Monday, December 7, 2009

The Well-Dressed Bucket

Shh. Repulsive is in disguise. The recent hard freeze made it necessary to move him into the shared laundry room, and my fellow tenants are only slightly less squeamish than I, so he's been impersonating a plant stand. Which I figured was excuse enough for the image above, from Sesame Street's Wormy Gras.

What, you didn't know Verne's kind like to dress up in costume and party? -G-

Apparently, they're not alone: Repulsive has his very own wardrobe.

I have to say, I did not intend to give him one. It just kind of happened. Saw a heavy denim wrap skirt at a box sale, neglected for its lack of style or impractical size, I don't know--but the color might have influenced me, as it's a brown not too far off from the expensive ground cloths I'd been pricing recently. Denim is a good insulator, so I figured I might as well give it a try. The nights were getting cold, you see.

That skirt turned out to be well fitted for the purpose, its construction making it simple to fasten around the bucket grubbery at base and sides, with material enough to fold over the top between feedings or fold back down on warmer days. Granted, it looked a little weird, but this is an assemblage made of two kitty litter buckets, a spigot, some weatherstripping, and, until recently, a hollow tube with a soda bottle on the end! I'm not sure there's any way the thing could be made to look normal.

First freeze warning of the season, I decided Repulsive's skirt might not be adequate. So I gave him a second layer, a lightweight synthetic blanket of the sort used on airplanes, draped over the bucket and tied into place. This must be removed in order to open the bucket, which is not a good idea for me--reluctant grub-feeder that I am, it's too easy for me to "forget" there's an option beyond tossing the bokashi-ineligible things in the garbage--but the larvae were still active after T-Day, when I unwrapped it to toss some bones and sundry items in. And temps had dropped below 40 twice by then.

The first hard freeze came this past weekend. I couldn't imagine that Repulsive's scanty winter clothing would be sufficient protection against actual frost-and-freezing winter, not for active grubs, but before taking any further measures, I figured I should see if Repulsive was, in fact, still awake. Those earlier night-time drops had been followed by warmer days, but the preceding three hadn't warmed appreciably, and the continued chill might have ended grub season already.

Might have, maybe, I'm still not actually sure. When I undid Repulsive's clothing--which sounds wrong on so many levels!--I discovered that I'd inadvertently left the lid unsealed the last time, and a number of mature grubs had chosen to wriggle through the gap and down the side to take their winter nap in a denim nest. The bucket grubbery wasn't untenanted, however; beneath the hollow shell of a cucumber was a mass of paler grubs, not moving in response to dim early morning overcast, but rousable when poked at with a very long stick. Drowsing?

On the chance they would wake to eat, I added the food I had ready, drained the reservoir, and moved the re-dressed grubbery into the laundry room. (Less the dormant ones, of course, that I moved to a proper winter bed.) That's not a heated space, but protected, anyway, and the best I've got. Stuck Repulsive in the back row, topped with a potted plant, and hoped for the best...

None of the plants have melted into slime, so presumably it remained above freezing. Warm enough for grubs? Not for peak activity, there's no creepy horror-movie rustling noise coming from the bucket, but it does seem a bit warmer (or less cold) to the touch than the planter resting on top of it. I'd open it to see, but that'd let out the heat.

Also, disarrange the folds of his shawl. -G- Though I guess I really should, if only so I know whether or not I should be shopping for some sort of grubby overcoat.



DeDe said...

I've read all your posts, but have managed to confuse myself along the way somehow. :-/

In addition to the wormery & BSF bin, I seem to remember that you use kitty litter buckets for your bokashi - one with drainage holes nestled inside the other for collection. Does the nestling create an air-tight seal, or did you improvise something there?

Also, did you install a spigot in the bottom bucket of the bokashi set up, or do you just lift off the top bucket to drain off the liquid?

I just saved 6 kitty litter buckets my neighbor was going to send off to the landfill and am trying to figure out how to put them to best use. :-)

D. S. Foxx said...

No confusion, I use kitty litter buckets for everything: kitty litter, the junior wormery, grubberies, planters, and for fermenting mid-sized batches of bokashi bran, as well as their proper function as bokashi buckets. Some of the early bucket assemblies were spigot-free, but I've decided the spigots are a necessary convenience--I'm much more likely to turn a spigot than to lift an inner bucket out long enough to overturn the bottom one.

As far as seals go, it depends on the brand, or anyway the bucket maker. I've had very poor luck trying to match buckets that are only close. Even matching buckets aren't always perfect; some of them have a very deep lip and seal properly, while others slip free too easily, or nest with too little space between to accommodate the possible inch of liquid you can get with wet produce and such, not to mention the spigot fitting. For those, I use stick-on weatherstripping, applied just below the lip of the inner bucket. Not really sure that's necessary indoors, but better safe, and I do tend to move curing buckets outside, where it is.

The lids are another concern. Food-grade plastic tubs and buckets seal fully, but are difficult to open without a pail opener--and even with one, it's more a production than the tupperware-style lids of many litter buckets. Most of the "burping" lids will do fine, but the hinged-lid kitty litter buckets need to be weighted, either by putting a bag of water or something on top of the ferment, or by sticking something on top of the closed bucket.

Happy bokashi-ing!