Life is like a bucket of worms

A statement perhaps more apt during this past year (depending upon your experience of 2020, your perspective on our creepy-crawly garden friends, and/or whether you’re taken up gardening during the pandemic).

Worms are essential players in our soil’s ecosystem, improving aeration and breaking down organic matter into castings (otherwise known as worm poop), which are a rich source of nutrition for plants. Call me crazy, but I think worms are super cool. There’s a load of things I can’t stomach in our world right now, but I can hang with worms. Worms don’t require social distancing, and they don’t pitch a fit, or assign you more chores, or post comments on your feed that are cringe-worthy. They just eat garbage, and poop…pretty much the whole relationship. Like I said, pretty cool.

My daughter, playing with worms

When our daughter was a toddler, I participated in a community worm bin workshop and created a makeshift bin out of a rubber tote, filled with household materials like shredded newspaper and leaves. Eventually, once we moved onto our 2+ acres outside Portland, Oregon, we established a three bin compost system and I let our worm bin go, but I’ve always missed vermicomposting. There’s something special about being intimately involved in creating something new out of discarded materials – it excites my inner artist. And definitely, my sense of connection with the earth.

Recently, we moved to Seattle and I had my chance to restart worm composting in our much smaller new space. This past week, I conducted additional research to make sure I wouldn’t kill off the crawlers I’d received via mail. It’s been a while since I’ve had a worm farm and while vermicomposting isn’t complicated, they do require basic care – adequate air and moisture, and enough (but not too much) food to eat. Starting up a worm bin in the dead of winter isn’t really the best idea, because they prefer temperatures between 55F – 75F. All of the local Washington state suppliers were sold out for the season so I’d crossed my fingers and ordered 1lb (about 1000 worms) from a California distributor, hoping I wouldn’t receive a message letting me know they were backordered until spring. To my delight, about a month later, a box of live worms arrived.

This time, I decided to splurge on a fancy-pants worm bin, the Worm Cafe, which is sturdy and well-constructed (albeit much pricier than that original Rubbermaid tote). However, you can use a variety of materials for your own bin.

(Please note that you can’t just dig up a pail of worms from the boulevard and throw them in a bin. You’ll need special worms – red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida), also known as manure, red, or tiger worms. They live in the top few inches of soil and are equipped to survive in the conditions of your home worm bin. )

Here’s some great resources that I’ve identified during my vermicomposting research:

A fun video that is family-friendly, from the Royal Botanical Garden:

My own bin is hanging out in my home office until spring.I’m carefully monitoring what types of food scraps I place in the bin, so there’s no smell or bugs yet – and our household pets haven’t given it much attention. Stay tuned on Instagram for more pictures of my little worm farm as it evolves.

A connection with mind/body health:

  • How can you enrich your own soil to optimize the success of personal health or life goals in 2021? Is there a connection or resource you’ve been thinking about accessing, and can you create a specific plan for moving forward?
  • What is one small, specific step that you can take to connect with nature on a regular basis? Maybe vermicomposting isn’t your thing, but you’ve been thinking about getting a houseplant, or starting a herb pot in your kitchen window.
  • How can you create something new out of materials in your life that you no longer need? Take a few weeks to jot down a few notes and to do random searches. Sit with the question: What can I repurpose? Allow answer(s) to arise, over time.
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