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Starting a wormery - not as easy as you might think

With a renewed interest in fishing and nowhere to buy any wriggly bait in town, I thought that a wormery might be a good investment. After a bit of research I bought the Original Wormery Composter from Original Organics. It's designed for both indoor and outdoor use and isn't as large as some of the other offerings.

Everything arrived and I set it up according to the instructions. It comes with coir, or coconut fibre rather than soil. This needs to be moistened and personally I felt it looked somewhat unappealing as a home for the worms. But it was what it was. I added some food waste and shredded paper and left the top of the wormery open for a short while as this encourages the worms to burrow to escape the light. This didn't take long and the top wasn't open for long. I subsequently learned that this might have been a mistake.

The instruction was to then leave the worms for a while to settle in, but after a few days I had a peek. There were worms all up the inside of the container and some around the edges of the lid and in the hinge. I didn't cotton on to the fact that some had in fact got past the foam seal that sits between the lid and the top edge of the container.

When I next looked a few days later I couldn't see any worms. I turned over the coir and could only find two or three. I phoned the company and was assured that they were probably there, perhaps in the bottom of the container. However, I looked again about a week later - no worms

wormery lid


At this point I applied some practical logic to the situation and came to the conclusion that the worms had all escaped through small channels where the foam didn't quite meet, as shown in the photo. I recollected that I had seen worms in the hinge area and realised that they must have wriggled through the channel at that end. An email to the company didn't illicit any sympathy, only a statement that the foam normally provides a good seal, not acknowledging the obvious design flaw that I had described.

I had no choice other than to order some more worms while carrying out some modifications to block the escape routes that I had identified. I also checked out some YouTube videos and one explained that when the worms are first introduced they need a good while to acclimatise to their new home. It was recommended that the lid be left open for much longer than I had done previously. If they are not given plenty of time before the lid is closed. Once in the dark they will explore everywhere rather than just settling in their coir matting. That made sense so I followed this advice with my new worms.

It's still early days but so far my worms have remained, or at least a fair number of them, and I haven't spotted any signs of escapees. More importantly they seem active and I hope have started work breaking down the food waste. Only time will tell but it is clear that keeping worms is as much an art as a science!
  

Bike brought back into action!

My bike, bought about 30 years ago, has been at the back of the garage for a few years. With the continuing restrictions because of COVID-19, and the almost total lack of vehicular traffic, I decided to dust it off so to speak. It's a Claude Butler that proudly displays the message 'Hand made in England' on a rear fork. But it weighs a tonne compared with the modern alloy or carbon models.

Unfortunately it needed a bit more than a dust off. In fact as it had been kept under plastic dust wasn't really an issue. What was an issue were the gears. The selectors were clearly not engaging with the selector mechanism so it wasn't possible to effect any gear changes. So I set about exploring the Shimano Exage 400LX system.

Gear selector

When I dismantled the selector for the rear dérailleur the reason was immediately obvious. The original grease had hardened and the small spring that kept the pawl engaged with the selector ratchet was effectively glued in the open position by the old grease. WD 40, gentle brushing and some light 3-in-1 oil got everything working again. But I had released the selector cable to take tension off the selector mechanism and because the end was badly frayed I couldn't get it back through the sheath of the outer.

I ordered a kit with two new Shimano inner cables, a length of new outer sheath and the fittings to put on the ends of the cut outers. And a decent cable cutter, having seen what a mess a pair of pliers made when I cut off the cable end cap from the old cable.

Replacing the cables was easier than I imagined. The design of the selector housing allows the cable to be pushed through and removed, and the new one installed by the reverse procedure. The outers were cut to size to match those removed, although it was necessary to ensure that the ends were 'open' after being squashed somewhat by the cutter. Next came the setting up, or indexing of the dérailleurs.

There is plenty of advice on the internet. I used the instructions from The Cyclist website. The rear dérailleur wasn't too bad to set up. I had to do a bit of fine tuning but it didn't take too long to get to the point where the gears changed and the inner and outer limits of movement were set. Sometimes the change jumped two sprockets but I think this might have been because my selector mechanisms were a bit worn, or perhaps a bit too liberally oiled! I'm not sure whether the light oil that replaced the old grease might have been just a bit too lubricating, causing the pawl to slip over the ratchet. But it was good enough.

The front dérailleur was, however, much more of a problem. I again followed the relevant instructions from The Cyclist website, but this time I couldn't quite get the dérailleur to change smoothly, or for that matter completely reliably. The mechanism is cruder than at the rear, a guide pushing against the chain, whereas at the rear a cage guides the chain. Changing up to the large sprocket didn't always complete. After much adjusting and re-adjusting I got it to work but a bit unreliably. On reflection, I seem to remember that this dérailleur was alway a bit unreliable even when the bike was newer. It's also a fact that I rarely shift the front, and as I now live in the Fens there is little need for an extreme low gear. So, I decided to select the middle sprocket as for my purposes the rear 7-gear cluster should be more than adequate.

I took it out for a 20 minute spin, with some off road, and within the restricted range of gears that I used things seemed quite smooth.

High power Halogen lamp converted to LED

Many moons ago we bought a touch-enabled side light that looked great but was an ongoing source of annoyance.

Lamp

The first problem was the failure of the control electronics. I sourced a replacement component (Thyristor or similar) from China and repaired it. That didn't last long, so next time I bought a complete control module. But that also failed after a while. I subsequently suspected that the signal-over-mains network extender was conflicting with the control electronics, but have no proof of this.

Fed up with ongoing failures I wired out the control and added an inline power switch, thus converting the lamp to a single setting maximum power device.

But the 100W halogen elements also proved to be fairly short lived, besides being extravagantly power hungry in these days of low energy lighting. LED alternatives were available but were either too bulky or received poor reliability reports. So for ages the lamp sat as an ornament in the corner.

As it was always more of a feature than a necessary light source I recently decided to modify it to take a low energy candle bulb. So for a few pounds I bought a metal pendant lamp holder and with a bit of ingenuity installed it in place of the tungsten fitting. It works and although the luminosity is obviously far less than the tungsten fitting, I have reduced the power from 100W to 3.5W. So as a feature in the corner it's no longer racking up energy consumption. I must say that I am quite pleased with the outcome.

Lamp new fitting

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