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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 MilwaukeeRenaissance.com; many internal textual and hyper-textual references to that site remain as written.


GP Box 11/19/06

Garden 09/02/07

Worms


September 30, 2007 Seeing is Believing

Today watching the Green Bay Packers Football game on a large and clear TV screen make the excitement of the game more enjoyable.

When we open our eyes and see life for the beautiful mystery it is, life is more enjoyable.

Workings in a garden, seeing it grow till harvest, makes life more adventuresome and exciting.

In order to see the football game, to see the joy of life and to really see the garden we must first open our eyes. Waking up is not so easy when we live in the day-to-day routine and grind of life. Seeing takes some reflection and quiet.

Today I saw the birds having a good day with the birdseed that I put in the feeder yesterday. I saw some more vegetables in the garden ready to be picked.

Seeing, really seeing with eyes wide open, is important to believing. People talk about ‘blind faith’ but in my mind all that means is seeing in a different way, with the eyes of faith what we cannot see without faith.

So the garden goes around and around; on each spin of nature we can see new things, new life, if only we have the eyes to see.

September 29, 2007 What Goes Around Comes Around


GP Box 9/29.07

The artwork of my son that I displayed last night, roundpicture, has lots of meaning to me in life. It reminds me of the old phrase: “What Goes Around Comes Around”

This message rings true for violence. As another saying goes: “violence begets violence.” We see this in the wars around us in the world and in the violence in our cities. As Gandhi once said if we all practice the “eye for an eye” philosophy the world would be full of blind persons. Yet vengeance and anger seem to dominate over forgiveness and joy in our day-to-day world.

On the other side of the coin we have the growing power phenomenon of waste turning to food and food turning to waste etc. Last Saturday I planted the first seeds, salad greens, in my Growing Power Box in the sunroom. By this Saturday you can already see the plants rising out of the soil that was made of waste. See GRAF.

Our lives are somewhat like this. I find myself now back in the same area where I grew up with persons I knew as a young adult and still committed to the values. I see some of the children and grandchildren of these old friends with the same values.

This cycle of life can be one of despair; we commit the same old mistakes as a country in the world; or one of hope, youth rise up believing they can make a difference in the world. It all depends on our perception and where we look.

Today we have a picture of new seeds of life, yesterday the roundpicture and the day before my young grand nephew, who like the seedlings is about a week old. All three started as a seed, were buried in fertile soil, mind or person and became new life.

My grandnephew, Matt the Thinker, is the most sacred life on earth, a human being. The plants will come and go to feed him, and artistic creations will stimulate his mind. But all three creations follow the law of life that “what goes around comes around.”

My friend Harvey Taylor has a song called: Break the Vicious Cycle. Yes, let us do that and create new cycles of peace and justice.

September 28, 2007 Today the Picture, Tomorrow the Words


roundpicture by Peter Graf

September 27, 2007 Cry of the Worm Part II


Uncle Bob’s new newphew

Tonight I went with my 35 year friend who is working on the sunroom and other home repairs to a play called the “March on Milwaukee: A Memoir of the Open House protest” of 67–68. Margaret Rozga, one of the participants who married a key leader of the open housing marches, Father James Groppi, wrote it. I was around an involved during this time in Milwaukee and it was full of personal memories of the times. During intermission I had a few words with Peggy, the author, and mentioned how the discrimination lives on in Milwaukee. For my friend it was a history lesson as it was a memoir for me.

My friend, John, might move in with us for awhile till he completes the work we gave him, insulating the sunroom and other things. Also today I heard from my other 35-year friend who built the GP box in the sunroom and the worm condo. Despite some legal troubles he got into recently he seems to be doing well and we talked about going Salmon fishing again this fall.

My 35-year-old son who lives with us helped in the garden today and shared with us a some new artwork he has. I will put it on his web page Peter Graf’s Home Page tomorrow.

As I have said before: “It is always good to have some 35 year-olds around.”

Also today my plantings of salad greens in the GP box leaped in growth. Since I just planted these seeds in the “black gold” of casting last Saturday this growth that started Monday is fantastic.

There was other good news today plus a picture of my new Grand Nephew born to my 40 plus nephew and his 40 plus wife. The new boy looks like a real thinker, right at birth.

So today the cry of the worm today is one of joy.

September 26, 2007 The Cry of the Worm

In the last posting I put along the 18th song a picture of the circle in the middle of the garden from earlier in the year. Here is how it looks today. The tall plant on the right side is a leek, I believe. I pulled out lots of them from the flower bed but let this one stand since it was so tall. Notice how overcrowded the plant bed is, even covering up the statue of Mary. That is how my life feels these days, full of beauty gut over crowded with big tall weeds sticking out.

Amidst the beauty of tis sunny fall day some nightmare of weeds stand out and I am overwhelmed. Here are a few examples.

The newspaper screams out how poorly Wisconsin children can read and how the biggest gap in reading between black and white students is in Wisconsin. The public superintendent of schools called it a civil rights violation.

The news reported today that Chinese computers guys, probably with consent of the government, are tapping into our computer system and can paralyze us at any time. (So it is not just toys with lead paint that are scary about China.)

I called a lady today to set up a St. Vincent De Paul visit. It turns out she has just got out of jail and needs medication for mental and physical health. As we talked I realized her problem was a lack of ID. No one would help her with medication without an ID. He turns out that she had applied for Social Security Supplemental Income, SSI and as part of that process needed to obtain a birth certificate. She had obtained one from Columbus, Ohio but had sent it, along with the letter from Social security to Social Security. Her only ID was the envelope addressed to her from the Social Security and prison release papers that are under another name (but do mention her real name).

I told her I would call her back about how to get an ID. I called the Motor Vehicle Department about a Wisconsin ID card and after pressing a bunch of numbered options finally got to one that said press 0 to talk with a real person. I pressed 0 only to get the start of the automated loop again. I did the number thing one more time and when it went to the beginning again I hung up.

I called Community Advocates, a local group in town that does good work for advice. However, without an ID there is not much medical help you can get. They suggested she call back tomorrow morning and ask for a medical service they provide. I guess they help the first five persons who call each day.

I called the lady back to explain the frustrations of how to get her medicine. She put on the worker in the assisted living place. We talked and it seems that the lady has all kind of physical and mental illnesses and really needs the medication. The worker at the assisted living home, who took her in with the hope she would get SSI income someday, was just as frustrated as I was by her efforts. We decided the best course of action was to seek another birth certificate quickly from Ohio and to try to be one of the first five called to Community Advocates.

If the nightmare of the above two stories is not enough for you I have more. But I better leave them alone and conclude with the small anguish I felt tonight watching the Milwaukee Brewers loose a game when the Chicago Cubs had lost again.

Poor children especially of color, discarded elderly women who get out of jail are a group and individual of the many who get discarded and marginalized each day. In light of these two stories and many others I guess the Brewers’ loss is not that big a thing.

A friend of mine who is deeply discouraged at all the ills of our country — the war, the debt, the acceptance of helplessness — wrote a note to friends asking for reasons for hope. All I can say is that I still deeply believe in the ‘One Person Revolution’ and that one can grow to be many and make a difference. I do not know how but know we all must try.

All we can do is, like a worm, keep on doing what we can do and be who we are. However, being a worm of person we can cry out.

September 25, 2007 Cleansing the Temple

I have been trying to organize a modern day creative nonviolent action, a sort of cleansing of the temple in the Gospel story. These days I find most people, especially one who professed to be acting on their faith, finding time to talk, listen, protest, read and write about things they do not like, such as the War in Iraq. However, doing something about it, especially if it is risky, is tough to digest, even for myself who is a doing kind of guy.

Maybe instead of using the cleansing the temple imagery I should use more of the gardening and farming imagery that is found in most major faiths. It is less threatening but just as powerful. For example, reading some reflections today from my prayer book I came across this song, writing of faith, from the 18th century. Here is part of it:

We plow the fields, and scatter
The good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain….

We thank thee, then, O Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seedtime and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food:
No gifts have we to offer+
For all thy loves imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts. (Mathias Claudius 1740–1815)

I am sure we can find in writings of faith farming and garden imagery expressing the “cleansing of temple” attitude rather than “attitude of gratitude” expressed in this hymn. We all know what happens to bad seeds or plants. They, like the temple, get cleansed or eradicated.

September 24, 2007 Dead Seeds Growing

I have been told that plants grow at night in the dark. So here is a picture of my salad green plants that I buried today in the GP box growing. The growing light normally is off at night but I put it on for the picture. With the nice warm days, the seeds should germinate soon and rise up from the soil.

I divided the box in thirds. One third has an Encore Lettuce Mix, one third is my old standby arugula and the other third is a mix of salad greens, Claytonia, Sylvetta and Erba Stella. I did not use all the seeds in any of the packets and have some other salad greens from outside planting. My goal is to have salad greens from inside and outside all year around. Outside of kale greens I have no salad greens growing right now (plenty of herbs though) since I failed to plant in the summer for the fall.

On the way to the ball park tonight a few youth that I worked with as a youth minister stopped by for a tailgate on our back deck. We have stayed in contact ever since they were sophomores in high school. Now they both have graduated college and one just returned from 13 months in China where he was working with Chinese teachers on their English. They both are coming to the end of their post college travel experiences and beginning their search for a JOB. It was good to see how their passion for justice is still strong. They reinforce my hope in this new generation of young adults. They understand what we old guys are saying and what is needed for the children of tomorrow. Naturally there were both interested in the green and worm power.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 civil disobedience action against the selective system and the war in Iraq. Check out the Milwaukee 14 Today web pages. Maybe the spirit of the 60’s skipped a generation and now is present in this new generation of young adults.

In the night of these days the seeds of hope are growing.

September 23, 2007 Blast from the Past

Today some friends from London being in Milwaukee was a good excuse to have a get together of friends from the 60’s. Every time we have one of these get-togethers at our house, I am surprised of how much friends from the past share in common values and attitudes of social justice over all these years. Many of us have gone our own way, some are in contact with each other and some are not, but all seem to share the same basic passion for nonviolence and justice. Also I noticed today for the first time there was a strong interest for many in gardening and growing power. In fact one person I had not seen for many years was a volunteer at Growing Power, taking care of the worms and the castings. For some the small attempt here at GP gardening inside and out was significant. Some had compost piles and gardens of their own, a few had much more substantial gardens than my attempt.

My 35-year son was present but not my 35-year-old friend who is not working on the sunroom. He, like my son, was just a baby when he and this group of young adults, at the time, lived and worked in the same neighborhood, around the Catholic Worker House, Casa Maria, on the West side. Most of these friends from the past are in fifties or sixties but still feel strong ties to each other. Now they are the parents of young adults and many have grandchildren.

Like the garden there is many changes in this group of people, but like a GP garden there is a certain sustainability that continues to exist. As Will Allen says in the Growing Power world it is same old, same old

The minister at Church today talked about how Sunday was the Sabbath, a day of rest and gratitude.
There is no better way to rest and experience gratitude than to share a blast from the past with friends.

September 22, 2007 Back To The Future

Today was a day preparing the house for a gathering of old friends from the 60’s. I got the sunroom clean and ready but failed to plant the seeds.

I am founding myself increasing forgetting, forgetting where I put my glasses tonight, forgetting my checkbook at the SHARE food pickup today.

Today at SHARE, a Midwest co-op of persons getting good prices on basic foods, I received my first order of a box of organic fruits and vegetables. It was not that expensive and the variety of fruits and vegetables was good. How SHARE is able to do this, I am not sure, but it certainly fits in with my idea of Growing Renewable Affordable Food (GRAF).

I introduced my young 35 year old friend who is installing the five-pane windows in the sunroom to Dawn and the people working to fix up her vacant house. As a result, he was not here working today but working with some church volunteers rehabbing Dawn’s vacant house. Actually that is good since I am a big fan and advocate of restoring Dawn’s house and getting her restored in the business of serving persons with disabilities.

I had contact with the Mayor the other day that I turned into concern about Dawn’s house and the failure of the city back in 2002, before this present Mayor, to honor its contact with Dawn on rehabbing this house. Let’s pray he can be of service.

I missed going to Marna’s, another member like Dawn of the DMZ garden co-op, block party for neighborhoods and homicide victims. I am sure there was good food and good people present.

I did get to watch the first part of the Wisconsin–Iowa football game tonight at the shelter for homeless families that my wife and I work at once and awhile. Only one man living there was somewhat interested in the game but the women and children did not seem to care. I did since I lived many years in Madison and have a younger brother in Iowa City that took my bet on the game. However, the other half of the bet was who would win the division, Cubs or Brewers. I lost ground on that side of the bet today.

Visiting with friends from the 60’s is looking back, working and enjoying with affordable organic food is the future. It is time to plant the seeds in the GP box and move forward.

September 21, 2007 We Got Seeds

The GP box in the sunroom is ready, I have purchased the seeds and now I need to plant. I got the seeds a few weeks ago but have not planted them yet.

I have noticed a flurry of birds in my garden recently. I have not put any bird food in the feeder for quite awhile and was wondering why. I realized that my garden was full of seeds and plants and flowers emit seeds for future crops. My garden got seeds.

So now that my garden and I have seeds, we both need to plant. I need to manually take the seeds out of the bags ordered from the seed catalog and plant them in the box. While I was waiting some seeds already in the compost mix started to sprout. I raked them over and now need to plant the seeds I want to plant.

The garden has seeds that can be shared and not affect next year’s crop. The plants that come back year after year will naturally take care themselves and the other plant seeds, not eaten by the birds will wind up in the compost pile.

I will leave the soil in the center flower section along so the flower seeds, now eaten by the birds, can replant themselves.

We have seeds for the birds, seeds for next year’s perennials flowers and crops and seeds for the compost pile. The seeds in the compost pile might become part of the soil or might survive to be, as some would call, ‘volunteer’ plants next year.

All the seeds will die, being consumed by soil, compost or by a bird, before they rise again as a new plant, part of the rich compost or part of the bird. Seeds are endless creations. I am glad we got seeds.

September 20, 2007 It’s Good To Have some 35 Years Old Around!


Making 5 Pane Windows

With a GP home model growing power garden it is always good to have a few 35 years old around.
Remember it was a 35-year young adult that built the worm condo and the GP Box. Today another 35 year was making the five-pane inside insulated storm windows for the sunroom and one was cutting up cardboard into small pieces for the compost pile.

Young adults are defined between he ages of 18–35. Will they be open to working on the GP model when the three of them turn 36 next years and become regular adults? We will wait and see. For now I really appreciate them. Also they enjoy my cooking, at least it seems that way.


Making Compost

The DMZ garden co-op was a little late and rushed today. Marna, the M, was preparing food for a funeral tomorrow and for a block party this Saturday. Marna was stuck at home so Dawn and I went to her house instead of to Dawn’s. However, Dawn was late since she had to deal with a break in at her parents’ house yesterday. I took my 35-year-old friend with me and he got a good taste of African-American culture as its best and busiest moments. It is a different world they he or I grew up in, but it is one with similar values. One thing the three of us in the DMZ share as well as my friend is love for Growing Renewable Affordable Food.

The Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh, that I made yesterday was a big hit with the women present. They had never had it before but really liked it. Marna did ask me what she was eating that was so delicious. I told her the many ingredients, mostly from the garden. There was some left in my bowl when we was going home but when one of the ladies found out that I did not really need it, she took the rest. Of course I walked out with some homemade pecan pie and peach cobbler that Marna had made for the lunch. I think I got the better part of the exchange.

We got a chance to talk a little garden business but will need to meet again soon for more planning on our vacant lot garden next year. On the way home I took my 35-year friend past Dawn’s houses and vacant lot and he was interested in helping out. There is always room in the DMZ for another 35 year old.

September 19, 2007 Natural or Man-Made


Sign of Hope

Last night’s posting was delayed “due to technical difficulties” with the server used by Milwaukee Renaissance. All is well now.

With a garden there are no “technical difficulties” but there are “difficulties.” These difficulties can be made by nature or man-made. Natural difficulties, like weather, can be hard on the garden. Man-made difficulties, like lack of care, can destroy a garden.

Today in my garden I noticed that most of the plants, despite the nice warm weather, are slowing down and not producing much. They are running out of energy. There is one notable exception, kale. The kale keeps on growing, warm, cold, rain or dry weather.

Today I found a new use for Kale, chopped up fine as an ingredient for the Middle Eastern salad, tabbouleh. I made enough for dinner tonight and for our DMZ garden lunch tomorrow. I was happy that a number of ingredients in the salad, kale, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, parsley were from the garden. Hopefully next year we can have more of the ingredients growing in our garden.

Good gardens are long-term commitment. Each year with the growing power method the garden or GP box gets better. Each year you learn more and each year the soil becomes better for growing.

The growing power box is full of “back gold” soil (castings), coir (coconut shavings), worms and compost. I have purchased the seeds and now all I need to do is to plant them. Maybe tomorrow.

Yesterday I posted a picture “Sign of Contradiction”, military and training center at Marquette. Tonight I post a picture “Sign of Hope”, my three-year granddaughter at the Shawano County Fair.

September 18, 2007 Same Old Friends


Sign of Contradiction
MU Department of Military Science

Some friends of many of us that were friends in the 60’s are coming to town. They moved to London many years ago but have made some trips back to Milwaukee. A few of us decided to have a gathering of persons that knew this couple and of ourselves. Contacting persons it is interesting to note how many of them are in contact with each other and how we all seem to share the same old basic value system that we had in the 60’s.

In a few days the few of us in the DMZ garden co-op will meet. These are new friends, persons I did not know in the 60’s but the people who I now have a lot of contact with on a regular basis. We plan to continue planning our GP home model gardens, including a vacant lot for next fall. We do share many of the same values.

I plan to take with me the young man, who I have known all his life, who now is working on the five-pane affordable windows for the sunroom. He got off to a slow start on the project this week but is now going full speed ahead. He is interested in the whole Green Sustainability project, which the Garden and the sunroom project, are part of. We hope to get him into the garden group since he brings many mechanical and carpentry skills which we need.

I have been doing a lot of thinking and some writing about paradoxes and contradictions (see August Living Stones newsletter. I have noticed that real friends, share paradoxes. The same is true for GP gardens, like the lowly worms are powerful; the seed must die to grow. However, friends and a garden are not contradictory. In my mind, paradoxes need to be accepted and contradictions erased.

Last Saturday while making a retreat with friends on nonviolence I saw the above “sign of contradiction.” The paradox of the situation was interesting, the contradiction of the situation, “teaching Army Values as priority on a campus that professed to teach the priority of Christian values is troubling.

Maybe some friends from the 60’s will see this sign of contradiction and like Jesus help to exorcise and cleanse this Jesuit University nonviolently.


September 17, 2007 Learning Curve

The garden business gave way today to other concerns. The young man putting up the innovative 5-pane window system in the sunroom had other things to do today but will be back at work tomorrow. Here is a picture of the first one installed. I noticed that the wood frames were bent or curved in the middle. First I thought the inexpensive wood had warped but my friend told me today that this was due to the plastic being stronger than projected. He said this curve in the wood was about the learning curve in this project and could easily be fixed by putting all three layers of plastic in first before heating and stretching them with the hair dryer.

There are a lot of learning curves in life. I remember when I first had a computer spending hours trying to figure things learning some useful things and some not useful things. After a while I learned how to be more monastic in use of the computer, learning only those things I need to learn to use the computer effectively.

The same was true for the Growing Power Garden inside and outside. Soon I will plant the GP box for the third time. I feel much more confidant this year than the last two since I have learned a lot of how to grow inside the box. The same goes for the garden outside which not is ending its third season. Next year, from what I have learned the last two years, will be better.

I remember a line from a poem a long time ago that “Man was made to make mistakes.” Making mistakes is part of the learning curve if we learn from mistakes. Sometimes I do and sometimes I just keep moving on, without reflection, and make the same mistake.

Evaluation and reflection is to key to learn from mistakes on the learning curve of life. To reflect means slowing down a little each day and making each day a little Sunday, day of rest and reflection. If we can do that the learning curves of life will get smoother.

September 16, 2007 Sunday, Day of Rest

Sunday traditionally is a day of rest. I guess you can say what all I did today was in that tradition. Sunday morning was church and our faith in recovery group. Sunday afternoon was watching the Green Bay Packers game on TV, while flipping over to the Brewers game (they both won). Than a little work in the garden and off to the Peace Action 30th anniversary dinner to see old friends and enjoy a good Middle Eastern Dinner. A little PBS mystery TV and here I am writing this posting.

My friend John finished the first five pane insulated lightweight inside storm today. Since he has most of the rest of the pieces cut the rest should come fast and the windows in the Sunroom should be well insulated for this winter and the winters to come. After he finishes the inside five pane insulators he is going to do an energy test, measuring the temperature in the house, sunroom and outside with and without the five pine storms. By measuring how much longer it takes the sunroom to cool down with and without the insulated windows we should be able to measure the effectiveness of this innovative method of insulating windows and doors. More pictures and measurements to come.

At the dinner I remembered and was reminded of all the efforts to stop war and bring peace by the Milwaukee community over the last thirty years. There have been a lot of efforts but not many results by measurement standards. There is now more war and more nuclear weapons than when they begun around a table at Casa Maria, Catholic Worker Community, in 1977. Yet there was a sense of optimism and hope in the evening events. There was hope that all these seeds of peace that had sowed over these thirty years would come to harvest some day. This hope drives people of peace as it drives all those who plant seeds in a garden.

It is just a garden produces more tangible and immediate results than sowing the seeds of peace. However, the latter, scattering seeds of peace are as valuable to world survivable as food from farming and garden.

Tomorrow is Monday, which means back to work on the garden and making peace.

September 15, 2007 Egoless Worm

Today I spent a retreat day at Marquette University. The subject of the retreat was on nonviolence and the Jesuit preset well versed on the subject gave the reflection talks. After each talk was a private reflection and than group faith sharing. The best part as usual was the faith sharing.

Tomorrow after church we have our ([[http://www.faithinrecovery.com | Faith In Recovery]) faith-sharing group. The subject of the faith sharing tomorrow is spirituality and mental health.

My work and efforts on the growing power gardens here and with my DMZ garden partners has influenced my experience in faith sharing. Stories about faith, life and death, sorrow and joy or from the Gospel take on new meanings with the perspective from Growing Power.

Especially knowing about worm power in growing has made a major difference in my view of life. Catch some of the comparisons between aspects of religious faith and worms.

Worms are considered one of the lowest creatures yet they are the prized livestock of this way of growing. One worm does not have much affect on anything but a pound of worms can made a big difference. Worms eat waste and turn in to rich castings.

As came out in the interviews I had with a worm the last few years on this posting, a worm does not have much of ego. There is no ego or I in a worm, since as an individual they are useless, expect maybe as bait for fishing. However, together in community they have tremendous value.

Today on a meditation on sin I observed that the cross, the symbol of Christian faiths, is an I with a line crossing it out. If the cross is a crucifix, image of Jesus on it, crossing out the I will leave only Jesus.

September 14, 2007 Five Pane Inside Experience


Starting the five pane windows

Today my friend John began work on the five panes inside insulated storm/windows for my sunroom.
He got a late start on the project because of all the material that he needed to be gathered. After completing the first frame and insert that will fit snugly into the window/door the other two frames and the three layers of clear plastic will be easy as well as the other three of the other 12 window/doors that are the same size.

We all have heard of double pane windows. They are energy efficient and installed with almost all new window and door replacements. These will be five pane inserts. The insulation is not really the plastic or glass but the air that exists between each piece of plastic or glass. The pocket of air between each layer slows down the cooling or heating process. Thus the more panes the more insulation.

Talking about it at dinner tonight the four of us thought maybe we are witnessing something new and inventive—a simple,effective, inexpensive way to insulate doors and windows from the inside. The three panels of wood and plastic for each window/door is lighter than a traditional storm (single pane) and requires no ladders to install. It is also more energy efficient and less expensive.

The Sunroom with these five pane windows/doors and with the insulated floor and to be insulated roof will be a good test of this innovated way of using passive solar energy since it has no regular source of heat. We used a space heater last winter and hopefully will not need it much this winter.

My wife and I prepared the final layers of castings and coir today for the GP box in the sunroom. The box with the soil in it is a retainer of heat in the sunroom. Now maybe I need a few more heat absorbing items, like rocks to really keep the heat in the room.

As we work on the heat inside, the outside cools. We picked some herbs like basil and mint today that do not do so well in cool weather. Some other mint and basil we had already dried out was crushed, strained and put into spice jars. My wife was also made another batch of pasta sauce tonight, some for dinner and some to freeze for a winter day. Fresh organic tomatoes not only have more taste than store bought ones they make for a more delicious homemade pasta sauce.

I am exciting about this new adventure to naturally heat the sunroom. This is a step in sustainability.

Tomorrow I am going for a day retreat on nonviolence. Hopefully that will be an exciting five-pane experience. By retreating for a day, I hopefully will be heated up to sustain my inside growing power.

September 13, 2007 Retreat Mode


The Amaranth Bakery and Cafe

If all goes well tomorrow eve my sunroom will be a five pane insulated room on the three walls facing the outside. Hopefully a day or two afterwards I will have a new insulated roof and the unheated sunroom will be truly a passive solar room for the coming cold months. My friend, the son of my friend seems, to be coming through. The short-term investment for materials is significant but the long-term savings will be great, if all works well. Pictures will be provided as they become available.

Today it came home to me again the deep-seated discrimination that Milwaukee still faces. On the same day I heard about a memorial to Fr. Groppi and the civil rights open housing marches in the 60’s, I was told not to interfere with a neighborhood group that is clearly discriminatory; I wrote another letter on behalf of Dawn Powell whose homes for the poor with a mental illness are being discriminated by the city and country officials’ also I heard today that the Mayor was gutting the Housing Trust Fund that so many had worked so hard to obtain to build affordable housing.

Fortunately I have the garden for a retreat. I guess we all need a retreat’, a step back in life to gain perspective, in our daily lives. A garden is a healthy organic way to do a daily retreat.

Today I brought more castings and coyer in for the GP box. In a few days when the sunroom is insulated I can plant the seeds and start on my salad box.

Tonight I made in the wok a stir fry vegetable mix that featured herbs, zucchini, eggplant and kale from the garden. With some purchased carrots, an onion and some broccoli it made for delicious side dish for our healthy hamburgers on homemade bread from the Amaranth café. The café has reopened and features the great breads, sweets, salads and soups. The owner told me today that all the ingredients might not be 100% organic and fair trade but it is about the best you can do in Milwaukee. Tomorrow is my wife’s day off and it will not be hard to talk into lunch at Amaranth.

So while the homicide rate goes up and the political infighting of groups goes on I can move myself into retreat mode with the help of the garden, healthy family meals and the Amaranth café.

September 12, 2007 Back into the Box

Compost, worms, coir and castings are back into the Growing Power Box in the Sunroom. Except for another layer of pure castings all the homemade soil needs is seeds to grow salad greens. With the weather being cool but not cold the time is ripe to grow inside.

My friend’s son came over today to bring back the dinning room chair he fixed and to take measurements for the permanent clear plastic frames he is making for each of the door/windows in the sunroom. Although this will be more expensive this year than just putting plastic on the outside of the windows, these storm frames will be useable year after year and should be more effective saving heat. In fact, like his father, he wanted to measure the savings this method will mean. I really do not have any separate heat records for this room from last year so there is no way of telling. However, with this new method and with the insulation on the roof there should be significant savings on heating this unheated sunroom.

With the insulation of the floor, walls and roof we will be using passive solar heat to keep the room warm. During periods of no sun we will still need the space heater but it should be less often.

If we can keep the room warm, at least till the real cold weather we may be able to keep some of the plants growing in pots outside growing in the sunroom. This small room will be a plant and flower growing room for the winter months.

Thinking about the measurements my friend and his son have encouraged me to make, perhaps I should weigh the salad green crops from the box this year. My friend gave me a small scale, which would make this task easy to do.

These cooling off days of early fall is making me hungry and tired. I am not sure why but maybe the transfer from growing in the garden outside to growing in the box inside has a human effect. Bears do fatten up in the fall and hibernate during the winter Maybe what I feel in my body is just nature’s way of saying slow down and that you can find in a small space (like the box) all of what you find in a large space (like outside.)

September 11, 2007 Cosmology and Worms


Pickings of the Garden Today

Finally the rain stopped, I was home, and it was sunny and cool. So I was able to get out in the garden and do some work. The first thing I did was pick some crops. The bounty today was good.

The second thing I did was to remove the final group of worms and compost on top of the screen on the worm condo. With the help of my son, we refined the castings into ‘black gold’ for the top layer of the Growing Power Box in the sunroom. The box is almost ready with maybe another layer of castings and coir needed to start growing inside for fall and winter.

Checking over the rest of the garden I noticed that the salad green seeds I planted last week are started to grow through the soil on the mound. Also I fed the worms with coffee grounds and more compost. They are growing, eating, casting and procreating in the worm depository outside.

I was reading yesterday in the National Catholic Reporter about the “new cosmology” or “engaged wisdom” that seeks to integrate the awe and wonder of nature we learn from science with our Faith. It is a fascinating adventure to see the ‘story of the universe’ and our religious values connect.

This new cosmology or engaged wisdom has interest me since the 60’s when I stumbled upon the writings of the great Jesuit scientis and mystic Teilhard de Chardin. The universe expanding and coming together at the same time is the great paradox of all time.

This natural desire to learn more about this cosmology or engaged wisdom has led me into all kinds of directions, working for justice and peace, trying to practice what what we say, Ignatian spirituality, studying the wisdom literature of the bible and now into Growing Power.

At the heart of Growing Power is the worm, one of the least and oldest living creatures on earth. Worms go back to over 120 million years ago, the age of the dinosaur. There are over 20,000 kinds of worms. The main purpose of the worm is to enrich and aerate the earth. A worm like the expanding universie cast off most of what it takes in. A worm is to farming and growing power what the the eternal spark of life is to the universe. Worms in the garden multiply and expand and are at the heart of the organisms that grow the vegetables I picked today in the garden.

Worms are the smallest and simplest creatures in the garden yet the most complicated. If one wants to learn about the wonders of the universe, all one must do is take a close look at a worm. The wonders and majesty of the universe exist in this small creature we usually neglect.

As I have quoted my friend in India before: “If you want to receive the grace and blessing of God go to the poor and marginalized, there you will find it.” So too if you want to discover the majesty of the universe look at the worm.

September 10, 2007 Artist, Mechanic and Worm of Man

After being gone over the weekend up north I was anxious to get out in the garden today, check things out and work. However, it was a dark, dreary, rainy day all day. It is the kind of day that can make you feel down, if you are, like me, a person that needs light to feel good.

There was one bright spot in this dark day. A young man, 35 years old, that I have known since he was a baby, but have not seen in many years, came over today. He is a son of a good friend who now lives in Madison. This young man had recently moved to Milwaukee the place of his birth. He is now in the process of checking things out in Milwaukee, looking for a job and maybe settling in. He is an extremely gifted person, especially in the area of mechanics and repair, but he is poor. However, he has deep-seated values that are so good to see in young people today.

I have a number of home projects that need attention, including the insulation of sunroof ceiling to keep the warmth in for the Growing Power box salad greens. While checking out the roof in the sunroom he suggested a more effective way to insulation the window doors in the sunroom.

His Dad had built a solar home in the country for him and his brother when he was young. He had learned some lessons form this experience. Also like his Dad he looks at all options in taking on a project, a way of problem-solving called ‘lateral thinking.’

This young friend is the same age as my son who lives with us and they were toddlers together and knew each other during high school years. My son and I took our friend on a tour of the house and garden, between the raindrops, and he had all kinds of ideas of how we could repair or improve on things from the broken front doorbell to insulation of the attic.

As some of you may recall another friend of my son, same age, helped me build the Growing Power Box in the Sunroom and the Worm Condo. My son is very artistic and these two young men are very good mechanically. Where does that leave me in this mix?

I do not know but told another friend of mine today that I was just an agitator or troublemaker by nature. She did not like to hear this since she, like most persons, is gentle and likes to please everyone.

I guess someone has to be the worm in the garden of life, eating up the waste and leftovers and casting it out as dark soil so the artist and mechanic can create and build new life.

September 9, 2007 Crazy Busy

On the way up north yesterday my wife and I were listening to public radio and the author of the book called “Crazy Busy”. He talked about how busy American life is becoming and a realization of how impatient he himself had become. While on vacation on a lake he was using a rotary phone. Dialing a number that we now can do in a few seconds or with speed dialing in a second took him 11 seconds. He was frustrated, although he was on a month long vacation on Lake Dolittle and had all the time in the world.

His comments made me think about the ‘crazy busyness‘ of my own life. That evening my three-year-old granddaughter, when we were all waiting for commercials to end and our cartoon show to start made the remark to the TV “Come On Already.” She expressed what we all young and old were thinking.

This ‘crazy busy’ life style runs contrary to the lifestyle of gardening or farming. While watching my grandchildren play with the neighborhood children on a family dairy farm across the highway I chatted with the father of the children about farm life. He was describing the woes and difficulties of the small family farmer. During this conversation he made the remark that how the economy of farmers was doing reflecting how the country was doing. He asked me if I agreed. My response was what farmers was he talking about, the large agriculture businesses that people like David Letterman invested in or the family farmers like himself? I agree if he was talking about the family farmers like himself but disagreed if he was talking about the mega agriculture businesses. Family farmers, like most Americans, were working more for less money. Owners of major agriculture business, like some wealthy investors and owners, were working less for more money.

Next week there is a major convention of family farmers coming to Milwaukee. Thee Growing Power way of growing and farmer Will Allen will be featured. These are the farmers that are looking for help and joining to survive to grow renewable affordable food. The major agricultural businesses probably have their own conference but they have on their side major forces, like the Government and the Farm Bill.

We backyard gardeners need to unite. Next week there is another gathering of gardeners and others interesting in sustainable gardening at Timbuktu. The organization is called MUAN and the one gathering I attended was a lot of good talk and conversation but no action. Right now the whole sustainable agriculture thing is a movement but as more and more people, organizations and governments get into it, who knows how this movement will developed. It may someday rival the major agriculture businesses that control and profit from our food supply.

If the movement can avoid the “crazy busy” lifestyle I think we have a chance.

September 8, 2007 Dead Batteries

I am here at my son’s house in the country. When I got here the children were playing with the children on the family dairy farm across the highway. I went over there, to be with the children and talk with the father of the children about farming and stuff. I saw a cute picture of my three-year-old granddaughter and her three-year-old boy friend and went for my camera. The batteries were dead and I did not bring along the recharger or the extra set of recharged batteries. So I did not get the cute picture.

It is just as well. Sometimes taking the picture can interfere with getting the picture. My conversation with the father of the family gave me more insight into farm life than any picture could.

Actually my batteries of life are recharged when I am here. Today I was inspired by the fruitfulness of the farm’s garden which is so small but rich with fruit due to the cow manure enriched soil. Also I enjoyed a red delicious apple right off the tree.

My own son’s family garden is doing or so- so this year but has a lot of potential. It occurred to me that I should have brought some worms along to enjoy the richness of their growing compost pile.

So tonight I write sitting with dead batteries but recharged by farm life and my grandchildren.

September 7, 2007 Power

I am but a worm of a man, weak, easily crushed by a heavy foot.
Yet with the power of God, I can turn waste into soil.
And like a worm turn compost into black gold.

This same power is multiplied when we work together.
So we can move mountains, build rockets or just produce healthy food for all.

With this power, this nonviolent force
We can stop wars, create peace, heal the ill, and house the homeless.

There is no magic in this power. With faith in ourselves and others,
With Faith in God all this will happen.

We can walk in the valley of death and not only survive but prosper and grow.

God, You gave us this power of the poor, of the weak, helpless and ignored.
Now help us to use it to stop this war, to prevent the killing of young black males in our cites,
To provide healthy food, sustainable clothing, housing and health care for all,
Despite their status, income, race or stigma they endure.

The ‘Powers To Be’ can crush us. They can ignore us or even demean us.
But they cannot take away this power.

For you God gave it to us for life. They cannot face You or defeat You, the Almighty.
Bless are we to have You, Your blessings, Your love, Your power

September 6, 2007 Multiplication of Worms

Today was a busy day. One of the things I did was to go over to Growing Power headquarters and get three buckets of worms from their huge worm depository to take over to DMZ’s new worm depository. Last week we had just one big compost pile, until we turned it over using the top to build a second compost pile and the bottom to make the new worm depository. We were going to build a worm condo this summer to produce castings for our new DMZ garden next spring, but not enough time remains in the season. So hopefully this new worm depository will produce this fall and throughout the winter enough worm enriched soil for the top of the mounds in the garden we will build. I normally give persons worms from my own depository in my yard but this new endeavor called for some new worms.

Actually all the worms at Growing Power, my garden and farms and gardens around the state and country are all descendants of original few pounds of worms that Will Allen of Growing Power had shipped from Africa some years ago. Worms are not only excellent livestock, but, when taken care of, multiply. A worm, a unisex creature, by eating and casting, multiplies itself and its work.

This multiplication reminds me of a quote I just used in the upcoming issue of Living Stones It is from Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement and it is about the difference one individual can make. Dorothy says:

People say, “What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time. We can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes.”

In the language of this diary of the worm if we, like a worm, cast out good organic life, a higher being than us will take our castings and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

In the story in the Gospel of the loaves and fishes it always puzzled me what there was so much leftovers 12 baskets full. Why would Jesus multiply more than was needed? When I was in Palestine at the proposed site of this miracle the guide told us how persons in the day of Jesus always traveled with a little bag around their neck with some dried fish and bread. In a day when one traveled long ways by dusty roads and there were no quick stops, this was necessary. The story goes that when the masses saw Jesus and his disciples share the little they had, five loaves and three fishes, they all took out the dried fish and bread from their small bags and shared this food. Thus the great amount of leftovers.

Keeping with the Growing Power Garden theme, I am sure the leftovers were not wasted, but used for another meal. Worms multiply just like the loaves and fishes.

September 5, 2007 Coming Up Roses

I noticed today the rose bush in my garden is coming up again, this time with a multiple of roses. Each time it comes back, especially when I prune it, there seems to be more roses on it,

Life can be like this, coming up roses, if you allow it to be. My problem is that I let the ‘thorns’ of life get me angry. When an organization or individual that I feel close to does something that I think hurts someone or something I stand for, I get angry. The more I respect and love the person or group the angrier I get. Loving your enemy is harder when you perceived enemy is a friend.

I need to be like the rose bush, when thorns appear, just keep coming up with roses.

Tonight I gave the garden a good watering. It really needed it. After the week or more of rain we have had a week or more of sun and hot weather.

I got the rough copy of the Living Stones newsletter done today. Edited or not I will send it out and let those, who may be reading this, of the appearance of the newsletter on the Hope to Healing site.

Roses and Worms rising seems to be the natural order of the day.

September 4, 2007 Worms Rising

Today I removed more worms from the worm condo and put compost from the compost pile and the worm depository into the GP Power Box. Although the weather is warm and the vegetables are growing I am preparing for the fall and winter inside growing season.

This will be the third year of the Growing Power Box in the sunroom and, if all goes well, the best year. I know how to insulate the windows, had the floor insulated this spring and have an idea of how to best insulate the ceiling before winter.

On sunny days like today the sunroom in the morning before the doors are open and the fan put on, beomes almost bearably hot. I hoping the warmth of the sunroom is due in part to the insulation of the floor. For in the winter months I hope to capture all the sun I can for the dark cold nights.

I have taken worms out of the worm condo three times and still many more are rising up through the screen to get at the fresh compost. They must have been really multiplied during the second batch of making castings from compost in the worm condo. Some of the casting from the worm condo will be used to top the GP box along with some coyer. By starting the planting early this year and spacing my planting I hope to grow salad greens all fall and winter long.

As far as my two new mounds for salad greens planted last week there is no sign of germination, new life yet. However, I know the seeds are in the ground since I chased a few sparrows twice today from the mounds. Maybe I should put some more birdseed in the bird planter just to give the birds some other easy picking seeds.

Working on my August newsletter Living Stones I wrote about all the contradictions that I see in the everyday life around me, like media saying how things are getting better in Iraq when the death toll of civilians is increasing and people have less food, electricity and basic essentials of life. Another one is how well the city official’s policing plan is working according to them, while the homicides in Milwaukee now number 82 Memorial to Homicide Victims 2007 and we had eight shootings in six hours yesterday.

Contradictions are not paradoxes. A paradox like the seed must die to grow into life are found everywhere in the garden and life. Contradictions are human made and not found in nature or the garden unless human made. You do not hear one saying how great my tomatoes are this year while they are all dying on the vine. You do not say how well watered my garden is when it is dry as a bone. Nature and Gardens are not hypocrites like human being can be.

I find it very sad that many of my friends that are against the war in Iraq are giving up on stopping the war and now are saying we must stop the next USA illegal war in Iraq. I read an article today by Governor Cuomo, the former governor of New York who pointed out how the constitutions clearly states that only Congress can declare war and how that votes of support like in Vietnam and Iraq to do give us authority to declare war. Although he, a lawyer, points out how clearly unconstitutional the war in Iraq is, he even concludes that there is nothing we can do about and should just focus on stopping the next illegal war on Iran. This hopelessness is just what the “powers to be” want us to believe.

In the same issue of Living Stones, coming soon, I used a quote from Dorothy Day on what a difference one person can make. I believe this is true but have a hard time practicing it. It is just too easy to accept the contradictions like the Iraq war is illegal, immoral and unjust, yet there is nothing we can do about it than to keep on trying like a worm to do what we are meant to do, rise up.

September 3, 2007 Labor Day

My grandchildren came here today, my two grandsons to go with my son, their dad, and another father and son to the Brewers game and my three-year granddaughter just to hang around with Papa Bob and Grandma.

When pulling in our driveway the first thing my oldest grandson did was head to the garden to check it out. From the tours at Growing Power and of my garden he has picked up the habit of grazing as he walks through the garden. After we had a cookout before the game he started to graze in the garden again. This time my three-year granddaughter started to copy him. I had to warm my two grandsons to keep an eye on what she puts in her mouth, since I doubt if she knows a weed from an herb. As you can see from this comment and a previous one my grandson’s interest in the art of gardening really thrills me.

While the boys were at the Brewers game, Carol Lee busied herself helping my wife take the garden tomatoes and making some delicious homemade pasta sauce. My wife’s mom and her all Italian family passed on to her an an old Italian recipe for sauce. We had some tonight on our pasta for dinner and it was delicious. I like to think the fresh organic tomatoes from the garden had something to do with it.

There was a short history of labor and where it is today in a column in yesterday’s newspaper by an editorial writer, someone I knew in the civil rights movement at Marquette University in the 60’s. It is called “Singing Labor Day Blues.” I made my wife listen to my brief history of the Labor Movement:

  1. In the 20’s and 30’s the poorly paid workers, like WalMart employees today, were in the manufacturing jobs, like in car production.
  2. These workers organized and after a long struggle got good wages and benefits.
  3. Since the 80’s workers are losing benefits and pay by means of NAFTA and other globalization ideas while the owners, stockholders and CEOs earn more and more.
  4. The modern government officials and businesspersons, like WalMart, know how to stop unions from organizing and getting strength again.

I got to spend some quality time in the garden today and feel better for it. I noticed that because of a big tree beyond my back fence the garden in the shade when the sun is to the south. The garden gets the most sun in early morning and latter in the afternoon. There is not much I can do about the tree but I can do something about when I work in the garden.

So Labor Day ends like most days except that it feels like a Sunday evening not a Monday evening. My work, which some would not count since it is not for money, goes on today as he did yesterday and will tomorrow. There is a lot of work to do and not enough workers. But one day we will organize and work together, as individuals and groups, and not compete as I have complained about repeatedly. That Day the Labor unions will be reborn and gain the workers will rise to get their fair share of the wealth of our country and world. “The poor will be rich and the rich poorer.”

September 2, 2007 Garden of My Soul


Garden overview 9/2/07

In my younger years the psalmist line: “If you hear the voice of God today, harden not your hearts” struck me as a way of describing my ‘soul.’ As I saw my sensitivity to suffering and the paradox of life disappear, I thought my soul had become hard. I could not hear the voice of God or see God clearly in life because my soul had been encrusted with all sorts of labels, facts, habits, education, stereotypes, stigmas and so forth that had to be torn away and dismantled before I could become truly who I am. Now as a new elder I still think this way and probably is why I seek to be a three-year-old child in spirit.

Today a new image of my soul struck me. It is the image of a garden. My wife had made some comments about how the garden was a little overgrown. Although there is partial truth to this remark, I overreacted to her comment. Thinking of why I did that it came to me that maybe a better image of my soul is one of a garden.

The garden today has bare spots where I just planted some new salad green seeds for the fall months. The garden today has some overgrown spots like in the two patches of flowers. There is some real beauty in the garden yet there are weeds. The garden is fed by the castings of some of the least of creatures, worms. My rich soil comes from waste, like leftover coffee grounds and wood chips.

Is this image of the Garden not like the image of my soul? My soul has bare spots that need nourishments and care. Yet my soul is overcrowded with all kinds of stuff. My soul is beautiful yet there are bad patches. My soul is fed by the poorest of the poor, where the grace of God dwells. The richness of my soul comes from living every moment of the day to the fullest.

If you look at my garden or my soul close-up you can find all kinds of mystery and paradoxes in the details. If you look at my garden or soul from a distance you only see the wholeness. The soul like the seed in the garden must die to grow.

I could go on and on with the analogy and someday perhaps will, maybe in an essay or maybe in poetry. “If you hear the voice of God today, harden not your heart” still rings true. But a new psalmist image is being written as I work in the garden.

It being fall I need to intensify my work in the garden as I finish the outside work and prepare for the inside garden. If your soul and/or garden needs some new insight or richness I suggest a tour of the Growing Power center at 55th and Silver Spring. The upcoming tours will be Saturday, Oct. 13th at 10 am, Saturday Oct. 27th at 10 am and Monday Oct. 29th at 4 pm. Tours by Will are free and if you wish to come you can contact Growing Power at 414 427 1546 or Don Richards, one of the board members, at 414 461–1898 to reserve your place.

Tomorrow being labor day I need to till my garden and soul.

September 1, 2007 Harvest Time


Harvest Punkin by Dustin Graf,7.

Today the three of us here in Milwaukee went up north to visit my oldest son and his family. As soon as I got out of the car my eldest grandson. begged me to go down to the garden with him. There he and my other grandson, 7, proudly showed me some of the harvest of the garden, green peppers, tomatos, pumpkins, acorn and a huge unusual looking squash and other vegetables that were growing. They told of the success and failures of the garden that they and their mom had created.

This was the first of many trips to the garden today. It was also a good introduction to the purpose of the trip: to attend the Shawano County fair and see the 4 H exhibits of my grandsons there. The nine year old had his exhibits, rockery and arts and crafts, judged and had received 7 blue ribbons and about 5 red ribbons. My younger grandson had some of his work displayed but was not yet eligible for judging.

In the animals barns we saw rabbits, pigs and cows other members of the club had displayed. In fact in the dairy barn we ran across an exhibition from the dairy barn across the highway from their house. This dairy farm family’s space was right across the aisle in the dairy barn from their 4-H clubs diary exhibits. They not only knew the youth and adults involved but knew some of the cows.

One girl in the group of children in the cow barn, seeing my taking pictures, asked me to take a picture of her and a cow her sister was ‘showing’ at the fair on Sunday. I did and latter noticed she was modeling with the same cow for other passer bys with cameras. It was a cute picture and tomorrow I will place it on Bob’s Photo Gallery which needs some new and fresh pictures.

My wife was a 4-H leader for our two sons and we had been to many a county fair in Dane County when our boys were growing up. So revisiting the scene and 4-H days was fun. In fact, while my wife and daughter-in-law were looking over the booklet for projects for the boys next year, I, along with my oldest grandson, came up with a ‘waste to compost via worms to new growth’ idea for an exhibit that would build on the Uncle Bob’s Magic Worm Show that I did for the children at the library were my wife works.. For now I call it the “Tree of Life” This month I hope to describe and build a model to be used here in exhibits around Milwaukee and to inspire my grandson to create one. (He does not need much inspiration or encouragement)

My grandchildrens’ other set of grandparents came up this eve to check out the county fair tomorrow with them. So the evening ended with all of us sitting around a campfire under the stars. Well, almost all of us, since my two grandsons had gone over to play with the goats and children at the house next door. This country living stuff seems to be contagious.

This was a blessed way to start the fall and harvest time, a day full of grandchildren and growing power.

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

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