Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tale of Worms

After months of looking at my Worm Factory Worm bin I finally read the instructions, assembled it and dumped in my worms. And then I accidentally dumped in old compost- yech- the house was smelly in minutes and I had to open all the windows.

To back up a bit- I had been away and my worms were in another city so I had to fly there to pick them up. Yes- most people just order in new worms but I grown attached to my worms - I have had them for seven or eight years at this point. Originally they were my sister's worms and they made her grade three classroom happy as they ate the apple cores and fruit leftovers. After her stroke, Anne could no longer look after her classroom or her worms so they came to me and my daughter. Quickly my busy daughter and her new baby discovered their worms on the floor all dried out. They seem to have committed suicide. In fact they probably died after getting out of the overly wet conditions in the plastic bin. Worms hate being wet and you have to make sure they have plenty of dry bedding to keep them cozy and dry. Once my daughter's worms made their dramatic escape from the overly wet bin they dried out and died on the concrete floor. Luckily I had my worms in a neat little stacking system from Australia - the can-o-worms. They thrived there for years and had tremendous fertility counts. According to the lab tests I had done on them there were millions of protozoa and hundreds of pounds of available nitrogen per pound of finished worm castings. Trouble is- even with the special bin they were still too wet.

That's when I started adding dry leaves and used paper towels and any other dry materials I could find. The system hummed along, did not smell and produced enough little worms to share with friends and family. When I went to pick them up recently they were once again in the care of my daughter and once again far too wet. I realized this is the biggest mistake every new worm caregiver makes. People let their worms get too wet.

Luckily my new improved system ((the Worm Factory) came with very explicit instructions. I set it up all according to plan with the most care you can imagine. And then without checking I dumped a bucket of compost from under the sink into the carefully prepared bin. A bucket of compost that had been there the two weeks I had been gone. The resulting smell had me staggering backwards.

What will happen to my worms now covered with this muck and yuck? Will they live or will they die?
It is now day two. I struggled to stand the smell of the now rancid and rotting fruit and dug into the bin. Success- the worms had crawled down deep to escape the rot and seemed to be thriving in the dry shelter of the mixed coir and pumice below. I scraped out the rot and let the worms relax a bit. Even with seven year's experience I was guilty of almost drowning my worms once again. Thank-fully the good people at the worm factory ship their kits with all the ingredients you need to give your worms a fighting chance. Okay - enough news of worms. Today I start more seeds and I start planning my talks to libraries in Camrose, Rimbey and Stettler. I do need a break from worm wrangling every now and then. (See shiny new worm factory below)

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