This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form without prior authorization.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

GP Box 11/19/06

Garden 07/02/06


November 30, 2006 Snow Advice

The snowstorm predicted for tomorrow morning has been hyped for days on the news. The whole evening news tonight was dedicated to the 2–12 inches of snow expected tomorrow morning.

I had a very busy day helping out friends, seeing my advisors, helping Peter deliver his art for the show next week and more. So busy that I forgot to get oil and gas for my snow blower so I can clean the driveway tomorrow for my wife before she goes to work. Although she called to remind me to do this, I didn’t do it, I think partially as a rebellion to all the hype about a snowstorm that we used to consider normal in the winter.

I did prepare my garden for the winter but not the snow blower. So after the news tonight I went to the garage to discover that I had some fresh gas from the lawnmower and some oil left over from last year. However, before pouring it into the gas tank of the snow blower I checked to make sure it had been emptied out last spring. It had not. It was full. I did not think that was a good thing, but tried to start it anyway. You got it, it would not start. So I will need to deal with the snow and the snow blower tomorrow morning. The lesson here: Do not react to an over-hyping of a situation but not doing anything about it. There is always something to something being hyped, just as there is always something to stigmas placed on persons. Accepting what it is without the hype or stigma is sometimes difficult to do.

Actually the above lesson is something I should have learned from the Garden. When you notice a problem like weeds or dry ground in the garden you do not ignore it or overreact with too much weeding or over-watering. You just simply deal with it in proportion to the need. I should have ignored the hype and just dealt with the coming snow, no matter how great or small it may be, by getting the snow blower working. Oh well, there is always the shovel, something I used all my life to deal with snow before I moved into this house.

Tomorrow is a new month, On this site I am returning to some indoor garden talk starting with the greens in my Growing Power box. Also soon I am attaching a few new pages to the Graf Family mini-site, one to deal with presenting the patch-work quilts my friend Ella creates, and one to show off some of my best photographs. I may, with his permission, even update Peter’s photo gallery page. This page, I will try to restrict to observations on my Growing Power Home Model and relate it to my daily life — which is still too much doing and not enough being.

back to top

November 29, 2006 A Hard Rain is Falling

Today, the second-last day of the month and the last day before the cold and snow comes, was dark and rainy on and off. Not a good day to work outside but I needed to tape up the plastic again on one set of windows in the sunroom and to empty out the rain barrels one last time. A small muddy job that needed to be done before the cold and snow comes.

Also today I found out that my African niece from Sierra Leone is getting a loan for a car that she needs to get a better job in social work. However, with the snow coming on she will need some more driving instructions in her new old car before she gets to work. This is another small job that falls to me. Driving is one thing, driving in snow is another.

Early this eve I joined some people in a solidarity march with the people of Palestine. The whole Palestinian question is so complicated yet so simple. The complicated part we all hear about. The simple part is that if all parties, Israel in particular, would recognize International Law and United Nations charters on what land is Israel and what is Palestine, the land issue would be settled and reconciliation could start. As long as Israel occupies Palestine and some Palestinians do not recognize Israel the conflict continues. There are a lot of simple answers to world political conflicts but often greed, resentments, power and glory stand in the way.

Some friends of mine at the solidarity gathering went to Palestine the last few years to help with the olive growers and to accompany Palestinians for their own safety as they move around their own territory. Where they went in Bethlehem, in the occupied territory, is torn apart by a wall Israel created in the their midst. Olive trees are important natural resource. They are used to produce olives, olive oil and wood for carving. Due to the conflict the wood carvers of Bethlehem have been forced to take their woodcarvings around to churches in the USA to sustain their business.

Yesterday, I actually finished my monthly newsletter Living Stones in the same month it is due. I sent it out as a word document to my small subscribers’ list. You can get a free subscription by emailing me, or you can check the Graf Family main page for ways to access it online, once it gets uploaded.

The salad greens in the Growing Power Box in the sun-room continue to grow unbothered by cold or lack of sun. They have the growing light, water (tea) and rich castings.

A hard rain is falling. With the cold it will soon turn to ice, and like the situation in the Middle East, we will be in trouble.

back to top

November 28, 2006 Past into the Present

Milwaukee 14

Last night I wrote about how little things can become big things, and this morning I received an email from my poet-musician friend Harvey Taylor, about a talk that Howard Zinn gave in Madison last Sunday. The talk is called “The Uses of History and the War on Terrorism” and ends with this paragraph:

Everything we do is important. Every little thing we do, every picket line we walk on, every letter we write, every act of civil disobedience we engage in, any recruiter that we talk to, any parent that we talk to, any GI that we talk to, any young person that we talk to, anything we do in class, outside of class, everything we do in the direction of a different world is important, even though at the moment they seem futile, because that’s how change comes about. Change comes about when millions of people do little things, which at certain points in history come together, and then something good and something important happens.

This quote says more clearly than I did last night how significant little things are for a big change. You can read the total talk online at Z Magazine.

The name Howard Zinn reminded me of my own ’15 minutes of fame’, which came back in 1968 when I was a part of the “Milwaukee 14″ action. When I asked Jim Forest, another member of the Milwaukee 14, if Howard Zinn had testified at our trial he said yes, and send me this article. It appeared in “The New York Review of Books” in September 1969 and was called “The Ultra-Resistance”, on the trial of the Milwaukee 14. Reading this article by Francine du Plessix Gray not only brought back many old memories but reminded me where I came from and something of who I really am. I remembered my testimony in court about the feeling of saving a drowning person when I was scooping up draft files to burn. However, reading it again reminded me of the emotion and natural feeling from which I spoke. If you are going to read both articles I suggest you read the article on the Milwaukee 14 first, and than the talk by Howard Zinn a few days ago. History changes but is repeated. The Past is in the Present.

Today it rained on and off all day. A friend fixed the little plumbing problem that became a major one. I was lucky today with coffee grounds. I stopped by the two Starbucks that are across the street from each other in a shopping area near my house and from both got coffee grounds to feed the worms and the compost pile. Unlike their other coffee products, the grounds were cheap — free.

They say tomorrow is our last warm day, near sixty today. I need to empty once more all the rain barrels and turn them upside down for the winter. I do not want water to freeze in them and burst them. Thursday the cold weather finally comes in and like my 15 minutes of fame, out goes this fall. But as history teaches us the Past is in the Present.

back to top

November 27, 2006 Little Become Big

Tree farmer with thousands of small seeds for big trees

Sometimes little things become big things. This morning I went to down to the Faith In Recovery office ( ) to update the bookkeeping and show the office manager how to use Quicken. What I expected to take an hour took three hours to do. This evening I had a friend who is a handy man come over to fix a leak in my kitchen sink. What we expected to be a minor repair went on for hours and two trips to the hardware store and still is not repaired. I guess it also works the other way around — big things become little things — but I cannot think of any examples.

A Growing Power Home Garden, be it inside or outside, consists of doing many little things: picking up waste for the compost pile, watering with casting tea and so much more. Even doing the “same old, same old” day after day can add up. Many little things become a big thing.

The constant ‘tired feeling’ still persists, but I am learning to live with it. Avoiding it or complaining about it does no good. It is best to embrace it. I tend to keep busy to avoid feeling tired, and not be reflective and silent as I should be, fearing falling asleep if really realized. When I have the tired feeling, watching TV, as I did tonight with the Packer game on Monday Night Football, becomes easy, while reading anything at all becomes difficult.

What I like about Growing Power home gardening is that it seems to be at a consistent pace, whether you are full of energy or tired. There are always particular jobs, even though they may be small, to do on a routine basis. What I call “the same old, same old.”

There is a consistency in seeds planted in good soil growing, worms in good compost eating, multiplying and casting, water and light needed for plants to grow.

Maybe tomorrow something big will happen but if I am looking for it, I will probably not see it. However lots of little things tomorrow can add up to something big. So I’d better watch out for the little things.

back to top

November 26 Sunday Blues Better

It is Sunday and I still have the blues but it is better. I had a chance to work outside, raking some leaves and repairing the insulation plastic on east window of the sun-room. Also I planted two plants in pots inside. One is an Amaryllis Plant like the one I successfully planted last winter. The other one was a more ambitious effort to plant a Key Lime tree I purchased in Florida. It’s claimed it can grow inside but I have my doubts. Packaged with it were a number of recipes, including one for key lime pine, one of my favorites. The hope of growing my own key limes for key lime pie is probably what sold it to me. We will keep you updated on the progress of these two plants plus a number of others in planters on the shelf below the box or in a corner of the sun-room. I need to do a posting soon on these plants, the successes and failures.

Also my day was made brighter with a phone conversation with Tegan, the extraordinary web person who edits this site [well, sometimes, eventually — td]. I had asked her about The Digital Art Show at Bucketworks that my artist son Peter is entering, and she sent me a link to the web site about the free show on Dec. 7th. You can find information on the postcard above or at this site:

Also Tegan told me about an area on (the web site for members of Bucketworks) featuring information about a book-length poem about war and hunger, written by my friend MacCanon Brown. MacCanon, working with day-shelter for homeless persons. Persons living in shelters need to leave during the day. This is especially difficult in the winter months. At Repairers of the Breach they can find companionship, food, a telephone to use, job contacts, showers and support programs. If you would like to read an excerpt from MacCanon’s poem, you can find it at:

Speaking of food, if all this was not enough to lift my blues I got an email from friend James Godsil announcing the creation of a training program for urban farmers by Will Allen of Growing Power.

“We must strengthen and grow both rural AND urban farming to support a sustainable, secure food system for everyone”
(Will Allen, Founder and Executive Director, Growing Power)

For more information check this site: Commercial Urban Agriculture Training Program.

With this kind of news on a Sunday how can one stay blue? Also tomorrow is Monday, when most persons return to work for employment. I am gladdened knowing I can just continue my work of interest.

back to top

November 25, 2006 Night Growing

Loren called and came over today to get some stuff for his new effort to set up a growing area in the basement where he now lives. He has seven heat/growing lights for the basement. He had done this type of growing before in a dark basement and knows it works. My guess is that it is not very cost effective. He went up to Growing Power to check out stuff today but found it closed. I think it is closed to host a meeting of award-winning leaders from the Ford Foundation’s “Leadership for a Changing World” Awards program Nov. 26–30. Some of the events are open to the public. For more information write James J. Godsil at

Another experience of growing in the night I had today was the funeral of a woman who used to help us with Youth Ministry. It was in an African American Church where the emotions were high and the depth and beauty of the music shed light in this moment of darkness. I realized during the service that this young woman with two teenage daughters and a little boy was the same age as my youngest son, 34. A comment was read by the mother of how she could always read the mind of her daughter but had blown it this time since neither she nor anyone else had seen the suicide coming.

After the funeral a dark cloud seemed to be hanging over my head all day. Tomorrow is Church; Loren talked about going walleye fishing for a while in the afternoon and I have some work to do with my Growing Power home model. Maybe all that positive energy will help me shake this sadness I felt the night of today and I can feel the growth once more.

Three Ringling Clowns
Resting at Winter Home

To cheer you up, if you need it like I do, here is a picture of my three grandchildren wearing the clown hats I got them at the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum.

back to top

November 24, 2006 Fall Garden RIP

Finally I remembered, right at dusk today, to take a fall picture of the garden in rest for the winter. The large pile in the back on left is not a leaf pile but a worm depository of compost and worms topped with leaves for a winter coating. In that pile and in two compost piles, not shown in this picture, there are all kinds of things happening, waste breaking down, worms eating and reproducing and making castings below the surface. In fact below the ground in the whole garden a lot of action is taking place on the microscopic level.

Fall or winter, all I know is that it is too cold out to grow, at least above ground. The sun-room presently, early evening, is 65 degrees in the air and 65 degrees in the ground in the box — good growing weather for the salad greens. Today I planted the rest of the salad greens in the box and put some castings on top. I saw Will throw castings on some of his planters last time I was at Growing Power and he said that it was like adding fertilizer to the ground. That and the tea (water seeping through the box caught in container below) keep the soil in the box alive. I am sure there is a lot happening at the micro level in the box.

The fall can slow us down and at times, like when eating lots of turkey, make us sleepy and seek rest. But rest is good if it leads to peace. If we slow down enough we can almost see the living organisms and life moving around just below the surface of our lives. Awareness of this energy source can revitalize us so that when we wake from the sleep of winter, like the ground, we will spring forth with new life.

Yesterday a friend from the church where I was a youth minister last called me to tell me that another friend, a mother of two who used to help us out at youth events, had killed herself. I am not sure of the details and did not know the person personally but feel like I should go to services tomorrow. This woman was always there when we needed her and now her two daughters and family need us.

Our common friend and others were shocked to hear about this death. This woman was always joyful and full of life on the surface. But who knows what was going on below. Now that she is at rest and at peace she is silent on the surface but we know that there is a lot of life coming forth from her spirit. Also like the fall garden we know she will rise again.

back to top

November 23, 2006 Sustainability

Today, Thanksgiving, seems to be a good day to talk about the latest buzzword ‘sustainability’. The word is used often these days but I first heard it some years ago as I was preparing to take a group of youth to Appalachia on a mission service trip. In a 1995 letter by the Catholic bishops of the region, they talked about the principle of sustainability. They meant that economic life must be put back into the social and ecological community as much as it is taken out. Otherwise the communities will not be sustainable, be able to bear up, for future generations. Coal mining is an easy way to see the lack of sustainability. Coal is taken out of the ground and nothing is replaced for future economic survival. A war is another good example of a lack of sustainability. The destruction of a war does not contain in itself new life and growth, just destruction. The defense industry is not sustainable with more war.

The word ‘sustainability’ is big today in ecological circles as we realize that some natural resources, like oil, are not sustainable, while others like sun or wind are. Growing Power agriculture is called “sustainable” agriculture because this method of growing nourishes the land and enables growing to continue flourishing on the same land. Worms are a particularly good sustainable livestock since they only need waste to survive, multiply easily, and produce the “black gold” of castings.

Once we start looking at life this way, as sustainable or not, it is easy to see how much of what we do and our government does is unsustainable. The government today is more than happy to talk about holding the line on taxes or lowering them, but they fail to tell us how they do that — by building up a debt so great it will not be sustainable for future generations. Global warming, the ecological disaster we are just becoming aware of, is another good example of building an economy that is not sustainable.

Since Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, let us talk about acts that are in the direction of ‘sustainability.’ There are big acts like the government of California taking serious steps to reduce emissions into the atmosphere that make it unsustainable. We witnessed a small act today when we pulled up to our son’s house and saw our grandson taking kitchen waste out to the compost pile. He said he was taking food to feed the worms. Also there are many in-between moves being made to create a sustainable economic system, like Growing Power is doing.

Will Allen of Growing Power is having his fellow Ford Scholarship winners come to Milwaukee in a few days to teach them a little about how to make affordable, organic and sustainable food part of their social-justice agenda. Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, had a vision of bringing the farmer, laborer and intellectual together in one community; his vision is starting to take place as we grow “urban farmers” one by one in our communities. An urban farmer is one that takes the sustainable parts of knowledge, working and farming and with others puts together sustainable communities. According to the Bishops of Appalachia, these “sustainable communities will conserve and not waste, be simpler but better, keep most resources circulating locally, create sustainable livelihoods, support family life, protect the richness of nature and follow God’s values.” (At Home in the Web of Life, a pastoral message on sustainable communities in Appalachia, 1995)

back to top

November 22, 2006 Thanks for Smell and Memory

Lest we forget, let us now say ‘thank you.’ Giving thanks for the harvest, our food and drink, family and friends is often something easy to do by word but more difficult to do by deed. Children are often reminded by parents to say ‘Thank you’ when they are given something, but seldom are told to give something in return. Maybe that is because there is so much to be thankful for that if they said thanks in deed as well as in word they were would be busy little children.

Today I was making a St. Vincent De Paul call to give to someone in need of some basic items, like a bed, stove or chair. As I was walking up the stairs of a particular building, some random smells from the apartments were noticeable. Low cost apartment buildings often have different smells from people cooking, cleaning and stuff. These smells usually bother me. Today I was glad that I did not live in such a building, and that I have control over how my surroundings smell. I have a lot more to be thankful for but this is a small but significant one for me.

It has always struck me that worm castings, these marvelous miracles of nature are odorless. When you think about it, castings are decomposed compost that passes through worms; the fact they do not smell is a mystery. If you need proof of this fact visit my sun-room, where a 8′ X 2′ box of compost, covered with castings, is orderless.

On Thanksgiving we have the smells of fresh pies and the turkey will invade our dining areas.

Another taken-for-granted gift to be thankful for is our memory. Watching my Dad with Alzheimer’s made me aware of how important a role memory plays in our everyday lives. As I grow older forgetfulness seems to grow. I am not sure what to do about it except perhaps to work more on developing mindfulness and my memory.

Speaking of forgetfulness. I forgot although this was a perfect picture day, to take the picture of the fallen garden. Maybe tomorrow I will remember.

Let us give thanks for the gifts of smell and memory. When smells run afoul or we forget, we appreciate these two gifts more.

back to top

November 21, 2006 Moving on in the Stillness!

“In the stillness of dusk the birds move on”

Today I wanted to take a picture of my outside garden, which I think has finally been put to rest. Quiet and still as it is, does not mean it is not moving on. The worms are eating away at the compost deep in the worm depository, the compost is breaking down in the two piles, and the fallen leaves are disappearing to the wind or decay. The picture of the garden will need to wait till tomorrow, but the thought can be illustrated in another way: another picture of sunset at Siesta Beach in Florida. All is still as we watch the sun gently set, yet the birds keep moving on. Like the dying garden in fall, a sunset brings the night and stillness. However, in both of these experiences we are reminded that life moves on, as in the compost pile or with the birds in the sky.

Today Peter and I took on the chore of cleaning the sun-room, a minor task in many ways. After we washed the windows, vacuumed the floor, and shook out the rugs, we lit an incensed candle to make the air smell new and refreshed. The incensed candle bears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a symbol of hope to Mexicans and to poor persons in the Americas.

Many of us want to ‘move on’ with our lives but fear the darkness and stillness that precedes any significant move. Without the sunset there is no sunrise, without the garden dying, there is no spring renewal of life.

In the story, fact or fiction, of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Mary, the Mother of God, appears to an Aztec boy and brings him and the people of the region healing and great peace and hope.

So as the garden dies, the sun sets, or the candle burns down, the stillness of the fall, night and darkness turns into new light and hope. Decay and darkness is transformed by stillness into the energy to move on to a new day.

back to top

November 20, 2006 Lingering

My cold lingers on. My wife’s illness comes back in waves. We keep going, checking with doctors, taking medication and staying sick. When plants are sick you know it by looks. When a person gets sick they know it by how they feel. Sick plants do not produce and sick persons don’t do much.

I did finish the second layer of plastic insulation on the east wall of the sun-room yesterday. With this mild weather so far this year, maybe we will not need to insulate the south wall. That would be good.

Being so tired recently while ill, I have some wild dreams when I am partially asleep and partially awake, perhaps you would call it daydreaming. I feel in these dreams that I am on the verge of some big insight or discovery, but never quite have one. I do not know if it is the illness, medicine, or alcohol causing them, but it is nice to think you are on the verge of some big discovery. Lingering on the edge of a discovery is much better than lingering on with an illness.

Looking on the Internet tonight for an image of “lingering”, I found this image of a “lingering garden” in China. It is not so great but it is a garden and that is what this site is all about, gardens and Growing Power boxes.

The salad tonight mainly consisting of greens from the GP box in the sun-room. I need to start to keep track of these cuttings for food, since the growth is limited and it would be nice to know the total cuttings of garden greens made during the winter.

Lingering at the computer is tough so I will now go to linger in bed.

back to top

November 19, 2006 Looking in the Box

These days it seems like everyone is looking for the next big breakthrough in energy saving, ecology and sustainable environments. Even my local Catholic church now has a ‘green committee’ funded by a grant to look into how we can make our church community more environmentally sound. In Milwaukee we are fortunate to have the international headquarters of Growing Power, which is at the forefront of this movement. Growing Power produces energy from waste and foot via worm power. But like any prophetic movement, sometimes they are not appreciated as much in their hometown as they are elsewhere. Chicago is way of ahead of us in making vacant lots spaces into effective Growing Power gardens. City officials from New York consult more with Growing Power about its soon-to-be-online ‘anabolic digester’ than do city officials in Milwaukee. Major agencies working in Africa consult with Will Allen of Growing Power while many local agencies serving the same needs of people are probably unaware of this natural resource.

GP Box 11/19/06

Here is the updated picture of the Growing Power Box in my sun-room that I promised yesterday. There have been some improvements since last year’s model, but basically the water goes through the box and drains into a container of rich ‘tea’, only to be put back into the box. I can still use rain water from outside, but in the winter will need to let tap water sit for a day or two to let the chemicals evaporate before I use it to water the box and plants. There are more ways to expand the growing power of the box, such as by placing plants on the shelf below, or hanging plants along the windows.

The sun, no matter how short of a time, was out today. This really heats up the room, especially now that I have some of the insulation on the windows. With the sun and the heat of the compost in the box the temperature stays fairly good for growing things like greens. I do have a small radiant water heater in the room but keep it on really low. I run the fan in the room a little while each day to keep the air moving and circulating, something I understand is important for healthy plants.

Last year I was somewhat worried about the worms living in the compost in the box. Would they have enough to eat and enough air for the long winter? If some of you remember, I even dug up a worm to interview him on conditions. As it turned out there was no need to worry. This year I have my own homemade compost in the box consisting of lots of wood chips, which sustain moisture and provide space in the soil. So I no longer worry.

However, the worms in the worm depository outside I will continue to feed until the ground freezes. I am also sure they have plenty of food and air for the winter.

So to all those who seek better environments, ecologically sound sources of energy and sustainable environments, I say “right on.” However, I also say to them do not forget to look at your ow backyards, sunrooms, garbage, and water from your roof. There are acres of diamonds right where you are.

back to top

November 18, 2006 Out of the Box

Feeling better today, I was able to get some work done outside, adding leaves to the compost pile, emptying water out of rain barrels, etc. It was not much but it felt good to be outside, even though the sun still does not shine.

Tomorrow I will take a picture of the Growing Power Box in the sun-room for this site. Also I hope to add another layer of plastic insulation to the east window wall, and work on some of the other plants in the sun-room that are not in the box. Outside of watering them, I have not done much with them. Two bulbs are still in the box, one an Amaryllis like the one that did so well last year. The other is a small Key Lime tree that I purchased in Florida. According to the directions I should be able to start it inside, transplant it to a bigger container ,and then put it outside for the winter. The box says that I will “eventually” have my “own citrus fruit.” The key word here seems to be “eventually”. Also why do they say “citrus fruit” instead of Key Limes?

Whenever I am in an area that specializes in certain food items I order them in restaurants. In Florida it is shrimp and Key Lime pie. It always seems to taste better in an area where it is natural.

A friend tonight said he was interested in the Retreat in Daily Life that I recently put together on a CD. I was so busy putting it on the CD that I forgot to organize a group to share the experience this year. I will see what response I get from my church, where I facilitated it last year, and if it is not great perhaps this fourth year I will just work with a small group of friends somewhere central to all. Like most spiritual experiences numbers do not mean much but quality of experience matters a lot. If anyone in the Milwaukee Metro area is interested in this small faith-sharing group, which meets for an hour and half during Advent and Lent, please send me an email. It is called: “Finding God in All Things: A Retreat for Pilgrims in a Busy World.” Now that I have the basic format down for each section on the CD I can focus more on participating in the experience myself — something I need.

Tomorrow my wife and I are going to try to kick start a Faith In Recovery Group in our own church. ( We are having two persons come in as speakers. This mental health ministry for faith communities is attracting much interest as the stigma of mental illness is slowly being erased. However, the stigma still reigns in the media, agencies and in most people’s minds. We all seem to have a hard time accepting mental illness as being just like other illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes. In fact the stigma is so harmful that it prevents a lot of persons from getting help. A friend sent me a bunch of note cards with pictures of Jesus healing persons with a mental illnesses — this one being depression — just as he healed others with various illnesses. In fact Jesus did reportedly heal those with mental illness, but at the time people with these diseases were labeled “possessed.” It is very difficult for us to see persons wtih mental illness outside of thier illness. We would never identify someone with cancer as ‘cancerous’, yet we call a person with a mental illness ‘mentally ill’.

back to top

November 17, 2006 All is Well

Yesterday someone challenged me on the fact that a mental illness is just like another illness, like cancer or diabetes. Many persons, even some with mental illness, do not want to hear this. I am not sure why, but think it is because in our society we segment everything. Spiritual is separate from State, mental health from physical health, rich from poor. Black from white, men from women. Radical Egalitarianism like that Jesus spoke of does not seem to cut it, even though our declaration of independence and our religious faith says all are equal.

I guess the opposite from this separatist view of life is a holistic one, where everything is interconnected. For me, my recent illness is a good example of this process. Because I am physically sick, I feel mentally non-motivated and tired and down all the time. The opposite is true when I am well, especially if it is a bright sunny day. Everything seems to go well.

Reality is that all is well all the time. It is just our perception of reality that affects us.

I did get one layer of insulation up on the east window wall of the sun-room today. I also managed to water all the plants in the household today. Maybe tomorrow I will feel better and accomplish more.

But knowing that all is interconnected is a consolation even in itself. It is like knowing that ‘all is well’, even when all does not feel well. Also a good thing about being tired and sick is that in this condition it is easy to slow down and be still. What is important or not seems to have more perspective.

One of the great mystics of the fourteenth century was Julian of Norwich. A famous quote from her is: “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

back to top

Nov. 16, 2006 Stillness

Still sick today, I gave in and saw my doctor. He says he thinks it is just a cold. I am still sick but am feeling better. Who says that money cannot buy you peace of mind, at least for a while?

Still without two cars, due to my car accident last week, I went and rented a car today. Money makes it easier to move around.

Still needing to water my indoor plants I brought in the house today some water from the rain barrels. Rainwater, especially with compost-tea water added, is healthier for plants than tap water with its chemicals.

Still needing to insulate my sunroom I made plans to do it tomorrow. Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?

Still needing to sit in silence and stillness, just to be, I kept busy all day and did not do the one thing that deals not with money or doing but is essential to my being.

A Growing Power Garden Box does not put one in contact with the stillness of nature as much as a Growing Power garden does. This means I need to make a more concentrated effort to find quiet time during the day to compensate for time not spent outside doing the ‘same old, same old’ in the garden.

Also music and certain books can help put me in a reflective mood of being. I just acquired a two CD set of Bob Dylan’s music called “The Essential” and a book by a friend “Finding God in Each Moment, The Practice of Discernment in Everyday Life”. This along with the memories of my recent visit from my friend Lorenzo Rosebaugh and all the wonderful Florida sunsets should keep quiet and still for a while.

Money can buy me things but only stillness can give me deep peace.

back to top

November 15, 2006 Delicious but not Affordable Salad Greens

The whole point of the Growing Power method is that from waste via worms to grow affordable, organic, sustainable food. We used the salad greens from the GP box tonight in our sunroom for our dinner salad. They are organically grown but at a cost. Considering the work, money, time and effort put into building the growing power box, making the compost and castings and purchasing the seeds, the salad greens were expensive. Even if I cut the greens in the box 20 more times, each salad will cost me more than purchasing salad greens at an organic grocery store.

However, like every new technology this method of agriculture costs less with time. Will Allen of Growing Power says that his goal is to grow things all year around at $5 a square food. He is not there yet after 10 years. However, one of his largest costs, heat, will dramatically be reduced when he gets the anabolic digester on board. It is in place and should be working by the end of year. Now this primal type costs a lot to create, but if it works as planned, it will revolutionize the use of waste and its disposal. A major company like a brewery could turn its waste into energy, a large city like New York could run on its waste and poor countries will have natural resources in their waste.

All the above is to say that my experiments in a home model of Growing Power might not be the most effective way I have to find organic food right now. But my hope is that in a very small way, as Will is doing in a very big way, my experiments will lead to more people growing affordable, organic and sustainable food in their homes and outside in their yards. A neighborhood of home Growing Power gardens could feed itself. However, like any major change it happens one person (or in this case one garden) at a time.

The cold I returned with from the warmth of Florida lingers on. Today I purchased two of the three ingredients that I have used to fight tough colds in the past — brandy and aspirin. I already have the third ingredient, vitamin C, so with a hot bath or shower and plenty of sleep should recover. If I do not I better check with the doctor.

back to top

November 14, 2006 Stuffed in Florida

When I returned from my April pilgrimage to Guatemala, I called my diary of the experience: “Buried In Guatemala?.” I did not write a diary of this five-day trip to Florida, but if I had, I would have called it “Stuffed in Florida.”

First let me say it was a good vacation with my wife, my brother, and his wife. We enjoyed some beautiful sunsets, had some good meals, saw some fantastic wildlife and just relaxed.

However, my title “Stuffed in Florida” was thought of after we toured the beautiful mansion of John and Maple Ringling that was finished in 1926 and which they occupied till 1929 when Maple died and the stock marked crashed on John’s fortune. The mansion was restored in 2002 to its full original beauty. No cost was spared in building this mansion with its 32 rooms, 15 baths and 11 bedrooms, which sits on the shoreline of the Gulf in Sarasota. The mansion is an overwhelming portrait of the life of the rich and famous in the roaring 20’s. It is stuffed full of every material thing one would want in life. It is too much, at least for my senses.

This mansion contrasts sharply with the beautiful sunsets on Siesta beach. Each sunset is unique and different and breathtaking. On Sunday nights drummers gather in a big circle to play as the sun goes down. The sunset can better be described in pictures. Here is just one of the many I took.

This afternoon I came back to my garden, inside and out. The outside looks the same as I left it. I will need to check on the worms in the outside depository tomorrow. The plants inside, especially the argula, are growing well. It is time for the second trimming. Everything looks a little dry but I can easily take care that tomorrow with the rainwater still in the barrels outside. I also need to insulate the sun-room better. The west windows are done and in the next few days I need to do the east windows.

I think my “Back to Basics” series on growing power went over well. A lot of persons seem to have clicked on it even when I was gone. I will need to do that more often.

I came back from Florida with a stuffed and running nose. Here I am coming back from warm weather to cold weather with a cold.

back to top

November 8, 2006 Rest of Story

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

Once we move through the worms to the castings, the Growing Power equation becomes more familiar. Growing Power mounds, planters, and boxes like in my sun-room contain some combination of castings, compost and coyer (coconut shavings). These combinations become the soil in which the seeds are planted. The casting are rich in organisms; compost, if used, keeps the worms in working in mounds, and coyer, like the less sustainable product peat moss, maintains moisture in the soil. The combination depends on the type of growing — box, planters, or outside mounds.






Now that we have the base soil, we just need to add seeds, water with tea (rain water or tap water that sits for a day, strained through castings, and add some sun and/or growing lights, and we have healthy, organic, affordable vegetables, flowers and herbs.




GP box



The picture above of the greens in the Growing Power Box in the sun-room was taken tonight after I cut off some salad greens for dinner. This affordable and organic food is the real end result and the rest of the story.

I will be taking a five-day sabbatical from the diary to celebrate my wife’s birthday and just to relax with family. The diary will be back Tuesday, Nov. 14th. “Together We Are Growing Power”

back to top

November 7, 2006 Worms at Heart of Formula

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

Yesterday we discussed and pictured the the first part of this Growing Power formula. It was carbon plus nitrogen waste equaling compost. After the compost cooks for a while, naturally, it breaks down to a soil-looking kind of substance. Now it is ready to feed to worms. Outdoors this happens in a wood box I called a “worm condo”, and inside it happens in the Growing Power box. Each worms eats its own weight each day. As the compost passes through the worms it is enriched with hundreds and hundreds of healthy living organisms. I am not up on all the good stuff that happens to compost, but I do know that even the worst kinds of organisms like e coli are replaced, as they pass through to the worms, into healthy organisms. There is a lot of scientific information on this process and once I know about it I will pass some onto you.

Worm Condo





Worm Depository

Worms are at the heart of the formula. They are very consistent and focused creatures. They eat, produce castings and multiply. They are unisex creatures, so they multiply quite easily. In my worm depository they just keep eating and multiplying. In fact I was going to deliver a bucket of worms to a friend today when I had a car accident on my way. Unlike worms my attention was unfocused for a moment, resulting in a crash that was my fault. It was not serious and no one was hurt (not even the wormns) yet it was very inconvenient since it took over one and half hours for the police to arrive and write up a report. A split moment of unawareness caused me much time, wasted energy and bucks.

Also, worms are low maintenance livestock. You just need to make sure they have enough food (compost) to eat, digest and cast off and they stay focused and working. Worms in the worm condo are extracted by putting an ordinary screen over the box with fresh compost on top. Worms do not eat their own castings, so they will come through the screen for fresh compost. A few times of this and the castings in the box are ready for use in growing.

Despite the accident I finally did get to hear tonight the slide presentation of my friend Jim Harney on Globalization and Immigration. The combination of words and pictures made for a moving experience. Check out his web site for yourself at The reasons for so many undocumented immigrants coming to the USA and the way they are treated, less than human, comes down to money being made by a few in this new economy of digit money. Jim does a good job of putting a human face on this modern-day tragedy.

His stories remind me of my experiences in Guatemala which I wrote about in my Guatemala diary: “Buried in Guatemala?”.

The word that seems to bring together the struggles of people of Latin America, illegal immigrants, Growing Power, impoverished in this country and alternative sources of energy is the word “sustainable.” In the future I will need to reflect and write more about “sustainable.” But for tomorrow I will complete the formula.

back to top

November 6, 2006 Basic Waste

A friend from Maine is in town and yesterday was over, interested in the Growing Power system. He suggested that perhaps it is time for me to go back over the basics of the “same old, same old” of this system of growing.

Early in October, for those of you interested in math, I gave you a formula for Growing Power. It was: Wood Chips + Coffee Grounds + other waste = compost > worms < castings + compost + coyer = growing soil + seeds + tea + sun + rain = plants > vegetables, flowers and herbs. I promised to spell out the formula in words and picture and here it begins.

Wood chips/Carboard


Coffee Grounds/Bannana Peel


Wood chips stand for carbon, which could be leaves, cardboard, paper or many other forms of waste. Coffee Grounds stand for nitrogen, which could be brewer’s waste, kitchen waste from fruits and vegetables, or many other forms of waste. When the nitrogen and carbon are put together in a pile, with air and water, they ‘cook’ and form compost.

Now I know some of you will not find this ‘same old, same old’ formula too exciting, so I will save the rest of the formula for the next few days. For now I will make an observation about my sense of time, which may or may not be related to my garden activities.

I have noticed that my once-punctual attendance at gatherings seems to have recently eroded. Now I find myself nearly always late for events. This is very Un-American and I have no real good excuse for my behavior. It seems recently that I just finish up with what I am doing even though I know the meeting or event is coming up. So I am running late for prayer vigils, appointments, meetings and all kinds of scheduled activities. I associate this sense of time with people from India, Sierra Leone, Native Americans and other cultures. Is Growing Power changing my sense of time? Is completing something becoming more important than Being on Time? Being on Time is as basic to American culture as not wasting time is.

back to top

Nov. 4, 2006 Silence and Action

A friend of mine in Holland send me this quote that he picked up on his trip to Spain to visit the place St. Teresa of Avila was from. It is from St. John of the Cross, a mystic in the Church, who was St. Teresa’s spiritual director.

“What is missing, if something is missing, is not writing or speaking. We have too much of that. What is missing is silence and action. Silence and action gives energy to the spirit. Before this great God, remaining in silence is the greatest necessity we have, because the language that he hears is only silent love.” — John of the Cross

The “Call To Action” Conference now in Milwaukee, the book of my friend, the newspaper, this very diary remind me of the great quantity of writing or speaking we have in this world. Truly what is missing in my life is “silence and action.” When I take time for silence and action my life feels better.

Silence and action are reasons I am drawn to work in the garden. Most of garden work is done in silence, and involves taking some action. Worms are creatures of silence and action. They make no sound and are constant in slow-moving action, making castings.

Now, we all need the spoken and written word. Without it I would not be to communicate to you tonight my thoughts on silence and action, and without it we would never hear an inspiring talk. St. John is not saying that writing and speaking are not important, they are. However he is talking about what is missing. He says that what God hears is silent love. Another great saint of the Church, St. Ignatius of Loyola, says that actions speak of love louder than words.

In my own life an example of silence is when I take the time to let my mind clear and just quietly breathe in and out. An example of the power of action is when I make calls as a member of the St. Vincent De Paul society, visiting and seeking ways I can serve persons in need.

However, one of the constant ways of silence and action these days is gardening, be it watering my houseplants with casting tea as I did today, or shoveling compost on the worm depository as I also did. If everyone had a piece of Growing Power in their lives, I think it would change many lives by silence and action.

back to top

Nov. 3, 2206 Generations Touch

Tonight we had a fish fry at our house for old and new friends, from one year old to upper seventies. Some were active politically in the 60’s, still are and will stay so until they die. Some will be persons of concern in times to come. They were from places all over the city and country, and from Africa and Latin America. They all had some connection — be it with Casa Maria, Faith In Recovery, and friends of Lorenzo or whatever. We shared fish, custard, other foods and drinks. There was a Spirit bringing all together for a good time and company.

This picture of my granddaughter touching fingers with a person many years older than her, and playfully filling the energy transpiring between them, is a symbol of tonight.

One of the young women at Casa Maria here tonight is from Poland. When I showed her my Growing Power box and said a little about what was going on outside, it brought her memories of growing up in Poland where all waste and garbage from the kitchen was automatically put in the compost. They would not think of, she said, of throwing away something that could be compost. Would that we all would be as conscious of the tremendous amount of waste we throw away each day that could be transformed in energy and our food supply. The land-fill operators and garbage collectors might like not the decline in their business, but this new method of turning waste into energy would create countless jobs yet be healthy for our environment.

back to top

Nov. 2, 2006 Past into Present

Traveling around with my friend Father Lorenzo Rosebaugh today was like a pilgrimage to the past in the present. One of our friends in common, who recently died, was the person who had introduced me to the regular prayer vigils we do for persons who have died violently on the streets of Milwaukee. Lorenzo, who daily sees violence in death working in a hospital and hospice in Guatemala City, went with me to vigils for two young men, 18 and 25, who died violent deaths on the streets of Milwaukee. Like the resut of us, Lorenzo was saddened by this senseless violence but glad he was present.

From there we went to Growing Power on Silver Spring where we actually met the founder Will Allen, who took time to show Lorenzo around a little. I was able to sneak in a few questions to Will about my Growing Power box. He gave me some points of advice that I will now share:

  1. When watering the plants in the box put the water on the ground, not over the young plants.
  2. Use larger mounds of compost, worms and castings when planting my garden outside, even with plants like tomato plants.
  3. Put some fresh castings around plants in the box once and awhile.
  4. Keep feeding the worms even in the winter.
  5. Make some more relationships with suppliers, like a small brewery or a coffee shop for regular supplies of waste to make compost all year around.

Lorenzo, like all of us who encounter Will, the Worms, and Growing Power for the first time, was impressed and immediately started thinking of applications of this type of growing to his life in Guatemala. Will also said the public tours of Growing Power will resume soon. I will keep you posted.

This afternoon we visited a very old and fragile friend in a nursing home, a Catholic Worker of the past. I doubted if she recognized us but was thankful for the visit.

Tonight we went over to Casa Maria, the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in Milwaukee, for their Thursday night prayer service. It was a small group, but Lorenzo was able to sit on the same table where he sat with the original founders in 1968, and tonight pray with the young men and women who are now carrying on the work at Casa Maria.

All these were experiences of past coming into present. Just like worms, our elderly friend, the Catholic Worker spirit, and senseless violence have been around for a long time here, in Guatemala and in the world. The past lives in the present and prepares us to move on.

back to top

Nov.1, 2006 The Mix

A new month begins with all saints day. Now all saints means a lot of people, those we have heard about and many more we may have not heard about. It is quite a mix.

My friend Lorenzo Rosebaugh came to town tonight. Some call him a saint. When you meet him he is just an ordinary person, but there is an extraordinary aura around him. It is hard to explain. Again I suggest you check out his book To Wisdom Through Failure?, to get a taste of where he has been and where he is going.

Lorenzo saw my Growing Power box in the sun-room tonight, and tomorrow I may take him to two vigils of homicide victims and to Growing Power, to scenes of death to scenes of life.

This weekend persons from the sixties, still active in peace and justice issues, will gather at my house. My three randchildren will also be here. Sons and daughters of times past and present and future will mix. This inter-generational mix feels great.

One of the successful salad greens, popular to grow and to sell, is a mix of various salad greens. When seeds mix, as when people mix, relate and work together, there is something special in the results.

If all persons can mix this way, young and old, Iraqi and Jew, American and Syrian, Gay and Straight, Men and Women, Black and White, what a wonderful peaceful world this would be. The mix is the thing. Everyone is an individual but with the mix they are community.

back to top

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


Earnhardt — 24 January 2012, 09:32

Touchdown! That’s a relaly cool way of putting it!

dyolzsavxyq — 25 January 2012, 04:32

WZ8hai <a href=“”>pbcrfvqainng</a>

sazxfv — 26 January 2012, 12:33

XPqlKp <a href=“”>htmyqmxvdcnc</a>


back to top


Page last modified on January 26, 2012

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