August 2011

Black Soldier Fly Trap

As fascinating as I find black soldier fly larvae (based on their potential as a waste processor and food source for a wide range of other organisms), I’ve never really put too much time into learning more about them simply because I live up in Canada where they are not found. Unlike worms, which can easily just be brought indoors, the challenge with soldier fly larvae is that they mature into big flies – not exactly something most of us want to spring on our spouses!

My good friend, Jerry “The Worm (Inn) Dude” Gache decided to come up with solution for those of us who want to grow BSFLs indoors – or just generally want to keep a culture going. It’s called the “BSF Trap”, and it’s basically a screened enclosure that sits nicely over top of a BioPod system. Jerry has told me that it should also work with tub systems as long as they have similar upper dimensions (in the range of 16″x24″). I’ve included a couple of Jerry’s videos so you can see this thing in action.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae also go by the name “Phoenix Worms” in the live food trade, and are probably fairly easy to track down through pet shops (and certainly online). Just do a search on YouTube for “Phoenix Worms” and you will find a wide range of video clips featuring various lizards (Bearded Dragons, Geckos etc) chowin down on these things! I have a sneaking suspicion that they would also be phenomenal for larger fish – and perhaps even an effective bait for panfish (trout perhaps?). Many people who have set up outdoor vermicomposting beds in warmer regions know all too well that it’s not very challenging to start your own colony of BSFL. It’s been said that they work well with Red Worms, but my impression (based on a lot of feedback from frustrated vermicomposters) is that they tend to take over a system and gradually make it less and less worm-friendly.

I’ve never had to deal with these “problems”, and I’ve always been fascinated with various invertebrate “food” organisms – so I can’t help but think these guys are pretty darn cool! That’s not even taking their composting potential into consideration! Check out what these guys can do with hamburgers and rainbow trout! Scary stuff! lol

Anyway – if you want to learn more about the BSF Trap, be sure to head on over to Jerry’s website, “The Worm Dude”. You may also want to check out Jerry’s “BSFL Video Clips” website (sister site to “Worm Video Clips”) as well!
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Mold Growth During Aging Period

A question from “bearclawflowers”:

Hi- I started out the two week bin “letting it rot”. Now it has mold
furry mold growing in there. Do I go ahead and put the worms in there,
do I start over, or…..?

Hi BCF,
This is a great question, and it addresses one of the real deficiencies in my early (yet surprisingly popular) YouTube worm bin set up videos. I forgot to provide more details about the aging period!

Rather than simply leaving your newly set up bin to sit until the worms are added, the best strategy actually involves close monitoring, mixing thoroughly (my favorite tool is a garden hand fork), adding more moisture as needed, and more than likely adding more bedding.

The mixing helps to distribute waste materials and moisture more evenly in the bin – but it also is a great way to disrupt excess fungal growth. This growth is absolutely normal by the way – especially when there aren’t any composting critters in there to keep it in check.

Definitely DON’T toss everything out and start over, whatever you do! Just mix everything up, add some more bedding materials – and perhaps some moisture if it seems on the dry side (aim for “as moist as possible without excess pooling at the bottom”).

Hope this helps!
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Simple Pleasures

It’s hard NOT to be in a pretty good mood at this time of year (regardless of what might be going on). There’s nothing quite like the feeling of strolling out into the yard and harvesting naturally-grown (and unbelievably flavorful) tomatoes and basil for the evening’s bruschetta bread mix, or coming across the biggest musk melon you’ve ever seen, growing on what began as a very-neglected “volunteer” plant. Or perhaps it’s just the overall sense of awe you feel as you survey the natural bounty that’s burst forth in such a short time-frame.

It reminds you of the “big picture” importance of all this kooky “worm stuff”, and of the “magic” that attracted you to it in the first place.

Utterly amazing.
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RWC Needs Your Help

Dear RWC Readers & Friends,

When I started up the Red Worm Composting website (rather innocently) almost 5 years ago, I had no grand visions, or even any expectations that it would become something that more than a handful of people would be interested in. Little did I know that I was opening up a veritable “can of worms” (if ever there was an appropriate time for that saying… haha!) in the process.

First and foremost, I discovered that there were indeed other people interested in vermicomposting – LOADS of them in fact – and simply writing about my fun vermicomposting projects seemed to be a great way to connect with many of them! I also discovered how much I truly enjoy educating, inspiring and just generally helping others – as cheesy and “Miss America” as that may sound! lol

The site has always been a “labor of love”, even with all the various associated revenue-generating projects. It’s never been a matter of me working on all this “for the money”, but rather and effort to make money so as to allow me to continue “working on all this”. As much as I enjoy the “worm business”, it’s not something I’ve ever wanted to pursue solely (at the expense of continued development of this site). My aim has been to find a balance between revenue-generating activities and the “fun” vermicomposting/gardening projects and writing that just “make sense”. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a diehard idealist – and as a result, I can sometimes forget to put on my “reality goggles” for periods of time.

I do find solace in the fact that I KNOW, without a doubt, that if I was independently wealthy, I’d be doing exactly the same stuff I’m doing now – only BIGGER, and with even more PASSION and ENTHUSIASM!
😆

Seriously though – I’d be on a farm property, with a massive “worm herd” chomping away on tons (literally) of waste materials – gardening like a madman – and telling everyone ALL about it!

But alas, I’m not independently wealthy, and the harsh reality is that as much as all of this feels like the right path for me, my fun/interesting “work” just isn’t really working financially. I’ve continued to hang on for as long as I can, but the “bottom-line” is that I have two very young kids who deserve more than just a passionate (albeit very loving, and involved) idealist for a dad.

—–

With all this (and then some, times 10) in mind a number of weeks ago, I decided that if there was ONE (potentially “last”) major project I absolutely needed to complete, regardless of the outcome – it was my core vermicomposting guide – my “Complete Guide to Vermicomposting”.

As many of you will know, I DID get started on a guide last fall – the “Red Worm Composting Guide to Vermicomposting” – and managed to put together a pretty solid 76 page resource (still free for anyone who signs up for the email list). Naturally, I used that guide as the starting place for the “complete” version. Me being me, regardless of how much information I keep adding, it’s never going to feel like it’s actually complete – but rest assured, even the first edition will be much more substantial than the original (which shall henceforth be jokingly referred to as “The Incomplete Guide to Vermicomposting”!).

As per usual, I underestimated the amount of time required to put this resource together – and hoped I’d have it mostly “ready to go” by now. However, rather than risk “forcing it” or “rushing it”, I’ve opted instead to mellow out a bit and focus instead on a much more realistic early fall launch.

As touched on in another recent post (see “VermBin24 Flow-Through Vermicomposting Bin“), there’s been another interesting project in the works as well – but this one IS in fact basically ready to go. I’m referring, of course, to the new VB24 flow-through vermicomposting bin designed by Joe Denial (with some input from yours truly) – and more specifically, to the blueprint and info guide we’ve put together for those interested in this DIY system.

In light of the rather challenging situation I’m now faced with (and obviously NOT wanting to walk away from RWC if at all possible), I decided to put together an offer with the main RWC community in mind. I’ve never been one to ask for donations, or to guilt trip readers about “helping the cause” or anything like that (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and as such, I’ve always preferred to offer something of value in exchange for your hard-earned dolloars. This is NO exception!


**The Complete Guide to Vermicomposting Pre-Launch Dealio**

The long and the short of it is that while the VB24 guide is intended as a stand-alone product, and will be sold as such, I worked out a deal with Joe, allowing me to give it away as a gift to all those who pre-order “The Complete Guide to Vermicomposting” during the next 2-3 weeks.

I’ve also decided to create an actual membership for “Complete Guide” customers, including a member’s forum – so you’ll have the opportunity to interact with the community, and get answers to all your vermicomposting questions.

All future updates and add-ons for both products (VB24 guide and “Complete Guide” – once released) are completely free, as always.

The price?


$19

***UPDATE: The “Complete Guide” Pre-Launch has ended (THANKS very much to all those of you who bought the package!). Stay tuned for more details on the official launch!***


If there was a monetary equivalent to the sum total of all the kind words and encouragement that people have sent in over the years, I WOULD be independently wealthy!

Whatever the results of all this, I just want to take the opportunity to thank the RWC community for making me feel like my work here has been appreciated, and that perhaps I’ve even added something of value to the overall field of vermicomposting.
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VermBin24 Flow-Through Vermicomposting Bin

Back in May I received some emails from a customer named Joe Denial (who had ordered 10 lb of Red Worms a short time before) telling me about his new vermicomposting projects and, oddly enough, asking for some advice on building a larger flow-through bed. Now before everyone (who knows about my DIY skills) keels over laughing, I should explain that Joe was very new to RWC and had mistakenly assumed that my big wooden backyard worm bin had a flow-through grate in it.

Once I’d sent Joe my reply, explaining the low-tech nature of my wooden bin, I basically forgot about the whole thing (no offence Joe! haha) and got back to whatever wide assortment of “stuff” I was focusing on at the time.

And then, the plot thickened…

About two weeks later, Joe sent me an email with a small PDF document showing me his new creation. I was TOTALLY floored by what I saw. Not only was Joe’s new bin the coolest DIY flow-through bed I’d ever seen, but he even included some amazing diagrams illustrating the various key components of the design.

On a whim, I decided to ask Joe if he might be interested in designing, and creating plans for various composting bins etc. Thankfully, he said yes – and a short time later the “VermBin24” (VB24) bin (pictured top right) was born.

As much as I love Joe’s bigger bin, I knew most people either wouldn’t want something that big, or would be utterly intimidated by the idea of actually trying to build it – so I suggested we try something more compact (but still employing a similar design). The VB24 was definitely created with the average home vermicomposter in mind. Being the DIY dummy that I am, I would class it as an “intermediate” level building project – but still something I’m confident I could actually put together (and intend to do so sometime this fall).

What’s great about a VB24 vermicomposting system is that it allows home owners to enjoy – on a small scale – the perks of using a much larger professional grade flow-through bed. It provides greatly increased aeration (while still offering good moisture retention), which results in faster processing and a better quality end product – not to mention a much more forgiving system. Like any decent flow-through bin, the VB24 will also make it a lot easier to harvest vermicompost.

Joe’s larger version has been performing incredibly well for him – certainly helping to provide him with a much more care-free and enjoyable vermicomposting experience than most others just getting into the hobby (yep, it’s literally only been a few months since Joe started vermicomposting – pretty cool!).

Tomorrow, I will be posting about some other developments here at RWC – some great, some not so great, but all of it important news regardless. I’ll also provide some more details about securing a copy of the VB24 blueprints (and how-to guide), for those who are interested.

Stay tuned!
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NCSU Conference – Early Bird Registration Deadline

From Rhonda Sherman:

***Early Bird Registration rate ends on Friday, August 19. Register now to get the discount rate.***

NCSU’s 12th Vermiculture Conference, October 10-11, 2011
The Friday Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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North America’s only symposium on mid-to-large scale vermiculture and vermicomposting is coming to Chapel Hill. You will get the tools you need to start or expand your earthworm or vermicompost production operation. You will also learn the latest research on vermicompost and extracts (tea) effects on plant growth and their impacts on disease and pest reduction. Check out the agenda at http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/workshops/worm-conference/agenda.php

Field Trip: This conference will include a field tour of a grocery store that pre-composts and vermicomposts food waste (including meat) and cardboard on-site.

Registration is limited this time, so REGISTER now to reserve your seat at the conference. Go to http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/workshops/worm-conference and click on the Registration button. Register and pay by August 19 to receive the early bird rate!

This conference is sponsored by NC State University, Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, and NC Cooperative Extension.

— Rhonda Sherman, Conference Chair, NC State University, Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering, Campus Box 7625, Raleigh, NC 27695-7625. Phone 919-515-6770. rhonda_sherman@ncsu.edu

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Ground Cherries-08-16-11

Wanted to provide a quick update on the ground cherries front. I am happy to report that quite a few of the “cherries” (again, actually a close relative of tomatoes and tomatillos) are ripening, and I’ve actually been munching on them already.

The husks (containing the fruit) seem to be falling off before the fruit has fully ripened (and turned deep yellow), so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to let them sit for a period of time, or how that works. They are still pretty sweet, but not quite as tasty as the (purchased) ones I ate last year.

I can’t believe how many husks each plant is producing! Looks like it’s going to amount to a pretty sizable harvest by the time all is said and done!
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