[from The New Technical Manual of Use]
As I observe a disease, so I catch it and give it lodging in myself.
Michel de Montaigne
The integumentary system (from Latin integumentum, to cover), or skin, is the body’s largest organ system. It is comprised of mesodermal tissue (epidermis, dermis, and sub or hypodermis), as well as the mesodermal appendages: hair, nails, & etc. It helps regulate body temperature, provides a barrier against foreign organisms, and even performs limited respiratory and excretory functions.
Yet the skin is also defective.
Here we have reason though not quite perfect
As the body ages, so does the skin deteriorate. It becomes papery-thin, tearing easily. Veins, muscles, and bone become visible. One may begin to feel the fragility of this container when it is accidentally pierced by a sharp object; when it is scraped during a fall; or when it’s penetrated by a small insect-perhaps a mosquito, or some sharp-toothed beetle.
For had they been covered with hard skin, they would, it is true, have been
less liable to get injured by anything falling into them from without.
The skin is also subject to a variety of diseases: overexposure to ultra-violet light, rashes or irritations, bacterial infections, & etc. It wrinkles with age; and with improper moisturization, or harsh climate conditions, it may become dry and flaky.
Fortunately, there is a way to protect oneself against these many defects.
Give me mine Armor
Refinishing is the adding-on of a supplemental exocutaneous layer-a protective barrier that is more lasting and reparable than skin. This new outer layer is derived from the vermicast of Red Wriggler worms. Sometimes called “earth-pigs,â€ the worms are large, red, and generally hairless. They have the eyelids of the blind-two convex bandages of opaque flesh-and an elongated snout, perfect for rooting. The worms are able to process (eat and digest) organic matter at incredible rates, and, as a byproduct, excrete the highly usable product, Wriggler vermicast, which is composed of Epoxy and Shell.
Epoxy is a glutinous, extremely adhesive substance. It is flexible after it has dried, and nearly impossible to dissolve without special milk solvents. Because of its elastic strong bond and non-acidic nature, it has long been used in bookbinding and book arts (Epoxy is also archival, as it is virtually neutral in pH). It is also porous, which, as a second skin, allows for natural respiration.
Shell is the remaining incompletely broken down organic matter (usually the harder or more durable substances that the worms have ingested: glass, bits of plastic, hard woods, jewelry & etc). Because these have been broken down into pieces that range from the fineness of sand to the coarseness of broken seashells, it does not inhibit flexibility. And because these particles still maintain their toughness, the newly Refinished exocutaneous skin layer is nearly as hard as mail. That which might have pierced the skin before, is deflected.
The vermicast is collected from the worms on a weekly basis, and is stored in airtight, food grade containers (though non-reactive, copper is not a suitable container; if plastics are used, be sure they are BPA free). When enough has accumulated, is painted directly onto human skin. After drying, it is nearly, but not entirely transparent-refinished skin shimmers like fishscales in bright sunlight.
white outside and smooth-
edged inner surface
glossy as the sea
After the body adjusts to the new outer skin, the old skin is shed, dissolving by the body from under the Refinished layer. Once the process is complete, all that is necessary is general upkeep.
Refinishing at home
Though one can certainly seek out professional Refinishers, it is quite easy to Refinish at home. One only needs the materials for vermicomposting, a place to store the collected vermicast, a set of Refinishing brushes, and patience. The brushes will likely be the most expensive purchase, Because the Refinished layer is permanent (especially after the skin has been dissolved away), it’s best to invest in high-quality equipment. The most excellent Refinishing brushes are composed of sable hair (a type of Siberian weasel), which makes the brushes very fine and sturdy. More recently, technology has been developed to Refinish with pressurized air, making for a more even and consistent coating-this, however, is a very expensive alternative for home refinishers.
One may be tempted to buy packaged Refinishing products, or complete Refinishing sets, which are often advertised on late-night Television. These, too, are expensive and unnecessary. The vermicast sold commercially often includes fillers like wheat or rice bran, and preservatives; and the brushes are most common. It is much more likely for rejections to happen when using packaged Refinishing products, as opposed to those produced naturally, and organically. (It is thought that, because the organic waste used in home Refinishing is familiar, the body is less inclined to reject it. The argument is similar to the homeopathic theory that eating locally collected honey, which includes local varieties of pollen, can act as an innoculant against pollen-related allergies.)
Finally, vermicomposting and Refinishing at home is also environmentally responsible and efficient. Wriggler worms can digest up to 2 pounds of organic scraps per day. On average, a family produces per day: 1.5 lbs of cooking fire ash; 1.75 lbs of inorganic trash; 0.5 lbs of vegetable (food preparation) waste; and 0.15 lbs of paper and polythene waste. All of these are compostable, thereby reducing one’s waste by almost 100%.
Setting up the Vermicomposting Bin
The first step in Refinishing is finding the right bin for your worms. A ten gallon plastic storage bin is easy to come by and inexpensive. However, one may desire to use a wooden bin, as this is more environmentally responsible. Whichever bin one chooses, it should be sturdy: one must be able to drill holes in it without compromising the bin’s integrity. The holes allow for moisture to drain, and for the worms to get oxygen. It should also have a tight-fitting lid to prevent other insects from getting in, as well as keeping out light-Wrigglers prefer complete darkness.
The bin should be lined with at least eight inches of shredded newspaper, woodscraps, & etc-this will be the worms’ living space-mixed with fine grit sand (the grit helps with digestion). Moisten the shredded paper with water, as the worms require some moisture for respiration. One should then prop the bin up on blocks, which are kept in another container (using another storage bin lid is ideal) with standing water. This prevents ants from invading. Make sure to add ¼ Cup household bleach to the water, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding (this also acts as an extra deterrent to prevent the worms from escaping). Once the bin is complete, you may store it in your garage, on the patio, or, if it’s smaller, right under the kitchen sink. Some people worry about the smell of the worm bin, but fear not-if properly taken care of, the smell of the bin will be a pleasant, earthy, aroma. If the bin does in fact begin to stink, adjustments should be made (See Earth Pigs: Environment)
The worms live on waste matter, which may be added on a daily basis, but no less than once per week. In the summer months, waste matter can be kept in a sealed container in one’s refrigerator until it is added to the bin in order to prevent the development of fruit and garbage flies. The waste matter added to each Wriggler bin is different. There may be vegetable peelings, eggshells, meat trimmings, bone, paper products & etc. These are the easiest items for the worms to digest. However, one might also add a scattering of torn glossy-magazine scraps, fragments of handwritten notes or letters, a doll’s head, a piece of a baseball card, or an empty prescription bottle. There may be a VCR tape with a scratched-off label, a cancelled check, or small mementos. Each bin is very personal, which is why Refinishings done from homemade vermicompost are so much less likely to be rejected. The worms are very hardy, and there is little that they will not be able to handle.
If one monitors the additions to the bin carefully-always making sure that there is a good balance between soft organic material, and harder, man-made materials, one will ensure a good balance of Shell and Epoxy, thereby creating a superior Vermicast for Refinishing. There is no perfect, universal ratio, but four parts organic matter to one part inorganic, or extremely sturdy material, should yield positive results. However, more specific ratios require exacted attention.
Most Wriggler vermicast is acceptable for Refinishing, though it is often classified according to Shell level. Based on the materials composted, the vermicast will be heavy, medium or light. Heavy vermicast tends to result from a diet rich in eggshells, bone, pottery, or any other harder, more frangible material (VCR tapes, compact discs, costume jewelry, & etc). It will look and feel much like thickened, broken sea-shells-what one might see at the edge of a shoreline. Heavy Shell is useful as the final, most exterior Refinished layer, as it is the most durable and protective. However, Refinishing entirely from Heavy Shell vermicast isn’t recommended, as mobility will be very limited.
Then King Arthur came out of his tower, and had under his gown a jesseraunte of double mail.
Medium Shell results from a diet rich in vegetable peelings, tree bark, leaves, cardboard, cardstock, journals, letters, bills or credit-card statements, proprietary notes, or any material that has thick cellular walls (usually organic matter). The cell walls are not completely broken down as they are. Though clearly not as protective as Heavy Shell vermicast, Medium Shell allows for more flexibility.
My French Friend emerging from his chrysalis state of great-coat shell, is a gay butterfly in bluish coat.
Athletes, or those with energetic lifestyles, may benefit most from a Refinishing composed almost entirely of Medium Shell vermicast. They will still have a lasting, protective layer, but will in no way be inhibited or lose flexibility.
Light Shell levels-which result from a diet rich in organic matter with very little structure, such as fruit or near-liquids-are often called Second-skins. The protection is derived almost entirely from the epoxy layer, which is, in itself, very hardy. Light Shell layers look more like a fine sheen than a protective outer coating. They are recommended for children, beginner Refinishers, and the very vain.
In order to achieve the desired Shell level, one must check the vermicast often, and adjust materials accordingly. A few weeks after setting up a worm bin, the worms will have digested enough materials to check for Shell level. In order to harvest the vermicast, displace the layers of worms and undigested waste. This is done by moving them to one side of the bin or the other. The finished vermicast will have sifted towards the bottom of the bin. Once the vermicast is exposed, simply take a handful, spread it out in a brightly lit surface, and flatten it out to a layer that would approximate your desired Refinished layer. You may then estimate whether this level of Shell will work for you, or you may buy a comparison kit, which will give you a more precise reading.
It may take only three to four weeks before one is able to harvest vermicast, though six to eight weeks is more common. The vermicast is ready when the Epoxy is milky-white, and smells of lavender. If it still smells like waste, it most likely needs another week or two of curing time. Curing refers to the setting of the binding agents within the Epoxy, which are still being acted upon by residual Wriggler enzymes. These can last a number of weeks after they have been expelled.
Fresh Wriggler Epoxy is volatile-that is, it will readily set when exposed to air, and especially when it comes into contact with another substance (the molecules act like magnets, attaching themselves to whatever they come into contact with). Thus, it is recommended that when removing the vermicast, one use gloves coated in a thin layer of olive oil. Similarly, the removed vermicast should be placed in a non-stick or oil-slicked bucket. Until the vermicast is used, the bucket should be sealed tightly. Once it is harvested, store the vermicast in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
After the vermicast is removed, replace the top layer of newspaper and grit, and continue to feed the worms as before. The Wrigglers will produce vermicast indefinitely, so long as they live in healthy conditions. They will reproduce themselves once per season, the babies looking like tiny white filament. If you find that the worms are becoming overcrowded, simply remove the necessary amount of worms. These can be given to friends and family. It is not recommended that one release Wrigglers into the wild-they are such voracious consumers that they can devastate natural habitats. They leave behind thick, lacquered grounds, not unlike bowling-alley lanes, which prevents aeration, and thus, prevents life.
After Refinishing, one may continue to collect vermicast for general Refinishing upkeep. Though very hardy, it is certainly not impenetrable or indestructible, and new coats will need to be added from time to time. However, one will eventually find that one has more than enough vermicast. Epoxy, when separated from Shell, provides a durable and lasting glue. Shell can be a decorative addition to walls, cabinets, & etc. One may also choose to Refinish one’s house, especially the roof, as the vermicast will add an impregnable layer against rain and weather. There are many uses-one only has to be creative.
For body type A, three to four quarts of vermicast should be enough; for body type B, six to seven; for body type C, nine to ten, and so on. If the vermicast has been separated according to Shell level, start with a light Shell. This will provide a sturdy base layer.
Begin by shaving the body clean. Hairs, moles, & etc are messy. A smooth, clean surface is best. Remember, the skin will eventually be dissolved away, so think of this as merely the beginning of that process. Note: if one has tattoos or piercings, these too will disappear.
Start with the toes first. The vermicast will feel cold, but it will quickly become pleasant, like the application of aloe after a hot summer’s day at the beach. Make your way upwards and across the body. Be especially careful around the genitals. One will probably want to use one hundred percent Epoxy for the penis, nipples, or other sensitive areas. Any Shell level whatsoever will make intercourse uncomfortable, or even impossible. Eventually, make your way to the face. Be careful not to seal ear and nose cavities. As for the eyelids, here, too, one should only use Epoxy. Finally, paint over the scalp. There are some who prefer to leave the scalp uncovered, with the hair attached, but remember: the scalp is skin-it will eventually decompose, and, eventually, will need to be Refinished anyway. It is best to Refinish now, and save oneself the trouble.
With absolute purity
After the initial layer has dried (around one hour), one may begin to add vermicast with higher Shell levels. Again, a low, initial Shell level will help with mobility. The highest Shell level should be reserved for last, as this is the outermost protective layer. After all the layers have been added, dry overnight before getting wet.
If the Refinishing has been done correctly, your new exocutaneous vermicast skin should last a lifetime-in fact, it is so durable, it will probably last long after your death. It is possible, however, that the layer may be damaged-in which case, spot treatments can be readily applied.
One of the most basic functions of the skin is the protection of the body’s soft tissues and organs. Yet, shortly after mankind evolved away from a thick coat of fur that one still sees on primates, & etc, we began to wear clothing-as the skin simply wasn’t protection enough (another of the skin’s shortcomings). Clothing kept us warm; and it also allowed us to cover our naked selves. It may have been that nakedness itself-the sight of the body so vulnerable, the defective skin, exposed-that triggered our repulsion, which caused us shame.
Thou changed and self-cover’d thing, for shame
Be-monster not thy feature
With the advent of Refinishing, a new step in the human evolutionary process has been achieved. Clothing is no longer necessary; the Refinished layer provides all the defense one needs.
Yet there is still the issue of modesty. For so many years now, we have not been used to seeing the naked body. This may be why, in spite of such leaps and bounds as Refinishing has provided, we still opt for full sets of clothing.
It must not, however, be supposed that groups of organic beings are always
supplanted, and disappear as soon as they have given birth to other and more
One may hope, however, that, gradually, Refinishing will allow us to stand without shame or modesty. We may look at each other, knowing that we have corrected nature’s failing and finished her work.
One might argue that the Refinished layer is merely another type of cover. But consider the Sandcastle Worm. This tiny organism of the sea, with a soft, fleshy body more vulnerable than human flesh even, builds a honeycomb of cast-off particles and grains of sand. Is this cavity not a part of the worm’s body? Does it not act out of some instinctual plan? Might not Refinishing be our own human version? We have finally realized that nature is flawed, and it is only now that we have found recourse.
A hundred years from now, we may no longer cover ourselves at the unsightly blemish of skin. The human form, imperfect, is perfected by human technology, and we may rejoice in our great endeavor.