Saturday, June 21, 2008

diy worm bin instructions

You, too, can have this in your kitchen for under $15!

My first thought was to go to my local eco-friendly store and buy a ready-made worm bin. It seemed like it would be cleaner and easier and require less thought than trying to make one myself. I wanted something totally self-contained, and I needed it to fit under my kitchen sink, which is really the only indoor space I have available.

To keep a worm bin outside would involve insulating it somehow, or having it open to the ground so the worms could crawl down and not freeze in the winter. This seemed a) complicated and b) like it would be unsuccessful because it would involve me going outside to put the scraps in, and I'm pretty lazy.

Yeah, well, the best laid plans and all that...I went to the store and the smallest worm bins they had were $120 and there is no way they would fit under my kitchen sink. So I got online and did a little research and found directions that seemed not too complicated and decided to bite the bullet and make my own.

I will say that at some point I just started making stuff up so I could do it in a way that worked for me, and my worms seem to be doing fine. I'm going to give step-by-step instructions here, so if you are cheap and lazy you can follow them with confidence. Or, take what you want and adapt it to suit your own needs...

1) I went to Target and got two Rubbermaid Roughneck storage tubs, 10 gallon size. The dimensions are 23.9 x 15.9 x 8.7 inches. I read in more than one place that the tubs should be at least 12 inches deep, but these were the deepest I could find that would still fit under my sink.

2) I left one of the lids intact, and drilled lots of little holes in the other lid so the worms can breathe. These holes are not big enough for the worms to get out of. You can barely see them in the picture, but I made a pretty star pattern on the lid.

3) I turned both of the bins themselves over and drilled bigger holes in the bottom of each one. I tried to make the diameter of these holes around 1/4 inch, which is big enough for the worms to crawl through. I didn't actually have a drill bit this big, so the holes turned out not to be perfectly round. The purpose of these holes is twofold: to let the liquid drip out of the bin, and to allow the worms to crawl into the other bin when it's time to harvest the castings.

4) I read in several places that the best thing to use for bedding is damp black and white newspaper pages, cut into 1 inch strips. I don't get the newspaper, and I thought to myself, "it's not like worms can only live in newspaper bedding out in the wild," so I actually started by using old leaf matter for bedding. I went out to my yard and gathered up the stuff that I should have raked last fall (see, procrastination can be a good thing!), wet it down with water from the sink, then put it in one of the bins. I think you're supposed to have about 6-8 inches of bedding at any given time, so this picture actually doesn't show quite enough bedding in the bin.Lately, I've started making the worm bin into a paper recycling bin as well, emptying my dad's shredder, wetting down the little strips, and using them as bedding. This actually seems to work pretty well.

5) The final step for setup involves putting it together and adding the worms. I took the intact lid, and set the bin with bedding on top of it (the lip of the lid serves to hold the liquid that drains out). Worms went in -- I was lucky enough to be able to get some from the worm bin at the school where I teach, so I didn't actually have to buy them -- and I put the lid with airholes on top of the bin. It fits really neatly under the sink. (I considered linking to some sites where you can buy red wigglers, which are the type of worm you'll want to use for vermicomposting, but since I've never used any of them and can't vouch for their service or reliability, you'll just have to google.)

6) I have a little container that sits on my counter and I just put the appropriate food waste (basically no meat or dairy, any fruit, veggie, grain scraps are fine) into the container and then when it's full, I empty it into the bin. I haven't cut scraps into 1 inch pieces like I think you're supposed to, and it works fine anyway. I use a big kitchen spoon to stir the scraps under the bedding and mix them in with the nice dark organic stuff on the bottom of the bin.
7) Whenever I feed the worms, I drain the liquid in the bottom lid into the same little container. This "worm tea" is supposedly really rich in nutrients, so I either pour it on my plants, or send the boys over to my mom's with it, so she can pour it on her garden.
The whole feeding process takes less than 5 minutes a couple of times a week. The only bad part is that (as you can see from the photo above) that the length of the bin is wider than the cabinet door, so if I'm not careful about how I take the bin out of the cabinet, I end up getting worm tea on the floor. The bin itself doesn't smell at all, and you would never know I'm composting in the kitchen (even when the lid is off it just smells good and earthy, not at all like all the rotting food that's in there) but the liquid is pretty smelly so I'd rather not have it all over my kitchen.
Worms can be poisoned by their own castings, so after 2-3 months, you are supposed to harvest the castings. This setup seemed like the simplest diy harvesting method out there.

8) When it's time, I'll take the lid off the bin I'm using, put bedding in the second bin, set the second bin on top of the current bin, put the lid on that top bin, and start feeding the top bin. The worms will crawl up through the holes in the bottom of the top bin, and when they have evacuated the bottom bin, I can remove that, use the compost, rinse it out, and it will be free to serve as the second bin when it's time to harvest again. Nice, huh?

Worm composting is fun and easy!

(Dante took these last two pictures while I was drilling -- apparently he thought I just wanted cute pictures of myself leaning sideways?? and didn't realize that the point was to show the drilling and the bin! He did do a good job of taking all the other pics in this post that have me in them -- and threw in the bonus one of Sebastian while I was pouring the worm tea!)

The New York City Compost Project has some good general composting info, as well as detailed information about vermicomposting. Another worm bin how-to(very similar to mine, but different enough that it might be worth a look) plus troubleshooting ideas and a list of what can be composted in your bin can be found here. If you've got kids who want to read up on the topic or build a bin themselves, try this link. If you feel like my plan is too simple and you want to use rubbermaid tubs to make a more complicated bin, click here.

Friday, June 6, 2008

better late than never?

Robin tagged me with the following:

1. Write the title to your own memoir using 6 words.
2. Post it on your blog.
3. Link to the person that tagged you.
4. Tag five more blogs.

Right away I started thinking about it, but then we had the tornado (still haven't blogged about that yet), and our trip to Vermont (still haven't blogged about that yet), and the end of the school year (report cards!) and the murder, so I never had a chance to post. But I kept on thinking about it.

The first one I came up with was, "rats in freezer, worms under sink." Every time my landlord comes to work on the house I feel like I need to warn him about what he might find and why. They're to feed the snake, really!! They're to fertilize the garden, really!! I'm a pretty girly girl in some ways, but snakes and worms and dead mice don't bother me, and in fact I sort of see them as a sign that I'm doing the best I can to raise boys without a dad in the house.

I also considered something like, "smart girl, bad choices, happy anyway," but that seems a little too...I don't know...glossy, like it simplifies some aspects of my life (both difficult and fantastic) that have been really complicated.

The one I finally came up with is something that everyone who knows me will completely agree with, I'm sure:

Oh, crap! I'm running so late!

Once I checked a book out of the library called Never be Late Again. It was waaaaay overdue by the time I returned it. That is not a made up story, just a sad fact. I'd like to not be late, but I seem to always try to squeeze too much into any given amount of time. I have a friend who points out that I'm never late for yoga, because I know that it's not an option. He sees this as proof that I am perfectly capable of being on time when it's important, but I actually once showed up 15 minutes late for a job interview (and I really wanted the job!). Amazingly enough, my tardiness did not stop them from hiring me.

I'm cheating and tagging six, because these are the blogs I read regularly: Dante, Masasa, Silver, Heather, Sarah, and Colin. I think Sebastian is too young to get it. I bet he would just say, "I love to kiss Dante's lips" or something equally weird.

I would tag Corina, too, but -- oh, yeah, she doesn't HAVE a blog! Hers would probably be something like, "didn't waste time on the internet."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

yes, we can!

Obama '08! Lots more to follow (probably more than you'll want to read in the months leading up to November LOL), but today is a good day!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

This is the kind of neighborhood

where we gather on the street every night to hang out and talk and watch out for the kids riding their bikes up and down. It's the kind of neighborhood where we have barbeques on a regular basis, and know the names of everyone who lives in every house. It's the kind of neighborhood where the kids run from back yard to back yard, knowing that someone's parents are watching out for them. It's the kind of neighborhood where everyone knows who is visiting whom, because we recognize most of the cars that drive by.

Two examples of typical interaction around our neighborhood:
1) Last week I was out in the street talking to my next door neighbor. She commented on the fact that I never fill my garbage bin, and neither does she, and we decided to cancel my service so we can share one bin.
2) The other day I came home and one of my neighbors from across the street came over and told me that she had seen Dante home around 9:00 that morning (school starts at 8:30). He told her that he had forgotten his library book, and was back home to get it. She offered to give him a ride back to school, but he said no, that he would walk. She waited a few minutes, then called the school to make sure that he had gotten there safely. (Note: Dante never bothered to mention that my mom and Sebastian were actually waiting around the corner for him, so he wasn't even walking back to school alone. He also never mentioned to my mom that my neighbor had stopped over to check on him. Silly kid!)

There are so many more examples I could give of the kind of neighborhood this is. It's the kind of neighborhood where it takes us an hour and a half to trick-or-treat around the block, because we have to stop for photo ops, and wine, and to wait while the whole gang of neighborhood kids gets candy at every house, because even though we didn't start out together, we've ended up in a big group. It's the kind of neighborhood where my burnt-out headlight is fixed for free before I even knew it needed to be replaced, and where Sebastian learned to ride on a bike that his buddy across the street learned on and outgrew.

And this is the kind of neighborhood where a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home on Friday before the perpetrators set the house on fire. She lived next door to the people who live directly across the street from me, and our house was considered part of the crime scene until late Friday night.

It was the last day of school, and we had a half day. I came in from doing bus duty around noon, and checked my phone. There was a voicemail from one of my neighbors -- it had been left about 15 minutes before, and her voice was shaking. "September, you need to call your mom and tell her that our street is a crime scene and not to bring Dante home this way. Oh, God, here's your mom! I have to go talk to her!" Click. I called my mom and all she knew at that point was that there had been a house fire and someone had died. Later I found out that the reason our neighbor had been so worried about Dante was that they had just taken the body out of the house and she wanted to make sure he didn't see.

When I picked Sebastian up at preschool that afternoon, I took him directly to my parent's house (around the corner from mine, but out of sight of the media and police circus). I went home and had to be checked in to cross the police line that was blocking access to my house. I also had to dodge all the cameras and reporters and trucks with live feed satellites. I got overnight stuff for the boys, and after I was interviewed by the police, we went to my sweetie's house for the night.

When we got home on Saturday morning, the tape around our house was down, and there was plastic covering the broken windows, so the burnt-out shell that was the inside of the house wasn't visible anymore. However, even today the INTERAGENCY COMMAND CENTER is still set up in front of the house next door, the street is still packed with police and fire vehicles, we are still being accosted by reporters every time we leave the house, and our quiet, friendly neighborhood is anything but back to normal.

And, of course, life will never be normal again for this girl's family, especially for her parents. The worst part might be that they arrived on the scene just in time to see their daughter's body pulled out of the house and dumped naked on the front lawn. There aren't words to express how hard it must be for them right now. Please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers.