DIY Worm Bin- the frugal way

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Being big fans of composting, our next step was to add worms.  I was looking at worm bins on Amazon and was saddened to see the high prices.  Not wanting to pay an exuberant amount of money for a home for worms, I decided to see if there was a frugal solution on Pinterest.  I was not disappointed!  This whole worm set up cost under $15 (not including the worms themselves).  I bought three small tote bins and drilled drain/air holes in the bottom and top sides.  I put a good layer of shredded newspaper in the bottom of one bin for the worms to start out in.  The newspaper needs to be damp for the worms.  Not dry and not soaking, but damp like garden soil is deep down.  I ordered worms online and after they were shipped to Texas first, they finally were forwarded to Arkansas.  When I opened the package of worms, I was dismayed to see a whole bunch of dried up dead ones.  Thankfully once I unwrapped the layers I found the majority were still alive.  The live worms went straight into the bin with the damp newspaper.  I then covered them up with more damp newspaper.  I put the box of dried worms in the chicken coop.  The ladies sure had fun pecking and eating the dead worms.  At least they didnt go to waste and the chickens got some extra protein.  Back to the worm bin, I placed a lid under the bin (so if anything drips or crawls out, it is contained in the lid) and another lid on the top.  Man, these worms did NOT want to stay in the bin!  They crawled out and went everywhere.  Finally I had to take the lid off and put the bin under a light.  Worms hate the light so they will dig down into their bedding and hide.  The package had warned that the worms would be “restless” for the first few days, but I was not expecting them to be everywhere!  Once they finally calmed down under the light for a few days, I was able to start adding table scraps.  Lots of coffee grounds, banana peels (they really like it when the peels are cut up) and whatever else I had from the kitchen.  If the scraps seemed too dry I would spritz with water.

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I am now pleased to say that our worms are growing and thriving!  They can double their population in just a month.  Hubby is excited at the thought of having lots of worms on hand for fishing.  Worms dont do well in the freezing temps, so until recently we had them in the camper.  Now that the weather is warmer, they are outside in the shade.  We have now added the second bin on top of the first.  The worms will transition to the second bin once they are done with the bottom bin.  The castings (aka worm poop) that are left in the bottom bin will be a huge help on the garden beds.  Once we remove the bottom bin to take to the garden, the second bin will then become the bottom bin and the process starts all over.  I think someone could make this with only two bins.  I got three because thats what Pinterest recommended but so far I have yet to need a third bin.  So technically this project could be under $10 if you only had two bins.

Building a Compost Pile

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Last week I built a new compost pile that is my personal dedicated pile. Aka I can compost my toilet gems and no one needs to worry about it. I bought some t posts and chicken wire at Tractor Supply. I guestimated a circle (it didn’t need to be exact or anything) and put the t posts in the ground. Thankfully the ground here was still pretty wet from the recent rains so the posts went in super easy. The hardest part was unrolling the chicken wire by myself. I used zip ties to secure the chicken wire to the posts. This whole set up is easy (for the most part) to put up and move if need be.

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(finally got the chicken wire up- you can see the camper in the back)
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I have this small kitchen compost bin that sits in the camper. I put anything and everything that will compost in it. If we use qtips in the bathroom, they go in. junk mail gets shredded and thrown in. obviously I put in kitchen scraps and coffee beans too.
I look forward to adding to our compost system as we get settled in. There are plenty of leaves on the ground that I plan on using for cover material.

Using a Composting Toilet

It is our goal someday to live off grid. While right now we have the luxury of being hooked up to power and on a not too cold day, water, we are trying to “practice” some off grid living requirements. That said, we have also had trouble with our camper’s toilet from the day we bought it. We didn’t notice the issue at the rv sales lot because the black tank (the tank that holds the sewage) was empty and clean. Once we started using the toilet, there was a very obvious smell. I am talking overwhelming as soon as you walk in the door smell! We tried everything we could think of to get rid of the smell but it just wouldn’t go away.
Now that we are living on family land, we have a little more wiggle room. We decided to completely remove the rv toilet and instead go to a composting toilet. Now you can buy fancy composting toilets that look similar to a standard toilet. In my research I found that its very common for off grid rv’ers to put in composting toilets. Wanting to keep things inexpensive, we bought two 5 gallon buckets at Lowes. We found the toilet seat at Bass Pro in their camping section. The toilet seat snaps on a standard bucket and the lid closes flush with the seat.

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(the almighty throne)

Obviously the bucket with the seat is the toilet. The second bucket is for cover material. We bought a huge bag of sphagnum peat moss and I filled the bucket full. I keep a mason jar (man those jars are useful for just about everything!) to scoop the dry peat moss and dump on the toilet. The key to having a composting toilet it cover material. Cover material. COVER MATERIAL. I can’t stress it enough. You can use sphagnum peat moss, coconut fiber, sawdust, etc as your cover material. I read that you shouldn’t use wood ash because it neutralizes the compost and thus makes the compost take longer to do its thing.
The way the toilet works is pretty simple. do your business. cover. do your business. cover. repeat until bucket is full. as long as your business is completely covered (like a half inch to an inch of cover material each time) there will be no smell. whatsoever. You can get your nose right up in the toilet seat if you want and you wont smell a thing! its pretty awesome if i do say so myself.

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(Family cloths aka toilet paper hang on a shelf near the door. The small black trash can is for dirty cloths. We do have toilet paper available which can be added right into the bucket)

If an average toilet uses 7 gallons per flush, and the average person flushes 5 times a day, that means each person is wasting an average of 30 gallons of water each day! Our toilet uses no water. So between the two of us, we are conserving an average of 60 gallons of water each day. Hey, I do what I can to help the environment, especially if it helps my pocketbook too!

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(view into the outhouse)

We were going to just use the toilet in the camper, but having to have the two 5 gallon buckets took up too much room in the little bathroom. I was at Walmart and I saw this camping shower tent. It works perfectly as an outhouse! It has a window, a rain cover and “shelves” for our tp and reading material. It cost under $50 so it was super affordable. It might sound strange, but I really love the whole outhouse thing. Maybe not when its pitch black and 9 degrees outside, but a girl can hold it if she really has to…

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(The outhouse all zipped up)

My favorite thing about this toilet set up is that it is completely off grid. I don’t need running water or electricity to sustain it. Once set up, I only need to pay for the peat moss and a bag lasts practically forever! Technically I dont need to pay for toilet paper either. This would be ideal for going camping, using at a deer lease, the beach or anywhere where there is not usable plumbing. I will explain the composting side of it in a later post.