This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form without prior authorization. Flovent for cats Laboratory and/or medical tests (such as lung function tests, eye exams, bone density tests, cortisol levels) should be performed periodically to monitor your progress or check for side effects. Immediate and delayed hypersensitivity reaction(including very rare anaphylactic reaction). Advair instructions This website is funded and developed by GSK.

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.

Worm Condo

Garden 07/02/06

Compost pile 07/26/06

Current Entries

(see below or go to the home page for earlier entries)

August 31, 2006 The End has Come!

Today is the end of the month, end of August and there is so much more to do. Although I have prioritized what I want to do, there is always more to do. Doing too much hurts my being but I still feel compelled to do more.

One of my priorities is to keep involved with the earth in the home model Growing Power Garden and Growing Power Box. Loren, although he has moved out of our house, came back today to work on the improvements he is making to our model Growing Power box in the sun-room. Today I worked outside around noon, the middle of the day. Now that the weather is cooler, that seems to be the best time for me. I can be busy doing stuff in the morning and busy doing stuff in the afternoon but the garden break is a great relaxing transition. The two rain barrels for making tea are now fully activated and in use (perhaps too late for some of the plants, but it completes the system). Next year I will set up irrigation systems from the two systems throughout the back and front growing power areas.

Tonight was one of the first meals I cooked that did not have a significant (just maybe a few herbs) portion of garden material. However, Monday we hope to have enough tomatoes to make pasta sauce and maybe salsa, and I hope to make my first batch of grape leaves by myself. I chose Monday because it is Labor Day and my wife will be home just in case.

Without Loren around there is a change in our community that puts more responsibility on all three of us, Pat and Peter and myself, to keep the community alive and growing. Loren will be coming around often since we are still his friends and family in Milwaukee. He seems to be doing well on his new start in life. And he is still my Growing Power and fishing buddy.

The August issue of the email newsletter “Living Stones” is coming out soon. My wiki gnome Tegan finished editing a draft copy and tomorrow I hope to finish it. Also tomorrow I will be talking by phone to another internet friend, a brother in Florida of a friend here in Milwaukee, who is helping me in editing and publishing my retreat for daily life for faith groups message called “Finding God in All Things: a retreat for pilgrims in a busy world.” It is interesting how via the Internet you can develop friendships and working relationships with people you have not met.

If you want to receive a free subscription of Living Stones or to know about this retreat designed for weekly gatherings of a group, just send me an email. I know this site gets some hits but I am not sure how many, if any, really read it. No matter this “Diary of a Worm” helps to ground me where I am.

I tried calling Growing Power headquarters again today to ask my question of how to store castings, but again did not get someone. If I am busy with this little garden just think how busy they must be with all the farms and projects seeking Growing Power staff’s attention.

back to top

August 30, 2006 Before and After, It is that Simple!

Times have been busy but I am committed to landscape the front yard growing power style in the near future. Here is a picture of the front of the house now. In a few weeks I hope to show a change in process and next spring the new front yard. In the left corner of the picture you see my rain barrel to catch rain to make casting tea to water the plants.



I mentioned how some of the plants at the beginning of August started a dying process, I think from lack of nourishment the ten days I was gone. Here is a before and after picture of the tomato plants. The before has a lots of vines and buds and the after one has tomatoes but is thin on vines and new life since many dying vines have been pruned. I have tomatoes but not nearly up to the promise of the earlier picture. Any solutions out there?

Tonight I went to a local Baptist Church to hear a speaker talk about the “Declaration of Peace” campaign and taking nonviolent creative action if Congress does not respond by taking efforts to end the violence in Iraq. As usual the speaker was talking to the ‘choir’ but it was a good group of persons or ‘family’ as the co-leader of the local Peace Action group called us. I heard some interesting facts, not mentioned much in the USA media: 91% of the Iraqi people in a recent poll, including Kurds, Sunni and Shiite said that the US must get out of Iraq before they can work together for a permanent peace; members of the Iraqi parliament also have called for an American withdrawal, as has the Vice President of Iraq in a public appearance with our president. It got me thinking about how facts, like the existence of Palestine long before the present state of Israel, are commonly misrepresented or not represented in the media. In the new issue of my newsletter “Living Stones” now going to press, I think I will put a list of facts that are commonly misrepresented by media and people. (For a free copy write

Maybe this is another reason for having an urban growing power garden. It keeps you grounded in the earth and appreciative of the least amidst us, even worms.

Studying the before and after of events can teach us what works and what does not. We should know, for instance, that violence begets violence and nonviolence begets peace and that waste can become healthy organic food. But some would say that is too simple a way to look at history and learn from it. Perhaps so, but being simple is sometimes being good and beautiful. In India, as we learned from some Indian friends, “simple” means beautiful. I always remember one Christmas when we invited some Indian Jesuit friends over to our house, at that time a very modest one. One of the priests upon entering our house said: “It is so simple”. After seeing the embarrased expressions on the faces of my wife and myself he quickly explained to us that this was a compliment, that being simple means beautiful and is a good quality in India.

You probably heard the phrase KISS (“Keep in Simple Stupid”). Will Allen of Growing Power says something like do not get bent out of shape about this method, just keep in simple and remember it is the “same old, same old.”

back to top

August 29, 2006 Remembering and Wood Chips: Trash or Food

Today on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, it is only right that I should be reminded of my journey to New Orleans last June with some young teens to help with the cleanup. Some of the former MU students and staff, who went to New Orleans to help, stayed and formed an organization to help other volunteer groups, including our group. You can get a copy of their first newsletter, “Contemplatives in Action” in PDF format by contacting them at: Tell them Uncle Bob sent you. Also over the weekend while I was at the rural garden wedding, a friend of mine whom I met through this family with the wedding called me on my cell phone from New Orleans. Since this rural area has no cell phone service I did not get the message on the way home. I tried calling his cell phone today but could only leave a message. This friend was living in Chicago but he is from New Orleans where his family was until the storm. Now they are scattered around the country and he is back in New Orleans trying to put things back together.

Where are the dump turcks?

I heard today that finally even our president has admitted to the failure of government on all levels to this crisis in New Orleans. Most of the money allotted for rebuilding New Orleans is still locked in some bureaucratic system. The few persons that have returned or the volunteers that come to help are dong a tremendous job, but for the most part without government help. I mentioned earlier, in a June diary entry, the story about how the youth and I were raking up wood chips left from a fallen tree in a yard that had belonged to the woman we were helping. She told us to put them in plastic garbage bags and she would get someone to take them to the dump. I asked her why she did not just leave them out front and have the city dump truck pick them up. She asked me if I had seen the trash piles on almost every block of New Orleans and I said yes. Than she asked me if I had seen a dump or garbage truck all week? I had to say no. She told me to look out for any. I did not see any. A few days latter when I saw her again she did not have to say anything. The trash from the Hurricane 9 months earlier had not been picked up. And from the looks of the news reports it still has not been picked up in most areas. I remember how after 9/11, city after city was sending fire trucks to New York. I thought “where are the dump trucks for New Orleans?” (See June entry of “where are the dump trucks?” for more.)

Wood chips and any trash is a problem in New Orleans. Today I went to the city dump to get wood chips for my compost pile. There were some nice looking wood chips today so I took some extra for my front yard. Now that I have the rain barrel in front to make tea with I plan to work on making the front lovely and full of growing power, mainly with flowers and shrubs. I will do a “before” picture tomorrow and hopefully a beautiful “after picture” in the future.

Today was drying out day for the garden. Although all was wet I did put some casting tea over the plants. When I was gone for 10 days in the beginning of August some of the plants seemed to have suffered from lack of “nourishment”. When I returned the tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers were showing sings of dying, dead leaves and all. Now that I have pruned the dead braches and leaves and got some more tea in the ground, things are better but have not returned to their state before August. Next year I will install an irrigation system from the rain barrel throughout the garden. That way, when I am gone, all a person would have to do is to put water in the rain barrel if it does not rain for a few days. I need to remember this and other things I have learned.

As for New Orleans, 9/11, wars in Iraq and in Vietnam I still do not think the government has learned the lessons of these crises yet. “When will we ever learn?”

back to top

August 28, 2006 Rain All Day

Despite the weatherman’s forecast of a dry day, it rained on and off all day. I did a little with the garden but not much. I tried to call Growing Power today to ask about storing castings but everyone who could answer my question was busy.

Monday is my shopping day. As I was leaving the Target store nearby with a bag of coffee grounds that I got from the in-store Starbucks, a lady stopped me to question my taking the grounds. She thought coffee grounds were just something to put in the garden in the spring. I explained to her that my coffee grounds were for my compost pile, which is used to make compost to feed worms so they can produce castings. She was fascinated and we got into a little garden talk. Her father, like me, grew a lot of mint, but used it to make tea. I just dry out my mint, grind it and fill spice bottles with it under by private label “Uncle Bob”. But using it for tea might be a good idea.

My rain barrels and rain collecting garbage can are full. I need to spread casting tea tomorrow and maybe refill the bags with fresh castings. I have a lot of castings in the worm condo but find it difficult to get it out when the worms are still in it. I could get the worms out, but then where would I put the worms and castings? I am trying to hold things off until my Growing Power Box in the sunroom is repaired, hopefully by September 1st. Loren started to do it but now that he is moving on in a day or two, we will need to get him back to do it or ask him to show me how to reinforce it. We need to make it stronger and leak-proof.

I said today was my shopping day. But I am finding more and more of my time shopping for food and drink at the store, produce from the farmers market, and clothes from a thrift store. For a guy who thinks of himself as not liking to shop, I am doing way too much of it. There is a big difference between living a sustainable life and my lifestyle, with or without a Growing Power garden. Shopping is seductive. Sometimes I find myself even enjoying it. I need to cut back seriously the time I spend shopping. Working hard to survive is one thing, working hard to shop is another.

back to top

August 27, 2006 Garden Wedding

Friday night and Saturday I attended two weddings that were alike and unlike. Both were in non-traditional places, one in a park pavilion, in one in a flowery field outside. Both couples were married by siblings of one of them — by a brother to the bride in one case, and in the other by a brother to the groom. Of each couple, the person we knew was raised in traditional Catholic families, but both weddings were very non-Catholic in ritual.

For the difference, one couple was marrying for the second time each, and thus entered the marriage with six children together. The other couple was young and marrying for the first time. One, the second marriage for both was a small event and the other one, first marriage, was an elaborate event.

In the common and diverse elements both couples were married and truly in love. My wife and I were good friends of the parents but only knew few persons at the receptions. But we enjoyed both immensely.

At both events we met some new persons and I found myself in conversations about gardening, once with the groom himself. One person at the rural reception was an organic gardener of antique apple trees, some descending from apples tree in ancient Rome, and grew cattle of antique breeds, one that came over on the Mayflower. He told me about sea mineral water that is supposedly more powerful than worm tea and an organic fertilizer. The other conversations were not so unique but gave me some basis for me to evaluate my own home growing power garden, the pluses and minuses. So far I have had great success with some plants and not such great success, at least compared to my past traditonal gardens, with other plants. But the big difference is now I have an organic gardening system in place that may take a year or two to become established but is worth the effort and care.

Like the weddings I attended, my traditional garden of last year and my growing power garden of this year are alike and unlike. In common they are creations that one can enjoy and reap fruit from. Gardens like wedding events come in all varieties but at their heart is love and care.

back to top

August 25, 2006 Blow the Dynamite of the Message

We are going to two weddings, one tonight in Milwaukee and one tomorrow in Gays Mills, Wisconsin. The one tonight is inside so this dreary rainy weather will not matter too much. However, tomorrow is for the daughter of some friends who are having a major wedding for family and friends outside on their land in Western Wisconsin. Weather matters.

Our friends’ son and daughter who are getting married were both raised in good religious families (in these two cases Catholic) but both weddings are civil ceremonies. This fact is of no great importance to the ceremony but reminds me of a saying by Peter Maurin, the co-founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement. Back in the 30’s in an “Easy Essay” he said “To blow the dynamite of a message is the only way to make the message dynamic.” (Peter Maurin). Now he was talking about the Catholic Church at that time but the message still rings true, in my opinion, not only with the message of the Catholic Church but of most religious groups and most messages. The message is often not dynamic because we fear “to blow the dynamite of a message.” Young people, like most of us, are attracted to a dynamic message, not one we fear to say or do. For example, most Christian Churches, even President Bush’s, present the message “the war in Iraq is immoral.” But most Church leaders, for a variety of reasons, are afraid to blow the dynamite of this message and make it dynamic.

Presently I am trying to blow the dynamite off the message that Dawn Powell’s houses for disabled persons are in great shape, and not the ‘horrible’ places that a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series presented them as. Everyone who has visited these homes for disabled persons knows the articles to be false but does not know what to do about it. Some of the others who I tell about this great injustice done to this generous woman really do not care to do anything about it. Some, like the reporter and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel do not want to know the articles are false and sensationalized. How do I blow the dynamite of this message? Stay tuned.

The same goes through for the Growing Power Home garden to some degree. Many are interested in ‘worm power’ but few take the time to practice it.

Of course we need to prirotize what messages we “blow up”. If we blow up every message we might push persons to ignore or numb themselves to our message. (I certainly can testify to this fact.) So the question comes down to what is the right time to blow the dynamite of a message.

Tomorrow I will be at the wedding. Loren and Peter can take care of the house and garden but my daily diary message will need to wait till Sunday to continue. Maybe Sunday I can blow up some other messages.

back to top

August 24, 2006 Making Do

Now that I am cooking the family meal for the four of us more often, I have had time to work on my way of cooking, using whatever I have on hand to make a delicious and good-looking [added by my wife] meal. Tonight I had some vegetables from the garden, herbs from the garden, items I purchased from the Middle Eastern Store on 13th and Okalahoma today and some leftover chicken breast from last night’s dinner. With these I made a delicious chicken, vegetable, noodle, Middle Eastern dish. At least the two guys in my house and I thought so. My wife, working tonight at dinner-time, will be the ultimate judge of its taste and looks as we saved her some for her lunch at work tomorrow. I think the meal will be a winner. I do not bother naming my creations since we will never have the exact same meal again. If you like I could send you the list of ingredients and amounts used, as best I can remember it.

This morning I got some good time working in the garden and spreading the casting tea from my two rain barrels after last night’s rain on the garden and on the front lawn. This afternoon it rained again and so the barrels are full once more. Casting tea is renewable, sustainable and affordable ‘miracle grow’. Here is the garden right before dusk, after two rains and good dose of tea.

Garden 08/24/06

I tend to pick some tomatoes early and let them ripen on the ledge in the kitchen. I do this for vines that are heavy with tomatoes. My wife always says that vine-ripened tomatoes taste better than ones ripened on the kitchen window. So I put her to the test. I took two tomatoes, one ripened on the vine, just picked today, and one of similar color that ripened in the kitchen window. I cut them into pieces so she could not tell by the skin, only by taste, which one was vine ripened. There were four pieces before her. She just got one out of four right. She might still insist that vine-ripened tomatoes taste better.

In the garden and in cooking as in life we make do with what we have. This is not always easy to do. There always is that great recipe out there or the garden could be better. In life there always are greener pastures to be sought. However, when we make do with what we can find, we find hidden treasures right before us.

I got a few ideas for the next issue of “Living Stones”, my monthly email newsletter. If you are not a subscriber and would like to be one, just send me an email at for a free subscription as long as you want to recieve it. Who knows — there may be some hidden treasures in it.

back to top

August 23, 2006 The First Shall Be Last.

We probably have all heard the gospel phrase “The First shall be Last and the Last shall be First.”
Hearing and thinking about this paradox this morning and after working on the garden I had this reflection.

The Gospel story where this phrase comes from has workers complaining to the employer that those who worked only one hour are getting the same wage as those who worked all day. The employer asks why they are complaining about his generosity since he paid them what they agreed to, and than utters this famous line.

Maybe besides generosity the story is telling us that we are rewarded for who we are just as much as we do. In terms of human dignity the workers who worked all day are equal to the workers who only worked one hour. The fact that we are precious for who we are as much, if not more, than for what we do is very consoling.

Meeting new persons when I was unemployed at times in my life I would answer the question “what do you do” with the word “nothing.” I knew they were not asking me what I did with my life, but what employable work I did. The answer was “nothing.” After a while I got tired of saying “nothing” and just said I was unemployed. Even now persons I meet ask me what I do. I do a lot of things but know they are asking me what I do for employment. So instead of going through a long explanation I just say I am ‘retired’, although I do not like that label.

People who lived on the land and provided what they needed from the land never had to answer that question. They just lived day-to-day doing what they needed to do to just be. I know of some cultures like in Guatemala where some persons would like to be left alone to live this way. But they are not.

In the USA we are down on just being. Americans spend more hours at their jobs than anyone in any culture has before or does now. I think nowadays, the first who will be last are those who live off of money making money (high finance or usury) and the last that will be first are those who work hard just to survive.

back to top

Last should be First

The moral of this tale is that it is okay to be busy but if we are too busy to be, all our efforts are for naught. Peace of mind and happiness comes from just being present to life. In a growing power garden, without considering the human element, another way of saying this phrase is: “The worm shall be first and the plant shall be last.”

I got the replacement rain barrel today. It was red instead of gray. At first I did not like the color but now I do. I live in a cream city brick house and red goes go with it. Besides it does not leak like the rejected one.

August 22, 2006 Rejected Rain Barrel

rejected rain barrel

Yesterday I promised you a picture of the rain barrel I placed by the down sprout to collect the rain off the house roof. Here it is. It is one of the two I purchased from the Metropolitan Sewage District of Milwaukee. The other one is in the garden collecting rainwater off the garage and making tea to fertilize the garden.

When I placed a bag of castings in the 2nd barrel today and filled it up with water, I discovered two major flaws. One was a hole in the side of the barrel and one was that the spigot on the barrel leaked. I called the Sewage district up and than said I could return it tomorrow for another one. So this barrel is a reject.

Being a ‘reject’ is something I know about. I have felt rejected and attacked at times as a messenger of words and fact that people sometimes do not want to hear. It is always easier to attack the messenger than the message and sometimes, the messengers, like me, are not very diplomatic in how they present the message and when they say it.

For example I have been reading in the paper, hearing in the news and from friends how Hezbollah starting firing missiles at Israel before Israel started the bombing of Lebanon. I heard this so much that I even started doubting the truth and had to research the fact today that Hezbollah missiles were fired at Israel only after Israel had bombed Lebanon and killed over 40 civilians. It is true that Hezbollah provoked the situation by seizing (kidnapping) two Israeli soldiers. But this kind of thing unfortunately happens all the time in this region. Israel recently seized (kidnapped) five cabinet Palestinian members and over two dozen lawmakers in the Palestine legislature. Now maybe some of you hearing this statement in this diary will reject the message by rejecting the messenger. You probably have good cause. But the messenger like the rain barrel is not always perfect. By rejecting this rain barrel I am not rejecting all rain barrels and their usage.

We all have our faults and imperfections but they are easier to see often in others, especially persons in need that we really are trying to help and care for. Sometimes, when they show their imperfections, we just need just to try to help them repair themselves. However, sometime you need to just let them go until they decide they want help. For me the latter is harder, letting go, than the first, trying to fix things. When I first noticed the hole in the side of the rain barrel my first thought was I could fix that with some caulk. However, when I realized that the spigot was broken I realized that I must let it go. However, because of this experience I am not going to give up collecting rainwater for use on the garden and lawn.

When I was a youth minister, hip-hop or rap music was very popular with young teens. I got to hear so much rap music that I developed another persona, a rap artist, to communicate with youth. I wanted to use the name “outcast” as my rap name. But the youth explained to me that a rap group already had that name. So I chose the name ‘reject’. I was not very good at rapping but I could rhyme and the youth accepted my handicap with joy, hearing an adult minister in the church trying to rap.

I originally chose the name ‘reject’ since Jesus was rejected by many and he made serving the rejected, outcast and marginalized a priority. But as time went on the named took on new meaning. “reject has retired as a rap artist but the idea of being a ‘reject’ lives on.

St. Ignatius tells us in his Spiritual Exercises to desire the grace to be ‘rejects.’ Now that is perhaps carrying this thought a little too far. But like the rejected rain barrel sometimes we are not perfect but our message, saving and making life giving waters still rings true.

Or as ‘reject’ would say,

Sometimes we make mistakes
But need to move on for our sakes.
We all at times are rejected,
But do not need to be dejected.
If life is a dark or sunny day,
We can always say,
I am who I am not what I do,
I am a human being not in a zoo.

back to top

August 21, 2006 Rain Down

Finally I got the second rain barrel established on a down drain on the house. This water from the gutter went down the drain into a tube under the grass, flowed down the driveway and into the city sewer system which goes into the big tunnels under the city back to the filtering plant and back to Lake Michigan. Now it will go into the barrel, mix with the worm castings and be used to water and fertilize lawn, garden and flowers. (Pictures to come). This is the second of the two rain barrels that I purchased from the City Sewer system. For the other gutters on the house and garage I will probably place a more simple system of catching the rainwater, like the plastic garbage can I originally use for the gutter in the garden off the garage.

I took another step in the direction of making my organic fertilizer from rainwater and worm castings by adding more compost on top of the worm condo above a screen. The worms in the worm condo are eating and multiplying outside, due to the weather, much faster than they did in the winter inside the Growing Power Box in the Sunroom. This is good as long as the worms have enough food and it means more castings. After the worms come up for new food, I will remove some of the castings in the box and use them to keep the casting tea fresh. All the components of the system are starting to come together, the compost pile, the worm depository, worm condo for castings, tea for growing plants and of course the plants.

Each day I have been looking for cucumbers and finding only one about a week or so ago. Today I noticed a big one in the garden and found a second one and latter a third one. Either they all grew overnight or I am not a very good looker.

Yesterday on a St. Vincent De Paul call we met a lady who was shot in the head two times a year ago. Miraculously she survived, but suffered some brain damage. She just got her own apartment and needed some basic stuff. Because of her brain damage her five children are now living with her sister. She has difficulty talking and thinking but is really determined to improve and get her children back with her.

Except for her sister’s caring for her children, she does not get much help from her family but is full of the spirit of gratitude and determination for life. She was really inspiring and I walked away feeling blessed for being in her presence. Her experience really puts in perspective some of my own concerns about my life and the garden.

Also I realized once more how valuable life is and how to appreciate it I must slow down, be less busy doing and more actively being. Perhaps my experience in this women’s presence is why I spent so much time in the garden today. A garden is a good place for a little doing and a lot of being.

back to top

August 20, 2006 Animals, Plants and Humans

Today Pat I had dinner at the Zoo A La Carte. Various food vendors set up booths on the zoo grounds and sell appetizer portions of their best dishes. While eating my way through the Zoo a thought occurred to me. The elephants, birds and all the zoo animals have something in common with us humans and with plants in the garden. We all need to eat and drink to survive. Some of us like different kinds of food and drink and some of us may eat and drink for more than survival, but we all eat and drink.

Not many creatures, not even worms, eat the waste they produce or eat other creatures of the same exact type. The above helps me to understand why so many were scandalized by Jesus, when the day after the multiplication of bread and fish he said that he was the ‘living bread and that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood for eternal life. It is understandable why that day “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” The ones who did not leave did not understand this ‘divine mystery’ but believed in Jesus and remained followers of the Way.

I do not understand the mystery of the Eucharist, Christ body and blood in the form of bread and wine, but I do understand our dependence for food and drink in our physical lives and so can understand why it is needed in our lives in the Spirit.

Of all the creatures dependent on food that I know of, one creature will eat almost all types of waste except its own. It is the worm. The worm not only feast on waste but turns it, as it passes through its body, to rich organic food that plants can eat, grow and thus be feed for animals and humans. My experiments with having worms produce casting and using casting tea, bags of castings to enrich the water for the plants, is in some ways a measure of how good or not so good my garden is doing. To the degree the plants are placed in enriched soil containing castings and fed casting tea on regular basis they are doing well. To the extent they are not they are not doing so well.

The worm condo, where worms turn compost into castings is working faster than I expected. I will soon need to take some of the castings out and add more compost for the worms or just add more compost to the worm condo, food for the worms. I want to avoid the worms dying, like earlier in the summer when they ate all the compost in the worm box and only their own castings remained, which they cannot eat.

How we got from the Zoo to the Gospel to Eucharist to garden and worms and compost may not be clear to you. It is certainly not to me. But like everyone in Milwaukee, all creatures and life is connected. Food and Drink are certainly some main arteries of connection.

back to top

August 19, 2006 Mystery Flower and Plant

Mystery Flower

Mystery Plant

Today’s posting features a mystery flower and a mystery plant growing in the garden. The flower is from a bulb I purchased from a garden center. I think it is some kind of lily, perhaps related to the Calla Lilies I have in pots in the garden. However, this one has green, not deep red leaves and already has a beautiful flowery plant.

One of lessons I learn from this mystery plant and the towering firecracker flowers also growing in the center of the garden is to plant the tall flowers in the back and short flowers in front. These towering red flowers dominate the center circle and except at close view block the beauty of the other flowers from sight. The center circle garden is like life, where sometimes you need to look closely, past the dominant figures, to see the beauty of the small.

The other mystery plant came out of the growing power box in the sunroom. Loren took it out of the box, first put it in a pot and than in the garden. We know it is not a zucchini or cucumber that are growing around it. At first we thought it was some kind of other squash but now Loren and Pat think it might be a pumpkin plant. We are not sure and unless someone can identify it for us, will need to wait and see.

One of the pluses from using fruit and vegetable waste as compost is that you never know what may emerge from it after you break it down to compost. Weeds do not seem to survive the cooking of the compost pile but vegetables do. Again like life, to know something sometimes you need to wait to see its fruits.

The malnourishment problem I discovered in the garden after my vacation seems to have been resolved and except from bites from animal creatures the vegetables are growing. Every night at dinner we have something from the garden, be it the basil to make the pesto we had last night or the jalapeno peppers we used tonight to sprinkle on the Spanish Tortillas (egg and potato) I am making.

back to top

August 18, 2006 Forgiveness and Silence

This morning I heard these words from the Hebrew Scriptures. “For I will re-establish my covenant with you, … that you remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 16: 60–63) What struck me is how forgiveness can silence us. I have wronged people and been wronged by people. Once when I felt betrayed by someone I considered a friend, I found it hard to forgive. Yet if I could have forgiven the person right away the person would have been silent.

Today I picked up some more wood chips from the dump and got some coffee grounds from the coffee shop to add to the 2nd compost pile. After adding the new food, I watered it. The simmering heat in the pile cooled down with the new waste and water.

Tonight I watched an old movie where the silent acceptance by a woman of a man’s rejection made him realize how deep his love of her was and come for her.

My younger sister who died from cancer forgave my mother with whom she had a long-standing feud before she died. My mother was struck silent about their differences.

Today I added new waste to the worm depository and turned it over with a pitchfork. Worms cannot forgive me for my neglect but they were silent.

Sometimes it is hard to accept forgiveness and just be quiet. I just keep talking instead of silently facing the shame of my wrongful act that was forgiven.

On vacation I read a novel “Galapagos” by Kurt Vonnegut. Someone narrated it a million years in the future looking back at evolution to the present time and beyond. The narrator keeps talking about the problems of our time being caused by our “big brains”, something humans do not have in a million years.

I think there is something to this “big brain” being the cause of human woes. As we grow older it becomes harder and harder to forgive and forget. We think and talk too much and have forgotten our natural instincts and the sacredness of silence.

Worms have very small brains, if any, and are silent. Perhaps that is why they are so productive. Now our “big brains” serve us well but can interfere with us when we do wrong by providing us with rationalizations and excuses instead of allowing us to silently accept our shame.

back to top

August 17, 2006 Guns and Gardens

Today in the little time I spent in the garden I realized that my Growing Power home model garden is not going to be more fruitful than my gardens in years past, using convention means like Miracle Gro instead of Casting Tea for fertilizer. In fact my garden seems to be on hold the last few days, really neither growing nor dying.

However, there is one big difference: this is my first year using worms as my growing power source. This garden, unlike past ones, is sustainable. Some of it can be moved inside to the Growing Power Sunroom Box, some of it can be left outside to prosper again next spring. Also all the compost and castings will pay rich dividends next year - something I never had from my conventional garden. Best of all, what I learned from this home model experiment will serve me well for years to come.

One reason that I spent little time in the garden today is that I went to two vigils for persons killed in violence on the streets of Milwaukee and, on a happier note, went fishing with my wife for the first time this summer.

Shape of Garden

The first vigil was for a teenage boy, 14, who was shot by a 12-year girl while he was showing her a gun of his friend’s. The girl says it was an accident but has been arrested. The grandmother of the girl was present at the vigil. I wish all those pro hand gun persons who say, “Guns do not kill people, people kill people” could have been there to watch the deep sorrow of this grandmother. We need to keep all non-hunting guns out of the hands of all, especially our youth.

During our family vacation to Cape Cod my grandsons where showered with all types of guns and weapons by their great grandmother and a great uncle. Each boy must have had 5–8 weapons to play with, as did their great cousin , a boy. (Girls were given other gifts, but not guns.) I withheld comment, for the sake of the other adults present, but refused to have our annual nonviolent water balloon fight when guns, even water guns, were part of it. As a result we never got around to our major water balloon battle. We wonder why children, teens and adults, especially males, are fascinated by guns and shooting?

Violence reigns around the world, much of it sponsored and promoted by our government. Our children play imaginative games with guns, computer games with violence are all popular; teens and adults kill each other on the streets, sometimes by accident or in a moment of passion.

At all the street-side vigils I have been at, I have never been at a site in a garden. Did you ever see a TV show of someone shot in a garden, or play a violent computer game that takes place in a garden? Iraq, where civilization is said to have begun at the Tigress and Eupretees rivers, is now a place of extreme violence, where over a 100 civilians a day died on the streets last month. The Garden of Eden has turned into a desert of violence. “When will we ever learn?”

back to top

August 16, 2006 Mirror

Thomas Merton, a monastic monk and writer once wrote that “In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with.” — Thomas Merton “No Man is an Island” Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, New York

I thought of this quote today while at our Faith in Recovery meeting tonight. ( . We spend so much of the time looking at ourselves, wondering what people think of us, worrying abut things outside of our control, or about something that happened in the past or may happen in the future. Finding God (or whatever name we may call a higher power) means living in the present. This is for some of us difficult to do.

When working in the garden it is easy to live in the present, especially on a nice day like today. There is nothing you can do to correct a mistake you made in the past in the garden except not do it again. The future of the garden is somewhat out of our control. It has more to do with weather than with us. Our perceptions of the garden are not much shaped by what happened in the past or may happen in the future. We just see what is going on in the present.

Looking at a mirror all day, we can find all kinds of problems. Looking to be present all day, we can find God in the garden.

back to top

August 15, 2006 Mary, Queen of Flowers and Tomatoes

Today, Aug. 15th, is a Holy Day in the Catholic Church, honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus, mother of God. In the Gospels there is not much about Mary, except that she is present with Jesus from conception till he leaves home, a small town, and present again with him at his death and resurrection. There is one major exception to Mary’s quiet presence in the Gospel and that is when she visits her cousin Elizabeth who like her is pregnant with child. In response to Elizabeth’s greeting and blessing on her and the fruit of her womb Mary proclaims the greatness of God by telling of how God is merciful, how God “cast-down the mighty…and has lifted up the lowly”…”has filed the hungry with good things.” The statement is called the ‘Magnificent’ and can be found in the Gospel of Luke: 1, 39–56.

In the Growing Power home model garden here Mary stands tall with a small statue in the midst of towering red firecracker flowers with tall tomato vines behind her. A water fountain for the birds is in front of her and all kind of flowers fill the circle in the middle of the garden. Her image reigns in this Growing Power Garden where the ‘lowly’, worms, are the mighty force and food grows for our household.

This afternoon I stopped at the Farmer’s Market in West Allis, something I had not done for a long time. The tables were full of fruit, vegetables, flowers and herbs for sale. I purchased things I am not growing like cantaloupe, leaf lettuce and fresh sweet corn. I also purchased some chive plants to finish off the last open spot in my herb garden side. Buying fresh food from the farmer’s market always feels healthier than buying food from the grocery store, even an organic food store. Also it is much less expensive.

Now once we apply Growing Power to the urban environment, using gardens and empty lots, we, like God, can truly fill “the hungry with good things.” From lowly worms and waste mighty things can come.

back to top

August 14, 2006 Garden Hope

The first fruits of the Garden, pictured yesterday, plus some other salad items from the garden, made for a good dinner tonight of Rotisserie chicken, garden salad, vegetable stir fry and “Syrian rice.” The rice is like a rice pilaf and the name comes from the fact that my grandfather considered himself a Syrian even though the land he came from is now called Lebanon. As a youth all of our Middle Eastern food was called Syrian while now we say, rightly so, it is Lebanese. There are many items in the garden that are used for Lebanese food - cucumbers, grape leaves, mint, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and more.

Yesterday at the Arab fest I got a T-shirt with “Lebanese Pride” on it. Today after coming in from the garden and showering I put this new t-shirt on when I was cooking dinner. Unfortunately I got it dirty in cooking. The t-shirt will be easy to clean and make new. Unfortunately the Lebanese people will not have such an easy time at rebuilding their country after this last destruction of its land with the recent invasion of Israel. Lebanon was just on the rebound after the long civil war prolonged by Israel’s last invasion. Once again Beirut was full of life and hope. After all the destruction recently can this country do it once more — find Hope?

Today I placed at the third entrance to the inner circle of the garden my new “hope” stone, purchased very inexpensively at a Christmas tree shop at Cape Cod. Hope is trust that we will find the meaning in life we need. A garden is a good place to reflect on what that hope is.

back to top

August 13, 2006 Back Home with Hope

Last night we got back home from our annual family vacation with my wife’s family, this year back at Cape Cod. This was our 8th year of bringing together the family, all of whom except for my sons, my son’s family, and my wife and me, live in the Greater Boston area. It was good to be back on the Cape, after a year of visits to Door County, WI and a trip to the mountains of New Hampshire. My wife’s mother, soon to be 90, was glad to be reunited with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Not counting myself there were six children, ages 2–13, and also 12–14 adults, some coming for a day or two. My oldest grandson asked me if we could please rent the same house next year. I told him he would have to check with his parents and other adults about this. I did not tell him that I fear this might be the last time we do this, since the six children, Nana, Great Grandmother and I do not have as much say about it as the ‘adults.’

First Fruits

Today after returning from a visit with my cousin to Arab fest, the least attended of all the wonderful ethnic and music festivals at the lake-front every weekend, I went back to work in my garden. Although Loren had watered it while I was on vacation, it was overgrown and malnourished. It needed a good shot of Worm Tea or Miracle Grow. I had two eggplants, one red unbitten tomato, one cucumber, one zucchini and two different kinds of hot peppers to pick. There is much more growing but waiting for nourishment besides sun and water. There are a lot of herbs to pick - mint, sage, basil, savory and more - but that will need to wait till tomorrow.

Loren also took good care of my precious livestock, the worms. A quick check of the worm depository and the worm condo proved that true. Worms are much more low-maintenance life form (although higher) than plants.

It was good to return to work in the garden, especially since I had felt sad, although joyfully playing with the children all week, about the situation in Lebanon, the home of my ancestors. For a week I had no one to share my sadness with, the children being too young to understand and the adults just not caring or being persons with different views of spirituality and politics. Thus going to Arab fest with my Lebanese cousin and working in the garden were of great comfort and healing.

Speaking of healing I returned to find the other book of poetry from Julia Esquivel, the poet I met in Guatemala last April, had arrived. This book, also written when she was in exile, is called “The Certainty of Spring: Poems by a Guatemalan in Exile.” Here is a woman who took the deep sorrow and sadness of the Guatemalan people and turned it into seeds of hope and beautiful poetry. Since my Guatemalan Diary Buried in Guatemala? is complete, I may use a few poems in this Diary of Worm. Thinking about it, worms are sort of sad creatures but full of building blocks of new life, hope.

Hope is the word on a heart-shaped block of stone that I purchased for the garden. The stone also has a frog on it and has some gold stones, one missing around the edges. (Picture to come). This stone will be set at the third entrance to the circle in the middle of the garden until my grandchildren give me a third stone with their handprints next year.

August 2, 2006 Snapshots

Corner View


Towering Tomatos

Double Rose

Spreading Zuchinni

Faithful Impatiens

Today as promised, I am giving you enough snapshots of the garden to last you till “The Diary of a Worm” returns on Aug. 12. At that time we will see a whole new garden, hopefully with lots of fruits of our labor. Peter and Loren will be here to see it happening, and you and I will see it after it happens.
Missing from these snapshots are worms. However, I checked on the worms in the condo and the ones in the worm depository, and both are doing well. I understand the heat wave is done for a while, so the maintenance should be easier on the two young men.

I titled each snapshot taken today. If you want to read more of my writings while the diary is on hiatus you can check on present and past issues of the newsletter “Living Stones” in the archives on the site, and past diary postings and the Guatemala Diary? on this site.

back to top

August 1, 2006 Good News!

I woke up this first day of August feeling down due to some bad dreams I had last night. However, the rest of the day brought good news. The tomato plants in the garden are bigger than they have ever been (picture to come); my African nephew from Sierra Leone, a political exile, called me tonight that he had received an ambulance donated to Friends Across (, an organization he created to help his people who live in the poorest and probably most forgotten country in the world; a friend who has moved to Florida called me also with the news that she is probably starting a chapter of Faith In Recovery, (; a number of people called or wrote me about how they liked my rewriting of Psalm 22 in my newsletter, Living Stones?.

There were other things to be thankful for today but that is enough to give you a taste of how, when you are looking for gratitude (something I really needed to find today), you find it. All these good things do not mean my fears will disappear, but they do give me hope.

Tomorrow, my last day in Milwaukee before a family vacation, promises not to be so hot as the last couple of days. I hope this will give me the chance to work on the Growing Power garden and prepare it for the maintenance period it will go through when I am gone.

You need not worry about care of my livestock, the worms or the plants. Both Loren and my son Peter are staying here while we’re away, and one or the other of them is around the house all day and night. Loren has been a real partner with me in the garden experiment and can keep all systems “go”, while Peter takes over some of my house responsibilities. Living in community has some real benefits when you need to take time out of your busy life to be with family. We will be with my other son and his family and my wife’s family on Cape Cod. Not counting myself there will be 6 children ranging in age from 2–13 at the beach house. As I’ve said, being with children, just doing nothing of any great importance, is very relaxing for me, just like working on the garden. We have done this for a number of years and so far it has been lots of fun. The adults range in age from 40–90 and they are good people to be with also.

So tomorrow night’s posting will give you some more pictures of the present garden, hopefully enough to last you till August 12th, when I will resume this diary. The diary is called “The Diary of a Worm in a Home Growing Power Box and Garden” and I can count on worms for much of the success of my garden, but I cannot count on them to write this diary.

But let’s stop right here for today, since I do not want to lose my “attitude of gratitude” and the good news it brings by complaining about worms’ lack of writing skills.

back to top

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



back to top


Page last modified on November 01, 2007

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Wiki Gnome  | Hosted by Fluid Hosting  | Icons courtesy of famfamfam