Beware:NYC Worms Released/ A Tale of Vermi-Failure

Posted by organicneedle in worms

Remember all my flap about the trials and tribulations of raising worms… about saving them against all vermi-odds?  Well…it’s all over.  Here’s the poop.  We ordered the nematodes and waited.  2 days went by, which was the amount of time we were told it takes to get the little fly eaters here.  Nothing.  Meanwhile the fungus gnats were taking over our bathroom and turning my normally pleasant husband into 25 lbs of cranky in a 5 lb bag.  Another 2 days goes by…and he and the gnats are unf**kingbearable.  I contact the company and am painfully informed that they can’t make a shipment until the 16th…which is during the week we will be happily in the woods dealing with deer ticks. (We like to change up our pest control issues from time to time to keep it fresh.)  So…I try to make the best of it and take another tip from Bentley and start to harvest the bin.  10 worms, people.  10.  That’s right…10.  I just ordered $30 of Nematodes to save 10 measly worms.  So…I canceled my order and decided to give my worms a big basket of freedom for Easter.  I will release the little guys into my Aunt’s compost and hope they can find the warmth they need.  I am not particularly hopeful for the lazy little guys…but seriously cannot watch my husband spend another evening wielding the vacuum in the air like a madman.  It’s really not as much of a turn on as one might think.

Now…I do not discourage anyone from trying vermicomposting.  We all learned a ton over the past year…like how many flies per square inch it takes to make my husband lose his sanity.  The boys learned about reducing waste, ecosystems, and the amazing role of worms in the world.  In fact, if ever we have a proper space for it, like a patio or a garage I will certainly try it again.  Or..maybe after we have all emotionally healed from this experience…and I clean the fly guts out of my vacuum we may try a nifty prebuilt system, like the Worm Inn , instead of our somewhat flawed home jobby.

worm in glass

So here’s to you my final 10. May your path be rich with banana peals and tomato skins.  And may your wriggle be faster than the robin’s…or at least faster than the other 9.



The Worms Have Been Pardoned…..for Now

Posted by organicneedle in worms

The worms are very lucky my husband is around.  He spent the weekend researching their “issues.”  I mentioned last week I was really frustrated with my little guys…the little wriggly pink non-eating ones , not the giant peach colored ones who never STOP eating.  So my amazing husband spent Saturday night over at Redwormcomposting trying to ID our new and difficult guest. fungus gnat As usual, good ol’ Bentley had plenty of info helping us identify their problem and how to fix it. Turns out…we do not have a evil, evil, fruit fly problem! Yeah!  We have an evil, evil, fungus gnat problem! Not so yeah.

So…our options.
1.Vacuum the little boogers up. We do do this, but it only controls the flies…doesn’t eradicate them…nor does it make them cower and beg for mercy quite to our liking.

2. Coffee grounds I guess they aren’t suppose to like the caffeine. Not sure about this one. I always put my grounds in there and sometimes when the worms are being slow with the eating that is all I put in because it tends not to grow…well…fungus. But the flies are still there and just seem more energized.

3. Carnivorous plants We actually have flytraps for the kids and they are fun, but worthless in this capacity.

4. Fly Strips Can you say Ewwwwwww boys and girls?  I knew you could.

5. Bedding (Get your mind out of the compost, people….bedding is a noun not a verb.)  We did get a little lazy with this…but we are back in full swing.

6. Bio Control Now here is where it gets fun. We can add a predatory bacteria or nematodes. That’s right…add more creatures to the zoo.  The nematodes attack the fungus gnat larva, crawl inside, and use the flesh to lay eggs in.  Yummy.  Gross but effective.

So…in addition to the worm wrangling…we are now going to try our hand at nematode wrangling.  And I, of course, will be filling you in on all the deliciously gross details.  Probably just as you are about to eat your lunch.  I’m good like that.

So…the worms are staying.  Thanks to one very softhearted, although still bad ass, vermilover.

And guys, let this be a lesson for you. If your having a hard time scoring points with the ladies, nothing says I love you after all these years like saving a gal’s worms.  (I love you my little closet crunch.)



Handing Out Wriggly Pink Slips

Posted by organicneedle in worms

Bit of a dilemma in the Ol’ Needle household. Here’s the poop…after a year of training, the worms are still not working hard enough. We love them…don’t get me wrong. They are great listeners… but they simply can’t keep up with our food scraps. Now we are not a family of food wasters…but we do eat an insane amount of fruits and veggies which leads to a lot of peelings, cores, nubs, and whatnot. With the Spring CSA shares coming just around the corner….something must be done.  They are only eating about 1/4 to 1/3 of our organic waste. The rest sadly goes in the garbage. There were entire months this winter that we couldn’t add more food to the bin because they simply hadn’t eaten enough. And now once again they seem to be dieting for bikini season.

So…the major complaints….
1. Keeping the balance of moisture , temperature , destinking, demolding, demiting and daily worm massages are a pain in the rump and seriously time consuming.
2. Evil, evil, evil fruit flies are on their way with the summer months.
3. They are space piggies…this is NYC, people…every inch counts.
4. They simply are just not doing the job they were hired to do. A lot of work on our end…with not a whole lot of overall results.

So…here are the Options….
1. Take them for a long drive out to the Pine Barrens, Soprano style.

2. Drive them to my mother’s in VA and add them to her outdoor compost pile and hope the milder temperature works out for them. (This would mean another few months of worm wrangling until our July trip.)

3. Find a local single person or couple for whom the worms could do the job. (I like this idea…but not sure how practical it would be.)

4. Find a farm or educational place that could use the worms to teach about vermicomposting. (I’ve contacted a local farm that does traditional composting but they haven’t responded.)

5. Suck it up and keep them as pets.

6. Eat them and sing a sad little ditty. Nobody likes me…..


Now I haven’t given up on the idea of keeping our scraps out of the garbage; we just need to find a system that better meets our needs. I tried getting our building to sign on to outdoor bins. People fear rats…which I can understand, but I will try again to get a discussion going. I also asked the farm I contacted if I could bring my scraps there…no response yet. Then there is the whole take political action and fight for more composting options…which I may do…right after I do the 400 other things on my little green to-do list…and take a nap.

So…what would you do with lazy worms?



Another Exciting Episode of How the Worm Turns: More Tricks of the Wormy Trade

Posted by organicneedle in worms

We finally broke the freezing point here in NY…and with the warm weather came another delightful treat…the return of the fruit flies.  So in addition to my husband going Rambo style with his water squirter, and my setting my lethal little vinegar traps, we have discovered a whole new trick in the world of worm wrangling.  Well…I must begrudgingly give credit to Mr. Needle for this one and even more begrudgingly, 7th Generation.  Allow me to explain.  Flies like it very wet.  So…remove the excess moisture and remove some of the temptation, no?  jim So my husband, on his way to becoming a vermi-genius, has been stuffing wads of 7th TP in the corners and in various pockets of the bin.  The worms don’t seem to mind.  After about 12 hours or so he removes the paper with the excess moisture, checks to make sure his "little buddies" aren’t hanging on for the ride, and flushes it down with the next flush.  And gosh golly…it seems to work.  Yes…the TP is safe for the worms to eat, but the idea is to remove the excess moisture all together.  Over the winter it was getting down right soupy in there.  Now it actually looks like something one could plant with.  And the flies?  Off to swarm some old lady’s forgotten fruit bowl.  That’s my man…the MacGyver of recycled toilet paper/ master of the worm bin/ arch nemesis of fruit flies everywhere.  I tried to get him to pose with his vermi-posse, but for some odd reason he declined.  Total closet crunch.



Vermicomposting Battle Number Three: Making the Mitey Fall

Posted by organicneedle in worms

That stern “hungry robin” talk I had with my worms before departing for vacation must have worked. They managed to NOT invite every fruit fly in the neighborhood in for a quick egg lay, but they did seem to make some new friends. The mites. If it looks like someone spilled a container of mustard seeds in your bin…and you are fairly certain no one is in fact sneaking into your bathroom in the middle of the night and spicing your worms…then you have mites. Fortunately for us, we fully expected a full entomological safari to be taking place in the bathroom so a few mites seemed like easy pickens.worm

So how did we manage to rid the bin of the mites? Ask nicely and I may tell you. A little nicer. Well…you don’t have to be pushy about it. Okay…here is our trick. Conventionally you mix the shredded paper throughout and moisten it. We do this and add a layer of completely dry shredded paper to the the top as well. A little mixed in seems to help with absorbing the worm tea, and the the dry on top helps absorb the condensation because, I may have mentioned,…NY is a tad muggy. This top layer method also helps with the unwanted critters by covering the smell of the food a little better. The bonus of all of this is that the mites, being the snobs they are, seem to like to live in the penthouse of the worm bin, the upper layers of paper. We simply go in once a week and peel away the infected layers. Bye bye elitist arachnids. (Extra bonus…the fruit flies like to lay their eggs in this layer too.) I have read that a melon rind on top will also attract the mites but we don’t really want to attract any newcomers, so we’re sticking with this. Yes…the paper goes in the garbage which isn’t ideal, but it allows us to have a very healthy worm population without the out of control extra gross populations. Just in case you are a mite sympathizer…here is a head shot.mite



Vermicomposting Battle Number 2: Worm & Man Verses The Elements

Posted by organicneedle in worms

wormSo you are thinking of starting your own worm bin, are ya? You’ve read all the books, chatted up Bentley, fondled your neighbors compost and eyed their tomatoes enviously? Well…let me tell you something. They are a lot of work. Just when we semi-eradicated the fruit fly population we got hit with a massive heat wave here in NY. Now I was under the misguided impression that worms like it hot. I guess I bought me some artic worms because they totally freaked out. The morning after the first day I found about ten dried up worms on the bathroom floor. I opened the lid to find the rest of them in a pile under the lid, stepping on each other’s heads/asses to get out. Being the genius that I am…I didn’t put the 100 degree day together with the mass exodus. After spreading them out and giving them a firm talking to,( I may or may not have mentioned the robins), I popped the lid back on and assumed that would be the end of such behavior. Next day ol’ Needle pops in for her 30 seconds of alone time. More carnage. Now the light bulb flickered. Just maybe, just maybe it has to do with the 100+ heat days? Opened the lid and there were my little guys once again disobeying orders and trying to flee. Now I did the reg. check for odd smells, molds, weird bugs etc. to see if something else was driving them away. They all looked healthy…stampeding, but healthy. Time for some thinking. Run the air conditioner 24/7? Not good. Hire 1000 individual worm fanners? No room. Ahhhhhh. I could dig little tunnels in between the soil and rotting veggies to give them some place to go to cool off . Although it is clearly the lamest of the three options, it worked. Sure enough…the next day no dead worms. I opened the lid and they were all grooving in their new hallways. (I guess we will need a wormbin hall monitor for the summer.)  Was it a fluke? Perhaps. The heat wave ended the next day so I had no longterm trial..but since I am an egomaniac I will assume I am their hero for saving all of their lives. If I listen reeeeeaally hard at night I swear I can hear them chanting my name.



Vermicomposting Battle Number One: Man Verses Fruit Fly

Posted by organicneedle in projects, worms

I have said it before people…but it needs to be said everyday to everyone you know…and loudly… Fruit Flies Are EVIL . Any fly sympathizers out there need to read my tale of woe and victory and they too will understand and find themselves warning passing strangers. Here it is. When we went away for a week and left the worms unattended we had no idea what trouble they would attract. I, fortunately, had moved the worm bin into the bathroom for the week for fear that some uneaten goodies might pick up a stink I would not want permeating into my bedroom. Nothing puts hubby in the mood like a little rotting onion/fermented bean combo. Thank goodness I did because when we returned it was like that scene from Amityville Horror House…but with tiny fruit flies.horror house My husband decided to take control of the situation and go at them with a weapon seldom seen chosen by our fiercest warriors…Method All Purpose Spray with a very manly cucumber scent…the strongest cleaner we keep on hand. After he burned through about half my supply I gently suggested that plain water would probably also take the beasts down. (I say gently because by this point my otherwise scholarly husband had taken on the appearance of Rambo…only instead of a machete he had holstered the Method squirt bottle and started murmuring something about taking my EEEEEEEiiiiidooooos for a ride to the country.) Once he eliminated the airborne we decided, bravely, to investigate the actual bin and see if our worms had survived the onslaught. Good news…the worms not only survived, but looked like they took the week of privacy to get their love on. Population booming in worm town. Anyhow…back to the evilness of flies. I warn anyone eating their lunch to turn away for a moment. Gross Alert . In addition to the fruit fly nymphs desperately trying to get out of the way of the dust buster my husband was now wielding, we noticed tiny little grains of rice everywhere. That’s funny…I don’t remember adding rice to the compost….ever. Oh…and rice doesn’t quite move does it? That’s right people…our bin was infested with fruit fly larvae. Yummy. Now with turned stomachs…but determined hearts, we set about rescuing our bin. First we removed the entire newspaper layer off the top…making sure no worker worms were caught catching a siesta. Next we got one of the boys tiny beach shovels and began the process of scooping out writhing piles of fly maggots, sorting through each scoop to make sure there were no worm egg pods or worms in the mix and heaving them into an old plastic bag. It took about an hour to go through the whole bin and we lost some of the hard earned worm poop…but it was a major victory in the history of vermicomposters verses fruit flies. And for worms everywhere. (I don’t know who he was fooling with all the tough talk about evicting the worms….you never saw any man search more thoroughly or gently to make sure each worm made it safely back into the bin. I swear if I weren’t looking he would have sung each one a comforting little ditty and offered tummy rubs.)

Now don’t get me wrong, we still get the occasional fruit fly. For that we are doing the ol’ wine/soap combo trap. Simply place a little wine or vinegar in the bottom of a dish with a few squirts of dish soap. The evil doers fly in for happy hour and don’t make it out. Diabolical…perhaps…but it keeps them from doing it in my worm bin. When worms get freaky…cool. When flies do it…gross.



What Brings the People to ME!

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, worms

What is it about my little blog that brings forth the masses…okay how about the few and the proud? The few and the bored? Give me something people. I know some of you are reading because I, being the tech whiz that I am, okay being married to a uber techie, have a tracker. A long time ago Burbanmom wrote about some of the funny things she found in her tracking and I, seriously having no original thought of my own for today, decided to steal the concept and look through my own list and pick my “award winning” fave five. (Give me a break…my husband is out of town for the week and I’m lucky if I get time to pee and brush my teeth in the same day. Choices…choices. Being the classy lady of mystery that I am….I shall leave you hanging as to which area got the attention it deserved.)

Bitch seems to be the most popular. When people are looking for bitch they just seem to find me. I should be more reflective on that…but one can’t read too much into their search trackings, now can they? So shut up and read the next friken line.

I’ve Got Worms comes up a lot…but I don’t think people are searching for composting advice. (My worms are totally out of control, by the way…more on that next week.)

Teen Jean Snack…what the F***? Who the hell is reading this blog?

Gerbil’s Butt…Maybe I don’t want to know.

And the award goes to……………..dog

Mold in My BOX Come clean…which one of you fine ladies was brought to my blog through this one? We won’t judge… much. (Although search topic number one serves as its own disclaimer.)



What I Learned on My Spring Vacation by Organic Needle

Posted by organicneedle in family, recycling, worms

I’m back. It was a great vacation. My 4 year old learned to swim on his own. My 2 year old learned about half the English language. My husband got nice and toasty brown. I remained white and pure as the driven snow. (Okay, 1/2 that statement is true. I will let you decide which half.) We all got to spend time with my brother and his surprisingly normal family. A rather successful vacation. The teacher in me feels compelled to report on what little tidbits I learned…even though I tried really hard not to use my brain all week.

Jetblue recycles 70% of the garbage they collect on the plane. Cool beans. (More on Jetblue tomorrow.)

Worms need supervision or they will invite every fruit fly in the neighborhood over. (Oh…and fruit flies are evil. Very evil. More on this later in the week as well.)

Bloomberg’s policies to squash public smoking rock. I forget how absolutely foul it is to have people blowing toxins all over you. Florida is filled with smokers and there are ashtrays everywhere. Yuck. Thank you Mr. Mayor! (There may be more on his anti-fat policies too…if I am feeling researchy later in the week.)

I really like my family…even my smelly brother who resides there.

Whole Foods is criminal in their pricing when they do not have competition. Their prices were about 2x as high in FL as they are in NYC. When you come to NYC to get a bargain…something is shady. Very shady.

Old people DO drive reeeeeeeallllllly sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooowly. And apparently enjoy themselves a little adult entertainment. Strip clubs,adult toy shops, and arthritis centers aplenty. Geriatric G-String anyone? (No more on that later in the week…I promise.)



Thanks Worm Man

Posted by organicneedle in blogtastic, projects, recycling, worms

Having worms isn’t as glamorous as they make it out to be people! It turns out my worms are a liiiiiiiiittle on the lazy side. My bin started growing a lot of white fluffy mold and I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of the food magically turning into worm poop. I guess my expectations were a bit high. So…worried that my little Eeeeeeedooooos were in peril I contacted the worm superhero Bentley at Redwormcoposting.com and he in no time at all reassured me that my little guys were probably just fine. Here is my letter and his very fast, very helpful response which he posted on his blog earlier this week.

This question comes from a vermicomposting beginner, wondering how best to deal with an overfed bin.

I am a newbie and way overfed my worms. Can I just leave
them alone for a few weeks and let them work it out or do I need to
clean out their whole bin and start over? They seem to be enjoying
themselves, but I am worried about the white fuzzy mold growing on the
food they haven’t gotten to yet. It is only slightly musky
smelling…for now.

This is a great question, and deals with a problem I’m sure MANY worm composting newcomers encounter.
You never mentioned how you knew you had overfed your worms though. The fact that they are still “enjoying themselves” seems to indicate that all is still ok. That being said, it is always much better to err on the side of caution when concerned about the health of the bin.

I will assume that the presence of large amounts of unprocessed (now covered in fungi) food is what tipped you off. Indeed, this is a good indication of an overfed bin. If you see that the worms are not even coming close to processing everything that is being added then it’s definitely time to ease off with the feeding. I’d recommend either adding new wastes to an outdoor composter or some sort of food scrap holder (a bucket with bedding in it works great) in the meantime, if at all possible.

You definitely don’t need to completely start over – especially given the fact that the worms are still happy. I would recommend adding a decent amount of fresh bedding to the bin then simply letting it sit for as long as it takes for the food materials inside to be broken down. Once it looks like the worms have processed most of the wastes you can start adding new materials (slowly) again.

The musty bin odour you described is also another indication that the bin is still in OK shape – if you smelled some really foul odours it would likely be an indication of all the excess waste materials going anaerobic.

Anyway – hope this helps!

It sure does Worm Man! I strongly recommend reading through his site if you are interested in starting your own vermi love affair. He has a lot of great information. Hmmmm. I should ask him about the “hungry robin coming to the door” motivational technique I have been using.robin