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

Filling the worm bin

Carrying water for worms

Soaking worm beddingMark had a stroke of genius when he thought of buying local worms from craigslist.  Not only did we get more worms for our money (I estimate we came away with about nine pounds of worms for $140), but they also probably got stressed very little during their ride down the interstate.  Sealed up tight in their five gallon buckets, the worms stayed damp and dark, and I suspect we won't see the lag time you often have to wait through before mail order worms get to work.

Worm castingsI've been shredding all of our non-glossy paper (and non-corrugated cardboard) waste for about a month now, so the first step was to soak the new bedding.  We decided to put this worm bin out where we park our cars so that we wouldn't have to haul the scraps half a mile down our swampy driveway in wet weather.  We'll still have to haul out the paper and haul in the worm castings, but those bits of organic matter are less perishable, so we can bide our time and wait on the weather.  Unfortunately, we don't have running water out at the parking area, so I carried a bucket up from the creek, already envisioning ways to capture rainwater out there to make this stage in the process easier.

Since our worms came in nearly-finished worm castings, we just dumped the mixture into one end of the worm bin rather than mixing our livestock into fresh bedding.  The worms will have no problem migrating to the new bedding once we Filling a worm bin with beddingadd food waste, and I suspect that leaving them in their native bedding will speed up the acclimation process even more.

With nine pounds of worms already prepared to work, I plan to start out by adding 30 to 60 pounds of food scraps to the bin each week, adding more food waste over time as the populations grow.  The only flaw in the plan is that my sodden paper shrank down to a much smaller volume than I anticipated --- I figure there's only enough there now to cover up perhaps ten pounds of food waste.  We're going to have to hurry up and find another source of waste paper!

Compost worms

Do you wish your chickens were as easy to care for as your worms?  Our chicken waterer takes the guesswork (and mess) out of backyard chickens.

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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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re: a new source of paper waste = cardboard egg cartons? I asked everyybody I know to start keeping them for me and they do -- worms love 'em.

Comment by J Sat Feb 19 10:19:24 2011
are the children also adding their paper napkins to the food waste? how about a correlative project with the school collecting paper towels from the bathrooms? or some other source of paper from the kitchen at the school? what i'm trying to suggest is that you find a way to get the food and paper from one place, limiting the effort involved.
Comment by kevin Sat Feb 19 13:13:14 2011

J --- great idea! People give us egg cartons all the time, though many seem to be styrofoam. I can completely visualize how the shape of the egg carton would keep it from matting down when broken into medium-sized pieces. We actually have stacks of them in the barn --- sounds like we might be set for a week or two!

Kevin --- the writer of Worm Cafe (who initiated this type of project) collects used paper from the classrooms to augment the food scraps. Unfortunately (fortunately?), the school we visited already has a teacher whose class collects the school's paper waste to recycle, and I certainly didn't want to get in the way of an existing recycling project!

The kids are already adding napkins to the food waste, but that's not very much carbon compared to the nitrogen of the food. Your idea of paper towels in the bathrooms is good, but I'm a bit leery --- that's where my "ew" meter seems to start. :-) I definitely need to do some more brainstorming!

Comment by anna Sat Feb 19 13:30:32 2011

Hey if you ever want to trade worm-stock to improve the gene pool (I wonder how important that is for worms...) we'd be up for trading a pound or two.

By the way, did you lose weight Anna? You look very skinny in that picture of you pouring in the worms.

We're seeing the spring buds start to pop up out of the ground around here too. Also, the turkey has started batting her eyes at me and following me around wherever I go. She spreads out her feathers and drops to the ground when I look at her. Missy's jealous. I'm just happy spring is in the air!!!

We got an incubator for Christmas. I'm hoping to get several new hens this year. Let me know if you ever meet anyone else with buckeye chickens, as we'd like to trade breeding stock.

Catch up soon!?


Comment by Everett Mon Feb 21 10:33:26 2011

Worm genes --- yet another thing for me to research! :-) I suspect that as long as we're both growing the same species of worm, it wouldn't do us much good to swap, but having different species might make things move along better. Do you know what kind you have?

It's amazing how taking off two of your four winter layers improves the figure. I probably lost a tad of weight, but I think what you're seeing is absence of extra sweaters.

Sounds like a good reason for us not to get a turkey! I'd hate to lose Mark to a bird.

What kind of incubator did you get? I'll be very excited to hear what comes of that! (And will keep my ear out for other people raising Buckeyes.)

I'll drop you an email --- I meant to email you about getting together previously. Stay tuned!

Comment by anna Mon Feb 21 12:34:41 2011
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