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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

PLEASE NOTE: The articles archived here were originally posted to the online community resource; many internal textual and hyper-textual references to that site remain as written.

Sun Room Growing Power Box
Sun Room Growing Power Box

Jan. 31, 2006 Farmer Don, broadcaster of seeds.

Bob planting seeds

To the left there is new picture of me planting seeds.

Yesterday after Mass, over coffee and doughnuts, I was at a table with another type of broadcaster of seed. My wife and I were seating at a table with two other couples. My wife mentioned to one of the men, former Alderman Don Richards, how he was responsible for us joining the Church. When we went to check out the Church, a few years ago, Don met us at the door, enthusiastically welcomed us and during the service mentioned our presence to the congregation. He did not remember the event but the woman of the third couple at the table, Ella Brooks?, an African American patch quilt artist, mentioned that she too was ‘church shopping’ when she met Don and he was responsible for her and her husband joining the church.

Don was also the alderman on the Northwest side when Will Allen of Growing power went to purchase the last existing farm, 55th and Silver Spring, in the city of Milwaukee. He was responsible for getting Growing Power zoned a “farm.” (The animals there are living proof.) So Don planted seeds that result in persons coming to our church and helped provide the environment in which Growing Power could flourish.

Ella, the patch quilt artist’s birthday was today. She went with me to the retreat in daily life that I am facilitating at the Church. Yes, we in Milwaukee are all related.

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Jan. 30, 2006

I went to Growing Power today and got some more worm castings, so I can finish off my four planters of herbs that I am growing below the box. Planted the seeds for the herbs and now will wait. Germination of the spinach and salad greens in the box is happening in full swing.

Will Allen instructed me today on building a worm depository, a compost pile where worms can grow and breed and produce. After a while, materials from this pile are mixed with fresh compost and produce castings, which with worms are put in the garden. A three step process, one breeding pile, casting-making pile, and then castings and worms for garden to be place on more compost.

Our Native American stencils arrived from Southwest today and Peter is going to get some oil paints to put them on the box. They look great and will naturally blend in with plants and box.

Today at a Faith in Recovery board meeting,, working on a toolkit for new groups, we got into a theological discussion on the source of evil. After a while and some heated debate, one of the members, a person with a major mental illness, grounded us by reminding us what really counted was that spirituality, whatever it is based on, plays a meaningful role in recovery. Codifying what does not need to be codified did not make sense. That is some of the beauty of gardening, you just take what is given to you, leftover garbage and compost, water drained from the box, worm castings and just use it over and over again. No need to go off on any theories or have any arguments on real sources; just stay grounded and do what comes naturally.

Tomorrow I am going to a city council hearing and attempting to end some of the discrimination that persons with mental illness face in finding housing. What can I learn from the worms? Just stay grounded and realize that as one individual we cannot do much. However, joined together as a community we can do a lot of good, simply by recognizing that we deep down we are all equal. We are all worms in the earth, and that our government principally exists for the common good of all, to provide an environment in which we can all grow, flourish and produce good castings.

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Jan. 29, 2006

Today was another big day for the Growing Box. I mixed the material for the planters, 30% coyer, coconut grindings, 30% compost, and 30% worm castings, the formula Amy had given us yesterday. I put the mix in the four planters I had purchased yesterday, but ran short of Worm castings for the top. I will, hopefully, purchase some tomorrow from Growing Power and be able to plant the two types of mint, basil and cilantro seeds I have. These are four the herbs we use most often in cooking and for salads.

We also added two new pictures to this worm diary today, one for the top of page of the box and one of spinach sprouts on the Jan. 26th entry. Check them out.

Now I further understand why Jesus is seen as eating so much in the Gospel. Jesus ate with all types, Pharisees and scribes, poor and peasants, fisherman and even outcast and sinners. He believed in the open table plan. Food and drink do unite all of us. That is why being a small part of this greater plan of Growing Power is such a blessing. I might just be another worm in the compost but when we worms get together we can do wonders and produce riches.

Tonight, I went to Bread and Butter Jam 3, a fundraiser for Hunger Task Force at a local Chinese American Sports Bar and Restaurant that has a great Fish Fry (Long Wong’s, only in Milwaukee). The music was great, some of great local music persons in the area, like Freddy of the 60’s group, Freddy and Freeloaders. We met some old friends, made some new ones. However, at the center of this fundraiser was the Food and Drink. We have taken out food from there before and knew it is good, but eating there in that communal environment made it taste even better.

Tegan has added a Facts Page connected to this one. In a few days you have some basic facts. And I promise you that when my digital camera comes back you will have a great picture of the star of the show, the Worm.

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Jan. 28, 2006

Today was a big day for the Growing Box. Loren and I went to Growing Power. From Amy and Will we picked up some new knowledge and the stuff for our herb planters that we are putting on the shelf below. By stuff I mean the coconut shavings (name sp?), more compost to mix with our worm castings to make the mix for the planters (which I purchased latter in the day from a hardware store). Soon we will have basil, mints and cilantro in our three-season room.

Will warned us again today about the effects of cigarette smoking on plants. In the winter we have no choice but to let Loren and Peter smoke in the three-season room. We have insulated glass doors separating it from the rest of the house. However, now I have two air cleaners/filters running in there, a smokeless, battery-operated ashtray, a new ceiling fan and light going up tomorrow, and some scented candles smoking. Both young men are struggling to stay free of alcohol and to deal with some issues with their heath of their minds, so cigarette smoking seems to be the lesser of evils to deal with. In the spring, summer and fall they can smoke outside and we can keep open all the doors in the sun-room. Will suggested they check out the connection between smoking and plants, but I doubt if they will. If anyone out there knows the connection please let us know. For now I am not going to worry about it, since they both are using the time here to move on with their lives and are welcome additions to our household.

Today I got the pictures I took on our regular camera back, on a digital disk. So soon we will have pictures in this diary of our completed box and plants growing.

Working in the food pantry this morning at my Church, it occurred to me that if the empty lots in Milwaukee and some houses and backyards were converted into growing power centers, we could be growing organically healthy food to give to those in need at a lower cost than it cost us now to obtain or purchase food for the pantry. Almost every day we use something in our household cooking - herbs, mint, green beans, grape leaves - that we grew in our regular garden last summer. When we get the Growing box going and apply the same principles to our backyard garden, we will have much more healthy food and the ability to share some of it. As Godsil is found to say, this is really a revolution in agriculture.

Will reminded us today about his efforts to keep the growing system simple: compost, worms and worm castings are the staples of all the various systems, be it on the farm, in a green house, in a sun-room or a garden. Stay tuned for the pictures. They are coming to your home computer screen soon.

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Jan. 27, 2006

When I first asked Will Allen about planting seeds in my growing box I asked him if I should follow instructions on the back of the seed packets. He said no, that I should just ‘broadcast the seeds’ in the box. Broadcasting seeds stirs a strong image in my mind of farmer throwing out of seeds from a bag over soil. Broadcasting also stirs a strong image of a radio or TV station broadcasting airwaves over the land. Who knows who hears or sees the broadcasted waves, just as who knows where the seed will fall. Some may fall on fertile ground and take root and some may not. Yet we broadcast airwaves and seeds with the hope they will be heard and seen or take root.

My daily scripture reading for the retreat in daily life, that I am facilitating, today was about how the Kingdom of God is like when a mustard seed is planted in the garden. Although it is a very small seed, (I have seen actual mustard seed), it grows in a very large bush with branches that are big enough for birds to nest in its shade.

Putting this two thoughts together, maybe all we can hope for in life is the “desire” to do the right thing, according to our beliefs act or broadcast on these desires and just hope and trust that some of what we broadcast will take root and offer a place of peace and comfort for someone.

Tomorrow Loren and I return to Growing Power for some advice, answer some questions and pick up materials for our plant boxes below the table. Also I will have some new pictures to ‘broadcast’ tomorrow.

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Jan. 26, 2006

Spinach Sprouts
Spinach Sprouts

Dear Will and Old Godsile,

Today the spinach and one of the salad mixes in the Growing Box really sprouted. The other salad mix in the box has a longer germination time. I understand better now why Jesus often used ‘seeds’ and ‘soil’ when talking about how the Kingdom of God happens. “God’s kingdom is like what happens when a farmer scatters seed in a field. The farmer sleeps at night and is up and around during the day. Yet the seeds keep sprouting and growing, and he doesn’t understand how. It is the ground that makes the seeds sprout and grow into plants that produce grain.” (Mark 4:26–29) I do not understand how the sprouts grow, but I do know that it is the worms and worm castings that are making this miracle of growth happen in this box. Sustainable Urban Agriculture is a real key to making part of the Kingdom of God happen: no one goes hungry and we eat healthy food produced at a reasonable cost.

We are not watering the soil for a day or two. Drying out the top layer, Loren thinks will make the seeds germinate faster.

Thanks Old Godsile for spreading the word of the Growing Power Home Model box and trying to get 13 more going so we can have a new Milwaukee 14 action happening in this city. Inspired by this email Loren and I discussed more our plans to make a home growing box kit that could be easily assembled. More details on these plans as they develop.

There is now a picture on this site, on Jan. 20th entry, of Loren building the box. As soon as I get some film developed, I, thanks to the help of Tegan, will post some pictures of the finished box. We used some earth colors to paint the box and I ordered some Native American stencils tonight to put on the outside.

Another benefit of a Growing Box in your home is that it makes you think about slowing down. I am a doing type of person when I need to be more of being type of person. Nature has a built in slow cycle, like a seed, the deeper you grow your roots in the soil, the more you grow above ground. However, unlike a seed and plant we humans can choose not to take the natural course and waste energy and time, trying to do it ourselves. Time now to practice what I preach and like the worms in the box just be slowing down and doing what comes naturally.

Another day and another seed comes to life

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Jan. 25, 2006

Dear Will and Old Godsile,

I am not sure you two are reading this diary entries but hope Will reads this one: Questions of the Day: What about bugs? We noticed some bugs in the ground today, very small ones. Is there a pesticide, organic or not that we should be using now, before the plants get going?

Loren and I repaired the outside two corners today and Loren came up with a few more ways to improve this model box. So if anyone is interested in a Growing Power box in their home or on their deck or in their garden, we have the plans and the model going. Soon we will write down our exact plans and design a total kit one can purchase of the Growing Box. With the help of wikignome, Tegan, we got a picture of the box under construction on the web site today. Soon we will have pictures of the now-almost-completed growing box, painted and soon to display some artwork. Our colors are an earth red and Navajo tan. Soon we will add some Native American symbols. Peter, our son, has offered to work on some designs. It is becoming a regular family even, Pat, Peter, Loren and myself. Growing Power boxes can unite families and communities.

More sprouts popping up today. Also today I went outside to add some kitchen garbage to my outside compost pile. I dug in a little ways, hoping to see lots of Growing Power worms I added to pile. But they must be deep, for all I could find is some big type of regular worms. But I have faith they are still there and working hard.



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Jan. 24, 2006

Dear Will and Olde Godsile,

Is anyone out there reading this or cares? I feel like one of the worms in my growing power box. Who cares about one little worm? But joined together with a lot of worms we maybe can make a difference.

Today the worms got a paint job on the box by Loren. He put trim out the box and painted it a dark earth red with the rest being a Native American off-white. A good job. Also Loren noticed some plants struggling to get above the earth. The soil is very wet, so we think it best to let the top dry out the next day or so while the germination takes final hold.

Calling Growing Power, you, Will, answered the phone. I was really looking for Amy since I want to start the planted spices on the shelf below the box soon. Amy said she would have time to work with me Saturday. Growing Power persons are all so good — rich earth good.

Reflecting on my life today with my therapist I think I need to ground myself more in the matter of things, deep within what is around me by entering into the silence of it. If that sounds complicated, it really is not. It means more slowing down, more discipline, more dying, like the seeds so I am more grounded to grow. It is good to be like the worms, always busy doing and doing---each worms eats and dispenses its own weight each day. This means that my pound or two of worms has made a many pounds of “black gold” or castings in the last few days. However, without the waste, the compost, just being what it is, what good would all the worm doings be? I am taking pictures and have some pictures. But without my digital camera working (in shop) and without knowing what I am doing, putting the pictures on this site will take a little more time. However, pictures do speak lots of words, so I think anyone reading this worm diary will enjoy the pictures.

Question of the Day: When will we see full life above ground? I have faith but need some help with it. “Faith can create miracles” as a Bible reading I saw today says. So I must keep the faith of this growing power method, hope “all is well” and trust and desire to do it right.



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Jan. 23, 2006

Dear Will and Olde Godsile.

Tonight the temperature of the earth in the growing power is warmer than the air, 53 compared to 51.

No sign of growth yet. Makes me worry, which is not hard to do. Did I plant the seeds right, too many, too few, too much soil on top or not? I give it a day or two. I noticed that one of the germination periods was 3–5 days and one was 10 days and the other, spinach, I could not find. Soon I will call Amy at Growing Power and start in on the herb pots on the shelf below the box. I bought some paint and sideboards today to pretty up the box. At least it will look good.

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Jan. 22, 2006

Dear Will and Old Godsile,

Today is day four. Another sunny day. It was 70 plus in the room today and the ground temp. always stays between 55–59 degrees. It fact it is 56 degrees in the air and ground presently in the room. This worm thing is catchy. I was talking with someone after Church during coffee and doughnut time about the growing box when another friend asked me if I knew how worms had sex. I told him he should read my diary entry from the other day. He than asked me how worm babies are born. I said I would have to consult with someone and get back to him on that. Loren, my partner in the Growing box, the fisherman, told me later that he though that worms are bisexual and that they lay casings which are full of a multitude of worms, since like fish eggs, many do not survive. I will have to check with the worm experts at Growing Power about that.

Still no new life popping up. This waiting time, which is most of life, for new life is hard. However, with the sun shining and my everyday watering of the box, new life should come up soon.

Sally wrote me today about taking the very brown water dripping out of my box to a pan below and using it to water and fertilize my houseplants. I am sure it will be better than Miracle Grow, which I now use. Another cost saving measure.

Almost every day I use something, sometimes just a spice, from my traditional garden of last summer. Tonight Pat made some pasta using the pesto she made from the basil we grew. When we get the salad mix and spices growing inside and with all the increased stuff from the outside, we should really have a lot of good things to eat all year around. Another benefit of a Growing Power — healthy food to eat.

However, the key is worms. I can sense them working outside in my compost box and inside in my growing box. They are the bread and butter of Growing Power.

Worm Joke of the day via Peter: The worm staying on the top of box is like the football player that had a good first half but pooped out the second half.


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Jan. 21, 2006

Dear Will and Olde Godsile,

Day three: All the worms except one seem to have buried themselves deep in the Growing Box.

The repairs we did on the corners on one side of the box seem to be holding up. Now we need to do the other side. The sun today is out. Temperatures in the Sun room were over 70 degrees. I put the part of gauge that should be outside in the ground on top of box. The ground temperature is about 59 degrees.
All the “cold hardy” seeds I purchased in December seem unnecessary now. Oh well, when we renew the box, taking out all the compost that worms are making into rich castings soil, we can always change plants. Speaking of taking out the soil, we now regret not making one end of box on hinges so we can easily shovel out the finished product. Oh well, more modifications to our model and stuff to do in the next one.

Got a boost on the web site from a Wikignome named Tegan today. I actually may get pictures on the web site soon.

Something seems very natural and good about this enterprise. In my discernment of spirits this means this a good thing to do.

Question of the day for Growing Power: The water you recycle through your systems stays fairly clean. Although it carries the nutrients, the plants are in pots or planters. In this home system the water dripping through the bottom of the box is full of nutrients also but very dirty. We were thinking of putting a fish tank on the bottom shelf and recycling the water through it. However, it is much too brown for fish I think. What to do? The worms do not care what color the water is but the fish might?



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Jan. 20, 2006

Loren working on box

Dear Will and Godsil,

The seeds are planted and we are now waiting for them to germinate and to begin growing. Last night Loren noticed a new problem with the Growing Power box. We braced the four boards that make the outside of the box but only in the middle. All the wet compost and castings, almost 4 wheelbarrows full, have caused the boards to warp and spit in the four corners. We repaired the 2 corners facing the room today with a bracket holding them and putting in a couple of screws. There are now 16 cubic feet of ground pressing on the sides. We will take down the plastic on the doors of the east side, open them and put in screws on the other end. This is something we did not think of ahead of time since the Growing Power raised bed boxes we saw were for just water and had planters in them. Something to remember for the next one, along with putting the south 2’ foot side of the box on hinges so we can put it down when emptying it this summer. The box is now too heavy to move outside without removing the compost and castings first.

The success of the box is giving us all new ideas of what we can do inside and outside for more Growing Power. From tanks below the box and water and pumping water through the system, to a pond outside and with water flow systems, to worm boxes on the side of house - the ideas are flowing. Soon we will need you two and maybe a few more Growing Power persons to visit to brainstorm more ideas. Also when we open the door we will stick out of it the small wire for the thermostat my son in Green Bay gave me. It measures the outside and inside temperatures and humidity.

Waiting is always the hard part for me, be it waiting in line for some service, waiting to be released from prison, waiting for a hearing on a city ordinance, waiting in grocery lines, or now waiting for germination. I have noticed that poor persons do the most waiting. A wise priest told me one time, after I waited to visit him, about the value of waiting and how, if entered into with a good attitude, not one of high expectations but one of living in the present moment, waiting can be good and refreshing. Waiting can be used to slow us down and become more reflective. See how the Growing Power home box is teaching us.

Will and Sally, could you thank Katie for being so helpful the other day, and if she would want to receive these diary notes, please send me her email address.

The Growing Power question of the day is: How long will it take for the nearly 16 sq. feet of rough compost in the box with 1 or 2 lb of worms working, to turn into all castings?



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Jan. 19, 2006

Dear Will and Godsil,

Today is the day new life begins in the Growing Power box home model in my three-season room. Soon, I will learn how to use the web page, you, Godsil, so graciously assigned me, and backdate some entries. But now I want to start to record what is going on my very small version of urban sustainable agriculture that the persons of Growing Power? in Milwaukee are world leaders in.

Yesterday, I went with Loren to pick up the ingredients of the Growing Power box. It has been built, primed, tested and ready. Katie of Growing Power was very helpful of showing us what materials and what quantities of compost and worm castings to take, and providing us with the key life-giving ingredient, worms. (Katie’s calculations were right on.) Will has suggested that, because of the heat in the room, we just needed one layer of “rough compost” topped with worms and worm castings layer on top. She had suggested that after we got the compost in the box, we might want to wait awhile till it warms up before we put in the worms. However, the rough compost was not that cold, although it had been outside, and as soon as we got it in the box, Loren dumped in the worms. I was a little upset with him, probably not so much out of concern of the worms, but because I was not present for this event.

Today so far was a clean-up day - car, room, and our bodies. Soon I will lay down the layer of castings and seed. The worms are already working and reproducing. Loren noticed two of them locked together last night in a mating form. As a fisherman he has his best worm hunting in spring when worms are mating. He says if he is quick enough he can grab two in one grab.

Next week I will go back to Growing Power when Will is around to get some coconut grindings and castings to plant a box of herbs on the shelf below the Growing Power Box.

This experience reminds of two things: the scripture when we must pick up the cross daily and die with Christ in order to live. I thought of that when I was cleaning up this morning. New life always requires some dying. Also I am reminded of a statement by the Catholic Bishops of Appalachia where they called the people of this region to “sustainability.” Soon I will dig up that statement and post part of it.

Thanks Will, Katie, Sally and all at Growing Power. Thanks Godsil for turning me in this direction and for showing me how to use the web for nonviolent power. More to come,



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PR MINISTRY 414 379 4162, Publisher of Living Stones email newsletter and facilitator for Retreat in Daily Life.



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