Before I get into the story behind these incredible worm composting bins, I have to ask, "Have you ever heard the saying, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is?" Well, you might be tempted to say that about the title of this article, but you would be wrong! Not only are these compost bins available for free, if you look in the right places, the worms are too!
What follows is a story about Justine, a Compost Junkie Tribe member, and her incredible worm composting bins. Actually, Justine isn't even the star of this story (sorry Justine), her 20 year-old "Kootenay Worms" are!
Justine and I have been going back and forth on our Facebook page for several days now. It started with her sharing the following...
"...when I started composting 20 years ago, I added a bucket full of forest soil, complete with partially decomposed leaves and some red wigglers I found under the leaves. The penny had dropped: I saw all this life hard at work on breaking down the forest debris so I figured it would be good to mix in with my seemingly static heap. That infusion of forest soil TURBO-CHARGED my compost. Suddenly - finally - my compost was processing at a really high rate."
Quite the description, isn't it? Kinda makes you want to know more, doesn't it?
Okay, I'll tell you what happened next...she moved! But, guess what? She took a sample of her beloved worms with her, and they've since found their place in the limelight.
"When I moved from that house to the Coast I took a large yogurt container of the compost with a bunch of the worms to a new compost bin almost 700km away. I still have descendents of those West Kootenay worms composting my kitchen scraps. They have multiplied to epic numbers and I will often give some of this "Kootenay Compost Starter" to my friends. Makes great compost!!!
Okay, now you've met the stars of the show, so let's get into the nitty-gritty of the worm composting bins.
After some probing on my part, Justine described the following about the set-up of her worm composting bins.
"I have two Earth Machine compost bins that are in different stages. One is very actively being added to. That's the one with all the hungry, super multiplying worms - all descendants from the Kootenay collection. It's crazy and seems very carnal in there. If you are at all queasy, all those worms can be a bit much. But not for me. I think of them as pets almost. When I go away for a long time (which I do with my work - touring music project) I actually worry a bit about them, wondering if they are getting enough new food..."
Now, if she was telling this to anyone other than a bunch of compost junkies, they may look at her like she's got two heads, but not us. If anything, I completely agree with Justine. If a couple days go by without feeding my worms, I start to feel quite guilty. It's a little worrisome at times having thousands of mouths to feed and tiny digestive tracts to fill. Don't you agree?
Just how does Justine keep these Royal worms fed?
"My technique is to dig holes into the compost, which aerates the pile and separates some of the writhing worms (there are truly so many!), then I add a pale full of kitchen scraps, then cover this up with more of the compost and worms, which keeps the flies away and keeps it all sweet smelling.
We always cut up our scraps so that they break down more quickly. One inch or smaller is ideal for any scrap being put into these worm composting bins.
They gobble the scraps down quickly. I basically keep track of where I dug the last hole, working in a clockwise fashion, so 1 o'clock, 4 o'clock, 7 o'clock and so on. By the time I've gone around the circle (typically 1-1/2 to 2 weeks, the kitchen scraps are unidentifiable - composted but still with lots of worms. They are obviously still breaking things down otherwise they would leave. It's amazing.
When people groan to me about their worm composting bins being too much trouble or not working I show them my approach. The truly committed ask for and receive a yogurt container of my worms for their piles!! What do you think?"
What do I think Justine? I think you need to ship me a yogurt container full of your famous Kootenay worms! That's what I think.
Justine mentioned she had two worm composting bins, so how does she make the transition from one bin to the other?
"When it's time for me to harvest the compost, I have to stop adding to it. My technique requires constantly adding new compost ingredients to semi- or almost-done worm compost. So I start a new pile in the second bin and let the other "chill out" and do it's final work undisturbed.
I put as many of the worms into the new bin as I can, leaving some. When I harvest the compost there are very few worms. I like to think they left to go to the other bin or more likely "greener pastures".
Whether they're in her other bin, or worm heaven, I can tell you this...those worms are happy!
So far we've fulfilled one of our opening promises. That is, if you're keen enough, you can get your composting worms for free. Just do as Justine did and go digging in the forest. Or better yet, call up Justine, tell her you're a fellow Compost Junkie, and I'm sure she would be more than happy to fill up a yogurt container for you.
Now what about that promise we made regarding these bins being free? Is that really true?
Most municipalities in North America have a contract with Norseman, the manufacturer of The Earth Machine compost bin. All you have to do is call up your local recycling center and claim you bin. Typically, you're required to give your address and that's it; you've got yourself a worm bin for free. Please note that The Earth Machines are not marketed as worm composting bins, but as you just learned from Justine, composting worms love them.
If you enjoyed this page, please head over to Justine's band's Facebook page and tell her how much you "Like" her story. Check out her incredible music while you're at it. In true Compost Junkie fashion, her band, ScrapArtsMusic, uses instruments skillfully crafted from industrial scraps. How cool is that?
If you would like to learn about other worm composting bins, you will enjoy our worm bins page.
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