When Life Hands You Lemons and a Nature Mill…

…make dirt!

Or try to make dirt. I spent the good part of two hours tonight babysitting my Nature Mill compost machine. I love hating this machine, I think. It was a Christmas gift from Husband, and–despite appearances to the contrary–it was actually spot on and thoughtful. Without dragging you through the drama of my puny tomato plants last spring (because I’ll be dragging you through the drama of tomato plants this spring), I’ll just say that they were overplanted and undernourished (and prematurely picked by Fella). I’ll just say that I went so far as to research the cost of worms before I canceled my plan to create a worm composting arrangement beneath the kitchen sink. I’ll just say that we have only a modestly sized front patio and nosy old person neighbors that would prevent me actually starting my own compost pile. I’ll just say that I have absolutely no qualms–eco or monetary–about using electricity from the grid in order to pursue a greener life style, and that I appreciate the irony. I also have beautiful dirt collecting in a container on the upstairs balcony off of our bedroom that I have decided doesn’t actually make the whole room stink after all. I was just smelling sour and wet gym clothes.

Not my own.

But tonight my dirt-collecting activities ground to a halt. There is a mechanical flaw in the machine, and although I have the long, slender graceful hands found usually only on concert pianists, heiresses, or those children they used to get to pick the lint out of the cotton mills, I cannot wiggle them into the tight space between the side of the machine and the composting tray. The dirt rests on this swinging tray thing, you see, that lifts to the left when it’s time to transfer it out of the composter. There’s this rubber seal across the wall that it rests on, partly to keep the moisture from falling into the collection tray beneath and partly to make a tiny ledge for the tray to rest on so it doesn’t swing the other way and prematurely deposit the dirt while pieces of banana peel and egg shells are still recognizable. Along the bottom of the tray is the heating element (hence the electricity from the grid). At the far end of the heating element is the pair of wires that connect to the power source. They need some play to allow the tray to swing up, and therein lies the problem.

Unbeknownst to me, until I got down on my hands and knees and scraped all the rotting effluvium out of the machine, the wires have been catching on the rubber seal and finally pulled it right out of the track. The track gradually got filled with dirt, which pushed it out of the track even more, until there was this unwieldy piece of track lodged in the swing zone. No way was that machine’s gear going to flip it over–I had to get a lever to dislodge it before I could fully see what was happening. And there’s no way for me to put it back, and when I force the tray over the rubber seal, the wires catch and pull at it every single time. At the weight of the dirt–which is sizable–and it’s a perfect storm of friction.

An email has been sent to the customer service department. You know what’s funny? They have their list of issues to pick from, and one of them–the only specified mechanical problem on the list–is the failure to transfer the dirt to the collection tray. Ha! I smell a design flaw. But even I can see that the wires attach to the heating element in absolutely the wrong place. If you can imagine the heating element as a long, narrow rectangle, the wires ought to attach to it at the very top, so the more or less run parallel to the rubber seal and the side of the reservoir. But they attach to the side nearest the rubber seal of all places, so they sit perpendicular to it. Damn hippie engineers! I can’t blame a Chinese slave laborer on this because it was made in the USA, but you can bet I’m going to blame a lazy union employee for rushing his job to take a smoke break.

And during all this, I am scraping at dirt, and spooning dirt from here to there, and scratching like a monkey because I still have this skin thing going on. At this rate, I’ll be a simple girl with an evil plan, a busted composter, a rash, and an MRSA infection by morning. Plus that bit at the top about when life hands you lemons, make dirt? You can’t use citrus. That was a sick lie told for the benefit of a hook into my story. So now I’m a simple girl with an evil plan, a busted composter, a rash, an MRSA infection, and a credibility problem. Sorry about that. But didn’t your mother tell you not to believe everything you read online?

UPDATE JANUARY 27
I got an immediate customer service reply via email, which was nice. They asked for pictures, which I sent, but then suggested that I just remove the rubber seal that’s in the way. I am hesitant to do that, based on their description of it as “not entirely necessary.” That is not the same as “completely redundant” and it’s totally the kind of thing that voids warranties. I expressed my concerns. I am sure I’ll get some reply tomorrow.

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