Small changes can lead to practices that really make a difference.
Here are a few folks that have inspired us.
Dave Welling - Biking to work at age 72
It is a pleasure to attempt to describe what it is like to get to work on a bike. It fulfills two goals for the day: transportation and exercise. Over the past 10 years or so, I have been in the habit of biking from Gaithersburg, our home, to the Uniformed Services University, my med school. It is at least 14 miles each way, and often I like to increase the trip by taking side roads. I feel stimulated, alive, grateful for many blessings as I roll along. I am now 72 years old but still believe I have some great biking to do. For the past three years or so, I have had a goal of going 5000 miles per year, and each year I have met that goal. and hope to go 6000 miles this year. I have a nice locker room at the university, and we pre-position clothes for the week. When I arrive at work, I shower, put on clean clothes, and voila, off to teach, or off to the hospital, or off to some meeting. And in the evening, I get back into the bike clothes and head home. I wear lights, especially in the wintertime. My record for leaving in the cold was when one it was only 15 degrees. My water bottle was pretty much frozen solid when I arrived at school. I have good, warm gear for the winter, similar to a ski outfit, including this "burqua" like head covering. After a few blocks of biking, I am nice and warm. I usually am on the road at 6 a.m. or before. Occasionally I leave for an early meeting, and am on the bike by around 5 a.m. It is great biking that early. Nothing but birds singing, no cars, quiet, serene.
I have an occasional encounter with a car, a pedestrian, a squirrel, joggers who wear ear buds and cannot hear me, etc. I keep a close eye out for trouble, and try to be courteous and careful. Most drivers are really pleasant and helpful, but a few deserve capital punishment, and shouldn't be driving around bikes. Bikes are like butterflies on the road. Totally vulnerable. I try to avoid cars as much as possible. When the traffic is heavy, I take the trails and walks.
My biking would be impossible without Lindy, who keeps me supplied in clean clothes. She feeds me gourmet meals, makes me get enough sleep at night, looks after me in a million ways.
I am grateful to be alive and active. My Father passed away when he was 62 of a heart attack. His brothers all died at even younger ages. His father died in his 50's. Everybody had heart attacks. So I have a definite family history. However, I believe that persistent exercise can make a difference, and seems to be working in my individual case. I certainly cannot claim to have all the answers about longevity, but I do know that keeping in shape feels better than getting out of shape. And I can eat anything, and as much as I wish, if I do 28 or 30 or 36 miles a day. And perhaps 45 miles on the weekends.
One other observation: I cannot run any distance. My legs hurt. My knees hurt. Running just isn't an option. However I feel great the day after a big bike ride. Bikes are relatively gentle of knees. And knees are important!
Anyway, that is my rant about bikes!
David R. Welling Colonel USAF MC (ret) MD FACS FASCRS DMCC
Josh Doying - Vermiculture (worm composting)
When my wife first approached me about worm composting, I thought it was a pretty weird idea. I fancy myself an environmentalist, but I'm more the hiking, camping, save the whales type than the eat local and be organic, gardener type. I agreed to help build our worm bin (following the instructions here) more as a favor than anything else. At least this way I could earn some easy spouse points without having to do anything too crazy. "This can't be as bad as the time she convinced me to adopt a dog," I thought.
And so it was with mild skepticism that I watched her order a bag of worms on Amazon (the internet is a crazy, crazy place my friends), and begin collecting food scraps. We prepared a little bit of soil and shredded paper for the worms, and tossed in our first batch of food waste. A couple days later I opened up the tub to see what was going on. I was shocked by what I saw. Well, not really, because not much had happened. There were some worms crawling on the side of the bin and the food looked a couple days older but that was about it. First lesson in worm composting - they're not that fast. However, this first peek lead to a growing obsession as I checked in too see the worm's progress every couple of days. There was something about the food slowly receding into black mulch, and the grotesqueness of a wriggling mass when you flip over an apple core that sucked me in. Long after my wife lost interest, the worms are still my favorite part of kitchen clean-up.
So here are a couple lessons that we've learned along the way:
1 - They are REALLY slow. Almost to the point that they won't be able to keep up with your waste production. We save our scraps in a tupperware in the fridge and only try to throw them in once or twice a week, but sometimes they haven't finished their last meal. If you want to speed this up you can...
2- Blend your food scraps. I was against this at first, since I use my blender for MY food, but the worms digest MUCH more quickly if you blend their food first. Food will disappear in 2-3 days as opposed to 7-10. It's also good for the harder things like egg shells that they'll eat, but only if they are already worm-bite-size.
3- They don't seem to like paper. We put some cardboards in, but it just takes so long to disappear that we recycle most cardboard and paper normally. We don't cover the food with paper to make layers, just throw in the food scraps and spread it evenly
4 - Reading bed time stories seems to calm them down. No idea if it will continue to have a positive effect on them later in life. However, studies show that worms in soil rich environments have heard nearly 20,000 more words than those in poor soil by the time they are three...
5 - The worms live in an ecosystem - they're not the only things that will make a home in your bin. Mites seem to help break down tougher materials - if there are too many, leave the lid open and let it dry out a bit. However, once I started blending the food, there seem to be less mites. Fruit flies are an indication of over feeding, so cover with cardboard and hold back on food a bit. (I also haven't had any fruit fly problems since we started blending the food) Bacteria, fungi, and mold help break down food, and can also become part of the worm diet. All of these things are fine in moderation. If you feel your worm bin is skewing too far towards one population, make some changes in what the environment is like.
6 - A lot of our food is just water. I drain the bin about twice a week. We used to just wash it down the sink, but we heard worm water is supposed to be extra nutritious so now I pour it into old milk cartons. Drinking it has had no noticeable effect on our health, but our plants seem happier. (My wife wants me to clarify this is just a joke, we don't drink worm juice. At least she doesn't)
7 - (some) People LOVE to check out your worms. It's a great conversation starter to drag the bin out in the middle of a dinner or party and say - "Worms turn our trash to poop!" and then let everyone tell you how amazing it is that it doesn't smell.
8 -Don't expect to get a ton of compost. Since they take a while, and a lot of the food just comes out as water, there isn't a lot of compost left. We've been working from the same bin for over a year and it's not full yet. I guess worm poop is just really dense stuff. Along those lines, I get much more satisfaction from thinking "I'm preventing this stuff form going to a landfill," than my wife does from the compost that she is able to use to garden, because she hardly gets any (and we don't have a garden)
8b - Compost harvesting is interesting. We read that if you just put food in on one side, the worms move over there and you can take dirt out of the other side. If it works, only about 70% of the worms get the message. So whatever compost you take out is going to be really wormy - which is not a bad thing, I guess.
9 - They sing! If you open your bin and listen, you can hear hundreds of worms digesting mush. This is incredibly inspiring and has unlocked a hidden ukulele based folk talent I never knew I had.
10 - The bin is completely self-contained. Occasionally worms will crawl out into the water bin, but seem to do so less often if they are well fed (maybe because they are so fat that they can't fit through the holes). Sometimes when I open the bin the worms are all under the food, sometimes there are worms all over the sides, but in over a year, we've only had one escapee. I played taps, and threw his dehydrated body back in the bin. You can leave the bin where ever you want and no one would even know it was a worm habitat (until you pull it out at your party and tell everyone) You can even go on vacation and let them eat left-overs (or each other...not sure what they do). We were gone for a couple weeks and came back and they seemed fine.
I'd be more than happy to invite you over to gaze at my worms feeding whenever you want, but I'd also recommend just getting your own tub. It's hours of fun, and there's nothing quite like thinking to yourself "Am I really spending 5 minutes to blend up my trash and feed it to a bunch of brainless invertebrates?" on a Sunday morning. At least it's not ending up in a landfill