Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Worms Go In, The Worms Go Out...

One thing I am looking forward to so much that I spend happy spare minutes doodling up plans, picturing the results, promising myself that it’s “coming soon” is…. compost. Yes, I have a hidden lust for recycling garbage. It has been almost a year since I was last able to compost, and I have a jones to see a pile of steaming straw, leaves and coffee grounds in my backyard. Those of you who have not taken a walk on the wildlife side need to picture the immense pleasure of throwing away the wettest, nastiest parts of your trash -- and finding rich, brown soil the next season. It is nothing short of a miracle, well worth the effort of layering dry over wet, and tossing it around a few times over the intervening months. For one thing, I have no idea how the word gets around to so many worms -- I don’t put them there! But within a month, the bottom of the heap is full of happy worms, and the resulting worm shit will create a happy garden. I’ll never forget my little brother moving out near me one year, getting “volunteered” to help turn the compost in the Fall and laughing his head off at my rapturous description (similar to the above) -- and then the next spring having his “revelation” -- yelping and gesturing about all the incredible dirt that magically had appeared in the pile. I enjoyed my “big sister” moment quite a bit.

Those of you who buy your candy bars and bottles of pop, your boxes of computer disks, etc. because they promise a possible $10,000 “free prize” -- you need to look at this really, truly “something for nothing” that is available to so many. Having rented for a year, I know that it’s not available to all, and that saddens me. But having also lived in a group situation, where I have gone to the compost bin and found old bread, meat bones and cat litter, I am not na├»ve enough to suggest that apartment houses can sustain compost bins. This is a commitment that has to be made by the individual.. oddly, the computer phrase “garbage in, garbage out” applies here, too -- not everything can be composted, at least not in the same bin. I have been reading about old farms and how they recycle “everything but the curl in the pig’s tail“, but unless you are set up for the full recycle process (sounds like about 5 acres) complete with animals who will eat any spare meat scraps, and making soap and candles from tallow, then some stuff does end up in the trash. But any vegetable scraps, coffee grounds (I add the paper cone filter), cut grass, dead leaves -- weeds if you are brave and have at least a journeyman level composting ability -- all of it that would have ended up being hauled away as trash becomes the exact same wonderful rich stuff that you buy for $6.99 a bag under the name “Black Gold -- with worm castings”(that’s wormshit -- but you knew that, right?). Instead of $30 every spring plus the gas to transport it, you have free compost! Alright, some folks would argue that there is a bit of sweat equity involved, but again, why pay $200/month for a gym when you have the chance to work it all off in the backyard? And depending on your pile, it’s not even that much heavy lifting… but I suppose I’m probably preaching to the choir. You wormheads are reading this and nodding eagerly, the others have clicked over to another blog… ah, well.

Since it’s just us recycle freaks here now… I’ll confess that I am looking forward to figuring out how to reuse as much of my purchased stuff as possible. Compost is actually the easy part. All those plastic meat trays are a challenge… I know that the solution is to buy in bulk and select carefully (and - vegans are screaming - don‘t eat meat!), and I will also enjoy trying to figure out which packaging becomes the best recycled art (if nothing else can be done with it, make art?). But really, there is a limit to how many soap bottle maiden dollies I can craft… and I know I’m not alone in noticing the correlation between slowing down and being able to deal sensibly with one’s garbage. With only one foot in the conspiracy-theory camp, I wonder sometimes if racing us around isn’t a really good strategy for making us buy more and more disposable items? I have spent a lot of time this past year trying to make my own lunches, reuse my lunchbags, etc… and whenever I have a day with too many appointments, it all goes astray and I end up eating fast food and tossing the container. But that’s another blog.

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