• The Slimy Way My Garden Grows

    Hoards of readers have written to ask about the finer points of vermicomposting, whether I was joking when I said I was keeping the worm bin inside, and how the red wigglers are faring.

    Those of you who didn’t know we have a full-blown worm farm in the house can click here for the story of the genesis of this operation.

    It’s no joke– Squirmy and his friends reside in the area once known as “the living room” but now known as “the ping-pong/laundry-folding/worm room.” The space we used the least has now become a hub of activity, now that we stored the fancy rug and candlesticks and have games to play, work to do, and worms to care for.

    The weather has been a bit nicer lately, so I’ve taken the bin outside so the worms can get some fresh air, and that’s where I took these photos to demonstrate the latest in composting with worms. Squirmy and his friends eat, poop and reproduce at an astounding rate.

    As you’ll recall, they live in a set of stacked bins, and when they’ve munched everything in the bottom bin, you add one to the top and start adding food scraps to it and the worms climb up to the food and work on that tray.

    Looking at a working tray is not going to take your breath away.  Once you lift the lid and pull aside the newspaper, what you see is a conglomeration of food, shredded paper, dryer lint, coffee grounds, dry leaves, and anything else you’ve stuffed in the bin.

    working tray And if you dig into the mass a bit, you’ll find worms.  Thousands of worms.  You have to take their picture quickly or they’ll burrow back down to finish their eating or pooping or lovemaking.  Single-minded, these worms. workingworms

    The tray below is much more satisfying to look at.  The worms are about finished with it, so it’s mainly full of compost.  Actually, it was totally compost, but I had so many worms crowding the upper tray that I stuck a little food from the top tray that was almost completely digested, and added several hundred worms to see of they’d get fatter when they have more room.  No one has suggested this is a good or bad idea; it’s just a wormy experiment I’m conducting.  It’s better than trying to magnetize them with batteries, for God’s sake. IMG_7419

    Here’s a closeup of the compost.  Look at that rich soil!

    vermicompost

    The fact that it’s really worm poop grosses out my boys.   Yes, the boys who announce, “Don’t leave yet– I gotta take a big dump” when we’re already late for drums.  The boys who brag about burping and farting simultaneously.  The boys who love to yell “frank ‘n’ beans” just before disrobing.

    Of course, in every crowd you have some hedonistic ones and the worms are no exception.  They lurk in the tray at the bottom, which is intended only to catch stray compost and worm drippings. bin1

    Dude, you pour the liquid from that tray onto your garden and you will see some pansies that look like they’ve been hanging out with Jose Canseco.

    Anyway, the horny worms that just want to make love and don’t want to do their fair share of eating and pooping hang out here. They hide on the sides of the tray. Every once in a while I have to gather them up and dump them back in the working tray. wormsfromtray

    “The orgy is over– back to work.”

    So far I’ve mixed the compost with water and watered my winter plants, which have all perked up like the steroidal pansies. When it’s time to change to warm weather plants, I’ll incorporate the actual compost into the soil. I’m giving vermicomposting two thumbs up here. It’s easy and entertaining, depending on how exciting the rest of your life is.

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    Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Blast From The Past: Potty-Training Nomad Style (contains rear nudity)

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    Don’t forget- this week’s Flashback Friday theme is “There Once Was…”

  • Who’s My Favorite Wormy?

    Drew made up a song several years ago that has just one lyric:

    Squirmy Squirmy Squirmy, He’s my favorite wormy!

    He marched around the house singing it in one note, then a higher note, and so forth until he was screeching and I locked him out of the house.

    Last week two thousand worms came to my house on purpose, and I named the first one Squirmy.  Now we’re singing the song again,  but very quietly, so as not to hurt the other wigglers’ feelings.

    This all came about because a friend who’s quite earth friendly, and has enough devotion to the cause to drive a car powered by the grease discarded by various Los Angeles restaurants* told me that she composted inside and used worms to speed up the process, in a method known as vermicomposting.

    Up until then I’d been a composting wannabe, and went to far as to keep a large pot outside into which I threw all my fruit, peels, coffee filters and some grass clippings, but I never turned it, and it attracted flies that zoomed into the house and ended up in my bathroom at night, zigging and zagging from one side of my bathroom to the other, delirious with the light.  I kept a swatter under Bill’s sink and regularly murdered three or four flies a night, and I knew there had to be a better way to achieve a loamy humus to spread on my herbs.

    The next day I ordered a composting kit (you can make one, but if I was in such dire need of speedy composting, I damn sure didn’t need to waste time crafting a worm bin).  The worm hutch came before the worms so that I could get it all prepared for their arrival, and Porter and I went straight to work.  We put a couple of sheets of damp newspaper on the bottom of the box, and then covered it with shredded paper mixed with coir and the decayed matter from under a bush.  Apparently this is the equivalent of a decadent spa environment for worms.
    wormhome

    We finished it off by putting a handful of food scraps in one corner and then waited for our new housemates to arrive.

    You’ll recall that when the local high-schooler annihilated my mailbox I was pissed not only because of the destruction but also because I was awaiting a package I was sure our crotchety mail lady wouldn’t deliver unless we had the proper postal receptacle in place.

    As it turned out, having the mailbox replaced so quickly wasn’t all that helpful.  The lady shoved the box o’ worms into our mailbox with such force that I was sure I’d open it to find stressed out red wigglers (a common malady of those who’ve been shipped long distances) or worse, worm custard. The prospect of a clump of deceased invertebrates drove me into such a fury that I photographed the box from every angle so the post office would not charge me to re-ship live worms, but I’m sparing you and posting only two views of the damage.
    squashedbox2

    squashedbox

    (You know that I have a bad relationship with the post office in general, don’t you?  And BTW– I haven’t yet located the mailbox marauder.  I’m beginning to lose my faith in the blogosphere.  The point of filming my tragedy (other than amusement) was to snuff out the MBHS teen who drives a Toyota Tundra or similar dark truck– with brush guards– and get an apology and restitution for the damage. So far, I’ve gotten nada.  But I digress.)

    Ladies’ fine shoes and purses sometimes come encased in a thick papery materiel, and my worms were so special that they were packaged in the exact same fabric.  It was an elegant touch, Happy D Ranch!

    bagoworms2

    When I opened the bag, instead of a shiny Coach purse I found the equivalent of twenty plastic tubs of bait, (all wiggling happily as far as I could tell) with nary a squashed worm to be seen.

    openworms2

    From there, all I had to do was spread the worms carefully over their new habitat, cover then lovingly with a layer of shredded newspaper, and let them adjust to their surroundings.

    grabworms

    spreadworms

    Late that night, after I was already tucked in bed, I remembered that I had failed to leave a lamp on in the ping-pong room for the worms.  That’s an essential part of the process which encourages them to burrow far down into the bin.

    “Honey, would you mind getting me some more ice water?” I asked Bill.

    “Sure.”  He got up, and then I added, “Hey, while you’re up, will you turn the lamp on in the ping-pong room?”

    “This better not be about the worms,” he muttered.  He’s skeptical of the whole idea, but just wait until he sees my fertile soil next spring.

    “It’ll just make me feel safer, what with the burglaries and mailbox bashings we’ve had around here lately.”  That was true.  I’d feel lots better if I knew that 2000 worms were tunneling down, away from the light, not seeking escape.

    It’s been several weeks now and the worms are doing well.  They’re growing big and healthy and I couldn’t be more proud!  I think I’m a grandmother, too, but it’s hard to be sure.

    I’ve fed them coffee grounds and filters, shredded used paper towels and junk mail, crushed egg shells, fruit and vegetable peels, dryer lint, and a host of other crazy items you can read about on the Happy D web site.  The other night I had some mushrooms and a banana that had gone bad, so I pureed them in the Cusinart and plopped it in the bin.  There’s a reason you don’t see “Paillard of Chicken Infused With Mushroom Banana Coulis” on menus and that’s because it’s a rancid combination for humans, but Squirmy and his friends are digging it.
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    That’s just me and Squirmy having a little fun!

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    One year ago in My Tiny Kingdom: My Mac Daddy And Me (Yep– the inappropriate Halloween costume issues pop up with boys, too!)

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    Sarah wears rocking clothes and talks about going grease hunting in L.A.  Jimmy Kimmel should have her back to talk about worms!