Proper Corpse Storage and Musty Bearhugs

Under no circumstances should one ever store dead bodies below the kitchen sink. Along with being unhygienic, it doesn’t matter how tightly sealed the container is, or the materials the bin is made from, eventually the smell will escape. I speak from experience here.

I began with good intentions, in the way that most stories do which end with someone gagging on the smell of their regret. Longing to be the dippiest of hippy-dippy hippies, I had expressed interest in vermiculture; so for my birthday, Tex purchased three pounds of worms for me. In preparation for their arrival, we started gathering compost in a medium size tub underneath our sink. Contrary to popular belief, worms don’t actually eat the compost, they eat the bacteria which break down the compost.

It takes time for enough bacteria colonies to form, so the recommendation is to leave the compost for a week or so prior to adding the worms. I may have left our bin a little longer. Ok maybe a lot longer. Allright, fine, I confess, I left the compost waaaaaay too long. In a sealed container.

That last sentence is the important one, because an important clarification is that worms prefer aerobic bacteria, meaning bacteria that thrive when exposed to air. The awful smell that’s emitted from decomposing carcasses? That’s the work of anaerobic bacteria, or the bacteria that work without exposure to oxygen.

So there those bacteria were, working away on our vegetable peels and coffee grounds and apple cores, having a no oxygen party in their sealed paradise. For weeks. Ok a month. Allright, it was a month and a half, and during those last two weeks, my kitchen smelled seriously funky. It might have even stank just before I decided to deal with the container.

It’s possible that it wasn’t even my decision to take action. There may have been prodding from my dear spouse who commented that our kitchen smelled like a decomposing elk that expired in the woods near the farm which Tex’s uncle once bet my husband five dollars to try and touch without vomiting. For the record, there is only one response to this- “You had weird games growing up; my family just played Monopoly”.

Because I make bad decisions, I decided to open the aforementioned stinky container while still in the house. My first mistake was opening the container at all- the stench was so bad that it singed the inside of my nose and throat making an indelible mark. The second mistake was carrying this out in the kitchen, where the smell promptly clung to every surface.

Tex while yelling at me to take the container to the porch, quickly scooped up Mini-Tex and ran, in an effort to protect our infant son from the stink. Before making one of the worst decisions of my life, and one that will likely lose us our damage deposit when we move, I had prepared a larger tub full of leaves to mix in with the compost. Worms need a two to one mixture of leaves to compost in order to thrive.

My throat burning from the smell, I poured the half liquid, half solid, one hundred percent disgusting mess into the container of leaves. Even after the tempering effect of the leaves, the mixture still smelled like a combination of dead bodies, garbage and the devil’s air freshener.

In the meantime, Tex had opened every window in our home and thrown open all the doors despite the freezing temperatures. He had set Mini-Tex down in front of a fan which was channeling fresh air from outside, concluding that our son was at greater risk of dying from the smell of decay than hypothermia.

Previously, I thought that the olfactory low point of my week was going to be bearhugging bedding from my grandmother’s house to transport it to Value Village. Instead of Old Spice, I ended up smelling like Old House, a scent that was surprisingly pervasive and clingy but completely paled in comparison to the monstrosity I had unleashed upon our family and home in opening the container of death.

Following my eau de corpse debacle, we moved the compost bin to the porch and removed the lid so aerobic bacteria could mix with the air and party, thus outcompeting their putrid, oxygen hating counterparts.

Advertisements

Becoming the Neighbourhood Weirdo and Other Things I Do In the Name of Saving the World

I’m a minimalist environmentalist. What this means is that I don’t bathe, partially because doing so would use water unnecessarily and partly because it alarms my family. Along with eschewing activities that are encouraged in normal society, I also sometimes do bizarre things for the sake of protecting the environment; for example digging a compost trench in my backyard. There are multiple ways of composting; most of them involve a large bin of sorts. I have no such bin, so I bury my compost. It’s a surprisingly effective activity and fun for the whole family. I’ve written a set of instructions so other people can randomly create trenches in their yards too.

The Guide to Losing Friends and Speeding up the Decomposing Process without Resorting to Transforming into a Vulture and Eating Dead Animals

A worthy endeavor certainly, but not my first choice. I won't judge if it's yours though, after all being green has to start somewhere. (Photo Credit: muppet.wikia.com)

A worthy endeavor certainly, but not my first choice. I won’t judge if it’s yours though, after all being green has to start somewhere. (Photo Credit: muppet.wikia.com)

Step 1. Find a space in your yard that is far enough away from any existing garden so it doesn’t look planned.

Step 2. Start digging, if at all possible throw the bits of shoveled dirt and torn up grass on top of any preexisting garden so the appearance of your lawn will be truly marred.

Step 3. Keep digging, Try to make the trench long and unusually shaped, think of what an eight year old’s attempt at a balloon animal might look like and fashion your trench after that.

Step 4. Be sure to wave vigorously at any neighbours who are peering out from their windows. Who needs friends next door when you can have rotten banana peels decaying under what used to be a flower bed in an oddly shaped hole?

Step 5. Empty a bag of compost into the hole. Leave the bag sitting for at least a week beforehand so lots of mold grows, thus ensuring that anyone in the near vicinity will gag from the sight and smell of it when you upend the contents into your compost trench.

Step 6. Call a friend over to admire your environmentally friendly handiwork*. “Behold! The glory of decomposition! Look at all of that half-rotted, organic matter. Isn’t it great?” It is possible your friends may not be as impressed by fuzzy, green sweet potatoes as you are. If so, draw their attention to your digging ability. “This hole looks just like the birthmark on that Russian politician’s head.”

An excellent shape for a compost trench if I’ve ever seen one. (Photo Credit: uncyclopedia.wikia.com)

An excellent shape for a compost trench if I’ve ever seen one. (Photo Credit: uncyclopedia.wikia.com)

Step 7. Recover the hole and compost material with dirt, taking care to uproot some flowers from the real flower bed in the process and throw them on the pile.

Step 8. Take an unconscionably large and out of place object such as a giant metal washing bin and flip it upside down, on top of the newly dug compost trench to call more attention to your environmental masterpiece. This will also serve to keep squirrels and other determined wildlife out of what will be your sweet sweet black gold next summer.

Step 9. Repeat as necessary, or until your entire yard is an eyesore.

*This post is dedicated to Sula who inspired this set of instructions by being suitably horrified when she saw me digging a compost trench in my backyard.