Practical Application of a Lifetime Study of Habits
of the Most Important Animal in the World
by George Sheffield Oliver, B. Y. P.
Feeding Problems of the Frog Farmer
"Money in frogs" -- List of frogs that may be raised commercially -- Natural food for frogs -- A. G. Peek, Southern California frog man, quoted -- What frog food should be used -- What its qualifications should be -- Frog farmer should raise earthworms from egg capsules -- Feeding basket -- Master bed -- Discussion of electroculture for use by frog farmers
LET me lay my cards face up on the table before I start dealing advice and suggestions in this lesson. I do not wish to be understood as either encouraging or discouraging an investment of time or money in the business of frog farming for commercial gain.
I am quite cognizant of the fact that frog farming is, on the one hand, a legitimate business, scientifically taught, and, on the other hand, a racket sponsored by empirical promoters.
Be that as it may, I shall not become dictatorial in the matter. It should be within the mental province of the individual contemplating entering the frog farming business to be able to judge whether he is dealing with a reputable firm or one whose ethics will not stand a close investigation.
This, however, I shall say -- " Money in Frogs" (and similarly-attractive advertising catch lines) is ambiguous, regardless of the fact that such statements are acceptable as good English. The fact is, there is no money in frogs, nor earthworms, nor cats, nor horses, nor vegetables -- without that form of human energy which we call "work."
It may seem trite to declare that financial gains are produced by the individual raising these commodities. The commodities are the vehicles on which human energy rides to financial profit. This point is well worth emphasizing, for many persons are led by advertisements to believe that all they have to do to make money is to stock a farm with this or that and money will begin to pile up in voluminous proportions.
I have previously stated in this work -- in discussing the raising of earthworms for commercial use -- that it is foolhardy to enter any business with the hallucination of wealth over night. Such hopes are the fabric from which fairy tales are spun -- and fairy tales are further removed from facts than is fiction.
Nonetheless, a goodly annual income can be developed through the business of frog farming. For those already engaged in this business, and for those contemplating entering it, this lesson is especially prepared.
The frog farmer's problems of feeding differ from those of the fish farmer. The latter, as we have already seen, is facing what might be called, and not inaccurately, a food shortage for his piscatorial school. The frog farmer's problems also concern food, though they are not as acute as those of the fish farmer.
However, if, as some dealers in frogs claim, the frog farmer believes he can go to the nearest abattoir and buy meat scraps for a mere nothing, he had better prepare himself for a shock. The previous lesson explains that matter and shows where the by-products of meat packing houses go.
Breeding, raising and fattening frogs -- of which there are four kinds suitable for commercial raising in the United States, i. e., French, Chinese, Louisiana and American -- in captivity is definitely artificial. Such frogs, if they are to increase and grow to marketable size, must be fed by the farmer, for, like fish in captivity, frogs can not produce sufficient food in enclosed ponds without human assistance.
Frogs, in their natural state, live on insects, insect larvae, various types of worms and crawfish (crayfish). During the tadpole stage, they are, for the most part, vegetarians.
But I have not set out to discuss the dietary habits or needs of frogs in captivity, except insofar as earthworms and the larvae of the bluebottle fly are employed. Your local library should have a number of books on this subject, or your Chamber of Commerce, or Board of Trade should be well enough informed about this matter to suggest a frog-canning concern to which you could address your inquiry regarding frog feeding. Most, if not all, of these concerns will be pleased to send you suggestions.
My primary interest in this series is our friend, the earthworm, and, in this lesson, the part it plays as a food supplement for frogs in captivity.
A. C. Peek, an official of the Rio Hondo Trout and Frog Farm, El Monte, California, in discussing frog food with the writer, declared that "Earthworms are a beneficial delicacy for frogs. They eat them ravenously, both in and out of captivity, and they should be an integral part of the frogs' diet."
Frog food, contends this authority, should have these qualifications:
It must be abundant.
It must not be injurious to land or marine vegetation, insects, or other natural food for frogs.
It must be low in original cost and upkeep.
It must be of such dimensions that all frogs can eat it.
It must be capable of withstanding changes in temperature, ranging from summer heat to winter cold.
It must be available for frogs where and when they want it.
Earthworms meet each of these six requirements thusly: (1) they are prolific breeders; (2) they will not injure plant, animal or insect life; (3) their cost and upkeep is low; (4) they are never too large for even the youngest, smallest frog; (5) they will withstand various temperatures, when properly housed; and (6) they are made available as frog food with very little labor on the part of the farmer.
Because of the slaveship of earthworms to the environment in which they have been raised, I do not look with glowing favor upon suggestions made by some teachers of frog culture who advise frog farmers to dig their own earthworms and transplant them to a previously-prepared culture bed. This system is not always successful. At best, it is a slow process, for the earthworms that withstand the change of environment will be slow breeders, much too slow for the needs of the frog farmer.
My theory, substantiated by many tests over a period of years, is that the culture of earthworms, regardless of what their future use may be, should begin with the egg capsules. In this way, the newly-hatched earthworms will immediately partake of the nourishment available. They will mature naturally, in about ninety days, and when properly housed, controlled and fed, will reproduce regularly every week throughout the year.
I have two suggestions to make regarding the earthworm culture bed for frog farmers.
First: For large frog farms, a culture bed not to exceed twenty-five (25) feet long, ten (10) feet wide and four (4) feet deep should be excavated. The location should be shady, and, if possible, damp.
Fill this bed (about six to eight inches below the top) with a mixture of peat moss (or sawdust or wood shavings), rich, black soil, manure from grain-fed horses or cattle, chicken droppings, and about a bushel of leaf mould. No care should be taken in filling the bed, except, of course, to have the ingredients well mixed.
Into this bed I would place 50,000 earthworm egg capsules and allow nature to take her course.
In two months, if the minimum amount of earthworms and egg capsules are placed in the bed, the frog farmer may begin to harvest his crop of annelids for frog food.
Care should be taken during the daily, biweekly, or weekly harvesting of the earthworms that too many breeding earthworms are not fed to the frogs. Such carelessness would soon deplete the earthworm culture bed of its most valued asset -- prolific breeders. (Elsewhere in this work the culling of young, immature and sluggish, earthworms from the healthy breeders is explained).
In the course of six months to a year, less care need be taken in selecting the earthworms to be fed the frogs, for by that time the earthworm bed should be a veritable mass of annelids.
The frog farmer should select a secluded spot in which to feed earthworms to the frogs, for they are sensitive creatures and seldom eat in public. Another frog eccentricity is the fact that it will not eat anything unless it (the food) moves.
One of the best methods for feeding earthworms to frogs is to prepare a metal tray or trays, not more than three inches deep. These should be set into the ground so that the edges are level with the surface of the soil. The sides of the trays should be slanted inward from, the bottom, to prevent the earthworms from crawling out.
When the earthworms are transferred to the trays (with a small amount of soil from the culture bed) the contents of the trays should be thoroughly soaked with water. This is done to force the earthworms to the surface, thus assuring the frogs easy access to them.
Frogs will devour all the earthworms the frog farmer sees fit to give them. It is up to him, therefore, to determine the amount of earthworms he should feed his frogs. In time, he can adjust his earthworm supply to meet his demands.
The second method of feeding earthworms to frogs will, I believe, eventually displace all other methods now in use.
In this method, the earthworm culture bed is placed within the confines of the frog pond enclosure, near the bank of the water.
In preparing this bed, and before the culture is placed in it, it should be wired for electricity as approved by the new science of electroculture. Between the bed and the electric switch should be placed a transformer, a common electrical device that transforms the electrical current up or down as required.
(Before I explain the use of electricity in this manner, it should be understood that the construction of this electrically-equipped culture bed is probably beyond the ability of the ordinary person whose knowledge of electrically-operated appliances is, at best, elemental. It behooves the person contemplating the installation of this system, therefore, to contact his electric maintenance bureau or write his State Agricultural College for information concerning electroculture).
When this system is properly installed, the culture bed prepared as above noted, the earthworms and egg capsules planted and a sufficient quantity of earthworms matured, the electric contrivance is ready to be brought into use.
The first move is to turn the dial of the transformer down to its lowest point, which permits the minimum of "juice" to pass through the wires in the culture bed. This done, the electric current is turned on. If the amount of current is sufficient, earthworms will appear instantly upon the surface of the culture bed, sent there by the electricity. If the earthworms do not appear, the dial of the transformer should be moved to the next higher notch. If again no earthworms appear, the upward movement of the dial should be continued, one notch at a time, until they do appear. Once the frog farmer using this system learns the necessary amount of electric energy required to expose the earthworms, he can set the dial at this point for future use.
Experiments with this system have shown it to have two beneficial advantages for frog farmers. First, the larger, mature earthworms, i. e., the breeders, do not come to the surface until a comparatively large volume of electricity is turned into the wires in the culture bed. This assures the breeders comparative safety from capture by the frogs. The second benefit is that the frogs may feed to their hearts' content upon the earthworms that do come to the surface.
In the near future I hope to produce a pamphlet dealing exclusively with the application of electricity to earthworm culture beds. While this is still in an embryonic state, I believe it has many possibilities, and I am working on a few experiments at this writing.
Let us now turn our attention briefly to the bluebottle fly, its larvae, and the manner in which these are procured by the frogs.
Lesson VI in Part Two of this series, "Putting the Bluebottle to Work," explains the method by which the larvae are developed for a supplement diet for hens.
For the frog farmer, the same general principle prevails. There is in use at the present time a screen-like basket which certain frog culturists recommend for the purpose of placing thereon decayed fish or animal by-products as an invitation to the bluebottle fly to "blow."
I can recommend no better device than these baskets. They should be suspended over the earthworm feeding trays, high enough to permit the air to carry away the odor, yet not so high as to discourage the bluebottle flies from "blowing" the decayed matter on them.
It seems to me that this dual system of feeding earthworms and fly larvae to frogs in captivity -- both foods being the natural food for frogs -- should be highly productive of healthier, bigger and better frogs -- a goal which all frog farmers hope to some day reach.
Relation and connection are not somewhere and time, but everywhere and always.
Housing the Earthworm Stock
Building an earthworm farm -- The window sill earthworm farmer -- Small stock all that is necessary -- Earthworm farming in gallon cans -- Economical way to start -- Farming in vegetable lugs -- One of the finest methods -- Proved by many years of experimentations -- Farming in master beds or banks -- What the U. S. Department of Agriculture says about this type of earthworm breeding
IN this lesson we approach the vortex of earthworm farming around which everything tending toward success revolves -- the containers in which the earthworm stock is housed.
These containers are to the earthworm farmer what chicken coops are to the poultryman, though the labor required to keep them serviceable is far below that necessary for efficient poultry raising.
For continuity's sake, let us follow, step by step, an earthworm farmer's progress from an humble beginning with the smallest type of container toward his ultimate goal -- the housing facilities for one or more millions of earthworms.
Our first step in this figurative journey will be with
The Window Sill Earthworm Farmer
Countless thousands of people take delight in decorating the window sills of their homes, apartments or rooms with flowers; and a surprisingly large number raise a limited amount of vegetables in window sill boxes.
Regarding this subject, Dr. Martha B. Carey, of Los Angeles, writes:
"Earthworms have interested me for several years, but I have had to confine my own practical experience with them to window boxes in an apartment house. I have four boxes -- 30 inches long, 8-1/2 inches wide and 7 inches deep -- in which I grow many varieties of flowers and enough carrots, onions, lettuce and parsley to supply my own table..."
A convenient and efficient method for the windowsill earthworm farmer desiring to develop a stock of earthworms from say a tablespoonful (about fifty) egg capsules may be satisfactorily begun in a flower pot.
An ordinary flower pot, not less than six inches in height, should he filled within an inch of the top with rich soil. (A small amount of manure and peat moss, if available, would also be beneficial).
Place the earthworm capsules in this mixture and set the pot in a saucer of water. Less than a teaspoonful of corn meal should be sprinkled over the soil and a few grains of barley added. Both of these are food for the earthworms, though barley has the added advantage of sweetening the soil.
Soil in containers in which earthworms are bred and raised becomes so rich in earthworm castings that the soil must be sweetened. If it were that the earthworm farmer discarded the castings, the procedure of sweetening would not be necessary. But earthworm castings, being of high nutritional value to plant and vegetable life, are constantly kept and used and reused. This system of using earthworm castings may be best explained by comparing them to a sponge. One may fill a sponge with water, squeeze it out and keep this up almost indefinitely.
(Parenthetically, the writer here wishes to refer the reader to the following lesson regarding food and feeding methods, where complete instructions for all types of containers will be found. In this lesson, I deal primarily with the types of containers used and the methods employed to prepare them for soil, food and earthworms.)
Under ordinary conditions, the fifty earthworm eggs will have hatched and begun breeding in about three months.
Care should be taken to keep the saucer well filled with water. The pot should never be watered from the top.
In from three to four months, when the windowsill earthworm farmer is ready for the first harvest of earthworms, another flower pot should be filled with soil and food, as described in the following lesson.
The new pot is then placed in a saucer of water. The first pot is removed from its saucer and placed on top of the new container. Through the standard hole in the bottom of the pot, the growing and breeding earthworms will pass from the upper to the lower pot, leaving their eggs behind them.
Earthworms breed so rapidly that from this period onward the window sill farmer will be surprised at the speed with which the earthworm stock increases.
Either earthworms or their eggs (or both) may be transplanted from the breeding pots to flower boxes or other pots containing plants as soon as the farmer desires to do so.
As the earthworm stock increases and more and more flower pots are needed to hold them -- care should be taken in observing that they are not too crowded (100 mature earthworms being the maximum ) -- the window sill farmer graduates to
Earthworm Farming in Gallon Cans
These containers are made ready to receive the culture and stock by punching three holes, equidistant, about two inches above the base. Holes are punched in them for the purpose of permitting surplus water to drain off. Were the water to gather in the bottom of the can, it would sour, the resulting chemical action being injurious to the continued good health of the earthworms housed within it.
When the gallon cans are properly filled with culture, earthworms and their capsules -- not to exceed one hundred of the former and three hundred of the latter -- are placed in them.
Like all containers for breeding and raising earthworms, gallon cans should not become overcrowded. Under no conditions is crowding of earthworms advisable.
Space required for storing this type of container need not be a problem. Twelve such cans may be easily placed on a shelf on the back porch, in the cellar or in the garage.
At no time should more than 600 -- 500 is preferred -- growing and breeding earthworms be housed in a one-gallon can.
The gallon can earthworm farmer will find that his stock increases much faster than it did when he was engaged in breeding and raising them in flower pots. For now his stock is approximately tripled, and the increase in breeders will be from three to four times what they were during the flower pot stage.
In a few months, the number of gallon cans required to house his constantly increasing family of earthworms will be such that he will be ready to set these aside and turn to larger containers.
He is now fast approaching the stage when he may rightly consider his stock of earthworms enough to encourage him to give considerable thought to markets and marketing. He is now ready to begin
Earthworm Farming in Vegetable Lugs
Vegetable lugs are both popular and practical for the earthworm farmer. They are easy to handle, weighing less than fifty pounds when properly prepared to receive the earthworm stock. (See following lesson).
Vegetable lugs are purchasable at any market for from three to five cents each. Their approximate inside measurements are 17 inches long, 14 wide and 6 deep.
A similarly satisfactory container, weighing not over thirty pounds when properly filled, is the common butter box. Its approximate inside measurement is 10 inches long, 9 wide and 6 deep. This container is the choice of women earthworm farmers because of its compactness and the ease with which it can be handled.
Both the vegetable lugs and butter boxes are prepared thusly:
In the bottom of each, six quarter-inch holes should be punched or bored. These should be more or less equidistant, about four inches apart, three on each side of the bottom.
These holes play a dual role. Firstly, as drainage for surplus water, and, secondly, to permit the egress of the earthworms from upper to lower boxes. (See following lesson).
High in the center of one end bore a hole large enough to receive the nozzle of an ordinary garden hose. This hole is to facilitate watering the stock when the lugs are stacked.
Butter boxes should not contain more than 800 growing and breeding earthworms. Vegetable lugs may safely house 1000 such earthworms without fear of crowding.
When the vegetable lugs become numerous, say 24 to 36, the earthworm farmer needs considerably larger quarters. He now enters
Earthworm Farming in Master Beds
Master beds (or pits, piles or banks, as they are frequently called) are the ultimate goal of every earthworm farmer. With these -- for he may have need for a number of them -- he will be in a position within twelve months to supply the demands of his clients.
Let us consider a master bed as suggested by the United States Department of Agriculture in its Farmer's Bulletin, No. 1569, from which we learn that "Where it is desired to store or rear earthworms for sale, a larger container placed out of doors is desirable.
"For this purpose a tight box, preferably constructed of tongue-and-groove material, is suitable. It should be at least 18 inches deep and of a size proportionate to the number of worms it is proposed to handle. A box 18 by 36 by 60 inches will serve very well for several hundred large worms. If the exterior of the box is well tarred it will last much longer in the soil than if untreated. Creosote is not recommended for this purpose because of its possible effect on the worms. In any case the inside of the box should not be treated with either of these substances, but, if so desired, it may be waterproofed by painting with hot paraffin wax.
"The box should be supplied with a well-fitting lid, which should project sufficiently over its edges to prevent flooding during heavy rains. It should be set into the soil with the upper 2 or 3 inches projecting above the surface, in a fairly well-drained place, and should be shaded to prevent the temperature of the interior from rising too high in midsummer. A temperature of 75 deg F. or higher is quickly fatal to earthworms under most conditions. The box should be nearly filled with good soil which is damp but not wet. The richer the soil is in humus the better, as the worms require less artificial feeding in rich soil than in poor. A loamy soil is preferable, but very sandy soil is not suitable.
"After the box has been stocked with worms, the surface of the soil may be covered with a layer of cut sod if desired, but a very excellent covering consists of well-decayed leaves, which form a considerable part of the natural food of earthworms. In dry weather it will be necessary to moisten the soil in the box occasionally, but in doing so care should be taken to avoid flooding it, as too much water is injurious to the worms. Freezing kills earthworms, and in severe climates, where the soil commonly freezes to a depth of a foot or more during the winter, it may be necessary to protect the soil in the box from frost. Winter protection may be secured by giving the box a generous covering of half-decayed manure or compost.
"Although under the conditions just described earthworms can live for a long time without artificial aid, it will be found desirable to feed them a little fat occasionally, in the form of chopped beef suet, or a little sugar in some cheap form. One dealer in earthworms claims to have been very successful in feeding worms ordinary molasses spread on the surface of gunny sacking or burlap, which is simply laid upon the soil with the sticky side down and moistened occasionally. The worms undoubtedly will reproduce more rapidly and be more thrifty if they are well fed. When the worms obtain insufficient food they shrink rapidly in size and lose vigor."
One may say, and not inaccurately, that the foregoing compost bed will be the earthworm farmer's most expensive item. There are others which should be found satisfactory.
One of these is turning old bath tubs, porcelain or metal-lined, into compost containers. This is best done by sinking the tub, or tubs, within a few inches of their rims. A screen should be placed over the drain hole to permit water to pass out, but to defeat attempts of the earthworms from escaping.
Other pits, beds or banks may be made according to one's own ideas.
At Highland Park, California, two erstwhile wells have been filled with compost and earthworms are now being bred and raised in these.
These pits are colloquially referred to as "banks," principally because from them the farm draws its needed supply of both earthworms and their capsules.
These "banks" are divided into quarters, with lattice work partitions. Each quarter is developed independently of the others, with the results that as one quarter is being drawn upon, the three others are developing. With the depletion of one quarter, fresh compost, food and earthworms and their capsules are placed in it and the farm begins to draw the next quarter, and so on, ad infinitum.
Our figurative journey has taken us through all the popular and approved housing facilities for earthworms bred and raised for private and commercial purposes. When the simple rules and suggestions presented in the foregoing are followed, the earthworm farmer will realize that he can spend more money for equipment, but he can not extract more or better service from it.
And now, with the knowledge of how to prepare containers for earthworm breeding and raising, we turn our attention to the type of soil and food used in them to keep our friend the earthworm healthy and productive.
Those who have finished by making all others think with them have usually been those who began by daring to think for themselves.
General Care and Feeding of Earthworms
Sound business advice -- What successful business men must know -- How Charles Darwin worked with his equipment -- How he worked with his records -- Earthworm farmer need not have expensive equipment -- But he should know earthworms -- How to acquire this knowledge -- One last tip for beginning earthworm farmers
IN the preceding lesson we saw how various containers to house earthworms were constructed or procured. We have now reached a point where we shall consider the matter of feeding and caring for the earthworms so that they will live, prosper and multiply according to the natural laws governing them as a specie.
The earthworm farmer should constantly keep uppermost in his mind the realization that he must attend to his stock just as he would have to attend to a flock of chickens, a drove of milch cows or a kennel of dogs, or any other specie of fowl or animal he was raising for private use or commercial disposition. But I hurry to relieve his mind at this juncture. The time and labor required to attend earthworms, whether they are in the hundreds or the hundred thousands, is far less than he would have to expend on any other animal he was breeding and raising in captivity. As we progress through this lesson we shall see how insignificant is the time and labor involved in tending earthworm stock.
In approaching the subject of earthworm food and feeding, let us visualize an earthworm farmer who is just entering the field.
Prior to, or within a few days after the arrival of his original stock of earthworms, the fledgling farmer should prepare a compost pit, or, if more convenient, a pile. This compost is definitely essential and should be kept complete at all times, for it is, one might accurately say, the soil reservoir from which the earthworm farmer draws almost weekly.
Let us assume that the compost will total three bushels. It should be prepared thusly:
Either in the pit or in a pile mix one-third manure, one-third soil and one-third peat moss (or substitute). To this may be added much of the kitchen waste, except acids, citrus rinds or scouring powders. Tin cans may also be added, for, as they rust and disintegrate, they are absorbed by the compost.
To mix the above the following instructions should be followed:
The manure should be either (1) Karakul sheep; (2) horse manure, preferably from grain fed animals; (3) chicken droppings; (4) cattle; (5) rabbits. After many experiments we have found that Karakul sheep manure is the best of all. We all know that every plant, every weed, and every form of vegetation contains elements, differing in different species, which through the unchangeable law of the universe they in time contribute to the upbuilding process of Nature. Karakul sheep do not seem to be discriminating in the matter of their feed. They eat almost everything that grows and in so doing they acquire all the elements of the various forms of vegetation and, therefore their manure also contains all these life giving elements. A good grade of soil should be used, preferably a sandy loam. This should be thoroughly screened before it is mixed with the manure and peat moss.
Peat moss has exceptionally fine properties for an earthworm compost pit and for use in various types of earthworm containers, as well as for soil in general. Its chief advantage is that it is highly absorptive, absorbing from ten to fifteen times its own dry weight in water. It is an organic material, brown in color and of spongy consistency. There are a number of grades of peat moss, the best coming to us from the boglands of Germany. However, any peat mosses minus an alkali content may be satisfactorily used. Many domestic peat mosses are high in alkalines and should be shunned by the earthworm farmer.
The use of peat moss is advisable, principally because it will reduce frequent watering of the earthworm stock. It has little, if any, food value; blends easily with soil and is unequivocally superior to any substitute yet known for use in earthworm culturing.
However, if peat moss is unavailable, wood shavings or sawdust may be used. These may be from all woods except redwood. Redwood shavings and sawdust will kill earthworms!
Peat moss should be well dampened before it is mixed with the compost or used for any purpose by the farmer. This assures easier mixing and diminishes the chances of a sudden gust of wind scattering it. Peat moss is purchasable in bales, the most economical size for the earthworm farmer being one hundred pounds.
Screening is very important. The oftener the compost is screened the better it will be as earthworm food. And not only does the screening mix the various elements, but it has a tendency to break them down -- a condition always advantageous to the root zones of plants.
Let us assume that the beginning earthworm farmer's stock came to him in 216 sixteen-ounce spice cans. These are technically known as earthworm spawn bricks. Each can or brick contains approximately one hundred egg capsules and growing earthworms, making a grand (approximate) total of 21,OOO egg capsules and growing earthworms.
At his earliest convenience the earthworm farmer should transfer the contents of the spice cans (the spawn bricks) to vegetable lugs. (See preceding lesson.)
This transfer includes the following operations:
In the bottom of the vegetable lug (prepared as described in the preceding lesson) should be placed one-quarter of a gunnysack (burlap). It should be laid flat so as to cover most, if not all of the bottom of the container. Upon this should be placed some fresh compost from the pit or pile -- to a depth of about two inches. Then empty the contents of eighteen of the spawn bricks into it. Cover this with more compost, scatter a small amount (about a tablespoonful) of corn meal or walnut meal over it. A handful of walnut shells may be added. Now, another quarter of a gunnysack -- or half or whole if you are so inclined -- should cover the contents of the lug. Dampen this thoroughly, using about two quarts of water. Sprinkle about an ounce of barley seed over the burlap and the lug is now ready to be set aside.
It is advisable to place the lug on a flat, heavy board, metal plate or flat piece of heavy tin. Otherwise the earthworms will crawl through the holes or openings in the bottom of the container, burrow into the ground and disappear.
The earthworm farmer should always remember that his earthworms must constantly be kept under control.
Corn meal, walnut meal and walnut shells are placed in the lug as food. Barley, likewise, is a food, but it serves the additional purpose of keeping the compost sweet.
When the 216 spawn bricks have been emptied into twelve lugs -- eighteen to a lug (prepared as described above ) -- numbers, from one to twelve, should be conspicuously painted or attached to each lug. The dozen lugs should then be stacked in numerical order in three rows, four deep, with each bottom lug on a flat, level surface.
Except to assure himself that his earthworm stock is adequately watered, the earthworm farmer does not disturb his lugs again until the lapse of a short three weeks. At this time, the position of the lugs are reversed. It is to preclude confusion in this change of position of the lugs that it is advisable to number them.
Earthworms always have a tendency to work from upper to lower cases. Reversing the order, therefore, assures the earthworm farmer a satisfactory distribution of his stock through the various containers and offsets a chance of crowding in one or more lugs.
As each lug is taken from its original position, the green, sprouted barley should be torn off -- and, if convenient, thrown into the compost pit -- the gunnysack again dampened with water, a small amount of fresh food added and another ounce of barley sprinkled on top. This lug is then placed so that it becomes the bottom container of its stack. Each lug is similarly treated until all twelve lugs have been reversed.
This reversing of the lugs should be done every week or two. Unlike most other animals raised in captivity, the earthworm does not require perfectly-timed and regular attention.
The earthworm farmer will be ready for his harvest in from ninety to one hundred days after the arrival of his original stock. At this time, all the original egg capsules will have hatched and from forty to sixty per cent will have laid one or more eggs.
This increase in the earthworm farmer's stock should be sufficient to allow him to market approximately 8000 egg capsules, growing and, in a small percentage, breeding earthworms. However, he should not appear too anxious to dispose of his first harvest. It is much sounder business to retain that crop and "put it back in the business."
This is accomplished thusly:
Twelve new lugs, twelve previously prepared quarters of gunny sacks and handy containers for food -- corn meal, walnut meal and walnut shells -- should be conveniently placed on a bench of congenial height. On the bench should be a flat board -- or the bench top itself will be enough if it is free from holes or cracks -- or a metal plate or heavy sheet of tin.
The earthworm farmer begins this work from the top lug of the first row. The sprouted barley is removed and discarded. The burlap bag -- which is used to retain moisture and keep out bright light -- should be placed to one side. Never attempt to pull any earthworms out of the bag. By doing so you will probably pull them apart, injuring them seriously if not fatally. Left untouched, they will crawl out of their own volition, at which time they may be rescued and returned to the compost.
The contents of the lug is then dumped in the center of the bench. With the hands, build it into a pyramidal pile and leave it exposed for from fifteen to twenty minutes.
During this period the earthworms will burrow toward the bottom of the pile, permitting the earthworm farmer to begin his harvest without unnecessarily annoying the breeders.
The egg capsules, with a liberal amount of soil (and additional soil from the compost pit) are now gathered and placed in one of the prepared lugs. When the pile has been divided, that is, about one-half of the soil with as many egg capsules as could be found is placed in one lug and the balance of the soil containing the breeders placed in the other, both are fed and watered as hitherto explained.
In transferring the growing and breeding earthworms into the second box, the farmer will quickly learn to recognize culls. These become readily distinguishable following a few practices in caring for the earthworms. Culls are either pale or of unusually large proportions. Our healthy earthworm, the type described in Part One of this work, is a rich reddish animal, seldom longer than four inches. Both types of culls should be destroyed. The large earthworms are, apparently, atavistic and are not to be desired on a well managed and well operated earthworm farm.
In harvesting the egg capsules for commercial disposition, the earthworm farmer should have small spice tins containing a small amount of food and compost. Into these the capsules may be dropped, the number noted and prepared for shipping.