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cedar worm bin toxicity?

 
Leah Sattler
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would constructing a worm bin out of cedar be counter productive because of the toxic oils? i want something relatively permanent for my compost, my current one is just made of pallets which works good but isn't particularly attractive. i want to try and make my worm bin beautify my landscape instead of..... well...uglify it. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Cedar is not a good idea for living creatures, as the oils are toxic to most.  I've read that you shouldn't build worm bins, bee boxes, bat houses, etc from cedar.

But maybe it would be okay to just build a 'wrapper' made of cedar around a safer material.

Sue
 
Kelda Miller
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I second the wrapper.

Because cedar is so darn good at not composting rapidly! It makes it so ideal for earthy outdoor structures. So it would be nice to figure out how to use that where needed, but avoid it when we want to avoid it.

I've also heard this same question brought up in regards to raised beds made of cedar. So rot resistant! And of course because it's an anti-fungal!

Darn it, I mean we don't want to use pressure-treated wood....
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Speaking of a wrapper and beautification, I have always wanted to put my worm bin inside a wooden patio bench - the kind with a seat that lifts up for storage. The bench could be built out of cedar, or even out of old pallet wood, I imagine. In talking about the design and how to line the wood to protect it from the moisture as well as work the drainage, Paul suggested using an old cooler for the worm bin, which would mean having a bench compartment large enough to set the entire cooler into.

So this got me thinking of how some old coolers get cracked inside, and you wouldn't use them for food any more, but which would be just great for a worm bin. Particularly the kind with a drain spout at the bottom - that would be necessary - as well as propping open a crack or otherwise replacing or modifying the lid to keep it aerated. A cooler would have the added benefit of insulating the worms against extreme cold or extreme heat. You'd just need a hole or access from the side or bottom of the bench "wrapper" for the cooler's drainage spout and perhaps some kind of pan to collect any drainage. Depending on the size, maybe an oil drip pan made for cars would work for underneath (sans the oil, of course). Of course those household plastic bins that many folks use could be set inside a bench like this, too; but a cooler would be reusing something that normally doesn't get reused. 

Gotta mention: my dream bench would have a chart. If you've ever used a worm bin, or read the Worms Eat My Garbage book, the idea of tracking where you last buried your scraps is really helpful. A plastic coated diagram and grease pencil would be so sweet attached to the underside of the bench seat!

The most recent worm bin I had was in an old, untreated wooden box I got free from a garage sale. My condo association asked me to get rid of it because it was considered unsightly! It was pretty ugly, and the lid never stayed open. I briefly considered putting up a fight and perhaps enlisting Master Recyclers/Composters from the WSU Extension or something to make an educational stance about my composting, but I didn't. Out went the box and the worms. Ever since then, I've been stewing over this worm-bin-in-a-bench idea. Something cool looking that I would enjoy, too. I'm with you on wanting to beautify, not uglify while composting, Leah!
 
Leah Sattler
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great ideas! jocelyn I hope you don't mind if I steal the bench idea! that is a great one. I am a little ashamed that I am worrying how it looks, that usually isn't like me tend more toward not giving a damn what it looks  like as long as it works and cost me little to nothing. but somehow I can't see putting some junky conraption (my usual) outside of my nice new house. that stuff kinda 'fits in' where I am at now. Iguess I will be raising my standards to 'works, costs little to nothing, and looks good!' I love a challenge. just need to find somebody who wants some help dismantiling their old cedar fence now.

 
Susan Monroe
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I'm sure you all know, but I'm saying it anyway...

Don't stop by the side of the road to collect those old coolers you see there.  They have often/usually been dumped their by the makers of meth, and the containers are contaminated.

The bench idea is GREAT!  Multifunctional!

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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ewe    thanks sue. I never thought of that. I thought they just blew out the back of beer drinkers trucks. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Well, Leah, you probably have never lived in a neighborhood that had six meth labs/dealers at once. 

One homeowner had a guy from the Sheriff's Dept come to a neighborhood gathering and give a talk about it.  That was what he said, and he said the same thing about abandoned propane tanks.

The area has since been cleaned up.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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nope. course I havn't lived in a neighborhood since meth has become such a problem. so the simple concentration isn't there. My next door neighbor took out two of my fences through my pasture and smashed into a tree in my back yard with half the county cars and a chopper after him. he was apparently a major cook that they had been staking out for months. I knew he was a little creepy when I gave him a ride to the parts store and he was freaking out about making sure I didn't speed through a construction zone and he had to make it a point to show off his teeny weeny pistol he had in his pants.  (a real gun not his shlong  ) he came over once when my husband was gone, I was having a few drinks on the front porch he wanted to go hang inside. sorry dude, i'll share my booze and we can go sit in the backyard in the shade but we ARE NOT hanging out in the house. (this was all way pre-kid days in case you are worried). I didn't think he was the sort of fellow to be getting too buddy buddy with and it turns out I was right.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Oh my, for some reason I missed the rest of the dialog here about old coolers! Gee willickers! So good to know.

I have a source for used pallets - I think - and just might have to see what kind of bench I can construct this summer. That would be a cool challenge! It might even get my 14-year-old son away from the computer screen with less complaining. I like stacking functions! 
 
                                      
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Susan Monroe wrote:
I'm sure you all know, but I'm saying it anyway...

Don't stop by the side of the road to collect those old coolers you see there.  They have often/usually been dumped their by the makers of meth, and the containers are contaminated.

The bench idea is GREAT!  Multifunctional!

Sue




Had no idea of the cooler thing, and we've had our share of education on the drug issue.

Good to know.

Now back to the thread.........
 
Leah Sattler
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is it possible to devise a method within the bin to sift out the worms from the finished compost?
 
Susan Monroe
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I have never been able to devise a way to truly separate worms from compost.  BUT the worm people say that the worms will follow the food.

My plan is to have three plastic storage containers (#1, #2, #3) with most of their bottoms cut out (leaving a 1" bottom rim) and then pop-rivet 1/4" hardware cloth mesh to the bottom.

I will cover the entire bottom of #1 with a fine mesh fabric (synthetic) that will allow excess moisture to drain through, but contain the worms.

I think I'll set it on small blocks on top of its own upside down lid to catch any drainage.  Fill with bedding and add some food as per usual for worms. 

When the first container is getting full, I'll set #2 on top of the first container, directly on top of the soil/worm compost of #1  and add bedding and food.  According to the worm experts, the worms will leave the old place and follow the food in the second container.

Repeat with #3.  By the time this container is put in place, theoretically, Container #1 shouldn't have any worms in it, and it can be removed and the contents used.  Theoretically.

When empty, the fabric mesh of #1 is removed and the box is set on top of the original #3 container.

My small experience with worm farming, and that of others seems to indicate that if placed in a new container, the worms tend to 'panic' and try to get out.  Using this method, the idea is to only aggravate the worms once (originally), and after that, let them climb upwards into the next box.

Maybe in spring, I'll see if my idea works or is just a silly idea.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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sounds reasonable! so maybe making a three chamber worm bin is the way to go.
 
Susan Monroe
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Apparently, someone thought of a similar method before me!

Yesterday, I was in a small organic nursery, and they had some stacking black plastic worm bin things.  Plastic one-piece frames with integral plastic mesh bottom with about 1/4" openings.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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you could'a made your million with that idea!
 
Susan Monroe
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Sigh.

OKAY, NEXT IDEA!

Sue
 
Brenda Groth
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just ran across this post..i generally compost outside..but with 141" of snow this year..it wasn't really as easy as normal..so I've been considering a worm bin to keep going in the winter months..

with the new wood boiler we have an outside building that remains about 54 degrees most of the time, with a cement floor..i have been eyeing the worm composters thinking..rather than having to truck scraps out to the compost pile or sheet compost them, maybe in the winter when we are "snowbound in hidden valley" I should have myself a worm compost bin, where i can just go out and throw wood on the wood boiler and scraps into the worm bin.

sure sounds easier..anyone think this is a good idea for me? (about 10 acres in the middle of nowwhere)
 
Susan Monroe
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Lots of people do their worm composting under the kitchen sink and it works very well.  Don't put in more food than the worms can eat, and there shouldn't be any smell. 

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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ha! i will have him converted yet.....my husband keeps asking me when I am going to build my worm bin......he wants them for fishing 
 
Susan Monroe
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HA!  Permaculture:  multi-functional!

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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now I'll have to figure out what makes this biggest fattest juiciest fishing worms. then maybe my efforts will be appreciated! 
 
Susan Monroe
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Don't worry about the fatness... Fat worms don't wiggle as much as slim ones.  They need to wiggle so the fish can see them from a distance and know they're alive.

(hey, is that a good argument or what?)

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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your prob right. but my hubby was complaiing when I told him to go dig in the garden area (I saw some worms when I planted peas) and all he found were little skinny ones. we fished the pond a few weekends ago and the fish took the bobber down the second it hit the water so I don't think fat worms are absolutely neccessary, I think a little stick would have worked! mostly just little perch but it was still fun.
 
Leah Sattler
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so i have had a duh! moment. since I am now specializing in growing rocks  why don't I build a worm bin out of them? as long as it is big enough that the heat from the rocks is mitigated some by the moisture in the worm area and and it is in the shade I think it will work. but I will need to find something to line it with to prevent matter escaping from between the rocks.....
 
                            
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Hello, all.  I just joined up.

Paul, I found my way here from the Homestead.org forum, one spot (of--presumably--many) where you've been raving about the rocket mass heaters (now, I'm trying to figure out how to install one in my little suburban home).

I'll probably be visiting here regularly; sounds like y'all touch on a lot of stuff I'm interested in.

Just wanted to mention here, however, that I built a stackable, cedar worm bin 3 years ago, and have had worms living happily in it ever since, so if cedar is supposed to be bad for worms, my worms apparently missed that report.

Also, the best way I've found to harvest the finished worm compost, without worms (well, mostly without), is to harvest 1/4" at a time, while outdoors in bright sunlight.  The worms hide from the light, and as you keep scraping off the top 1/4", they keep moving downward.  I set it up so they have another tray to move down into, and then I harvest 1/4" every 5-10 minutes while I'm working in the yard.
 
Susan Monroe
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Leah, since you're a rock farmer now (join the club!), if you can make a container of rocks, just line it with that heavy landscaping fabric.  Bring the top edges up and over, and hold  them down with a top layer of rocks.

The only problem with this way is that you won't be able to harvest the worm tea, I don't think.


Hi, Rainbird!  You've got more patience for worm compost collection than I have!  I've tried doing it that way, and it took forever... especially since I kept forgetting about it (ADD is a pain).

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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that probably would make it hard to get worm tea but I have rocks and I will soon have the time and I don't have the cash to buy cedar and haven't had anyluck turning up some on craigslist so I think rocks is the way I will go.
 
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