Back in the fall, I was getting increasingly jealous of Team Blonde for getting all the headlines for having a green business.
I mean, I was hauling my glass and aluminum to the bins that used to be in the parking lot at Roosevelt and Circle when Heidi and Jayne were still in grade school. I wanted some of the props. The problem, though, is how do you top putting used cooking oil in your VW diesel for fuel?
Then, right before Christmas, a friend told me what she was giving her adult son for Christmas. Worms! Five hundred worms. The idea is that you keep the worms in a box and put all your biodegradable waste in the there with them. It goes in one end of the worm as food and comes out the other end as nutrient rich soil.
Eureka. I found the way to get my name in lights – CFLs, of course. Right after Christmas I went online and found WormsWrangler.com and ordered 500 lumbricus rubellus, i.e. red wigglers for those who aren’t in the vanguard of saving the planet.
It was one of the proudest days of my life when, at the beginning of February, I received my shipment of worms. I bought a 55-gallon plastic tub with a cover, drilled 18 quarter-inch holes in the bottom, shredded up a lot of newspaper, added some leaves, dumped in two days’ worth of papaya peelings and moldy bread and gently laid my 500 eco-partners into their new home.
Nothing seemed to happen for the first couple of days. Maybe my red friends were having life transition issues. But, after a week I started to see that my organic garbage was being transformed into soil worthy of the Illinois prairie. I needed a calculator to figure out how many tons I would be taking out of the waste stream by being on the cutting edge of recycling. Perhaps – and this is a wild fantasy, I know – President Obama will have me sit in the balcony with Michelle when he gives his State of the Union Address and use me as an example of how we should all engage in the effort to save the environment.
What’s more, I discovered a blessing I hadn’t anticipated. Red wigglers are wonderful pets.
They don’t bark at or jump on my friends when they come to visit. No one has to deal with itchy eyes because they’re allergic to cat or dog fur. The cost of pet food is, of course, zero.
I didn’t have to train my new pets or teach them to use a litter box, because, well, they live in their litter box, so to speak. No, it’s not cruelty to animals and don’t go off half cocked and call the Animal Care League. Worms like living that way. It’s their passion.
During this frigid weather we’ve been going through, I especially appreciated that I didn’t have to take my pets out to do their business two or three times a day. And, I’m not contributing to all of that yellow snow that is marring the beauty of our parkways.
I feel a little disappointed that they don’t crawl up on my lap and purr while I’m reading, but I know that trust is something I have to earn. That will come in time.
Now, some of my friends question me about the smell. You see, in their ignorance about lumbricus rubellus, they think that because I live in a small, one-bedroom condo, the worms will make my place smell like a dump. The smell – I prefer to call it a fragrance – is like that of freshly turned earth in the garden after a spring rain.
And, if you don’t buy that, lighting a scented candle 15 minutes before your company arrives usually does the trick. Let’s just say no one has said anything so far. And, no, my visitors haven’t been all guys who wouldn’t notice the smell. At least my way of saving the Earth doesn’t emit exhaust that smells like a french fry when I drive around town.
So, top that, Team Blonde. Green is out. Red is in.
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.