Tuesday, March 09, 2004

That's C-O-M-P-O-S-T

My publisher is thinking about sending me to Washington, DC, so I spent the morning calling around trying to figure out where I could do a worm composting workshop, or just give a talk about worms, in the DC area. Algonquin is already connected with the bookstores in the area, but they were hoping I'd have some ideas for non-bookstore venues like botanical gardens, nurseries, etc.

So the first thing I realized is this: Everything in DC is Very Official and Important. The list I sent to Algonquin, based on a Google search, included places with names like The United States Botanical Garden or the National Arboretum. Other venues included Monticello, the Smithsonian, and the National Zoo. Sheesh, I didn't know there was a National Zoo.

I seriously doubt they could book the likes of me and my worms at one of those places, but it was fun to put the list together.

And think of the photo ops. The worms at the Lincoln Memorial. The worms go to Congress. A worm looking mournful at the Holocaust Museum.

Second thing I learned: as far as I can tell, nobody in DC composts. In fact, I found one site about composting in the DC area that actually said that composting of food wastes was discouraged because it might attract rats.

Really? Could that be right? So I called the DC public works department. Most public works departments in the country handle recycling and waste collection, so I figured it was a good place to start. Here's how this went:

ME: Hello, I'm calling to find out about composting in the DC area.

RECEPTIONIST: To find out about what?

ME: Composting. Home composting of food wastes, you know, like where I can buy bins or go to a workshop or get more information. About composting.

RECEPTIONIST: Composting. Now what is that?
(I am not making this up.) ME: It's...uh...it's where you have a bin and you put all your food waste in it...

RECEPTIONIST: For garbage collection, you mean?

ME: No, you keep it. You, uh, well, it breaks down and turns into...uh...compost. Something you can add to your soil. It turns into, like, dirt. You can put it in your garden.

RECEPTIONIST: I'm not sure about that. Let me transfer you.
I had this conversation twice, with two different people, and in the end I never did find out where one might go to learn about composting in the DC area.

Could it really be true that you shouldn't compost because you might attract rats? I must find out. What about a nice tidy little worm bin in the laundry room or under the sink? Would that be so bad? If anyone out there has any information about rats, composting, and the DC area, please get in touch with me without delay.

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