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Friday July 18, 2008

British Burrowers


What, I wondered, should I buy my budding horticulturist Scottish husband for his birthday? Then I hit on it. Two thousand live worms, a box full of wooden slats and a small plastic bag of nuts and bolts. The Scotsman had been muttering about buying a wormery for some time, a concept unknown up here in the Mallorcan hills, although the recycling of waste matter is taken seriously around here and fly tipping remains an unknown hazard. Most of us hillbillies have compost heaps and are enjoying the novelty of the recycling bins which have suddenly appeared like shiny grey Daleks on our country roads.

On my wormery quest I rifled through some old gardening magazines and identified a seasoned wormery veteran in Dorset from whom I ordered the whole kit -a flat-pack wooden edifice and a box of squirming burrowers in moist soil. In spite of promises of a smooth door to mountain-door delivery, our wormery got waylaid in a Madrid postal depot for an entire weekend so that I was at my wits end imagining at the least my wily worms breaking for freedom or at worst, expiring en masse. As it happened they arrived unscathed as my shaken Scotsman would verify having plunged his hand unwittingly into the open box of soil. That, I explained, is the joy of surprise birthday gifts: you never know what’s inside.

The next day our Mallorcan neighbour, Rafael, more of a sheep man himself, gave the wormery the once over. ‘It’s a hotel for cuques!’ he gasped. ‘A worm hotel? Well, sort of…’ I replied. Two months later when the first crop of fresh vermicompost fertilizer was ready, some local farmers and would-be horticulturalists came over to inspect. Was this worm soil any better than ordinary compost they asked? The Scotsman announced that soon he’d be the envy of gardeners throughout the valley. They tittered and slapped him on the back good naturedly.

Last week a champion local tomato grower made a pilgrimage to our land and coyly asked to see our cuques hotel. We gave him a tour of the wormery and our abundant and glorious vegetables. An hour later our new best friend left with a bag of precious vermicompost. The Scotsman beamed, happy that thanks to our British Burrowers we’d finally been able to make a small but important horticultural contribution to our beloved valley.





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