Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have a Very Wormy (Early) Earth Day - All My Worm Children, Part 2

Chapter Two:

The next morning I checked on the worms to find the bin tipped over onto the porch floor. Something had knocked it down and ignored the food scraps, but many of the worms were gone.

I guessed that a raccoon had gotten in to have a lively wormetti dinner, but I couldn't shake the vision of a Little Nemo-like escape orchestrated by one brave little worm, "Squirm to one side and we can tip this bin. Now! Just squirm down! Just squirm down!"

I was having inferiority issues. Did the worms hate me so much that they would rather risk the outside world than live in my lovely bin? Would I need counseling?

I worried over the worms all day while I worked in the garden, planting peas and clearing beds. They seemed to be eating, settling in, and otherwise as happy as clams, albeit long, wriggly ones. But at nightfall, I wondered if I should put the lid on the bin and risk a mass exodus or leave the lid off and risk more raccoon snacking. I chose the lid, and snapped it shut.

A few minutes later I peeked in. Worms were all over the side, heading for the air holes on the the edges and top. This meant another night of worm-sitting for me.

Jens finally helped me rig up a strong netting cover held on with bricks that let in enough light to keep the worms down in the bedding, but would possibly deter a raccoon - but only if it were not at all hungry and didn't like bricks falling on it's head. It wasn't a great solution, but I was tired and the worms hated me anyway. I went to bed.

The next morning the worms were fine. No raccoon had bothered them, confirming my suspicions that not only was tip-over of the previous night was a mass escape plot from the worms themselves but that I was a terrible worm surrogate parent.

Dejected, I went to the internet for help.

Surprisingly, I found a huge amount of detailed information for just my problems, and a lot of other fascinating (to me) information as well.

It seems that maybe I had too many worms and too much food for my small box. I put on garden gloves and looked. Sure enough, after only two days the worms were fat. Not just sated, but stuffed-sausage-oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-I-ate-the-whole-thing bloated. And already lots of worm poo. And there were worms in every corner of the bin, from top to bottom in writhing clumps.

The instructions I was following had said that for an 18 gallon tub, 2000 worms would be the right number, so that is what I had ordered. But I had also bought some extra of the Super Reds from a bait shop - I am not sure how many. The girl behind the counter, when I told her I wanted them for composting, told me I would need a 'whole passel' and presumably gave me that amount. And when the ones I had ordered from Amazon came, I noticed that the bundles seemed to be quite a bit bigger than the promised amount to make up for dead worms during transport, but all seemed to have survived.

I probably had at least twice the number of worms in the bin than were necessary, and that was why the worms were off to find less crowded pastures in the great wild world beyond my composting confines.

On the positive side, even with all the food scraps I had in there with the worms the only smell was one of damp paper.

But what to do about my overcrowding issues? Open up a second home for worms on the front porch? How many worms could one family handle?

We answer those and many other questions next time... on ....
All My Worm Children.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Have a Very Wormy (Early) Earth Day - Adventures in Vermicomposting, Part 1

A couple of years ago, Tasha said, "Ant, you should really start a worm bin. You could compost in the house!"
My reply should have been, "Oh, my, why didn't I think of that! Anything I can do that would reduce greenhouse gasses and help the environment, my garden and houseplants, while being so simple, is something I could really get into!"

But instead my response was, "Ew!" Followed by, "Ew, ew, ew, and ... ew!"

Fast forward to last week.

That was when I became a worm rancher.

I researched vermicomposting (composting with worms), and decided that Tasha had been right after all. Worm composting could work, should work, and gosh-darnit, I would make it work!

I got my worm bin all ready: I bought a big plastic bin with a lid, and Jasmine drilled holes for drainage in the bottom and air flow on the top and sides. Then I put in damp newspaper for bedding , some vegetable peelings, and ordered online for some Red Wiggler worms that eat half their own weight a day in food, and poo that much in rich castings for my garden and plants.

I also went to a bait shop and bought some of their larger cousins, the European Nightcrawler (often called Super Red Worms). I want to compost our kitchen scraps and as much of our junk mail as possible and, supposedly, the bigger European worms do better with paper. I came home with my worms just as the sun was setting.

I put the worms in their new bin home on the back porch, and left them alone to settle in. After about an hour I couldn't stand it anymore- I just had to check on them!

To my horror, there were worms EVERYWHERE!
They had crawled out the drain holes, the air holes, the edges, the top, the cracks, and spaces I didn't even notice. They were crawling up the outside of the box, the side of the house, on the porch floor, under the box and toward the sidewalk. Some had made it to the sidewalk. I yelled and husband Danny came running and helped me pick up all the worms, which is easier said than done, especially in the dark.

Those buggers aren't called 'wigglers' for nothing.

As fast as we put them in the bin, they started crawling right back out again. It looked to be a long night of worm wrangling until I remembered reading that if the worms tried to escape, you can shine a bright light on them and they burrow under the bedding to get away. The sixty watt light bulb we had on the porch seemed to slow them down only slightly, so while I pushed the stragglers back into the box, Danny put in a 100 watt florescent bulb.

That made them tuck their tails...er... their bodies under them and run for cover.
But then they found the slight grooves in the bins made shadows that didn't get direct light and started a conga line up the sides. I had to tilt the box to get the light shining straight into it to keep them in, and keep the lid off. Finally, I could go to bed.


The things I do to save the planet.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fool's Day, 2010

This is my first post in about a year.
I have decided to post some happy stuff, after all that has happened this last year. If you know me you will agree it seems fitting to come back for April Fool's Day.

This year I made sushi rolls and pillows, sashimi with seaweed salad, all garnished with wasabi and ginger. It was served with jasmine tea and chopsticks.

Of course, being April Fool's Day, it wasn't really real. The sushi rolls started life as twinkies, fruit rollups, coconut, dried fruit and candy.
The sushi pillows were donut holes with Swedish
Fish and fruit roll ups.
The sashimi was seedless watermelon. Tea was apricot jello. The seaweed salad was fruit rollups cut into strips.

With pistachio pudding wasabi and dried apricots for ginger, the effect was pretty good, in a fun, cartoon sort of way!

Of all the April Fool's Dinners we've had, this one is by far the sugary-est!

Tasha found the idea for the sushi on the internet, and I found lots of help with the details at the hostess website www.HostessCakes.com and at familyfun.go.com/april-fools-day/.

Though my kids are now grown or almost so, it was just a lot of fun creating this meal. I got lots of help and the kids had fun sharing with their friends too.
Oh, and this year I got to share April Fool's day with yet another generation, my granddaughter Melody, who just happens to be the cutest thing on the planet.