Recently, I started evaluating the waste M and I produce in our little cabin. I determined that most of our trash is plastic, since we now recycle cardboard, paper, and aluminum. I also realized that besides plastic, we throw away a lot of food waste. By food waste, I mean scraps of veggies, fish skin, tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. From that list, you can tell that most of that stuff is compostable, and yet we are just sending it to a landfill! That’s a pretty serious check mark in the “not so green” category.
|Looking into my new worm bin!|
So, I started thinking about ways we could reduce that biodegradable waste. The obvious option would be a compost pile, but I have several hesitancies about this. First, I’m a renter, and don’t plan to live here past next year. Second, I’m not sure how my landlord would feel about a rotting pile of food waste after I’ve moved away. Third, we have a LOT of dogs in our neighborhood (including M’s) who might feel like snacking on whatever edibles we toss away, and I don’t want to create a neighborhood feud over compost (or have lots of dogs in the yard). Finally, there’s the matter of the outhouse. For those of you unfamiliar with cabin life in Fairbanks, Alaska, it is quite common to not have running water or indoor plumbing. Thus, we have an outhouse and must haul our own water. While this may seem archaic, it’s actually quite nice and I enjoy it 99% of the time. The 1% I don’t enjoy is solely made up of times when I drank too much tea before bed, and find myself needing to brave the -40 temperatures at 3am to use the loo. Not so great.
But I digress. The outhouse we have is clean and usually doesn’t smell. However, the few times I’ve ventured a look down the hole, I’ve noticed a lot of light coming in from the plywood shaft. My thinking is this: if light can get in, then water and other things occupying our outhouse shaft can probably get out. I have no proof of this, and don’t feel that our living conditions are unsanitary. However, I’m reluctant to create soil intended for food products in an area that may have slight amounts of waste contamination. Again, no proof, and M and I have never noticed anything gross. Still, I can’t shake the idea and thus decided against composting outdoors.
So, then what to do? While searching the internet for options, I remembered a woman I used to cat-sit for who used to have an indoor worm bin. Perfect! I sent my browser in that direction and quickly found a wealth of information on vermiculture, or worm farming. It seemed easy enough, and I have several plastic totes lying around that would be perfect farm sites. So, I began to research which worms would do best in our sometimes chilly cabin, and how many to order. I had settled on a batch of 500 red wigglers, when I luckily encountered another volunteer my fire station whose family already has a worm bin! She offered me some of theirs, and I happily agreed. So, just four days ago, M and I became the proud parents (just how proud is still up for debate) to two or three dozen red wigglers. Not as many as I wanted originally, but you can’t beat the price of a gift. Plus, I felt confident that these worms were used to the dry, cold climate and were probably sexually mature and could reproduce quickly. So, into my worm bin they went.
After a bit of research, it seems that worm farming is really just a practice in mediums. Worms like to be kept in an aerobic, damp, dark, and not-too-hot environment (between 55 and 75 degrees F, generally). I created some bedding out of potting soil and shredded newspaper, watered it down, and then began to add food scraps. Worms like things damp, but you can accidentally drown them if you end up with standing water. Last night they got a particularly large helping of aging berries that someone had given us quite a while ago, so I covered the whole pile with another layer of newspaper to keep odors from arising. I haven’t disturbed them since putting them in, but I’m hoping all is going well and they are happily munching away and producing lots of worm castings (worm poo soil) for me to use in my deck garden this summer!
Do you have a worm farm? What methods have worked for you in keeping them happy and active? What other composting methods do you use in your home? Share your thoughts in the comments!