Friday, August 25, 2006

The Compost Tumbler

Years ago, before we figured out how she works, the mother-in-law decided she wanted a ComposTumbler.

Let's face it, I do think it's a nifty idea to be able to insert garbage and extract usable compost.
Really, how cool is that? And I'm sure it works great for a lot of people...

But this isn't so much about how the composter works as much as it's about how the MIL works.

Because the way she works is this:
1) She orders the ComposTumbler which is roughly the size of an overstuffed recliner.
(Did I mention that she checked with us first to see if we had room for one in our yard? I didn't mention that? Really? Hm...)
2) Once it arrives, she makes one of her sons deliver the package to a grandson with instructions to put it together as a Christmas gift to her. (It's not out of the package yet, and already two people have been committed, unexpectedly, to deal with it!)
3) When the Tumbler is delivered to our house *unannounced* in the middle of the winter via grandson's parents, (who had to figure out how to fit a fully-assembled recliner-sized composter in their station wagon)(btw, that makes three and four people dealing with this thing) the mother-in-law is upset that the husband hasn't already cleared a place for the composter somewhere in our snow-covered yard.
4) Once the tumbler is in place, she sighs and says, "There! Now you can start filling it!"

Wait a minute.

Who's filling it?

Because, while we are more than willing to contribute to her composter, we don't generate all that much garbage.
And neither does she.

Well, it turns out that in addition to tossing your table scraps and veggie shavings into the Tumbler, you also need to add something "brown".
Like dirt. Dirt is fine. Paper grocery bags will do in a pinch as well. Anything that'll disintegrate works.
As long as your "greens" and "browns" are pretty equal, you're good.

... she tells us.

Uh huh.
(Do you see where this is going? Because we sure as heckfire didn't.)

Okay, fine.
Since we understand that a 75 year old woman might not be up to hoisting shovelsful of dirt into her giant overstuffed chair, we agree to take care of that for her.
Can we at least wait for some kind of thaw? Oh, good. Thank you.

By the way, did you know you have to water it?
Yup, keep it nice and moist.

Okay, we can do that.
Toss the garden hose in there once in a while. Sure. No problem. I guess.

And it's not called a CompoStander. Oh no. It's a tumbler, which means you have to give it a crank or two once in a while.

Which is easy enough. Really.
Until the Tumbler is pretty full... then it's a chore to budge the thing. You gotta get it rocking a bit on its axis and then give it a good shove.
But fine. Fine, fine, fine. We'll do it.

But heaven forbid we don't crank it nearly as often as she says it needs to be done.
Or water it twice a day.
It was like having an angry dog... that pee'd on you whenever you approached it... and growled at you when you tried to keep your distance.

So. For those of you keeping track:
We fill.
We water.
We rotate.
Except for nagging us about how poorly we're maintaining this tub full of trash, and except for handing me her warm plastic bags of garbage which she'd collect for a few days at a time (ewww!) ...
YES FRIENDS, she has virtually washed her hands of any responsibilities of using the composter... that she had wanted!

So, here we have this thing in our backyard which we did not ask for, nor expect... which we are neither filling *enough* nor correctly.

Oh, but that's not all, folks!

Along with the dirt and the garbage and the nagging and the garden hose dripping down your leg and the crank smacking you in the chin because the weight shifted while you were twirling the tub...
... you get...


Lots and LOTS of compost!

Except, there are big lumpy chunks that used to be paper bags which the mother-in-law had insisted on adding for more "brown" that didn't really disintegrate.
And the husband has a lovely time trying to remove the lumpy, gooey mess from its container.
Um. Not.
It's heavy and he can't move it to where he wants to dump it. And everytime he takes a shovelful out, the weight shifts and swings the little hinged door to an angle that makes it hard to get the next scoop out. Plus, because it's awkward to move when it's empty (well, kinda empty) when he rinses it out, it drains all its black, icky, drooly residue right there where it stands.


I *get* that we probably didn't do everything (or anything) right, and we probably would've had soft, luscious, and easy-to-spread compost like in the pictures if we *had* followed each and every instruction properly... but dang it! It was not our desire to have this thing in the first place!

And I gotta tell you, once you sift out the lumps and spread one full load of it on your very small city garden, you don't really need more.
Unless your plan is to bury your plants.

No? You say you like having plants in your garden?

Me, too.

But guess what?
She still hands me her garbage.
And tells me to add more dirt.
and water it.
and turn it.

(or some sloppy facsimile of it)


I t only took one summer for the mother-in-law to become so disgusted with us (WITH US!!!) that she gave the tumbler to the husband's sister who lives out in the country with lots and lots of places to dump compost.

The sister was happy to have it.

And I was happy to see it go.

But oddly enough, the sister never mentioned using it after her first load...