Saturday, January 21, 2012

Got Worms?

I had so much fun coming up with a title for this post that I got lost for a few days in considering all the possibilities. A Thousand Splendid Worms. The Lord of the Worms. Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me, Guess I Should Buy Some Worms.

You get the point. My new creepy, little friends have been much on my mind. The other benefit of waiting a week to write this post is that I will be explaining about vermicomposting with much less “Ewww... Ewww... Freaking Ewww...” Yes, I am in recovery from my deep sense that owning worms might lead me to starring in one of those awful bug movies where the creatures overtake the house while I am sleeping.

And really, maybe this post isn’t so much about worms as it is about dirt. Good dirt. The best of all possible dirt. Now, we know I am no expert gardener (but just you wait), but everything I read talks about the quality of the soil, the accurate mixes of soil to grow with (according to Mel of Square Foot Gardening fame, that would be blended compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite). The first of the triad of great growing amazement is compost, and that is something that each and every one of us can have without spending any additional money.

Compost is [according to fabulous Wikipedia] organic matter that has been decomposed and recycled as a fertilizer or soil amendment.” And organic matter includes things like lettuce that we cut off before using, leaves that are collected in the fall, coffee grounds, and a very long list of other things. Just by placing the above items in a pile in the backyard, we can have compost. However, I elected to buy a composting bin for outside to cut down on the chance of extra critters availing themselves of the compost (and vexing my pups in the process). And inside, I now have my very own Can O’ Worms, as vermicomposting is another great way to get excellent compost.

omposting also benefits the environment in many ways, including decreasing the amount of methane and leachate created by landfills (look at the EPA site for more information on the benefits) and thereby decreasing greenhouse gasses.

So, those are the whys, now for the pics that prove that I am growing as a person.

The picture on the right shows the bag lurking in front of my front door, containing a box filled with red wriggler worms.

My two assistants (left) were called in to provide moral support in my new undertaking. What they are looking at and smelling is the coconut fiber bedding that expanded from a block that I submerged in water. It actually smelled pretty good.

Then, I gained the courage (right) to opened the box and the inner bag that was thankfully not showing much movement. If it had, I was prepared to make a run for it (or call in my dogs, see Aggie over my shoulder waiting to be tagged in).

At the moment of my greatest need (left), it was wonderful that my assistants were there for me, showing courage and dedication like the small warriors they are. Or perhaps they were squealing and availing themselves of the only high ground they could find.

I then poured out the contents of the worm bag (right), which mostly looked like dirt, not 1000 worms waiting to devour me or some lettuce. Because they were away from water for four days during the shipping process, they started out lethargic (which made them much less scary). The first instruction after getting their living space together was to add water and a wet worm blanket.

Water. A wet worm blanket. And a pat. Yup, I welcomed the little critters into my home and they are creeping me out much less as each day passes. I gave them lettuce after a couple days to settle in and I have noticed it getting smaller. The trick is to figure out the right amount to feed them to keep them happy but not to overfeed them as that will cause the unpleasant smell of decomposing food.

I'll be reporting on their progress, as well as the progress of my outside composting bin. It might seem weird to have worms in our houses, but if this adventure gives me a garden full of great food to eat and helps out the planet just a little bit, then it is more than worth it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Beginning of an Adventure: First Post

Life is a series of adventures—at least, that’s the way I choose to view it. In the past few years, my adventures have changed my life more than in all the other years put together. I moved across the country to a city were I didn’t know a soul. Made a life that was, for a while there, more bumps than smooth sailing. Experienced some health issues that brought about a revolutionary change in the way I eat. Delved into writing, something that was part of my life but had never been given its due (my adventures in writing are at my other blog that can be found here). Now, I’m ready to move into a new adventure, one that has been many years in the making.


More specifically, heirloom kitchen gardening.

To understand the whats and whys of this new hobby requires a little more detail about my life and health. For many years, I suffered from debilitating migraines and had a low level of health. Chronic body aches, allergies (both food and environment), and general exhaustion darkened my life. When I moved across the country, these problems became worse, probably due in equal parts to lifestyle choices (yup, I ate a lot of not great things that first year), stress, and melancholy. After a twenty-nine day headache (probably a combination of migraines and headaches), I was ready to try anything (since my body is too sensitive to take most meds, they were never an effective answer). In walked The China Study which led a diehard carnivore (I actually used to say that if something didn’t die, it wasn’t a meal) to adopt a plant-based whole-food diet. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t about soapboxing about what I eat (unless people are interested, I suppose), only explaining how this garden project fits into my journey.

When I started eating mostly veggies and grains, I spent a lot of time and money at places like Whole Foods (which I love) and occasionally farmers’ markets. I bought my broccoli and my spinach. And that was all fine and good, but then I learned something: the choices we have in grocery stores aren’t about taste, they are about industry. Veggies that we see are picked because they are hardy and can make it thousands of miles to the grocery aisle. When I heard this, I wanted to know more and discovered heirloom seeds. These are the seeds that have been developed over hundreds of years (maybe more) and they are very much about taste. Companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have been protecting these seeds for many years, because with the genetically modified seeds infecting our food supplies, there is a real risk that heirloom seeds will be lost forever.

I support heirloom seeding very much, but my garden plans are about more than that, they are soundly based in the word variety. When you eat mostly veggies, the puny amount of options even in the best of stores makes life boring. So, here I go, off on the heirloom kitchen gardening adventure. I hope you’ll come with me, because it’s bound to be a funny, bumpy ride.