Monday, June 27, 2011

Worms Working Hard

Worms spend their days eating, pooping and procreating. Not a bad life if you ask me. And they have no brains.

But they are good for more than just fish bait.

Have you ever been working in your garden, turning up soil to plant the newest batch of flowers and out of the depths a squirmy head pokes up, or it just keeps slithering past because actually worms don't like the light so will find a way to burrow deeper when its home is disturbed. But these are earthworms I am referring to. They are burrowers and don't really do a lot.

Take a night crawler these little guys have a purpose. They eat organic material, poop it out creating some of the best fertilizer you will ever find. Because this worm excrement is full of nutrients and other biological materials that will help restore soil balance and make your flowers or tomatoes flourish. 

Just recently I went on a little field trip to a worm farm. Worms@Work is located in the NE community of Beddington in Calgary and they are the only worm farm of its kind in Calgary. Now you might ask, whatever inspired you to visit a worm farm? Anyone who knows me knows I am not the flowery, gardener type, so there must have been a bigger purpose. And you'd be right. 

Initially it was research for a story. The bulk of this story takes place on a farm, but I wanted something original. More than your typical dairy or cattle farm stuffed full of chickens, and roosters and pigs and horses and sheep and whatever. I happened to recall someone that suddenly started following me on Twitter a few months back. A worm farmer from the states. I had no idea why he followed me. Figured it was spam but I hadn't posted anything about worms that I remember, for him to pick it up. But whatever. I mentioned this to a friend and she suddenly suggested my character could be a worm farmer. Well holy crap. Of course. Why not? 

So the research began to find out everything I could about worm farming. Google searches turned up a lot of helpful information but I started to feel it would be so much better if I could see it first hand so I located one in Calgary, and voila. The rest is history.

I learned more than I could have imagined. 

Worms actually have a purpose. 

Worm casting, or simply put, their poop, is one of the best sources of fertilizer for your flowers and gardens or grass or anything that grows in the ground. It restores the natural pH in the soil. It's amazing that something so simple can do so much.

Mark Allen, the owner of Worms@Work does this in his garage. But he started with plastic containers. You could do it too.  All you need to get started, the plastic tote, a 1/2 lb of worms, damp, shredded newspaper or cardboard for bedding and leftover food from your house. Anything except citrus fruits, dairy or meat, the worms will eat.

My biggest surprise from the whole thing was that there is no soil involved whatsoever. The result looks like soil. But it's not soil. And another surprise, was that it does not smell. Well there is an odor, but the odor is that of earth. Natural earthy smells. No rotting food smells that tend to come from traditional composting. It's amazing, it's clean and it works. The evidence is all around their yard. The vibrant flowers, the flourishing vegetables. 

Of course you don't actually have to do the composting yourself. You can buy the fertilizer from them. It's inexpensive and a little goes a long way.

If you're a gardener, I highly recommend checking out this product. Just get a small bag and see what happens. If you're not, but you know someone that is, tell them about it. 

There is so much I could say about this place, but my initial interest has nothing to do with what is actually being done there. It was more for the atmosphere, the equipment, the product...I have a lot of great information for setting now and learned things I could never have made up if I hadn't seen it first hand. But I learned something else at the same time. 

About being green.

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