If I told you I was going to wrap a dead squirrel in some sheets of newsprint, toss it into a bucket with some dirt and worms, and then seal the thing up…would you expect me to be on my way to successful vermicomposting?
I found myself pondering basically the same question shortly after a friend suggested I look up a concept known as “vernmenting”, and I’d started watching the first video I found.
Right off the bat, I got stuck on the name – why “VERN” not “VERM”? And of course the “menting” ending made me think of fermenting – absolutely NOT something we want to encourage in a vermicomposting system.
I didn’t have the sound turned on, and things just went from bad to ridiculous from there. Not only was the guy promoting the use of buckets (not known as the best choice for a worm bin), but he started doing crazy stuff – scooping up dog poop and dead animals, wrapping everything up in newspaper, like some sort of twisted gag gift (with emphasis on gag – lol) and then tossing these little packets – and not so little when he did the same thing with an opposum – into his buckets!
Well, thankfully, I stuck with it – I guess it just seemed SO out there, that I felt compelled to find out what on earth was going to happen!
And gradually, I could see that there was some real “method” this guy’s “madness”.
He wasn’t just tossing potent wastes in a sealed bucket with worms…
-> Each little deposit had some of “living material” (his favorite seems to be forest floor “DUFF”) tossed in with it and had a pretty thick layer of absorbent, carbon-rich material wrapped around it
-> He was then layering a LOT more living material in between the packets all the way up.
-> He had really cool air vents in the buckets for excellent aeration (without allowing critters in), and an effective drainage system for removing excess liquid.
-> The worms were added as worm-rich material up at the top – not forced to deal with the wastes right off the bat.
-> Everything was left alone for about 2 months
-> The stuff that came out of the buckets after the processing period looked very similar to what you could expect from a well-managed plastic worm bin (very nice looking compost – and loads of worms).
Once I realized how cool this vernmenting concept actually was, I started watching more of the videos (with my headset and sound on) – and I just ended up more and more impressed with the creator, Mark Paine, and this novel vermicomposting approach.
The roadkill and poop packets were really just meant to demonstrate that basically ANY type of organic waste could be processed in a vernmenting bin. What he seems to use for most of his bins is a sludge made by putting a lot of (more typical) organic wastes down through a grinding system – an old sink garbage disposal unit – and then draining off excess liquid.
It’s likely something you would need to be a bit careful with in a more typical worm bin – but when wrapped up into what he refers to as “composting rolls” and layered in with loads of living material, it clearly works great.
I’ll admit, you can end up a bit lost in Mark’s videos – mostly because there are quite a few, and it seems as though a fair number of them include a decent overview of the vernmenting approach.
SO, I’m still not 100% sure which one offers the best place to start.
Here is one called “Vernmenting 101”:
And here is the first video I watched (with the dead animals and dog poop):
To be honest, the idea of using all these DIY bucket systems with fancy drainage apparatus etc seems a bit too much for me personally (but an awesome way to go if you have the room, your spouse is mellow – haha, and you are fairly handy).
I’m more interested in certain aspects of what Mark is doing. I see some close parallels with my own methods and philosophies (living material, more of a natural “set it and forget it” approach, balanced system with great aeration etc) – but Mark has introduced me to some new and exciting ideas as well.
– I really love the “composting rolls” idea and plan to start testing this out in my own bins – especially in “set it an forget it” vermiculture systems.
– I also LOVE his totally-sealed aeration concept – his DIY air vents are brilliant! I can see not only great potential for using these with a typical worm bin (helping to keep pests out), but also for creating various “homemade manures” and other worm food mixes, which are notorious for ending up invaded by flying pests.
Here is a video where he shows exactly how he is making the air vents (NOTE: fast forward to the 6:45 mark where he starts to demonstrate – everything before that is just a basic discussion about vernmenting):
If you happen to already be a vernmenting fan and have tried out this approach (or some variation), I would love to hear about it – please drop a comment down below to share your thoughts!
I think it’s safe to say this won’t be the last time you read about vernmenting here on the blog.
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I found this guy a few months ago and like you I was a bit shocked in the beginning. But his system seems to work great for him so one day I might give it a try as well. His “sludge” got my interest as we often have quite worm unfriendly stuff that ends up in normal trash. Would be a great way to get rid of that using an already proved system.
Thanks for the feedback, Tristan. Yeah the sludge and (wrapping said sludge in a thick carbon-rich package) is a cool approach. I will be interested to see how my own composting rolls experiment turns out.
Looking forward to seeing the results. I have sometimes done a newspaper roll with veggies and put them in the compost heap. Eventually they always disappear
In the video “Vernmenting Bin Update”, the loaded bucket appears very dry. Do you think he added water that he didn’t show?
Sorry John – didn’t realize you had left a comment as well (glad we connected via email). For the benefit of others, yep everything DID look pretty dry – and I was a bit surprised he needed such a fancy drainage apparatus – but my hunch is that his sludge has a lot more moisture than it seems to. I’ve noticed quite a lot of condensation in my composting rolls bins so far (even though the bin itself doesn’t seem overly moist). Will be interesting to see how everything looks a month or two down the road.
Too bad Mark isn’t better organised in presenting his system. I think it’s absolutely brilliant (nine vernmenting bins here and counting….). He certainly deserves more likes, views and attention!
Oh wow, Karen! 9 bins? That’s impressive. I’m guessing you must be getting decent results from these systems.
Thanks for chiming in!