Taking out the Trash

(Or Sharing our food with the less fortunate)


I usually get the job of "taking out the trash". Of course, this includes the table scraps like potato, apple, peelings, and anything else that we don't keep to eat as leftovers. (I love leftovers! Everything is "flavored through" better.)

We don't put this kind of thing in with the trash for the landfill. We save all the vegetable matter for the compost heap, Meat and bone scraps go out in the back yard for wild animals to clean up for us. (Meat scraps are not good for a compost pile.) We live in the country and have no close neighbors who might object to our attracting "critters".

Although we never see these animals, we guess they are 'coons, foxes, coyotes or a far roaming neighbor's dog or cat. Whatever we put out at night is gone in the morning. We believe in sharing our food with our less fortunate critter neighbors.

If you ever thought about it, the "garbage" is not real garbage until it is put into a tight container like a trash can, and begins to "rot and stink". Ugh! (It would be more gentile to say "ferment and become odiferous.) Most of this "garbage" is part of the same vegetables we eat. We just make the choice of eating or throwing away fruit and vegetable skins when we prepare them. Many of these skins contain the best nutrients.

Our compost heaps are a fair distance from the house past the garden, maybe 100 feet. Now that I am older and when the snow lies over a foot deep and the temperature hovers around zero, I am not overjoyed at the prospect of hauling on my heavy clothes and boots, and trudging down to the garden with a quart of "garbage". Every morning, yet!

This year I decided to try something different. That is, to bring part of the compost heap closer to the house. Into the basement in fact! Earthworms help us out. (We used to call them "angle worms".) Compost pile earthworms are not so fussy that they turn up their noses at fruit and vegetable scraps. (I never saw a worm with a turned-up nose). They know that it is good stuff.

Anyway, In the Fall I built a wooden box out of some scrap lumber, measuring about 14 inches by 24 inches, and about 9 inches high; and using a couple small cleats added a removable partition to divide the box into two sections. Into one section of the box I poured garden soil to a depth of about 5 or six inches and mixed in one day's worth of scraps. (Usually less than a quart.) I chop up the scraps into fairly small pieces using an old-fashion food chopper.

I spaded up a spot in the garden in the Fall before freezing weather, and picked up about 3 dozen earthworms, some very small, and put them in the box.

There are many dealers around the country that grow and sell worms of different kinds. Some are for fishing bait and others especially for eating garbage and turning it into plant food. But they cost money and my project was intended to save me work and cost nothing.

Each day I make a trench in the dirt along one side in the box, dump the day's chopped-up garbage in, and scrape dirt over it.

The next and following days I dig a trench a little farther over. When I reach the far side it is time to turn all the contents over and start across again. I use a small short handled spading fork to turn it just as you would spade a flowerbed. (I already had one of those to work with in my "raised beds".) In the Fall I saved some extra garden soil in case I needed to add more during the winter.

In the first weeks I had to add some dirt to keep the garbage covered, but as the worms grew and multiplied they ate the garbage about as fast as we produced it. If we seem to be getting ahead of them, after reaching the far side of the box, I can spade up the whole thing and start over again, or I can remove the partition and expand into the second section.

Today is March 4, 2005 and so far it is working. No bad odor and no trudging to the garden pile while sharing food with the less fortunate. (Who can be less fortunate than a worm?)

Charles E. Page Oneida, N.Y. March 4, 2005

"Worm Box"

"Working tools"

Small flowerbed spading Fork, spritzer, wide putty knife (to use as shovel), food chopper, and chopping board.(container on left- extra dirt)

"Old Food Chopper (to dice garbage)