Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Better, Faster, More Worms!

I've been giving some thought recently to expanding upon the Vermiculture operation here on the farm, really
the basic premise is that I need a larger area and a much larger volume of red worms to produce the amount of compost that I need to provide the soil fertility I desire for a bio-intensive farming regime here at Bishop's Homegrown. I have been throwing the idea around for a couple of months now and have decided to continue towards this work.

I will have to give up one greenhouse in order to create this worm haven, but that is a small sacrifice when you consider the amount of fertility I can create for the farm as well as consider the amount of incoming money from the sales of local fishing worms and also excess compost sales. This will also free up the former worm house to be made into a full time chicken laying house, accompanying another 100 or so chickens and allowing me to use the old chicken coop for some new Turkeys. All good things!

Over the weekend I was privileged to have met a new friend by the name of Paul Schellenburger of New Albany Indiana. Paul has been featured on the local radio gardening program "HomeGrown" with hosts Jeanine Wishie and Bob Hill on Lousiville KY's NPR station WFPL. Paul has been raising red worms for 18 years and has worked with the Louisville KY not for profit organization, Tuning New Grounds, a project based on sustainable organic soil creation using recycled waste coffee grounds and and other organic products from around Louisville by way of vermicomposting.

Paul and I had a meeting of minds on Sunday, exchanging ideas and taking a tour of Bishop's Homegrown, we also traded compostable materials (sounds strange, but then 90% of Eco-Logical/Organic farming is talking about manure and what we can use to make good manure). I ran my worm house idea past Paul who was all for it and is hard at work helping me scrounge materials to put the new house into motion. All in all it's a very easy conversion of the greenhouse, basically just sliding a heavy duty black tarp over the frame and under the plastic, we will have to set up the inside for constant harvesting and moving of raw materials and worm castings, which is no big deal, and I also have to find containers for the worms

Raw material for worm feed and bedding is no problem at all to come across considering the amount of produce and other organic matter that has to be pulled from the local stores when it doesn't sell, composted chicken manure/bedding, composted cow manure from the neighboring cattle operation, and a friend with well over 5 acres of rotten sawdust he is more than willing to deliver by the dump truck load for $20.

The nice thing about converting the greenhouse to a wormery is that it is already climate controlled, heated with a wood stove and cooled with fans, I plan to experiment with optimum temperatures of worm growth, reproduction, and consumption of compostable materials to find what works the best, I anticipate the heat of summer may provide some challenges but nothing that I can't in time work out to work in my favor.

I believe the benefits of this will outweigh having to give up growing room in one greenhouse and I will never have to look at purchasing any form of fertilizer again in the future. I have slowly come to the realization that I am about to accomplish having a hand in all of the multitude of my agriculture interest that I wanted to work with (honey bees, organic gardening, plant breeding, worm ranching, seed saving, wild crafting, raising chickens ext.) I just need to find a balance between all of my systems, this expansion will allow me to further balance my systems of agriculture here on this farm, bringing Bishop's Homegrown even more into the line with our "Eco-Logically" grown philosophy. Given that I have scaled down plant sales for 2009 sacrificing one greenhouse of plant space for one greenhouse full of farm fertility seems the way to go.

Right now the set up will be based on a couple of bulk worm bins or breeding bins if you will (concrete block bins, three teirs high as pictured above as well as some 48" X 48" x 48" wooden bins and a plethora of 55 gallon plastic barrel bins cut in half longways and used to process smaller amounts of material quicker, my home made worm harvester will have casters added to it in order to maneuver it around the wormery and over top of the beds in order to harvest with ease, the back wood yard area of the greenhouse will be expanded to accommodate finished material to be moved with the front end loader into the used manure spreader I recently bought. The front yard is flat enough and large enough to accommodate several tons of fresh compostable material to be hauled in with a wheelbarrow and fed a few inches at a time to each bed once a week.

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