Happy Harvesting Day...with tricks I've learned
Very excited about harvesting beautiful compost today - four FT composters (one 50-gallon Rubbermaid wheeled bin) and three funnel-shaped composters made out of fabric (a la Worm Inn). They were all getting so full that I was having a hard time fitting food in, so I decided to harvest. Here's a few tricks I learned.
In harvesting the Rubbermaid lidded FT, I found that the compost coming out the bottom was really, really wet and gloppy. It took quite a while to keep kicking the bin, twisting the blades at the bottom, and hand-scraping the stuff out, but all in all I got about 15-20 gallons of beautiful, rich, dark brown compost that was relatively free of eggs and worms.
Tip/Trick: In the past I've put that into an open, shallow bin to dry out a bit before I sieved it, but that was problematic for a couple reasons. First, it got real, real clumpy. Second, it took forever to dry out (4 + weeks). The lengthy drying time started to worry me because there were still worms in there and I was afraid they would starve. What I have tried - and it worked! - was to mix all that glop with a ton of dry bedding and let it sit for 48 hours. The dry bedding absorbed the bulk of the moisture (without drying out the worms) and within a couple of days it was dry enough to sieve. All the finished compost came out through the sieve, leaving perfectly dampened - and INOCULATED!! - bedding, the remaining worms (unharmed), cocoons, and unfinished food. I use this mixture to jump-start new bins.
For the fabric funnel FT composters, I noticed last time that it was hard to get the compost out because it was so dry and hard on the bottom and on the sides. It came out in hard clumps. This time, I noticed the bins were getting dry so I wet them down with a lot of water a couple of times last week. This week I noticed they were getting really full and heavy, so I decided to harvest. I opened the bottom and between 5-10 gallons of damp, fluffy compost came flowing out the bottom of each of the three funnels. I used my fist to sort of punch around the bottom/sides to loosen things up a bit, but it only took a few minutes and I had perfect compost ready to be sieved. I kinda reminded me of dry rolled oats flowing out of the bulk bins at supermarkets. Again, beautiful, fluffy, dark brown, rich, mostly worm- and cocoon-free, barely damp compost. I think that timing it by drenching down the compost (which loosened and separated it) and then letting it dry just enough before harvest really did the trick. This time I did it by accident, but next time I'll definitely try drenching the bin a week or so before harvest to shoot for the same results.
So in the next couple of days I'll run all of this compost (compost plus bedding filled two 45-gallon Rubbermaid tubs to overflowing) through my 1/8" mesh harvester and then probably start 3-4 new bins, which are desperately needed as all the bins I started this way in December are now squirming with worms and burning through food at an amazing rate.
Just thought I'd share what worked for me. I hope that people will take from this what works for them and let us know what other handy trick they've learned.