Monday, December 03, 2007

Worm Food

Last July I bought an indoor worm composting system from Worm Firm. Not just any worms, mind you, red wigglers, the Rolls Royce of worms. And fat and juicy looking squirmlies they are. It quickly became apparent that we had so many kitchen scraps, we would need two bins, so I bought another. We feed the worms veggie and fruit scraps, no pasta, meat or bread. Worm Firm, I should say, is owned by Michael's ex-wife and her husband Jonnie, both Brits and much more eco-conscientious than I will ever be.

So, after 6 months, it has now come time to harvest the worms. Or really, to harvest the worm castings and save the worms to garbage down more garbage. Or really really, to harvest the worm poop, which is what a casting is. Before you run to grab a clothes pin for the nose, be aware, this process doesn't smell. I mean, I've been pawing through worm poop for the past hour (in rubber gloves, mind you). At first I was one finger at a time tentative, but before long, I just dug right in.

The harvesting process means to turn the worms out on a plastic sheet, angle a goose neck lamp down at one corner and all the worms will gravitate towards the heat. Then you scoop up the squirming worm ball and transfer it to new shredded newspaper bedding with some veggie scraps, apple cores, coffee grounds and enough of their old castings to make them feel at home. Most of the worms followed the crowd within an hour, some however obviously have ODC tendencies and were reluctant to move toward the light. The little baby worms were (naturally) rebellious and happy to be left behind to party hearty with their baby friends unsupervised.

At first I was exasperated, stupid worms. I started to transfer them one at a time. And then this kind of calm realization came over me that you just can't rush nature. That even though this task was on my to do list for today, it might take more than one day for the worms to migrate.

Here's what else I've learned: Worms love watermelon and cantaloupe, they can dispose of the rinds in a matter of days. Teamwork. Avocado skins, not so much. Peanut shells, not at all. They want to make nests in the corn cobs, and if you don't pulverize the egg shells, they nest in those too. Apple peels go quickly, onions not so fast, leeks they have little taste for. And all of our kitchen scraps, piles of it, tupperware bin full every other day or so, has been reduced to maybe a bucketful of what looks like peat. Very rich peat. In the process of their munching, they produce something called "worm tea" which is the best fertilizer there is. I put that liquid gold in milk cartons for the flowers.

So, when I complete this harvesting, I'm going to put the castings outside so that the dirt can get a taste of Cleveland winter and will be ready for the garden in the spring. There are a lot of other things I suppose I could have done with my afternoon, but I have to say, playing in the dirt, smelling it, feeling it between my fingers while the icy winds were blowing outside, was not only a comfort, but a lesson in the patience of nature.


michael salinger said...

I don't mind the eating garbage part - it's all the singing those worms do at night that'll drive ya crazy!

Anonymous said...

that is fascinating, and way cool too.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to email a link to this to my mother. She's quite the gardener as well.

I wonder if you've had any dreams or nightmares about the worms?

I never even imagined they'd make 'nests' in corn cobs. Ew!

Christine said...

Okay, at the risk of sounding like a thirteen year old girl in desperate need of read my blog! :)
I AM a real tomato. And I do need to get worms for my composting. We have a compost bin, but I have to trudge outside in the very cold waist-high snow to use it in the winter (well, right now anyway) and worms would be something more interactive anyway. I'll be in touch dahling. And if I don't talk to you, have an amazing time in Kazakhstan and on the rest of your jauntings.