News Letter

Some of our past news letters

Friends of Lake Robinson News Letter

Lakeside Chat-

By: Tom Faulkner, President

I hope that everyone had a wonderful summer!  The Friends of Lake Robinson continues to thrive.  Thank you for all of the members who helped with our annual Lake Robinson Cleanup that took place on Saturday, September 22nd.  We had a great time!  This year, the boat crews proudly represented by Sandy Lipe, Jim and Keith Rutherford, Dave Roop, and Jim Baker outperformed the landlubbers’ crews in trash picked up per capita.  Congratulations!  The only down side is this means more trash was found immediately adjacent to the lake than was found along the shoreline.  We can only hope that we landlubbers were just a lazier crew!  As you can see from the landlubbers’ picture, we were at least a cute bunch of trash collectors.

Seriously, this lake cleanup, which is a part of a worldwide cleanup effort sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy each year during September, is a wonderful way to help protect Lake Robinson.  Our participation reminds us of how important it is to keep the shores of our oceans, lakes, and rivers clean, thereby reducing the pollutants contributed by the trash that gets into the water.

Photo of some trash and helpers

As you can see in this issue of our newsletter, we are planning more major activities this Fall.  We are anxious for our membership to take time to enjoy the lake and to understand it better.  Geoff Duncan offers another opportunity to go out with some boat crews and participate in Worldwide Water Monitoring Day on October 13. 

Our next quarterly meeting will be held at Verne Smith Park in the large pavilion on Saturday, October 27 beginning at 5 p.m.  Come meet DHEC’s new Community Liaison Officer for this area, Donna Rowe.

We shall continue to solicit both new business and family members during the next few months.

Our annual meeting is scheduled for January.  If you would like to be considered for a board position, don’t hesitate to give me a call on my cell 430-3023.  We also welcome any ideas you might have for future work around the lake or for celebration and fellowship.  Remember, this is your organization!

Quarterly Meeting on October 27th to include guest speakers from DHEC.

By: Geoff Duncan

Several guests from the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control are planning to participate in our next Quarterly Meeting, October 27, 2007.   Donna Rowe is the new DHEC Community Liaison Officer for our area.  Donna will address the meeting to explain the role of her office and its interface with the Friends of Lake Robinson.  Roger Hall representing the DHEC Bureau of Water will also be attending.  He will discuss the broader watershed basin that feeds into Lake Robinson and its impact on the quality of water in the lake.

World Water Monitoring Day

by: Geoff Duncan

The Friends of Lake Robinson will be collaborating with local watershed groups, citizens, businesses and other interested environmental organizations as they prepare to take part in the monitoring activities leading up to this year’s World Water Monitoring Day on October 13, 2007.

Volunteer members of the Friends of Lake Robinson will depart from the J. Verne Smith Park at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 13, 2007 to visit 8 pre-selected sites around the lake shore to take water samples, perform the tests and record the results. 

The tests that will be made represent the four key indicators of water quality: dissolved oxygen (DO), acidity (pH), turbidity or clarity, and temperature.

The sampling and test results will be presented and explained at the Quarterly Meeting of the Friends of Lake Robinson to be held at the shelter at the J. Verne Smith Park at 5:00 PM on October 27, 2006.  The results will also be entered into the World Water Monitoring Day database at the WWMD web site for public access.

If are interested in participating at 9:00 AM on Saturday, October 13, or you have any questions, please contact Geoff Duncan at 704-5277.  Refreshments will be provided and all WWMD activates should be completed by noon.

Composting with worms (Vermicomposting)

In the last newsletter I discussed a common form of composting, using a compost pile. This quarter I will discuss the less common method of worm composting.

Worm compost is made in a container filled with moistened bedding and red worms. Add food waste and with assistance from micro-organisms, the worms will convert bedding and food waste into compost. Worm composting can be done year-round, indoors in schools, offices and homes. It is a natural method for recycling nutrients in food waste without odor. The resulting compost is a good soil conditioner for house plants, gardens and patio containers.

How You Do It

Buy or build a box with holes in the bottom. Fill the box with moistened bedding. Add the red worms. Pull aside some of the bedding, bury the food waste and cover it up with the bedding. Add one cup of soil or sand to provide grit for worms' digestive process.

What You Need

  1. a container (made of wood or plastic)
  2. worms (500-2,000 red worms)
  3. bedding (shredded newspaper, corrugated cardboard and/or leaves)
  4. food waste (fruit and vegetable waste)

1. The Container
Photo of compost binsBuy or build a container or use an old dresser drawer, trunk or barrel. Wood containers are absorbent and good insulators for worms. Plastic containers do work but compost tends to get quite wet.

The container should be between 8-12 inches deep and provide one square foot of surface area for every pound of food waste per week (e.g., 6 lbs of waste requires a bin 2 feet by 3 feet or 2 bins 1 foot by 3 feet).

Depending on the container's size, drill 8 to 12 holes (3/16- 1/4 ") in the bottom for aeration and drainage. A plastic bin may need more drainage - if contents get too wet, drill more holes. Raise the bin on bricks or wooden blocks for air circulation. Place a tray underneath to capture excess liquid, which can be used as liquid plant fertilizer.

Worms like a moist, dark environment. Their bodies are 75 to 90 per cent water and worms' body surfaces must be moist for them to breathe. Cover the bin to conserve moisture and provide darkness. Indoors, place a sheet of dark plastic or burlap sacking on top of the bedding. Outdoors, use a solid lid to keep out unwanted scavengers and rain.

Worm bins can be located in the basement, shed, garage, balcony, or kitchen counter. They need to be kept out of the hot sun, heavy rain, and cold. When temperatures drop below 40 degrees, bins should be indoors, heated or well insulated. The container can be heated with an electric heating cable placed in the bottom third of the container. To insulate, surround the container with rigid Styrofoam.

Red worms tolerate a wide range of temperatures, however, the ideal temperature is between 55 – 77 degrees F. Bedding with a temperature above 84 degrees F. is harmful, sometimes fatal, to red worm populations. Measure the temperature inside the box, because the temperature in the moist bedding is usually lower than the outside air.

2. The Worms
Photo of worms in compostRed worms are best suited to worm composting. They are often found in aged manure, compost heaps, and piles of leaves. They are also known as red wiggler, brandling, and manure worms. Their official names are Eisenia foetida and Lumbricus rubellus. Red worms are best suited for composting because they thrive on organic material, such as food waste. Dew-worms, on the other hand, are better suited to life in the soil and shouldn't be used in a worm bin.

You can get your worms from a compost bin, purchase them, or find a horse stable or farmer with an aged manure pile.

For one pound per day of food waste, you'll need two pounds of worms (roughly 2,000). If you are unable to get this many worms at the start, reduce the amount of food waste until the population increases. And the population will increase. Redworms mature sexually in 60-90 days and can then produce cocoons which take 21 days to hatch baby worms. Once they start breeding they can deposit two to three cocoons per week with two baby worms in each cocoon. The limits on their reproduction include availability of food and room to move and breed. So worm populations don't usually exceed the size of the container.

3. The Bedding
Provide damp bedding. Suitable bedding material includes shredded newspaper and cardboard, shredded fall leaves, chopped-up straw and other dead plants, seaweed, sawdust, dried grass clippings, aged manure and peat moss. Peat moss is quite acidic and should be well soaked and combined with other bedding material. Vary the bedding in the bin to provide more nutrients for the worms and to create a richer compost. Two handfuls of sand or soil will provide the necessary grit for worms' digestion of food.

Fill the bin with a mixture of damp bedding so the overall moisture level is like a "wrung-out sponge." Lift the bedding gently to create air spaces. This maintains aerobic activity, helps control odors, and gives the worms freer movement.

4. The Food Waste
Your worms will eat food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peels, pulverized egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. To avoid potential rodent problems do not compost meats, dairy products, oily foods, or grains. No glass, plastic or tin foil.

Pull aside the bedding, bury the food waste deep and then cover it up with the bedding again. Divide the bin into three or four imaginary sections (larger bin, more sections) and bury successive loads in different locations in the bin. Keeping a chart of burial sites can be helpful. Weekly food waste will help determine the size of bin and number of worms you'll need. Collect food waste in a container and weigh it. Do this for two weeks to get an estimate of average food waste. Your bin should provide one square foot of surface area for every pound of food waste per week, and you will need two pounds of worms for every pound of food waste per day.

5. Do I need a worm sitter?
If you’re going on a vacation, you could feed the worms a little extra just before you leave. This is the best part of having worms as pets! Feed them and leave them undisturbed. This way, you can go away for weeks. If you leave for longer than 3 weeks, it might be good to have a worm loving friend come and feed them once.

Harvesting Your Compost

After six weeks, the bedding will be noticeably darker with worm castings. After two and a half months have passed, there will still be some of the original bedding visible in the bin plus brown and earthy-looking worm castings. Although food waste is being added regularly, the bedding volume will gradually decrease. As more bedding is converted into castings the worms will begin to suffer. It is time to decide whether you want to do "some fuss" or "more fuss" worm composting.

"Some Fuss" Harvesting
Some fuss worm composting involves moving the finished compost over to one side of the bin, placing new bedding in the space created, and placing food waste in the new bedding. The worms will gradually move over to the fresh bedding and food waste, and the finished compost can be harvested. Fill the space created with new damp bedding.

"More Fuss" Maintenance
If you want to use all of the compost at once, dump the bin's entire contents onto a large plastic sheet and make piles of material. Use sunshine or a hundred watt light bulb to drive the worms to the bottom of the piles. Worms don't like bright light because the single cells on the epidermis (skin) react to light. Scoop off the tops of each pile until all you have left is the worms. Most children love to help! Watch out for the tiny, lemon-shaped worm cocoons that contain the baby worms. Mix a little of the finished compost in with the new bedding of the next bin. 

Common Problems

Unpleasant Odors
Unpleasant odors may waft from your bin when it is overloaded with food waste. If this occurs, gently stir up the contents to allow more air in. Stop adding food waste until the worms and micro-organisms have broken down what food is already in the bin. Check the drainage holes to make sure they are not blocked and drill more holes if needed. If the moisture level seems right, the bedding may be too acidic from citrus peels and other acidic foods. Adjust by adding a little dolomite lime and cutting down on acidic wastes.

Fruit Flies
Fruit flies aren't harmful, but they are a nuisance, and a very common problem with worm bins. Discourage fruit flies by always burying the food wastes and not overloading the bin. Keep a plastic sheet, piece of old carpet or a lid on the compost's surface in the bin. Mary Appelhof, author of Worms Eat My Garbage, acknowledges that she hasn't found the perfect solution to fruit flies. Adding a spider or two helps reduce fruit flies. If flies persist, move the bin to a location where flies will not be bothersome.

Friends of Lake Robinson News Letter

Lakeside Chat

by: Tom Faulkner, President

FLR has now held its first official annual meeting at which the members elected the 2007 board members.  In accordance with the bylaws, the board members met on May 29 and elected this year’s officers.  The board members and officers for 2007 are:

  • Tom Faulkner, President
  • Morley Jensen, Vice President
  • Alan Weinberg, Secretary
  • Sandy Lipe, Treasurer
  • Geoff Duncan
  • Jeff Ziemer
  • Jim Baker
  • Karl Graf

We are excited about plans for this summer.  Our first activity is participation in the National Secchi Dip scheduled for Saturday, June 30.  Geoff Duncan is coordinating this event and more information is available in this newsletter.  The results will be reported at our next quarterly meeting to be held at the pavilion at Verne Smith Park.  In addition to reports, we shall welcome Dr. Wade Worthen as our speaker.  The quarterly meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, July 28.  An article about Wade by Jim Baker follows.

We shall continue our membership campaign throughout the summer.  At present, FLR includes 38 families.  We are beginning an effort to enlist the support of local businesses in our cause.  Please let us know of any friends interested in becoming members of our group.

Note that the Board will hold its annual retreat in August.  We welcome your ideas about what activities and goals we should set for calendar year 2008.  The retreat is a time to plan in detail the upcoming Fall events and to begin to put together a 2008 business plan.

Please let us know of any ways we can serve you better not only as a water conservation organization, but also as a neighborhood.   We are proud to be part of one of the most beautiful communities in Greenville County.  We look forward to serving you during the coming year.


Quarterly Meeting on July 28th to include guest speaker from Furman University.

by: Jim Baker

PhotoWade Worthen is an ecologist at Furman University specializing on insect biodiversity.  He grew up in Massachusetts, earned his BS from Bucknell University, and his MS and PhD from Rutgers University.  He has been at Furman since 1988, and has been involved in developing Furman's Environmental Program. He is currently the chair of the Lake Restoration Task Force, which was established to develop a master plan for Furman Lake. While the lake at Furman University appears beautiful and supports the tranquil setting of the university, it has significant problems. The university, under the leadership of Wade Worthen, has launched on a program to restore Lake Furman and maintain it that way for the long term. What has happened to Lake Furman provides a good lesson on what to do and not to do at Lake Robinson. Wade will describe the details of the Furman restoration as well answer any questions regarding good lake environmental practices for the lakes in the SC area.

The Friends of Lake Robinson quarterly meeting is open to all members and will be from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the pavilion at Lake Robinson Park on July 28th. For more information on Wade Worthen go to, select biology department, people, and faculty profiles. Once there you can see Wade Worthen's profile and click on his personal page. There you will see an icon for the "Lake Restoration Project" at Furman.

Those attending the quarterly Friends of Lake Robinson meeting will gain a wide perspective of the factors that will influence the future quality of the lake.

Friends of Lake Robinson to participate in the Great North American Secchi Dip-In on Saturday, June 30, 2007

by: Geoff Duncan

The Friends of Lake Robinson are looking for a few water quality minded volunteers, to participate in the Great North American Secchi Dip-In on Saturday June 30, 2007. We will be collecting water transparency data from Lake Robinson.  The Secchi Dip-In is a demonstration of the potential of volunteer organizations to gather environmentally important information on our lakes, rivers, and estuaries.

The concept of the Dip-In is simple: individuals, participating in volunteer monitoring programs, take water transparency measurements during the weeks surrounding Canada Day and July Fourth.   Individuals may monitor lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, rivers, or streams.  These transparency values are then entered into the Dip-In database and used to assess the transparency of lakes throughout the United States and Canada.

The first Great American Dip-In began as a pilot study in 1994. During Dip-In '94 over 800 volunteers from six Midwest states: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin participated, representing a 40% response from the initial solicitation. The results from the first Dip-In suggested that regional patterns in transparency did exist, appearing to correlate with land use and whether the water body was a natural lake or a reservoir.

In 1995, the Dip-In expanded to include volunteers from across the entire United States, soliciting people from estuary and river volunteer programs.  Over 2,000 volunteers from 37 states and 2 provinces of Canada participated in this first year of the expanded program. 

Thanks to the support organizations like the Friend of Lake Robinson, the North American Lake Management Society, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Dip-In database has grown to more than 30,000 records on more than 6,000 separate water bodies (not including different sites, such as along rivers and estuaries).  These aren’t just statistics; these are records of water quality information gathered from around the world by volunteers. 

PhotoThe Secchi Disk device and the measurement procedure are both very simple.  The disk is roughly 8-inches (20 cm) in diameter with alternating black and white quadrants.  The disk is lowered into a body of water until the observer can no longer see it. The depth at which it disappears, called the Secchi depth, is a measure of the transparency of the water.

Water transparency is affected by the color of the water, particles of silt or clay, and small plants called algae, and is a measure of some forms of pollution.  The disk itself is named after the Jesuit priest, Pietro Angelo Secchi, who used the disk more than 150 years ago.

The Dip-In provides a national perspective of water quality. It gives a comprehensive glimpse of transparency at volunteer-monitored sites across the United States, Canada and the world. Scientists and volunteers can get a sense of how transparency varies according to water type, regional geology, and land use. What is more important, these annual Dip-In snapshots can be put together to form a changing picture of transparency over time.

Volunteers should plan to meet at the J. Verne Smith Park, also known as Lake Robinson Park, at 9:30 AM.  After a short instructional orientation, several teams of 2 or more volunteers will spread out to various locations around the lake. We may also use boats, if available. Each team will measure and record the transparency or turbidity of the lake water at there location.  The Friends of Lake Robinson will provide all necessary materials and disks.

Volunteers are expected to return to the park to report their findings, by 11:30 AM.  Geoff Duncan, the GNA Secchi Dip-In coordinator for the Friends of Lake Robinson, will ensure that the data is entered into the Dip-In database. He will also prepare a report on the program for the next quarterly meeting of the Friends of Lake Robinson at the Park on July 28, 2007. 

Please contact Geoff at 895-4788 if you would like to sign up to participate or have any questions.  Or, for more information on the Great North American Secchi Dip-In, visit


by: Morley Jensen

What does it have to do with water quality?

When you compost your garden waste and other kitchen scraps, you are reclaiming the nutrients contained in this material. When you use the composted material on your lawn and garden, you can eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.  Chemical fertilizers are highly soluble, and a heavy rain will wash away much of these chemicals into our lakes and streams.  High levels of nitrogen in the water will do serious damage to the aquatic ecosystem. The result can be out of control algae growth, which in turn lowers the dissolved oxygen in the water. During hot weather, when dissolved oxygen is normally low, this can cause a die off the fish.

Lake Robinson, and its surrounding watershed, is not currently in this kind of danger. But the fact is, more and more people are moving into the area, and as this happens we will be putting a greater stress on the local environment. Composting is just one small step in the right direction.

What is compost?

In brief, compost is the rich humus like product of decomposition. It is what remains when a pile of organic material decays. 

All households generate excess organic mat­ter, such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings, leaf piles, and debris from pruning and cleaning up a yard full of plants. Most of this can be recycled right on site, and turned into a valuable source of nutrients for your plants.

What kinds of composting are there?

The three main kinds of composting are; compost pile, sheet composting and worm composting. In this article I will concentrate on the compost pile, which is what most of us think of when we talk of composting. I will discuss the others in future articles.

What does it take?

PhotoIf you’re not too fussy, you can simply pile the stuff in the corner of your yard and wait a few months, and you will have compost.  It is possible, however, to be much more efficient. The critical elements of a good compost pile are the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen, optimum moisture, and proper size.

All organic materials contain carbon and nitrogen. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) varies with each ingredient, and although eventually almost anything organic will decompose, an overall ratio of 30:1 C:N is ideal. It is possible to look up the C:N ratio of each ingredient in the compost pile and calculate the resulting ratio, but here's a good rule of thumb: Green materials, such as grass clippings, fresh plant trimmings, and kitchen waste, are high in nitrogen. Brown items, such as dried leaves, hay, straw, and wood shavings, are high in carbon. Manure is high in nitrogen, so for our purpose, we will consider it green. If you mix roughly half green with half brown you will be close to the ideal 30:1 C:N ratio.  You should not include any meat or dairy waste in the compost pile, as they will attract unwelcome animal scavengers.

The decay of the materials in the compost pile is the result a wide verity of living organisms. These organisms need water to survive. A good compost pile should be about as moist as a wrung out sponge, so keep a garden hose handy when building your compost pile. It can take an astonishing amount of water, if you start with dry ingredients. It’s a good idea to cover the compost pile with a tarp to retain moisture, and to keep rain from leaching out the hard won nutrients.

The size of the compost pile is important, because it will not reach the critical temperature of 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit if it is smaller than 3 feet on a side; temperatures in this range are necessary in order to sterilize weed seeds.  You should thus save up your materials until you have enough for a 3-foot heap.

Many people ask the question, should I turn the pile or not. If you're in a hurry for compost, turn the pile as soon as it’s initial blast of heat begins to subside. This will infuse the pile with oxygen and reinvigorate it’s occupants. Each time the pile starts to cool, turn it again. Using this method, a properly made compost pile will be done in about three weeks. Although this method produces mulch that is great for soil texture and moisture retention, it is not high in nutrients.

A less-turned pile won't rot down as quickly as a more ambitiously forked one, but it will provide your plants with nutrients longer than the product of rapid turnings. Slowly rotted compost still gets hot enough during that first heating to kill weed seeds, so weeds are not a concern. A good rule is, turn for texture when you need to build soil struc­ture, but rest the pile for long-term nutrition.

The best role for compost, as I see it, is to give a quick fertility boost to a limited area of soil. If you've just started to a new garden and want productivity quickly, then compost will improve soil fertility rapidly. An inch or two of compost lightly spaded into poor soil, or if you've got enough, sev­eral inches on top of depleted or compacted earth, will support very dense plantings. With plant pro­duction jump-started this way, a gardener can begin more long-term soil building.