Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Costly Free-bee

So, I went to a composting workshop today. It’s a good thing it was free!

While I learned a few things, I had to work really hard at paying attention so I could. The facilitator was not what one could call a motivational speaker by any means. She knew here stuff alright, but she didn’t present it in a way that made me want to rush home and start saving all my kitchen scraps. I didn’t leave with visions of producing vast quantities of high-quality humus. She more or less lost me at the poo part five minutes into the ten-minute late presentation. I just couldn’t see myself calling up farmers and asking to buy their spare poo for my compost.

The workshop was sponsored by Healthy Options for People and the Earth (HOPE), a recycling and conservation group that is doing its best to educate the local rednecks about recycling and conservation. Only a few of them drive large SUVs or pick-ups. Several drive mini-vans. One – my favourite HOPE-er – drives a beater ’88 Toyota.

But I digress...

HOPE is a sincere and well-meaning group of caring people with a genuine wish to do good things for people – and the Earth. They manage the farmer’s market, for instance. And they wear cool, tie-died t-shirts with batik sun flowers on them. I like HOPE in general and applaud their efforts to make this world a better place.

Thus the composting workshop! The idea was to learn about the process and then build a compost bin. While I now have a slightly better grasp on the process, I do not have a compost bin. The problem with the workshop was that it was not geared toward the urban – and I use that term lightly due to the fact that I live in Houston - composter with a neighbour-adjacent yard. It was particularly not geared toward the single urban composter who decidedly does not need (and could probably never fill) a 4’ x 4’ x 3’ chicken wire compost bin. Composting, for the urban composter (single or otherwise), requires a more discreet approach. I suppose it also requires a place to use the compost, such as, oh, say, a garden.

During the course of the workshop, the poo problem was nicely solved by my favourite HOPE-er, who knows someone with goats, who, apparently, has lots of poo and is willing to donate it to the cause. All we have to do is go and get it. The first of the dollar signs floated by as I realized that in order to get the poo, I must invest in something to put it in so I can transport it in the van. There will be no loose poo inside Gracie!

When I came to the conclusion that building a 4’ x 4’ x 3’ chicken wire bin was not going to work for me, more dollar signs floated by. Then, when I saw the cool compost mixer thingie, I wanted to issue birth control to the dollar signs as they were multiplying at an alarming rate. The free workshop was beginning to get expensive. So far I need a $15 bin for the poo, a $120 compost barrel and a $30 compost aerating tool. With taxes and shipping I am looking at $200 or so just so I can have free compost to put on my as-of-yet non-existent gardens. I haven’t even begun to add up what that is going to cost to create.

And the compost isn’t even really free. I have to get the poo, which will cost gas money to get and buy the food to generate the kitchen scraps. And while I’m going to buy the food anyway and using the scraps for compost is better than just throwing it away, I still have to pay for it. Sheesh! Saving the Earth is an pricey endeavour!

When I got home, I briefly entertained the idea of a passive compost pile. The notion was dismissed because passive compost piles are about as suited to my situation as the 4’ x 4’ x 3’ chicken wire bins are. And they tend to attract dogs and bears and other critters that one does not want to attract. I have enough to worry about with my apple tree! (Which is loaded with tiny, soon-to-be, bear-attracting apples, by the way!)

I suppose I shouldn’t worry about composting too much at this point. It seems to be a bit of luxury. Not to mention a lot of work. And I have enough work cut out for me at the moment. Work that isn’t getting done while I’m sitting in wasp and mosquito-infested workshops. Oh, well. It was a nice afternoon out with some very nice and very HOPE-ful people!

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