Friday, September 3, 2010

How ya' bin?

Today marks 10 days since my darling red wigglers arrived! They seem to be adjusting alright, squirming around and slowly digging into the (perhaps overly ambitious) pile of food scraps. I've limited myself to one (or maximum two) times each day when I open the lid for a moment and look at them. Things are coming along. Susie tells me it takes as long as a month for some worm bins to get going. My little guys must be overachievers -- type-A worms, if you will. Maybe it has to do with all of the healthy, diverse, organic food scraps. And a bit of coffee now and again.

My friend Mike was over the other night to help me can tomatoes -- I know, I know, I still need to write about that -- and I proudly showed him my nascent vermiculture operation. He seemed impressed with how low maintenance the under-sink worm bin has been. (This is good because Mike is slowly being groomed to be my wormsitter when I head to New Orleans and then Torino for conferences in about a month. He only is beginning to suspect this.) Without any prompting, he even commented on how surprised he was that it doesn't smell. Thank goodness: that was one of my concerns, too. In fact, in my informal surveys one of the most common reasons folks seem uncomfortable with the idea of an indoor worm bin is the potential for unsavory odors. I am acutely sensitive to smell. No, really, I have actually turned down dates with people who just, well, smelled funny. Not bad, just... not appealing. Or who happened to be wearing the same cologne as my dad. True story, it happened once in college. But I digress....

Last night, as I returned from a lovely evening of drinks and theater with my friend Ronn, I noticed that something smelled a little funny in my kitchen. Sure enough, when I opened the cabinet under the sink the ripe odor was stronger. And once I took the lid off of the bin: phew! Clearly some anaerobic action was underway. (Also, I noticed that some plants had sprouted -- would they be tomato plants? peppers? melons?? Speaking of melons, here's a pic of a little bitty watermelon that I just noticed starting up in the garden this morning when I was out watering. Woo hoo!)

The smell is starting to get to me. Arkady and I were distracted by it tonight while concocting our roasted tomato tart and tomato corn salad. I lit a candle on the kitchen counter, hoping that it would have the same effect as candles did in stinky shared college bathrooms, but it didn't seem to do much to alleviate the stinkiness. So of course I started researching....

According to the Worm Ladies (and other vermiculture experts concur), if you're doing things right the bin should not smell. (Apparently the worms are the overachievers, not me.) The most common culprits behind unpalatable aromas are too much moisture (maybe I shouldn't've put in quite so many melon rinds) or too little ventilation (maybe I need more air holes) or adding in animal-based products (so the handful of cooked shrimp tails on Wednesday may have been a bad idea). It's too hot for me to air out the bin outdoors -- oh, that DC heat! -- nevermind the brazen rat population that would welcome the self-contained buffet, so for now I've fished out the rancid shrimp shells (while holding my breath), added a bit more shredded paper, stirred things up to create some air pockets, left the lid partially open, and put a box of baking soda under the sink. It's smelling pretty rank, but I am hopeful the damage is not irreparable. (I'm also hopeful Mike isn't reading this.)

The core message I have taken away from my various, slightly panicky e mail exchanges with the calm, reassuring Susie (of the Worm Ladies) is that the best thing I can do is leave the worms alone and let them do their job. So, now that I've checked to be sure there isn't standing water in the bin, I'll let them be. I'm heading out of town for the long weekend and the worms seem to have plenty of food and adequate moisture in there. We'll see how it goes....

1 comment:

  1. Odor update: I returned from these weekend's garlic festival in the Poconos to an unstinky apartment. Whew!

    Note to self: no more seafood in the worm bin.


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