Monday, April 28, 2014

Begin Within Your Bin

We moved to Wisconsin with a worm bin. I naively left it outside all winter -- Polar Vortex and all-- and resigned myself to the death of the worms. I found two survivors under the bin this spring and rejoiced to see them. Not great worm stewardship. Some more dedicated vermicomposters go to great lengths to warm their worms through the winter.

I added dryer lint to the bin at the beginning of winter. It did not decompose (perhaps because of the declining worm population) and instead formed blanket-like mats throughout the bin. Gross, but perhaps insulating? At any rate, I will not add it again.

When we traveled south to Tennessee recently (and to beautiful, riotously technicolor spring), I was able to stock up on worms from my mother's bin. And once again we brought red wrigglers to Wisconsin. They are now burrowing, eating, and pooping through our kitchen waste and "enjoying" the balmy 60-degree F weather of the bin (roughly 20 degrees warmer than the air above).

Next winter I will ask our landlord about storing the bin in the basement. Or I will build a straw bale fort around it. Or sneak them into the basement floor of the building where I work. For now I am glad to have the bin restarted and eager to see the population grow. Not only do the worms greatly accelerate the decomposition process, allowing us to quickly compost our kitchen scraps in a relatively small space, but rooting through the bin is a nice stand-in for gardening while the soil warms up enough for plants. It satisfies my green heart and gets me outside thinking about something other than myself and work. The presence and activity of the worms is its own odd, slimy promise of spring. Thanks worms.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


When we tell people that this was our first midwestern winter they assure us, "They're not usually this cold/bad/long." It was a long winter.

Until very recently (today, yesterday) it continued to feel like winter despite the passing of the spring equinox. There was evidence of the coming warmth: most of the snow was melting, the maple tree out back had tight clusters of buds on its branches, there were more birds singing, and most of the ice fishing shacks disappeared from the Fox River.

Now the maple tree has larger buds, the river is thawed, there are more birds calling, and this evening I saw in our neighbor's yard some irises are poking out sharply under leave litter. The ground is soft with melting snow. It is an odd expectant time. The longer days help lighten our hearts. As do the rising temperatures.

The lingering piles of plowed snow. I kick at them to break up the ice and help them melt faster.