Worm farms are great. The worms take care of your food scraps (although you need to go easy on acidic things like citrus peel and onions), they love coffee grinds and used tea leaves, and they make fascinating pets for the kids. A well-run worm farm does not smell and will even process your used paper, provided you rip it up and soak it in some water first.
I reckon that might be a good way to process letters with private information (eg from super funds or insurance companies etc) that could be used for identity fraud and therefore should not go into the recycling bin.
To top it all off, worms produce one of the best soil conditioners you can get. Of course you can buy one of the various commercial worm farm models (the one pictured above is available from Neco), but in the spirit of reusing things we already have we thought we might try to make one ourselves. The boys helped and we all had a great time making it.
This is how we did it:
2 styrofoam boxes of the same width and depth (one with a lid would be great, but we didn't have one either and came up with a different solution)
a couple of bricks (we only had one and will add another one when I find one...)
a piece of fly screen big enough to cover the bottom of one of the boxes
a carpet knife (or other sharp knife)
old paper, leaves etc
Styrofoam boxes are often used to transport vegetables in. They are good because they are easy to work with (eg to cut to size or put holes in), and the worms won't eat them. (Worms love cardboard boxes to eat!). I am not sure where ours came from - they have been sitting in the shed for a while, waiting to be used for something.
One of the boxes will serve to catch the worm liquid. Put a brick in and cut the box at about 1cm above the brick(s). This is to stabilize the worm farm and will help to support the box on top. You can add a little tap at the bottom of this box but we didn't have one for now - maybe this is something I will add later.
Make little holes in the bottom of the second box so that water can flow through.
Put a sheet of fly screen over the holes which allows the water to run off but keeps the worms in the upper box.
Make paper strips from old newspaper (or rip up an old phone book as we did) and soak the paper in water. Squeeze out any excess water and put in the bottom of the box. We also added some dead leaves and straw from the garden.
Put the box with the holes and the paper/straw etc on top of the other box.
Add worms. Unfortunately, your standard Australian garden variety of worms will not do. Composting worms are a particular kind of worms and you can buy them in packs of a thousand or more. In Australia, many hardware stores stock worms. We got a good handful of worms from friends to get started, but you do need a critical mass to really get going. I will buy some more next time I am in town.
Cover the worms with a couple of sheets of wet newspaper and some moist hessian. Add a lid. Your worm farm is now ready.
We might think about a worm farm beautifying project next, given that the worm farm sits next to the kitchen entrance. But quite frankly, I don't think the shop-bought version looks all that much better than our home-made one.