Tag Archives: worms

Almost Free Raised Bed Garden

So last fall I was working in the bush and went by this huge burn pile about ten times a day. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention to a fifteen foot tall pile of trees on a pipeline right of way, but this pile had a lot of short 2″x8″ planks all over the base of it.

I was thinking that it was a huge waste, so when the job was done, Gerri and I went out there and packed up the minivan with over seventy of these little beauties.

That's what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.
That’s what they call rustic. People pay big money for rustic.

We weren’t sure what they could be used for, but we figured that we could find something better than global warming, so we stacked them on a pallet and covered them in a mattress bag that we had saved for just such an occasion.

Then, the other day I was repurposing part of our flower garden. It was completely choked out with lily of the valley, and I wanted to put something a little more useful in it, so I cut out a corner that gets pretty decent sun, sifted out the roots and shoots, and mixed in vermiculite and some of the worm castings that I’ve harvested over the winter.

I love picking handfuls out of the bin and sitting on the kitchen floor with a couple of tubs beside me. Sorting the worms and organics from the rich compost soothes my weary nerves and also helps to fight ISIS. Don’t ask me how, but nobody has been killed by ISIS while I was sorting worms. Probably.

This is the screen I made for sifting dirt out of two refrigerator shelves crossed and zip-tied together. They were free from the Share Shed. It’s also the repurposed flower garden.

Hey, it's not fancy, but free is free.
Hey, it’s not fancy, but free is free.

I then dug up some of the wild chives that were growing at the side of the house and transplanted them to the new herb garden at the front.

There were a lot more than I needed, so I turned the chunk of old manhole by the street into a new home for the rest.

I don’t know how I got so far off track, but let’s get back to the story.

I was wondering what else I was going to use my castings for, when I thought of building some raised bed gardens out of logs. That would be a problem, seeing as we don’t have a truck to haul the logs in, or any machinery to get them to the back yard. We also don’t have the money to hire it out, so my gaze fell on the pile.

20160421_092201
Mattress bags are a very handy thing to have around.

I cut one in half, and then ripped them in half to make corner supports, and then I just made walls two boards high.

Yeah, I know it's basic. That's why I was confident I could do it.
Yeah, I know it’s basic. That’s why I was confident I could do it.

Now one of the huge problems with gardening in this area is the deer. They are everywhere. If you don’t put up an eight foot high fence, or cover your garden with deer netting,  then you are just courting disaster.

Another Share Shed treasure we got was an 8 person dome tent that had some pretty large holes in the roof. We kept the base, because it was a good tarp with eye holes already sewn in, and we kept all of the poles. I drilled a 1/2″ hole in the top of each support, and Voila!

We don't know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.
We don’t know if it will work yet, but in theory it looks good.

I’ll cover that in the Ross Deer Netting that I bought, and then maybe some poly so I can start planting a bit earlier. I am going to build two more of these, so I should be able to fit quite a bit of the food we are hoping to grow in them. It’ll be about 30 sq ft of garden space, and I think that’s good for our first time.

So all in all, we spent:

  • $15 for gas to get the wood and Share Shed goodies
  • $4 for the screws
  • $30 for 100′ deer netting(I could’ve got used chicken wire for $2)

Under $50 to build and deer-proof your garden seems pretty good to me, if it works. I shouldn’t count the gas, because we just love driving around together, and it was our day off, but I figured it would still be a bargain and I’ll still have 50′ of deer netting for next year.

Let me know what you think. Should I change anything?

Chris

Desertion Or Sedition?

I’m having a hard time with this. At first I thought of it as an exodus, but I think an exodus is a mass departure. I don’t consider 20-30 as much of a “mass”.

I guess I should explain.

I woke up the other morning at around 5:00 am. I won’t get into the details of why I got up that early, but I am getting older, and sometimes my body tells me things. This particular morning, on my way back from the kitchen, I saw that the door was open to the worm room and there were a couple of worms on the floor. I walked over and saw that I had left the screen off of the top and there were some dried out worm husks there. I also saw the sides covered in worms and castings, so I stepped closer to shoo them back in and put the lid on.

Squish!

Now I have stepped on lots of worms in my life, but it’s different when you are in your bare feet and on a wood floor. I looked down and saw a line of worms heading for the exit. They got crisper, the closer to the door that they were, so I knew that it had happened gradually over the night.

I was reminded of a story that I had read in the Old Testament about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

The difference between the exodus of the Bible and the worms was that the worms were scattered out, there was only a handful of the worms that went with the leader, and it wasn’t 40 years of wandering. I would be surprised if they made it 40 minutes.

Oh, and I have evidence that the worms tried to escape.

No, it wasn’t an exodus, but it was something. Maybe sedition?

sedition

After, I started thinking about whether the first worm was trying to incite some sort of disorder amongst the rest of the worms, I realised that it might not have happened that way. It might just be like the worm websites tell me, and they just weren’t settled in to their new home.

Apparently they get used to a certain way of life, then they are bagged up in their own poop and some shredded cardboard and shipped off to some weirdo that stares creepily at them while digging around their new home with a pair of rubber gloves.

This brings me to:

desertion

This seems more like what happened. They actually liked living in the bag of poop and going for car rides. They don’t want the freedom of choice and they are perfectly happy eating moist cardboard. I guess they are like Domino’s Pizza customers in that regard. The shipping bag was just outside the room, so they might have been heading for the familiar scent of synthetic burlap or whatever it’s made of.

Real burlap is better

Well, they don’t have to feel the emotional turmoil any longer, because now they are dead. May they rest in peace.

I placed their lifeless, crumbly bodies back into the bin with their friends and family. Not because I wanted them to get a proper burial, but to let the others know what happens to deserters in this dictatorship.

It’s been two nights with not one attempted escape, so I guess it worked. Everybody is just quietly munching their lettuce shreds and banana peels, and acting like worms are supposed to act.

Civilised, unlike people at Donald Trump rallies.

Switching To European Nightcrawlers

Yes, that’s right. I’m getting out of the Red Wigglers for greener pastures. I am not getting rid of all of the little fellas right now, but I am selling a couple of home setups to some friends and limiting my production of them. The only reason is that they are too small for bait. This is not what I was led to believe as a young lad growing up.

It says right there that they catch the big one every time. You all heard it. They’re the Cadillac of worms.

Well, I’m here to tell you that they may be the Cadillac of worms, but these Euros are the Rolls Royce of worms.

This is coming purely from inexperience and a money standpoint. Let’s compare the two.

Red Wiggler

  • Compost like nobody’s business
  • Breed like crazy
  • Are able to squeeze through tight spots, making them an excellent candidate for sneaking cameras into buildings for top secret spy manoeuvres
  • Can be used as bait, if you have a tiny hook
  • Can be sold by the pound, or fed to the chickens when your bin starts to overflow
  • Look like this:
I still really like this guy, but he just can't carry his weight.
I still really like this guy, but he just can’t carry his weight.

European Nightcrawlers

  • Still a good composter
  • Not as prolific a breeder as the red wiggler. Kind of like a red wiggler after 9 beer
  • Can speak four different languages, making them excellent bait worms in tourist areas.
  • Will fit on almost every size of hook
  • Can be sold by the dozen to local fishermenpeople, by the pound to fellow composters, or fed to the chickens when the bins get full.
  • Look like this
Just look at the lad. Er, lady. Er, both.
Just look at the lad. Er, lady. Er, both.

The Verdict

The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is probably going to be made of red wigglers if these things keep breeding like this. It is pretty nice to have the little eating machines around though, so I may cut them a little slack for a bit.

 

Apparently these are a pretty sweet setup.

I was also thinking of putting on a workshop when I get enough for ten single family setups. Maybe get them to choose the type of bin they want, or to build one, and I could supply the red wigglers and the bedding to get them started on the road to less waste and healthier plants.

I think that would work well for me, and then I won’t have a bunch of locals competing for the town’s bait business, because it sounds like I’ll have a hard enough time to make $300 a year at it myself.

Minus the $110 I paid for the initial batch of nightcrawlers, and the $217 for 1000 compostable soup bowls and lids.

Wait a minute…

Oh well, I’m going to have some great fertilizer, and maybe I can turn a profit next year. At least I know that I won’t have to see those styrofoam bowls with the plastic lids floating around our beautiful lakes. These are supposed to break down within 45 days, and from the sounds of it, I can feed them to the worms if I run out of kitchen waste.

Chris

Backstory – The Worms

I’ve been looking into getting composting worms for many years now, but never had the time or space for them.

Then I found some.

I was hauling clay out of a guy’s yard where he was building a new house, to some big pipeline company’s new yard, when I saw a bunch of 1″x4″ spruce planks about four feet long in a burn pile.  I asked the guy if I could have them, and he said to take all I wanted, so I started loading up the dump truck. There were a lot of them, and as I got deeper into the pile my smile just got wider. I figured there were about ten or so of them at the start, but there was a fire ban on, so I was able to load about twenty armloads into the box.

All in all, I filled the trunk and backseat of the old Corolla to the top and got home with dreams of making worm boxes and changing the small, insulated shed into my wormy empire.

I just needed worms now.

I started looking online, but saw that red wigglers were going for about $60 a pound, plus shipping. I really couldn’t afford that, as we had just moved here from Ontario, and it was a pretty slow year, work wise. I figured that there had to be  a better (cheaper) way to do this.

I called the Northern Environmental Action Team in Fort St. John, while I was in town and asked if they knew anyone locally that had red wigglers for sale. They said that they had some for sale at their office, so I boogied right over there and bought a pound. They had them in one of these

I wished I had the cash for one of them, because they told me it worked pretty slick, but it kind of defeated my purpose. I’m trying to keep as much plastic out of my life as I can, so I’m kind of glad I was broke and couldn’t buy it.

When I got home, I poured the worms into their oversized new home, but it was mostly castings, with very few wigglers. I went back in a few days later and stopped in for some more. There were more worms in this batch, but it was still not as many as I was expecting. It didn’t really mater though, as I was still $20 under the pound from the internet, and there was no shipping costs.

I started to read a lot about composting worms, and watched a bunch of videos on them. The first book I read was

I might have made my box a little big at 2’x2’x10″ high. A pound of worms could easily fit in a tube sock, so I had quite a bit of overkill for the first several months. I ended up putting them in an old laundry tub that a friend was throwing out, and I really like it. They seem to be quite comfy in there, and as long as I mix it up every few days, it doesn’t get too wet.

It's a pretty good home for a few pounds of crawlies.
It’s a pretty good home for a few pounds of crawlies.

Anyhow, it’s been about six months, and I have probably six times as many worms as I started with, so they must like me alright.

Chris

Backstory – Chris

I grew up in a village of around 200 people on the shores of Rice Lake, near Cobourg, Ontario. It was an idyllic place to grow up, and probably still is. My mom still lives there, and whenever I go to visit, everything looks pretty much the same as it did when I was a kid.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Holowacz https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabi2418
Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Holowacz https://www.flickr.com/photos/gabi2418

Sure there are probably fifty more houses scattered around on once rich farmland and forest, but there are no new businesses to speak of. The old school has been a bakery, roadhouse bar, restaurant/convenience store, and is now a closed down Chinese restaurant. The gas station/garage has changed hands probably four times since my youth, and the convenience store has changed hands a few more than that. The post office/store has closed down in favour of a row of boxes on the side of the street, and that about does it. 

I would probably have elected to move there and pursue my dreams of a small, self-sustaining lifestyle, but the red tape required to achieve such a goal would cost much more than we would save. Just the environmental assessments and whatnot to find a building site, well, and septic would probably cost more than what I plan to spend on a piece of property out here, and the land costs are horrendous.

For example, an 11 acre lot that is in a farm field close to half an hour north of town would cost $100000, and that doesn’t guarantee you could build there.

This was the view provided by Realtor.ca. I assume that it's the best one.
This was the view provided by Realtor.ca. I assume that it’s the best one.

Because the area has been environmentally protected, you have a lot of hoops to jump through to get the building process started, let alone finished. Then you need to find a job that pays enough to afford it, while living somewhere else, because it’s going to take a long time before you are able to move into the home you just built.

That was the trouble I had there. The best paying job I was able to get was $18/hour and it was a 30 minute drive from where I would be building. It was also one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had. Driving to Toronto and back in a tractor trailer every weekday. I did find a job I liked with a farm supply and grain company, but it only paid $13/hour and you were laid off for a lot of the year. You can’t raise a family on that.

So we headed west. I have been living and working out here since 2000, and we’ve been here as a family since July 2015. It’s a different way of life, but it’s one that I like, and have gotten quite used to. The housing is very affordable, so we were able to buy a place while we look for a piece of property that we love and can build a little off-grid paradise of our own.

Until then, we are going to try and figure out how to do things from our house, with our sheds and beautiful little yard. You know, for practice.

I started with worms, but first I read this book.

Chris