Tuesday, April 28, 2015

housing up a storm over here

We got a bird feeder and filled it with birdseed, which was thoroughly ignored until we replaced it with sunflower seeds. Now we have a bunch of tiny birds bickering over the feeder: there are 4 perches and usually 2 birds fighting, so it's a lot like me and my brothers when we were kids. There is one bird who ignores the bickering and just sits there and chows down; maybe that would have been my sister, if I'd had one.

This seems to be a genuinely squirrel-proof feeder, where the bird perches are mounted on a spring-loaded sleeve, and too much weight causes the sleeve to come down and close off the feeding holes. I had it hung on a string, which the squirrels didn't want to climb down; now it's on a swivel chain, and they don't like the rotation. We'll count that as a solid victory.

If you're going to buy sunflower seeds for birds, really the only sensible thing is to buy a 40-pound bag and have Amazon ship it to you. The downside is that now you have to put it somewhere, and the squirrels had no trouble figuring out that they were in a plastic bin on the patio. We put it in the garage, but our terrible garage has enough problems and I want squirrels to have no reasons to colonize it. Home Depot still carries metal trashcans, I think for the sole purpose of keeping animals out. The one model they carry is certainly a piece of shit compared to the ones we had when I was a kid, and I doubt it would stand up to being an actual trashcan. Said piece of shit is, however, proudly marked as American-made.

The rejected birdseed went into our compost bin. We have a compost bin! Along with "not having to move in the coming decade" and "I have a pool table," the compost bin must be my favorite thing about owning a house. (A close fourth is probably "paying for all the plumbing repairs myself.")

With the compost bin and the recycling--ignoring the non-trivial question of how much of that actually gets recycled--the waste produced by our household of 3 is about half of a paper shopping bag every week. And the level of the compost bin never seems to change much. Is it this magical if you grew up on a farm? I most surely didn't, and it's magical. Leaves, food waste, grass, eggshells, coffee grounds. Countless whole oranges from our tree, swiftly given completely over to mold in the compost heap, dissolved within weeks by the truly vast ecosystem it feeds. Mostly it's
  • ants, who seem so content to have infinite food that they stay outside the house,
  • fruit flies,
  • tiny slugs (do they become bigger slugs? I never see bigger slugs),
  • earthworms, a relatively recent phenomenon who for some reason are often crawling down the outside of the bin toward the ground,
  • a specific kind of black beetle I've seen around here for years and years, here numbering in the hundreds, and
  • a couple times I saw millipedes!
I haven't noticed the earthworms crawling down the outside recently; we've seen the occasional bird finding a snack on the compost bin, so nature may be selecting for earthworms that only want to dig down through the contents instead of going adventuring.

The single most amazing thing about the compost bin is that it never, ever smells like rotting food. It smells like the most delicious, flavorful dirt you can imagine. Anna extracts it occasionally--there is surprisingly little of it, see the constant-size comment above--and the plants are all big fans.

What kind of wonderful world do we live in where there's a way to make rotting food not smell like rotting food?

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