Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grubbing Around

Image from Hooks & Lattice, with which company I have no affiliation--but there's an anniversary coming up... (hint, hint)

Weird week here in Bucketville. Among other things, I had multiple requests for BSFL! Not all this week's requests were for grubberies, some folks just wanted grubs: To try out as feed for a particularly fussy pet reptile, for a fishing trip, and to replenish an industrial-sized retail unit from which I'm guessing there's been some over-enthusiastic harvesting, plus a pet waste disposal unit and a bird-feed "farm" (that's two separate things, at different locations, even).

So I spent Saturday morning playing chauffer to Repulsive's offspring, after a session of harvesting the disgusting things. Seemed like a good time to retire the various and sundry experiments, since 1) I've settled on a permanent design, and 2) it's a lot easier to secure a single unit against raccoon and possum incursions. Since the standard adapted bokashi-bucket design works, though it's no longer my preferred model, I just handed that one over to the folks who wanted a bird-feeder hatchery. The coir-liner test works very well, too, but I used scrounged materials for the first model, and the result was far too large for my space or needs. Rather than deal with the nightmare of separating hatchlings and feeding grubs from the exploded coir mat, I passed that on, plus such harvested grubs as I had left once all the other requests were filled, to the folks with the Bio-Pod. Hey, they asked for grubs, they didn't specify mode of delivery!

But I liked the results of the coir so much that I actually went out and (gasp!) spent money buying a smaller coir basket liner for the grubbery's permanent installation. Not just a mat to go on the bottom, a natural alternative to the synthetic mesh I've seen in Bio-Pods, but a large enough single piece of matting to cover the bottom and sides, all the way up to the single row of small holes I've had to admit are necessary for practicality.

Apparently, laziness beats squeamishness in the end--I used to set out bait bags for the layers because I couldn't handle the thought of grubs using air- or laying-holes to escape a feeding unit; but bait bags have to be emptied and refilled, not to mention protected from the cursed four-foots, and I got tired of it. Other grubbery models have pipes to let layers into the bucket, but that was way too much for me. So I watched the adults awhile, to see where they preferred to lay. Which seems to be into tiny holes with free space behind them and damp protected space just below, plus the food source, naturally. Explains why I never had much luck with cardboard laying disks: I left them too accessible. Sigh.

The only problem with the coir liner--unless one has a sudden need to harvest immature grubs in significant quantity--is that the material expands more than you might expect, reducing the bucket's effective volume. But I'd rather have a slightly larger container with no escapees than a smaller one that requires warning labels. And this is about as close to hands-free as I'm likely to get; the necessary maintenance during a working season has been reduced to feeding the grubbery, and exchanging a full catchment bottle for an empty one and hanging the birdfeeder. No draining reservoirs, no grubbing about with eggs or feeding populations, no need to remediate for moisture or carbon levels. Assuming the occasional addition of EM in some form, there's no off-odors. And almost no chance of grubs on the lid when you open it, though I can't say no risk ever of seeing the things. (Drat! And it was so close to perfect. -G-)

Probably ought to buy a new camera so I can post pictures of things. Ah, well. Repulsive's permanent home consists of:

1) A small lidded bucket with holes in the bottom and around the bottom inch of the sides, plus a single row of small holes beneath the rim.
2) A coir bucket liner reaching up to the row of holes.
3) A collection ramp, in this case half-inch tubing and threading to fasten into a soda bottle, with the part of the tube inside the bucket cut in half to create a U shaped ramp the maturing grubs can climb.
4) A largish planter filled with cheap dirt or soil-based potting mix (at least as much soil as the bucket would hold, though in a large enough planter you could mix some carbon after that requirement is met), into which the bucket is set at least three inches deep and as far down as desired so long as there's no chance of the upper row of holes being buried or completely blocked.
5) Optional but recommended, a two-inch layer of good potting mix and some plants. It looks better, but more importantly, it helps keep the predators away. Between the grubs and the worms that will move in even if you don't add any, it's a protein-rich feast--and birds, raccoons, possums, toads, and lizards have all found Repulsive in some of his less-protected iterations.

Considering what I choose to feed Repulsive, I'm going with decoratives rather than edible plants around his tower. It's not my usual preference, but I do have a few, gifts or volunteers or flowers to keep the landfolks happy, and some of those should be tolerant enough of salts and acidity to work here. (Salts from the foods; acidity more from the EM I add than anything.) If I were less squeamish, I suppose some edibles might be possible. Red orache springs to mind, but it's certainly not the only likely crop. Guess maybe I could try it. There's no requirement that I actually eat what I grow, right? Well, maybe.

And maybe there's another experiment to try: coir liner on the sides but not the bottom of the bucket. Which would allow the worms greater access to what the soldier fly folks have taken to calling "grub pudding," while still giving the mama layers their preferred egg-despoting space.

Just what I needed, more grubbing around. They do sell coir by the roll...


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