Monday, October 6, 2008

And now for something completely different? Not really!

Last week’s “Your Old House” workshop brought a devoted band of old-house enthusiasts to our Stone-Tolan House. Home-repair columnist and Landmark Society board president Jerry Ludwig took us on a walk around the house to demonstrate how homeowners should inspect their own houses. As the sun went down and the rain started to fall, we went inside the barn to hear architect and trustee Virginia Searl explain the most cost-effective ways homeowners can improve the energy efficiency of their houses. I learned a lot and came out of the session with a long to-do list for upcoming weekends!

When I saw the list of four topics to be covered in this fall’s workshops, the one that jumped out at me was this week’s topic: “Composting 101.” The relevance of this topic might not be immediately apparent, so I thought I’d share my own perspective on why this is part of the series. (I could have just asked Rebecca, who coordinates the series, or Beverly, who is doing the presentation, but instead I’ll just take a stab at it and they can let me know if I’m right!)

I suppose the most obvious answer is that our houses and gardens are closely intertwined, and often people with an interest in one have an interest in the other. On a more philosophical note, it’s about being stewards who live in the present but are aware of the past and the future. As the current owner of an old house, I see myself as part of a continuum that reaches back to previous owners and forward to the future generations who will someday love and care for my house as I do today. As my family adapts our 1920s house to our own needs and desires, we have a responsibility to treat what our predecessors have left us with respect and to think ahead to what we will leave to the next owners.

Whether we think about it consciously or not, we old-house owners are recyclers, choosing to re-use precious resources rather than to create something new. In my family’s case, and I suspect in many of yours, this is indeed a conscious decision and one that we are trying to extend to other aspects of our lives. Recognizing that we are temporary stewards of the environment just as we are temporary stewards of this house, we are making an effort to think more carefully about the environmental impacts of many things we do, from the food we eat to the household products we use; we're trying not to throw away things we could reuse and to recycle as much as possible. This year, we, like many other families, started a vegetable garden for the first time, inspired by a desire to eat as locally as possible. In our small, mostly shady, city lot, we grew peas, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and peppers; not only did these taste better than any other veggies we’ve ever had, they were a great teaching tool for our kids, who got a kick out of watching those tiny seeds grow into plants and into food we could eat (or in their case, not eat).

Composting, of course, is part of that continuum. My family has a kitchen scrap pail and a tumbling compost bin, so even the clipped tomato branches and carrot peels are not wasted but are going right back to make next year’s garden even better.

I look forward to hearing Beverly’s tips Tuesday night and hope to see you there! To buy tickets in advance or to read about the rest of our series, check our website.

By Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator