Thursday, August 4, 2011

Keeping Worms in the Tropics

Why should I keep worms? We started our worm keeping after a visit to Echo Farms in Ft Myers, FL. We took workshops about worm keeping and learned enough to know to get started. Earth worms recycle food waste into good vermicompost and save energy and money. They produce good garden manure which provides house plants and garden with nutrients and good bacteria. Soils in the tropics tend to be sandy and low in nutrients, so worms will help you with this. Worms are good bait for freshwater fishing, so you can also save some money. This blog is a step by step guide for the worm keeper.

Worm Housing

Step 1. What things do you need to make a worm bin? You need at least two containers such as 5 gallon buckets or plastic totes which are at least 12 inches deep. You also need one lid. They must be opaque to keep out the sun. You will also need a drill with 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch drill bits. All these can be purchased at a hardware store.

Step 2. Drill holes in the sides of one bucket with the 1/8 inch drill bit and drill holes on the bottom with the 1/4 inch drill bit. Drill all holes about an inch apart. These holes help let fresh air in and the old air out. This is important so that the worm compost does not turn anaerobic. The holes on the bottom allow moisture or leachate to drain out. The leachate can be used as liquid fertilizer. Now stack the buckets and put the bucket with the holes onto of the bucket with no holes. Make sure not to drill holes in the lid to keep the worms from drying out.

Moving In

Step 3. Now that the house is built it is worm time. Make sure you buy red wiggles since other worms like night crawlers will burrow deep. When you are buying the worms, make sure to buy your worms from a local supplier because worms from Maine might not acclimate well to the tropics. You might have friends with an established worm bin who will share with you. We got some from our friends Greg and Evelyn from The Open Studio.

Step 4. Now your worms need bedding! Bedding can be made from coconut husk, shredded newspaper or other paper with soy based ink, and corrugated cardboard. Do not use shiny magazine paper! Make sure paper is shredded in strips. Bedding should be as wet as a wrung sponge but not soggy. Fill container with at least a few inches of this bedding. Also add a couple of sand or dirt for the worms.

Step 5. What to feed the worms? Here are some worm feeding basics with some do’s and don’ts. Worms love most kitchen and plant waste from cantaloupes to pumpkins to organic yard waste. They also love coffee grounds and tea bags but leave out the staples. Now here are some of the no no’s. Worms don’t like too much citrus because they are too acidic. If you give the worms too much citrus give them crushed egg shells to balance the pH back. Avoid meat, dairy, hot peppers, spicy food, onions and garlic. A pound of worms can eat a half a pound of kitchen waste per 24 hours.

General care

Keep your bin in your porch, garage or lanai so you have an overhang. This keeps out direct sunlight and rain. Make sure to keep worm food and compost moist but not soaking. When food is put in the worm bin, make sure to cover it with bedding. Add new bedding when worms have eaten in all. This is an important food for them since worms need lots of carbon. Also keep an eye on your leachate because worms do not like to be soaked. Keep out all fire ants, centipedes and maggots! Please give me feedback on how your worm bins are doing. Vermiculture is a very good thing to help the environment. See you next time on the Nudibranch Network.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Horst's Treasure Trove

Horst Kohlem is an amazing free form artist from Germany and we are good friends with him and his wonderful family. When we were in Miami Beach, FL a couple of months ago, and we stayed a few days at his art treasure trove of a home. His house is filled with excellent paintings and amazing mixed media sculptures of his own doing.

Horst’s paintings have a beautiful mix of colors and patterns. He paints images of bridges and buildings that I wouldn’t think to do. His paintings have interesting textures and layering. He builds up the paint so it is three dimensional. I think he applies the paint with drizzles and drops and adds tree leaves with makes unique textures. However, his secret recipe is unknown. His work is very large and can be up to 5 feet wide and tall.

Horst’s sculptures can be very small or very large; some were even bigger than me. They are made out of recycled metals which usually come from airplanes and other machines. These metal pieces can be welded together and are sometimes mixed with stones such as marble to make interesting patterns. I have photos of some of the amazing Horstean sculptures and paintings below. The big harp I’m standing next to was actually played in an orchestra performance.

We had a gynormously good time visiting with Horst and his wife Jacqueline. I thought it was really cool to have another artist to talk to. If you ever need some inspiring art, Horst sells his work in galleries and would be happy to talk to you. See you next time on the Nudebranch Network. I was on vacation but now I’m back...