Back before the century turned I lunched with some women in a home in Bellingham, Washington. Something in the conversation caused our host to show us what she kept in a Rubbermaid “Roughneck” in her kitchen. She lifted the lid and peeled off a sheet of thick black plastic to reveal thousands of worms swarming her decaying garbage. While all the others recoiled, I moved closer in fascination, full of questions. The only smell was that of a damp forest floor.

This was my first exposure to vermiculture/vermicomposting. I carried my new-found interest to Mauri, who is always ready to share some new adventure with me. We went right out and bought a Can-O-Worms and a starter set of red wigglers.

I confess to being a casual (as opposed to ardent) recycler. But I really dug this particular form of recycling because I could witness the full circle of turning our garbage into “liquid gold,” which, added to our tomato plants, grew—more (eventual) garbage to feed to the worms.

One notable interruption in our ecosystem happened when, or I should say after I fed the worms a bag of vacuum dirt, something on the suggested menu. A couple of days later a horrid smell tipped me off to the massacre I discovered under the lid. It was a little late to remember I had used that powdered deodorizer stuff on the carpet. Before long, though, we were back in business with a fresh batch of wigglers, and I a little wiser.

After about three years we closed up our worm business but kept the container. For some reason, I haven’t yet isolated it, the worm interest resurfaced, and about the same time my friend Heather posted this! There at the bottom she offered anyone a starter set of composting worms. So…

I spread out all the parts and gave them a good hosing. To what purpose I don’t know, since it will contain dirt and be kept outdoors; it just felt right. Then we headed for Heather’s house.

It was so cool to see her operation. Nothing squeamish about these seasoned wormers.

…although I understood her need for the glove.

These light-shy worms quickly dove for cover.

Back at our backyard, we layered shredded newspaper, food scraps, coffee grounds, and worms!

And we are back in business!

We’ll stay in business too, as long as we keep producing coffee grounds, food scraps, and the like.

So, do you have a slop bucket under your sink?

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5 Responses to wormy

  1. Hannah LeMasters Hoover says:

    Lydia and I have been talking about doing this for a while now. I should have picked your brain about it while in Indiana. I really want to do it as there isn’t enough time in Alaska to make composting worth while.

  2. Craig MacDonald says:

    I’m guessing the AZ heat wouldn’t work with worming. Correct?
    What do you do with the end product? Compost for the garden? ’cause that also doesn’t work with triple-digit temps. Otherwise I’d go for it!

  3. hb says:


    We have seen hot temps here to no adverse reactions from worms, though, we do keep them in the shade. Usually there is some place that is okay, like a garage or under a sink? Your AZ temps are considerably and consistently warmer, but, I have never heard that as being a justification to the worms not working? I encourage you to give it a shot!


  4. hb says:

    PS great post Sherry, glad to see your setup!

  5. Jo Helsabeck says:

    I’m interested, Sherry. We have been trying to compost since March, but it takes a long time to turn garbage into compost. I like the idea of speeding up the process with worms. We have a little silver garbage pail with a charcoal filter in the lid to take care of the smell. Got it at Freddies. Thanks for another great idea!

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