Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bathtub worm update & some worm filled compost

Missing worms..

The bathtub worm farms that we keep under the house have been slightly neglected for a few weeks.. We currently have an aquaponic system taking up a lot of space & blocking walkways under the house making it hard to check up on the squirmers..  Knowing that the farms were going to be cut off for a while they were both fed ½ a garbage bag of wet shredded paper, a litre of coffee grounds & some leafy greens scraps from the patch to see them through until we could get back to them.. I wasn't overly concerned as they also had their manure & compost based bedding to feast on if the other food ran out..  Was hoping to harvest a load of castings for a few projects but got a bit of a shock when I opened the farms up..

The first farm I looked into was the newer bathtub farm..  This farm is located underneath the "S" bend for the bathroom sink, which had unfortunately sprung a leak over the past few weeks without us knowing.. I have a feeling the worms weren't very partial to the mint toothpaste or soap flavoured water that had been trickling into the farm.. No bodies could be found in the farm so I think they decided to jump ship..  
½ of the castings in the farm were collected to be used around the patch..  I decided to leave the worms & cocoons in there so they would have a chance at a better soap free life elsewhere..  The rest of the "minty fresh" castings are being used to feed a few dead spots on the lawn.. 

The second, older farm had what looked like a mass exodus of worms from it & I found evidence for this in the leachate bucket where I found a few dried out, crispy worms.. We did have a bit of rain but have never had issues with damp weather causing worms to leave in large numbers before as I have seen occur in other farms..  The only thing I did differently in this farm was to use mushroom compost bedding in one end of the farm where as before I had just used it as a top dressing..  

About 90% of the compost had been processed & the castings  contained a good amount of cocoons so am not 100% sure as to what the problem was that caused the mass exodus..

The worms that were removed looked nice & fat which has puzzled me further.. We do have 2 rather fat skinks  that frequent the worm farm but don't think they would of consumed a few thousand worms over the past few weeks..
These red wrigglers have been added to a worm barrel under one of the lime trees down the back for the time being.. I have plans to add them to a much larger farm in a few months time ;)

With all the castings removed from the farm, I took the opportunity to make up some top notch castings tea from the castings that had collected in the drainage rock..

It was as easy as piling the rocks up one end & hitting it with the hose once we had collected as many worms as we could from it.. The tea drained straight into a few buckets & was used to water the beds in the garden down the back.. 

I haven't made the farms up again as of yet & am not sure I will straight away..  While the bathtubs have worked fabulously for us up until now, I'm not sure if I will use this style of farm again as our main worm farm.. I think I have stumbled upon a far better way to get the worms to work for us in the patch..

Last November I made up a compost pile inside an unused IBC cage using shade cloth to line it & help keep the compost contained.. It was filled with layers of mulched up weed trees (Chinese elm), horse manure, lucerne/alfalfa hay & scraps from cleaning out a few garden beds.. Has to be the best compost we have made to date but you can see that for yourself in the clip below ;) 


I have already started to harvest some of the worms & compost from this pile to add into a holding farm until the next compost pile has cooled down & is ready for them to move in.. 

Hope to have the next compost pile on the way by the weekend.. This time I will be using lucerne/alfalfa hay, horse manure, mulched pigeon pea, mango trimmings & corn stalks to build the pile up.. Hope to have that lot of compost ready to add to the patch by Summer if all goes well..

Cheers folks & have a great one,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Soft shell egg from the chickens..

One of the girls laid a soft shell egg the other day & it gave Koo a bit of a shock when she was collecting the eggs :D We have only ever had 3 or 4 of these over 16 years & 3 lots of chickens..

A soft shell egg can be a one off or in some cases caused by stress, a sign of nutrient deficiency or illness in the bird.. In our case I think it has to do with the age of our 2 older chooks, Greedy & Chicken Little.. If there is a continuing problem we will be off to the vet with the young lass in question..

I have come across a few great sites & forums that have been useful over the past few years.. Backyard Chickens is one forum that has some great posters & information like this page on Common Egg Quality problems..
The Chicken Vet from the UK has also got some great information on diseases on his site..
Cheers & hope the info helps some folks out there,
Rob :)