Book Review: Composting Inside and Out–14 Methods to Fit Your Lifestyle

By Stephanie Davies, The Urban Worm Girl
(Pub. by Better Way Home, 2011)

Before reading Stephanie Davies’ book, I have to admit, I was not composting. Though I had often discussed composting with my husband; as an agronomist and biology teacher, this was his “turf” and he was not going to add one more responsibility to our busy schedule. I am sure his idea of a composting was from childhood—one of those big piles you had to turn in your backyard that was a huge eyesore. This would not work in our neighborhood and he simply was not interested in another job.

Wanting to participate as a steward of building good soil, I was excited to learn of this new book. From cover to cover, Stephanie makes it absolutely clear that there is a method of composting that will suit anyone in any living arrangement—including a high-rise apartment in downtown New York!  Simply put, composting is essential to healing our soil—the most basic nutrient of our planet and we need everyone to join in.

Outdoor composting ranges from traditional piles to bin systems, tumblers and specialty systems like the three-chamber composter, the hot composter and the digester. The beauty of enclosed outdoor composting is that it is discreet, efficient and can easily be done year round.

Composting in the city apartment? No problem! There are excellent indoor composting systems like the NatureMill and Bokashi. She explains, “The NatureMill automatic compost bin is essentially a standard kitchen appliance that composts. It’s low maintenance and no installation is required.” Unlike most outdoor systems, these indoor types accept all kitchen scraps including meat, fish and dairy.

Although most of us have conceived of the benefits of establishing healthy worm populations outdoors, I was thoroughly inspired by the many possibilities of creating an indoor worm bin as another method of maximizing our contribution to the soil.

Ms. Davies’ most unique contribution is her business, Urban Worm Girl, established in 2008, which has helped to install hundreds of residential worm bins throughout the country.  Among her accolades, she has been featured at the Green Festival in Chicago in 2009 and 2010 as well as in the Chicago Tribune, ABC7 in Chicago, Edible Chicago and Library Life TV. Stephanie presents interactive workshops on vermi-composting and other forms of composting, speaking regularly at schools, garden clubs, farmers markets and within private homes.

“As Urban Worm Girl, I educate the public about the wisdom of the red wiggler composting worm. I also sell worms by the pound and all the necessary worm bin equipment. Selling worms often feels like trafficking illegal substances. Weighing out the product, bagging it up and packing it in a nondescript bag for delivery seems questionable. Even to me, at times. I often make “the drop” where it will be convenient for my clients and in a way that minimizes the need for a third party, such as the postal service. Parking lots, city parks during kids’ baseball games, grocery stores on a Sunday afternoon, or the front or back porch of someone’s home has often been the scene of the “crime.”

Her book includes a wonderful section describing her many unusual experiences with helping people set up worm bins called, Real People, Real Worms: The Adventures of the Urban Worm Girl. As she states, “In the beginning, I was nervous to show up at a stranger’s house or in a random parking lot, but now I treasure these unique moments. Who will be on the other end of the deal? Usually it’s a very interesting individual with whom I share a very specific common interest: worms!

If you haven’t set up a composting system, this book will inspire you to do so. It details every aspect of this important principle and invites us to engage in the critical effort of soil revitalization—one of our planet’s most fundamental needs.  See for more information about vermicomposting education, worm bins, red wiggler worms, bedding and “know how.”

Review by Kathryne Pirtle

Stephanie Davies is one of the most gifted and sought-after occupational therapists in the Chicago area. She is a brilliant ally of top performing artists in orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and the Lyric Opera Orchestra, helping many musicians heal from complicated, career-threatening injuries. She is also deeply involved with nutrition based on the work of Weston A. Price.

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