Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Worms Have Arrived!

Well, Bentley was right on the mark when he said the worms could arrive today. I was very busy this morning preparing their new home. I thought I'd share a few pics of the process and product.

Hmm... well, for some reason this first pic turned sideways when I uploaded it. I'm not sure what that's about. Anyway, this one shows the holes I cut in the Rubbermaid bin for air and drainage. There are three long, skinny air holes along the tops of both long sides of the bin. And there is one square-ish hole cut more or less in the center of the bottom for drainage and to allow the worms to migrate from one bin to the next when the bins are stacked.

This next picture is of the package of meshy stuff I used to cover the air holes. I wanted something that would permit good air-flow, but inhibit bug infiltration. I am sooo not a big fan of fruit flies! I have read that some people either freeze their scraps or microwave them before adding them to the worm bin in an effort to prevent fruit flies (by killing any eggs laid on the scraps). The "worm food" I've been saving the last few days went into the freezer. Anyway, this meshy stuff is actually replacement filter material for window air conditioners. It is washable, so if it gets gross I can clean it and re-use it. I read Encyclopedia Hydroponica's blog entry about the modifications he made to his worm bin. He used nylon pantyhose to cover the air holes on his bin. I worried that nylons would be too fine for good air flow and would possibly grow mold from the humidity of the bin. So I went with this air conditioner filter stuff. I'll let you know how it works out.

This next pic shows the section of hardware cloth I cut and set in the bottom of the bin. It serves a couple purposes. It helps distribute the weight over the whole bottom after I cut that hole in the middle. It also allows the worms to pass through into the next bin, while supporting and retaining the materials accumulated in the bin. The bottom hole looks dark because it is covered, on the exterior, by a piece of the air conditioner filter. That should keep the worms from exiting prematurely and also deter bug infiltration. But back to the hardware cloth- this picture doesn't show it, but because the edges were sharp, I melted a little paraffin wax to coat the edges. Don't want my wormies getting torn up! For the second bin I will probably coat the entire piece of hardware cloth. But this time I was racing the clock...

Here you see the exterior view of my duct taping handiwork. Okay, it may not win any beauty contests; but if it keeps fruit flies out, I think it's a shoo-in for Miss Congeniality. You can sort of get an idea of how much air this filter material allows through by the amount of back-light you can see through the air holes. I tried to get a close-up of the filter material, but my camera just did not want to focus on it.

This is just an exterior bottom view. You can see a hint of the hardware cloth through the mesh. Nothing too exciting. I tried to get a picture of the worm pile after I put it in the bin. None of those shots really turned out.
And last, but certainly not least, here is a shot of the finished set-up. I have the bin resting on a couple of broad landscape pavers that rest on an upturned bin lid. There is room underneath for me to place a shallow tray to catch any drippings from the bin without having to pull apart two bins like you often see with these Rubbermaid bin systems. This is all an experiment. I haven't cut the second bin yet bacause I want to wait to see how this set-up works out. If I need to make adjustments, I will.


Meg said...

Wow! I'm following this with bated breath! I, too, dislike the fruit flies. And they are rampant at the old plastic pitcher that I use to toss scraps in before taking them outside. Winter is indeed on its way, and your worm bin is looking better and better. Good luck!

mamawhatthe said...

Thanks! We have had our first "worm issue" (see latest post regarding suicidal worms), but for the most part so far so good.
I should mention that the worms managed to squeeze out under the bin lid and not through any of the mesh covered holes in the bin (even though I had weighter the lid with a landscape paver!)
I am hoping the fruit flies are not smart enough to figure out how to do that.

Hydroponica said...

Very interesting design. I like the filter idea. I was trying to build my bins out of "at hand" materials as much as possible since my wife was (and is) not entirely thrilled with the "pet worm" concept.

I'm not completely happy with the design of my bins but as much as I might want to tinker with them I really don't see myself being able to sell the wife on the idea of buying more stuff to "modify".

One question for ya - where were your worms escaping from exactly?

mamawhatthe said...

Hi there Hydroponica. Thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed your site and thought, for a little while there, I might have to try your very clever worm bin LED light idea.

The worms escaped by squeezing under the bin lid, even though I had weighted the lid with a landscape paver. I have not quite figured out how to prevent this. But at the moment the worms seem to be willing to stay put in the bin.

Just a word about the filter material... I spent $1.27 on that package which included a sheet approximately 2'x3'. Because the pieces I used were so small, I pretty much have a lifetime supply left over. So I don't feel too bad about springing for that.

Hydroponica said...

Darn, I was afraid you were going to say that they escaped from under the lid. There's two basic types of bins out there you can buy, the kind you have and the kind I have, and I was hoping yours might be a little more escape-proof.

My worms seem to have overcome their fear of light. I don't have a major issue with them escaping, but I'd like to completely eliminate the exploration.

mamawhatthe said...

Hydroponica, Have you tried laying a damp section of newspaper over the top of the worm/food/bedding mass in the bin? I have read about this being used to discourage fruit flies- but it might also serve to redirect wayward worms.

Hydroponica said...

Yeah, I've got a sheet of damp cardboard over the top right now... once that's chewed up a bit I might try some newspaper but I don't think it'll slow these guys down much.

The weather stripping I showed being applied to the lid in my blog entry doesn't seem to even slow these guys down. They actually managed to "slime" the adhesive on it enough that it won't stick anymore.

mamawhatthe said...

Hydroponica- I wonder if they feel crowded? Have you considered splitting the colony in two and starting a second bin?

Also, one of the things I wondered about at first with my bin was if I had soaked the paper long enough to leach out enough of the chemicals. I haven't been adding any paper to the bin, just food leftovers.

Hydroponica said...

That could be, but if so they bred really, really fast. I only got a pound of worms to start off and that bin is at least 2 square feet of surface area.

My understanding is that this is plenty of room.

I wouldn't mind expanding but I doubt the wife would be as enthusiastic.

mamawhatthe said...

Okay hydroponica, er, E.H. ;)... I had to give this a little thought. And even that didn't help. The only ideas I've come up with are: that your population may be larger than you think- I looked up the E.h.'s and learned they can double their population in 90 days. So, if you've had them for 90 days, you could have two pounds in there. And if you've had them for 180 days you better get to fishin' 'cause you could potentially have four pounds! Also, aren't they a larger worm than the "red wigglers". Maybe they need more space anyway? And the other thought I had was maybe there is something about the bedding they don't like? If you are using paper are you leaching it real well first? Worms tend to flee areas with chemical contamination- I'm thinking about lawns treated with god-knows-what. Is there a possibility that some kind of chemical residue is entering the bin?

That's all I've got at the moment. Keep me posted. I'm really curious what's going on now. Maybe E.h.'s are just more active worms? And you're sure the bin's not too wet?

Hydroponica said...

Definitely not too wet. E.H.'s like it wetter than the red wigglers anyway, but I've got holes drilled in the bottom to let excess liquid drain out and there hasn't really been much of anything drip out.

A very little bit now and then, but nothing significant.

It's possible they've flourished but I'm skeptical I'm that good a worm wrangler just yet. I just moved and the worms are still at the old place, but I'm getting them and the plants tomorrow so I'll have a closer look at them soon to see what's what.

They're still eating a lot so things can't be too bad. My new neighbors are all green-thumbed and are excited about the worms.