Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How are the worms?

(Wow. Just, wow.)

The worms are doing great. Once the temperature in the Big Honking Bin dropped below 80F, I dragged myself to my feet for mere minutes at a time, deep within my flu-haze, and started feeding them. Their first meal was crumbled-up stale bread and bunny poop.

Dee- licious!

Well, I must say the worms certainly thought so. I followed the enclosed directions (this portion of the directions was apparently correct, because it worked extraordinarily well). It says- apply a thin layer of food, half inch or less, followed by a thin layer of top bedding, followed by a light soaking of water.

People, the food was gone in two days. The bedding, in three.

So, I fed again. All bunny poop this time. Gone in a mere day. I cheated, and didn't add additional bedding. I might cheat somewhat more often, if I'm feeding exclusively bunny poop.

Again I fed, with rice that tragically fell on the kitchen floor. Gone in two days.

I've just fed again tonight- all bunny poop. I have no reason to think this time will be any different.

The bin has not once heated up. All the heating was mainly interior, from the dreaded undigested matter. The temperature has stabilized to 78F, and I suspect it will drop further still as the last undigested matter is, well, digested.

I'm no longer afraid to feed fresh bunny poop to the bin, as long as it's in small, small amounts. It does not heat up the bin.

How the food gets eaten is really interesting. The first creatures on the food are earthworm mites. They nibble away for a day or two and break it down, and then the worms tuck in.

A totally biased aside- earthworm mites are incredibly beautiful. They look like tiny, coppery pinheads, and in a healthy bin, they are found by the thousands upon thousands. You can actually hear them crawling and eating if you bend your ear towards the bin- a low din of crunching and munching. I still have no actual idea how they got in there- probably from some garden waste I added to the bin long ago. Though the science-romantic in me would love to think it's spontaneous generation.

I'm sure there are springtails in there, too, but they are really hard to see. The small bin was full of springtails- I could always find them jumping all over the place when I harvested castings.

So, what's that square thing with the orange elements on it? That's a heater board. I will never need to actually plug it in, since my bin is indoors. Plugged in, it's for outdoor/ coldweather bin-keeping. The orange wires are actually heating element stapled to the board. Even un-plugged-in, the board needs to sit on top of the bin contents. Ever look under a piece of wood or a stone outside, and find it's swarming with critters? Same idea. I'm not sure why the worms like it so much, but they do. They flock to it. Sometimes there are hundreds of worms under it, squirming above the bedding. It draws mainly young and adolescent worms, like some kind of wormy pre-teen dance club. And today, I took a look just under all the new castings and new food- HUNDREDS of new egg cases.

I must be doing something right. Gosh, finally!

The small bin is going extremely well, too, though I don't think I'll need it for pre-digesting the bunny poop. I've fed it nothing BUT bunny poop, and the pinkkids devour it. I suspect that these worms were raised on a diet of manure, because they've shown no signs of new bin shock and are eating new food very quickly.

Bin-shock is typically characterized by a "worm run", where worms crawl all over their tiny creation to get away from their new, though undetectably awful, environment. Leaving the lid off overnight can result in wormy disaster- hundreds of worms, crawling out of the bin and dying all over your walls and floor. Bin-shock is probably caused by a drastically different environment. I'd agree. I know from experience that it's also caused by making an indoor, enclosed hot compost pile...


L.Bo Marie said...

Glad you're back, and that wormies and you are feeling better!

when you say bun poo... undigested, is it in any sort of litter? I alternate between the pressed recycled newspaper litter and the sawdust pellets (both can compost outside...) could this stuff go in a bin? or are you sorting litter?

ilex said...

Divine Miss L. Bo, I'm so happy to be back! Yesterday afternoon, my brain just switched on again. It was the weirdest thing.

I'm sorting litter, mainly because the bin is not a well-established biosphere (that's a good 6 months away). I separate the poo out with a slotted cat litter scoop. I separate the urine-soaked sawdust and compost it outdoors in a tumbler. Some litter gets in, but not much. What little dry litter there is gets separatated out for making bokashi.

I'm going to try gradually adding more used litter to the small worm bin- my experimentin' bin. But I'll probably continue to separate out large clumps of urine. I'm mainly concerned about the high concentration of ammonia and salts. In the outdoor compost tumbler, though, the urine is an outstanding activator.

Rabbits' Guy said...

I shall be ready to take my worming test in about two more weeks, I swear.

I suspect Mr. Darwin would be delighted!

Good you are well again ...

L.Bo Marie said...

fantasic! yeah, the sawdust pellets would be so great for sorting eh? they fall apart so nicely.. that would be a pretty easy job... just very dedicated. (a little Canadiana thrown in there for you ;)

ChrisB said...

I was really interested to read about *bin shock* which explains why my worms were all crawling to the lid when I first set up my worm bin. Mine don't seem to be eating as well as yours but I guess that's because I have fewer worms.

Brian said...

Great pic of the inside of the WigWam. Thanks for sharing.