My next door neighbors are pretty awesome. Wes and Lavelle have lived in this neighborhood since it was built in the late 40's. They raised their children here, and are a big part of the community. They are often out walking their dog, or stopping by to bring me some banana bread, or helping me identify local trees.
Lately the two have had some health problems, and it's tougher for them to get around. So one of their adult sons and his wife, recently retired, have come to live with them. This particular son is in the process of rebuilding the entire length of fence we share, which was built originally by Wes many, many years ago. The new fence is spectacular, and it's a lot of work. I'm enjoying having periodic open spaces in the fence to talk between houses, when Karl (the son) and I are both out working on our various projects.
Every so often, Karl and his wife go back up to their property in gold country to take care of things there. When they came home from their last trip, they brought me their worm bin! Karl kept it so he would have worms ready for fishing, but since he's down here most of the time now, that hobby has gone by the wayside. He sees what I'm doing in our yard and knew I would appreciate another way of composting food scraps. So this worm bin is now mine!
He didn't just give me the bin, though. He also gave me all its inhabitants - thousands of worms - and the contents of the bottommost tray - the latest worm castings. Oh my goodness, this is like pure gold. Today I spent a good deal of time cleaning these out of the bin, separating the worms from the castings, filling the trays with bedding and old fruit/veg, and getting the bin all set up. The castings went into the containers that hold my Japanese maple trees - what a boon for those heavy feeders, a solid inch of nutrition as a mulch on top of the soil. The worms went back into the top-most bin along with coffee chaff as bedding, and some kitchen scraps.
There are four trays total. The top tray holds the worms and waste. As they eat, their excrement (castings) drop down through the tray to the trays below. And any liquid waste goes all the way to the bottom most tray, which has a solid bottom. That liquid is great fertilizer, but it can go anaerobic really quickly, so I just went ahead and filled that bottom bin with chaff to absorb the liquid. I'll periodically take it out and use it as mulch around my growing plants, and fill it up with fresh chaff. If I used the liquid straight, I would dilute it first (way too 'hot' with nitrogen), but this way it is already semi-composted.
As I was going through the sorting/cleaning process, I noticed so many worm egg cocoons. So you know how worms often have that center band around their bodies, looking sort of like a cigar label around a cigar? That is where the eggs develop, and the worm wriggles out of it, allowing it to fold over on itself, and form these lemon-like egg cocoons. The babies hatch and look just like very tiny worms. Worms are both male and female, carrying both eggs and sperm, and they rub against each other to mate and fertilize the eggs in either worm.
By the way? Those big white things in this picture? Crushed eggshells that have never broken down in the worm bin, just as we discussed a week or so ago.
I'm happy to have another way to experiment with vermicomposting. As you know, I've used my 3x3 redwood compost bin as a sort of worm bin for years. This set up is a more streamlined affair. I'll continue to use both, plus my yard-waste compost pile, which is inside the chicken run. I'm finding that I really cannot have enough compost. I try hard to make all that I need, and I always fall short.