Attack of the Red Worms


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It was a simple, humble plan. Last year, because our compost pile was not cooking as fast during the chilly Tokyo winter, ever-resourceful husband decided to start a vermiculture bin. He was quite pleased to discover that the red worms already propagating in our existing compost pile were the correct type of worm to inhabit a thriving bin.  While turning the pile, he found many healthy and eager helpers and quickly settled them into a small container on the kitchen window sill. They had a pile of dirt, yummy leftovers to burrow through and a comforting cover of wet cardboard. He tucked his little buddies into their new home and we trudged up the stairs to bed.

For whatever reason, I did not sleep well that night. I flipped and flopped under the covers and only succeeded in getting to sleep in the wee hours of the morning. So, when the alarm woke me a couple of hours later, I felt nauseatingly fatigued. Down the stairs I stumbled to make some breakfast.

The attack was unexpected, to say the least. A wriggling wave of red and pink undulated its way towards the kitchen sink and along the crack towards the dark corner behind the microwave. Those worms were everywhere. Luckily there was nothing in my stomach to  come up. Back up the stairs I ran. “Your friends have taken over the kitchen,” I explained to my bleary-eyed man. “I am not feeling like breakfast this morning.” I left him to worm-wrangle while I quickly left the horror movie playing out in our kitchen and biked to work on an empty stomach.

And on the way to work, of course, I got a flat tire. Sigh.

When I got home that night, there was a new container in place with a tight lid. And it was nowhere near the kitchen counter. The worms’ new home was in hubby’s office next to the computer where nothing at all could ever happen….

The “Attack of the Red Worms” has put so much into perspective. When I wake up in the morning and come down to the kitchen to fix breakfast, I think what a wonderful day it is, to not have worms on the counter in the morning. And every day, even a Monday, is wonderful, because, as you know, it could always be worse.

Now, we have a change of plans. We do have a compost bin in the kitchen, crowded in next to the compartmentalized recycling bin and the bread maker in the narrow, dark aisle that pretends to be a kitchen. (Too many cooks in this kitchen can use up all the air.) But this compost bin uses friendly, aromatic, beneficial “good” bacteria to help speed up the decomposition process. (See EMRO website.) No worms, no wafting fumes; just a good source of compost. Oh, and they are anaerobic… they don’t need air. Good thing  ‘cause there’s no extra oxygen in this claustrophobic corridor of a kitchen.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

2 thoughts on “Attack of the Red Worms

  1. hello,

    I live in Tokyo as well and I found your website through searching for vermiculture in Tokyo. I know it really isn’t the focus of your blog but I was wondering if you could give me some information on the EM that you are using. I checked out he link in the article. It looks really interesting.

    Where did you find it? Does it really work? It sounds like you live in as tiny an apartment as I do. Whats the process you go through after the stuff is finished?


  2. Dear Joel,

    Sorry for not replying sooner. I was taking a sabbatical from my blog… 🙂

    After giving up on the worms and going to the EMRO system, life is a bit easier and not as wiggly. We bought two yellow buckets made for this good-bacteria composting system at J-Mart in Tokyo. They also sell the bags of EM pellets to add to the composting material. The bucket has a spigot at the bottom to drain off excess fluid from the process. Not sure if this fluid can be fed straight to plants as it is pretty potent.

    Very little smell from the bucket which is sitting on the floor in the corner of our tiny corridor kitchen. When the bucket is full, we take it to the back yard and add it to the bigger compost pile there. The result is rich, loamy soil for gardening.

    Hope this is helpful.


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