pskvorc(3)May 3, 2014

That would be mendopete's worm cage Mod-1.

This is "mod-1" because:
1) It's not made of 1/2" hardware cloth. Instead, it's plastic "chicken wire". There was NONE to be had in "The Valley". (You can't really appreciate living "at the end of the road" until you do.) Actually, besides the fact that it is not self-supporting, I kinda like it. I could be 'making lemonade'.
2) It's square instead of round. That's a function of having to provide support stakes.
3) Surface area of a 3' diameter circle (mendopete's circular cage size), is pi (3.14) times the radius (1.5') squared, therefore, 7.06 square feet. This cage is 2' on a side, making it's surface area about 4 square feet. This may be significant, as the distance to the center of the circular one is 18". The shortest distance to the center of this one (from the middle of a side) is 12". From a corner, it's ~17". This could (should) lead to faster desiccation.

More pictures and details after I fill them.


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That is a fine looking cage for your worms. Well done!

That plastic wire may be better than hardware cloth. I find my cages bulging and leaning sometimes. I have attached them to fence wire and posts. Your plastic may stretch into a round cage.
The outside 2- 3" or so of the cages I make are lined with straw. It usually stays dry and does not get well processed. I cover each feeding with straw. Next feeding, the straw on top is pushed outward, allowing access to top-feed, and at the same time forming the interior walls as I go. Think of a volcano that keeps getting taller a little at a time.. I mention this unprocessed area so you will have to do some more math :)

``You are the proud owner of a square Alaskan moose-marble processing worm cage. Congratulations and good luck!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 2:49AM
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My compost bins have always been a prime bird watching area. Can't say they were exotic just regular birds with a keen interest in either the bin or standing on the top of the edge.

Do not be surprised if one day the level of the bin sinks like a popped balloon. I have never quite figured out if somebody was stealing my compost... massively unlikely or an animal got in and dug... like a skunk or something... or if it is a natural occurrence in the life of a compost bin. As I understand it you built not a compost bin but a worm cage. *Looks left, looks right, looks up, looks down.* Compost bins often have worms in them. I'm confused what the difference is. Maybe it is the human addition of worms and the management of the cage.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:08AM
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"Next feeding, the straw on top is pushed outward..."

Excellent sequence. I wuz wundering how I was going to affix 'siding'.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:10AM
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EQ2 you hit the nail on the head, the cage is nothing more than a secure compost pile, managed as a worm bin.
The term "cage" refers to security. For me security is the biggest challenge to outdoor vemicomposting. Dogs. cats, coons, rats, birds, ect. are attracted to the bin, causing problems. It keeps intruders out. It also cages in the worms by holding their bedding in place. The straw liner keeps the bed dark and damp, yet allowing super air flow.
I started composting in these cages and found after heating up, the compost filled up with native wigglers. But they were unorganized and disappeared when it dried out or at harvest time. I started supervising their activities by providing regular feedings, darkness, and maintaining the moisture level. By doing this, the worms stayed near the top and breeding increased. I would guess a hot cage has 15-20 lbs of worms efficiently converting compost to casts. I found harvest easy, just remove the worms on top and start a new cage. What is left is the stuff.
Any compost bin can become a wormery. The cage is cheap, easy, secure, and works well for me in this mild climate. It allows you to not have to harvest until you want to. No matter how much you pile on, it keeps shrinking. It would take a long to fill it with castings

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 9:26PM
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I'm not concerned with 'vermin'. I can't think of anything at the moment that would want to get to the worms except Sorex sp. and maybe birds if they figured out there were worms in there. No 'coons, rats, mice, (although we do have voles), cats or dogs. I suppose a fox might show some interest. They have highly developed curiosities. I'll deal with those problems as/if they arise.

Personally, I think a 'wormery' is almost infinitely different than a "compost" bin. Of course I recognize that these are "composting" worms, but management for worms is NOTHING like composting leaves and grass. If all one composts is kitchen scraps, then I suppose the difference is small. But on this scale and larger, the care and tending to worms greatly exceeds that necessary with a "regular" compost bin unless you don't really care about the worm production.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 2:54AM
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Is the difference between a mild climate and the climate of Alaska discussed here ? What are you , Paul, doing with your Tower when it freezes, if anything.

I really really like the straw piling up the sides. That is SO EFFICIENT !

I have a bottomless topless perforated tall tub I scavenged from somewhere which would work for outdoor worms in Washington if I insulate it sufficiently for winter. I could surround it with straw bales or make an envelope of . . .
grass clippings ? Ideas ?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 11:48AM
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Winter temperatures are an "issue".

Since the primary purpose of my vermiculture is now to raise worms for fish food, "what to do with worms in the winter" has been adjusted accordingly. The BIG question will be: How many worms does this outdoor system produce?

If the answer to that question is "few", then the winter solution is fairly simple: Sort worms from VC and bring inside to bins. If the answer to that question is "many", then I have come up with three places for the worms:
1) Some inside in bins,
2) Some frozen into daily fish portions,
3) Leave some outside over-winter.

Keep in mind that the 2'x2'x3' bin in the above picture is one of four placed together to make a 4'x4'x3' aggregate bin. As such, it will have more mass, and with some SERIOUS insulation - probably about a foot of leaves and straw - it MIGHT allow some over-winter survival. Personally, I doubt it, but I am willing to give it a try provided I have enough surplus worms to maintain a HEALTHY population in the indoor bins, AND have plenty to use for fish food. I have my doubts about a 'surplus' sufficient to allow an over-wintering experiment.

In the list of resources I posted in my first thread there are some 2 to 3 cubic yards of wood shavings and some 4 to 5 cubic yards of leaves. Last Fall, the shavings were piled behind my shop with the intention of "composting" in layers with my yard leaves and grass clippings. When I observed the extraordinary 'assault' on the bags of leaves that my friend Jim collected by the wild worms in his yard, I decided to forgo the layered composting and try my hand at vermicomposting. Having made that decision, and knowing that I couldn't start worming until Spring, I simply left the shavings in a pile about waist high and about 10 to 12' across the bottom. I piled the 20-odd bags of leaves around the base of the shavings pile.

About two weeks ago - not more - I decided to test the potential of using my snow-blower as a leaf shredder/"mixer". In doing so, I opened one of the bags of leaves. With the exception of about 2" on the outside, it was frozen solid as a rock. I took a pitchfork to the shavings pile. Again, excluding a layer about 3" thick, the pile was frozen solid as a rock.

That does not instill confidence in the idea that my worm/compost 'cage' will be able to support worm "life" over winter regardless of how well it is banked/mulched/insulated.

Too often, people outside of Alaska equate simple temperatures to the 'severity' of winter, and frequently make comments like "it gets colder than that here in Minnesota". However, what most fail to appreciate is the LENGTH of the cold. I lived in North Pole (a small town on the outskirts of Fairbanks) for about six years. For the first three years after I built my house, there were 17, 14, and 17 days in a row in January where the daily HIGH was not warmer than -40. I was attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the time, and an automotive engineer came up to speak at the School of Engineering. He came in February. The first words out of his mouth at his presentation were: "I don't know why cars work here. We did not design them to work in this environment."

Usually, we get our first hard frost in late August. Today is May 8th, and it has been and EXTRAORDINARILY warm Spring. Yet there are still patches of snow in the shadows and one only has to go up to about 1000 ft of elevation to find A LOT of snow.

The "average" frost-line - the depth to which the construction industry buries water lines because the ground is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit - is 4 feet. I dug all of my exterior waterlines to TWELVE FEET deep, because the ground COMMONLY freezes to 6 or even 8 feet. That doesn't happen in Minnesota BECAUSE IT DOESN'T STAY COLD AS LONG IN MINNESOTA AS IT DOES IN ALASKA. (That was 'yelling'.) The ice won't be off the lakes for at least another two weeks.

The point is, LONG cold is different than "simply" cold.

I don't know WHAT the native worms do up here in winter. I do KNOW that the subnivean space (that small place between the bottom of the snow pack and the ground), does not get colder than ABOUT 20 degrees Fahrenheit because the snow is an effective insulator. Still, that is frozen "solid" and stays that way for SEVEN OR EIGHT MONTHS. (Those stakes you see in the four corners of the bin are driven in about 6" - TO FROZEN GROUND. Twenty degrees Fahrenheit is WAY cold for worms. Even if I create a large "subnivean space" for the worm cages by layering huge piles of leaves on and around them, 20 degrees Fahrenheit is still "death" to compost worms.


    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:54PM
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Paul, that is a very good point about duration of the cold. I think that Is one reason why knowing the "zone" you live in may not be too beneficial to vermicomposters. It excludes micro-climates. It is based in extreme minimums with no reference to duration. Same with upper temps. There is a LOT of difference between a cool foggy 52F morning here, followed by 6 hours of sun warming to 85F, then quickly dropping back to low 50's when the fog returns. This situation is quite different than a dry, constant 85F.
We had a "cold" spell" two winters back, with temps dipping to 20F (burr!). It stayed near freezing for about a month. I monitored my worm-beds with a compost thermometer and temps slowly declined to about 40F. The worms appeared lethargic, dove down a little, and processing of waste slowed or stopped. I had a lot of mass under the worms(12"+ castings) but little above. When the bed warmed up, it appeared as it did prior to the cold.
I don't know how a worm cage would work in the colder or warmer and drier conditions. Outdoor worm bed are overwintered in cold conditions by adding a LOT of bulk over the bed, such as stray, leaves, tarps, ect.. If I were wormin' in a cold climate, I would have a deep bed over and under the worms. I think if the bed froze solid, it would not happen immediately, but slowly. The worms would gather up in the warmest place first, and ensure survival by breeding, similar to a salmon spawning, If it took a few weeks to freeze, each mature worm would leave several cocoons, maybe more. The worms would then perish. When the bed rewarmed, the cocoons would hatch and more worms would be in the bed than prior to freezing. All would be juvenile.
I may try an experiment Taking one of my "worm-bags" and refrigerating it for a few weeks, then freezing for a few weeks, then thawing and warming and waiting for squirm.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 12:17PM
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" Operation Frozen Wormery" experiment would be in the beer fridge and the fishing deep freeze. No worms allowed in the house here!

A thought for barbararose, you might insulate your cage with a hot-water heater blanket. That would help insulate and stop the "wind-chill" factor. I use old bankets on a windrow to help hold in moisture. $1 banket at the thrift store gets inoculated in Blue's dog house first. This windrow is also covered with a tarp at times to keep out excessive rain or hold in moisture. It helps to keep out some cold. The tarp also hides the nasty looking blankets my son calls "hella-ghetto" looking!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 3:37PM
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Saturday was a long day. I went to the goat farm and got the rest (the lion's share) of the goat manure. I spent the better part of the day shoveling ... manure.

The final result is the initial completion of the wormery/compost bin.

The following is a brief photo-essay of the day and it's outcome.

The goats:

The following is the barn from whence comes the "pure" manure. It was packed almost rock-hard. The owners had a Bobcat on hand to muck out the barn. I got 4 bucketloads of the "pure" stuff. It was almost "pure", but it was really "hot" with urine under the upper hardened, dried surface. REALLY hot. Not temperature-wise, but content-wise. No elevated temperature. What you see in the pictures is between 18 and 24 inched deep depending on where in the barn you measure.

Next, I went over the "dump" where the goatherds have been dumping their winter's buildup for the past 13 years. Here is a picture of this winter's bedding. Note all the straw.

In the foreground is the stuff from previous years. The oldest stuff was essentially "soil".
I forked about half a cubic yard of this into the bed of my truck.

Here's what the bed of my truck looked like before I went to the "old stuff".

The completed wormery/compost bin once again proved the adage about 'the best-laid plans of mice and men'. The 2'x2'x3' wormery - as shown in the picture in the original post - occupies 1/4 of the whole design. I had intended to make two or three more individual 2'x2'x3' bins adjacent to the wormery as compost bins. However, when I got to the actual construction, it seemed a better Idea to make one larger bin occupying the space three individual bins would have This allows more collective mass, which I believe will produce better results.

Once that was completed, I put a layer of wood SHAVINGS (not "dust") approximately 4" deep as the bottom layer. I expect this to hold moisture both from my soaking, and from the ground beneath the bin. Four inches of shaving in the three 2'x2'x3' 'zones' was 6 5-gal buckets-full of shavings. Since I could only carry 3 of them at a time, that meant I dropped one bucket-full per 2'x2'x3' zone, soaked it thoroughly, and brought 3 more buckets-full and soaked that layer thoroughly.

Next came a layer of leaves. This was a bag-full. These leaves have been sitting (and fermenting) in black bags since last September. They were still wet from being wet when bagged, and fairly compressed. I had to "decompress" them. I am quite certain there were more than 6 buckets-full of leaves in the leaf layer. (Soaking amounted to 5 minutes with a hose.) My well produces 15-gal per minute. Considering the "throughput" through well-pump, filter, house-pump, I would say about 5 gal per minute. That amounts to about 25 gallons of water per 3-bucket layer. A bucket per 2'x2' (area) 'zone' means that each 'zone' got about 20 gallons of water.

Then a layer of grass - same proportions (6 5-gal buckets-full) and and watering for 5 minutes per each of two layers.

Then a layer of "hot" (urine-soaked) manure. Same application and watering.

Then repeat the whole cycle four more times until my ass was draggin'. When I finally quite for the day, I topped the compost bin off with a layer of leaves. I don't think anything short of a plastic tarp would more effectively hold moisture below. Here's what the finished-for-the-day compost bin looked like.

Upon completion of the compost part of the "Cages", I prepared the wormery for its first inoculation of worms. Recall that I had placed a 5-gal bucket-full of shredded corrugated cardboard in the bottom as bedding, followed by two 5-gal buckets of moose-poop slurry. I hollowed out a 'crater' in the moose-poop slurry and put in about 5 lbs of the "dirt-like", well-aged, goat manure (no urine odor and almost indistinguishable from "soil"). To that I added the worms in their horse manure 'traveling medium'. On top of that was another thin layer of corrugated cardboard. That got a soaking - but not too much. The wormery was finished off with a layer - maybe an inch - of leaves as an anti-desiccant. That in turn got soaked, but again not too much.


I think it is highly unlikely that the worms will migrate to the compost side of the 'housing' until they find it 'attracting'. At the moment, I suspect it is HIGHLY too "uric". In the mean time, they have the best accommodations I can fabricate. Their only escape route is down into the humus below their bin.This morning I went out and re-wetted the whole bin. I will do this again this evening, and repeat daily for at least a week - I think.

Today, I will fill the compost part of the bin with the rest of the manure/leaves/shavings/grass. After 48 hours, I will take the temperature at the "middle" of the bin. Due to the high levels of urine in the manure, I have some SMALL hope of actually generating some heat as the result of decomposition. However, I will NOT be surprised at NOTHING at all.

The game is afoot!


This post was edited by pskvorc on Mon, May 12, 14 at 17:37

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 5:33PM
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By the way...

In order to emphasize the "frozen north" point, here's a picture of the wood shavings pile. You can see where I have been taking shavings from it. Where I stopped, IT IS STILL FROZEN SOLID. It hasn't frozen over night for three weeks. The daily highs are in the high 60's and low 70's. There is a frozen mass of approximately a cubic yard.


    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 5:37PM
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My thoughts. I saw the logs in the pictures and thought of hugelkultur. The black garbage bags made me wonder if the black plastic might be useful there due to the sun collecting possibilities. I am surprised you did not find worms already in the goat manure pile. Maybe there are eggs and they have not hatched out yet for the year. Thanks for the report.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 8:08PM
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I was a bit surprised to find NO worms anywhere at the goat farm. Neither in the lowest layers of the manure in the barn (probably too nitrogen-hot) or the "old" pile. I'm pretty sure I saw no 'sign' of them (egg capsules, etc.) either. The goat farmers had tried 'worming' a few years back and gave it up.

I thought the black bags would 'help' too. In the end, other than being plastic and "air-tight', I don't think they add much to the 'equation'.


PS - Hugelkultur - Something I am now SERIOUSLY looking into. THANKS!


This post was edited by pskvorc on Mon, May 12, 14 at 1:06

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 12:46AM
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Reading about hugelkultur, most places claim that the decomposing trees 'steal' nitrogen from the soil in the first year(s). Seems to me, that some urine-rich fertilizer - in this case, like this goat manure - would render that issue moot. It shouldn't be difficult to add sufficient fertilizer (manure) to the 'hugel' to mitigate the nitrogen 'theft' by the decaying wood.

I suppose this discussion should continue at the "composting" forum or at least somewhere other than the VC forum.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 11:38AM
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Today, I will fill the compost part of the bin with the rest of the manure/leaves/shavings/grass. After 48 hours, I will take the temperature at the "middle" of the bin. Due to the high levels of urine in the manure, I have some SMALL hope of actually generating some heat as the result of decomposition. However, I will NOT be surprised at NOTHING at all.


Sometimes it's good to be wrong. :D

I decided to test the temperature after this morning's watering even though it's only been about 40 hours since the compost bin was "started". Ambient air temp was 11 degrees C (52 F). 12 inches down from the center of the top was 32 degrees C (90 F). I had to take the measurement 3 times as I couldn't believe my eyes. I am impressed and encouraged!

Having a y chromosome, my thoughts immediately leapt to: GET/MAKE MORE! While the impulsive essence of the y chromosome isn't dulled by time, age and experience CAN still have some influence on that genetic force that shouts GET MORE of a 'good thing'! A more immediate mitigator of "get more" is the fact that my arms and shoulders are COVERED - literally hundreds - of Simulidae (black-fly) bites on my arms and shoulders from the goat manure. I hardly notice mosquito bites, but I'm quite sensitive to Simulid (black flies) and Ceratopogonid ("no-see-ums") saliva. I'll have these itchy, red, welts for more than a week. Nonetheless, now that I can make this 'work', the wheels are turning on a "clever plan" for more composting. Worms or not.

Thanks, mendopete!


    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 1:40PM
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OUTSTANDING! I had faith and knew you could do it.

Like when primitive man learned to use fire as a tool, you now know how to create beneficial heat.

Some observations and thoughts...
Building heat will really help start the decomposition process, helping the worms and helping you start building soil.
Your 3/4 pile may stay warm for a month or so. The heat will dry it out, so add more water after it peaks in temps. IF you were to turn/rewet it would heat up again. I don't turn my compost anymore... too much work
You need a tractor. If you were somehow able to mix all your ingredients, rich with "hot" goat manure, you could have one BIG hot compost pile. It has got to stay damp and would be best to turn it with a tractor a few times. The soil compost and mulch forum next door can be a great resource.
I am sure your herd will appreciate the heater as they make the transition to the Alaskan climate.
Your herd will probably scatter throughout the bin as the compost cools and becomes "worm-ready". This could make a Fall harvest more difficult. It could also lower your density, slowing reproduction. It really depends on how many worms you add. Then again, they may stay home where you are adding their favorite food. Either way, they will be very happy this summer.

Great job Paul, and thanks for the excellent post.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 4:50PM
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Some thoughts on 'turning' and mixing the existing compost bin:

1) It isn't visible in the pictures, but this bin is built up on a little earth bench about 3' high. When it comes time to 'turn', I intend to remove the walls of the bin and 'roll' the contents down to the lower level where they will be corralled once again. I don't expect that to be 'easy', but easier than trying to turn everything over 'in situ'.

2) I am resigned to a "serious" day of harvesting worms in the Fall. I will be building some sort of 'sifting' device to facilitate that. I may resort to "shock treatment".

3) I wanted to make sure that the worm bin wasn't getting heated beyond what its current inhabitants could stand or like, so I went back out at noon and took some more temperature readings including in the wormery. The center of the compost bin was up to 33 C (91.4 F), The "wings" were at 35 C (95 F), the wormery was same as ambient 15 C (59 F).

4) Another method of "turning" that I am contemplating is using the snow-blower to mix AND move the pile to another "bin". Imagine the snow-blower beside the existing bin with 'hopper' attached. I would fill the hopper from the existing bin. The blower is capable of blowing snow (and leaves at least) a good 15 to 20 feet. That would not just aerate and mix the pile, it would also 'move' it. I would do this when the temperature reached 150 to 160 F OR when I see that it has started to decrease from whatever the peak temperature value is. There SHOULD be little concern about 'moving' worms through the blower if the temperature is above 35 C (95 F).

At the moment, the FROZEN wood shaving pile prevents me from backing my pickup up near the compost/worm bin. Once the shavings pile has thawed completely and been fully "deployed", I can get my truck closer to the existing compost/worm bin, AND make another 4'x4'x3' bin.

There is still about another foot to 15" of depth to be added to the existing compost bin. Probably two layers each of manure, grass, leaves, and shavings. That will use up the existing manure, but not the leaves/shavings/grass. Hence the need to get another bin started. That one will be "compost only" - no worms. At least no worms ADDED.

I don't want to get a tractor. One can buy a helluva lot of fish food for the price of a hobby tractor. BUT... a tractor would help A LOT with the landscaping and other 'plans' I have for this and next year. "You" know what that means... ;)


PS - I failed to mention that the water added on the first day was HOT. Sensitive to your point about rehydrating 'things' that had dried out, I switched my outside hose bibs to "hot". (I plumbed that capability in when I built the house.) The water going on the bin was about 120 F. Besides facilitating "wetting", I believe this may have accelerated the heat generation as well.


This post was edited by pskvorc on Mon, May 12, 14 at 17:32

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 5:24PM
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37 C (98.6 F) tonight at 2200.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 2:55AM
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Articles have been written about homes heating water with large static compost piles and buried plastic pipe. It stays hot for quite awhile, then slowly declines. Heat is still produced for 6-8 months. MASSIVE piles!

I need a tractor too.....

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:41PM
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Temperatures this afternoon were between 90 and 95. Doesn't look like it's headed up from here, at least not too fast. Time will tell.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 9:48PM
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So here's the latest:

I took a two-week trip Outside (outside Alaska) to: 1) Go fishing in a friend's farm ponds in Missouri, 2) Attend my youngest daughter's college graduation, 3) Spend some time fishing with my fishing buddy Jim and his family, 4) and attend a friend's daughter's wedding. While on that trip, I suffered a minor "embolic event" (Branch Retinal Artery Occlusion) which caused partial but permanent vision loss on my left eye, and contracted Lyme disease or some similar tick-borne disease. (Still waiting on blood test results to determine which one specifically.) But... That's all 'another story'. What I am 'reporting' here, is how the MWC-Mod-1 fared during my absence.

In a phrase: Very well, indeed!

I had someone feeding my fish every few days, but I made no arrangements to have anyone 'tend' to my worms, either the MWC-Mod-1 or the ones in "inside bins". Both did just fine. In fact, the outdoor ones look like they thrived!

When I disturbed the MWC-Mod-1 bin to check on them today, I found very large versions. Before anyone suggests that the large ones might not be Eisenia fetida, let me assure you that they are.

The indoor bins 'survived' with no particular harm as far as I can tell, but they certainly couldn't be accused of 'thriving'. There are a 'zillion' white 'dots' on the inside of the bins. I haven't - yet - determined what those 'dots' are, but I'll have a look at them under a microscope and see if I can determine what they are. They don't SEEM to be a "problem".

I have to say that I am genuinely pleased with the MWC-Mod-1. It has lived up to all the claims associated with it's basic design premises. All too rare an outcome these days. The adjacent compost bin (leaves, grass, saw 'dust', and goat manure) is still 'cooking'. I didn't measure the temperature, but I'm sure it is WELL above ambient. I'd guess in the 100F range or even higher. I'll measure later today and report if it is significantly different.

Thanks mendopete!


    Bookmark   June 12, 2014 at 5:43PM
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Just awful to have such a great trip hijacked by those health issues. Good luck with the rebound and wishes for good reports with the lab results.

Worm-wise, looks like the wormies did real well while you were down south. One of the first big realizations we get learnin' wormin' is that they more often than not do real well when we leave them alone more often than not....and for long periods of time.

I've been pleasantly surprised more often than not after checking on some lonely, neglected and disheartened worm-squirm only to discover that my non-interference into their wiggle-room privacy was apparently welcomed with open..............well, unanimous approval.

Looks like your vermi-operation is doing great.


Oh, and those little white dots.....a PITA, but just a precomposting tool for those of us who've given up on keeping them out of the bins.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 12:08AM
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Thanks, CB2.

I concur whole-heartedly with how often critters do well when left to their own devices. It appears from what I read that this is particularly true of worms. "Leave them alone" might be one of the toughest things to do for some of us.

Haven't had a chance to microscope those white dots yet. Do you know what they are? If they are as benign as the pot worms, I'll not 'look back'.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 4:30AM
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Sorry to hear about your health problems, especially when away from home on vacation. Hope the fishing was good..
It sounds like your worms like their worm cage with the built-in heater. Soon you should see some of the next generation start to appear. They will be tough Alaskan-born wigglers!

Good luck and I hope you feel better soon. Pete

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:28PM
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"I probably shouldn't have looked" is the title to a new thread on what I saw when I looked at what I found in my indoor bins under a microscope. Here's a taste: (Yech)

You can see more and videos in that thread. (Gimme a few minutes to get it all uploaded.)


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 7:42PM
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Here's the latest on the MWC-Mod-1

The Reader's Digest version is that I finished my patio and planter. The planter is 40' long, 24" high and 24" wide. I could not "make" enough soil with worms this summer, so I bought enough topsoil to fill it, BUT, I did start a 4'x4'x4' compost bin - 1/4 of it devoted to compost worms - about three months ago - The MWC-Mod 1. Since it's been 'cookin' pretty good, I decided to use it's contents for the top 6" of fill for the planter. Here's what I found when I 'tore into' the compost bin.

I am saddened that I didn't talk with someone like Mendopete about composting before. Following his directions fairly closely, this 'thing' worked 'like I knew what I was doing'. It "cooked" and it shrunk down an amazing amount. (You can look above for it's "construction" and components.) When I dug into it with a pitch fork - so as to minimize the damage to any worms that might have migrated into the "non-worm" part - I was pleasantly surprised to find A LOT of worms!. All of them now part of my planter. Of the components, the following are my observations:

1) The grass decomposed completely
2) The wood shaving were well-decomposed, but not absolutely and the FAVORITE place of the worms,
3) The leaves almost didn't decompose at all, and were the second favorite place of the worms.
4) The goat manure/urine was "funny". It was largely "changed"/decomposed, but still smelled and looked A LOT like "poop". No worms in it to speak of.

I am now going to be a composting fiend.
1) No more leaves wilthout first being SEVERELY shredded.
2) Wood shaving are "good". :)
3) Worms are "OK for "composting, but I will not ever buy any more. If they are around, fine. If not, that 's fine too.
4) Meal worms, (Tenebria molitor) are WAY too easy (and cheap) to culture for fish food to fuss with Eisenia fetida.

So, another "thank you" to Mendopete. Excellent advice that WORKED, and a general thanks to everyone here that helped me get on my way with 'worms'. I still have the "indoor" bins, and they are doing fine. Even noticed some production in them. But mostly, they are a novelty at this point. I'll keep them going throughout the winter if I can, but it will primarily be to "complete the circle", not for any particular hope of "making" soil or worms.


This post was edited by pskvorc on Tue, Jul 29, 14 at 13:25

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Wow Paul, you have been busy! I was wondering if you were going to sort out all that compost. That would have took a LOOOONG time to do. Sounds like you made a nice batch of wormy compost. My hunch is you will find some worms in that planter after the thaw.

Thanks for such a detailed post.

Good luck and happy composting!


    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 1:35AM
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