Below: My excitement for my invisible project partners’ arrival.
The worm journey began frantically on Saturday (Oct. 25th) as I biked like a mad women from work in Battery Park to the Union Square farmer’s market to pick up the worms. I found the woman selling the worm compost bins as she was getting in her van to leave.
I talked to her about the entire process and she explained how to use the Worm Condo. A sticker, 4 ventilation inserts, and a giant Trader Joes coffee can (in photo above) sat inside this plastic storage bin as she told me how to make it a suitable space for the worms. It didn’t seem like anything fancy. And it’s not. Compost bins can be easily made at home with the right tools.
When I got the worms home, I began cutting the newspaper into strips for bedding after I spent five minutes staring at the top layer of worms in the coffee can. Once I had a good amount of bedding I transported it to the bin and fluffed it. I added the necessary amount of moisture- the NYC Compost Project recommends that the papers have the moisture texture of a wrung out sponge- by flicking and dropping tap water over the strips and then tossing all the strips with my hands. This newspaper in this bin acts as the organic matter that Red Wigglers in nature burrow into. I hope that the worms have enough moisture still from the bedding I provided on Day 1. I hope it wasn’t too much. I hope it’s draining properly.
It’s hard to be at the start because I have so many uncertanties that can only be clarified with evidence that will accumulate with time. The worms and their ecosystem need time to respond to one another and establish some kind of harmony or disruption. Then I can respond and try and control the disruption to return this worm world to harmony. Until they start responding, I’m just going with my guts on how much moisture, how much bedding, food placement and selection, and amount of light allowed into the Condo.
With the bedding ready and waiting, I poured the coffee can of soil and worms on top of it. The worms were congregated into one giant lump at the center of the soil; it was incredibly cool to watch each worm unravel itself from the mass of other bodies. The worms move so unexpectedly and so delicately. If you blink, you miss the small disturbance that reveals their movement in the soil. From a distance, it appears that the soil is breathing when a lot of worms are moving through it at once.
After an hour of watching the worms unravel into the bedding, I cut up and deposited the food scraps I had saved just to see what would happen. In hind sight I should have given the worms more time to adjust and burrow into the bedding before adding food but I got excited about seeing the process begin.
I gave the worms a few tomatoes, some kale, onion and potato scraps, an apple core, orange peels, and a few tea bags on the first night in their new home. It’s been 48 hours and, with daily observation, I am happy to say the worms are getting more fluid in their new environment and some are beginning to break the food down.
I also noticed yesterday upon opening the lid of the Condo that a few flies have flown out of the bedding. The NYC Compost Project pamphlet provided a few solutions to fly problems and I am looking into one in case the fly population escalates further, but for now I am taking from what I have learned working at the farm and I’m praying for the pests and the unexplained karmic tragedies to leave my habitat alone. I’m trying to remain detached, following one wise professors instructions not to name the worms. I don’t want to call them my worms and say that they are happy today because that’s not scientific, but I can’t and won’t do anything about the tears I will probably shed at the first worm death.
The worms have become such a magical project. Everyone loves to hear about it, and those that have seen the worms have been really positive. I’ve already made connections with people because of the Red Wigglers and what they are beginning to do in my room. I’m not the only one experiencing the power and awe of these natural wiggly decomposers. The worms are already creating an impact.