Friday, December 9, 2011

Worm Composting

Hey all, I started a worm compost bin--actually this is my third attempt, the others resulted in a massive die-off that I was not anxious to repeat.  This effort appears to be successful thus far.  I figured that while I was on a green tear I would go for it, though it was probably talking about it with my nine year old son that prompted the action.  Things worth noting are how I got to a successful outcome and how much organic waste one can keep out of the garbage dump.  One of the coolest things about "going green" is how economically efficient it is.  It is puzzling that this point is not made more often. 

I got my worms from the Lower East Side Ecology Center--the Lower East Side has got to be one of the coolest spots in Manhattan, and that's coming from someone who has never lived there.  Meanwhile, I followed all the proper procedures on the web for making a worm bin from a plastic storage container.  I would have preferred to use wood, but I just didn't have the time to build one.  I got two containers, though I only plan to keep one worm bin going at a time.  The second container is for the purpose of harvesting the vermicompost itself.  In theory at least, when the product is ready, one prepares the second container as a new compost container and nests it into the existing one.  The worms then migrate into it via the drainage holes that should be on the bottom.  Currently, I am using the second container as a receptacle for any "compost tea" should leak out.  There has been little so far, but this is because I have been careful not to over-moisten the worm bedding.  Drilling holes is the only real alteration one does to the storage containers.

The bedding appears to be the main thing in successful worm composting.  There needs to be enough of it and of the right consistency and moisture.  There needs to be enough to make the worms feel secure.  It should also not be so damp as to cause suffocation or disease.  I used shredded newspaper as recommended, but found the worms trying desperately trying to escape.  I read somewhere that adding something natural like leaf litter might help, so it being Fall and all, I hastily gathered a plastic grocery bag full of leaf litter and added it to the bin.  I also added more shredded newspaper to the top to create a thin, drier barrier to escape.  It worked!  Mission accomplished with fewer than ten dead escapees.  For seemingly slimy creatures they dry up very neatly in death.  Unfortunate all the same though. 

I didn't think I cooked enough to supply these worms, but I soon realized that there was nothing to fear.  The cooking from one meal may be enough to keep these worms going for a week.  We are a family of five after all.  Stale dry cat food, banana peels, eggshells, lettuce and cabbage cores, etc... will all do fine.  The thing is that all organic waste represents energy.  To have it sit and putrefy in a dump is truly such a waste when it is supposed to be digested and reused by the Earth to generate new life.  Thus, current practice prevents the recapturing of this potential energy and wastes space and energy to do so.  It is this hidden disaster unfolding in garbage dumps around the world that lulls people into a false sense of security about their way of life.  There is a phrase in Spanish used to describe selfish, wasteful people: "No comen, ni dejan comer."  It states that they neither eat, nor allow others to do so.  Here it is literally true. 


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