In answer to some questions from No Impact Man reader Phil Brady:
How are the earthworm castings faring, and to what uses are they being put?
For those of you who don’t know, I prevent my food scraps from ending up in the landfill by composting them. But because I live in an apartment, I use a technique that accelerates the process and prevents odors, called vermicomposting, which means keeping red-wiggler worms in a bin and letting them eat the scraps.
Red wigglers are worms that live in the leafy part of the forest floor. They have a nice leaf-like home in my worm bin made from other people’s torn up newspapers (for the purposes of the project, we buy no newspapers so as not to make trash). The food scraps go in, and about three months later, a rich, loamy compost (literally worm manure or “castings”) comes out.
I have harvested from the worm bin twice now. Both times I used the compost to top feed whichever plants looked like they needed the most help at the Laguardia Community Gardens, where I help a man named Mayer Vishner with his vegetable plot.
Should the tomato plants not be bearing by now?
Alas, the window I had the tomato plants in got full sun all spring, but when the earth tilted for summer, the tomatoes ended up in the shade. They got really tall and lanky. Finally, I faced up to the fact that they would bear no fruit and gave them to a friend to plant in her garden (Mayer’s plot was already full). They are much happier now, I’m told, have flowered and will soon make tomatoes.
How was the matter of cooling/refrigerating/pot-in-pot ever settled?
The last thing we tried was a cooler with reusable freezer packs from a neighbor’s fridge. But the neighbor is taken to all-night parties, we could never get the freezer packs when we needed them, and the solution was inelegant anyway. Now, we just live without a fridge. We simply shop for only two days at a time, and it’s all working out.
What does the daily diet consist of and how does one avoid deadly monotony in it?
Monotony? When at last the farmers’ market is teaming with every vegetable you can imagine, you ask me about monotony? What you mean is excitement, no? After all, local eating meant we virtually survived on cabbage, apples and eggs all winter. In the heat, we’ve been eating a lot of salads with all sorts of yummy veggies and berries tossed in. Our diet is the healthiest it’s ever been. You can see it in the whites of our eyes.
How is everyone getting along in the hot summer of New York?
Because we have no mains electricity, we have no air conditioning or fans. We’re lucky in that we get good cross-ventilation. We close the windows and shades in the morning to keep out sun and hot air. We open them at night to let in cool air. So far, not so bad, actually. I mean, we sweat, and we try to stay out of long sleeves and pants. It feels kind of natural.
There has to be an exchange: NoImpactMan has no impact on the environment, but that does not mean that the environment will have no impact on NoImpactMan. What impacts is the environment having on him?
Little things. Who knew that the sun shone full in the living room in the spring but not in the summer until I tried to grow tomatoes? Or who knew that without air conditioning the way to stay cool is just to spend more time outside on the stoops and in the parks? Who knew how glorious it is when the summer arrives and all the wonderful vegetables or fruits start to be in season? A gift of this project is that even though we live in the City, we have found ourselves reconnected with some of nature’s rhythms. And that, I think, is a good thing.