Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Magic of Craigslist OR One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure

If you read my solar hot air blog (that sounds funny!), you may have noticed that we replaced the siding and windows on our home. We needed to replace the windows (to more energy efficient models), repair some water damage, and replace some of the damaged siding. Unable to match the color, we elected to replace all of it. When we got our quote, it included dump fees for disposing of the old windows and siding.

I am frugal by nature, so I had an idea: maybe someone would want some the windows and some of the siding. I thought this would avoid sending it to a landfill, and save both me and the recipient a few bucks.

So I listed these for free on Craigslist. It took me all of 15 minutes to post what I had. The response was INCREDIBLE.

The windows were snapped up within a day or two of removing them. And the siding is now gone, too.

Instead of going to a landfill, ALL of it is being reused or re-purposed . The people who came have been happy to get it for nothing and I am happy to have it gone (without sending it to the dump).

Before you throw something away, consider listing it for free on Craigslist. You may be surprised how many people want it.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

QUESTION: What do I do with worm castings in March?!

I realize that some of you who purchased in the fall processed last weekend when temps in Maine were spring-like. My garden is still under about 2 feet of snow. Many contacted me to ask: what do I do with 15+ gallons of worm castings in March?

Worm castings can be stored in a container like a worm bin. Keep them moist and let the castings breathe (remember that the castings are alive!). You don't want to let the casting dry out if you're going to make great tea (active organisms plus nutrients). Most recipes for tea call for about a pound of castings in 5 gallons of water (dilute to 10 gallons to use).

Castings stored this way will keep for several months-- just in time for real spring! In the interim, use what you have to make tea for your houseplants or soil amendments for seed starters. Just remember that your vermicompost may be full of viable seeds!

Tip of the hat to Bruce Deuley for his valuable contributions to the procedure. You can get the brewed vermicompost tea directions FREE on my website.



Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sourcing food for my herd and dreams of a composter for every home, restaurant, and grocery

When you first begin vermicomposting (with a pound of worms), it may seem as though the worms will never eat the food waste you produce. Then, as the worms multiply, you develop a nice balance and the worms keep pace with your input.

When you have as many worms as I do (18 bins with 4-15 pounds), my family of cannot produce enough to keep them all fed and multiplying. So, I utilize the waste from my local organic grocer (Lois’ Natural Marketplace in Scarborough). Mary and Chris (the chefs at Lois’ deli) kindly set aside coffee grounds and food scraps when I request it.

I am writing about this not to tell you how to feed a few hundred pounds of worms, but to encourage a grass roots movement. Think of this as an alternative recycling opportunity where everyone wins.

Everyone wins because:

My worms benefit from having nice organic veggies,

I benefit because I have a free supply of food and I can trust them to put only worm food in the bags,

Lois’ benefits from having less food waste in their dumpster, and

In the larger scheme of things, society benefits.

That’s right, society benefits. By having less waste go to the dump (or in this case the trash-to-steam incinerator), society benefits because less food waste equals less weight equals less fuel used to truck it around. Also, I learned from Chris of EcoMaine (the company who runs the incinerator) that organics such as food waste are a poor source of energy in the trash-to-steam process. They would rather not collect food waste.

I know I haven’t made a big difference but my little contribution fits the “think globally, act locally” concept.

In the course of a year, I probably keep a thousand pounds of food and yard waste out of the waste stream (both from my home and collections from Lois’). Scale that up a few-fold, and by outdoor composting in the summer and vermicomposting in the winter, we can all make a difference.

This makes me think: can we all reach out to grocers or restaurants in our community to see if they would be willing to set aside food waste for pickup during the spring, summer, and autumn for addition to our outdoor compost piles? Can we bring a 5-gallon bucket with us when we shop to pick up some waste veggies? Can we encourage our fellow gardeners, others in community gardens or garden clubs to do the same?