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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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Small Accumulates into Big - Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today we had some friends over for a Lebanese dinner. Looking around the dinner table I counted four items growing in our garden or sunroom, tomatoes, salad greens, mint, and grape leaves. These contributions were a very small part of the meal, and we have a very long ways to go to be self sufficient in growing vegetables and herbs. But at least we are moving in the right direction.

Being self-sufficient, or as we now call it now days sustainable, was an important factor in the communities founded by Mahatma Gandhi in India. Gandhi gave special concern to every detail of living simply from spinning clothes to make wide use of cow dung. Prassad, our guide for the Indian pilgrimage, says how even the toothpaste he uses has some cow dung in it. (His wife, a dentist, claims that this toothpaste is one of the most effective types.)

A friend reminded me today of the book: “Small is Beautiful” which was a popular book a while back. I think I read it but all I can remember about it is what the title says: how small is beautiful.


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Child-Like Milwaukee - Saturday, November 29, 2008

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Yesterday my son and I took the three Graf Kids, my grandchildren, to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum in Milwaukee, an interactive display of activities geared for children five and under. It was lots of fun for all of us, not only for my granddaughter, age 4, but also for my two grandsons, 8 & 10, and for adults. All it took to enjoy this children’s museum was a child like spirit.

It takes so little for a child aged five or less to have fun. I was reminded of this fact of life today when we visited some families in need during our St. Vincent De Paul home visits and tonight when we, my wife and I, spent some time in the family section of a homeless shelter downtown. In all the situations the children did not have TV, video games or many toys, but they were full of joy and it was easy to get them laughing and playing carefree. Their parents were worried about finding a home or paying the rent but the children were free to enjoy the simplest tings in life, like a funny face.

I talked to one father at the shelter who knew that worrying did no good but still felt bad about his homeless situation. However, his five-year-old daughter had no such problem and came back to the main room to play with the children after their father had gone to their individual room. I encouraged the father in his job-seeking efforts but reluctantly told him about the high unemployment rate in Milwaukee, highest in the country, for African American men. At first he seemed a little taken aback but then he told me had come here from an Atlanta, a red state where they treated poor people with little or no respect. He had come here because he has a family support system here that he has realized over the years was essential for making it. I agreed with him and then told him that this feeling of everyone is related was one of the finer aspects of Milwaukee. People in Milwaukee can meet strangers and, like children, have a heart-to-heart conversation and share experiences with each other.


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Time To Wake Up the Christmas Flower - Friday, November 28, 2008

Zygo Cactus

It is the day after Thanksgiving, black Friday as it is called in the Christmas shopping world, and time for the zygo (Christmas) cactus to be in bloom. This particular cactus, pictured, we have had for a year or two. We forgot what it was until recently when it started to bloom. Seeing the bright flowers we remembered that it bloomed at Christmas time. My wife said it was a Christmas cactus and she was right. Since it is in the original wrapping and pot I could see that its formal name is zygo cactus and it was from a nursery in Illinois. It was probably given to my wife as a Christmas gift at one point. But after it lost its flowers after Christmas we forgot what it was. Since it was still alive we just let in live in the Kitchen window.

For Thanksgiving I put it on the table of family and friends as a centerpiece. To me it is a reminder of how sometimes we take for granted beauty and life close to us, especially persons. When they bloom or on a special occasion we are awake to see how special they are. Sometimes I think the closer we are to a person the more we take them for granted and see just the plant and not the flowering cactus and beautiful life they are. When there is a crisis or at certain event we may wake up and see the flower in front of us.


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Blessed Thanksgiving - Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

“Love consists in mutual sharing of goods.”
(St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, #231)

On this Thanksgiving the nonviolent worm wishes to share with you the goods of the Hope to Healing web pages, especially the Thanksgiving pages.


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Attitude of Gratitude - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Waterfalls of Life

It was the night before Thanksgiving and an attitude of gratitude was being prepared. When we really look for what we are thankful it usually comes down to people.

I am especially thankful for my three grandchildren today. We had a fun filled day starting at the Urban Ecology Center a place for nature and kids. The boys enjoyed playing the non-electronic games and my granddaughter enjoyed the waterfalls slide. We enjoyed climbing the tower and some of us took a walk outside. Nature brings out the children in all of us. We all left grounded in the Soil of Salvation. After lunch and a frozen custard at Leon’s Frozen Custard it was on to American Science and Surplus. This store goes back to my childhood days in Milwaukee and still is a house of science novelties for children of all ages. There are items from 49 cents to hundreds of dollars of interest for all ages. This time even our four-year-old granddaughter got into the spirit of science and picked up some little stuff for herself. My oldest grandson, who is really hooked on TV and video games, could not resist buying more of his traditional favorite product in the store, small plastic soldiers from the Middle Ages to the modern military. After we got home he had some imaginary battles. He really enjoys doing this and now I noticed his four-year-old sister quietly went off to the side to play some imaginary games with the soldiers he was not using. When we got home I was so tired from our nature and science day I let my other grandson, not interested in toy soldiers, just watch TV while I rested and checked my email.


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Pillow People and Winter - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pillow People with other performers

It is late Tuesday night and I have just returned home bringing my three grandchildren Graf Kids, with me. They now are all sound asleep as I will soon be. However, first I would like to share an observation I made about children, age, nature and imagination.

Even though I know it is true, it is still hard to see children lose imagination with age. In times past when we made the journey back to Milwaukee we used to play silly games, sing songs and make up stories. Now the best I can do to pull the two older boys (10 and 8) away from their ‘Game Boys’ was to play a game of 20 questions. But even then I could tell they still had one eye on the video game they were playing at the same time. Outside of school, sleep and sports most of the boy’s time during the winter months is spent with video games and TV. Video games use some imagination but in much more passive way than reading a book or playing outside. Naturally my four-year-old maintains a good imagination.

The new observation that I made on this brief journey was how winter decreases their exposure to nature. Walks with the dog, bike rides, visiting the cow farm across the street, working in the garden, playing outside with the neighbors, seem to be limited in the winter, with school, TV, indoor sports and video games taking up their time. I mentioned going ice-skating tomorrow downtown and they just looked at me strangely. Their mother suggested taking sleds back but that would be difficult without snow. For the most part being in nature for the winter is reserved in going back and forth to the car.


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‘Want To Be’ - Sunday, November 23, 2008

Recently when my printer starting printing green print instead of black, I thought maybe I have gone too far with this ‘green thing.’ But it is probably a defective refill on the print cartridge than an omen of being too green.

Being too green would be sort of boring. It would mean being a vegetarian, watching no or much less TV, healthy workouts and simpler living. I am happy just being a ‘want to be’ green person.

Many of us are ‘want to be’s’ in a lots of things, a great gardener, well read writer, perhaps a good athlete. But often we do not have the talent and/or discipline to be one. But being a ‘want to be’ is better than not caring or having no goals or direction in life.

The story of the rich young man in the Gospel that Jesus tells to “go sell what you have and give it to the poor” used to bother me. I believe Jesus meant what he said and was not just saying some type of hyperbole. Yet, on the other hand, I really cannot do what he is asking. This paradox bothered me until I realize that we must learn to live with paradoxes and as long as we desired to live the word of Jesus and did our best, all is well. Being a sincere ‘want to be’ can be okay.


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Action and Reaction - Saturday, November 22, 2008

Action and Reaction

For every action there is a reaction and for every reaction there is an action. So be it for home gardening and for nonviolence. We bring together waste, nitrogen and carbon, coffee grounds and wood chips, and the reaction is compost. Worms eat the compost and the results are castings. In a garden we plant a seed in the castings and a plant grows. The plant grows, dies and becomes waste and the cycle begins again.

In nonviolence we take action, like Martin Luther King and others did in Birmingham. The authorities react, like the police did with beatings and dogs and the world watches this unfold while King and others sit in jail. Change happens in this action and reaction.

When a garden is ignored it does not work. When nonviolent action is ignored it is not effective. The garden and nonviolence need reaction, be it positive or negative, to work.

With this simple law of nature, action and reaction, we learn that we must tend to a garden for it to grow and persistently pursue nonviolent action until there is a reaction.


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Raise the Heat - Friday, November 21, 2008

Raise the Heat

I guess it is winter now that the temperature outside has dropped into the 20’s. The temperature in the house, thanks to the gas heater, stays where we want it. The temperature in the sunroom with the five-pane Air inserts and a small electric radiator heater stays around 57–60. I did a reading in the greenhouse yesterday. Preliminary readings indicate that with the lack of glass, despite the Air insulation the temperature is all over the place, from 85 degrees when the Sun is out to 40 degrees at night. This is what my science adviser predicted. However, we need to take more readings before we can say anything sound about this experiment. All the windows in the house using AIR layers of glazing or the inserts have glass for one layer of glazing so are not affected by this seeming loss of a certain kind of heat. More in the future about this experiment with Air. The question is still open if you need one glazing to be glass for the Air Insulation Resource system to work effectively.

Another question raised on this web site remains open for debate: “Is it moral for Marquette University to host military training on campus?” Since my open letter and call for an open debate on this issue does not seem to have much of a response from Marquette officials I hope to start an open debate on this wiki web site. Stay tuned.


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Sponge Bob, Nothing and JFK - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sponge Bob: Nothing but Silly

I must make a confession. I enjoy ‘Sponge Bob’ cartoons on TV. For those who may not know, ‘Sponge Bob’ is cartoon sponge character who lives under the sea in ‘Bikini Bottom.” I confess because many adults would consider this show silly, worthless and a waste of time. I even know some parents who do not allow their children to watch this cartoon series. I must admit it is a silly, childlike satire of life but that is what it makes it so endearing to so many children and some adults like me. It is a show about innocence and makes fun of the everyday adult world where everything, like driving a car or eating a sandwich strives to be meaningful. It is about ‘nothing’ as best as you can do and still communicate.

Yesterday I brought you an article about how growing your own food in a garden has a double meaning: the visible one of eating the healthy food you grow and the invisible one of how messing with the soil has natural mental and physical health benefits.

The invisible world, the world beyond our physical senses is real. The nothingness of Silence allows us to communicate with this world beyond; messing with the soil extends us mental and physical benefits beyond our senses; ‘Sponge Bob’ touches on the funny bone in our imagination.


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‘Two For’ In Growing Food - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Russian Kale in the Garden

When I was in the direct mail coupon business, the most attractive coupons were the ones that were ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ or ‘Two for the Price of One’ or ‘Two For’. Now it turns how that growing renewable affordable food G.R.A.F. in a garden not only produces healthy food but “messing around in your own garden proves to be nature’s fruitful way of cultivating your health—physically and psychologically.”

This morning Tegan, the wiki gnome (web master) of this wiki web site and many others send me an amazing article in Psychology Today called Nature’s Bounty: Soil Salvation. It talks about the science of how “getting out in the garden plants us back in what now appears to be our optimal habitat. Eating fruits and vegetables — even antioxidant-rich tomatoes, melons, beets, cabbage, and berries — turns out to be only half of a newly evolving story of health. Our bodies and brains depend on the whole experience of growing our own. Our mental and physical health seem to be deeply rooted in the dirt.’’ It is fascinating and is the Featured Article of the day. Read it and find why growing food in one’s own garden is the best “Two For”.

No wonder I felt healthier today after messing with soil and plants for my sunroom growing.


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What Was Lost Was Found - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lost but Found

Did you ever have the feeling of having lost something and found it? The feeling is not so great when you lose something, like eyeglasses or a cell phone, that you should not lose, but find it. However, it is a great feeling when you lose something you did not know you had but found it.

A few weeks ago we received a St. Vincent De Paul call for a home visit to a man and woman with the same last name. We tried various numbers on the contact sheet we were given and were directed to other numbers, but to no avail. We could not contact the persons by phone. It was time to try to mail the person. However, our trip down South came up and we forgot about it. The other day my partner, my wife, remembered and mailed a contact notice to the people.

Today a man called explaining he was the person that had contacted St. Vincent De Paul Society for help. He explained the woman’s name on the list was his daughter who was seriously ill in the hospital. His daughter was a young adult who just recently came back into his life. He was trying to get some household essentials so that when she got out of the hospital he could care for her. We started talking and I shared my experiences with ill family members. We had a long conversation that went way beyond the purpose of the visit, and included him saying what I often have feel, “you just do what you need to do” and do not have much choice in the matter in caring for a family member. His being new at the experience, I offered him some comfort on how caring for a sick person can seem like a curse at times but is full of blessings. After a while I made the appointment to visit him and we offered to pray for each other and our ill family members.


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Facing Winter and Death - Monday, November 17, 2008

Facing Winter

Winter like Death surrounds us. We can hide in our TV and on our cell phones but winter, like death, is certain.

Death like Winter surrounds us. We can hide in our heated houses and our censored news reports but death, like winter, is certain.

Starvation, Violence and Poverty, the faces of death surround us. Where can we start to make a difference?

Facing winter we have a choice: we can prepare the ground and compost pile, rake the leaves and shovel the snow, or go down South.

Facing Death we have a choice: we can meet it head-on by living more fully in the now, or we can run from it as far as we can.


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First Crawl - Sunday, November 16, 2008

First Crawl

Before we learn to walk we learn to crawl, as our friend’s child demonstrated today in our living room. Now that she is crawling and mobile her mom realizes that a whole new world is opening up for her daughter. The next major step in mobility will be when she walks.

Another dear friend’s mom passed away. Near the end of her life my friend’s mom had lost mobility and was limited to a chair. Walking easily and crawling were not an option for her.

Much of life happens between crawling and being unable to walk on one’s own. At both ends of this spectrum we are dependent on others to get around. However, as grow up, walk and become adults we think of ourselves as independent, not needing anyone, to live life till we get old, sick or cannot walk.

I do not longer believe this is true. Although we may not have the same needs as a baby or an elderly person we always remain needy persons, interdependent on each other, no matter our age, gender, racial makeup, our poverty or wealth.


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Messy Response - Saturday, November 15, 2008

In the last posting I talked about how Messy Science Saves when talking about a Greenhouse experiment with AIR. Making nonviolent change can also be messy. The tactics of Gandhi or of the civil rights movement do not seem to be effective in today’s world yet we must work for nonviolent change and to speak truth to power with nonviolence. The “Nonviolent Worm” symbolizes the Growing Power aspect of this web site as well as the Nonviolent side. The ongoing experiment on the nonviolent side is the renewal of the 40-year-old resistance to the Military at Marquette University (MU). Recently we sent an Open Letter to Marquette University leaders seeking a debate on the moral issue of Marquette’s support of the military and war, and asking for a garden of resistance to symbolize the struggle for Marquette to be faithful to Gospel Values.

Marquette’s response has been messy and confusing. Fr. Wild S.J. has said for many years that a dialog on this issue of Marquette hosting the military on campus was not possible, but in recent times has said he was open to a debate on this moral issue on campus. The other two MU leaders the open letter was addressed to, Father Simon S.J. of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette and Stephanie Russell of the Office of Mission and Identity at MU have gone back and forth communicating through a secretary saying a debate is being planned and than saying there will be a dialog. It is all very confusing and you can find here a summary of Marquette’s Response or No Response.


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Messy Science Saves - Friday, November 14, 2008

Experiment in AIR Growing

Some of us have this image of science being clean and organized. My experiment, pictured here, should destroy that image, at least for me. I purchased a cheap small greenhouse at a discount store, assembled it and placed it on a card board box full of compost and put layers of plastic over it separated by pieces of air bubble packing material. Only the door, which I must open once and awhile to water the plants, has just one layer of air bubbles over it. I can add more but will need to keep the zipper accessible. Next I will program the temperature data logger in the greenhouse and put a wireless temperature gauge outside of the greenhouse. The data logger temperature gauge can be programed to take the inside temperature in time intervals of my choice. The goal of the project is to keep the inside temperature consistent to a growing temperature despite how cold it might get on the outside.

For now I have placed five planters of collard greens and one of arugula inside the greenhouse. Depending on the temperature we can maintain with the air pockets, we can always exchange the planters with ones we have growing in the sunroom, also insulated by AIR.


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Sunset Faith - Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sunset in Sarasota

Unless the seed dies it will not rise. Unless the sun sets it will not rise. Being a late riser (when I can be), I have seen many more sunsets in life than sunrises. From my recent journey to Florida I have some more spectacular sunset pictures to add to my collection. I hope to make a slide show soon of the Florida sunsets using the drum music played last Sunday at the sunset at Siesta Beech.

There are a lot of sunsets in life, people we know die or get sick. Many people suffer not only the loss of the sun each day but also the loss of food, clothing and shelter. These life sunsets are not beautiful like the sunsets at the beach, and can be messy. Quite often we need the hope of sunrise to keep going.

Today Dawn, Marna and I had our monthly DMZ lunch. Marna suffers many physical trials and illnesses but always has hope and a kind word. Dawn cares for persons with disabilities, like mental illnesses, in her houses and struggles each day with persons in crisis. Being with these two strong but gentle women always reminds me of my blessings, like my recent opportunity to watch beautiful sunsets in Florida.


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Night Lettuce in the Light - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lettuce Tonight in the Light

Last night I spoke about our trip to Lettuce Lake in Florida back to lettuce in our sunroom at home. Today I made a slide show called Faces of Lettuce Lake that says, better than words, the beauty of this nature preserve in Florida.

Above the GP box in the sunroom I have some fluorescent growing lights that go on for about 12 hours a day. These lights have been very useful, especially this week when the sun is not shining. In the picture on this page you can see the lettuce at night under the lights. However, I have been told that the real growing goes on in the night. The light or sun is essential to growth but the growing happens in the dark. Lettuce, like most plants, takes in energy during the day and then grows in the night.

I heard once that we humans are like lettuce, taking in energy during the day and growing in our sleep at night.


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Lettuce To Lettuce - Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cypress Knee in Lettuce Lake

Our first stop in our trip to Florida was Lettuce Lake Park. Actually it is not really a lake but a swampy nature preserve area where wild-life and nature can be free. It is called Lettuce Lake, I guess, because there is a green lettuce-like material on top of the open water. Many of the trees are cypress trees, and there are ‘cypress knees’, roots of the tree, also growing out of the water. Our first day there was the only non-sunny day on our trip to Florida, but a beautiful way to start our travels.

We met a friend at the park who now lives in nearby Tampa, and walked the boardwalk with her around the wild area. Besides the lettuce-like greens growing from the lake we saw many other faces of nature in the park, from face-like carvings in the trees to faces of squirrels, birds and other animals. Soon I will put together a collage of pictures from Lettuce Lake. When you look for faces in plants, animals and natures you can see a lot. Faces represent the diversity and beauty of nature.


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Time for More Air - Monday, November 03, 2008

Air is everywhere

“Then we who are alive, who are left, will…meet with God in the air”
1 Thessalonians 4:17

Today I insulated two double pane windows with another layer of AIR, Air Insulation Resource, thus making them three-pane windows. Now I have some windows that still have two panes, some three panes, some four panes (ones with layers of glazing on each side of storm window) and some five-pane window (those with inserts). I realized Saturday and talking to people today that my explanation on the AIR web page is not clear and adaptable to many situations. I am taking some time away from the web, from tomorrow (Tuesday) until next Tuesday, but when I get back I plan to clarify the situation with pictures of how to adapt the AIR insulation to various situations. The idea of using layers of AIR by using multiple clear plastic glazing over windows is an old idea but it needs some new life and vigor injected into it.

One of the reasons the idea of using AIR to insulate might be slow around here is the good weather we are enjoying. Today it was over 70 degrees outside and will be in the sixties, I understand, for the next few days. But the cold and the winter will come as it always does and it is better to be prepared first. I am doing my outside window opportunities now but next week will do the inside opportunities.

Our friend, John, who did the five pane inserts, has been developing a simple solar system to provide electricity for the sunroom. He was ready to go last week but now has decided he needs more time for research and study. So I do not think we will get to it this year.


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As The Worm Turns! - Sunday, November 02, 2008

Soon the Great Reality Show we call the Presidential Election will be over.
But the worm continues to eat, cast off and procreate.

They say one vote make a difference but all the votes together do not seem to make much of a difference.
But the worm continues to eat, cast off and procreate.

No matter who we vote for or against, or if we do not vote, not much will change.
But the worm continues to eat, cast off and procreate.

So enjoy the Great Reality Show for there will not be another one for a few years.
But the worm continues to eat, cast off and procreate.


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All Saints All Air - Saturday, November 01, 2008

A small group came to my workshop on the AIR system of insulation in our church hall this morning, but that turned out to be a blessing, especially since a few of them were senior citizens I had seen in Church but really did not know. In the questions and comments of this small group I learned at least as much as I taught, probably more. With a small group I could respond to each person individually, and by considering his or her particular situation, learn more how to adapt the AIR system to different situations. The use of air as insulation is like the use of worms for growing; it is so adaptable to the environment that it has been around for a long time and will stay vital for a long time. The AIR system, however, like worms, is so simple a tool that we take it for granted and thus do not always use it effectively. In fact I was so inspired by our conversation that I came home, and after watching the second half of the Wisconsin football game, went outside seeking more applications of the use of AIR. I found a number of windows that I could use a layer of air on the outside to increase the insulation factor and I did one. I raked some more ‘manna’ from trees (leaves), and placed them over the rain garden ground in front of the house, thus providing them with fertile air pockets for growth next spring. I figured out a few more ways to insulate the small green house experiment that I started out back. Our small group discussion this morning was like a breath of fresh air to my mind.


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