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the intercity waste trade

We're still importing compost (and happy to have more if you'd like to improve your environmental credentials) but the latest shipment is not entirely what we're looking for. A couple years ago when the Stevenses moved into a new place I jumped at the chance to offer then a big plastic tumbling composter (mentioned here) that was taking up space in our yard. Good stewards of the earth as they are they were happy to take it, but ultimately decided, as we had before them, that the think doesn't actually work. So much the better for us, since we got the thing off our property and then ended up getting their food scraps for our compost pile instead, but yesterday I finally paid the price for the deal. They've moved to a new place and, as the last step to leaving the rental, they had to remove the composter. It's mine again.

Of course, getting it back didn't come easy. It's full of a year's worth of foul, anaerobically digested food waste and grass clippings, and weighs a considerable amount. It took all the strength and cleverness Luke and I could summon—alright, all I could offer was strength—to get it from his old backyard to my car. And then when we put it in—on its side, per my less-than-clever directions—it immediately began streaming reeking brown manure water all over my trunk.

Now let me pause to say that I don't mind the smell of actual manure a bit. I know about farming—my uncle was a dairy farmer, and we spent many a happy summer day playing beside the manure pit—and to me manure smells like future vegetative fecundity. Our own compost piles here aren't any kind of a problem either (though I do try and take steps to minimize any aromas, for the sake of the neighbors).

This particular compost, though, is truly horrid. There's a chemical edge to the smell that is still lingering on my hands even now, after several hours and several dozen hand-washings. Whether it's from the less-than-ideal conditions inside the machine or some decomposition of the plastic itself I can't say, but it doesn't seem entirely healthy. Add to that the slight but non-zero possibility of herbicide contamination—thanks to the next-door-neighbor's lawnmower clippings—and I feel a little bit like I've got my own personal superfund site at the end of the driveway.

No, not really, it's nothing like that bad. While I don't think I'm going to just tip the sludge onto the compost pile we're currently building, I'm not actually worried about having it in the yard. We'll just find an out-of-the-way spot to dump it where we can cover it with a few inches of dirt; contact with good soil and bugs will sort out whatever's ailing the mess and turn it all into good fertile soil for next year's use. That is, assuming I can even move the composter to an appropriate dumping location. If not I suppose I can always open it up and shovel the contents out in manageable portions; I'll just need to find a gas mask first.

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