The Walking Windrow (Follow-Along) Project
Watch Me Build a 4-Season Worm Castings Production System
The ‘Quick & Dirty’ Overview
Back in July of 2018, I connected with the owner of a large (100 acre) country property not far from where I live, and we quickly discovered a shared interest in vermicomposting. I was invited to use some space for projects on-site, and to take advantage of various available resources.
I jumped at the opportunity, and within a short period I had the “greenlight” for getting started on an ambitious large-scale castings production bed. I knew I would need to create something effective (for both worm and castings production) – yet also a system that would be able to handle the challenges of 4-seasons in Ontario (Canada).
My solution…a large-scale walking windrow, set up in a trench! 😎
What is a “Walking Windrow” and Why is it in a Trench?
A typical windrow is just an extended, raised ridge of organic materials set up for various types of composting and worm farming. It’s a nice easy, low-tech approach that can work quite well in outdoor locations. A “walking windrow” is simply a windrow that is built up gradually over time (instead of all at once).
You start with a basic “heap” or small windrow, and then just keep adding new materials to one side. The reason it can be particularly effective for worm composting is that it acts as a “continuous flow” system, allowing you to separate most of the worms from the finished vermicompost. Fresher “food materials” are added periodically to the leading edge (or “wedge”) to help draw the worms in that direction.
Eventually – once you have “primed the pump”, so to speak – you end up far enough along that the material you started with is ready to harvest. With the added bonus of being able to continue harvesting on a fairly regular basis (unlike a “batch” system, where everything is basically ready all at once, and then you have to wait for another full composting cycle).
As for the trench…
I’ve worked with – and have had great success with – vermicomposting trenches for many years now. It is hard to beat them for protecting a worm bed from temperature extremes and dry conditions.
Knowing this bed would (ideally) need to stay quite active during the winter, I figured I should give the windrow as much protection as I possibly could. That being said, one of the “disadvantages” of trenches is that they don’t usually allow a lot of air flow down in the lower reaches – so it can take a while before you end up with nice finished compost.
This trench is different!
For the first time ever, I’m creating a “walking trench” (only makes sense, right?) – an open ended trench that provides the bed with much greater air circulation. I’ve even taken it a step further by including the thick false bottom of coarse wood chips (which should also help with air circulation and moisture control).
My Progress So Far
Phase I of the project focused primarily on digging a decent-sized trench, getting the intial worm habitat zone established and ‘winter-ready’, starting the leading edge…and resource gathering…lots and LOTS of resource gathering (“hoarding” might be a better term)! lol
We actually had quite a bit of cold, snowy weather towards the tail end of this stage and the system performed beautifully. The trench is as big as I’m going to make it until I get back to work on it in the spring, and all my winter resource heaps are well-stocked and ready for use.
The slide show below should give you some sense for how things developed during the first 3 months (and some of the interesting activities and happenings along the way).
Phase II has been taking place during the colder months of winter and early spring. A BIG focus has been on bed maintenance and worm population development. The aim has been to keep the system nice and warm all winter long. Apart from a 3 week period of “neglect” over the holiday season that resulted in temps dropping down to 10 C / 50 F (which was still a LOT warmer than air temperature), everything has come off without a hitch. Temps in the heart of the bed have remained up around 20 C (68 F) even during the much-hyped “Polar Vortex” period when air temps dropped as low as – 30 C (-22 F).
The worm population in the bed has been doing very well, and the densities of cocoons in the material are incredible. Starting in February I actually began harvesting worm-rich material from the bed so as to get a jump start on the spring season for my vermicomposting business. Normally I would need to wait until sometime in April before being able to access worms in outdoor beds. Not this year!
Where Are We Headed From Here?
Phase III and Beyond – the aim is to have plenty of vermicompost ready for some time during spring growing season (hopefully by late May or early June). As alluded to above it will likely also be an important (and very busy) time for my vermicomposting business, so worm-harvesting and other entrepreneurial topics will likely be explored as part of the “follow-along” during this period as well.
It’s hard to say where things will go from there (and as I explain further down, it’s important to realize that anything can happen along the way), but I hope to have the opportunity to see how the bed performs during the hotter months of summer as well!
Some Potenial Burning Questions Answered
“This Started WAY Back in August. I Feel Like I’ve Missed a Lot of It Already! Am I Too Late?”
I purposely didn’t launch the follow-along until the project was well-established because: 1) I wanted to make sure it had a very strong start and the future prospects looked promising, 2) I wanted to make sure there would be plenty of content available for members when they joined, 3) A lot of the initial work was fairly repetitive and monotonous (I loved it – but it may have seemed a wee bit dull to anyone following along)! This way you can make your way through the updates as quickly (or slowly) as you like.
Most of the “fun stuff” is on the way!
While I DO think there is a certain thrill in actually being there as the project develops – even if you only got involved as it was winding down, you would still be able to benefit a great deal from it (over time it will likely evolve from a “follow-along” into more of a course).
On that note, it might be good to address…
“How Long Does This ‘Follow-Along’ Run For (and How Long Will I Have Access to the Content)?”
That’s an excellent question, but unfortunately a very difficult one to give a concrete answer for. Best case scenario, I would love to be able to “walk” all of you through 4 seasons of working with a walking windrow. This would allow me to explore most the challenges (and of course benefits) that outdoor vermicomposting has to offer. Bare minimum, I am hoping to at least get to the point where I can attempt the first harvest.
But anything can happen – especially when you are working on a property you don’t own!
As just one basic example of what can “go wrong” – the project nearly fell off the rails within the first few weeks when my trusty VW Jetta station wagon (aka “surburban pickup truck”) broke down, and finally reached the point of being beyond (reasonable) repair.
Thankfully, my dear old dad instantly stepped up and insisted that I basically keep his vehicle for as long as I needed it (he is 80 now, and doesn’t need to do much driving). As a sidenote, the project is actually dedicated to him for all the help he has provided over the years.
It was these sorts of wildcard events weighing on my mind that helped me decide to wait several months to get the follow-along launched. When it comes down to it, even if I had to completely stop (and walk away from) the project today, there is enough there to make it a valuable educational resource.
As always, if anything happens along the way, I will simply switch gears and adjust the overall gameplan.
As far as member access goes – you have permanent access to everything shared! 😎
“I Live in a House / Townhouse / Condo / Apartment / Doghouse…”
Is that an actual question? 😉
Ok – naturally, some people will see that I’m working on a 100 acre property with (seemingly) limitless resources, engaged in various crazy feats of manual labor…and wonder how on earth any of this applies to them.
Well, for starters, it’s important to remember that I myself have been operating on a small suburban property – engaged in, albeit scale-down versions of, pretty much the same sort of thing. If you have a little piece of land there is a lot you can do! If you don’t have your own land, you may want to approach friends or family members, or even a local community garden (etc etc etc) about trying something on their land (similar to my own situation). Even a little bit of networking can go a long way!
Aside from that, when it comes down to it, this is a very valuable learning opportunity regardless of what scale you are operating on and what resources you have available to you. I’ve always emphasized the importance of focusing more on the vermicomposting principles behind the madness, than on the exact step by step methods being shared.
And, when it comes down to it…call me biased, but I just think it’s fun watching something exciting (worm-related) unfold.
It’s like reality TV for worm-heads! 😉
This a Very Inspired Project…But it Really Needs Your Help!
I need to be completely honest here…
For more than a decade now I’ve worked hard to fund my efforts as a vermicomposting educator. It’s been very challenging at times, especially trying to find the balance between the “work” part (eg. operating a vermicomposting business) and the “education” side of things (my first love).
This project couldn’t have landed on my plate at a more “perfect” time – and I am so excited to see where it might lead! But how much I am able to do with it will largely depend on the amount of interest and support it receives.
If you’ve followed and enjoyed my work at all over the years – and have enjoyed my content – I can guarantee that THIS is the project you don’t want to miss!
So, How Much Does it Cost?
I’ll admit that coming up with an introductory price was quite challenging. In the past I have tried to price my information products super-low in an effort to get more people interested and on-board. The sad irony is that this usually didn’t really lead to more sales, or help me “fund” my educational work very effectively in the long-run.
The introductory price I decided on is $37 – but there’s a decent chance there might be some discount codes floating around as well (wink, wink – more info below) . I always like to reward the “early adopters” and in this case I also really want to build up a thriving, active member community before things really start to “heat up”!
Speaking of members…
Here’s What Members Get Access to…
The Walking Windrow Journal
I’ve literally been keeping a journal for all my days at the project site (and any other activities relating to the project) – and I’ve shared an enhanced version of it, including plenty of images in the member’s area.
WWP Private Facebook Discussion Group
This resource is serving as a second member’s area – not only fantastic for member interaction and questions, but also a great way to share all the Phase I (live action) videos – and likely plenty of other updates over time.
WWP Welcome Guide
This guide provides new members with all the important preliminary info they need to get started, along with a more in-depth backstory about how the project came to be and the rationale behind key decisions.
WWP Updates & Video Summary Guide
Knowing people would be getting involved 3 or more months in, it was important to provide members with easy ways to get caught up with project happenings as quickly as possible.
WWP E-mail List
No more dealing with different trays, or dealing with time-consuming and messy “dump and sort” operations. Add wastes up top, then harvest worm castings from the bottom (once ready).
ALL Future Updates and Add-Ons
This is an ongoing project and most of the good stuff is yet to come. All members get access to everything!
…And Just Some of the Topics We’ll Be Exploring
Cold (and Hot) Weather Vermicomposting
Outdoor vermicomposting presents its own set of challenges – not the least of which relates to fluctuating temperatures from season to season.
Resource Gathering & Management
It’s amazing the resources available to us vermicomposters – often right under our noses, and free for the taking!
Large-scale Castings Production/Harvesting
One of the major goals of the project is to produce large quantities of quality worm castings for the property owner in time for spring growing season.
Worm "Foods" & Feeding
I’ll be using/testing a wide range of different food materials in this bed. It will be interesting to see how they compare.
I will be harvesting lots of worms from this bed for my own vermicomposting business, so nurturing the ‘worm herd’ will be an important part of the process as well.
Amazing things can happen when you team up with others who have similar interests/vision, and complimentary resources!
What Others Are Saying About the WWP…
…and Have Said About My Work & the RWC Website in the Past
Thanks for all that you do, and all that you have done!” ~ Chad Sentman
Ready to “Follow Along”?
As mentioned above, my introductory price is $37 (USD)
But there is a discount available to help celebrate my vermicomposting trench presentation at the 2019 Homegrown Food Summit.
On the checkout page enter the code “HGFS19” (no quotes) to enjoy 30% off!
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is also a completely optional upgrade offer (mentioned below) – an opportunity to pre-order my upcoming “Trench Vermicomposting” course for a fair bit less than the planned launch price. (The 30% off coupon won’t be applied to that since that price has already been discounted).
About The Upgrade Offer
On the checkout page you will see an option to pre-order an upcoming course called “Trench Vermicomposting”. This is the perfect companion to The Walking Windrow Follow-Along, available at a greatly reduced price – BUT there is absolutely no pressure to buy. I just wanted to include it as an add-on for anyone interested in this closely related topic.
As a “funny” sidenote – “Trench Vermicomposting” was originally intended as the main offering, with some sort of coverage of the Walking Windrow Project as an add-on. But once I got going with WWP, I just knew that was what I needed to put all my focus on – and I’m so glad I did. 😎
Thank-You for Your Support!