Saturday, August 29, 2009

Worms, ah!

Okay, this is slightly off topic, but no doubt amusing for foodies who love compost and vermicompost as much as I do.  And for anyone who has taught children about decomposition, brought worms into the classroom and raved about what wonderful creatures they are, read on.

Educators: I do not advise including this story in your decomposition lessons. 


I am writing to tell you about my beloved worms.  But beware, if you are someone who has lived with worms in their home, it is quite disturbing.  I remember when I got my first batch of Red Wigglers in Somerville, someone (either my nervous roommate or suspicious boyfriend) asked if the worms could escape from the carefully designed worm bin.  And I scoffed, of course not! They looove their warm, cozy bedding, why would they ever try to leave the worm haven under the counter?  I'm pretty sure I said this in a sing-songy, overly confident, obnoxious tone.  I couldn't sing the praises of worms enough.  They are the perfect pets and they work for you, all day and all night, by eating your food scraps and excreting the most lucious fertilizer you could hope for.  Or so I thought.

Soon after arriving in Austin I ordered worms on the internet because I could not find anyone local to get them from.  They arrived quickly, to my delight, and I prepared them the same cozy worm haven in the same type of bin as the one I had in Somerville.  I was worried about how they would stand the heat, since I ultimately wanted to keep them out on our balcony.  Various internet sources assured me that if they weren't in direct sunlight, they could survive in temperatures up to 108.  I decided to leave the bin inside, in our living room, for the worms' first night, since they no doubt had had a traumatic journey via UPS and needed some extra care and AC to make them feel right at home.  It was a chilly 72 degrees inside our apartment.  I checked on them before I went to bed and left the lid slightly ajar so they would have plenty of ventilation in their strange new home.

"Um, something has happened," said Kris carefully as he woke me up with a horrified expression on his face the next morning.  "Your worms are dead." I didn't believe him, I didn't want to get out of bed, out of my own cozy haven but the look on his face convinced me to take a look.  My worms were not merely dead.  I stumbled into our living room, and there in front of my eyes was a worm massacre.  Worms had fled the bin in an exodus, looking for SOMETHING - I still don't know what - that I hadn't provided for them in their cozy worm haven.  They were spread out across the carpet, each one shriveled and hard, inching along till their last moment and dropping dead from dehydration on our brownish pink carpet.  The most adventurous ones made it to the front door, under the dining room table, across the kitchen tile towards the trash can.  These pink sticks of death were under the TV cables, stuck between the carpet and the wall, halfway up the tapestry that covered our table. 

It looked like a war scene, where hundreds of starving refugees (wormugees in this case) fled in search of anything but home.  When I lifted the lid off of the bin, there were still a few dozen worms left, hunched together in small groups on the top edges of the bin.  They were next, planning their escape and completely ignorant to the fact that the brave worms who had fled before them now lay strewn across the fuzzy brownish pink battlefield.  I quickly put the bin outside, where the survivors promptly perished in their sweltering, and obviously undesirable, cozy worm haven.  I am totally traumatized by the scene that greeted me that morning.  And I am certainly going to take a break from my beloved worms for a while.  Epilogue: the dead worms were carefully collected by Kris and Abby and now lie peacefully at the bottom of a vacuum cleaner.


  1. This is really a funny moment after you step back and look at it. Something you will never forget. I am glad you got it all cleaned up before we decide to visit you in Austin, Tx.

  2. God bless their little clitella..