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Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca

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by Alison DeLuca

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Universe Inside My Trash

A simple compost tumbler
In the 70's, my mom had a compost heap. All of our kitchen refuse - vegetable scraps, leftovers, moldy refrigerator items - went on the heap, under a blanket of newspapers. When she started it, it only took a few days for the pile to become roaring hot, as a strange, unseen, microbial reactor started up under the unfolded pages of The Daily Local News.

Now I have my own composter, although I'm not brave enough to simply do a heap of stuff under a paper. I use a Tumbler, which is a large plastic barrel suspended in its middle. You unscrew the lid, dumpt the stuff in, and "tumble" it around so the bottom side is up. It's like dancing trash.

Speaking of trash, between my compost tumbler and recycling, we have very little in the way of actual garbage. As in the 70's, all kitchen scraps go into the compost bin, ditto grass clippings and newspapers. It feels good to know I'm keeping unnecessary stuff out of the land fill. Honestly, I don't know why everyone doesn't have one.

Well, that's not strictly true - I do know why. 

Compost is ICKY.

My tumbler keeps the compost process under wraps, but I still wear gloves to lift the lid. Know why? Because there is plenty of life inside - a myriad of burrowing, slithering things eating my trash and breaking it down into soil again. 

First there are the earthworms. (Not a fan of worms ever since one surprised me by crawling over my ankle as I read Jane Eyre under a willow tree; what should have been a romantic moment descended into shrieking hysterics.)

Then there are the bugs - pillbugs, mites, and nematodes (small worms.) Those thangs like to crawl around on the lid when I lift it; hence, the gloves. 

ewwwwwwwww

Finally there are the unseen things - protozoa, microbes, crawling tiny creatures who live to eat my trash. They generate carbon dioxide and heat in the process (and I'm certain there is a way to harvest that energy for power - over to you, engineers.) It's my own little disgusting universe, all packed into a barrel.

Plus there's the compost itself, which must be rushed outside when it is generated. Yeah, you don't want to keep that stuff inside your house any longer than you have to, and when it's lashing down rain or freezing outside, taking out the scraps is a huge PIA.

So why do it?

 As I mentioned, there's less trash. In Ireland, there was no thought of recycling or composting until the land fills in the tiny country grew overloaded with garbage. Now, a lot of Irish households recycle and have composters because they pay for trash by the weight

Yeah, if I was paying per pound for my garbage, I'd rethink the simple "toss it" too. And I've noticed that Ireland, as a small island, is a glimpse into the future for the planet as a whole.

 Compost generates soil. No, I'm not sticking my hand inside my tumbler - nooooo thank you very much. However, the microbes and earthworms break down my scraps so much that the soil drops out the bottom and piles up around the tumbler. The new soil is dark, rich, odor-free, and the best fertilizer I have ever found for my plants. In fact, if I dig it up and add it around the roots of a dying bush or tree, the thing perks up instantly.  
What compost soil looks like. It's like chocolate and champagne for plants

Thank you, disgusting mini-universe in my backyard!

Those are two pretty good reasons to have your own little tiny universe in your garden. A tumbler costs about 100$, and mine has chewed at least a thousand pounds of trash, compacting it into a small amount of rich, nutritious soil for my garden.

So, if you can get past the ick factor, I highly suggest getting your own Tumbler.

And with it: thick rubber gloves.

6 comments:

Connie J Jasperson said...

My childhood was spent with a father whose organic garden could have fed the world. His compost heap produced some of the finest, richest soil in the area.

In the early 1960's Dad tried gardening using modern methods and chemicals but all his efforts couldn't produce what his own father's simple, traditional garden did, so he returned to the old ways.

Catherine Stine said...

We have a tumbler composter. Yes, it's gross and yes, its soil grows amazing veggies. In our weekend place where we have a garden, we also burn paper trash and recycle. Plus we have solar panels that help generate electricity. It's all good!

Johanna Garth said...

Did you know that in Portland it is required to compost? We have a special bin for food scraps and everything compostable and they pick it up once a week...so not exactly the same as the tumbler, but still icky composting.

Alison DeLuca said...

Hurray, fellow composters! Kudos to your dad, Connie, and I'm very jealous of the solar panels. That's the next step, I think!

And hurray for Portland as well! Here in New Jersey we have a compost site, but we're not forced to do it. Basically people come and dump their leaves.

Once I got used to the process, I realized I would never turn back. And I've even seen them in apartments, although that's a bit more finicky, of course.

I do want to add that the person who talked me into composting again is my wonderful friend. She is a staunch conservative and one of the biggest clean freaks I know, so if SHE can do it - there's no excuse. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey – Just to let you know, I nominated you in the Liebster Awards!
Pam Young, http://skatingthru2012.com/2013/08/30/liebster-award/

Hart Johnson said...

I think if I had one of those things my husband might actually let me compose! I didn't even know they made them, but it looks fabulous. I composted in Portland because they ALSO have a system where you pay through the nose if you throw away much, but ours was an unruly pile and my husband flat out refused.