05 July 2009

Vermiculture and Leftover Veggies

A couple of years ago, we decided to add "cold composting" to our already fruitful process of outdoor composting. In the hallway just off the porch we have been hosting a "worm chalet" where hundreds (and probably thousands) of Redworms (red wigglers) live. Unlike the worms found in the gardens and woodlands of North America, these earthworms are not earthmovers they are composting worms. They eat leftover (cooked) vegetables, leftover rice and pasta, coffee grounds and tea bags and -- since everyone needs fiber in their diet -- shredded paper and cardboard, too. After several months of eating and digesting, the worms produce "black gold" ... know in gardening shops as "worm castings" and, more descriptively as "worm poop." Ever few months it is necessary to separate the worms from their castings and locate them in a tray of fresh "food-n-fiber." Above, Sister Philomena sorts through a pile of worm castings.

South American Redworms are not nearly as big as their North American cousins, so a mature worm does not look impressively big -- but they sure do work hard!

Above is a tray ready for some worms. In the center looks like the leftovers from mashed carrots and around the carrots are paper shreddings from the business office shredding machine. After the worms are deposited in the tray and before the "chalet" roof is placed on top, a little peat moss is sprinkled on top to absorb any excess moisture.

A few months later, the above tray is ready for sorting. The worms have worked hard: eat, sleep, digest, have baby-worms, eat, sleep, digest, have baby-worms. We realize that an apiary might be a more "Salesian" hobby, given St. Francis de Sales' fondness for bees ... but it might be important to note that earthworms have 5 hearts. St. Francis de Sales, had he known that, would no doubt have had some spiritual metaphors concerning our hard-working wigglers!

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