The mysterious box on a crowded bus

About a month and a half ago, Anna Marsh of North America began a volunteering internship at the urban gardening organization Canteiros Coletivos through the Where There Be Dragons study abroad program in conjunction with Princeton University, a college in New Jersey where she will begin studying environmental engineering in 2016. Her work schedule includes three days a week tending to plant seedlings in the nursery, one day teaching English to two teenage boys, and another spent at the Parque Solar Boa Vista, helping to maintain a gardening project beside dear Mell, all in addition to other urban interventions throughout Salvador with Canteiros Coletivos. From now until May, she will report on her experiences in Portuguese and English here on this website — an opportunity to both practice the language as well as share her impressions not only with us but also with her friends and acquaintances of the United States and other countries.

Have a good read!

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Anna Marsh Diary – November 14th

Today I caught a crowded bus home with a bucket of worms in hand. Sure, they might have been un-hatched and well secured beneath a lid, but I still got a kick out of every curious glance towards the mysterious container in my hands….

Anyways, I was heading back from Casa Abudaba (fertile house), the space that Thiago and Deborah, my Canteiros Coletivos mentors, have transformed their home into. Artists, writers, environmentalists, etc. who are interested in leading informative workshops and gatherings for the general public can write up a proposal and potentially use the spot to host their event. Nestled between two apartment buildings on a quiet street that branches off of one of Salvador’s largest commercial avenues, the small one story home is easy to miss. But its large outdoor patio, overflowing with beautiful greeeen plants and surrounded by walls covered in colorful murals, gives the space a hidden treasure sort of appeal. Needless to say, it’s a great place for Salvadorians to come together and exchange their knowledge and ideas.

Marcelo, a forestry student at UFBA (Universide Federal de Bahia), kicked off a series of incredibly interesting workshop that will take place at Casa Abudaba with one on minhocarias – that is, worm composting bins. So the bucket of worms on that bus was actually my day’s work: an apparatus that will be the little critters’ new home. The idea was to create a space where worms can munch on your day’s food scraps… one that will capture their poop. Why? Cause worm castings are incredibly fertile and prized by gardeners looking to boost their plants’ growth.

The three plastic buckets stacked upon one another, with small holes between the top and bottom of each, serve as separate compartments for different parts of the process. The top bin is for your banana peals from breakfast or rice and beans from lunch (or anything but citrus, meat, and bones). All you have to do is find a proportionate amount of dry carbon-based materials (leaves or tree bark, for instance) and toss the food scraps in along with ‘em. Then, the wormies, chilling in the soil within the second bin, will smell the delicious cuisine and climb up for their meal. After a good munch, they’ll do their business, and the castings will trickle through the apparatus and pass the mesh lining separating the top two buckets from the last. The paste-like castings will aggregate in this compartment and after a few months can be extracted, mixed with 9-parts water, and sprinkled about your garden. Your plants will smile.

Wasting food scraps is a serious contributing factor to global climate change, especially within industrialized countries where the access to sufficient alimentation is often times taken for granted. In the USA, for instance, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, which is more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. And in Brasil, two-thirds of the nation’s waste is organic.

So worm-composting bins are a great way to close the organic cycle and put good nutrients back to use. Plus, I’ve heard the slimy little critters make for great pets.