My composting worms are housed in an average-sized bin that we keep in the hallway just outside our apartment door. This spot next to the recycling bin is great three out of four seasons of the year since it saves precious space inside our apartment and is the perfect distance between the roof garden and the kitchen. Unfortunately, the winter season poses a problem. The hallways are heated but just barely, not nearly enough to keep redwigglers (Eisenia foetida) alive.
This year, rather than lugging the big bin into the apartment and living with it underfoot until spring, I decided to downsize. The population in my bin is pretty tame right now. It’s good for the worms to have lots of room in the bin but mine were the equivalent of a two person family living in a monster home. Resizing and moving the contents was easy enough. The bin wasn’t ready to be harvested so I simply prepared a new bin using a smaller container I already had on hand. The worms went into the new bin, bedding and all.
They needed a small top-up of bedding so I shredded some used paper bags I had been saving and moistened it slightly before adding it to the bin. I’ve tried a variety of methods and materials for making bedding over the years and brown paper or paper bags shredded in a paper shredder is my favourite way to go. I don’t mind newspaper but prefer not to use it for reasons that really only come down to pure vanity.
I made a few changes to this new bin based on its size. I was most concerned about creating good air flow in such a small bin so I added a few extra holes to the bottom and top with a few more added to the sides. I also added a large hole on top using a drill bit meant for making doorknob holes. I added a piece of coir planter lining, which can be pulled out to increase air flow. I did this because sometimes the bin can get too wet, requiring me to prop open the lid to increase circulation. This works well but I tend to forget about it and leave it propped for too long, sometimes drying out the bedding more than I had intended. The idea behind the larger hole is to regulate air flow more subtly. We don’t have vermin so there is no fear of mice getting into the bin through the large hole and taking up residence. If you do have mice that come in for the winter I would suggest adding more small holes and skipping the larger hole.
Another little trick I’ve come up with over the years is propping the bin on top of small flower pots. Bricks and cans work too. Propping the bottom up allows for better air flow underneath the bin. And the extra plastic lid underneath catches any run-off which can be saved and poured onto your plants as fertilizer.
In Conclusion: I Rule
We’ve been living with the new bin for about 2 weeks now and so far it has been great. I love it and have offered myself numerous mental high fives since making the shift. As you can see, the new bin fits perfectly underneath a table in the kitchen so composting takes about 5 seconds. The new larger hole on top has been genius — I haven’t had any problems regulating air flow and have avoided having to prop open the lid.
For more on vermicomposting:
I ordered a 1/2 pound of red wiggler worms back in May but the sellers have experienced such a boom in orders this year that they were unable to fill my order until July. Encouraging don’t you think?
I have kept a vermicomposter many times but haven’t had one recently. We’ve just been composting on the roof in boxes or carrying our food scraps over to the community garden where our bins of dry browns need all the wet they can get.
I have to admit though that I love having a bin of worms living with me, so when I had an excuse to get some I jumped on it. I have loved worms since I was a kid. Worms remind me of summer nights running outdoors searching the neighbors’ “lawns” for little dew worm heads poking up out of the ground. We always let them go, there was no reason to keep them. I just liked finding them and feeling them wriggle in my hands. I still do.
Worms also remind me of my grade two teacher, Mrs. Hamson. I’m pretty sure her name was Hamson although my brain wants it to be Hamster.
Anyways, when it rained the concrete pad of my schoolyard became flooded with worms, and I’m not sure if it was a particularly rainy year or what but the boys in my grade had developed a trend of throwing worms at the girls and it seemed like this was happening fairly regularly. This of course always sent the girls off shrieking which only served to egg the boys on more. Mrs. Hamson sat us down one day and explained that worms are animals, that there was nothing for the girls to be afraid of and that the boys should respect them as living creatures and leave them be. She brought some worms in and we all took turns touching and holding them.
That lesson has always stuck with me. I wasn’t one of the kids throwing the worms or one of the kids having worms thrown at me for that matter but what created an impression was the fact that this adult cared enough about something as small as a worm to teach us a lesson about creature abuse. A lot of adults in my neighborhood kicked cats and abused their kids. So when our teacher talked about the lowly worm as something to be respected and cared for she was also telling us something important about all living beings and ourselves. And what’s more she taught by example with a kind voice instead of lecturing or finger wagging. I don’t think I was the only kid who heard her because the worm throwing did stop. To be replaced shortly thereafter by digging clay or petrified cat poo out of the sandbox to throw at each other.
Here’s how to make a worm composter. They’re fun to have around, especially if you have kids, and those suckers (the worms, not the kids) will eat their body mass in food scraps daily. Worm poo is some of the best stink-free organic fertilizers you can also make yourself. Just be sure to get yourself the red wiggler type. Dew worms, night crawlers, and earth worms are good in the garden but won’t survive the conditions of a compost bin.
About a week or two ago all of the baby starlings that live in our eavesdrop fell out of the nest — the nest that was built on the severed and torn parts of many of my tomato plants including the ‘Zapotec Pink Pleated’ and the ‘Patio Orange’, two plants that are forever malformed by the trauma — landing in a succession of hard thumps onto the potting table and turning our lives into a minor farcical comedy staring John Lithgow or Chevy Chase as a bumbling family guy forced to take on the ill-prepared responsibility of caring for a tiny, demanding creature (or creatures). Wacky hijinks ensue. Except that we’re pretty much mostly prepared since around here a baby starling or three seem to fall out of the nest every single year. We’ve been through this routine before.
We immediately made a makeshift nest using a cardboard box and dried plant matter. Lucky for us the parent starlings figured out the situation quickly and have been feeding the babies regularly. Despite their attentiveness two babies have since died. The first was probably injured in the fall and died soon after. The second was smaller than the third and less active. The surviving bird seems healthy and has grown from a nestling that looked like this to one that looks like this. We’ve had to bring the box indoors on a few nights that were too cold, have had to keep the cat inside (she hates us for it), and have found it necessary to stay off the deck ourselves to allow the parents freedom to feed. If we are out there when they come by with food they screech and yell at us to get lost. I like the baby bird but I look forward to the day when it is ready to fly the nest and we can have our deck back.
If you find a starling nestling this site has good instructions on how to care for the baby. Starlings actually leave the nest at the fledgling stage and live on the ground for a couple of days learning to catch food and fly. If you find a baby on the ground it might not be orphaned but in its fledgling stage so it’s important to understand the difference.