Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder


Who are those guys?!


Quite some time ago here at Anonymous Bloggers, we tried to start a conversation about worms. I would love to revive that conversation and would hope people can bring more ideas and information we can look at.

Composting is tough for me for a number of reasons. Tiny garden space, bears, trying to keep it all hot enough during the cold months, bears…

Some small success with in-season composting keeps me trying, but I have been bummed about how much kitchen stuff is just flat wasted through the winter.

Aren't they beautiful?

Late last summer I was given a “Worm Farm” by someone who was leaving Alaska for retirement near family Outside. She sent hubby on ahead by air to scout for a home, loaded up her rig, her dogs, and dropped off her worm buddies with a few instructions about care and feeding at my place on her way to the ferry.

The homemade worm bin allows liquids to drop into the bottom container, has a lid, and the nested containers fit quite nicely in my front coat closet.

The lil boogers, red wigglers, settled in quite nicely and busily worked their way through everything I gave them through the winter.

Recently I realized it was time to harvest the compost.

That got interesting as I also realized I had not asked enough questions of my departing neighbor and didn’t know anyone with a worm bin. (I’ve since met someone who is just starting out.)

I looked round the “tubes” and found a number of descriptions of how to separate the worms from the compost depending on one’s set up.

Given the size of my container the “manual harvest” was the only real option as mine doesn’t have room to pile old stuff to one side and encourage the worms to migrate to fresh bedding and food.

Holy moley and sweet merry!

What a mess I made!

I did not take any pictures of that project for fear of ruining my camera.

In the end I had lovely compost, happy worms, and need of a shower.

I have written myself a note for next time to lay the plastic out in the bed of my truck to discourage all the neighborhood dogs who showed up to “help”.

We would love to hear from any of you who have worm composted, in or out-of-doors, and any tips you have would be much appreciated.

For folks who are interested in trying out a kitchen waste bin, this HOW TO is pretty good.

I imagine Alaskans will still have a bit of a go, in most places, in getting worms and wonder if anyone knows the best way to go about that, in hopes the wormies make it here safely, unlike our neighbor in the original post here who had his go missing along with his luggage!


UgaVic and I are excited that one of our favorite Alaskan bloggers has agreed to share her garden experience from above the Arctic Circle  with us this season. Look for our guest blogger soon!


16 Responses to “Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder”

  1. fromthediagonal Says:

    Arrrhhh… unless worms are of the larger “rainworm”,more lethargic variety, I shudder at the sight of them. Never could use the red wigglers for fishing bait either. They, and maggots just gross me out. Can’t help it.

    Interestingly, that does not translate into revulsion of snakes.
    I have handled different kinds, from little tiny ringnecks to phythons and even a defanged cobra, which a snake handler thrust at me some years ago in the Old Delhi Bazaar. That does not mean I would want any of them as pets. Again, can’t help it.

    To prove my point, yesterday I was playing in the dirt at the kid’s house, cutting confederate jasmine which was hanging too far over the fence, when suddenly a beautiful, bright cornsnake told me I had startled it. My grandsons were delighted when I called them to view their new garden dweller. They in turn showed me a new nest being made by a tiny woodpecker.

    Oh, the Magic of Spring! May yours be delightful, and may the bears remain outside of your garden.

  2. karen503 Says:

    Many years ago I bought a multitier kitchen-compost bin at one of the booths at our state fair.

    Like this one:

    It came with an instruction sheet that listed several places where I could get worms up to the task of eating veggie matter, but I found worms in my own garden that could do the job, too. Repurposed bait worms seem to be efficient too.

    I recommend it if the only thing you put in it is veggie matter from food preparation. Like the description says, it’s limited in volume/size. The liquid drippings (a “tea”) makes great liquid fertilizer; don’t throw it away or let it drip into the soil.

  3. tallimat Says:

    I know the worms are for the compost, but once in a while, a favorite activity for the kids, is to count them.

    “Worm Management” seen through the eyes of three 5 year olds is entertaining.

    – set up 3 plates, each loaded with a cup of worm-less dirt. These plates serve as habitat for those worms which have been counted.

    – fill a 5 gal bucket half full of worm infested dirt.

    – Let them have at it. How many worms can the transfer to the plate?

    Other than having to remind the boys that the worms are to remain alive, it is a great activity!

  4. fromthediagonal Says:

    ok tallimat… I shall take your word for it…
    My grandsons may be “game for it”, but I am not… sorry ’bout that.

  5. WakeUpAmerica Says:

    I have the opposite problem; it’s so hot here that I have to worry about killing the worms from heat stroke.

  6. alaskapi Says:

    I really, really like worms. Snakes not so much- probably because I’ve not been round them much. We don’t have snakes in Alaska that I know of.
    Unlike many parts of Alaska we do have some type of earthworm here and finding them in my garden beds is a sign that all the work to amend the rock powder we call soil is working .Having them turn my kitchen waste into something useful with so little fuss made them beautiful to me!
    I did have moments while seperating the worms from the compost that reminded me of trying to turn pages in a book with insect photos when I was a kid. You know, the trying not to touch the page because the bug might get on you dealie? :-)
    But by and large , messy as it was, the project was easy.
    I laughed until I almost choked! I was wishing I still had youngsters around who would have found the worm handling as comfortable as your worm counters! My own is grown and gone but would have been totally into it. He used to get really fussy about knocking all the spiders off firewood so they wouldn’t end up in the woodstove so probably would have only needed 47 reminders the wormies needed to live through the project :-)

  7. alaskapi Says:

    karen- I went and looked at the link you left. That is a snappy looking setup!
    Mine is made of 2 plastic buckets which originally held kitty litter with holes drilled into the bottom of the top bucket so liquid will drain into the bottom. If I see another bucket of kitty litter with the same dimensions I am thinking about adding a “tier” and seeing if the worms will migrate up on their own. Is that how yours works?

    We pay so much to ship things in here and having buckets and other packaging waste to deal with adds to the insult as it costs more to send it out for recycling. Coming up with uses for the packaging is a whole cool thing in itself :-)

    Holy moley! Hard to imagine that hot!
    One of the reviews I read on the bin karen pointed to made mention of moving the bin to the garage in the winter. You’d have to do that in the summer?
    My goofy lil setup is fine in my coat closet and doesn’t smell at all. The dog is somewhat miffed that the guys-in-the-bucket get some of the scraps he’d like to have but , so far, that is the only problem with having it in the house :-)

  8. fromthediagonal Says:

    alaskapi… I totally understand how you like what they are doing, but as you say, sometimes it goes back to chilhood.

    Here is a little backstory for both you and WakeUpAmerica:
    When I was in first grade, some farmboy thought it funny to drop a hairy caterpillar down the back of my “dirndl”. That is the traditional German dress, consisting of a blouse, a kind of pinafore with a tight bodice, and an apron over the skirt. That hairy caterpillar was of the stinging variety and I had to get everything off in order to get that thing off me. My back was welted, and I had screaming nightmares for days.
    Later, my kids would amuse their friends by bringing in a caterpillar to show to me, while they watched the hairs on my arms stand at attention. We still laugh about it.

  9. alaskapi Says:

    Experiences like that DO stick with one forever!
    I’m of the mind that it is necessary for us to be different so that we can divvy up all the chores of living , even if it only provides that someone, somewhere can and will do what we ourselves find too difficult.
    I will enjoy and treasure the worms who are bringing me a richer food garden while you treasure the corn snakes who remove vermin from yours :-)

  10. fromthediagonal Says:

    You are so right in all aspects… :)

  11. jim Says:

    I’ve found slugs north of the Continental Divide and Arctic Circle, north of the Brooks Range, near the Arctic Ocean. They are very small and look like uncooked grains of wild rice although they’re wet and slimy and leave silver trails behind them on my hand. Like slugs, earthworms lack internal and external skeletons but earthworms are not related to slugs. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are micro-environments in the Arctic where earthworms survive at places like Drain Creek and Ivishak Hot Springs– we know earthworms are found at hot springs in the Interior where it gets really cold. I have no idea how arctic slugs (or earthworms) survive. My guess is micro climates.

    Earthworms survive winters at my place in Anchorage, Alaska. Unfortunately snails overwinter here too.

    I’m wondering if you could put food and nutrients in the ground sufficient to overwinter earthworms. They love apple peels as much or more than porcupines love bananas.

    You might place insulation on the ground surface so their habitat wouldn’t freeze down below. If you have areas along your building foundation(s) underground where there is some waste heat, that may also provide worm habitat. I’m trying to figure out why earthworms survive winters here in Anchorage and where they go to avoid freezing. I figure there may be micro climates. I have a crawl space in my house underground and I’m guessing thawed areas around my building foundation may give them a sanctuary. For some reason they come back year after year and keep my soil healthy all around my yard. They don’t die over the winter.

  12. fromthediagonal Says:

    Jim… I just looked up the translation from Regenwurm (rain worm) into english, and Yes, it is Earthworm. They are really interesting creatures. Cut them in half, and each half survives (or so the story goes). Maybe it is only one half which survives, but I saw many of them with a definite thickening in their middle, where presumably something had cut them and they managed to close the wound and grow from there.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.
    The largest one I encountered was when we were digging a four foot deep trench in our garden in order to connect to the newly laid sewer system. Found a rain worm almost a foot long and the thickness of my finger. Big pink thing, moving slowle. Picked him up and waved him in front of my unsuspecting father;s face, just as he turned to throw up another shovel filled with dirt. He promptly proceeded to retch at the surprise… Oh yeah… served him right for making me work this hard… :) Those worms I can deal with. They are ok.

  13. UgaVic Says:

    I got a little container of red wiggles when I was in town a few months ago and have had them living in the Styrofoam cup awaiting me making them a permanent home. I throw them a little leftover veggie now and then but need to get my backside moving.

    We might well have worms here but I have not seen any in my diggings. I am hoping to do some worm ‘towers’ in the high tunnels once my population of wigglers gets bigger.

    Never thought I would be playing with things that wiggle, as I hate snakes, but these are actually fun:-)

  14. jim Says:

    fromthediagonal: You are lucky to have big worms. Their poo . . . err, castings help your garden. They don’t bite. Red wiggles will help Victoria’s garden although they may not make it through the next winter. Victoria might be able to coax them out of the soil before freeze up and maintain them over winter for next year. I’m also a fan of tiny microscopic worms of the phylum nematoda. They eat garden pests. They’re a bargain — you can buy millions of them for 30 dollars or less in Anchorage. They’re called predatory or beneficial nematodes. My onions here failed until I unleashed millions of predatory nematodes on the maggots that were ruining my crop. The nematodes ate the maggots alive and my onions finally fed me instead of the maggots. Sadly I couldn’t observe the feeding spectacle but I saw the results in my undamaged onions.

  15. fromthediagonal Says:

    Interesting thing about those microscopic nematodes!

    All we knew was that is would help to alternate plantings, as in carrots next to onions, adding marigold plantings because their smell is supposed to be a deterrent. Looks beautiful, but whether it really helps, I don’t know.

    Oh yeah, I remember harvesting onions, and having those damn maggots looking at me!

    I don’t know how many little crawlers we cooked into raspberry jams and jellies! No amount of sorting was ever enough, I am sure.
    I also the occasional surprise, when biting into an apple and having a maggot looking up from the core and saying Hello?, which was not as bad as biting one in half and having that bad flavor before spitting it out.

    Then there was the cutting of kale after first frost: the leaves would go into a tub with that ice cold water and have to be diligently hand sorted so there would not be “extra meat” in them. My hands hurt just thinking about it.

    Of course, all of that goes back to my childhood in Northern Germany in the time of the dinosaurs about sixty years ago…:)

    Now everything in the stores is unblemished and the food is laced with chemicals. I’ll take the not-so-pretty foods in a heartbeat over the genetically modified “Round-Up Ready” and 2,4D immune ones any time.

    But that’s another story…

  16. jim Says:

    The nice thing about growing your stuff is you can choose to grow organic despite the never ending fight with pests. A problem with Alaska is that our growing season is short and it hasn’t been realistic in modern times to exclusively use locally produced food as a year round supply. I go pick up organic produce from out of State weekly but that is not an option in more remote Alaska locations. Fortunately Indigenous folks are much better at using nature for food.

    I’m awe struck by people who did survive millennia ago at places like the Ruggles River at Lake Hazen in northern Ellesmere Island, a place in Canada about a thousand miles north of the Arctic Circle that isn’t too far from the North Pole. Also I couldn’t imagine how folks who lived for eons in Interior Alaska or anywhere else in Alaska kept themselves alive. But they did and often they flourished. Perhaps they just closed their eyes and ate the worms!

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