I hate having to throw vegetables away, like these poor parsnips, just because we don’t have anywhere to compost them. It feels really wrong to be putting biodegradable stuff into the trash can in plastic bags, which will then go to the town dump, where we drop them into a big metal bin with everyone else’s plastic bags, and then I don’t even know where they go from there. Most likely to a landfill, where I know this stuff will just sit in a huge pile with all the other waste, not given the opportunity to return gently to earth like it’s supposed to. I recently read a book about the importance and beauty of decomposition (Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, by William Bryant Logan), so this concept is especially prominent in my mind at the moment. But my family has always composted, made new earth to spread on the gardens, nourished gigantic wayward pumpkin vines, tolerated the mess made by squirrels and crows who loot the compost pile for food, etc. And when S and I lived in Burlington, we happily took part in the town composting program, saved our scraps, brought our smelly white bucket to the recycling center, dumped it out, and then started over again.
But we don’t have that opportunity where we live now. At first I thought I’d like to install some kind of composting system in the backyard here. Even though we’re renting, we do have a small, shared, backyard where we can garden, and our landlady said she didn’t mind if we composted. But there are a lot of hurdles to make it work in the backyard. Our back steps are treacherous. The space is bordered by four other houses, with people who might complain. Stray cats and squirrels and such would potentially make a mess. Even with a closed system, we would have to go outside over snow and ice in the winter to bring our scraps.
I do believe that all of these problems could be overcome, but I’ve instead fixated on an exciting alternative: worm composting! This idea makes me happy because I like the thought of keeping the worms as pets. I already have three cats and a dog, but still… It’s also a practical idea because the worm bin can be kept inside. We feed the worms, and they help us break down our waste, which also produces lovely garden-enriching moist brown stuff, and everybody’s happy. If worms can be happy. I’m certainly anthropomorphizing them a good bit as I imagine them blissfully munching our wilted lettuce and flaccid carrots. Come to me, worm-friends! I have my fingers crossed that my birthday wish will be answered. In the meantime, I’m channelling wriggly worm-like energy. I bought a slinky, and sent it walking down the stairs several times as soon as I got home with it, just like a kid again. In fact, I think I’ll take it for a little walk right now.