Grit Blogs > Rural Legend

A Child's Guide to Vermicomposting

Brent and LeAnna Alderman StersteAlthough our city has been so cruel as to outlaw keeping chickens in your backyard (it’s breaking Brent’s heart!), we do have some livestock working for us. In January, Brent ordered a pound of Vermont Wiggler worms from a worm-farmer ( in Vermont to begin vermi-composting. It was my job to wait for the mail carrier to come, so our worms wouldn’t freeze on the front stoop. This made for a tense few days when I was waiting for 1,000 worms to come via the U.S. Postal Service. Of course, the day they did come, I was putting the girls down for a nap and missed our mail carrier. When I looked out the window, I saw him still in his truck on the corner.  I threw a blanket over the baby and went running down the street in my slippers. He opened up the back of his truck and freed the worms. 

Our worms arrived just when LeAnna least expected it.

Our poor animal-lover child, who has had to endure a childhood populated by two untouchable and frankly downright crazy cats, was particularly excited about the worms coming.  A few days before they arrived she began asking, "Worms coming to our house, Daddy?" "Yes, Ella." "I play peek-a-boo and aprise them." She continued later, "Worms coming to our house, Daddy? I bark at them. Daddy?...I can't wait for the worms to come to our home." 

At this point we were beginning to wonder if Ella knew what worms actually are, so we asked her.

L: Ella, do you know what worms are?
E: Yes, they're animals.
L: Do you know what they look like?
E. They're animals. They make noises. They quack. 

Ella was under the impression that worms would quack.

We began to worry that she might be in for a bit of a surprise. The worms were sadly quack-free, but Ella still thought they were cute. We set the worms up in their own bin in our kitchen. Brent drilled air holes in a plastic tub and filled it with damp, shredded newspaper and dubbed it the Vermivilla. The idea behind a vermi-composting bin is that you bury your food scraps in their bedding material.  Over a few months, or so we’re told, they turn all of this into the most vitamin-rich organic fertilizer around.  This “fertilizer” is really something called worm castings which is, you guessed it, worm poop.  However, as long as you’re not overfeeding your worms, the box only ever smells like rich, moist soil, but warning, do not feed your worms a large amount of semi-rotten cabbage before going away for the weekend.  If they don’t finish it by the time you get home, your house will smell very much like, well, very rotten cabbage.  And let me tell you, that’s not pleasant. 

It’s a little-known fact that besides vegetable scraps, worms also like a bit of entertainment. The day after our worms arrived, I found Ella sitting beside the Vermivilla reading the worms Green Eggs and Ham. Which frankly sounds a bit like the kind of book a worm would enjoy. 

Story time with Ella

Now they’re happily living in our kitchen eating our vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and egg shells, which Brent grinds up in the food processor. We’re hoping for some lovely compost by spring. In the meantime, Ella has taken to introducing them to our guests, “These are my worms,” she says. “They eat my junk.”

leanna alderman sterste
3/27/2009 5:52:00 AM

Hi Becky- In a few months, she'll be enjoying baby brother even more-- giving him full body hugs and helping him roll over. You will think the baby is too young for this kind of treatment, but the baby will not agree. You're in for some very sweet moments seeing them interact.

leanna alderman sterste
3/27/2009 5:51:41 AM

Hi Becky- In a few months, she'll be enjoying baby brother even more-- giving him full body hugs and helping him roll over. You will think the baby is too young for this kind of treatment, but the baby will not agree. You're in for some very sweet moments seeing them interact.

becky and andy
3/26/2009 5:28:44 PM

What a great blog! I have to laugh out loud, thinking of our own daughter saying the same things. Except, Elly's new pet is her baby brother. Right now, he's about as responsive as the worms, I'm afraid. :-)

brent _1
3/25/2009 8:52:55 AM

Thanks Paul and Debbie! We are enjoying the process so far -- with, of course, some minor stumbling along the way. I'm always deeply pleased when I can make good stuff out of trash -- whether that be making broth from leftovers or vermi-composting. It feels so efficient and spiritually sound to boot! Have you had to divide you "herd" yet?

3/25/2009 6:24:56 AM

Nice to meet other "wormies" and Welcome to GRIT! I have kept worms for 2 years now and learned how important patience is in receiving the worm castings. Keeping the ratio of wet to dry seems to be key also ... adding shredded newspaper when in doubt seems to keep the worms happy & as Paul mentioned there will be liquid runoff (great for compost tea to feed your plants). My unit has a bottom bin with a spigott (which gets clogged alot) so I lift all the bins to retrieve the liquid most times!

paul gardener
3/24/2009 5:19:22 PM

Reading to the worms...Too cute! Good luck with your worm bin. I set mine up last year in the summer and have over wintered them in the garage. Try as I might, my otherwise very accomodating wife will NOT have worms in her kitchen no matter what! Ours happily exist out doors all summer and in the garage through the cold Utah winters. I'll soon be going out to add in some new bedding for this summer and "harvesting" the Black gold for potting purposes. Make sure to keep the bin on top of something to catch any liquid runnoff and the occasional "jailbreak" worm making a run for it. Great post! Paul~