Kids everywhere are fascinated by the earthworm. Whether it is watching them writhe across the ground or wriggle in their fingers, there is something intriguing about worms. What we known today as the modern day earthworm was likely imported from Europe. Due to freezing temperatures brought on by glaciers, the native earthworm population died out. The worms that arrived here to take their place did so due to their own attempt to avoid freezing, which included holing up in cocoons to survive frigid temperatures. When early settlers prepared their ships, they packed the ballast with soil that contained these worm cocoons. Once these ships made it to safe harbor, the ballast was emptied and just like that, worms made their way once again onto United States soil. Now that they are here, what are we to do with them, and what survival purposes can the worm serve?
Photo: Worms Etc.
One of the most basic purposes a worm can serve is as a food item. If you are in need of a quick protein boost while in the wilderness, look no further than the worm. They can be consumed by humans but ideally they should be cooked and their bodies void of the dirt on which they normally dine. To do this, place your worm in a container that contains nothing more than damn grass. In a couple hours' time, the worm will have passed the dirt lingering in its system and will be ready to be prepared via the method of your choice. It is said that once cooked, the worm tastes like chicken skin, so the only true barrier in consuming worms is a mental one.
If you are put off by the idea of eating a worm, and some people are, consider instead feeding it to a fish. For years fishermen have turned to the earthworm to entice a fish into biting. Simply place the worm on your hook and cast, then wait for the magic to happen. With a little luck, the worm will not have to be your dinner but will provide you with dinner instead.
Photo: Compost Instructions
Another useful quality of the worm is what it does for the soil. If you are planning a survival garden, worms are one of the best allies you can have. They work diligently and you can pay them in mere dirt, after all. Though the worm does not have teeth, it does have strong mouth muscles which enable it to chew off portions of leaves and roots to eat. In addition to these dirt and foliage, worms eat other living organisms such as bacteria and fungi in soil to the tune of 1/3 of their body weight each day. What the worm feeds on is then evacuated in a form that makes soil fertile and good for planting. Some of the benefits gained by worm-rich soil include increased nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and other trace minerals, all of which contribute to healthy garden growth. You would normally pay for a soil service such as this, but thanks to a worm simply going about the composting duties of being a worm, a clean, natural fertilizer is created.
If you do not have worms but would like to some, the easiest way to get started is with a worm bin. In it, you can house worms that will create nutrient rich soil in about 4 months' time. Simply start with a lidded bin, ideally of wood which is breathable, and line it with leaf litter or newspaper, then fill it with dirt and worms. It will need to need to be kept moist and at a temperature between 55-77F which may mean spraying it with a spray bottle as needed. In one corner, add food items that are plant-based, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds, and grains. After several months have passed, gently push the contents of your bin all to one side, filling the empty side with fresh soil and placing a new food source in a corner. Give the worms a couple of weeks to migrate, at which time you can remove the nutrient rich soil for your gardening needs.
Photo: The Self Sufficient Living
Worms can be found in nature or purchased. One way to harvest your own worms is by a technique called worm grunting which is done by creating a vibration in the soil that encourages worms to move to the surface. So successful is this effort, in fact, that it has become a sport in some areas. It is done by pounding a wooden stake into the ground and running a flat piece of metal across the top as shown in the video below. This creates a vibration that mimics a mole, which is a natural predator of worms, causing them to flee to surface where they can be easily captured.
When it comes to survival, we cannot give ourselves too many advantages, especially when it comes to providing food. Whether this includes fishing or gardening, the worm can help, but first you need access to them. If worm grunting is not your preferred method, you can frequently find worms in damp, dark soil in sheltered places such as beneath fallen logs. Seeking worms after a rainfall can also be productive.
Are worms part of your survival plan? Do you intend to use them to boost your gardening efforts? Let us know in the comments.