Squirmy, the composting snake

A couple of months ago, after growing increasingly tired of the amount of food waste we were contributing to the landfills, I decided it was time to start composting in earnest.


We’ve had a compost bin for several years, but never really knew what we were doing with it, nor did we take the time to figure it out. So I finally asked my friend Nicole, who’s a master composter, what basic info I needed to get started, and I’ve been happily composting ever since.

our compost snake

We’ve got a little friend who’s taken a liking to our compost pile – Squirmy the snake. I’ve seen Squirmy hanging out in the bin a few times now. As long as she stays in the compost bin or the yard and not in the house, it doesn’t bother me. Although I did see Squirmy’s progeny the other day (just one lone baby snake), so it makes me wonder how many more we really have. Though with the dogs periodically in the yard, I wouldn’t think any snakes of reasonable intelligence would take up residence for very long. Right? Perhaps the compost bin is just a vacation home for Squirmy. :)

Here are some tips Nicole shared with me about composting:

  • Basically you want to have approximately 50% “green” materials (wet, fresh) and 50% “brown” (dry).
  • You can compost all sorts of things: veggie waste, yard waste, shredded paper towels, sawdust/shavings, shredded cardboard, drier lint, etc. You just throw them in the bin and the microbes do the rest. If your bin doesn’t touch the ground you’ll need to throw some soil in it so it has microbes.
  • Ideally you need to keep it as moist as a wrung out sponge. Beyond that how you tend it depends on how fast you want compost.
  • I mostly just want to divert waste from the landfill so I just toss stuff in and stir when I remember (2-4 times per year). If you want compost more frequently you can stir every 2 weeks or so. You don’t want to stir too often because the compost heats up as part of the mechanism of the bacteria that breaks to food down and the process stops if you stir it too soon and it loses heat.
  • Compost bins can attract animals (like mice and, apparently, snakes). To avoid that you can dig down a little and bury the new stuff as you add it so the animals can’t smell it.

Like Nicole, I’m primarily concerned with diverting food waste from the landfills, but not necessarily with making great compost to use often (although now that I’m getting more interested in gardening, maybe I will change my tune). I just wanted to mention that you can compost your food scraps, without actually needing the compost for anything. :)

Since I’ve started taking our food scraps (carrot peelings, egg shells, corn husks, leftovers gone bad, avocado peels, watermelon rinds, etc.) out to the compost bin, I’m amazed at how much we actually used to throw away on a regular basis. “Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream, as documented by EPA.” I’m happy to make a small dent in reducing the landfills. Imagine if everybody composted their food scraps, even part of the time? We could make a big difference. :)

For more information about composting, visit Composting – Basic Information.

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17 thoughts on “Squirmy, the composting snake

  1. Thanks…

    I was thinking recently of starting a compost but now I will not be!!! I do my best to not be wastful but I know there is more I can do.

    We live in extreme weather conditions and have many lil animals in our yard through-out the day! My biggest concern is rattle snakes which live on our mountain and I would not want to attract one or more of them in fear of getting bit!

    Good for you for getting one going and not being afraid of your lil creature friends.

  2. erinne,
    i just want to mention that our snake friend (a garter snake btw) was already living in our yard before we started composting. the compost pile is now just an added bonus for her to stick around (and breed apparently).
    i don’t know if burying your food as you add to your pile would help deter critters, but i can’t blame you for wanting to avoid a rattle snake bite.

  3. we compost our vege food waste and lawn clippings. We really need to increase our brown component but since our local council collects waste cardboard and paper it tends to go in that collection rather than in the compost. Should rectify that! Never thought of the lint…
    I do put the compost on our potager and although it’s not perfect compost it does seem to do Good Things for the garden.

    We periodically have little mice friends in ours. I’m not worried about them (though it means our compost isn’t working properly) – there are plenty of felines around to keep them under control. Fortunately we don’t have snakes in NZ !

  4. When I lived in Maine, we had a compost pile. Every fall we used it to cover the tree trunks in prep for the Winter. (along with horse manure…yeh that was yummy shoveling…LOL). You brought back memories. I want to do one now that I have my own house, etc…but hubby doesn’t understand it. He is a bull sometimes!! I was hoping to have it for when I start my garden next Spring. It would definitely cut back on our trash!!

    Hope you had a great weekend.
    Heather

  5. I have heard of composting as well, but oh my I would be so scared of the snake.

    Back home we would have garden snakes and I would freak out at the sight of them hehe.

    But you are my new hero as you are so laid back about that. I need to be that way with my fears!

  6. We just started composting in earnest this year. Our little community has a good system set up with bins and a bunch of dry stuff to mix in, so it was easy to start.

    I can’t believe how much less garbage we have now, especially now that it’s summer and we have a lot more produce coming in. The folks here use the finished compost for the community garden, so it goes to good use. Back in California I composted but never used it for anything – and it was still worth it just to reduce the amount of stuff we were sending to the landfill.

    Oh, and coffee grinds are great to compost, and I go through a lot of them. Gotta keep those worms wired!

    Tanya

  7. I started composting this year too, I have a worm bin I built and a yard waste pile I *really* need to turn one of these days. It’s amazing how much less garbage you produce when you start composting.

  8. I make Matt take out the garbage (I hate to do it, and I feel guilty about all our waste!), but I LOVE to take the composting out. I’m pretty fortunate that we compost as a community so I don’t have to do anything to take care of it.

  9. Thanks for posting on this! I have had several random thoughts about composting lately, but wasn’t sure where to start. This helps alot. Makes me fear some snakes though too! I’ll have to do some more reading and hop on this idea while it’s hot in my head.

  10. My guess is once the compost gets hot enough to break down the snakes will leave (rattlers included!) Amy’s is the first snake I’ve hear of anyways :)

    If we’re really good then we can get by only putting out one kitchen-sized bag of garbage a week. Not bad for a family of 4 plus 2 dogs and a cat! It’s a really good feeling to know that we’re working to divert perfectly useful waste from the landfill :)

    I read that anaerobic breakdown of compostable waste in landfills is the single largest source of methane gas in our air. So GO YOU for doing your part to reduce that!! :D

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  12. I’ve just started a compost bin in a shaded area in my courtyard and already my resident snake (although unseen thus far this year) has made his appearance. He’s a small garter snake, but I’m sure his larger friends will surface soon. Not too freaked yet, but the first time I step on one going out the back door, well, the compost bin will have to go. I will have made an honest effort!

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  14. I want to do my part in minimizing waste and had been composting for last few years for the home garden.But, alas, I am begining to believe that it does invite snakes. I have this black compost bin toswallow all kind of kitchen scraps, maple leaves, etc. (composting encouraged by the city and selling of the composting bin at a discount price, sponsored by the city). I am truly begining to believe that it invites snakes, inspite of keeping things meticulously clean around it and the garden in general. I confronted diamondback by the side of the bin to day and last year it was (I think) a King snake. I like gardening, but this kind of unwanted show is making me think If I should not discontinue composting immediately. I have kids at home, and certainly last thing I would like to be is a serpentology researcher. Sorry my composting friends. We live in southern california

  15. You have probably figured this out by now, but in case…

    Snake is not attracted to your compost pile they are definitely not vegetarians, even the harmless ones. Snakes are attracted to the creatures attracted to your compost pile. Looks like a garter, which would keep down the noxious insects. Sometimes mice, rats, voles find themselves a dandy compost pile and feel like its a buffet set out just for them. Snakes will keep these pests under control. Snakes no harm/ rats = disease.

    There is a handy cool tool for live trapping if poisonous snakes find your pile and you have kids. A pest control company could assist you with their removal, but the traps don’t kill. Without snakes we’d have the plague. Don’t believe in killing snakes if avoidable. They have an important niche in our systems.

    check out: http://www.snakeguard.com

    I don’t work and am not affiliated wtith them. But I appreciate their approach to removing an offender rather than the old fashioned approach of just lopping off their heads. Previous generations did not manage earth’s resources and now we have many problems because of that.

    Just thought I’d share!

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