Friday, October 24, 2008

Longwinded Worm Tale

In Martha Beck's new book, she takes the reader through a process designed to show that most good things that have happened in life can be traced back to something bad that happened, or at least seemed bad at the time. OK, fine, Martha. I'm not crazy about it, but I see your point. I felt mildly bamboozled by the exercise, but it was then not lost on me today when, thanks indirectly to my landlord (oh, wait, I promised I'd just start calling him my slumlord, in order to expel some of the frustration I feel in all association with him), I got to have the experience of Christmas morning that I honestly can't remember having since I was about 8.

Here's how it went. Three years ago when I moved into my apartment, I asked the aforementioned slumlord if he'd consider getting a compost bin for the building. He nodded a lot, and expressed his enthusiasm for the idea. Apparently he and his wife (living then in the building as well) had been thinking about getting one for a while. I volunteered to do the research on which one would make the most sense for us. Wait, no, he asked me to, and I agreed.

So off I went to do my composter research. I sent him a list of possibilities, along with the pros and cons of each. You have to understand this is not the kind of thing I'd normally do, this pros and cons thing, but I really love the fact of composting. It's one of the most no-brainerish things I've ever encountered. Instead of stuffing your compostable waste in with the rest of the trash where it will fester and rot and take up space, you build a mound of it, flipping it periodically to help it break itself down, and when it's done with the process, you have soil that's really good for growing stuff in. It doesn't cost anything, financially or resourcially (that's pronounced reSORshuhlee). No brainer. Hence my willingness to research and pro and con.

A few weeks passed and I heard nothing. I inquired after the status. Yes, yes, he said, I'll order it soon. A few months. Yes, yes. Nothing. The season passed. The slumlord and his wife moved out of the building. Can I still have a composter? Yes, yes. September, October, November. Can we order it in time for spring? Yes, yes, just tell me which one to order.

You're wondering why I kept at him about it and didn't just, I don't know, get one myself or move. I wondered that too. I made an attempt to build my own composter out of a trash can. No luck. It didn't roll as well as I'd hoped.

After about 26 months, I gave up. All that time the compostable stuff got stored on the premises until a trip to mom's or dad's or, later, Janet and Pete's presented itself.

I'd heard that you could compost indoors with worms, but we don't have all that much space and I'd also heard that the worms were really picky about temperature and food and such. Last winter, though, we discovered that a couple of our friends were having some luck with a worm situation. They gave us some extras, and we started our first such situation in a small black file box in the back room.

We thought for sure we couldn't keep the little guys alive, but we've now done so for 8 months. At the fair this fall, we attended a workshop on worm composting, and decided it was time to expand. I arranged for a worm pick-up (you have to use a particular kind of worm) today at noon. I got their early. I don't usually get places early. I usually get there exactly on time, so that I haven't wasted any. (?!) I was so excited I kept thinking I was nervous. I do get nervous when I have to talk to someone I don't know, and when I'm afraid I might say something stupid. But it wasn't like that. I just wanted to meet the worms, and get them started in their new home.

We now have something of a worm high-rise in the back room. I split the new worm haul into two apartments, because we're to expect that the file boxes will fill up pretty fast, and we won't have anywhere to use the castings for a good many months. We also have the original box, which makes up the ground floor of the high rise.

There aren't very many things anymore that I get really bouncily excited about. I'm a little perplexed as to why the worms can do it, but I've decided to just take it. And if there's anything you really love, no matter how silly and strange it may be, please follow my lead and indulge yourself.

And yes, though I'm not sure I wouldn't have enjoyed the outdoor composting as much, I can't help but offer partial credit to the slumlord without whom the worms would not likely have materialized.

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