Monday, March 7, 2011

Master of Worms (and snakes).

We at Rattlesnake Master are not only masters of rattlesnakes, we are masters of worms as well! Specifically, red wriggler composting worms! (And even more specifically, we are not masters of rattlesnakes.) 

A few months back, I used Freecycle to acquire a handful of composting worms from the overpopulated compost bin of a fellow East Bay-er. I kept them in a yogurt container with holes pokes in its sides and top, with some newspaper wrapped around it to keep light out.  Not the best, but certainly good enough for a temporary home. The FEMA trailer of worm bins.

Tragically, much like real FEMA trailer, this housing situation did not work out to be in the worms' best interest. I gave them a bed of moistened, torn newspaper, leaves and cardboard and fed them small amounts of vegetable scraps, but imbalance prevailed. Reading up on what to feed them, I tossed in a handful of Cheerios one day, having read somewhere on the internet that Cheerios are a favorite worm snack. Within 36 hours, the bin was a big, hot mess of blue bread mold all over the place. That might work for a large-scale outdoor bin, but not my mico-mini-cosm.

It was time to upgrade. I found these black plastic filing bins at an office supply store one day while on an ink cartridge run and took them home to be a new and improved wormopolis. Holes were drilled in the bottom of both bins, and around the tops of each and in one of the lids. The other lid was flipped onto the bottom of the setup in the event that any water/nastiness needs catching. A bed of peat moss and torn, moistened newspint and cardboard was laced with bok choy and other tasties, and in went my somewhat depleted worm population. Oh, joy! Oh, success. 

Oh, no. Hours later, all the worms were grasping to the sides of the container, having left their beds behind in search of... something. Several had crawled into little nooks in the top of the container, and had to be coaxed free with take-out chopsticks. Back in, as I'd read that sometimes they don't adjust well to their new homes right away. After the same thing happened again a few hours later, I did some research and found that I should have soaked my peat moss first to remove the acidity and that my worms were probably crawling out because the environment was too acidic. However, they should be able to adjust given time, so I made an extra few inches of their usual cardboard and newspaper bedding on top of the moss mixture and put them in there. 

That seemed to solve the problem. I spent a nervous week or two digging through the pile every few days to be sure somebody was still moving in there and I was not now the proud owner of a pet box of garbage. But all is well in Wormopolis, and I've even seen a little wriggly baby or two (which makes me very happy but is still a bit icky). I'm still considering getting more worms, because right now they are more like pets than efficient waste-disposal / compost-production machines. But I'm kind of riding high on the fact that I've managed to keep them alive, and maybe it will be fun watching my colony grow.

They're in there, I swear.

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