Mark From Kansas – RWC Staff Writer #1

Well, it’s official folks! Our good friend, ‘Mark from Kansas’ has become Red Worm Composting’s very first staff writer. I finally found someone who will work for worms! (haha – kidding)

As I mentioned at the beginning of Mark’s recent guest post (Mark and his OSCR Worm Bin), I’ve been bugging him about writing for the site for awhile now. Ever since buying worms from me last winter he has been sending me emails about all his cool vermicomposting projects – not to mention sharing his helpful winter worm bin heating strategy, and posting lots of helpful comments on the blog. I just KNEW he’d be a great addition to the ‘team’, since one of my main goals here at RWC has been to get people excited about vermicomposting. If the overwhelming response to his OSCR post is any indication, it looks as though Mark is definitely going to be helping out in that department.

Anyway, I don’t want to waste too much space sharing MY thoughts about all this (will certainly add more in this week’s newsletter), so without further ado, here is a little more about Mark (written by the man himself)…


Let me tell you a little bit about Mark from Kansas.


Mark and his lovely wife Letty

I live in well… Kansas. My wife and I are in the health care field. When we moved into a really nice house a few years ago, the yard was a mess. We even found what was left of a frozen turkey in a cooler in the back yard. The backyard was over run with weeds and the front wasn’t much better. We bought some plants and the yard started to look better. After I cleared the weeds and brush, I took it to the city compost place. There I discovered compost. I took all I could haul and top dressed the flower beds. I then started to research municipal compost and was not all that impressed but, it looked good.

I turned my attention to the lawn and that giant pool of water out back after it rained. I could not grow grass to save my life. It was like the dirt was damaged. One of my residents was telling me about the great dust bowl back in the 30’s. I started to read about the dust bowl and figured that’s what happened to my yard. It turned out to be a good guess. Earlier I mentioned how I wasn’t impressed with the municipal compost – the weed seeds germinated nicely and overtook the grass seed in a matter of two weeks.

So, not wanting to spend money on synthetic fertilizer, I did more research and found redwormcomposting.com and thought “this is the biggest bunch of crap I have ever read!”

The worms are going to eat my garbage, that’s a good one!

[Editor’s Note: Mark, you are fired! ;-)]

I think I read everything on the website for about 4 – 5 months before I bought my first pound of worms, mainly because I did not think it would work. I followed the instructions, I even challenged the idea of keeping it outside, it stayed warm like it was suppose to. I noticed that the worms were really doing what they do. We had some really cold weather coming in so I decided to add a heater (that can be viewed elsewhere in this website).

My wife came up with the heater idea. I decided to move the bin inside because I got tired of going out to the cold garage. A few weeks later I noticed that all the food was gone, the bin had an earthy smell to it, and there were these little lemon looking things all over.

I harvested and split the bin. The vermicompost (VC) was so rich looking and the funny thing was, it use to be our trash. Then I split again, bought some more worms, and got hooked.

We use the VC in our flower beds; one bed was mostly sand and the other was mostly gravel. Man did those plants grow. We also started a vegetable garden as well. The tomatoes did well and, through casual observation, they were bug free, disease free and were pretty tasty.

On a personal note, one of the residents I work with, has a dementia related illness with dementia related symptoms and short term memory loss. His wife Joann would come in every day so I got to know him through her. She told me he was an organic gardener and he would always tell her how his compost smelled. Joann did not know how important that little piece of information was. Her husband would open up to me when I would ask him about compost. He would come out of his room more if I asked him to and we became friends. We would talk about compost. Joann passed away a few months ago; I still miss her very much. She was almost motherly to me.

So here I am today. I am moving onto bigger projects. My winter project is the OSCR bin and to see how fast I can process a ton of trash.

I have smaller projects in the works and am planning a big project in the spring and summer.

I would also like to add that my wife Letty (pictured above) has been very supportive of me. She has had some ideas that I incorporated into my projects. When I was harvesting a bin last winter, I did it in the house it was too cold for me outside, she was really impressed with the VC. I was surprised that she didn’t say anything about the wheelbarrow in the back room of the house or the few worms crawling around on the carpet. Letty also brags about me at work, she is like my own personal cheerleader. One time I went to get 2 more plastic tubs for a side project, she wanted to pick them out (I suspect she choose a certain color in case I had to bring the bin inside and it would match the curtains).


Thanks Mark! Bentley here again, folks – and just so you know, I WON’T be butting in on all of Mark’s posts (apart from the odd teasing remark, perhaps). I will be adding a tiny blurb at the end of each of Mark’s articles along with his headshot, just so there isn’t any confusion over authorship. Mark will also have his own user account here, so his name will appear as the author (down below where it says “Written by Bentley” it will say “Written by Mark from Kansas”)

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Comments

    • Kuan
    • November 3, 2009

    Mark,
    I have been reading up on vermicomposting since I before I started my worm bin in April of 2009. I’m so happy to see a fellow Kansan doing some good stuff to our environment and our mother earth. I agree that it is cold here in Kansas and I’m in South Central KS. This will be my first year having a bin in the unheated garage using the heater method mentioned in your post. I hope my worms make it through.

    Please keep posting your findings. I find it to be interesting and informational.

    Thanks,
    Kuan

  1. Kuan,
    I live in SOUTH CENTRAL KANSAS! What do you mean you hope? Of course they will!
    Please keep me updated about your bin.
    Thanks Mark

  2. Ahhh,
    Mark– I laughed, I cried–what a great testimonial! And another SC Kansan vermicomposter–wow! I hope all is well with you..I taught a vermicomposting class today and had a student who worked with restaurants that wants more info about your OSCR flow through!

    Hoping to get those restaurants on board with VCing!

    • DAN da' MAN
    • March 26, 2010

    Mark,

    Good JOB on 1048 pounds! Give me a call!

    • Danielle
    • April 13, 2010

    Yay, I’m so glad to see so many Kansas vermicomposters! I’m in east central Kansas and I had no idea there were so many south central Kansas wormers. I just stumbled upon this site by accident trying to figure out a good way to harvest my compost. I’ve had worms for about three years and have increased to two normal bins and one large rubbermaid container for the harvested castings because I couldn’t stand to kill too many babies, cocoons, and adults that snuck in. Now the worms have multiplied in the harvested castings bin. In any case, I’ve already found some great info. Keep it up!

  3. Thanks Danielle,
    It will take you about a month to read all the information Bentley has provided. I would like to read more about your worms, if you got time, send me an E-Mail.

    • Tom Stewart
    • April 29, 2010

    Mark,
    I found Bently’s web site back in November and have read all of it front to back. I ordered my first 5000 worms back on March 25 and they arrived 1 April and I set them up in a 30 gallon tote in my utility room as the weather here in North Caolina was still a little iffy. I have located a place where I can get free lumber and built a bottomless box (3′ X 7′ X 13″) and installed the worms on 19 April. I used rotten hay as the main bedding material and used 3 lbs of aged horse manuer and .5 lbs of kitchen scraps as food. I also added 3 – 4 gallons of water to get every thing nice and moist. The tempreture in the bed is still kind of low, But I found the first worm egg on 26 April.I have no out buildings on my place and will add more boxes as I devide box # 1 as it starts to get crouded.
    I have been reading your posts on your OCAR and have learned alot from you and Bently at RWC. Keep the posts coming.
    TOM

  4. Thanks Tom
    Just a thought, while you have a bin that HUGE, may I suggest that you look into a getting a steady food source before you run out. I ran into this problem in January but, I was able to get enough manure (or so I thought) to get me through summer and I think I only have enough manure for 3 weeks.
    I am not sure if I should wish you good luck but, my bet is that your bin is going to explode with worms. Then what?!!!!
    Mark

    • Tom Stewart
    • April 30, 2010

    Mark,
    Thanks for the responce. To answer your questions, I have a lady who has 5 horse’s and I can pick up all I want by the truck load (free) and If you are right (and I hope you are!), I can get all the lumber to build boxes as needed, also free! I can see it now, 3 acres covered with boxes full of worms. Man-o-man, I hope so!
    Tom

  5. Hi Mark and especially the Kansas contingent.
    This is Stan from almost Kansas. Actually I’m twenty miles into Missouri. I work as the recycling educator for the state of Kansas and have been touring Kansas schools for 13 years with musical assemblies for elementary schools. For several of those years I’ve offered Red Worm Workshops in elementary schools. I even sing about worms on my album Rot N’ Roll. I have four bins in the basement year-round and a 3 ft. cubic bin in the backyard that is a part of a three bin compost unit. I’ve had good luck overwintering the worms outside in the bin just by loading it up with extra food in the fall. As mentioned here these worms know what to do and if the pile gets active, actually starting to heat up in the compost sense they just move back and wait. I don’t sell the worms and really only want the 4-500 pounds of castings I get each year for my yard and garden. You can check out http://www.compost-education.com for more information about my work, but Bentley and Mark have a good thing going here for sure.
    Stan

    • Jessica
    • June 9, 2010

    Just thought I’d let you know I checked out your site. Pretty cool! Now you can google yourself!

  6. The local Kansas Junior college (Johnson county Community college) just called to inquire about the availability of red worms for the Environmental Science lab. Last post I said that I don’t sell worms. Actually I sell $2-300 worth a year as starter colonies. Lots of folks buy a pound of worms but don’t know how to operate a bin so they don’t give the thousand or so worms the conditions they need right away after a several day trip through the mail. What I sell is a chunk of my colony. Worms, bedding, castings. food all in one quart ziplock bag for $5.00. My biggest event is the local Farmer”s Expo, where I play the “green musac” for the event. My wife sells worms while I sing. As you all know lots of people are wanting to learn about worms these days. I have a worm-composting poster that sells well also, Finally I give the purchasers a single sheet titled Stan’s Redworm Do’s and Don’t’s. Don’t buy the posters online without calling. I’ll give you a special blog buddy discount.
    Stan

    • mike
    • July 24, 2010

    Mark when you started your OSCR around how long did it take for the layer of newspaper on the bottom to deteriate? I made copycat version using fence on the bottom. I check it everyday hoping that the VC will start raining down into my tubs…..but so far no luck. I plan to add another 10lbs of reds to it this week. I hope you give an OSCR update soon and show off some of those worms. Sigmund Freud was right….I am envious of your Very Large OSCR.

  7. Hi Mike,
    if I remember right, I think it took 3 -4 weeks. I used 2 sheets of news paper and then piled finished VC on top of that.
    In hindsite, I wish I had used cardboard and so it would have taken longer time to breach. Once the paper broke, I spent every day for two weeks rescuing worms.

    • Rebecca
    • August 5, 2010

    Mike, I live near Wichita Kansas. Is there someplace local where I can purchase worms to get started? Many thanks!

    • Deb
    • April 7, 2012

    hi Mark! I live in Wichita and am interested in starting a worm compost. I don’t know where you are located but I would love to find someone who would allow me to come over and see a setup firsthand and maybe give me some pointers. how would I go about finding someone close by? I have been reading about it and am a bit overwhelmed by all the info. I have another friend who is interested in learning too.

  8. Hi Mike,

    I appreciate all of the work and research you have done on worm composting. I started farming and gardening in 1968. I have just always expected the worms for worm composting to come and do their job. Now that I live in Colorado, the ground I live on is hard and lacks the environment to grow composting worms. I always enjoy seeing worms in the soil and the flower beds, which tells me that the soil is healthy or on the way to becoming healthy!

    Thank you! I will send you some customers as I appreciate your attention to customer service.

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