Thursday, August 13, 2009

Red Wriggler Worms

In bear country outdoor composting for food wastes is not an option. Bears don't need any encouragement around here to raid your yard for food. In addition to bears, there is the issue of everything freezing solid for about 6 months of the year around here. So this winter we composted right in our living room.

We didn't just throw our food in the corner and hope for the best. We enlisted the help of an incredible creature, Eisenia Foetida, also known as red wriggler worms. Our composters live in a Rubbermaid tub in the corner of our living room and happily devour our food wastes. They will consume up to half their body weight in food--everyday!

The worms' home

Worm food!

The worms aren't too picky. We just mix shredded newspaper with our food waste and make sure it isn't too wet or dry. The result is a sweet smelling, black, crumbly substance known as vermicompost, castings, or worm poop. Every few weeks we sort the worms out and put them back in the container. We then take the castings over to our vegetable plot where our spinach and lettuce very much appreciates the amazing food they get. And its no wonder, worm castings contain higher nutrient levels than the soil ingested. Additionally, the castings contain many beneficial microbes that help to build a biologically active soil. Finally, the castings contribute to the improvement to the physical structure of the soil.

worm castings-high quality soil food

More information is available at:

Worms will eat just about any food waste. However, extremely bulky or hard foods like citrus peels or egg shells take so long that they begin to decompose and smell. It is also not recommended to feed worms meat or dairy. While they will eat it there are many odor issues (and in our case there would be dog issues as well).

Using worms to compost food waste is an easy and effective method for closing waste loops. Roughly 1/3 of the waste that currently enters our landfills is decomposable (this includes both yard and kitchen waste). While it is impractical to try to feed a tree branch to worms much of our organic matter could be removed form the traditional waste stream and returned to our yards though composting. Worm composting is one composting tool ideal for people in cold climates, cities, or with wildlife issues. Besides, the worms are fun!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fridays on the Farm

With the long summer days I been working four ten hour days in my job as an electrician's apprentice. It makes for a long day, but a free Friday is a great treat. Of course, that Friday didn't stay free for long.

I have been able to help out at Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery, the farm where I spent the last two growing seasons, on Friday mornings. It makes for an early day leaving in time to arrive at 6:30 am. But the early mornings are beautiful and the day of farm work is well worth it.

Indian Ridge Turkeys

I don't do anything spectacular or unusual at Indian Ridge. I just help out with chores and a project or two so they can get off to the Telluride farmers market on time. It isn't glamorous, but it is fun to be active in food production. Perhaps the most enjoyable part is talking with the other interns about their agricultural experiences ranging from food to farming. The wonderful part about being an intern is the opportunity to have an outsiders view of a farm. Sure one is generally fully immersed in farm life for a season, but it is usually only one season at a particular farm and so the intern is free to make observations without the economic constraints of actually running the farm. It is an ability I hope to be able to carry over into my own techniques as a farm manager-always stay open minded and inquisitive.

From the farm I generally race back to Telluride to catch the tail end of the farmers market (kind of ironic to race to Norwood early so they can make it here on time, then to race back to try to catch the market myself). Sometimes I am tired and don't really feel like going to the market. But every time I do I am rewarded for my efforts.

In his book Deep Economy Bill Mckibben discusses how on average a shopper at a farmers market has ten times the number of conversations as a shopper in a super market. This is what I love about the market. It is a community activity with vendors and buyers alike happy to be there and excited about good food, new flavors, and delicious smells. It is really amazing how different the simple act of buying food can be at a farmers market compared to the grocery store. At the market people are smiling, talking, enjoying the outdoors, and making plans for dinner. When was the last time you heard a group of strangers laughing together in the grocery?

I look forward to our farm being a similar focal point for curiosity, exploration, good food, and laughing. See you there!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Broiler Chickens

Gisella, Larry, Vivian, and Victor have received the first broiler chickens of the farm! On Friday the 1st 75 chicks arrived in the mail. They are now living in the attached greenhouse at Bluebird drive. The farm is slowly coming together!