Beginners Guide to Composting in the Suburbs

Beginners Guide to Composting in the Suburbs

Composting has gained a lot of ground in recent years.  Here in the West Suburbs of Chicago, Joelle recently attended a free composting seminar and we’ve even heard of community composting initiatives.  In it’s infancy of stardom, composting still comes in well behind more popular gardening trends like fertilizer, whether organic or chemical.  Few use compost and fewer yet have an idea of what it is or how it is made.  Until a couple years ago, I would be the lowest up the totem pole in that category!  

Joelle recently asked me what the difference was between fertilizer and compost.  Never having given much thought to the matter, I pondered for a moment and a familiar analogy came to mind.  I likened fertilizer to that of a supplement.  Often times we take vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc. to supplement our regular diet.  Fertilizer, likewise, is a supplement to the health and vitality of the soil.  Compost, on the other hand I likened to a complete, well balanced, fully fortified and nutritious meal.  Compost, from my experience, offers the full support system for any living plant to grow in and thrive.

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A Heritage That Must Endure

A Heritage That Must Endure

Over the past month of two, we have logged quite a few hours either in our own garden or volunteering on local farms.  My experience has been this; that there is almost nothing more pure and noble than working the soil and being connected to it.  Whether it’s the sweet smell of freshly churned compost, holding a fresh seedling in my hand that’s about to be planted and take root, pulling weeds to focus energy on productive plants, plucking a fresh worm to feed to our chickens, or just standing back and looking at how much life is sustained by such a simple process, there is little I have found more delight in than gardening, farming, or anything in between.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 8: Play

Family Mission Statement – Part 8:  Play

Play is valued little in our culture.  Let me explain.  It is difficult to refute that life has changed more in the past 150 years than it did cumulatively in the previous thousands.  The simple, pastoral, self sufficient life has given way to a fast paced, highly educated, and others dependent life.  Obviously, technology is a factor, but much before that, industrialization changed the terrain of how people eat, sleep, work, learn, and play.

For adults, a mindset of work before play has set in with an industrialized economy.  My fear is that we’ve transferred this mindset to children at a premature age and more aggressively than we think.  I would also make the case that adults should be reluctant to give up the art of play in their own lives and even practice it regularly.  Let’s begin by looking at children.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 7: Work

Family Mission Statement – Part 7:  Work

Who doesn’t love hearing the exciting and creative job titles kids come up with when asked what they want to be when they grow up?  Firefighter, car mechanic, astronaut, missionary, doctor, marine biologist, viceroy of the open seas!…  Ok, maybe not that last one – but we are taught to dream big and the sky’s the limit.  However, at some point, for many but not all of us, reality sets in and our selections are narrowed to a much more practical list of career options offered by our university, trade school, etc:  Accountant, chemist, engineer, business, education, history, math, and so on.

The thought that has amazed us lately is realizing how segmented career pursuits can be from the rest of life.  The dream as children to pursue our passions gets replaced along the way by the expectation to enter a proper and pragmatic profession.  Whereas our goals, values, dreams, and passions apply to the rest of our lives, it seems almost normal that our career ought to take a different path.  This is what I mean by segmented.  Our lives head one direction while our work heads us in another.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 6: Intentional

Family Mission Statement – Part 6:  Intentional

Parenthood especially, has caused me to rethink how I value time.  “They won’t be young forever.”  “Blink and they’ll be in college!”  All things I’ve heard from practiced parents.  Time can look very different depending on the stage of life you’re in but one of the things we’ve been challenged with for a while now is being intentional with the time you have – So much so, that it became the next part of our Family Mission Statement.

Imagine two lives.  One being the planner who is always focused, driven, ahead of schedule, prudent, goal oriented, and has days, weeks, and months set on the calendar.  Now, think of the partier who is always unpredictable, extremely social, unplanned, usually not on time, carefree, adventurous, relaxed, and seems to lack a general sense of direction.  Take those two lives, throw them in your stock pot, stir them around, and you have what we would aim for as the perfect stew of intentional living.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 5: Freely

Family Mission Statement – Part 5:  Freely

In 2010, Joelle and I had the chance to spend a summer in Orlando, Florida.  We couldn’t have timed it better!  Just a few weeks prior, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter had opened at Universal Studios.  How could we resist the opportunity to channel our inner Dumbledore and Hermione!  We went and it was packed – in fact we waited near an hour just to get into that portion of the park.  Besides the simulated ride through Hogwarts and drinking my first butterbeer, our other fondest memory was our mystery line.  With the masses of people in the park, lines were everywhere.  At one point we jumped in a line thinking we knew where it led.  We asked the people around us in line and no one could give us a definite answer.  In all, we waited in this line for over an hour, it only moved a few feet, and still to this day we have no idea what the line was for.  Somebody pass me another butterbeer, please!

We eventually got out of our not so magical mystery line.  One thing I couldn’t help but notice was how many remained in the line.  How long, I wondered, would they continue to stand there with no clear direction and such little forward progress?  Either way, walking away gave us a new sense of freedom to explore!  I think we left Wizard World and enjoyed the rest of the park where there were no lines at all 🙂

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Family Mission Statement – Part 4: Basic

Family Mission Statement – Part 4:  Basic

Every Wednesday is garbage pick up in our neighborhood.  Everyone loyally wheels out their cans of trash and recyclables to the curb and a paid service comes to take it out of sight and out of mind. The can, often filled to the brim with multiple overflow bags sitting next to it, is a very real measure of waste going out.  While the large boxes from new appliances, kids toys, and other household items are measures of the stuff coming in.  A constant exchange of goods and trash that, if we want to or not, feels helpless to escape.

When we sat down with pen and paper to write, “We live with our basic needs being met and not abundance” as part of of our Family Mission Statement, we didn’t necessarily have trash pick up in mind.  But our own, once invisible, habits to accumulate an abundance of stuff, along with our society at large, have become overtly clear even in the most common routines of life.  See the heaps of trash scattered along any major roadway.  Boxes filling barges with unwanted, used clothes being shipped off to developing countries.  And most obvious for me, look no further than the garage!  We live in inescapable abundance.

Or, so we thought – adopting one philosophy has helped us combat this deeply embedded tendency.

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Family Mission Statement – Part 3: Produce

Family Mission Statement – Part 3:  Produce

Sustainability often calls for tried and true practices passed down from generation to generation that allow a particular group of people to flourish in their environment.  In more recent and developed human history, tossing out the tried and true to make way for the newest process or technology has become common practice.  What’s defines one generation may be in no way applicable to what defines the next.  So much so, that just a few generations removed and the entire way of life for say our great grandparents has become all but lost.

As we’ve considered this phenomenon, a chief factor that rises to the forefront is outsourcing.  A year ago, one lone thought would have come up when I heard the word outsource – sending off our local jobs to places like Mexico and China for cheaper labor and therefore cheaper products.  But, when considering the unprecedented turnover of values, thoughts, and methods each individual generation is experiencing in our modern world, we’ve discovered the definition of outsourcing to be much more vast.  It penetrates deep into our societal fibers with so few even knowing where to look!

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Family Mission Statement – Part 2: Serve

Family Mission Statement – Part 2:  Serve

We all have a story of service that has humbled us and shaped our category of what it really means to be a servant to others.  An example of a servant that often comes to mind for me is my Dad.  Whether it was shoveling the snow on our neighbors driveways, volunteering to coach my little league teams, or always going well beyond the call of duty during a big move to a new house, my Dad has a proven track record of going out of his way to serve others.

Most recently, when Joelle and I undertook a major house renovation project, my Dad spent a few weekday evenings after work each week along with weekends for several months coming over to help and he lives about 45 minutes away.  Talk about sacrifice!  And I’m thankful to have both benefited from it and had this modeled before me throughout my life.

When it comes to what we talked about in Part 1 of our family mission statement, Jesus blew the doors off any category we have for service when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).”  Crazy!  With service being driven then by love, we can see that the bar is set very high on how we are to serve others.  Namely, the giving of our lives…. Which is exactly what Jesus did in serving us.  Hence the back half of the opening sentence of our Family Mission Statement that because of Jesus laying down his life for us, we similarly, “desire to compassionately serve others.”

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Family Mission Statement – Part 1: Believe

Family Mission Statement – Part 1:  Believe

We talk fairly often about our Family Mission Statement on our blog because for us, this really was THE turning point of our family living out our values.  Not to say we didn’t prior, but how were we to tell if we didn’t have a clear definition of what our values were?  You often hear it said that in order to get to where you want to be you have to clearly define the end goal or you’ll never know when you’ve reached it.  That is exactly what a mission statement is.  It becomes the lens, filter, and template that all of life gets vetted through.  

We wanted to take the next several weeks to start at the top and give a little more volume to the individual components of our mission statement.  Not necessarily because our values should be your values.  But, in the hope that as we explain the origins of our values that you may be inspired by the things we hold most near and dear to our heart.  And, that you may feel compelled to write your own mission statement, which we plan to share some wisdom on in the future.  This week, we are going to break our first sentence in half and tackle, “We are followers of Jesus Christ and because of His sacrifice for us…”

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