Friday, August 20, 2010

Diary of an amateur vermiculturist

By now you might gather I am a little obsessed with composting. I have been known to pack out my vegetable peels after making dinner at friends' houses so that Ollie and I might bike them home and deposit the future black gold in my Oscar the Grouch compost bin out back. (My scraps have traveled from such far flung kitchens as those in Foggy Bottom, Pentagon City, Takoma Park, Columbia.) I have trouble sitting still when I see food being tossed in the trash -- I mean I actually get noticeably twitchy. And yet to date there's been no recourse for bits of cooked food I scrape from plates after a dinner party or any protein-based remnants in the home composting setup I have at my disposal. Well, things are about to get a little bit more interesting in the soil building department....

By this time next week I will have my very first under-the-sink worm bin teeming with squirming, munching, pooping, composting machines. Yes, worms. I can't wait!

In preparation I find myself puttering about the apartment moving this and that, measuring and remeasuring, even doing a little decorating. I spent yesterday evening clearing out space for the future worm buffet and making a welcome sign. I can't help wondering if this is what "nesting" feels like. (Should my mother be concerned that my maternal impulses are being directed toward what many would consider fish bait? Perhaps.) But seriously, if you were a hungry worm, doesn't this look like somewhere you'd like to live, maybe start an asexually reproducing family? Prime Columbia Heights under-sink real estate (and you *know* the food scraps will be consistently above average).

I also made a list of questions to ask Susie, of the friendly Worm Ladies -- the Rhode Island-based small business who will graciously be sending me my first batch of worms -- so that I know what to expect when I'm expecting. You see, as excited as I am, and as much as I've read and spoken with other people who have tried their hand at vermiculture (the fancy word for "worm composting") -- heck, I even volunteered at Growing Power, Milwaukee's own urban composting mecca -- I find that I still have a lot of questions. How will I know if I'm doing things right? How often do I need to add cardboard? Is the bin big enough? What if it's too small? How many air holes will my wormies need? How can I tell when it gets too crowded in there? How will I know if they have enough food? How much is too much food? Are there foods I should avoid? (I compost a fair bit of coffee grounds, but what if they have too much caffeine: will the worm bin start rattling? If so, should I tipple a little cooking wine in there to calm them down? Kidding...mostly.) What if they get too cold? Or too hot? What if they drown? Or dehydrate? How do I get the finished worm castings -- the fancy term for worm poop -- out? Will they smell funny? Will they like me?

My first batch of red wigglers -- the preferred vermiculture candidates, due to their chill disposition and ability to eat their own weight in food scraps each day -- will be mailed out on Monday. I'm actually having trouble falling asleep I'm that excited. If you've ever daydreamed about building your own indoor worm composter, stay tuned for the next installment of The Diary of an Amateur Vermiculturist....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

1 comment:

  1. I love our pet red wigglers - the best thing about them is they munch away with very little involvement on our part - we've decided that they thrive in situations of extreme neglect :)
    So, you made it! I just received the news in the mail...congrats! I am so glad to have worked, cooked, and eaten with you - hope to see you again one day!
    p.s. we have some fennel getting big at the farm, and I really look forward to trying out the salad recipe!
    Emily (Fort Wayne, IN)


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