Posts Tagged ‘composting

08
Sep
08

ivy

Ivy, the Hog

Ivy, the Hog

I’m in Pescadero on the California Coast for a few days and find myself next door to a gigantic and very dusty pig.  Ivy looks almost too heavy for her stumpy legs. When I walk by, she strugggles upright, legs about to buckle, hooves splayed out like much-abused shoes, skin folded into a leathery carapace like that of a rhino. She grunts and snorts at every lumbering step, inviting me to offer alms.

Even lying down appears to be strenuous exercise, given her bulk. She carefully bends one knee and allows herself to list sideways a little, hesitating just a second before she gives way and keels over in a cloud of dust. She is a powerful warning against gluttony.

It may not be practical for every family to keep a pig, but it does occur to me that considerably less garbage would find its way to the landfill with an Ivy to take care of the vegetable leftovers. She eats everything except cabbage. While her diet is essentially the same, not counting the cabbage, she is certainly far more efficient than my modest little worms, if distinctly more odoriferous.

Oklahoma City's 1930s Piggery

Oklahoma City's Piggery (1930s)

Early in the 20th century, many towns in the US kept piggeries as the most economical waste management solution, perhaps inspired by the roaming pigs that kept house in the streets of New York City until the 1880s and 90s, as well as the many clandestine stationary hogs that many poor people stashed in cellars and hallways as a cheap source of protein.

Just this morning I heard on the radio that Al Gore advises us to cut out at least one dish of meat from our diet every week, to help curb global warming. I suppose a swill-fed Ivy could still deliver a guilt-free carnivorous feast. On the other hand, as I contemplate this hog snorting up a puff of dust in her carefully moulded dirt bed, it is apparent to me why various cultures consider pork unclean.

19
Feb
08

Geology of Trash

My brother arranged for a tour of the local dump in Amersfoort, where I lived from 1972 to 1977 or so. I still visit occasionally because my parents are there. The tour is an outside chance, a singular piece of good luck. A regular citizen doesn’t have ready access to garbage once it’s passed into the hands of the people who make away with it. I’ve eyed the mountain from the motorway to Amsterdam, wondering how I could get close enough for a good picture.

The Outward Face

I’ve admired especially the herd of deer that maintains the grass at the appropriate height free of charge, although I’ve also seen a flock of sheep wandering like dirty clouds across the brow of the garbage tumulus. The animals are undoubtedly there to inspire warm fuzzy thoughts in the passing motorists.

Definitely, the mountain puts its best face forward, grassy slopes with cute animals turned out. But there’s no denying that, if all goes according to plan, the mountain will be the highest point in Amersfoort in some 15 to 20 years. And on top, the whole thing looks distinctly menacing, hosting a variety of recycling operations as well as ongoing dumping of materials that are too dangerous to burn.

Compost in the making

20
Jan
08

Dilemma

This past week I inadvertently acquired a pound of pet. That is to say, the acquisition itself was entirely intentional: I made the purchase upon mature reflection. It was the pet part I hadn’t counted on.

What I had in mind was a practical solution to the unfortunate fact that the county I live in does not collect compostibles separately from the garbage destined for landfill. I was looking for a way to stop padding the trash with my apple cores, tea bags, and broccoli skins. However, I’m acquainted with the drawbacks of a compost heap, not the least of which is the fact that you have to start gardening to get rid of your own product. So I ordered a worm bin instead, worms included, figuring I could probably get my friends and my land-lady to take the less voluminous castings off my hands.

I set up my bin—all good. I prepare the bedding and add some food—still good But the moment I start opening the worm package, a rather ponderous little cube delivered into my hands by the USPS, it hits me. What if they are dead? They could all have died in transit. Something extremely unpleasant could be waiting to waft up to me when I snip the plastic snag that holds the bag shut.

When I think about it, sending wrigglers in the mail doesn’t seem right. Does the postal service even approve of it? Do the little creatures not need air? And what if some postal employee plays football with the package?

As a matter of fact, even if they haven’t died, something extremely unpleasant could be waiting to waft up to me when I snip the plastic snag that holds the bag shut. I have never yet beheld a pound of red wrigglers in a bag, but it is beginning to dawn on me it won’t be nearly as cute as a litter of puppies, say. Even in the best of circumstances, opening the bag is not an extremely appealing prospect.

Come to think of it, what if they are alive? That would mean they can die any time afterwards and then whatever they shed—blood? ichor? goo?—will be on my hands. I consult the instructions and find that many things can go wrong with worms. Too much food. Too much moisture. Not enough moisture. Too much trauma, even, because, according to my helpful booklet, worms don’t actually like to be in the mail.

I flash on the high school genetics project, many years ago, in which my fruit flies, also arriving in the mail, promptly mired themselves in the sky-blue cereal I had carefully prepared for them, according to instructions. Under my care, they died a miserable death despite their notorious ability to survive all efforts to eradicate them. Things don’t necessarily bode well for a pound of live worms.

Here I am, then, on the horns of a dilemma, on the cusp of a new life as a worm owner. I am definitely hoping they are alive. Or am I? If they are alive, then I will have to make arrangements to have them taken care of next time I go on a trip. I didn’t think of that beforehand. When doing well, I read in my helpful booklet, the population doubles in size in about a month’s time. I didn’t think of that either. Maybe I am actually hoping they are dead.

Anyhow, I take a deep breath, snip, peek in the bag, and stare at nothing. Just a bunch of dirt. No wrigglers. No odor. I gingerly overturn the whole thing on the bedding, and a giant ball of wrigglers, wriggling furiously, reveal themselves to my horrified eyes and promptly roll, en masse, to the very edge of the bin and start to topple over.They are most definitely not dead. Whatever else it is I may be hoping, I certainly hope not to have to pick the wrigglers off my living-room floor one by one. I intervene with my serving spoon and get them back into bed. I try to spread them around a little, so they can’t repeat their caper.

Apart from spooning them into place, it seems there’s little I can do for them at the moment. I am advised to lift up the lid in three day’s time to see if all is well. That leaves me still on the horns of my dilemma: does “all is well” mean dead or alive?




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