Following the alchemists’ dream

The Earth Machine has already begun the magical process in our yard.


Sharing the alchemists’ dream of turning dross into gold, I’ve long tried—about as successfully as the alchemists—to turn kitchen scraps into compost. The virtuous goal of not drowning our children and grandchildren in our garbage is but one element of the dream. The main thrust is that waste can be turned into something useful.

So when representatives of a local communal organization knocked on our door and tried to interest me in buying a composting Earth Machine, I agreed immediately. That was a couple of months ago. Yesterday afternoon the machine was ready for pickup. For a mere $18 I received one black plastic bottomless barrel, two plastic lidded buckets for scraps, and a large bag of “starter” material (complete with worms), and a promise of a steady supply of woodchips (to provide the nitrogen that is necessary for the process).

This morning my husband and I assembled the barrel. It looked easy but it wasn’t. Tabs on the upper half have to fit into slots around the bottom half. By the time the sixth tab was fitted, the first two had popped out. With a lot of pushing, swearing, and banging we finally got it assembled, screwed in the four pegs to keep it anchored, screwed on the lid and slid on the lower door.

We put a layer of twigs on the bottom to provide aeration, added the starter material, and put in some food scraps (of plant origin only).
I am aware that a lot of plastic that will someday fill a garbage dump is involved in this process. That’s troubling, but not enough to keep me from following my dream.

Check back in a few months to learn whether I’ve succeeded in beating the alchemists at their game.


Runners from Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, China, and North and South America are among the entrants already signed up for the second Jerusalem Marathon, scheduled for March 16, 2012.

The event includes a full marathon route, a half marathon, and a 10 km., and more than 1,000 participants are expected.

An ice festival, with ice sculptures of key Jerusalem sites and an ice skating rink, will be a new attraction available during the marathon weekend.


The Israel Postal Company has issued a stamp to commemorate the centennial of the cornerstone-laying of the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology. The Technion was the country’s first academic educational institute.

The stamp features a rendering of the façade of the building that was designed by the German-Jewish architect Alexander Baerwald. Above the building, a nano-parachute, developed by three Technion professors and whose structure and movement are based on the structure of the dandelion seed and its movement in the air, rests on an open hand. Nano-parachutes change color in the presence of toxins and can save lives by making it possible to determine whether a site is contaminated, and if so, by which toxins.

Photo and text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.


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3 Responses to “Following the alchemists’ dream”

  1. David Bennett Says:

    Great post – and very interesting. I didn’t know about the need for wood chips to supply nitrogen.

    It is possible to buy large quantities of worms to get compost heaps started or maintained – – ‘WormsDirect’ is one English company that does this. So if you run out of worms….

    About nano-parachutes, I had the idea once of the owners of power stations growing climbers up the sides of the cooling towers so that the green (or otherwise) would be visible for miles around.

    Now it occurs to me that the same technology that is used in nano-parachutes could perhaps be used as a permanent feature on potentially risky sites.

  2. Marina Shemesh Says:

    When I lived in South Africa (and had a garden), I was a great composter. I just piled up all the vegetable scraps, weeds etc. in a moist area in a corner of the garden.

    I am very curious to hear how your Earth Machine worked out. Be sure to keep us posted!

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