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Saturday, August 02, 2008

 

Worm Day

It's been raining so much over the last few weeks that we've been neglecting some chores around the Lair. When you have a long to-do list you start with the most pressing item first so today, since it's a beautiful day, we are going to construct a second bin for our worms.

We began raising worms (eisentia foetida) in April to get their castings to use in our garden. These critters lay tons of cocoons and basically double their numbers every 60 days. By June our worms had multiplied to the point where we needed to move them out of the series of plastic totes we had started with. We had also inherited a few pounds of worms from other vermicomposters who were splitting their bins. 


We were up to our wazoo in worms and needed to build them a better home quickly. From all of our reading, we wanted to try using a flow-through bin system and after looking at a few designs, we built our own.

My daughter's boyfriend gave us a couple of 55 gallon barrels and we thought they'd make perfect worm bins. The one flow-through design we saw was a vertical bin but we thought for our first flow-through we'd build a horizontal one.

We put the barrel on its side and with our jig-saw cut panels out of opposite sides. The panel that is the "top" of the bin was cut wider than the panel for the "bottom" of the bin. I found a length of wire store shelving at the Habitat Restore (I love the Restore!) and for 2 bucks it made the perfect grate for the bottom of the bin.



We had some scrap 4x4 lumber laying around so we made a little yoke to set the bin on.



It was starting to rain so it was time to move our new bin into the shed and get the bedding ready for the worms.  We lined the bottom of the bin with a couple layers of damp newspaper. Then we added a layer of shredded newspaper, cardboard and straw to prepare the bed. Next, was the worms. 


In preparation for the move to their new home, we separated the mature worms from their cocoons. We hadn't fed the worms for a few days so we knew they'd be hungry when we moved them.



We emptied our smaller bins of adult worms, castings and all, into the new bin then fed them our special blend of food. All of our kitchen scraps (veggies, fruits, coffee grounds & egg shells) are kept in bags in the freezer. About once a week we thaw the scraps and grind them up in a food processor so we have worm food for the week. The photo above shows the mushed up food layered on top of the layer of worms.

The final step is covering the layer of food with shredded newspaper. This helps to keep the fruit flies away and effectively covers any potential smell. 

The only time we have ever had any unpleasant smell was when we over-fed the worms and allowed the bin to get too wet. This was easily remedied by adding more dry bedding and waiting a few extra days between feedings.



This is what the under side of the bin looks like. Here you can see the layer of newspaper we lined the bottom with. In time, as the worms above eat and deposit their castings, this layer will decompose leaving a layer of rich worm castings to fall into a recycling box we've placed below.

Today our cocoons have hatched and we have a couple of plastic totes full of adult and baby worms. They are quickly outgrowing these bins so we're building a vertical flow-through bin for them. Here's what the babies look like:



We may buy a couple more pounds of worms just to get us up to the production level we want for our chickens. If all goes well, we hope that by this time next year we will have enough surplus worms to supplement our chicken feed next fall and winter. Not to mention mounds of rich vermicompost for our garden.

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2 Comments:

Blogger alan said...

Being a city boy, I'd have never thought of them being good for chicken feed! Good for the lawn, for robins, for fishing...but home grown chicken food!

Brilliant!

alan

3:49 PM  
Blogger Michael Locey, Anahola, Kauai said...

what do you do when the bottom decomposes?
doesn't the whole thing fall through?
How do you reset the bottom, or do you start all over again?
thanks for the great story and pictures.
Michael

3:21 AM  

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