A Child's Guide to Vermicomposting

Reader Contribution by Brent And Leanna Alderman Sterste

Although 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 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. 

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. 

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.”

  • Published on Mar 24, 2009
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