The ‘Williams Manoeuvre’

Lisa show us the Williams Manoeuvre, chopping up food scraps in the bucket.

I first met Lisa Williams when YIMBY were out looking for new composters in her street in north-west Castlemaine.

We needed to replace two of the original YIMBY composters who were ‘retiring’ and we already had neighbours in the street leaving out buckets of food scraps on bin night, we just needed to find a new someone who wanted to take those nutrient-rich offerings and turn them into garden ‘black gold’. Enter Lisa.

Lisa loved the YIMBY concept and went through our training and induction process last year, which involved looking at, building and turning quite a number of compost piles!

A year and a bit on, all that training and the amazing work that Lisa has done since has resulted in a backyard bursting with some of the best compost I have seen and a garden about to jump out of its skin with renewed fertility.

When I visited recently on a chilly, bright Saturday morning to help with a compost turn, joined by Tegan, one of our amazing GYMbys (18 – 30 YO compost angels) Lisa was already out among her Beckley compost bays under her enormous ash tree that provides summer shade to her backyard and an almighty dump of (compostable) leaves in autumn.

Lisa is a physiotherapist, and loves her work, but says making compost is her “mental health time”, a chance to participate in something “slow and very useful”. She also loves the way it has connected her to her place saying she now “knows everyone who lives in the street”.

Composting has also connected Lisa with other composters in the community.

“It is a level of passion I’ve not found in other community groups,” she says, “We all know the work involved, we can talk about the temperatures of our piles and geek out on all the compost science – I really love the YIMBY community, the composters and the microbes”.

Lisa has also offered a wonderful gift back to her fellow composters. She has developed a technique that has spread through the 20 plus YIMBY composters and has transformed quite a few composting operations.

We have talked before in the Compost Conversation about the importance of chopping up our compost ingredients so they spread well through our piles and are in good contact with their complementary and balancing ingredients.

Instead of tipping out our bucket of food scraps from the kitchen and then chopping it up with a spade or machete on top of the compost pile the ‘Williams Manoeuvre’ involves chopping up the food scraps with a sharp spade right in the bucket.

A standard sized spade (they are the sharp square ones meant for digging) fits comfortably inside a 10-litre food-grade plastic bucket.

If pressed down firmly but not aggressively in the bucket the food scraps will get chopped up without risking putting the spade through the bottom of the bucket.

Turn the bucket and keep pressing the spade up and down till the food scrap contents are well chopped.

The bucket contents can then be tipped into our compost and spread out as a nice thin layer of nitrogen-rich scraps ready to be layered up with an offering of carbon-rich straw, leaves or woody prunings.

Thanks Lisa, for your innovation, congratulations on your amazing compost and many happy compost (re)turns.

– Joel Meadows works with *Yes In My Back Yard, (YIMBY), a community-scale composting initiative in Castlemaine and surrounds. Send questions or comments to, or to book in for a compost workshop!