Progress! Worm Bin and the ‘Back 40’

Just a quick catch up-even though I have strayed from the gardening theme I have by no means neglected them.

The worm bin is done! With the ability to hold over a cu yard of worm habitat I am looking forward to some serious compost by summers end. 2#’s of worms arrived from a slightly distressed UPS driver last week and in they went along with 10 gallons of coffee grounds and about a gallon of our household waste. The block was cheap, but I spent some coin on the lid to match our deck and fence-cedar. With the goal being an unobtrusive box to fit in with our middle class subdivision I felt it was warranted. It seems to have worked: my in laws were here all weekend and we spent all Saturday outside and my mother in law never even noticed the bin. Just the thing to keep under the radar of the neighbors! A few comments on the pic-the rocks in the foreground were all dug out of the whole (I love our ‘dirt’!) and the rubbermaid in the background is our old bin-this one is a teensy bit bigger! Within a month I will have the ground around it prepared for a native woodland planting to mask it even further.

The Back 40. Now I know I don’t really have 40 acres, let alone enough to need to differentiate between my pastures, but in my delusions I refer to our back 20′ this way. Most of our backyard gently slopes down to a swale that drains the hill our subdivision is on, but the last 20′ slopes up to the D.O.T fence providing a nice, albeit small, buffer to the freeway. I have had plans for this section sense we moved in-with the goals of 1)blocking the freeway from sight 2) reducing maintenance (no mowing!) 3) Be easy on the eyes as it commands the view from the house. Last summer I planted over 400 sunflowers to meet those goals. It failed miserably due to the utter lack of attention I spent on site prep-plus I would need to replant it yearly. So this year-much like the worm bin- I am Going Big. 25 Green Giant Thuja’s from the Botany Shop are on the way the first week in May. I will be planting them on a zig-zag across the full back lot line and within 3 years I should have a nice wind/sight break. While evergreens are better than Big Rigs to look at-I can do better, and I would still have to mow. Time to refer to my permaculture texts. I will be guilding this stretch (about 1500 sq ft) to be self sufficient with a mix of n-fixing shrubs (Goumi) and herbs (native Lupine and Clover) with some nutrient accumulators (Yarrow) and a whole mess of insect attractors (butterfly weed, indigo, coneflower, etc) and some biomass plants (Big BlueStem and Switchgrass). Everything but the shrubs will be as a cover crop seed mix I will be mixing up in 2 weeks. Here is a pic of what I am going for in the ‘feel’ of the cover crop-though it will take severl years to get that good.

But I still need to get the site prepped-the sod is to thick right now. The initial thought was to sheet mulch it, but finding 10 cu yards of manure proved difficult so I am opting to sweat it out-stripping the sod, and then turning the soil to loosen it up. This is a Big Job-1500 sq feet by hand is not to be taken lightly (300′ killed me last year, but I have better tools and technigue now), but I have 2 weeks so unless my muscles shut down, or we get some crazy rain I should make it. Here is a shot of today’s progress-about 100 sq feet de- sodded and 70 or so turned. Once the sod is up the soil is in great shape-great tilth and lots of worms and bugs. Excellent! Also notice the starting of the swale that I am linking the bottom end of the planting with-this is to hold as much moisture as possible as in 1500 sq feet I will have over 35 trees counting the sycamores and maples I put in last year. The progress went well, but I have a long way to go… The perspective is off in the pic-but from the broken ground on the right to the fence in background is 100′. Ouch. One unexpected problem is what to do with the sod. As it is littered with quack grass I will not be reusing it. Last year I composted the sod as I went-but now I just deep sixed 2 of my bins to make room for the worms and just this 100 sq ft was a cu yard of sod. My worms have better things to eat so for now I am just piling it in a corner of the yard (Mia is not thrilled). It will compost there and I will aggresively compost in the remaining pile while using some for bedding for the verm. At this rate (about 10 cu yards by projects end!!!) I will have plenty of compost for next year!

6 Responses

  1. Hi! I’m PuppyGirl3, who posts regularly with your dear wife on the virtually veggie thread, and am so glad to be able to send you a little shout out for the great work you are doing here (and thanks for the pancake recipe!). You seem to be keeping very busy outside these days! I about died when I read about the “slightly distressed” truck driver who delivered your worms. LOL. Keep up the good work!

  2. You’ve inspired me to start seriously composting my kitchen scraps – a large portion of our garbage is veggie trimmings. We have a pile of decomposing leaves in the back and I suspect the trimmings will mix in nicely (I’ll need to do some research before I start).

    Your worm delivery story reminds me of my high school microbiology class. The teacher told us about the very distressed mail carrier who delivered his syphilis cultures!

  3. The driver is our UPS guy who refers to Mia as ‘Mom’ and is a decent guy. He was curious to know if there really was worms? Yes. Was I going to Canada? No-they will be eating my garbage. Dead stare-turning to comprehension-oh they are for composting… cool. I like our UPS guy.

    Thanks for reading!

  4. Chipolte, love the syphilis culture story!

    To be fair, my lack of thrill re: the sod pile is in large part due to Beo’s larger vision, and I’m worried about what will happen when the sod pile starts marring the vision. Bigger worms? It also happened to bury two of my coneflowers Beo didn’t know were there. Not a fan! The truth is that I love how passionate Beo is about transforming our yard into a true healthy ecosystem.

  5. This is drifting from the original topic, but my best friend in college took a primate psychology class, and the professor (a well-known primate specialist) tells a story about taking a red dress to the drycleaner. She had worn the dress to a fundraiser or something, and then took some people back to see her chimpanzees afterwards.

    “What kind of stains are these, ma’am?”

    “Oh, you know, just stains.”

    “Well, we need to know what kind of stain, so we know how to treat it.”


    “It’s chimp semen.”

    “Okay, well, we’ll have that ready for you on Tuesday.”

  6. Beo, regarding your sheet mulch idea… If you still want to pursue something like that at some point, you might check with any nearby municipal sewage treatement places to see if they sell usable compost. The city of Columbus has a liquid waste treatment plant where they sell this stuff they call “Com-Til” – basically the end of the line for their treatment. It’s pretty near odorless, it looks like fine black hardwood mulch, and it goes for $15 a cubic yard. To fill the entire back of my pickup cost me $26 after tax. It’s even approved for use on food crops.

    So as long as you’re not squeamish about where it came from, it might be worth looking into.

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