It happened that while I was researching my worm guy hero, I found a website (www.charleysgreenhouse.com) that sold worm composters. As I've mentioned before, I'm not real big into worms, but I'm fond of gardening, I fret about the environment and I like the idea of fishing bait being handy when you need it. So when the topic of Christmas presents came up at a friendly get-together, I gushed.
"It's the coolest idea ever!" I enthused over cooked ham and boiled potatoes. "It's made of four plastic platters the size of garbage can lids! You put a few pounds of red worms in the bottom, you put your kitchen scraps on the top, and they compost their way up through the layers! When they're done, you have a great fertilizer for your garden. Just put the empty platter up top to collect more kitchen scraps. There's even a spigot at the bottom so you can collect the juices -- they call it 'compost tea'. Isn't that a great idea?"
The other dinner guests were wincing. "A few... pounds of red worms?" remarked our hostess, looking uncomfortable.
A friend stared at me. "Could we talk about 'compost tea' another time?"
"That is kind of gross," someone else agreed. Motion put forth, seconded and approved: I had to shut up. At least while everyone was eating.
Mildly offended and falling behind on my Christmas shopping, I left that dinner with a new mission: Prove to everyone that worm composters aren't gross by finding Christmas gifts that are disgusting. Bonus points for gross goodies under $20.
Here's what I (for real) came up with:
Carniverous Creations Terrarium from DuneCraft.com, $24.99. The garden that actually eats meat!! Grow ten varieties of meat eating plants from seed, then spend years feeding dead bugs to the inhabitants of your gruesome little garden. Not bad, but it couldn't possibly be as gross as watching my cat eat a grasshopper. He subscribes to the "If it doesn't get all over the place, it doesn't belong in your face," rule of insect eating. Except that being a cat and therefore obsessive-compulsive about his own personal hygiene, he settles for, "If it doesn't get all over the living room carpet, it doesn't belong in your face." Maybe I'll get the plants for myself as a tidier pet upgrade.
The good folk at DuneCraft get another nod for their Graveyard Gothic Garden. "Simply plant the seeds in the graves you have created with the included Blood Rock" and Tombstone Stakes", water and step back!" I have met the compost, gentleman, and it is us.
Bacteria Farm from SmartLabToys.com, $9.99. Cost-effective and nauseating! Take swabs of bacteria cultures around the house, put them in petri dishes, and watch them grow. A word of warning -- it may be tempting to buy this for the children of neat-freaks, just to watch Mom or Dad have an episode every time a swab turns up more bacteria. However I'm fairly certain that buying presents with the express purpose of tormenting loved ones this year gets you marked down as "naughty" on Santa's List next year.
But don't let that stop you from getting a Stink-Finder Light from StinkFree.com, $19.99. As anyone who has studied President Clinton's career is sure to know, organic material glows under a black light. The Stink-Finder is a hand held black light device that "quickly and easily helps locate invisible sources of pet odor such as urine, feces and vomit." Talk about hours of family fun! The joy doesn't stop there -- when you get done combing the carpet for a record of Fluffy's past transgressions, you can rifle through your wallet because Stink-Finder makes a great counterfeit currency detector! It "fluoresces the ultraviolet strip in bills." Plus lets you know exactly what else is all over that twenty.
Christmas in the Air from Fartmart.com, $14.99. A CD of fart recordings. "This CD features hilarious farting and belching Christmas Carols. Highlights include 12 Days of Sickness and Oh Can of Beans," the website says, under a banner proclaiming, "Fart Along To All Your Holiday Favorites!" Can you say, "new holiday tradition"? And if anyone gets too enthusiastic, you can whip out your Stink-Finder Light to track down accidents!
Yes, by the time I'm done with my Christmas shopping this year, my friends will find my worm composter idea not only acceptable, but downright tasteful. Provided I still have friends after they open their gifts.
Gift ideas and comments to Alex.Queen@gmail.com.
This article first appeared in the December 18, 2005 issue of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.
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