When my son was little, I read a book about all the ways we’re killing the earth and ingesting toxins that will utterly destroy us, so I decided to GO GREEN. I tend to go to extremes, so in about a week I went from A Regular Type Person to trying to convince my husband to let me try vermiculture composting, dry our laundry on the bushes outside, and switch to something called “soap nuts” that the internet swore would get our laundry clean. As the designated Voice of Reason in our house, he nixed the dryer bushes and the soap nuts, but I got vermiculture in our settlement. Please learn from my mistakes and take a little word of advice on worm composting from me to you…
Vermiculture is a kind of composting in which a whole ton of worms in a box eat your garbage. You toss eggshells, bread crusts, and some newspaper into your box of worms, and they munch and poop it into worm tea, a lovely, nutritious meal for your garden. What an amazing idea.
I ordered my special vermiculture composting box, complete with a spigot on the bottom for the worm tea, and started researching worm farms. Apparently there are whole farms dedicated to worms, and as I made phone calls I tried to picture what the farms looked like, neat little rows of heaps of happy worms wriggling in the soil making fertilizer tea.
The man who answered my cry for worms was apparently trying to get out of the worm business, because he offered to sell me the whole farm. I declined and ordered a hunk of worms, which arrived on my doorstep a few days later.
I dutifully prepared my worm habitat and poured the little guys in, and I talked lovingly to them, welcoming them to my home. Alex begrudgingly agreed to let me keep them in the garage, as the outside temperatures were much too extreme for their little worm bodies.
Every day I collected scraps of food and my son and I would feed the worms. Friends came by with their kids to visit the worms, and all was well. The composting structure was basically like a high-rise apartment for worms, and they wriggled between the layers, chomping up the bits of food, newspaper, and leaves.
The following spring, when I planted my little garden plot, I excitedly drained my worm tea into a cup and also scooped out the gooey worm manure out of the bottom level. I traipsed over to my garden and spread worm juice all over the soil, feeling certain my plants would make superior veggies that summer.
That’s when I detected a slight miscalculation with my composting aspirations.
I’d always noticed that Spike, my trusty little Yorkie, loved rolling on dead animals. On a walk, if he found a worm on the sidewalk, he’d flip over onto his back and roll and roll. It was strange, but I didn’t give it much thought, except to scrub him down with shampoo when he found something larger than a worm to roll in.
On vermiculture application day, Spike was sniffing around the yard when he trotted over to the garden to see what I was doing. His ears perked up and some animal instinct took over his entire little body. His feet flipped up in the air and he ground his back into the wormy soil, wriggling and writhing. The dance move “The Worm” took on a whole new context as I watched him contort himself all over my soil.
As I tried to peel him off the garden, I looked closer in the soil and realized many of my worms had hidden themselves in the compost. Oh no. I’d accidentally evicted them from their apartment. I got down on my hands and knees, performing a worm rescue mission and delivering them safely back into their box. (I’m not sure what to say about rescuing worms from the dirt. It seemed highly logical at the time. After all, I’d invested in those worms, and they were made for apartment-living, not earth-living.)
The entire experience dampened my vermiculture enthusiasm, but I’m nothing if not committed, so for another year I faithfully fed the worms until one fateful day when an entire loaf of bread got moldy and I fed the whole thing to the worms.
Overeating really is bad for you, because the next day when I went to check on my worms, I found a worm massacre. They’d melded with the moldy bread into a sludge, which, looking back, could partially explain my next experiment: eating gluten-free.
When my son asked what happened to the worms, I couldn’t tell him the truth. I told him the worms crawled away and were living happily in the ground, where worms should be.
They’d crawled back to the worm farm in the sky.