Monday, July 27, 2009

Worm Bin... Check!

This weekend, I finished constructing my vermiculture incubator. What is such a thing? Take away the academic language and you've got a worm bin. Vermicompost is an easy way to compost food scraps that doesn't throw off the balance of your outdoor yard waste compost. (If you are looking for a free outdoor compost set-up, look no farther than the City of New Haven Public Works at 34 Middletown Ave.) The best yard waste composts consist of 2/3 brown (carbon-rich) waste and 1/3 green (nitrogen-rich) waste. (What's brown and green? The EPA knows.) In the summer, most waste is green (trimmings, weeds, sod). Green waste includes kitchen waste like fruit scraps and coffee grounds.

If you still want to keep green kitchen waste out of the landfill, you can use worms. Worm bins are a fast and non-smelly way to generate a moderate amount of high quality compost from your kitchen scraps. The worms love to eat the bacteria that break down your (non-meat) food scraps. They burrow through watermelon rind like nobody's business and dig coffee grounds, corn husks, fruit scraps and even the occasional piece of produce gone bad. Since you bury the waste underneath the existing substrate, the smell that you've known escaping from your trash bin is not present. Sure, the bacteria are still there, but all you get is a musty fragrance of earth.

How do you keep worms happy? For one, not any old worm will do. You will need red wigglers, or the more difficult to find European earthworm. The worms in your back yard, while probably not native to North America, are neither of these. Those are probably of the variety known as dew worms or Canadian earthworms. What do the worms look like? They are characteristically red with yellow stripes. There's a good picture I took from the Yankee Worm website, which is actually a good place to get information about what you'll need to build a worm bin. All of the materials can be gathered from around the house. I recently ran out of duct tape, and didn't have hardware cloth, so had to buy thise items. So my grand total for this project was $7.91 and a couple hours of my time. And the worms? I joined my neighborhood's Freecycle community to find people who could give me a handful of their worms. I found two enthusiastic donors. Thanks Jean and Betsy! My do-it-yourself approach saved about $100 for the compost bin and $40-50 in worms. The make a bin .pdf at Yankee Worm is a pretty good guide, although I'm not sure how easy it will be to collect the worm castings at the end without spoiling the styrofoam peanuts. Since we have an abundance of peanuts from our move, I tried it anyway. Other guides use other ways to keep the worms from getting too soggy.

My worms are now hanging out in their cool dark corner of the basement munching on their first meal of kitchen scraps. I'll check in on them in a week to see if they need any more!

Friday, July 24, 2009

District 9

The other night, I visited a neighbor who volunteered to share with me some red wiggler worms to start my vermicompost (see this post), and found that her husband is actually an Alderman in the City of New Haven. We chatted a bit about the municipal structure and local politics. He represents a neighboring district though, so I looked up which I lived in. It turns out that I reside in District 9.

District 9 Trailer (HD) - The best video clips are here

Evidently, I've a lot of learning to do about where I live... I started by emailing my own Alderman to ask about how I could request a storm drain be unclogged. Need to know which district you live in? Check out the aldermanic map at the bottom of this web page. Note that while there are plenty of crazy trees in New Haven, this map does not indicate where they are located. Talk about false advertising...

Another Blog

Here we go again!

This little blog is a way for me to interact with my community. The title identifies the content. I'm a resident of New Haven and a resident physician at Yale-New Haven Hospital. The content here will be limited to each of these topics. Don't expect regular timing of posts; my schedule from month-to-month and day-to-day is highly variable. Expect the content to also be variable.

Writing about being a physician is less amenable to blogging. Among others, there are issues of patient confidentiality, technical accuracy and the small risk of litigation that make seat-of-the-pants writing a challenge. It will be much easier to write about something new I discovered about living in New Haven. Therefore, expect most of the initial posts to focus on living in my new environs. Topics will, of course be all over the place.

If you've read any of my other blogs, I'll be winding down writing there (for now). To you, and anyone else out there that found this place, welcome.