Saturday, December 5, 2009

Red Worm Farm

The soil is the sepulcher and the resurrection of all life in the past. The greater the sepulcher the greater the resurrection. The greater the resurrection the greater the growth. The life of yesterday seeks the earth to-day that new life may come from it tomorrow. The soil is composed of stone flour and organic matter (humus) mixed; the greater the store of organic matter the greater the fertility. - John Walton Spencer (page 760 of Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study)

We now have a worm farm! My husband had this great idea to collect "castings" or worm poop to make our soil fertile with organic matter. This idea came to him after purchasing our new Thornless Blackberry bush. It was delivered from Indiana a few weeks ago and we look forward to its amazing berries come Spring. We need to do our part to care for this bush so we can have fresh berries on our cereal every morning and over an occasional treat of vanilla ice cream.

A quote from Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study, page 160-161:
Few people realize the significance of the soil and the part that it plays in the life of man. Because a child, after making mud pies, is told that his face is dirty, he naturally concludes that soil is mere dirt. But it is only when out of place that soil is dirt; for in place and performing its normal and natural functions, it is the home of miracles - the seat of the intricate chemical and biochemical changes that make possible the nourishment of higher plants on which all animal life depends.

This is James' apple tree. Last Fall of 2008, James saved his apple seeds after eating his apple from Riley's Farm. It was our first time picking apples. When we did our 2009 Spring seed planting, James remembered and planted his apple seeds. This apple tree was the strongest seedling and now stands tall and happy!

This is our artichoke plant. We love to eat steamed artichoke that has been finished up on the flower pot smoker my husband made. There is a man on the beach boardwalk with an amazing garden that has a very Hawaiian feel, we have nicknamed him Mr. McGregor. He gave us a shoot from his artichoke, and it is doing very well. We look forward to our first harvest.

This is our Reed Avocado Tree. The Reed Avocado is amazing...we tried it for the first time when we were at the avocado festival in Carpenteria. My husband had the idea to put the seed in water and once it showed roots, he planted it in a pot. That was Fall of 2003 and has since needed to be re-potted twice into larger pots.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; Psalm 104:14
by A. F. Gustafson (from Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study, page 766-767 -a section)
Many years ago, when the white man came to this country, he found the eastern part of what is now the United States covered with forest trees. In the central Mississippi Valley area there were forests along many of the larger streams, and tall growing prairie grasses on the wide open spaces between them. To the westward on the Great Plains, where the rainfall was less, the land was covered with short grasses. In the mountains farther west and along the western coast, trees grew at lower elevations wherever the rainfall was sufficient for them. Thus, in nature, the land was covered, protected, and held in place by vegetation; and that form of vegetation for the growth of which conditions were most favorable predominated.
The trees covered the soil somewhat like leaky umbrellas. Rain fell on the leaves, twigs, and branches; thus the fall of the raindrops was broken and some of the water ran down the branches and trunks of the trees directly into the soil, which held part of it for the use of the trees. Likewise, the rain fell on the prairie grasses and ran down into the soil very much as it did in the forest.
The leaf and twig litter in the forest caught the water, so that much of it could be absorbed by the soil. The old dead grasses on the prairies and plains held water in much the same way. Under both grass and trees the soil was loose and open. Decaying roots left openings in the soil. The remains of leaves and grasses were broken down by earthworms and other organisms living in the soil; as these animals moved about, they left many openings in the soil. Moreover, the decaying litter kept the soil in a loose condition, and so enabled it to absorb the rain rather rapidly. The litter itself also absorbed considerable water, so that less was lost as run-off to the streams. The old dead grass and the growing grass kept the water from running off until much of the rainfall soaked into the soil. The absorbed rain water came back to the surface of the soil at lower elevations, in the form of springs. During long periods between rains, the springs supplied water for man and for his livestock; the excess, then as now, flowed off to form streams which in turn fed the larger bodies of water.
The white man cut down the forest trees and then plowed the land; a little later he broke the sod on the prairies. Once Nature's protecting cover for the soil was plowed under it soon rotted and was lost. Immediately after the forest was cleared, good yields of wheat, corn, and other farm crops were produced even on rather steep slopes. But when the roots of trees and grasses and the other organic matter in the soil had decayed and disappeared, the supply could not be quickly renewed; and as a result, the soil was no longer loose and open but became hard and closely packed. In this condition it would not readily absorb water, which consequently ran off the fields into the brooks.
Hard and closely packed soil...just like what we have in front of our house. I thought what a great place to have a little garden when we planted our seeds last Spring. We had miniature, stunted everything in our garden. Our corn plants were 1 foot tall with four ears of two inch corn! It was quite funny and a learning experience. While our neighbor has lush growth with trees. I want trees!!!
And fertile soil....
So now we have our own worm farm...

We purchased our Red Worms at Armstrong's.

We purchased a container at Home Depot. Garrett drilled many air holes all over the top and sides and put a spout near the bottom to drain liquid if necessary (organic tea for the garden).

Julia and James moistened strips of newspaper for the bottom.

We pre-moistened a piece of cardboard for the top.

A small amount of Organic soil was sprinkled over the wet newspaper.

Another sprinkle of water inside, not too much though!

Next, we placed inside some raw chopped fruits and vegetables.

Then, the RED WORMS!

Last, we placed wet cardboard over the worms and then closed the cover. They like the dark. Feed as needed. Nothing cooked. Avoid broccoli and onions as they may give off an odor. Not too much citrus. Leaves, wood dust, rinsed raw egg shells, molded bread, and raw fruits and vegetables are good. Also, save used coffee grounds, avocado skin and banana peels for your little worms. They will soon grow long and have many babies. In 4 months or so, the castings will be reading for harvest and to use in your garden. Here is a link for detailed instructions.
Here is a problem, a wonder for all to see.
Look at this marvelous thing I hold in my hand!
This is a magic surprising, a mystery
Strange as a miracle, harder to understand.
What is it? Only a handful of dust: to your touch
A dry, rough powder you trample beneath your feet,
Dark and lifeless; but think for a moment, how much
It hides and holds that is beautiful, bitter, or sweet.
Think of the glory of color! The red of the rose,
Green of the myriad leaves and the fields of grass,
Yellow as bright as the sun where the daffodil blows,
Purple where violets nod as the breezes pass.
Strange, that this lifeless thing gives vine, flower, tree,
Color and shape and character, fragrance too;
That the timber that builds the house, the ship for the sea,
Out of this powder its strength and its toughness drew!
--From "DUST," Celia Thaxter (Comstock's page 766)


  1. What a great learning experience! I love all the plants you've collected and can't wait to hear how the worms do.

  2. What a great project to do together!