Agriculture, Environment, Science, Wildlife

Something’s Rotten in Seattle


Spreading good everywhere.

My dad and I are driving down backroad south of Delhi on a warm spring morning.   In the air is the unmistakeable bouquet of fresh manure, wafting up from a newly treated acre just upwind.  “Smell that?” asked my Dad as he leaned his head out the window, “That’s the scent of profits!”


Gogo and Wembly consult Marjory on composting, Fraggle Rock.

Compost is one of nature’s small gifts to those of us who wish to take it.  Bagging up potato peels.   Separating lemon rinds from swizzle sticks.  Throwing eggshells and coffee grounds into a bucket under the sink.

And any kid has to wonder, “when are they going to ask me to take that outside?”

The Korsts, a Dallas, Oregon couple composted their entire consumable garbage for a year after removing all recyclables.  Turns out their actual “garbage” filled a shoebox.   For a year!  Meanwhile the compost heap quietly bubbled and burped in their back yard.  No newscast has yet reported that they have gone missing while detectives are following up some promising leads next to the tomato rows.  But we wait to see.

Today, composting is de rigeur.  Ask the virtuous and self-denying citizens of Seattle who just this week accepted a composting by-law.   Simply stated, compost-eligible items may not exceed 10% of their weekly garbage pick-up.  In other words, “if it rots, keep it.”

seattle council

Seattle City Council hash it out.

The city council opened up this can of worms in July with city ordinance 124313.  It requires the frugal and resourceful residents  to reduce recyclable contents in landfill garbage to less than 10%.

Two months later, still not satisfied with the purity of their garbage, city council expanded the 10% cap to compostable matter.  From now on, that leftover duck a l’orange goes under the Spiraea bush in the back yard.

The motive behind this cleansing is to reduce landfill waste.   It turns out that Seattle was shipping 300,000 tons of garbage to a site in eastern Oregon annually.   Remember the Korsts?


Bags to go: we love ’em but we hate ’em.

Today consumers are whipsawed by legislation over garbage.   Just east of us, Torontonians are thrilled that the 5-cent tax on grocery bags has been repealed by city council.

In this instance, the “single-use” plastic bag definition ran into a legal shredder.   Lawyers argued that once home, using the flimsy bag to hold garbage was a multiple use, and therefore acceptable.


The sweet smell of success!

You may remember Toronto has had its share of political low days.   One of its good days is the 2010 cessation of trucking over a million tons of garbage to a Michigan landfill site every year.

And farther east, in Ottawa, the citizenry of Canada’s capital were presented with a training video for folding their newspapers.  Why?   To line their wet garbage bin.  There’s government at work for ya.

Which brings me to my main interest: the business of composting.   In my world, if it’s vegetable, it’s compostable and… it’s profitable.


Modest contributions: raw materials.

To that end, I happily walk broccoli stems, corn husks and wilted flowers out to a pile in the side yard that is the resting place for last year’s Jack ‘o’ Lantern, the weekly grass clippings, and all of the neighborhood’s fallen leaves.

Within this melange of produce there hustles a busy community of worms, sow bugs and centipedes.  They are quietly chomping, digesting and extruding high grade fertilizer.   Behind them, a trail of microbes are further breaking the matter down to its fundamental parts.

Canadian Nightcrawler

A hard, loyal worker. His rings indicate seniority.

While they seemingly toil without cease, I have learned that the earthworm follows regular hours.   A New York State College environmental paper reveals that it takes 8 hours for a worm to digest a meal, head-to-toe as it were.   And the output?  Anywhere from 2%-44% of its weight.

The scientists who made this finding also report that the optimum population density for earthworms is about 8 one-ouncers per cubic meter.   I know that my compost heap does much better than that.   Judging by the cafeteria lineups, I have a high density worm farm in operation.  Don’t tell PETA.


Rich, dark goodure.

The compost pile delivers the richest, loamy soil every spring and fall.   In the spring, I transport bushels of the black mulch to our garden.  There, it caps the ground, surrounds the new flowers, stifles the weeds and holds the water.


Compost delivers!

In the summer, I used another 20 bushels of compost to plant 11 rose bushes.   They are bursting in bloom continuously.

In the fall, I’ll dump another load of compost to cover over the roses and the mums, keeping them insulated until next spring.

Total cost: zero.

My hat is off to the noble and frugal citizenry of Seattle.  But my thanks is to Dad making his point on that early spring morning.

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5 thoughts on “Something’s Rotten in Seattle

  1. Hi Phil, The reference ” smells like profits” is similar to my down on the farm days when we past a farmer spreading manure we always took a big whiff and said aloud smells like money. We caller those manure spreading machines turd hearses and shit slingers. I filled and emptied many in my day. Early spring was always best for spreading, while the ground was still frozen so not to get stuck in the muck. gordo89120


  2. Martin and Mary Shelley says:

    Brilliant!!! Very well written, humourous and extremely inspiring. YOU WILL CHANGE THE WORLD with stuff like this………………seriously.

    So glad you are planning on Barbados in February. We are really looking forward to sharing OUR island with you. Have you booked your flights yet?

    How is the hipster coming along? I hope she is almost “walker free” by now and gettin’ on to strolling.

    I, personally have had a bit of a revelation. I think I have discovered a bit of where my hip problems are arising. For about 20 years I have been living in open toed Birkenstock sandals – often with socks at work which was registered to be uncool but, in my books, extremely comfortable. Great for my chronic athlete’s foot problem because of the air circulation. Anyway, I never had much hip problem till I stopped going to work regularly. That’s when I think I started “sauntering” in the sandals – walks of over a few km (or a couple of miles to you). It turns out (I found this on the world wide web, BYMYSELF) that open toed, low heeled sandals are notorious for developing a gait which looks from the side like I’m always walking uphill, using my hip flexors to lift my toes in order to prevent the damn things from falling off. When you walk with your head behind you feet all the time, you don’t use your glutinous muscles much. In fact they almost become redundant and your hip shifts somewhat in the pelvic fossa where it is supposed to be balanced by a whole lot of muscles working in a coordinated manner.

    My physio therapists have been all over me to strengthen my glutes for 2 years but NO_ONE ever asked me what short of shoes I’ve been wearing. I think I have been undoing most of the physio benefit as I walked from the treatment room to the PAY desk. So, I’m in for some changes – more antifungal creams I suppose.

    Keep up your Riper Conditions – great stuff.




  3. Gordon, thanks for giving your knowledgeable and experienced blessing on this post. No one knows better than a farmer, and a hog grower at that!!

    Martin, you may have put your finger on the source of the problem. Judging by your profile when in motion, you may now understand why people always say you are “trucking”. Yes we have our flights booked. Looking forward to seeing the Caribbean with you!


  4. Martin and Mary Shelley says:

    Well done – YOU can change the world with stuff like this!!! SERIOUSLY! Really good. Entertaining and inspiringI



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