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August 5, 2012: The Emerald City

I arrived in Portland early on Sunday morning, stepped out of the airport terminal into near blistering heat. Heat can obscure vision, but not mine. I began noticing everything Portlandia – Portlandia being a term that describes the more desirable aspects of city life, some of these aspects being over the top. As I looked around at a tidy cityscape, I says to myself, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” But Dorothy reminded me that Kansas is even hotter than Portland. And Portland is even hotter than Oklahoma.

An instance of Portlandia – the big picture compost situation. My very domestic little sister puts her kitchen scraps in a little beige plastic bucket that was provided to

Elenore and her Gov't Issued compost bucket

her by the city officials. She empties this little bucket into a larger bucket when it’s full. The garbage people then come and empty the large green bucket into a garbage truck, and take said contents to an unknown destination. I asked a number of people – no one knows where this garbage goes. This got me to picturing a huge pile of steaming, stinking kitchen waste. No, most certainly, we are not in Kansas anymore.

Eleanor is not a compost slacker. She’s a gardener who makes her own soil. (Imagine, a genetic similarity.) She showed me her one compost station. At first I was taken aback, for before me was a contained pile of kitchen scraps, that is the stuff that didn’t make it into the little bucket. Oranges and apples and stuff. I poked the pile because this is what I do. And lo and behold, underneath the topmost layer was a clump of worms. I’m not talking a single, solitary worm, but literally hundreds of worms, wiggling and squirming the way large numbers of worms do. I speculated that the ninety degree temperatures drove them to take refuge in the top of the pile.

I was impressed because I struggle to keep my worms going – and here, in this magic city, they can be found by the handful. I asked, and Eleanor said that she didn’t have to do anything – the worms just appeared in the compost.

And the mid and bottom layers of her compost appeared to be moist, dark soil.

No Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. But Portland is a good substitute.

Next: 241. 08/6/12: Gutter Talk