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Harvesting the Poop!

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Harvesting the Poop!

Around Halloween, it got cold enough in our basement that I had to bring my worm bin upstairs to the living room. I keep my house pretty cool, but for the past 2 months my worms seem happy enough. We have been giving them about a pound of food scraps per week.

Other than giving them food, I sort of neglected giving them additional "bedding materials" since Thanksgiving, and today when I opened the bin to toss in some banana peels, I was greeted with an, um, odor. It wasn't a horrible odor, but it was certainly different than what I had been smelling, which was just the smell of dirt.

I decided an emergency "worm castings harvest" was in order. I hadn't done this yet, so I had to refer to a technique I had read several months ago. I attempted another popular technique of pushing the older, more processed castings to one side of the container, filling the empty side with clean bedding and fresh food. This didn't seem to make a difference for the worms, many of them went to the clean side, but websites seemed to indicate a mass exodus from the "old side" and this simply wasn't the case for me.

So here we go -- I dumped out the contents of the bin and immediately tossed the newer bedding and food scraps back into the bin. The black tray there is the bottom of Howie's crate from when he was a puppy. He no longer uses a crate.

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

Note the light on the right. This light is used to "scare" the worms into the center of the pile.

This project took me two hours -- to slowly pick at the castings. The clumps of castings went into the buckets, while worms, food scraps and obvious areas of shredded paper went back into the bin.
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

By the way, yes, those are margarita mixer buckets you see there. Great for gardening jobs!

So...as you can see, the pile works down pretty nicely, with a bit of patience.
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

I guess now's a good time to mention that my castings were chock full of cocoons that I was attempting to save as well.
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

A view of a hunk of casting with worms and cocoons.
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

Now for the cool part -- as I pick away at the castings, the worms are continuing further and further into the center of the pile to avoid the light. But at a certain point, the pile becomes nothing but worms!
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

Then, it's easy to pick up the clump of worms and toss them back into the bin:
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

Jacob won't touch the worms, but Timmy enjoys checking them out!
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

I filled both of these buckets with castings, I'd guess about 10-12 lbs. total! There are still a number of baby worms in the buckets, ones that I couldn't easily pick out of the castings...I don't know if they'll survive in the basement, either from the cold or from the lack of food scraps. For now the buckets are simply in a giant Ziploc bag in the basement. It had been on my mind to toss the castings into my garden plot immediately (after all, wasn't that the point of all this effort?), but it's currently under about a foot of snow.
From 2010 01 03 Worm Casting Harvest

There you have it! I've successfully harvest castings from my worms! I'm so excited about that.

However, I'm not sure I like the two-hour-long pick-fest with the castings. I'm eyeing this apparatus for future use.

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