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

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

GP Box 10/14/06

Garden 07/02/06

Worm Depository

October 31, 2006 Finally

Finally, we had two sunny days in a row. Finally, I completed the Retreat in Daily Life that I have been writing. Finally, the medication arrived in the mail from my new health insurance pharmacy. There were other ‘finallys’ today, but for every finally there is a new beginning. The sun goes away for the night, medicines need to be renewed and the Retreat in Daily Life will need revision.

In this way life parallels the growing cycle. When plants finally bear fruit and vegetables, they die only to rise again. In my sun-room growing box, today Loren and I noticed pepper, tomato and other plants rising up with the seeds of the greens I planted in the worm castings. We need to pick them or transplant them since we do not want to interfere with the growth of the greens we planted. However, even the greens will finally stop bearing new food to be picked, and die only to rise up in some form or other from the waste and compost. The cycle of life keeps on going, rising and dying, over and over again. As it says in the Bible:

“What was, will be again,
What has been done, will be done again,
And there is nothing new under the sun!” (Ecclesiastes 1: 9)

At first sight this repetitive cycle of ‘finallys’ being new beginnings seems depressing. But on closer look this way of nature and way of our lives can be hopeful and joyful if we can just accept the great paradox of endings being new beginnings.

Today I read about a conference in Albuquerque, NM Dec. 30-Jan. 1st called “Holding the Tension: The Power of Paradox.” I will not be attending but would like to. This conference would be good way to finally end this year and begin a new year.

Happy Halloween! October finally ends and November begins.

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October 30, 2006 Good News and Bad News Day

As the old cliché goes “I have some good news and bad news” for you today. First the bad news.

First was a newspaper article from the nation’s accountant-in-chief, that our country is on the “path to financial ruin.” For more of this bad news check out the whole article at More bad news came out of the radio today as I was driving around on my errands. On public radio I heard a report put out by the British government saying how unless we take action now we are on the path to ecological ruin that would cause more economic ruin. Check on NPR web site for more of this story. I heard more bad news today but if you are not already depressed hearing these two stories, which I believe to be true, I am.

Now for the good news. Saint Francis said to his followers: “Go out and preach the good news and if necessary use words.” Well, not being close to a Saint Francis I need to use words. However, I have a friend who some have called “a modern day St. Francis” who has learned the language of the poor by living with them, as one of them, in Central and South America as well as in the USA. He is an Oblate Catholic priest and his name is Lorenzo Rosebaugh. His religious order asked him some years ago to write his memoirs down and he did. The book is called To Wisdom Through Failure and you can get it from Epica publishers — read more at To Wisdom Through Failure?, where I’ve pasted information from their flyer. If you are in Milwaukee you can save on shipping costs by meeting with Lorenzo at my house at 7pm on Sunday, Nov. 5th. Email me for directions . I am reading his life story now and it is fascinating. It was a very down-to-earth adventure story.

The other good news of the day was that it was sunny and warm outside, a summer-type day. This morning I was able to get some good work time cleaning up the garden, building the compost pile and other such healthy outside work. For the first time in a long time I worked up a sweat working in the garden. It felt so good that when I went grocery shopping today I also stopped by the coffee shop for grounds (and got none) and went by the city dump to pick up probably the last batch of wood chips ‘til spring. The city dump, like the coffee shops, does not realize that wood chips, like coffee grinds, made good feed for compost for worms to make castings all year around. In fact the little bit of wood chips that was left were so broken down that some worms were already in it eating away. In fact it was so warm and sunny that my illness of yesterday went away for a while.

You, as I, I am sure, can find some good news and bad news in your day. The trick, however, is to feel the bad news without letting it get you down, and to feel the good news and allow it to lift you up. If you have figured out how to do this please let me know. Until that time, there will be good-news and bad-news days.

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October 29, 2006 Bright and Sunny!

My wife and I were both feeling sick today, but we made our way to the Green Bay area so that I could go the Packers game with my daughter-in-law and Pat could visit with our three grandchildren. My son, a police officer, usually works the Packers games but today was on duty at his regular patrol.

The Packers won, as they always do in the one game or so a year that I attend during the regular season. My wife got to visit with the grandchildren, something she does not have the opportunity to do as often as I do because of her work schedule. Both of us, at the game and outdoors, enjoyed the warm and sunny day it was this Sunday. Also I got to check on my grandsons’ progress on the compost pile. They had done their job, mostly thanks to my eight-year-old grandson, the one reluctant to do the work. He got his mother and two-year-old sister outside early today to finish the job of building the pile. Even my son, who is not too enthusiastic about gardening, contributed to it by purchasing a bale of hay to top the pile. My two-year-old granddaughter thought the hay was to play in and we needed to get her off the compost pile a few times.

It must have been sunny and warm today in Milwaukee, because the temperature in the sun-room tonight is in the 60’s and the temperature of the soil in the Growing Power box is 70 degrees. Now that October is drawing to an end, the fall weather we expect in October has finally arrived. The next few weeks will be crucial for the seedlings in the GP box. This is the point of growth last year when some of the plants declined. Hopefully the adjustments I made in the GP box will take effect and they will continue to grow. My big question of the day is “To Thin or Not Thin” the plants. According to the packet instructions they should be further apart, but according to Growing Power advice, because of the rich soil of the castings and tea, they can grow closely together.

The greens I expected to do the least, the Encore lettuce mix, is dong better than the plants I expected to do the best, kale. The arugula is in the middle and doing well, but considering it has had most of the growing light that is not saying a lot. I moved the growing light over to the kale area yesterday and we will see how the additional light makes a difference.

If I do not seem too insightful tonight blame it on my not feeling well. When you do not feel well everything seems to be dull, even on bright and sunny days.

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October 28, 2006 Dawn’s Porch Too!

Dawn’s Back Porch

You have heard me on this site talk about building Dawn’s Porch. Dawn is a generous woman who has opened her houses up to the poor and disabled. The local newspaper published a very unjust and untrue article about the status of her homes last spring, causing her great harm. Discovering this, some of us tried to help her out by getting some local church groups to rebuild the front porch of a vacant house that she was trying to rehab; the city was fining her for the condition of the porch. The fine continued after the front porch was finished because she also needed a back porch on this same house. So the same person who engineered the front porch, with help, put on a back porch. Today we finished it off except for a space for a chair lift that she plans for the porch, to make the home more accessible to the handicapped.

I also talked to Dawn about building a Growing Power garden in one of her four backyards next spring. She was interested and hopefully I will have a few people help me with this project. Anyone interested?

As I was explaining to Dawn and her handyman today, the key to growing power is in worm power. In fact talking to her made me feel like I’d better check on my worms that are outside in the worm depository. As with the ones in the GP box in the sunroom, they are out of sight but working. However unlike the ones in the box, I can only check on them until the ground freezes.

Speaking of worms, Tegan, my wiki gnome/web editor, sent me an outstanding quote today about worms. Jesus always said that the least of creatures would be the greatest, and this quote reaffirms this fact. Here it is: “Even in the worm that crawls in the earth there glows a divine spark. When you slaughter a creature, you slaughter God.” -Isaac Bashevis Singer, Writer, Nobel laureate (1904–1991). This thought fits in well with the new cosmology that my wife and some of my friends are exploring. I am not sure about the second sentence, but feel strongly about the first. God’s life is in everything. The Retreat in Daily Life that I am putting together is called: “Finding God in Everything: a retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world.”

I guess I am not sure about the second sentence, in part, because today I picked up 16 lbs. of smoked salmon at the meat shop that I had brought there the other day for smoking. Salmon, as I explained in an earlier posting, do die after they spawn in the river. So maybe that is the rationale for catching them and eating them. But what about the delicious chicken I spit roasted for dinner tonight? Oh well, I guess I can live with the first line and not think about the second, at least for now. At least I do not eat worms.

Tomorrow afternoon I will check on my grandchildren’s worms that we put in their compost pile last week. I had asked the two boys to put the rest of the rotting tomatoes and corn stalks on the pile.

My day progressed from Dawn’s back porch to the divine in worms to a quote to compost. All, like worms and God’s creatures, is connected.

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October 27, 2006 Green Party



Encore Lettuce Mix

At dusk today I took close-up pictures of the three types of Greens that we are growing in the Growing Power Home Model box: kale, arugula, and Encore lettuce mix. They all seem to be growing well. I am still concerned about too much or not enough water, but no one seems to have the answer for that question. Moving the light from above the arugula to above the encore lettuce mix has been good for the mix. It is now, after just a day, growing straight up. Tomorrow or so I will need to move the growing light above the kale, which now leans toward the light.

Since most days lately have been cloudy and dark, the growing light has really helped. After cleaning the sun-room today we had our Friday night Fish Fry, from a nearby church, in the room. The growing light and a candle on the table was enough for us to have a quiet take-out dinner.

Next Friday when I have the Cream City Fish Fry, featuring fresh smoked salmon, I will need all the space on the first floor of the house for eating. Some old friends from the sixties are coming over. I wish the greens would be big enough to cut next Friday for a great salad, but I doubt they will be.

Speaking of the Green Party and doubting, I may need to vote for the Green Party candidate for Senate. I always feel uneasy about voting, since I do not think it really brings change, but always end up doing it out of “obligation.” Usually I would vote for Senator Kohl who has the most money and always wins (the winning formula in politics seems to be “the winner is the one who spends the most money on the campaign”). However, this year because of Senator Kohl’s wishy-washy refusal to take a stand on the war in Iraq, for or against, I may need to vote for the Green Party candidate. The Repulican is an unknown, not even endorsed by his own party. My only other choice is not to vote on this race at all, something I have employed in the past. Usually I vote for the “least worst candidate” since I have not found one, Republican or Democrat, who supports my “consistent life ethic.” I wish voting were as meaningful and rewarding as gardening.

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October 26, 2006 Saved by the Light

Sitting down in the sun-room today for lunch I noticed the heater and air purifier were not running. I looked over at the growing light above the box and it was not on. There is a safety breaker at the outlet in the basement that leads to these two sockets in the floor. The freezer downstairs was plugged into the same circuit and it was off.

I reset the circuit and checked upstairs. Light and equipment were still off. I went back downstairs to try again. As I kept trying, I noticed the red button would go in and keep popping out. I unplugged everything that was in these two sockets in the sunroom and the red button still popped out. Now the main circuit breaker was okay and thus this was a mystery. Returning upstairs to the sun-room to contemplate the situation, I remembered that I had watered the plants in the sun-room this morning and one was close to socket in the floor. I got out the vacuum and sucked up any water that might have gone into the socket. Bingo, I reset the switch and all is well. The growing light was on again. Just to avoid this happening to the freezer again when I might not notice it as quickly, I plugged the freezer in to a different switch in the basement.

I moved the growing lights off to the right side of the box. Loren had constructed the the hook the light hangs on above the box so that I could hang the growing light in the middle, as in the picture above, or on the right or left. After a day or two I will move the light to the left side of the box so the plants there can grow into the light above instead of leaning to right as they do now.

The growing light today not only saved the food in the freezer but also by moving it will make the plants grow tall and straight.

Another natural act I performed today was to take 16 lbs. of salmon filets, from the fish Loren, Jim and I caught recently, to the butcher to be smoked. I am having a Cream City Fish Fry for friends featuring smoked salmon a week from Friday at my outside. I will get some fried and baked fish, but hope the smoked salmon is a hit. Also since a number of the people at the fish fry are from out of town, I will have some custard, like the Friday night fish fry, another famous Milwaukee staple. While taking the fish to the shop I dropped by Growing Power headquarters at 55th and Silver Spring to purchase some coyer (coconut shavings). They are still $8 a block that will expand when water is used. Coyer is good, mixed with castings and compost for inside plants. It maintains water well.

The greens in the box are noticeably taller. I will take a picture for you in a few days and hopefully in a few weeks they will be big enough to start cutting for salads.

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October 25, 2006 Game Boy Vs. Worms

Today I am reporting from the Graf house up North with the help of my two grandsons, 8 and 6 years old. As I write, Pokemon on Gameboy is distracting them.

This battle of Gameboy vs. doing other things has been going on all day. This morning when I wanted to take the three grandchildren to bury the worms in the compost pile out back, only the two year old girl would go with me. After burying the worms in the pile I noticed that there were a lot of old tomatoes, corn stalks and hay on the ground that should be in the compost pile. So she and I went back to get the wheelbarrow and the two boys who were still were involved with the Gameboys. I told them that they were “country boys”, it was a nice sunny day outside, and they should be helping us. The eight year old said that he was not a ‘country boy’ but a ‘tomboy’. I told him a ‘tomboy’ was a girl who played with boys. Than he said he was a ‘lazy boy’ and ‘house boy’. I said that I did not come all the way up there to argue about Gameboys and that the worms needed the food on the compost pile.

Both boys came with us outside and were quite helpful in loading stuff in the wheelbarrow for the compost. The worms were winning.

After we came back in they were back on their Gameboys. Only food — pizza and macaroni and cheese — could get them away for lunch. However, right after lunch they went right to the Gameboys. Gameboy was winning.

My eight year old has asked to make a direct comment: “I was a worm lover but when I started playing Gameboy I got addicted.” The six year old, who plays gameboy while walking around the house, says he is not addicted to Gameboy and likes worms. However, his actions speak otherwise.

My hopes of having my grandchildren help me build a Growing Power garden on their land in back is getting dimmer, just as the days are getting shorter. Maybe spring will bring a thaw from Gameboy and worms will be important again. In the meanwhile, the worms are in the compost pile with plenty of food for the winter months.

Carson says nothing can separate him from his gameboy. We hope he is wrong. When my two year old granddaughter gets up from her nap, maybe the two of us will go outside and check out the dairy farm across the street while the techno boys work on reaching new levels of Pokemon on Gameboy. I still have hope for her to be a ‘country girl’.

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October 24, 2006 Worm Delivery

Today I got my first request for worms, from someone in our church via a mutual friend, and made my first worm delivery, to my son and his family up north. For the person seeking worms, I am going to refer them to Growing Power, 55th and Silver Spring, where the policy is to give away free worms as long as the person will care for them. For my family, my grandchildren and I will take them out and place them safely in the compost pile tomorrow morning. Hopefully pictures will be coming.

Most of the worms in my worm depository and in the major depository at Growing Power are red worms, which Growing Power got from Africa over 10 years ago. However, other worms, like night crawlers, have discovered the outside compost pile and made a home in them and reproduced. All the worms seem to get along without conflicts or fights for turf. They all basically do the same thing: eat their weight in compost each day, and reproduce (they are unisex). Growing Power started off with about 30 lbs of worms many years ago and now has thousands of pounds, not even counting all the ones they give away free, like to me, which in turn have reproduced.

It was a good news delivery day as well as worm delivery day. I heard that my friend Dawn, who has houses for poor and disabled persons, may get a grant from a local church to repair one of her homes. I heard today from my friend Padre Lorenzo who is coming to town to promote his book: “To Wisdom Through Failure”. I heard from another friend, who with Lorenzo and me was part of the Milwaukee 14 in 1968, who is coming to town about the same time for the “Call To Action” conference.

Today I expected to work on my Retreat in Daily Life, but found myself sleeping late and working outside, cleaning the garden waste and putting another layer of plastic on one side of the sun-room, as well as picking up Loren and another friend who went fishing for salmon today. The good news here is that they caught two fresh salmon. For picking them up I get the fish after they clean and filet, it so I can have it smoked and serve it when my friends come to town next week.

One reason it was a ’good news’ day is that I did not spend much time reading the newspaper, did not watch TV news or read any magazines. So blocking out the bad news I could hear the good news. The only sad, more than bad, news I can remember hearing today is that there is another prayer vigil tomorrow, this time for a young man shot by a police officer when he approached the officer with a knife.

Worms crawl and work slowly. They seem to live in peace. We often walk and work hurriedly and seem to live in turmoil. My prayer is that we can all slow down, which would make for a more peaceful lifestyle.

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October 23, 2006 Fall Asleep

Fall seemed to be more present in the small town in Massachusetts where I went for my mother in law’s 90th birthday party last weekend. Saturday, my grand nephew and I took a long walk in the nearby state park, and the color and beauty of the fall season were everywhere.

Leaves fall from the trees in fall so the trees can bear the weight of the impending snow. It is a natural reaction of trees to cold weather. For elderly persons is only nature to shed pretense and say what they mean.

There were a lot of elderly persons at the birthday party so there was a lot of telling it like it is. Wisdom flowed like the champagne from the fountain. One of my favorite elderly persons, my wife’s elderly cousin’s husband, who like me, is of a Lebanese background was there. We talked ancestors (his father and my grandfather were from the same generation), politics, family relatinships.

All is well upon returning to the Growing Power Box. All that remains to do now is more plastic on the window, a better cleanup of the outside garden and watching the greens grow.

I am too tired to think and write more so will save more for tomorrow.

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October 20, 2006 There is a Season for Everything

There is a season for everything,
A season for plants to die and a season for plants to grow;

A season to plant inside and a season to plant outside.

A season for grape leaves to be picked and
A season for grape leaves to fall off the vine.
There is winter, spring, summer and fall time.

There is a time for a worm to lay low and a time for a worm to reproduce.
There is a time for spring, summer or fall plants,
A time to water and a time to let the soil dry out.

Here are the pictures of the worms today that I promised you yesterday, and of the worm depository ready for the cold winter months.

The sun-room box greens are growing. It is tough for me to tell since I see them every day but Loren, who comes over once and awhile, assures me they are growing.

A person who has seen many seasons is my mother-in-law. We are celebrating her 90th birthday this weekend. I will take some time out from this diary to celebrate this momentous event and be back on Tuesday.

Today I received the book my friend Father Larry Rosebaugh, OMI wrote: “To Wisdom Through Failure: a Journey of Compassion, Resistance and Hope.” In my pilgrimage to Guatemala? last April, I visited Lorenzo. His book is the story of his life and his pilgrimage to be present to the poor in Latin America. We are blessed to have Lorenzo back in the USA for a few months. He will be in Milwaukee near the beginning of November. The publisher of his book is Epica, I will take this small break from this diary to read my friend’s memoir.

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October 19, 2006 Warm Worms

Today after putting some more compost on the worm depository and before covering it with word chips I used a pitchfork to dig in the pile to check on the worms. They are doing well, growing, eating, and reproducing. With all the food and heat from the compost and the insulating of the leaves, wood chips and eventually snow, they should rest quietly over the winter deep within the pile.

Compost piles with the mix of nitrogen (like coffee grounds) and carbon (like wood chips) produce heat. So despite the cold outside, deep within the pile of ground it is warm. Digging deep, the worms find warmth.

In sending out an email for the Retreat in Daily Life that I am doing, called “Finding God in All Things: A retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world” I describe the experience as non-educational but as a way to deepen our experience of life. A fire burns in all of us and by digging deep within, by reflection and prayer, like the worms we can find heat and warmth. If anyone in the Milwaukee area is interested in this retreat, 1-½ hours per week from Advent till Easter, they can contact me. We are trying to offer it on the north and west side. Also it is being offered in the Twin Cities.

Fire can be good or, when out of control, destructive. The fire of a retreat or compost pile is good. The fire of war and violence is not. As violent fire kills more men and women in Iraq, I have noticed that when describing the source of the death of Americans the newspaper frequently says, “Died from injuries sustained when an explosive detonated near his vehicle”. At many of the prayer vigils for homicide victims (we will be at our fifth and sixth tomorrow), we often say “senseless violence.” Fire from a gun or bomb kills and reproduces more fire, more violence and death. Despite what the NRA would have us believe, guns are designed to kill, and guns do kill human beings. The more guns, the more fire power, the more deaths.

I took some pictures of the worms that I was inspecting and of the covered compost pile. I can remember seeing the pictures on my digital camera. However, tonight when I went to take the disk out of the camera it was not there. It was already in the slot in the computer, but none of the pictures were on it. When there is no disk in the camera the screen reads “No Card in camera”. That is not what happened outside, but despite what I saw on the screen, there are no pictures. A mystery to be solved latter. Tomorrow I will take the pictures again, this time with disk in the camera for sure, and display them on the posting tomorrow night. I’d rather read “No Card in Camera” than “died from injuries sustained when an explosive detonated near his vehicle” or hear “died from senseless violence”.

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October 18, 2006 Cut, Trash and Gold

Today was a very partly sunny day. For the first time in a long time I spent an extended period of time working outside. I cut down some of the stalks of plants, raked leaves onto the worm depository and into the worm condo (now compost maker), and cut the grass in front of the house, which also went into the worm condo box. The garden has a new fall trash look to it.

While cutting the grass one last time in front I noticed the city doing its fall pickup of leaves from the streets and gutters. Loren had already raked our front leaves and put them in the condo box but there were still plenty of leaves on our street. I noticed the little one-year-old boy next door and his mother watching the big city machinery at work. I am not sure what they were thinking, but all I could think of was what a great source of compost they were collecting.

With the grass, leaves, some kitchen garbage, and garden waste put into the worm condo box, I should have another resource of good compost in the spring. If it is cooked and compressed enough by spring I can leave the residual amount in the box when I take the worms from the Sunroom Growing Power box and put them back in the worm condo to do their thing for the summer (make castings).

I filtered out some more castings today and now have about two and half pails of this rich soil — what Will Allen calls ‘black gold’. According to Will I can keep the castings rich in nutrients during the winter by just adding some water to the pail once in a while. I will probably use some of it for household plants during the winter but the rest, with the castings from the GP box, will make for a rich topping soil for my growing mounds in the garden next spring.

After adding some more food to the pile I checked on my livestock, worms, in the worm depository. They are thriving. At the end of the month I will take a bucket of worms up to my son’s land so my grandchildren can have working worms in their composite pile. The major source of nitrogen for their pile was not coffee grounds but cow manure. However by now the manure has cooled off and mixed with the straw, the pile will no longer be too hot for the worms.

So here is the final scoop of the GP lesson of life today. Cut and trash all you want; as long as you recycle the waste through worms all will be well and new life will be made from it.

If you understand how the above applies to our everyday life please let me know. “How you see and is what you see!”

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October 17, 2006 Holy Ground and Holy Water

Another dreary day was upon us. Not a drizzle day but a dark, cloudy day. Started my waking day by making Holy Ground prayer vigils at the sites of four homicide victims, one site where three were killed — a mother and two adult sons. The other was at the site where a young deliveryman was shot. Both sites made the news (these days there are too many homicides for all to make it). One made it because there were three homicide victims. The other made it, with even more media coverage, because the victim was a white young male college student at UWM.

As we painted an angel on both sites, I could not help but wonder: if all homicides in Milwaukee got as much coverage, especially as that of the one young college student, might the community wake up from our numbness about violence around us and start doing something about it? There is so much violence around us, in Iraq and on the streets, that we need to be shocked into waking up to the idea that it is time to do something, like taking guns off the streets or bringing our troops home. This one type of waste, senseless violence, unlike food waste, cannot be recycled into more life, but just leads to more senseless violence.

Friends in Bay View made Holy Ground on of KK River last Saturday by turning out in big numbers to clean it up.

I was going to spend most of the day working on the Retreat in Daily Llife I am writing, but got a call from Loren asking if he could come over, since there’s no work painting on wet days. Yesterday he called to go fishing but I was too busy. Today he came over and started to work around the house, even raking the leaves for me in the front yard and putting them into the empty worm condo for making compost. Now I need to add some nitrogen, like coffee grounds and garden waste, to get another composite pile cooking over the winter.

He and I knew his real agenda was to go fishing. The salmon run, like the color of the leaves in the area, is reaching a peak in the Milwaukee River and soon will end. I decided to go fishing with him for a few hours, especially after enjoying a great smoked salmon dinner last night. I justified it saying it was a good way to bring some joy to a dreary day.

When we got to the slippery river bank Loren and the salmon were leaping for joy. The salmon were so thick in the water that often we snagged one as we pulled in our lines. After many bites and lost fish, in less than two hours, we caught three salmon worth taking home. I got to experience the thrill of pulling in a big fish again. We took them (Loren two and me one) to his house where he was to clean them and freeze them while I went back to work on the Retreat.

On World News tonight there was a health report of how good for us is a diet of fish about two times a week. It seems that fish, despite the concerns about mercury and stuff, has many more benefits for us. It turns out that a variety of fish is best, and that fish is good for a healthy heart and healthy mind. Tonight I got out the Fish Oil pills, Omega 3, that our son was taking in the past. As real fish is good for heart, fish oil is good for the mind.

Fish, like worms, are prehistoric animals. Some evolutionary theories have animal life emerging from the seas. I do not know for sure, but believe worms have been around since there was ground. If you think about it, fish from the water and other foods from the ground are our main sources for food and drink. Even meat from animals can be traced down back to food from the ground.

So standing on slippery ground along a river on a colorful fall day catching fish contains the essence of our physical lives. I failed to take a picture of this Holy Ground and Holy Water but do have one of Loren full of joy with one of his fish.

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October 16, 2006 Another Dreary Day

Today was a dreary drizzly day,
Dark, depressing and sunless.
The kind of day you just want to stay sleeping
And when awake you just keep going,

Shopping, talking, cleaning, doing something
To pass the time away.

It is the type of day you need to dig down a little
And use up some of the sunshine you have been saving
To remember the picture of a smiling granddaughter
And look past the dark clouds overhead.

It was too wet to work outside
Where a lot of cleanup work waits,
Leaves, dead plants just waiting to be thrown in the compost pile.

It was too dreary outside and thus inside to work cleaning up the basement
So I just kept going by doing stuff and
Waiting for a brighter day, which may not come for a while.

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October 15, 2006 Attitude of Gratitude

On this fall color peak day my wife and I drove to the country to check out the fall colors and buy apples and stuff at a farm store. Due to our late afternoon start and some clouds we did not get to see much color, but we did make it to the store. One of their specialties is apple pie made in a bag. I am not quite sure how cooking in a bag makes a difference but the apple pies sure are good.

I had a chance to visit with my wiki gnome Tegan and her husband, and to personally thank her for all the editing she has done on this site. I took them on a tour of the growing power projects inside and outside. I am one of those writers who really needs an editor, especially for grammar. If you have noticed a lot of grammar mistakes the last month or so it was solely due to my writing. Tegan was busy for a time, doing some political work and running her business doing wiki sites. Unlike regular web sites, wiki web sites like this one at MilwaukeeRenaissance, once set up, are easy to use and maintain. If you or anyone you know needs a dynamic web site, inexpensive and user-friendly, check out Tegan’s business at Like working with worms, wiki web sites are low maintenance and high producing.

Yesterday I exchanged emails with my grandson and my grandniece. Both were impressed by my large salmon fish, which today I picked up from the deli smoked and ready to eat [Bob gave us a nice big piece (yum) to bring home when we visited. Thanks for all the fish, Bob! — Tegan].

Although I did not work outside much today, it was a day to do so, insulating the sunroom, cleaning up the garden etc. At least I had the sun working for me today in the sunroom. I need to do some of this outside work this week, although my main commitment this week is to work on the Retreat in Daily Life.

Today in church and in the church bulletin I heard about a stewardship committee that was talking about ‘sustainability’, bus tours to wind energy sites and organic farms. Our Catholic Church, Blessed Trinity, is very small but extremely dynamic.

So today I say thanks for the sun, my church, Tegan, my growing power garden, family, friends, worms and apple pie.

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Oct. 14, 2006 Sun Helpers

sun helpers

Today was sunny, and a good day to help the sun in the sun-room. The major help to the sun is already in place: the growing lights (see picture above of the box today) that stay on about 14 hours a day. The other help was the small water-heated radiator, which I can set to go on when necessary. The third help is the plastic over the windows. I put up one layer of 4 mil plastic today on the west side. I will put another 4 mil over it and two layers on the east side behind the GP box. For the south doors I will put two layers of 4 mil plastic on the outer doors, and very clear plastic on the two middle doors so we can continue to have a view of the deck and garden all winter long. The 4 mil plastic says on the box that it is clear, but as you can see it is not. The really clear stuff, which I put on the middle two doors on the south side, is not nearly as insulating, but one must sometimes sacrifice efficiency for beauty.

The only other low-cost way I can help the sun light and heat the sun-room would be to put another layer of insulation below the floor of the sun-room. This is a very doable project, but not for me alone. But unless we have an extremely cold winter, between the real thing (the sun) and its helpers (grow lights, small heater and window insulation), we should be okay. The three salad greens in the GP box can do well in chilly weather and are rooted in soil warmer than the air because of the compost below the layer of castings. For example now it is it 59 degrees in the sun-room and 63 degrees in the soil.

The sun is an amazing source of light, heat and energy, but even the sun needs help once and awhile.

The retreat for Advent through Easter that I am working on is called: “Finding God in all Things: a retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world.” The sun is one object in which it is easy to find the presence of God. It is a source of light and heat for the world and always comes up every morning. With the mighty sun and the lowly worm working together you really have got something special: growing power.

If you are in the Milwaukee or Twin Cities area and are interested in joining a small group that meets weekly to share the retreat experience, send me an email at Taking a little time each day for reflection, and an hour and half a week to share, is a good way for us to be sun helpers to each other, bringing warmth and light.

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Oct. 13, 2006 The Revolution of the Heart

Muhammad Yunus

On the news today there was the story of Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for starting the mini-credit loan business that is allowing 100,000 persons to move out of deep poverty. The idea is simple. He gives a small loan, average of $200, mostly to women, which they can use to start a small business. For example, a woman in small rural village can purchase with the loan a cellar phone, which she in turn can rent out like a pay phone to the farmers in the village. The phone enables the farmers to check on market prices and such. 99% of the loans are paid back and the mini-loan program is now in 130 countries.

The Nobel laureate said two things that impressed me. One was that we can eliminate poverty in our time if we think we can. We become what we think. The second one is that one of the uses of the prize money was going to be to develop a system of affordable healthy food. Growing Power should contact him about a grant right away.

Mini loans and mini growing power gardens are in many ways a good part of the answer to eliminating world hunger. Loans for the materials need for mini growing power gardens would go a long way to eliminate world hunger.

This one person Muhammad Yunus, is a true revolutionary. His story reminds me of another quote from Dorothy Day that was on the back of the memorial mass program yesterday for my friend Mary Durnin. The quote was: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us”.

Will Allen of Growing Power, James Godsil of Milwaukee Renaissance, Mary Durnin of Milwaukee, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker are,with many other unsung persons, the true revolutionaries of the day.

Tonight I went to see the movie “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers” at a local coffee house. Despite the many technical difficulties they had showing the movie (probably due to Friday the 13th or goverment sabatoge) the message of the movie was loud and clear: USA private corporations make huge profit off the killing of Americans and Iraqis. This is an obscene condition that just goes on and on. Hopefully one person watching the movie tonight will have a “revolution of the heart” that can help bring an end to this war.

I think that like Muhammad Yunus, or the growing power urban farmer, the one-person revolutionaries in the world can get together to end poverty in the world and stop the war profiteers. We do become what we think!

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October 12, 2006 How Low Can You Go?

The back of the program at the Mass of Christian Burial today for my friend Mary Durnin revealed a quote that can serve as a motto for this Diary of a Worm: “I want to live as close to the bottom of the system as I can so when it collapse I won’t have far to fall.” (Dorothy Day)

For worms going low is natural. They eat, live, breathe, produce castings and reproduce below the ground, safe from any falling objects except bombs that burrow deep into the ground. We humans live above ground and seek to put ourselves higher and higher above the ground, other creatures, and sometimes other persons.

Maybe this why persons I have met, like Dorothy Day and Mary Durnin, that I consider ‘living saints’, are always so humble and always serving the least amidst us. For them being low comes naturally. “The least shall be the greatest.”

The temperature has gone so low today I put the small water heater on in the sunroom and purchased the plastic for insulating the window doors in the room. The seedlings in the box are not growing much the last few days, but hopefully are digging deep roots seeking the water in the ground below. Today I tried transplanting some of the seedlings in thick areas to some of the thinner areas of the box. I marked the transplanted seedlings with a little stick and if it works will do more. I also put the growing light on a timer for 13 hours a day today. Loren, my advisor, says the plants grow at night, when the light is off and that by keeping the top soil dry I can encourage the seedlings to dig deeper roots. His work and advice on inside growing has been valuable, especially since the system of our home growing box is different than at the Growing Power greenhouses where the plants are in pots with water flowing below. Time will tell and we will know the lowly roots by the fruits on top.

An article in Sojourners online email by Jim Wallis called “Why the Killing Must Stop” reminded me of another way our high and mighty nation has fallen so low. The article is about the John Hopkins study published in a medical journal estimating that around 650,000 Iraqis have died since the American invasion of Iraq. Jim quotes from a Bob Dylan song: “how many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?” Or to put it another way, how high must the death count be before we can lower ourselves and admit we made a mistake in invading Iraq?

We all need, like worms, to go low, so when things collapse around us, we will not have far to fall.

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October 11, 2006 Less and More News

Less News

With the dark day of rain today came the same news that a dear friend, Mary Angela Durnin, had died. She was 90 years young and had been part of the Catholic Worker movement since the beginning in the 30’s when she went to New York to live at the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. She also was part of the first Catholic Worker community in Milwaukee and had been active in peace and justice issues until she got ill a few years ago. My most recent memories of Mary were at the prayer vigils we have for homicide victims in Milwaukee. She was my phone contact person until she could no longer attend. I kept saying I was going to visit her in the nursing home but never did. Her husband had died before I knew her and she had a number of children in Milwaukee who took care of her in her dying days.

Other sad news coming this morning was that Sister Ann Catherine, the president of our Faith In Recovery movement; movement was in the hospital for some serious stomach surgery. I told the board today that as vice-president I would gladly take over for a while if they did all the work that Sister Ann Catherine did.

A John Hopkins research study reported today that around 650,000 Iraqis have died since our invasion of Iraq. Although our president denied the study, even he had to admit there was too many civilian deaths in Iraq.

More News

A new member of the board of Faith In Recovery told me this morning that the ‘worm’ plays a prominent role in Hinduism. I will need to check that out.

I saw some zucchini plants starting to grow today. But I am afraid that it is too late. They predict snow tomorrow. Kale is still growing well, and I hope it stays that way until the greens in the Growing Box are big enough to eat. Kale is now the main ingredient of our salads and is used in cooking. What a wonderful plant to discover, thanks to my friend Harvey Taylor.

Hope peeked out of the skies with the sun this afternoon when I was returning from taking the salmon for smoking and stopped by to pick up two more rain barrels a friend had given me. With the two rain barrels I now have I should be able to put in place a whole system for watering the garden, flowers and grass with rain-water worm castings tea.

Also tonight I talked with my friend Nettie Cullen, who grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and who, with her husband Michael, was the co-founder of the present Catholic Worker House of Hospitality. Because of Michael’s involvement in opposing the war in Vietnam they were deported for a number of years to Ireland. They left with 4 children and returned with 12 who are now all grown up to be wonderful young adults, three of them right here in Milwaukee. We talked about Mary, children and worms.

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Oct. 10, 2006 Let there be light and fish!

I returned from our trip out East to our nephew’s wedding to find the growing light had been added by Loren above the sun-room Growing Power Box. Also I discovered that my seeds had already started to grow. This year’s crop of greens, arugula, kale and lettuce mix looks promising. For now the light will stay on for a few days and than we will put the growing lights on a timer for about 13 hours a day. So now, if like today, it is cloudy, the plants will grow and if there is light they will really grow. Loren suggested I not water with tea too much when the seedlings appear as they are. This makes them dig deeper roots to find water.

Loren also had the day off of work so we went fishing again, this time for salmon in the Milwaukee River. Loren has been promising me a big fish and today he produced. I caught about a 25 lb. salmon, and Loren a little smaller female. I discovered that Salmon were taken from the Pacific Northwest and put in the Great Lakes after they were changed to live in fresh water rather than salt water. They can grow in fresh water but they cannot reproduce. So when they are ready to spawn they come back to the site where they were put in the river and lake. However, after spawning they die. The State DNR keeps the salmon population growing by taking the spawn sac out of the females and the milky sperm out of the males and by mixing it in salt water they are able to fertilize the eggs and raise them in a hatchery, only to release the new crop back into the river and lake. So salmon, thanks to human assistance, are renewalable and affordable. Also they taste great and are fun to catch. You do not feel so bad catching salmon since they would die anyway after they have spawned.

So salmon fishing in Midwest is like a Growing Power garden, affordable and renewable. I would say also organic, but despite a major project to clean the river and Great Lakes there are probably some non-organic items that get into the fish.

Humans cannot live on greens and fish alone, but they certainly are delicious and make for some good meals during the winter months. Along with the grape leaves, salsa and pasta sauce in the freezer, and all the dried herbs and peppers from the outside garden, we will have a taste of fresh garden all winter long.

When I was out East Monday morning it was about 80 degrees. When I got home it was in the 40’s. The Sun-room temperature tonight is around 54 with no heat and no sun today. However, the temperature of the ground in the box is about 64 degrees. The compost keeps it warmer. Soon I will need to insulate the windows in the Sun-room and use the small hot water heater once in a while.

Actually the fall is a busy time getting the outside garden and the inside garden ready for winter.

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October 6, 2006 Grounds for the Worms

Yesterday I stopped by at a number of Starbucks to pick up the left over coffee grounds they keep for the “Grounds for the Garden” program. Starbucks are everywhere these days, often just a few blocks apart, so it has been a good source of nitrogen for the compost pile. Usually the grounds are bagged and ready to go. But sometimes someone else beats you to them.

However yesterday when I stopped at two Starbucks while running errands, an employee at each one said they were not collecting the grounds any longer, just throwing them away, since the garden season was over. I tried to explain to one employee that my worms still needed food and the grounds were for them. That was useless. I was ready to write to Starbucks and tell them that grounds were not only good to put on the garden but were for making compost when I decided to stop at one final Starbucks on the way home. The employee gave me the same story but when I explained to him how I used them, he took my name and phone number and said he would collect them for me for the next day, two bags worth by Friday afternoon.

Today when I went to pick up my coffee grounds he was not there. The employee I talked to went into the backroom to look for my two bags. She came back empty-handed and went over to talk with manager of the day. She said something and pointed to a bag that was in use to collect coffee grounds in the store. I got this one bag, but that was good enough for me. I came home and put coffee grounds, compost and some wood chips on the worm depository in the backyard. I am trying to build the pile of food up so that the many worms in this pile will have plenty of food and warmth for the winter. Of course the worms inside the sunroom are set since I put plenty of fresh compost in the box before covering it with worm castings (which worms do not eat), and planting the seeds.

Speaking of the inside box a few sprouts already after one day poked their way up through the soil in the box. Of course they were not the seeds I planted yesterday. Who knows what they are. Last year some of the unplanted plants turned out to be squash, tomatoes and flowers. Who knows what seeds make their way through the hot compost and the worms to take root in the castings. They are mystery sprouts for quite awhile. Good seed or bad seed?

I encourage all those who have garden or compost piles to stop by their local Starbucks next week, no purchase necessary, and ask for “Grounds for the Garden.” Starbucks needs to realize that growing is a year-round proposition with worms and Growing Power, and their coffee grounds waste makes for great food. Maybe they should call it “Grounds for the Worms.”

Wedding Break till Tuesday! We are going to another wedding this summer, this time my wife’s 42-year-old nephew. So I will take a three-day break from this diary. My son will be around the home garden and box but my Growing Power partner, Loren, has moved to a home nearby, though he still comes around a lot. However, a Growing Power box takes a lot less daily maintenance than a garden. So I can just water the soil with tea Saturday before I leave and Monday when I come back and all will be well. Nature will take care of the rest. And just in case the worms need anything (they never ask), my son will be around.

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October 5,2006 Harmony

Today on the radio I heard someone who teaches various forms of Yoga talk about the significance of harmony, and how the absence of harmony leads to disorder and illness. For an example he used nature, how when the sun, rain, and soil all work together there is harmony and new life. When something disrupts that harmony, like a fierce storm, there is destruction.

A Growing Power Garden is like that. When all works together, compost, worms, castings, sun and water there is harmony and growth. When something is amiss, like the worms lacking food, there is a problem.

Looking at the parts of my outside garden that did not work out so well, like the too early death of the vines of the tomato plants, I can see how the soil was not nourished properly as the cause of disharmony — not as good a harvest as expected. In other areas, like with the basil, where the soil, water and sun came together in harmony there was an abundant crop. The same was true for the other herbs.

In fact today I took a bunch of herbs, mint, suave, sage, oregano from the dehydrator and crushed them one last time this fall into the spice jars. Also today I finally planted the new seeds, kale, arugula, mixed salad greens in the sun-room box. Hopefully all the elements that make the Growing Power box will be in harmony this year and we will have salad greens to last the winter.

The harmonic formula for a successful Growing Power garden came to me today. Here it is in mathematic symbols and hopefully will be pictures someday soon.

Wood Chips + Coffee Grounds + other waste = compost > worms < castings + compost + coyer = growing soil + seeds + tea + sun + rain = plants > vegetables, flowers and herbs. (Please check my math.)

The harmony of nature or a garden is much easier to experience than self-harmony and harmony in relationships. We need to work hard on harmony to self and others.

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October 4, 2006 The Ground Truth

Tonight I saw a video called “The Ground Truth”. ( It is a documentary about veterans of the Iraqi war, why they went into the military, what happed to them and how their lives have been affected. It was well done and spoke of the terrible suffering and health issues these men and women suffered from killing or being killed or wounded in this senseless war. Listening to veterans of the Iraqi war is something everyone should do.

One of the returning soldiers in the movie tells about how he keeps himself busy helping other people so that he does not have time to experience the ‘horrors’ of his own war experience. I think all of us, at times to some extent, do this, just numb ourselves to the violence that is carried out in our name and by our hands.

The Ground Truth would be a good name for a Growing Power garden. The Ground, in this case the Growing Power soil of compost, coyer and castings, speaks to the Truth (plants) that we grow. If we listen to the “ground truth”, soil and plants, as with the soldiers, we will know what is really going on.

Incidentally today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all peacemakers. Francis gave up all the power, glory and wealth of his position to be a simple beggar. For that his father put him in jail thinking he was crazy. Although he was the father of the largest catholic religious order, he kept to his simple ways until his death. He went on a crusade not as a soldier but as a peacemaker, and instead of fighting the Moors, Muslims, he went to talk with them and won their respect. However, we best know St. Francis for his love of nature and animals. He was a grounded individual and from this simple position he spoke truth to power. One of the sayings attributed to him to his followers is that he told them to “go out and preach the gospel and if necessary use words.”

Yesterday I picked the last crop of herbs, mint, suave, sage, oregano, hot peppers, and today I am drying them out. I cleaned up the sun-room today and with the sweet smells of the dehydrator the sun-room not only looks great but also smells great. Tomorrow is seed-planting day in the new and revised Growing Power Box.

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October 3, 2006, Little Lights Add Up

Drawn Conclusion

My son Peter has recently gotten into ‘digital art’. He has always been an artist since his youth, but only recently discovered that he can do a lot more intricate fine line drawing, even with color, much more faster and expressive by use of the ‘paint program’ on the computer. On the side is one of his 80 or so pictures. He allowed me to use this one for my “Living Stones” newsletter. Some of his other line drawings that took hours and hours to complete can be found on the Graf Family Home page under Peter’s Gallery on the sidebar.

I thought of this today in relationship to the garden, since I was thinking of the many small tasks that need to be done, often on a repetitive basis for a Growing Power garden. Yet these small tasks, doing the ‘same old, same old’, when they are put together, form the bigger picture of the garden. Almost every day I take out the kitchen waste to add to compost pile, water with tea the garden, stop at a coffee shop or the dump for more stuff for compost, check on or feed the worms and/or one of many other small tasks. Each one, by itself is not much but put together they make an affordable, organic garden.

Humans with computer programs can make digital art but humans with simple tools can do Growing Power gardens. Both expressions of life, the digital art piece and the garden, are compositions of many small bits put together.

I heard recently an old Jewish creation story about how at the creation of the world there was an accident and the light of the world was shattered into many small pieces that embedded themselves in all things. The light deep inside all of us seeks to be reunited. It is putting the light back together that is the creative force in the world.

The saint of the “little way” of doing simple daily task so deeply that they become a creative force is St. Therese, the Little Flower. She entered the convent at a young age and died in the convent at young age. However, as revealed by her diary, she did everyday tasks like doing the dishes with such love that she became one of the great saints of the Catholic Church and the patron saint of all missionaries, although she never left the convent. She fully utilized the light force in herself.

The artist and the GP gardener and Saint Therese have one thing in common: their concern for dong all the little things that make for greatness.

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October 2, 2006 New Seeds

Today I received the three packages of seeds that I will be growing in the Growing Power box in the Sun-room. They are kale, arugula greens and Encore lettuce mix. With the new and improved box, the homemade compost and castings, I have great hopes for these seeds. However, for these seeds to grow, I must first cast them on the soil.

Tomorrow I hope to clean up the sun-room and plant the seeds. Today I was busy completing and emailing the “Living Stones” newsletter. Hopefully the words of the newsletter, like good seeds, will reach fertile soil and grow. All we can do is to cast out the seeds, prepare the soil, wait and pray. Sometimes we see the fruits of our seeds and sometimes we do not.

I remember that a while back, after publishing a letter to the editor in the local newspaper, my wife and I received a letter from one of our first students in an alternative high school in Milwaukee that we had helped to create in the early seventies. He wrote us to thank us for the example and the seeds we had planted in him in this early high school for troubled youth who could not handle the regular public schools. He told us how after he graduated the high school he had some tough times but had managed to get his life together and was doing well. He thanked us for being in his life. However, often we never know how the seeds we planted do.

I am real excited about the Growing Power box this year. Last year it was new, we started late and really did not have a model to follow. This year we have some experience, have learned from our mistakes and have some real hope. What is nice about these seeds we will plant in the box is that the Growing Power box sits right outside a pair of glass doors separating my office, this computer, and the Sun-room. I can literally watch the seeds grow. And you know I will record it for you.

With these seeds, salad and cooking greens, we will know how they grow. The fruit of our labors will be in our evening salads and cooking.

My friend Godsil is encouraging others to have a Growing Power Box in their homes. There might be some in this area, but I do not know of them. Do you know of any?

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Oct. 1, 2006 Annual to Perennial

When we moved to our present home three years ago, I noticed the house across the street had an ‘award winning’ flower garden in front of the house, with a wonderful variety of snapdragons. When the snapdragons came back in the spring I thought they were a perennial plant. However a friend told me they were annuals. So I checked with my neighbor to see how his snapdragons grew back. He explained to me that they were annuals but in the fall they shed seeds, which had taken root in the good soil and came back again the following year.

Before Growing Power, I tried to do this with my snapdragons and other flowers in the circle in my garden. It did not work, so I planted them again. This year with my Growing Power garden the flowers, including the snapdragons in the center circle, flourished. Some of them are perennials but most, like the large red snapdragons are annual.

This year I noticed they were shedding hundreds of seeds. So today I dug up the soil in a few empty spots in the circle, shook the seeds loose on snapdragons and other flowers in the garden and placed rich castings on top of them. Than I watered them with casting tea. Next spring I will wait and see if these annuals come back. I think they will and I will plant more annuals and perennials if need be to keep the circle rich with flowers as it has been this year.

We heard the parable in the Gospel how the seed that fell on rich soil grew while the seed that fell on hard soil did not. This parable took place in my neighbor’s flower garden and hopefully will now in mine.

This year my neighbor across the street redid the landscaping in his front yard causing him to dig up all the ground and thus he had no annuals, like the snapdragons, come back.

In the Gospel parable they do not talk about an upgrade in landscaping and how that can disrupt seeds and cause them not to grow. So the upgrade meant downgrading the annuals-to-perennial process. How do you see that?

Also today I finished topping off the inside Growing Power box with fine grated castings. Now all it needs is seed to start the indoor green growing process. Now the seeds will fall on rich soil.

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


Conyers — 23 January 2012, 12:47

Wanlikg in the presence of giants here. Cool thinking all around!

tcahrakvt — 24 January 2012, 04:14

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fperrlerwwl — 26 January 2012, 05:37

HduZwL <a href=“”>yhmrqjrmibar</a>


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