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Cathy's Crawly Composters - Vermicomposting

Cathy's Crawly Composters

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The Times of New Tecumseth & Adjala Tosorontio

September 6, 2006


The Worm Ambassador - Cathy Nesbitt, looks for garbage solution
Cathy Nesbitt and Red Wrigglers.

The Worm Ambassador - Cathy Nesbitt, looks for garbage solution

By Wendy Soloduik

Worms have already seen the dinosaurs come and go, and will probably be around long enough to see humans extinguish their own light as well. They are amazing creatures - not insect, or animal, but annelids - and are often misunderstood, as are most things we're afraid of. Meet the "Worm Ambassador," Cathy Nesbitt (and her husband Rick) who intend to change our opinion on those wiggly worms, and offer a solution to our garbage crisis at the same time.

Nesbitt's breeds Red Wiggler worms in two locations. One right here in Beeton, and the other in Bradford. She does this for two main purposes: to educate the populace on the value of vermicomposting (Vermi- meaning worm in Latin), and to provide the worms themselves, which has proven to be a difficult task in our area.

Nesbitt's interest in vermicomposting started small. While working in a halfway home, after finishing a degree in Psychology, she realized that the institution she was working for was not composting its organic table scraps. An already avid outdoor composter, Nesbitt began to take the waste home with her.

"I was bringing home about 30 to 40 pounds of scrapes a week," Nesbitt tells the Times. "Eventually, I discovered Red Wigglers had found their way into my own outdoor compost. The soil I was getting was amazing and that's when I decided that the worms were the secret. Eventually those worms became my first breeding batch."

An unlikely business idea started to form with the woman who had once declared herself "terrified of worms."

"Eventually, I discovered Red Wigglers had found their way into my own outdoor compost."

"One night I had a vision," Nesbitt began. "I was handling worms, and I wasn't wearing gloves. The next day, I recalled the vision while I was tending to the compost, and I was no longer afraid. I knew then that it would be my job to become the ambassador for these worms. I really do feel that these worms are transformative."

While guest speaking at the Valentine's Day Beeton Horticultural Society meeting, she met John and Barb Northwood, a retired couple from Beeton. They were so moved by Nesbitt's story, that they offered her a place in their barn to raise her worms.

"The space we offered them had been used in the winter for sapling storage," John Northwood, a retired arbourist recalls. "It's frost free, and therefore perfect for Cathy's worms. Two days after I heard Cathy speak, I was so moved that I just had to call her, I wanted to help."

The Northwood family is originally from Michigan - or for the purpose of this story, the place Ontario ships our garbage.

'Worms Without Borders'

"It makes me feel closer to the problem that the Northwood's are from the very place we ship our garbage," Nesbitt said. "I have joined forces with other educators in vermicomposting in Michigan, and together we are starting 'Worms Without Borders,' an in classroom educational program to teach kids about the value of composting organic waste. The best part about the work we are doing here is spreading the word that, like in most cases, the solution was provided before the problem appeared."

Some facts about worms:
Worms have five hearts (so in a pound of worms, or 800-1000 Red Wigglers, there are about 4000-5000 hearts, "Just more to love," adds Nesbitt. Worms have no teeth and rely on microorganisms found in soil to help them breakdown food for consumption. Each worm egg contains: about 20 babies. Worm poo, or castings, are the best quality fertilizer you can buy. "It's because the castings contain no sodium, so your plants won't burn," Nesbitt explained. "Just add them on top of your plants, indoors or outside, and the castings, which are called that because each one is contained in its own gel-like capsule, so it is not only a top quality fertilizer - that's all natural - but it's also time-released as you water."

Worms consume about half of their own body weight in a day. They can also consume their own castings up to seven times if necessary for survival. Worms prefer to live in an environment balanced in carbons and nitrogen. Worms breathe through their skin, and can therefore be "burned," by a heavily acidic soil. When this happens, they will try to escape by crawling to the surface (egg shells can help this). Finally, worms live up to 10 years, and although they are 90 percent water, they cannot swim. (We hope that that bit of information helps you feel closer to your friendly neighbourhood wiggler!)

Rick Nesbitt, once a website designer, has now joined his wife Cathy in the full-time care of their two Red Wiggler breeding locations. The pair raises the worms for sale to indoor vermicomposting bins (which they also sell complete themselves), and for the castings they provide as well.

"It's a fabulous business," Cathy Nesbitt says smiling. "Because everything is salable. The soil, the worms, everything!"

The Nesbitt worms have earned celebrity status...

Cathy Nesbitt teaches vermicomposting workshops in a hands-on, and inspirational way. She is available to work with students, as well as other environmentally friendly or interested groups. During her course she will show how to setup and maintain a worm bin, explore the basics of worm ' biology, speak on environmental issues, and provide follow-up activities. So far, the Nesbitt worms have earned celebrity status after appearing on The Zone on YTV, The Indoor Gardener on HGTV, Town and Country Ontario and CBC Radio and Breakfast Television.

"Vermicomposting reduces garbage going to the landfill by up to 1/3. The average Canadian produces one tonne of waste each year. My worm castings will enhance your plants, stop your garbage from smelling and give the kids an indoor winter project."

Here's how it works: When you purchase one of Cathy's bins you will get one pound of worms (800-1000 worms), some regular garden soil, shredded paper bedding, egg shells to maintain a pH balance of seven and the bin itself.

The bin is kept inside, and any organic food waste - including pasta, rice, fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea and coffee grounds, etc. are buried inside the box.

"When I first started vermicomposting, I was still afraid of the worms..."

"When I first started vermicomposting, I was still afraid of the worms, so I would just place my organic waste ,on the top of the bin," Nesbitt said. "I started getting' fruit flies, so I discovered that burying it was better. I also recommend that you wash your fruit, like bananas and oranges when you first bring them into your home. The eggs are already on the peels."

In about three to five months, your bin, which arrived with shredded paper, will have magically become top quality soil.

"I recommend that you keep a two litre carton by your sink, and feed the worms in a measured way. A pound of worms will eat the contents of the entire container in one day. This way you are not over feeding."

When you are ready to separate the soil from the worms, the Nesbitt's recommend the "dump and sort method."

"Since worms are photosensitive, they will sink to the bottom of the soil if you take them outside. Simply take your bin and dump it onto a plastic sheet, then scoop off the top layer, and you'll have great fertilizer for your .garden. Then you are ready to start the process again."

Interested in learning more, purchasing a bin or booking a seminar? Contact Cathy at 905 775-9495, or visit her on the web at www.cathyscomposters.com

"Compost is more than a fertilizer, more than a soil conditioner. It is a symbol of continuing life. Worms are the angels of the earth."

 

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Cathy's Crawly Composters

Bradford, Ontario
Local: (905) 775-9495
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