Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Dish Washing Song

Some people don't have dishwashing machines, or have old machines that moan and groan and rattle on forever. Some of us are drawn by habit to washing dishes by hand. Before Barack Obama became president, there was a profile of him and Michele at their home in Chicago. He was washing dishes, she was drying, and he was saying that he finds washing dishes relaxing.

The original three "H"'s of the 4-H club, which I discovered through some historical research, were "Head, Hand, and Heart." Some people get their best ideas while doing physical work with their hands. Before people had machines, they were using their hands a lot. We evolved so that our thoughts could roam and our hearts could sing while our hands were doing the work that needed to be done. Of course, it's best if the work is not overwhelming. Exhaustion has a diminishing effect on all that roaming and singing, but it could be said that now, if we're talking and our hands aren't preoccupied, then our hands are still trying one way or another to be a part of the show. Look at the politicians waving their hands around while they talk. Each has a unique style. Bernie is like a conductor, and the audience is the orchestra. There should be a debate where all the candidates wear aprons and wash dishes while they speak. Post-debate commentary could include ratings for how many dishes each candidate cleaned while describing their healthcare plan.

Everyone has their own way of hand-washing dishes. I used to fill a tub and put the dirty dishes in it, but finally I switched to a method that uses a minimum of water.

And sometimes it feels good to sing a tongue in cheek song adapted from a Christmas carol. This is my contribution to the great tradition of work songs. It's sung to the melody for Silver Bells, and goes over best with a crooning tone of voice, and an imagined choir of angels answering in the background (italicized lyrics).

Silverware, (silverware)
Silverware, (silverware)
There's silverware in ... the kitchen sink.

Clean it up. (clean it up)
Clean it up. (clean it up)
Soon you can do some... thing else.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Worm Bin Design

One of the best ways to dramatically slim down your home trash production, and reduce odors, is to collect food scraps in a container on the kitchen counter and then compost them in the yard. We've been doing this for years, and find it easy and satisfying to turn food scraps into fertilizer for the garden.

This past fall, Hilary Persky asked me to co-lead a neighborhood workshop on composting food scraps and leaves. After I showed neighbors how to build a "Wishing (the earth) Well", which combines a leaf corral with no-work, critter-proof composting of food scraps, host Tineke Thio showed us the worm bin that quickly turns her food scraps into rich compost and a liquid fertilizer called "tea" that's beneficial for houseplants.

I was impressed by the health of the worms and how they can cause us to rebrand our "foodwaste" as food for what could be considered a very wriggly pet. Though she made it look easy, I suspect there's a baseline of attention needed to keep the worms happy. She also said it's important NOT to give the worms onions, garlic, or citrus, which will cause them to flee. Thanks to Thio for her directions (below) for constructing a worm bin. From Tineke:
I learned everything I know about worms from this The Worm Book: (available at the local bookstore).

"You can build worm bins in various styles. The sketch below is a good cross section of the one I made. "Borrowed" it from this here blog.

You will need:

A pound of Red Wrigglers. I got mine from Uncle Jim.

Two tupperware bins, dark colour.

Scraps of window screen or tulle fabric

Some duct tape.

Some bricks for inside

Good whole-bottom support like 2 cinderblocks

Bottom bin:

Drill one 3/8 inch hole in the wall very close to the bottom.

Find a rubber stopper that will fit it (or install a tap if you want to get fancy).

Top bin:

Drill 1/4 inch holes in the bottom of the bin, in a Creative Pattern.

Cover bottom with window screen.


Drill / cut holes in the cover,

Cover inside with window screen, keep in place with duct tape.

(This part is different from the picture)


Put bottom bin on a raised platform like a stool, a cinderblock, or a mandarin orange box

Put 2-3 bricks in the bottom. These hold up the weight of the top bin.

Put the top bin on the bricks

Put a 2-inch layer of moistened peat moss in,

Add your worms

Add vegetable scraps

Add a 1-inch layer of peat moss

Put cover in place and wait a few days

If you have the second cover, you can put that on top, loosely, to keep the light out.

Feed weekly on alternate sides:

Dig a hole, tip in your veg scraps, cover them well with more peat moss if necessary. Coffee grounds and their shredded filters work well too. Do NOT feed citrus, onions or garlic, your worms will try to move out.

After a few weeks you can start harvesting the worm "tea"

Your houseplants or garden plants will be very happy.

Once a year, I harvest most of the worms for a new batch, and put the compost out in selected places in the yard. Also great for starting seedlings.

That's it, I think.