jeremy and i started composting a year or so ago. it's a really good way to make use of kitchen waste. i was surprised to learn that because of the lack of oxygen in a typical landfill environment, regular waste that one would consider easily biodegradable actually breaks down quite slowly, releasing methane gas into the environment.
we started with a biostack from smith & hawken. this contraption, though very nice and absolutely convenient, isn't entirely necessary. lots of people have great luck building their own bins out of scrap lumber and netting. i like the biostack because it's neatly contained and holds quite a bit of waste. we set it in a sunny spot in the yard, and it seems to heat up well, which is supposed to help speed decomposition.
into our biostack goes all kinds of kitchen waste... fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, shrimp peels, teabags and coffee grounds, to name a few. pretty much anything that's not meat or dairy. we also throw in used paper towels, dryer lint, whatever "house dirt" our vacuum picks up, hair from my hairbrush, pet hair, shredded newspaper, starbucks cups, paper plates, brown bags, etc. grass clippings can go in too, along with any other non-weed yard trimmings.
the result is an ever-decomposing pile of crap. which turns into this lovely, dark & rich dirt that is great for the garden. the whole process takes minimal effort, really. we keep a stainless steel compost bucket in the kitchen and empty it about every other day. jeremy rotates the pile about once every month or so. this is important to get the air flowing (or we'd have the same problem as the landfill does...). i spray the pile with a bit of water while i'm watering the yard. that's it. surprisingly, it really doesn't stink.
there's tons of information on composting. enough to make the process seem difficult. it's really not. i don't pay attention to ratios or temperatures or any other rules except this one: keep the pile as wet as a well-wrung sponge. a too-dry pile won't break down. a too-wet pile will reek.
best thing about composting? you get "volunteer" plant in your yard. last year, i decided i was going to grow a huge pumpkin patch and donate all the pumpkins to an inner-city school. i started the plants from seed, early in the season. we went on vacation. no one watered the seedlings & they died. ever eager to help less affluent kids have a happy halloween, i started another crop. they were growing beautifully in little seed pots on the deck. i transferred them to the ground and the chickens plucked them right out of the ground about 10 minutes later. determined as ever, i replanted... but it was too late in the season. the result was a halfhearted couple of odd-shaped pumpkins that were ready in december. sigh.
anyway, the point of this story is that i ended up composting those pumpkins. and now i've got pumpkin plants popping up all around my yard. in containers, in flower beds, and in the veggie garden itself. i've given a couple plants to my dad and have some ready for my sister-in-law as well. and i'm tending to the 4 hardiest plants of the bunch, hoping for a bumper crop timed just right for halloween. now i just have to pick a school to donate them too. sweet.