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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 11/19/06

Garden 07/02/06


March 31, 2007 Observe the Small

I got a chance to spend sometime outside today. It was relaxing and hopeful. I collected more waste for the new compost pile from raking leaves and going to a few coffee shops. A couple of friends promised to drop off some materials for compost in the next few days, so my waste pile for growing soil should grow. With spring coming and all the ideas for intense growing in a small space that are coming at me, I hope I can keep up. Maybe out there is some apprentice GP home model gardener that can help.

Tonight at a bookstore when a Milwaukee native was speaking on his book on the growing mercenary armies in the USA, Iraq and around the world, I saw many old friends. The author, a son of a friend, was one of the youngest persons present. Someone pointed that out, it was a ‘mature’ crowd. It reminded me of the audience for the panel discussion on violence and nonviolence that I was on the other night at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Young persons, at least here in Milwaukee, just do not seem to have the passion and enthusiasm for social causes and political issues. There is just not that spark — or starter fertilizer — that you found in the youth of the 60’s.

I saw my music friend Harvey Taylor at the bookstore tonight but he left before I could thank him for the CD he gave me last week. I have been listening to the CD, “Points of View”; the deep observations he makes into everyday things are full of wonder and deep insight. He is a good example of something I was taught a long time ago by a teacher, about the power of observation, and turning some small observation into something deep and profound. He does it with worm poems and music. I try to do it, weakly as I do, with observations on daily life and the garden.

Today I got a call for a prayer vigil for the 34th homicide victim in the city of Milwaukee. Not only was he not named in the paper, but he was not even mentioned. Sister Rose said she heard his name on a TV news story so it was okay to release it. She gets the names and information directly from the police, otherwise we might not even know about some homicide victims. Some persons are so small society does not even notice them.

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March 30, 2007 Growing Gold

Watch soil grow!

Today I added a little to my small compost pile that will grow and shrink again. It is the first step in developing a Growing Power garden. Waste becomes compost, which becomes rich soil to be used in the rows in the garden and for worms to enrich into ‘black gold’. Compost is made with layers of carbon, (boxes, leaves, wood chips) and nitrogen,( coffee grounds, brewer’s waste, vegetable scraps, grass). There items are mixed, cooked and grow by shrinking into rich soil. All you need is a large space that is contained, well aired and watered if there is no rain. The pile cooks from the inside, generating heat as it compacts into rich soil. This pile pictured above is open on one side, closed on the garage side and has some air holes in the plastic on the two fence sides. The mixture some say should be 50/ 50, but now Will and Growing Power are saying 75% carbon and 25% nitrogen. So far I have on the ground a covering of ripped out boxes, topped by coffee grounds, a thik layer of saw-dust, and lots of leaves. Beside my own leaves from the front year I got two bags of leaves that my neighbor had out front of his house for the collectors. In the summer he brings over his grass clippings, but I will need to mention to him that I use leaves too.

So all this waste becomes naturally rich soil. For some of you readers this is “old news” but maybe for a few this is a new way of doing compost. Now after a while when it has partially cooked, I could put worms into the compost to enrich it, but it is more efficient to use the compost to feed worms in the worm depository, to use for making rows of good soil in the garden, to put into planters with worms and to put in the worm condo, where worms take the rich soil and make it into worm castings or “black gold”, as this enriched soil is called in GP.

These worm castings, after having passed through worms, is 13 times as rich in living organisms as the already rich compost. This is why it is so valuable and so much can be grown in it in a very small space.

Today we heard about another homicide victim who is nameless in the news. So far that means that it is an African American who was not shot by the police. Whites and African American youth shot by police who are homicide victims are always named in the newspaper. Once you have become aware of this “structural discrimination” somewhere, like in the aftermath of the hurricane and flooding in New Orleans, or in the treatment of a low income persons like Dawn trying to help others out, you see it everywhere. I know it is not just in Milwaukee, but I plan to write about “structural discrimination” in Milwaukee, the city I love and where my roots are. I think I will call it the “Sweet waters of structural discrimination in Milwaukee.” In fact it is so pervasive, like the soil around a worm or the sea around a fish, that we find it hard to see it. We can see the difference in the world around us, but unless we step out of it and become aware, we can cannot see how persons are treated differently not because of who they are and what they do but because of race, poverty, illness, possessions, age, sex. The larger our brains become, or the more we know or think we know, the greater the differences in how we treat human beings.

I saw a heartwarming story tonight on TV how an Iraqi soldier surprised his six-year-old son by stopping by his school unannounced. It made me think of all the Iraqi children who watch their father, mother, brother, or sister killed by one side or another, or taken away by one side or another. So it’s no wonder the occupied territories of Iraq or Palestine are rich recruiting grounds for violent, extremist groups. If we could feel just a bit of the emotion we feel for that child crying and running into his dad’s arms for an Iraqi child or a homeless child in a shelter, the war would be over in Iraq and no child in America would go hungry and homeless.

This is the attraction of collecting waste for compost. If we can turn waste into rich soil and enrich it more with worm power, we can grow, in a very small space, in all kinds of places, and in all kinds of conditions, healthy food for every man, woman and child. America has the most waste of any nation, so it is right and just that we be leaders in this urban agriculture. If we could spend just one fraction of the resources — human and financial — that we spend on violence, on growing healthy food instead, we all would be richer for it.

Like my wife says about basil, I say about waste to grow compost, “You can never have enough.”

The new GP home garden logo on top of this page is thanks to my son Peter. It was just a rough draft, but I liked it so much that I put it on the page till he comes up with something better.

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March 29, 2007 “I know I got one of these”

Self Portrait

Today when I was recycling the plastic that was on the sun-room windows to put along the fence and the garage for my large compost pile, I went looking for a my heavy-duty stapler gun. I knew that I had one of them but no matter how hard I looked, I could not find it. Finally, I gave in to my frustration and went to a local hardware store to purchase another one.

On the way to the hardware store I made a detour to a coffee shop and picked up two large bags of coffee grounds. Also I found at the hardware store a bag of salad-mix seeds, which I purchased for the indoor GP planting box. So my misplacing the stapler meant a loss of time working on the garden, but I picked up some more compost materials and some seeds.

Working outside was great and I wish I could have done more. But I needed to get inside to work out a few thoughts for a panel discussion I was invited to tonight on Violence and Nonviolence at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. As I’ve said, I am tired of talking about such issues, but decided to participate to see where students are these days concerning creative nonviolent action. I discovered there is not much understanding of creative nonviolent action. College students these days do not see themselves as the agents of social change as we did in the 60’s. They have accepted, as most Americans, they are helpless except to “vote” and maybe protest once in awhile.

Today the Mayor and other leaders continued to talk about stopping gun violence, but failed to address the bill on hand? that would treat secondary sale of guns similar to the way we treat selling and purchasing cars. Cars are meant to drive us, handguns are meant to kill.

Sometimes I feel like the gardener who needs to keep working the soil until it becomes rich enough to grow. We all need to till up some more controversy and to agitate till the “powers that be” hear our message and act.

I know we all want to work for social change and the common good. However, unlike my situation with the stapler, what we need we already got. It is in us and all we need to do is wake up and use it.

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March 28, 2007 Good and Bad Waste

Good Waste

In all the tons of waste our society generates each day there are two kinds, good waste that is recycled or made into compost and bad waste that just fills up landfills. Good waste that makes compost via worms becomes rich black soil, the “black gold’ of gardening.

Wasting time also comes in two kinds, good and bad. Today I ‘wasted’ time having lunch and conversations with many persons, some I had just met, some I knew from the 60’s, at the new gathering spot — the West Bank of Paris as someone called it today — the Amaranth Bakery and Café. I left this ‘waste of time’ feeling good and renewed.

Tonight I got a call from a friend who is one of the three founding mothers of Mothers Against Gun Violence, who asked me to go to a meeting about a bill the group finally has in the state legislature about secondary gun sales. This mother’s father was dying and was in hospice so I said I would go and report to her. When I got there on time, one of the other founding mothers was present and we were told the local politician and the third mother who is ‘in the know’ would be 45 minutes late. I was not going to wait, but thought I should wait with the one mother there. One staff member from the Campaign Against Violence (CAV) showed up, and we waited and waited. Finally after waiting over an hour we decided to leave. As we were leaving we saw that the politicians, the same mother ‘in the know’ and a few other CAV staff were meeting in another room. We joined them at the meeting but all we heard was the same old same old, behind the scenes politicking that must be done. After about ½ hour the politician left and the meeting dispersed. I left this ‘waste of time’ feeling frustrated and angry.

Both “wastes of time” were about the same amount of time, 1-½ hours, but one made me feel good and one upset.

Today was a rain-day for working in the garden. I did pick up a few herbs for the indoor GP stand. However, I learned from the garden another valuable lesson, how there is good and bad waste in all of life. From discerning the spirits of how the waste of time left me, I can now avoid the bad waste like the gathering tonight and encourage the good waste like the gathering at Amaranth.

Now it is important to note that at the good waste of time, at the Amaranth Café there was good organic and healthy food. At the bad waste of time there was not even an unhealthy snack. So can we say that as our food goes so do we?

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March 27, 2007 Compost Makers

Olde, Sky and Andor (l to r)
in front of new compost pile

Today Olde Godsil, founder of the Milwaukee Renaissance web site, invited a few of us over for some good food and to help him start a compost pile. He had the materials, wood chips, old wasted food, leaves, rotten food, coffee grounds, brewer’s year and more. He had a spot in his backyard and some worms to put in the compost pile to enrich it. With the material ready it did not take long for the four to complete it. Probably the only confusing things were my calling things like wood chips and leaves “carbon”, and things like brewer’s yeast and rotten fruit “nitrogen”. We need to make sure in any manual we write for the G.R.A.F. system to make sure what we explain. So Olde, a board member of Growing Power, finally got his own compost pile going in the back of his yard. The above experience only reinforced Andor’s and my thought that we need to simplify and make small the Growing Power method.

Today at lunch again at Amaranth Bakery and Café Dave, the owner, had a copy of the popular book of the 60’s called Small is Beautiful. I was at the Café to talk with an artist friend about the anti-stigma campaign that she started, and which we are trying to continue. The “small town” spirit of Milwaukee makes it special among the cities. However, as someone who is trying to get out of Milwaukee reminded me today, this small town feeling makes it difficult for outsiders like him to fit in. Also the very thing that makes Milwaukee unique, this small town environment, also is a source of some bitterness and dissimulating.

Although I still have not caught up on house and garden work, I am at least seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

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March 26, 2007 Trying is Growing

A view through the GP stand

The GP plant stand that Andor made had its first showing today at the monthly Growing Power Tour. There was a large crowd today, people from all walks of life. We did not have much chance to formally talk about the stand but it was sitting on a table for all to see, with a print-out of the “Growing Renewable, Affordable Food” GRAF page for all to read. Andor and I fielded a lot of questions during the tour for persons impressed by the Growing Power tour but wondering how all this applies to their home or backyard. There is another showing of the planter box tomorrow eve at Olde Godsil’s house in Bay View at his compost party.

Despite the warm day I did not get much done on my own GP garden today. However, I did stop at two coffee shops for coffee grounds (successful both calls). These grounds, with all the cardboard boxes, the bucket of wood chips Andor gave me and some brewer’s waste Godsil is giving me tomorrow, along with my own lawn and garden waste, should make a good start on a new compost pile, a big one behind the garage.

My daughter-in-law up North said they are adding to their compost pile on their five acres. They have the benefit of manure and straw from the dairy farm across the street. For starters they are just building a major pile of compost, and before planting season we will turn it upside down, using the bottom for the garden and the top for a new compost pile. They have some worms in the pile but I will bring more up there next time I go. When I was giving Andor worms yesterday I noticed that my worms have multiplied many times over, even during the winter months. Will Allen said today on the tour that worms in his many worm boxes — or ‘condos’ — producing castings, multiply four times during the course of this process.

Will grabs a handful of the basic mix,
compost, castings, worms, coir
and greens

One of the lessons I am learning that is you never can have too much compost since it shrinks as it ‘cooks’ to 1/4th of the size of pile. In fact Will, with a major compost pile, is now selling it to gardeners. Also the price of the ‘black gold’ of castings is terrific. Growing Power is now selling small bags of castings for $8-$20. Last year the price of a five gallon bucket was, and probably still is, $75. A small amount of castings in straining bag in a bucket or barrel of rainwater makes tremendous organic fertilizer. I need to get another worm condo going. The value of the contents of a ‘condo’, after the worms have finished their work, is unbelievable, and essential to successful growing. The home model might never produce the $5/square foot profit in production, the goal of Growing Power, but just a 1/2 of that per square food in the home or garden would provide a lot of healthy food for families. Also every meal this winter we have eaten a little bit from our GP Box or garden, be it a herb, spice or a salad.

Our mission of the G.R.A.F system got clearer today on and after the tour. We need to miniaturize the GP system so everyone in their house or apartment or their backyard can grow renewable, affordable and healthy (organic) food. Someone from our Church there today — a St. Vincent De Paul member, as my wife and I are — said she was there to can help neighborhoods around our inner city church grow healthy food.

I will need a way to shift more of my time and effort toward working on the home model of Growing Power. But as Will said to me again today, the best way to learn is by just doing it. Even Will keeps learning and adjusting the system each day. The basics might be there, and worms at the heart of this method, but we need to grow it by trying it.

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March 25, 2007 Spring Questions and Answers

A Mother questions
the death of her son,
a homicide victim

With the warm days of spring comes a resurgence of life. I need to start spending more time preparing for planting, ordering seeds, building a new compost pile and so much more.

Today I unfortunately did not get much done except for giving my partner in the G.R.A.F. Enterprise some worms and talking with him about our plans for the GP stand and other home model items. We still did not get in contact with Will about showing off our GP stand tomorrow on the tour, but will probably do it at a compost party at Godsil’s on Tuesday. The weather is supposed to be warm and dry tomorrow. So although I, as always, have a lot “to do”, I hopefully will have time to work on the garden inside and out.

We did have another delicious salad tonight at dinner thanks to the greens growing in the GP box in the sun-room. My wife made some good spaghetti and she mixed her salad with the pasta and meat sauce and really enjoyed it. My son and I were more traditional in our enjoyment of this good food. The sauce we had with the pasta tasted especially good. My wife said she had put some pesto she had made from the basil in the garden last summer into the pasta sauce. The secrets of the GP garden once again deliver. Andor’s and my goal with the plant stand is to offer persons a chance to have salad greens and herbs growing all year around. Stay tuned to this page and the GRAF page for updates.

The homicide rate in Milwaukee is rapidly climbing. I had just updated the Mothers Against Gun Violence? (MAGV) page today when I heard tonight on the news (surprise, surprise) of two more. All the talk in the world will not stop it, especially when most of the victims are ignored and dismissed. Actions like the MAGV Responsible Gun Bill could help slow it down, but that is tied up for the moment in back-room politics. When will the politicians and media stop playing the blame game and take some action? This is like asking in the 60’s song “Where have all the flowers gone?”

The Garden and the Worms have an answer to these questions: “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

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March 24, 2007 We are one at Dawn’s House

This morning I went to work with a couple of members of various churches on Dawn’s House. We started some work on the interior of the house that she purchased and rehabbed, with a promise of city money which never came. Dawn is the woman whose houses for persons who are homeless and/or with disabilities were misrepresented a year ago by the local newspaper, leading to a county ban on allowing any county-funded agencies to send persons with a disability there. This ban continues although her houses are well kept, up to code and are clean, safe places to live.

I may have some skills in gardening, but not in home repair. So I was just preparing the walls for drywall when one of the leaders and experienced persons of the group cut his thumb. I took him to the local hospital and was glad for the peace and quiet I had for an hour or two while I waited for him to get his stitches. When we got back to the home, all the persons working on the vacant house had already had lunch. We were hungry, so we went down to one of the houses where the food spread was. There was plenty of good food left. The people in the house, some homeless, some with a mental illness, some volunteers from another church group, Dawn, young and old, black, Hispanic and white, were so hospitable to us. While we were eating they were cleaning, seeing to our every need, and joining in for a lively conversation. I found myself sitting at a table eating with a wonderfully diverse group of persons with a feeling of peace and joy. They say you find what you are looking for, and the last couple of nights I have been talking about this kind of experience.

I got a copy of a press release today in which a local alderman was blaming the County for neglect of persons with a mental illness. The newspaper blamed Dawn last year for neglect of the same type of persons, and I blamed the alderman for neglect, the same one making the remarks about the County today. When will this blaming ever end?

Coming home today from Dawn’s houses I thought of something my partner in the G.R.A.F. enterprise said yesterday about how if we focused on the positive we could make a difference. Yes if we could all stop playing the blame game and, like Dawn, focus on the positives, we could end this blame game of who is neglecting persons with a mental illness and start doing something about it. Today for a few minutes we were all just a bunch of friendly people, working together and having a good time. In this moment there were no persons with or without a mental illness, no person of any race, no woman or man, young or old but just positive people enjoying life and each other. “Thy Kingdom Come, On Earth As It is in Heaven.”

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March 23, 2007 We are All Connected

It is a small world, especially in Milwaukee. Today was a day of connections. I took to lunch today at the Amaranth Café my friend from church Ella, who practices the African American art of creating Patch Quilts. The owners of this café are going to hang up one of her patch quilts with information of how to reach her by phone. You can find her work at Ella’s Patch Quilts?. And of course, if you are around Milwaukee you can always find the Amaranth Café at 33rd and Lisbon. Soon you will be able to enjoy salads, besides the homemade soup, bread and sweets. People from worlds apart meet at the Amaranth Café.

On the way home, Ella and I started to talk about my work with the Mothers Against Gun Violence, and she told me how she saw on the news this morning that a 16-year-old youth was shot and killed on the North side. I looked on the news tonight for a story on this youth who, according to what people said, was shot on his front porch. But I must have watched the wrong local news at l0 pm, because the only mention of any 16-year-old was a picture and story of the 16-year-old African American youth who was accused of shooting a Waukesha County 41-year-old man a few days ago on the same North side area. That killing made major news and is still making news. Like someone else said “All persons may have been created equal, but all are not equal in the eyes of people.”

I am glad to announce the addition of a new page to this family mini-website called GRAF “Growing Renewable, Affordable Food”. It is on the GRAF page that Andor (my partner in this new enterprise) and I will spell out in very specific details our ideas and creations for bringing the growing of healthy food into individual homes and gardens. Andor is very focused and specific about details (this is a trait many of you may have noticed that I lack). It is an exciting enterprise. The page now just shows our first experiment in a GP plant stand that Andor designed and built, with a description by him and a few pictures. Watch the GRAF page in the weeks to come for more information and better pictures as we try to be very focused and specific in developing ways to bring Growing Power into the home (Stick with this page for general observations on life and Growing Power).

I made a stop today at the mother-house of Growing Power on 55th and Silver Spring to check with Will (who naturally was not in town) and to purchase some starter plants and coir (coconut shavings, which are the sustainable equivalent of peat moss). I got some advice from one of the workers there, but will probably not catch up with Will until Monday at 3:30 when he leads the monthly tour of Growing Power world headquarters. Be there if you are anywhere nearby.

Also today I reconnected with one of the youth I worked with from my days in youth ministry in Milwaukee. After graduating from college he went to China, where he has been doing some tutoring in English. After that he plans to join the Peace Corps. I had been thinking about him for some reason the last few days, when all of sudden I got this email from China. He was a huge Milwaukee Bucks fan and I gave him a hard time about leaving Milwaukee when the basketball team is in great need. I hope my email gets through the censors.

More worlds came together tonight when my wife, son and I took our friend from New Orleans, who lives in Chicago, out to “Mardi Gras”, a local New Orleans-style restaurant. After dinner my friend started to talk with one of the owners, and it turns out that they come from the same neighborhood in New Orleans. Although she has been here 32 years, her family and heart are still in New Orleans where she plans to retire someday. My friend still considers New Orleans his home and makes numerous trips to work on the old homestead, as his brother and sister moved to Houston after the flood. It was fun to watch a soul sister and brother from New Orleans meet and talk in Milwaukee.

If there is a common thread in some of my daily experience today it is around food, and people becoming aware of their connections. Maybe it is around the table enjoying a good meal of home-grown food that we become aware that we are all, like a good patch quilt, creatively connected.

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March 22, 2007 Growing in a Small Space

Today a number of unexpected things happened — advocating for a woman at an agency, working on getting my son and granddaughter tickets to visit my wife’s mother out East at Easter, a friend came to town from New Orleans via Chicago. Yet I was able to squeeze some time into this busy day to clean up the sun-room and set up the new GRAF (“Growing Renewable, Affordable Food”) growing power plant stand and do a little work in the garden.

In this picture you can see all three of my small growing spaces, the small garden in the backyard, the 8’ X 2’ Growing Power box in the sun-room, and the newest addition, the GRAF Growing Power plant stand. The plant stand — designed and made by Andor Horvath, a professional wood design maker — has a lot of flexibility in how it is used. Right now it has only one active planter with a few kale plants I transferred from the GP box. There is a tube running from that planter to a container on the bottom where I am catching the “tea”. The other planter is set up with compost, coir (coconut shavings) and castings and ready for planting. The mini-greenhouse on the bottom shelf has 72 spots for castings and coir and seeds. The planter stand has many configurations and once we figure how best to grow with it, can potentially supply a household with plenty of salad greens for the winter, effective as a plant starter in the fall or spring, and growing herbs and other plants all summer long. The idea here, as with all of Growing Power, is to grow the maximum amount of healthy food in a very small space, effectively and at a low cost. Will Allen of Growing Power’s goal is to get $5 profit for every square foot in all of their hot houses. We may not be able to reach that goal in this plant stand, but will work on making it able to Grow Renewable Affordable Food (GRAF) that is healthy and tasty. If the stands are successful we hope to someday market them as something everyone can use. There is even a possibility of putting a light beneath the top shelf for the plants on the bottom shelf.

Next in our marketing plans are an affordable worm condo to produce valuable castings, and a cold-frame to extend the growing season outside. The fourth part of the GRAF kit will be a how-to booklet on home use of growing power. If anyone reading this has thoughts of how we can mass-produce these GP plant stands please let Andor and me know . We will keep you updated on its progress and availability.

Growing in a small space, be it a small garden, GP box or a plant stand like this, offers us a unique way to look at our days, which for all of us probably seem busier than we want. Growing in a small space or living without enough time means living with limitations and making the most of those limitations to grow or produce the most. It means effective use of the space or time we do have.

A practical example of all this, using a limited space to the maximum happened Saturday, accidentally, when I was looking for a hat to wear to the Peace Rally?. My Milwaukee Bucks’ hat seemed to be the perfect one. It was green and it was St. Patrick’s Day. It was dirty from the earth since I used it in the garden. It has a pin on it that said “The holy land is everywhere” –Black Elk. It was a Milwaukee Bucks hat, representing a basketball team with a real losing season, a team in need. And, as my wife pointed out, we were marching on the Federal Building which houses the offices of Senator Kohl, the owner of the Bucks basketball team and the person we were trying to influence to take a stronger stand against the war. That’s a lot of symbols for one hat.

So in the small space of a hat a lot was being communicated for those with eyes to see. As they say, small is big (if you can keep your head from being too big).

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March 21, 2007 Attitude of Gratitude

Sometimes I get so caught up doing things, helping a person get a dishwasher, fighting for rights of persons with disabilities, helping friends on projects and writing, that I easily forget to count my blessings.

Today when I was putting the three coatings of poly on the GP plant stand that Andor designed and built, I thought how fortunate I was to have such a stand and such a growing bunch of salad bowl friends. ( For more information on Salad Bowl friends see the February 12th Diary of a Worm entry.

Salad Bowl Friends were there Saturday at the Peace Rally and at Timbuktu for the St. Pat’s Party. When I hear and see what is happening in Sierra Leone, the home of my African nephews and nieces, I feel blessed to live here. In Sierra Leone, where my nephew Matthias, a political exile comes from, people suffer from dire poverty and neglect. I am sitting here listing to the Sierra Leone “Refugee All Star” band music on my computer while the friends and family of this group of singers and my friends suffer death and destruction, the after-affects of a civil war. I sit here working on a web site for Mothers Against Gun Violence while many mothers and their families live in parts of the city terrorized by violence.

It took the cleaning and placing poly on the stand today to stop me in my tracks so I could count my blessings.

Above is a picture of the GP planter stand naked, without planter, tea catchers, soil or plants. In the days to come you will see this stand grow into a garden of delight, a small home model stand for affordable organically grown salad greens, herbs or whatever you desire all year around. Much growing in a small space as result of this God-given ability to enrich the sail and grow organically. Also spring is just around the corner, so there will be more on gardening in a small space, worm condos and Growing Power in a home garden.

For those of you in the general area of Milwaukee you have a chance to tour the mother-house of Growing Power at 55th and Silver Spring. The father of Growing Power Will Allen will conduct the tour himself on Monday, March 26th. This tour is what inspired this “Diary of a Worm”. The tour shows you the power of growing power when humans, worms, waste, enriched soil, water, plants and fish all work together. With an attitude of gratitude, working together we are Growing Power.

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March 20, 2007 Taste of Honey

Taste of Honey at St. Pat’s party

Not hearing from Marquette University about displaying Juan Ana Coffee at their Fair Trade Coffee fair this morning, I went to the city council hearing on a local alderman’s proposed ordinance to increase the licensing fee on licensed legal rooming houses. I have asked him time and again by email why, in this time of a lack of low-income housing, he wants to increase the licensing fees by a large amount on legal homes, thus increasing rent at rooming houses. He does not answer, but this morning I was surprised to find out he has introduced two ordinances, the one above and another one classifying transitional housing as rooming houses, thus make it harder for them to operate.

After he asked that the bills be postponed, he lashed out at a rooming house he is trying to close in his neighborhood, and started to call advocates for persons with mental illnesses insulting names. He admitted that the closing of this rooming house and his name-calling had nothing to do with the two bills he was introducing, but he kept on going. He reminded me of President Bush referring over and over again to “9/11″ and “Iraq” in the same sentence, so that people came to perceive that Iraq was behind 9/11 even though it was not.

They asked for community remarks, and a lawyer for some major agencies talked in very general terms, very nicely, about some myths and facts. Then I spoke and very calmly said how the fee increase would be passed on, just like any other one, to the persons who could afford it least — those in rooming houses, one small step away from being homeless. I also made a few remarks about how ordinances like those proposed were part of what I called a “structured discrimination” against the poor and marginalized of our society. I spoke as a prodigal father and for those who are voiceless, not as an advocate. However, I forgot the question of “why the increase?”, which I had come there to ask. Answering that question would expose the “structural discrimination” better than any words.

I left the room feeling okay, but when I got to the door, a lawyer who represents some large agencies and housing owners was standing there. I knew him from past battles and he had even represented a family member at a mental health hearing. I said ‘hello’ but he just stared right through me and started to talk to the city worker behind me. I know the big agencies with money, lawyers, and influence do not like me asking questions like I do, but I felt today the full extent of their abhorrence of this method of exposure, which is the only one that works for the poor and voiceless.

That was the dark, dirty moment of the day. I felt sad driving home, but motivated to keep on speaking out, asking questions and taking pictures. When I got home the sun was out, my plants were growing and there were some good emails waiting for me. One was from my friend Godsil telling everyone about the pictorial essay I was in the process of doing. Now that he was broadcasting it, I thought I’d better do it, and felt much better afterwards for all the “signs of hope” I was able to show. You can find the completed work at Peace Rally?.

The good news kept coming. I received my first response from a public official for my “Essay on Violence’. The letter from the police chief was a joy to read, very hopeful and encouraging that we share the same values and same ideas of what to do about gun violence in Milwaukee. When I told my wife about this letter she reminded me that the Police Chief is retiring this fall. However, I will take words of encouragement wherever they come from.

Also at the office supply store today, a woman starting telling me about how, due to incompetence of a doctor and health insurance, she had lost the use of her right arm and was seeking some talking software so she can use a computer. She told me how this broken down health care system was not getting her down and how she was still pursuing her PhD in theology at Cardinal Strict University. Her story, like that of Dawn Powell’s, the stories of persons without money, lawyers and influence, who keep battling back, really inspired me to keep on speaking out for the voiceless, the ones the local alderman does not talk or listen to. Today was the day I needed to hear from this lady.

And to top it off the professor at Marquette University finally called in response to my request to present Juan Ana Coffee, and I emailed her the information. If she had called before this evening, I probably would have chosen the coffee gathering over the city council hearing today.

Also I went to the hardware store, got the poly finish for the GP plant stand, and had a good conversation with my partner on the home model GRAF project. I put some pictures of the St. Patrick’s party? last Saturday on a web page, heard from some other friends, got a few funny jokes in the mail, and had good conversations with my son, wife, and a friend.

I talk a good game about creative nonviolence, taking the insult and injury and coming back with love of enemy, but I have a hard time doing it. This morning when I did it, took in the hurt and came back with positive things, the rest of the day I was at peace.

A garden and plants, like a forest, can take a lot of devastation and keep on coming back and growing again. We humans have it in our nature to do this also, but need to be in touch with our nature to understand and do this. I had a taste today of what can happen — a taste of the honey of creative nonviolence.

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March 19, 2007 The More It Grows, the More It Grows!

GP home box 3/18/07.

There is one lesson in life that I do not know how to deal with. I learned it some years ago in my first year in a new position, Director of Religious Education and Youth Minister at a Church in western Waukesha County. Being new at this ministry, I had to work long hours to do the kind of job I wanted to do. I complained one day to a fellow workaholic and she said that if I did a good job the first year, it would be less work the second and following years. This made sense to me, since once I had prepared something I could modify and reuse it the next year. However, I should have known better since the person who told me this had been there a number of years and her job was getting harder and harder and taking more hours, even though she was doing an excellent job.

Well I did a good job the first year, but found in the second year that I was working harder and longer hours. Finally it came to me that the new initiatives and all the programs I had established the first year were flourishing and spinning off more and more activities. For example, I was very good at attracting adult volunteers (I called them “youth ministers”) and more youth into the program. Naturally this made more work for me, as there were many more ministers to support, and more youth doing more things. It got worse the third year, and when I left two persons were needed to replace me.

I was reminded of this lesson, which I still do not know what to do about, today in the Growing Power Box and in my life. Today when I went to cut the arugula and kale for a salad for dinner, it had grown to new heights even though I had cut it many times before. The enriched soil of castings that these plants grow in really responds well to the sunny and warmer weather in the sun-room and the watering of the soil with “tea.” Because of the work done and lessons learned last year, the greens are growing bigger and bigger this year. Like the lesson I learned as church minister, the more and better you do, the more there is to do.
In this case the more it grows, the more it grows.

My day was like this. I had planned a day catching up, but instead found myself, because of my efforts over the weekend taking pictures at the Peace Rally and the St. Patrick’s party at Timbuktu, working harder. I took some good pictures at the Peace Rally, and when Tegan set up a page on the Milwaukee Renaissance I started to go through them, working on the pictures and posting them. This is still a work in progress but some of the results can be seen at Peace Rally? Also today the unexpected, as expected happened — my son’s computer’s CD drive went out and we had to wait around for the computer guy to replace it. Also my work with Ella Brooks and her patch quilts Ella’s Patch Quilts? led to my sending her web site to some TV personnel and going with her to a mass and reception that a mutual friend, a religious sister of the School Sisters of St. Francis, was celebrating for the 90th anniversary of St. Joseph chapel at their world headquarters. (Today was the feast day of St. Joseph)

I could go on with stuff I did with Mothers Against Gun Violence, and a few others things I am working on today, but I think you get the point: The more you do that is good, as the more you grow in rich soil, the more seeds are cast and the more work there is to do. In the bible there is something like this, “the more you give the more you will receive”. That’s great, but what it doesn’t say is that the more you receive the more you must give.

Like the kale and arugula in the Growing Power box in the picture above, the more what you do grows, the more you need to do.

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March 18, 2007 Coffee To Be

Sunday is the first day of the week and yet I still feel I am falling behind this week in production. I just heard someone give advice to a person today saying, “Don’t worry about being ‘productive.’” The person responded: “Good advice”, and it is.

Yesterday I introduced you the GP home planter model. I did not do much today on the this project except to talk a little about it with Andor. Hopefully this model will develop into a series of helpful items for home Growing Power. Tonight let me reintroduce you to the coffee of the GRAF household. It is organic fair trade coffee directly from the coffee trees of San Lucas Toliman, trees planted in perfect conditions for coffee, and in soil enriched with worm castings. This ‘Juan Ana’ coffee can be ordered from the San Lucas Mission Office in New Ulm, MN for $7 a 17 oz bag. With postage for 10 bags, 10.625 lbs, the cost comes to about 7.50 a pound. See my Buried in Guatemala? diary for more information of how to order.

I mentioned ‘Juan Ana’ not only because it makes a wonderful cup of coffee but also for the fact that coffee houses, be they Starbucks or the Amaranth Café, are known as places to meet, talk, relax, read a book or work on a computer. I think it is only right that Coffee be the symbol of the fair trade movement since the purpose of drinking coffee is to relax, to stimulate the brain and socialize. If the answer to this question: “would you like a good cup of coffee?” is yes, you need to check out ‘Juan Ana’ Coffee

Something that slows you down to relax and also speeds you up is a paradox. So tomorrow I will start the day with a cup of Juan Ana Coffee (I mix it with some Tanzanian fair trade decaffeinated coffee so I can drink more.) Maybe I will do a little reading and reflecting drinking my coffee in the GP sun-room. Clean out my head, figure out my priorities for the day and get to work.

Since the home model Growing Power is one of my priorities this means I may go out and buy an oil finish for the new plant stand and hook it up properly. This is one of the too many things I should do. But if I remember that it is not being productive but being who you are that counts, all will be well. As some of you know, “Bobsyouruncle.”

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March 17, 2007 Green Day

It is only right that March 17th, St Patrick’s day, be a Green Day. This morning was cathartic. I wrote a letter to friends expressing some hurt I felt, but felt relieved after writing it. Than I went downtown for a major peace rally to Bring the Troops Home from Iraq. I felt very sad on this fourth anniversary of the beginning of this tragic war. This war has brought more death, torture and violence to Iraq than did the dictator Saddam. One of the Iraq war veterans who spoke said how we lost the war before it started by devaluing the lives of Iraqi people. We do not even do a body county of Iraqi persons, but estimates are that over 600 thousand Iraq civilians have been killed. When he refused to drive his truck over children that were in the road he was disciplined. For him and many more persons all over, every human life is valuable, especially the lives of the innocent. These events today saddened me and I have no more words to express my deep sorrow but I must go and march with the people that are saying no the war.

I covered up the horror I felt inside by keeping myself busy taking pictures and meeting so many old friends along the way of the march. I met one man I knew from the 60’s. He was dressed in his World War II military uniform. He was active in the peace movement in 1968 and raised the money to bail us out of jail after the Milwaukee 14 action. I took his picture in his uniform and will feature it on the Milwaukee 14 Today site tomorrow. The rally and march was a turning point in my day. The sun was out and although we were protesting death and destruction, there was an air of hope.

GP home model planter

When I got home my life really started to turn green. Andor, the design specialist and home repair man, came over to my house with the rough mock-up of the plant stand that is part of the Growing Renewable Affordable Food (GRAF) home model kit. It needs a little more work, a drain catch on the bottom to retrieve the tea. I placed two planter-boxes on the top containing compost, worms, coyer and castings, and transplanted a few kale plants into one of them. In the days to come you will hearing more about this GP plant stand, worm condos for home and community gardens to make the ‘black gold’ of castings, cold frames for spring and fall use outside, and a “how to” booklet on the home model of Growing Power, which Tegan who edits this site has offered to help me write.

So this morning I planted a seed deep in my soul. This afternoon it grew into a Growing Power home model box and tonight it bloomed at the fifth annual St. Patrick’s party at Timbuktu. This is a party that Godsil and others on the Renaissance site put together that allows community members time on the soap box to talk briefly about what they are doing in arts, community development, media or whatever. There is great world music and a wonderful diversity of people who know the value of working together to built a new and beautiful Milwaukee. I took many pictures that will be shared on a Renaissance page, and got a chance once more to be with old and new friends. My wife and adult son went with me and we enjoyed some great African food, music, dance and inspiriting talk. One of the songs that was played was the Beatles song “A little help from my friends”. Tegan, the wiki gnome of the Renaissance sites, pointed out to me how right it was that the song should be played at this event.

Yes, this was truly a Green Day. It started in the darkness of hurt feelings and the desolation of war, broke through the dirt of life on the march, grew quickly with the new GP home model planter, and bore fruit at the St. Patrick Celebration at Timbuktu.

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March 16 Think Spring!

Think Spring!

Many years ago I heard a motivational tape by Earnest Nightingale that held that the secret of life was that “you become what you think.” I think often about this very inspiring tape. Now I hear that someone has recycled that thought and made millions on books and CDs called “Secret.” I firmly believe in the power of positive thinking, as it is also called, but know from experience that thinking is just one part of the formula to find what you are looking for. The rest is hard work and trust that calls for eyes to see and ears to hear. In the Nightingale tape there was also the story about a man who sold his land and left on a journey to find diamonds. He came back broke and tired, only to find that the person who had bought his land had found a treasure of diamonds on it.

I went on a trip today to find a St. Patrick’s flag to replace the Christmas one that flies in front of my house. I went to a nearby variety store but could not find any St. Patrick’s flags. They did have a flag with some green in it that said on the top “Welcome Spring”. So I purchased it, took down the Christmas flag and will fly this till it is time for my Easter flag. Although it is cold again tonight, maybe if we all just “think spring” spring will come soon.

Tonight I saw a movie abut the Sierra Leone civil war called “Blood Diamonds.” I have a number of friends, my African “nieces” and “nephews” who escaped from this tragic war that left the country poor and devastated. My friend who is a political exile because of his efforts to help the ‘child soldiers’ told me the movie was good but felt sad that it was not actually filmed in Sierra Leone because of the devastation that still reigns there. He is my friend who has a non-profit corporation called Friends Across, Inc. (, which is trying to raise money to send a donated ambulance to Sierra Leone. Now Sierra Leone is a good example of where you need more that the secret of positive thinking to have and become what you desire. Once one of the wealthiest countries in natural resources of diamonds, it is now the poorest country in the world. Now that the diamonds are gone, it is a forgotten country. No “secret” by itself will work here.

However, for Sierra Leone, for the man seeking treasure, and for those of us looking for spring or looking for the ‘secret’, there is a wealth of resources right where we are. One of those treasures we have is the ground we stand on. On this holy ground we can be ‘soil aficionado‘, enrich it and made it whole even when it has been violated by war or death. The prayer vigils we do at the site of each of the city’s homicides are part of “Holy Ground“ campaign to take our city back, house by house, block by block, from the violence that reigns. See

So even in the face of violence and death, “thinking spring”, seeking new life and growth, helps to make everything whole again if we are willing to do the work that goes along with it.

Tomorrow I hope not to only “Think Spring” but to work outside in the yard and inside in the sun-room to make spring happen.

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March 15 Due to Technical Difficulties

Some of you may remember, like I do, those early days of TV when often a sign would appear saying that “Due to technical difficulties…” When I went to the Milwaukee Renaissance site earlier tonight to prepare this posting I got the computer message of “No Such Page”. My email was working, so at first I thought it was all web pages, or maybe just my sbc-yahoo account. However, soon I discovered it was just the Milwaukee Renaissance server’s sites. I went off and watched some TV and now the server is back.

I had a very embarrassing problem with my phone service today that this technical difficulties moment with the server reminded me of. Yesterday afternoon we noticed the phone land-line in the house was not working. We checked all the phones in the house to make sure they were all hung up, disconnected them all but one and still no service. The DSL service, which is on the same line, was still working, which seemed strange.

I noticed some private phone company people working out back of my house. They said they were just putting up some new lines and had not interfered with my present line. Yeah sure, I thought and kept on trying to call the phone company and talk to a human being instead of a machine. Finally I was able to talk to one and she told me they would send someone out today but that there was a simple test I could perform to see if it was an internal house problem or one outside. She said there was a box in the back of my house that I should plug a phone into. If there was no signal then I needed a technician. If there was a signal then it was an external problem and I should call her back. I plugged the phone in the back and still no connection.

So today a phone technician came and after spending some time diagnosing the problem he asked me if there was a phone in the garage. I said there was one but we seldom used it. On the way to the garage I realized that I did answer the phone while pulling my car in the garage yesterday, and had told the person I would call them back and hung up. But sure enough I did not hang up the phone correctly and this was the cause of the problem. Fortunately the phone technician did not charge me since I had performed the outside test they had recommended, showing it was not an internal problem. It turns up the previous phone technician had installed an unused second line into the plug in the box and this is why the test was not correct.

I tell you this embarrassing story, believe it or not, to tell you about other technical difficulties that are man-made like this one, but are much harder to correct. This morning I received two very disturbing emails attacking my honesty and integrity for speaking the truth, as I saw it, on a couple of issues. Taking my own advice from yesterday’s posting, before responding I went out to lunch with my wife to the Amaranth Bakery and Café. (I did not want to react which was my old way of dealing with such ‘human technical difficulties.’) Well lunch was not enough, so I took some more time off to clear my head. Finally, late in the afternoon, I responded to one attack in a kind way and avoided dealing with it until a later date, which was easy to do since the person making the attack left for three weeks after making it. The second one was from the newspaper reporter who had misrepresented my friend Dawn Powell’s houses, where Dawn takes in poor persons with disabilities. This newspaper article is still causing great harm and I had simply asked city and county officials why 10 persons with disabilities were not being allowed to live in these houses because of the articles. Since her attack on Dawn and me touched on a social justice issue for the poor, I had to respond. By waiting until after lunch, talk therapy and dinner, I was able to do so in rational way tonight.

Human relationships have many “technical difficulties”, perhaps more so because of the technical world we live in. However, these human technical difficulties might explain why more and more of us are attracted to Growing Power and urban growing renewable, affordable food. On my way into the Amaranth Bakery and Café today, my wife and I met our pastor from our church and retired Archbishop Weakland, whom I knew but had not seen for years. They were just leaving. On the way out of the Café we met a neighborhood leader who operates a community garden and her friend. It turns out her friend is someone who is trying to start a business doing “sales, marketing & project management to advance the cause of sustainability, green living and renewable energy.” (From her business card.) We got to talk about Growing Power and stuff until I could see from my wife’s facial expression it was time to go. However, I did tell her about the GRAF home model kit that a friend and I are planning. (He does the work and I do the talking.) This talk about Growing Power and being in the Café really lifted my spirits.

So when “human technical difficulties” get you down, you may just need to get away into the land of healthy eating at the Amaranth Café, or work and talk of Growing Power for awhile. When you get back to the technical difficulties you may find it was something as simple as leaving the phone off the hook in the garage.

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March 14, 2007 Let’s Do Lunch!

The Amaranth Bakery and Cafe

After a prayer vigil for a homicide victim, 27th so far this year in Milwaukee, my friend with the Mothers Against Gun Violence reminded me of a weekly meeting we had for the coalition to pass the Responsible Gun Bill for Milwaukee County. The meeting was brief since there was not much news except that we are still waiting for the political king-pins to meet to discuss the bill. Afterwards I was gong to drive my friend home when she mentioned that being diabetic, amidst many ills she suffers, she needed something to eat. She needed ‘healthy food’ and she had wanted to see my GP box, so I was going to take her over to my house nearby. Suddenly I remembered that I was driving past the Amaranth Bakery and Café at 33rd and Lisbon. (I told the owner he needs a better sign outside). I drove around the block and we went in to enjoy some of the best, healthiest soup and bread in town. We both had, with our rolls, a bowl of black bean and sweet potato soup, and both ended up buying treats and a loaf of bread to go. You do not know how enjoyable it can be to eat healthy organic natural food well prepared, until you go to the Amaranth Bakery and Café. It is a real motivator to work on “growing renewable, affordable food” (GRAF).

Outside of lunch today I was faced with more death and destruction, this time of the ‘in the house kind’: group power struggles. I avoid such things as the plague and needed to move on quickly. Moving on for me meant to send another letter to the local politicians and media today asking a third in my series of simple but provocative questions. The question today was “Why is the City and County preventing 10 plus persons with disabilities from living in safe, affordable available housing?” The question dealt with the continued blacklisting of my friend Dawn Powell‘s three houses where she provides clean housing and good meals for poor persons with disabilities like mental illnesses. The county still bans all agencies from sending persons to her houses, even though the articles in the newspaper that led to this have been proved to misrepresent the conditions of the houses, and they are all up to code. Also, besides good room and board, she provides that extra loving care that cannot be purchased at any cost (well maybe not … except maybe for lunch; I will need to take Dawn to lunch some day at Amaranth Bakery and Café).

Now that I think about it there are a number of friends, old and young, that I should “do lunch” with at the Café. I already have a lunch date with my loving wife this Thursday at Amaranth. If you are having a dying kind of day, outside or inside, may I suggest you do lunch at a place like this, which takes the finest of food ingredients, and skillfully prepares them to make a simple but healthy lunch? You can even feel good about eating sweets at the Café.

There are empty lots across the street from the Café and next to it on one side. I understand from the owner they have plans to develop GP style gardens in both. Maybe someday the vegetables for the soups will come from these urban lots growing renewable, affordable food (GRAF).

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March 13, 2007 Turning Waste into Gold

Waste to be ‘black gold’

Today, I got a call from Godsil, founder of this Milwaukee Renaissance site, asking if I would join him and some friends in Bay View at his home in the next few weeks to create some compost piles. I got started talking about how the real value of compost — waste — was when it was treated by worms, and turned into castings or what Will at Growing Power calls “black gold.” This enriched soil, black gold, is the real secret of Growing Power. It allows plants to be grown closer together and be more organically fruitful. Castings are valued at Growing Power at $75 for a five-gallon barrel. Castings can be used for top soil for plants or to make “tea”.

Above is the picture of my ‘worm condo’ today. Last fall and during the winter I filled it with waste: leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds etc. As you can somewhat see in the picture, the waste is cooking and forming compost soil. As the weather warms the compost will cook more and soon be ready for the worms. In the spring I will remove the worms that are now in the GP box in the sun-room and put them in this cooked compost. During the summer the worms will eat this compost and produce the ‘black gold’ of castings. I do not know how many five-gallon buckets this worm condo holds, but it is quite a few. So at $75 a bucket the worm condo, in the fall when it becomes time to move the worms back inside, will be worth a lot. Talk about condo values rising? These castings from the worm condo can be used for the Growing Power box top soil next winter, for houseplants, and kept for the following year’s garden.

The Growing Renewable Affordable Food (GRAF) home model GP kit will include a worm condo. The enriched soil of castings can be used for inside and outside home gardens as well as for community gardens. This is another example of why the tag “soil aficionado” is more accurate than the tag “worm guy.”

Also today I check on the worm depository hill outside. The snow was melted and I could dig into the pile and check on the worms. They were healthy and wiggling. I took some worms and compost out to be used for our home GP stand that we are building this week, (another part of the GRAF kit) and stopped by Starbucks to get some coffee grounds to feed the worms. It is the first new waste I had put on the pile for a long time.

The other day I told my adult son who lives with us the parable about the fish in the sea that had heard from a wise old fish about how great the sea was. He swam and swam but never found it. He was in it. This talk about turning waste into gold reminds me of this parable. In the garbage, discarded material and waste of our lives there is a treasure of gold.

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March 12, 2007 Good News, Bad News

Some News of Today in My Life:

  1. Today I heard that over 30 pilgrims were killed on the road going home in Iraq from a holy site.
  2. I met a veteran who had been beaten down and homeless, but is now struggling to make a comeback.
  3. I heard from my friend that the first GRAF (Growing Renewable Affordable Food) stand is almost ready for planting.
  4. I heard today from an agency asking me not to stir up “trouble” by pointing out how city officials were discriminating against poor persons with mental illness, because they are trying to negotiate a quiet deal with city officials.
  5. Today I heard from a friend that I have been making a mountain out of molehill by protesting the blacklisting of a friend, Dawn, who has been struggling to provide housing for the poor.
  6. Today I made an excellent salad for dinner totally with greens, arugula and kale, from the Growing Power Box.
  7. Today the sun was shining and the temperature was so good that tonight the temperature in the sun-room and in the soil in GP Box is still over 70 degrees.
  8. The TV news tonight was full of local and national violence.

In this selected version of the news of the day in my life, do you notice a pattern in the strictly good news 3, 6, 7, and the strictly bad news 1, 4, 5, 8? The completely good news all dealt with Growing Power, and the bad news all dealt with violence or persons who know what is best for other persons. The mixed good news and bad news, 2, was the veteran I met today on a St. Vincent De Paul visit. We were at a house to assist him with a refrigerator, stove and bed in his new apartment.

In the above analysis of good news and bad news I did not mention everything that happened today, and did not mention those who ignored or were ‘indifferent’ to the news above, like the local alderman who so far has ignored my question of why he is proposing to raise the license fee on legal rooming houses that house the poor.

I know that to deal with life, the indifference and the bad news, I need to focus on the ‘good news’. Tomorrow morning I will consult with a friend on the best way to communicate some of my concerns; I will make and plant two planter boxes for use in our Growing Power stand that is being prepared, and I will, if I am smart, get myself outside to enjoy the sun and warmth that is so promising. Focusing on the Good News is the only way to survive the bad news.

Sometimes the Good News can be Bad News and the Bad News can be Good News. More on that to paradox of life to come.

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March 11, 2007 A Soil Aficionado Pilgrim

St. Ignatius Pilgrim

Today in Church our young pastoral associate gave his first Sunday homily. He started with talking about a parishioner with a web site called the “Diary of a Worm”, who was a soil aficionado. This talk about good soil was related to the parable in today’s scripture reading about a person who wants to cut down a fig tree because it has not borne fruit in three years. The gardener talks him out of it by saying to leave it for another year. He would cultivate the soil around it and fertilize it. Then if it does not bear fruit the person can cut it down. I hope the gardener in the parable used “worm castings” as fertilizer, like the coffee farmers in Guatemala use around their trees. The pastoral associate’s point was that we must enrich the dirt of our everyday life in order to find fruit in our life.

What I like best about the homily was that he called me a “worm aficionado” rather than “the worm guy”, which some people in church refer to me as. I like the metaphor of enriching the soil of our everyday lives. All livestock serves a purpose. The purpose of worms as a livestock is to enrich the soil. Yes, I am a “soil aficionado” rather than a “worm guy.” The whole purpose of having worms is to enrich the soil for growing life. If we can take all the “dirt” of our everyday life and enrich it, we will spring more life.

Tomorrow I will need to cut the arugula and kale in the Growing Power box again. With all this nice weather it is really growing. The enriched soil, consisting of compost, worms, coyer and castings, is producing new growth and life and certainly bearing fruit. Last year at this time my GP box was pretty-well dying off. One year later, as I’ve been learning how to be a better soil aficionado, the soil is producing all kinds of new growth.

Another label I have been called that I like, just as much as “soil aficionado,” is a “pilgrim”. For a long time various people, from all kinds of walks of life, have called me a “pilgrim”. I do not understand why, but I like the tag since I have admired persons who have called themselves “pilgrims” in their writings, like St. Ignatius of Loyola in his autobiography, and the anonymous monk who wrote “the Way of the Pilgrim” which I discovered in my search for the origin of the “Jesus prayer.” I shared today with some friends some thoughts by Thomas Merton, the well-known Trappist monk who also called himself a pilgrim. Merton says: “ I believe my vocation is essentially that of a pilgrim and an exile in life, that I have no proper place in the world, but that for that reason I am in some sense to be the friend and brother of people everywhere, especially those who are exiles and pilgrims like myself… My life is in many ways simple, but it is also a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but can fully depend on the Love and Protection of Him who guides me.” (Cold war Letters, Orbis, 2006, pp 129–30)

A pilgrim needs to be alert to the road he or she travels on. On the road there is a lot of dirt. Being a pilgrim and soil aficionado is a good combination. Such a pilgrim, dealing effectively with all the dirt on the road, despite feeling lonely and an exile, in some mysterious way can be a friend to all who travel the same road.

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March 10, 2007 Father Abraham

Mother Earth

This morning I read in the religious section of the Saturday newspaper there was going to be a talk this week about the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This talk reminded me how these three great religious faiths trace themselves back to Abraham in their sacred scriptures. Abraham is recorded in all three faiths as the first person to have a covenant with the one God and all three faiths trace their heritage back to the story of Abraham.

Fast forward to this evening when I was in a van with my grandchildren and my daughter in law put on a tape of Christian music with one song that talked about our “father Abraham.” My two grandsons in the backseat asked my wife who Abraham was and why he was our father. The question got passed up to me in the front seat, and I told them about the story of Abraham and his convent with God and about how both Judaism and Muslims trace their heritage to Abraham and how Christianity, being an offshoot of Judaism, also goes back to the story of Father Abraham.

Now if we Muslims, Jews, and Christians all trace our heritage back to the same person, in some very profound way, we are brothers and sisters in the same faith that God revealed to Abraham. You would never know it from the way we have been fighting each other over the years, Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims and Jews and Muslims. If we all have the same father, the same mother, Earth, and believe in One God, who is not female or male, Jew, Muslim or Christian, what is all this fighting about? This is a good example of what I quoted Jesus (a Jew, and a prophet to Muslims and Christians), saying the other day in the scriptures, about how it is not what goes into a person that should concern us, since it just comes out, but what comes from the inside that can be a source of evil.

Using garden language for the same thing, we all are part of Mother Earth. We need to fertilize each other for growth and to root out that which can destroy us. There is one Sun, one Earth, and one Nature for all of us. Like worms of various breeds, we need to all live together on this earth dong what comes naturally and casting off living organisms of life. And like worms we need to transform all kinds of bad stuff into good.

Some of us in Faith In Recovery, a mental health ministry in faith communities, are trying to restate our mission statement to take out the religious overtones of “faith” and enrich the spirituality of our movement. One board member asked, “How can we take out the word “faith” when we are called Faith In Recovery”: My response is that we are just trying to reflect that “faith” does not mean “religion” and that spirituality is bigger than a religious term. Our present base might now be in Christian communities, but as we say in other statements, we are open to persons of spirituality of all faiths - Muslim, Hindu, Jew. Maybe this association of “faith” with religion is why these persons from the same basic faith in God fight each other.

Again, using garden language: ”We are all in this garden together, for better or worse. We may be flower, vegetable, herb or fruit, but we are grounded in the same soil and all need the same things - sun, rain, and good soil - to grow and prosper.”

In spirit we have the same “father and mother”.

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March 9, 2007 Sprouts, Grandchildren and Worms make for a Normal Day

The weather is warming up, the snow is melting and rain, rather than snow, comes down from the sky. If this weather pattern continues, above freezing days, I will have to get my rain barrels back in place to catch the rain off the house and garden. This also marks the time to order seed from the catalog and to start the planters growing inside. Soon I hope to have the first model of the Growing Renewable Affordable Food (GRAF) inside growing kit. I talked to the designer yesterday and he hopes to have the first model done this week. He is still excited about the project but needs to do other work on regular jobs for survival. As soon as he gives it to me I will fill it with compost, worms, coyer and castings and use it to grow more Kale in the sun-room and to start seedlings for outside. Or maybe I could start some sprouts, something I have been thinking and talking about but have not done. Sprouts are good for inside growing: you keep cutting them down for salads and cooking, and they keep on coming back. There will be pictures.

Tomorrow I will visit my grandchildren since it is my grandson’s seventh birthday. I still have more stuff to put on their page Graf Kids?, and probably will get more tomorrow. Today I was editing an interview my now seven-year-old grandson and I did with my 2-year-old granddaughter. However, she was more interested in looking at the moving signal on the cell phone I was using than talking. Maybe tomorrow I will take a small tape recorder and catch her when she is really talking but has no visual signal to stare at. Editing the interview today was more time consuming than I had expected. Also I need to take some of their pictures back up with me, so they can tell me who drew what before I add them to their gallery. Their creativity is way ahead of their ability to add stuff to the site on their own. However, my older grandson, 9, fortunately or unfortunately, is rapidly growing in his ability to use computers. Small children, like sprouts, keep on growing, but unlike sprouts they are not cut down but grow into maturity. The trick is to help them grow into maturity while keeping the freshness of their imagination. I consider my main role, as a grandparent, is to feed their imagination. Parents take care of their physical and emotional needs and teach them values; schools and teachers educate them, but grandparents are there to keep their imagination alive.

If it was a little bit warmer I would dig up some worms outside to take their major compost pile, which we built in their field last year using cow manure, straw, hay and kitchen scraps. Maybe next visit, which will probably be in April. Worms fascinate young children, especially when an adult gives attention to worms. Worms as livestock are good for the imagination.

Watering my inside plants today with ‘tea’ I noticed some of them flourishing and some of them just hanging in there, especially in the chilly sun-room, waiting for spring.

Today I was going to catch up on various projects but I think that, although I did a lot, I fell behind - maybe because of new things added to my things to do. My doctor asked me today if a “retired person” notices a difference between weekdays and weekends. I told him that for except for church on Sunday, they were pretty much the same, very busy, at a nice pace.

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March 8, 2007 Coming Home to Kale

This morning’s Holy Ground prayer service for the 22nd homicide victim in Milwaukee was at the site where my Uncle and Aunt used to have a corner grocery store in the days before supermarkets. Now it is an apartment house with the former store one unit and the upstairs living quarters where my aunt, uncle and cousin lived, another unit. It was upstairs on Monday that a mother found her 25-year-old daughter had been shot to death.

As a child this was holy ground for me. Living only a block away I used to be at the store often, picking up groceries for my family, buying penny candy, working in the store with my uncle or aunt, or playing with my older cousin. Now this holy ground had been scarred by this murder and we needed, by our prayer, to redeem it. This ‘crisis of violence’ the people of Milwaukee are experiencing came home dramatically for me today.

This site is not far from where I currently live on the Westside of Milwaukee. When I came home today I visited my sun-room Growing Power Box and saw, as the snow melts and the sun shines, that the Kale in the GP box is really growing. There are a number of meals already there, and as it we cut it, more will grow. This coming home was a lot sweeter than coming home to my Uncle’s former grocery store. There are no more sweets there.

After some persistent effort new hope was given to the Anti-Stigma campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues which one of four of us suffer. The goal of the campaign would be to ease the stigma attached to these particular illnesses so people can be free to seek help. As my work with Growing Power practices and worms have taught me, stigma does not exist in the world of nature but certainly comes out of us humans.

Today on a St. Vincent De Paul call with my wife, we met a young couple that has just moved into an apartment. They had no bed or other furniture, but they had a home they were grateful for. We gave them a voucher for a few items and they were grateful for that. Gratitude will bring home many good blessings in their life.

I worked some on my interior growing process, cleaning and organizing, but have a major reluctance to clean and organize my office. Why do I fear doing this? I do not know but I do know that the more grateful I am for the ability to come home to my family and kale and the more I am true to who I am, the more motivated I am to clean and organize the office. Coming Home is a nice warm feeling.

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March 7, 2007 Watch What You Cast Off

In the Gospel scripture reading for today Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about things that enter a person from the outside, like food or drink, since they just come out again. He says to watch for some of the things that come out of a person from the inside, evil thoughts, theft, greed, murder for example, that can defile a person.

This thought made me think of the worms in the GP box and in the worm depository outside. Nearly the entire amount a worm eats, their weight each day, is cast out the other end and is the “black gold” that is the heart of Growing Power movement. Nothing comes out of worm from the inside since there is nothing to come out. This is unlike us humans who have a lot come out of us from the inside, good and bad.

Worms naturally eat waste and, after it goes through them, cast it off as valuable soil. We humans do the same with stuff from the outside, like food, but from the inside we can cast off all kinds of things, evils and blessings. It is my firm belief that if we know ourselves deeply, we will cast off only blessings. However, unlike worms we take in more than food, and unlike worms we can take some of what comes from inside and cast it off as good or evil. If we are aware of what we are dong the choice is ours. Unaware we, like a worm, just let it pass through.

Systems, like humans, also have the opportunity to cast off good or evil.

I went to a meeting today of a coalition that includes Mothers Against Gun Violence? to pass the Responsible Gun Bill, which would require secondary purchasers of handguns in Milwaukee County to go though the same security check that primary purchasers need to go through. However, now that the bill is poised to be placed in the legislature we have a complication. Two other groups, one a statewide group and one the Mayor’s office, have their own idea of what the bill should say. Now all three groups need to meet, and hopefully will reconcile their versions. Just when it seemed our State Senator was coming close to presenting a unified bill, other parties want their own version and their own credit. Their intentions may be good but the complications they cause are not, but will hopefully not cause a delay.

Also today, I heard that a local councilperson is supporting a systematic change in city ordinances that would increase the license fee for rooming house operators that provide housing for the poor. This, another human cast off, if it becomes law, will make it systematically harder for the poor to find housing.

So we humans, unlike worms, need some thought and reflection, so that we cast off less evil and more good. I need to say to myself “Watch what you cast off.”

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March 6, 2007 Spring Will Come!

California Cactus

Although it is snowing again tonight, we know that spring will certainly come sooner or later. I have taken on a lot of projects recently, filling in the time that I need to spend on Growing Power in the spring and summer. But since GP is one of my priorities I will soon need to make room for it, at least before the snow melts. I need to work on GRAF kits, order seed, start some plants inside, and clean and organize the sun-room and office, which are joined by an insulated glass door.

I was reminded of my subconscious desire for spring today when I went to put up a new picture on my photo gallery, Bob’s Photo Gallery?, only to find myself putting up a picture of a flowering cactus that I took in California last September. This picture is my spring preview to all of you.

One project I finished up today is work on a grant application to extend the anti-stigma campaign that the artist Patricia Obletz started with her bus ads. Our new effort, working with Faith In Recovery Inc. is called “Increasing Mental Health Awareness in Doctors’ Offices.” We hope to be able to put up a 5” X 17” poster of this ad in every primary care doctor’s waiting room. Anti Stigma Campaign?

Also today I attended another prayer vigil, this one for a young man who was killed in front of a church. After the prayer service I heard of another homicide last night. When will this killing stop? For you Wisconsin residents check out the Mothers Against Gun Violence? web pages for the latest information on the Responsible Gun Bill legislation that Senator Coggs is introducing to the State Legislature.

Atonement Lutheran Church

From the above you can see I spent some time today on the Internet. But I do see a pattern in the above references. Stigmas, like those placed on persons with a mental illness, lead to lack of care and help, which can lead to death, if not literally, at least in Spirit. We must face death, like in the vigils, to find the hope of spring and be ready for new life. The billboard in front of the Church at the vigil may say it all. It read: “See the Hidden Glory of the Cross.” The glory of the flowing California cactus is the hidden glory of my mind that is the seed of hope for the full glory of spring. Spring will come!

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March 5, 2007 Double the Trouble

Where are the Garbage Trucks?

A friend from New Orleans now living in Chicago was in town today. My son and I went out for lunch with him. He had just returned from New Orleans, where he is in a constant struggle with the government bureaucracy to clean up his family home so he can fix it up. The aftermath of Katrina and the flood has caused more trouble than the storm itself. The people of New Orleans are facing double trouble, the storm and the aftermath of neglect.

After the storm, his sister and her family left the family home never to return. Without much aid he has made little progress cleaning up the home that was destroyed. Despite all the talk, the renovation of the Superdome a few blocks from his house, the success of the Mardi Gras this year, and the nearby Garden district of nice homes hardly affected by the storm and aftermath, his family home remains in ruins. He goes back and forth from Chicago by Amtrak, struggling with the powers that be for help and to clean up the mess. The volunteers are slowly going away, but the garbage remains.

When I was in New Orleans last June, nine months after the tornado and flood, I could not understand why there still were no garbage trucks picking up the debris. I ran the picture above in this diary then, asking the same question that my friend is still asking.

There have been lesser natural disasters since the flood in New Orleans, like the tornado down south last week, which struck a school. In most of these cases there has been help to the residents within a few days, and almost immediate clean up. Why not in New Orleans?

I do not have the specific answers for New Orleans, but when I see how the poor, sick, ill, and marginalized are treated in that fair city I can understand a hint of what is wrong in this nation. I believe there is an institutional discrimination that makes it hard for us to have universal health insurance or stop the great divide that is developing between the rich and poor in this country, is at the heart of some of our foreign policy, and is a root cause of much of the terrible violence we face. I say discrimination, not racism, because it has a a lot to do with power, wealth and glory.

I hope to explore more of this thought in terms of the city of Milwaukee. By seeing it clearer here in this city that I love and that is my home, maybe I can see it clearer elsewhere. I also need to start with myself, to see it in myself before I can really fathom the institutional aspects of this discrimination.

What has all this to do with Growing Power? In my mind, a lot. In my facetious interviews with a worm I keep asking the worm questions about discrimination and stigma and the worm keeps telling me it does not exist the world of the worms. Discrimination, as far as I can tell, does not exist in nature. Yes there is the ‘survival of the fittest’ and all that stuff but that is not the same as discrimination, conscious or subconscious acts of dividing and diminishing people, and it is certainly not structured in nature as it is in our institutions, laws and systems. So in nature, as in the Garden or indoor growing, we can learn a lot about life, like we can from a child or a person with a disability.

There is much hype about this new book and DVD called “Secret”. Some say it repeats the same truths of life, like ‘you become what you think,’ the power of ‘positive thinking,’ and imagine what you want to do - all things that have been said, repeatedly, before. I have not read it, but I do not believe there are any secrets to living the good life. I believe firmly that all we need to know is inside of us and in nature. All we need to do is to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Once we can fathom and root out discrimination we may still have major storms in life but they will not be double trouble.

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March 4, 2007 It Was Dead But Now Has New Life

Born Again Plant

Today I was cleaning a little in the part of the basement that I use for a staging area for my Growing Power material, at least for the winter. I have a number of discarded, dead plants there waiting to be recycled into compost and via worms become part of new enriched growing soil again. I noticed one of the deceased plants, I believe to be the amaryllis plant that I featured a lot in January, had made a come-back into new life. So I quickly added some castings and coyer to the soil in the pot, watered it with some casting tea and put it in my sun-room.

Amaryllis in Janruary

After writing the above, I’ve decided the sun-room, in the 40–60 degree range these days, is still too cold for this plant, so I put it back on the kitchen window sill where he had reigned before. Actually one of the plants in this area was looking dead and needs to go downstairs to the staging area for a while to find out if it will revive or be recycled.

A friend mentioned after church today that she was reading my January postings in this diary. She said there was a lot to read but they were interesting. My wife, when she said they were long, mentioned how my writing can sometimes be too wordy. This is true but I think I am getting better with age. Like the Amaryllis plant the second or third time around I do not get as long. At least I think so.

I am learning the hard way that sometimes being brief or short is good if your timing is right. A picture or poem can sometimes say in a few words or in one picture what some would take many words to say. Perhaps this is why, in my 60s I am going back to photography, something I enjoyed in my 20s during the 60s. I wish we had had digital cameras and computers and the web at that time. However, now I can help this new life of this small plant, which I think is the same old Amaryllis, as it grows again.

Trying to be brief tonight I have one last connected (or disconnected) thought. Persons who bring violence, hate and war can use the same web that is bringing you this “Diary of the Worm”. There was a story on 60 Minutes tonight about how Al Qaeda has effectively used the web to recruit new persons to their terror organization. I am sure other groups also use the web to recruit persons to all kinds of hate and violent activities.

In my mind, one thing true Christians, religious Jews and Muslims have in common, besides the same ancestor Abraham, is that all three of these faiths believe in One God who brings us together and brings peace to our everyday life, even to the small, simple things, like this small plant. All three faiths encourage the use of tools like the web to bring their message to others. However, all three faiths abhor it when believers, on the right or left, use their faith to spread division, violence and hatred.

Like the discovery of this revived plant I find a cause for hope in this common vision of our beliefs in bringing peace, sharing and kindness into our everyday lives. Watch out world, the silent majority, the vocal minority and the meek are ready to make their move. We are just now growing once again and waiting our time.

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March 3, 2007 Fear Not The Vultures

I trampled through the snow today to dump kitchen waste into the worm condo (now serving as a winter compost box) and to put bird feed in the feeder. Despite the new food, the birds are sitting in the tree next-door, not singing or making a move to the bird feeder. I wonder why?

Maybe they heard about the new “vulture funds” that I heard about today and are afraid to make a move. Vulture funds - as defined by the International Monetary Fund and Gordon Brown among others - are “companies which buy up the debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off and then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest - which might be ten times what they paid for it.” These funds are wiping out the debt relief that the international community brings to poor countries. Lobbyists in the USA and Britain have kept these funds legal via large political donations. Paul Singer, the reclusive billionaire who practically invented “vulture funds,” has given over 1.7M to the Bush campaigns so far, and has promised to raise 15M for the leading Republican candidate, Rudy Giuliani. Hearing about these vulture funds sends chills down my spine, and make me understand how these little birds fear predators.

More fear ran through my veins today when for the third day in a row a front-page story in the local newspaper focused on a man with a mental illness who died from unknown causes in a rooming house for poor people who are ill. Yes, his death went unnoticed for a few days and that should be corrected. However the Mayor and local alderman, backed by some of the ‘yuppies’ in the neighborhood, now are moving to close the entire home down and put its 92 residents on to the street. What they’re basically saying is “To save these poor souls we must get rid of their housing and food service.” Closing this home would be another tragedy in the long list of neglect, by city and country officials, of poor persons with mental illnesses, and of blaming their faults on the people who are trying, imperfectly as they are, to do something about it. Or as my psychiatrist friend says, the reporter and newspaper are “obsessed with finding fault in ways that can only increase stigma and discrimination as well as discouraging those who are trying their best in difficult circumstances.”

What are we to do about these vultures and place the blame where it belongs - on persons profiting or ignoring countries and people in need? I asked that question to some friends today and one wrote back, saying he does not have the answers. Neither do I but I do know we must continue to speak out for those who are voiceless, and like the small birds in the tree, sit and wait for the time to make our move. As one of my hat buttons says: “The meek are getting ready.”

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March 2, 2007 Tea to Departed

We share the same earth everyday

A highlight of the day was going around the house watering my houseplants with ‘tea’ from the Growing Power Box. It works much better than Miracle Gro (but does not stop plants that are past their time or not properly cared for from dying). It certainly does invigorate the plants. I could see clearly how my poinsettia from Christmas just perked up after watering it with this living water.

The low point of my day was this evening when we went to see the Academy Award winning movie “Departed”. My wife and I liked the acting of all the big stars in it and usually like Martin Scorsese movies. My wife really wanted to see this movie thinking it would be much better than Babel, which I wanted to see. Last week we saw “Babel” at the same budget theater where tonight we saw the “Departed.” She now agrees that “Babel” was a much more enjoyable movie. I see senseless exploitive violence every day in the homicides of the city and in the war in Iraq. I do not enjoy some far fictionist’s view of senseless violence and death, like in the “Departed”. If I were a police officer I certainly would have been offended. As a father of a police officer and someone who respects police I was offended. Good acting, and probably good directing, but terrible movie. Now everyone reading this probably will go out to see it. Enough of that.

Now you have my highpoint for the day, and my low point. In between there were a lot of middle points. It is in the middle, between the living waters of life and acts of senseless death that we live most of our lives. With the sun do we rise and with the night do we depart. Together we are growing power, alone life is senseless.

Today, from the Graf Kids? web page, I started a new Graf Kids Art Gallery?, with a few scans of my grandchildren’s artwork. One from my nine-year-old grandson is a picture of a hill with people of all colors on it. In the center of the hill it reads, “We share the same earth everyday.” If we stand divided like in the “Departed” we will all perish. If we stand together with an awareness of sharing we will all grow. I will choose life anytime. Anyone for tea?

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March 1, 2007 Blame the Snow!

Birds at the feeder in better times

Here it is March 1st and I am still shoveling snow. Now it is windy, and my repair job on the plastic on the sun-room is getting a good work out. So far it is holding up, but I will probably need to do a few repairs tomorrow.

Before it snowed again I was going to do two things in the outside garden. 1) The birds that hang in the tree next door are still chirping for more food. They seem to chirp louder as the snow gets deeper, probably because food is scarcer with more snow. I was going to add food to the feeder, but today the snow was too deep. Perhaps tomorrow or before the next snow. 2) I have a big bucket of kitchen waste outside my side door that I was going to take over across the deck and dump into the worm condo which now serves as a compost pile. While there I was going to stir the compost up a little with the pitchfork in the pile. Perhaps tomorrow for that also.

So far my promise to focus more on Growing Power starting in March is not working out so well. Oh well, I can blame it on the snow, at least for the outside work. However, the inside works, the sun-room and downstairs staging area, were available. I cannot blame that on the snow. However, I can blame that on my February newsletter, Living Stones. Being it’s March 1st, I thought I’d better get it out to my few subscribers. You can subscribe to this free email newsletter by just writing me , or you can wait a few days and my friend John in sunny LA will put the newsletter on the Hope to Healing site.

Now that I am done blaming the snow and the newsletter for my lack of work on GP today, what did I do positively today? Well, today was my wife’s day off so we did a few things together, like go out for lunch and watch a movie on our DVR. Also I attended three prayer vigils for homicide victims?, enjoyed a great dinner prepared by my wife, added a little to the new Milwaukee 14 mini-site, and worked a little on the anti-stigma campaign.

Also I got real angry today at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for writing a front page headline story about a poor person dying in a rooming house for persons with mental illness, blaming the rooming house for his death instead of the terrible system. At the same time they only reported the name of the last homicide victim — a woman shot outside of a day care center where she worked — in a small paragraph on the “regional news watch” in the metro section. I feel like telling the paper that if they gave as much space and attention to each homicide victim as they gave to blaming those like this housing provider who care for the poor and sick, and to Dawn (of “Dawn’s houses” last spring), for what they call neglect of persons they categorize as ‘mentally ill’ (they would never call persons with cancer “cancerous”), the crisis of violence would no longer be tolerated in our community.

However, I did that already (wrote to the paper about their priorities) and where once they used to publish my letters, now they just ignore them. Oh well, maybe I should write a challenging, not blaming, letter once again. At least I might feel better about it.

Upon reflection, maybe blame is one way to avoid reality and self-reflection. If the newspaper can blame ‘neglect’ of persons with mental illness on those who are trying to help persons with mental illness, maybe they can get away without taking on the real causes of this neglect. Maybe if it snows again tomorrow, I can blame the snow for my neglect of working on Growing Power.

On TV news tonight (which is now, like the newspaper, more about sensationalizing the small news and blaming), a young couple had all their household goods stored in a moving truck for a week until the Action News team came to their rescue. The moving company blamed the snow for the long delay of delivery of the couple’s household items. Yeah, blame the snow, it makes for a good scapegoat.

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



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