Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thinking of worms

These days have me thinking of worms. Yes, worms. Not the kind my kids want me to dig up and use for fishing, but the smaller kind, red wigglers, aka Eisenia fetida. They were actually brought to the US in the 17th century by European settlers, and are considered an invasive species. However, we are not likely to get rid of them--they are here to stay!

These little guys are very useful actually, as they feed quickly on decaying organic materials. I like them because of their superior work ethic and amazing gardening benefits. In fact, if you come visit us, I'll show you my "worm farm". It's in the laundry room downstairs, but you wouldn't know it if I didn't tell you. You see, they don't stink (if you do it right), and they eat half of their weight a day. So any scraps of food we need to throw away (well, non-processed foods, like carrot and potato skins, banana peels, strawberry tops, etc.), I just take downstairs and throw into my home-made "worm bin", made from two storage bins. Vermicomposting, as it's called, is similar to regular composting, except that worms help the microbes and bacteria to turn the waste into "black gold", much quicker too. Now, I do vermicomposting for a few reasons:

Reason #1: When we toss organic waste into the trash it eventually ends up at the landfill, and eventually breaks down. One of the by-products of this process is methane gas...ever notice those white PVC pipes sticking out of the ground and landfills? That's to prevent the methane from causing an explosion at the dump as it builds up. However, it IS a greenhouse gas...so...instead of purposefully creating a greenhouse gas by sending some of our raw foods (no meat) to the landfill, I choose to compost (vermicompost is what it's called) any organic matter I can.

Reason #2: the compost these worms create, aka worm castings, are the richest natural fertilizer in the world! I have never used any man-made chemical fertilizers in my garden. In fact, the plot of soil that we chose for our garden had been used before by the previous home-owners. They had let the garden revert to it's natural state (WEEDS), but even the weeds weren't growing well there. There's something to say about giving the land a "Sabbath rest"... However, I planted sunflowers, zucchini, squash, strawberries, blackberries, and many herbs in that garden, straight into that overused, unhealthy soil. I knew they wouldn't grow well, nor produce anything significant if I didn't improve the soil fertility. So, around each plant I put about 1/2 a cup of the worm castings. That's it! It has all the nutrients a plant could need, reduces soil acidity, and lasts for up to two months! It's a natural "slow release" fertilizer because the castings have a natural oil coating that slowly deteriorates and releases the nutrients. Wow! You should see the plants take off once I put the worm castings on, and the color of the foliage is rich green!

Reason #3: as I work with folks overseas who are dirt poor, I'd much rather the little resources they have go to buying food for their family, or paying for their children's education, than spending it on chemical fertilizers that give a quick shot to their crops but don't amend the soil over time. If I encourage them to simplify and use what resources they have, why can't I do the same?

Reason #4: it's fun to have my own "livestock" living in my own house! They ARE useful animals raised for a purpose. However, they don't complain, they can go for a few weeks with no food if needed (when we travel), and they don't stink. They also don't take up much space! People can do it in their own apartment if they want, under the kitchen sink! Then you can use the castings for your house plants! Forget "Miracle Gro", this stuff is free and won't stain your hands or clothes blue!

Reason #5: I love teaching our kids about creation; I want them to be curious and not fearful of what they don't know. I'm always trying to teach them to be aware of what's around them and how it all works. I want them to be in awe of how good God is and how creative He is to make things the way He has.

There are a myriad of reasons to add to this list...what's yours?

If you are a little bit interested in these little wiggly guys, I'd suggest you try it yourself! Just make sure to get the right red wigglers...earthworms won't do the job!

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