Friday, December 9, 2011

Worm Composting

Hey all, I started a worm compost bin--actually this is my third attempt, the others resulted in a massive die-off that I was not anxious to repeat.  This effort appears to be successful thus far.  I figured that while I was on a green tear I would go for it, though it was probably talking about it with my nine year old son that prompted the action.  Things worth noting are how I got to a successful outcome and how much organic waste one can keep out of the garbage dump.  One of the coolest things about "going green" is how economically efficient it is.  It is puzzling that this point is not made more often. 

I got my worms from the Lower East Side Ecology Center--the Lower East Side has got to be one of the coolest spots in Manhattan, and that's coming from someone who has never lived there.  Meanwhile, I followed all the proper procedures on the web for making a worm bin from a plastic storage container.  I would have preferred to use wood, but I just didn't have the time to build one.  I got two containers, though I only plan to keep one worm bin going at a time.  The second container is for the purpose of harvesting the vermicompost itself.  In theory at least, when the product is ready, one prepares the second container as a new compost container and nests it into the existing one.  The worms then migrate into it via the drainage holes that should be on the bottom.  Currently, I am using the second container as a receptacle for any "compost tea" should leak out.  There has been little so far, but this is because I have been careful not to over-moisten the worm bedding.  Drilling holes is the only real alteration one does to the storage containers.

The bedding appears to be the main thing in successful worm composting.  There needs to be enough of it and of the right consistency and moisture.  There needs to be enough to make the worms feel secure.  It should also not be so damp as to cause suffocation or disease.  I used shredded newspaper as recommended, but found the worms trying desperately trying to escape.  I read somewhere that adding something natural like leaf litter might help, so it being Fall and all, I hastily gathered a plastic grocery bag full of leaf litter and added it to the bin.  I also added more shredded newspaper to the top to create a thin, drier barrier to escape.  It worked!  Mission accomplished with fewer than ten dead escapees.  For seemingly slimy creatures they dry up very neatly in death.  Unfortunate all the same though. 

I didn't think I cooked enough to supply these worms, but I soon realized that there was nothing to fear.  The cooking from one meal may be enough to keep these worms going for a week.  We are a family of five after all.  Stale dry cat food, banana peels, eggshells, lettuce and cabbage cores, etc... will all do fine.  The thing is that all organic waste represents energy.  To have it sit and putrefy in a dump is truly such a waste when it is supposed to be digested and reused by the Earth to generate new life.  Thus, current practice prevents the recapturing of this potential energy and wastes space and energy to do so.  It is this hidden disaster unfolding in garbage dumps around the world that lulls people into a false sense of security about their way of life.  There is a phrase in Spanish used to describe selfish, wasteful people: "No comen, ni dejan comer."  It states that they neither eat, nor allow others to do so.  Here it is literally true. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guitar lesson and a great bike ride!

As previously stated, I started taking guitar lessons.  I am taking lessons at the East Village Guitar Salon and I am having a wonderful time!  The instructor is a good man and I feel I am getting an excellent introduction to the guitar in particular and music in general.  I am learning to read music, which I thought would be hard, and it really is the best way to learn--it opens more possibilities and it is more versatile than tablature.  The latter is easy, but like many things in life, the seemingly easy route isn't always all it's cracked up to be.  Mr. Davis is an unassuming, modest person.  He's cool, yet not arrogant.  He is obviously learned but not stuffy.  I just need to make more time for practice!  Hence this post may be short. 

Anyway, I biked to the salon because it was both faster and easier.  My soft guitar case has straps and can be carried like a backpack, so it was easy.  As I biked home, I debated going via the East River Park and Promenade, along First Avenue and the Queensboro Bridge (I will never call it the Koch Bridge.).  I had not in a very long time because as I recalled the midtown traffic was horrendous for cycling, but I thought it worth another try.  I am so glad I did.  It was one of the loveliest rides in a very long time.  I came up the park/promenade, which is a wonderful, scenic way to get home.  Upon arriving at 34th Street, I found an excellent bike lane that got a little dicey around the United Nations, but it was totally workable.  The surprises were not over.  Once I crossed the bridge, which was not easy to find my way to, I was so pleased to find a continuation of a very tasteful bike lane on the other side.  When I had last taken that route I found a very disorderly situation on the Queens side of the Bridge, but that impediment is gone.  It was very nice.  I thought to myself, "Sadik-Khan I could kiss you!"  I rarely have such praise for the NYCDOT, but they deserve it this time.  They deserve it for the speed with which they pave roads--they're great!  They should do all the repaving and kick the contractors to the curb!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Safety Razors

I haven't posted in sometime.  I am working on a book project in my limited spare time and working on learning guitar.  I am pleased to be doing both.  Meanwhile, I have started something new that I thought worth sharing.  I have noticed of late that disposable razors don't produce as many quality shaves as they used to, and they aren't so cheap either.  Furthermore, using disposable razors has always bothered me.  I remember my father using an old safety razor for shaving.  A safety razor is an old contraption shaped like modern disposables, or rather the disposables are shaped like it.  It has a dial below the head which holds the razor, that one turns causing the top to open like a flower or like the cargo doors of the old space shuttle.  This enables one to drop in a slim sharp razor, which, upon becoming dull, is the only item that gets disposed of.  Dad used these for sometime and I would have them as well, but he'd switched to disposables by the time I started shaving and I never saw them on sale at the store.

Anyway, I started looking at straight razors recently, because the whole disposable thing was bothering me.  I was also thinking that going non-disposable has got to be cheaper.  The straight razor thing looked expensive and dangerous, yet still tempting--I may still try it.  However, I decided to try looking into Dad's old safety razors and I found some, though a lot were pricey: $30.00-40.00 and I wasn't looking to test an alternative for that much.  I found some cheaper and wondered about their quality.  I took a walk and found a beauty supply shop not on John Street, not far from Wall Street and there I found just the thing.  It was a Diane D235 Classic Shaver for about $9 and it came with 5 Gillette razors--a perfect starter package!  I also picked up some Wilkinson Sword Double Edged Razor 5-pack for $1.79, so I was set for awhile.  I also found a big bottle of Pinaud Clubman aftershave and another barbershop classic Lilac De Vegetal, apparently also owned by Pinaud.  I topped it off with going for a thin moustache--not too thin though.  I am a history major so I am always in retro mode.  The trendy part of the story is that I started a jar to keep spent razors and showcase how many plastic disposables can kept out of the dump.  I have yet to work out the savings, but $1.79 for five razors comes out to about 36 cents each!  They're sharper and last longer too. 

There's a bit of learning curve to it, but it's really not that big a deal.  The angle is the thing.  Start off with the razor nearly parallel to your face--the blade should not be making contact.  Slowly, tilt it until it does make contact with the whiskers--you won't want to tilt it much more than that.  It will produce a close shave and there is considerably less risk of nicking oneself this way.  The angle is less than 45 degrees.