December 31, 2008

Screen Til Your Fingers Bleed

With the recent wigwam harvest comes a whole new issue: how to efficiently screen the volume of castings collected. My original method of an oversized colander into a tall bucket worked for one or two shoebox-sized Rubbermaid containers, but not so great for the giant heaps the wigwam produced.

Today I loaded the castings and shook and shimmied and scooped around then dumped the scrappy stuff- again and again and again and again- only to find I had done about a fifth to a quarter of the pile. I was starting to get blisters from screening!

Certainly there is a better way- HELP!

Keep in mind I currently operate out of my basement, so the new method has to be not only efficient but somewhat CLEAN. I can't have castings flying all over and about, so I have to find a way or system that can do more volume with minimal mess and space.

Please leave any suggestions or creative ideas for a clean, space saving method of screening by leaving a comment below. All ideas welcome!

December 26, 2008

Patience is a Virtue

I am still waiting patiently for the worm castings/vermicompost to dry that I recently harvested...zzzzzzzzzzz...I've read two different points on this matter:

1. The vermicompost shouldn't be allowed to dry out all the way because retaining a little of the moisture keeps the beneficial bacteria active in it

2. It doesn't matter if the vermicompost dries out because the beneficial bacteria is reactivated once it gets wet.

Both places I read these things seemed to be reputable sources. If anyone has any insight or a good answer to that, please let me know!

In the meantime I had a great Christmas Eve & Christmas Day- which resulted in a whole bunch of worm bowls ready for feeding. I plan to do some screening either Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, depending on how my gift returning schedule pans out.

Tomorrow, it is time for twisting and bending adventures at an afternoon AcroYoga workshop. I have to keep in shape for all this harvesting!

December 16, 2008

The Moment We've All Been Waiting For.....

FINALLY it's the day I give the wigwam its first crank!

Before I get to the good stuff, you need some background and lead up info. First, the pic of the multitude of escapees I talked about in my last post:worm wigwamEEWWW! See what I mean? Soooo gross, even for a worm lover!!!

Next up is a before pic of the area where the long-awaited organic fertilizer would soon be falling. After all this time, I finally got to open the trap door!

The stuff already there must have fizzled down:
harvesting worm wigwam
Newsflash: cranking the wigwam is a lot of work!

The crank moves real easy, that's not the issue.

It's just that only a little falls at a time so I was cranking like a maniac for five straight minutes. In the end, I had a humongous pile of scrumptious vermicomposty worm castings:harvesting worm wigwam
I put the castings in a large plastic bin so they could dry out before being screened (notice all the worm related equipment! I never thought I'd have a whole little workshop for worm poo!):vermicompost
The level inside (where the worms are) fell about five to six inches with that cranking, and I didn't have enough room in the plastic container pictured above for all that dropped, happy day!

Of course, you all know about my penchant for saving small lives and even potential lives. I couldn't leave this post about the first crank without showing the valiant effort to save the extreme bottom dwellers of the wigwam:worm eggs
I rescued about 10-15 worms out of the castings I cranked out. ANOTHER MYTH DEBUNKED- all the worms don't live in the top few inches where the food is. Some live in the very bottom layers and have to be forcefully relocated!

This made me wonder: what if I could tag the worms that I found so the next time I cranked I could see if the same ones were at the bottom again? This would also be helpful in the case of the escapees- I could tell if recent escapees were repeat offenders. Hmmm.....

ANYWAY, stay tuned for information on drying, screening, and packaging. Lilliworm rolls on!

December 13, 2008

The Uncalm Before The Turn

Just a quick note before the first turn--- the word must be out in the wigwam that big things are about to happen. I have more escapees than ever!

Perhaps you may remember from an earlier post that some wanderers have seen fit to explore beyond the normal boundaries of their home and wedge themselves in between the outer wall and insulation piece.

My usual response is to yank the side back and quickly scoop the 10-20 defectors and return them to the middle of the bin.

Well, my past few look-sees have proven to be quite the rescue mission, as in HANDFULS of worms have begun to congregate in between.

 I don't understand it: I haven't changed the conditions inside the bin, and the area they are congregated in has none of the benefits of being inside the bin- no food, no warmth, no moisture- yet the exodus continues.

Now maybe I am over-estimating how much of the herd is really migrating, because hopefully I have around 15-20 pounds of worms by now- so maybe a few handfuls is nothing.

But, I'm not gonna lie- the problem of rescuing handfuls of worms is more of a mental issue than an operational one. Handfuls of worms are kinda gross and when grabbed, extremely active- ew!

My hope is that the turn of the handle will lower the level and make the worms' supposed promised land between the walls a little more difficult to reach!

November 28, 2008

Pumpkin Shell Discovery

Despite my bragging about the worms loving pumpkins, it seems they only love the insides. Here's the small bucket of pumpkin shells I extracted from the bin today that were cleaned of their insides and starting to harden:pumpkin shellsBut far more interesting (and photo worthy) were the pumpkin shells they hadn't quite finished just yet:worm wigwam feedingWhen I lifted up some of the shells, the worms were congregated in the goo inside and kind of flopped out all together:
pumpkins in the wigwamThis is almost too gross even for me!

ANYWAY, the final feeding before the first turn of the wigwam just took place. It was an extravagant post-Thanksgiving Day feast for the squirmers before a part of their world is cranked out and readjusted. This feeding brought everything up to within a few inches of the top of the bin.

Bin cranking countdown is T minus 7 days!

November 12, 2008

How Do The Pumpkins Grow?

FAST, that's how. In a matter of only a week and a half, all the pumpkin insides are eaten and pumpkin plants are sprouting!I mixed them back in real quick so the wormies could finish them off, too. As you can see from this pic, I am mere INCHES away from the top of wigwam FINALLY!

At this near momentous occasion, I would like to highlight some important things I've learned about worms in the past year or so that contradict what I had read to be true:

1. Worms don't eat their body weight, or even half their body weight, every day. Not even close.

2. Worms don't necessarily need their bedding to be sopping wet, or as some put it "able to squeeze a teaspoon of water out of handful of bedding". Baloney. They do just fine with it damp.

3. Worms will try to escape no matter how wonderful their environment. When I first got my worms, I used a lamp hooked to an outdoor Christmas light timer in my basement to keep them in. I was feeding them all sorts of wonderful scraps and some were still bent on creeping out- light/no light, delicious scraps/crappy scraps. It didn't matter. Just like people, some just need to get away! Whatever!

4. Worms don't go sterile if you touch them too much. Believe you me, I am always mixing them around, picking them up and examining them, plucking them off the top of the bin and tossing them back in, removing them briefly from the bin to take photos, and they seem to be multiplying just dandy. I estimate I now have about 15 pounds worth, although it is impossible to know exactly.

Those are the most significant that I can think of right now. If you need any worm myths proven or debunked, let me know!

November 3, 2008

Useful Jack-O-Lanterns

These pumpkins were artfully carved for Halloween this year (mine has the tongue sticking out a la Gene Simmons style). Their artfully carved parts and gooey insides ended up in the latest worm bowl (along with some strawberry tops):

Then, we roasted the pumpkin seeds with some EVOO and steak seasoning. Essentially we were able to make use of the whole pumpkin- very environmentally friendly.

I have no idea how long it takes pumpkin parts to rot, so before I go gangbusters and toss in entire pumpkins for the worms to devour, I am going to see how long it takes them to finish these small pumpkin parts.

Did you know that pumpkins were first carved back in the 1700's to welcome back dead relatives and scare off evil spirits? I learned all kinds of interesting stuff at the Pumpkin Patch.

If I find out pumpkins rot fast enough, I am going to cut the jack-o-lanterns into pieces and drop them in.

Hopefully, this Halloween symbol will symbolize the last feeding before the big crank of the Wigwam!!!

October 26, 2008

Rolling on the River

I was so caught up with feeding the worms before I left for vacation, I forgot the camera.

Luckily, the same co-worker that has supplied my worms with an endless supply of scraps also remembers to take her camera when she goes on fun trips! While the worms were safe, sound, and well fed in PA, we were kayaking down the Colorado River somewhere in Arizona. This is right near Emerald Cave- which turned out to be way smaller but much more emerald than I anticipated.

The trip included a hike mostly downhill through some interesting rock mountains and formations, a soak in the natural hot springs, and kayaking. I was disappointed- no encounters with any rattlesnakes or scorpions (too cold this time of year the guide said), but we did get to see some big horned sheep.

The most death-defying part of the trip was when the guide picked us/drove us back to the hotel. We weaved in & out of Las Vegas rush hour traffic like a bat out of Hades and passed vehicles at mach-speed in a 10 passenger van!

October 20, 2008

Secrets of Worm Grunters!

Are you grossed out yet intrigued by the term "worm grunters"?

I found a "Worm Grunting Mystery Solved" article in the Animal section of my Google homepage, and fortunately it has nothing to do with snorting worms AT ALL.

I was not aware such a puzzle existed or that a community at large was pondering a hypothesis to its solution, but here's to hoping grunters and moles steer clear of my herd!

October 19, 2008

Worms on Vacation

Really, I was the one on vacation- but the worms got a vacation from me and my prying eyes! Although there was no chance of my verminophobic mom feeding or checking in on my herd while I was away, that was NO PROBLEM.

One of the great things about worms and organic recycling is the tiny amount of time and attention it takes. Make the bin, put in the worms, save up and throw in the scraps, give a few sprays of water to keep it moist, and you are pretty much done for the week.

Right before we left to go away, I fed the squirmers a bunch of rotten bananas and a huge bowl of fruit and veggie scraps, including their favorite- cantaloupe rinds. For this particular time, I did not puree it because I wanted it to break down slowly while we were away, kind of a controlled time-release feeding.

Then I gave them a quick dousing with the watering can.

And that was the end of "pre-vacation" prep.

I packed my bags, left, had a ball, and returned to find a super-productive worm wigwam, and a very happy mother that didn't have to get involved with the family business while I was away.

October 3, 2008

Worms for All Seasons

It's been getting colder and stormier this autumn season, and we even had a double rainbow a few days ago. However, you can see from all those green trees no leaves have started changing.

With the worms mere inches from the top of the wigwam, I am about to fly into overdrive with Lilliworm.

I'm on the search for some good organic-y, recycled, earth-friendly labels to attach to the drawstring cotton bags for the castings.

I'm not sure how large to make the label, because I want to include short instructions and info about the castings. I also have all the stuff to make the teabags and smaller drawstring bags for them, too, and they'll need different labels.

Once you've used up the castings or teabags from the drawstring bag, you can turn it inside out and throw it in the washing machine for a good cleaning. Then, the possibilities to reuse it are endless: store seeds or bulbs, beads, screws, nails, nuts & bolts; separate jewelery; use as a camera, cellphone, or blackberry pouch; throw in some dog treats and keep it in the car for dog adventure days; use as a small makeup bag; and on and on and on!

I can't wait to launch the new Lilliworm website, and hope to have it up and running by the end of the month so I can begin to take some orders- hooray!

The timing of the Lilliworm project has gone extremely well considering the other responsibilities I have, and it's exciting to see it coming together. I'll finally be able to get some recycled organic goodness out into the world, courtesy of my small, hard-working herd!

Even though at times it was moving painfully slow, I've tried to keep in mind that the tortoise beat the hare.

Halloween is right around the bend, and as I was decorating this week I snapped this cool semi-scary photo of Benj laying on the floor. Remember "Bat-Boy" from the Weekly World News?

September 26, 2008

Flower MASTER Thanks to the Worms

I have been raising some mean cana lilies this past growing season. Their bulbs looked like purple radishes with thin tan tentacles and a thick stem piece in the center.

When I planted them in May, I mixed the dirt with worm castings because the soil was kind of a clay/gravelly combo. (I didn't have all that many castings then, so I wasn't overly generous.)

Even though the weather is getting cold, my canas think it's the middle of July:
That worm poo made them look like a MASTER gardener was shacking up at my house (for those of you approaching my house from the correct side, of course) instead of a MASTER worm farmer.

I have been advised that because of the climate in my part of the world, I'll need to cut them down after the first frost and pull out the bulbs. They'll need stored in a cool dry place, but not too cold and not too dry. If they get too moist, they'll sprout or grow a nasty mold, and if they get too cold I guess they just die.

These canas require quite the balancing act.

Wait til next growing season! Not only will I have ample worm castings to nurture fantastic flowers, but I have dreams of a berry garden of epic proportions in my head.

 If you have any berry growing advice, let me know.

September 12, 2008

As the Bin Turns

The concept of the worm wigwam bin is to feed in layers, and then cover each layer of food with a few inches of peat moss and shredded newspaper or cardboard.

By the time all of the layers reach the top of the bin, you can give the handle on the side of the bin a few turns and all the good, soil conditioning poo will get sifted out to the bottom.

You lift off the "door" and collect the poo. The pile consequently goes down in the bin, and you continue the feeding/covering/sifting cycle.

The time needed to get to that first handle crank is kind of a mystery since I didn't begin with the prescribed pounds of worms. They suggested 30, I started with around 10 and probably have a little more now- we'll say 15 to 20.

With their suggested amount, they estimated the first crank should occur at 90 days. I estimated mine would take about 120 days- I started in mid-May, so that puts me around.....right about soon.

You can see the crank on the side and the trap door where you can get the goods out:worm wigwam
Here's the height inside when I started:inside of worm wigwam
Currently, my herd is about a foot from the top:worm wigwam
I estimate the first crank in about a month, which puts me a few weeks behind- but, whatever! I guess worms aren't an exact science!

In other news, a friend forwarded me a really cool blog written by her friend's little brother, Jake. He is also environmentally friendly, and sells some nifty handmade stuff, too. Enjoy!

September 6, 2008

The Last Splash of Summer!

Please excuse this mostly non-worm entry today about one of my dogs favorite days of the year!

Animal Friends held their Last Splash of Summer today at Sandcastle. I don't like to brag, but I mooched the idea for this event a few years ago from The Beach Waterpark in Cincinnati and pitched it to an event person for Animal Friends while attending their Mutt Strut. They totally went for it, and now it is in its fourth year, hooray!

I love love love seeing the waterpark being taken over by dogs- especially mine. Benj adores swimming in the pools, but even more, he loves tearing around the deck and checking out the whole scene.

Here's another of him getting in some serious lap time.

If you didn't make it to the Last Splash of Summer, be sure to check out their other animal events, gatherings, classes, etc., or drop them a donation so they can continue their compassionate no-kill mission.

In creepier news, the worms are less than a foot from the top of the Wigwam, I am so geeked! As soon as the feeding/casting pile gets to the top, I can give that special handle a crank and the good stuff will fall to the bottom for collection. Then I can I finally begin production on what will be the most wonderful organic soil conditioner items in the WORLD.

Until then, patience is key and it's more feeding and watering.

Here's to hoping you got your LAST SPLASH of the summer, too!

August 28, 2008

Just Peachy

If you ever wondered what happens when you put a whole nectarine (with a little bit of mold- ew!) in the wigwam, here it is:worm foodThe worms seem to love it and got through about 1/3 of it in three days. But see what I mean about NOT eating half their body weight daily? There are tons of worms in that bin so that nectarine should be GONE. I just know putting their food in the processor speeds up consumption time by DAYS, and once Lilliworm is up and running full throttle it will be processing all the food all the time!

I've been working on a new Lilliworm website that's full of great graphics, snazzy sentences, and fantastic photos- thank goodness. My HTML and FrontPage skills are obviously at a third to fourth grade level, and I'm not going to lie: the current Lilliworm site is an travesty and embarrassment to my worms (and pretty much myself, as well).

Soon, with the creative mind of Gary Cekus Design, my worms will be able to stand (creep? crawl?) proud when the new site is revealed. He crafted the magnificent Lilliworm logo, so you can expect fantastical results!

Lastly, to pay tribute to end of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and salute Micheal Phelps, the Lilliworms will swim (read: burrow) around and around the watermelon ring of honor, devouring it all little by little in 17 short days. Well, hopefully much less than that!

worm wigwam feedingwatermelons in the wigwam

August 25, 2008

The Words of Worms

I found a fun site called Wordle that will let you make cool word collages with either words you come up with or ones it will pull automatically from a web address you enter. Here's the one I crafted for the Lilliworm blog.

August 17, 2008

Eat, Sleep, Work....Eat, Sleep, Work....

Am I talking about me or the worms? Recently, I'm not so sure.

As another season winds down at the world's favorite traditional amusement park, I realize I've spent another summer in a drone-like pattern: eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work.

My worms are pretty much in the same boat- but they have a lot more energy and look a heck of a lot more content about it!

Did you know red wigglers can eat about half their body weight each day?

Yeah, right! That's what all the books and sites say- but I have to tell you, whether I chop their food, puree their food, or feed it to them on miniature spoons, my worms aren't eating anywhere near that much. If I feed them four or five pounds of food chopped up, it takes them at least three or four days to finish it. And if I puree eight pounds of strawberry tops, it takes about four or five days.

Baloney half their body weight! Either all those sources are wrong, or I just happened to get the all worms with the petite super-model appetites.

ANYWAY, when the season is finally over, I need to locate a new food source. I am eying up a small fruit store near my home, hoping the owner is amenable to handing over old or damaged produce. I've been practicing my elevator pitch...

August 5, 2008

Canta Worm Love Cantaloupes?

Unfortunately, not when he lives at my house. Neither myself nor my husband (or my cockapoo for that matter) ever buys any.

However, my fantastical fruit and veggie eating friend at work returned a worm bowl a few days ago with previously untried fruit for my little friends: cantaloupe rinds. No one could have guessed the absolute havoc that would ensue in the Wigwam when these rinds were added!

Cantaloupe rinds must be like a crazy drug for worms. When I checked up on them- I know, I can't stop looking at them, still!- I found a two by two inch piece that easily was housing fifty worms, and all of them were literally in a small squirming frenzy.

Did you know that cantaloupes are a super fruit? Me neither, but the worms did!

August 1, 2008

Fun with (Gummi) Worms

My real worms are working hard on another batch of organic scraps, so I thought it might be fun to visit some sites that are also using worms- gummi worms, that is. has an array of gummi worm inspired recipes- from the popular Dirt & Worms to the more ambitious version created in a real flowerpot. However, they didn't have any pics to enjoy.

If you enjoy sushi, there's a new version in town. This mock sushi recipe using rice cereal, fruit leather, and gummi worms looks cool whether you love fishy rolls or not.

More daring worm lovers can try Pond Worms or Graveyard Pudding, and those with deep pockets can pony up $12 for this work of worm art.

I know what you are thinking- when will I be writing more serious posts about worms? Every time I start typing, I ask myself the same thing!

July 21, 2008

Start Your Worms...

I just found a new potential career for my worms: professional racing!

Libraries like this one are using fun, interactive activities like worm races to get kids through the door this summer and hopefully keep them there to read and learn about all kinds of stuff. In this case, how bugs and worms benefit the earth.

Worm racing must be taking the elementary school and library world by storm, because I also found pics here and here of worm racing.

So if my wormies aren't too tired from eating and pooing amazing amounts of organic waste, you'll see them on the racing circuit come next summer. The training begins soon.

July 20, 2008

A Break from Worms

WARNING! If you are looking for squirmy news, I'm taking a blog break from worms today to talk YOGA!

I participated in a training workshop yesterday at Amazing Yoga in Shadyside. I have only taken a few classes at AY so far- but WOW! They lead super- athletic yoga in a challenging, fast paced flow with the room temp jacked up to eighty five to ninety degrees - which their site's FAQs boast can burn up to 800 calories per class. (They also wrote their own book!)

I enjoyed myself so much those few times that I signed up for the workshop. I wanted to see what the learning vibe was like, and confirm that I truly meshed with this yoga style.

So I spent three hours on my only day off this week wildly perspiring in a cozy studio above Ellsworth Avenue, and I'm happy to report that I can't even explain how good I felt when I left. I gained knowledge of postures, poses, and assisting no one can take away, and I sweat out the stress, anxiety, and frustration I've been holding in from working six days a week.

I'd like to complete the AY teacher training program that begins this fall, because I know first hand that yoga can help, heal, calm, relax, strengthen, and motivate. The workshop was the first (half) step towards my goal. Thankfully, the instructor was the perfect blend of yoga and athlete, and I felt very comfortable with her thoughtful teaching and demonstration techniques.

So now I'm patiently counting down the days until teacher training begins...


July 16, 2008

Jealous Worms?

The landscaping master next door, AKA my great neighbor, generously donated some black eyed susans to our ongoing landscaping project yesterday. (He also let me swim in his pool this past weekend, but who's keeping track?)

When my husband dug the holes to place the plant gifts inside, guess what we found....jealous worms!

These poor outdoor worms were skinny and trying to make their way through some of the hardest, weirdest colored clay southwestern PA has to offer.

Did they know I am the landlord of a very posh, luxury worm community, whose tenants are kept warm with their bellies full?

Too bad! Lilliworms are eisenia foetida, or red worms, used specifically for composting (and for trout fishing- ouch!). My worms enjoy eating their way through rotting organic materials these outdoor worms would squirm away from.

So, no reason for jealousy- the outdoor worms wouldn't like my accommodations anyway- and they can easily handle the changing weather, food choices, and varied soil outdoors. Plus, technically they still are my tenants- in my giant outdoor worm bin, AKA my yard.

Now, let's see if we can get these plants to thrive...

July 7, 2008

Escape from the Wigwam

worm wigwam escapeDespite having an attentive worm-keeper, despite being fed some of the best scraps this side of the Mississippi, and despite having new digs in the Wigwam- some red wigglers STILL try to escape.

Here are a few adventurous squirmers on a fruitless quest for the after-bin life.

The wall design of the wigwam is: green plastic inner wall/silver lining/green plastic outer wall- and here are these guys in between.

The silver lining is the insulation that's supposed to keep them cozy in cooler temps.

Sigh. Another successful rescue and more saved worm lives at Lilliworm!

July 6, 2008

Official Lilliworm Logo Unveiled!

Finally...the anticipated reveal of the Lilliworm logo!

I thought carefully about what type of logo would work best going forward. I asked opinions, took informal surveys, and in the end had 2 viable contenders.

A few things made this logo work best for Lilliworm: shape, colors, and the flexibility of both.

I can easily envision it on a circular sticker seal, square retail tag, or rectangular business card, plus I am able to change up the colors for each product I {might someday} offer.

A talented and insightful writer friend said it reminded her of an old fashioned barn hex. Even though this option wasn't her favorite, I liked that association so much it helped solidify my choice.

Barns remind me of farms, farms remind me of crops, and crops remind me of fertilizer, and fertilizer reminds me of worms- see the connection?

Official Lilliworm Logo Unveiled!

The Official Lilliworm Logo Unveiled

June 29, 2008

Berries Banished

After 12 days of berry feasting, the worms have finished virtually all of them. There are a few small green pieces of tops I can see if I sift around, but other than that- all the red fleshy stuff and the rest of the leafy parts are GONE.

While investigating, I saw tons of cocoons and all different sized worms- hooray! I don't know how I'll ever know- in pounds - how many worms I have now that they are in the wigwam, but I guess I'll be able to tell by how fast they eat X pounds of food. I'll just weigh the food from now on and keep track of how long it takes them to finish.

I also finished screening all the castings from the old bin, FINALLY. It took them forever to dry out. I have giant bucketful now to use in Lilliworm's first worm casting tea bags.

What are worm casting tea bags, you ask? They are regular tea bags filled with worm castings (instead of tea) that you leave in your full watering can overnight. The good bacteria and nutrients from the castings leach out, turning the regular water into a nutritious organic plant drink (for plants- not you).

June 26, 2008

Wigwam Modifications

After the big berry feed last week (still not completely gone!), I noticed something was up with the wigwam. Problem: whenever I tilted up the giant black cover to look in, the condensation on it would run down until it dripped all over the floor in a big puddle. Not good. My bin was becoming a miniature rain forest.

I didn't have this problem with my other bins. The old bins had screened tops and allowed plenty of air circulation (check the pics).

Time for action. My husband likes the worms a lot more when they present him with an opportunity to show his dexterity with power tools. He was more than happy to cut a big circle in the wigwam cover with a jigsaw. I caulked in some screen over the hole, and the wigwam is fixed.

Enjoy the fresh air, wormies!

June 18, 2008

Berry-licious Worm Food

worm wigwam strawberriesWorking at America's Favorite Traditional Amusement Park has its perks, but unless you are a worm farmer you couldn't appreciate what I got today: an entire day worth of strawberry tops- about 7-8 pounds- from the funnel cake stand! A wormy culinary delight!

Strawberry tops are great worm food for two reasons:

1. They smell DELICIOUS and don't send me delirious from a wicked waft when I open the bin to peep.

2. They have a great mix of watery fruit that breaks down quickly and a green part that takes longer.

Did I mention they smell FANTASTIC?

Just to experiment with timing, I didn't food processor-ize this time. I'll let you know how long the worms take to finish the whole strawberry smörgåsbord. I have two worm bowls in waiting, so they better hurry it up.

In other news, I am almost ready to debut my exceptionally cool logo. You'll be so jealous.

While you wait patiently for the grand reveal of the official trademark of Lilliworm, get inspired to break out of your own cubicle nation.

June 15, 2008

Just How Fertile Are Worm Castings?

I'll tell you.

This is a snapshot of my bin just three days after putting in about six pounds of left-over tomato slices.

You got it- all the tomato seeds sprouted.

Inside the container.

In pitch darkness.

Those puffy dark brown worm castings must be the greatest plant food ever to have sprouted seeds in just three days in the dark, which makes me pretty darn happy.

After work today, we biked on the Youghiogheny River Trail, which is part of The Great Allegheny Passage- a 150 mile network of biking/hiking trails (we only saw 10 today). We turned around at slightly freaky Dravo Cemetery, which the Elizabeth Township Historical Society is supposed to be up-keeping (so says a sign), but I beg to differ. It was WAY overgrown and weedy.

Some headstones have the engraving worn off, but one had the eeriest epitaph: "As you are now so once was I, as I am now you soon shall be, prepare for death and follow me."


June 3, 2008

Saving Pods? Eggs? Cocoons?

After some research online, the little pellet thingees I've been picking out of the old bins really are cocoons filled with worm eggs.

I'm retrieving as many as I can with the primitive worm egg retriever (PWER) I've devised. I sort through the bin with a gloved hand, scoop up the eggs at the front of the PWER, and then tap them into a glass holding bowl.

Once my eyes start crossing, I dump them into the wigwam to join their friends and families. I would feel bad leaving any worm (or its cocoons/eggs/pods) behind while the rest moved on to bigger and better housing!

I don't think I mentioned this yet, but the biggest, greatest, fastest, free-est food processor ever died on me a few weeks ago. I admit it may have been from overuse/abuse. I LOVED that thing and what it did to giant food scraps, and I loved to hold that button down and watch all that scrap turn to MUSH! So much so, I'm afraid, that I held it down a little too long, and died. My brother took it apart with great intentions, but it was fried, fried, fried. So I was back to using my miniature one again.

Tonight, the big bad processor was born again, as I picked a Black and Decker version up at a crazy discount store for less than $20. It is HUGE, and did a bang up job on THREE BOWLS at once! Which, my husband quickly pointed out, was exactly how I broke the last one- putting too much in and running it too long. I guess I'll try to be more gentle this time around.

May 31, 2008

A Whole World of Wormers!

Finally, an online community I can appreciate!

I joined a few days ago, mainly so I could put my very own pinpoint on the cool map documenting the names, locations, and scrap amount recycled by all the worm-lovers who join.

The worm pics on there give me a slight case of the willies, but the forums seem to be full of friendly, low-worm-tech-speak comments. Some of the worm/ recycling/ vermicomposting sites I've read are so verbose and scientific, is a refreshing, light-hearted alternative.

May 28, 2008

Moving into the Worm Wigwam

The worms made the big move from their bins to the Wigwam yesterday. As the directions explain, the Worm Wigwam is different in that you keep feeding the worms and layering bedding, over and over and over again on top, until the whole mountain of worms and bedding and food and poo gets near the top. Then you crank the magic handle, and the poo falls out the bottom. (The hope is all the worms have migrated up with the fresh food each time and don't get cranked out.)

peat moss and newspaperFirst, with the help of my trusty husband, we mixed up a big bin of peat moss and shredded newspaper for the bedding with lots and lots of water. About a half a bale/bunch of peat moss seems to hold about two watering cans full of water.

Next, we put in four layers of newspaper pages on the grate at the bottom then about six inches of the bedding. We loaded in the worms on top, just basically pulling them out in clumps from their bins. Then a little more bedding, then a little food mush, then some more bedding. Quite a production.

So the finished bin with everything looked something like a giant mulchy mountain in a big green barrel.worm wigwam
The worms crawled right into the new bedding, no problem.

I noticed a rescue mission was needed in the old bins, as not only were a few smaller, faster, friskier, slippier worms still in there, but also tons of little worm cocoons.

Crazy how you find things just when you need them- I used a thick blue straw off a souvenir mug from America's Favorite Traditional Amusement Park, with the top cut off into a little spoons shape, to scoop out the worm cocoons- sigh- one at a time.

I've got through two bins so far, and it is a snoozer of an activity. Plenty of time to think about environmentally friendly endeavors!

Speaking of which- I got logo options from a fantastic graphic designer yesterday. It was exciting to see some visual interpretations of Lilliworm, and it jump started my brain in terms of what else I might be able to accomplish with my environmentally friendly endeavors. Hopefully in the next few posts, I'll be able to pick a logo that gives the perfect look and feel to Lilliworm!

May 17, 2008

Big Digs

First- the castings I used on my flowers are working GREAT. I planted perennial bulbs in four pots and more around the sides of the house- ALL of them are coming up! If it ever quits raining, I can go out and take some pics to prove it. I may need to retreat to an ark soon.

Second- if you didn't go to the Venture Outdoors Festival, you missed a great time. I bought an environmentally-conscious Keen bag real cheap to lug all my stuff to work, me & the hubby & the poochie got to take a kayak ride, we got a free sycamore tree to plant courtesy of the Allegheny Land Trust, and learned about a sustainable feast and hiking challenge on the Rachel Carson Trail.

worm wigwamFinally- I got my new Worm Wigwam set up today!

A few concerns I have about the worms' new BIG DIGS: the instructions say its best to start with 20 lbs. of worms- about 10 lbs. less than I have right now- so I'm just gonna pray for an active next few weeks in the worm love department.

Next, my current bins are real contained- specifically, they have screened tops so I don't have to worry about unwanted visitors. The Wigwam looks like there might be potential for intruders- nothing big, just a few cracks/gaps that I'll have to cover with the extra screen just to be safe.

On the productive business front, I've been collecting advice and edits on my slowly growing business plan and I'm looking forward to picking a logo and working on some web copy soon soon soon.

April 14, 2008

Attitude is Everything- Even With Worms

I met with a team of fantastic people last week for 'business counseling' through Pitt. They encouraged me to start small at first (as I was hoping they would) and gave me a short list of tasks to complete before we meet again. I liked that they were reasonable, inquisitive, and open-minded to worms and environmentally friendliness as a business idea. Not one eye roll or sigh in the bunch.

I don't mean to turn this into a personal development entry, but it really helps to keep a positive attitude and take one step each day toward my goal of starting an environmentally friendly worm business. Even if its just a tiny bitty step, at least I am headed in the right direction.

Worms have taught me there's so much I don't know about so many things- but lucky for me, I have every day to learn it and plenty of willing teachers.

Speaking of worms- a fifth bin has now been occupied! Hooray for progress.

I screened the castings I harvested so far, too. I put the nice soft screened stuff in a giant super-tall recycled bucket, and put the left overs in an old coffee container to use on my own flowers. Those wormies are eating so fast now, I'm sure that bucket will be filled in no time. I fed the five bins two full worm bowls of scraps, plus a half head of lettuce and a giant bunch of grapes, all expertly processed into a slushy-looking, interesting-smelling scrap shake. Yum.

March 31, 2008

Back To School

I went to a helpful class last week sponsored by the SBDC at the University of Pittsburgh to help me write a better business plan. I got a little worried because they were talking so "big"- like about borrowing thousands upon thousands and financing short-term vs. long-term and square footage and use tax and employees and trademarks and....UGH!

To boot, they said six out of ten businesses fail within the first four years- mainly due to underestimating start up costs and overestimating profits.

All this made me think small. Like:
-focusing more getting my worms a bigger more productive home that can still fit in my basement
-getting them a few new consistent food sources and ordering some small packaging
-getting a cool logo and website designed that I can maintain
All that, and I don't want lose my focus of being an earth-friendly endeavor.

Some people jump into business with both feet, sign their savings away, and trust their business to employees they don't know guided by an unproven plan.

Stay tuned for a business that grows just like a worm bin: slowly but surely and almost all by itself!

March 13, 2008

Worm work

The worms have been multiplying like rabbits. I think it has something to do with the intense chopping up of the organic scraps by the new processor. I mentioned getting a little food processor for their food a few weeks ago, but a great friend from work one-upped me with my own worms by handing down a mega size food processor to me.

I'm telling you, this new processor could tear up metal scraps if it had to- plus, the glass bowl you load the scraps into is about three times as big as mine, which is huge time saver. Not that the worms were taking up so much of my time anyway!

Business plan update- I've been emailing some other worm-related businesses to get some advice and whatnot on some businessy stuff, and most are so pleasant and helpful and really give me a warm fuzzy feeling about my idea. But I got a mean response the other day. OK, maybe not mean exactly, but really discouraging and negative. Plus, he tried to sell me something at the end- no kidding!

Poo on him and his disappointing response. With so many other encouraging and positive responses...

Onward and upward!

February 22, 2008

The Tortoise and the Worms

The new food processor has turned my worms into EATING MACHINES!

They are chomping through their food 2-3 times as fast as before, plus the bins are more fluffy now. I am not sure if because they are able to move and eat faster they are making more little air pockets or what, but the castings look fuller than they used to. I can't wait til I have enough to share, and (eventually) enough to sell.

I have been working on a business plan now for a few weeks, and it's a lot of work. (Not that you want to hear another excuse for me to blog any less about slow moving worms.) I'm truly impressed with people who set out to start their own business and follow through no matter what. It's such hard work and hoop jumping, that I would bet 3/4 of those planning to do it get tripped up right away just looking at the business plan structure, knowing they have to fill all those answers in to make a valid story for their funding and future.

I am pacing myself and tackling one small section each day, sometimes writing just a paragraph and sometimes filling in a whole section in a sitting. There are so many rules, regulations, permits, and licenses with all different departments, you can get overwhelmed real fast.

But it's just like everything else. Take a deep breath. Keep your eye on the prize.

Onward and upward!

February 10, 2008

I come bearing gifts

With some credit left on Kohl's gift card, the worms got a great gift this past week: a snappy little food processor from Cuisinart.

Not that feeding wasn't a joy for me every time, but it may have been slightly harder on the worms. They don't have any teeth, and I am not the best food musher ever.

But using this new appliance, I was able to grind up four banana peels, several potato peels, strawberry tops, and coffee grinds into quite an interesting gooey mess that was far more palatable (and digestible) for the worms that what I had been giving them in the past- which was some very clumpy scraps with some pretty big chunks that I may have even had a hard time getting down.

In other news, I am going to get started this week on a business plan. I have some great plans for worms, recycling, and my financial future. If you listened to Joel Osteen this morning, you know the message was about setting goals and making plans to succeed.

Well, here goes!

January 13, 2008


Things aren't always what they seem- that would have to be the theme phrase for today.

FINALLY, I kicked into high gear with the wormies and weighed, moved, and cleaned up their area. However, the results were not as spectacular as I had dreamed.

First off, if you've been reading this blog you understand that worm progress is mind-numbingly slow...almost past the point of watching paint dry. They move slow (you can figure this one out), they eat slow (one batch of food per week for thousands), and apparently they mate slow (go figure). Now, don't get me wrong- if this was any other business or endeavor and I ended up with three times as many of anything else, I'd be jumping for joy.

Worms give your dreams a chance to take hold and fly like crazy, because you can't really see exactly what they're up to til Moving and Weighing Day. And in my imagination, I pictured worms so overjoyed and elated to have found such a wonderful, magnificent home and such delicious carefully prepared scraps that they were wildly slithering far more copiously than your regular old hum-drum worm. I guess I was wrong.

I started with one pound (about 1,000) worms back in August.

Right now in January, about five months later, I have a little over three pounds. (In my imagination, I had about six pounds. )

I separated them more evenly this time and put one pound in each bin.

One bright spot was that I saw lots of babies, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for the next few months!