These things are scattered all over the city. What even are they, I wondered at first. My boyfriend said it was an insect hotel, but I checked and it turned out to be a worm hotel. A worm hotel is a compost box for green waste from the kitchen. There are certain earthworms inside that eat the leftovers and turn them into humus. There are giant such wormenhotels in Amsterdam where whole neighbourhoods can dispose of their organic waste. It’s a big thing. There’s even a type of farm that grows these worms.
I checked on the internet how all of it works and then built my own worm hotel for my apartment. I’m a psychologist, but I love to work with my hands. My worm hotel consists of a few boxes that can be piled up. You just throw the leftovers on top. Potatoes, cabbage, fruits, vegetables, salad – many things can go in there. Theoretically, even socks or toothbrushes made of bamboo, but the worms would need a lot of time for that. After the worms have broken down everything in the bottom box, they can rise up through a grate into the next box and keep on eating. After having filled up a box completely, half is already gone by the next week and completely gone a week after that. I use the humus for my indoor plants or for plants on a street nearby. It’s a great way to produce less organic waste, especially because organic waste generally isn’t composted here in Amsterdam. And I don’t have to buy any plant fertilizer anymore. Below the boxes, there is a small bowl to catch the droplets. That’s called worm tea and can be used as liquid fertilizer.
In the beginning, my boyfriend thought it was gross, so I put the worm hotel into the pantry where nobody could see it. Some friends also found it gross when they heard of it. But it doesn’t smell at all and the worms are extremely scared of light, most of the time they’re not even on the surface, you don’t really deal with them at all. And really, worms aren’t gross at all but extremely important helpers in our ecosystem.
The worms reproduce incredibly fast. You start with a small population and within a month they double. My first worms I got from one of the large worm hotels on the street. I just asked if I could have a few, that wasn’t an issue at all. And just like that you get your own ecosystem in your house. You have to be careful it doesn’t get out of balance. It’s not like in nature where the worms can escape if they aren’t comfortable. In my first worm box, the worms were suddenly gone. I noticed too late that something was wrong. I was shocked, had a guilty conscience, all those poor worms. It was probably too hot, too wet, too sour, all kinds of things. Originally, I thought I’d just chuck a few worms in and that’s it, but it doesn’t work like that. It’s like in nature, when the ecosystems are out of balance, the soils die as well.
Since then, I’ve been checking the balance very thoroughly. If it’s too wet, I add paper or different cellulose. If it smells, a mixture of chopped egg shells, cucumbers, tomatoes or a little bit of water if it’s too dry. Somebody once told me that worms feel good where we feel good. It’s interesting how often we don’t have a clue about how things work in nature. I’m not even particularly a nature person. But lately I’ve developed a certain awareness. When I see an earthworm, I do look at it differently.
Story collected as part of the stories for future international pilot project.