Ahoy! November 2009

October 30, 2009

It’s that time of year, time to dig the red wigglers out of the outdoor compost bins and establish them in their indoor digs. I did that Sunday. Last year I purchased a bin with a hinged cover. That means I can simply flip it up and drop in the contents of my kitchen compost jar, then drop the lid.

Mrs. Schmeling and Mrs. Reid’s K4 students at Humboldt Park School, Oct. 8, Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day. Earlier this month I was very lucky! I was asked to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the K4 class at Humboldt Park School. There are few things that I enjoy more than reading a picture book to a child. It was a pretty stressful morning that day until I sat down to read to the kindergarten class and all the discomfort evaporated. Thank you, Cindy Flechner, HPS general assistant extraordinaire, who invited me to participate in Read for the Record.

This year I lined the indoor bin’s floor with golden maple leaves that had fallen at the base of the red maple on my street. One must provide a carbon source for the worms. Newspaper is recommended but I used dried leaves-I also toss in unbleached coffee filters and spent coffee grounds. Worms need a certain degree of moisture so the damp grounds and filter are a triple benefit for them.

I stopped counting after about 100 as I tenderly extricated worms from the rich, dark compost, because I like to know how many I start with in fall. By spring, there will many more, as well as egg capsules, plus all the nutrient-rich compost they made. I’ll use it when I plant herbs, chili peppers, tomatoes, chard, cucumbers, green beans, and Delicata squash. I put the worms back in their outdoor bin for the summer.

The difference in the rate of transition from vegetable and yard waste to compost is significantly greater, I have found, when red wiggler earthworms are part of the equation. I’ve been using the worms since the ’90s, always with good results. I recommend asking Mr. Claus for indoor composting equipment and red wigglers. One never outgrows the quest for a good science project, right?

Before leaving the subject of invertebrates and the household, I want to share a natural and utterly effective ant-riddance solution I found this spring. Every few years, little brown ants invade my kitchen. I have not been able to detect exactly where they’re coming in but I can tell it is in the general area of a paint-sealed, never-opened kitchen window. Because I don’t like to kill them or use toxic chemicals, I don’t buy the ant-murdering kits. I jumped on the web to look for natural alternatives. The first one I tried was absolutely ineffective-sprinkling their path with Ajax or Comet. The next method I tried employed mint extract. I had a little vial of oil-based, organic mint extract among my baking supplies so I dabbed it near their path and along the exterior edges of the sash. I probably dipped the Q-tip in the oil three or four times and sparingly applied it. The ants were gone within hours, there were no ant corpses, and the ants didn’t return. Commit this advice to memory and try it yourself.

Flailing about for a segue from worms and ants to this issue’s content, I find that I must forego the creatures and go with the kitchen instead.

After years of trying to find a way to include a food or restaurant column in the paper, we’re finally debuting Bay View Bites this month (page 2). The column will be more of a sampler than a traditional restaurant review column. That’s because there are not new restaurants each month in Bay View. But there are new people moving to Bay View each month and there are people who don’t live in Bay View who read this paper. We want to make certain everyone knows what’s on offer. I am happy to introduce Chris Christie, who will be writing Bites. Chris and I both survived waiting on tables for one of the most notoriously difficult restaurant owners in Milwaukee. Trial by fire can create bonds and it always reveals character. Some of the traits I discovered in Chris were humor, independence, a sense of justice, generosity, and a passion for food, which I expect will be infused in her column.

The Kinninkinnic River flows through this issue, in a sense. We’ve been following the plans to dredge it for years and it’s satisfying to report that the project is complete (page 14). The next story we’ll follow, and it begins with Michael Timm’s report in this issue (page 1), is MMSD’s reengineering project to restore a more naturalized river. If the outcome performs as designed, it will result in reduced flood risk and increased public safety. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of creeks, streams, and rivers in our city. A cleaner, de-concretized KK River? Yes, please!

I’ve received a few calls recently asking me or telling me about a house restoration project on KK. That’s the Eschweiler house on KK & Wilson. Bill Doyle is restoring it. Anna Passante reveals its history, page 15. It’s interesting to note that it housed a succession of three physicians who practiced medicine within its walls, and that it’s just a a block north of Dr. Lewis’ house, 2519 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Lewis also practiced medicine in his home.

The Lewis house is two homes north of the Bay View Brew House (KK & Otjen), new venue of Cream City Swing. Want to learn to dance like Zelda and F. Scott? See Sheila Julson’s story, page 1.

The Hide House underwent dramatic change last month. The demolition on the north-end buildings is nearly finished. The project update, page 14, focuses on the recycling aspect that helps mitigate the destruction and landfill detritus.

Speaking of constructive, I have been impressed with the work of Bay View Neighborhood Association as I watched them develop over the past five years. They, all volunteers, have contributed greatly to this community in a few short years. Michael Timm profiles BVNA, page 1.

The first signs of the forthcoming holiday season emerge in this issue. Jill Maher decodes that curious parental behavior sure to be observed by friends and family at holiday gatherings, page 9. Randy Otto recommends local concert highlights, page 13, plus he penned a truckload of CD and DVD recommendations. Those appear only on our website. And last and certainly not least, I want to notify you that our December issue will feature our Celebrate Independents Holiday Shopping Guide. (We’re championing localism, here at the Compass.) The guide will be a pullout section in the center of the December issue. Localism includes ad dollars. Business owners, spend some of yours here. The Compass is local. And independent. And supports the community that supports you. (Readers, please thank the advertisers you find among our pages for their contribution. There would be no Compass without their investment in this endeavor.)

I close with my wish that you enjoy a cozy Thanksgiving redolent with comfort food and surrounded by people who don’t make you uncomfortable. To all of you who are planning and executing the feast, I say, bravo…and save the best leftovers for yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Katherine Keller

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