Lila Stevens

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since Jan 08, 2013
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Recent posts by Lila Stevens

I don't think you NEED to crush the eggshells, but you might want to so that their benefits are available in your worm bin. The two main reasons people add crushed eggshells to a worm bin is to make the environment less acidic, and also to act as grit in the worms' guts. Worms don't have jaws and can't bite, so can only take in very tiny particles of anything, including eggshells.

If you don't want to use electricity, an old-fashioned mortar and pestle would probably actually work better. I wish I had one. I use a food processor for just a few minutes, and I feel like it uses very little electric, compared to so many other things I use on a daily basis.

Now I am curious how long an eggshell would take to break down in the bin without crushing. I might add just one to see.
3 weeks ago
This fellow made something very similar to your idea, complete with a tutorial. I love Captain Matt's channel. His enthusiasm is so contagious.
1 month ago

German Herrera wrote:What may be the best way to check the ph of the composting bin? Ph strips? I always feel that reading them is so subjective. Please advise. Thanks.

Honestly, I have never done tested pH, so I couldn't tell you! Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will chime in. I just add ground up eggshells whenever I have them and call it good... not the most scientific approach, but it is working so far.
1 month ago
From what you described with your own chickens, it sounds like they are stopping/ slowing down in laying in the fall and winter, or when molting, which sounds totally normal. I'm guessing they laid through that first winter because they were so young and had just started laying. But my understanding is that laying through the winter is not very common with most breeds.

I'm not against conspiracy theories, but I do think that one is a bit far-fetched. As big as the homesteading movement may seem to those of us who make it our way of life, it is still actually very tiny compared to the masses of people who are still going to the grocery store for all of their needs. So a complex conspiracy simply to undermine the efforts of backyard chicken-keepers... I just don't think so.

I think this has a lot to do with inexperienced chicken-keepers not knowing that laying slows down after a few years, and in the winter. As far as folks getting more eggs when mixing their own feed, it is surely possible that the chickens like that feed better and eat more of it, and/or it has better nutrition than commercial chicken feed, so those people may be getting more eggs when switching. That does not suggest a conspiracy to me. Just basic capitalism, which is no secret. Commercial feed producers are of course going to make their feed as cheaply as possible, to make as much money as possible, while also not probably understanding (or caring) that whole foods are usually more nutritious. If you read the label of basically any commercial animal feed, a lot of those ingredients do not sound much like food. But it is all printed there in black and white for us to make our own decision about.  

Even the idea of getting more eggs when mixing your own feed; well, there are just so many variables possible in anecdotal accounts. Maybe they switched in the springtime, when the birds would have started laying more anyway. Or maybe there was some other variable. The only way to really know would be to do an experiment and raise 2 batches of chickens, side-by-side in the same conditions, except offer one group commercial feed, and one group home-mixed. I would even do a third group and feed them commercial organic feed. My chickens free-range, and I don't have those kinds of resources, but I would love to know what the results were, if anyone ever did it. I do firmly believe whole foods are better, so I would not be at all surprised if a balanced home-mix yielded more eggs, and healthier chickens that laid for longer, especially if that mix were soaked or fermented for easier digestion.
1 month ago
I live in Texas too, about halfway between Austin and College Station. I planted a few comfrey roots in my veggie garden last fall, and they are doing great. I did keep them watered through the summer, just because I was watering that bed anyway. So I can't speak for how they would have withstood the summer without water, especially their first year. Our winter temps last winter did not phase it in the least, nor did the high summer temps. It even flowered nicely sometime during the summer, which was nice for the pollinators. I haven't tried feeding it to my animals yet. I am growing it more as a companion plant and I will probably make fertilizer from it when I have more of it. I might dig around and see if I can divide it sometime this winter/ early spring, when I have time.

I got my starter roots from a seller on Etsy. It was a variety that doesn't make fertile seeds.
I don't know if that mold is necessarily a problem, but it can be a sign that your bin is a bit out of balance. It may be a bit too wet, or you may be overfeeding your worms; basically feeding more than they can digest in a reasonable amount of time. If it were me, I would probably dig around with my hands, mixing things up and seeing how it all looks. If it looks really wet, or there is a lot of indigested food, I would mix in a good bit of dry cardboard or other bedding, both to sop up some of the extra moisture, and to help balance out any extra high-nitrogen food that might be there, helping to bring the bin back into balance. Many people don't add enough high-carbon bedding to the bin, or neglect to continue adding it when they feed, which can quickly bring the bin out of balance.

Going forward, you may want to add some dry bedding (like cardboard) every time you feed. Blended food is great for many reasons, but it's important to understand that releases a lot of liquid all at once, which can make your bin soggy. A nice pad of dry bedding, directly under the blended food, addresses this problem nicely.

It's also important to give your bin time to "mature". It actually becomes a complex ecosystem; with lots of little microorganisms helping the worms do their job. You want to be very careful not to overfeed, and provide plenty of bedding during this early stage. As those microorganisms proliferate,  you can gradually start adding more food. It should start breaking down faster than when the bin was just starting out and was more sterile.

Here is an awesome blog for further reading. This particular post addresses mold in the bin and what it can mean.
3 months ago
Most LGD breeds are adapted to guard a very large area. We have 3 1/2 acres, and ended up with an Akbash and a Great Pyrenees. We didn't choose those breeds; we just kinda ended up with them. The urge to roam and patrol a large territory is VERY strong with these breeds. We fenced the entire property, and while they do not go over or under the fence (many LGDs do, just not ours) they do run out the gate every chance they get and patrol the neighborhood for hours. They are extremely difficult to contain on smaller acreage, is what I am saying.

If your neighbors are not going to mind your dog patrolling their property as well, then these breeds are great.

If your neighbors don't want your dog on their land, you will have to put up really good fencing to contain them. And if you are putting up fencing, then for that size acreage, basically any large-breed dog will probably do the job of keeping coyotes away.

I also lock up all my delicate animals (goats and chickens) in coyote-proof pens at night, so I don't have to worry. We do have lots of coyotes in our neighborhood. I have heard of coyotes and other predators slipping past LGDs, and I don't want to take the risk.

Our Akbash and Great Pyrenees are mellow, loving, and wonderful dogs. But they are also independent thinkers, and are very hard to train in the traditional sense. If you are used to the automatic obedience and eager-to-please attitudes of dogs like labs, you'll be in for a sad surprise. Be sure to research this temperament really thoroughly before making the plunge; I really can not overemphasize this.  They can be a HUGE pain if your situation and expectations don't match up to their natural tendencies.
3 months ago
You are very welcome Permies is the only forum I actually participate in. People here are just so consistently kind and helpful, wanting to learn and and share what they have learned.

If you like diving deep and learning everything you can about a subject, your might enjoy this blog . This guy is just so excited about vermicomposting, and has trialed many different ways of raising them. While I wouldn't want to some of the things he did, I did read his entire blog, and I learned so much.
3 months ago
Like See and Mk mentioned, probably either maggots of some kind, or Enchytraeus buchholzi (usually called pot worms by vermicomposters in the US). Both are helping with the composting, and do no real harm, though of course maggots will hatch into flies of different kinds, which of course can be a nuisance in an indoor system.

Pot worms are mentioned on page 5 of this document: . Apparently they thrive under more acidic conditions. So you may want to check out the pH of your bin. Pot worms themselves are not a problem, but they *could* indicate that your bin is becoming overly acidic, which wouldn't be good for your composting worms in the long run. Many people add ground eggshells or oyster shells to make their bins more alkaline. A Google search of "pot worms in vermicompost bin" will give you a whole lot of info on these little critters and what they may indicate.

If you have maggots, you will probably notice fruit flies or flies around your bin soon. Burying the waste under the bedding and/ or adding a screen can help with this. Another helpful thing can be blending your food waste, or freezing it before giving it to the worms. If it is broken up more, it allows to the worms to start working on it faster, which means less time lying around creating habitat for maggots. Large pieces of fruit, especially,  take forever to be accessible to worms, and provide perfect maggot habitat in the meantime.

One thing that I overlooked when I first started my bins, was the importance of balancing the food scraps with plenty of bedding material. I used lots of bedding material when I first started up the bins, but in order to keep the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio high, it's important to keep adding bedding with almost every feeding. Or once in a while add a very large dose of bedding. Thankfully I watched a video on this before it became a problem. But it might be the most important thing you can do to keep your bin balanced and safe for the worms. I use chopped cardboard, and also partially composted leaves/ forest litter from the woodsy area at the back of my property. The worms seem to really love the forest litter, and I think it will make really high-quality castings. When I collect bags of fall leaves (leaf season is right around the corner here in Texas), I am going to add a nice layer of them to the areas in my woods where I removed litter, to hopefully not upset that little ecosystem as much.
3 months ago
So, of course, after posting this, this excellent thread appeared in the sidebar, answering many of my questions And this one
4 months ago