Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Slumber Party... And A Massacre

You know, as opposed to a Slumber Party Massacre, like in the old horror film.

The Slumber Party:

Last night, for the first time ever, Lambchop #1 had a friend stay the night. Her best little friend, whom she met at the age of three, came home with us from school yesterday. She's been here all night and all this morning. And, I have to say, this is not what I expected. Even my husband noticed it. The calm, I mean. This little girl is an only child, and she appears to have a calming effect on our wild ones. She lives in a little house in town with not much of a yard. I'm thinking having no siblings in a home like that makes a child less likely to be rambunctious. That's what I will keep telling myself, too, no matter what you say. Either way, all I know is we've got to have her over more often.

The only trouble is the expected side effect this kind of visit has on Lambchop #2. He just doesn't understand why they don't want him around. I feel bad for him. I was lucky that way. Even though I was the second sibling, I never got the sense my brother didn't want me hanging around with his friends. For many years, we lived in a small neighborhood that only had boys in it. So, I tagged along with my brother and his buddies. Either I've blocked it all out, or he didn't care if hung out with them. Is it just a girl thing to shove the younger kids out of the way? You know, to share secrets and all? I don't know, but I sent him off to play with his grandfather, who never complains about presence.

The Massacre:

In doing research for my ecoblog, I have been looking into composting. We compost... sort of. We have a compost bin, and we throw kitchen scraps in it, but I could hardly tell you the proper way to manage a compost bin. So, I've been reading up on it. And, not that it's complicated, but I realized our bin was just not "healthy". For quite some time, I'd seen earwigs (pincher bugs) swarming around the lid, which I was pretty sure wasn't supposed to happen, but what do I know? So, I looked it up online. And, sure enough, it's a sign that my compost bin is on the slow track to decomposition, which isn't exactly what I was after. As it turns out, there are two kinds of composting: aerobic (in which lots of oxygen is involved) and anaerobic (which is the opposite). Without all that oxygen, the stuff will still decompose naturally, but it will take a few years, while the aerobic composting will only take maybe six months.

In checking on the compost, I peeked in the little trap door at the bottom of the bin where we can eventually pull out fully composted goodies while still leaving the recently added scraps up top. In doing so, I saw *gasp* a plastic bag. Now, I know I don't put them in there. I may not be a great composter, but I know enough to know plastic doesn't cut it. So, I made the decision to move the compost bin off the pile that was in it, sort the compost and put the good stuff back in. I know that sounds gross, but with the aid of a long-handled shovel and a rake, it wasn't that bad. Not as fun as baking a cake and later eating it, but not that bad.

I asked my big, strong, manly husband to do the heavy lifting, and once the bin was moved, here's what I found: a huge compacted square of dried leaves. No wonder the bin seemed to have miraculously filled up very quickly in the past month or so. Where did all these leaves come from? Well, my mother-in-law has a very large tree in her courtyard in the city. When she ended up with bags and bags of leaves, we thought it silly to leave them to rot slowly in bags in a trash dump. So, we brought them home to compost. It just never occurred to me that my husband would put them in all at once.

I set to work pulling apart my cube, which looked remarkably like those square watermelons and things that are all the rage in Japan. These leaves were so well-compacted that I actually had some trouble breaking up the larger clumps. When I did, I was shocked by what I discovered.

First, there were tons of worms, which is a good sign - except when they're all dead, which was the case here. Devastated by the loss, I wiped my eyes and stumbled into my husband's office to ask just how many bags of leaves he'd put in there. "Three, maybe four," he said and added, "I had to step on them to get them all to fit." At this point, my mouth may have dropped open. The compost bin is not a trash can. By shoving too many leaves in, he limited the oxygen inside the bin. Basically, he suffocated all those innocent worms who were working so hard for us. A literal massacre - lubricide, if you will. I married a murderer, and I have to sleep with him each night. It's just something I'll have to live with.

Through teary eyes and with a heavy heart, I dug deeper, determined to sort things out and allow other worms a chance to flourish. Besides, what else would I find? In fact, over the course of the next hour, I would discover that my husband was not the only one to misunderstand the function of a compost bin. In the words of our wise ancestors, the apple falleth not far from the tree, you know (or something like that). His father, too, had contributed to the mess. After all was said and done, I found four plastic bags, two mesh veggie bags (the kind cherry tomatoes can come in), and a yogurt cup (and, of course, way more leaves than necessary). In telling my father-in-law he could use the bin, I never dreamed he would put his kitchen scraps in plastic before adding it all to the bin. So, now there's a new rule around here, I guess. Composting is women's work. After sorting through a full container and coming up with only enough good stuff to fill it about a quarter full, that was the only conclusion I could come to. So, I've loving stirred it the past couple of days, hoping for the best.

Ooh, and in all my wanderings online, I found a little experiment to try: vermicomposting. I'm so excited. I've already bought some worms. I'm thinking if this goes well, it could eventually become a small business for me. I could have my very own worm farm. They're more expensive by the pound than that lamb my husband's raising. I tried to take a little picture of my new pets, but the battery died in mid-shot. I know you're disappointed not to see the squirmy little fellas, so I promise I'll do it soon.

Labels: ,