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Ideas for stacking functions with red worm composting.  RSS feed

 
Alan Kirk
Posts: 10
Location: Reno, NV
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I have had good luck processing kitchen scraps using red worm composting year round in zone 7a. My herd reside in two large (5'x5'x5') outdoor bins. I add water weekly to moisten the pile in the summer and insulate with a thick (3') layer of leaves during the winter. My family produces about 5 gallons of kitchen scraps per week, and we add in leaves from our yard and from neighbors yards in the fall. Last year I harvested about 60 gallons of finished compost.

A friend of mine who lives in the same area is looking to duplicate my operation but on a much larger scale (food scraps from restaurants), possibly needing to process 60 gallons of input per day! We will probably experiment with windrow-style composting, at first, rather than building a large number of bins.

Since we are in the design phase, I wanted to put the question to the permie community about what other functions we could stack with the composting operation. I would be interested in hearing ideas that have never been tried before as well as actual processes that some of you have tried or are currently using, and what worked well and what didn't work so well. This friend has some livestock (chickens, goats) so feel free to include them in your consideration.

Thanks for your help!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9690
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I feed worms to my chickens. I think worms could be a large part of the nutrition for chickens, replacing grain (which chickens don't actually need). I don't think chickens should be fed exclusively on worms, however. I think there should be plenty of variety.

 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
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So I have two compost streams:

1) Bacterially dominated compost provided by the worms and black soldier flies. This is produced relatively often and consistently and because of that and because it is bacterially dominated is ideal for the vegetable garden.

2) Fungally dominated humanure compost. Because of the long retention period in the pile undisturbed, there is a high proportion of fungi and it is ideal for use on trees and woody plants (using humanure in the veg garden is not ideal in my opinion, but I am comfortable using it on fruit trees etc. which conveniently prefer fungal compost.).

I have thought of reprocessing the humanure compost through a worm system for extra insurance against pathogens etc. and to extend nutrient cycling but I actually think the two different compost streams work best serving their separate purposes.

The worms provide poultry feed for me, too, and are good fishing worms and can be used or sold as such (could also be used as feed for aquaculture). I don't know that the bin generates much heat in general, but sometimes in winter I add a bit of green waste to heat them up a bit (not too much), so possibly you could use the bin to provide some very mild supplemental heat for delicate plants or animals over winter, or position it against pipes or waterers or something that are prone to freezing. You can of course sell the worms and castings and recycle various paper wastes as well as food wastes with them. The fish you catch with the worms are good people food, which can then feed the humanure bin and the trees which then feed people and animals and so forth; the fish guts also make good food for some other fish and some chickens (others reject them) or guts can be added to the middle of a hot compost pile to get it started cooking nicely. Depending on where you feed the worms they can be used to encourage chickens to forage at far end of paddock instead of near coop, or train fish to come to one part of pond where they are easy to trap or catch, etc. That's about all I can think of off the top of my head.

Edited to add: the worms themselves are edible by humans as well and a good source of protein; can be ground up as a sort of flour to disguise them for the squeamish.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9690
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I cooked and ate red wigglers once and I don't personally recommend it because they have a very strong distinctive "wormy" odor and taste.

 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 676
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I saw a documentary that produced worm castings in a very unique way. They used basically a treadmill on an incline.

Place a 2 to 3 " layer of the worm food on the entire treadmill. Place the worms along the bottom of the treadmill. After 1 day the worms ate everything and moved 1" up the treadmill.

Now move the conveyor belt 1". The worm castings fall to the floor. The worms are back to the bottom, and add more food to the top which is now empty tread.

Repeat daily, or do 2" every 2 days. Whatever rythm works best.

The eco company that makes a worm tea and bottles them in recycled water bottles is who was on the episode. I can't remember their name. Terra something.

 
Jennifer Richardson
Posts: 166
Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
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Tyler, I wonder if "purging" their digestive tracts somehow would help? I have cooked certain things like crawfish that are delicious purged and all but inedible without, and it seems like red wigglers with the strong-smelling slime and garbage/manure diet might benefit from purging, but not sure how to go about it with worms. I have eaten some insects and would like to eat my worms, but have been reluctant so far. Worm "flour" is something I have been considering but still would prefer to clean them up a bit first.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9690
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think cornmeal is often fed to clean things, but I wonder if the worms would eat damp cornmeal?
 
William Bronson
Posts: 1284
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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If your friend has chickens, I see little reason to feed food waste to the worms.
I keep neither, so I maybe talking out my ass, but I would want to feed higher up the food chain, not lower.
I mean, you could compost grass and use the compost to grow more grass, or you could just feed the grass to the ruminant.
After the chickens are done with the scraps, THEN feed the leftovers to the worms, and feed the worms to the chickens(or yourself).
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9690
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I think the chickens will get relatively little nutrition from vegetable scraps, compared to the worms. So the worms are a way of concentrating nutrition for the chickens, who then concentrate it more for you.

Ruminants are a special case - they are evolved to obtain all their nutrition from plants. Chickens aren't.

 
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