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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 08/28/07


August 31, 2007 Silent Ride and Row

Silent Rows

Today the car dealer put the car radio and CD/MPG player back in my car. While it was out for repair I was driving around constantly trying to turn on the radio that was not there. I realized I used the sound of the radio to help me focus on my driving. Since my mind is so noisy having just the silence and noise of the road was not enough to keep my mind focused. Without the radio I became aware of sounds around me and used little techniques like the ‘Jesus prayer” (a mantra) to focus my mind on driving. It seems strange to need noise to be more mindful in my driving.

Silence has always been something I have sought but have feared. However, silence is the way to mindfulness.

Since my two rows of leaf lettuce and endive have been finished, I have had two empty rows of same old, same old soil in my garden. The rows like the car without the radio are silent. Silently they sit there waiting for seed. The new salad green seed has been ordered and soon will be planted in the silence of the two rows.

Life like the car with the hole in the dashboard or the row without plants needs silence first before the Word can be heard and turn the silence into new life, music and food.

August 30, 2007 Point of View

Vanilla Yogurt, banana cream pie

One’s point of view affects how one sees. You can look at yourself as the center of the universe or as a small spec in it. One can look at my small backyard garden and dismissed it as overcrowded or one could look and wonder at how much is growing in a small space.

Tonight for the featured article section of the site I featured an article by American Military soldiers completing their tour of duty in Iraq. It was their point of view of what is happening in Iraq. It is called the The War As We Saw It It is an interested point of view from neither left nor right.

I checked on the screen I placed over the worm condo to draw the worms out. The worms are feverishly going up through it to get at the fresh compost on top. This means the worms are ready to get out. Worms do not have a point of view but just sense and seek food.

Worms might not have a point of view but people who care about worms do. Today I got a three-part email with two issues of a magazine called a “Worm Digest.” I have not read it yet but I am sure it expressed a point of view.

Certainly I have been fearless in expressing my point of view on issue, if people want to hear him or not. In my feeble attempt to become more nonviolent, I am trying to be more tolerant of other points of view and less pushy of mine.

Judith Brown in her book on Gandhi defines his Satyagraha or creative nonviolence as “striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth.” Now that is hard for me to do, especially on issues of peace and justice. There is a thin line from acting and speaking according to one’s conscience and beliefs and yet being open to other viewpoints.

Now that the rain has stopped, the humidity has gone down and the sun is back in the sky, there is no reason for me not to spend more time on the GP garden inside and out. I did a little today and hope to do more tomorrow. I need to prepare the box inside and the garden outside for the salad green seeds I ordered yesterday that will be arriving soon. Besides the outside work today, I did get to grind some more dried mint leaves by hand and put them in a bottle. There are many more herbs to pick, dry out and bottle.

My cooking of whatever we have on hand took a new step forward tonight for dinner. The other night I had made, from a simple recipe, A Banana Cream Pile, Today I looked around and saw a pre-made graham cracker crust, lots of vanilla yogurt I had mistakenly purchased, some whipping cream leftover plus a box of pudding mix. I made the first vanilla yogurt, banana cream pie with graham cracker crust, at least to my knowledge. It was good, even my wife who is an expert on such subjects as pie, said so. Now there was nothing from the garden in the pie but it was made from leftovers so you can say, depending on your point of view, that it was connected to Growing Power. (However, there were no worms involved in the making of the pie from leftovers.)

August 29, 2007 International Feast

Tonight we invited Auntie Hawa, her daughter, our African niece and her family who now live in Nebraska over for dinner. Some cousins form Sierra Leone who now lives in London came. Some of them were tired for a long day of shopping. Cost of living is so expensive in London that when they come to USA they shop for clothes and other everyday items.

My wife made some Lebanese food for them our family American style. They have some of the same Lebanese food in Sierra Leone but they are made differently. My wife threw in a little hot pepper into our “kibba” just to make our Sierra Leone friends feel more at home.

My niece’s husband was born in Liberia but his father is from Ghana. So their son is an American with Liberian, Sierra Leone and Ghana heritage. He has a long African and American names but he is called ‘boogie’ as a nickname. Auntie Hawa refers to him as ‘my friend’ since she knows how well I get along with children. After dinner and before he left I gave him the secret sign, putting your hand to your head, which my grandchildren and I had developed. As the children in Guatemala and elsewhere have responded, he too put his hand to his head. You can read abut this universal hand sign with children in my Guatemalan Pictorial Diary, Buried in Guatemala,

Now the dinner was a combination of Middle Eastern foods, kibba, Syrian rice, Labana, and America food, fruit salad, shrimp and African American greens that I have been cooking a lot recently. There were many ingredients, kale, mint, and mustard greens etc. from the garden

The most questions about the meal were about the dark water in the vase of flowers. A friend gave us the flowers last Sunday. The flowers are are real but probably painted. Today I added to the water some casting “tea” to keep these pretty flowers longer. Of course when you say ‘tea’ you need to explain a little about Growing Power. Sierra Leone ahs a thier own form of Growing Power. It turns out that the most common fish in Sierra Leone is tilapia, the fish of choice for Growing Power.

So all eleven of us of all ages coming from different heritages and cultures and different parts of the world sat and had a leisurely meal of foods from all over the world and from our backyard. This was truly an International Feast.

This makes my fifth feast in 7 days and probably the last one for a while. I am glad it was an international feast.

August 28, 2007 Simple as A Garden

Growing a garden is simple: one collects waste to make compost, enrich it with worm castings, plant seeds, water them and feed them with tea, pick and eat, put leftovers back into the compost and start over again.

Why cannot life be that simple? A woman like Dawn decides to open her house to poor persons with disabilities, buys a few more houses on the block and expands her housing and providing meals to poor persons with disabilities. However, for those of you who know Dawn’s story it was not that simple.

A year and half ago a newspaper article that misrepresented Dawn and her houses started a banning and ignoring of her by city and county officials that have seriously hurt her good intentions. Even a now, a year and half latter the discrimination continues.

What is true for Dawn is true for many human stories. Persons cannot just let goodness, like a plant, grow. Someone always wants to compete, take credit or misrepresent the facts for their own self-interest.

Today I finally ordered my fall and winter salad green seeds for the garden and the Growing Power Box in the sunroom. Although I always say the garden is a priority working on it always is near the bottom of list of things to do. For a GP home model garden that is okay. Since once it established a small garden is low maintenance although high yielding.

My friend Jim Forest, a writer in Holland, just published his new book, The Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life. It is growing power type of book in that it helps find deeper meaning in our journey in everyday life. The pilgrimage of everyday life, just like a garden, when we deeply explore our every day life we discover the wonders of God’s creation. You can find more information on this book at the web site above.

These wanderings of thought make me think about the words to a song we sang last night at the funeral of a 95-year-old member of the Church. “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” You can find, if you look deeply enough, your treasure in your own backyard or in your everyday life. As the song goes on to say: “All that you possess will never set your free.” No wonder they called the many home gardens during World War II “ freedom gardens.”

A friend from India used the word “simple” as we would use the words wonderful or outstanding. Life, like a garden, is simple, if we just let it be.

August 27, 2007 Worm Feast!

Banana Feast!

The last five days I have been talking about food feast, the DMZ garden lunch last Thursday, the African celebration Saturday night and the gathering of old friends yesterday. I am feasted out and tonight after attending the funeral for a long time parishanor, 95 years old, I could not participate in the food.

After grocery shopping today at a store that allows me to check out their garbage, I discover in the dumpster all kinds of overripe bananas. I brought them home, my son took them out of the plastic bags and I feed them to the worms in the worm depository and used some in the compost pile, which eventually will become food for the worms.

Worms have a special taste for banans. I understood from Will Allen of Growing Power that worms have a sweet tooth that bananas really satisfied. Whatever, the reasons, worms really like banana peels and overripe bananas.

I have been reading some emails from a professor at Fordham of how good banyans are for we human beings. According to him, it is a banana a day not an apple a day that keeps the doctor away.

Hearing only good things about bananas I was surprised to hear from my brother how he had been restricted from eating bananas. In an attempt to loose weight and control his diabetes he had been eating a lot of fruit, including bananas. However, when he was hospitalized last week the Doctors told him that his potassium rate was going up and down causing him pain and problems. Since bananas are a high source of potassium he was restricted in his eating of bananas.

Worms do not have to worry about potassium rates. They just eat waste of nitrogen and carbon, digest it and cast it off, producing the rich “black gold’ soil of castings.

Today my wife, with some slightly aging bananas, pudding mix and cool whip, using the pie crusts I had mistakenly purchase for Marna’s pecan pie last week, made a delicious banana cream pile. This is one of my favorite piles and she made it so easily. She said she would make another one tomorrow and show me how. With sugar free vanilla pudding and light cool whip the pie was delicious but not so fatting. So like Marna’s homemade pecan piles with a substitute sugar the three of us quickly consumed the pile.

So bananas like all foods are good for you in moderation and not good for you in quantizes. So you can have your banana cream pie and eat it too as long as you do not overdue it.

Worms can have their banana and be worry free. So let the feasts continue on and on.

August 26, 2007 Partying till One Drops.

Auntie Hawa, daugher and grandson

Last night we attended the 60th birthday party of my friend Auntie Hawa who is from Sierra Leone.
It was wonderful party of family, friends and food. It lasted until the early hours of the morning.

Today, although still tired, my wife and I hosted some friends in a third annual get together. The three men involved, not including myself, were friends since grade school in Bay View. Getting to know one of them lead us to know all of them, their wives and family members.

The theme of our meal was Lebanese shiskkabob with a little African American side dish of greens.
At the meal I counted eight ingredients from our garden, tomatoes, kale, sweet pepper, mustard greens, mint, sage, zucchini and eggplant. Enjoying some home grown healthy food along with other good food helped the warm feeling of laughter amidst friends.

Today in this day of laughter there was a few tours of the GP home model garden and some good advice from two of my friends of how to insulate the roof of the sunroom.

Also today I learned through church about an all day workshop at Growing Power about its method of growing and from another friend about an all day retreat reflection on nonviolence at MU. These are my two focuses in life these days and I guess of others.

All this partying left me tired but tomorrow will resume work on some of the things before me, like five prayer vigils for homicide victims of last week, working on the growing power pilgrimage to Gandhi’s India and of course my own GP garden and sunroom.

August 25, 2007 Sweet Nieces

Sweet Pepper

Today I picked my first sweet pepper from the garden. I have grown green bell peppers and red hot peppers but never a sweet one. I will wait till tomorrow to taste it. It was part of the multiple of plants given to the DMZ gardens right after planting time had passed.

Earlier in the week I was talking by phone to Auntie Hawa about preparations for her big 60th birthday part this eve. She said there was someone who wanted to talk to me. It was my African niece that had come to the USA with Hawa and her daughter, my other African niece.

Her voice coming from Auntie Hawa’s apartment was sweet to my ears. This niece, unlike most of the persons from Sierra Leone who have come to the USA, came from a very poor family. Somehow during the ugly civil war in Sierra Leone she had come to live with Hawa and her daughter. When they escaped to a refugee camp and eventually to Milwaukee she went with them.

This niece’a family was left behind in Sierra Leone to suffer all the ravages of the war and the extreme poverty that followed. She was glad to be safe and in the USA but deeply missed her family. Her family was glad to see her escape from the terrible conditions of this country and was relying on to send them whatever money she could.

Once in America she felt the cultural shock of being here, the cultural shock of being with a lady and her daughter from another class and the guilt and pressure of the family she left behind. A serious conflict rose between this niece and Auntie Hawa. I always thought if my niece could every reconcile with Hawa and accept her situation of exile it would be a healing event. So to here her voice at Hawa’s apartment where she had come to help with the party, and to see her smiling on the head table tonight with other family members tonight was sweet. (More on the African celebration to come.)

The other night my brother in Iowa called to tell me of his recent bout with a illness that had hospitalized him and about the upcoming marriages of his oldest son right after our Graf family reunion at Thanskiging. He also said there was someone who wanted to talk to me. On the phone came my niece. who is also my goddaughter. She had just come home that day.

This true biological niece had struggled since college where she was a brilliant scinece student between a professional career in science and something more meaningful to her, working with youth, as she had experienced in a summer camp.

Finally she had reached a compromise, getting a graduate decree but looking toward teach youth in high school. She had just returned from the summer Christian camp working as a young adult aide, something she really enjoyed. It was just sweet to hear her voice and to sense how much she has grown in knowledge and spiritually.

So sweet pepper, try to match the sweet voices of my two nieces that I heard this week.

August 24, 2007 Good News, Bad News

basil and kale


All this rain has been good news for some plants, like the basil and kale who really like the water but bad news for other plants in the garden, like tomatoes, that like the water but need the sun to grow and ripen.

Nearly two years ago, someone wrote a letter to the local newspaper, saying how good my friend Dawn, of the DMZ garden co-op, was taking care of the poor and disabled in her houses. This was good news.

However the reporter, the letter was given to. used the letter to gain Dawn’s confidence and than wrote an article in the newspaper misrepresenting Dawn’s houses. The article led to the County putting a ban on country funding agencies sending persons to Dawn’s houses. This bad news hurt Dawn economically.

But some church groups, because of the articles, discover Dawn’s house and what a good person and what good housing she provided and came to her aide, helping her fix up her present houses and rehab a vacant house that Dawn had purchased on the block. This was good news.

Yesterday the appliance repairman told us our refrigerator was gone and that repairs would cost more than a new one. This was bad news. Today we got a new refrigerator, much more energy efficient and convenient that our last one. Good News.

A CD from the library got stuck in my car CD player, this was not good news. Today I went to the dealer and found out my car was still covered under the original warranty and that my CD player and radio would be either repaired and replace and the CD return to us. Good News.

I can go on with examples from today or this week. However an email I received today says my point better. A friend send me a copy of an interview with Rick Warren, the pastor with the bestselling book, “Purpose Driven Life.” It was about his last year when he enjoyed tremendous wealth from his book and discovered his wife had cancer.

He says: ‘’“I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore.

Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.

No matter how good things are in your life, always something bad needs to be worked on.
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.”’‘

He goes on say how we can focus on the bad things or good things. I think it is clear on one that focus on that brings peace and happiness and which the one we can focus on that brings sadness and pain.

People have called me naïve and optimist, some of the nicer names I have been called, but I consider myself just trying to be childlike in the Gospel sense and when I can, focusing on the good things rather than the bad things. I am not really good at really do this yet and still feel the need to justify myself and am too defensive or self righteous. Being a responsible adult and like a three year old child at the same time is a hard challange.

I still need to learn more lessons from the garden how bad things can be good things and sometimes good things can be bad things and how to focus on the good things.

August 23, 2007 Here Today and Gone Tomorrow!

Today my adult son, wife and I had lunch with Marna and Dawn who are founding members of the DMZ garden co-op. The food, family and friends that I was talking about yesterday were true today for this lunch.

One of my contributions was a kale, cabbage and ham dish that not only looked good, as my wife admited, but tasted good. However, the best food contributions were Marna’s homemade pecan pile. The pecans come from her mothers and grandfathers trees in Tennessee.

After we all commented how delicious the pies were, Marna made a confession. She said that when she was making the pies and about to put in the sugar she spotted her sugar substitute on the table and decided to use it instead of sugar. This way, as a diabetic, she would be able to have some. Her confession inspired all of us to have a second piece of pie, since we did not have to feel so guilty about eating it.

The main business of this gathering was to plan our DMZ gardens for next year, which will include a 30’ X 140’ vacant lot near Dawn’s houses. Thanks to Dawn’s organizing ability we got some seriously planning done. Now we need to just do it.

One observation someone made was that we all really enjoy healthy organic food but could not afford to shop it organic stores like Outpost. I reminded my partners that the A in the GRAF system of gardening stood for Affordable.

Dawn had picked a major size cantaloupe that had mysteriously appeared in her garden. Although it was bigger than a normal cantaloupe, when it was opened it was too green to eat. It is now going into my compost pile hopefully to reappear next year as it did this year from the compost I gave to Dawn.

When touring my garden I went to show the two of them my cantaloupe that appeared in the midst of my Kale plants. However, just like of few plants in Marna’s yard it had mysteriously disappeared. It was probably taken by the muskrats that have been seen in my and Marna’s garden.

I realize that the cantaloupes and the pecan pies have something in common: Here Today and Gone Tomorrow.

August 22, 2007 Food, Family and Friends

Tonight it is late, still raining and I am tired. Today is a good example of how my life since retirement and Growing Power has changed. My life is still busy, too busy as usual, but now not focused on my job but on food, family and friends.

This connection on food, family and friends was strong today. Here are some examples. I dropped off some piecrust at Marna’s today, one of the partners in our DMZ garden co-op. There I found Dawn, our other partner talking with her as she was cracking pecans for the pecan pie she is making for our DMZ garden co-op meeting.

Speaking of Dawn, today I wrote another email to the Mayor and the County Executive about the injustices Dawn has suffered at hands of city and county bureaucrats. While there I asked them both again about how to cook the greens, like Kale, that I had picked from my garden.

Some of the day was spent in a local Fair Trade store talking to one of the owners about ordering San Juan coffee from Guatemala and about displaying my friend’s Ella patch quilts in the store.

Today I picked a major crop of basil and kale from the garden. My wife will make pesto from the basil tomorrow and the kale I used for a dish I made tonight for dinner for my family and will use more with the greens I am making for the monthly DMZ garden co-op lunch.

Tonight I drove my friend Auntie Hawa to the airport to pick up some of her Sierra Leone relatives from California. Many of her relatives (in Sierra Leone everyone is related and I am called Uncle Bob) from all over the USA and her son from England are coming to Milwaukee to celebrate Hawa’s 60th birthday party this weekend. Food, Family and Friends are central to these major African celebrations. Hawa has been cooking for months for this event and everyone coming to town is bringing food. Even we are bringing food to the event Saturday night. However, we are bringing the American style food, ham, turkey and banana bread to the party just as backup for anyone who wants American food, which probably will be no one. None of the food will go to waste, however, as everyone takes food home from these events.

On the way back from the airport Hawa and her Sierra Leone relatives were talking in Creole, their native language, but I could understand just enough to know they were talking about food, family and friends.

When we got back to Hawa’s apartment her daughter, husband and their young son were just arriving from Nebraska. Everyone had a lot of luggage, lots of that being food, and with Hawa’s sister are all staying in Hawa’s small apartment. I offered the extra bedroom upstairs in my son’s apartment for her son coming in from England and if our freezer gets fixed tomorrow, as planned, we will offer some freezer space for the food.

Not to forget about food for the soul, I communicated today with a friend in the Twin Cities who was using the retreat in everyday life: Finding God in All Things—A Retreat for Pilgrims in a Busy World that I put together the last few years. There will be more about this food for the soul on the |Ignatian Spirituality and Creative Nonviolence web site after I get through the next few days of food,family and friends, American, African and African American style.

August 21, 2007 Flooded?

Flooded Gay Mills

Today I was going to finally catch up with some house chores and with the garden. My wife had asked me to clean out the freezer. It has not been working well recently and she thought it might have been because I have over packed it. So I decided to take everything out and clean it.

During the cleaning the whole refrigerator shut down. All the food I had gathered in the refrigerator was going to be wasted if I did not act so. I felt like the man in the Gospel parable that had stored up an abundance harvest for himself only to find himself dying that night. I called the appliance repairman and left a message and called my son to help me get the stuff out of the refrigerator.

One of the benefits of living with a flood of abundance is that we still have our former refrigerator in the basement. I plugged it in. After we transfered everything downstairs to the old refrigerator, the one in the kitchen decided to work. However the freezer is still questionable and unusable.

Also today my wife’s car starter decided not to start and we had to replace it.

Normally I might have been upset about these two crises but today I felt gratitude that we had the means to deal easily with this two very minor crises. The broken refrigerator made me appreciate the people we visit in our St. Vincent De Paul calls who often need to go without any refrigerator. I also appreciated the people without cars that need to ride the bus as the country constantly raise the bus fare and decreases the bus routes.

Probably my attitude of gratitude was stimulated by the flooding in western Wisconsin, especially in Lake Mills where we have a couple of good long time friends. We called today to see how they survived the flood and talked to their daughter who was visiting. She said that their house, which is on a hill, was okay but that the garden below was completely flooded. I wrote about this same expansive country garden about a few weeks ago when we were visiting them during the Kickapoo Country Fair. We still have green beans in our freezer stuff that I moved downstairs today that we picked from their overflowing organic garden.

The flooding of the Kickapoo River destroyed many organic farms and gardens as well as leaving towns like Gay Mills in ruins.

I finally got out to the garden today, mostly to clean up some weeds, check on the worms and build up the compost pile. Tomorrow I will need to pick lots of kale and basil. Both plants seem to flourish when it constantly rains. Hopefully I can do that tomorrow between rainstorms as rain is in the weather for the next few days.

Today I learned from the garden lost at my friends and the garden gained in my yard that being flooded with abundance is good but being flooded is not. The experinece reminded me of the poor people of New Orleans that nearly two years after their major flood are still waiting for relief.

August 20, 2007 Back to Earth

A friend and I are planning a peace pilgrimage to India in January 2009. On the India side a person that is a devoted follower of Gandhi, the nonviolent liberator of the country, is organizing the pilgrimage. When we looked at the tentative schedule planned by our Indian guide it was fascinating how much of the peace pilgrimage was involved with sustainable living, especially growing affordable organic food. On the third day of rain in the Garden planning this trip was a good way to remind us of the significance of Growing Renewable Affordable Food GRAF.

Another rainy day reminder of the scope of this movement came also today when I helped one of our DMZ Garden Co-Op members acquired some discounted landscaping material for work on her backyard.
Over the last few years because of her numerous illnesses the backyard was let go. Since joining the DMZ co-op she has, with the help of another member of the co-op, many friends and myself has revived her backyard. Although one of her many illnesses is sparked by dirt, she is overcoming this and other obstacles to make her yard a place for good food and rest.

Besides growing one’s own food Gandhi also encouraged his followers to be sustainable in other ways, like weaving and making their own clothes, as ways to live creative nonviolent lives. Another friend called today, Ella of Ella’s Patch quilts, to tell me that she got a part time job in the Milwaukee Public School continuing education program to teach youth and adults how to make patch quilts. Patch quilts, as you might know, started in the south as way for slaves to make quilts from old clothes as blankets at night. Another form of turning waste into new life and use.

This pattern of sustainable living seems to be uniting my life, although I hesitate to use the word ‘sustainable’ since it is so popular and trendy these days. But whatever you call it, sustainability, creative nonviolence, simple living, it is a force that is growing worldwide. Along with it comes spirituality, simply living and peace of mind. The price for this way going back to the earth with all its joy and gratitude is not steep, just a little suffering and dying to self.

Even the astronauts are cutting a day off thier journey to space to return to earth because of nature.

From the earth we came and to the earth we return.

August 19, 2007 Garden Universe

While I was up north they were praying and hoping for rain while here in southern Wisconsin we are having so much rain at to cause flooding. Here in the north of USA it is moderate and sometimes cool while the southern United States in sweltering in heat.

Weather is predicted by meteorologist but created by laws of nature and manipulated, mostly in a negative way, by humans.

In today’s newspaper there was a description of the work of a local theoretical physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has done work linking microscopic and telescopic theories of the universe. His work links the small and large in the universe in a beautiful order. Another physicist described this order in poetry as: “Thou canst not stir a flower without troubling a star.” Scientists like this one are connecting the smallest particle to the expanding universe.

In religious cosmology, the study of creating and expanding universe in light of faith, is developing and more and more complements not conflicts with the scientific view of the universe.

These thoughts are another good reason to have a GP home model garden. Such a garden is like a small universe, where the smallest organism connects with the largest plant in one continuum. Everything in the garden is linked.

The mystery of how all things work together in the garden and the universe is being worked on by gardeners and scientist.

Once after walking through beautiful nature park on the Lake in Madison Wisconsin it suddenly struck me that when we humans finally learned how to create from nothing, like some of us believe that God created the first matter in this ever expanding universe, the universe will end. Maybe the universe started with a ‘big bang’ and will end with a ‘cosmic whimper’.

Perhaps the rain will cease tomorrow for a while and I can go back into the garden to explore and help create a more sustainable garden. Maybe the universe will end when all humans are provided with healthy organic food

August 18, 2007 Back From Fishing to Busy

Busy on the Beach

We are back from “gone fishing” to being busy. My wife and I spent the last week at a cottage on Lake Shawano with our grandchildren, who live nearby, visiting us parts of four days. Although the fishing was not very good, the time was very relaxing and fun. Going to one place, a beautiful one on a lake and staying there, without computer or cell phone action, was really slowing down. I even read a novel by a Jesuit friend of mine, Father Bill Brennan S.J. It is called “A drama of the Caribbean” and is about the period in history when the Jesuits, Society of Jesus, were being suppressed around the world. (They made a comeback.)

Since tonight is between slow and busy I think I will just watch the Packer Football game and catch up with my mail.

My son, who lives here, took good care of the garden, worms and home when we were gone. I returned to find tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, herbs and zucchini ready to pick. Since it is rainy this eve a complete check of the garden and worm status will need to wait till tomorrow.

“Gone Fishing” and “doing nothing” has renewed by spirits. Like “tea” on the plants it is fertilizer for the soul.

August 10, 2007 Gone Fishing

Mellow Melons?

Dawn has a volunteer plant growing in her compost row of plants. Is it a melon or squash or something else? She picked one today so she knows now and I will call her tomorrow to find out the answer. I hope it is a mellow melon and there are more seeds in my compost soil. In the same row of same old, same old? homegrown soil she has some sunflowers growing. That is one that I do have growing in my garden.

Speaking of mellow, that is what I hope to do next week. My wife has off of work this coming week so we are going to spend some time fishing, relaxing, reading, playing with the grandchildren. We will try to get away from our busy day to day lives. Unlike my wife, I do not work for money but do work for nothing and feel the same need for a brief getaway.

People always ask “what do you do with the worms when you go away”? My answer is that worms are livestock that are very low maintenance. With the help of my son who lives here, we will still water the worm depository and worm condo if it does not rain for a few days. The plants take more care but even that is mostly watering or picking. Besides gardening is like fishing, slow play.

Some days the biggest job in the DMZ gardens is collecting waste. Today I added wood chips, coffee grounds and kitchen waste to the compost pile at Dawn’s DMZ garden and to my own. I also threw some chips, fresh compost and grounds on the worm depository so they will be well fed for awhile.

There are two kinds of vacations, one that you travel around a lot and one that you just sit and observe. This one is the kind of sit and observe and do nothing.

Fishing is a good ‘doing nothing’ to do . My wife and I have not done much fishing this year, which is a sign of the busyness of our lives these days.

I hope to do a little writing this week but you will need to wait till next weekend, 18th or 19th to share in some of my observations. Sometimes you just need to step back, getaway or not getaway, and look at the bigger picture of life.

August 9, 2007 Fallen Gladiolas

Like gladiators of old, gladiolas in my garden grow tall, bloom and fall. However, unlike gladiators cut down in the Roman amphitheater, gladiolas can still stand tall and beautiful inside a home after the fall.

Many a fallen, bent over, cut down persons has lived on bringing beauty to many. In fact many of our holy books tell us the lowly, least amidst us will rise up and be the greatest amidst us. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples (Maththew 16: 13–23)that he must suffer greatly, be killed and rise. Peter, one of the disciples, rebukes Jesus saying that no such thing will happen to him. He turned on Peter and said, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

In the upside down word of gardens and of our faith, the poor inherit the earth, waste becomes enriched soil, the lowly worm is a valuable creature and you are ‘blessed’ when someone insults you.

Today I visited Marna’s DMZ garden and considering the late start it is flourishing. Like Dawn’s DMZ garden where zucchini is the featured plan, Marna has had a bumper crop of cucumbers. For my garden salad greens have been the stand out plants. We all share the same home made soil from compost and castings in my garden and in some cases we share the same seeds or sources of plants. It is just that some plants grew better in some DMZ gardens and some better in others.

The seeds fall where they do and sometimes on the similar fertile grow but some seeds grow and bear fruit and some do not. In this upside down world how are we going to know what works or not until we try.

The plants that grow go back into the food system by being thrown back in the compost or via our eating become waste again. In the circle of life plants and humans fall, rise again and fall again only to rise again.

Enjoy the gladiolas in bloom outside, after they fall inside, and once they become waste when they rise to new life.

August 8, 2007 Old Memories with a Sustainable Friend


Today someone I knew since 1968, a friend of the Milwaukee 14 was in town to organize a speaking tour for Tom Melville and himself this fall. I have sometimes been labeled as a non-tactful and fast talking, enthusiastic activist organizer. I do not like labels but in comparison to George I am not one.

In meeting persons and talking together a lot of old memories were awaken. The difference between George and I, however, is that George, although older than I, has a tremendous memory where as I do not. It remembers stories and events that I have long forgotten.

I will need to slow him down enough for him to do a piece for the Milwaukee 14 Today web site.

Tomorrow night he is meeting with a bunch of interested persons and activists’ persons in Milwaukee to plan the speaking tour. I do not feel like going, since I have an aversion for any type of meeting, but am tempted to go just to show persons what a slow laid back person I have become.

However, my experience with labels and stigma is that they are hard to shake loose. Once you have been pegged you got it for the rest of your life. Best to accept it and just be who you are.

George would not make a good gardener or probably a fisherman. He is one of the rare persons to come to my house and show no interest in my garden, worm condo or GP box.

However, George is the kind of person we need more of in the political life. He seeks no glory or honor for himself, rather he shuns it, but is dedicated to the cause, be it end the war in Vietnam or Iraq or fighting discrimination.

There was one of his memories and stories involving my action that we disagreed on. I conceded he had a better memory of the event but I remembered better my role in the action.

I have a box of stuff from the 60’s and early 70’s in my basement. I pulled it out for George to see. Like the joy I feel when I discovered some good waste for compost, my old box of stuff was a treasure drove for him. He got lots of stuff for his collection which he is using to do some person to person research to write an accurate people’s history of the movement for peace and justice in the late 60’s and early 70’s, one that could be used as lessons for us ordinary persons of our time to do something about foreign policy and events.

Being with George did not leave me much time for the GP garden today. I did talk to Marna one of my partners in the DMZ garden co-op today. Tomorrow we are going to pick up some stuff for her garden and check out Dawn’s, especially her mystery plant. I hope tomorrow to have time to spend in my Garden, just slowing down.

One nice thing about gardens that you do not find in political life is that gardens keep producing even when you pay no attention to them for a while.

Even tonight’s meal, which was a remake of some leftovers with some added ingredients, there were about 5 or 6 food items in the meal from my home garden. Politics come and go, sustainable gardens keep on coming. Some political everyday down to earth persons like George are what I would call politically sustainable persons.

August 7, 2007 Disappearing and Appearing Kale

For some time now I have been singing the value of Kale, a green in the cabbage/spinach family. It grows all year around, flourishes again after it is picked and taste great. It grows better outside in the garden than inside in the GP box. This summer we have been adding it to salads and to a lot of cooked dishes. When it is heated it really cooks down.

Today I picked a major amount of Kale for our dinner-cooked vegetable. I meant to show a picture of the Kale before it is cooked and one after it is cooked, but I forgot. However, the Kale was delicious and I will share with you the simple but delicious recipe that I have made up, after some advice from friends.

First I carefully washed the Kale and took it off stems, breaking up big leaves like you would do with lettuce. Next I put some olive oil in a wok, heated it, and put in the Kale. The amount of Kale at first was overflowing for the wok but soon cooked down. I seasoned it with some salt and a selection of other spices and put in the wok a package of cooked bacon. With a little addition of lemon juice it quickly cooked down to be very tender and delicious.

Since I forgot to take a before and after picture I went out to the garden tonight and took a picture of a yellow mum like flower. What is interesting about it is that it grew from a plant that first appeared as a weed. Now knowing what what s ome plants were, weed or flower, I waited until the plants grew to pick out the obvious weeds and let the others one grew. This plant just make the cut.

It today’s Gospel scripture reading in my lectionary the disciples of Jesus tell him that some of the Pharisees “took offense” from something he said. He says to his disciples in response: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Jesus might not have been “politically correct” by today’s standards but he makes his point of how plants not planted by God will be uprooted and to just “let them alone.” By “let them alone” it is clear he did not mean ignore them. In the beginning of the reading he did respond to the Pharisees’ questions. It just was not what they wanted to hear. So in that situation, when they took offense, he says “let them alone.”

In my life that means not to get into a word or email war with persons just to prove you point. If they are not doing the will of God, planted by God, they will be uprooted and if they are blind to the truth and cannot hear it, they and their followers will just disappear.

In this metaphor Kale is certainly a plant of the heavenly Father and by letting the plant in the flower circle grow I was able to see that heavenly Father planted it.

All is not as it first appears to be and sometimes what disappears appears again

August 6, 2007 In Memory

Mushroom Cloud

Today we remember Hiroshima, the city and people that were instantly destroyed by the first atomic bomb ever to be used. One of my friends has said the morality of war radically changed that day.

The words of Thomas Merton in the 60’s sadly ring true today: “… [T]he great danger is that under the pressure of anxiety and fear, the alternation of crisis and relaxation and new crisis, the people of the world will come to accept gradually the idea of war, the idea of submission to total power, and the abdication of reason, spirit and individual conscience. The great peril of the cold war is the progressive deadening of conscience.”

War is built on fear and indifference while a garden is built on hope and love. The Growing Power movement is the opposite of the movement toward war and violence.

Today I picked my first Zucchini in the garden and received a call from Dawn asking if I planted watermelon in her garden. I said no but she said that something that looks like a watermelon is growing. It may be a volunteer watermelon or a volunteer squash. I will need to take a closer look.

Tonight I made a Mexican meat and bean dish to eat with corn tortillas. My son, who helps me with the garden, wondered if there was anything from the garden in the meal tonight. It did not seem that way. I said yes that I used a couple of our red hot peppers to make the dish. I might have used one too many hot peppers for my wife taste but it was just right for my son and me.

I heard today that the July issue of Living Stones newsletter was posted on the Hope to Healing site. You can check it at A few in my small group of subscribers said it was the best newsletter year. I am not sure how to take that since it was the fist issue that I did not write any original material for this issue.

Today I heard from Marna and Dawn my two friends in the DMZ garden co-op. I also heard from an old friend from the 60’s who will be in town a few days doing some research, talking with old friends and sending up speaking engagements for a friend Tom Melville who wrote “Through a Glass Darkly: The U.S. Holocaust in Central America” a book I read before, during and after my pilgrimage to Guatemala awhile back. See Buried In Guatemala.

New Friends, Old Friends, good relationships are eternal.

The cloud of fear and disdain for life that hung over Hiroshima on Aug. 6th
Still hangs over our world today, many years latter.
Some see only the cloud and the fear and danger it presents.
Others see through the cloud and past the death it represents
To the ray of sun and hope that shines through the darkness.

We can work for Growing Power or for destruction,
For War or Life.

August 5, 2007 Gardenless Day

Today was a humid gardenless day. Church, a long Brewers game and the sending off the “boys” grandsons and cousin, took up most of the day. After this long weekend of activity, tonight all I could do was check my email and watch a mystery on public television.

The rain last night took care of the watering situation for the garden and my son who lives with us said he would help me this week in making some more natural fertilizer from castings and compost to add to the garden. Also, my son’s friend, who had help to build the GP Box and Worm Condo called and I got some advice for building a box on the shelf below the GP Box that I can use for germinating seeds in the late winter. More on this new addition to come.

Speaking of winter it occurred to me today that I needed to order some seeds, especially salad seeds for late summer planting and early fall harvesting.

My week slowing down had mixed results. I did slow down a little but still kept too busy.

An inspiriting part of the weekend with the three boys was the constant questioning of everything by my seven-year-old grandson. We sat together at the ball game today and he constantly ask questions, this time not about Wal-Mart imposing itself on a neighborhood or about the atomic war, but this time about baseball. I am not too sure how he does in school but he certainly possesses the most important perquisite for getting an education: desiring to learn and know.

Tonight I received a newsletter via a common friend from my friend Padre Lorenzo Rosebaugh who lives and serves persons in need in Guatemala. I will post his newsletter tomorrow or so on the Milwaukee 14 Today web site. Also I heard by phone message that another friend from the Milwaukee 14 days in the sixties is coming to town this week. He may be a person I can ask the question burning in my mind of What kind of creative nonviolent action that we can take to stop the war in Iraq?

Tomorrow it is back to the garden. These gardenless days can be tiring.

August 4, 2007 Good Questions!


Today taking my two grandsons and their cousin to the Wisconsin State Fair I found street parking across from the site that Wal-Mart desires to build a superstore. It is strictly a residential neighborhood that strongly opposes this retail giant store in their neighborhood. Wal-Mart clearly desires the site since it as the edge of Milwaukee and there are tow nearby business districts, West Allis and Wauwatosa they can draw from.

Usually I am opposed to movements that promote Not In My BackYard (NIMBY). But I had to smile when I saw the line of front yard signs opposing Wal-Mart. One of my grandsons, after I pointed out the signs to him and explained what Wal-Mart wanted to do asks me “Why Wal-Mart would want to build in a neighborhood where they were clearly not wanted?” I told him that was a good question and gave him some brief response.

My memories of going to the Wisconsin State Fair as a child are very strong. One of the strongest memories is eating cream puffs in the Diary building. When we got there we all were hungry so I took the boys past the rides they were interested in and made a beeline toward the Dairy builder. On the way one of the boys asked, “What is a creampuff?” This was an easy question to answer and I said just to wait, see and eat. After we all experienced a cream puff they were believers and glad they had followed me there.

At the State Fair they saw a Growing Power exhibit. My grandsons knew from experience what was Growing Power and were able to answer any questions from their cousin.

All afternoon they said they wanted to go back to the fair rides and all afternoon I just said let us check this building out. They would say this exhibit was boring but once inside of it would find something really interesting to do, like casting lines for fake fish in the DNR exhibit, shooting basketballs in the Milwaukee Buck’s exhibits etc.

Finally on the way back to the car they had a chance to go on one of the rides in the amusement area.

Lanterns for Peace

After the State Fair we picked up my wife on our way to a Lanterns for Peace Vigil at a park on the Milwaukee River commemorating the anniversaries of the dropping the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When we first got there we encouraged them to make a lantern to float down the river latter. They were not interested at first but gradually got into it. Once the discovered the face painting booth they really got into it. By the time it came to place the lanterns in the river they were fully involved in the event. They asked a lot of questions about atom bomb being dropped on these two cities. My youngest grandson asked my wife, “Why did we do this?” My wife thinking fast said it was a mistake. They kept asking questions about the war and the atomic bomb until finally we had to dim the conversation because they were really getting scared of this happening again.

One needs to be careful answering questions to children of a young age. They take your answers very literally. My oldest grandson, when we were talking about war and peace questions, twice repeated today how his third grade teacher had told them we were fighting in Iraq because we were stopping Iraq from having nuclear weapons. I think even President Bush would not agree with that answer but how to say gently to a young boy that his teacher is not accurate is difficult

In American education everything seems to be right or wrong, this way or that way. In reality life is like the garden, there are different colors and various states of growth. Often asking the questions is more important than having the answers.

August 3, 2007 Be Not Afraid

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

One of my favorite sayings in the bible and one of my favorite songs is “Be Not Afraid”. Fear really governs a lot of our life. Governments are often run by fear. In the USA it was fear of ‘communism’ and now is fear of ‘terrorism’ that drives many laws and policies. Being fearless is hard and is often admired, even if it is for some daredevil stunts.

Facing one’s fear is also tough. Someone, years ago, asked me why I was afraid of death. At first, I denied having a fear of death, but upon reflection realized that I did and how this fear governs part of my life. Many persons fear life; being totally alive and aware can be scary.

In the garden one finds much life and death but little fear. In nature there is an instinctive fear but not one resulting from consciousness where most human fears are born.

Fearless gardens are normal, fearless humans are to be feared. Fearless humans are hard to control since there is not much you can give or take away from them to control them.

Maybe there is little fear in gardens because in a garden everything can be touched, seen heard and felt. In our everyday lives we often fear the unknown.

Fear becomes a vicious cycle as this quote illustrates: “We hate some persons because we do not know them; and we will not know them because we hate them.” (Charles Caleb Colton)

War is based on fear of the unknown. We can drop bombs on bridges, watch a people live with death all around them, suffering tremendously and barely surviving like the people of Iraq and perhaps not feel much emotion. However, when the bridge in the Twin Cities fell apart the other day much of the news and our attention was focused on this tragic incident. It consumes our media attention. A friend wrote today in an email called “Baghdad and Minneapolis” with a question:” Why are we so upset with a bridge collapse in Minneapolis when others outside our frame of reference experience the same or worse on an everyday basis?”

Tonight the three of us, my wife, son and myself, sat on the deck overlooking the garden enjoying some grilled chicken, a tasty garden salad, wine, melon and some Texas toasts. There was a cool breeze and for a few minuets the three of us were able to put our fears aside and just enjoy the food, view and each other.

August 2, 2007 More Food, Less Meetings

Garden 07/01/07

Tonight our dear friend, Mary, celebrated her 80th birthday at the Lake Front Brewery on the Milwaukee River. It was one of the few major parties we have attended where it seemed we knew everyone. It was great to see old friends, some we knew before we knew Mary, celebrate with her and her family. The food and drink was excellent.

Mary is faith filled woman full of grace. She has aged well in health and wisdom. She is one of three persons I know that has a joke ministry, passing on good humor by email. On a homemade birthday card I made for her there was some good humor. However, on the back I put a picture, on the side, of a statue of Mary, the Mother of God in our backyard surrounded by flowers. As I caption I wrote “Hail Mary, full of flowers pray for Mary, full of grace.”

My daily life now brings me into contact with other friends, like Marna and Dawn from the DMZ co-op, Hawa from Sierra Leone and Ella of Ella’s Patch Quilts. My friends now for the most part are of another race and another cultural & economic background
as these old friends I met at the party. I feel comfortable with both groups although they habitat different cultures and different circles of friends.

I will be working with from the circle of friends tonight to organic a “Pilgrimage of Peace” to India to visit with some of Gandhi’s present day disciples,In January 2009. Stay tuned for more information.

Today at the prayer vigil for the 72nd Homicide Victim in Milwaukee and tonight at the party, I learned more about a new city, country and state wide community organization based in Churches that is being organized. It is a model that is familiar to me, starting with listening session, since I was a community organizer in Milwaukee, Wilmington, DE and Philadelphia, PA in my past life.

The only problem and it is a big one, is that there is already a similar church based community organization in Milwaukee, MICAH. It has been around for 12 or more years and does the same thing as this new organization plans to do. I wondered why this IAF, (Industrial Ares Foundation) group of organizers had targeted Milwaukee when we already had a vital and active community organization.

Than I remembered why I got out of the community organizing business. Community organization, once they tasted some power and community organizers were the worst enemies to themselves. I remember community organizer in Philadelphia organizing against me to take over the organization I had built. I remembered being fired as community organizer because some out of state leader of a school of organizers did not think I had the right stuff.

This reminds me of the biggest gripe I have against a lot of community organization and agencies that claim to serve the people. Often they are competing, duplicating and fighting between themselves for control of power and money. I believe the ‘powers to be’ in our society push this type of mentality since ‘divide and conquer’ is still a good strategy.

I like the fact that this kind of stuff, for the most part, does not, exist in the sustainable food movement. Everyone and every group, from Growing Power to the Organic Valley people seem to be working with each other and not against each other. Best of all we hardly have a meeting, except for a celebration once and awhile, like the Kickapoo Country Fair or the monthly DMZ co-op lunches. More food, less meetings! Just like the party of friends tonight.

August 1, 2007 Upside Down Food

Yesterday, last month, I wrote about birds enjoying the sunflower seeds. Today I observed the unknown black and yellow bird hanging upside down to eat the seeds. Sometimes one needs to turn upside down to taste

All nature enjoys a good garden. Most creatures that eat the flowers or plants do it for food. The chipmunk is an exception. A chipmunk will take a bite out of tomato within its reach but not liking the taste discard it. I was waiting for my first plum tomato to fully ripen when I found it bit and discarded on the ground. Now you know why the chipmunk makes a good garden scapegoat. If your strawberries can eaten before you can pick them or you find fruit bit and discarded, blame it on the chipmunks.

The birds, bees and butterflies that frequent the garden are welcome creatures. They pollinate, enjoy plants you do not eat and keep the bugs in check.

The heat is slowing down my work in the garden. Since I am not up early in the morning and is very hot during the day; I have been doing a little watering and weeding after dinner. However, today I did bear the heat to pick a large bunch of m int. I cleaned and stripped the mint. Now after it dries naturally in the sunroom in a few days I will crush it by hand and have two or more spice bottles of tea for cooking, to give away or make tea.

One of the uses of mint is to mix in plain yogurt (better yet Laban) with cucumbers to make a Middle Eastern condiment for food. Tonight we had this mix with the lamb I had spit roasted. But it is good for the potatoes I cooked and compliments grape leaves, kibba and other Middle Eastern foods. In fact mint is a major herb in Middle Eastern cooking.

My slowing down time this week is going slow. But I keep working at it, building some energy up for the GrafFamily.GrafKids invasion this weekend. Children turn life upside down naturally.

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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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