Diary Of An Eco-Builder

Worms are the fast, elegant and discreet way to exterminate your kitchen waste
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"We have just moved in to our fabulous new home in Clapham. It's a beautifully made timber construction where we can relax with our friends in warmth and comfort and enjoy a regular diet of organic food. Although we're as smug as Christmas, our guardians don't appear to be quite as cheerful. But we don't care about them. After all, we're just a bunch of worms."

Am I really jealous of a box of worms? Well, no. But it is a rather attractive box and they do seem to be particularly happy in it. Ford and I, on the other hand, are still awaiting the day when Tree House is finally fit for human habitation. Although we enjoyed Christmas lunch in the striking top room of Tree House, it was a picnic set up on a carpenter's table. The house is undoubtedly looking great but we still lack a few home comforts, including a heating system, a bathroom and a staircase. I'm hoping these will all be in place by the beginning of February, but I'm not counting my chickens.

Which brings me back to our recycling plans. Chickens are a great way of dealing with kitchen waste, but the size of our tiny London building plot makes this practically and socially inappropriate. The obvious alternative is a compost heap.

We currently have a plastic compost bin in our back yard, the type that looks like a decapitated Dalek. Like most urbanites, we are not experts in the dark arts of composting and simply want a reliable disposal system with minimum hassle. We have learnt that kitchen waste does not contain enough carbon and must be supplemented by toilet rolls, egg boxes and torn up cardboard if a mass of slime is to be avoided. Beyond this, we feed the beast, fork it over occasionally and hope for the best.

The process works, but it is very slow and our Dalek is unforgivably ugly. So I have been looking for something that will do the job faster, more discreetly and with a tad more elegance. Our hand-made wormery from Bubble House Worms in Worcestershire (01886 832559; www.bubblehouseworms.com) meets this specification perfectly. The great thing about a wormery is that you don't have to wait around for your carrot peelings to perform their miraculous transformation back into crumbly earth: the worms do the job in a fraction of the time, chomping away without complaint and producing a consistent, nutritious feed for your pot plants. A quicker throughput means that much less space is required, so the big black bin can be replaced by a smaller, smarter box.

Our wormery has two cabinets side by side. Once the worms have eaten their way through the contents of one, they migrate to the other, leaving you to refill the first. Bubble House also makes stacking versions, which the worms crawl up, leaving their wormcasts for you to harvest. There's even a model with a herb garden growing on top.

Composting is a domestic eco-essential. Not only does it keep valuable organic resources in use, it also stops kitchen waste turning into methane in landfill sites (methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide). If you have been put off composting because of a lack of space or worries about the stinkiness of rotting vegetables near to your back door, try a wormery. In my humble opinion, worms have the edge over Daleks in both efficiency and style.

When I began this column in September 2004, I never dreamt that I would still be writing it in January 2006. I have got so used to being a visitor to Tree House from two blocks away that the idea of moving in seems faintly absurd. Hopefully, when the fabled moment arrives in a few weeks' time, we will be enfolded by the house like worms in a bed of fresh potato peelings.

Will Anderson's complete 'Diary of an Eco-Builder' will be published by Green Books in spring 2006 ( www.treehouseclapham.org.uk)

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