This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form without prior authorization.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

September 30, 2006 Outside In

Today the Growing Power model home garden made another step toward moving from outside to inside. As I was using castings from the worm condo outside to plant more bulbs, I refined more of the castings for the top of the Growing Power box. I also took some coyer (coconut shavings) and mixed it with the castings now in the box over the compost and worms.

The Growing Power box this year has some changes that should help in production of more greens during the winter months. For those familiar with my rough beginnings (see worm diary for last January) here are some of the adjustments:

  1. Use of coyer mixed with the castings on top of the box. This mixture is used at Growing Power but was not advised for this box. Although my growing power box is unique and different from the systems at Growing Power, I think my soil needs the nitrogen and air that coyer provides to castings as well as its ability to absorb water.
  2. This year I will use a growing light over the box. Will Allen of Growing Power said it was not necessary last year but since, unlike the greenhouses at Growing Power, the light in the sun-room is very limited on cloudy cold days, I think this addition, advised to me by Loren, will be helpful. We already have a fluorescent light fixture in the garage we do not use and Loren can install it in the sun-room over the box. We will run a growing light on a timer for 14 hours a day, like the summer sun-light schedule.
  3. The Growing Power Box has been reinforced since last year. Last year we did not count on so much settlement of the soil and the warping of the sides.
  4. A major thing is that we are starting to grow salad greens much earlier, in a week or so, when the seeds arrive, rather than January as last winter.
  5. We now know better what to plant. This year I will use Kale and/or Arugula and/or a special mix of salad greens, all proven growers in warm or cold weather. The sun-room, as you know if you followed this diary last winter, can go from very hot on sunny days, to very cold on cloudy days. The insulation of the windows and heat from a small heater help but are no match for the sun. The box needs plants like these that are heartier and can bear the heat or cold. Also they are all proven good-tasting salad makers.

The rest of the day, besides working outside, was spent inside cleaning the house or getting started on the September issue of the “Living Stones Newsletter.” For any of you readers, if any, that are subscribers, the newsletter should arrive Monday or Tuesday. For any readers, if any, that are not subscribers, the newsletter is free and can be obtained by just emailing me at

If I am more garden-oriented in this posting and not so philosophical as usual it is because I used up my philosophic side on working on the newsletter today. I went from outside in the garden to inside of my head for writing the newsletter. Life is better inside out, but some days and some transitions just need to be outside in.

back to top

September 29, 2006 Weather Control

I was tempted today to start listening to weather reports. When I was working inside it was sunny outside. When I went outside to work in the garden it started to drizzle. Maybe if I had paid attention to the weather report on the nightly news, I would have known better.

But the temptation soon passed and I am sure tonight during the too long weather reports I will be reading or talking and just trying to catch the last few seconds when they give the five day forecast. I say just give us your prediction and let the internet be the source of more information on weather for those who want it.

The weather control centers really do not control weather, never have and never will, no matter what the latest technology is. The best they can hope for is to predict the weather somewhat accurately. But predicting and controlling are not the same thing. I can predict how my garden will grow but cannot control it, no more than the weather.

A friend told me today that as she gets older she more and more trusts in God that all will be okay. Now coming from someone who is always doing good and always busy that is a major statement. Actually, I met her today on the one day off a week she allows herself. Sometimes busy people like myself are just covering up our effort to control.

This week I talked a lot about some of the basics of a Growing Power Garden — worms, compost, casting. Next week I will evaluate some of the end results — vegetables, herbs and other plants. Since I cannot control weather, rain, sun, hot or cold, the best I can do is not to predict these things but try to compensate for too much or too little of these essentials.

Yesterday I talked with Loren about helping put some growing lights over the Growing Garden Box in the Sun-room. Long sunless days hurts plant growth last year. Now sunny or not sunny days I cannot control. However, I can put a growing light above the box just like I have a small heater in the room for heat on very cold sunless days. The Sun-room needs sun for light and heat. But not being in control I need to prepare for the sunless days.

back to top

September 28, 2006 Fishing for Gold

Today I went fishing with Loren, my partner in the growing power home garden and box, in the Milwaukee River for the large salmon and trout that Loren has been talking about. Loren caught a good-sized female salmon. Not only will the fish make for good eating, but her egg sacks will make good bait for future fishing.

This event reminded me of the old adage “give a person a fish and the person will eat for a day; show a person how to fish and they will have something to eat forever.” I never did like this popular saying since it implied doing the works of mercy, like feeding the hungry, were ‘bandage’ types of work and really not significant. Being in the Jesus (Matthew 25) and Dorothy Day, founder of Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality mode, I resent the implication that feeding the hungry and other works of mercy are not essential parts of our life. On the other hand, I do believe in working for systemic change, as did Jesus and Dorothy. However, showing someone how to do something implies a one-way giving situation — like an agency helping a person get a job. When we help persons in need we are often much more receivers than givers.

A good compromise to this old adage that I have heard is the third way: Go fishing with the person, share your knowledge of fishing and the person can share some of their wisdom and experience. This way both people get to share in the fishing and eating of the fish. Catholic Workers eat with the persons and the persons served are often the cooks or clean up persons. Today Loren taught me how to fish and hopefully I shared with him some of my gifts.

When we got home there was not much time to work on the garden. However, I did plant some daffodils bulbs in front, and sifted out some castings to make a fine rich topping for my box. This picture is of castings from the worm condo on a screen over my wheelbarrow. As the castings sift through the screen they become a fine rich soil for the top layer of my growing power box. The sifted castings are in the bucket in the picture. A five gallon bucket of these sifted castings, what Will Allen calls ‘black gold’, goes for about $75 wholesale at the Growing Power center on Silver Spring.

The castings are the result of the breakdown of waste (here are the pictures I promised you) in the compost pile. The picture on the left is of a rough new compost pile that I will let sit through the winter. The other one is the already broken down compost pile that I have been using to feed the worms in the depository, for my Growing Power box in Sun-room and building new beds for plants.

At Growing Power headquarters, growing tilapia fish and affordable organic food are intertwined. At home I cannot have fish as part of the cycle but I do have the ‘black gold’ produced from waste by way of worm power. Also, since worms are used for fishing, the link between fishing and gardening goes unbroken.

back to top

September 27, 2006 Worm Parable

(Due to sun when I was inside and rain when I was outside, I just worked on the garden for an hour or so and forgot to take the pictures I promised yesterday. So to make up for it I hope you enjoy the following parable. Parables are word pictures that have a point that is unspoken.)

There were two worms that lived in an open field in a rural area. They were contented digging holes, eating the rich soil and casting off an even richer soil. One day a concrete road was built right through the middle of the field. The field was to become a compost dump. The worms were locked into half of the field but still left with plenty of land to dig and eat.

One day after the road was build trucks moved into the field and started to dump on one side of the road grass, coffee grounds, leaves, wood chips and other waste to build a good compost pile. The two worms lived on the other side of the road but they could sense the growing compost pile on the other side of the road.

One worm said: “We should go to the other side of the road where the compost will make for better eating.” The other worm said, “it would be dangerous to cross the concrete road and besides we have plenty to eat here where we are.”

Nevertheless the first worm climbed on the road and starting to wiggle his way to the other side. The sun was out and the concrete was hot. He could not stop to dig in and drink and eat the rich soil for there was none below, just concrete. Worms move very slowly and it took him hours to get close to the other side and the compost. The worm was exhausted. Just as he was nearly across a dump truck came down the road and ran the worm over.

Meanwhile the other worm missed his friend but kept on eating the rich soil, and casting off even richer soil. One day the trucks started to dump compost ingredients, grass, coffee grounds, leaves, wood chips and other waste to build a good compost pile on the side of the road this worm was on. The worm thought that this was nice and remembered the other worm who had traveled across the concrete road to find what was now being dumped on this side. The compost ingredients were better tasting than the rich soil and the worm thought: “Now I know what attracted my friend to cross the road but I am also glad that I stayed where I am.”

back to top

September 26, 2006 The Media is the Message

In the sixties there was a popular book entitled the “The Media is the Message” by Marshall Mcluhan. The point of it was that the media by which we receive communication is often the message we remember and act on, not the message of the media.

Today after trying to correct the unjust message of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel media that Dawn Powell was a bad landlord and ran “rat and roach infested homes” by using other written media, letters to editor and article in a Catholic newspaper, I took another approach of using personal communications, phone and visit, to two parties most involved and impacted by the media of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on this issue. I think I might have gotten somewhere in lifting the blacklisting of her homes. Time will tell.

Also today, in the garden and planting I was involved with the media of compost and media of castings. In some true sense these two media, I realized, are vital to the message they empower — good healthy flowers and vegetables. The media, compost, worms, castings and tea, are the message as much if not more than the organic affordable plants they make possible. In fact I meant to take some pictures today of the media in which a Growing Power garden grows. I forgot. Maybe tomorrow.

This saying, “The media is the message”, complements the most recent saying I am promoting of “How you see or hear is what you see or hear.” Simply, the filters you see or hear through are just as important as the message you see or hear. It also fits in well with another message from my days as an advertising person: “The perception of reality matters more than reality.” How often do we purchase an item because of the perception of it we have from advertising?

For those of you, if any, that read this “Diary of a Worm” you are reading observations made through my eyes but reading it through your own ‘lens’. Humans are the only creatures in creation, I think, that do this. Children do this much less than adults, thus explaining why they are so open and vulnerable.

Now I hope this media — Internet diary of words based on my observations, often in disconnected fashion except in my mind — makes it to you. The message of this media, I believe, is that all is connected in the eyes of those who can ‘see’ and in the ears of those who can ‘hear.’ If all this does not make complete sense to you and leaves you with questions of what all this has to do with the growing power garden, the media is communicating the message.

P.S. I planted about 20 Tulips in front of the house today. Tulips are beautiful creatures with a too short a life span yet we keep planting them and they keep growing. I gave these tulip bulbs a good shot of casting soil and tea.

back to top

September 25, 2006 Waste to Life or Waste

Today I dealt with waste. I placed more compost (waste) in the Growing Power Box to feed the worms and supply energy for the winter months and put on a layer of castings from the worm condo (waste eaten and cast off by worms) on top of this. I need to put another layer of castings, sifted out, on top of this and I will be ready for planting in the box.

One of the success stories of this year’s outside Growing Power garden has been the compost pile. I have two, one in the back of the garage that is being used and a new one, with layers of nitrogen and carbon, on the side of garage. The main ingredients of both compost piles are coffee grinds (nitrogen) from local coffee houses and wood chips (carbon) from the city dump. There are other items being cooked into this feed for the livestock (worms), grass, leaves, kitchen scraps and more.

In a garden, waste can become food and an energy source. In the rest of life waste is often just wasted. Turning leftovers into something new is a cooking feat as it is in the garden when waste gets used. However, in most of life we just let waste go and turn ourselves, not the waste, toward something new.

Those who can live life deeply make the most of each moment and know how to turn everything around. Waste becomes new life; curses become blessings; waiting becomes restful.

So evaluating the compost side of garden, I would need to say that I am much better off than I was in spring, in terms of quality and quantity of waste needed for an effective Growing Power Garden.

I am reminded of the large garbage dump I saw in Guatemala City. People roam through it to find something to eat, sell or to make into something else. People’s survival is based on garbage. Between making more garbage than we need in the USA, and living off of the city garbage dump in Guatemala, there must be some reasonable balance.

back to top

September 24, 2006 In the Beginning was the Worm

My interest in Growing Power began after my friend Godsil first toured the Growing Power headquarters on Silver Spring and was fascinated by what he saw. I remember him encouraging me to tour the place — saying how he would never look at a worm the same anymore. After reading an article by Will Allen and Growing Power in an alternative newspaper and taking the tour for myself, I too was fascinated by the growing power of worms, vermiculture. So it is appropriate that a report or evaluation of my home model Growing Power garden begin with the worms.

Here is picture of a few of the worms in the worm depository today. This is their hill to eat, grow and multiply in. Worms are the livestock of Growing Power. You need to keep some livestock for breeding purposes so you have some to use for various projects and to give away. I put some fresh compost (food for worms) on the depository pile today. I need to build the supply of food up before the cold and snow come so they will have plenty of heat and food for the winter months outside. This is the first year of the worm depository and on checking the pile it seems to be going well.

Also today I moved, for the third and final time, worms from the worm condo (see picture above) into the House Growing Power Box. With enough food (compost) in the box these worms should be warm and fed (from the compost) in the box, producing castings to energize the soil and make for some good ‘tea’ to pour back on the top.

Also today I changed all the ‘tea bags’ in my two rain barrels that mixed with rainwater to produce the ‘tea’ (better than “miracle grow”) fertilizer for the plants. After it freezes the only tea produced will be from the soil in the Growing Power box, but that should be plenty for the plants in the box.

This “worm system”, vermicultural, part of growing power is what distinguishes this way of sustainable, organic, affordable way of growing from other ways of growing. The worm is at the heart of a Growing Power Garden, inside or outside. This lowly creature is the most important component of Growing Power.

Today, September 24th is the 38th anniversary of my “15 min. of fame”, when I predicated in the Milwaukee 14 action in 1968. Fourteen of us broke into the selective service office at the time (when the military members were drafted, not volunteers), stole the A-1 files (of persons about to be drafted into the military) took them outside and burned them with homemade napalm. We stood around the fire praying and singing songs till we were arrested. At the time, 1968, this action was a real and symbolic nonviolent action against the war in Vietnam. The 14 of us were really praised or hated.

In the present times, with the resistance against the war in Iraq, a similar action does not seem conceivable. If something similar were to happen it probably would be ignored. Maybe war resisters today need to learn from the worm — just keep on digging and casting and eventually you can turn all the waste of life into new life and growth.

back to top

September 23, 2006 Natural Rain

This first day of fall, it rained on and off all day. What I anticipated doing, working in the garden and moving more worms from the condo outside to the box inside, never happened. In fact, the rain prevented all work in the garden.

However, it did not prevent the peace rally downtown, or the march and the peacefest this afternoon. I just got to a hour or so of the peacefest. On the way driving home I thought I saw a friend with a peace sign waiting at a bus stop in the pouring rain. I circled around and it was him. I stopped and drove him home.

This Good Samaritan deed reminded me of an email I received from my friend in Holland today. It was an article from the LA Times on Sept. 20th, in which an Iraqi report talks about how no one will stop to help a dying person on the street since they fear they will also be killed. Here’s a link to the article. I sent a copy of the article to my Senator, Herbert Kohl, who has refused to take a stand on the Iraq war. I asked him if this condition of fear is what we are fighting for.

At the peacefest, while talking with a friend from Marquette University from the past and present who has been active in the peace movement, he jokingly referred to me as a ‘complainer.’ I guess I was and am.

Tonight my wife (reluctantly) and I watched a four-star movie from 1937 called “A Star is Born.” It was an old fashioned romantic movie with no violence, sex or special affects. At the end I asked her how she liked it and she said it was “okay.” I had slight tears in my eyes, also reluctantly. It reminded me of movies from the past where I first felt emotion like Fellinni’s movie “La Strata.” Keeping in the ‘complaining’ mode I can say they do not make movies like they used to do.

My time advocating for justice and peace issues, for human rights, writing letters to the editor of the newspaper and even voting, I have to call into question as being effective. Not so with my work on the Growing Power Garden and Box. I might make mistakes but the process seems natural and worthwhile. When I stop to help a friend like I did today or make home calls for the St. Vincent De Paul Society like I will tomorrow with my wife, I also feel natural and meaningful.

Working on the garden, like the times I spend being present to the people of Guatemala, Mexico, Palestine, New Orleans, very young children or with persons in need in Milwaukee seem natural. What does that say about who I really am?

I keep postponing the rest of my evaluation of the outdoor growing power garden. It will come when the rain ceases.

back to top

September 22, 2006 Anticipated Waiting!

Waiting at the motor vehicle department this afternoon with my African niece and my son to get their driver license and state ID respectively, I could not help but notice a big printed sign. It read something to the effect that due to unanticipated shortage of personnel there would be long waiting-periods today. There was, but I wonder how, if the delays were truly ‘unanticipated’, they had gotten this large printed sign made up ahead of time. The only thing I could figure out is that a lack of available workers (today there were only three), is a common occurrence, and in anticipation of this ‘unanticipated’ occurrence, they had the signs made.

With all the rain and business of the day, much of it unanticipated, I did not get to work in the garden today. However, like the shortage of labor in the motor vehicle department, rain and business is an unanticipated common occurrence.

Waiting for over an hour for these two young adults to get their ID’s gave me a chance to naturally slow down, think, talk and pray a little bit. Waiting can be annoying or a blessings, whatever you make of it.

Tomorrow I anticipate moving my third, and hopefully final, group of worms from the worm condo to the Growing Power box, unless some unanticipated events, of which there are many, get in the way. Then all I will need to do is to cover the compost and worms with some castings from the worm condo and I will be ready to plant inside. I need to call Growing Power tomorrow to see if I can get some seedlings of salad greens or order seeds from the catalog.

All this goes to show you that unanticipated waiting can be anticipated. Or those who wait the longest will have the shortest wait.

back to top

September 21, 2006 Where have all the flowers gone?

Where is my camera when I need it? Today I saw some pictures that were priceless images of where we are in this country. Since I did not have my camera, as I had planned to do, let me try to describe two of the pictures with words.

I was at a protest and act of civil disobedience in front of the Federal Building in Milwaukee, which houses the office of one of Wisconsin Senators, Senator Kohl. Senator Kohl has refused to say “NO” to the war in Iraq, which many of us consider immoral, illegal and unjust. Today, on International Peace Day we came to the plaza outside his office. The Federal building is located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue (main street) at Old World Third Street across from the Grand Avenue Mall. It is an impressive blue glass building.

I noticed a major police presence as there is with all such demonstrations. However what was unique for me, not having been at many protests for a few years, was the presence of five horses mounted by policemen. I wondered why they were there. I also wondered, seeing the world now in terms of Growing Power, what they did with the horse castings and if they were recycled into compost. I expressed this question to a friend, a university professor, and he said something like “the government has a lot of use for horseshit.”

The mounted police were lined up in front of the Federal Building (Picture 1) but as soon as the act of civil disobedience began, started move into the middle of the intersection. Then five or so persons, most of whom I know and call friends, went into the middle of the intersection locked arms and waited for the police to arrest them. However, the first action of the police was to have the five mounted police on horse surround the persons in the middle of the street. One of them worked his horse over to one of the leaders of the action and asked that everyone move back to the corner. The five stayed in the middle of the street and were warned that they had five minutes to move out of the street. At this time the police with the help of the five mounted officers surrounding the five in a circle, resumed the flow of traffic at the intersection, moving it around the five.

The image burned into my mind was one of friends kneeling on the street with the four others, one being blinded standing by her, with arms locked surrounded by the five horse-mounted police. The blue federal building was in the background with all the support persons there, with signs asking our liberal Democratic senator to say “NO” to the war.

Since the action was a half hour later than I had expected I had to leave at this point, before the arrest, to drive my African-born niece to a job interview. I assume the five were arrested and taken to jail.

But the image (picture 2) of five horses surrounding my friends in the middle of the main intersection of Milwaukee, across from the Federal Building and in front of the Grand Avenue Mall, will stay with me for a long time. My friends were saying “NO” the violence. Once again I know why they say a picture is worth a thousand words, at least a few hundred in this case.

Earlier today I was at another street prayer vigil for homicide victims. There are so many persons dying in senseless violence on our city streets that today we combined four victims into one service. The ages of the victims started at 2 months old. Just before the morning vigil our leader found out there was another homicide victim. Five senseless violent deaths.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Today my wife picked, and I arranged in a vase, flowers from our garden. It is beautiful. This picture I can offer you rather than words. The words below the picture are from a folk song of the sixties that was sung a lot at war protests. Another time, another war, but the same old, same old. “When will we ever learn”?

back to top

September 20, 2006 For Better or Worse

In a wedding, man and woman make a commitment for “better or worse.” So, in a much smaller way, does one make a commitment to a home Growing Power Garden. The evaluation during the next few days will point out the ‘better’ and the ‘worse’ of my commitment to this garden.

September 20, 2006

First we will start with the overview of the garden today. You will notice less green as in the pictures during the summer. For ‘better’ we have the herbs (mint, basil, etc), kale, flowers, grape leaves and compost casting tea worm system. For ‘worse’ we have the tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. In the in-between mode, we have the beans, hot peppers and radishes. More pictorial and written details to come.

As the garden dies, I planted new seeds today, the ‘Spanish onion’ seeds to be grown as greens, and a planter of garlic seeds. Harvey Taylor gave both kinds of seeds to me last Sunday.

The slow-down I have been talking about for days finally started to happen today, when I spent a few hours in the garden this morning, moving worms and compost from outside into the Growing Power box in the sunroom, planting seeds, picking fruits of plants and other same old, same old work.

It is during this time in the garden the thought of “for better or worse” came to me as a way to not only describe a marriage commitment and a garden, but as a way to describe our commitment to life. Often in life we face a commitment to someone or something that is imperfect. I remember being a caregiver for my parents in their dying years who both were facing many illnesses, both physical and mental, including my dad’s bout with Alzheimer’s. There were many times when they were difficult to deal with, full of ingratitude and treating my wife and me poorly. Yet my commitment to them overcame all of the ‘worst’ in dealings with them.

The same goes for friends, relatives, family and even our enemies when they do something we find repulsive or ugly. I often reflected that in the beatitudes, those paradoxical sayings of Jesus, how he forgot one: “Blessed are the ugly for they are beautiful in the eyes of God.”

So in exploring this mystery of this garden you will see some beautiful things and some not so good. However, because of my commitment to this work, “for better or worse” it really does not matter.

This commitment for better or worse needs to be based on our priorities in life. Sometimes we cannot do what we want to do in life because of a higher commitment. For example my commitment ‘for better or worse’ in my life is higher for my wife and family than it would be for my garden or doing certain actions that I feel like doing. We all have our commitments and priorities, for better and worse, and we all need to take the tough times with the good times to keep our commitments alive and well.

back to top

September 19, 2006 The Peddler and Worms

First thing this morning I got a visit from my old friend Jim Godsil who I have mentioned on this site a number of times. After a quick tour of the inside out garden and components he got to the business at hand. He asked me if I would take part in an urban agriculture movement he is trying to foster right here in Milwaukee. I hesitantly and nervously said yes to some of his suggestions. I hesitated because Godsil identifies himself as the “peddler” for a very good reason. He is always peddling something, starting up something, agitating, in a good way, persons to get involved in what he sees as a holistic movement toward justice and peace, grounded in the earth and our daily lives. If others of you want to share in this movement to bring Growing Power to the home gardens and vacant lots of Milwaukee, let Godsil (he is the main person behind this Milwaukee Renaissance site) or me know.

With persons like the ‘peddler’ around it is hard to move more into contemplation as I was talking about yesterday. Hopefully today was a ‘transition’ day for the move and tomorrow I can ease more into the contemplative mode, starting with pondering the progress and mistakes of the summer garden.

June 10, 2006

August 2, 2006

Here, on the left, is a picture of the outside garden on June 10th, before planting. We got a late start this year. At the top of this diary page is a picture of the garden as it looked on July 2, 2006 and below is a picture from the August 2nd diary entry. Tomorrow I will take a picture of the garden now in the fall. These views of of the garden, from barren soil, to some growth, to fully grown, to dying, give you an overview of the life and death history of the outside garden. The only part of the garden to be consistent during this entire period is part you do not see, the worms, in the soil, in the box, condo or depository. They keep on eating waste, making castings and multiplying. The worms are like the peddler (no offense to Godsil or the worms); they keep on restoring life to the discarded and casting out riches for the taking.

Today I got an email response from the Mayor in response to my 10 suggestions to reduce violence in Milwaukee. Like most politicians he did not directly respond to most of the ideas, but he did respond to the one suggestion to reduce violence by supporting the Housing Trust Fund to provide affordable housing to homeless and low-income residents. He said he “was not against the Housing Trust Fund.” However, he is not putting the money for it in his proposed budget for next year because it “simply comes down to available funds in the city budget.” Yet he says he is working hard to reduce violence. Now that kind of statement, unlike the castings of worms or the words of the ‘peddler’ is real BS.

back to top

September 18, 2006 Contemplation

My picture evaluation of the outside garden will need to wait at least one more day to begin. However, this morning’s email did bring a good article about the growing potential of urban agriculture. The article came via Godsil, a friend since 1965, who is the person responsible for this Renaissance web site and the person who introduced me to Growing Power. You can find the interesting article at: This evening I got a phone call from Godsil saying he would like to stop by and see in person my garden tomorrow. I was hoping he would come by when it was in full bloom and not fading away as it is now. However, by waiting till now he will see the full system in place, two compost piles, two rain barrels for making tea, worm condo, worm depository as well as the plants that are still growing and producing. He can see some of my success and failures more clearly in the fall of the outside garden and the rebirth of the Growing Power inside garden in the sunroom. This visit might provide a good beginning to my evaluation process.

When someone I know told me today that her 13-year daughter was brutally beaten and raped over the weekend my heart ached. The violence in Iraq, the violence on our city streets, the violence all around us seems to be on the rapid increase. Can the urban agriculture movement in the article above keep up with the rapidly increased violence? It and other movements toward peace and solidarity are not now keeping pace.

I have looked for the answer to violence on the outside and now feel compelled to look deeper inside myself. Days like today when I do not spend much time in the garden, reading or reflecting or just being and doing nothing move me, I believe, in the direction of violence and away from inner peace, I need to go more inside out in life, not outside in. Oh I was busy shopping, cooking, and helping a friend get an ambulance for Sierra Leone and all sorts of good activities. Action is good, but without contemplation it is just business.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who withdrew from the world, was a great spiritual writer who wrote on issues of war, pace, human rights and justice. Although he died over 40 years ago, his writings on such issues remain relevant today. The more he withdrew from the world into a monastic lifestyle the more perspective and understanding he received. His writings are so universal that they still attract persons. I try to include one quote from Thomas Merton in every “Living Stones” newsletter.

Maybe this is the first lesson to be learned from Growing Power Urban garden, withdrawing from the business of shopping for food to take the time to slow down and grow food is a contemplative way of being that we all need. There are many other ways to foster our contemplative side: meditation, reading, praying, walks, and just doing nothing. If home gardens were as plentiful as guns in the home would there be so much violence?

back to top

September 17, 2006 Paradox

Tomorrow I will start evaluating and questioning my summer Growing Power home model garden. In the questioning I will not so much seek answers but to learn more about why some plants flourished and others did not and what methods worked and did not worked. I am learning that, as with life, there are no easy answers to improving, but there are always ways to build on the success you discover and to lessen the mistakes you made.

Garden, like life, is full of paradoxes, not answers. Some examples from the garden: A small seeds planted in the ground produces a large plant above ground. The castings of one of the least of all life forms, a worm, are rich in enzymes and healthy organic growing power. Waste becomes a source of growth.

The paradoxes of life are even more amazing: Dying to oneself you becomes your true self. Giving is receiving. Desire leads to suffering.

In life, like in a garden, it is important to learn how to live with the tensions of a paradox rather than find answers. In a garden rain is needed, yet is not the answer. In fact too much rain can harm or flood the garden. In life, we need material items to live, but that is not the answer. In fact too much material items can harm or cut us off from real life.

Jesus, the master of the paradox, used it frequently to preach: The last shall be first. Unless you die you will not find life. Blessed are the poor. You have ears and eyes yet do not hear or see.

The thing with a paradox, in a garden or in our life, is that we need to learn to live with the tension it causes and not always seek an easy answer.

I sometimes lament not getting more answers to my gardening questions from the staff of Growing Power. However they have given me the basics of the Growing Power way, and my questions should lead to learning rather than to easy answer.

In life for me, a great paradox is how much easier it is to preach than to practice.

back to top

September 16, 2006 New and Improved

Today Loren finished work on the new and improved Growing Power Box in the Sun-room and we added some compost from the compost pile and some worms from the worm condo to it.

The improvements make a much stronger box. Last year the weight of compost, castings and water pushed out the sides of the box, causing it to leak. Loren put reinforcements in the box so now it will no longer warp with the wet soil. Also he repainted parts and sealed the inside with a layer of plastic. Rather than staple the plastic to the sides, we added some compost and worms to the box first and than punched holes in the bottom of the box from the bottom side up through the plastic. The drainage into the tray below collecting the casting tea should be better. After we finish adding more compost, worms, and castings to the box, we will trim the plastic around the top.

Last year we did not finish the box till January and than planted the seeds. This year we will have the box ready to be seeded in a few weeks and, from experience, we know what to plant: Arugula, a particular lettuce mix, and kale.

Speaking of kale, which I have a lot of recently on this site, and eating kale which we did tonight again in a stir fry, late last night I wrote a rap for my friend, the longshoreman-poet, Harvey Taylor. Although poorly said, I will now repeat it:

Rap to Kale
Hail Kale that grow so quick and green all year around.
In the spring, summer, fall and winter on the kale mound
It grows, is cut and grows some more, is cut and grows again.
In the sun, cold, wind, heat, night, day and in the rain
It grows, is cut, brought in the house, washed and made ready
For garden salads, a stir fry in olive oil and is a steady
Good, delicious addition to all kind of dishes
That pleases the taste buds of everyone’s wishes.

You can add your own ‘grooves’, rap talk for the background sound to this rap, or better yet play the “Growing Power” song Harvey wrote at this site:

Our life is sometimes like that of a worm in a Growing Power box full of kale. We are always seeking more to consume, fear the light, and fail to see the new life growing around us.

back to top

September 15, 2006 Relocating Worms

It is time to move the working worms making castings in the worm condo outside, in to the Growing Power Box in the sun-room. To do that I placed a fine screen, like we use in windows and doors, over the worm condo box where the worms have been busy all summer turning compost into castings. On top of the screen I placed fresh compost and the burlap I used to keep the box cool. The worms crawl through the screen to reach the fresh food.(In the picture on the side I lifted up the screen so you you could see a worm on the way through the screen to the fresh compost.) Worms have a natural instinct to eat new food and do not eat their own castings. I put the screen on a week ago, before I left on my trip out West. Tomorrow after the Growing Power box is ready in the Sun-room and some fresh compost is placed in it, I will put the compost on top of the screen, now full of worms that have crawled through the screen, into the box. I will repeat this process a few more times until almost all of the worms from the worm condo are in the Growing Power box.

The remaining soil in the worm condo box will be mostly worm castings, the high-enriched compost, and the real power behind Growing Power. I could use a rough ¼ inch screen to get out the lumps and make some fine soil from it. But that is not necessary for my purposes. I will use some of it to put a layer on top of the Growing Power box to plant my seeds in, and the rest I will store for next spring. I talked to Will Allen of Growing Power today briefly and was told I could store the castings in five gallon barrels for an extensive time just watering it once and a while.

I continue to feed the worms in the depository pile in the back of the garden. Before it gets real cold I will make sure to put a lot of food - rough compost - on the pile and put a layer of leaves and wood chips over it. This top layer, along with any snow-covering, will keep the soil below warm for the winter months. Remember compost is ‘hot’ inside and generates heat.

So some worms get to live inside in my insulated but unheated sun-room and some worms stay outside for the winter months. Either way the worms stay alive and do their thing: eat compost and making rich castings and multiply, although much more slowly in the winter than in the summer.

In the next couple of weeks I will give you some of the success and failures of my first year of using ‘worm power’ in the home model Growing Power Box and Garden. I will try to add some grounded philosophy and a worm view to my evaluations.

For a philosophic observation on the above transfer of worms from summer to winter living conditions, I can only say if we humans treated all people of the world as well as Will Allen and Growing Power treat their worm livestock, and as I am trying to do, this world would be a better place. Equality among worms is not hard to understand but equality among humans is.

back to top

September 14, 2006 All Is Well!

The sun returned to Milwaukee today. I understand that for the five days I was in sunny California it was dark and dreary here. Catching up on things, I did not have much chance to work on the garden outside. But a quick check of compost piles, worm depository and worm condo and plants left me feeling “All is Well.”

Naturally my view of the garden today is affected by how I see it. A good quote I heard over last weekend at the conference was “How you see is what you see.” So if I am looking for all in the growing power garden to be well I will see it that way. This does not mean that you overlook mistakes or what is wrong but simply that you are always looking for what is good in the garden and in life. This fits well with another favorite saying of mine: “You always find what you are looking for.”

Tomorrow will start the transition of the outside Growing Power garden, in to the Growing Power Box in the Sun room. Loren will have the box ready on Saturday, and I can start moving the worms from the condo to their inside winter home. The worms in the depository will stay outside with plenty of compost to give them heat and eat over the winter months.

The nation-wide scare on E Coli in packaged fresh spinach, something I used to purchase, gave me an even deeper appreciation of the kale I planted last summer. It keeps on growing, rain or shine, cold or hot and the more you pick it the more you get. Most importantly it taste great in salads and cooked. When I was gone my wife, who had first doubted the growing of Kale, came up with some wonderful uses of it with homemade pasta sauce and other dishes. At least that is what she says since there were no leftovers when I got back. She just put the fresh kale from the garden in some hot dishes and it shrunk into a tasty green delight. She is now bragging, as I always do, about creating new recipes. However, probably like mine they are never to be repeated, at least in the exact same way. Tonight, her day off of work, she tried some creative cooking using some homemade pesto from our garden basil mixed with breadcrumbs to top our baked tilapia fish. It was good! Tomorrow I will pick more basil for more pesto.

Gardening and creative cooking seem to go hand and hand. In a garden you are always looking for new and improved ways to grow affordable healthy food. That is what attracts some of us to Growing Power. So it is natural that a gardener when cooking would be looking for new creative ways to use the food at hand. “How you see is what you see.” “All is Well.”

back to top

September 13, 2006 California Green

I just returned home to family and my garden from the Pasadena and LA area of California. I was there for a conference on “Spirituality and Politics” and to visit a few friends. Here are some impressions.

A quote from the conference that made sense: “How you see is what you see.”

There are beautiful flowers and trees everywhere but no parks or open spaces to be seen.

The landscape is green or brown. Green when watered, brown when dried or mountainous.

My friend whom I was visiting seemed uptight at times, busy, on the go, with too much to do. When I mentioned to her my image of Californians as ‘laid back’ persons her comment was that “They need to be or they would all have nervous breakdowns.”

Everywhere I have gone, Guatemala, Milwaukee, Cape Cod, this summer I have always found persons interested in the Growing Power method using worms. The only person in California who was interested was the eight year old son of my friend, who was interested in worms from the movie “How to Eat Fried Worms.”

Every piece of land has a house or business on it. No vacant land or empty space in California.

Mountains in the background, the Pacific Ocean nearby, sunny days, warm weather, all the conditions for “paradise” but spoiled by the hectic, smoggy, crowded, car-driven land.

Being in California, especially driving in California helped me to renew my commitment to slow down, contemplate more. California may have lots of roses but can Californians stop to smell them?

Being poor in California is a lot tougher than being poor in Milwaukee.

Being back at home, Loren having finished the inside of the growing power box, and the constant rain during the days I was gone, all are in preparation for me to get serious on working on the inside and outside garden.

back to top

September 7, 2006 Sorry No Show

Yesterday I promised some new garden pictures today, speaking the words that I would not be posting until I return from my trip to California next Wednesday. However, caught in the business of the day, making calls to people in need for our St. Vincent De Paul group, working on the garden one more time before the trip, driving persons for appointments, packing and doing last minute things, I forgot all about taking pictures.

However, even though a picture is worth a thousand words, as they say, I am not going to substitute a lot of words for the absence of pictures today. I will just take my camera along and bring back some garden-type pictures from sunny California. The conference is on “Spirituality and Politics” but I will keep myself grounded with checking out gardens. I understand Pasadena, where the conference is, has a beautiful botanical garden.

One nice thing, I am sure I have mentioned before, is that having worms as a livestock makes it easy to be gone for a few days. I fed the worms in the worm depository some fresh compost today which should last them for a week or so. I also put a screen over the worm condo with some fresh compost on it so that when I return some of the worms will be on top and ready to move out of the outside condo into the Growing Power Box in the Sun Room. Loren will be done with the repair of the box when I return, compost is ready and there will be plenty of castings to start the growing inside. This year, having learned from last winter, I know what kind of greens to plant.

In terms of the outside plants, my dear wife has agreed to water if necessary to spread some ‘tea’ from the rain barrels around. A growing power garden may mean some work but it is something you can walk away from for a while and not need to worry about. I wish more things in life were like that, that I could feel so attached to and detached from at the same time.

back to top

September 6, 2006 Driving Christiana

Today I gave my African niece from Sierra Leone another driving lesson. We have been practicing on and off for almost a year but now as her driving test approaches we need to get more serious. I had her go on the expressway today for the first time. She did okay but I realized that when you are driving at a high speed you do things, like changing lanes, differently than you do in normal city driving. I noticed that one must turn more slowly and gradually in changing lanes the higher the speed. Is that not like life, the faster we go through life the more we must slow time when turning or changing directions?

Also today a young man was telling me how because of past mistakes and encounters with the law he fears certain situations that normally he would not fear. It is the same situation with many young persons, a mistake in the past comes back to haunt them in the future. I remember reading a book by Tom Wolfe, author of the “The Right Stuff” and other popular books, in which an ordinary man has his whole life radically changed by getting a parking ticket. One thing logically leads to another until he is an escaped prisoner. This spiraling of events might seem far out until you see it happen in your own life or someone else’s life. Stopping the spiral is very difficult. It takes a lot of slowing time while keeping up with the speed of life around us.

My model home growing garden power garden is like this. I needed to learn from the persons at Growing Power but also by trial and error. As I have recorded in this diary, some of my errors, choice of seeds, not enough compost in worm condo, etc. have caught up with me and have cost. Only by slowing down and reflecting on these mistakes have I been able to keep them from spiraling and leading to bigger and bigger problems with the garden.

I am going to California Friday for a conference on “Spirituality and Politics” with some very reflective persons like Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr and Anne Lamont, persons who have dug deeply into life and by reflection have grown. In fact Richard Rohr’s institute, one of the co-sponsors of the conference, is called “Contemplation in Action”, a name often used in reference to one of my historical heroes, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Being a contemplative in action would rid one of spiraling life.

Tomorrow I will try to talk by pictures from the garden so you have thousands of words in a few pictures to reflect on until I return to this “diary of a worm” next Wednesday.

back to top

September 5, 2006 Cultural Gardening

Today I received an email from a friend in India. He is a Jesuit Brother who works with farmers growing crops and livestock. I had just sent him my last issue of “Living Stones.” He said he had a hard time understanding what I was talking about, especially my mention of Growing Power, although an area where we share an interest is in affordable agriculture.

The other day I received a personal email from a friend who lives in Holland concerning the same issue of “Living Stones.” He is a writer and he communicates daily with friends like myself by funneling emails of interest to persons on various lists. He grew up in the USA, and we share an interest in nonviolence and the Catholic Worker.

What I have learned from these two emails is that some cultures, like Dutch and American, are more similar than some like Indian and American. Also consistent communications makes for much simpler understanding of the other.

In Growing Power we use vermiculture, a word not yet in the dictionary that refers to the central role of the worm in the growing process. Gardening or farming using vermiculture, or gardening and farming using conventional means, are alike in many ways and have the same goal: growing plants. However, they are radically different and have different languages, fertilizer or castings, water or tea, organic or not, condensed or large space, planting or casting. Both need sun, heat and water. Both can use compost but compost or use of waste is essential, like the worm, to Growing Power.

There is a counter-cultural rising in America that I think the Growing Power movement is a small part of. It also includes persons dismantling racism, working for common good, concerned passionately for the poor and marginalized, sick of violence and using nonviolence. Like a seed in the garden, each day when watered and nurtured, we grow a little more. As the world grows smaller we grow larger since now we can travel and communicate to each other, be we in India, Guatemala, Holland or the USA.

Today I did get out in the garden. Besides, “the same old, same old” daily care of garden and livestock (worms), I planted some mum plants, which my wife had purchased, in the front yard, and I purchased some tulip and daffodil bulbs inexpensively in the Aldi Food Store for the front. When I planted a seed, bulb or plant I topped the ground around the new plant with castings from the worm condo and than placed coyer (coconut shavings) on top of the castings and watered it all thoroughly with casting tea from the rain barrels. This three-step addition — castings, coyer and tea — give the plants a better chance to flourish. Also this is different from how I planted in the past. A new culture of planting that is Growing Power.

back to top

September 4, 2006 Work of a Garden

As long as I am here
I will do the work.
What is the work?
Ease the pain of living.
(From a poem of Allen Ginsburg)

These words, which I just heard for the first time last week and quoted in my newsletter “Living Stones”, really struck home today, Labor Day. One of my ways to “ease the pain of living” for myself is to work in my garden. Yesterday I had even promised to return this diary to more garden observations and thoughts, something I enjoy. However, today a rainy drizzling dark kind of day made both the joy of garden work and my reporting on it impossible.

However, I did ease the pain of living for my wife and myself by working with her, Peter and Loren (over for a visit) on decluttering our basement for an hour or so. Basements like mine are good reminders of how complicated and cluttered with ‘stuff’ our lives can become. There was all kinds of stuff to be given away, thrown away or stored away in an organized fashion. Simplifying and getting rid of cutter is a good way to ‘ease the pain of living.”

However the best way of doing the work of life, I think, is to ease the pain of living for others. There are many ways to do that: offering hospitality, serving the needs of others, especially the poor and marginalized, working to end war and create an environment of peace.

Working to ease the pain of living can also cause us more pain if we let it. Sometimes when a person communicates, by word or deed, a message that people do not want to hear, no matter how true it may be, the messenger gets attacked, not the message. When that happened me to me I used to feel hurt and dejected, like something was wrong with me. However, I now realize that when someone attacks the messenger and ignores the message it is usually because they cannot respond to the message. Realizing this fact is a lot easier than not allowing the attack to personally upset us or to react to it, which often makes the situation worse.

Back to the Basics: Worms and Home Growing Power Garden and Box. Loren is near completion in rehabbing the Growing Power Box in my Sun Room, and although the garden is still producing, I hope to get growing in the box started in the next few weeks. Now a brief update on two plants.

Kale, the green that a friend introduced me to this summer, is a wonderful one to grow. It seems to grow in all kinds of weather and the more you pick it, the more it grows. Best of all it tastes delicious in a salad or cooked. Tomatoes are having a good year from what I see and understand everywhere except in my garden. As I mentioned for some reason the vines I grew this year started too early to die. We will not have enough for the great amount of homemade pasta sauce my wife makes. However, they are still bearing delicious fruit — not as much as I would like, but enough for my wife to make a good homemade salsa today using the tomatoes, herbs and hot peppers from the garden. Good salsa can certainly eases ‘the pain of living’.

back to top

September 3, 2006 How Now Brown Cow?

Cows were a big part of our day today, as my wife joined our son and his and his family and his wife’s parents to watch our grandchildren show young cows in the Shawano Country Fair. Our two grandsons were showing cows from the diary farm across the road from their house in rural Wisconsin.

Waiting for the “peewee showmanship” class, I watched the judge, who was the father of the children across the road, judge the young cows in competition before him. He really knows his cows and in quite some detail would describe their features. When he came to the 5–8 year olds he gave way to another judge, since his own son and three of his calves were being shown. For the young children it was not so much a contest, they all won the same prize, but a chance to learn how to prepare and show cows. At the end of the showing the judge walks up to each child and interviews him or her. My oldest grandson was the first person to be interviewed. As soon as the judge stuck the microphone in the face of this quite large calf my grandson was leading around, the calf bolted, dragging my grandson a ways until his collar came off. Neither my grandson nor the cow was injured, but it offered both a serious and comic moment to the event. Latter a number of cows also bolted the children. One of them, a brown small calf, just lay down and refused to get up. Now that is what I call a real “sit in”. The calves that bolted, I guess were too young to know better — that cows are submissive animals to human beings. In time they will learn and follow the herd.

On the way home tonight my wife and I had a discussion about the value or lack of value of civil disobedience in the USA today, particularly against the war in Iraq. She makes a good argument that it would really not make much of a difference to the USA government’s action. I think an individual has an obligation to take action when he or she feels moral principles are being violated, and if enough individuals take action it will become a movement. Just like in the civil rights struggle and the struggle of many countries for freedom, nonviolent civil disobedience can make a difference.

The young cows instinctively reacted to being led around in front of a crowd. We human beings react or respond consciously to being led to do what we do not want to do. But as the young calves will learn to be led around, we can choose to think and act for ourselves.

There is not much garden news today or yesterday, but it will return tomorrow, Labor Day, as I get back to the adventures of the home model growing power gardens. In growing power the worms are not led around but just do their thing, yet make excellent livestock for us human beings.

back to top

September 2, 2006 Four For Fishing

This morning I watered the garden thoroughly before heading up north with my wife to take our two grandsons fishing. Two boys became four when their cousin who was visiting and the boy across the road wanted to go along. The four boys are all between the ages of 6 and 8. We went to good fishing lake nearby. Fishing from the land turned out to be a hard thing to do since there were lots of weeds and overhanging trees.

We had seven fishing rods but just keeping three or four of them in the water proved beyond my ability. We had three sets of tackle lost to over hanging trees, a number of lost hooks, one rod dropped over a bridge in the water but rescued by a good Samaritan (I called him the road saver) and my patience was running thin. One of my grandsons echoing a complaint of my dear wife said ‘why are you yelling?’ However, three of the four boys did catch a fish, small ones but a fish each. Near the end of the hectic fishing time the four boys were having fun running around and wrestling in the park area and my wife and I had some quiet time to fish.

I learned fishing is a patient sport and four young boys are more than I can handle at one time in fishing and keep my composure.

Also my plans for a growing power farm on my son’s nine acres did not work out this year. They got a compost pile going and my daughter-in-law planted some tomatoes and corn. Maybe next year we can get the growing garden power system going. They still have the great source of nitrogen, cow manure from the farm across the street.

Today reminds me of a lesson of life that I have learned over and over again, especially from children. Live in the present and take what comes to you and find joy and hope in it. My efforts to get four boys fishing at one time or to see the farmland develop into a growing power country garden are not so important as finding joy where I am at, being patient repairing fishing lines, or looking with hope at my son’s land. Looking for greener pastures in our minds can sometimes blind us to the treasure before our eyes. I renew my prayers for eyes to see and ears to hear.

back to top

September 1, 2006 Symbol of Hope

Dawn’s porch

In this diary I had talked about “Dawn’s Porch”, a story of how some persons came together to help a woman who had been struggling for 12 years to provide good housing for persons with mental illness. This group gathered after an individual discovered that the major newspaper’s story on how Dawn’s homes were “rat and roach infested” and houses of ‘horror’ was completely wrong. Yesterday an article appeared in the local Catholic paper that got the story right.

I posted where to find this article on a local West-side listing as I had been keeping this group informed of this story, especially since some of them have opposed housing and health care on the West-side for persons with a mental illness. One of the persons in this group challenged me on why I was talking about a project that was in another neighborhood. However in the same listing he mentioned that he has first noticed that Wisconsin Community Services (WCS) had purchased a large building in the neighborhood. Actually they had purchased the building a few years ago but were unable to move their health clinic there since the city and local neighborhood groups fought their presence, saying the health clinic for persons with a mental illness would “destroy” the neighborhood and harm the nearby Catholic High School (which I attended). Well, thanks to a Federal Court ruling the clinic has been operating in this building since last February. Clearly the neighborhood has been enhanced, not destroyed, by this renovated building and the health clinic.

All of the above is to suggest you seek your “symbols of hope” wherever you can find them. We all need stories of success, be they Dawn’s porch, the WCS clinic, the end of apartheid in South Africa, or a home Growing Power Garden.

So that is another reason to build a growing power home system in your backyard or an empty lot nearby, to make it a symbol of hope for all that have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Today I started on the front yard, after dong my daily chores of watering the garden with ‘tea’, picking a few things, working a little with compost and the worm condo. Even the ‘same old, same old’ can be a symbol of hope.

My newsletter “Living Stones” went out today, this time as a “word attachment’ rather than an in-line email, which I was having trouble with formatting. I hope persons open and read it. It was a good issue, hopefully full of hope, even if I need to say so myself. For a free subscription email me.

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 September 08, 2011

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