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

Greens Yearning to Grow


Garden 07/30/08

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Be Not Afraid - Friday, October 31, 2008

Yesterday after a few semi-scientific paragraphs on this posting, I released my frustrations about all the fear mongering mail we are receiving from the Republican Party. Today three more scary mailers arrived plus some more robo phone calls to scare our votes away from Senator Obama; and we even heard a piece on public radio about how some “Democrats for McCain” are spreading stories that Obama is a ‘murderer.’ Fear usually works in politics but I think it will fail this time. I put the Jim Wallis article, Be Not Afraid on the featured article page of the Nonviolent Worm. Check it out if you want, but do not worry or fret if you do not, nothing bad will happen to you as a result.

Fear is bad in politics but in life sometimes fear can be valuable or even funny, like today, Halloween. I am surprised at the intricate costumes and scary things available for Halloween. Today, our three grandchildren, Graf Kids called us to tell us of the haunted house they are building in their basement and the one in the school they visited last night. There was joy and smiles in their voices as they described all of the scary tings they experienced or were creating for tonight.


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Experiment With Truth, Not Fear - Thursday, October 30, 2008

Greenhouse Experiment

A new experiment in Growing Renewable Affordable Food (G.R.A.F.) began today in a very modest way when I put a electronic Temperature Data Logger in the inexpensive small green house that I recently purchased. The Temperature data logger looks like an ordinary memory disk, and can be put in your computer like one to be programmed. After you program it to take temperature and other readings you desire on a predetermined schedule, it can be taken out of the computer and, running on a battery, can take measurements anywhere you place it. You can then put it back into the computer and download the data. It was given to me by a friend in Madison, the science adviser to the Nonviolent Worm, who did the science on the AIR project. (His son did the actual work on the inserts and is the one considering an affordable way to make the sunroom electrically self-sufficient using solar energy.)

My experiment is to regularly measure the temperature inside the green house, as compared to outside, as I add layers of plastic using the ‘ air spacers’ to create pockets of air between the plastic. The experiment sounds logical but my science adviser friend gave me a caution warning today since he tried something similar some years ago when he lived up north. When he created his green house with just plastic layers he found that the temperature in the green house in the winter was lower than the outside temperature. Here is his explanation of what happened. “I did some reading and found that poly sheeting is transparent to infrared, unlike glass. So the heat of the ground just radiated right out of the greenhouse leaving the ground in an icy grip of cold. That was the end of my inexpensive green house since glass was out of the question. Of course, inside your house, Bob, you have glass that doesn’t allow the infrared to pass through so you are ok there.” Despite this precaution I am going ahead with the experiment because I am not sure if the plastic on my green house is like the poly sheeting he used and maybe will act more like glass. Also mine for now is on concrete not ground. (This base might change to ground, insulation or something as I experiment.) I, weak in science as I am, am not afraid to experiment.


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Rest In Peace - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Warm Depository Ready for Winter

Today I covered the worm depository, the all year around hill for worms, with coffee grounds, kitchen waste and leaves in preparation for the winter. Maybe I will get some wood chips for the top but the worm depository is ready for winter. With the frozen leaves and wood chips on top and all the warm nitrogen in the hill it should stay warm for the livestock, worms.

The person who crested the AIR insulation system, John, the son of a old friend who did the science for the AIR project, called me today about his idea for an affordable solar energy system that could power the fan, lights and heater in the sunroom. It was good to hear from him and will be good to find out what he has in mind. He is very good at designing affordable systems.

Speaking of warmth and AIR, I am reminded of the AIR workshop that will be held this Saturday, Nov. 1st at our church, Blessed Trinity, 39th and Courtland from 10am to noon. Although the main point of the system is to insulate storm windows for low-income persons, I will have some other ways to use the AIR system.


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Eat The View - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The weather was cold today and I was a little under the weather with a cold. However, a ray of hope came when I had the chance to read the Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI) web page a friend has sent me. KGI is an international group whose “mission is to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve greater levels of food self-reliance through the promotion of kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems. In doing so, KGI seeks to connect, serve, and expand the global community of people who grow some of their own food.” It is by no accident that the same friend who called my attention to this web page is the friend who shared with me the idea of the Garden of Resistance.

Another friend, Godsil, co-founder of the Milwaukee Renaissance and a big Obama backer, has been desperately trying to get urban farming on the national political agenda during this election campaign. I am sure he will enjoy the picture of “Eat This View.” So those of you that might read this posting I suggest you check out this web page. Also I like calling oneself a “kitchen gardener” over urban farmer or gardener or the ‘worm guy.’ Grow what you eat and eat your view.


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Nonviolent Worm Awards - Monday, October 27, 2008

Nonviolent Worm Award

The Nonviolent Worm web site would not be possible without many persons contributing to make this web site a reality. It is good and proper to recognize some of these persons. Here are this year’s winners of the Nonviolent and the Worm Awards.

The Nonviolent Award is for individuals who have been loyal to the principles of creative nonviolence. The winner for 2008 are the people of Casa Maria, the Catholic Worker House of Hospitality community in Milwaukee. Since the 60’s Catholic Workers of Casa Maria have combined the works of mercy with the works of justice. From Mike & Nettie Cullen to Don and Roberta Timmerman to the present community of Lincoln, Neal, Pat and others, Casa Maria has been a leader in bringing the struggle for justice and peace to Milwaukee while at the same time serving those most in need.

The Worm Award is spit between two persons who have contributed greatly to this web site.

One Worm Award is for someone who has made an outstanding contribution to making people aware of the growing power of worms. The winner is Will Allen of Growing Power. Will, as an urban farmer in Milwaukee, working with youth on a 4-H project, became aware of the valuable contribution worms make to the organic growing of food. With this awareness Will developed Growing Power, a non-profit organization that has had influence over gardeners and farmers all over the world. It was from Will and Growing Power that Bob got his inspiration that led to the Growing Power Home Model garden. Will has won many awards and received many honors for his work in Growing Renewable Affordable Food, and this is probably the least. But that is okay, since Will has raised awareness of the dignity of these lowly creatures, worms.


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Sunset on the Retreat - Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunset at Christine Center

The sun has set on my too brief retreat at the Christine Center in northern Wisconsin. The weekend experience was one to look deeply within ourselves to glimpse the Divine. However, in the white pine woods around the retreat house the Divine re-radiated. The first night at dinner, deer wandered on the grass right outside the dinning room windows, unafraid that anything or anyone would harm them. This is a place of innocence. Inside we shared our reflections with each other, and outside nature shared its abundance with us.

For the weekend life was simple, good people, good food, a wonderful environment. It was a time of silence and a time of great conversations; a time to spread the wealth we all have been given. Learning was minimal and Listening was maximized. We live in a world where we know so much more than we can realize and explore in depth. Yet it is in the walks in nature, in the silence and listening that we become aware Of who we are and how we are One.

I went to the retreat thinking of what I could do to fix some of the crises developing around me. On the retreat I did nothing on any of these, yet came back refreshed in Spirit and aware of what I can do and not do, and how my being is essential to my doing.


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Retreat Air - Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes we need to take a step back, stop, look around and be, in order to move forward. Tomorrow I will drive up to Willard, Wisconsin to make a weekend retreat with folks like myself who have made trips to Latin America with GATE, Global Awareness Through Experience. GATE is the organization that I traveled with to Guatemala and Venezuela. It will be good to see friends from the trip, but best of all it will be great to get away in the deep woods of northern Wisconsin. It will be a time for prayer and reflection, a time for conversation and silence.

This week has been filled with news of friends having health, legal, marital or survival problems. I do what I can do for others, which is not always that much, but is something I need to do. At the same time if I do not take time for myself just to be, I am of little or no use to others. So in the world of doing I will be doing some being.


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Thank God for Worms! - Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thanks to the nonviolent worm for doing the posting last Saturday after we attended a conference on Cosmology at Marquette University called “And God Said It Was Good”. The description of the conference by the nonviolent worm was short, simple and concise. However, we humans need to make life a little more complex, so here goes my description.

The best explanation I can give you of the conference is to direct your attention to two web sites. One Thank God for Evolution is by Michael Dowd, the main presenter at the conference. Rev. Dowd is an evolutionary evangelical. He and his wife Connie Barlow, a scientist, travel the USA preaching the good news of the universal creation story. The other web site is The Great Story where Connie also includes ways to explain this great creation story based on science to children.

The nonviolent worm said last Saturday that I needed more time to digest the conference since I do not have the miraculous digestive tract of a worm. This is true. However, unlike a worm I am more distracted and tend to ‘move on’ and get busy without fully digesting and casting off what I take in. I am guilty of this all the time, getting more information, experience and facts instead of going deeper into what I already have inside.


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“Spread the Wealth!” - Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Manna from the Trees

Just last week in this posting I was complaining about how Republicans had taken catch phases I was using like ‘family values’ and ‘my friends’ and wrecked them by overusing and misusing them. Now Senator McCain has revived a new catch phase that I can use. It is ‘spread the wealth’. Senator McCain uses it to imply that Senator Obama is a “socialist” (as if that was a bad thing) or that he would raise our taxes. In reality our federal income tax system, since its creation to pay for World War I, was a progressive system — the more you make the more you pay. Actually, all Obama is hoping to do is to restore it and get rid of the major tax breaks the very few rich have gotten the last eight years, and give the tax breaks to the 95%. However, the truth, it does not really matter in this case. What matters is that “spread the wealth” is a wonderful phrase for the way it should be.

For those of us who are Christians, Muslims or Jews, we are taught that if we have more than we need we should share it, spread the wealth, with persons in need. In the African culture it is expected that if someone has more than they need they will spread the wealth to those in need. Spreading or Sharing the Wealth is a basic value of our American society, although we seem to have forgotten it.

Nature certainly knows how to “spread the wealth”. Today while my neighbors were raking leaves into the street for city pickup I was raking them out of the street for the compost pile. The trees spreading their leaves on the ground is like dropping ‘manna’ (food) on the ground. We can take these leaves, good carbon ingredients, for the compost pile and make new soil and grow food with them.


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Catching Space - Monday, October 20, 2008

Catching Space

There is so much catching up to do, where do we start? Today I took care of my body, had my teeth cleaned; took care of my family, went food shopping; and took care of my houseplants by watering them. For my soul there was watching part one of the Bob Dylan documentary “No Director Home”. Dylan’s songs like ‘Blowing in the Wind’ have always captured my spirit and spoken to me of the present. However, with all this catching up there is still too much more to do.

Time is running out for working outside, and soon I need to gather all the leaves I can for compost, making new soil. Soon I need to gather the garden in, take time and let the soil rest for the winter. But for now there is still food growing for harvesting. Tonight’s dinner vegetables were collard greens and pole beans picked today and steamed in a pot together with some pepperoni, butter and herbs. My wife is leery of my new creations but she had to admit this one was good. There are a few more plants to be harvested in the garden, like the kale, but for the most part the outside garden is passing away.

Also I need to put together the small greenhouse I purchased recently. I want to put on layers of AIR insulation around the inside and outside of the frame, seeing if I can keep it warm, with the help of compost, for pots of plants long into the winter and starting early in the spring. It is easy to put layers of plastic over the frame, but the effectiveness would be lost without pockets of air between the layers. How to put space in between layers of plastic is the same problem encountered trying to use AIR to insulate aluminum storms. I need some kind of spacer between the layers of plastic so the air can do its thing. I asked my lateral thinking friend who did the science on the AIR project and he sent me some plastic bubble-wrap material. It is the kind of stuff you see in box to protect items during shipping. This kind is called ‘polyair space’ ( www.polyair.com), but I was able to find other kinds at the local UPS store. I think it will work well: the spacer itself is an air pocket of insulation.


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Birthday Story - Sunday, October 19, 2008

Emmanuel and Amana

As promised by the voice of the nonviolent worm last night, I will soon post a report on the cosmology conference with links to web sites for the speakers. However, today I want my story of the universe to focus on my two young friends, Amana and Emmanuel, who celebrated their birthdays today, 8 and 5 respectively.

I got to know their mother, Deus, many years ago when her family had come to the USA as refugees from Ghana and were staying at one of the houses near Casa Maria, the Catholic Worker house of hospitality. I had seen Deus at prayer services at Casa Maria during the years when Amana and Emanuel were born but then lost track of her and the children.

To my surprise one day I saw Deus and her children at our small Catholic Church on the north side of Milwaukee. The children had grown and at first were bashful in my presence. But starting with Amana the shyness with me broke down and soon they were going around the church with me shaking hands at the sign of peace. Soon I was Uncle Bob to them and my wife was Auntie Pat, something they as other African friends understood, even though they were born in the USA. We shared many a doughnut after Church in the hall together.


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A Worm’s View on a Cosmology Conference - Saturday, October 18, 2008

The eye of the cosmos

Uncle Bob asked me, the voice of the nonviolent worm, to write the posting tonight. We were at a conference on the new cosmology, bringing science and spirituality together, at Marquette University today, and Bob’s mind is still processing and digesting all the information and images he received. As Bob has told you before, we worms, his livestock, can digest things much more quickly than humans. We worms eat, digest and cast off our own weight each day. Being cold-blooded creatures we keep only a little of what we eat for ourselves but give back almost all of it as organically enriched soil. Since we’re tiny creatures that might not seem like much, but just think if human cast off their own weight each day. Well you probably do not want to think about that.

Here are some of my impression of the conference. In the ongoing story of creation we worms have been around since the day of the dinosaurs, so we know a lot about evolution. We need to encourage Bob to learn more about the role of worms in the evolutionary process. Although worms were not mentioned much today, as usually is the case with lowly creatures like us, Bob understands our role in the creation evolutionary story, so we are sure he will write more about our background and significance. Bob should start with Darwin’s, the father of evolution, work on us. Darwin understood our role in evolution.


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War of Words - Friday, October 17, 2008

St. Francis of Assisi: “Use words,
only when necessary”

“St. Francis of Assisi, a great lover of nature and all creatures, told his early followers to “Go out and preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words.” We all need to use words but often I find the overuse of certain words or phases or the categorization of thoughts and actions by words can be over done. Words can be used to describe an experience or to empty the experience, change it or make it less meaningful.

For example, many years ago I picked up the phrase ‘family values’ and used it often in talking with parents and children in religious education. However, the Republican Party got hold of the phrase and overuse and misused it, taking the meaning out of the phrase and making it some code word for their philosophy. Recently, re-readings of these postings saw that I used the common phrase ‘my friends’ a lot. But since the second presidential debate when John McCain used the phrase repeatedly, I try to avoid it. We all have heard some politicians say something that is not true or misrepresents the truth repeatedly, as if by repeating it so many times people will believe it. A favorite use of repetition of words to change reality was when, after 9/11, the President and others in the White House used the phrase 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence so many times that, even after it has been proved there was no connection between 9/11 and Iraq, and they admitted it, many Americans continue to believe there was a connection.


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Garden Friends - Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marna, Bob & Dawn

As we walk through life, our friends that we interact with on a regular basis change. Since I ‘retired’ a few ago I have noticed that many of the persons I regularly interact with are middle age woman, 35–60 years old, especially African American woman. Today I had a lunch with two of these friends, Dawn and Marna, the D and M of the DMZ community garden. In fact, this was a resumption of our monthly DMZ lunches — slow, leisurely meals with garden conversation and good healthy food. The food stars of this lunch were the Philly Cheese Steak Bagels (I did not have buns) and the slow-cooked pole beans from my garden. The best part of lunch was conversation between friends. Gardening has brought the three of us together.

I first met Marna at prayer vigils for homicide victims. After the killing of her son along with two other sons, the three mothers formed Mothers Against Gun Violence. Marna and I paired up to do the web site MAGV. During this time I discovered that Marna, despite her many ailments, really liked growing plants and flowers.

I met Dawn of Foundation Dwellings when another friend, religious nun in the same age group, introduced me to her as a person who really cared for persons with disabilities and was having some a tough time due to some unfair media attention. Working with Dawn I found out she also had a love for growing. When I introduced Dawn and Marna to each other they instantly became friends and you know the rest of the story.


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Reality-Politics or Gardening? - Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Seed Sowing as Active Nonviolence
from www.urbanseed.org

No matter how hard I try not to, I do get caught up in the media reality show of the presidential elections, as with the debates tonight. It does matter who is president but, in my opinion, does not make as much difference as the producers of the reality show would like us to believe. It was a rainy dark day today so I guess a little entertainment was okay tonight.

But what I should have been doing more today is putting up the AIR inserts in the sunroom. I put another one in today but still have eight to go. Since each insert is custom fit for each window the installation should be easy. It is not because of the GP box in front of four of the windows, and the warping of the wood frames. If I had to do it all over again I would have John Krushke, the creator of the inserts, use better quality wood to make the frames. It would make a difference in putting them back up each year. Fortunately air is not like water in seeking the opening. If only 90% of the windows are covered the insulation factor will apply to 90%. The air leaks around the edges will let cold air in and hot air out, but only for 10% of the space. Air goes straight and does not leak out from breaks in the insulation like water does from a container.


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Wait and Prevent - Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Immunizations can save your life.

Finally today, the last day they could file the papers, Ella and Joseph were able to visit the IRS office. Luckily, I took my large book with me, “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” edited by Robert Ellsberg. I was able to find a nice quiet corner with a soft chair in the hallway outside of the IRS office where Ella and Joseph had to wait over two hours for a short conversation with an IRS officer and to sign some routine papers. I am always complaining that I do not take enough time to read, so today God make me take the time since, as the driver, I needed to wait for my friends. I found a good quote from Dorothy Day in the diary that, if I can find it again, will add to my quote page tomorrow.

Our next stop was at the health clinic so Joseph could get his flu shot, a preventive health measure. It turns out he goes to the same clinic where my Doctor is. This was a very short visit and I barely had time to talk to one of the receptionists to confirm that health insurance does not cover the shots I need for my pilgrimage to India. I guess visits to other countries are optional and thus preventive health things like immunizations to diseases are not covered. Of course, if I do not take the proper shots and get seriously sick the treatment for the illness would be covered, even though it is much more costly than the preventive shots.


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Columbus is Good for Worms - Monday, October 13, 2008

Worms All Year Around Home

Today I took my friend Ella and her husband, who needs to carry around a breathing machine, down to the IRS office to sign a form that would release their check from the government. They were told that the IRS office was in the State Office Building. Shortly after I dropped them off they came back to the car and said they were told the IRS office had moved to another building, not the Federal Building, on Wisconsin Avenue. After dropping them off there and finding a parking space but before I could put money in the meter they came back to the car telling me to look at the sign on the door. This IRS office was closed because today was a Federal holiday to celebrate Christopher Columbus. So we will go back tomorrow and try again.

However, all was not lost today. Last week when I took Ella to a store she purchased a bag of bananas. I told her to save me the banana peels since my livestock, worms, have a sweet tooth and really like banana peels. When we got back to their house she gave me the banana peels and when I got home I placed them, with other ones and vegetable and fruit scraps, in my worm depository, outside pile of compost where I keep and grow worms all year around. After burying the food in the hill I covered it with some freshly fallen leaves I got from the street in front of the house. I need to build up the food and carbon source in the hill before it freezes so the worms will be warm and happy, casting and breeding through the winter, under the frozen turf on top of the hill. The worms inside the GP box in the AIR-heated sunroom just need water, since there is plenty of good compost in the box to keep them happy, eating, breeding and casting all winter long.


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Hare, Hair and Air - Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hare & Goat with AIR

Once upon a time there was a farm where in the summer all the young animals played together. Sometimes the children from the house came out to join them. However, on cold wintry days only a few animals came out to play and the children from the house seldom came out.

On one such cold wintry day only the young rabbit, which is also called a hare, and the little goat came out to play. They started to wonder why the other animals, like the pigs, calves and horses and even the children did not come out to play on cold days. The hare said: “There must be something about you and me that the cold does not bother us like piggy and the other animals.” “ Yes”, said the goat. What do we have that other animals do not have?” They thought and thought and finally the goat said, “I got it. It is our long hair. Other animals have hair but not as long as you and I.” “Yes,” said the hare. “It must be the hair.” They were very proud of themselves for figuring this out.

As they were celebrating this discovery the wise old owl came flying down on a nearby branch. The owl said “It is not your hair that makes you warm in the cold winter. “Look at me, I have no hair but keep warm in the winter. Also, what happens to you when it rains or snows on a cold day?” The hare said “I get cold and go into my hole.” The goat said “I get cold and go into the barn with the other animals.” “Yes,” said the owl, “this proves my point.”


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Beautiful Tree - Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tall, Strong & Beautiful Tree

The tree behind my backyard stands tall, strong and beautiful. The leaves in the summer are green and block the sun from the south, but in the fall turn colors and die so the tree can survive the cold and snow. The many leaves will fall to the ground only to be composted and live again.

Two community leaders, tall, strong and beautiful persons, have died recently. One I knew a little directly, Jack Stebbins, who, as his obituary said, “taught more than math.” He was a math teacher at UWM but more so a good husband and father and a man with a true compassion for the poor. He and his wife were key figures in the creation of the St. Ben’s Community meal program which, in 40 years, has moved from the table at Casa Maria to the Church hall of St. Benedict’s, from serving a few persons to serving hundreds of persons each night.


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Planting Bulbs - Friday, October 10, 2008

Milwaukee’s Own Organic Fertilizer

Today I buried another 30 or so flower bulbs in my effort to plant over 120 bulbs this fall around my house. I placed over each bulb a little mixture of castings, coir and Milwaukee’s own Milorganite. After packing some of the original soil on this mix I topped it with wood chips and watered each bulb. With all the perennials already planted, next spring and early summer my yards should be blooming with color. My hope is that the bulbs I am burying now in the fall will rise in the spring.

Some of the bulbs and seeds I am planting these days are in words or pictures. Today I heard from the editorial staff of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that in tomorrow’s newspaper they are publishing my letter to the editor called Crumbs from the Table of Rich. You can read my letter about the mental health parity bill just passed by Congress at the Hope To Healing, a mental health and spirituality ministry.


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Open Letter and Tulips - Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tulips are coming next spring

Between writing the open letter to MU administrators today about Marquette’s Hosting military training and teaching, and my planting a bunch of tulip bulbs outside, my nonviolent worm time was gone. The letter was open since the three administrators at Marquette that I first the letter to did not respond to my two suggestions and thus said No to both requests. The 20 or so tulip bulbs were part of my plan to plant 116 bulbs this spring around the house, in the front and back gardens.

So check out the open letter with two suggestions for Marquette to be Faithful to the Gospel, and you can see the tulips next spring on this site.


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Be Where You Be - Wednesday, October 08, 2008

pain by Peter Graf

I try not to read too much into my son’s, Peter’s art, but some pictures, for reasons I do not understand, speak to me more than others. This is one. His titles give a hint of what he is imagining. This one, called ‘pain’, speaks to me of a deep longing to be somewhere else, in some other place. Wanting to be somewhere where you are not can be very painful.

Today was the first day of my renewed commitment to be fully where I am, to live more with Mindfulness. I am trying to avoid, except when I cannot avoid it, taking on any new project, but the problem is that there are already too many “unfinished projects” to deal with. Today I did some cleanup in the house and repaired the AIR storm windows on my own house. Hopefully soon I can plant the flower bulbs outside and the salad greens inside. I did notice after repairing the storms with AIR insulation pockets that this project got my full attention and my mind did not wander. This full attention often happens when I watch TV or a movie, but it is more difficult to do when there is an activity. Even during the activity of driving a car, something that needs full attention, my mind often wanders. I have mentioned before that working in the garden plants me in the present moment. So I guess there are some activities that make it easier to be present in the moment.


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Mindfulness Found in the Garden - Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nonviolent Worm Displays

Today at the Faith In Recovery, mental health and spirituality, conference I brought both my displays, the one on resistance from Peacefest and the one from the Sustainability Festival at the Urban Ecology Center. When Sister Ann Catherine, the president of Faith In Recovery, asked me what I called the displays, which also included AIR and the Worm Magic show components, I said it was the Garden of Healing and Resistance. The Nonviolent Worm felt right at home at this conference, which covered subjects from “mindfulness”, being present to where you are, to the role of spirituality in recovery. Nonviolence, which Judith Brown in her book on Gandhi defines as “striving nonviolently to the point of sacrifice rather than fighting to attain one’s vision of truth” and the Worm, the heart of the growing power method, seem to go together in the display seamlessly.


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Growing Power and Justice-Two Friends - Monday, October 06, 2008

Debra Jenkins — Justice for Her Son

This morning’s newspaper brought news stories of two friends who have inspired this web page of the Nonviolent Worm. There was a front page story about Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power, who is the real inspiration for my small efforts to write about a home model of Growing Power in this “Diary of a Worm.” It is a story about Will’s winning the MacArthur Genius award of a half million dollars, no strings attached. On the front page there is a picture of Will speaking with the Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett.

On page 3 in the local news section there is a story about Debra Jenkins. Debra is a friend that I met at the prayer vigils for homicide victims. Her only son, Larry, was shot and killed by Jon Bartlett, “one of the five police officers that were later convicted in the notorious beating of Frank Jude Jr.” (MJS) Debra’s son was unarmed, committed no crime, but was shot at 14 times, seven hitting him, by Mr. Bartlett because he was scared and ran from him. His mother Debra, seeking justice for her son, Larry Jenkins brought a federal lawsuit against Mr. Bartlett and the city. Although all the witnesses to the incident testified that Larry Jenkins poised no threat to Bartlett when he shot, she lost the lawsuit and the appeal. Now the city lawyers have won a judgment against her of $35,000 for bringing the lawsuit. This judgment against Debra Jenkins seems to have been initiated after Mr. Bartlett, who is now serving a 17-year sentence in Federal Prison to be followed by two other sentence in state prison, filed a lawsuit against the city contending “he was injured in the episode, and that the city should pick up the tab.” The Judge in the case against Debra wants the Mayor to sign off on the $35,000 Judgment. The Mayor’s spokeswoman “said the mayor would not comment on pending litigation and referred the matter to the city attorney’s office” which would not answer the reporter’s calls.


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Sports Fall - Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Kite without wind will Fall, despite
the beautiful Fall day

The weekend has been a whirlwind of activities, from visiting three families in need in Milwaukee Saturday morning, to attending the Green Packer Game at Lambeau Field this afternoon. Despite being a whirlwind of a time, without any wind and despite the best efforts of some kids and myself, we could not fly our Mickey Mouse kite yesterday afternoon at my grandchildren’s house in northern Wisconsin.

Despite visiting families in crisis and trying to fly a kite, most of my time was consumed by sport events. This weekend I saw in person or on TV my sports teams: the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and the University of Wisconsin football team, fall in defeat. Like the kite, they just did not have enough wind to soar. Sports can be addictive, especially when your team is in big games, like these three were, and loses. After I got home tonight I even found myself watching on TV another football game and baseball game, not my teams. I just wanted to see a winner no matter who it was.


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Salad Bowl Friends - Saturday, October 04, 2008

Already today too much is happening too fast to do a posting. But rather than not do one, I will repeat one from February 12, 2007. Enjoy!

I finally remembered to pick the salad greens from the Growing Power Box for the dinner salad tonight. The 3 ounces of greens, mostly arugula with some kale, made, with some homemade salad dressing, enough salad for three persons. The salad dressing contained some herbs that were from the backyard GP garden.

When I was young we used to talk about America as the melting pot where various cultures got together to make a great country, like various vegetables and meats put together in a pot for a good stew. With more emphasis on the strength of our unity being in our diversity, that image has faded somewhat.

Tonight I thought the image of the salad bowl with some tasty dressing on the greens made for a good image of the growing network of people with similar passions coming together. This developing bowl of friends is growing just like the salad greens in the GP box.

Like these salad greens these friends are all green, meaning that they are all concerned about the environment, making it healthy for all. We all enjoy the same zesty desire for life as the salad greens share the same delicious dressing. We are organic like the greens in tonight’s salad, which for people in this network means that we have a holistic quality to ourselves, always seeking to connect everything together in our lives. We, like salad greens, come from similar origins but are diverse. Together we seek to feed the hungry, bring justice and peace. As one leaf of a plant we can do little; “Together we are Growing Power.


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Where are the Worms? - Friday, October 03, 2008

Worms in Hand of Will Allen

Recently Will Allen, the founder of Growing Power won the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, an award of $100,000 a year for five years. This makes all of us who know and respect Will very proud. But in all the articles applauding this urban farmer winning this award, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the NPR story and the New York Times there is barely, if any, mention of worms. Yet it is farming with worms, vermiculture, that brought Will Allen and Growing Power to my attention and the attention of the city, nation and world. There were and are many urban farmers growing all kinds of food, yet what distinguished Will’s method of growing was the use of worms to make castings, “black gold” as Will used to call it. I guess neglecting the role of worms is understandable, the worms being such a lowly creature. But it is the popularization of the use of worms for turning compost into rich organic soil, a phenomenon that has been going on for hundreds of years, that put Will and Growing Power on the map in farming. I have noticed in my last few tours of Growing Power with Will, and with all the help the Growing Power staff has supplied the DMZ community garden, a downplaying of the role of the worm and worm bins — they used to call ‘worm condos’. These worm boxes or piles play an essential role in this way of growing. There is no chance of Will being called the “worm guy” as the vermicomposting farmer I met in Venezuela is called, or as even I, a nobody gardener using this method, have been called. Yet it was Will and Growing Power that made us look at worms in a whole new way, and worms are at the heart of the Growing Power method.


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Reality TV or Day - Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dorthy Day—Real Change

Tonight was, for me, non-stop reality TV entertainment. First it was the entertainment of the baseball game, which our home team the Milwaukee Brewers unfortunately lost. Then it was the reality TV show called the ‘Vice Presidential Debate’. This debate was a much bigger entertainment event than the baseball game, but I doubt if it made any more difference than the outcome of the baseball game.

But the day was not full of reality TV entertainment. This afternoon I heard Robert Ellsberg, editor of the “The Duty of Delight, The Diaries of Dorothy Day” speak at Marquette University. As readers of the www.nonviolentworm.org know, Dorothy Day is one of my role models for living the Way of Jesus. Dorothy Day never voted in an election, yet was a person who led a movement that radically changed the lives of many persons, including Mr. Ellsberg and myself. She did not live in a world of entertainment reality TV shows, like the debates, but in world where the poor mattered and where the way to peace was peace, not violence. She saw the world of popular politics as it is: entertainment. She knew the way to really change the world was, in the words of Gandhi, “To be the change you want to see.”

If I had to answer to Dorothy Day for my day today, I believe she would be more understanding of my time watching the baseball game than of the reality TV show of the debate (plus all the endless commentaries). However, she would have been most proud of me this morning, when I drove a friend to a hospital to get the two bags of medicines she and her husband need each month. She would have approved of my presence at a prayer vigil for two homicide victims this morning and my small work on the AIR insulation project for the needy in our parish neighborhood. Hearing Robert Ellsberg would have been okay, but she might have had a harsh word or two for me about my time wasted (not in a Growing Power sense) watching reality entertainment TV, which is just a distraction from the real issues that matter. Also, she might have been on my case for other computer stuff and for not working on the Garden of Resistance today. Fortunately Dorothy Day, like Jesus, was bigger on mercy than judgment.

Dorothy in her day did not like being called a ‘saint, for, as Ellsberg explained, calling her that was a way of dismissing and marginalizing her. Well, I have not been called a saint, but I have been ignored and marginalized. Maybe that counts in diminishing the impact of my reality TV watching on this day.


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Cry of the Lowly - Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Crying child

People are dying,
Wars are raging,
Children go hungry,
Rich get richer,
Poor get poorer,
Financial markets tumble,
Presidential candidates do not talk about the poor,
Suffering of mind, body and soul increases,
Common Good is swallowed by individual greed.

Where do we look?
Where do we go
To find hope and a way out of this mess?
Some do not want to know about the way out,
Some ignore it or do not care,
Many feel hopeless.

God where are you when we really need you?
You tell us to resist evil and do good,
But does it matter?

We have sinned, have mercy on us.
Let us come back to the Garden
Where waste becomes new soil,
The least, like worms, rule,
Where we can grow our food,
Work together in peace,
And be what You created us to be.


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