Opening Up a Can of Worms

The evolution of our composting:

Back when we lived in our apartment with no outdoor space — not even a balcony — I really wanted to compost all our food scraps.  We gave the NatureMill Electric indoor composter a shot, but it had various issues.  There wasn’t a good space for it, it made loud clicking sounds, it leaked a sticky mess, and the trap door never quite worked right.  Maybe all of this was a result of user error, but in the end, I never had compost I was proud of, and then the motor gave out.

Then we moved to our house!  With a lovely yard.  It was no sprawling estate, but certainly could accomodate a pile of leaves & food scraps — so, hooray, we were in business.  One of the first things I ran out and bought was a wooden, lincoln-logs style compost bin.  Why lincoln logs?  Because construction projects and I are not friends.  As soon as something requires sawing, measuing and hammering, it’s pretty much never getting done. 

This set up didn’t work great for us, either.  It was too difficult to turn the pile and the lincoln log construction came apart.  Who would have thunk it?  Also, I don’t think it was big enough because the pile never got hot enough to really break things down.  I would get impatient and would use semi-composted material in the yard to make room for new stuff.

Next step?  I received a hand-me-down tumbler.  Surely this will do it, right?  No more issues with turning the pile, just spin spin spin.  However, this system doesn’t seem to move along any faster than the pile on the ground.  I also wonder if it needs more volume to get going.  I feel like my carbon to nitrogen ratio is balanced, so what’s the deal?  Still using it, but I think it’s better for just leaves and grass clippings.

Then I decided to go back to basics, primitive style.  We went with giant, boxless, pile of leaves and scraps on the ground.  We also threw in there all the vines and such from the summer garden.  But, of course, lazy me did not shred all this stuff, so now it’s impossible to turn the pile effectively because it’s all tangled up together.  I decided to just let it sit for months without futzing with it and see if the vines break down enough so that the pile can turn.

Enter last stop on the train to crazy town:  I got a second hand Worm Inn and have ordered 1/2 a lb of red wriggler worms from the internet.  I’ve read up on vermicomposting over the years and these are the things that held me back: 1 ) all the worm bins I’d seen were giant plastic monstrosities, and it sounded like people had a hard time regulating the moisture/bug issues.  I didn’t want to have to look at another giant plastic thing in my yard for years down the road reminding me about my composting failures.  2) you need to be able to bring the worms inside if it’s too hot or too cold.  3) did I really want to be responsible for another living thing?  It’s hard enough keeping the kid and the cat fed and happy.  I didn’t want to have to be the one digging throught he pile of garbage saying, ‘hey, all my worms disappeared!’. 4) harvesting the worm castings (the worm poop that is awesome fertilizer for plants) seemed like an enormous pain in the ass.

The Worm Inn claims to fix a bunch of these issues based on its design and easy casting collection.  So, I think this product might actually work for me, but let’s see how it goes.

Also, Max just told me that he loves worms, so I figure it can be fun for the whole family!


Who fired the maid?

When a friend of mine used to walk into her messy apartment, she used to say, “who fired the maid?” This was in jest, of course, because she didn’t have a maid.

We, on the other hand, had been having a cleaning service come in twice a month for the last couple of years. It seemed like quite the luxury, but not without its annoyances.

For one, they weren’t terribly consistent on when they arrived. Two, you feel like you have to leave your house when they are there so that you aren’t in their way. Three, you have to rush to clean up before they come so they can actually find your floors and such to clean. Four, it freaked out the cat … and a few times we thought she ran away. Five, I asked them to use green cleaners, and I think they nodded and smiled but didn’t really do it because the place always smelled way too chemically when we got home. Six, they would always put stuff away in random places (likely because we weren’t too great at cleaning up the clutter in the first place).

Well, one of the new years resolution was to cut back on expenses. So, I fired the maids. 😦 I figured this was an opportunity to turn a new leaf and A) actually clean things myself and B) venture into the green cleaning products.

First, I made my own laundry detergent. Which I LOVE! Here’s the recipe:
– 3 cups of borax
– 2 cups of grated bar soap. (I did mine with lavender scented soap in the food process with the shredding attachment. I didn’t smell the lavendar after all was mixed up, so next time I’ll use cheaper, all natural soap)
– 2 cups of baking soda (arm & hammer)
– 2 cups of washing soda (arm & hammer)

Mix these together and you are D-O-N-E. Use 2 tablespoons per load. Clothes come out just as clean as with store bought fancy shmancy detergent. (I read online that if you use the basic bar soap like Kirk’s Castile soap, the cost of the detergent comes out to about a penny a load)

Then, I made floor cleaner! We have a swiffer, and we have a regular mop. But I couldn’t find the swiffer sheet — and I don’t think they work all that well anyway, so we went with the sponge mop approach.

The recipe:
– mix 1/3 cup of Borax, 1/3 cup of baking soda with one gallon of warm water. Add one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. I added a few drops of lavendar essential oils, but I think next time I’d like to try orange or lemon.

And then! I actually cleaned the floors!

I realized that what I always really looked forward to the maids for was having that clean the kitchen floor. It gets pretty grimy with all the foot traffic and cooking that goes on in there. So, if that was my big incentive for house cleaning service, that amounts to a monthly saving of roughly $230. Not too shabby.