On Compost and the like

I’ve bought a new gadget. Well it isn’t strictly a gadget I suppose, if gadgets are things with buttons and batteries or electrical connectors. This is very much a bucket. It’s succinctly named the Bokashi Kitchen Waste Compost Bucket and of course it was sourced by my darling husband.

In our house text input comes via Whizz. He does all the reading – well most of it anyway – while I do much of the output i.e. turning it into burble and passing it on through, among other things, this blog. It’s a good example of teamwork if we can only find the time to talk to each other!

Anyway, this Bokashi thingamajig is the answer to all smelly bin problems because it enables one to turn all malodourous kitchen waste into compost. As well as the usual fruit and veg, it will take cat food, bones, meat, stale bread and cakes, anything, although I haven’t tried cat poo. On top of each layer goes a sprinkling of special bran containing micro organisms, and a derivative from organic sugar to activate them.

The mixture ferments and gives off a liquid by-product that can be diluted for cleaning, clearing drains and feeding the plants. The rest of the bulk is left for 2 weeks in the bucket after which it can be spread onto the garden or put straight into the compost heap.

So far it smells far sweeter than the compost bucket and attracts no fruit flies.

I was worried about the extra output of methane as discussed in my blog On Recycling: http://www.suenicholls.com/2005/06/01/on-recycling/#more-50 and the subsequent discovery that composting does not produce large quantities of the gas unless it is produced anaerobically, as it would be in landfill where it is buried far under the ground. The bucket is pretty anaerobic but I was delighted to find that it ferments the matter within and so does not produce unacceptable amounts of methane.

It seems like the perfect answer but I’ll let you know if I find any problems with it.

The combination of recycling and Bokashi-ing means that the contents of the rubbish bin are only non food packaging. This comprises mainly: bubble wrap, plastic packaging and bags that have contained catalogues – a practise that irritates me unbelievably. It’s bad enough being bombarded by literature trying to sell you things you neither need nor want but to encase the booklet in polythene is infuriating.

I was intrigued today to note that The Week – not junk mail but subscribed to – was in a bag that informed me that it was ‘Made from oxo degradable plastic. Having asked the font of all knowledge what this meant and received a reply indicating bafflement I took to the WWW while The Font joked ‘Let’s take stock shall we?’ I discovered that the product is truly biodegradable plastic. The only problem is that the crops needed to produce it for all our needs would disproportionately add to our emissions of greenhouse gases. Never the less I was delighted to discover that I could put the wrapping into the compost heap with no adverse effects to flora or fauna.

I turned out the bin but could find no other packaging using the same type of plastic; shame.

It will be interesting to see how much plastic we throw away in a week. It’s hard to give it up completely. Bread rolls, for instance: I try and make them but Mavis and Whizz both prefer shop bought burger buns and when did you last see those sold loose. I quite understand why; even the family baker wants to keep them fresh until the end of the day. Grapes are always sold in a little bag as are lettuce and, usually, celery. Then there’s the cat litter; I should be reluctant to do away with the litter tray liners but I can however now give up my plastic bin liners.

The biggest contributor is definitely the post. We do order quite a bit via the internet and every delivery must be packaged. Apart from the number of cardboard boxes we flatten there is also a good deal of expanded polystyrene and polythene. The question is, which should I choose, to go to the shops and use petrol or continue with the very convenient practise of internet shopping? As I write I know the answer. To use my own criteria to decide i.e. 1. support local businesses 2.avoid landfill, I must opt out of all junk mail and take to the road, in a very economical car!

As I have already reported I am keeping an hour by hour record of my activities so that I can try and give up some more unnecessary ones and replace them with fulfilling pastimes such as writing. Unfortunately the very act of writing seems to give rise to more tasks! hey ho.

On Time

It’s strange to report that the more available time I have the more I seem to find to fill it.

I have given up paid employment and relinquished most of my voluntary responsibilities to those younger and more diplomatic than I and promptly filled the time with Girth Mother activities.

After whinging to Whizz about this I have decided that I must give up some things to make room for my writing.

Jobs seem to fall into four categories: necessary, peer pressure, social/spontaneous and conscience driven. The plan is to list the jobs as I bat around the house and district, carry out a sort of time and motion study – I bet there’s a gadget somewhere to help me with this – then list the jobs under the various categories, grade them according to usefulness/frustration, and eliminate some based on their categories and how much I enjoy them. So, top of the list : Time and Motion Study; time taken 3 weeks, frustration level tba.

On Creativity

“Do you know what a tumbrel remark is?” Whizz enquired this morning. There was a pause while I tried to dredge from my memory the meaning of the word tumbrel. Was it some kind of geographic feature, a hill perhaps where someone might make a lofty statement? No, that was tumulous – I think. Defeated I replied in the negative. “It’s something a person of great wealth might say that demonstrates their complete lack of understanding of the lives of the rest of us. Like the Queen Mother saying I can’t see the point of being poor”.

“Or,” I continued, not realising how accurate I was, “Marie Antoinette saying Let them eat cake”.

“So what’s a tumbrel then?” I ask, heading, as is my habit, straight for Google to look it up. Turns out it is a wagon used mainly to take French peasants for their final journey before finding themselves either side of a guillotine blade. hence the relevance of the reference to Marie Antoinette. 

I continued my search looking for ‘tumbril remark’ (it can be spelled either way apparently) and I came upon a blog by a writer of whom I had never heard but is now on my book list because I giggled all the way through it (I didn’t have time for all this you understand. I was supposed to be making soup, doing the washing up and all those other riveting tasks that press upon the unwary, undirected, in demand mother-at-home). Her name is Donna Andrews, an American lady with what I consider to be a very English style. Her definition of ‘tumbril remark’  is as follows:  something that displays “the subconscious mentality of the uncontrollably well-off…the essence of polite upper-class incredulity at the sheer inconvenience of having to put up with other people.”  I hope she will forgive me for quoting her if I include a link to her blog: http://donnaandrews.typepad.com/donna_andrews/2005/11/index.html .

I started to browse her blog and the links to other web sites and I wondered, as I got a picture of her life, small kids, family outings, domestic crises, how she finds the time to not only raise her family but write a blog and AND churn out several novels. Is her house chaos? Do her novels earn her enough to pay a cleaner? Did she just start early in life and so was established before she began sprouting sprogs? I must ask her, now I’ve found her.

She did me a favour though in that I am now burbling away happily on my own blog. The novel WILL continue.

She brought to mind another impressive lady whose story I read in the Waitrose magazine (so much to do, so little time …). Charlotte Hume wanted to encourage her son to eat vegetables and embarked on a quest with the help of her blog readers, to try eating through the vegetable alphabet. She and her son tried a rainbow of exotic and wonderful vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini and her son reviewed them on her blog http://expatriateskitchen.blogspot.com/  . All this is now in a book ‘The Great Big Veg’ published by Vermillion.

Two things impressed me about this:

1. She posed a question on her blog, something to the effect that she wanted recipes for the vegetable alphabet and BY THE NEXT DAY had received replies! I pose questions on my blog and even family members don’t answer them.

2. She published a book from her blog even though she has a young son and all that other stuff like cooking – cooking vegetables in the main I suppose. Now this is an excellent idea. Find a band wagon, write about it then turn it into a book. I know Charlotte is not the first to do this but I wonder if I can do it. It’s like having a domestic solution to a creative urge.

I already manage this with my art. The only things I paint are walls, pots and furniture. Mavis has an underwater theme in her bedroom with an unpleasant looking octopus leering at her from one corner (below). Horace had a jungle with a tiger skin (painted, not the real thing) ceiling. Recently she also ‘commissioned’ some flower paintings for her new flat in Leeds. In our lounge we have a large pot that matches three oil paintings bought for the princely sum of £4.50 each from Dunelm Mill. The pot was painted by yours truly. In our hallway there is a chest of drawers embellished with hand painted teddies – that one’s due for a make over I think! For Horace’s 18th birthday Whizz made her a blanket chest and I painted it to match the seat cover that I also added and ‘upholstered’ (below below).

Octopus adjusted


Blanket chest adjusted

It saves on the guilt trip you see. If you can benefit the family and satisfy creative urges in yourself then It’s the perfect solution. It doesn’t help you to earn money from the pass time though. That’s what I’d really like to do. Somebody once said “But you don’t HAVE to do work so why do you want to?” if riches include creative satisfaction then I would define that as a tumbrel remark!