|Friday 1st July – Dork in New Hat and Composting Clobber|
You can see the hat l purchased this last week. It’s called a Boonie Hat. It came as a suggestion from Grace [thanks again] to enable me to work in the heat without becoming fried which had happened frequently the previous week. It’s way better than my baseball cap which l have come to detest, but it does make me look more dorkish than usual!
Mine comes with a neck flap and it was ahem a ‘”Saving Grace!”.
Boonie Hats sometimes simply called Booneys are a military styled wide brimmed sun/bush/jungle hat for ideal use in the tropics. It’s great for keeping the sun out of your face and eyes and the rain off your head and also prevents the wearer from dehydration through moisture loss during sweating.
The Boonie hat is coined from the expression Boondocks which is an Americanism for a remote settled rural area.
|Doin’ The Dirt was a gardening series that ran in my first blog, ‘ A Guy Called Bloke, from 2018 to 2022, when the blog closed. Willow Garden is a series exclusive to the Earthly Comforts blog only.|
|Part of the Worm Herd|
|Operation – Chasing the Worm!|
For the last week or so, l have been up to my eyeballs in compost and worms and worms and compost and garden, but mainly the first two. I’ll not bore you with all the details of how many times l have been working with compost in eight days, but let’s say – it’s been a lot.
Daily from the 25th of June till yesterday, l had to work with the New Zealand boxes, and it is a hard graft. Currently, with the business and the systems l have in place to help me with the business, my tasks and chores are very manual and hands-on.
Once l can produce worms for sale and have a stabilised trading pattern, l can start to look at indoor premises and a different layout. By that time, in addition to being a Dealer selling worms, l can also become hopefully licensed to sell actual vermicast or vermicompost. That would be good.
I know how l would set myself up – l would run the system like many others do and have long breeding units and nursery units to bring the youngsters on and eggs to hatch. Everything would be at waist height, and there would not be excessive bending but easy and convenient efficiency always at hand … I would tun it like l used to tun my rodent production lines.
But l am a fair way from that point currently, so l must make do with what l have and work on improving the systems in the garden as best l can.
Of course, that is the most significant difference – l am working these units from my garden here at Willow.
I have four central worm farms, each measuring 30″ long by 30″ wide x 24″ high, and each farm holds a breeding herd of roughly 2000 worms each. Two of the four farms [1&4] are very well established, and two are newer [2&3].
In addition to these four units, l have one two-tonne container that holds a mixture of harvested and sieved vermicast and compost. Which l mix with additional soil to produce a vermicompost mixture that l use in the garden and serves as a fresh worm farm content in bedding mixed with shredded cardboard.
Finally, to add to this operation, l have two New Zealand boxes, each measuring 36″ long by 36″ wide x 30″ high, and they hold the compost heaps and two more herds with a combined total of perhaps 3000 worms.
In fact, for those who have known my writing about worm farming since 2018, you’ll know that it started in these very compost units properly. These were the beginnings of where l am now. Although the reality of being serious about worm farming only commenced in December 2021.
That same month, l decided to become a ‘worm farmer who could declare with a smile, “l am proud to say l have worms!”
Since then, l have been working on improving the small set-up that l have here. Whilst some would say it’s a far cry from small, l should perhaps add ‘l have been working on improving the efficiency of my small commercial wormery business operation’. That would sit better in the truth arena.
It’s been a challenging seven months, but l have learned so much new information about worm farming. I have been composting since 2016, and whilst l am far from being an expert. I do have a handle on producing some keenly graded content from that side of things that many gardeners shout praise about, so that’s an outstanding achievement.
To date, the vermicast l have produced pre-mixing with compost was already receiving praise. Still, since mixing the components, l have received even more compliments with its incredible growing power as a medium. So l am also pleased about that.
The downside is that l produce a lot of vermicasts, compost and, of course, the finished product of vermicompost, and as l can’t sell it, l end up giving it away to neighbours. No worries, there will come a time soon enough when l can sell it.
Not all the challenges are terrific, though. Medically l suffer a lot with my ‘hobby’. I am allergic to the soil l produce! This makes my eyes react badly and painfully. All the bending down also has an adverse reaction to my digestive system, which is already troublesome and worsens matters.
Also due to the very nature of the garden layout everything is in the sun and there isn’t anway to avoid that aside from protecting myself, drinking fluids and keeping the herds cool by spraying them down. Making everything just that little bit special, the pollen counts are high as well kicking off another allergy! “Gotta laugh!”
But, l carry on – l will not allow a few ailments to put me off something l enjoy; l need to improve the systems more to make things easier. I’ll get there.
|Friday’s task was to make the compost ready for Saturday’s main harvesting. This involves sifting twigs and rubbish and stones from the compost and also hunting out the worms. I don’t use a pitch fork when l am herd hunting, instead l use a hand fork and dig out a bucket’s worth of compost which once sifted is emptied into a green bag. Each garden bag takes roughly 6 green buckets and holds between 60-75KG. I filled 12 bags.|
|The objective of the hard graft for the last week has been to retrain my worm herds in the compost units to become ‘top feeders again, as opposed to bottom feeders.|
Due to the Bokashi mixes l place into the compost units when turning the heaps, the herds have become more used to moving around to feed instead of staying on the top of the compost heap.
So, l have had to hunt and chase all the worms in both boxes, turn the compost piles over at the same time, harvest, sieve off and clean the compost.
All amounts to hard work. It’s by no means an easy task with swollen and painful eyes and an upset and troubled stomach, and we have also been experiencing scorching weather! Combined, these three have made the task at hand more challenging.
But Saturday l finished, l pulled out of the two farms around 2500 adults, youngsters and juveniles alike. They are now feeding in the first four inches of the top of the heap.
My job is to ensure they stay there, and l will achieve this by providing more food more frequently. Currently, the warm compost heaps are turned once every two weeks, and at that time, a fresh bokashi mix is added to each box. The microbial life and the worm herds then demolish that in two weeks before the following lots are added two weeks later.
Whilst bokashi will still be added to the compost piles, it’ll only be added to the second NZ box from now on, which has a 500-700 strong worm herd of its own anyway, which will principally be bottom feeders.
The first box will only receive fresher wastes and kitchen scraps, and when it comes to turning the heap again, l should be able to remove the main bulk of the herd more efficiently because they will be closer to the top.
Well, that’s the plan anyway!
In two weeks, l have the actual worm farm harvest due on all four worm farms …. that’ll be fun! I can then see how each farm is doing under the newly improved conditions.
|On Saturday l was determined to sieve off all 12 bags. The weather was hot, but l was hydrated, protected and had suncream on and was listening to the radio and dancing. The mood and ambience was right. From Monday 26th all the way through to Friday 1st l had been sifting, sieving and sorting out the first box. But l was determined to just crack on and get everything done come hell or high water! It was a hot day yesterday but everything was done.|
At the end of the day, the bags were all emptied off, everything was sifted and sorted, the compost was harvested off and l had pulled off overall around three quarters of a ton of finished and ready to use finely sieved compost. 2500 worms were found and transferred to the first NZ box. It was a good, long and knackering day.
|A job well done and highly productive. The compost units will not need to be turned again for about two weeks, by which time – l will know if the herd is content to stay as top feeders.|
Till then, l’ll see you next time in Willow Garden. Thanks for visiting and reading.