dog agility, worm composting, and morning tea: three things going on with me

Does it make sense to create compost when you don't garden? I don't know, but I'm doing it.

Worms, but no garden

So, I'm not gardening. 

The Urban Worm Bag v2
Since moving to a cool, wet, temperate climate, I haven't done any successful gardening. My little mini gardens in southern Ontario were fun because they were incredibly easy. They also helped me enjoy being outdoors within the densely packed suburban landscape. 

Now, gardening is much more challenging, and I am able to enjoy the outdoors any time, whether that means sitting on our deck, talking long walks through the woods, or strolling on the beautiful empty beach. Working full-time, with limited time to myself, I really don't want to spend any of it gardening.

Last year, I tried to establish a small garden, and thought I would try vermicomposting -- composting with worms. The garden was a bust, but I've decided to continue my wriggling adventure. 

Why create composting if you're not gardening?

  • It reduces waste. We don't have organics recycling here, and it feels really wasteful. Most of what can go in the organics bin can be used as worm food.
  • The worm castings (compost created by worms) will improve the soil for all the plants already growing in our yard, including the raspberry bushes that Allan is trying to re-establish.*
  • Working with worms, creating this miniature ecosystem, just appeals to me. I want to try it. 

The worm adventure was supposed to start last year, but the worms I ordered never made it here. I had already set up my Urban Worm Bag, organics scrap bin, and so on. So this year, I tried again. 

The worms were shipped from Wormbox, a company in Montreal. They assured me they have successfully shipped live worms to every Canadian province and territory, including remote locations, and that the worms would arrive alive. They wait to ship until there are three consecutive days of temperatures above freezing in Montreal and the worms' destination. That finally happened in early May!

The clock was ticking. With a long weekend coming up, and no mail delivery on Saturdays, I was starting to worry. But hurrah, the little creatures arrived on Friday morning, well packed and wriggling. Now they are in their new home, and my project begins.

Canine agility

Now that I am not taking piano lessons (at least for now), I'm planning to do some agility with Kai, and possibly with Cookie, too. 

I've been thinking about this since we bought our home in 2019. It's great physical exercise and mental stimulation for dogs, and having watched agility competitions on video, and once in person, I've always wanted to try it.

Will Kai ever do this? Time will tell!
Decent equipment is quite expensive. And while building a DIY agility course is A Thing, you may recall that I am not a DIY person. I have zero interest in building or macgyvering this equipment. I've decided to start with one piece of equipment -- one event, so to speak -- and gradually add on, as I can and want to spend more. Agility World has periodic specials where one obstacle is deeply discounted, so I'll track that as I go. (There is also the much less expensive Aosom, but I've read the equipment is quite flimsy and falls apart easily.)

This is decidedly not for competition. Just as my piano lessons were not intended for performance, my interest in canine agility will not leave my backyard. I find the human capacity to fashion nearly every activity into a competition simply baffling. I'm just hoping my dogs and I enjoy this and benefit from it.

A momentous life change

I am not drinking coffee in the morning. I am drinking tea! While not quite on the level of moving to Canada or becoming a librarian, I believe this qualifies for Big Change status.

I love coffee, and I'm completely addicted to caffeine. Although I've cut back by mixing regular and decaf, I've given up trying to eliminate it from my diet. I've gone caffeine-free for months at a time for various reasons, but I have no wish to do that permanently. I figure if caffeine is my worst vice, I'm doing pretty good. Caffeine may even have some health benefits -- although that's not why I love coffee.

I do have sleep issues, though. Like many people, I sometimes struggle mightily with insomnia. And because of this, I've always had a strict cut-off. Coffee in the morning, and strong black tea in the afternoon, but never after 4:00.

Allan and I picked up the afternoon tea habit during our trip to Ireland in 2001. It was November, and every day we'd arrive at a bed-and-breakfast, chilly and windswept. And the host would say, I'll put the kettle on. It became an enjoyable habit.

When we got home, we found a New York source for Bewley's Irish Breakfast tea, and with both of us working at home most days, a tradition was born.

When we moved to the Toronto area, I found it too difficult to get Bewley's, and we switched to Red Rose, the Canadian equivalent of Lipton. Now that we can get anything from anywhere, we're back to Bewley's. 

(We do also have decaf black tea in various flavours, which Allan drinks all the time, and herbal teas in a range of flavours, which I drink both hot and iced. I find iced herbal tea a good way to stay hydrated: tastier than water, but with nothing added.)

Recently I realized I really shouldn't be having caffeine in the afternoon, at all. Cutoff or no, it could be impacting my sleep. So I'm trying -- quite painfully -- to give up my afternoon caffeine. 

I made this decision right after a box of Bewley's arrived in the mail, plus a shopping miscommunication landed a huge box of Red Rose in the house at the same time. I can't return either of them, I don't want them sitting around getting stale, and it's more than I want to give away.

So I had an idea. Maybe I could try drinking tea in the morning, and seeing if I can get enough of a caffeine fix to start the day. When we've travelled in places with bad (or no) coffee but good tea, I have had tea in the morning. Maybe it would be possible?

I bought a teapot, and the experiment has begun. I still miss coffee, so I don't know if this will be permanent. But so far, I appear to be surviving.

And by the way, since giving up afternoon caffeine two months ago, I have had only one night of insomnia -- far less than usual.

* There were amazing raspberries bushes when we moved in. Then we cut them down -- as I read you were supposed to -- and they never returned. Allan is starting over.


wallythe24 said...

Tea is without doubt the greatest drink ever of all time.
A day at home means about 10 pint mugs.
Have a look for George Orwell's guide to making it.( Just google it ).
He's truly a genius.

laura k said...

He is one of my favourite geniuses of all time. :) I know his 11 commandments of making tea. In my quest to know All Things Orwell, I have found that. Thank you WT24!

wallythe24 said...

A thank you right back as I'm reading The Cold Millions at the moment. Blimey ! It's good.
Curious to know which biscuits you had ( if any ) whilst drinking tea in Ireland.
They go together as well as any other two things anyone would care to mention.

laura k said...

So glad you are enjoying that one!

Biscuits, this was a memory teaser. Sometimes the host put a few biscuits on a plate and brought them with our tea, so we wouldn't have seen the box (and of course wouldn't recognize the brand by sight or taste). Sometimes they brought out slices of a loaf cake. And sometimes those mini shortbreads that come individually wrapped -- just looked up the name -- Walkers.

Such a lovely memory.

wallythe24 said...

Walkers shortbread , you can't have just one.
A sure sign of culture is when you have tea at someone's and there's a plate of biscuits too.

laura k said...

I was very taken with the ritual. We developed a habit of never saying no to a cup of tea. An Irish friend used to say that was the Irish answer to everything. "I'll put the kettle on."

johngoldfine said...

I'm not interested in agility competition, but we've always built agility into daily life with no DIY or investment.

My kids' old hula hoop is... a hoop to jump through, as the phrase would have it. Our walking sticks are cavaletti we hold for them for a quick in-and-out pop. The 6"x6" top of the old granite hitching post is a decent landing spot for a small dog with clever paws. A dog will run like a squirrel along a horizontal, downed tree, if we cut off a few branches. One of our dogs would tackle stepladders. Another would walk along the narrow edge of a futon if we supported it. Patrick flies off the five granite steps by the porch, wings outspread, and Fonzi races me down the 12 inside stairs (she cheats sometimes but has never lost yet.) Dogs climb up to the top of a near-vertical pile of haybales, sniffing out the cat, until they are right under the barn roof, then come down making sure their hindquarters do not outrun their frontsies. Chloe was a whiz at crawling backwards along a shelf. And so on.

They love all that shit! And so do we.

laura k said...

Nice. The Goldfine dogs are such lucky pooches.

johngoldfine said...

I'm a fan of McVittie's Digestive Biscuits, particularly the chocolate-coated ones, but nothing in this world is better with my morning coffee (sorry, Laura!) than the so-called 'millionaire shortbread.' ('millionaire' "'cos it's so rich," as a baker in the Lake Country once explained to me.)

laura k said...

John, in a few months when all this tea is used up, I'll be happy to return to my morning coffee. I love coffee and have no plans to give it up in this lifetime.

I like McVitie's too, but I love Jaffa cakes. The only problem is not eating an entire roll at once.

wallythe24 said...

McVitie's are without doubt the best biscuits.
The question with chocolate Digestives is plain or milk ?
As for Jaffa Cakes. Whole box ? No problem.

impudent strumpet said...

My interest is piqued by the fact that the worms come from Montreal. It seems counterintuitive that you a) have to have worms shipped from a city to a rural*/remote area, and b) don't have a worm source on, like, the same half of the continent as you.

But I don't have any actual insight into worm supply chains or anything, just an unfounded sense of where I think the worms should be.

*Does it count as rural, or do you have to have farms to be rural? Or do you have farms and just haven't mentioned them?

laura k said...

I'm glad you asked!

I originally thought I could buy worms at a fishing-supply store. Sport fishing is huge here (many people have boats) so I thought it would be easy. Turns out the best worms for composting are not the kind used for bait. And people use other things for live bait, like tiny fish. Plus I needed equipment, and I thought it would be better to buy everything in one place.

AND I needed a company that will ship. I did find a directory of Canadian vermicomposting sellers, but many are tiny operations run out of someone's home or farm, and nowhere near where I live.

The companies that have all the supplies and will ship, as far as I saw, are in Ottawa or Montreal.

But TBH I didn't look super deeply. Once I realized that I needed shipping, I looked for selection, price, and good customer service, not proximity to my location.

laura k said...

Re rural vs remote, our area is often referred to exactly as you did -- "rural/remote" !

I think technically, rural means that people live far from a population centre, and would have to drive a long distance to get to a town. But in common useage, rural seems to imply farmland. Are remote mountainous regions considered rural? I don't think so? Not sure.

There are many (very small) farms in our area. But also, just to make things really confusing, there are many farms on the Island that are not in rural areas! The Comox Valley has beautiful farmland and many small, family-run farms, but there are also several large towns (small cities?) and lots of development in the area, so it does not look or feel rural. It might have in the past, but it certainly doesn't now.

laura k said...

Random tangential thought: I wonder how old that directory is, whether it was posted and abandoned, or if it's ever been updated.