October 24, 2010

The Worms Crawl In ...

This post is about worms. You can skip it if you’d rather. My feelings won’t be hurt. Worms are gross. They make my skin crawl. Yeah, I know they’re useful, vital even, to soil and decomposition. Worm castings - poop - cost a fortune at better nurseries. At the local “beyond organic” farm where I buy the best tomatoes in the world (yeah, really) they sell small bags of worm castings for ten bucks a pop. I’m quite sure its worth that price, but … really? Worm poop?!?

So, here’s my dilemma. I compost in two bins in the backyard. One is kind of basic, a plastic box with a hinged lid. The other is pretty swizzle. It’s a giant plastic ball with twist on/off lids at both poles. We call it “The Death Star”. Looks just like the big evil thing in Star Wars that the good guys blew up. We roll it around the yard to mix the contents, helping yesterday’s veggie scraps break down a bit faster. I love composting. It makes all kinds of sense to me: from the earth and back to the earth.

This is where the part about worms comes in. Composting with worms is faster. Those little critters are dirt factories. Garbage in one end, soil out the other. It’s a fascinatingly basic process. Except for one little bitty thing. (See first paragraph.) They gross me out. I want a worm bed. I want to feed worms as many of my kitchen scraps as they’ll eat. I just don’t want to see or (dear god) touch them.

Last week, while emptying the kitchen bucket (which is really an old, plain cookie jar) into the composter, I found a lone earthworm crawling along the rim of the bin, just where the lid needed to be fitted back on. I gathered up my gut and, with the edge of a paper towel, encouraged him to wiggle back into the bin. I even spoke to him in a kind and gentle voice, which brought my husband out of the garage to remind me that worms have no comprehension of human language. No matter. I hadn’t retched; it was a milestone moment.

Two nights ago, while doing a last sweep through the kitchen and family room before heading off to bed, I spotted a twig on the floor. We’d both been in the backyard earlier in the day and sometimes track things into the house. I bent over to pick it up … and it moved. There was an earthworm in my house. Inside. My. House.

I’m sure I’d have dealt with the situation if I’d been home alone. At my last house I’d had to remove potato bugs from the living room a couple times, and I’m telling you, you could die from ugly with a potato bug. But, thankfully, my husband was home and he’s not bothered by worms. He carried it outside to the front yard where it is, I’m sure, contentedly doing whatever it is that makes worms happy.

Which brings me back to the fact that though I really like the idea of worm beds, I’m just not quite there yet. Maybe someday, but my skin with have to stop crawling first. It’s going to take a while longer.

October 4, 2010

Sun Day

Early yesterday morning, at about 6:30, we left the house for a day out, away from the projects and chores that have occupied our weekends for most of the summer. We used to do this often on Sunday mornings, but between painting the inside of our house and landscaping the front yard we haven’t had the time or energy to drag ourselves out the door before dawn. We like to take photographs in the morning, and the only way to make that happen is to leave the house at omigod o’clock in order to be somewhere beautiful at sunrise or shortly thereafter.  

Our destination yesterday was a few hours north of where we live, a valley with a small town and not much else. We drove up a mostly empty freeway for two hours, a little more than half-way, and stopped for coffee and scones in a small town known mostly for its secluded gardens and surreptitious harvest. It’s apparently a fairly trusting town even with all that going on. The man in line behind us at the coffee counter left his car running in the parking lot well out of his sight. Or maybe he was too stoned to realize he should have turned it off and taken the keys with him. Either way, it was still there when he got back.

We didn’t stop again until we were well out the road that twists and bends alongside the Eel River. The air is sweet and clean in this part of California. And so quiet that the sound of wind brushing through tree tops is a wonder.

There weren’t many cars on the road, and the only people we saw in the valley looked to be hunters gathered around a truck, maybe planning their hunt. We drove through the quick blink of town, turned around at the far end and headed back the way we’d come. It was never our plan to stop. We just wanted to see what was there, check out the scenery to see if it was really as pretty as we’d heard. We do that sometimes, drive out a road we’ve never been on just because we’re curious.

Maybe we’re lucky, or possibly just easily amused, but every time we point the car in a direction and pay attention, we find magic. Not the kind that knocks our socks off, not usually anyway, but the kind of magic that reminds us that the world, the earth, is an amazing place and we’re lucky to be here.

In the course of our travels yesterday we saw several squirrels; there’s nothing out of the ordinary about a squirrel, but they make me smile. Good enough. A small flock of wild turkeys half flew across the road in front of our car. They’re so much prettier - a bit majestic really – than domestic turkeys. Several deer picked their way along a rocky river beach. We watched them until they rounded a bend. And we were lucky, and alert enough, to spot a family of river otters playing and sunning themselves on warm rocks. We stood at the side of the road taking turns with the binoculars, counting (six of them), and watching until they slipped back into the cool water and swam away.

On our way home we stopped at a winery to eat the grocery store sandwiches we’d bought earlier in the day. It was a pretty place to have lunch and then make a purchase to add to the tiny little cellar closet we keep. We were home again by mid-afternoon, relaxed and more ready to tackle the next phase of home improvement projects in their due time. And we’ll remember, for a long time, that it’s a good thing to play and warm ourselves in the sun.