Friday, November 30, 2007
Please click on the link above and send your message to the USDA.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Well, the weather is trying to change. The weather man has been trying to predict snow, and while the temperatures are definitely colder, the white stuff has still to make an appearance. And that's fine with me.
The wind has been blowing, HARD! But I didn't let that keep me from getting out and turning a worm bin.
The worm population is really looking good. I am always so relieved to see the bins bounce back after being neglected. They are plump and moist and looking pretty happy.
I have now turned all four bins and I am back at #1 bin. Tonight I just turned the material in on itself. If you remember, last time I turned the bin I took all the fresh bedding off the top and turned the material underneath. This time I have turned the fresh material into the bedding in hopes of getting a little composting action. The temps have cooled enough that the worms would appreciate some warmth given off by some composting. I went ahead and put down a thin layer of worm chow and covered that with a layer of leaves. The leaves are good and wet from the rain we have been having, so I didn't have to wet them down much.
As I am turning each bin, I am harvesting worms to keep in holding bins for any late worm orders I may have to fill. (I have just had an order for a 5-tray Worm Factory with a 1lb of worms.)
Right now, the bins are reading right at about 42 degrees F. The worms are still actively eating and the beds are still easily worked.
It won't be long though until the temps are going to be colder than I am going to want to endure, and the worms will not want to be disturbed and exposed to it either.
Gotta go for now. Until later,
The Original Worm Factory - The most efficient, clean method for handling your organic waste indoors.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
November 4, 2007
Weed It and Reap
By MICHAEL POLLAN
FOR Americans who have been looking to Congress to reform the food system, these past few weeks have been, well, the best of times and the worst of times. A new politics has sprouted up around the farm bill, traditionally a parochial piece of legislation thrashed out in private between the various agricultural interests (wheat growers versus corn growers; meatpackers versus ranchers) without a whole lot of input or attention from mere eaters.
Not this year. The eaters have spoken, much to the consternation of farm-state legislators who have fought hard - and at least so far with success - to preserve the status quo.
Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat supply. For the first time, the public health community has raised its voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water. Also for the first time, the international development community has weighed in on the debate, arguing that subsidized American exports are hobbling cotton farmers in Nigeria and corn farmers in Mexico.
On Capitol Hill, hearings on the farm bill have been packed, and newspapers like The San Francisco Chronicle are covering the legislation as closely as The Des Moines Register, bringing an unprecedented level of attention to what has long been one of the most obscure and least sexy pieces of legislation in Congress. Sensing the winds of reform at his back, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told a reporter in July: "This is not just a farm bill. It's a food bill, and Americans who eat want a stake in it."
Right now, that stake is looking more like a toothpick. Americans who eat have little to celebrate in the bill that Mr. Harkin is expected to bring to the floor this week. Like the House bill passed in July, the Senate product is very much a farm bill in the tradition- al let-them-eat-high-fructose-corn-syrup mold.
For starters, the Old Guard on both agriculture committees has managed to preserve the entire hoary contraption of direct payments, countercyclical payments and loan deficiency payments that subsidize the five big commodity crops - corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and cotton - to the tune of $42 billion over five years.
The Old Guard has also managed to add a $5 billion "permanent disaster" program (excuse me, but isn't a permanent disaster a contradiction in terms?) to help farmers in the High Plains struggling to grow crops in a drought-prone region that, as the chronic need for disaster aid suggests, might not be the best place to grow crops.
When you consider that farm income is at record levels (thanks to the ethanol boom, itself fueled by another set of federal subsidies); that the World Trade Organization has ruled that several of these subsidies are illegal; that the federal government is broke and the president is threatening a veto, bringing forth a $288 billion farm bill that guarantees billions in payments to commodity farmers seems impressively defiant.
How could this have happened? For starters, farm bill critics did a far better job demonizing subsidies, and depicting commodity farmers as welfare queens, than they did proposing alternative - and politically appealing - forms of farm support. And then the farm lobby did what it has always done: bought off its critics with "programs." For that reason "Americans who eat" can expect some nutritious crumbs from the farm bill, just enough to ensure that reform-minded legislators will hold their noses and support it.
It's an old story: the "hunger lobby" gets its food stamps so long as the farm lobby can have its subsidies. Similar, if less lavish, terms are now being offered to the public health and environmental "interests" to get them on board. That's why there's more money in this farm bill for nutrition programs and, for the first time, about $2 billion to support "specialty crops" - farm-bill-speak for the kind of food people actually eat. (Since California grows most of the nation's specialty crops, this was the price for the state delegation's support. Cheap indeed!)
There's also money for the environment: an additional $4 billion in the Senate bill to protect wetlands and grasslands and reward farmers for environmental stewardship, and billions in the House bill for environmental cleanup. There's an important provision in both bills that will make it easier for schools to buy food from local farmers. And there's money to promote farmers' markets and otherwise support the local food movement.
But as important as these programs are, they are just programs - mere fleas on the elephant in the room. The name of that elephant is the commodity title, the all-important subsidy section of the bill. It dictates the rules of the entire food system. As long as the commodity title remains untouched, the way we eat will remain unchanged.
The explanation for this is straightforward. We would not need all these nutrition programs if the commodity title didn't do such a good job making junk food and fast food so ubiquitous and cheap. Food stamps are crucial, surely, but they will be spent on processed rather than real food as long as the commodity title makes calories of fat and sugar the best deal in the supermarket. We would not need all these conservation programs if the commodity title, by paying farmers by the bushel, didn't encourage them to maximize production with agrochemicals and plant their farms with just one crop fence row to fence row.
And the government would not need to pay feedlots to clean up the water or upgrade their manure pits if subsidized grain didn't make rearing animals on feedlots more economical than keeping them on farms. Why does the farm bill pay feedlots to install waste treatment systems rather than simply pay ranchers to keep their animals on grass, where the soil would be only too happy to treat their waste at no cost?
However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won't bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed - until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us.
But its defiance on the subsidy question may actually be a sign of weakness, for one detects a note of defensiveness creeping into the rhetoric. "I know people on the outside can sit and complain about this," Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told The San Francisco Chronicle last summer. "But frankly most of those people have no clue what they're talking about. Most people in the city have no concept of what's going on here."
It seems more likely that, this time around, people in the city and all across the country know exactly what's going on - they just don't like it.
Mr. Peterson's farm bill passed the House by the smallest margin in years, and might have been picked apart on the floor if Representative Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, hadn't leapt to its defense.
(She claimed to be helping freshmen Democrats from rural districts.)
But Senate rules are different, and Mr. Harkin's bill will be challenged on the floor and very possibly improved. One sensible amendment that Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, are expected to introduce would put a $250,000 cap on the payments any one farmer can receive in a year. This would free roughly $1 billion for other purposes (like food stamps and conservation) and slow the consolidation of farms in the Midwest.
A more radical alternative proposed by Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would scrap the current subsidy system and replace it with a form of free government revenue insurance for all American farmers and ranchers, including the ones who grow actual food. Commodity farmers would receive a payment only when their income dropped more than 15 percent as the result of bad weather or price collapse. The $20 billion saved under this plan, called the Fresh Act, would go to conservation and nutrition programs, as well as to deficit reduction.
What finally emerges from Congress depends on exactly who is paying closest attention next week on the Senate floor and then later in the conference committee. We know the American Farm Bureau will be on the case, defending the commodity title on behalf of those who benefit from it most: the biggest commodity farmers, the corporations who sell them chemicals and equipment and, most of all, the buyers of cheap agricultural commodities - companies like Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
In the past that alliance could have passed a farm bill like this one without breaking a sweat. But the politics of food have changed, and probably for good. If the eaters and all the other "people on the outside" make themselves heard, we just might end up with something that looks less like a farm bill and more like the food bill a poorly fed America so badly needs.
Michael Pollan, a contributing writer at The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and the forthcoming "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto."
Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Where good things come from for the body and soil.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Drosophila melanogaster (from the Greek for black-bellied dew-lover) is commonly known as the fruit fly.
The life cycle of the fruit fly depends on the temperature of the environment the fruit fly is inhabiting. A worm bin is a perfect environment for the fruit fly as the temperature is ideal and there is a ready made food source. The shortest development time (egg to adult), 7 days, is achieved at 28 °C or 82 °F. Ideal temperatures for the fruit fly is 25 °C or 77 °F and development is 8.5 days. Females lay some 400 eggs (embryos), about five at a time, into rotting fruit, with the eggs hatching after 12-15 hours. The resulting larvae grow and molt, all the while feeding on the microorganisms that decompose the fruit as well as on the sugar in the fruit. Everything about your worm bin is perfect for the life of a fruit fly.
So, what can you do about avoiding a fruit fly invasion?
One of the first avenues of defense is to wash your fruit before you prepare it for eating. But probably the best plan is to make sure you are covering your layer of raw organic matter with a thick layer of shredded newspaper. This will help keep the fruit flies from having access to your rotting fruit for egg laying. The second thing you can do is to make sure you are turning your bin on a regular basis. This will help to disturb the little beasties where they live. Your layer of shredded newspaper will be like a blanket and will be easily moved for turning. Plan to turn your bin once a week.
Fruit flies do not have to ruin your worm bin composting experience.
MotherEarth'sFarm / VermiCulture Northwest
The Original Worm Factory
The cleanest, most effecient worm bin composting system.
Better than building your own.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
"Under pressure from industrial agriculture lobbyists, the USDA has quietly approved a new regulation that will effectively end distribution of raw almonds, while putting many smaller almond farmers out of business. The regulation is scheduled to go into effect on September 1st, unless thousands of consumers take action now. The rule requires pasteurization of almonds, including organic, yet allows those same almonds to continue to be labeled as "raw". Nutritionists point out that raw, organic almonds are far superior, in terms of nutrition, to pasteurized almonds. One of the FDA-recommended pasteurization methods involves the use of propylene oxide, which is classified as a carcinogen in California and is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Organic and family-scale almond farmers are protesting the proposed rule, saying it will effectively put them out of business, since the minimum price for the pasteurization equipment is $500,000."
Take action: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_6747.cfm
Don't let the industrial ag lobbiests win this fight. Fight back with your input. Take a stand!!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Fri 102° 63°
Sat 102° 61°
Remember, I have told you that your worms will die faster from being hot and dry than from being cold and wet. But there is more to the picture than that.
As the temperature rises, the top layer of bedding is harder to keep moist as the moisture evaporates. The delicate balance of moisture in your bedding becomes harder to maintain as you add water to try and keep the top layer moist. Unfortunately, your attempts to keep the top layer moist are creating a wet and soggy condition deeper in the bed. This is serious, as your worms need air and too much water means not enough air.
The other issue with the heat is the worms are not coming up to the top layer to eat. They are remaining dispersed throughout the bed, down where it is moist and cool. This means harvesting worms is more time consuming and labor intensive. Instead of being able to scrape the top of the bed and scoop up handfuls of worms I have to turn the bedding and pull bedding out that has less worms and more bedding.
My worm populations are doing well despite the heat, which has been in the 90’s and 100’s. Hope yours are doing well also.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
- Adding fresh bedding
All of this is a piece of cake compared to the process of harvesting the finished material out of the bins. Since the worms are top feeders, and all the new material and feed is constantly being added to the top of the bin...all of the finished material is located at the bottom of the bin. This means that in order to get to it all the unfinished material on top must be moved for the finished material, which is full of the castings, to be accessed.
In my bigger 4X8' bins the process is made easier by providing a space at one end of the bin just for finished material. Approximately 1/4 of the bin is sectioned off for this purpose. This allows for the casting material to finish further composting and begin the drying process.
Once the product is removed from the bins it is moved into holding bins that allow me to continue to turn the casting material to dry further. My aim is to get the casting material dry enough to go through an 1/8 inch screen without leaving the holes clogged with moist casting material. Keep in mind however, that the castings need to contain a certain amount of moisture to maintain the life in the castings.
Once the castings are separated from the compost I use a portion of it to blend my custom organic fertilizer. I specifically call it Tomato Food because that is the crop's need I targeted when I researched and developed the recipe. But you could concievably use this food on pretty much any crop and obtain great results.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
There are many different ways to build your own worm bin. The final decision will depend on your own preferences, life -style and capabilities.
Here you see a bin split in the middle with an oven rack, a black pipe with holes drilled in it for air and the bottom has no drainage holes.
This person appears to be single, living in an apartment.
Click Here to go see the whole project. The wormer does a very good job of explaining his bin, feeding cycle and harvest methods. He experimented with different solutions to his particular problems until he came up with a satisfactory method to compost with worms in his customized situation.
This wormer mentions using shredded paper and corrugated cardboard for bedding. In his situation the cardboard persisted longer than the paper. He mentions being surprised at this as information indicated that worms love cardboard. This is just proof that there is no absolute right or wrong way to worm bin compost. No food/bedding stock that is the only food/bedding stock to use. Each wormer has to work with what they have available and find out what is going to work for them. Let the worms be the judge. I always say, I don't care how you do it, if the worms are happy, it's right.
Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Friday, April 13, 2007
I thought perhaps I could help by providing some pictures of a bin I built in a week-end.
I have the plan available and you can request a free copy by clicking the link in the right sidebar.
It's easy to build a worm bin out of a plastic tote. Choose your size and color, drill your holes and you have a worm bin.
But maybe you want your bin to be a little more earthy. Or maybe a little bigger.
Your typical tote (especially if you buy one already made into a bin) will be big enough for 1 or 2 people. To handle the waste of a family you will need a bigger bin.
A 1x2x3 bin is perfect for a larger family. And it is made of wood so it has a more earthy feeling.
Here are pictures of a 1x2x3 bin that I built in a weekend with no special tools.
If you know anyone who is handy with a saw, you could probably build your bin from these pictures.
This bin is easy to build.
It is a great size for family of four to six.
A 1x2x3 bin can be built from one sheet of plywood and 2 x 4 wood stock.
It can actually be any size you want.
So build yourself a bin, take my free e-course so you know what you're doing and order some worms .
Happy and Successful Worming,
Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
There are soil dwellers and there are composting worms. They are not the same.
I just had a customer the other day order a pound of worms. Once she got them she emailed me and indicated she had put them in the soil. I wrote her back and said, "Please tell me you did your homework and that you did not put your composting worms in the soil." Her response was, "I did not do my homework and put them in the dirt....Next time I will read the web site."
Soil dwellers are burrowers. They burrow a deep hole in the soil and attach themselves then stretch out to the surface to search for organic matter dragging a piece down into the burrow to eat. Soil dwellers spend more time burrowing than eating.
Hint: the eating is what produces the castings.
The composters are consumers. They continually move through organic matter eating as they go. That's what they do, day in and day out. Eat, mate, and make babies. Thusly, they need to be in organic matter, aka: leaf pile, manure pile, compost pile...
Please don't put your composters in the soil. They will starve or they will go looking for food. They will not help your soil by being in it.
In this picture you can see the layers in the compost bin. The top layer is composting leaves and shredded newspaper. The worms are concentrated in this top layer. The lower layer is the finished material the worms have already worked. This material is 50/50 worm castings and "compost". If there was not fresh material on top for the worms to eat they could go back and eat the "compost" and even their castings again and derive more nutrition from it. The can not, will not eat soil.
Happy, successful worming,
A site I found to share: http://www.echocurio.com/Exhibit-WormsSaveThePlanet.html
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I have to set the record straight here. In my 9+ years of worm bin composting my bins have been through every experience from the best to the worst. My worms tell me that even though they don’t like being disturbed; they much prefer an environment that is loose and well aerated to that which is compact and dense.
Yes, I will agree that the worms do move through the bedding stirring it up, but you have to realize they are taking a very coarse material and breaking it down into a much finer material. In doing so the material is going to settle and become compacted. The worms are going to benefit greatly by being turned and loosened, incorporating air into the mix. Believe me the worms are happier. Add your fresh bedding and food stock at this time and the worms are going to reward you by actively moving into your fresh offering and getting right to work.
I supplement my feed with Purina Earthworm Chow. The directions on this professional product read as follows: “For best results, stir or turn the bedding at least twice a week. Keep the bedding loose and well aerated.”
Now I don’t turn my worms that often. My personal goal is to turn each worm bin at least once a month. Sometimes, especially during the winter months it just doesn’t happen. But during the worms’ active months I try harder. I know they are happier and more productive, which makes me be more productive.
My worms tell me they are happy. And now I need to get out and turn a worm bin.
This is the tool I use to turn my worm bins.
Mother Earths Farm
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Some day I hope to have the means to put together my own video showing how I worm bin compost. But until that day comes, I am on the look out for what other people are doing. Well, I found this video I thought I'd share with you. I think I'll try it out for myself. The information is basic and doesn't get into the details of the day to day. But check out my e-course and you'll get what you need.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Are you looking to start a worm bin? If so you are probably looking for information to help you get started. If that is the case, then listen up.
I have finished the second writing of my book "WORM BIN COMPOSTING: Nature's Way of Replenishing the Earth."
A good book is never really done. Such if the case with "WORM BIN COMPOSTING..." I will continue to add information as I rework the book, and new information as I discover it will also be added. Of course, the price will go up as I spend more time and resources gathering information to add to this already valuable resource..
The book covers all the "how to" information you will need to start your own worm bin. Plus it discusses all the other critters you will find in a healthy bin.
If you would be interested in purchasing this e-book you can
If you do decide to purchase through this link I will gladly provide you with free updates of this book as I add to it. If you are interested in this additional benefit then you will need to sign up to my Worm Mailing List.
I will also send you a free gift - plans for building your own 123 Bin, which is a great size for any serious worm bin composter to begin with.
PLEASE NOTE! If you would like to receive the 123 Bin plans you will need to send me your mailing address in a separate email to:
Please put "123 Bin plans" in the subject line.
I have personally been busy getting my worm bins ready for the already warming Spring weather. Bins are getting turned and new bedding material is being added. This is the time of year when you can really mix it up and add good amounts of food waste which will rapidly be consumed by worms and bacteria which are becoming active with the warmer temps.
Finished material is being removed to be processed which leaves more room in the bins for the additions mentioned above.
We are coming into a busy time of year... Keep a cool head and enjoy the rebirth of Spring.
Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Monday, February 05, 2007
Worms will eat your garbage -
They will eat your manures (stay away from domesticated animal manures like dog and cat), they will eat shredded paper (none of the slick stuff), they will eat your leaves and grass, they will eat your cardboard, they will eat your saw dust (wood shavings), and they will eat your food waste. In particular they love - coffee grounds, cardboard, melon rinds, and all sorts of "sh_t."
Manures mixed with wood shavings is a great combination. Melon rinds are great if you have a mite infestation.
Shredded paper and leaves are a great layer to add after you layer on food waste. I really mix these things up in the winter to get some good composting action going for the colder temps. In the heat of summer you need to keep things simple to produce as little heat as possible.
Use some kind of processor for your food waste to get the pieces small. I use a butcher knife or a food processor on pulse. My neighbor saves me all his waste from his kitchen in a bucket. I don't process any of that, I just dump it into my worm bin. But when I go to the grocer and get food waste from the produce department then I process that because it is all still whole. The processing is just so the composting process will move along faster.
It's not so much that worms are vegetarians, because really they aren't. They will eat anything that has lived and died.
However, there are a lot of other critters that are attracted to meat, and fat, and bones. And, since the decomposition rate of these are much slower, they are not a desirable addition to your worm bin, or any compost bin.
Therefore, you do not want to add, meat or bones to your compost system.
Dairy products? I wouldn't dump a load of cheese or dump old salad dressing into the system. But if you have a dinner plate that has uneaten salad with dressing and some grated cheese on it, go ahead and dump it in the compost bucket. Your system will handle it just fine. Bury it and cover it with a good layer of bedding and let the composting begin. There isn't much of anything that your system can not handle in moderation.
Citrus peels are something I am very careful about. While I don't worry about the peel from an orange or two, if someone had decided to juice a bag of oranges for orange juice I would not put all of those peels in my worm bin. There is a substance in citrus peels that the worms don't seem like too much.
Likewise, with oak leaves or pine needles. While I would not worry about a small amount of these in my worm bin, I would not dump a load of either of these items in my bin as well. The outer coating on oak leaves and pine needles is very slow to decompose. And yet in nature these things do decompose quite nicely in time. The tanin is a substance the worms don't seem to like either.
Another thing I watch for is making sure that any manure I use has composted at least 6 months. There are some exceptions. Rabbit manure, because it is not a "hot" manure, can be used immediately. As a matter of fact rabbits and worms are a great combination. But that's for another post.
Here in my neck of the woods we are soon going to be rolling into the time of year when the worms are going to be getting active again and the feeding will begin in earnest.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Castings are definitely the very best when it comes to soil ammendment, but it is not all you have to figure into the equation.
Starting early when you live up North is sometimes the only answer to getting a good harvest. And I would imagine that where it gets hot, it would be beneficial to start early as well.
No doubt about it, where-ever you live, you're going to get a more bountiful harvest if you get a jump on the gardening season. Even if you already get a good harvest from a product maybe you could get enough of a season to actually be able to plant a second crop, or even a third.
If you are planning your garden space well, feeding your soil and keeping it healthy there is much more you can get out of a square foot of space.
When you work so hard all season weeding, watering, feeding and staying on the look out for pests and disease, how disheartening is it for you to only get a handful of produce for your efforts?
Put a little more effort into getting an early start and your efforts will be rewarded many times over.
The gardening season is just around the corner and the best way to get a
jump on the season
is to start indoors. Get those seeds started while Ol' Man Winter
is still raging and you'll be
way ahead of the pack.
Use castings in your seed starting mix and you'll have what seems like a miracle right before your eyes.
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My newsletter, Market Monthly News is just about ready to start this years publication. I will be sharing with you, step by step what I do to get an early start and achieve success in my garden. Go here to subscribe.
The catalogs are coming in. If they aren't coming for you please send me a message via my form here on this blog and I will share resources with you to help you get some of the best catalogs available for organic sources for seeds and supplies.
May the sun shine bright on your gardens,