Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Worm Bin Bee April 22, 2009

My corner of the world is lucky to have a new organization, Sustainable NE Seattle, a small but growing group of neighbors working to find local and personal solutions to some of the thorny issues facing our planet. I recently joined a subset of the group, Urban Farmers, after seeing a front-lawn-to-food-crops transformation they devised and carried out in my neighborhood (blog post on that coming eventually,  I hope).

This past weekend, one of the group’s founders put out the call to everyone that she would host a tools-provided worm bin build in her backyard. She and her husband graciously allowed a bunch of us to get sawdust everywhere and take over the place to build six big-old bins for our own gardens. They also picked up all the materials, tossed in their own scrap wood to keep costs down, and kept everyone moving on the various phases of the project while graciously teaching many of us to use power tools for the first time.

Some people hammered:

Worm Bin Work Party

Others sawed (I didn’t take a picture of anyone while they were doing it, since I have a horror of power saws and didn’t want to jinx anyone into lopping off digits!):

Worm Bin Workers

I was on drill duty with this kind gentleman, who has taught carpentry and was astonishingly patient with my beginner’s fumblings:

Worm Bin Carpentry Master

Our trusty mascot, who was happy to chase tossed fir cones whenever anyone had a break in their duties:

Sweet Retriever

The other resident animals, who might not have been too happy with all the banging and sawing but were curious about all the activity anyway:

Hens in Backyard Coop

At one point I was making pilot holes for someone else to drill in the wood screws. We were a two-drill assembly line, and we did so many that I pretty much got over my fear I was going to put a hole in my finger. I liked this older Makita a lot, I can see why people get really into owning and handling wood-working tools:

Vintage Makita Drill

These gals dubbed themselves the “Womens’ Drill Team” and they got pretty into using a human-powered drill which I neglected to photograph, which is too bad because it was very cool. It’s called a Yankee Push Drill and you can see pictures of some like it here at a vintage tools site.

Women's Drill Team at Worm Bin Party

After the sides, bottoms and lids were assembled separately, they were all put together and large-bore holes were drilled in the bottom for ventilation:

Worm Bin Ventilation Holes

To keep rats from chewing through those, we stapled hardware cloth (i.e. incredibly tough screen material) over each hole. Despite various horror stories I’d heard over the years, all of the experienced worm composting folks there said that they hadn’t had trouble with rodents. So, I hope to continue that trend!

Ta-da! Two bins, finished and stacked for taking home:

Completed Worm Bins

Even with a lot of people and mostly pre-cut wood, it still took a long time to build the bins from scratch. I had to leave early (after coming late, bad work-party etiquette for sure but nobody made me feel bad!), so I have yet to bring home my bin. I hope to pick it up tomorrow, and then I’ll have to get going on shredding newspaper for the worms’ bedding and then getting actual worms. The ones I plan to use, Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida), are pretty pricey – $25 for 1/2 lb. at Seattle Tilth, so I might be able to get some from my mom’s compost pile or see if there are any left over from the gal who brought some to the bee.

It might be a smart idea to invest in a copy of Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, the definitive classic on vermicomposting human food waste. To find out more about composting with worms, this Treehugger article has a lot of info plus links galore.

For the free plan we used, also from Seattle Tilth, click here for a 3-page PDF. With a bit of scrap wood, total costs including hardware for ours were only $23 each. I’ve seen them for sale for over $100, so if you are handy or know someone who is, that’s a pretty good savings for a few hours of work.

It was great to meet a bunch of people who are interested in stuff like this, and I am super excited to start letting the worms make me some incredible compost. Starting later this week, I will stop giving our family’s food scraps to the city to compost, except for the worm bin no-no’s (meat/dairy/fish and, according to some folks, citrus – too acidic.) This is my small attempt to do a bit more to cut down on our little family’s impact on the planet. Happy Earth(worm) Day!


12 Responses to “Worm Bin Bee”

  1. Catherine Says:

    That is really neat. They look really nice too, almost like furniture! Hope you will show us when you add the worms!
    By the way how was SAGBUTT?

  2. Racquel Says:

    You all did a great job on those wormbins. I love the audience of the chickens, lol.

  3. Grace Says:

    And a happy Earth(worm) day to you too!

    You’ve got a power saw phobia too? OMGosh. I thought I was the only one.

    At first I thought the “mascot” was the car. I thought, “the car chases pinecones? Huh?” LOL. Beautiful dog. And the curious hens are so endearing.

    I used to have a worm bin but found that the red wigglers came and continue to come on their own to my compost piles/bins. (They’re enclosed but on the ground.) The book you mentioned really is the gold standard for worm happiness.

    It looks like you had a great time and met some terrific people. And got a great worm hotel. Very cool.

  4. Cynthia Says:

    Great post for Earth(worm) Day Karen. 😀 Your handmade bin puts my black plastic one to shame. I’ll have to show my husband this post so he can view the plans- he’s the woodworker in this house but I must edit out where you say, “I can see why people get really into owning and handling wood-working tools”. That line could get me into some trouble and would only encourage his habit of tool buying! 😉

    My compost pile is full of red wigglers at the moment- if I could I’d give you some to get you started. Good luck and have fun- I’ve always loved my worm bin. They are like pets to us as we feed them and keep an eye on them like pets.

  5. This is truly great idea and also blessing to live in such well organised community.
    The idea of helping each other and learning how to do things with your own hands is great – I love it.
    Thank you for coming over and commenting on my blog, so I could discover yours.

  6. Megan Says:

    Do you read the germinatrix blog? She posted the other day about getting worms at the pet store for $5, but I don’t remember if she said what kind. I really liked her worm directions, but hers were for an under the sink bin, and I couldn’t see having worms indoors. I like these, which I’m assuming are for outdoor use. If I were a better person I’d make my own compost.

  7. Those are very cool! And props to you for building them!

    I can’t wait to hear the report on how well they work. I expect lots of pictures…

    Oh, and BTW, I call them, “empowerment tools.” 😉

  8. Bonnie Story Says:

    Great post and photos! By the way I really like how BIG the photos are that you post. Really can see the detail well. Happy Verming! – Bonnie

  9. Chloe M. Says:

    Wow, I MUST get one!

    I believe our city is going to begin a pilot food scrap composting project – but it makes more sense to compost my own kitchen waste.

    Thank you also for recommending the great reference book.

    Chloe M.

  10. Wonderful, Karen, how on earth (!) do you have time for all this? I am really impressed, and want to know how your worms are growing in near future…

  11. Aerie-el Says:

    Awesome worm bins!
    Makita drill is the best. We have a DeWalt now, but Makita will be our next one.
    Thanks for all the great links!

  12. […] Posted by greenroof on June 29, 2010 · Leave a Comment  Worm Bin Bee « Greenwalks. […]

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