Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Next Step with the Wormy Culture: Make the Bed & Spritz

This was probably the easiest part of the task... finding enough newspapers to strip up and put into the bin as 'bedding' for the wee wormies.  I filled the bin to the top and then spritzed with plain water just to slight dampness, just mixing a bit as one would do with a big old salad.  Then I went out into the yard (in the rain, I might add) and dug around in the compost (this time I wore gloves lol) for the cantaloupe that was buried there three days ago, like a cup, to attract the worms.  And there it was, and there they were, I think.... I was nervous about exposing them to light because I hear that they 'paralyze' in light, and so I quickly transferred them in the upended cantaloupe 'cup' to a little icecream pail with a lid and rushed them into the house.  Sort of like the story I heard from a pediatrician I worked with years ago... she had to go along on a plane trip to pick up an donor organ for a child and quickly, ever so quickly, pack it in ice and bring it right back to wherever it was being received.  I know the analogy is a little weak, but... well, you know, I was nervous.  I stuck the cantaloupe up in the right corner and placed bedding over it.  I note that there are a lot of 'wood bugs' and some fruit flies (or whatever) that also made the journey.  Ew.  How do I get rid of them? Stay tuned.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Putting the Bokashi and Worm Compost Equipment Together


As I mentioned in my last post, I am putting together composting equipment for this winter-- a set of bokashi pails for the kitchen and a worm composting (aka vermi-culture) bin for the side room off the kitchen.

Bokashi involves culturing kitchen scraps with a sort of probiotic that one sprinkles on the waste each time it is put in the pail. It is an anaerobic method of composting (meaning there is no air involved-- more like making traditional sauerkraut) and I intend to take the probiotic scraps and bury them in an 18" deep trench in my backyard and cover the probiotic with soil.  In 2-10 weeks (depending where you live), the bokashi will be unrecognizable as kitchen scraps.  It will even digest meat, bone, and avocado pits.  I have been reassured that there is no nasty odor involved in making bokashi.

The kit for making my bokashi includes 3 5-gallon pails and 2 tight fitting lids for the pails.  Today I drilled 3 small holes dead center in the bottom of 2 of the pails.  I will fit a pail with holes into the pail with no holes, and put on a lid.  When it is full, I will remove it and put it on the deck for a few days (with the lid still on) before digging it into the trench.  In the meanwhile, I will have the second pail with holes fitted into the pail without holes, and will be filling it up with my chopped stuff.  I will let you know more about this as I do it (my son is making the actual bokashi formula and I will talk more about that as well in another post).
5-gallon pail for bokashi process.  I drilled
3 small holes for drainage of the "compost
tea" that will collect in the bottom pail.
Just showing the airtight lid that will cover the pail.
The lids can be purchased separately from the pails
at a hardware store.
My other composting project is a Vermi-Culture or worm composter.  In my last post I talked about 'planting' a melon "cup" to collect the worms out in my regular backyard composter.  I'm going to check to see if that worked later this afternoon.  I also have to get together some vegetable-ink printed newspaper strips/shreds to make a bed for the worms, spritz with some water to dampen, add a little table scrap food, and then add the worms.  Still a way to go, but not an impossible task... no banging of hammers and hauling of heavy wood, etc.  I took a workshop a couple of Sundays ago at the Comox Valley Composting Project on Headquarters Road in Courtenay.  I bought a cordless drill (have been wanting one for a long time) and drilled three holes along the top of each long side of the bin (dime-sized) for aeration, and about 4 small holes in the middle of the bottom for drainage.  The worms don't like light, thus the lid.  I'll keep you posted on this project.
3 dime-size holes along the long side of a plastic
storage bin takes care of letting in air.
Drilled 4 small holes in the bottom of the bin, for
drainage.  I will put a small saucer under the holes and
pieces of wood under the bin to raise it up somewhat
to accommodate the saucer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Vermiculture Starts in my Compost Bin

So, this is something I learned last week at the Vermi- culture workshop at the Comox Valley Regional Compost Education Centre: If you have a regular composting bin you don't have to buy your red wigglers!  They live in your backyard!

Years ago I bought a pound of red wigglers, a squiggling ball of them in an ice cream pail, from the local Oxfam group in Saskatoon, just around the corner from my then-workplace.  I think it cost $5.  The profits went into programming for youth in the community, one program of which was actually learning to operate a worm farm and to do other forms of composting.

I thought that the worms I bought were different from the worms in my garden, a more exotic variety perhaps.

Turns out they are the same critter.  And if you want to start your worm colony you only need three things:
*the worms
*the plastic bin with holes drilled in it and a lid on top
*a bed of newspaper and food

Use newspaper with vegetable ink print and not the chemical ink type.  The Courtenay Record is an example of that vegetable-based ink.  Be careful of anything colored, and for sure, DO NOT USE GLOSSY PAPER.  Tear all the newspaper into strips and fill up your bin (that has holes drilled for air: 3 around the center at the bottom-- right around the small center-- for drainage; 3 on each side around the top of 2 sides of the bin-- NO HOLES IN THE LID.

This is your worm nursery.  Find a place where you want to keep it, maybe near your kitchen.  It will not smell bad.  The worms appreciate a warm environment much as we do, so if your garage is heated, that will work, but if it is -20 in the winter, the worms likely won't survive, or won't reproduce as vigorously.

Put a saucer under your box, right under the three drainage holes (that gives you an idea of where the holes are to be drilled).  This centralizes the drainage.

Now, the last thing I did today was to take a half of a scooped out cantaloupe shell, like a big cup, and bury it about six inches in my compost box.  In about three days it should contain the worms that came to eat there.  These will be my colony's first worms.  Neat huh?

This is as far as I have gotten... more as I do it!  Stay tuned!

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Organic Harvest Score Card 2010

Friend Generous Mike's lush organic kale crop
This year our older grand- daughter started kinder- garten. After her first day in the system (an hour in a Montes- sori classroom) she announced, "Kinder- garten is fine, Lola. I made lots and lots of friends". And I watch other kids returning to school in their new duds or new post-summer identities, all looking hopeful, with their new backpacks slung over their shoulders.

All this hopefulness and optimism for the coming year reminds me of my gardening persona in about May. Any May. I have sprouted new plants, tilled and amended new garden patches, read new advice in books and online.

By mid-July (any mid-July) I have pretty much slacked off on the daily 10-minute check for weeds, the necessary watering, the pruning of roses, the pinching off of bolted Cilantro, etc. We travel here and there doing fun summer things. I spend a lot of time on the Internet doing fun writing projects (or just maintaining my surfeit of blogs). It's too hot--too cold--too dry--too wet-- too smoky, etc. to go out and spend time gardening.

By late August (any late August) I begin to pull in the late 'crops' of organic veggies: a mis-shapen cucumber, an apron-full of tomatoes of various sizes and shapes, herbs as they attract me. I also get anxious about gathering seeds for next year.

It's all pretty pathetic, I confess. And especially when we are invited over to the local seaside hobbyfarmer friend's place to help ourselves to some of his abundance (beets, basil, kale). He explains that the soil in his gardens has been amended every year for over 40 years (by his father-in-law before him, and now, him)with seaweed and compost. We lug home heavy bags of his proffered produce. I do stuff with it: make pesto, dehydrate beets and kale (as chips). I feel sad about our non-abundance.

So, I've decided to try a couple of different methods of amending the soil over the winter. I will dig troughs in the garden major and bury bokashi. I will have a worm colony going in my sideroom off the kitchen. I am excited and hopeful. It is another season of hope and inspiration, much like the start of the schoolyear!

Organic Granny's RECIPE INDEX

Organic Granny's RECIPE INDEX
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