For Mateo’s fifth Birthday, a friend of ours (Cassidy) brought him an ice cream tub of worms, Eisenia fetida (red wigglers) to be precise.
OK, so it was not the typical Birthday gift. They aren’t a new kite, ball or lovingly crafted accessory, but in truth they killed! The kids went nuts over them. Granted some, and admittedly some adults too, were a little taken aback (especially as they arrived during cake), but on the whole they went down (gulp) like a house on fire!
So why are my friends sabotaging my son’s birthday party with containers of worms? Well, for one, my son is a boy and likes all things creepy and crawly (especially if they are sanctioned as interior pets), but mainly because they are used for vermicomposting, a process of composting where in the bodily functions and general day-to-day activities of various species of worms - usually red wigglers, white worms, and earthworms - are used to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, similarly known as worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by a species of earthworm, in short, its poop.
Currently we produce a lot of compostable kitchen scraps as we host an organic produce club and eat almost exclusively home cooked food and our compost bin, amorphous fly blown mass that it is, currently servers a number of purposes in our lives, not least of which is its intended function of producing rich yummy soil (which in Miami is a rarity). Tom also delights in banging on the bin to dislodge bugs which he then feeds to the chickens, but we’ll go into his failed attempt as Buddhism later.
One worry of mine about becoming nomadic, living on a bus, or simply not having a trusted source of produce has been that despite burning veggie oil and running solar power we would be forced to be less green. The idea of buying non-organic food in bulk from Wal-Mart, sleeping in their parking lots, and producing tons of dead weight trash is frightening to me. So what we are working towards is something close to sustainability where by even without a garden much of our water and waste can somehow be reused. For example when we install the water tanks on our bus we will dedicate the gray water tank as a plant water tank and use only natural based toiletries like Dr. Bronner’s. The worms are a significant step in this direction because they make the act of composting more adaptable to life on the road. We can use the vermicompost the worms produce from our waste in our micro farm as a water-soluble nutrient rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner and should find we have extra (like earthworms, red wigglers are hermaphroditic) we can use the worms as live bait for fishing or as treats for the chickens who, cooped up in the luggage bays, will no doubt be in need of a little TLC.
Sadly the worms are native to Europe, and not the US, but prior to our adoption of them (risking their dissemination in just about every state of North America and, if we make it that far, Central America too) they have been introduced (both intentionally and unintentionally) to every other continent except Antarctica, occasionally threatening native species. They also don’t like citrus fruits, but since I’ve found that eating citrus while breastfeeding gives Harper a diaper rash fresh squeezed orange juice has been off the menu anyway.
We don't quite yet know how boarder control officers will feel about a bus teeming with its own ecosystem, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it... or not.
-- Homeschooling and sustainability are just two parts of our project. Please check out the rest at www.transitantenna.com