Off to a Real Good Start with My New Worm Bin!

BlinkBlogger(8B)February 10, 2013

Hi Everyone! I'm really excited about my new hobby and how well things have gone so far--thanks in large part to all of the information posted here and available elsewhere on the internet. So I want to introduce myself and share my experience, as well as get your feedback regarding some of the typical questions and concerns we all have as new vermicomposters.
First, while I rarely consider it much of a hindrance or let it slow me down, it's obviously important for you all to know that I'm blind. In fact, I had to seriously weigh the obvious challenges that might pose before jumping in with both feet, and it was reading Hellbender's posts and your responses that finally made me take the plunge. Of course, I also read many, many posts on this forum and elsewhere and listened to as many online videos as I could find before deciding which approach I'd take to my totally new and fascinating hobby and adventure.
Fortunately, my first BIG mistake was avoided by talking to a potential source for my worms in FL who warned that I'd most likely have a difficult time handling the thirty-five gallon bins I had already purchased once they were full! Boy, was that great advice and something I'd urge all beginners to pay heed to!
So I went out and bought three ten gallon bins and drilled holes in them, using a combination of the various suggestions I found on the internet--1/4" holes in the bottoms of the top two bins and two rows of staggered 1/8" holes a few inches from the top (about two inches apart) all around the sides of both bins, as well as the same just below the middle of the bottom bin, which has no holes in the bottom. Then I used some PVC pipe I had on hand (to make frost frames for covering my citrus trees when needed) to make supports for each bin...I think the bottom bin support is a little more than 4" inches high and the top bins are a bit more than 6". They're made with two support pieces and a cross bar put together with elbows and then set at each end of the bins. Then I put five 1/8" inch holes in the center of the top bin lid--one in each corner of the center section and one in the middle. So when the time comes to "harvest," I'll have to decide if I'm going to use the process of getting the worms to move up, or to harvest and move them down at the same time by setting up my second bin, putting the current bin on top, leaving it open with a light on and removing the top layers of vermicompost until the top bin is empty; which is what I'm leaning toward at this time. However, based on your recommendations, I suspect that I'll probably have another bin going before then as a precaution.
Then I filled my bin with a mixture of shredded cardboard and newspaper, spraying it with water as I went. Finally, I pulled back the bedding in the center of the bin and spread out some juicing pulp (aged at room temperature for a day or two, frozen and thawed), covered it back up with bedding and monitored the moisture level for the next eight days as I waited for my worms, spraying areas that seemed dry with water...and kept reading/listening to everything I could to make sure I did everything right...LOL!
I ordered two pounds of worms from Bentley at (which I can highly recommend!) late Friday night and they were shipped the following Tuesday and got here last Thursday afternoon. I had planned to have "sighted" help to put the worms into the bin, but the box felt quite warm on one side, so I decided to bite the bullet and put them in myself. Fortunately, Bentley had kindly advised me to keep the lid off and the light on (they're in my laundry room right off the kitchen) to keep them from escaping, which I was most concerned about. They weren't moving at all, but as I touched them while getting them out of the bag, they "felt" okay (not sticky, dry or soft). Some were "stuck" in a glob to the bag, so I just sprayed them with water (as I did all around what I had already put in the top center of the bin and then covered with dry bedding) and left the bag inside out on the top. Before long, they had left the bag and when "eyes" came to check things out for me about two hours later, they were all moving downward in the bin and doing so even more actively when we checked again before my sighted assistant left an hour later. Since the top kept drying out, I kept spraying it with water and I found a little guy up near the top of the bin as I was doing that a while after my helper left (he jumped right back into the bin as soon as I touched him) because she had turned the light off! So I remedied that and all was well!
After reading that it takes a while for the food to be "ready" for the worms after adding it to the bin, I thawed some of my juicing pulp and added it late on the second day since "eyes" had told me they were much more active earlier in the day. I just pulled back the bedding a bit on the left end and spread it around and covered it back up with bedding and put the lid on (light is still on in the room). I also put a little bit of coffee under the bedding in the front right corner since I've read so much about that and have a good supply of coffee grounds saved up. I monitored the bin and as it felt too wet and had a bit of condensation on the upper sides and I found a little stray up there two different times (already leaving "deposits" there too, which someone said was good), I added more dry bedding to the top and pulled it away from the edges of the bin near the top, hoping to increase air flow.
By the next day, yesterday, most of the worms were on the left end of the bin where I put the food the day before (I can tell where they are just by lifting the bin slightly and observing how the weight is distributed). Since that end of the bin and the food felt "warm" before I went to bed last night, I pulled back the bedding over the food for a few minutes and sprayed it with water, and then sprayed the top again after returning the bedding. A final check later indicated that it wasn't getting any warmer based on feeling the top of the bedding and the worms were still there, so all seemed well again...LOL!
Then today, the worms felt more evenly dispersed in the bin, so I thought it was necessary to do some "digging" (or "brailling" as I might call it...LOL) and found that worms are on the coffee grounds now, as well as still on the food on the other end, which doesn't feel nearly so warm today.
So I'm off to a very good start and all of my research seems to be paying off. Now, I've just got to do my best to avoid the pitfalls so many of you have been so helpful to warn against by not overfeeding as I get a feel for how much the worms actually need, adding lots of bedding and trying to figure out the right level of moisture. And I've got to get brave enough to turn off the light in my laundry room to boot...LOL!
Finally, I want to say that after reading so many horror stories from other beginner vermicomposters regarding buying their worms and getting "shorted" or dead/unhealthy/incorrect species of worms, I'm very pleased with my experience with Bentley at I think the worms actually came from KY and they were very well packaged, and I had no reason to question how many worms I got...there are a LOT of them! There was also a good bit of compost material in the bag and I have varying sizes of worms based on the little guys I've caught up on the sides of the bin and those I touched when "digging" around today. And to all who are hesitant to jump in and reap the many benefits of vermicomposting, just remember this--IF a blind woman can do it, anyone should be able to! So just DO the work required to have a basic understanding of WHAT you're doing and get started!
Again, I want to thank all of you for your invaluable contributions to my success so far and for providing the information that should keep me on the right track for many years to come!
With Much Appreciation,
BB in FL

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Hi, BB, welcome to the forum! I enjoyed reading your success story and will read it again and again. You are a prime example of success through proper preparation.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 8:19AM
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Hi and thanks for the welcome, gerris2! I really wanted to share my "success story" to help encourage others because after reading about so many disasters, I wasn't sure I could do it. But by reading about Hellbender's great start and all of the responses, I was truly encouraged and felt much more confident that IF I did what I'd spent so much time learning, I could do it. And since the majority of disasters I read about were apparently the result of a lack of proper preparation and caution, I thought my experience would encourage others to take the time needed to do this right and reap the benefits as well.
My worms are still evenly dispersed in the bin this morning AND I actually turned the light off last night...LOL! However, when I checked the bin this morning, the lid was dripping with condensation and there were a few of the little guys (literally little)on the upper wall of the bin above the bedding and even on the lid. There's still nothing dripping into the bottom bin, but I did find my first worm slightly hanging out of one of the holes--he went right back in as soon as I touched him. So I took the lid off for a few minutes to dry things just a bit (with the light on). I also checked to see if the food was still there since the worms aren't in that area so much now and think what I felt might be wet worm castings instead of food. Do they leave that in an area after consuming the food? It didn't smell like what I put in or rotted food anymore and it was a bit gooey and sticky, but there wasn't even a lot of that. So I'm defrosting another batch of pulp for my next feeding and will put it on the right end of the bin and some more coffee on the left end this time..
I'm still not sure of the right moisture level, so that's my greatest learning curve right now. So any suggestions on getting that right or knowing what is too wet or too dry would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:45AM
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Hi, BB, welcome. I can't help a whole lot with your question about moisture, because I'm still learning myself, but I just had to chime in to say that I personally think what you say about learning about something before you start is probably the best thing anyone can do. I did the same thing, and my bin is also doing pretty well, I think. I lack space, so making sure I knew what I was doing was important for me, as well as not wasting money by spending it to replace whatever I messed up. I hate breaking things, and it's rewarding seeing my worms multiply instead of trying to escape, or worse, die because I was careless. Every time I open the lid, I'm just amazed at what they have done while I wasn't looking, LOL!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 6:40PM
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gvozdika(8 OR)

Hats off to you, BB! Do not give up! Do not overfeed, those guys are survivors. Honestly, I can't even imagine putting a lead on my container as it does not have any holes because I can not waste it. I use a piece of an old bedding sheet tighten with an elastic band around the brim. No escapers, but they don't even try somehow ( I don't see any castings around the edges). I also had lots of fruit flies at some point and I was surprised how quickly they were gone after I put about 2 or 3 inches of fluffy dry shredded paper from tea bags on top. Good luck with your fun project! Bet you can hear them chomping the food!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:21PM
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Welcome, BB! You are such an inspiration! I am certainly no expert, but I don't like for my bins to feel very wet at all. I try to imagine what a forest floor would feel like if you reached down and took a big handful of the deep layer of decomposing leaves. It wouldn't be dripping and soggy, but I imagine would be damp, soft, and crumbly. Again, no expert, but I've read that that's the type of natural environment that these guys prefer. I don't have a flow-through system, just a few Rubbermaid bins that I completely turn over and mix up every week to check the moisture levels. I usually don't have to add water as there is enough moisture in the previously frozen food scraps to keep it wet enough. I've just started juicing, though, and with very little moisture left in the pulp, I may have to start adding some water to the bin. If so, it will be a little bit at a time. If it ever feels too wet, I'll add some more bedding and a little peat moss and mix in thoroughly with the whole bin as that seems to help even out the moisture pretty well. I keep a moistened, thick section of newspaper laying over the top to keep it from drying out and then the lid on. I have holes for air a few inches from the top all around the bin, but again, no holes in the bottom. Someone with more experience than me may tell me I am completely wrong, but this has worked for me pretty well. I hope it helps.

This post was edited by Lisa.H on Tue, Feb 12, 13 at 6:28

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:10AM
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Keeping the lid on would seem to keep the worms in. Instead it keeps the moisture in and the walls of the bin damp. Nice and damp and crawl-able. So up the wall the worms crawl to see what goodies besides oxygen are up there. With the cover off the walls stay dry and of no interest to happy worms. Unhappy worms may start a wagon train to high tail it out of town en-mass. The smallest of light on at night would seem a good idea for every indoor bin. No need for a $$$ bright light.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 9:54AM
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Hi BB and welcome to the forum! Very nice detailed first post. You did your homework and it is paying off.

I am a "low vision" worm farmer. The sounds, smells, and feel of a worm farm is quite relaxing and soothing. It is a GREAT hobby!

You have been given good advice so far. Caution- do not overfeed a new bin. Less is better the first few weeks. More top ventilation (breathable lid) will help you.
Any worm casts you feel at this early stage of your bin will be VERY small, shaped like a little sausage and about 1/8" long, and feel like a particle of damp soil. You can probably feel them now on the sides of your bin. As casts build up they will feel more like damp soil with very fine particles. If it feels like mud you need to add more dry bedding and/or more ventilation.

Good luck and thanks for the inspiration!! Pete

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 11:26AM
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thedogsLL, we have a lot in common since space and not being wasteful or too extravagant were issues for me as well. How long has your bin been going and what kind of system are you using? And how do you manage or determine moisture levels so far? I think that and feeding really are the biggest challenges once we get the bins and worms set up as recommended and I'm not sure anything but experience will ultimately help us figure all of that out. :)
Thank you, gvozdika! I've reached the same conclusion regarding preferring not to have a lid on the bin and actually followed your suggestion and cut a light weight piece of denim material this morning and sewed some elastic I found in my sewing box around the sides for a bin cover. I obviously won't EVER win anybody's sewing contest, but sure am glad to be able to use my handy dandy little sewing machine to make very practical things; such as frost covers for my 19 citrus trees AND now my worm bin...LOL! And I'm sure my little buddies won't even notice or care how unattractive their new cover is! I like that because it totally eliminates any concerns about adequate air flow/oxygen, which my research indicated is always an important issue. And I'll probably do anything any of you suggest to avoid having "flying things" added to the mix...LOL! But exactly what do you mean by "fluffy dry shredded paper from tea bags?" I'm using mechanically shredded cardboard, which I have an endless supply of because a little meat shop in my neighborhood breaks down all of their boxes and puts them outside on a trailer and said I could have as much as I want) and newspaper. Well, when I really listen, I can sometimes hear something--probably just the worms moving in the bedding...:)
Lisa.H, I've actually thought the same thing about the kind of environment worms might be found in and have kept that in mind when deciding if things were too wet or too dry. I check the top and if it feels damp (which the dry bedding would soon get with the lid on) and there isn't (or wasn't) any condensation, I don't "investigate" further. But when it was dripping or dry, I reach down into the corners of the bin for moisture levels. If I found dry spots, I just sprayed that area and the top bedding lightly with water I let stand for a day before adding it to my spray bottle. And when things seemed too wet, I added more dry bedding on top. But I don't think that will be much of an issue now that I'm ditching the bin lid for a cloth cover. I put holes in the bottom of my bins because I thought that would make harvesting much easier for me--especially putting the current bin on top of the new one when I'm ready and encouraging the worms to go down to it. I don't think it's realistic to think I'd be very good at harvesting with the "dumping and sorting" method...LOL! I think you have a great point about juicing pulp being dryer, which might explain why I've had to spray my bedding more than others seem to, so thanks for pointing that difference out, which I wouldn't have thought of...:) Does anyone else turn the beds over and mix new bedding throughout the entire bin on a regular basis? That would obviously keep things fluffy and well aerated, but I wonder what it does to the final vermicompost and harvesting to keep mixing in fresh bedding.
equinoxequinox, I arrived at the exact same conclusion by observing what was going on in the bin whenever condensation built up when the lid was on! I even found an occasional little guy down in the bottom bin--seemingly enjoying the condensation on the sides. In fact, I was going to search for why worms come up out of the ground after it rains since that's what so many people have mentioned when I told them what I'm doing, but haven't gotten around to that yet. But that shouldn't be an issue now and I had already decided to put one of those battery operated stick up lights (which I just happen to have) on the wall above the bin to use at night rather than leaving the light in the room on. It won't be so bright and should still further discourage any roaming. Bentley had told me that I didn't have to use a bright light and to just leave the light on in the room. And whenever I do anything with the bin, I turn the light on even though I obviously don't need it to encourage the worms to go down if they're near or on the top.
Hi Pete, and thanks so much for a description of what the castings "feel" like!!! I think what I thought was castings was just remnants of the first feeding after the worms had been at it for a bit. So I probably added more food (which I did yesterday) a little too soon. But there's no sign of trouble so far and everything still smells very "earthy." In fact, it didn't even warm up this time and the initial feeding is still warmer than the rest of the bedding. It wasn't ever hot--just warm, and yesterday's feeding is still on the cold side; but I think the worms actually like the warmth of the food. I guess I'll have to look for an audible thermometer so I'm not just guessing about the temperature. And I think my new cover should resolve any ventilation and moisture problems, so now I've just got to figure when and how much to feed...LOL! And I'll just have to be patient because it's not reasonable to expect the worms to keep up with my juicing output just yet... :) That's why I'm thinking about doing a composting trash can to handle what I can't feed the worms; like citrus peels and juicing pulp with things they wouldn't particularly like or that might not be good for the bin.
Again, thank you all for your warm welcome, helpful tips and encouragement! I hope to be able to provide more positive updates as time passes and look forward to hear how things are going for all of you as well!
BB in FL

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 3:29PM
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gvozdika(8 OR)

BB, you are really willing to walk an extra mile for your wormies! I just drop the cloth on top and snap an elastic band around. Seems, in your case, it's worth an effort to sew a special cover. Your worms should be really happy now to have plenty of air! Equinox gave a pretty good explanation about the dry barrier (thanks Equinox!) Please post how it worked for your bin.
The tea bags are the folded tea bags like in Lipton tea. So I dump the tea leaves for worms and then tear the bags, which are dry at that time, in strips about a half an inch wide and 5 of 6 inches long. The paper is dry and light. It forms a very fluffy layer. You would think that tiny fruit flies can easily find a way through but they don't. I think it's the newly hatched flies that have trouble navigating in there. I had lots of fruit flies before, had to go outside to open the bin and shake them off the cover. Now they are gone. We have a Venus flytrap that enjoyed them, now have to find some other source of flies for it :) Please keep posting and all the best!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:49AM
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Hi gvozdika! Things seem to be going quite well with the new cover and I'm not checking it nearly so often because the moisture level is much more consistent and I haven't even had to spray that much. However, that also meant I failed to rescue two roamers--one was in the bottom bin yesterday and another today. The one yesterday wasn't dry yet, so (don't laugh!) I tried to revive him in some water; which of course was to no avail! I didn't find the one today right away; in fact, when I felt the bottom bin, I missed him at first. But the bin had a funny smell, so I set the upper bin down on top of my dryer to do a more thorough search and found him. He was dry and stiff, so I knew he was a goner. And there are already dry castings in the bottom bin too. I guess there isn't anything to do about that when putting 1/4" holes in the bottom for future migration and harvesting, but at least it's not a "wagon train" or mass exodus, Equinox! So I can't think of any way to remedy that at this point--if I put something in there to make it "more inhabitable," there might be even more escapees and I'd have a real hard time finding them. Any ideas?
My last feeding (on Monday) took longer to start feeling warm, so it's taken the worms longer to move to it and they're still pretty much evenly dispersed in the bin, so I guess all is well. :)
Since I produce so much great compost material and the worms can't keep up with it yet, I'm working on a garbage can composter project now. It's one I found on the GW site that has "guts" in it and I've modified it a bit to use some of my "you can use it for everything" PVC pipes...LOL! And that had best do the job or I'll be looking into chickens next...LOL!
Oh yeah, gvozdika, sewing my cover and elastic together was just one of those "blind person things"'s a lot easier to keep track of and use when it's all in one piece...:) And talk about work--emptying and tearing all those tea bags sounds like a LOT of work and dedication, so I think ya got me beat on that one, especially since I'd rather use my paper shredder...LOL!
Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!
BB in FL

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 2:46PM
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Your posts have encouraged me to think about the process of vermicomposting in different ways.

Fruit flys are much smaller than house flies but are annoying. They may dive bomb people's faces and cause them to whisk them away with waving of the hands. Fruit flys like to dive into any glass of fine aged grape beverage you or company may be partaking of. They seem to like $$$ selections the best. They float for a bit and I use a tip of a finger to remove them and they usually cling to it along with a drop of wine. Just a quick touch over them and some property of water similar to static electricity and they cling to the tip of a finger. Capillarity action? When it gets to this point is when most vermicomposters loose the support of family members. Then the worms are tossed out on to the curb. Maybe if fruit flys have caught on then even covering the bin with a perfectly sized piece of cardboard would prevent the flys from accessing their comfort place. But then there are the edges and fruit flys are conniving. If fruit flys are present and you still want to add food I suggest sneaking your hand up under the cover to deposit fresh food. My shear curtain material type of material is not secured around the edges. It just lays on top and flows over the edges for maybe 10 inches. Fruit flys for some reason seem to not understand the concept of flying under the radar... cover to access or egress. The ones inside, stay inside. The ones outside, stay outside. Fruit flies seem attracted to the top of tall pillars. The top rim of a glass on a tall pillar attracts them. If they hit a liquid like wine with a drop of hand dishwashing detergent to break the surface tension they sink like a rock. A bunch of them sink like the la brea tar pits into an ever thickening mass at the bottom of the container. Since they ignore my wine glass bate and seem to sit upon the paper towel covered kombucha filled mason jars I may use kombucha with a drop of dish soap in instead next time.

This post was edited by equinoxequinox on Fri, Feb 15, 13 at 3:20

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:13AM
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"a "wagon train" or mass exodus" I caught my worms doing that once. They were in an ex diaper pail. A diaper pail is tall. Not the best for a worm bin due to surface area vs. depth. Probably due to rotting vegetable material the worms decided to high tail it out of there. There was single straight line of worms going straight up. 18 to 20 inches long. They had not quite hit the top yet so I shuffled them all back down and turned on the room light. They were all following each other and using each other's bodies as a trail. Weird. I had not read about that exact thing. I had read about outdoor bins in warmer climates before big storms and mass escapes to the nearest stream.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:31AM
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"I'm using mechanically shredded cardboard" Is this thin shirt cardboard or 1/4 inch thick cardboard with the corrugated, wiggly piece in the middle with all the nice air spaces? No egg carton torn up?

"when I really listen, I can sometimes hear something--probably just the worms moving in the bedding...:)"

That is the "snap, crackle, pop, Rice Krispies sound". There is probably a sound file online. It is the sound the cereal makes when milk hits it. I think it identifies and is the hallmark of a well functional vermicompost bin.

Using a spray bottle adds very little water but makes the sprayer feel like they are "doing something" for their worms and helps them interact with the bin.

"Does anyone else turn the beds over and mix new bedding throughout the entire bin on a regular basis?" When I get a hankering to I just dig through or even dump over the bins and see what is happening. I look through the material garden fork full by garden fork through at a time for the total bin. In this way I can inspect what is happening in each area of the bin and how each food item is vermicomposting.

My final vermicompost is not 100% vermicastings. It is more regular compost that a worm glanced in the direction of as it crawled to somewhere else.

"one of those battery operated stick up lights" denim like jeans are made out of is a thick, with lots of threads per inch, dark colored material. It does not let light through. Or is maybe 90 to 95 opaque or not letting light through. If the light is outside of the bin the worms will still pretty much feel like they are in the dark. So the worms may still crawl up in the dark but airy conditions. But will probably not crawl past the cover into the light. The problem with the plastic covers is the worms crawl up and want to life right in the crack. Then when the cover is put back on they might have the tendency to get squished.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:59AM
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> Does anyone else turn the beds over and mix new bedding
> throughout the entire bin on a regular basis? That would
> obviously keep things fluffy and well aerated, but I wonder
> what it does to the final vermicompost and harvesting to keep
> mixing in fresh bedding.

It will give you fresh bedding mixed with the finished vermicompost, which isn't what you want. What I have found, however, is that after I set up a new bin, the bottom couple of inches gets soggy and compacted and the worms don't really like it down there. After a couple of months I will turn the whole bin over to break up the clumps at the bottom and bring them to the top. This is the only time I will disturb the bedding that much. The worms prefer to be left alone.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:21PM
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Well, after finding two more little guys dried out in the bottom bin yesterday, I decided that I could at least give them a better chance of surviving if they're so determined to go there to check things out. So I added a couple of layers of newspaper and about an inch of shredded cardboard/newspaper bedding, which I sprayed with water to keep moist. And for some reason, based on "eyes" checking today, there don't seem to be anymore roamers heading that way...go figure! This way, I can keep that bin moist and if necessary, dump the bedding and possible worms back into the main bin on occasion.
My helper was also able to confirm that the "stuff" where I fed last Friday is in fact castings and there's no sign of food there now. But there's still a bit of gooey food on the other side where I fed last Monday, and the worms are still in both areas. So I added a smaller amount of food today, which was cut up scraps from juicing preparation (mostly carrots and celery...maybe some apple) rather than juicing pulp. So it will be interesting to see the difference that makes, especially since it's less than half the amount I fed previously and it's chunkier.
Goodness, you guys make me nervous with all that fly talk...LOL! So I bought some fly traps just in case. I'm hopeful that since my bin isn't really very moist and I always keep it covered with bedding (especially new food) and a cloth cover and that the top bedding is dryer without the lid, I won't have flies and gnats flying in my face whenever I remove the cover! I really do understand how that might be enough to deter some vermicomposters!
sbryce, since examining my bin as Equinox and others do by dumping them upside-down and examining them garden fork full by garden fork full won't work for me, I think I'll most likely end up doing it your way out of necessity. I'm already finding quite a bit of castings in the bin, and they are indeed on the sides just as Pete said they might be.
I also put my garbage can composter together today and started putting my scraps in it as well. So that should take care of my scrap composting needs for things not necessarily best for my worm bin.
Equinox, my bedding actually has a good amount of the corrogated cardboard in it, with a bit of the other (from rolls of paper towels and toilet paper) and shredded newspaper. Since I don't buy eggs, I don't have the cartons you all mention, but have asked everyone I know to save them for me if they get them. I do have some stuff like that which came as packing material with some small appliances (like a juicer) and thought that might be okay to use. But it definitely won't go through my shredder, so I'm not sure how to shred that; so it's still waiting for me to figure that out...:)
Since we're heading down to the lower twenties here this weekend, I sure am glad I got over my initial phobia about having worms in the house...LOL!
Thanks again for all your encouragement and helpful tips! Have a great weekend!
BB in FL

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:44PM
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BB, I do mix my whole bin contents up every week when I feed, unless there is still some food left in the center (where I always feed) and if that is the case, I will mix everything except right where the leftovers are, and add new bedding if it seems to be getting a bit too wet. However, when the whole bin seems to be about 75% or so turned to castings, I usually won't add any more except maybe a little peat moss if it needs to be dried out a bit. Not a lot, but just enough to even out the moisture. I lost my entire first population when it was getting very close to harvest time and the bin was mostly castings, but a bit too wet. I didn't want to add bedding at that point as I didn't want my finished vc full of unfinished bedding, so instead I waited too long and the bin became anaerobic and all my worms died. After that, I started using the peat moss to keep the bin from getting too wet and all has been good since then. When I harvest, my finished vc is nearly completely castings with a few small chunks of unprocessed bedding and eggshells in it. There is probably a bit of peat in it also, but I don't mind. Again, this is just what works for me and I do dump and sort to harvest and don't have any kind of flow-through system.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:10PM
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Oh, and I am a little scared of all the fly talk as well! My bins were outside up until it started to get cold this winter when I moved them into my spare bedroom. So far I haven't seen a single fruit fly, but I don't know if that is just due to the cold weather outside. I've had a few Black Soldier Flies hatch out in there, but only a couple and they don't really bother me.

I do always freeze my scraps before I feed to the worms as I have heard that will reduce flies by killing any eggs that may be present on the scraps (gross!) but I'm worried what will happen with the bins indoors when the weather warms up.

I have noticed small maggots eating the food in one of my bins the last few times I've fed (so about 2 or 3 weeks) but haven't seen any flies yet. They look too small to be BSFL, only about 1/4-1/2 inch long. I don't know how long it takes them to become flies, but I keep waiting to walk in and have a swarm!

When they were outside, I did usually have some fruit flies in there when I opened the lid. I guess we'll see when the time comes and combat with some of the great ideas you guys have given.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:36AM
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Lisa.H, there's no doubt that having more or less air flow through the bin makes a lot of difference. The reason I finally decided to use something like the OCR JR was because of everything I read/heard about how important maintaining the proper level of oxygen is, especially with plastic bins. So I can see why you really do need to turn things over the way you do. I'm hopeful that by putting so many holes in the bin (which I might not have done if I realized I'd eventually not keep the lid on it), I won't have the kind of problem you did with your first attempt; not to mention that routinely going through the bin like that and the dump and sort method of harvesting castings just aren't practical options for me. But I'm sort of glad I can't see anything that's likely crawling around in the bin besides my little worms...LOL!
There's no doubt that we're all impacted by various weather conditions; not just the temperatures, but the level of humidity too. That's why what works well for one might not work the same for others, but we all still learn so much by the experience of others.
Are BSF timid creatures, or am I most likely going to have them crawling on me or flying around when I'm checking out my bin? I'm really trying to "steel" my nerves so I won't react when some of those predictable things happen...LOL! For instance, I finally got used to lady bugs crawling around on me when I'm checking out my fruit trees and don't freak out anymore! In fact, I'm even bold enough now that I literally pick off caterpillars whenever I encounter them...and that's a REAL big deal for me!
Since most people who are vermicomposters are also interested in gardening on some level, I thought some of you might be interested in seeing a picture of my backyard citrus trees (at least where most of them are in the back yard), which I had "eyes" help me take and post on another GW forum yesterday. So if interested, you can check it out on the link below. I think there might be two of them, but we only took one picture, which I think got posted twice; but I don't know how to delete one of them or if both have the picture...:)
Stay warm, everyone, and have a great day!
BB in FL

Here is a link that might be useful: My Backyard Citrus Trees

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:52AM
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"Are BSF timid creatures, or am I most likely going to have them crawling on me or flying around when I'm checking out my bin?" Some people really love their BSFL, as much as we love our worms. They too worry about them when they have to leave them for a few days. My understanding is that when BSFL are about 3/4 inch long and smaller they are white. Then as they mature they turn black and hard like little armadillos. Then they hide. The flys that emerge are like large houseflies but they do not land on poop and then on food. They avoid people, poop and food and want to find a bit of rot to lay their eggs on. They fly erratically. Slow when they are just warming up. Then faster. They are black with some of their leg area white. I think you would like the fly and the mature larvae and not be afraid of them. The thing that is cool about the white larvae is if one puts lets say the remains of a fish that the fillets have been harvest from into the bin, the the BSFL boil over the remains so actively that the remains float over the top of the activity and wonder around the container while getting smaller and smaller until they are all gone. Maybe let your helper know that these types of things in the bin are normal so they will not be startled. There is the cutest youtube that shows a little girl with a handful of BSFL feeding then to her chickens. If they knew that even little girls are not afraid of them then they might be more ok with them. Me I do not even touch my worms except with a 10 inch stick. Not even with gloves on. Maybe the scarriest thing to ever happen was I had noticed a few things out of place around the bin lately. Things were a bit mess with the vermicomost. I thought I was just sloppy. One day I put food in the top of the bin and out of the bottom a mouse jumped and darted off of my leg. I screamed like a little girl. Then I laughed a lot because I screamed. Many people love furry mice as pets. Maybe not me. I wonder if he was eating my worms.

I move the material around in my bin to learn what is going on. As I am more confident I know what is happening in there and as vermicomposting is not my newest hobby, and I am not possessed with knowing what is going on with the little guys, I am more likely to leave them alone. Then my activity with the bin would more resemble how sbryce advises. Like him I would flip the bottom material over for the same reasons. Or gain interest in flow through bins like I have. I would think the cloth worm inns would work nice for you. Just put the stuff food by the tons and bedding in at the top. Zip it in. Water frequently. Harvest at the bottom. Supposedly no need to separate worms. They do dry out fast but the activity of adding water is pleasant for some. Others may have fish tank change water they want to use. I would think that maybe the condition of the material might be gauged a tiny bit by just squeezing the bag. I do not have one. Some people sew their own. Having a strong enough stand to hold mega weight is important. I guess like not buying the first year of a car I am waiting for them to come out with the new and improved version. I think mine would dry out. That would be ... ... .,. very bad for the worms. A homemade plastic bin is more resilient in that way.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 10:57PM
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Equinox, you really cracked me up with the mouse thing--I actually screamed myself and started literally laughing out loud! Now, THAT would without a doubt be too much for me and the worms would have to go...LOL! That alone is good enough reason to have a "fitted" cover--though that wouldn't really stop a determined little mouse...LOL!
Actually, I'm very fortunate in that "eyes" isn't bothered by things like that. She's a very good sport and a great "helper!" I already warned her that there might be maggots, gnats or flies--I don't think I'll mention the mouse since I have a feeling that would be too much for her as well! Since I have such good hearing and two very alert little dogs, I like to think that a mouse wouldn't be able to sneak up on me like that.
I seriously considered FT bins and had ideas about how to construct one, but when taking everything into consideration, I decided that something along the lines of the OCR JR best suits my needs, space and limitations. Like you, hanging the fabric type poses a problem, but I still might work up some FT type idea using a trash can once I'm more familiar with how all this really works. And knowing me, it'll probably have some PVC components as well...LOL!
Speaking of trash cans...I set up my trash can composter yesterday and just moments after coming back from the green house to start running water since it's going to freeze and check on the heater in the greenhouse, I heard something "bumping" it up against the greenhouse! I thought putting it up next to the side of the greenhouse at the back was good, but since it's just a few feet from the woods behind my property, that might not be the best place for it! I have to admit to feeling a bit spooked--at first, I thought it could be a bear, but then realized that a bear wouldn't be "bumping" it. So it's more than likely a raccoon or possum; neither of which I need to be encouraging to visit my yard considering how many fruit trees I have (close to fifty in all)! So it will be interesting to "see" what's going on out there tomorrow.
I don't check my bin nearly so often now that condensation isn't such an issue, so really do prefer it without the lid. I mostly run my hands into each corner and in the front and back center to check for moisture, and then check on the food situation once in awhile too. But it doesn't bother me to touch the worms--they do their best to get away anyway. But it is sort of funny that there aren't any worms in the bottom bin now that I put a bit of bedding in it and keep it moist. "Eyes" checked again today and still doesn't see any. Maybe the worms are just feeling more at home now...:)
Thanks for so much info on the BSF and especially for such a good laugh!
BB in FL

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 12:12AM
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