Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Compost Happens...Of Course!

By alexkon from Jerusalem, Israel (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 
Catchvia Wikimedia Commons
Catch the beginning here: Compost Happens...I Hope

So I added too much newspaper, water, and yeast, too many nuked-and-frozen banana peels, and too little soil. And in less than a week's time, I'd become the world's most successful indoor farmer. Of gnats, that is. I fished out and trashed the banana peels, tried to rearrange and dry out the bins a bit, and made approximately five thousand fruit-fly traps. At two weeks, the feeding frenzy finally commenced! Tragically, not of the worms, but on the worms. My poor little wriggly babies. The damn fruit flies had laid eggs in my compost bin and were literally eating my invertebrate farm animals alive! Noooooooooo!!! It was the most disgusting thing ever.

My neighbor in the adjoining aparment disagreed. Earthworms being devoured by writhing masses of tiny, white, skin-crawling larvae was not the grossest thing ever. The smell of rotting worms and garbage was. For the past week, she'd detected the distinct stench of eau-de-poo wafting into her apartment and the laundry room. She was not pleased to discover that my worm bin was the source. However, the latest transplant in her man garden, who inexplicably and incessantly imitated Beavis and Butthead, was overjoyed. “Heh-heh, dirty hippie! You've made seasonals smell like shit! Heh-heh, heh-heh....” Soon the entire guide force knew that my composting binge was not simply a laughing matter, but an absolutely hysterical fiasco. They were thrilled too – I had not disappointed them. Just as they'd hoped, I remained an endless source of entertainment. “Goofy tree-hugger! She means well, poor darlin'. But durn is she funny!”

Sigh. Dejected and defeated, I took the composter out back. Not even one raccoon approached my expensive, easy-guaranteed, graveyard pile of worm poop and death. Poor squirmies. They'd died alright, but I'm pretty sure the inside of a fish-belly looked a lot more like heaven than the massacre they'd suffered at my hands. At least their stinkiness was as short-lived as they'd been.

A year later found me on a cross-country trip for a new job in the heart of Redwood National Park and the alternate universe of my eco-dreams. Navigating the winding mountain roads of northern California at dusk, I glanced out my passenger-side window past my friend Lexie and squealed with delight. Not at the gorgeous landscape, but at the sight of two scruffy, bearded, slightly-dirty 20-somethings sitting on huge backpacks, one with his thumb up, the other strumming a guitar. “Look, Lexie! Real hippies! On the side of the road! Hitchiking! Wow.” An hour outside the park, I screeched as I realized I was following a car with an “I Voted for Nader” bumpersticker while crossing a bridge with a “Watch for Cyclists When Flashing” sign with a warning light powered by solar panels. I almost peed my pants in excitement. Feeling as if I were in the commercial where Santa and the M&M's faint at meeting each other, I murmured, “Liberals...they do exist....”

My worms may not have made it to heaven, but I sure had. A simple trip to your run-of-the-mill grocery store bombarded me with local organic produce, hormone-free meat, and free-range-cage-free eggs, making me feel like a tourist in a foreign country, an intergalactic space traveler on a whole other planet. This wasn't even the town square farmer's market frequented by happy, be-dreadlocked, hoolahooping hippies; this was just IGA with people on their way home from work. The Mammoth Cave natives might have thought I was a flaming, tree-hugging liberal, but here I was quite likely moderate and not nearly green enough by comparison. I loved it!

A week after moving into my redwood-encircled park house, my awesome neighbor who'd invited me to go to belly-dancing class with her was having a going-away party. Bittersweet celebration that it was, there I received ultimate vindication for having vied for vermiculture. A party guest, with free-flowing blonde frizzy hair and hiking boots, dangly earrings, and a peasant blouse, was orienting me to the area:

“Oh, definitely hit up Arcata. Their recycling center is, like, totally awesome. You can recycle, like, everything there...even motor oil. Like, the only thing they don't take is, like, cardboard egg cartons....”

(1. Cardboard!, not the styrofoam jobbies filling the shelves of every Kentucky Super-Walmart. 2. Wait for it....)

"But you can compost those of course...” Of course??? Of course! Breezily, just like that she said it, assumed it, without a second thought. Of course I would be composting – didn't everybody? Bliss, bliss, bliss.

I was also internally ROTFLMAO, as the kids these days like to say. What I would have given to be able to teleport her into the middle of the guide lounge just long enough for her to say “you can compost those of course” and then watch as expressions of shock and confusion spread across the faces of the cavers and her alike. The northern Californians (who, bless them, once tried to secede from southern California and form the state of Jefferson) were as oblivious to the conservative way of life in south central Kentucky as said-Kentuckians were to theirs. Now that was funny! Finally I got to be the one laughing. To each, their opponents were the distant, surreal minority “them.” Only I knew both existed and thrived as tangible and real entitities. Lololol! Suddenly I wasn't so naïve after all. “I know something you don't know!” I chanted gleefully to myself. Best thing that had ever happened to my budding-environmentalist-self.

To be concluded tomorrow. In the mean time, check out my rockin' awesome, real-life-hippie friend's com-posts (see what I did there? hehe) about how she and her family have succeeded in creating humanure. And they don't need no stinkin' worms. Wowza!


  1. Parasites on your earthworms were probably cluster flies (same general appearance as a house fly) or nematodes not fruit flies. If it's cluster flies you need to keep them out of the bin with netting. If it's nematodes you may have to dump and sanitize the whole thing.

    1. Dang, where were you 7 years ago??? I could have made it work after all. I keep this in mind for the future. And....why do you know so much about worms? :)