Thursday, April 23, 2020

Vermiculture and Fishing

Vermiculture is the growing of worms for a specific purpose. Growing worms may sound like an odd endeavor, but there are several reasons why a prepper might want to do a little research on it.

I mentioned vermiculture in my post about composting toilets (CT), so you may recognize the word if you're a regular reader. Turning waste into something useful is what worms do, so this is a good use for them. Once you have an established colony of happy little waste eaters, you can “harvest” a portion to sell to others setting up a similar CT. The best online resource I've found so far (free and a good amount of information) is here.

Composting other forms of waste like food scraps, grass trimmings, and leaves is a lot quicker when worms are added to the mix. Proper aeration and moisture will keep the wrigglers happy and they'll eat their own body weight every day, providing “castings”, or worm feces, that is and excellent fertilizer for food crops. We don't seem to have a writer with a lot of experience in composting, so if you have such experience please contact me (comment below or drop a note on our Facebook page). I'd like to get more information out to our readers, but I'm not going to “pull a rabbit out of my hat” and try to explain something I've never done.

Fishing bait is another good use for worms. The fact that this is the time of year (spring) when the weekly rains will bring the night crawlers and earthworms out of the soil for us to pick up and use for bait is is actually what sparked the idea for this article, There are methods for coaxing or driving worms out of the soil which I may write more about later, but the main problem I have seen is storing them for more than a day or two. Worms live in cool, moist dirt, and if you want to keep them alive for any length of time you're going to have to provide something similar. Buckets full of soil are heavy and hard to dig through, so a couple of companies have developed “bedding” material for worms.

MagicBuss Bed-ding (that's the way they spell it) is the brand that my family has used for decades. Amazon's pricing is high, so check local stores or any other online sporting goods stores. It's made of recycled paper with some nutrients added and is designed to keep worms alive but not reproduce. Sold in several sizes of bags, you mix a quart of water with each pound of dry bedding, and then add worms. It makes a light, fluffy, dark gray mixture that worms can move through easily.

My father usually keeps 40-50 dozen night crawlers (they're the local favorite) in a couple of five-gallon buckets stored in a cheap refrigerator in the garage. He'll pick up worms in April and have live bait through November with very few problems. Leftovers at the end of the season are returned to the soil before the first hard freeze so they can spend the winter in their natural habitat. The refrigerator is set fairly warm, about 40-45 °F and the cool, dark, conditions are good for the worms. Grabbing a handful to take fishing for the day is simple, and having them in storage means more “spur of the moment” fishing.

Baitboxes for worms are normally insulated to keep them cool, and most have lids on two sides. The worms will tend to congregate on the bottom of the box, so instead of digging through the box you just flip it over and open what was the bottom lid. This is much easier than lugging around a five-gallon bucket, and the worms survive longer in an insulated box when the temperature starts to climb.

If you're growing worms instead of merely storing those you have found, you're going to have a surplus eventually. Selling bait may not pay the mortgage, but it is a time-honored method of providing extra income in areas near popular fishing spots. Overhead and operating supplies are minimal; a good root cellar will store them as well as a refrigerator, and if you're composting anyway the feed is free.
Kids can learn valuable lessons running a small bait business, from advertising to inventory control and security on a small scale, while making a bit of pocket change in good times and extra income for the family during hard times. Prices around here are a dollar or two per dozen, and the city folks would rather pay that than store their own.

Growing worms may not be for everyone, but it may be something that you can read up on and keep in the back of your mind. Having options is part of being prepared for life's ups and downs, this is just another option for some of us.

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