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

Building a better worm bin

Worm bin

Yellow-billed CuckooOur readers are very kind not to call us cuckoo for overbuilding our worm bin when we intentionally underbuild so many other parts of our farm.  (Yes, that sentence is an excuse to include this bird photo I took while trying to tempt our more skittish cat out of a tree on Friday.)

The main incentive for building an elegant worm bin that will last a hundred years is that we had some hefty, free lumber lying around.  But we also decided to take the opportunity to correct the problems we've noticed in midscale worm bin version 1.0 over the last year.  That's the great thing about underbuilding the first time around --- you generally get a second stab at the problem a few years later once you've figured out exactly how you want to tweak the project to fit your own needs.

(Verison 1.0 is still in use, by the way --- the Cadillac is merely an expansion of the vermiculture operation.  I'll give you more details of what's going inside both bins in a later post.)

Showerboard worm bin bottomYou can see a supply list and construction notes for our first midscale worm bin here.  Version 1.0 was quick, dirty, and cheap and it (mostly) worked, but the design was clearly flawed.  I thought I'd be able to collect worm tea, but in reality, this large worm bin didn't make any liquid (or at least not enough to collect), so we ditched the false bottom when making our second bin.  Meanwhile, Mark got the bright idea of adding showerboard to the floor of version 2.0 in hopes of delaying wood rot in this dampest portion of the bin.  Since we didn't want to pierce the showerboard, that left us without aeration Gap in wall of worm binholes, so our helper suggested spacing the boards that make up the sides about a quarter of an inch apart to give lots of room for air movement.

From a purely ergonomic standpoint, I seldom opened version 1.0 because an 8 by 4 foot sheet of plywood was simply too heavy and ungainly for me to easily handle, even on hinges.  So our helper split the lid on this new worm bin into thirds, adding braces to the inside of the bin to prevent the second lid problem we'd noticed --- warping of the plywood.  (You can see the lids well in the top right photo in this post.)

Compost wormsSo far, the only slight problem I've had with the bin is opening the middle lid --- my arms aren't quite long enough to really open it all the way.  I suspect we'll find more flaws as we use the bin, and will make version 3.0 even more efficient.  For the moment, though, Mark and I are both so pleased with our Cadillac worm bin that we go visit it from time to time and I even dreamed about it Thursday night.  Quite a lot of excitement for our quiet farm!  Imagine how ecstatic we'll be when we actually seed the bin with worms.

Our chicken waterer takes advantage of years of improvements to make your chicken chores quick, easy, and fun.

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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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How about a stout stick to hold the center lid open, or a rope and pulley hanging off that tree. Tie a loop in the rope and strategically place a nail to catch the loop and hold the lid open. This post is probably useless as Mark has probably already come up with umpteen solutions by now... Nice bin!
Comment by Dave V Sun Jun 10 20:34:25 2012
Dave --- Actually, I didn't even tell Mark about that minor issue until he read it in the post. I really like your pulley on the tree idea!
Comment by anna Mon Jun 11 08:04:25 2012

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