Worm Inn Journal-05-13-10

Dumping Out My Worm Inn

Some of you may be surprised to learn that I decided to dismantle my Worm Inn system (actually did this back at the end of April). Most of my focus these days seems to be on my outdoor beds, and outdoor activities in general – plus, I wanted to divert all that food waste to systems that need it more.

Part of my motivation also stemmed from the fact that I was REALLY curious to see exactly what was going on inside the Inn. There’s no doubt that the overall process has been working very well (after all, I’ve been putting heaps of food waste in the top and harvesting lots of nice vermicompost from the bottom), but I though it might be neat to see how things progress from top to bottom.

I certainly didn’t have the easiest of times getting the system off the hooks on my stand – I’ll definitely need to do some repairs before starting up back in the fall (was actually planning to get some better hooks anyway). I couldn’t believe how heavy the system was. I ended up weighing it, and it was 80 lb!

To empty the contents of the system I flipped it upside down in one of my worm trays, then unzipped the screen lid (which was on the bottom) all the way around. I had to pull off the Inn very carefully since the amount of material was quite a bit more than the tray could easily hold – plus I didn’t want to disturb the contents too much.

What was interesting to see, right off the bat, was that all the material around the outside was quite dry and a lot of it wasn’t very well processed at all. I definitely should have focused more on adding water around the perimeter. The overall percentage of unprocessed stuff was actually quite small though. Once I started pulling away the dryish layer I quickly started finding nice vermicompost.

Worm Inn Contents

I was expecting to see layers of materials at different stages of decomposition as I went from bottom to top (with the original bottom material obviously being the closest to “finished”). What was surprising though, was the fact that much of the material in the system looked the same – well processed! All the way through the central core there was an especially nice looking pocket of rich worm compost, absolutely loaded with cocoons. The contents in general contained what was more than likely the highest density of worm cocoons I’ve seen in a smaller home system – even more impressive than the vermiponics bed.

The system was also loaded with Red Worms (surprise surprise!), and as expected they were mostly concentrated in the upper (well, technically lower since everything was flipped upside down) zone. I decided to see if I could concentrate most of the population using my souped up “light harvesting” method (see “Turbo Light Harvesting“). I recorded a video as I was getting close to the mass of worms at the bottom.

As I mentioned in the video, I didn’t bother trying to weigh them (and certainly wasn’t going to count them – haha!) – it was more for the purpose of simply seeing what sort of population I had in the system. As you’ll see for yourself (if you watch the vid), it was a pretty good gob o’ worms!

I ended up transferring all the worms to my big wooden worm box out in my backyard. The population in that system was already really high so it will be interesting to see how quickly food gets consumed in there now!

Before letting the worms go, I took full advantage of the fact that I had gobs of worms on hand (literally – haha), and took lots of pictures. Here’s a nice handful:

Gob of Red Worms

As I mentioned above, I will definitely be getting my Worm Inn set up again in the fall. I’m sure that between now and then I will be able to dream up some other way to test out the system (maybe it can be a new “Four Worm Reproduction” system or something like that). Whatever the case may be – I’m sure it will be fun, as always!

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    • Rich
    • May 13, 2010

    The color of your worms always looks good. Mine tend to be duller and browner. Have you noticed variations in your worms’ color based on the bin?

  1. WOW! I had my doubts but, no longer! How many weeks was that bin active?

    • Barb V.
    • May 13, 2010

    What did the inside bin material look like? Was the compost crusted on sides or did it break away cleanly? Did it clean out easily? Can you estimate the amount of vermicompost you harvested all total? BTW many thanks for the whole worm inn overfeeding series.

    • Tracy M
    • May 13, 2010

    I’ve lost it. Face pressed up against monitor yelling “pick them up Bentley!” That’s alot of worms. Do you have a total on how much you fed them?

    • John Duffy
    • May 14, 2010

    That was INCREDIBLE!…Bentley, you never cease to amaze me. The more I learn about worms & vermicomosting, the more fun I have. I’ve got several pairs of blue jeans that I want to try-out the creepy pants composting idea. Would you suggest misting them from the outside or sprinkling them from the top and just let the material wick the moisture through?

    • Bryan Grady
    • May 14, 2010

    Wow!!! That was a great video. Thanks for this whole series! Regarding the “dry” material on the outside edges, would you recommend misting the sides of the Inn? Or, is it enough to just mist thru the top cover?
    Thanks for all of the work on the Worm Inn!! Greatly appreciated.

    • George Sara
    • May 14, 2010

    I too have been impressed with the extra work the worm inn requires. I have been judicious in spraying the edges exactly for the reasons you mention. The worm inn is more work but I like the dynamic nature of the flow through system. Also anything new gets my attention as long as my ADD doesn’t take me elsewhere.

    Thank you for the tutorial and thank you for theWorm Inn.

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • May 14, 2010

    Bentley, that’s the most beautiful hunk of worms I’ve ever seen!! Thanks for that video, that must have been a trick holding the camera with one hand while sorting the worms with the other…great job as always!

    Love the Canadian accent, too. 🙂

    • Bob Collinsworth
    • May 15, 2010

    What a great video. As Tracy said earlier I too found myself saying “For heavens sake Bentley – pick them up!” What a massive teeming glob of worms. It was interesting to learn that VC existed pretty much throughout the Worm Inn . . . not just at the bottom as we expected. If I had any doubts as to what the Worm Inn could do and how friendly an environment it would provide for worms, they have been dispelled thanks to your video.

    • Bob Collinsworth
    • May 15, 2010

    I just thought about something else: Rich mentioned the color of the worms in your video. Not brown, red, orange, pink, or yellow but a combination of all of the above. I guess worms have a color of their own only don’t tell my wife because I can see her going into a dress shop asking for a frock in “Muted Worm” with “Butterscotch” trim. You may be starting something new here Bentley . . . just as I am getting a handle on what in the heck “Mauve” is!

  2. 🙁 Sad to see this going down 🙁 gave me inspiration to start something else up called a dermestid beetle overfeeding challenge.Although unlike worms they tend to not get mould or anything as long as the food stays dry.

    • Bentley
    • May 19, 2010

    RICH – I have seen plenty of variation in Red Worm coloration. It can depend a fair bit on what they are eating, but yeah I seem to recall worms in my enclosed Rubbermaid tubs looking somewhat different that these ones.
    MARK – You and your doubts! Sheesh! lol
    The system was started up in the fall, but I only really started doing anything with it at the end of Jan – so about three months I guess (took it down at end of April).
    BARB – As mentioned in the post, it was indeed quite dry and crusty around the outside (the material that have been sitting against the walls). The beautiful vermicompost seemed to be right in the central zone. Due to the outer crust it did indeed come out of the system quite easily. Hard to say for sure how much vermicompost there was. The total material filled two big tubs, and much of it was nice stuff.
    TRACY – That’s funny! I guess we’re all fascinated with gobs of worms! haha. The total food added (since I began recording it at end of Jan) was only about 91 lb interestingly enough – of course, the majority of that was added during the overfeeding challenge. Next time around I think I will add food in a more “normal” manner and record everything for a much longer period of time.
    JOHN – I added moisture from the top. The problem with jeans is they grow mold quite quickly. If you try it let me know how you make out!
    BRYAN – In hindsight, I wish I had added more water around the perimeter. Adding water through the screen is cool, but unfortunately it all seems to end up right in the middle – so I’d recommend also doing some regular spraying near the walls.
    GEORGE – The Worm Inn definitely provided a DIFFERENT experience than I am used to. I felt much more involved in the process. Having the system sitting so high off the ground helps (rather than having to stoop over to open up a bin or dig around in a bed) I think.
    KIM – I have had quite a bit of practice with the one-handed stuff thanks to this video series! haha Don’t think I’ll be getting an Oscar for cinematography anytime soon, but I’m still pretty impressed with what can be done with a regular ol’ point-and-shoot digital camera.
    Funny to think of having a “Canadian accent” – but as long as you like it, I’m down with that! haha
    BOB – Not sure if “muted worm” will catch on (haha), but ya never know!
    KOOLKID – Don’t be sad! The Worm Inn will be back in action before you can say ‘dermestid beetle’ three times fast. haha
    Glad you popped by actually – I meant to mention in my post (for your sake) that the sow bugs (isopods) did really well in the system. I found a lot of them when I dumped and sorted the material!

  3. Yeah!My colony has exploded[ever colony i have has started out small at 4-10 individuals] worms started with 10 now have well over 60+ dermestids started with four adults back in janruary now have 20+[lost half because of a couple N00b mistakes] isopods started with i think 6 and now have the best progress.I started them back in february and have 30-40+! Love isopods.Click my name i have my own forum about them me and a buddy have decided to make it like a hobby.Its going good.Thanks bently not to worry i can wait i have stuff to do and beetles,worms and isopods to breed[wasps soon enough so i’ll be really busy with a d arenaria wasp queen[commonly called hornets but are in fact yellow jackets just as the bald faced hornet which can have 3000-6000 workers all buzzing around. Got ants as well Camp penn x3 and a new species camp chrom x1!]
    Sorry about the long post.Keep up the wormy updates.

    • Bruce Westfall
    • May 22, 2010

    Sorry Bentley, but “out” and “processing” are most definitely CANADIAN! The first is “laust” at 7 seconds.

    At least you don’t say “Eh?” or “Beauty.” ( way too much ‘Strange Brew’ for me)

    I loved the part about ” I don’t want to be stressing them ‘oat’ “, followed a few minutes later by grabbing entire subdivisions and turning them upside down. If worms could do movies, you’d be Godzilla!

    Based on the pampered life they have led in your care, they should not be worried about a little neighborhood shuffling.

    I could just see them:
    “Mmmm, I think this broccoli was frozen… AHHH – LIGHT! – MOVEMENT! – HANDHELD VIDEO! – OH NO! – Wh– Hmm. All is dark again. Y’know this homemade manure is just delicious and look how well the little cocoons are getting along…”

    Makes me want to go shake up the herd a bit.

  4. wish i could shake up my heard i’m not at home at the moment 🙁 hopefully by next year i have 100000 worms.

    • TJ Chang
    • May 25, 2010

    i would say, it’s gonna be June 21, 2010.

    • Bentley
    • May 25, 2010

    LoL – TJ, you are on the wrong thread! Go here:

    June 21 is taken though

    • LARRY D.
    • July 19, 2010

    Bentley-Just so you know i read your articles more than once.
    Check the date folks.
    I told you that you had the best looking worms on the web.Still can’t get mine that pretty.If that’s your camera,let me borrow it!

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