Help! There’s a rat’s nest in my compost

Composting could save you pounds

Composting could save you pounds

Sheena Grant’s year of living thriftily

I know it’s an excellent way of recycling kitchen and garden waste and saves buying bags of commercially produced stuff to enrich the veg patch and I have tried to do it, honestly I have. But the difficulty is this. I’m just not very good at it.

The problems start in the kitchen, where I’m reusing an empty ice cream tub to collect compostable kitchen waste - vegetable peelings, tea bags, and the like. That’s all fine until the leftovers from my son’s dinner plate get scooped in as well and start to fester and smell. And when that happens it’s only a matter of time before my husband demands the offending tub is removed from the kitchen. It doesn’t make for domestic harmony.

Then there’s the black compost bin at the bottom of the garden into which the kitchen scraps are dutifully deposited, alongside grass clippings and other garden trimmings.

After months of filling it last year and waiting for nature to work its magic, I went to dig out what I hoped would be sweet-smelling, crumbly compost but instead found only a bit of a squelchy mess. Worse still, I uncovered a rat’s nest in the middle of the heap and was left squealing in horror, probably making more noise than the unfortunate hairless, pink baby rodents I had unwittingly unearthed. Worse was to come when I retreated to the house to decide my next move, only for the confused - and probably distressed - mother rat to start running in wild circles around the garden.

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But, despite that traumatic experience, in an effort to live thriftily I have to persevere.

Any tips from more successful (it would be difficult for anyone to be less successful) compost makers would be gratefully received.

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In the meantime, I’m going to banish children’s dinner leftovers from the kitchen compost caddy. Gone are the days of my childhood, when my nana would refuse to let me leave the table until every one of the hated boiled potatoes on my plate had been eaten. I must have been a obedient youngster as I can still recall, in vivid detail, the sight, smell and taste as I forced down every last disgusting one. Oh, to have Nana’s authority.

But Nana - whose oft repeated mantra was ‘waste not, want not’ - knew the value of food in financial as well as nutritional terms. Over the last few decades it seems to be something far too many of us have forgotten. Apparently, around seven million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households every year, and most of it could have been eaten.

In my household at least, it’s time to call a halt. According to the experts, a big part of the problem is that we buy and cook too much food. So smaller portions will be the order of the day. And if that fails, I’ll invoke the indomitable spirit of Nana and demand the plate be cleared. It may work...

? Thanks to Jean Clarkson for all her thrifty tips - especially the one about making a flask with surplus boiled water from the kettle.

Share your money-saving tips on twitter, using #ThriftyLiving, email or write to me at 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

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