The writing life leads to a lot of strange interests. You write a book about a medieval weaver and have to learn everything about natural dyes and various forms of cloth, and so you carry around that knowledge ready to answer trivia at any second. (Who knows what “woad” is?* Ten points. Even better, who knows the dyestuff that makes a gorgeous magenta?** Our authors are probably not allowed to answer these questions.)
ANYWAY….. My head is stuffed with all kinds of knowledge like that, from sourdough to gillyflowers to how to make perfume. Nearly all of it comes from research, but I do have a hobby all my own that’s giving my mother the absolute creeps.
Worms. Rather, vermiculture, which is using red wiggler rooms in a compost heap to turn waste into soil. I find this absolutely astonishingly amazing. My mother shudders every time I bring it up.
I actually had to order the worms in the mail. First, I had to buy a second composter, because the first one was a barrel type. You throw in all the potato peelings and shredded egg cartons and left over peas and then let it all brew (which sounds better to me than rot) for awhile, and voila! Compost.
Unfortunately, if you put worms in a barrel type, they get squished when you rotate it. So I bought a second composter and started adding things to…er…break down. When there was a nice cushion, I ordered the worms in the mail and they came in big heavy packages that I opened and poured into the bin.
I fretted and fretted all summer. Were they getting the right food? Were they still alive, even? Every so often, I’d have to go rake through the compost (gently) to see if I turned up any worms. There were always a lot of them, and I’d be relieved, happily feed them some more sand and rotten bananas, and a week or two later, I’d start worrying if they were alive or if they liked what I’d given them, so I’d have to rake through the compost again. They don’t want to get too hot.
Nor can they get too cold. I live in Colorado. It definitely gets below 30 degrees here, but everything I read said that they’d probably be all right. But once, I tried to help a turtle overwinter in a box of sand and he was dead when spring came, so I worried. I gave them water. I gave them food. I tried not to open the bin very much, and only once raked through it, turning up two cold-looking worms. I left them alone.
But today…today I opened the bin and the worms are not only alive, they’re multiplying! They have big sturdy wormy bodies and they’ve turned all that garbage into a thick, black compost that will make my garden explode into bloom and vegetable. I used some of it today, as a matter of fact, to nourish the peach tree that seems to have survived some weird attack last fall.
I guess I’ll stop there and not tell you all about my friend the alpaca farmer who brought me compost of another sort. Wait until you see my garden next year!
Do you have any weird hobbies? Or do something that freaks your mother out? Anybody else have worms?
* Woad is indigo
** Cochineal makes magenta. It is made of little silver bugs, which is just the most amazing thing ever.