that the definition of cage-free was the most surprising part to me, but now the “current law” part is the most surprising. Really, the whole thing is a bag of surprises.
In 2013, California wrote out exact numbers of space requirements into the Official California Code of Regulations as CCR 1350. The regulations don’t comply with Prop 2 so I don’t understand how they are legal.
The California Code of Regulation 1350 has a graph with amounts of space and the number of chickens that are allowed to be housed on that space. It ranges from 9 chickens living in 2.23 square feet of space or 1 living in .8 sq feet of space, which would mean none could open their wings. And these regulations of space are allowed to be in a cage. Here is the graph:
§ 1350. Shell Egg Food Safety.
3 CA ADC § 1350 BARCLAYS OFFICIAL CALIFORNIA CODE OF REGULATIONS
Commencing January 1, 2015, no egg handler or producer may sell or contract to sell a shelled egg for human consumption in California if it is the product of an egg-laying hen that was confined in an enclosure that fails to comply with the following standards. For purposes of this section, an enclosure means any cage, crate, or other structure used to confine egg-laying hens:
(1) An enclosure containing nine (9) or more egg-laying hens shall provide a minimum of 116 square inches of floor space per bird. Enclosures containing eight (8) or fewer birds shall provide a minimum amount of floor space per bird as follows, using formula 322+[(n-1) x 87.3]/n, where “n” equals the number of birds:
Number of Birds
Square Inches Per Bird
(2) The enclosure shall provide access to drinking water and feed trough(s) without restriction.
WHICH CURRENT LAW IS IT?
For a moment, I’ll refer to Prop 2, the current law that was voted on in 2008, as Current Law #1, and CCR 1350, the current law that was added in 2013, as the Current Law #2.
Current Law #1 was passed in 2008, but was enacted in 2015.
I had originally tried to make sense of it all by wondering,”Maybe Current Law #2 that happened in 2013 stopped being the law when Current Law #1 went into effect in 2015.” But this didn’t end up being the case, because they both were enacted on the same day in 2015.
I couldn’t understand why the CA Voter Ballot Guide refers to Current Law #1 and left out Current Law #2, or why the majority of the arguments about Prop 12 also only use Current Law #1.
I also wondered why The San Francisco Chronicle and BallotFYI bring up Current Law #2 when the others didn’t.
BallotFYI’s only mention said, “California did eventually land on a number for hens: 116 square inches [0.8 sq feet].” But they linked right to the actual law.
If Current Law #1 is in effect, Prop 12 gives much less space, but takes away cages.
If Current Law #2 is in effect, Prop 12 gives more space to birds crammed 5 to 8 in a space, and takes away cages, but gives less space to birds sharing 1-4 in a space, and takes away cages.
The San Francisco Chronicle said of Prop 2, “The animal welfare movement contended [Prop 2] meant space equivalent to the bird’s wingspan — 2 to 3 square feet — but the state Department of Food and Agriculture interpreted it as less than a square foot.”
But the Prop really does say wingspan. It wasn’t an interpretation. How did the Department of Food and Agriculture “interpret” a clear guideline incorrectly and get away with it?
Also, why do singular hens receive the most space? Based on the other misleading, my first instinct is to ask, “Is that to distract the public with positivity about something that rarely happens because the common practice is to put as many as 8 in one space? Why are we still allowing multiple hens in one cage? And again, which law are we using?”
The answers to these questions seem like a huge foundation of what we’re voting on in Prop 12.
I only had an answer to the last one: I hadn’t thought about that Prop 2 says they need to be able to spread their wings without touching another hen, but it didn’t specify that they couldn’t all be in one cage, thus allowing multiple hens in one cage.
Sigh. A third law? There was Prop 2 and California Code Regulation 1350, and a third law, California legislature AB 1437, added in 2010, which said people selling out-of-state eggs to California had to abide by Prop 2. All three laws went into action on the same day, January 1, 2015.
Quick Review because our heads are going to explode:
Prop 2 = spread wings, turn in circle, in a cage, with other hens
CCR 1350 = 1 to 8 hens in a cage, different amounts of space for each group
AB 1437 = out-of-state producers have to comply with our state laws
The AW Institute also shared, “California’s Department of Food and Agriculture, the entity responsible for enforcing CCR 1350, has stated that it believes CCR 1350 meets the standards of Prop 2, but cannot state this definitively as it is not charged with administering Prop 2.”
Of the eight options in CCR 1350, only one meets the lowest option possibility for Prop 2. If there is one hen in a cage that is 322 square inches, that equals 2.23 square feet and if that hen is the type whose wing span is 2 square feet instead of 3, this scenario meets the standards of Prop 2. The seven other options in CCR 1350 are too small for the average hen wingspan of 2-3 square feet.
Since the California Department of Food and Agriculture is stating they cannot be definitive because they’re not currently in charge of Prop 2 (although if Prop 12 passes, they will be), it’s important to me that they don’t make guesses because that is misleading.
When I watched the first episode, it felt like the deep groundedness and titillating breathy openness of acupuncture. I was comforted to see them trust their audience by picking unflashy content for their first episode.
Then I realized I’d accidentally watched the last episode first.
Starting the true first one, I was skeptical, expecting hype and drama that would sweep the show off of its audience-trusting pedestal. It opened with an earthquake. Of course, I thought. And the next moment, with the most direct simplicity, a line was said and I instantly wept. And then couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous I was. But I couldn’t stop crying either. I’ve never done this the way it happened, before or since.
We just watched the second episode and it made me miss someone I’ve never met. His name is Kevin Sousa. He’s a Pittsburgh chef running a farm and restaurant in Braddock, PA. Kevin I’m so grateful for you!
If anyone reading this has Netflix, please take the time to watch this visual, aural masterpiece that weaves creativity, passion, failure, eco sustainability, fearlessness, psyche, farming, self trust, ancestry and invention together with the most delicious thread, food.
Every time I see a flower on a fruit tree or a garden vegetable, I get hungry. Maybe this is common knowledge, but I didn’t know until recently that where ever there is a flower on a plant that grows fruit, there will be a fruit! It’s like an awesome movie trailer of what’s to come. Or even better, the X on a pirate map of where the treasure is. Or even best, a beautiful flower that’s come to say, “I will soon be a tasty piece of free food for you to eat!”
When I was farming, we would weed the strawberries regularly, and take all the brown parts off of them in client’s yards so they would be pretty, or pot them up to sell. And I slowly noticed that the little yellow center of their happy white flowers would get bigger and make a dome. And sometimes I’d see pre-ripe, young, small strawberries that hadn’t turned red yet. But it took me a while before I saw the same little yellowish strawberry emerging out of the center of a flower. Holy crap! “Does each flower become a strawberry?!” Continue reading “Flowers Become Fruit: An Homage to Simon & Elaine’s Garden”→
I’m embracing my thoughts. It’s a whole new world and I’m the carpet AND Jasmine. And Aladdin? Hmm. AND the monkey! Yay! Who is the tiger?
Anyway, I’m letting it all flow free and seed is what I woke up curious about. I’m collecting seed, but I don’t know much about it. Here is a fine mind ramble from Gamble that may come in handy later. It also may just scare/confuse you/me, so if you want to read something more sane, skip to the photo caption below. Also, many of these questions probably have answers. I was just having fun relishing in wonder this morning…
Seeds have protein, so wouldn’t strawberries have a bit of protein?
Is the protein in a banana in the seeds or the meat?
What do you call the banana part of a banana? Other than banana? Or meat?
What makes us eat certain seeds and not others? Cashews (big) vs. lemon seeds (smaller), I’d think we’d eat the smaller one… Is it just taste? Or texture? Or some other biological reason?
Many seeds are designed for animals to eat, travel around with in their belly, and poop out later to spread the seed. Some scientists think avocados were designed for bigger animals to eat, digest, and poop out the seed. Does that mean I am really over-stepping my boundaries as a small person every time I eat one?
Do all seeds have tannins like an avocado seed?
How come those large animals could process avocado seeds while to some smaller animals, avocado seeds are toxic?
When we chew seeds, doesn’t that kill their chance of survival?
And doesn’t that go against this idea of ingestion for poop seed sowing?
Is that why seeds and beans are harder for humans to digest?
Because chewed seeds are stickin’ it to the man?
Are you upset by that bad joke? Is that a joke?
I heard that when flax seed is eaten whole, we don’t get its full nutrients so its better to eat ground flax seed. But we end up chewing it when it’s whole, so what’s the difference?
But it’s true that when I eat whole flax seeds, so many end up in my poop fully intact. Seems like that would be good for them- why wouldn’t the flax seeds make that option appealing to us nutritionally?
Nuts, seeds, beans, peas, and legumes are all seeds. Why do we call them different names?