Composting


Here in IL, now that we have a real barn with real stalls, a good sized garden with lots of green stems and leaves growing (and dying) in it, and lots of animals which produce lots of manure, we also have a much larger compost pile than we did in CO.   Unfortunately, a large compost pile does not remain piled neatly very long when there are lots of free-ranging chickens present.  A compost pile is like chicken heaven with all those bugs, seeds, food scraps, and other items just sitting there waiting to be eaten.  In fact, by the time they’ve spent a couple months scratching through it, it winds up looking something more like this:

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I needed a better set-up.  It was time to tackle another project on my list and build a compost bin.  We actually don’t produce as much compost as you might think.  When the animals are being rotated on pasture, we don’t scoop manure since they already spread it for us.  We also don’t normally house animals in the barn (except rabbits), so stall cleaning only happens in spells where I do need to house some critter for some reason (like weaning calves).  Garden waste happens more seasonally, with just little bits here and there.  Nonetheless, it all adds up over time.  By allowing it to be scattered, I was loosing all those precious nutrients to leeching or evaporation.  In order to turn all the waste into the priceless black gold that makes up a good compost, I needed a bin that would allow me to pile it roughly 4 cubic feet (considered the ideal size for rapid, aerobic composting).

After taking a look at my scrap lumber and coming up with a plan, I decided to speed up the process by using the wood as-is rather than trimming it down.  I used 7 foot boards on the back wall, with old fence posts as the corner bracing.  By adding an additional post to the middle of the wall, I was able to divide the bin in half.  I used 6 foot boards on the sides and in the middle.  This created 2, 3.5 x 6 foot bins.  I used old cedar fence rails for the sides and back.  The untreated cedar doesn’t decay quite as fast as other wood, but also doesn’t contaminate my compost with chemicals often used in wood treatments.  By leaving gaps between each board, more oxygen is able to penetrate the pile.

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This project took me about 2 days.  That included building the bins, cleaning my stalls,  cleaning up the original, scattered compost pile, and filling the bins, layering as needed.  If I can remember to turn and wet down the pile once in a while (if we don’t get rain), then I should be able to have an abundance of nutrient rich compost for the garden come spring.  I may have to build a couple more, as all the animals have been moved to a sacrifice paddock now.  I will discuss that more in another post.  In any case, though, it means I may have a lot more material than normal needing to be composted as winter approaches.  Notice in the next photo that, for now at least, I situated the bins on a slope.  With the front boards, I needed to raise the wheelbarrow up a hair to dump into the bins easily, so I just piled a “ramp” out of some of the original compost pile as I raked it in.  This made dumping into the bins MUCH easier!

The finished compost bins.  Amazingly, the original pile, the stall I cleaned, and the misc. other stuff I put into it only filled it about half way.  This means I can flip it into the other bin as part of the stirring process when it's time to start the next pile later.

The finished compost bins. Amazingly, the original pile, the stall I cleaned, and the misc. other stuff I put into it only filled it about half way. This means I can flip it into the other bin as part of the stirring process when it’s time to start the next pile later.  

Once S arrives, he will probably redo these bins and we may even decide to relocate them.  To make them more permanent, I should have buried the posts.  I wasn’t sure if this is where I wanted them, however, so I just left them sitting on the ground, where they’ll work for now.  We’ll see how I like it in a few months and change if needed for next year.

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One of the first things we learned out here after winter set in, was that the animal manure froze solid to the ground.  Now, you have to understand that as much as I love my animals, I hate two things–unpleasant animal odor and manure laying around.  I just feel there is no excuse in either.  Both are a sign of poor farm management.  It is unpleasant to smell, look at, walk on, and generally be around, not to mention the increased health risks to the animal (and milk in our case) due to poor hygiene in their environment.  Clean pens are one of the first things I look for when considering purchasing an animal (or animal product) from a farm, so clean pens are a big deal to me.  Now, as busy as I am, I obviously can’t clean pens on a daily basis.  However, there are still ways to deal with the issue.  By turning the animals out into the larger pasture, I quickly discovered that I could get away with cleaning pens just 1-2 times each week.  So, as you can imagine, the first time I went out to clean pens after our winter weather arrived, I was totally disheartened to discover that it was absolutely impossible to dislodge the frozen manure from the ice, and the frozen urine puddles quickly became an eyesore.  The snowy weather meant the goats never wanted to leave their shed.  I knew it was time to implement deep bedding to get by.

For those of you not familiar with deep bedding, it is an excellent tool to use for animal bedding–especially in winter weather.  When utilized properly, it prevents ammonia (urine) odors, provides heat through composting (breakdown of manure), provides regular, fresh, clean bedding for the animals, prevents the ground from growing toxic from animal waste, and provides exceptional, ready-for-the-garden compost when spring finally rolls around.  Although it can be used year round, most folks only use it in the winter since it does provide a lot of heat (something that isn’t generally needed in summer!) and because winter is more often the time that animals wind up penned together in smaller spaces.

To get started, you simply put 2-4 inches of a carbonaceous bedding material (wood shavings, straw, hay, etc.) down in a stall as normal.  Then, depending on the number of animals you are dealing with and the amount of space they are in, as the bedding begins to appear soiled, you add another 2-4 inches of carbonaceous material on top.  The nitrogen and moisture from the urine that is absorbed by the lower layer of bedding begins the process of decomposition, while the fresh layer provides clean bedding for the animals.  The decomposition prevents odor.  This process is repeated over and over for the duration of winter.

The only real problem with deep bedding is that it can get very deep very quickly.  I know of a couple of farmers who built their sheds extra tall, and then built their feeders to be adjustable in order to compensate for up to 4 feet of added height as the bedding increased over the winter.  Unfortunately, I do not have this option.  My sheds are short to begin with, and my feeders aren’t adjustable.  So, a couple weeks ago, after I had smacked my head on the rafters one too many times, I had to clean out most of my deep bedding and start the process over.   As usual, my photos don’t show great detail, so you will have to just believe what I am telling you.

This first photo shows my goat shed.  The roughly 8×8 shed has housed 3-5 does at any given time throughout this winter.  We have put roughly 7 bales of straw into this shed for bedding over the winter (not counting the bales stacked in the entry way to form a wall of sorts–you can see it to the left side, in the sun).  In addition, I have used about 3 large bales of pine shavings.  As you can see below, despite all the material, the bedding layer is only about 8 inches deep.  This is because the decomposition process is so incredibly fast.

In order to clean out the bedding, I just had to rake.  Temperatures had been in the single digits and teens at night for weeks, with day highs generally only getting into the 20’s and 30’s on rare occasion.  Everything outside was totally frozen solid, but inside the wide-open shed, nothing was frozen.  In fact, it was warm enough from the active composting going on that I quickly had to remove my coat.  In the next photo, you can see how just a few inches below the surface, it begins to look like dark, rich soil.  It is.  You are looking at pure, nitrogen and nutrient rich compost.

Notice in the above photo that most of the bedding you see is comprised of wood shavings.  Wood shavings are actually the best material to use if you have access to a good supply.  It is the most absorbent, economical (when free), and decomposes the fastest.  Unfortunately, I have to buy it by the bale at retail prices, so I only bed about half way with it.  I use straw for the other half.  Straw/hay can cause problems if you aren’t careful though.  It tends to get wet and mat down, preventing the oxygen required for rapid aerobic decomposition from getting into the bedding.  As I raked, I found about 3 sections where the straw had done just that.  I knew by the smell that I was about to uncover such an area, because rather than the rich, earthy scent of healthy aerobic compost, the anaerobic breakdown smells musty.  You can see the large chunks and mildewey appearance on the underside of this section, which was about a square foot.

Despite the issues with the mildew and mold, though, I was quite fascinated with the scents I did smell as I raked.   I would have expected at least some overpowering ammonia smell after almost 4 months of goat poop and urine collecting into that bedding, but it wasn’t there.  The entire time I raked, all I smelled was a rather pleasant, rich earth smell.  Even in the anaerobic areas, I couldn’t smell the mildew and must until just before I flipped the layer that was covered in it.

In the next photo, it is hard to see, but you may notice the center of the shed floor is much higher than the back and sides.  There is actually a rather large mound of dirt here, almost 4 inches higher than the sides, which I found interesting as well.  We just built and placed this shed last spring, so it hasn’t even been there a year.  It was placed on rather level ground.  The mound was formed by the deep bedding compost, as the center area is where the goats urinate the most.  The extra nitrogen and moisture causes much faster decomposition in that area, than on the sides, where you can still see lots of hay and straw laying on the ground, looking almost fresh.

Obviously, our winter isn’t even close to being over, so after I cleaned out most of the old bedding and compost, I started again with a couple of inches of wood shavings and straw.  I left just enough compost underneath to continue some provision of heat, as well as get the decomposition of the new material off to a faster start.

I want to mention a few other things worthy of consideration with this process, based on my limited experience and research.

  • First, the process can be used outside as well.  Shiloh, our donkey, does most of her elimination along a path on one side of her pen.  Some of the manure gets trampled into bits that can’t be picked up, while other areas just freeze solid before I can clean it out.  Her urine puddles are often in the same areas, which could easily make the soil toxic and kill all the microbes normally found in healthy soil.  As a result, I have found that I can sprinkle a couple of inches of shavings along this path, periodically covering up her poop piles, and adding a little thicker layer over the urine puddles.  Not only does it make the whole area far more pleasant and odor free, but I find the shavings prevent the manure from freezing as solid, which actually allows me to clean it out once in a while.  The heat provided also causes this area to thaw faster than the rest of her pen, which helps on cleaning days as well.
  • Use chickens to aerate the bedding.  All good compost needs to be turned once in a while to keep the oxygen at healthy levels throughout the compost.  I don’t always have time to spend turning entire sheds’ worth of compost and bedding, so I let my chickens do it for me.  All I have to do is periodically allow some goat grain to spill out and get stomped into the bedding.  The goats won’t touch it.  Then, on a nice afternoon after the hens have finished laying, I simply move a few out to the goat pen.  They spend hours happily scratching up all the bedding in order to find bugs, morsels, and old grain that has collected in the bedding over time.  They do such a thorough job that they can totally eliminate the anaerobic areas like I found in my last batch of bedding.  We use the hens a lot more now.  If there is an area they skip for some reason, a simple handful of corn or grain tossed on that area will focus their attention right where you need it.  This mixing process also helps the bedding to compost more evenly, since it helps distribute moist bedding and manure evenly throughout the shed, rather than mounding in certain areas like my first batch did.
  • If you have access to hogs, they can help as well.  We plan to use them at Red Gate.  After a winter of the deep bedding and compost being packed down, it can be quite a chore to dig it up in the spring (as I found with my center mound recently!)  By ensuring some corn is sprinkled into the bedding with every added layer, the mixture results in a fermented and highly desirable feed for the hogs.  They happily dig up all the old layers and turn the compost in search of the corn, which loosens it up for the farmer.  All you have to do is scoop it out and toss it into the garden–all ready composted and just in time for spring planting!
  • A slight variance of this process can be used for rabbits.  As with the larger livestock, we have found the rabbit manure and urine collects and freezes rapidly under the cages, which can quickly lead to intense and unpleasant smells.  We have found, however, that by adding wood shaving liberally into the manure areas (including on the “ceiling” of the bottom cages to collect urine from the top cages), we can totally prevent smells.  The decomposition heats and loosens the frozen manure, which allows us to clean it more often as well.
  • Like the rabbits, a modified version can be used in the chicken coop.  If we ever open our coop one morning and smell the unpleasant aroma of the highly potent chicken manure, I simply toss a pile of wood shavings over the base, toss in some grain to encourage them to dig it around and spread it out, and by mid-day, the smell is totally gone.  If not, I simply add more shavings.  Trust me.  It works.

Well, that’s pretty much it.  I am definitely a big believer in deep bedding.  I am greatly looking forward to being at Red Gate Farm, where S’s lumber mill will allow us to collect enough wood shavings and sawdust to create all the ideal carbonaceous material we could want!  Add a few hogs and hens along the way, and we’ll be set!

When we first moved out here, one of the goals we had was to learn how to compost.  We read, we studied, we tried to mix different amounts of organic materials and layer appropriately.  After about 4 months, however, we discovered that the good, rich, humus soil we were aiming for, just wasn’t happening.  So, S pulled out his books yet again, and found a few problems with what we were doing.  He made a few quick and semi-temporary adjustments to experiment, and VOILA!  2 months later, we have a huge pile of beautiful, rich soil, just waiting to go into the garden.  Here is the final system he came up with, with pictures being taken during his last “stirring” of the pile:

This pile originally consisted of weeds, branches, sticks, twigs, manure, hay, straw, wood shavings and chips, garden and kitchen wastes, and even a few, small, dead animals.  In the beginning, as it was being built, it looked like this:

First, there is the crucial, basic set-up.  Mind you, if you simply throw a pile of material on the ground, it will eventually compost.  However, it will take months, or even years, to fully compost, and it will most likely use the less efficient means of anaerobic fungi to do most of the work.  If you want compost to be made quickly and efficiently, it requires an aerobic process that uses all sorts of bacteria, heat, and live critters eating and moving the components around.  You can’t control those components, but you can make the atmosphere inviting to them by creating your pile with several key ingredients: oxygen, nitrogenous materials, carbonaceous materials, and moisture.

The first problem we discovered with our original system was a lack of oxygen.  When he stirred the pile, S found lots of anaerobic fungi, slime, and stink in the pile–signs that no air is getting inside.  A healthy, well-made compost pile should NEVER stink!  Rather, it should smell, rich and earthy, which is more of a pleasent, natural smell.  In the below photo, S has ensured plenty of oxygen by creating a “bubble” of air all around the pile.  In this case, he used pallets, and fencing.

Next, he added back a few layers, thoroughly mixing some soil (which contains needed organisms) with animal manure, leaves, pine needles, straw, hay, etc.  Once that layer was several inches high (no more than about 18 inches), he added more air inlets by way of pvc piping with holes drilled into it.

He then continued layering the pile back together, effectively stirring it up as he did so.  Once the pile was built, he sprayed it down with water to ensure it was moist enough.  He had discovered another, big problem, we had was a lack of moisture.  The atmoshere is so dry here, and the humidity so incredibly low, that moisture just gets sucked right into the air around us.  Our original pile dried out very quickly.  It’s a great thing if you are hanging quilts out to dry, but not if you are trying to compost!  You don’t want the pile soaking, dripping wet, but you do need it damp.  A good way to tell is to grab a handful from inside the pile somewhere.  If you squeeze it, the soil matter (humus) should stick together in a semi-clump, as well as stick to your hands a bit.  If water actually squeezes out through your fingers, it is too wet, and you are risking setting up anaerobic conditions again.  If you open your hand and the matter is more powdery or dry, with no “sticky” or clumping factor, then it is too dry.

In the next photo, you can still see the upper part of the pvc pipes sticking out the top of the soil, and you can just see the spaces under the top section of the bottom pallet, all to help circulate the air.

Because it is so dry here, he also found that keeping our pile covered helps retain the needed moisture.  So, he places a tarp over it, and then has to spray it once or twice a week (dependent on rain and temperatures).

You can see the change it has gone through….from a pile of debris and mixed, individually indentifiable materials, to what is now almost entirely humus with a bit of straw mixed in.  It is quite literally clean and good-smelling enough, that you could sit on top and eat your lunch with no problem!  It was quite fascinating watching how quickly nature broke this stuff down and essentially sterilized it.  This set-up now allows our inner-pile temperatures to get up to 160*F, where it will stay for a couple of days, then gradually taper down.  Once it gets below 100*, S will stir it by digging the whole pile out and simply shoveling it back in, re-assembling as he goes.  These photos were his last stir of this pile.  The temperature doesn’t go as high any longer since most of the breakdown has been accomplished.  Thanks to the temperatures though, most of the unwanted weed seeds should have been killed off.  Within a week or so, it will be ready to add to the garden.

I am greatly looking forward to seeing the difference in next year’s garden, as compared to the weak production from this year.  Plants will have some awesome, natural fertilizer to pull nutrients from, which, hopefully, we can then use to nourish our family.  It is always such a neat reminder to watch something like this and realize, yet again, that God designed things to work a certain way.  That way is so much better–in every aspect–than anything man could ever develop.  God created nature to be a miraculous, highly efficient thing in itself.  We just have to learn how to work with her instead of against her.

Hoping to learn about composting, shortly after we moved to CO, we purchased a vermicompost (composting with worms) system.  You can read details about that system, which has found a permanent home in my dining room, by clicking here.  It has been a wonderful way to dispose of food leftovers, cooking scraps, and so forth.

Notice the rich, dark soil mixed in with the last handful of food scraps.

It took us a while to work out some of the kinks, however.  One issue we had was that our directions for the system instructed us to mix the food items with 30% shredded paper.  At first, we loved being able to use up our shredded paper this way, but we soon realized the worms were eating the paper instead of the food scraps.  I called a friend of mine with more experience with vermicomposting, and she instructed me to replace the paper with coconut core.  We did as she instructed, and VOILA! the worms began eating the food.  After a few weeks, I had a beautiful bucket full of rich, dark soil (aka worm castings).  My indoor plants loved it!  The worms began multiplying like crazy, and we thought we were set.  Over time, though, we ran into a few more problems.

I started having a very small (I should emphasize VERY small) problem with fruit flies coming out of the container.  Now, this is a known problem if you overfeed the worms, but we only feed our worms about once or twice a week to ensure they eat it.  For whatever reason, though, we still noticed these little flies in the kitchen.  Another problem we encountered was the worms, who are supposed to move UP in the trays to each level of food as it is added, prefer moving DOWN the trays and staying in the rich soil, resulting in extra time needed for them to eat the food scraps.  I wondered if the food tray was too dry while the soil was moister, and tried watering down the food a bit, but nothing changed.  As a result, we started experimenting.  We found that if, about once a month, we simply rotated the “working” food tray down to the bottom, and the richest, most composted soil tray to the top, then the worms would distribute themselves more thoroughly throughout, and the food composted much faster.  A problem we have not yet found a solution to is seeds in the food.  Mind you, vermicompost is incredibly rich, nutritious soil, and, as we discovered, seeds absolutely thrive in it!  I lifted the tray recently, about a week after tossing some squash scraps into it and found they had really sprouted:

This is actually a big problem in vermicomposting, as the worms will not eat living plants.  So, we have to check the trays regularly.  Anytime we see that seeds have sprouted, we take a set of shears and cut them down to soil level.  This, in addition to the lack of sunlight, seems to kill off the plant enough that the worms eat it over the next 2-3 weeks.

The biggest problem, though, and the main reason for this post, is that the worms, great as they are, do not eat nearly enough scraps for our family of 6!  With a handful of food only once or twice a week, we were still left with more scraps than we knew what to do with.  We also realized that every week, we were cleaning out our rabbit cages, and throwing away wonderful fertilizer in the form of paper, hay, wood-chip bedding, and rabbit waste.  We started contemplating a solution to this waste issue, and decided once again to experiment.  We remembered we had a full-size aluminum trash can in the garage from my horse-feed days.  We pulled it out, tossed in a handful of rich vermicompost and worms to get the process started, then began just tossing all food scraps and rabbit waste into the can.

The goal here was not to vermicompost.  We wanted to learn more about regular aerobic composting.  However, this type of compost requires oxygen and bacteria.  The bacteria necessary is found in any organic substance (to include food scraps), but nutritious healthy soil is just loaded with it.  By adding healthy soil to a new compost pile, you can speed up the process, so that is what we did.  By adding worms to the pile, they crawl around and help distribute oxygen to the pile.  The downside is that this type of composting can produce a tremendous amount of heat, which worms hate (the heat will kill them), however, if done correctly, supposedly, the worms will simply move out to cooler areas of the pile when the compost gets too warm for them.  That is why I put the soil and worms in the bin.

We started this compost bin about 3 months ago in our garage.  Amazingly, despite the waste, ammonia (from rabbit urine) and rotting food, there is little smell coming from the bin.  This is due in large part to the ratio of food and nitrogenous materials (the smelly stuff that produces liquids during decomposition) to carbonaceous material (wood, paper, hay, etc.–which absorbs smell and liquids).  We have found carbonaceous material helps TREMENDOUSLY!We keep a lid on the bin to futher reduce smell, but it isn’t on very tight to allow air to flow better.  To further oxygenate the pile, we have to turn the pile about once every week or two.  Again, this isn’t entirely necessary, as food will rot and compost just because it is an organic material and that’s the way God designed it.  Regular turning, however, distributes the bacterias, heat, oxygen, scraps, and soil in such a way that it can cause the waste to turn into compost in a few months rather than a year or two.

After 3 months, our bin was finally too full for me to turn by hand (time to get a pitchfork!).  As a result, I haven’t turned the pile in 3 or 4 weeks.

A trash can full of waste with high hopes of healthy compost in a few months!

I was needing more space to put food scraps in, and I was also very curious as to what was going on deep in the bowels of this bin.  So, I convinced S to turn it for me.  So, he carried the can outside, and dumped it onto a tarp to turn it by hand.

Notice the 2 distinct layers from the bin. The bottom layer is well into the break-down process, while the top layer contains a good deal of carbonaceous material. It has not really heated to the point of decomposing yet, so it is pretty much in its original form, just as we threw it in.

It was fascinating to see the changes that had taken place.  Obviously, the bottom layer is older, and has had more time, but the distinction between the layers (dark and moist vs. light colored and dry) also shows where it was when I last turned it.  The bottom half is very evenly decomposed, rather than in layers (due to the frequent turning), while the top half has almost no decomposition going on yet.  S noted that the pile, though not hot, was significantly warmer than the surrounding air.  It is obviously working properly, and now that it is stirred, it will likely heat up even more, thereby composting even faster!

Decomposing organic materials. We can still tell what some of the food scraps are, but they are very close to breaking down completely. Any little pressure, and things just fell apart.

S was a bit cold, so he didn’t spend any time looking for the worms.  I assume they are in there somewhere.  After he stirred the pile thoroughly, he dumped the tarp back into the can, and returned the can to the garage.  I will continue adding food to the top now that the decomposing properties are more evenly distributed, and we will probably do the dump-and-stir again in another month or so.  Just for the record, yes, I am aware they make fancy compost containers that spin easily, etc.  However, first off, we are waaay to frugal (aka cheap!) to buy such a contraption, and secondly, ultimately, I plan to have a normal compost pile near the garden.  I just can’t while we live in base housing.  I’m making do temporarily.

This is a fun experiment, and really fascinating how this whole process works.  While I look forward to the day when I can have a regular outdoor compost pile like most folks, for now, I am making the best with what I CAN do!

…..but, don’t worry, they are the good and helpful kind!

When my plans to learn some outdoor composting didn’t work out due to base regulations, I decided to resort to a friend’s technique of “vermicomposting,” aka worm composting.  This can be done very simply, indoors, with nothing more than a bucket, some shredded paper mixed with soil, and some red wiggler fishing worms.  For several personal reasons, though, we decided to upgrade to a more deluxe setup that looks better, functions easier, and allows me to easily collect the “compost tea” that is a by-product of compost.

My setup consists of a unit that utilizes upward migration of the worms.  There is the base, where the excess liquid (compost tea) collects, and it has a convenient little spout to drain it periodically.  Then there is a “work tray” to which the worms are added, with their bedding, and then the food is added to this.

Looking into my working current working tray, you can see the scraps we have put in there. It currently includes some pea pods, leafy green stems, egg shells, bananas, onion roots, shredded paper, dried out bread crust, and even some of remnants of cleaning out my rabbit cage like shavings, droppings, food pellets, and a few sticks of hay.

The worms gradually eat everything in the tray–the paper, the bedding, the food scraps, almost everything.  Once they really get going, they are estimated to eat about 1/2 lb. of food a day for every pound of worms in the bin.  They, in turn, produce worm “castings” (isn’t that a nice way of saying “worm poop?”).  These castings look like the healthiest soil you have ever seen, and contain tons of nutrients for plants to use later.

Under the top layer of food and newspaper, you can see the dark, nutrient-rich, worm castings beginning to develop.

As the tray fills up with castings, the worms migrate upward in search of more food.  We continue to layer the food on top until the tray is almost full.  Then, we add another tray on top with new, fresh bedding of shredded paper and some of the old worm castings.  The bottom of each tray has holes all over, so the worms can easily pass through. We’ll start adding food to the second tray to encourage the migration into that tray.  Eventually, probably within 2 weeks, the majority of the worms will migrate, which will be our cue that the bottom tray is completely composted.  At that point, we can do what we want with those castings–use them in flower pots, mix them into a garden, give them away, sprinkle on the ground outside to fertilize the grass, you name it!  The compost tea can be used to water plants, as it is extremely nutrient-rich.

The fascinating thing about this system is that it doesn’t smell badly.  I have heard that if you add too much food too fast, it can attract fruit flies, but we haven’t had that problem.  The bin actually sits in a corner of my dining room, and you don’t even know it’s there.  We check the worms every day to make sure they seem active and to ensure the food is being eaten.  When we open the bin, the only smell is the smell of moist, rich soil, despite the fact that some of the food is obviously rotten and even has disgusting “hair” growing on it!

I will try to remember to give an update on this as the worms really get going.  I am pretty new to it, but based on my friend’s results, I expect we will learn to love these squirmy, slimy, little guys pretty quickly!