Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The day after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in East Coast states, Ohio Emergency Management officials activated an emergency operations center in Columbus to help the agency monitor and assess Hurricane Sandy's impact on the Buckeye State. More than 250,000 Ohio customers were without power around noon on Tuesday, while a majority of schools in the northeast region of the state were closed, OEMA officials said. Meanwhile nearly 400 Department of Transportation crews worked to clear snow and debris throughout the state to reopen closed roads in Cuyahoga, Portage and Ashtabula counties. Gov. John Kasich visited the operations center Tuesday evening to discuss response efforts with OEMA officials. The agency has already dispatched three staff members to aid in New York's emergency response efforts and is sending the Butler County and Ohio Incident Management Teams to help, as well. Now a "post tropical" storm, Sandy has caused high wind, rain and snow throughout Ohio, as well as lake shore flooding. According to, the storm dumped state highs of nearly 4.3 inches of rain in Lorain and 3.5 inches of snow in Bellefontaine. OEMA officials also encouraged residents to learn about weather preparedness and safety tips, in wake of the storm.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Department of Agriculture -- The regulatory board set up under legislation (SB 310) triggered by the mass release and subsequent slaughter of dozens of exotic animals housed in Muskingum County will hold its first meeting on Wednesday, ODA announced. The Dangerous and Restricted Animals Advisory Board will hold its organizational meeting 9 a.m. Oct. 31 at ODA's Bromfield Administration Building, Auditorium A & B, 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg. Board members will also discuss temporary housing and care standards for dangerous wild animals. The board was created to advise the Director of Agriculture on the development of administrative rules governing the ownership of dangerous wild animals.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thank you, Erica!

Recently, the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District hosted a local Meadowbrook HS student in their volunteer training program.  Erica Showalter, daughter of Robert Showalter and Rachel Reid of Pleasant City, contacted our office to ask if she could volunteer in order to learn more about the district and what working in this field might be like.  Erica plans to attend Hocking Technical College after she graduates, to pursue a career in natural resources. 

Over a 2 month period, Erica spent 2 half-days a week with the district staff.  During this time, she was able to participate in a wide variety of the day to day tasks.  One day, she walked  in Moore Memorial Woods with the ODNR service forester Jeremy Scherf and Clum Forestry Consultants as they marked trees for harvest.  She was able to hear the discussion that went on as each tree was evaluated; whether it was ready for harvest, or needed more time to mature and increase in value, or if it was damaged or diseased and needed to be removed from the timber stand. 

The next day, she went out with the district’s wildlife specialist, Joe Lehman, on a deer damage complaint.  She got to see the damage to a planted field firsthand, and learned how Joe decides if the damage is caused by deer browsing, and if so, whether the damage qualifies for a deer control permit to be issued by the state Division of Wildlife. 

On another day, she went out on a farm visit with district technician Van Slack.  The landowner needed to put in a stream crossing to get farm equipment cross a larger stream on his property, and wanted to know the correct way to install it so that the streambed and banks would not be damaged, and so that the crossing would hold and remain usable over a long period of time.  Erica was involved in the discussion of where and how the crossing should be built, and also in the process of discerning whether a permit would be needed from the Army Corp of Engineers, due to the size of the stream and the amount of bank that would be disturbed. 

Erica also helped deliver the district’s brillion seeder to a landowner who was renting the equipment in order to plant a cover crop to protect his field from soil erosion over the winter.  She was able to see how the equipment was calibrated in order to assure a successful seeding. 

She accompanied Joe and Van on three different calls; a complaint of possible soil erosion and water runoff from a logging site; a water quality concern in a landowner’s stream; and checking a logging site at the request of a landowner who wanted to be sure their planned logging roads and log landing would not cause any erosion concerns during and after the timber harvest. 

Erica also assisted in educational programs.  During the Paul Bunyan Show, the district had a new trailer for the public to go through and learn about water quality.  She helped Joe net several water dwelling insects that represent poor or good water quality, collectively known as "benthic bugs", which were displayed in the water quality trailer.
Her biggest project was to plan and execute an educational program of her own.  She chose a Fall Tree ID walk on the Great Guernsey Trail.  She set the date and time, wrote a news article, designed a flyer, and made an inventory of the trees along the section of trail to be walked so that she would be able to learn how to identify the tree and interesting things about the species to share with the people who attended the hike.   The hike was held on October 20th, and the people who attended really seemed to enjoy the walk and were interested learning about the trees and the wildlife that was spotted along the trail. 

Erica attended the recent Guernsey SWCD annual meeting and election, where she was honored for her volunteerism, and received a thank you gift from the district.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guernsey SWCD 70th Annual Meeting and Election

On Tuesday, October 23rd the district held its 70th annual meeting banquet and election.  Bill Bertram was re-elected to the board, and Myron Dellinger was elected for his first term.  The two men will serve a three-year term beginning January 2012 on our board which provides direction, oversight, and fiscal accountability to the staff.
During the annual meeting, the Conservationist of the Year award was presented to Randy Raber of Red Hill Farm. Randy is always conservation minded, working with the district to install extensive amounts of fence, pipelines, and watering facilities in order to rotationally graze pastures.  He does crop rotation and is moving toward utilizing cover crops to protect and improve soils.  Randy has also helped the district in educational programs, and has made one of his farms available for the district’s elected officials tour, which helped showcase the district’s accomplishments in the county.   

Guest Speaker for the evening was Dave Adair of the Guernsey Scenic Railway.  Dave regaled the crowd with stories of coal mining in the early 1900s right here in Guernsey county.  They listened in rapt attention as he described the working conditions in the mines, and how men toiled in the dangerous, dark, and damp conditions to remove coal from the seam deep in the earth and bring it to the surface to be used to heat homes and provide power for electricity. 
The Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District is a political sub-division of the State of Ohio and covers the entire county.  Soil and water conservation districts were first formed in the 1940's when concerns of soil erosion and the loss of our most productive soils became apparent after the Great Dust Bowl.  Local citizens gathered together to form the conservation districts to educate and provide assistance to landowners in order to reduce soil erosion to tolerable limits.  Conservation Practices such as contour strips, no-till crops, and grassed waterways have had a great impact on reducing soil erosion.

Over the years conservation districts have evolved to include issues around land use, water quality, forestry and wildlife.  They work with landowners, land users, other governmental agencies, and elected officials to solve natural resource concerns.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Watch out for Black-legged Deer Ticks

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the blacklegged deer tick is on the rise in Ohio with established populations in 26 counties, the Health and Natural Resources departments announced Friday. State officials are warning hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to be wary of the ticks, which are known to transmit Lyme disease. They say the blacklegged deer tick is primarily found east of Interstate 71 and is active throughout the fall and winter.

Monday, October 22, 2012



Fall 1939
Rain comes, finally bringing an end to the drought that spawned the Dust Bowl.
Ohio's attempt to secure enactment of the soil conservation district law in 1939 failed because of reluctant support of agricultural leadership in the state.

World conflicts were bringing our nation closer to war each passing month and intense pressures were developing on farmers to increase food production on the land they managed. The 94th General Assembly retained soil conservation on its agenda.

May 16, 1941
House Bill 646, which became the Ohio Soil Conservation District Enabling Act when it was signed by Governor John W. Bricker on June 5, 1941.

October 22, 1942
Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District was organized and was the 8th district to form in the state of Ohio.

70 years of promoting the wise use of natural resources

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fall Tree ID walk

At the Great Guernsey trailhead in Lore City on Wintergreen Rd.
This program was planned by our intern, Erica Showalter (center in black sweater)
 One of her assignments was to plan a program, and she chose a tree ID walk.
Here, the group is ready to take off down the trail on a mile walk, looking at trees
and other flora along the trail.  The trail is also a great place to birdwatch and
see other wildlife.   In this area, it follows along Leatherwood Creek, and there
are wetlands all along the trail which support a wide variety of wildlife.

Off they go!  On the right, in the black coat and wearing a hat
is Joe Lehman, our wildlife specialist and technician.  

Water Sampling Basics Program offered

We've been getting lots of calls concerning water testing due to the shale drilling boom in the area, so we've planned an educational program to help answer questions on why and how to take samples and have your water supplies tested.   Click on the flyer to get a larger version and print it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Forest Heritage Festival this weekend

Don’t forget the Forest Heritage Festival this coming weekend October 19 and 20 at the Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds in Dover, Ohio! The show celebrates our forest legacy and increases public awareness of our forest resources and industry. There are many activities over the 2-day event, including a Master Logger Re-certification class on Friday October 19, the Great Lakes Lumberjack show on both days, and the now-famous Charity Auction on Saturday with all proceeds benefitting the Children’s Miracle Network and the Akron Children’s Hospital. There are other activities including a new RC Tuff Truck Pull and antique car show. Of course the event always has great food and a variety of exhibits and educational seminars.

For all the specific information including a schedule of events and location, visit the website.

Dandelions, cash crop for Ohio?

While Ohio is the home to many multinational rubber corporations and rubber production and manufacturing facilities, these companies lack a domestic source for their most important feedstock.

Read this article for the latest on research to develop a new Ohio cash crop:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turtles, frogs, snakes, lizards and other herps: habitat basics

 Frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, lizards, toads and other amphibians and reptiles may be fascinating to some people, and arouse fear in others. In any case, they are an important part of the web of life.
They’re grouped together as herps, an abbreviation of the word “herptofauna.”
Their habitat varies across the country, and by species. While it is difficult, and sometimes misleading, to generalize, there are similarities of habitat needs for the group.

Food. With so many different species and habitats, herp food needs vary greatly. In general, though, herps play a role in the balance of nature by eating insects, rodents, and other pest species. Since they don’t require much energy daily, they can go a long time between meals.

Moisture. Most amphibians breed in wetlands, so they need ready access to moisture in their home range. As habitat dries, they will seek moist shelter to wait for wetter weather—salamanders may burrow below ground, for instance.

Varying habitats. Many species of amphibians and reptiles use different habitats during the year. Salamanders may live in the forest but travel to wetlands to breed every spring. Turtles may live in wetlands but must travel onto land to lay their eggs.
For some species, hibernation sites are few and far between, and they may have to move
through a number of habitats. This habitat diversity makes it very important for herps to be able to get from one primary habitat to another. Roads and crop fields inhibit their movement, and they need travel corridors for protected movement.

Thermoregulation. Many herps need to acquire heat from their surroundings to regulate their body temperature. They may bask in the sun if they are too cold, or seek shade or go underground if they are too hot. This “thermoregulation” dependence ties them closely to their habitat.

Hibernation. Most northern herps either hibernate or become less active in the winter. Many snakes migrate to rocky outcroppings which they share; others including the garter snake spend the winter underground in crayfish burrows. Turtles and frogs find shallow wetlands where water is deep enough that it doesn’t completely freeze.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Local Workgroup Meeting

The Guernsey SWCD will conduct a Local Workgroup (LWG) meeting on Thursday, October 25th at 10AM to identify resource concerns, discuss conservation priorities, and develop potential solutions. The meeting will take place at the SWCD office at 9711 East Pike, Cambridge.

While Local Work Group membership is limited to Federal, State, county, tribal, or local government representatives who are familiar with agriculture and natural resources interests, the meeting is open to the general public, who is invited to participate and provide input on local conservation issues and resource challenges. LWGs support locally led conservation efforts by coordinating USDA programs with other conservation programs in an effort to provide an integrated solution to addressing natural resource concerns.

For more information, contact the Guernsey SWCD office at (740)432-5624.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color,

national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status. (Not all prohibited bases

apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information

(Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact the USDA Office of Communications at (202) 720- 5881 (voice) or

(202) 720-7808 (TDD).

To file a complaint, write to the Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250, or

call (202) 720-7327 or (202) 720-1127 (TDD). USDA is an equal employment opportunity employer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

4 Candidates for Board of Supervisors

On Tuesday October 23rd, the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District will be holding their 70th annual meeting and banquet.  Every year the GSWCD holds an annual meeting for the purpose of electing members to the five member board that comprises the board of supervisors for the district.  This year there will be two members elected to a three-year term.  Here are the four people running for the board:

Bill Bertram
Bill and his wife, Shirley, live in Londonderry Township. They have two children. Bill was born and raised in Guernsey County.   He graduated from Ohio State University with a degree   in Horticulture. Formerly employed in NE Ohio by the Farm Credit Agency, he returned to Guernsey County  to take over managing the family farm from his father,  and established Bertram’s Orchard. His father received  a conservation award from the district, and the sign still hangs proudly at the orchard.
Bill serves on the board of directors for several area Farmer’s Markets. He and his family attend Oak Grove Baptist church. He has served on the Advisory Committee of Harrison/Belmont Vocational school in Cadiz, where he also substitute teaches. He also substitutes in East Guernsey School District.

Myron Dellinger
Myron lives in Jackson Twp with his wife, Joyce. He has an associate degree from the College of Advance Traffic in Chicago. He served in the US Army with E-4 rank, and retired after 45 years in industrial transportation management and logistics consulting, giving him experience in business/budget management.

Myron is a master gardener, and has been awarded several honors including runner up Ohio MGV of the year. He is also an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, and is on the Guernsey County Extension advisory committee.
Myron is an avid hunter, fisherman, and camper. He has volunteered for the district for the past 3 years, being awarded the Co-operator of the Year by the district in 2011.

Roy Landstrom 
Roy was born in Quincy, MA. He served in the army as a game warden at Ft Jackson, SC. He holds a masters in Wildlife & Fisheries Biology from UMass. He retired from the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a biologist.
In 1990, he and his wife, Nancy, moved from their farm in Oregon to Spencer Twp, where they live today.
Roy has been teaching concealed carry for the past 8 years. He writes occasionally for the Jeffersonian. He now serves as the secretary of the Guernsey Sportsmans Club.
He is involved in volunteer work, and has helped with the district’s conservation camp for several years.

Harry "Mac" Patterson
Mac was born in Pennsylvania, and raised from age threeon a farm near Winterset, where he graduated from Madison High School. He attends Center UM Church.He now resides in Liberty Township, and has three grown children.
Mac is retired from 42 years in the construction industry, having been a member of the Ohio Operating Engineers.
For 26 years, he served in a supervisory capacity, where he learned about the soil types of Ohio, and oversaw installation of erosion control on the construction sites.
He is a member of the Eagles, Moose, Scottish Rite, Masons, and Shriners.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Solar, wind power used to grow greenhouse crops

By Mark Williams

The Columbus Dispatch Sunday October 7, 2012 6:48 AM

This greenhouse at RainFresh Harvests near Plain City has solar panels on the roof. Batteries inside it store the power. By growing food in environmentally sensitive ways with electricity and heat from the wind and sun, Barry Adler combines two things he loves into one business: horticulture and renewable energy. “It’s a good feeling to know I’m not polluting in the process of using energy,” said Adler, owner of RainFresh Harvests, which grows herbs, greens and other vegetables for local restaurants and stores.

RainFresh, located near Plain City, is one of more than 170 sites on this year’s weeklong Green Energy Ohio Tour that wraps up today. The tour features businesses, homes, schools, other buildings and parks that have incorporated solar panels, wind turbines and other devices that reduce energy consumption.
“I wanted to create a model to be as sustainable as possible and have the least impact on natural resources,” said Adler.
He showed about 50 visitors yesterday how a wind turbine and solar panels create electricity and heat to run his two greenhouses even when power is out elsewhere.
He also pointed out how construction materials used in the greenhouses make them more energy-efficient and help him grow food year-round.
Adler, 60, has about $40,000 invested in his renewable operations, but he said the cost of the panels and turbines has fallen since he installed them several years ago, and the equipment has improved.

The bigger greenhouse, which has nearly 1,500 square feet, has panels on the roof that generate electricity and heat, and batteries inside the building to store power.
Adler’s business is not new to the tour, but plenty of others are this year as interest continues to grow, said William Spratley, Green Energy Ohio’s CEO.
The tour includes drugstores and a stable with solar panels. Churches are part of the event, as are homes with solar panels that create electricity for electric cars, Spratley said.

Among those touring Adler’s business was Yang Xing, 31, of Wooster, who is doing postgraduate work in environmental science at Ohio State University.
“I’m trying to see if there is an opportunity to get some hands-on experience,” said Xing, who was particularly interested in methods Adler uses to grow food.
Kevin Malhame, a founder of Northstar Cafe in Columbus, has been buying arugula, basil, oregano, mint, specialty vegetables and other food from Adler for eight years.
“The greens and herbs are fantastic,” he said.

That Adler uses renewable energy to power his operations is a plus for Northstar, Malhame said. “ That makes it more valuable to us,” he said.
Adler’s interest in food and energy date to the 1970s, when the organic-food movement took hold in California, followed by the Arab oil embargo that drove up fuel prices.
Adler said his goal is to show visitors that it’s possible in Ohio to use sunshine and wind to grow crops in a sustainable way and make a few bucks along the way.
“It allows me to share my experiences with what I’ve done,” he said.

For more information about the tour, go to

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Governor Says Businesses Key To Natural Gas Vehicles

Gov. John Kasich urged business leaders Tuesday to pressure groups like the Ohio Chamber of Commerce to push harder for widespread adoption of natural gas-fueled vehicles in the state. Speaking during America's Natural Gas Alliance Vehicle Summit at Ohio State University, the governor said business leaders were critical in his administration's effort to expand the use of natural gas vehicles as a way to reduce the state's dependency on foreign oil while increasing demand for natural gas from Ohio's deep shale formations. Gov. Kasich said he had spoken to several auto executives about the potential for building NGVs in Ohio.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Todd Snitchler said the administration has been working with local governments, private companies, and other states with large vehicle fleets that could be converted to natural gas to help drive demand to, in turn, expand the infrastructure necessary for refueling. The cities of Columbus, Dublin and Hamilton have built natural gas fueling infrastructure and started converting their fleets, which has attracted attention from other municipalities and counties, he said. Although the state is trying to simultaneously stimulate demand and production of natural gas vehicles and fueling stations, "Ohio will not invest in NGVs for the state fleet when it does not make economic sense," Chairman Snitchler said.

The recently passed mid-biennium review (HB 487) charged the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the Department of Administrative Services, and the Ohio Department of Transportation with issuing a report on the feasibility of converting state fleets to natural gas, according to DAS spokesman Dan Kaman. The agencies are currently working on the report, which will inventory natural gas filling stations and vehicle options, and analyze the cost of converting DAS and ODOT fleets over two to four years to recommend whether or not to move forward, he said.

Gov. Kasich said while the state was trying to "jumpstart" a new NGV market that will attract automakers and infrastructure development, it was critical to have more support from the business community. "One of the things that we really need in our state is to get our business organizations to be more effective at being able to communicate a sense of urgency to the members of those business organizations, which I don't think is being done," he said. "I have to get to work on that. I have to get to the boards and try to hold them accountable for this." He urged summit participants to contact their business organizations and seemed perplexed that relatively few people in the audience belonged to the Ohio Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business. "Who are you people, who's here?" he asked. After his staff told him that they were primarily manufacturers and dealers, the governor said the industry would have to be more aggressive in promoting promise of NGV with business groups.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wild About Woodpeckers

Why would anyone want to attract those noisy, wood drumming, flying wonders to their backyard? After all, don’t they peck holes in house siding? Perhaps, but woodpeckers are among the most colorful and interesting birds to watch. Their toes are designed differently from most other birds; two toes point forward and two point back--enabling the bird to walk upside down on trees and perch where other birds cannot. Most species of woodpeckers eat insects as a large part of their diet, and usually people are willing to share their backyard insects with the birds. Some woodpecker species are becoming rare and need help to avoid extinction.

Woodpeckers can be found just about anywhere there are trees. If you have large, old trees in your yard or live near a park or woodlot, you may have one or more species of woodpeckers in the neighborhood. To supplement existing vegetation, plant a few native fruit trees and bushes. Sapsuckers and redheaded woodpeckers enjoy eating berries as well as insects.

Snags are great for attracting woodpeckers. What’s a snag, you ask? It is a dead tree. Woodpeckers seek out the insects in the decaying material and, since woodpeckers are cavity nesters, they will use the holes in trees to raise their brood. As long as dead or dying trees do not pose a hazard, you may want to leave them in your yard for the birds to use. If not, woodpeckers will accept nesting boxes.  The Guernsey SWCD has quality cedar nest boxes available for purchase.  We also have nestbox plans for those of you who like to build your own.

Suet attracts a variety of birds. Suet feeders are available for sale from the Guernsey SWCD, both separately, and in combination with bird seed feeders.   The following recipe for homemade suet has proved successful in the Midwest for attracting woodpeckers and other birds, such as tufted titmouse, nuthatch, and chickadee. Knead together: 1 part vegetable shortening, 1 part peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), 1 part flour, and 4 parts cornmeal. Children enjoy mixing up a batch of this concoction.

If you have a problem with woodpeckers drilling holes in your home, there are measures you can take to reduce the problem. The woodpeckers are foraging for insects that live in the cracks of the siding. If you caulk the cracks and repaint the surface, it will reduce the number of insects living in your siding. Then, use the other methods mentioned to feed those flying beauties and you can enjoy their antics in your backyard.

Friday, October 5, 2012

ODA Regulates Deer Farms

The Department of Agriculture's rules outlining licensing and chronic wasting disease testing requirements for deer farmers cleared JCARR with support from the industry.  The rules, authorized by legislation that passed the General Assembly earlier this year (HB 389), are aimed at safeguarding the captive whitetail deer farming industry in the state, according to ODA documents filed with the Common Sense Initiative Office.  "The licensing and testing costs are at the behest of the captive whitetail deer industry and their access to the interstate market. Even one instance of chronic wasting disease could have a dramatic impact on the ability of this industry to market its product," ODA said. "This is an industry that raises over 15,000 deer and is an estimated $59.2 million industry in Ohio providing over 1,250 jobs."  Ohio's deer farming industry has grown rapidly in Ohio, where about 684 whitetail deer farms and 29 hunting preserves are now located, according to the Legislative Service Commission. ODA estimates the impact of new CWD testing requirements would total less than $18,000 a year.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


S.K. Worm

  • An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is
  • A worm has no arms, legs or eyes.
  • There are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms.
  • Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.
  • In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.
  • The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.
  • Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.
  • Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.
  • Worms are cold-blooded animals.
  • Worms can grow a new tail, but not grow a new head if they are cut off.
  • Baby worms are not born. They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice.
  • The Australian Gippsland Earthworm grows to 12 feet long and can weigh 1-1/2 pounds.
  • Even though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour).
  • If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.
  • Worms can eat their weight each day.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Basic Vermiculture


Vermes is Latin for worms and Vermicomposting is essentially composting with worms.
In nature all organic matter eventually decomposes. In Vermicomposting you speed up the process of decomposition and get a richer end product called "worm castings." Vermicomposting has the added advantage of allowing you to create compost all year; indoors during the winter and outdoors during the summer.
The consumption of organic wastes by earthworms is an ecologically safe method to naturally convert many of our organic wastes into an extremely environmentally beneficial product.
Two types of earthworms have consistently been domesticated for commercial use due to their relative insensitivity to environmental changes.
a) The Red Wiggler", or manure worm [Eisensia Foetida].
b) The Red Worm, another manure worm [Lumbricus Rebellus].


The Red Wiggler ingests waste at the front, through a soft mouth with a lip that can seize or grasp whatever the worm is trying to eat. The throat, or "phraynx" can be pushed forward to help pull matter in. They have no teeth so they coat their food with saliva, which makes it softer and easier to digest. After the food is swallowed, it passes through the esophagus to the crop and then to the gizzard, where small stones grind it up. The food is passed into the intestine, which is almost as long as the worm itself. At the end of the intestine is the anus, for passing out the castings.
Worms have a brain and five hearts. They have neither eyes nor ears but are extremely aware of vibrations such as thumps or banging on the composter. They have a well founded hereditary aversion to bright lights. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are very harmful to earthworms. One hour's exposure to strong sunlight causes partial-to-complete paralysis and several hours are fatal. A worm breathes when oxygen from the air or water passes through its moist skin into the blood capillaries. If the body covering dries up, the worm suffocates.


A worm's reproductive system is quite complex. Worms are hermaphrodic -- that is, each worm is both male and female and each can produce eggs and fertilize the eggs produced by another worm. Under perfect conditions a mature breeder will produce a cocoon every 7 to 10 days. During mating, any two adult worms can join together to fertilize each other's eggs. Then a mucous tube secreted by the clitellum (the band 1/4 of the way down the worm's body) slips over its head into the soil as an egg case or cocoon. These cocoons are about the size of a match head and change color as the baby worms develop, starting out as pale yellow and when the hatchlings are ready to emerge, cocoons are a reddish-brown. It is possible by observing with a good lens to not only see a baby worm, but to see the pumping of its bright red blood vessel. The blood of a worm is amazingly similar to ours, having the same function of carrying oxygen, and having iron-rich hemoglobin at its base.
It takes about three weeks development in the cocoon for one to several baby worms to hatch. These newly emerged worms look just like the grown-ups, only lighter in colour and much smaller. They will mature to breeding age in approximately 60 to 90 days.

Population Controls

Three basic conditions control the size of a worm population:
  1. availability of food
  2. space requirements
  3. fouling of their environment
When food and waste is regularly fed to worms in a limited space, the worms and associated organisms break down this waste. They use what they can and excrete the rest. As the worms reproduce, the voracious young worms compete with their parents and all the other worms in the culture for the limited food available. Additionally, all the worms excrete casting, which has been shown to be toxic to members of their own species. As time goes on, more worms compete for the limited food, and more and more of the bedding becomes converted to castings. The density of the worms may exceed that favorable for cocoon production, and reproduction slows down. The controls you exert over your worm population will affect this whole process. You may choose to feed n ever increasing population, in which case, you will need to provide them with more space and fresh bedding.
No one knows for sure the life span of a worm. Some authorities believe that, under ideal conditions, worms may live as long as ten years.


When worms expel their manure there is a bit of mucus surrounding each granule. This hardens when it is exposed to air. When granular castings are mixed into garden or houseplant soils there is a slow "time release" if nutrients to feed the plants. However, the hardened particles of mucus to not break down readily, and they act to break up soils providing aeration and drainage, creating an organic soil conditioner as well as a super, natural fertilizer.
Castings compared to soil has:
  • 5 times the nitrate
  • 7 times the phosphorus
  • 3 times the exchangeable magnesium
  • 11 times the potash
  • 1.5 times the calcium
Worms are odorless and free from disease. It is common to use earthworms to aerate, sanitize and deodorize.

Worm Bin Setup

The worm container can either be a plastic container or home-made from exterior grade plywood. A good size for a bin is 12" high x 16" deep x 24" long. The Rubbermaid Roughtote 53L container is a good size bin. This size bin will handle 3 pounds of garbage per week. An aeration hole should be cut in the top of the box. If more food is to be produced each week, several bins should be used. This will save all food scraps; as one bin is being finished off, the others can be in various stages of advancement.
On the bottom of the bin, place a grid of several pieces of wood or plastic (the grill from a fluorescent light works best) one inch off the bottom for drainage. On top of the grid, place mosquito netting or screen from a storm door to prevent the worms from crawling through and dying.
In a large container, thoroughly mix the bedding materials together with water adding approximately two handfuls at a time. Test the bedding for water content by grabbing a fistful and squeezing it. If a few droplets of water appear through your fingers, there is adequate water for the worms. Never use water from a water softener as the salt will kill the worms.
Put the mixed bedding in the bin. Do not pack it down - it should be light and airy.
Place your red wigglers on top of the moistened bedding, keep the lid off and after a few minutes the worms should all disappear into their new home.
Feed your red wigglers. The first few days, your worms will be adjusting to their new environment. Don't be alarmed if the odd worm becomes lost and tries to climb the wall of the bin; simply put them back in their bedding.

Location of Your Worm Bin

Your worm bin can be located in a number of places; kitchen, patio, garage, basement, closet. To keep your red wigglers happy, you will need to think about temperature, moisture and ventilation.
All worms need moisture. The bedding should have a moisture content similar to a wrung-out sponge. Worms also need oxygen. It is important to allow air to circulate around the bin by not covering the air holes. The red wigglers in your bin can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but they should not freeze or get too hot.
Worm bins can be used indoors all year round, and outdoors during the winter months. Outdoor bins should be kept out of the sun and rain. When temperatures drop below 10 degrees C (50 degrees f) bins should be moved indoors.

Feeding Your Worms

Red wigglers will eat most of your kitchen waste. Any vegetable waste that you generate during food preparation can be used such as potato peels, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, celery, apples, banana peels, grapefruit and orange rinds, tea leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds, and paper filters.
Some wastes compost faster than others. Banana peels will take about a week, while orange peels will take about a month to decomposes.
Cutting the waste to be composted results in faster composting. The smaller the pieces the faster the moisture and bacteria will break them down for worm consumption. Pureeing is the most ideal.
Egg shells or calcium carbonate are needed to maintain the bedding at a safe pH level and act like a vitamin to the worms. Let the shells dry out, crush them and sprinkle at least one tablespoon in the bin every week.

Note: Avoid feeding your red wigglers meats, dairy products, eggs, oily foods, salt and vinegar.

Red wigglers will eat their own weight every day. This also includes their bedding so for every pound of red wigglers or part thereof, feed half that weight in food waste. Feeding twice a week or weekly is fine. Be careful not to over feed your red wigglers. Bury the food waste by pulling aside some of the bedding, dumping the waste, and then covering it up with some of the bedding. Each time you feed your worms, choose a different location.

Harvesting Your Compost

Harvest your bin every three months for a healthy worm supply and a good mixture of castings and vermicompost.
When you are ready to harvest, you will notice that the volume of material has dropped substantially and the original bedding is no longer recognizable. The contents will now be brown and earthy-looking. There are several ways to harvest:
  1. Move the contents of the bin over to one side. Add fresh bedding (see section on bedding) to the vacant side. Put food waste in the new bedding. The red wigglers will gradually move over in search of food. After one or two weeks the finished compost can be removed.
  2. Prepare new bedding. Dump the contents of the bin onto a large plastic sheet, and separate into small cone-shaped piles. Place a bright light above the piles. The worms will move down away from the light. Remove the compost from the top. Repeat this four or five times until a small pile of worms and compost remain. Place the worms and the compost in the bin with fresh bedding.
  3. Remove the entire contents of the bin. Put in fresh bedding and food. Place a large piece of damp burlap over the bin ensuring that the burlap overhangs the edges of the bin. Place one inch of vermicompost on the burlap. With a bright light over the bin, the worms will move through the burlap and you can remove the finished compost.
Note: For the second and third methods, don't feed the worms for one or two weeks prior to harvesting.
Vermicomposting is organic, non-burning and rich in nutrients. It can be used for any garden project. 

The Bedding

Suitable bedding materials include
  • shredded or mulched paper such as newspaper (no color)
  • computer paper and cardboard
  • shredded fall leaves
  • chopped up straw
  • sawdust
  • dried grass clippings
  • peat moss
  • Fibrous garden matter such as corn husks
Vary the bedding in the bin to provide more nutrients for the red wigglers and to create a richer compost. The quantities of each is not important, as you cannot make wrong bedding if using the above materials.


The best approach is prevention. By always burying the food waste you will discourage fruit flies. Keep a tight lid on the container you use to store waste before adding them to the bin. This will prevent flies from laying eggs in the scraps. [This does not help if your kitchen is infested with fruit flies, in which case all the peels of your kitchen fruit will have fruit fly eggs.]
It is unlikely that your worm bin will have an unpleasant odor. If it does, there are a number of possible causes and steps you can take to remedy the problem.
  1. You have overloaded your bin with too much food waste. Solution: Don't add any more food for a week or two.
  2. The bedding is too wet and compacted. Solution: (a) gently stir the entire contents to allow more air in and stop adding food waste for a week or so. Make sure that your food waste is still buried. (b) The lid can be removed or left slightly ajar to allow the contents to dry out.
  3. Your bin is too acidic. Solution: Add some calcium carbonate and cut down on the amount of citrus peel and other acidic food waste.


Worms hate light and prefer to remain in the dark of their bin. Exposure to light for an hour will paralyze them. They will not leave their home. They are very sensitive to vibrations. Please try not to disturb them unnecessarily.
Worms are living creatures with their own unique needs, so it is important to create and maintain a healthy habitat for them to do their work. If you supply the right ingredients and care, your worms will thrive and make compost for you.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ginseng poachers take to the woods as prices soar

TODD RICHMOND Associated Press Published: September 28, 2012 9:40AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- They slink through the woods in camouflage and face paint, armed with tire irons, screwdrivers and hoes, seeking a plant that looks like a cross between a Virginia creeper and poison ivy.

They're the new breed of ginseng diggers, a rough and tumble lot looking to parlay rising Asian demand for the increasingly rare plant's roots into a fast buck.

Amid a sluggish economy, police say, more diggers are pushing into the backcountry from the upper Mississippi River to the Smoky Mountains in search of wild ginseng, eschewing harvest permits, ripping up even the smallest plants and ignoring property lines.

Their slash-and-burn tactics have left property owners enraged and biologists worried about the slow-growing plant's long-term survival. In Ohio prosecutors charged one landowner with gunning down a man he believed was stealing ginseng.

"We're not finding big, healthy populations. It was there, and a lot of it has been taken," said Nora Murdock, an ecologist with the National Park Service who monitors plant populations in four parks across the southeastern U.S. "It's like taking bricks out of a building. You might not feel the first brick ... but sooner or later you're going to pull out too many."

Ginseng, a long-stemmed plant with five leaves and distinctive red berries, long has been coveted in many Asian cultures because the plant's gnarly, multipronged root is believed to have medicinal properties that help improve everything from memory to erectile dysfunction. And the wild roots are believed to be more potent than cultivated roots.

The plant takes years to mature, and it has been harvested to the edge of extinction in China. Ginseng buyers have turned to North America, where the plant can be found from northeastern Canada through the eastern U.S.

Conscious of the harvesting pressure, the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora imposed restrictions on exports in 1975. Under those terms, states certify ginseng has been harvested legally and exporters must obtain a federal permit. Most states have restricted ginseng harvest to a few months in the fall and require diggers to obtain permits during that period. It's illegal to harvest ginseng from any national park and most national forests in the southeast.

The price of wild ginseng roots has climbed in the last decade. Now domestic buyers pay $500 to $600 per pound compared with about $50 per pound of cultivated roots. Law enforcement officials say the prices have pushed people looking for quick money into the woods.

"It's lucrative to spend a day in the woods and walk out with $500 of ginseng in a bag when you don't have a job," said Wisconsin conservation warden Ed McCann. "Every one of these plants is like looking at a $5 or $10 bill."

Clad at times in camouflage, face masks and face paint to blend in, poachers trod through the underbrush with makeshift tools such as tire irons and screwdrivers looking for ginseng, police said. They don't have any qualms about digging up immature roots; they want to get at the plants before other poachers or before the state's harvest season begins. But that ensures the plants won't reproduce and feeds a cycle of dwindling populations and rising prices.

And poachers know how to get around the conservation regulations. They'll dig ginseng out of season to get a jump on competitors and take it to dealers when the season opens or purchase permits after the fact. In other cases dealers just look the other way, said John Welke, a Wisconsin conservation warden.

It's difficult to get a clear picture of the extent of poaching in the U.S. -- violation statistics are spread across layers of state and federal jurisdictions, but law enforcement officials and biologists across the eastern half of the country told The Associated Press they believe it's on the rise.

In Wisconsin, the leading U.S. producer of commercially grown ginseng, wildlife officials say violations such as harvesting wild ginseng without a permit or harvesting out of season tripled from 12 in 2007 to 36 last year.

Ohio wildlife authorities have made 100 arrests between 2008 and last year for various ginseng violations ranging from digging without permission to digging or buying out of season.

A team of West Virginia University researchers counted 30 ginseng populations across New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia between 1998 and 2009. The team reported that of the 368 plants they discovered had been harvested, only five were taken legally.

"It's very difficult to catch a poacher," said U.S. Forest Service botanist Gary Kauffman. "You could put everything in a backpack and your hands are clean, nobody really knows what you're doing."

A grand jury in southeastern Ohio charged 78-year-old Joseph Kutter of New Paris with killing a man whom Kutter claimed had trespassed onto his property to poach ginseng. According to court documents, Kutter shot Bobby Jo Grubbs with an assault rifle in May and hid his body in a mulch pile. Kutter's attorneys didn't return messages seeking comment.

Sara Souther, a University of Wisconsin-Madison botanist who worked on the West Virginia University ginseng team, said multiple times she has encountered poachers trying to harvest the plant.

"These are intimidating people," Souther said. "You can tell these men are not hiking. If you're out there and witness an illegal act, you don't know what people will do."