Worms Are Eating Our Food

28 April 2009

worms1-01Why is Lillyan looking through a bin of rotting food and dirt?  She is looking for worms.  They “help me feel better,”  she says.

With all the gardening going on around here lately, we’ve decided to start composting as well.  But not just good ole, garden-variety, big pile in your backyard composting  —  vermicomposting!

Vermicomposting means using earthworms to aid in the process.  Everything you could ever want to know about it is here, at Worm Digest.  Worms eat organic matter and turn it into enriched soil.  They are little, wiggly natural fertilizer factories.

 

worms1-02This is our worm bin.  It came from Worms Wrangler, but there are plenty of places on the web to find one.  Ours has five trays and a drip pan with a spout for “worm tea.”  We’ll talk about the tea another day. 

The idea is that you fill the bottom tray, the worms completely compost whatever is in there and then they move up to the next tray.  You don’t have to mound and sort and dry out and separate your worms from your compost like you do in a traditional worm bin. 

 

worms1-03The worms need bedding along with all the old food, and from my research, Coconut Coir is their favorite.  Lord knows we want these worms to be happy!  Coir fibers are found between the husk and the outer shell of a coconut, and coir is a sustainable resource.  It is sold in compressed blocks like this, but I didn’t need near that much, so I cut one in half with my trusty hand saw.  More difficult than you might think.  That’s one dense block of coconut hair.

 

worms1-04You have to soak the coconut coir in a bucket of water.  That one half-brick was way too much for this bucket.  As you can see it’s still pretty dense in there.  Be sure you give yourself plenty of room for coconut hair expansion, I guess.  Who knew.

 

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Then squeeze the excess water out of the coir and you have worm bedding!  Those worms are just going to be in worm heaven … wait … Would EARTHworms enjoy heaven?

 

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Then you add a couple of handfuls of organic potting soil, and voila, a five-star hotel for Red Wigglers.  Just wait until they hear about the 5-course meals!

 

worms1-08It’s helpful to have a two-year-old mix it all up for you while you take the photos.

 

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Most compost bins just love grass clippings, so Daddy has been saving these for us, but we discovered worms are just not that into them.  They can’t be bothered with grass when there are organic navel orange peels to eat.  Guess the grass clippings have to go.

 

worms1-10This is the stainless steel pail that sits on our kitchen counter for collecting food for vermicomposting.  It has filters in the lid, so even though there may be strawberry tops growing fuzz in the bottom, you’d never smell it.  We put all our fruit and vegetable waste in here, but no meats, fish or dairy.

 

worms1-11Again, try to get a two-year-old to do your dirty work.  She’s mixing up the old food with all the presoaked coconut coir and a tiny bit of potting soil.

 

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All set.  Now all we are missing are the worms.  We wait eagerly everyday for the mail lady to arrive.  (Worms come in the mail, didn’t you know that?)

 

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Delivered fresh by your US Postal Service:  two-pounds of Red Wiggler Earthworms.  There are about 2000 of those little guys in that sack (according to the seller). They are packed with a little more of, yep, you guessed it, coconut coir.  Lucky worms.

 

worms1-14Here they are, in all there wiggly, rotten-food-lovin’ glory.  Lillyan was thrilled.

 

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Yes, we used our hands to mix them all up with the old food and coir.  Nothing like squishly earthworms and black banana peels under your fingernails.   Now those worms just need to get to eating!

 

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Everyday we peek in at our worms.  Lillyan insists on telling them “night night” before every nap or bedtime.  They are shy creatures, though, so she has to make it quick.  They hate the light, so when we take the lid off, they dive under the surface. 

Now we just wait …  and let the earthworms feast at their all-inclusive resort. 

We’ll let you know what happens in this riveting tale of rotting food and squirmy worms.

SPOILER ALERT:  We started this project about a month ago, and boy, have those worms been busy.  Stay tuned for more.


Painted Ladies

15 April 2009

butterflies-0Wanna know what Lillyan’s Aunt VeeVee gave her for her second birthday?  This Painted Lady butterfly.  Here’s her story …

butterflies-1Along with the Live Butterfly Pavillion that she unwrapped at her party, there was a voucher for Painted Lady caterpillars.  We sent the voucher in the mail, and two weeks later ten tiny caterpillars arrived.  They were about the size of a two-year-old’s fingernail.

butterflies-3The caterpillars grew VERY quickly, feeding off the special food that came supplied in their sealed little containers.

butterflies-4About ten days after arriving at our house, they all began to crawl to the top of the jars and attach themselves upside down from the lid.  (See a few chrysalides beginning to form.)

butterflies-5This is a butterfly chrysalis (not a cocoon – only moths make cocoons).  Learn all about it here.

butterflies-9Once all the caterpillars had formed into chrysalides (one didn’t ever quite finish), we moved them very carefully into this butterfly pavillion.  We pinned the disk at the top of the container to the side of the net.  Apparently, a couple of the trapped-inside caterpillars weren’t fond of this transport, as they started violently flinging themselves side to side.  One continued this “banging banging” (as Lillyan called it) for more than 15 minutes.

butterflies-6Another ten days later, the day before Easter, the butterflies started to emerge from their chrysalides.  It took them only a couple of minutes to get out, and then their wings slowly began to unfurl.

butterflies-8Within two days, all of the beautiful butterflies had emerged.  They spent the first few hours walking around only, then they started to flap their wings a bit, but it was quite a few hours before they could think about flying.

butterflies-7Here’s one of our pretty ladies showing off her colors.

butterflies-10Three days after they were all out and flapping around, we had a little “butterfly release party” with a bunch of Lillyan’s friends.  The idea was to let them go in our flower garden in hopes that they might stick around (their life span in only 2-4 weeks).  Wishful thinking …

butterflies-11The coolest part of the whole project is that I was able to take each butterfly out of the net one by one and let each child hold it on their finger before the butterfly got up the nerve to fly away.  Lillyan was fascinated, of course.

butterflies-12Here’s the butterfly that enjoyed her time on a friend’s hand (see his Momma’s blog about the experience).

butterflies-14M wasn’t quite as thrilled, but all five kids held the butterflies carefully and squealed with glee when they flew up into the sky.

butterflies-13One little lady just didn’t want to say goodbye, so we put her on a rose.  She eventually went off to “find her Mommy”, as Lillyan suggested.  Later that night, about 15 minutes after I said goodnight to Lillyan, she called me back into her room.  “I can please get some new butterflies?” she asked.  Sure.  That was cool.