Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
My wife and I finally did something we haven't wanted to do for years. We bought a bathroom scale. Now as with many things I advocate at home, I had ulterior motives for wanting a scale. Worm related ulterior motives. Sure we could both stand to lose a few pounds, and sure tracking your weight isn't a bad idea, provided you don't become obsessed. But I also wanted to do something our 5 lb kitchen scale couldn't. I wanted to see exactly how much food I was giving the worms, how many coffee grounds were getting dumped in, how much bedding was being used, and in what time frame.
I've recently become slightly obsessed with the notion of diverting organic materials from the waste stream. Particularly in cases where the 'waste stream' meant dumping it in a landfill rather than taking it away for composting or recycling. Portland, Oregon has an excellent setup, so diverting waste from our own house was still good policy, but not quite as pressing as other places in the state and nation. In Portland, we only have weekly pick up for yard debris/compost and Recycling. Our trash pickup was recently switched to every other week, and the trash can provided only holds max 2.5 bags of trash. Since my wife and I live alone with no kids and no pets, this isn't only doable, we're having fun discovering just how LITTLE trash we can generate.
So after giving it some thought, talking to fellow vermicomposter Steve Lambert, and watching an excellent documentary related to sustainable building/living called Garbage Warrior, (available in its entirety here [youtube.com]) here were the rough goals I'd set up for myself for the next 9 months.
1: Divert as much organic material and waste from our house as we can. (Within reason... I'm not buying an $800 chipper/shredder just so I can more easily process yard debris that's destined for composting anyway...)
2: Reduce our monthly trash output to 1.5 bags of trash or less.
3: Divert as much waste as possible from work without annoying coworkers. (Primarily coffee grounds and corrugated cardboard for now.)
4: Find a secondary source for coffee grounds/organic waste that doesn't necessitate driving more than 1/4 mile out of my way on a daily basis. (Turns out a Starbucks near work on the border of Portland doesn't have composting, so I can grab grounds daily on the way home which would otherwise end up in a landfill. Usually 25-30 lbs per bag, and only 300 yards outside my normal commute.)
5a: Generate enough compost and vermicompost to revitalize a 50' x 10' space in the yard that's currently clay, gravel, and construction debris.
5b: Generate sufficient compost/vermicompost for the garden so that additional fertilizer isn't necessary. (Possible exception: bone meal)
6: Grow as much food as possible on site. (We live on a rented 4,000 square foot lot with less than 500 square feet of full sun, so we're somewhat limited.) End goal: To reduce our food costs and potentially provide all the produce we need during the spring, summer and fall.
7: Keep a log of all diverted waste (excepting yard debris, which will be too difficult to weigh) and all inputs being fed to the worms.
So here's what I've got so far. [That's a Dropbox link: it will download a spreadsheet in .xlsx format, and it should be up to date as I use that copy across multiple computers/phone so I can edit on the fly.] Obviously there are some inconsistencies (water content of coffee grounds for instance) but it's mostly for my own edification anyway. This gives me a MUCH better sense of how much food my worms can process on a day to day basis. For the moment, I have a single worm bin, a 45 gallon VB24 from Bentley's design. If at some point I build another (and I hope to) I'll add lines to track each bin separately.
ETA: One quick addition for the 3/1 to 3/8 dates: I fed the worms an extra 7.5 lbs (2.5 lbs coffee grounds, 5 lbs food, small carbon addition.) of food last night a few days earlier than I otherwise would have. I won't be able to do any heavy lifting for the next 7-10 days, and I don't want to have to ask others to feed the worms, so I top loaded the system since it's a flow through and they have PLENTY of space to retreat to if conditions take a turn. I don't expect them to, this isn't the first time I've slightly overloaded this system. They seem to handle it just fine.