Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Some spring housekeeping

We've been having a chilly spring, which has prevented me from doing much in my garden by virtue of the simple fact that I don't want to be outside when it's cold out. I know I'm waiting a bit too long for some of my cool weather veggies, though, so last week, I bit the bullet and got some work done.

I brought the 5-gallon buckets I'd gathered in off the balcony and finally washed them out in the shower, so they'd be ready for drilling and filling as soon as I can borrow a power drill. (Goal: go as long as I can without having to purchase my own drill, despite the frequency with which I seem to need one.)

I was planning to pull up what was left of a collard plant I had harvested at the very end of last season, so I could feed it to the worms and plant a new one in its place, but I noticed a few green leaves and began to wonder if it could have possibly accidentally overwintered - despite the fact that I had assumed it was dead and abandoned it to its fate. Maybe my very cold balcony still provided enough shelter to keep it alive? Just in case, I decided to water it instead of uprooting it, and we'll see if maybe I have an earlier harvest than I was expecting. I added a few scallion seeds around the edge, since the pot seems plenty big enough to hold a couple of smaller plants as well, and those don't take up much space. I also took a large, low, container where I'd been storing some of last year's potting soil and mixed it up a bit and then planted half a dozen spinach plants and scattered a bunch of lettuce seeds.

So far, this year has been a bit haphazard, and my planting has been done without much planning. I should have amended the soil before I started planting, but failed to do so, so I need to make sure I get my hands on some fertilizer once these seeds start sprouting.

Update: in just the time it took to compose this quick post, I asked for and received permission to borrow a friend's drill. I may have my drainage holes drilled by the time you read this!

Friday, April 5, 2013

No, really, there are WORMS in my KITCHEN

It happened. There are worms in my kitchen. And they're there on purpose. My job involves pest control and I keep worms in my kitchen. Anyone who knew me in high school, when I was involved in The Great Arachnid Car Accident of 2004,* would be speechless.

After taking the vermiculture course from the LES Ecology Center, I decided that the most cost-effective way to get worms into my kitchen was to buy the worms from the center ($22), but to make the "worm condo" ourselves. Using Swagbucks I had accumulated, I got a free $10 Home Depot gift certificate and dispatched Ben to the store for a plastic bin.

We borrowed my parents' electric drill and drilled small holes in the bottom of the bin, for drainage, and larger ones around the top, for ventilation. Then I placed an order to pick up worms on Friday, and so we spent half an hour or so Thursday evening tearing and dampening newspaper to create bedding.

I couldn't be there when Ben picked up the worms, and I was both relieved and disappointed. By the time I got home from work, they had already mostly disappeared into their bedding, exactly how I wanted it. I was only a little disappointed to get what I wished for and not see any worms.

(He took a video, but won't let me post it.)

I'd begun saving food scraps in a yogurt container in the freezer a few weeks ago, so we had already added food to the bin, a feast to makes any worm's mouth water.

The major problem that first night was that turning off the kitchen light behind us is such an ingrained habit that we kept leaving them in the dark. We were warned to keep a light on during the first night to prevent escapes before the bin begins to feel like home. But we survived, and so did they, and then . . . we went away for the weekend the very next day, to visit my father-in-law for his birthday. Ben stayed a few extra days, since he didn't have to work, but I cam home, alone, that Sunday night, with absolutely no idea what I'd be walking into. I pictured a bin full of dead worms. I pictured opening the door to find worms all over the living room. I pictured an unimaginable stench.

Instead, I found a bin full of worms, all alive as far as I could tell, and although I thought I noticed a bit of an odor when I first walked in, it dissipated quickly.

It's been almost 3 weeks now, but it feels like these worms have been part of our household forever. There are days when the bin is a bit . . . fragrant . . . but it's no worse than the days when our garbage can used to be rather . . . aromatic. Now though, the worms take care of that decomposing food and the scent goes away without anyone having to take the garbage out!

The best part, for me, is seeing the little casings spread throughout the bedding and sticking to the sides of the bin, and knowing that slowly but surely, that garbage is being turned into fertile compost that will grow good food that will feed us!

*I can't be the only teenager to total a car trying to kill a spider . . . but I hope for the world's sake that there aren't too many of us.