Friday, November 30, 2007


Hi,I thought this might be of interest to you. It's from the Organic Consumers Association-------USDA PROPOSES RULE UNDERMINING ORGANICS AND SMALL FARMS The USDA is accepting public comments until December 3 on a new proposed rule that would force small farms growing green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, to put into place industrial-style sterilization measures that reduce biodiversity and soil fertility. The proposal follows in the wake of the USDA's recent controversial crackdown on raw almonds, continued interference with raw milk production, and bans on the sale of locally produced organic meat directly to consumers. The proposed rules basically cover up the fact that e-coli 0157H contamination in lettuce and spinach crops comes from feedlot or industrial livestock-contaminated irrigation waters or contamination in large processing plants. The rule limits hedgerows, and other non-crop vegetation commonly found on and around small organic and sustainable farms. In addition, although every organic farmer knows that healthy soil is literally alive with multiple types of healthy bacteria, the rules also discourage the development of beneficial microbial life in the soil. Send a message to the USDA today:Learn more and take action:

Please click on the link above and send your message to the USDA.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Importance Of Keeping Records On Your Worm Bin

If you're like me you always think you'll remember, but you know we never do.

I have four bins and while I go out every night and feed each one, once a week or so I do open a bin up and turn the material, harvest a few worms, and put down food stock and fresh bedding.

It happened again tonight. I went out to turn a bin and I couldn't remember for sure which one I had worked on last. I think I skipped one and so I'll have to go back, but it's a prime example why you need to keep a record book to write down what you're doing to what. I also don't remember when the last time I was out there to turn a bin.

The worms are going to be able to survive being skipped, but if something were to take a turn, either good or bad, I wouldn't know what to attribute it to because I have no record of what I did and when. It's important to keep a record of what exactly you did for a bin, if you fed, what you fed, temperature, moisture, etc.

Bin #4 is the bin that has been without supplemental heat for two winters. I'm not sure when I turned it last (because I have no written record). The worms are crawling up into the wire lid and they have no business being there. The temps are too cold. I keep trying to tell them they need to stay down in the bedding but it's like they're suicidal.

The weather has definitely taken a turn. We had our first snow up on Canfield Mt.

The air temp in the worm shed is right at 37 and the bin temperatures are reading 40-43.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Worms Like Food Waste

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,

Hava Happy,

Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Where good things come from for the body and soil.

The Original Worm Factory - The most efficient, clean method for handling your organic waste indoors.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wormn Wednesday Was Wonderful

This is a sampling of what I use for my carbon material on my bins. Large or small, I layer shredded newspaper, leaves and manure with my food waste to create a homey environment for my worms. They love it. In the winter I mix it up more. In the summer not so much. The more you mix it up the more heat you produce. Good in the winter, not so good in the summer.

Today was a rainy day with the temps in the 40's. The worms like it when it rains. They seem to sense that it's safe to come out and they were all out chowin' down big time. Had to go out early and spread some chow and water lightly. When the worms are real active sometimes I have to feed twice a day. Better to feed more often than to put down too much for them to eat in a day. As the weather gets colder, and these inbetween days, sometimes it's difficult to predict what the worms will eat in a day.

It's good to have the mild autumn days to work the bins before the freezing weather moves in. The worms don't come out much when it's cold and quite frankly neither do I.

The Worm Factory worms have moved right on up into that layer of leaves I have put down. The older the bedding material they've been in is the quicker they are to move into the fresh.

Hava Happy, See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What's With The Worms Tuesday

So here is one of my bins, for those who don't know. I have four of these 4X8 foot fiberglas bins. I have them covered with hardware cloth to keep out mice.

One spring I broke my ankle and I wasn't able to get out to work on the worms(I did try it and almost regretted the effort). The mice moved in and built nests to raise their young. It was awful to try and get rid of them.

I discovered that the worms really liked the air circulation they got from the insulation being up on the hardware cloth instead of being right down on the bedding.

Today was another nice day. The sun was again shining with the air being a touch cool, reminding me of the time of year it is.

The night was comfortable as I carried my watering can out to check on the worms.

The worms in the bed I turned last night aren't up yet. It usually takes a couple of days for them to settle in after being turned, topsy-turvy. But the other three bins had worms up chowin' down on the worm chow.

Still, the air is cool enough and the bin temps only being 40 degrees, the chow was only slightly eaten in two of the bins. Only one bin needed any additional worm chow, and each bin got watered down.

I used one 2 gallon watering can for the job so each bin got 1/2 gallon water. My aim is to keep the top layer moist where the worm chow is so the worms will continue to eat. They also have a layer of food waste that is rotting under the top layer, plus the shredded newspaper and leaves that have been turned into the bedding when I turn the bin. There is plenty to eat at all levels of the bin.

I brought in a bucket of leaves for my Worm Factory and the small bin I am holding harvested worms in. I put down a thin layer of leaves, breaking the leaves up well and watering to encourage the worms to move in. We'll check it out tomorrow and see how they like it.
I have a 5-tray Terracotta Worm Factory going back east before Thanksgiving. Second graders are using it for a school project.
One year the kindergarden teacher at the school where my son went had a Worm Wagon. She had the kids help her build the bin and shred newspaper and they set the bin up in a red wagon like a Radio Flyer. It was portable and just the right height for the kids to be able to get in the bin and muck around with the worms (with gloves of course).
Anyway, the class was morning and afternoon. The day I delivered the worms I went in for the afternoon class. I can still hear those kids when I dumped that glob of worms out on the bedding and spread them out. Wow! The amazing thing was the afternoon class really took ownership over that bin. The morning class wasn't much interested. They didn't get to see those worms.
Hava Happy,
Where good things come from for the body and soil.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Plans for the future


I'm working on moving my blog onto my own hosted domain. Will let you all know when that happens.

For now I am going to be blogging on my day to day activities working in my various worm bins. Hopefully, this will give you an overall feeling for worm bin composting, how to do it, and how much work it really intails.

I will take a blog or two to set the stage on how I have my system set up, pictures and all that. This is the door into the worm shed.

I have 4 4x8 foot fiberglas bins that I have set up in an old shed I use to use for firewood. It is not insulated but it is enclosed to protect the worms (and me) from the elements.

I have been fairly regular in taking care of the worm bins since the beginning of September and I am really amazed at how well the worms have come back. In September I literally could not see worms present other than a few skinny straglers. Now look!

This is what the population looks like now as I turn the bins.

The weather has been freezing and the bin these worms are in is the bin that has been without the any supplemental heat for two winters. These worms are fat and happy and we are getting ready for winter.

The temperature in the bins right now is about 40 degrees F The weather last night was clear with a star filled sky. Today the sky has been blue with lots of sunshine. Yesterday the wind blew and I didn't want to get out and work the worms. But today was perfect.

I took the top material off and turned the one Bin (Bin #4). My neighbor collects his food waste for me and in a weeks time he has collected about 1/3 of a 5 gallon bucket. I put this waste down the middle of the bed and cover with the material I took off. Then I put a 5 gallon bucket of leaves down.

These leaves are from a pile I have been collecting for a number of years. These leaves were from the top of the pile and are there from last year. Some of the leaves are dry and some of them are wet. I see an occational worm in the leaves.

I water the bin with a two gallon watering can. I put about one gallon of water on the bin. I feed the other three bins worm chow and add about one gallon water to each bin.

My inside bin is a Worm Factory . I have three trays going. Tray #1 (the oldest) has a great deal of castings (pictures soon).

Tray #2 has this cluster of cocoons as an example of what's going on in it.
Tray #3 is shredded newspaper and has a population of worms moving into it.
And you know those little bins they give you when you have to spend time in the hospital? I have two of those with worms being held for delivery (once I get an order) This is working well as the worms are getting nice and fat.
So, there you go. That's what I've been up to. More tomorrow. I will try to give you some more back-ground on the worm operation.
Happy Worming.
Where good things come from for body and soil.

"Weed it and Weep" Found On AACT Yahoo Group

November 4, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Weed It and Reap

Berkeley, Calif.

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."

Stay tuned...

Mother Earth's Farm / VermiCulture Northwest
Where good things come from for the body and soil.