Silver Lake Vermicomposting-07-01-10

Leanne and David Erb (with their two young children) pose for a picture in front of their worm bed

Yesterday, my dad and I filled two large tubs with worm-rich material and packed up the car with various other vermi-goodies, before setting out on the 2+ hour drive up to Silver Lake Mennonite summer camp.

I was eager to see the Silver Lake flow-through worm bed up close, and to provide the Erb family with one last batch of worms before the first wave of young campers start arriving next week.

I must say right off the bat that the big wooden bed – built by Leanne Erb’s husband David – is every bit as impressive (more so, in fact) than it appeared to be in the photos Leanne sent me (included in this post: “Silver Lake Vermicomposting-06-11-10“)!

It looks as though Leanne has been taking very good care of the worms inside as well. The REAL test, of course, will be when she starts adding multi-pound batches of food waste to the bed each day, but based on how well everything is coming along, I suspect that the system is going to work very well for them (as will the worms).

I was very interested to see what the floor of the Silver Lake system looked like – I wasn’t sure what material they had used for the grate. When Leanne told me it was made of chicken wire I couldn’t believe it, but then I saw the system of support beams that David installed underneath and most of my concerns went away.

The cardboard sitting directly over the grate is decomposing nicely, and vermicompost is already starting to fall down into the harvesting chamber. Leanne mentioned that there seemed to be a lot of worms in the material that had fallen down thus far, but I think once the level of material in the bed increases and there is a lot of food waste up near the top she’ll find fewer and fewer worms in the compost.

I decided to take up my last bag of alpaca manure (will be getting another batch tomorrow) and some stacks of cardboard coffee trays (continually collected by my wife’s co-workers for my ’cause’ – haha) for Leanne so she could provided a bit more variety for the worms and soak up excess moisture from the food waste. I’m sure a group of young campers could have those trays shredded in short order!

On an unrelated (but still interesting) note…

When we first arrived, Leanne showed us the camp vegetable garden. I made a remark about the impressive size of the sunflower growing in the middle (probably about the same size as the biggest “Kong” sunflower I have growing at the moment). When Leanne pointed to a much smaller sunflower and told us that it had been started at the exact same time, I was completely floored – and couldn’t wait to hear about the worm compost I was sure she must be using to achieve those results.

Well, as it turns out, the “secret” had nothing to do with worm compost (oh well – haha!), but Leanne had employed an interesting growing strategy with the larger plant. I can’t remember the exactly name of the technique (something done in Germany, I believe), but it is something akin to “Lasagna Gardening” / sheet composting (layered system of rich organic matter).

Pretty cool!

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    • John Duffy
    • July 3, 2010

    That is one sweeet looking bin! I’m sure all the young campers will learn good lessons about worms & composting. Save your egg shells…Kids love to smash & crunch them for the bin.

    • LARRY D.
    • July 4, 2010

    The one problem they will have is it will be about impossible to harvest the vc from the bottom.But by that design ,they can drill holes straight through the side and run conduit across in around 2″ spacing.The worms are bad about falling down,but if you use catch trays or piles in the harvest chamber,it will be o.k.
    Bentley,i will email you some pictures of underneath mine.So you can see what it looks like after it’s in full operation.I just opened up the other side of the bin by the way.Gonna have to order more worms!

    • Barb V.
    • July 4, 2010

    Will these worms over-winter in that bin? If not, then the how to harvest ‘thing’ is moot. I’ll bet if we could fast-foreward 30 or 40 years, the lessons learned and memories created in this summer camp will have a ripple effect not only on those kids, but the communities in which they live. Please keep us posted on the worm’s summer camp experiences.

    • LARRY D.
    • July 4, 2010

    The problem they may encounter depends on the quality of the chicken wire.Even watermelon juice is corrosive.
    But that said Barb.I can remember when i was a kid in the cub scouts,we were the only kids that never even got to go camping at jellystone park at disney world.I still remember the low feeling i had as a kid.These kids look like they are in for a real good time.Man i wish i was a kid again.Anybody got a time machine?

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