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Originally Posted at JPG Magazine
Suffice it to say, I'm not a big fan of Al Gore and all the global warming hype that permeates every aspect of our lives these days. My thinking is, the recent rise in temperatures are all part of natural earth cycles that we can't possibly influence let alone control nor, do we fully understand how it all works. After all, having been around for more than two-to-three decades, I do remember once upon a time when a public education meant something. A teacher of mine once said that a long, long time ago, Vikings were farming in Greenland. I also remember, back in the 70's, the big crisis was the threat of a coming ice age. Back then, Time Magazine thought the crisis serious enough that they did one of their magazine covers showing New York City buried in a glacier.
All that being said, I do firmly believe that we are stewards of what life presents to us and great care must be taken to leave the place as good, if not better, than the way we found it. As such, the car I drive is a real gas miser that gets around 50mpg. As hot as it gets where we live here on Okinawa island, we only use the air conditioner when its time to go to bed. It's not because I believe this is my little way to save the planet. It's because I'm a retiree with a limited income and I try my damndest to live within my means.
Another thing that I do is compost my garbage. Again, it's not my vain attempt to appease the "Global Warming Police." I do it because I love the benefits that composting does for my tomatoes and the wife's flower garden. The truth be told, even if I were more well off than I am now, I'd probably still drive the same car I do now, I'd probably still use the air conditioner sparingly and for damn sure, I'd still compost my garbage.
I really got started into composting shortly after my retirement. We moved into my wife's grandfather's old house in the countryside. It's a quaint old Okinawa style farm house with a pretty good sized yard. Not the postage stamp property one finds in the cities over here. It's a whole lot more comfortable than any apartment we could have afforded to move into. We considered the benefits from our living there in the countryside. First, the place is very quiet and in-laws didn't have to worry about it sitting empty or becoming the target of vandals. I would enjoy the physical activity of taking care of this old house. Lastly and most importantly, we just couldn't pass up the free rent.
Adding insult to injury, a good friend of mine and fellow military retiree who lives here too had become a gardening fanatic during his retirement. He let me borrow a book of his called "Worms Eat My Garbage" and it changed everything for me. It helped to convince me that I needed to start doing something about the situation too. Before reading that book, my idea of composting was the same thing that my parents always did. Unused household or kitchen refuse was always thrown into the garden and when the pile got too stinky or too big, it was either burned, buried or both. I had no real idea what a compost box was or how to build one. The book shows you how.
My first attempt at building one for myself worked okay but if I could add one word of advice, "If your going to do the job, you had better do it right." The first compost box we had was originally an old cage that the wife's grandfather used to transport his chickens to market. It had a lightweight wood frame and wood on two sides and each end. The top and front side was wire mesh which would allow plenty of air in for the worms. I trimmed off the wire on one side and used that as the top for dumping our vegetable food waste. It worked great for the first year but, unfortunately it just couldn't stand up to the elements. The frame had rotted through after only a year and it developed a real bad starboard list.
The other problem was it couldn't keep the less than desirable varmints out. Worms, of course, we love because they do all the work. Some insects and even mold are unavoidable. The bad part was that, on more than one occasion, when I went out back to dump our waste at the end of the day, I was greeted by a rat when I opened the cover. Clearly something had to be done. I began to think about buying a couple of sheets of thick plywood and building a box meant to do the job right. The only thing stopping me was the lack of tools needed to do the job and the lack of funds. As I mentioned before, I'm a retiree on a budget. Things are expensive in Japan. The cost of the wood alone would be well over the equivalent of $50.00 U.S.
Then one day while surfing the net, I saw a video someone produced wherein they made a composter from a used garbage can. They simply drilled a few holes in the side for air and Wa-La, instant composter that was not only inexpensive, it easily kept the varmints out. From that day forward, the hunt was on! For the next few weeks as I traveled about the island on business, I always made it a point to check out the various hardware stores as well as the U.S. base exchanges here. To my disappointment, the stuff was more expensive than I had imagined. Even more surprising was that it was even more expensive on base. Fortunately, we played it smart and didn't rush out and buy the first thing we saw. By taking our time and staying flexible we found a garbage container that was both sturdy and cheap.
My personal opinion is that composting only makes good sense for anyone who has a yard or garden. The benefits for your garden and the environment are tremendous. Why pay big money for fertilizer when you can make your own for next to nothing. The nutrients created by letting worms eat your garbage and yard waste are far better than anything you can buy on the market. Less garbage has to be incinerated or buried and it's just so easy to do. Now if I could just get old Al to pony up some of those millions he's making and pay me for the carbon credits I've REALLY EARNED, I'll be more than happy to let him and all his mindless minions in the live in their fantasy world!