The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Large worm bins are resilient

Compost thermometerI'm ashamed to say that we haven't done very well with our worms in the past.  Part of the problem is that we had very little waste to give them since nearly all of our food scraps go to the chickens, and another part of the problem is that I didn't use optimal bedding.  From reading Binet Payne's Worm Cafe, though, I'm also starting to realize that small-scale worm bins are inherently finicky, a problem that is overcome by expanding the worm bin to compost more waste. 

Binet Payne notes that her 32 cubic foot worm bins are very forgiving of environmental conditions.  She places them in the shade, but otherwise doesn't worry too much about the weather even though the bins are located outside.  When the top layer of vermicompost freezes in the winter, the worms just move a bit deeper into the part of the bin where microbial decomposition warms the bedding.  During the summer when Bins to collect food wasteschool is out, the worms do fine coasting along on just a couple of feedings.  Not only do mid-scale worm bins provide enough castings to actually make a dent in a homestead's needs, they are also easier to handle.

But where do you get ten to twenty-five pounds of food waste per day?  After failing at our attempt to beg food waste from the local grocery store, I've got my eye on the school down the road.  I'm on the fence about whether to try to find funding so that I could help them implement Binet Payne's entire program (estimated cost $1,000 to $3,000), or whether I just want to come up with air-tight containers that we could pick up on our bi-weekly trips to town and then compost the food waste on our own farm.  I'll probably present both ideas to their principal and see which one seems most exciting to her.

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This post is part of our Worm Cafe lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Don't forget local restaurants. When I was a boy an adult friend fed a lot full of pigs from what he collected from restaurants and grocery stores.
Comment by Errol Fri Dec 3 12:16:47 2010

Where do you think we live? :-)

Since we go into Dungannon twice a week and only into the "big city" where there are restaurants sporadically, we're really hoping to hit up the school. I suspect the sticking point for many places will be how often we're willing to pick up the scraps --- they probably won't be keen on waiting around for a week or two until my library books are due. But if we can't get the school to come around, we'll definitely try the restaurants next.

Comment by anna Fri Dec 3 12:23:06 2010
As a testimonial for when you talk to the principal, and as you probably already know, kids go wild for worm composting. I brought my bins and all my gear into my Girl Guide unit and they were all over it! They knew much more than I expected and had no hesitation to dig in and loved searching for the baby worms and eggs, and also, they were so savvy about why composting is cool -- how it feeds plants as compost fertilizer!! Given that these are girls between 9 - 12 yrs old, I wasn't sure if they'd be into it, but they loved it! Good luck with setting this up -- it sounds like a great win-win partnership!
Comment by J Fri Dec 3 18:02:08 2010
I think that's the real root of vermiculture's popularity, and I plan to milk it for all it's worth. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Dec 4 10:27:43 2010

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