Book of Marvels
Saturday, November 11, 2006
The Perfectionist's Daughter

Eviscerated scallions! What to do with them?

Up until my mother moved into her apartment, she would have known precisely what to do with them. They would have gone into the big white porcelain jar she kept under her sink, along with the coffee grounds, apple cores and other shreds of vegetation. Also along with the egg shells, which had been carefully stripped of their inner membrane and washed. When the jar was full, she would have walked out on their deck and dumped the contents into the number one compost bin ten feet below, where they would mix with the garden waste and begin their transformation--via the next two bins--into compost. Before the penultimate house in Santa Rosa, at the house back in Oroville, the trip to the compost bins was farther--down a steep path through bleached weeds and live oaks--but it was also firmly established routine. This may be the first time my mother has not had a compost pile, at least in her adult life.

It is not an overstatement to say that my mother believes there is a correct way to treat everything-- this is just one of the ways in which she is a perfectionist. There are well-defined ways in which things are cleaned, saved, reused, stored, or recycled. Amost nothing is discarded. One time, a guest in her house made himself a cup of tea. After wringing the last drops from the bag, he opened the door under the sink and started to throw his tea bag in the garbage. "No!" my mother said from her seat across the room, then hoisted herself up with her cane and hobbled across the room. "We do it like this." She took out scissors, snipped the staple holding the string off the tea bag, put the tea bag itself in the compost jar, put the string and staples in the garbage, and put the little paper tag at the top into the paper recycling. He was stunned that there was ritual applied to such a humble object. But I knew she was holding herself back from chiding him that he had missed the first step of the ritual entirely. She always gets two cups out of each tea bag. If she had gotten to the sink in time, she would have added his to the other wizened tea bags waiting for their second-chance brew, behind the stove.

But I have no compost pile here in Cleveland Heights. They attract skunks, which in turn attract my big white dog. My neighbor has a compost pile not far from my fence. When I go outside at night, I can sometimes see the skunks feasting there-- they look up at me and their eyes shine, even through the mesh and the vines.

Given my strict upbringing regarding compost, I feel terribly conflicted every time I have a handful of scallion tops or brocolli bottoms. Terrible when I've let a whole head of romaine turn to slime! I can either put it down the garbage disposal or throw it into the trash-- two terrible, wasteful solutions. Really, this stuff can sit in the sink for hours while I avoid making a decision.

But, I was just going through a pile of article ideas and came upon a clipping about vericomposting-- letting worms eat the kitchen waste and turn it into fabulous fertilizer. A company in Ohio sells kits that include a nice dark ventilated box, bedding, other stuff that makes worms happy, and 2,000 worms. I'm ordering one! I think the temperature of my basement is just right (between 55-77 degrees) for worm bliss. Then all I'll have to do is trot downstairs with my scallions and feed them to the worms. My garden is a wreck right now-- it's been hideously neglected for months--but I'll be ready to pamper it in the spring with worm nectar.

I'm quite sure I told my husband last year that all I wanted for Christmas was a worm kit. He didn't believe me. Posted by Picasa
I so admire your mother. There are women in my family with the same ethos, and watching their care of the things that came their way always made me feel so safe and happy. (And yes, they were a little odd, but I still loved this about them.)

Worm compost sounds like the perfect holiday gift.
I love that scallion picture--the tops look so perky and silly.
My mom still uses a tea bag twice. I can see the mark on the stainless steel sink in our home growing up where the tea bag would rest awaiting its second use. And her compost began with a stainless bowl of assorted coffee grounds, banana peels, egg shells and slimy lettuce. She took as much care with her compost as she did with feeding her flock of birds, something she still relishes.
I admire my--our-- mother's attention to these details, too. It's a way of living in which the ordinary moment is weighted with meaning-- almost like some religious practicies.

I had fun arranging those scallion tops, Lucette. They didn't just land that way.
Wonderful post, as usual... I think that you're right about those simple acts carrying such weight of meaning. It's a start contrast to the thoughtlessness that seems to abound these days. Even if you are trying to live a more intentional life.

I hope you get your worm bin. :)
Ah, nice to see you around, Blackswamp Girl.
Wow, you really have a great blog here. I'll be back to visit again.

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Happy double oooh seven to you, and all your visitors.
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