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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Worm farming and food waste

We have been the proud owners of a worm farm for over a year now.   Sadly, last summer all of our worms died due to extreme heat, although at the time I thought I had taken all of the necessary precautions.


Mum kindly restocked our farm with worms during the winter and recently I have been working hard on reinvigorating our worm friends and their by-products for the garden.  This new interest has also made me reflect on our food waste generally.

We are in a position to have many options for recycling or disposing of food waste.  The most obvious solution is to cut down on waste in the first place.  I love the challenge of trying to use up all our leftover food and sometimes surprise myself with these solutions.  In our house it is rare for any food scraps to go into the actual rubbish bin.

Leftover roast lamb goes into lamb fritters, meat pies, shepherd’s pie, yiros and sandwiches.


Leftover cooked vegetables get squashed into sandwiches, used in salads or chopped and put into fritters or frittata.  


Leftover gravy also finds a home in meat pies or stews.

The small bits of pickles, sauces, mustard and marinades that get left in the bottom of jars are swished out with some water and use in stews, curries or gravy.

With leftover mashed vegetables, I make vegetable patties.

As a family, we are fortunate that most of us are home for lunch most days.  This often means parts of previous meals are eaten again the next day.

Occasionally we kill some chooks and their bones go into stock.  If I don’t have time to make stock immediately, I freeze the bones and make the stock at a later date.  The rest of the time I make vegetable stock, using celery leaves and any other vegetable bits and pieces I can find.

Our sheep dogs get any meat scraps or pieces of trimmed fat.

Our chooks get any other food scraps, such as corn cobs, vegetable and fruit peel, excess sourdough starter and miscellaneous bits and pieces from the fridge. 


Coming back to the worms.  They dine on a chopped mixture of vegetable and fruit peel, tea bags, tea leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells and a little shredded paper.  Once a week they also receive a shovel full of soil.  My vegetables have been enjoying a weekly dose of worm tea and occasionally I collect their castings, dilute the dark sludge with water and put it on any vegetables that need a boost.


Following Celia’s recommendation I have purchased Save with Jamie .  If you are interested in using up leftovers and cooking economically this book is attractive, fun and full of great recipes and information.  

How do you deal with food waste and leftovers?
Are you a worm farmers too?  
I hope you are having a lovely week blog friends!

35 comments :

  1. Replies
    1. It's funny...I just knew that was the case Jane x

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  2. Two worm farms here, one was simply not enough for the amount of food scraps we had, though with chickens now everyone has to get their share of kitchen scraps.
    Our worms seem to be going well. If I dig into the farm there always seems to be thousands of tiny, barely-visibly babies everywhere.
    x

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    1. It's great to have a few options for waste isn't it Zara? I love seeing the worm babies too! Lovely to hear from you x

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  3. Mine goes really well - but I never get any juice from it (unless I flush it with water). I think it's because I have a very thick layer of casting in the second to bottom tray which holds it all...I like the idea of the sludge, this may be the way to go I think!

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    1. Hi Becs, great to hear from you. I only get juice when I flush it with water too. I believe a regular flush is beneficial for the worms. The sludge is good stuff isn't it?

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  4. WOW JANE!! This is such a gorgeous post!!!!
    We live such similar lives, you and I, and I love it when you post things like this...
    You are such an inspiration for me and I've missed your regular posts of late.... :)

    I too have been wanting to start a worm farm. I bought an old one for $1 at a clearing sale about 6 months ago and it has been on my 'to do' list ever since. Have you got any suggestions as to how I might start mine out??

    I can safely say we use all of our food 'scraps' too and I love setting the challenge for our family to reduce our house hold 'rubbish' - the girls get a real kick out of thinking about the packaging that our food comes in and how it could be re-used; Jars are saved for preserving, tins are cleaned and kept for gardening, boxes are saved for schoolroom craft. paper is shredded and added to the chooks laying boxes (I could go on and on as I'm sure you could too)...

    Your chooks look super contented - how many are you currently keeping? I have 9 hens a 1 rooster at the moment and on average we get 6 eggs a day - plenty for our small family of 5 who loves eggs!

    By the way - thanks for the delicious 'poached pear' recipe, we enjoyed it for dessert last night with some egg custard and it was just DIVINE!! :)

    Take Care and have a gorgeous end to your week... xx

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    1. Hi Jodie. Great to hear from you. To start your worm farm I would suggest getting hold of some composting worms...do you have plant shop in Cobar? That is where I got my first lot of worms from. We got what is called a bedding/starting block with our farm, this is what you use to start the worms off in. The bedding is a fibrous/potting mix substance which you soak in water. Maybe you can buy this bedding separately on-line? I have an instruction manual that came with our farm that I refer back to regularly for worm care!

      Recycling is fun isn't it...and a good challenge I agree. We have 17 chooks as I sell quite a few eggs to a local cafe.

      I am pleased to pears were a success. You enjoy the end of your week too. The 'set work' countdown is on isn't it? x

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    2. Thanks for the great 'worm farm' advice Jane. I'll talk with my local plant lady this Friday when I'm in town... :)

      17 chooks, that's awesome!

      We only have 2 sets of school work to do and 1 week left on Satellite!!! YIPPEE!!!
      The light at the end of our deep dark long tunnel is looking very bright... xx

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  5. what a great post, jane. i would love a worm farm but i worry about getting/keeping the temperatures right for their survival. sometimes it is hard enough keeping the garden alive!
    any food i do not want gets popped in the freezer and saved for when i visit my parents - no, it's not for my parents (!), but their chooks and old dog! so i while i try to minimise my waste, i never feel guilty about not finishing a dinner or liking a particular recipe. some other less fussy animal will enjoy it!
    ps we are drowning in too much rain at the moment in hobart!

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    1. Thank you e, great idea to give your food scraps to your parent's chooks. I believe worms are just as sensitive to extreme cold as they are to extreme heat. It could be hard to keep them warm in Hobart.

      Wouldn't it be nice if mother nature could share the rain around a little more fairly!?

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  6. We had a worm farm Jane but the heat got the better of the poor little things here too...I'm not sure how I could avoid that happening again?
    I really enjoyed watching the TV series that went with the 'Jamie' book you have. It was great and I have been eyeing off the book. It might go on my Christmas list :)

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    1. Hi Kate, I think keeping the whole farm damp and in the shadiest place possible is the answer. You would like the Jamie book, I don't buy many cookbooks these days but this one is a beauty! x

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  7. We have a flock of chickens and 6 dogs, so we don't "throw out" much food. If we are out of dog food, they will get any leftovers that we don't want. The chickens get all of our veg and fruit scraps. I love to see them come running when I open the back door - spoiled girls! We are vegetarians, so we don't have any meat waste. We are not very good at composting, so we just have a 3-sided structure in the chicken area that we dump any compost ingredients into and they can do with it what they want. The thing that bothers me the most is the banana peels because the chickens do not eat them and we eat a lot of bananas, so there are always some scattered around the chicken area.

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    1. Hi Katie. It sounds like you have a great collection of animals. I give my chooks banana peel and it seems to disappear...not sure if they eat it or it just slowly breaks down in the chook pen. Thanks for calling in :)

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  8. Hello lovely Jane,
    There's not a lot of waste leaving the house here either.
    What we can't eat gets fed to the chooks or composted.
    Farmer Bren is OBSESSED with compost.
    He adores the whole cycle.
    Now if only the sun would come out and dry everything up so we could start growing things again.
    xx

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    1. Hi Kate. I hope you get some sun soon! Thanks for calling in and have a lovely weekend x

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  9. Such an important message in your post, Jane… our compost is brimming with worms and they contentedly do their magic. I hate wasting food and, like you, find ways to make the most of any leftovers. I've made the best stir fries with leftover roast pork, for instance, a new take on bubble and squeak.

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    1. Thank you Lizzy. I agree, leftover roast pork is perfect for stir fries! The possibilities are almost endless aren't they? Have a lovely weekend x

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  10. Another food waste hater here! I love the idea that everything endlessly recycles using worms or hens or compost. It doesn't seem so wasteful clearing up a glut of apples if I know that the hens will get some and the rest goes on the compost heap; at least we get eggs and the veg garden gets some good compost. I've never tried a worm farm, but our compost heap is almost alive with worms when we reach the bottom.
    Have a lovely week. A x

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    1. Hello Anne. I agree, feeding hens or worms or composting takes the guilt out of clearing up gluts and scraps. After all...the animals need to eat too! Have a lovely weekend x

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  11. worm farmer..check. Although I realistically need a few of them.
    For years I'd always put the egg shells in there and then recently was told you are not supposed, so stopped. No left overs to be had round these parts.

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    1. Do you know the reason for not using egg shells Brydie? I guessed you might be a worm farmer!

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  12. Such a great post and important message Jane. There is never any waste in the Greek kitchens I have seen - people eat so seasonly here, particularly in the country areas that it is heartbreaking to waste any particular produce.

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    1. Thank you Mrs M. Eating with the seasons just makes sense doesn't it?

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  13. Interesting post Jane, we don't have a worm farm, just heaps in our soil. I dig our food peels into the soil and feed them that way. I always thought worms don't like citrus peels, so I put them in the compost. We don't have much food waste here, I was taught to use up everything (our scrap bowls were inspected by the head chef) Still working on the lunch boxes though. Food waste as such a crime when half the world is hungry.

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    1. Are you a chef Simmone? I think digging food bits straight into the soil is a great idea.

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  14. Jane, I'm so glad you liked the book! We've taken to microwaving our egg shells to dry them off and then grinding them up in the food processor before adding them to the worm farm - we find it works a bit better that way. And you know, I don't make vegetable stock. I'm going to start right now! :)

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    1. More great ideas and tips from your place Celia!

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  15. I loved saving food for my wormies but mine died too and I haven't replaced them yet. I work in a raw vegan kitchen once a week and now save my scraps to take to their compost pile. I do need to make my vermicompost pile again soon!

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    1. You would have gourmet vegan treats for your worms! Thanks for calling in.

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  16. I had a worm farm years ago that was a dismal failure. Everything went slimy and all the worms died. I contacted the dealers and restocked, following their instructions to the letter - but the same thing happened again. I then gave it to a friend who had exactly the same problems. I'm pleased to see you've managed to master something that I failed at so utterly.

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    1. That is a shame Amanda, I wonder what went wrong? I am certainly not an expert on the subject. Thanks for calling in.

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  17. Think this weeks project will have to be to start a wormfarm here on my farm too now!!

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Hello and welcome. I will try to reply to all comments eventually because I love the conversation! Jane