WHERE ARE YOU AT?

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Lobster Mushroom by Roxie AteahSo, where you at in the height of the harvest?  We’ve had a stellar growing season this year on the floodplain of the prairies and it’s far from over.  To quote one crotchety old farmer; “If it’s bloody green it’s growing!” We think he was referring to the “weeds” at the time.  Still you can’t deny this wonderful harvest.  Many vegetable crops are coming in, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, yum! But, that’s not all, our rich woodlands and natural wilderness areas are also bountiful in their fruition, it’s just not what we’re used to.

Who hasn’t enjoyed the delightful sweetness of a Saskatoon Berry or the delicate kiss of the Wild Strawberry, you don’t buy them in a store and unless you’re very gifted and lucky probably don’t grow them yourself.  Some edible plants you simply must find in the wild.  That said we’d like to remind people of the careful use of our more elusive food supply.  Through the guidance of our First Nation’s these plants are still thriving in many parts of our Province and that’s to be supported and respected.  Always have permission to forage on land even if you think it’s public land, check it out and make sure.  You may not be the only person to use this area. Never take an entire plant or the fruit from a whole patch!

If you look at the habitat these natural plants inhabit you soon understand the fragility of the spaces.  Imagine the time and conditions required to host such complex ecosystems.  Because we grow fabulous vermicompost doesn’t exclude the fact that we in all our wisdom, can not duplicate these delicate habitats.  That is Mother Nature’s domain in entirety.

Photo credit to Roxie Ateah

 

TEA TIME!

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tea potNo, not that kind of tea!  It’s time for vermicompost tea!  Many gardeners know the benefit of fertilizing plants with compost tea or as we like to call it, liquid organic fertilizer.  Making worm tea, just like composting can be as complex or simple as you want.  You can use a bucket or a thousand dollars worth of equipment, it all comes down to the bacteria, doesn’t everything…

The idea behind tea made from worm cast is the promotion of healthy aerobic bacterial growth along with the readily soluble macro/micro nutrients found there in.  As in all of nature the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria really dictates the health of your soil and plants. http://www.naturesperfectplantfood.com/2013/06/11/probiotics/  As we know, vermicomposting is the employment of worms to compost organic material, the worms rely on aerobic bacteria to fulfill this mandate.  In turn you can use “brewing” methods to promote this bacterial growth and boost the “good” bacterial content of your soil.

The simplest way to “brew” compost tea is to mix one part worm cast to nine parts water, let stand for 8-10 hours and water your garden.  If you leave the mixture longer, the aerobic bacteria will drown and the concoction will become septic.  Still effective as a source of nutrients but benefits of aerobic bacterial content will be lost.  Commercial brewing systems often have a mechanism for aeration to prevent anaerobic conditions from developing.  You may also rig up your own aeration to keep the bubbling going but be aware, you need a lot of bubbles.  One 5 gallon pail (20L) would require at least two fish tank aeration hoses to maintain a high enough oxygen content.

The end point here is that no matter how you make it, worm tea will fertilize and enrich your soil and plants in a way that nothing else can.  Give it a go!

ARE YOU IN IT FOR THE WORMS?

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topsoilBusy, busy, busy, whew, this time of year has all the attractions doesn’t it. Garden preparation, seeding, transplanting the whole deal.  Back to outdoor composting and building the soil we go.  What’s your favorite area of concentration in spring, are you in it for the worms or the vermicompost?  ‘Cause ya know, you can’t have one without the other.

People have different vermicomposting goals and desires, some are more oriented to castings production and others want speedy breakdown of organic waste.  The methods are the same but the variables can be worlds apart.  For example let’s talk about the kitchen first, if your mail goals are directed toward speedy destruction of  food scraps there are a few tricks to optimize your system.  How much waste are you producing and how broken down is it?  Worms wait until natural bacterial decomposition is breaking down the material before they can ingest it.  Anything you can do to create surface area on your scraps will give the bacteria an opening to begin the cell by cell conversion of organic waste.  Freezing then thawing is really effective as it actually explodes the cell membrane.  Chopping and blending food scraps speeds things up too.  The worm to composting surface area is certainly a factor in this equation, the more worms you have the faster food will be consumed.  Depending on your use of bedding this type of system can be a little wet and sloppy but your kitchen waste will be gone in a jiff.  The castings production is a secondary concern but you’ll still need to periodically remove excess material and aerate the bin.

But I want to feed my plants!  As you should, if quality castings are your hearts desire, well, red wigglers LOVE manure…… almost all kinds.  Not many folks have access to fresh manure in the city but even the old stuff is a nice addition to an outdoor (and sometimes indoor) worm bin.  In fact, it’s always a good idea to incorporate extra natural organic material into any closed system, just to give it an aerobic bacterial infusion.  But, your bedding is what makes or breaks vermicast production.  To produce dark fluffy castings concentrate on the carbon to nitrogen ratio and the bedding material.  As the bedding breaks down the worms will slowly consume it.  Bins that have more time to “stew” tend to produce drier, airier shall we say cast.

Bedding also plays a significant role in breeding, where do you think the worms go to get a little privacy away form prying wormy eyes…….

One final “heads up” today, we have oodles of fresh castings just waiting for deployment in your garden, contact us here or through our Face Book page for info.

EATING WORMS, IT’S PART OF THE JOB

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Wood CockDo not be shocked but not all of the worms we sell end up in happy home or farm composting situations….. some of them end up getting eaten!  Over the years we’ve been able to supply more than a few exotic and not so exotic pets with a healthy diet of red worms.  At times we’ve provided emergency food for starving creatures who simply won’t eat anything else.  Here are a few of their stories.

In the photo on the left we have the Wood Cock, poor little guy/gal (they’re not sure of the sex) who ended up with the good folks of the Manitoba Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre http://wildlifehaven.ca/  apparently this lovely marsh bird usually uses it’s 3″ beak to poke around the swamp eating worms and grubs.  He/she arrived in Manitoba a little early and had nothing to eat.  We hoped he/she would be OK with the red worms and we we’re right, the little beauty should be back in the wild, fattened up and healthy very soon.

Did you know reptiles, amphibians and fish love worms for a solid meal.  We have fed frogs, garter snakes, newts and a wide variety of fish.  Most recently we help a gentleman feed his fresh water rays, how exciting it that.  Not only can you raise in house worms for a cheap food supply for your other pets, but you know exactly where they came from and what the worms eat, ensuring quality control.  We’ve also given worms to a few dedicated educators whose students have proven them wrong on certain “I will eat a worm” bets… here’s a hint if you are ever in this predicament; feed the worms some cantaloupe BEFORE you eat them.

Polka-dot-stingray

COMING SOON……BULK WORM KITS

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Worms and castings.As many of you awesome worm lovers know, our main vermicomposting facility is outdoors in the bosom of Mother Nature.  Every year we switch from an indoor base to our outdoor base, it’s normally a well timed smooth operation.  During the winter we supply “clean” worm to our clients, these hand picked beauties are time consuming to prepare and their price reflects that.  With the understanding that everyone deserves a shot at worm farming, in the warmer months we also have available “bulk” starter kits for a lower price.  Both methods work just fine for your composting start up needs.

This massive shift in operations from inside to out happens at Mother Nature’s leisure. We love you Mother Nature (insert knock on wood here) and hope you’ll help us real soon.  In other words we hope to have “bulk” kits ready for sale next week.  If you’d like a sure fire way to begin vermicomposting on a small budget, a little patience is all that’s required, send us a message here on the web page or visit us on Face Book.

START YOUR SEEDS IN VERMICAST

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too cuteWhile it’s a little early for most seed germination, there are a few types of food plants and flowers that take longer to mature and can be started indoors now.  Broccoli and cauliflower for example, even some peppers will benefit from the longer growing season provided by an early indoor start.

As with all things in life, you can make this as simple or complex as you wish.  People have been known to go full out with bedding trays and heating pads for their seed starts.  We prefer the grab what container you can and go for that nice sunny window method.  No matter how you do it, the trick is, what medium to use when starting your seeds.  Try starting your seeds in worm castings!  The difference is amazing.

As we know vermicast ( http://www.naturesperfectplantfood.com/2012/03/10/know-your-vermicast/ ) is a wonderful growing medium with the fertilizer built right in.  When you start seeds with castings they are set up with soluble nitrogen right off the hope to feed tiny growing plants.  You will also find the plants need less watering because the castings will retain moisture more effectively than peat or soil.  Why don’t you give it a try, contact us for some castings this spring, we’re happy to help.

IT’S DOG POO SEASON! WE CAN HELP!

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This never happens!Spring has sprung, warm temps and a dry breeze have created the perfect conditions for a very dramatic dog poo season.  You can smell it in the air and see it on the ground, for those of our readers not “in the know” let us explain.  Here in the Great White North where the family dog(s) live in harmony with their people, spring brings the kind of backyard mess not found in other areas of the world.  Due to repeated snowfalls and plain old laziness, many dog owners are faced with a two week window each spring when poo rules their yards and lawns.  It’s a hot mess folks.

Love them or loath them, that dog poo’s not going anywhere without you.  The question is where to put the sh*t.  We have important news; Red Wigglers eat poo!  Most municipalities do not encourage bags of dog waste in the land fill.  Home owners and renters are left with few choices for poo disposal.  You can compost your animal waste.  http://www.naturesperfectplantfood.com/2012/03/28/composting-dog-poo/  

Keep in mind that Red Composting Worms evolved to live in manure so they truly are a perfect match for the greatest of Spring Poop Scoops.

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY…..PERSPECTIVE

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international_womens_day_mapThere is no place on Earth where women and men enjoy equality, not one.  There is no utopia of genderless peace anywhere.  Don’t even get us started on the prejudice suffered by the LGBTQ community, hint, it’s way worse than you think.

The United Nation’s theme for International Women’s Day this year is 50/50 by 2030, as you can imagine, we’re a long way off that goal.  What we can show you today is a bit of perspective we hope. Women are unpaid, undervalued and unequal, but don’t take our word for it, these facts come from extensive study by Oxfam and the U.N.

“Women continue to bear the burden of unpaid work. In low and middle-income countries, women spend three times as many hours as men on unpaid care work each day. The situation in Canada is only slightly better, with women performing nearly twice as many hours of unpaid work each day as do men. In spite of high levels of education among girls and women, the wage gap in Canada is getting bigger, not smaller. In 2009, women earned 74.4% of what men earned, in 2011 it was 72%. The gap is worse for marginalized women, including Aboriginal and racialized women. The industries women find themselves working in are undervalued. For example, in Canada, truck drivers – the majority of whom are men – are paid an average of $45,417 per year, while Early Childhood Educators – the majority of whom are women – are paid $25,252 per year.”  from Oxfam and the Centre for Policy Alternatives

That’s just the financial perspective, women also bear the brunt of the environmental disaster that is Global Climate Change.  They are generally responsible for the water and food needed by their families.

” Women farmers currently account for 45-80 per cent of all food production in developing countries depending on the region. About two-thirds of the female labour force in developing countries, and more than 90 percent in many African countries, are engaged in agricultural work.  In the context of climate change, traditional food sources become more unpredictable and scarce. Women face loss of income as well as harvests—often their sole sources of food and income. Related increases in food prices make food more inaccessible to poor people, in particular to women and girls whose health has been found to decline more than male health in times of food shortages. Furthermore, women are often excluded from decision-making on access to and the use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods.5 For these reasons, it is important that the rights of rural women are ensured in regards to food security, non-discriminatory access to resources, and equitable participation in decision-making processes.”  from  UN WomenWatch

MAKING IT HOT

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Finished casting with worms 002 (1024x764)It’s the tail end of winter and you can feel the hints of spring on the wind.  Hopefully people are starting to get over the garden withdrawal symptoms that can really get you down in the first cold months of the year.  If you’ve moved you worms inside to over winter or you normally keep an indoor bin, it’s time for “health check”.  It’s also time to investigate the temperature.  Red composting worms like their environment to be hot, between 78 to 83 degrees F or 26 to 28 C.  Most home set ups can not achieve these types of temperature without added fixtures and heating units.  You can help ensure a warm(ish) habitat however by using moisture and the composting process itself.

Assuming that your bin is working at room temperature, let’s say 20 C or 68 F moisture content can be crucial.  We’ve noticed bins stalling out because they are too wet and cold.  While it’s true moist air holds more heat, the same can not be said for compost.  If your worm bed is saturated not only do you run the risk of it becoming septic, it will also drop in temperature.  It’s really important to attain active compost, that biological process will generate a small amount of heat alone.  Check to see how wet your bin is, add dry bedding as needed to continue the active composting action.

Sometimes the food material you are putting in a bin needs a bit of a jump start to really get “cooking” in the compost bed.  Try freezing the waste, thawing it and draining it of any extra liquid.  Chopping or blending that material is also beneficial to speeding (and warming) up the bin.

IN THE COMPANY OF WORMS

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Worm KingIt’s time for our annual report; this one’s a trip down memory lane.

Many years ago when we began our business we aimed to provide excellent quality raw vermicast to anyone who needed it with a focus on sustainable organic agriculture.  That has never changed.

What came as a bit of a surprize, (back in the day), was that no one had ever heard of it.  At the time even back yard composting was a new and questionable practice for the average urban dweller.  In researching vermicomposting worms themselves, you can imagine the shock of reading studies by Charles Darwin!  Indeed such little scientific investigation had been done on them they were still quoting that great man himself. You may say we were ahead of the game.

It was then we started our campaign of public outreach.  Using the somewhat new concept of social media we reached out to environmentalists and gardeners everywhere.  We were lucky enough to connect with likeminded people from all over the world who too saw the value of composting with worms.  The start of a growing innovative new community had begun.

Over the years we’ve expanded our network and shared the joy of seeing a greater understanding and knowledge in the communities around us.  Now if you speak to Canadians about vermicomposting nine out of ten times they’ve at the very least heard about the practice.  Another boon is watching the many new vermicomposting businesses springing up across the land; it was lonely at the start.  We’ve been able to work with talented people in companion companies who range from gardeners to waste management to package manufactures.  Who knew how far the lowly worm could take us.

This year our New Year good wishes are sailing out on the waves of progress to all the Vermicomposters in the world, big and small, from the “under the sink” bin to the livestock producer, the researchers and scientists and the innovators.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL!

cold weather worm