poop soup

My cousin and her husband drove up to see us last week. It was a short stay - only 48 hours - but we packed a lot of fun into that time. The guys took the kids to play a lot of frisbee golf and Steph and I went on a nice long trail run. We cooked and ate some really good food, drank some really good beer and talked a lot about everything - work, family, running, gardening.

The latter topic is something I'm more and more interested in lately (have you noticed?). Always up for new things, I started a worm bin in the basement last summer with all of three wrigglers that were given to my kids at a library program. Since then they have multiplied and made lots of dirt and I have been feeding them scraps of lettuce and coffee grounds and thought everything was hunky dory until Steph had a good look in the bin and was horrified to discover a vat of stinky sludge unfit for any living creatures, even worms.

My plan was to just set the bin outside and freeze them in the fall because I wasn't sure how to deal with them, but Steph is something of an expert on worm composting and offered me her services in fixing the problem and some advice on better worm maintenance.

I have such a bad history with composting. A few years ago our fancy black bin was so wet and smelly the neighbors nicknamed it the "dirty diaper compost". Then we aired it out and have some open piles that are in much better shape.

But back to the worms. When I'd checked on them in the last several weeks, I saw them writhing near the top and just assumed they'd reproduced into critical mass, but I was wrong. Steph stuck her bare hand right in the muck and informed me that yes, I had a lot of worms, but not nearly as many as I'd thought, and furthermore, it was so wet in the bottom of the bin they were trying to escape. She then washed her hands about 5 times to get rid of the smell, put on some protective gloves and dragged everything outside to get to work.

WARNING: Some of the pictures that follow are pretty gross. If you can't handle worm sludge, stop reading now!!!


First order of business was to shred some paper, LOTS of it, to stir into the mess so it wouldn't be so wet. Our old credit card bills are worm food now.

Before mixing in anything new, she sorted through the bin and took out uneaten scraps.

"HELLLLP!!! Get us out of herrrrrre!"
Another view of the sludge. See how shiny.

Old parsley in excess must go!

What was left we named "Poop Soup." Actually, I called it "Shit Soup" but then the kids came outside so I had to clean up the language. 

Because we have impeccable timing, this was happening in the back yard just as Stuart fired up the grill to make dinner. The smells didn't mix too well.

See why she's wearing gloves?
Even as they attempt escape, worms always find and take every opportunity to keep the population going strong.
W*rm p*rn...bow chicka bow bow
 OK, so the uneaten muck was separated from the digested muck. Excess was thrown into the regular back yard compost, and then Steph spent the next twenty or so minute stirring shredded paper into the bin. She mixed and stirred and stirred and mixed, breaking up clumps of yuck and eventually, it started looking better.

I added a few handfuls of straw from a failed garden bale and she stirred it up some more.

Now I have a bin full of drier, happier (I hope) worms in my basement. I have been instructed not to open the lid for a week, after which time I should stir it again and add some more shredded paper if it's not dry enough. I may also bury a handful of food (cucumber peels, bits of lettuce, that sort of thing) in the middle of the bin. It's best to chop the scraps into little bits and freeze and thaw before adding to help break down the cellular structure of the food so it's easier for the worms to eat.

I'm willing to give this a try. I didn't realize a few worms could be so high maintenance, but since their poop is the one of the best things you can put on your garden, it's worth a little effort. But by October, if all I have is poop soup again I'm just going to set the bin outside and freeze their little asses. No more worm sludge for me!


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