200 WORMS & NEWSPAPER AND FOOD SCRAPS — and — SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LATERNS…

This was a great weekend, and I’m a couple hundred worms richer.

Some of you may know that a wonderful purveyor of hardware and desert appropriate plants exists on the south side of Highway 62 just inside the Morongo Valley.

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The place is CACTUS MART, home of the famous “Dig your own cactus for just 59 cents” (I still think they should do some subliminal marketing and raise that to 69 cents. Talk to any marketing expert. It would be bound to increase sales).  Not only do they offer the most amazing plants and hardware, they’ve got a nice collection of art from local artists, as well as books with loads of information on desert gardening, the local area, and sustainability.

Yesterday they hosted a workshop given by Kathy, a master gardener from the Morongo Valley. For an affordable $5 she spent two hours with us (about 15 attendees) to talk about composting with worms, otherwise known as vermiculture. For another $20, we could walk away with our own worm bin and about 200 worms! Sign me up!

So now I’ve got a worm colony who will work hard and fast to help turn kitchen scraps, paper, and plant material (think dead flowers from the garden, or from the vase you keep on your kitchen table, or that potted plant that just “didn’t make it”) into rich, organic and aromatic soil. And these aren’t your normal earthworms that come to the surface of your lawn during a heavy rain. These are select RED WRIGGLER WORMS, hard workers of the composting elite.

You can view a video from GardenGirlTV.com that explains what a worm bin is and how to assemble one. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?list=TLyf823QHbjVsLSZ7cii9Nhv5U098ND7BX&feature=player_detailpage&v=JjjuYNilM60

For now, here’s a picture of what a worm bin looks like and a simple chart that explains the concept:

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No matter where you live, you too can have a worm bin. Kathy told us about one woman who kept one at work under her desk. She would put the scraps of her lunches inside to “feed” the worms.

“Keep it under your desk?” you say. Absolutely. Or in a closet, or laundry room, or garage, or outside under the eaves. The point is the worm bin done right doesn’t smell bad. It doesn’t really smell at all. Genius.

And since it is Halloween season, did I tell you that worms love pumpkins? Apparently they do. Kathy insists. So the first of November is a perfect time to pitch those fading Jack-o’-lanterns into your nearest compost pit or cut it up into pieces and deliver it in style to some worms in a bin. That’s All Saints Day. Be a saint and don’t just pitch your used pumpkin into the trash.

For more information on Cactus Mart, visit their website here: http://cactusmart.net/

For more information on the California State Master Gardener’s program (which I’m seriously considering because even though it’s headquartered at U.C. Davis they have courses throughout California) visit: http://camastergardeners.ucdavis.edu/

For more information on vermiculture and worm bin composting try these great links:

PUTTING WORMS TO WORK AND KEEPING THEM HAPPY at http://www.ucanr.org/sites/scmg/files/29954.pdf

INTRODUCTION TO WORM FARMING at http://www.working-worms.com/

VERMICOMPOSTING WITH RED WRIGGLER WORMS (these are the types of worms that I’m using in my bin): http://www.worm-farming.org/vermiculture/vermiculture-composting/

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AND SPEAKING OF JACK-O’-LANTERNS…

I love my mom for the surprises she often has for me. When I saw her for my October 15th birthday she brought me an unexpected gift. The plastic Jack-o’-lantern that I always trick-or-treated with as a child. This thing is 40 years old and still bright orange, tho’ as you can see, his black mouth has flaked off a bit. She even wrote my name on it to distinguish it from the one my brother Ted used. I bet she’s still got that one too.

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Mom was about re-using way back then and instilled those values in me. Why have a new plastic pumpkin every year, or a plastic bag to collect your candy? Just get ONE plastic Jack-o’-Lantern and hold on to it through life. It’s not going to go away in a landfill – better have it “not go away” and get some repeated use out of it. 

After I grew up Mom used it regularly as decoration every October 31st. Now I’ll be using it in the same way too. This is a great use of quality plastic — the kind that holds up over decades and can be passed down.

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Thank you mom, for the values you taught and still perpetuate today. You really touched my heart with this unexpected gift.

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Finally, what did I find USED but in good condition at a local thrift store? A DVD of SLEEPY HOLLOW, the 1999 film starring two of Hollywood’s most talented actors when it comes to playing creepy: JOHNNY DEPP and CRISTINA RICCI. It’s the perfect thing to be watching this week, and the couple of dollars I spent on it went to a non-profit organization that is helping others in my community. I’m sure I could have found a NEW copy at WALMART in one of those “$5 DVD BINS” but what’s the point? I like directing my money locally AND saving it whenever I can. A DVD for a couple of bucks is a good find. And it will last as long as my childhood Jack-o’-Lantern. So now I’ve got a new Halloween tradition – the annual “screening” of SLEEPY HOLLOW at my place. Creepy!

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