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Worm Cage Success!

Posted by mendopete 8 (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 5, 10 at 0:55

Last March I posted about a worm cage I built as an experiment. A 3'x10' piece of 1/2" hardware cloth was fastened as a cylinder about 3' diameter. 4 layers of organic coffee-bean sacks lined the outside. More hardware cloth and thick cardboard layers as a floor. I added a milkcrate full of VC and worms to the center of the bin. Another milkcrate with kitchen scraps and cardboard was placed on top of the first crate. Manure-rich compost with thousands of native redworms was filled in around the crates. A RM bin was dumpped on top and it was covered with more burlap and 8" of straw.
I live in a very mild coastal climate and had regular rain into June. In mid July I tore the pile down. All VC was sifted in about an hour using a homade trommel stye tumble sifter. The material was 75% finished and I now have many worms. I got about 30 gal. of pure black castings for tea brewing. The rest and the worms went into a new BIGGER cage with fresh cold compost and lots of aged horse manure.
Worms finish my compost for me. 14 months of vermicomposting with about 2000 worm starter herd has expanded wildly. Luckily I started the worms BEFORE I got chickens and a horse. Good manure management!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Worm Cage Success!

I'm curious about your trommel sifter. Can you describe it for me?
I've been thinking of making a small one.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Me also.

Dave Nelson


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

The sifter, like me, is low-tech and cheap.
Materials needed:
2 - 5 gallon buckets
1/4" hardware cloth approx. 2'x3'
30-40 plastic cable ties
2 - 12"x1/4" all-thread, with 8 - nuts and washers
4'x1" PVC pipe (axle hub/housing)
drill and 1/4" bit
1 - broom-stick (axle)
6-pack of beer (optional)

Steps:
Cut the bottoms out of the buckets.
Drill holes in the sides of the buckets 1" from the bottom and 3" apart.
Form a cylinder with the hardware-cloth and attach to the buckets using plastic ties. Note: attach cloth on the outside of one bucket(imput) and the inside of the other bucket (output) This keeps worms from getting stuck going in/out.
Use plastic ties to attach the side of the hardware-cloth cylinder. I attached all plastic ties from the inside and left 2-3 inches of end stick inward to act as beaters. I added about 10 more randomly.
Remove the bucket handles and drill holes at the handle attachment points.
Slide all-thread through these holes and use nuts to attach.
Slide the PVC pipe down the center and attach to the all-thread using plastic ties. I offset the pipe under/over the allthread to create a wobble.
Slide the broomstick through the pipe.
I adapted a homemade miter-saw stand for the main frame. The sifter works best on drier material set at about 20degree slope. Two people are require for operation, 1 continually spinning about 12 RPM and 1 feeding.
I also formed a hopper to feed, but a better design is imminent (as soon as I think it up!)

I hope this helps. There are several designs on the internet, and I adapted OP ideas.

Pete


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

If it's as 2 man job, bring more beer.
Other than that, It sounds easier than what I built.
2 vids:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=786_j4aOwtQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fr1nrg-sXI&feature=related


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

I would like to see a photo of the worm cage. I think it sounds like a perfect way to make an airy temporary worm home to process a large amount of compost in a shortish time.

Wonderful!


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Antoniab, as I said I am low-tech and, I know not how to post photos. It really is not much to see. It is a cylinder 3' high x 3' wide and burried in burlap and straw. I wet it with a hose when it seems dry.
I could have harvested more castings from this pile if I had allowed the material to dry. It was quite dense and damp in the center.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Pete, do you think the worm cage allows for faster processing of VC compared to your in-ground wormery? So the cylinder is standing on it's end...like a giant can of beer? Did you open up the cylinder to harvest?

Andrew


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Andrew, I Think the VC processed much faster than my in-ground bin due to the vastly improved air-flow. The only VC that did not process well was the outside inch or 2. Either it was too dry or the light filtered in through the burlap.
The cage does stand on it's end, and is easily taken down for harvest. This was a passive, no-peek system (except I pulled the top off several time to check progress) I tried 2 other cages without the burlap or additional worms, but they did not process nearly as fast!


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Pete:
After reading your post, I built myself a trommel last weekend. I wanted a one-man setup so i built a smaller version, using two plastic flower pots (the 10 inch hanging ones you see with ferns etc in them). Instead of allthread, I had some flat steel pieces with holes along its length. Kind of like a big piece of erector set. I bent the ends 90 degrees and then simply attached the wire to the flower pots with a short bolt and nut. I used 2 on each end forming an X and then ran a PVC pipe like you described- at an angle to make a wobble when it turned.

It looked good when I tested it empty. But I found that the slight taper of the pots let some compost dump out when it hit low position. I had to raise it well above a 20 degree angle to compensate.

I've only used it once but it worked fairly well. I followed it up with my collander to remove the smaller compost and leave only castings. Later on , I may not do that but for now I am picky about the quality of what i keep back for tea.

I have a batch of compost drying a little so I can sift it. It looks better now than what I produce in one of my regular compost bins, but like I said, I am picky.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Pete ... don't mean to hi-jack your thread, but you seem to be one of the few in-ground vermers .... do you have any problems with critters in your worm pits? I've recently discovered either small rat or large mouse ... am taking measures to catch it/them... but just wondered what your experience has been. The worm-eating slugs were bad enough, but DOUBLE EEEEK for furry critters.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

I lined the bottom of my on-the-ground bin with window screen. I suppose a dedicated rodent could probably chew through that or the plywood, but none have so far. I once forgot to use the plastic flooring of a commercially manufactured compost bin. It didn't take long for mice to find that. I had to empty it out and add the floor.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Hi all. I had a cornea transplant a few months back that has improved my vision enough to observe my herd again and see the keyboard. So time to start posting again.
My second larger wormcage sat mostly unattended untill I inspected it in late October. The material was done and the worms were gone!Even though it was in shade, lack of water and fresh food caused a mass evacuation, losing maybe 10 lbs of squirm :O I ended with about 1 cubic yard of VC. Some material went to my garden beds, some to neighbors, and about 10 cu' as "starter" for my new haybale/wedge system.The worms left many cocoons.Amazing.
I would and may use this system again. If you used a mister to keep everything damp and feed weekly, it works very well. To harvest,slip the cage off the pile and set it on some new bedding. Then pitchfork off the top 10" of the old VC into the new cage.
BTW the sifter mentioned earlier in this thread is still working, as I tumbled last week.

Pete


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

The better to see you with.
Welcome Back!


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Hi all. Worm cage update.

I have 2 cages going currently Neither are wrapped with burlap or have bottoms. Both cages are in the garden area.

Cage #1 was started last september with a wheelbarrow load of bedrun (maybe 4 lbs. of worms). I put the cage around the pile and added 4" of horse manure and covered with straw. I have added to tos weekly with chicken manure, hay, straw, and horse manure.. I managed to keep temps around 60F-80F and the material keeps shrinking. Currently it is 24" tall.

Cage #2) This pile started as a hot compost pile built in January. I used lots of raspberry canes and leaves, mixed with horse manure, straw and used coffee grounds. It heated up to 135F before it cooled and I turned it. I added about 15 gallons of bedrun in today (maybe 6-8 lbs of worms). This was topped with 4" of horse manure and 6" of straw. A nearby cherry tree will offer ample shade soon.

Both cages are at 70F-80F now. I plan to try and keep both systems running with regular additions of horse manure and straw mulch. I will be adding water soon and regularly also. I plan to kick them over in the fall and start over.


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Update

Cage #1 referenced in the last post was torn down yesterday. After 8 months of little food, water, or attention the results were mixed.
The worm herd grew to probably 10-12lbs quickly and kept up until feedstock diminished. I only harvested about as many worms as were put in, maybe less. They were certainly less active.
The castings were absolutely beautiful. Black, completely processed, and the oldest stuff on the bottom crumbled easily in my hands. These would compare to commercial grade without sifting. Only the outer 2-3" of the cylinder was semi-processed VC.

This was my first attempt at feeding fresh chicken manure to a wormery. It worked. I suspect without the hay and straw henhouse bedding and occasional additions of fresh horse manure, it would not been as active early. But it would work.

Cage # 2 referenced in the last post is yet to be looked at. It has not been fed or watered since July at all. It was doing very well, but I think worms will be few now. It was a little bigger than bin#1, and only topfed horse manure after it started. It is near my apple and cherry trees. Those trees are about to get very happy!

These are great systems for a small farm or even backyards. They are cheap and easy to manage. I add whatever feedstock I have every week or two and always cover with lots of straw or hay. The insides of the cages are progressively lined with straw as the bed grows. I sometimes add water in the summer. Harvesting is a snap. Simply remove the wire cage, remove the worm culture from the top, and then remove the gold from the bottom. Retie the cage, dump in the bedrun and you start again. It takes about an hour. And they do not look too unsightly, especially compared to some of my other systems............

Worm cage #8 was started yesterday.

Happy wormin' and good luck!


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RE: Worm Cage Success!

Outstanding! Definitely going to try this method. Biggest challenge will be getting worms to start. I will be using goat "litter" - manure, urine, and straw - primarily but will be adding shredded leaves and sundry other "organic" matter.

THANKS for resurrecting this thread!

Paul


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