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. 


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.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Pulp Fiction

First, a sincere apology for my long hiatus. It's summer; I have more kids than usual running around my desk.

During our vacation, my sister bought us a card game based on  
the Doc Savage stories of old. Never heard of Doc Savage? Allow me to enlighten you. 

He's Savage, and he's a Doctor. He goes on massive adventures, and never fear, gentle reader - at some point his shirt will get torn off:

I could use both hands to saw off its tentacle but then you wouldn't be able to admire the guns

And this started my love affair with old pulp magazines. Why do I love them so? Because anything - anything - can happen in them. 

Women will embrace large feathers, for no reason:

Just sign on the dotted line

 At any given moment a large green head might come along:

Barbie Doll THIS, pal

Science is always  creepy:

So are scientists:
Noooo... my new scientist-ish coat...

Ride in a  SUV? Not when there are tigers to be had my friend:

Some women are bad ass:
Oh no you didn't just try to borrow my hair clip Froggie

And others wind up in a large green hand:

Did I mention anything can happen?

Wouldn't have happened if you had bought the hand sanitizer at Costco like I told you, Vance.
Love pulp. Love, love, love it.