Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"...You've got WHAT living in your house?!?!?!"

That's the response I had when I told some friends about my new vermicomposting bin. Yup, I have masses of tiny, wriggly little redworms living in my house. Intentionally. I asked for them, from a dear friend who got me excited about vermicomposting. Many of you who visit our home on a regular basis are used to seeing Cool Whip containers of kitchen waste sitting on our counters, waiting to be taken to the compost bin outside. When the weather is warm, we don't mind taking trips out to the compost bin in the corner of our yard. However, when it is cold, snowy, and wet outside, it is a pain to get bundled up just to carry a couple of containers of scraps outdoors. Ta-da! Instant solution: set up a worm bin. Perfect!

They live in a Rubbermaid 31-gallon tote, in which I drilled several holes for ventilation and drainage. I filled it with shredded newspaper and corrugated cardboard for bedding and moistened it with water. (Liesl had a great time helping me shred and mix the newspaper, by the way.) I buried a week's worth of food scraps in the bedding and then impatiently waited for my friend Kelly to bring me a batch of her surplus redworms. That was such a great day--two grown adults (Kelly and I) and our four kids, ages 1-4, huddled around this bin watching a mass of wiggly pink worms in a pile of newspaper. Oh, the things we find amusing! :-) And it doesn't stink...seriously! It currently sits in our front hallway, and we have never noticed an odor. This is accomplished by carefully burying the food waste in the bedding, so that any rotting food is covered and not exposed to too much air.

We will be conducting some experiments in our garden this year. We plan to fertilize half of our pepper plants with vermicompost and half without, and see what kinds of yields we get.

And for those of you who are saying, "eww" (I know you're out there, I can hear you gagging), imagine the benefits: No more trudging out into the snow to dump compost into an outdoor pile. Free fertilizer for plants.'s science! Science is happening in your very own home. Our girls--even the baby--are fascinated by this phenomenon. Imagine the learning going on in their little brains! Ava cannot be torn away from the bin when it is open, she keeps pointing into it and saying, "Ehh? Ehh? Ehh!" She learned the ASL sign for "worm" very quickly! Liesl asks a thousand questions about what's happening in the bin, and talks to the worms. (On a good day, she can be found sitting next to the bin, earnestly reading stories out of her Curious George books through the ventilation holes in the bin. We wouldn't want the worms to get bored, would we?)

It's a win/win situation: The worms get a comfortable, safe place to live and plenty of food to eat. Free room and board! We get incredible fertilizer for free, and we don't have to trudge outside to our compost bin in the frigid cold.

My dear friend Kelly is hosting a vermicompsting playgroup on Friday through our Mom's club, to introduce kids and their moms to the concept. Kelly is working on getting her Master Composting certification, so she has become very knowledgeable. And, the snacks (for the humans) she is planning for her playgroup...well, let's just say I'll have to post some pictures soon. :-)

I drilled 1/4" holes in the bottom and sides of the bin for drainage and air circulation.

Based on Kelly's experiences, and copying her brilliant idea, I used a hot-glue gun and affixed small patches of old, cut-up nylon stockings over the holes, to prevent fruit fly infestation. (I hope worms are happy with the color of the nylons...I could have used my old black ones.)

This is the bottom bin, to catch any drainage. Tom cut and sanded PVC pipe pieces for me, to use as "stilts" between the bottom drainage bin and the worm bin.
Setting the worm bin inside the drainage bin, stilts holding the worm bin up.

And now, for bedding. :-) I had lots of help shredding newspapers, old bills, and credit card solicitations for the bedding. Kelly's husband is a police officer, and he made the observation that no crook will go searching in a bin of rotting food and worms for papers to steal our identities. :-) See, another benefit!

Liesl helping me bury the first load of kitchen scraps for the worms.
And they're home! :-) They were a little shell-shocked at first.

Kelly's and my kids: Emma, almost 5; Jack, almost 3; Liesl, 3; and Ava, 1--all hung out around the worm bin for a few minutes. Just look at the learning that is going on in their little heads.

Ava finally got a turn (look at how Liesl was "teaching" her dolly about vermicomposting, too)

All the "big kids" got to touch the of course Ava wanted to, too. Oh, I knew we'd have sibling rivalry, but I never imagined it would involve blind, cold-blooded, legless creatures.

The next day...overnight, the worms had migrated from the top of the bedding down to the garbage I had buried. Many of them were partying together in an onion skin.


Gail said...

Rebecca,that is fanTAStic! I have been considering just the set up you have,but in this tiny house I had real concerns about the smell,this bloggie is like a how-to! THank you,and good luck,I get a kick out of the worms being read to,that is adorable :O)

Swansong said...

So stinking cool!!!!! I want to have one!! LOL I am not sure how worms live in this sand with a little bit of soil though. LOL

Susan said...

Hi, Becky. I'm Karen's sister. They haven't disowned me yet, even though I've been in Bucky-Badger-land for over 20 years. Anyway, I think this post is so cool!!! Last summer was my first time to actually succeed at composting. What I'd been doing before just wasn't working. So it killed me all winter to be throwing perfectly decent garbage into the garbage can. I'd heard about worms indoors, but just couldn't imagine how it would work. I love this idea! See you in four weeks...