The Beast – 03-12-13

It’s been almost a month and a half since my last VermBin48 update! As you may recall, I ran into some pretty serious Euro migration and leaking issues and ended up completely removing the tarp etc I had sitting down below.

Since then, whether the result of leftover frustration from that experience or my desire to to simply let the bin mellow (and dry) out, I’ve basically been neglecting the VB48 completely. I DID add one sizable batch of food, not long after my last update – but other than that I’ve been focused on other things.

Having nothing down below the bin (which has led to greatly improved air flow) helped to dry out the false bottom a fair bit, and also to curb the downward worm roaming. That said, I’ve still been finding quite a few dead or dying worms, not to mention a fair amount of vermicompost, down below the bin.

Yesterday I decided to finally do something about it!

The beast now has a skirt!

I cut up a thick polyfiber feed bag into strips and attached several of them to the inner frame down below the flow-through floor. It was NOT easy or enjoyable work in the slightest. It took quite a long time (just finished up this morning) and was very awkward and at times uncomforatable. I felt like some sort of vermicomposting mechanic down below the bin with my light and tools! lol

But I gotta tell ya, it feels pretty awesome to have the job done!

I created two worm-friendly receiving bins using my trusty worm harvesting (aka “concrete mixing”) trays, containing a moist mixture of fall leaves and shredded newsprint, brown paper and cardboard. While the length of these trays is perfect for running from side of the VB48 to the other, when two of them are sitting down below there is a decent gap between them. I opted for a K.I.S.S approach, simply placing a sheet of cardboard in between them to make sure nothing falls down onto the floor.

The skirt simply gets folded into the bins (and over top of the cardboard) so that anything falling down along the edges (where most of it seems to be coming from thus far) ends up in the bins or on the cardboard.

When I dug around in the trays this morning there were already worms in both of them, so I think it’s safe to say this will really help to reduce worm mortality over time. It’s also kind of cool to basically have two new vermicomposting systems operating down below the main bin. Will be interesting to see how things develop in them.

As mentioned previously, I’m not in any rush to start harvesting vermicompost from the VB48, so having the material falling down from the big bin into the smaller bins (where it will undoubtedly be processed even more) is totally fine with me.

Today I also decided to add quite a lot of food waste to the VB48 since there wasn’t even a trace of food from my last feeding. In an effort to keep things moving along (i.e. to avoid procrastination), I’m not going to worry about weighing everything that goes into the bin. It’s been a bit of a hassle (to say the least) – and I know I will be a lot more attentive when I can just throw in some food/bedding whenever I want without the need to weigh and record everything.

At some point I WOULD like to come up with a fun experiment that involves weighing the wastes being added (eg. I was thinking it might be fun to see how easy it would be to compost ALL our compostable household scaps in the VB48) – but I’ll likely wait until next month to get it started.

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    • Ben
    • March 12, 2013

    It’s funny you should mention the weighing thing… after not doing it from mid-November until March with my VB24, I’m now weighing everything that gets added to the bin (as well as everything I’m putting in the hot compost pile.)

    It’s been a lot of fun so far, and the spreadsheet I’m using converts lbs to kgs just for fun. Just in the first 12 days of March the VB24 has absorbed:
    25 lbs (11.3kg) of food waste
    7.8 lbs (3.5 kg) of coffee grounds
    1.2 lbs (.5kg) of dry weight carbon materials (corrugated cardboard, egg cartons, office paper)
    .25 lbs (.1kg) of composted material
    .5 lbs (.2 kg) of leaves

    …for a grand total of 34.75 lbs (15.8 kg) of waste diverted from the waste stream! Hurray worms! Can’t wait to see what a few months looks like!

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2013

    This is why it’s cool to think out loud (via my blog posts)! Now you’ve got me itching to start weighing everything again, Ben!! LOL

    • Ben
    • March 13, 2013

    Yeah… I had an itch last December and it took me 2 1/2 more months to actually do it. πŸ™‚ Life just seems to get in the way…

    • Christian
    • March 13, 2013

    I had a dream last night that I had finally gotten around to building my VB24 and that I checked in on the system. It prompted me to come and check the RWC site.

    Why am I dreaming about worms?

    • Ben
    • March 13, 2013

    You’re dreaming about worms because worms are amazing. And the sooner you get the VB24 up and running, the sooner you will be awesome by virtue of the eisenia-powered-transitory-awesomeness proof. It’s a real mathematical proof, I swear! You can look it up! πŸ˜‰

    • John Duffy
    • March 13, 2013

    C’mon Christian…You know you REALLY want to build the VB96…That’s why you’re dreaming about worms. Don’t be shy. It’s ok to be a wormhead.

    • Michael
    • March 15, 2013

    I understand weighing dry materials but what’s the point of weighing food waste since the majority of the weight is water?

    • Ben
    • March 15, 2013

    @Michael: Sadly, I don’t know any way around that particular issue. (besides a food dehydrator) I gave that whole ‘water weight’ issue some thought and here’s what I came up with in the way of rationalization:

    My goal is to track waste being diverted from the landfill to the bin. Since the scraps already have water in them, and the carbon materials do not, what I’m diverting from the waste stream, technically, includes the water weight. It would end up in the landfill too if I just tossed it in the trash. Since we ‘throw away’ (a misnomer to begin with) things without drying them out first to reduce mass, I should track exactly what WOULD have been thrown away.

    Cardboard doesn’t have water in it when you toss it (or recycle it), and food does. So I don’t weigh the cardboard AFTER I soak it in rainwater to use as bedding, I weigh it when it’s try. Likewise the coffee grounds from Starbucks are mostly dry because they use an espresso machine predominantly, whereas my french press coffee grounds are wetter. So I weigh them as they would be when they’re thrown out, not as they are after I add water or the water filters through the bin and moistens the existing bedding.

    Does that make more sense? If someone can come up with a better way, I’d be very interested in trying to account for water weight. Provided it doesn’t become TOO much work!


    • Ben
    • March 15, 2013

    *weigh it when it’s dry. not weigh it when it’s try….

    I suppose I should have proofread that first… πŸ™‚

    • Bentley
    • March 17, 2013

    Ben has responded with pretty much the same answer I would have given you Michael. We’re thinking here in terms of the amount of “weight” saved from going to the landfill. More weight means more fuel used, means more space taken up etc. Yes, a lot of it is water weight – but if anything, that makes it worse. It contributes to anaerobic digestion (think methane formation), and nasty cesspools of landfill liquid.

    I definitely see where you are coming from though. If it was a scientific experiment one would need to standardize it for sure.

    • Michael
    • March 17, 2013

    He made a valid point in his response. However, I was thinking more about vc input to output versus the waste reduction aspect of it.

    • Ben
    • March 17, 2013

    I’m not sure what use the output weights will be, honestly. I’ll be interested to see how much the bin itself gives me on a monthly basis, but I doubt I’ll be able to draw any conclusions directly regarding input:output ratios.

    • Chris
    • March 17, 2013

    I weigh all my food additions, mainly just so I know how much I can feed them. I just find it interesting to know how much food it can process.
    I thought about weighing the cardboard and such too, but that sounded like too much trouble. I’d add cardboard when I took food out of the freezer, then add more when adding to the bin, plus often a trip to the compost bin to add a bit from that… I’d have to carry the scales around everywhere.

    If someone can come up with a better way, I’d be very interested in trying to account for water weight. Provided it doesn’t become TOO much work!”
    All you need to do is record weights for each individual food, then look up the average water content for each food, and calculate that in your spreadsheet. That would give you a rough figure. Easy ;p

    • Michael
    • March 19, 2013

    “I’m not sure what use the output weights will be, honestly. I’ll be interested to see how much the bin itself gives me on a monthly basis, but I doubt I’ll be able to draw any conclusions directly regarding input:output ratios.”

    Understood but it would be nice to know roughly what it would be. I have a use for all the vc I can make so perhaps I’m biased, meaning I’m not interested in the waste stream.

    • Ben
    • March 19, 2013

    Definitely understand where you’re coming from. The tracking is mostly for my own edification, and also because I’m curious exactly how much I can process without overloading the system. Like you, my end goal is still getting as much VC as humanly possible. I could definitely use 8-10 times more than I’m likely to get. Our whole yard could benefit from soil remediation at this point.

    • Karen
    • March 21, 2013

    I love the idea of the flow through worm bin. I am buying a compost bin that has a door in the bottom. I will drill holes and put PVC pipe across the bottom, above the door. Then fill this with bedding and food (I have a freezer full of yummy frozen vegetable scraps). This is my next project to work on πŸ™‚

    • chris lee
    • May 26, 2013

    I am loosing a fair amount of worms out of the bottom of my vb 48. I have a tray under already, but they seem to still get onto the floor. that skirt idea is worth a try. Over heating has been a problem in the past with some frozen gallon jugs I have been able to keep them alive. I have had to start feeding the reds: horse manure,apple pumas,beer brewing mash along with coffee grounds.Our waste stream will not keep them going. Thank you for your posts.

    • Bentley
    • May 28, 2013

    CHRIS – if you create a set-up very similar to mine (with the two plastic mixing trays, the skirt, and the “bridge” in between the bins, you should be able to avoid losing worms. Not surprised you are having overheating issues based on what you’ve been using as food – and overheating in general is definitely a common challenge early on with the VB48 in general. I thankfully seem to be past that now – so it’s been working really well for me.

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