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

Neglected worm bin

Compost wormsSo, I got busy and forgot to check on our worm bin for...three months.

To keep you all up to date, we started a medium-size worm bin in February and filled it with around 9 pounds of worms, shredded paper bedding, and then lots of food scraps from the local middle school.  Throughout February, March, and April, we layered food scraps between shredded paper, torn cardboard, and pieces of cardboard egg cartons, until finally calling the experiment a failure.  The trouble is that the worms just weren't happy with their Uncomposted worm beddingenvironment so they didn't eat.  Pests moved in and the whole thing stunk.

In May, I tossed twenty gallons of horse manure into the bin to see how the worms would like the alternative food.  They loved it!  If I'd gotten smart, I would have added more manure immediately, but instead I got busy and forgot about the bin.

When I finally looked in, I was interested to see that the worms had completely composted all of the manure and had finally started working on the food scraps.  The cardboard had Finishing worm castingscompletely decomposed, but there were still big chunks of paper present --- clearly, shredded paper is not the best bedding material, even though it looks like it should be.  The worms seemed to have run out of food that made them happy too --- I estimate that only about 4.5 pounds of worms remained in the bin.

I shoveled all of the worm castings to one side and Mark helped me fill the rest of the bin mostly up with new horse manure.  Hopefully the worms will all migrate to the prime food and I'll be able to use the finished worm castings on our fall garden and potted plants.  I estimate the total production from 270 pounds of food scraps, 20 gallons of manure, and masses of bedding is about 8 cubic feet (0.3 cubic yards or 60 gallons) --- vastly less than I'd expected, but probably still enough to have positive effects on the garden.

Shoveling manure into the worm bin

Our chicken waterer lets the flock put up with a bit of neglect as well (although not three months' worth!)

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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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