Sunday, January 10, 2010

Worm massacre... dun dun DUN

Finally, faithful readers, I bring you the long-awaited, much anticipated gory tale of how my house became a red wriggler graveyard.

We use a vermicompost to dispose of organic waste, ie, fruits, veggies, egg shells, coffee grounds-- anything that biodegrades. A vermicompost is basically a compost that is self-contained in a large plastic box (like a Rubbermaid storage container) with air-holes. Inside, red wriggler worms (not the same as earth worms) eat your compostable food, making it into a beautiful earthy compost substance! Vermicomposts are ideal for people in apartments and places where a larger backyard compost isn't doable. Because we just moved this summer, we haven't had a chance to set up a backyard compost yet. (upper right) (lower left)

This brings us to Halloween 2009. (Fitting, for this ghastly tale...) When my jack-o-lantern had worn out its welcome, I happily chopped it up into little easily-digestible pieces and placed them in the compost. A few days later, I noticed a horrible smell coming from the basement. I descended into the bowels of our house to sniff it out.

To my horror, upon inspection of the compost, I discovered dozens of dried up worms strewn across the tiled floor, in a 3-foot radius of the bin. Clearly the more courageous worms had chosen to make a break for it. They had tried to escape... and failed. Poor things. I truly felt sadness at the loss of these helpful little creatures. But it only got worse...

Covering the top of my compost was, surprise surprise, a mound of rotting and moldy pumpkin. Clearly, I had over-done it-- my poor worms simply couldn't handle all that food, and it had started to rot, creating an uninhabitable environment for the wrigglers. The pumpkin must have skewed the chemical balance of the whole compost because the entire thing seemed to be a rotten mess I just didn't know what to do with.

After peeling the worm carcasses off the basement floor and mopping thoroughly, I had to put the compost outside, due to the smell. It was a difficult decision, seeing as it was December and I knew it meant certain death for probably hundreds of worms. But it was just too gross.

And that is how I became the perpetrator of perhaps the worst worm massacre in the history of the world. Checking several days later, all my little friends, who had happily eaten our waste for 2 or 3 years, had been reduced to a thoroughly dead, gray, gooey--yet kind of frozen--mess. It has been weighing on my conscience ever since.

The moral of this story is NOT to stay away from vermicomposts. They are awesome, simple to use, and very good at reducing waste in the home. And I can promise you that it isn't hard to avoid the mess I got myself into-- we had no real trouble for years before. I can also guarantee that escaped worms are a VERY rare occurrence. Not once before this incident have I ever seen one outside the bin. Plus, they don't get very far anyway...

The moral is, do not overload your vermicompost with one type of matter. It is a bad idea. Keep its moisture balanced, and give it a variety of food-- only in the quantity that your worms can handle! That way you avoid a rotting moldy mess.

I know I may have scared most of you off of in-house composting, but it's important for everyone to know the potential hazards of mismanaging a bin, in order to avoid a massacre. Vermicomposts really are pretty awesome, especially if you like worms, like me. If anyone wants to start one, I can hook you up with red wrigglers!

1 comment:

  1. I had a worm massacre once too.. the bin started to collect more and more water, no matter how much paper I added to it. Then one day I went to check it and the top of the compost was covered in a layer of dead worms, and it smelled as bad as it was gross.. We'd had it for almost a year, so it was so heavy, Sam and I had to carry it down the street together to get to the dumpster while wasps buzzed around us!