Hi all, I've had success this winter keeping my worms warm and happy outdoors this winter, so I figured I'd share what I've been doing. I've never come across anyone else mentioning this method, so apologies if this is something y'all have already been doing.
The worms are in a 3x3x3 bin made of slatted wood, and whenever I feed them I add a few inches of loose straw around the edges, to keep the material surrounded on all sides by a bit of insulation. The worms primary food is our kitchen waste and the spent coffee grounds we pick up from the shop in town. Adding a lot of coffee grounds helps to heat the pile a little, but what I've found really effective is soybean meal, though I'm sure any other high N source would work just as well.
I keep a thermometer in the pile, and aim to keep the center around 80F. If I go to feed the worms and notice the temperature's fallen below 75, I'll add a sprinkling of soybean meal before I put the kitchen waste and coffee grounds on. The amount varies depending on the temperature, but it's not hard to play around with it a few times and get a feel for how much you'll need to add to keep it toasty in there for them. My winters are more mild than most (average nighttime temps in the low 30s ), but it doesn't seem that given a nitrogen source the bacteria have any trouble providing all the heat the worms need.
I also add a thin layer of chopped straw on top after each feeding, to keep the pile from getting too N heavy, and I suppose this functions as bedding to some extent, as does the straw I've got around the edges for insulation. I don't add any other bedding material, and there's still some straw left when I go to harvest from the bottom, but it just gets screened out and added back into the bin or some other compost pile.
Hi all, I was taking down an old shed on my property yesterday and discovered something interesting. The shed was on sloped ground, about 20 feet downhill from a large incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens). The building was at least 50-60 years old, and on the uphill side of it, the soil had built up about two feet, rotting out the lower portions of the old metal roofing panels that were used as siding. Upon removing the building, I could see that in cross section this entire two feet looked like pure top soil. Like this is what I hope my garden soil looks like in five years (just starting out on this property). It has excellent structure, smell and appearance, and was full of earthworms and sow bugs, and I realized this is the result of decades of litter from the cedar tree washing up against the wall and getting stuck.
I prepared a sample for the microscope and found a truly massive bacterial population more along the lines of compost than native soil, but I was surprised that I was unable to make out any fungal hypha on the entire slide. I know true cedars are antifungal, and though incense cedar isn't a true cedar, it's more closely related to redwoods and junipers which I think are somewhat antifungal as well.
I'm hoping to hear some opinions on removing this stuff and using it in the garden or other plantings. Now that the shed that was holding it in place is gone, I either need to remove it or it's going to get washed away in no time (and I'm using the area it occupies as a pathway going forward). It looks like excellent stuff except for the lack of fungal life, and I'd hate to waste it as there's probably at least a few yards of it to be had, but I'm concerned that the organic matter its derived from could possibly inhibit plant growth. Does anyone have more knowledge about potential antifungal properties, or any other inhibiting effects, of incense cedar in particular.
Hi Aaron, I recently went through quitting after smoking for many years. It's tough. I still have a cigarette every now and then, but we have a hard rule about not bringing a pack of cigarettes home any more (my girlfriend quit at the same time as me). If one of us is really needing a smoke that bad, we drive to the store, buy a pack, take one or two out, and leave the pack outside of the store. This keeps us from smoking out of habit—especially because it's a 30 minute round trip to the store—and also imposes a financial penalty as now a cigarette or two will cost us $7.
The other thing that helped me tremendously was vaping. The vape liquid comes in a whole range of nicotine content, so you can wean yourself off of the nicotine while still being able to get the lung hit that gums, patches, etc don't provide. I bought two bottles each of the 12mg, 6mg, 3mg, and 0mg liquid, and by the time I finished up the 3mg liquid I didn't even care enough to smoke the stuff with no nicotine in it. You can get tobacco flavored liquid, if like me you aren't into the gross fruity flavors that everyone else uses. If you wanted to try it out, I'd be glad to send you my vaporizer for free since I no longer use it. Just send me a message on here if you're interested, and good luck either way!
I meant green in the sense that hay is probably more equivalent to freshly cut green material, rather than straw, in terms of its place in decomposition. It has a higher nitrogen content than straw.
As for woodchips, I'm not worried about making the bedding "last" intact a long time. With straw as bedding, it absorbs the urine and its high carbon content balances the nitrogen in the urine. It doesn't smell as long as fresh bedding is added as needed, because the nitrogen doesn't volatilize and escape as ammonia gas. My concern whether or not there was too much nitrogen in hay to keep a good balance, and to a lesser extent whether the reduced absorptive capacity of hay (vs straw) would make a difference.
I'm going to pick some up and give it a shot, I'll post an update in a few weeks once I've got a feel for how it's working.
Hi Victoria, congrats on your land. Before you burn the pasture, you may want to give the goats the run of it—they'll eat up whatever they're interested in, and you'll get some food value out of what's already there.
Are you planning on doing rotational grazing with them? I'd recommend reading up on management intensive rotational grazing (Voisin method) if it's not something you're already planning on doing. Goats are very picky eaters, and if you give them free run of a large pasture, they'll decimate it. They'll walk around the entire area eating whatever is most palatable to them first, and they'll eat all of it. Then they'll start going for their second choice, and so on. In the meantime, their first choice will begin regrowing its foliage, and they'll eat that regrowth as soon as it appears. Within a few months, they'll have worn out the energy reserves of the plants they prefer, while whatever they aren't fond of will proliferate. In a very short amount of time, you'll end up with a pasture full of things they don't care for, regardless of what you planted to begin with. It seems like you already know that grass isn't their preferred diet, which is what makes managing them different than cows or even sheep. Grass, and to a lesser extent legumes, are adapted for grazing. Goats prefer plants that are generally not adapted for grazing (forbs and browse), so the more recovery time you can give an area between grazings the better.
We're currently setting up a few areas of goat pasture, and here's what we're planning on doing. The pastures will be planted with the goat pasture mix from NaturesSeed. It's 40% grass, 45% legume, and 15% chicory. We are also adding dandelion, narrow leaf plantain, and Queen Anne's Lace (our goats LOVE the QAL the grows rampant on our property, so we harvested the seed to mix in). The pasture will have permanent perimeter fencing, and will be subdivided with 6' wide alleys run long ways, also with permanent fencing. Instead of using the alleys as a walkway though, we are planting them with trees and other browse and forbs that the goats enjoy. The goats will be in the long strips of pasture, and they'll get a new paddock each day sectioned off with polywire. So in addition to what they get from the pasture mix, they'll also have two edges of their paddock where they can access browse. But since it's fenced off, they won't be able to kill the plants—they'll just eat as far back as they can reach through the fencing, and those plants won't be completely defoliated.
If you set up silvopasture and give the goats free run of it though, they'll kill off whatever nice things you plant for them much quicker than you'd think.
We've been using straw as bedding in the goat shed, and adding new layers on top as needed, letting the goats compact what's below and cleaning it out only occasionallyas it just composts in place. Does anyone have thoughts regarding using hay, rather than straw, for this purpose? Hay can be had cheaper than straw around here, and our neighbor down the road has certified organic orchardgrass hay that I can pick up for $1 less per bale than the straw bales at the feed store that have probably been sprayed in the field. I tried feeding a bale to them yesterday, and they aren't interested—they're very picky eaters. I'm considering buying a trailer load anyway to use as bedding, since it's cheaper and organic, but I don't know how well it'll work in a manure pack since it's got a higher nitrogen content than cereal straw. This particular hay isn't the best quality, so it's not bright green, but I don't want to end up with a rancid mat of material on the floor. We currently mix their wasted hay in with the bedding without issue, but there's a lot of straw in there as well.