Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I have worms

I have worms -thousands of 'em! Thankfully they are not infesting my body but rather are quietly sitting on my patio eating my leftovers and producing rich fertilizer for my yard. That's pretty special. Actually, they are very special worms called "red wrigglers" who are known for their voracious appetite and equally prodigious ... ah, what shall we call it ... "casting" production. Another less solid by-product is "worm tea." This is collected by a tray at the bottom and all I have to do is turn a small spigot and help myself to a generous libation of worm tea. My flowers love it but humans should refrain.

Alan, the worm man, got me started with a tower of stacked black trays and a bunch of worm-rich dirt which he put in the bottom tray and partially in the next tray up. This was followed up a few days later by a small damp bag supposedly containing one pound of premium red wrigglers, hand-picked, no doubt, for the great privilege of being the starter colony for my personal worm bin. I am not sure why they then spent the next week trying to escape the wonderful home I had provided for them. I'd come out in the morning and find dozens of them spread out in all directions all over my patio seeking their freedom. I decided to banish these miscreants to "purgatory" which is, in fact, a very inferior plastic bin full of weeds, leftover potting soil, and other garden debris. There they will eek out a bare existence cursing the day they decided to leave the generous luxury of my main worm bin. I later read that it is quite normal for worms to be a bit skittish about a new home and, indeed, they seem to have now settled down quite nicely with no new escapees for a while.

Worms are not picky eaters but they do have some standards. I generally feed them leftover veggies, fruit, rice, bread, etc. They shouldn't eat citrus peels and are not fond of salad dressing and other sauces. They can eat meat but this tends to attract other vermin who are not welcome in my home, so I avoid that. I am told it's important to occasionally give them egg shells which is meant to help the PH balance, whatever that is. These I carefully dry and then grind to a powder using a mortar and pestle and sprinkle liberally throughout their next offering. They don't jump up and down and wag their tails but I also understand they really like coffee grounds. At first I collected the leftover grounds from my office but my co-workers only drink Costco-brand decaf, and I really thought my worms deserved better. Now they enjoy a rich, fully-caffeinated blend from Starbucks, free for the asking at my local gourmet coffee joint. I wonder if it keeps them up at night?

Alan also explained the worm hierarchy to me. The top layer, where I add food, is where they eat. He explained that the fastidious worms then plunge down to the bottom layer to "poop." The middle layer is where they ... ah, what shall we call it ... mate. So then, this is the sum total of the life of a worm: eating, pooping, mating. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it!?!

So, the next time you're over, we'll sit on my sunny patio, surrounded by my surprisingly vibrant flowers, and we'll raise our cups of red wriggler tea and promise never to again disparage "the lowly worm." Cheers!


Fredrica said...

I like the expression "surprisingly vibrant flowers." Your worms seem to get much more TLC than ours, and none of ours have wandered off. Now we have had many generations who call their box "home." Do you know what the life span of these worms is?

Duncan Parlett said...

Hi, moma! It might have made a difference as to how the worms were introduced to your bins as to whether or not they feel comfortable. I was surprised to learn that a worm can live for 7-10 years in the right conditions. Long live the worm!

Michelle said...

:) I don't know if this will help or hurt my cause! :)

Any chance I could "loan" some worms when I get back to start my bin? It's ready, and just waiting for some worms!