Vermicomposting: Make Worms do the Work

A How To Guide: Vermicomposting found at PintSizeFarm.com

A How To Guide: Vermicomposting

One of the best things a homestead can do for the garden is create compost and vermicomposting is an easy (and quick) way to do it. You can purchase compost at your local or big box garden store, but it is a lot cheaper to make it at home. Plus, it gives you a way to recycle your own food scraps and manure.

There are a few different ways you can create compost. One of my favorites is vermicomposting, or creating compost with worms. If you want to go in depth, one of the best books on the subject is Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, but I will outline the details for you here.

Get A Vermicomposting Worm Bin

A vermicomposting worm bin does not have to be expensive. A worm bin can really be anything. You can use a trash can, a Rubbermaid container, or an actual worm bin. When you are choosing your worm bin keep in mind that you want it to be large (deep) enough that the worms can escape the light. Keep your worm bin in a cool dark place and your worms will be happy.

When I started vermicomposting I used the Worm Factory. I liked that I could get to the compost easily without having to sift the worms out. I can also use the worm tea simply by turning the spigot in the bottom bin. When it came to vermicomposting I wanted “easy”! If you use the Worm Factory worm bin you start by adding your worms and food or paper scraps to the bottom tray then start putting the food and paper scraps in the next tray up, when that tray is full move to the next one, and so on. When the food runs out the worms will migrate to the upper tray leaving the compost behind. That was a huge “plus” in my book because I didn't have to filter out the worms. I did not want to lose any of my vermicomposting worms when I took the compost.

When Vermicomposting put food on 1 side to attract worms away from finished compost

When Vermicomposting put food on 1 side to attract worms away from finished compost

Get Vermicomposting Worms

You want to use red wigglers, not earthworms (click here if you want to see the differences between red wigglers and nightcrawlers/earthworms). Red Wigglers are much better (and some would argue the only type of worm that will work) at vermicomposting. A pound of red wigglers is about 1000 worms (and you generally buy them by the pound). Red wigglers are much smaller than an earthworm.

If you have a local source (sometimes they sell them at gardening or fishing stores) then you can get your worms there (just make sure they are Red Wiggler worms). I purchase my worms online because I have not found a good local source (and the local worms I have found are all earthworms). If you do purchase them online keep in mind that they will be a little dehydrated when you get them (and hence a little smaller than they should be). They plump up pretty quickly, but be sure to get them in the vermicomposting bin as soon as you receive them.

Feed Your Worms

A pound of red wigglers will vermicompost about 1 pound of food each day! You can use that information to guesstimate how many worms you need. They usually are sold in groups of 500 or 1000. You do not need to start with the number you need! They will reproduce to the capacity of your bin. However, if you want to get it started up quickly then buying a group of 500 or 1000 worms (or larger depending on how much food scrap you have) will help.

Farm your Vermicompost

If you use a worm bin the harvesting the compost is as easy as taking the bottom tray out and removing the compost. If you are using a different bin then it will be easier if you have two bins going so you have a place to put the worms when you harvest the compost.

One tip is to also add food to one side of the bin in order to attract the worms to it while you are harvesting the vermicompost from the other side. You will probably still have to sift out a few worms, but many of them will migrate towards the food (give them a few hours or even a day to do this).

Troubleshooting Wormicide in your Vermicomposting Bin

If your worms try to commit wormicide (attempting to flee the bin) then a few things could be going on. Keep an eye on your vermicomposting bin and make sure this doesn't happen. If a few do it then many will and you can lose a whole bin of worms pretty quickly (they will die out fairly fast as soon as they leave the bin environment).

  • The bin could be too hot. Red wigglers do better in heat than earthworms do, but if you have a cooler area (basement, garage, shade) then they will do better than in full sun. The worms will keep the bin pretty warm on their own they do not need the sun to help. Plus, red wigglers tend to live near the surface so they can't go as deep as an earthworm to escape the heat.
  • There could be too much or too little water. Most vegetable and fruit matter have water in it, but balance that with your dry (paper, cardboard) stuff. If it seems to dry then spritz it with a little extra water (only if it seems too dry).
  • It might be too light. Worms HATE light and will move away from it. If they can't get away from it in your bin then they will run from the bin searching for darkness.
  • You added citrus. Avoid citrus in a vermicomposting bin. If you have a large bin then you might get away with a small amount, but if your worms start dying off then take it out! I will say that I have added citrus to my worm bin without a problem so it isn't an absolute killer. But, be aware of the amount you put in and I always let it dry out a bit before I gave it to them.

Click here to sign up for my mailing list!

Basic White #Bread #Recipe for Bread #Machine

homemade sliced bread

Homemade Sliced Bread

I used to think of homemade bread as a treat, but now almost all of the bread I eat is homemade. I cannot eat the sliced small loaf bread that sells in the grocery store anymore. It tastes dead! Homemade bread is great for sandwiches as well as a side. Nobody said you had to use the small sliced loaf that you buy for $3 at the grocery store. If you want a gourmet sandwich then use homemade bread and you will be halfway there.

I do have some tips for making your own homemade bread, but for now I am going to start with my favorite recipes. Stay tuned for a post on homemade bread tips!

Basic White Bread (for a Bread Machine)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs oil
  • 3 cups flour

Directions:

Put the warm water and oil in your bread machine pan. Then put in the flour, sugar, and salt. Create a small well in the top of the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Set your bread machine to the crust settings you like and turn it on.

3 hours later you will have a great basic white bread that is good for sandwiches or butter and jam.

Click here to sign up for my mailing list!

Submitted to the Green Thumb Blog Hop!

Saving Energy with a #Laundry #Clothesline to Dry Clothes

clothesline copy

Clotheslines Tips to Save Money!

One of the easiest things a homestead can do to save energy is put up a clothesline. Clothes that are dried on a line smell better and will have less chemicals in them because you will not have to use a dryer sheet (to see how to use even less chemicals in your laundry read my article on homemade laundry detergent). You can dry laundry outside almost year-round. As long as the temperature is not below freezing the laundry will (eventually) dry. Although, it might take a while to do so!  Of course, you can also not dry laundry outside when it is raining.

Show me the Money: Clothesline Savings

I'm a numbers kind of person. So, how much money will you save by using a clothesline? I have an electric dryer that takes about 45 minutes to dry a load of laundry. My electric rate is $0.19/kwh. According to this calculator, that means it costs me $0.63 per load to dry my clothes.On average I clean six loads of laundry per week so my weekly cost is $3.78. My clothesline, pins, and bag cost $47.78 so I will recover that cost in just under 3 months and then I will be saving $16.38/month.

Time Spent Drying Your Clothes on a Line Take

There is always a trade-off! I find it very relaxing to hang laundry, but it does take longer than throwing it in a clothes dryer. I timed myself over the course of a week and I averaged 7 minutes a load to hang my laundry and 2 minutes to take it off the line. This comes out to an additional 9 minutes a load, or 54 minutes a week. This means I am “paying myself” $4.20/hour to hang my laundry. That is not a great wage, but there aren't too many jobs out there that I could do in 9 minute spurts.

What Type Of Clothesline do you Want

  1. A retractable clothesline has a post with a line that rolls out and attaches to a hook when you are using it and rolls back in when you are done. The pros to this type of clothesline is that it is out of the way when you are not using it. The cons are that you have to pull it out whenever you do need to use it and the constant in and out action will eventually make retracting it much harder, or even impossible. I have also found that the weight on the lines of this type of a clothes dryer can sometimes put strain on the ability for it to retract.
  1. An umbrella style clothesline has strings that form an umbrella shape. This is the type of clothesline that I chose. The pros are that it is always ready to go (some styles do fold down if you would like it to) and there is no retraction mechanism that can break. The cons are you have to have the space to have it constantly available.
  1. You can always go with a clothesline string! This is the cheapest option. It does require that you have a place and a way to attach it.
Laundry clothesline

Drying your clothes on a clothesline can save energy!

Other Laundry Supplies You Will Need

You will need clothespins if you are planning on drying your laundry outside. You can find all kinds of clothespins, but the cheapest and most reliable option is the wooden clothespins.  Fifty wooden clothespins will run you about $4-$5 on Amazon. Plastic clothespins are more expensive and generally break easier. Plastic pins come in some great colors though so if that will make hanging the laundry more fun for you then go for it! A large load of laundry takes 75-100 pins (although I found a large load of diapers/wipes takes closer to 125-150).

I did find some clothespins at the dollar store! While I was pretty excited to double my pin stash, over half of them were broken just over a week later (and they continue to break). They work in a pinch, but

I also have a clothespin bag. This is not necessary, but I do find that it makes hanging the laundry faster.

Arizona Clothesline Specific Tips

My area of Arizona (Marana, just outside of Tucson) is very dusty. I bought an outdoor artificial turf rug and nailed it down under the clothesline. This allows me to set down my laundry basket and not worry about getting dust or dirt on the clothes. If the kids drop an item it doesn't have to be re-washed.

For the same reason, it is also a good idea to have the clothesline close to your house. Having it protected on one side will cut down on the dust.

Click here to sign up for my mailing list!

Submitted to Simple Lives Thursday!