101 Centavos is a blog dedicated in very unequal parts to travel, personal finance, gardening, cooking, travel and investing. These are little mini-topics that come from the idea notebook.  Some of them morph into full-blown articles, and some just languish for a while until gathered up in these random note posts.

Thoughts on Garden Compost

Used to think that twigs and branches were bad for compost piles.  A certain amount of mid-size sticks, no bigger than a little finger and broken up in manageable lengths actually turn out to be pretty good for composting. They tend to form a lattice work that creates air spaces; air which is needed by the little nano-critter bacteria that keep the aerobic process going; without oxygen – no aerobic-ness.

Leaf compost piles compost slowly and anaerobically; a very slow process.   If left alone, a carbon-rich leaf pile will take a couple years to compost down into humus.  I keep a couple of round piles of leaves, made with chicken wire and 1×2 uprights, 36 inches high and 24 inches across.  They serve as a stockpile of “browns” throughout the summer, to gradually add to the “hot” compost pile of grass clippings, weeds, and other yard and kitchen waste.  Although leaf piles lack nitrogen and therefore compost anaerobically, the soil under them eventually becomes enriched with the “juices” that seep down from the decaying leaves.  At the end of the growing season, as the leaf piles get depleted, I dig up the soil to a depth of six or eight inches.  What’s left is great stuff; black and loamy and sweet-smelling.

Career Tiplet # 12 – Don’t give ’em a number

As you settle into that chair, facing people across that conference table who will determine your near-term employment future, remember at least one thing: don’t cough up the “number”.

They’ll want to know your number. What are you getting paid now?  What were you getting paid before you got laid off.  Don’t tell ’em! Or at the very, very least, don’t be a patsy about it.

Negotiation ain’t easy.  It requires a willingness to sidestep direct questions and endure uncomfortable silences. It doesn’t have to be a hard bargaining session, a thrust-and-parry situation where the parties see themselves as adversaries, where each concession is met with a counter-offer.  It need not be that way.  You’re there to provide value, they’re there to buy. But if you don’t negotiate skillfully for your own self, how can you negotiate for them?

Hiring managers will sometimes pop the question, other times it will be the HR professional’s task to ferret out your current or past compensation level.   Either way, it will be a direct question.

Politicians have no problem dodging questions. But most of us have a spine, morals, and don’t lie whenever our lips are moving.

Therefore, countering a direct question takes practice. It takes rehearsal.  Many career sites advise on the need to do a mock interview.  Wise advice, but make sure that you practice answering/parrying the question.

There’s lot’s of catch phrases you can use. Just Google “interview salary don’t give number”, and practice on a few until they sound natural.  Don’t memorize, it will come out stilted and forced. Rearrange the words, and make them your own.   In the end, stand firm.   Hiring managers do this all the time. They’ll know what the market pays, and they’re more than likely to respect a candidate that negotiates well.

Time Flies Like An Arrow….

… and fruit flies like a banana.  We’ve been beset by swarms of pesky little fruit flies.  The came off some Central American banana boat, and took up residence in our kitchen. Annoying little buggers.  One simple remedy taken off the internet is to pour a cupful or so of cider vinegar into a glass or bowl, and add a few drops of dish soap.  The fruit flies are attracted to the vinegar smell, land on it, and quickly sink to the bottom. The soap, you see, breaks the surface tension of the water, trapping the flies into a vinegary grave.  Does it work?  Sure, works like a charm.  We put a few bowls around the kitchen, and in a couple days, problem solved.

Little House notes: Composting is a great way to reduce your kitchen garbage if you have a garden. I haven’t tried it in my apartment yet, but I know it can be done. I haven’t experienced fruit fly problems, but thanks to 101 Centavos, I’ll know what to do if I encounter this!

What random thoughts would you add?


  1. Hunter @ Financially Consumed Reply

    Holding back on direct questions is sooo difficult. I know in a sales environment the best answer to how much is enough is “I want to earn as much money as I possibly can”. What do you think?

  2. retirebyforty Reply

    Nice thoughts. I’ll keep the cider vinegar trick in mind for next summer. We have problem with those little fruit flies too.
    I don’t have much luck with leaves compost in the past. I guess I didn’t wait long enough and like you said, probably not enough oxygen.

  3. My University Money Reply

    Is it bad sign that I actually enjoy these negotiation exchanges? I think some it comes from doing law enforcement work, and then being a teacher. I’ve seen almost every possible strategy that we can collectively come up with to side step questions. It’s a semantics challenge for me at this point.

  4. @Hunter @ Financially Consumed
    (try again…)
    Giving a high salary figure, or higher than the position offers, may prompt the hiring company to think the candidate may/will be unhappy with a lower salary, and would eventually jump ship.
    That is, unless the candidate has expressed valid reasons for taking lower pay, such as reduced travel obligations and more time home w/ family.

  5. @retirebyforty
    Hi RB40 – another thing about leaves, the large ones compress and lay flat on top of another. Hard for air to get in between. Better to run them over with a lawnmower to chop them up a bit. The smaller the bits, the more surface area the micro-bacteria have to feed on.

  6. So should I just tell them I don’t want to tell them how much I earned at the last place I worked? Or is there some smoother technique?

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