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

Weekly worm bin maintenance

Soak worm bedding

I'm starting to get worm bin day down to a science.  As soon as I get out to the parking area, I soak the worm bedding.  This week, I was lucky to have shredded newspaper (thanks, Mom!), but sometimes I sit out there and tear cardboard into a bucket of water.  I generally soak however much bedding I have, figuring that I can always leave any extra sitting in the bin for days when it's too cold (or I'm in too much of a hurry) to deal with bedding.  This week, I soaked six buckets full.

Weighing food scraps

Next, I weigh all of the bags of food scraps.  Mark has put the bags under the yellow wagon to keep the food safe from critters while they wait for me.  I write down each weight and line up the bags in a big arc so that I'll know which bag weighs how much.

Then I select the bags that will go in the worm bin.  Since we're still only putting about a quarter of the food in the bin each week, I choose the food the worms like the most.

Compost bin

I load up the yellow wagon and haul the rest of the bags over to the compost bin.  I sigh because Lucy has broken in, making short work of my gutter guard reinforcement.  Then I have to laugh because Lucy and the squirrel both pawed out but discarded the winter greenhouse tomatoes.  At least our maurauding animals have good taste.

I pour bags of food scraps into the compost heap, layering wood chips every three inches or so and being sure to top the last layer of food scraps off with yet more wood chips.  I'm putting things like meat and bread into the compost bin, so it's important to keep the food well covered so I don't attract flies.

Mushroom in the worm bin

Back at the worm bin, I take a minute to peruse the flora and fauna.  The cardboard bedding that had been sitting out on the ground all winter is sprouting!  And look at those cute little pink mushrooms growing out of the bin!

Drain worm bedding

I tear myself away from the worm bin ecology (the hardest part of the operation), and scoop all of the bedding out of the soaking buckets to lay it out across the empty floor of the worm bin.  The bedding is too wet for worms at this stage, but since we included a false bottom and lots of drainage holes in our bin, the water quickly seeps out of the bedding.  I capture the drainage water with extra buckets so that I won't have to go down to the creek for water next time I want to soak bedding.

Food scraps

Now I open up the bags I've set aside to go in the bin.  After pouring the food scraps on top of the bedding, I rake the food out flat so that the scraps are only about two inches deep.  Then I top them off with a hearty helping of extra bedding.  Keeping the food scraps thinner and the bedding deeper is my solution to the minor ailments I saw in the bin last week.

An hour and a half later, I've dealt with 205 pounds of food waste.  52 pounds went in the worm bin and the rest in the compost pile.  A perfect Friday afternoon activity!

Our chicken waterer gives chickens something to do during long, boring days in the coop.

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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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