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Posts Tagged ‘Worms’

According to the SunChips website, the EPA states that 26% of the municipal waste stream going to landfills is organic material that could have been composted. But I’m not sure I really believe SunChips, because for one thing they took  most of the “compostable bags” off the market for being loud. And despite the Sun Chips claim that those “compostable bags” would break down in 12 weeks, my own test SunChips bag didn’t. I realized this last Saturday when cleaned out my worm condo.

For two weeks I piled mounds of  shredded newspaper onto my gorgeous, stinky compost. But the fruit fly epidemic in my kitchen didn’t go away. When I opened the box, and turned the compost, the soil was teaming with tiny wiggly larvae. On top of the flies, I was also discovering some sort of silver fish with long wiggly bodies and pinchers at the top crawling along the floorboards and up the walls. Ok, they may have been smaller than a bit of yarn. But still, it was one too many creepy crawly things in the kitchen.

So I had to take drastic measures.

First, I emptied all the compost. When I was done, I had a huge flower-pot full or rich soil. I planted some lettuces and radish seeds, covered the pot with plastic wrap and put it on the fire escape. I hoped the cold would kill the fruit flies without killing the seedlings. It seems to have worked.

Then on Saturday morning, I dumped the not-quite-finished but infested compost into a garbage bag, painstakingly pulling out all the worms and rolly polly’s I could find. I’m happy to report that many of the worms were fat and happy.  I made them a temporary bed in a Chinese food container with holes cut in the top, and gave the worm bin a hot shower bath and then left it outside overnight. Again, I hoped that whatever potential infestation the hot water didn’t cure, the cold air might. (I don’t think fruit flies like the cold).

As I was I was sorting out worms, I wondered what would Michael Pollan  would say about it all. In The Botany of Desire, he  makes a compelling argument that things in the natural world are using us an evolutionary stepping stone. Well, I say, if the worms have learned to use me as an evolutionary tool to thrive and conquer the world, I hope they chow down a lot of garbage in the process

The whole worm relocation process took over two hours. I basically I gave up most of a Saturday morning  and it really tested my resolve. The regular kitchen garbage can was sitting there, eager to help me out. It would have been so easy to just send the flies to the landfill. But I didn’t. Instead I hauled the bag of compost to my dad’s house in the suburbs.

My dad is in the process of moving out of the house that I grew up in. I’ve been having a lot of issues around the garbage that cleaning out a house filled with 50 plus years of flotsam and jetsam creates. His inclination is to toss a lot into the regular trash. I have been trying to collect fabric and sort out stuff that can be recycled. (Anyone know where to recycle old trophies in NYC?)

His real estate agent seems to think that new is better — more valuable. So they’ve taken out a lot of “old” hardware, lighting fixtures, and replaced it with shiny, new, ugly stuff.  Even the plantings in the yard are being “made new.” Hence an over  fifty year old Rhododendron may be dug up because it’s blocking light in the living room. Whatever happened to mature plantings being a selling point? My father also said he plans to have the compost pile removed. I think his exact words were:  “My agent said nobody wants a pile of shit in the backyard.”

Ironically, he told me that last bit of news after I had just dumped the compost into the big pile in the back. I’m sure I looked horrified.

We always composted garden scraps when I was a kid. I had such visceral memory of the four by four wooden frames with a thick screen stapled that my father made and used to sift out soil that my mother added to her begonias and tomato plants. We also  had a wormy apple tree in the backyard and an Italian plum tree that usually did better and produced about an apron full of sweet egg-shaped fruit. Both trees are both, but I remember the experience of growing and eating food from the backyard. How much has that affected me and all the crazy stuff I’m attempting to do in my NYC apartment?

True, composting is not exactly easy. But it’s not the hardest thing in the world. And the truth is, the only sure fire way to make your organic garbage disappear is to compost it. It’s not new but it’s pretty valuable.  My father promised me that his lawn people will be compost our big pile of shit from the backyard and not throw it in the trash.  And unlike SunChips, I do believe him.


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