Archive for the 'composting' Category

Vermicomposting with WormEco

The Naturemill unit seems to have bought it after the last move- I am not pleased with that thing.  Given that it’s full of half-rotten stuffs now, I’m not excited about investigating its inner workings to fix the problem.  So when I got an email from WormEco last week, inviting me to a vermicomposting workshop, the timing was fortunate.

Wormeco

Elvira Jakovac, the founder and owner, gathered a few groups of people in a local park Saturday to demonstrate vermicomposting.  Basically, get some worms, make them a lovely moist home, and shove in your food scraps for them to eat from time to time.  In a few months, remove their poo.  Voila!  It looks more like regular dirt than poo, which absolutely helps the squeamish.

Elvira has bins for purchase, with bedding and about a half pound of worms she has raised herself inside, so all you need to do is add the food, check to make sure the worms are happy, and remove the compost in about four months- then repeat.  She will not only start them for you, she has fantastic advice on how to keep the worms going so they’ll multiply to eat all the food you give them (if there isn’t enough to eat, they’ll stop multiplying- no worries about some horror movie of forever-multiplying worms).  On Saturday, we were regaled with a short history of vermicomposting (Europeans brought worms on boats by accident!), and the story of her own work in the field- she weighs a lot of worms.  She’s also got environmentally friendly plans on how to deal with bugs and critters, and household chores- her presentation was informative, and a pleasure to listen to.

WormEco is only a few months old, but I hope it’s got a long and prosperous life ahead.  Elvira is serious about getting her green-living message to not only Alexandria, but the world- she’s entered in a National Geographic competition that will reward a person starting a movement in their local communities with a nice chunk of money to make it happen- and she’s promised to walk from Alexandria to DC to accept the prize, if she wins, and would like to invite us all to walk with her.

If you’re interested, check out her website to learn about upcoming workshops ($10 a person) and you may also buy pre-made bins or fresh compost from her directly.

Full disclosure:  I was invited to the workshop free as a guest.  I liked the idea and Elvira enough that I will buy my own bin.  If i get my Naturemill running again, I’ll have compost races!

Oh man a bin of worms!

worm bin

Much less creepy than you thought.

Progress: It’s Been A While

Hey there!  I moved.  It took a while, because there was also a wedding and a class project in there too.  But the composter is humming away on my new balcony, my herbs are sitting in the window of my new kitchen, and I’ve got my very own separate gas and electricity bills are coming in, so pretty soon I can follow EcoCheap’s excellent example, and switch to wind power!

So, good start- I’ll post photos of the seedlings, which I expect any minute now.  I have checked three times in the past day- nothing yet.

Oh, also!  Biking to work?  I can, as soon as I mentally prepare myself to carry the bike down two flights every morning, then up the same stairs each night.  I’ll be in the weight room tomorrow morning, working on that part.  I imagine this will build me more character than muscle, really.

But the eating-my vegetables thing has been going really well.  I cooked a big vegetarian meal for the folks who came by to help me move- cheaper than pizza.  After the move, I’ve been living off of, well, cheese and crackers, but I’ve cooked two or three other big meals too.  I’ll post the recipe for my most recent tomorrow- pierogies with onions and apples.  Actually, that pretty much is the recipe, but I’ll flesh it out a bit for you, I guess.

The most important thing is, I haven’t purchased meat in a couple weeks.  And I still eat it when I eat out, and when other people cook, but I’m not missing it in my own food prep.  You can thank me later, environment!  Just make my plants grow.

New goals:  definitely gardening, this month.  I might also start harassing my apartment complex to working on the truly pitiful recycling options here.  They have three normal garbage bins for the hundreds of people who live in this complex, and they’re hidden in the back.  Now, I’d like them to fix a few things in my apartment before I get annoying, but maybe I can convince them to at least get recycling depositories in each building, or maybe even bins in each apartment!

Gonna dream big.

Tiny Cardboard Kitchen: Now With Links

Here’s the model so far:

kitchen 1

See, I drew a plan for it and everything.  The purple thing is the herb box under the window by the sink, which you have to imagine to the right of that counter top, and the compost bin (I’ll make it green) is going to the right of the sink.  Here’s some of the pieces set up on the plan:

kitchen plan

The squares in the middle there are the column supports (why, yes, I do have Corinthian columns in my kitchen), and to the right you can pick out the frame for the greenhouse, I hope!  On the left is a color study (scribble).  Considering the foamboard piles I’ve turned in before, I’m pretty proud of this kitchen so far.  I’ll show you the finished product in a couple days (just got the metal sheets for the fixtures tonight!).

I’ve actually been busy for this blog during the break- brainstorming on some environmental events for Alexandria (maybe news on that end soon!?), and plotting in general.  Let’s ease back in with some links, though, shall we?

This morning, the satellite to monitor international carbon outputs failed massively and utterly, in the way that only rocketry really can.  The satellite was supposed to aid international efforts to regulate carbon outputs by objective measurement- now, beyond figuring out what went wrong, the question is, try this one again with spare parts (without the explosion parts), or push it back to develop a new and better one?

The rainforest is growing back in some places, prompting debate on the environmental virtues of new vs old forests.

Germany just opened their new Antarctic Research Station.  It’s got a wicked stilt design to keep it all from sinking into the snow, and some pretty impressive waste management systems to keep the pole all pristine.

Our national electricity grid is currently regulated by the states?  Oh dear, no wonder it’s a bit outdated.  The Fed is finally thinking about taking that over to make a national smart grid to better distribute energy to everyone, from everywhere.  I’m a fan in general (energy is a national concern), but any states’-rights people want to try and make a case against this idea?

The NYT style section thinks it’s trendy to keep worms in your kitchen.  This could possibly be hard and smelly, they note.

And yes, I’ve failed to set a goal for this month, with five days left.  But I biked, and there was a little local action, and the compost and garden got some much-needed attention, so I can’t feel too guilty about that.  I’ll lay off until March.

Snow!

Here is why I did not bike to work today:

Bike in Snow

The snow also showed me that something small and inquisitive is visiting my composter unit.

footprints to the composter

Yeah, I should definitely put a heavier lid on that thing.

Progress: Impositions

Time is getting away from me these days- understandable, with illness, Inauguration, a visit from my Dad, a return to classes, and the gentleman friend’s birthday (today!) all this week.  I start every week with the most enthusiastic posting intentions, and get lost by Tuesdays.  I’m not hoping to make this daily all the time- I appreciate your attention, so I won’t waste your time when I really haven’t got much to say.  I just hope it evens out some day.

While there’s plenty going on in environment news, I’d like to ramble about something else today.  (If you’re interested in keeping up, the Wilkins ice shelf is collapsing in Antarctica due to Global Warming, Lisa Jackson’s appointment to the EPA is still raising legitimate concerns, and we’ve got hard data showing how much faster dirty air kills you).  But today it’s the monthly goal on my mind, and it’s leading to a larger question.  The uncluttering goal is going well, in so far as I’ve cleaned out my place and today I organized the gentleman friend’s closet for him, for his birthday.  I also found some nice sweaters or him at the Salvation Army, and I’m getting him a compost bucket so he can bring his foodscraps to my compost bin when he visits. What a great birthday for him, hunh?! He is very appreciative- he even seemed to like my suggestion that we spend some time tonight making a pile of his excavated clothing to donate.

That wasn’t all.  I am not so single-minded that I do not appreciate how underwhelming this birthday fun sounds.  There was computer hardware and music and dinner and a keg and Cheetos for his party.  Kegs are the ultimate reuseable drink containers, by the way, despite their frat connotations.  Check Total Wine for containers of good things- call them to check what’s in stock, it might be better than what’s listed.  I digress.

The GF supports me, and he makes an effort to reduce, recycle, and reuse.  But ultimately, this is my set of goals, and I know better than to assume they’re his.  While you can give a boyfriend a compost bucket, you can’t make him fill it.  After my initial rush of sustainable enthusiasms, I occasionally wonder if I’m pushing him too hard with my efforts.  He complains about the smell of my compost and the meatlessness of my cupboard, and my reluctance to use non-hippie toothpastes.  These are all understandable complaints.  

I don’t feel like I’m being held back because the GF’s not as pro-active environmentally, and that’s where we work.  I have asked him to post here on his view of this, so you might be getting a diatribe on compost buckets in small apartments from him soon.  

So, how do you balance your environmentalism with that of your friends and/or loved ones?  Do you do it all together, or does one of you take the lead?  Are there things you don’t do for the environment to keep your SO happy?  I am curious.

‘Tis the Season

It’s already the end of November?  When did that happen?  I would feel lazy if I remembered October at all, really, but this comes as a surprise. So, here you are:

Giving in 2008

It’s a good year for solemn gift guides.  Glitz and extravagance seem tasteless beside rising foreclosures and hunger in the US, plus who has the money to spare these days anyway?  But all this crisis makes it a great year to focus on the purpose and meaning of gifts-another silver lining in the garbage bag containing the international economy.  Basically, making it about money and stuff this year is finally tacky!  Gauche!  Passe! Sooo 2007!  Thoughtful is so In right now.

FIrst, the general approaches:

1.  How you buy it is as important as what you buy.  Start your shopping at thrift and consignment stores, handmade fairs or websites, and fair trade shops.   Etsy is an incredible handmade resource for items beautiful and practical- browse it, support small businesses, and I bet you’ll find something suited for every taste, from bizzaro to cutsy to classic.  You know the arguments for buying fair trade and used already.

2. Do you have friends with skills?  Commission them (the earlier the better) to make your relatives pottery or jewelry or scarves or whatever their specialty is.  Do you have skills?  Give your dad a year of cheerful IT help.

3.  Give time and attention, even if you don’t have giftable skills (or skills you want to gift…).  A year of monthly dinners together.  A year of regular phone calls to relatives far away (ones that actually care to hear from you, for sure).

4.  Do they already have everything?  Give to a charity they (and you) support in their name.  CharityNavigator.org sells gift cards that recipients can give to a charity of their choice on the site (they can research the efficiency and work of the charity at the same site, too).

5. Are you one of those aunts who always give the nieces scented candles/bodywash/bath froofy-do?  I am not here to judge you, but make the candles beeswax or soy wax and the bath gunk biodegradable, if you must continue in this vein.

Ahh.  Enough generalities, now specifically awesome gifts:

1.  Fair Trade Piggy Banks! Saving is cool again.  From Ten Thousand Villages, piggys and elephants and cats. From One World Projects, various pigs and owls. You can search for more online also, but check the creds of the Fair Trade projects you buy from.  In the same vein, with less adorableness, Elders: your young’uns may not understand what a 401K is if you start them one this year, but they’ll thank you with genuine feeling later.

2.  Coffee.  Specifically, coffee from Mesa de Los Santos, a Colombian farm that helped pioneer organic, shade grown, fairly traded coffee.  They’ve grown organic for over 100 years, built a school for their worker’s kids, and reforested their fields, earning a Bird-Friendly certification from the Smithsonian, USDA Organic certification, and a BioLatina badge.  There’s a personal connection, too: my GF is from a branch of the family that’s owned the farm for four generations.  As to the taste, I do not actually drink coffee- but I still enjoy this stuff black.  Still, don’t take my word for it:  reviews (and online ordering forms) are here and here and here.

3.  Gift certificates to local, organic restaurants.  Self-explanatory, no?  Give the gift of a night far away from your loved ones.

4. Potted plants or Garden Tools/Seeds/Composters.  Scale this one to the gardening level of the giftee.  Apartment-dweller or college kid?  Potted plant(s) (or tree!) with very specific instructions.  Do they have a few flower beds?  Vegetable seeds and maybe some books on growing your own food.  Do they always bring up how they grow their own tomatoes?  Up their ante with a compost bin and a thoughtful little charcoal-filtered kitchen bucket for food scraps.

5. Classes.  Vouchers or promises for fencing lessons, sewing classes, cooking classes, metalworking lessons, language tutoring, and basically any other skill you can think of are useful, and not just for delighting your curious and adventurous loved ones.  Sign them up alone or do it with them, for some quality time.  Added benefits: surely a trained cook will make you meals in gratitude?  Worth a shot (fencing lessons are less useful for this reciprocity principle).

Anyway, now you know what my family’s getting for Christmas.  I wish you a stressless holiday full of delicious smells and guilt-free giving.

PS. If none of this does it for you, check out these ideas from CNN/Oprah and HuffPo.

Progress: All Washed Up

So this month I was supposed to be reducing my water usage and refining my relationship with what I wash down the drain, aaaaand.  Well.  I’m taking shorter showers now!  But I started biking in to work, so now I take two showers a day.  I am switching to biodegradable soaps and shampoos, but that I was already doing anyway.  My friend made a rain barrel!  But I haven’t changed the way I water my plants or wash dishes.

I’d say my progress this month ranked about as low as February, when I failed utterly at composting.  But in February, I had tried, and failed.  I didn’t try very hard this month.  For instance, these are the things I should have tried:  I could collect pre-shower water to douse my plants.  I could brush my teeth from a cup of water, instead of letting the tap run (works while camping in Wisconsin.  I could do Navy showers- getting wet, soaping up with the water off, then rinsing.  While I can’t in good conscience shower less while I’m getting this much exercise morning and evening, that would at least minimize the extra-shower harm.  I could also find a low-flow showerhead.  May I mention that I hate that idea?  But I should try it.

Ok, I didn’t take my challenge seriously enough this month.  No excuses, really, but some pretty exciting other stuff did happen the past few weeks.  Which might explain why I’m recapping July in mid-August.

Anyhow, I’m fixing this lack of focus this month.  For the remainder of August, I’m regrouping.  I’m slipping on my vegetarian pledge, I haven’t harvested my successful compost, my garden is being ravished by displaced woodland creatures, I have a huge pile of sewing and mending to do, and I still haven’t checked to make sure the Eco-City Alexandria thing got through City Council a couple months ago.  So, for the remainder, I’ll work on getting back into those monthly grooves.

I’m already revisiting biking quite successfully, that is one area I can feel good about.  I actually look forward to my ride to and especially from work, which is not something I was expecting.  I rode with traffic on busy streets for a bit today, and I’m pretty sure I obeyed signals and followed road rules well.  Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a handy table of cycling ordinances for MD, VA, and DC.  Note that In Alexandria, cycling on sidewalks isn’t allowed, which means I need to rethink my morning detours.

I’m getting distracted from this endeavor, so a month of catching up with myself is needed.


Email Me @

virescent.blog (at ) gmail.com

Blog Stats

  • 46,785 hits

Unless otherwise indicated, all content and photos posted on this site are generated by me. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.