In the utility closet at Bear Brook, behind the brooms mops and shelves of earth friendly cleaning products there is something squirmy going on. Meet Bear Brook's new residents; a host of red wriggler worms.
At first the members of the New Hampshire Conservation Corps weren't entirely sure how to welcome the new addition to camp. "They aren't exactly friendly or outgoing," said NHCC member Geoffrey Lloyd. "I asked them if they wanted to go hiking and they just ignored me."
But friendships began to sprout as the worms found their own niche in the close-knit community. As it turns out, red wrigglers are extremely good at getting rid of kitchen waste. Daniel Moffatt was surprised by "how excited these guys can get about garbage." Each week since their arrival the worms have eaten about half their weight in vegetable scraps, apple cores, shredded newspaper and miscellaneous kitchen waste.
Tensions did run high after the worms held an open-mic night that went into the early hours and woke several members with slam-poetry and acoustic renditions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." But with the promise of worm castings for use as top-rate garden fertilizer in the spring, members were willing to work out their differences. "I think it's helped that we stopped feeding them coffee grounds." says Emma Trester-Wilson.
Bear Brook is not the only place welcoming worms. Vermiculture, also called worm composting is becoming a popular method of composting food waste, although there are some limitations. For example, large amounts of acidic foods such as citrus and onions are not recommended for worms, and adding pet waste, meat and dairy products will result in stinky worm bins. Aside from these drawbacks, worm composting is an easy, odorless, and low maintenance alternative which requires little space. Worm castings are also an excellent source of soil for potted plants and gardens.
There are many resources available to anyone interested in starting their own worm bins. Our worms came from Joan O'Connor of Joan's Famous Composting Worms in Henniker, New Hampshire. "Worms Eat My Garbage; how to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System," by Mary Appelhof is a wonderful comprehensive guide for beginners. Online an abundance of detailed websites on vermiculture are only a Google search away.
As for the worms at Bear Brook? "They're definitely here to stay." Said Marlee Levielle, Education and Service Learning Manager for the NHCC. "We're all looking forward to spring when we can use the worm castings in our gardens." Geoffrey Lloyd is just "hoping that when the weather gets warmer the worms will be more eager to hit the trails."