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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
Cilantro & Arugula in planters
Cilantro & Arugula in planters
Sun Room 03/17/06
Sun Room 03/17/06

March 31, 2006 Rainy Day Blues

Today the weather is dark and rainy,
I finally had to admit that the Home Growing Power Box
Is not going to produce any decent crop this winter,
Be it from the smoke, lack of light, wrong seeds or whatever.
Will Allen offered me some hope today about this:
Saying how it took him five years to figure out the Worm thing,
How I had great soil in the box to use in my garden,
How spring, and the outside growing season, is coming upon us.

However, I still feel blue about it and have dim
Hopes that before the May dumping some crop can be harvested.
Also after Easter I will sit down with Growing Power persons in person,
Evaluate and plan again for the box, outside and up North.

Today my computer is acting up, be it the anti-virus program or what.
I called my computer specialist and he recommended some major changes,
But I think I will just wait and hope till I come back from my trip.

Today I faced up a little bit to the disorganized mess that is my office.
I did some cleaning and hopefully will do more in the next day or so,
Thus returning home to a somewhat clean office.

Today I stared at my taxes ready to be paid,
It is so sad that my ‘duty’ is
To pay for more death, debt and destruction.

There were glimmers of hope today,
I finished my last outline for the Retreat in Daily Life,
Confirmed my mission trip to New Orleans with teens in June,
Talked a little with Peter who was doing okay for a blue day.

The sadness I now feel is at least a peaceful one
For I know the Sun will come up once more,
I can prepare a good dinner for my wife and son,
And I can rest with the thought,
That in God’s eyes and in my deepest soul,
“All is Well, All is Well.”

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March 30, 2006 Traveling Home

Tonight I attended a meeting with some youth and their parents about a mission trip to New Orleans. I will have the privilege of being one of the adult chaperones. Next week I head for a pilgrimage in Guatemala to be present with the people there during Holy Week. Today I received an “Olive Tree for Palestine” Certificate of Appreciation for a donation I gave to a friend who traveled to Palestine to pick olives. Almost daily I receive emails from a friend/author in Holland who collects articles from around the world and passes them on, as well as from a friend in California who has a humor ministry. Today I talked with a friend who is a businessperson who will be traveling to China and India next week.

Yes our world is converging, becoming smaller and more global in many ways. As we grow more together we also experience more diversity — different cultures, different concepts of time, different styles of work, play, and prayer.

Awareness of this global growing-together forces us to travel in another way, deeper inside our daily life and ourselves. To keep ourselves grounded, the more we travel outward the more we need to travel inward.

As has been said before, in many ways, we and the world are like a tiny seed that, planted in good soil, grows and grows outward into a big tree with many branches. Yet at the same time the we and the world need to grow and grow deeper into the ground where we are planted and rooted.

So today, amidst all my talk and thoughts on traveling outward, I manage to take some time to work the soil on some houseplants and time to sit quietly and reflect. Diversity in Unity, Journeys to new lands, and our journey home. This is the mystery of Growing Power, and maybe the universe.

Tomorrow I will travel to the home base of Growing Power on Silver Spring to ask a few questions and maybe pick up some compost and castings. After I return from my journey to Guatemala, I will need to get serious about my garden in the back yard, the growing box, and growing with my grandchildren on the land up North.

Reminders: Next tour of Growing Power is April 10th, 4pm at the home base on 55th and Silver Spring. See for more details. I doubt if you will hear from me via this web site while I am Guatemala, from April 5th to 15th. But I promise to bring home some good pictures and some reflected gifts from the people there.

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March 29, 2006 Death at the Garden

There is a small group of us who try to have a non-denominational prayer vigil at the site of every homicide in the city of Milwaukee. This morning we were at 1st and Center, at the bus stop in front of Malcolm X Middle School. This is where a student was waiting at the bus stop when four men jumped out of the car and beat him to death. It was another one of the ‘senseless’ deaths that unfortunately we have become used to. However, this one was across the street from my first urban garden experience.

First street, between Center and the block south, is the Home of Gingerbread Land, a block where non-denominational minister Sister Clara worked diligently to make a ‘safe block’ for children. She ‘hustled’ money (we would call it begging) to purchase a number of houses on the block and furnish them. She worked with children and families, some of them foster families, to make the block clean and safe.

She had got an evangelical person from the suburbs and me to start a garden on the empty lot on the corner of 1st and Center. The garden was a real learning lesson for all, especially for me, ‘Brother Bob,’ as I was called by children and adults on the block. Children called Sister Clara (who was not a nun but an African American preacher} ‘mother’ or ‘grandmother.’

When we two ‘white brothers’ started to get the youth to plant tomatoes and lettuce, the kind of stuff we thought ‘normal’ for a garden, the children just look at us, saying ‘why?’ Salads were not in their regular diet, but all kinds of ‘greens’ were. During the couple of years we worked on the garden, what we planted changed until the garden became a source of hope, work, and food for the block.

This was long before I learned about Growing Power. Today, I returned to the site. It looks like the garden is still growing and thriving, although I think that Sister Clara might have finally made it (as she was always talking about) to the Southwest to live with one of children. The block may be safe and sound yet, but across the street from the garden stands Malcolm X Middle school, a school Sister Clara always discouraged any of her ‘children’ from attending (she was big on good education) and the scene of another senseless death.

The Garden still grows and thrives, and young African American males still die senseless deaths right across the street. A local alderman has declared young African American males an “endangered species,” and called for a more severe punishment for killing them.

I met the parents of the student that was killed at the vigil. They said he was new to the school, and that they were from a different neighborhood. Maybe if there were more blocks like Gingerbread land, safe and clean, and more urban gardens, sources of hope, work, and love, there would be fewer senseless deaths.

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March 28, 2006 Worm of Person

GP Box 3/28/06

Thanks to our Wiki Gnome Tegan this web site will have a new look. It will be a part of the Graf Family Home page, and the diary segments will be organized by month. Also there now is a link on this page to Peter Graf’s Art Gallery and hopefully soon to other pages from members of the Graf family who wish to contribute. The site is Growing!

However, the main inspiration still is Growing Power, and applying it to our home with the Growing Power Box, in our garden, and on my son’s land up north. There is a new picture of the insides of the box on the left. Gone for the most part are the spinach and original salad mix seeds that were cold hardy but could not take the sun. The corn mache remains and is now growing well; arugula and cilantro have been added, and soon another fair-weathered salad mix will be growing. The crops should start to produce salad material ‘till May when I will switch the box over to a summer, heat loving, crop.

Today I was reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, Psalm 22 that goes from deep desperation, “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” to great hope and praise, “The Lord has saved us!” The low point of the psalm comes when the author says, “But I am merely a worm,” and goes on to describe how he/she is rejected, made fun of. However, this worm of a person realizes that she/he is completely dependent on God and in that awareness is full of hope: “The poor will eat and be full, and all who worship you will be thankful and live in hope.”

In a faith sharing session tonight on this Psalm, a friend said that it was “unpatriotic.” Her claim was that true Americans are self-reliant, independent and held in great esteem, not worms of persons. The person described in the psalm is just like a worm, dependent, needs others (especially a higher power), and is lowly. I need to agree. I guess worms and dependent persons are un-American.

I have always been drawn to the lowly, rejected, marginalized, very young and old powerless groups, and now am drawn to worms. I might act at times like the ‘ugly American’ but desire to be like the lowly worm.

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March 27, 2006 Together We Are Growing Power

‘Together We Are Growing Power’ is the name of the report by Grace Lee Boggs, a 93 old political intellectual activist from Michigan, who spent last weekend at a workshop at Growing Power. She describes the vision of Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power this way: “Will began with a Vision of Independence, independence from poverty, from chemicals, from far-off food sources, from farming techniques that are no longer viable given our ever dwindling supply of farmland and fossil fuels, and also independent of the illusion that community can exist without individuals accepting responsibility.” Her full report can be found at Grace Lee Boggs Report on Growing Power.

Her report confirms the direction of my thoughts last night about Peter Maurin and his vision of integrating workers, agriculturalists, craftsmen and scholars into one community. As to further confirm this thought pattern, tonight I met, at a peace movement event, a person similar in thought and past experience to myself — but a farmer. His farm is South of Green Bay. We have similar backgrounds, former Jesuit seminarians, married with adult children, and still active writing and working for peace and justice. But he is a farmer and soon to be publisher of a book (More on that to come).

Also today I heard from Sally, PR person for Growing Power, who offered to keep me in contact with the place since Will, Katie and crew are really busy these days spreading the good news of Growing Power.

Now that my Growing Power Box is finally planted correctly and growing, it is time for a new picture of the plants. I will take one tomorrow. Also, my wiki gnome Tegan has suggested, and I concur, that this site is becoming too large and unwieldy. She will be breaking it down by months soon [Done! — Tegan].

I do a monthly free email newsletter called “Living Stones” of which the April issue will be coming out soon. You can receive a free subscription by sending me an email . I will try to expand on the community visions of Growing Power, Peter Maurin, and Milwaukee Renaissance all coming together. For only Together We are Growing Power.

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March 26, 2006 Blowing the Dynamite of a Message

A major influence in my life has been the Catholic Worker Movement founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. This is a movement, started during the depression, that is still alive today. Catholic Workers believe in living the message of Jesus to do the works of mercy of peace. Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality are all over the USA and world, and I have been in contact with the one in Milwaukee, Casa Maria, since the 60’s.

Although Dorothy Day is better known, Peter Maurin was the philosopher and visionary behind the movement. He wanted to call what is now the ‘Catholic Worker’ newspaper ‘Catholic Radical,’ radical being from the Latin word for ‘root’, to get at the root of the message of the Church. When some of us started a Catholic Worker newspaper for Casa Maria in 1968 we called it, after Peter Maurin’s original name, ‘The Catholic Radical.’ Below please find an ‘easy essay’ of Peter Maurin’s, as his style of writing came to be called, that appeared on the front cover, in a much more dynamic fashion, on the first issue. For more information on Peter Maurin himself, check out the Catholic Worker web site at:

All of the above is a long way at getting to the heart of Peter Maurin’s message of what he thought the Catholic Worker should be all about. He said: “The Catholic Worker should stand for a decentralized society stressing cooperation rather than duress, with artisans and craftsmen in worker-owned small factories and agricultural communities. Coming together in agricultural communities, worker and scholar could sweat, think and pray together and in the process develop a worker-scholar synthesis.”

This message of combining craftsmen, artisans and scholars with agriculture, is for me what Milwaukee Renaissance and Growing Power are an about. Maybe we need to change the words “Catholic Church’ to something they believe in and also talk abut bringing agriculture back to the urban communities instead of taking it out to the farm, but the message rings true in my heart. In the easy essay below, substitute your own word for Catholic Church, your source for a meaningful message. Read it and let me know if you think if you agree to “blow the dynamite of a message is the only way to make that message dynamic.”

Peter Maurin

Writing about the Catholic Church,
a radical writer says:

“Rome will have to do more
than to play a waiting game;
she will have to use
some of the dynamite
inherent in her message.”
To blow the dynamite
of a message
is the only way
to make the message dynamic.
If the Catholic Church
is not today
the dominant social dynamic force,
it is because Catholic scholars
have taken the dynamite
of the Church,
have wrapped it up
in nice phraseology,
placed it in an hermetic container

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March 25, 2006 Annunciation

Today my friend Jim Forest announced by email that his book “The Wormwood File, E-Mail From Hell” is now been translated to Polish and Czech. This book comes sixty years after C.S. Lewis book, “The Screwtape Letters.” which is an exchange of letters between a senior and junior demon. Now the junior demon, Wormwood, is the senior demon and is advising another junior demon by email on how to deal with modern issues. The book of email exchanges is very humorous. To find out more about it check out this page:

Today is a feast day of another announcement; over 2000 years ago an angel announced to a young teenage girl, in a forgotten town of Nazareth in an occupied land of Palestine, that she was to be to have a child that would be called the “son of God Most High.” Mary was confused and asked how this could happen, because she was virgin. Angel told her that God’s power and Spirit would take care of it. Mary said “YES, Let it be” and this unwed, poor, teenager girl became the Mother of God.

So announcements come in all shapes and forms, from morning announcements in school to Loren’s excited announcement to me tonight that the DNR was now stocking the fish in the ponds in Milwaukee Country.

How we respond to announcements, saying yes or no, read the book or go fishing, makes all the difference.

Today I announced to Loren and Peter that I was placing a smoke-free chair in the Sun Room overlooking the Growing Power Box and garden outside. I also announced they are to smoke outside on the deck whenever weather permits. They took the announcement fairly well, and the worms and plants in the Growing Power Box were overjoyed, as were my lungs.

Did you hear any announcements today, and what is your response?

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March 24, 2006 What If

Tonight, at a homeless shelter, there we only about 3 or 4 families present, but two of the adults were men, which is unusual. It is usually only women and children that are present. One man was present with his wife and children. He has lost his job, which led to defaulting on his house payments, which led to the shelter. The other man was there with his son. I do not know why he was homeless but do know, from his cheering Boston College to beat Villanova in basketball, that he was a graduate of the University of Arizona. Villanova had beaten his alma mater in the previous round of the NCAA college basketball tournament. For a while the three of us got in some “guy talk” about basketball.

How close so many Americans are getting to be homeless can make some of us wonder: What if something happens to our family? In the richest country on earth, more and more Americans are getting closer to closer to the edge of poverty, hunger, illness and homelessness, and more are falling in.

Today in the mail I received seeds of destruction and seeds of hope. The seeds of destruction were my tax return that my accountant sent me. It told me how much more I need to contribute to USA government, mostly to be used for destruction, death and debt and to make some rich people richer. The seeds of hope were the plant seeds I had ordered from Johnny’s Seed Catalog. They and my Growing Power Box, which is once again growing, give me hope of a brighter time, food, and new life.

This reminds me of a saying that goes something like this: What if the air force had to have bake sales to build a new fighter jet, and the girl scouts got the money we now spend on such a plane?

During this “What if” kind of day, I received another worm poem from the Milwaukee Renaissance poet Harvey Taylor. I am not sure of the connection between the above and this poem but I am tired and think: What if it really does not matter?

What If…
What if every blade of grass cares about you?
What if every dandelion wishes you well?
What if the trees are your secret admirers?
What if birds remember you in their prayers?

What if
we’re not who
we think we are?

What if earthworms praise you, deep in the garden?
What if daffodils smile when you walk by?
What if every drop of rain is your benefactor?
What if all-the grains of sand look up to you?

What if we’re not
who we think
we are?

What if the moon’ s purpose is to inspire you?
What if the sun is delighted by your shadow?
What if rainbows are amazed by your beauty?
What if butterflies embody your destiny?

What if
we’re not who
we think we are?
—Harvey Taylor

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March 23, 2006 Getting Old


Yesterday I wrote my daily entry but somehow forgot to post it. I am getting old. Maybe that is why I went today to visit two elderly men from my past, to make myself feel young again.

One is Gordon Zahn, the co-founder of Catholic Peace Fellowship, “Pax Christi”, writer and professor. Actually I never knew Gordon personally before he returned to Milwaukee to retire, but about him. By the time I met him he had the beginnings of Parkinson disease and was started to loose his memory. Today, after not seeing him for quite a while I was saddened to find him with little ability to do anything. He kept saying to me something about “going home”, which did make some sense.

The other person I visited, his neighbor in the nursing home, was a Jesuit teacher of mine who taught me the power of observation of life. He taught us how to see deeply into every little event and daily action. I still have my first “observation” book and in some ways this diary is an extension of his lessons in observation. Father Purcell is weak and in a wheel chair but his mind is quite sharp. I am still his “student’ in his eyes and mine.

One day these great men, like you and I, will die. Just like plants we grow from our grounding, bear fruit and seeds and die. Yesterday, I talked about really staying grounded. I know of no other way to be in the face of death than being grounded.

Getting old and dying is natural, but humans can make it unnatural. The Growing Power lifestyle, if I can say such a thing, is living and dying naturally. Using worms, compost, sun, fish and water to grow plants is nothing new but is sometimes forgotten in the drive to make technology our new god. The picture on the side, from an artist collective called “The Beehive”, says a lot about misuse of technology to further unnatural dying. The major digester of waste (see diagram? between Feb. 16th and 17th entries) is a good example of the opposite use of technology, to enhance the natural cycle of life, not to destroy it.

There is a movie out now, in limited theaters, called “Why We Fight”, about how the “military industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1952 has taken control of us in this country. I plan to see it although I fear its truth.

My wife and I watched a movie on DVD last night called “Hustle and Flow”. It was about one of the oldest profession in the world, prostitution. Actually it was the story of the redemption of a ‘pimp.’ (“No one gives a pimp a break”) My wife thought she would not like it, but now wants to see again. It is a story about how this ‘pimp’ got a hold of who really is, and how that realization radically affected him and others around him. It is a story of dying and being reborn to self.

Enough about dying and getting old.

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March 22, 2006 Being Grounded

Surgery on the Peace Lilly is complete. It is now back in the same planter but with good growing power mix surrounding its many roots, and growing power tea (drainage from box) on it. The plant is still in recovery and I will inform you shortly of the operation’s success.

The various faith sharing events I have been attending recently have kept me grounded. There has been a lot of talk about suffering recently, must be that time of year. However in that talk there is a sense of peace. A paradox perhaps, peace in suffering, but still a fact of life.

I worked a little bit today with ground, plants and feeding the worms in the compost pile outside. This too keeps me grounded. You can probably say that worms are the most grounded creatures around (poor pun?). They spend all their life in the ground, with a few getting a chance to spend their last days wiggling on a hook in the water. They can live in the ground, water and the air — the last two being for just some time. No wonder working with worms, water, ground, air and light is so relaxing. It goes to the heart of whom we are, creatures created to live on earth.

I got into a heated but friendly discussion with my accountant over the Iraq war yesterday, as I was leaving his office. He believes that all leaders, be it George Bush or Bill Clinton, are good persons who are doing what they believe are the right thing, like in Iraq now or Kosovo or Bosnia before, and that we need to trust them and support them. Simply said, they never intentionally mislead us, as some believe the president administration did getting us into the war in Iraq. I tried to say that I do not know the intentions of persons like Clinton or Bush, but I strongly do not agree with their actions and believe some of them to be “immoral”, and thus I have an obligation to oppose them. Upon reflection, I believe that I should keep to my beliefs and principals, but what good does it do to argue so determinedly for my vision of the truth? An author, Judith Brown, once described Gandhi’s notion of satyagtrah (soul force or nonviolence) as “striving nonviolent to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.” I have a lot to learn from the humble worm on that point.

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March 21, 2006 1 + 1 =?

In math we are taught that 1 + 1 equals 2. In real life it is not always that way. Yesterday I found out that a friend was experiencing the same problem with a public official that I had some years ago. In the earlier incident I made a fuss until the official’s boss corrected the situation. When I found out it was happening again to a friend, it took me only one email to get the boss’s attention, and to (hopefully) get my friend’s situation corrected. My one action plus her one action, hopefully this time will mean more than two persons’ problems with this public official will be corrected. Or maybe not, and a third one is needed.

Whenever we join forces with others we get much better results than we can achieve as individuals. Revolution might start with one person but only grows and becomes a movement for change when people join together. One worm in fertile soil cannot do much except eat and cast off its own small weight each day. Two worms in the same soil can link together and form many more worms that form many more worms etc. Fairly soon you have hundreds of worms eating the compost and casting off much rich earth for growing power.

The Peace Lilly I featured on this site awhile back, I just noticed is dying. I am not sure if it heard Bush’s press conference on Iraq today, or what? Tomorrow, I will perform Growing Power surgery on it, by transplanting it in the Growing Power mix rather than the ground it is in. With that a strong shot of the rich runoff water from the box, it should get some hope and better. I will let you know.

Hope is hard to come by some days as the violence here and in Iraq increases (3 vigils today for those killed on streets of Milwaukee). However, despair or pretending it is not happening is not an option. Like the worms we just need to use the power of getting together, to keep giving out rich castings so seeds of peace and hope can be planted and grow.

Pumping gas today at my local Citgo gas station, a man read my bumper sticker: “God is not a Republican or Democrat” and sensing someone who would listen to him, started to tell me, a complete stranger, how disgusted and upset he was at President Bush and the administration. We both offered each other hope that things will get better for this country.

Also, in case you did not know, Citgo is the wholly owned by the people of Venezuela, and the profits from this gas go to health care and education of the poor of that country and our own (Venezuela provides inexpensive heating oil to low-income people in a few cities in USA). It does not go to line the pockets of the rich American and Saudi Arabian friends of the administration, who reported record profits last year at our expense. Buying gas at Citgo is a small, but - if we join together - a powerful way of standing with the poor of the world.

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March 20, 2006 Worm Monday

Today I wrote an email to a county official about the run-around a friend was getting in seeking health aid for her daughter, something I had a similar experience with a few years ago. Since I know how bad I spell, I carefully read and reread the email before sending it. For unlike this page I have no ‘editor’ to correct my grammar and misspellings. Someone who I had sent a copy of the email to sent it back to me with a brief response about keeping him informed. Right away I noticed in the subject line, two misspelled words. I guess the spell checker and my concern for getting it right did not extend to the subject line. I felt like a worm and want to climb back into my hole.

Recently I referred to an exercise my grandson Carson had last year in first grade, when he had to finish off some common sayings or proverbs. Here are a few more. Unlike me, Carson has a good excuse for his misspellings and grammar mistakes. The parts in italics are in Carson’s own words (including spelling) for his responses:

  • Like Mother, like son.
  • Don’t cross your eyes or they will capture you.
  • Don’t sit too close to the television or you will get blind.
  • If a thing is worth doing you do it.
  • Two wrongs don’t matter.
  • You catch more flies with a fly swater.
  • If you can’t say something nice be kind.
  • Charity begins in the summer.
  • Honesty is the kindes thing.
  • It is no use crying over a toy.
  • Laughter is the best because it is funny.
  • Love makes the world good.
  • Many hands make a good life.
  • One good turn deserves a reward.
  • Practice makes perfict.
  • Practice what you should do.
  • Waste not a good thing.
  • You cannot have it your way.
  • I love you God.

Also yesterday I promised you something about worms. Not finding really good worm jokes, I did find, right here on the Renaissance web site, a poem called Earthworm-Dreams written by Harvey Taylor?, one of the contributors to Renaissance site.

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March 19, 2006 More Seeds

Tonight I finally placed my order with Johnnie Seeds for seeds for the Growing Power home box and the Growing Power home garden. I also prepared two more planters to start seeds in. Now that I have transplanted from below the box to the box more cilantro and arugula the box is starting to look good, like a growing box. Also, now that the weather is better, the two smokers are able to go outside. That is healthier for plants and people.

It was a great day outside but I spent most of it inside, reading the paper, doing laundry, Growing Power stuff, working on stuff on the computer like putting two more pictures of Peter on his art site: Both of them were from photos I took today of some large artwork, digital but not as good as scanning. The further we remove ourselves from an experience, like copying pictures, the less we experience it. My slight headache tonight tells me that I spent too much time inside on this bright sunny day. Like a plant I need sun to grow.

I kept myself busy all day to avoid preparing my taxes. However, since I am going to Madison Tuesday to see my accountant, leftover from my business, better-money-making days, I’d better get in gear and get the stuff ready. A dreaded deed of death, destruction and debt, put off onto another day, Monday.

Tomorrow morning at our Faith In Recovery board meeting,, we are going to talk about a proposal to get more seed money from the Catholic Archdiocese to spread the good word of these support groups about spirituality and mental illness. I hope we do, and place another order for seed money. More seeds are good but than we need to take the time, patience, silence, and work, to plant them, cultivate them, and harvest them. That is the rub.

Coming soon, more about worms.

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March 18, 2006 No More Senseless Death

Today I worked a little on the Growing Power Box and went to a rally, one of many worldwide, to end the war in Iraq. You can say they were both connected, since in both I was trying to Grow Life and Decrease Senseless Death. I say “senseless death” because we all need to do some dying in order to grow more. However, the war in Iraq represents senseless death.

The most moving speaker at the rally was a soldier who spent a year and half in Iraq. He told how the night before entering Iraq in a convoy from Kuwait, his commanders gave him orders. He was told the ‘rules of engagement’ were different for this war. The soldiers of his company, Charlie company, were told they were allowed to kill up to 30 innocent civilians, if they believed they would be able to kill a suspected insurgent or terrorist. 30 is the same number of innocent civilians that the military personnel who targeted bombing sites in Bosnia and Iraq were told they were allowed to kill with bombs and missiles. If they suspected a higher number of civilians would be killed, in both cases, they were told they had to check it out with higher command. Also the soldier said he was told that night that since the enemy sometimes used children, they were not to stop the convoy if there were children on the road but to run them over. When this solider objected and said he could not run over children, he was told to ride in the back of the convoy, the most dangerous spot. Now I better understand why 72% of US soldiers in Iraq, as over 80% of Iraqis want the USA, out of Iraq within a year. The longer we stay the more the violence increases. It is like if you were trying to produce a healthy garden and you invaded it with a toxic poison for fertilizer. The more you used, the more you would destroy. It is senseless death.

True Patriots

The picture on the right shows, from left to right, Rep. Glen Moore, George Martin, an unidentified man and Julie Enslow. Ms. Moore, our US House Representative, George and Julie, directors of Peace Action, also spoke at the rally today. Some of the people at the rally, like George Martin, really have hope and faith that we can end the war before another year is past. I suspect that many at the rally, like most Americans, want the war to end but do not have that kind of faith that can “move mountains” and stop the war.

I feel somewhat a hypocrite on this issue. Like most Americans I am preparing to file my taxes, knowing that the money I give the government will largely go to finance death, destruction and debt.

On a more pleasant note I saw some old and new friends at the rally, including my cousin, my old friend since the 60’s, and some I have recently met from the movement to “do the right thing” at home and in the world.

Also, today, Katie from Growing Power returned my phone call and I was able to ask her some of the questions I had pending about the Graf Home Growing Power Box and my son’s land up north.

Preparing a chicken salad tonight I ran low on lettuce and went to the Growing Power box to cut some of the slowly growing corn mache in the box. All four of us really liked the salad and my son Peter, the artist, said something to the effect that this was the kind of food that gave him real hope in life. A very nice compliment.

I added another one of his pictures to his web gallery today. Check it out at:

Also, I almost forgot to mention that last night, at the Club Timbuktu St. Patrick’s day party, I met the guardian angel of this web site, Tegan Dowling, our wiki gnome. To meet in person someone who is so kind and helpful, is a really happy experience.

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March 17, 2006 We Need More Green

Above, find an updated picture of the Growing Power Box in the sun-room. I wish there were more green in the box. The plants are growing, but oh so slowly. See past diary entries for why I think this is, and what can be done in the future.

Today was a frustrating day. Between driving Loren to and from a job, going to the Faith In Recovery office to find the volunteered new computer was not working, to messing around with the old scanner and trying to transfer one of Peter’s picture to the computer downstairs, it seems like a very unproductive day. On top of it all Peter and Loren told me that because of fear of drinking, they were not going to the St. Patrick’s Day party at Timbuktu tonight with Pat and me.

I felt a little bit of the frustration that St. Patrick must have felt when he went to Ireland to bring the Gospel message. There are many legends about his persistence but eventually he succeeded. The seeds he planted are still growing today despite the civil strife between Christians.

Some good things happened. I did get Peter’s art site up and running, with gracious help of Tegan. You can find it at There is a statement by Peter on the home page and in the gallery you will find three of his pictures, soon to be four when I can figure out the frustration of transferring a picture from the upstairs computer to downstairs so I can downsize it and load it. Check out the art. Peter is a very talented artist and just now is showing a few of his art pieces.

Going from the past through the present into the future, I have tonight’s St. Patrick day party at Timbuktu to look forward to. I can meet in person people like Tegan that I only know from email and phone. And of course there are many old friends, some going back to 60’s, like Godsil, that will be there. The old and new mixing in an atmosphere of good food and conversation is something to look forward to.

Today, even though it is St. Patrick’s Day, I got up and wore all black clothes. I am sure the reason is that Pat and I went to see the movie “Walk the Line” on the life of Johnny Cash last night. He was always one of my favorite musicians and now I know from this movie, from his birth to 1968, more why.

1968 was big year in the USA and for me personally, besides being the year of conversion for Johnny Cash and his marriage to June Carter. Time Magazine did a special issue on the year 1968 but that is another whole diary entry. For now I will simply say the world needs more GREEN of Growing Power, more Green of 1968, St. Patrick’s message, Johnny Cash’s change of heart in 68 and more green of broadcasters of peace and justice.

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March 16, 2006 Contradictions are natural

(I wrote this email today in response to one I received from someone who was concerned about an article by Garrison Keillor, of Public Radio, criticizing President Bush. I am too tired to connect it to the Growing Power Box but it does.)

Dear Thomas,

I too feel my frustration and anger over the present political climate. But perhaps not for the same reasons you do. Here are a few examples from today of the sources of my anger.

I met woman today who had been her way to a college degree in education, and supporting her two sons, when Governor Thompson and W-2 forced her to drop out of school and take a retail job in order to survive. After ten years she rose through the ranks in the retail chain, raised her sons and was on her way again to going back to school to finish her education. However, the retail company did not like her not working full time and had disputes with her about paying the health care cost of one her sons who was born with serious health problems. So in a cost-saving move, they laid her off. However, for some complicated bureaucratic reason, she and I do not understand, she cannot even collect unemployment until after she earns $600.

Today I heard a news report about the new national security policy, justifying “preemptive attack and wars” as in Iraq, even when there is some doubt if the threat is real. Our present Pope, moral leader of the Roman Catholic Church, and Catholic Social Teaching clearly state there is “no such thing as preemptive war in the Catechism of Catholic Church” and this war in Iraq and our national security policy is “illegal, immoral and unjust.” Simply put in religious terms it is “sinful.”

Also today, searching on the radio for the MU basketball game, I heard Rush Limbaugh viciously attack any group that has the word “peace” in its name as maggots and all kinds of nasty things, some of which I thought you could not say on radio. He was talking about a Peace and Justice Group at a Catholic Jesuit Institution that had funded a survey by a respectable polling group that showed 71% of American soldiers in Iraq favored US leaving Iraq immediately, in 6 months or one year. His ugly attack was directed to any group using the word “peace” in its title.

Unlike you, Thomas, I do not think we are polarized enough on moral values, when we sit by and allowed such immoral and sinful acts be said and done, often in our name, and just talk about “civil conversations”.

Real love and respect for persons like Governor Thompson, Rush Limbaugh, President Bush, or anyone who defends their words or acts, would be to stand up for our contradictory principles and values and not fear polarization but embrace it.

We are being paralyzed not by being polarized, but by pretending that outright immoral acts are not as important as “all getting along together.” We can only create an environment for “civil conversations” on “tough topics” when we practice tough love.

So we agree and disagree. There is no contradiction in that unless we make one out of it.

“Contradictions have always existed in the soul of man…..We are not meant to resolve all contradictions but to live with them and rise above them and see them in the light of exterior and objective values which make them trivial by comparison.” (Thomas Merton in Thoughts in Solitude)

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March 15, 2006 Waiting

Waiting in the dentist’s office today for over a ½ hour was my slow down, relaxing time of day. When I was a young man, many years ago, a wise adult told me one day that waiting for something can be a great opportunity to have a time of silence and relaxation rather than a time of anxiety. It is all in how you do it, waiting that is.

This is probably why I like gardening and Growing Power so much. It is all about working and waiting. You work hard to get the seeds in the ground and nourish them. But than you wait.

In our society of rushing around, going and going, waiting can be really refreshing, if we use it as a time for silence and solitude. Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, said that living in silence could resolve a lot of the self-imposed anxiety of our lives, and help us live with the irresolvable contradictions that we daily face. Certainly waiting is a time for living in the type of silence that resolves the contradictions in life that can cause so much anxiety.

As the wise old man of the Bible says: “There is a time for everything under the sun.” Waiting is the time for silence and resting.

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March 14, 2006 Mother Earth

Today I read a report that NASA released a study showing how global warming is real and how it is seriously threatening our earth. The report said that just being able to release the study was a victory, because until recently the administration has been denying the danger of global warming. Hopefully this is just not a Pyrrhic victory for NASA and Mother Earth.

Buckminster Fuller, a futurist, some years ago talked about how we all are related by earth. He labeled it being on ‘Spaceship Earth’. In most faiths we talk about how we are all related and connected, daughters and sons of God. We all have heard stories of the cause and effect of actions, how a butterfly flapping its wing through a long series of cause and effect can eventually lead to a storm somewhere else on earth.

In the Milwaukee area we like to think of ourselves as all related. Two persons from Milwaukee can always find some connection - relatives, schools, common friends etc. - just by talking awhile with each other. It is the small town affect in a big city.

Yes Mother Earth unites all creatures, whether we like it or not. This is also true with my Home Growing Power Box. It unites many factors and also depends on many parts working together. When studying why the plants did not grow as expected, I need to take into account all the factors: light, heat, water, wood box, drainage, types of seeds, cold, mixture of soil, and air-flow. It is all related, and I need, just like Will and Growing Power did over many years, to figure out just the right combination to make it work.

Scientists do not have the answers to Global Warming on Earth but are working on them. I do not have the answers to growing in a Home Growing Power Box but am working on them. Unfortunately, I think I will find the answers and act on them sooner than our country will on global warming.

Blessed be Mother Earth.

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March 13, 2006 Seeds Everywhere

Watching sports news tonight, I was reminded how frequently and how many ways we use the word ‘seed’ in our society. They were showing the face of former UWM coach Bruce Sperle, now the coach at Tennessee, where he learned this team was a second seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. The higher seed you are in a division the better it is because the number 1 seed plays number 16 seed, and 2 plays 15, etc., in the four divisions.

There are many other examples of the common use of ‘seed’ in our daily vocabulary. We talk even talk about human life beginning where when a seed (sperm) is planted in the egg (ovum).

It is no wonder the Gospel writers used the imagery of seed so often. Jesus tells a lot of stories about seeds. All we need is the faith of one of the smallest seeds, a mustard seed, to do great and wondrous things. We usually speak about spreading the Gospel message as planting seeds.

Most of the time we use the word ‘seed’ in a positive way, although we do hear about a ‘bad seed’ once in awhile. Usually though, it is not the seed that is bad but where it falls that is the problem, like on rocky ground. A seed planted in good soil flourishes.

All this reminds me that today, running errors with and for Loren, Peter, Pat and myself, I did not get to order seeds from Johnny’s seed catalog. I will make one more attempt to call Will tomorrow, and then order the spring, summer seeds that I do not already have.

Tomorrow I promised to work with Peter on setting up the web art gallery that Tegan has provided us. I also need to work on a poster for Faith In Recovery convention and do some work on our toolkit for new groups, drive Loren to a painting job, and on and on.

However, my first seed tomorrow will be to go over the material for the “retreat in daily life” that I co-facilitate at my church. It is in this exercise of faith sharing, presenting questions, listening to the spiritual struggles of others that I find the most seeds to give and receive.

We need to be like the NCAA and keep our seeds prioritized.

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March 12, 2006 Healthy and Sick Seed

John Flavius

The arugula and cilantro I am transplanting from the planters into my growing box are doing well. This proves the point that the main problem I have had growing in the box is the choice of seed that I chose. I picked “cold hardy” seeds thinking they would do well in the unheated sunroom. I did not count on the sun and heat of soil in the box. Although tonight the temperature of the room is only 59, the ground is 63. Next winter I will go with some plain-old salad mixes that are not “cold hardy” but can do well in cold and warm weather. For the summer months I will go with plants like tomatoes, peppers and/or basil that like the heat. Live and learn as they say.

I will be ordering more seeds from Johnny Seeds in the next day or so.

A reminder for some you that the next tour of the motherhouse of Growing Power is this Tuesday, March 14th at 4pm at 55th and Silver Spring.

Seeds that I planted by questioning the role of the ROTC military training program at a Catholic Jesuit university bore some more fruit today, as the Catholic Peace fellowship ( ) published an article based on my efforts, along with some of my letters to the Marquette newspaper, and the paper’s response, on its blog (can be found at its site.) There seem to be a number of Jesuit university students and faculty asking the same questions. Too bad the Jesuits do not wake up and discover that the source of all this questioning is the very education and values Jesuit education instilled in us.

All four of us in this household to various degrees are not feeling so well. Feeling sick makes it hard to feel inspired. However, a visit from my ‘niece’ from Sierra Leone was inspiring when she came with her 5 month old son, John Flavius Thompson (nicknamed “Boogie’). His mother is from Sierra Leone and his father’s heritage is from Liberia and Ghana. Check out the eyes of this true American child and you too can be inspired. Since persons from these African countries consider elders their ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’, I guess I am John Flavius’s Uncle Bob also.

Correction: Yesterday I said there were 12 children at my grandson’s birthday party. There were actually nine cousins and 6 friends, for a total of 15 children.

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March 11, 2006 Tired Day

Country boys and urban cousin

Today it was a damp and dreary day up north. However, the weather did not matter for my grandchildren, as they had an all day party with about 12 cousins and friends and about 8 adults coming and going. When their cousins and friends are around, my grandchildren do not need me around. Even Carolee, having other adults, younger cousins and her other “papa” around, really did not care if I were there or not. It did not bother me since I was tired from yesterday and just listening to all the children, from 1 year old to 12, running around was tiring for me.

The family farmers, young family, were around. The father told me that there are a few farmers around with digesters for changing manure to methane gas for fuel. However the few digesters, being great ideas for farmers, did not work so well. Let us hope the one from Growing Power (seen in a diagram on the Feb. 17th entry?) does better.

The father also said he would bring over some more manure to my son’s land with a piece of his equipment. I hope he does. I do not see my son hauling over any with his wheelbarrow.

When so many children get together another culture, neither country nor urban, takes over. To our way of thinking it is somewhat chaotic, but to the youth it is natural. The only time today when I saw all the children quiet in one place was when my wife, a children’s librarian, told them three stories in the basement. Stories are like that, a universal language for children.

Because of the wet ground I could not get close to the compost pile today, but you can see it in the background of the picture of my two country grandsons and their urban cousin.

Now I am back home, tired, but wiser from my visit to the country.

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March 10, 2006 Country Boys

Today I am happy to report that now I have two country-boy grandsons, to go with my already country-girl granddaughter. This morning their mom left them in my care, Papa Bob, with instructions to play outside. Being it was so muddy everywhere, we were restricted to the empty two-car garage, concrete slab outside, and gravel driveway. But throw in a couple of bikes, a ball and bat, a little push-car for Carolee (1 1/2) and lots of imagination, and it was enough to make them outdoor lovers. My favorite game was when we imagined Carolee in the little push car was a princess (in the afternoon she was the President of the US) and my two grandsons on bikes or foot were her security escort. Every time she wanted to venture out of the garage we had to protect her. Only once, in the afternoon when she was the president, was she kidnapped. And that was when I was playing the bad guy and caught my grandsons off guard. Except for a lunch break, we were outside all day until about 2 when their mother came home from her education conference.

That is when the real country experience started. With shovels and a wheelbarrow, all five of us went over to the dairy farm across the street. We all started to clean out the manure in the barn for mother cows that were pregnant. While I was pushing the wheel barrel of cow manure across the street, my grandsons got interested in helping the hired hands milk the cows in another barn. They said their job was to move the cows in and out of the milking pens. Carolee was fascinated with the whole affair and made frequent trips to help the Grandma of the family with the baby cows nearby. (The main family with children was on a rare vacation weekend trip.) Our straw and manure pile is not 4 X 4 X 4 as Katie of Growing Power suggested, but we are getting there. My son and daughter-in-law are keeping their eyes out for other compost materials and already some of the waste for the day is prepared to join the pile. I will need to check with Growing Power to learn when the compost pile might be ready for worms. Dustin (6) has the gift certificate I gave him yesterday for his birthday for a pound of worms. My older grandson Carson (8) and I went through Johnnie’s Seed catalog looking for what we want to plant. He, being a learner, also learned today what “organic” means.

This reminds me that Godsil sent me an email yesterday saying the next tour of Growing Power, on 55th and Silver Spring, is this Tuesday, March 14th at 4pm. If you are in driving distance of Milwaukee, it is worthwhile trip. As everyone says afterwards, you will never look at a worm the same way again. And who knows, maybe by visiting this only zoned farm in the Milwaukee city limits, you will come away being a country girl or boy.

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March 9, 2006 Country Living

Years ago we had a neighbor next to a summer lake cottage who was, with his family, an all year around resident. He always seemed to be working, fixing something up or cutting the grass, and he would always say, “Country living is not all that it is made out to be.”

I recall this, writing from my son’s home up north. Country living for them is really different. We met the boys at noon when they got off the school bus. Their house is nice and new, on nine acres across from a family-owned dairy farm.

My wife and I found out that you can put the boys in the country but that does not make them country boys. In fact Loren and Peter (who were up with Pat just for the day), and I wanted to get outside and check out the land, but the two boys wanted to stay and play inside. Finally when my daughter-in-law got home we got a tour of the dairy farm across the street - the source of the straw and manure we will use tomorrow to build our compost pile. (They said we could take as much as we want.) My son does not have much of the country in him either, but my daughter-in-law really likes gardening, and the two boys (as demonstrated when they visited Growing Power), can easily get into it. Carolee, my 1 year old granddaughter, just enjoys life and being with us whatever we do.

Tonight while the boys were at wrestling practice, I just followed Carolee up and down the corridors of the school and into another gym where she found a new friend, and they were climbing up and down the bleachers. This joy and wonderment she found in all things is the ‘spirit of the country’ which is the ‘spirit of Growing Power.”

Tonight with my daughter-in-law I planned some more stays here this spring and summer to be with the children, and with them to work on the Graf Growing Power Farm Garden. Learning to love the land is something, I guess, just not taught in school but can be learned from experience.

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March 8, 2006 Going Growing

Tomorrow I am going up north to the Graf Family Growing Power Farm near Pulaski, Wisconsin. It is my son’s and his wife’s new house, built on nine acres of farmland. He is a police officer and she a teacher, but my three grandchildren’s vocations are still being a child. With Carson’s and Dustin’s help, and the cooperation of the diary farm family across the street, in the next few days we hope to build a compost pile of cow manure and straw. After the pile has a chance to digest, we will put some worms to work in it, to prepare some good castings for this Graf Farm Growing Power site. So now we have the in-house Growing Power box, and the soon-to-be Growing Power home garden, and Graf family Growing Power farm. Worms, waste, sun and water power all three.

They have a computer, and I should have access to this site, but you may have to wait till Saturday eve to get an update on the Graf Family Growing Power farm, at least for the pictures, which you know I will be taking.

I went to Peace Action today to get Carson his “Teach Peace” pins. Loren found a neat one there that said: “Nuclear Weapons, May They Rust In Peace.” I wonder if rust is recyclable waste. Probably not.

My cousin reading this site, and seeing two of Peter’s art pieces, said in an email: “Peter should have his own web site.” Well, thanks to wikignome Tegan and “peddler” Godsil, he does. It’s just that he has been sick the last few days, and I running around too much, for us to sit down and figure out how to use it as a art gallery. But Peter will soon being doing it, and I will broadcast the site (plant the seeds).

Loren is 99% finished with the major closet he’s building for our bedroom. We can get lots of stuff in there. He got a few painting jobs this week, to hold him over till the weather warms up and he can paint outside. He is a talented professional painter. Write me, if local, and you need a good interior painter.

Although Pat, Loren and Peter will be around when I am gone, having worms as pets in your house is really not a problem when you are away, even if no one is home for days. They just keep eating and casting. The plants are no problem either. I can water them before I leave and they’ll just keep growing. Who would have thought that growing food, with the right mix and care, could be so care-free?

Tonight we had tilapia, the fish they grow at Growing Power. This tilapia was from the store, not Growing Power, but still it was delicious. Even Loren, our fisherman in residence, who likes to catch but not to eat fish, had some. My son and daughter-in-law are thinking of a pond on their land someday. So maybe we can grow fish. Probably not tilapia - warm weather fish - but fish. That day the Graf Family Growing Power sites, all three, will be complete. Amen.

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March 7, 2006 Teach Peace

Peace Lily

As you may remember, a few weeks ago my two grandsons Carson and Dustin came for a visit. They really got into the Growing Power and Worm stuff. On Sunday, before they went home, Pat and I took them to Church at Blessed Trinity with us. After Mass there was a gathering in the basement for donuts and coffee. Don Richards, whom I have mentioned before, was selling pins for Peace Action, a local peace center in town. Since I am big on hats with pins, I told each grandson he could buy a pin of his choice. Carson picked one that said “Teach Peace.” He was really proud of his pin, saying how his Mom was a teacher and how he was interested in learning. Last night when I got home I was told my daughter-in-law had called. I called her back and she said that actually Carson had called but that now he was in bed. I asked her why he called? She said he was going to ask if I could bring a couple of those pins that say “Teach Peace” when I come up this Thursday for Dustin’s birthday. I said I would try but asked why. She told me he was so proud of his pin and wanted to get some for his Religious Education (Sunday school) teachers.

It got me thinking about all kinds of things. If only our Christian Universities, like Marquette here in town, would teach peace instead of teaching war (They have a major ROTC military program on campus but no peace studies), what a different world this may be.

Today I heard on public radio about a famous world musician who retired to a desert city in his very poor country and started a farm, growing food for the small village. When asked why, he answered with some simple stories about how natural it was that he would do this.

Peace and Growing Power go hand in hand. If we all had the instincts of this musician or Carson, planting food and teaching peace, what a different world this would be.

I need to talk to Will Allen of Growing Power soon, to ask him how his trip to Africa went, and to ask him how we can spread a little Growing Power to the former child soldiers of Sierra Leone, who desperately need food and peace in their lives. Maybe teaching Growing Power is teaching peace.

The picture on the right is of my Peace Lily plant that is really flourishing from the tea (run off) from the Growing Power Box. Peace and Growing Power really do mix well.

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March 6, 2006 Trinity

Amaryllis 3/06/06

Remember the Amaryllis plant that I featured on the Feb. 15th? and Feb. 22nd? entries? Well the buds died and rose again, this time as a three-fold flower. This new incarnation of the same plant reminds me of the story of how St. Patrick would explain the greatest mystery of Christian faith, the Trinity. He would take a three-leafed clover and explained how although this was one plant, it had three parts. So be the Trinity, three persons in one God. Perhaps an oversimplification, but it a makes a mystery comprehensible.

This plant keeps growing, dying and growing again, I feel this is in part to the power of the Growing Power Tea - the water that drains through the box. It is really a “miracle” growing power.

Today, finally, Katie at Growing Power returned my call for help. I was shopping at a grocery store, but took the opportunity to ask my questions. As far as the Growing Power box goes, we concluded that my choice of cold weather seeds for the box was a mistake. I did not figure that, on hot days in the winter, the temperature could get up to 70 or 80 degrees in the sun-room. In the future I will stick with Arugula and other all-weather salad mixes for the winter months, and for the summer months I’ll look at tomato, pepper and some herb plants that love heat. Right now the transferring of the cilantro and arugula plants from the planters to the box seems to be working out well. Also I learned that when I go up north this weekend to my son and his family’s country home, the best thing I can do for now is to build a 4’ X 4’ X 4’ pile of cow manure and straw. Luckily they live across the street from a dairy farm. After this compost pile has had a chance to settle down, it will be ready for the worms to be put in it and do their magic. So I will give my grandson, for his birthday, this Thursday, a gift certificate for a pound of worms, rather than a pound of worms. (Do not worry, my wife Pat is taking care of the traditional birthday gifts.) I think he will appreciate the worms-to-be.

St. Ignatius, one of my favorite saints, had a vision, after his conversion, of the Trinity in action. He really could not describe it in words, but it led to his spirituality of finding God in all things. Appreciating worm power is really a step in that direction. Just look at the Amaryllis.

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March 5, 2006 Wilderness

Peter Graf's Krull
Krull — Peter Graf

Yesterday I offered a free subscription to the email newsletter: “Living Stones”. There have been no takers so far, so maybe I need to explain the newsletter title “Living Stones.” The words ‘living stones’ come from the 1st letter of St. Peter in the bible: “Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…”

If you have been to Palestine or Israel you know that the land that Jesus walked is hilly, barren, and full of stones. The closest terrain I have seen to this land in the USA is the Dakota Native American reservations in South Dakota. In exchange for the beauty and wonder of the “Black Hills” we gave the Dakota this barren, dry land of hills and rocks.

Some refer to it as a “desert” but I prefer the word ‘wilderness.’ Jesus, at the beginning of public ministry, was driven to the ‘wilderness’ for forty days to be tempted by Satan. He survived and came out of the wilderness saying “Repent [have a change of heart] and believe in the good news”.

Often I feel like we live in a cultural wilderness, where some acquire more and more stuff, while more are going hungry, a society spilling over its violence on the streets, in the media and in the Middle East. We are becoming desensitized to the amount of violence.

Yet out of this cultural wilderness we hear voices calling for our change of heart and to believe in the good news of life. One such group was called “Voices in the Wilderness.” Since the first Gulf War and the subsequent boycott killing thousands of innocent citizens, they have been crying out. Recently our government fined the group for traveling to Iraq bringing medical supplies, so, rather than pay, they had to change their name to “Voices for Creative Nonviolence”. Check them out. They are in the midst of a campaign of fasting called the “Winter of Discontent.”

So what does all this have to do with the Graf Home Growing Power Box? A lot! During this dark winter wilderness type of day I walked into the sun-room to sit quietly for a moment. Seeing all the plants growing around me, it was easy to feel a sense of hope of a change of heart and hear the good news.

So even on the Dakota reservation, in Palestine, or right here in Milwaukee, Growing Power is always present. We just need to look for it in the wilderness.

The picture to the left is another one of Peter’s artwork. This one is called “Krull”. It seems fitting for some unexplained reason in this entry on “Wilderness.”

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March 4, 2006 Go-For

After retirement from employment, and before this “worm diary,” I started a monthly newsletter called “Living Stones”. I still publish it, and you can check out the recent issue for February at Just click under “notices” and look for “PR ministries”, “Living Stones Newsletter”. If you would like to subscribe to your own email copy, just write me at my email address: The newsletter is free. I was thinking about raising the price to 1 cents a copy, like the “Catholic Worker.” But the circulation numbers are still too low to justify this move.

While you are at the HopeToHealing site, you might want to check out some very inspiriting stories.

For the most part of this day, I was a go-for for the builders of the closet, Loren and his friend. They are both professional painters and drywall persons and make decent carpenters. However, since this job is somewhat out of their normal work, they kept discovering materials they need. That is where I came in. Today, I made two trips to the home building store, and two trips to the hardware store, plus picking up one of the workers and taking him home again. I tried retiring from being a go-for in the afternoon, but since both workers cannot drive and I am paying for all the materials, I really had no choice but to come out of retirement when they needed some more 2 X 4’s.

Thank God they will complete it tomorrow. Being a go-for is a lowly job, but someone must do it. To help my pride, I had to remember that I am also the person financing this project, which my wife has wanted for quite some time. I even called her up at work in the library to chalk up some ‘credit’ for my work as a go-for. I guess that was not a very Lenten thing to do. But sometimes keeping it simple and right takes a little more effort.

It seems like when they originally build these houses, Milwaukee bungalows, they did not have much stuff, so they really did not need much in closets. However, when they expanded the space, like adding three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs in this house, they had more stuff. So, as a result, we have hardly any closets downstairs but many upstairs. One room upstairs has three closets by itself. That is one more than the whole downstairs.

Between times being a go-for, I did manage to purchase a few plants at the commercial interior landscape store at their monthly sale, set up a another planter box for below the growing power box, purchase some seeds, and feed the birds outside. Also it was a sunny day. Buying stuff to make space for more stuff is not so hard when you can plant some growing power activities in between being a go-for.

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March 3, 2006 The Little Way

On Friday nights I normally feel very tired and exhausted. There is no change tonight.

Perhaps this week, it is my running around purchasing materials for the closet Loren and a friend are building; or perhaps it is the frustration of not getting a hold of persons at Growing Power with my questions; or maybe it is trying to deal with all the clutter in my office that has built up the last couple of weeks.

Whatever it may be, my tired feeling is a good type of exhaustion, something that a little sleep and relaxing can take care of. I know of a number of people who are just plain tired of their lives. They feel like the worms in the Growing Power Box, just doing the same old thing day in and day out. But unlike worms, we humans need meaning in our lives even though it may consist of daily rituals and not much new or exciting.

The daily repetitions of the natural growing cycle, the sowing and harvesting of small events in everyday life, can be ordinary and boring or ordinary and deeply meaningful. It all depends on how we see them. In the Catholic Church, the patron saint of missionaries is St. Therese of Lisieux. She entered the convent at a young age, performed the ordinary rituals of convent life in the 19th century, praying, preparing meals, doing the chores around the house. She died from illness at the age of 24 never having left the convent or doing anything extraordinary in life. Yet she is the patron saint of missionaries.

The reason for this is the posthumous publication of her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul”, in which she describes her path of holiness in everyday life. Although she felt a powerful vocation to be a priest, missionary and martyr, she realized that she could fulfill her dreams and vocation by doing all things - even the smallest of acts, like doing dishes - with great love. She described her mission as “to make Love loved.”

So anything we do each day, plant a seed, prepare dinner, clean the house, go to work, go shopping, feed the worms in the compost pile outside (which I did today), clean up your office or room, can be something extraordinary if done in love. The ‘little way’ of St. Therese is not easy and certainly not glamorous but can be very meaningful and rewarding, something worms may not need, but we humans do.

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March 2, 2006 Age and Art

Peter Graf 1
Nutshell — Peter Graf

Tomorrow is the birthday of the household person who built the Home Growing Power Box, Loren Browne. He will be 34. He is now working on constructing a major closet for Pat and me. Soon he will be busy painting houses outside, so if anyone needs some good work inside - he paints and drywalls - let us know soon. I know his Mom in Chicago area reads this site. Does anyone else?

I am still waiting to hear from Growing Power persons before ordering more seeds for box and garden. Transplanting some of the Arugula and Cilantro from the planters to box is doing well, but I need to consult with the pros about seeds that will do well in the hot (sunny days) and cold (dark nights) in the box for spring. Also I have questions to help my friend from Sierra Leone and about the Graf country farm project with my grandchildren. Maybe I will just go there, 55th and Silver Spring, tomorrow.

One member of the Graf household that I hardly have mentioned is my son Peter, our artist in residence. Over the years he has done some interesting art that he just now is open to showing the public. Today I took a photograph of one of his pictures. It is a large piece and the small picture to the side (click to view slightly larger version, then use your browser’s “Back” button to return here) does not do it justice; but I think you can see how intricate it is and sense how much time and patience it took him to create it. We hope to have some of his work on a web site soon.

Peter and Loren also are musicians, self-taught but good. Music, art, growing power, they all seem to flow naturally together.

My call for good worm jokes was answered by just one friend who is a sometimes reader of this site. Is there anyone else? I need to crawl through the jokes to make sure they joke about worms while respecting them. One of them called worms “maggots”. That was dirty. I will report to you tomorrow if there are any of these jokes that can see the light of day in this diary.

Happy Birthday to Loren; keep the art work flowing, Peter; and let us find some good worm humor.

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March 1, 2006 Ashes to Ashes

Today is March 1st and also Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I am really hungry tonight, knowing that I should be fasting today. But I know I am not as hungry as most persons in the world.

I have a friend, who calls me ‘Uncle Bob’ who is a political exile from the poorest country in the world, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone also has the highest death rate for children. He is a political exile because he escaped with his life, for his work helping ‘child soldiers’ during the terrible civil war his country experienced.

Now he is here, a senior at Marquette University struggling with studying, working a full time job and most importantly for him, trying to help the youth, now young adults, he left behind in Sierra Leone. He has created a non-profit foundation to provide what he can - bikes, books, and job opportunities for the people of his country. It is a heavy burden for one person to carry and he carries it well. To find out more about my friend Matthias Seisay and his foundation, check out this web site:

What has this to do with Growing Power and worms? Very much! Yesterday, Matthias, who calls me ‘Uncle Bob’ as cultural sign of respect, came over to drop off a MU Tribune in which I had a viewpoint letter published. I showed him my home Growing Power model box and started talking about Growing Power. He was fascinated and interested, since hunger is one of the major problems of his country. Although they have lots of waste, soil, worms, tilapia fish and a warm sunny climate, it has not all been put together to grow an abundance of organic healthy food like it has been at Growing Power and its collective of farms. I told him I would let him know about the next tour of Growing Power and that Will Allen, the director, has recently returned from a trip to Africa.

I need to try to call Will, Katie and the good persons of Growing Power again to ask them some questions about my box, to get some advice on doing some Growing Power at my son’s nine acres near Green Bay with my grandchildren, and to tell him abut Matthias and Sierra Leone.

When you are looking for connections, everything in life is connected. We are all related.

From the ashes new life grows, only to be turn again into ashes, only to rise again … Let’s pray the people of Sierra Leone can rise from the ashes.

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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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