Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gross things escaping

When my son's girlfriend Jackie is not studying for her PH.D in physics, she worries about composting.

She wrote. "Do you have any suggestions for a compost bin? I think I have to use worms since I do not have a yard and no grass clippings and I do not want those gross things to escape."

"Gross worms" are near the top of the "essential to gardening" list, just below bees. Worms eat their body weight daily in compost and dirt.

Casey, also 20-something, is interested in composting in her city apartment. Santa delivered her a composting machine -- about the size of a hard drive. She blogged about it.

"Mom, it wakes me up in the middle of the night," Casey said. "It goes off about every four hours."

Casey and Jackie touch on a bigger topic: how do we create a system for composting?

In the back of Casey's 1925-era apartment building is a round 3-gallon bin, buried so only the metal flip-top lid shows, intended for city dwellers to deposit their kitchen scraps. Once upon a time, a pig farmer would collect the food waste and recycle them to pigs. It's a way of life that might be sprouting out of the compost pile with peak oil hovering.

Both women live alone in a bigger community and don't generate a huge amount of compost.
How about thinking bigger -- and connecting to the community?

What if Jackie asked her condo association in Ann Arbor, Michigan to consider creating a compost pile -- that can be as simple as a hole in the ground on the edge of the property. Grass clippings treated with traditional lawn fertilizer is not welcome if the compost is intended for a garden. The condo association could buy and take care of a worm composter.

What if we all had a system to recycle fruit and vegetable waste [NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS ] back into the soil without much help from us or the worms. The photo above is my very low maintenance compost pile. Collect it in the kitchen, carry it 50 steps to the yard, throw it on and forget it. We barely stir it and the worms arrive naturally.

What if Casey inquired about neighborhood community gardens to donate her compost?

Both initiatives require connecting to community, an essential ingredient to survival in the new millennium. Reading about predictions about Peak Oil and the demise of society is enough to scare me into meeting my neighbors and becoming a chicken keeper.

I like that both Jackie and Casey CARE about composting, have changed their thinking about waste, and are taking action. That's progress.

The new thinking and action must become contagious and communal. Buy a worm composter for the condo complex and connect to a community garden, which connects us to the earth and each other. That's a concept worth recycling.

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