Category Archives: compost

Shine a Light on the Situation

Lego Spotlight by Nathan Wells on Flickr

Spotlight by Nathan Wells on Flickr

The response from Uncle Jims Worm Farm:

“Hi Joseph, Place a light source above the container. The worms will be a little tenacious after the transit, and may try to explore the area. If you place a light source above their container, that will force them to stay put inside of the bedding material. Thanks, Jim”

Will this work to keep my kids in their beds at night too?

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Posted by on April 8, 2011 in compost, Kids, worms


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Losing My Worm Card

Maybe I should just turn in my Vermicomposter liscense. The Red Wiggler gods do not look upon me with favor this day. Again.

Here’s what I just emailed off to Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, recent replenisher of my compost bin workers:

Dear Uncle Jim, I received a bag full of red wigglers from you last week, with much joy. After a little mishap I’m not proud of (see, I lost all of my worms this past Fall. So, starting again was an exciting time for my daughter and me. But something strange happened to the worms after I placed them into the fresh worm bed boxes I had prepared carefully for them. They all bailed! Pretty sure I had the moisture and the mix in good shape, and the temp was cool, but not cold. Just now I found all but maybe a dozen dried up and goners in my worm tea catcher and around the bench and floor of my garage where they sat.
Any ideas? Thanks.
Bummed in South Dakota

Need to get this all back in balance fast–my kitchen pail is getting pretty full.

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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in compost, rants, worms


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Dirty Confession

I have no worms. They’re gone. Every last one of them. At least until Thursday.

It’s a long, sad story. OK, it’s actually pretty short, but still sad. Last Fall I was harvesting worm compost, which means I was separating the Red Wigglers who eat our kitchens scraps from their poop, which makes one heckuva compost for the garden or house plants. The process is fairly simple: coax the little guys into one corner of the box with some tasty treat, then remove the big gooey glob of worms into a new starter box I’ve prepared. Then it’s just some careful sifting through the compost to find the stragglers. When I finished, I put the fresh worm poop compost around the base of a few baby trees in my yard, and covered the new starter box and put it away in the garage.

At least that’s what I thought I did. Till about a week later when I went out to add some food scraps to the freshly started worm box. (Because I got a little carried away helping lots of friends and workshop attendees get started with their own worm farm, I had combined my four boxes down to one.) I lifted the lid, and thought it was strange they hadn’t turned the sweet potatoes I fed them into dirt. Then I sifted through a bit, and found nada. Not even a trace of one little wiggly worm. It was a complete mystery–they just vanished.

I had had an issue once before when I let the box get too wet, and the worms started high tailing it out of there. But the box was perfect moisture, and there were no signs of escapees. I was baffled. And I kept it quiet, because I didn’t want Uncle Carl to be sad about his worms’ babies kicking the can, or any of my vermicomposting fans to be disappointed.

My lovely and brilliant wife is convinced I grabbed the wrong box to fertilize the baby trees, and accidentally set those Wigglers free. She’s probably right. But on Thursday, maybe sooner, balance in the universe will be restored.  2 pounds of prime Red Wigglers are on their way to Montrose from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. I promise I’ll be more careful this time.

There is a silver lining in all this, if you are my wife and you hate it every winter when your husband sneaks several boxes of live worms, and their poop, into your basement for a few cold months. And Uncle Carl, find peace in the idea that your worm descendants are spread out in boxes and kitchens and garages all over South Dakota, and even into Minnesota, thanks to my over-generous vermicoposting-starter-streak last Summer and Fall.

There’s magic in that there dirt.


Posted by on March 26, 2011 in compost, worms


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Igniting a Worm Revolution

A composting revolution, actually. Right now I’m giving a talk on Composting with Worms at the second Ignite South Dakota at Mochavino in Madison. It’s starring the Red Wigglers, with a cameo by Uncle Carl.

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Posted by on May 25, 2010 in compost, worms


Starter Pack Update

Today I met my most bicycle crazy friend Michael at our favorite west-side coffee shop. What the friendly Coffea baristas didn’t know was we were trafficking immigrants without papers.

By my count, that makes a baker’s dozen red wiggler starter packs I’ve sent out there into the prairie abyss. Except for one troubled exception (yes you, Brett), all are doing well and relishing in rotting food. At least the ones I know about. Some packs have gone to total strangers who were opportunists at a workshop or talk. Who knows how many of my first level starters have created starter packs of their own. We could be talking a nation of red wigglers here. And they all came from Uncle Carl.

In fact he’s the one who inspired me to give a lot of worms away. It was the original starter pack from Longmont, CO that Carl brought to me back in ’07 that turned me into a passionate worm poop farmer.  So, I’ve been returning the favor by paying it forward. I really only want 3 boxes anyway, and those things make babies like catholics.

The Chosen Ones:

  • Jane, a dean at SDSU (first ever starter pack)
  • A 5th grade teacher at a Sioux Falls elementary school
  • Another teacher, this one hangs with high school science nerds
  • My cousin Brett, who lost a game of chance
  • Flowerman and Letwan in Pest Control
  • Chris Z, my very favorite Extension Educator and rain barrel maker
  • Aimee, the bravest sustainability coordinator ever
  • A lady at a compost workshop
  • An old lady and a young boy at the Garden Show (they took my strawberries too)
  • Kim the Trash Talkin mommy with moxie
  • The Kindergartners at Lowell Elementary, via Drew
  • And, now, He Who Minuses Cars

Did I forget you? Holler.

UPDATE 5/20: Some mirroring on MinusCar. Yes, he said ‘caffeinated.’


Posted by on May 17, 2010 in compost, worms


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Big Wiggly Week

In the past couple weeks the worms went big time. I mean huge. Shaq O’Neal huge.

Last week I sat down with Flowerman from Rock Garden Tour to talk compost. And I brought him some worms for the studio audience. He did a whole show on our interview, and starring the new RGT red wigglers. It’ll be on SD Public Radio eventually, I think (thought i would be this week, but looks like it’s a re-run coming up tomorrow night).  At any rate, it’s always good time to chat with Ted, and the worm nation spread it’s wings again.

They were going hollywood again this Thursday, starring in a SF Green Project “compost and rain barrels” workshop I taught with a couple of friends. We talked the beauties of gardeners’ gold and red wigglers with 20 eager students, and then helped them build their own take-home rain barrels. I sent a wiggler starter package home with three people. I’ll be repeating the compost portion of the class with Aimee Ladonski at the Sioux Falls Lawn and Garden Show next weekend.

What do they get in celebration? Back in the garage after a nice long winter in the warm(er) basement.

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Posted by on March 13, 2010 in compost, Work, worms


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Anyone can sh*t in a bucket

I compost lots of stuff. Have even tried a cup (it failed). But this! This is something:

screenshot from

Humanure.” Has a nice ring to it. Better than “shit in a bucket.” Yes, there are actually neighborhoods in real American cities who collect their own poo and put it all together to make some “extreme” compost. My neighbors (and lovely wife) have put up nicely with unmowed grass, boxes of worms, bags and piles of rotting leaves, soybean stalks blowing around, and lots of dandelions. A community shit bucket might just be over the line.

A friend sent me the link a while back, and I’ve actually been contemplating the process. I doubt I’ll start a humanure club in the village, but it shouldn’t be that big a deal. Seems everybody practiced humanure up until a couple generations ago. Heck, I remember utilizing the old outhouse in our backyard many times as a kid too busy building tree fortresses or destroying ant colonies to go into the house. Thanks for the fun Mike.,8599,1945764,00.html

or a bag…

I would normally scoff at things touted “single use,” but this PeePoo bag is interesting. If I still need to dig a hole in the woods, not sure why I need a bag though.


Posted by on January 7, 2010 in compost, going green


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