Saturday, July 19, 2008

Minding My Worms

My worms seem to have their own seasons. In winter they get slow and lazy. Then one day in spring I lift the cover off their "worm hotel" and they've eaten all their newspaper bedding.

We started these worms about three years ago. They did so well, I took some to my daughter's charter school and built a colony there. Good thing, too, because one summer we went away on vacation and left the worms outside. When we returned, the worms were nowhere to be found--fried, apparently, with a few carcasses around the edges of the lid giving witness to how they apparently had tried to flee.

In winter when the outdoor compost pile is frozen solid we devote our kitchen scraps to the worms. A good-size worm colony will eat all our food scraps and turn them into a terrific fertilizer. When they eat through the newspaper bedding, I pull up a chair and start shredding more newspaper.

In fact, the newspaper is not so much bedding as a cover to the wormscape below where we place the food scraps. We use a small garden tool to lift the newspaper and find a fresh spot for scraps. Replacing the newspaper is a purely meditative act. I enjoy a few minutes thinking of nothing, just tearing strips of paper. I've found that the paper tears only in one direction--from the top of the page down. Trying to tear the paper from side to side just makes a mess. I suppose this has to do with the warp and weave of how newsprint in made. I now have a fairly efficient system for cutting whole pages of the newspaper in half, then tearing the paper into thin strips.

Normally I would not take the "worm hotel" outside as you see in this photo. The worms don't like bright light. As I lay the paper strips down, I give them a spritz of water to moisten. I build the paper about and inch high. A thick layer helps keep fruit flies away.

Then its back inside for the worms to munch on their little piles of potato skins and apple cored and melon rinds. They really like melon rinds. Maybe that's what they're waiting for all winter long.


Sarah O. said...

The fact that newsprint tears in one direction only actually happens at the molecular level - it has to do with hydrogen bonds! Icecream, coincidentally, is also formed at the molecular level.

De in D.C. said...

Ironic. I also replaced the bedding in my worm bin today. My colony is only a few months old (I started it in Dec. I think?), but they've been voracious little reproducers. During the summer I'm keeping the bin on our shady screened porch, but am dreading having to bring it back down to the basement when it gets cold out. We had quite the fruit fly infestation in our laundry room by April.

Ed Bruske said...

Sarah, I am so glad someone out there knows why newsprint tears in one direction only. Thanks for that.

De, our worms must be on the same schedule. Yes, the bins can and do attract fruit flies sometimes. I find a think layer of newspaper of the top helps. How about setting out a glass of wine near your worm bin for the flies?