Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My lovely worms come into the kitchen for the winter.

And they have a new floor to sit upon. Artist daughter had a one-word comment on the new floor: "outdated."

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Horned caterpillar & frass. Too beautiful to kill. So he's living in a plastic ventilated box on my sunroom.

He's been in captivity for only about 3 hours but already he's pooped up a storm. Lovely little greenish black blossom-pellets, called "frass." Remember that for your next game of Scrabble.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Harvesting day yesterday. I used the little-piles-of-poop method. Worms dig down to escape sun. Tops of piles become pure poop.

A sad tale of a black snake in my new tomato bed.

So sad. I discovered an adult black snake twisted in the netting I put around a tomato bed, netting to keep the deer out as long as possible. (The deer always win in the end.) One theory is that the snake crawled in through one little hole and then turned around later and tried to exit through another hole and found himself entangled. Or he came in through one hole, then ate something like a toad, and wasn't able to get back out because of the lump in his gullet. In either case, he was alive when I found him but possibly dying. Flies were gathering. My lovely son Greg did as much cutting of netting as he could do, but Mr. Snake had swelled so much that the netting was tight around his body. I should have taken a shovel and ended his life right there. But I just couldn't. And I didn't ask Greg to do it either. So I lifted him up with a long pole and tossed him into the woods next to the house. Vultures will get him. Maybe something else. I feel very sad about this because I know the snake was good for my garden. And he did no harm. He's creepy of course, but so are slugs. I may try to install some kind of snake guard along all of my fences that involve netting. A huge job, so maybe not. The end.

I love my worms but I don't love slugs. But I'm trying to feel neutral about them.

They must have some redeeming qualities. They are sort of pretty, I think. Black and brown is a nice color combo.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I don't harvest often enough.

This is one of my lower bins. Everyone looks healthy I'd say. But I could harvest castings more often than I currently do. So today I will! The worms make me feel especially sluggish and unproductive today: I overslept my yoga class. Seems really decadent. I have only one firm obligation each week and it's yoga. I want to be more like my worms. They don't oversleep. I guess. I wonder if anyone rally knows if worms sleep?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I inherited a new worm bin.

I haven't started using it yet because I don't like the 2-3" layer of plastic packing peanuts between the lining and the bottom of the bin. I know why they're there, I guess. But I really hate those things. This bin was made by a semi-famous local girl, about 11 years old, who sells the bin and a supply of worms for a reasonable price, which I've forgotten. Isn't her hand-made label adorable?

Top, Eisenia foetida (redwiggler). Middle, Eisenia hortensis (European nightcrawler). Bottom, Lumbricus terrestris (Canadian nightcrawler).

I can't see much if any difference. But every worm "expert" says never bring nightcrawlers, the worms found in your garden, into a closed vermicomposting system. I can't remember why. But will find out. Again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Worm juice. The stuff of much controversy.

I added this juice (I should think of a better word) to a watering can nearly full of water and sprinkled it over some of my plants. I do this from time to time. I have no idea if it helps the plants but I think it can't hurt them, especially considering how infrequently I do it. Compost tea is controversial. Much more interesting than whatever CNN decides is controversial.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My original vermicomposter system on the right; my inherited system on the left.

The details of my inheritance can be found here.

About worm eggs (I found this on some forum somewhere and liked it):

"Worms lay eggs. You know that saddle in the middle of them that looks like they've been chopped in half and restitched together? That slides off their body and forms an egg sack (which looks like a tiny onion - or fertiliser pellet) which will eventually produce between 12-20 young un's. When you go through the bedding next time you should look for those too.

"So a population of 21 worms can multiple into many thousands if given a few good months.

"I teach highschool enviro. science and we breed worms in class - my students have turned 10 or so worms into hundreds in just weeks. They each count their own pet worms before making mini Coke bottle worm farms. We have a competition to see who has the most sexy worms."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fresh castings.

I'm on youtube! A friend gave me her worm composting setup and she recorded the moment of adoption. Go here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cleaned out my little pond. Not sure if these worms want to be submerged.

I've been scooping them out every day and placing them on the ground. Next day I find more. When it got hot today (high 70s) they turned white.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What, exactly, is in worm castings?

This is one answer. It's not referenced, so I can't be sure it's totally accurate but it sounds right from what reading I've done so far.
From this site.
The bacterial population of a worm cast is much higher than the bacterial population of either worm’s gut or ingested soils.

One of the important components of worm cast is the humus, a complicated material formed during the breakdown of organic matter. The humic acid in humus provides many binding site for plant nutrients, such as iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and sulfur. These slow release nutrients are stored in the humic acid molecule in a form readily available to plants, and are released when they are needed by the plants.

Worm cast also contain worm mucus which will keeps the nutrients from washing away. These mucus acts as glue to agglomerate soil particles. It holds moisture better than plain soil. Worm cast can hold 2-3 times their weight in water. It will improve the water holding capacity of the soil. In other words, your soils will remain dampen for a longer period of time.

Worm cast are rich in microbial life which helps break down nutrient already present in the soil into plant available forms. It also enriching soil in micro-organisms, adding plant hormones such as auxins and gibberellic and adding enzymes such as phosphatase and cellulase.

Worm cast improve soil structure, porosity, aeration and water retention capabilities. The product can insulate plant roots from extreme temperatures, reduce erosion and control weeds. It is odorless and consists of 100% recycled materials.

Worm casting contains 5 times the available nitrogen, 7 times the available potassium and 1.5 times more calcium than found in 15cm of good top soil. It will contains all the necessary nutrients when the wastes fed is well balanced (e.g., fruit peels, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, garden wastes, grains, breads, small amount of egg shells and bones, shredded newspapers and cardboards.)

Nice youtube. Worms rule!

Excellent harvesting video here. He used some fancy avocado bridge technique that I might try too. (Oh...how could I forget Neil Young! He's there too. I'll bet he vermicomposts.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Low-tech vs. high-tech worm composting. Will I try the jeans composter? How can I not?

Here's the deal with the table. Food scraps go down a hole in the center of the table. Worm tea drips out the bottom and feeds the plants. Human can view the worms inside their home via a camera with a ultraviolet light that won't disturb the worms. They hate light you know. They have no brains but they have a nervous system. It runs down the length of their body and is exquisitely sensitive to light.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Social networking for the wormy set.

I've joined vermicomposters.com. I'm now literally on a map with 800+ other worm fanatics. How can anyone not love worms?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Latest results in the castings vs. compost vs. clay experiment

The tallest is the clay plant. The castings plant looks very healthy and there's a second lemon plant in the pot, along with some other sprouts (alfalfa?). The compost plant is the smallest of the three. Surprising. Clay on right, castings in the rear, compost on the left.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Full moon soon. According to the Farmers Almanac, March's full moon is known as the Full Worm Moon.

From here.

"At the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A child, one of my own, asked me a simple question today: aren't worms considered insects? I didn't know the answer. But Wikipedia does.

From Wikipedia:
There are hundreds of thousands of species [of worms] that live in a wide variety of habitats other than soil. Over time this broad definition narrowed to the modern definition, although this still includes several different animal groups. Phyla that include worms include:
* Acanthocephala (spiny-headed worms)
* Annelida (segmented worms)
* Chaetognatha (arrow worms)
* Gnathostomulid (jaw worms)
* Hemichordata (acorn/tongue worms)
* Nematoda (roundworms)
* Nematomorpha (horsehair worms)
* Nemertea (ribbonworms)
* Onychophora (velvet worms)
* Phoronida (horseshoe worms)
* Platyhelminthes (flatworms)
* Priapulida (phallus worms)
* Sipuncula (peanut worms)

The most common worm is the earthworm, a member of phylum Annelida. Earthworms in general have been around for 120 million years, and are theorized to have evolved during the time of the dinosaurs. ...They lack a brain but have nerve centers (called ganglia); they also lack eyes but can sense light with photoreceptors. Worms are hermaphrodites (both sexes in one animal) but can cross fertilize.

Other invertebrate groups may be called worms, especially colloquially. In particular, many unrelated insect larvae are called "worms", such as the railroad worm, woodworm, glowworm, bloodworm, inchworm, mealworm, or silkworm.

Worms may also be called helminths, particularly in medical terminology when referring to parasitic worms, especially the Nematoda (roundworms) and Cestoda (tapeworms). Hence "helminthology" is the study of parasitic worms. When an animal, such as a dog, is said to "have worms", it means that it is infested with parasitic worms, typically roundworms or tapeworms.

"Ringworm" is not a worm at all, but a skin fungus.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

An experiment.

In his book about Vegetable Mould Darwin describes some of his techniques for studying the burrowing behavior of worms. I'm doing a similar experiment and you can see, just barely, some of the first burrows.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I'm going to harvest today! Why do I enjoy this so much? Maternal behavior?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Darwin on Vegetable Mould.

In the year 1837, a short paper was read by me before the
Geological Society of London, {2} "On the Formation of Mould," in
which it was shown that small fragments of burnt marl, cinders,
&c., which had been thickly strewed over the surface of several
meadows, were found after a few years lying at the depth of some
inches beneath the turf, but still forming a layer. This apparent
sinking of superficial bodies is due... to the large
quantity of fine earth continually brought up to the surface by
worms in the form of castings. These castings are sooner or later
spread out and cover up any object left on the surface. I was thus
led to conclude that all the vegetable mould over the whole country has passed many times through, and will again pass many times through, the intestinal canals of worms. Hence the term "animal mould" would be in some respects more appropriate than that commonly used of "vegetable mould."

...nowhere in England have I seen the
ground so thickly covered with castings as on commons, at a height of several hundred feet above the sea. In woods again, if the loose leaves in autumn are removed, the whole surface will be found strewed with castings.
From: http://www.darwin-literature.com/The_Formation_Of_Vegetable_Mould/0.html

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Eau de worms.

Someone on Amazon.com bought some red worms. He made this comment about his purchase.

Hesitant at first about mail-order worms, but extremely pleased with purchase. Flavor notes: Woodsy, slightly floral bouquet followed by a rich nuttiness and a slightly smoky, slightly salty finish. Fantastic with a sidecar of soy sauce and box of cheap merlot.

They LOVE cantaloupe.

From my back yard. Don't know what they are. Earthworms, of course, but exactly what kind of earthworms.