I have a worm farm. I guess that makes me a farmer. I am also a conservationist, which means that I must eliminate as much waste as possible to conserve my garden and my country and my planet. It means that when I find a beautiful spot to park our caravan, we leave nothing behind but our tyre tracks and footprints. I have been known to grab a pair of pick-up tongs and walk around picking up other thoughtless people’s rubbish, bagging and binning it.
Back at home, my worms live a life of luxury in their multi-storey apartment. It’s constructed of four large plastic bins, one inside the other, with a lid to keep out the light and predatory peckers. Its occupants seem far happier than those cursed by their inhabiting the Opel Tower in Sydney. No crumbling concrete in this multi-storey mansion. My worms seem very happy in their rent-free abode.
Between Christmas and New Year, my Sydney-based family called in for a visit and afternoon tea. This part of my family consists of my composer son, his talented wife, and the two kids — my grandchildren. For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call them Drummer Boy and Dancing Girl.
Dancing Girl is also learning to play the violin, is seven years old, and regaining her front teeth. She loves ‘Chrithmuss’. Drummer boy, incredibly enough, managed to convince his somewhat skeptical parents to buy him a drum kit. In order to dampen the decibels, it’s an electronic kit, one which eliminates the tympanic decibels by means of a pair of earphones. Mustn’t disturb the neighbourhood with drumbeats!
Speaking of noise, the other day I was disturbed by a loud banging on my front door. It was 2am for goodness’ sake! How inconsiderate! How is a person able to practise his bagpipes with that racket going on?
Back to the visit. And the worms.
The children had obviously been warned off bringing their iPads and other thumb-exercising devices, for they sat on our lounge looking bored. I decided to relieve their boredom.
“Would you like to see my worm farm?” I asked them.
Their faces lit up like the Chrithmuth — sorry, Christmas — tree in the lounge room.
“Wow, yes!” said Drummer Boy. “Yeth,” said Dancing Girl, her eyes dancing in anticipation.
So, while the jug was being boiled and the pikelets overlaid with jam and cream, the whole five of us trooped down to the back fence where lay the worm apartment. It was clear they had never seen a worm farm before. I lifted the large lid, then the dampened mat. The kids leaned over the edge, watching the myriads worms going about their business, if somewhat disturbed by the light.
“Ohh. What are they doing?” This from Dancing Girl.
“Wriggling. And munching my scrap veges,” was my reply.
“That’s a good way to dispose of your waste veges,” commented my son.
“Yes,” replied, “and I use the worm wee they create on my vegetable garden.”
“What?! You put wee on your veges?!” This again from our violinist/dancer.
I had to hasten with an explanation, lest I be blamed for her never eating vegetables for the remainder of her life!
“I dilute it with water and sprinkle it onto the ground. It soaks into the soil and the roots of the veges drink it up. It never gets into the bits we actually eat.” There was relief on everyone’s faces.
“How do you get the wee out?” asked Drummer Boy, he of the scientific mind. I imagined him thinking I might have to deconstruct the entire edifice to retrieve the tea-coloured liquid.
“Easy,” was my reply. “It drips down through holes in the boxes and ends up in this last box. See this plastic tap here?” I turned it partly on. A dark brown pungent liquid dripped out. “I put 10 millilitres of this to a whole litre of water and it looks like weak tea. Some gardeners actually call it worm tea. Here, smell it.”
The offer was declined by all.
Worm tea sniffing was cut short by my wife calling from the back verandah. “Tea’s made.”
I replaced the mat and the lid and we all trooped upstairs to taste Grandma’s delicious pikelets.
I am a worm farmer. Should I join the National Party?