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

Rain Garden July 31, 2009

Front Lawn Garden 08/09

Garden 08/02/09

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Outcast - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

“Ignoring” by Peter Graf

(The Diary of Worm will be on a ‘time out’ till Oct. 5th — see below)

When I was a youth minister and creating a ‘rap persona’ I wanted to use the name ‘outcast’. However, the youth I was working with at the time told me a group already had that name. So I choose the name ‘reject’ and went on to an inglorious career as a rap guy.

I was reminded of that today when I heard that a leader of a local peace and justice group ‘resigned’ after just a short stay. I do not know the circumstances of his ‘resignation’ but do know when I ‘resigned’ from a group unplanned it meant I was pushed out, or as some may say “fired.”

Being rejected or an outcast by good persons, I have found in my experience, is much harder than being forced to resign or being fired by bad guys.

This news of a potential new member of the ‘outcast’ club came today after I got three emails and phone calls from persons who wanted to come to my presentation on “Conversation with Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola on nonviolence and sustainability.”, but could not afford the high fee for the conference. Since many of my friends are poor, voluntarily or non-voluntarily, and one that wrote this morning needed to save his money for medical treatment, I decided to write the organizers of the conference asking about some fee reductions for peace and justice persons who could not afford it. I was happy to hear from them that some events were free and registration had been reduced to $25 for regular persons and only $15 for students or persons of low income. I thanked them since now that the poor, marginalized and outcast can come I might have someone attending my session.


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Intellectual and Down to Earth - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Companion Planting at Navdanya

A friend, another Pilgrim of Peace to India, sent me this quote of the week from the Organics Consumers Association:

“Regulating by carbon trading is like fiddling as Rome burns. Governments and the UN should impose carbon tax on corporations, both for production — wherever their facilities are located — and for transport, which the Kyoto Protocol does not account for directly. Incentives for renewable energy are also essential. We face a stark choice: we can destroy the conditions for human life on the planet by clinging to ‘free-market’ fundamentalism, or we can secure our future by bringing commerce within the laws of ecological sustainability and social justice.”

This quote is by Vandana Shiva, an environmental leader, thinker and author of “Earth Democracy, Justice, Sustainability and Peace.” While this quote is very intellectual and she travels the world with her message of earth justice, her home base in the foothills of the Himalayas, Navdanya, which we visited as Pilgrims in India, is a very down to earth place. There we saw seed saving, turning cow dung into worm castings, and companion planting. These are all practical ways to grow that we have adapted in some small way into our urban home garden. (For companion planting see posting for September 21st.)


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Present Person - Monday, September 28, 2009

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, has always been a source of inspiration for me. I was blessed to meet her a few times and to read stuff about her. But in the last two days talking with persons who personally knew her I have come to a new understanding of her life and spirit.

It is like my intellectual or mind understanding of Dorothy Day has been deepened by a more heart understanding. I knew she always considered herself a Christian anarchist and did not vote or participate in government funding, but I did not realize how deeply this personal believe of no dependence on government or funding institutions was ingrained in her life. I knew she shunned honor and fame that came her way but now understand how humble she was, not wanting her glory to stand in the way of the message her life was to us.

Getting to know someone directly or indirectly through family and friends brings a whole new relationship to this person being someone whose spirit lives in the present. There is no substitution for personal knowledge of a person.


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Patch Quilt of Life - Sunday, September 27, 2009

Today’s Patch Quilt

This morning my friend Ella of Ella’s Patch Quilts asked me to bring my camera to Church. She had made a patch quilt for a Church raffle and wanted a picture of the quilt with her and the winner of the raffle, one of the trustees of the Church. I said yes and took pictures of Ella and the winner with the patch quilt.

From Ella, over the years, I have learned about this African American art form of patch quilts passed on since the days of slavery. Slaves who could not afford the expensive quilts of their masters took old and odd patches of material and sewed them together to make a quilt. Patch quilts, like Ella’s, are still made with odd pieces of material, no longer from clothes, but new discarded patches of materials and sewn together, not by hand, but by machine to make a quilt. The art comes from the creator and her imagination. My wife and I have seen patch quilts one or both of us really like and others we did not care for. The beauty of the patch quilt, like abstract art, is in the eye of the beholder. Different patch quilts, gifts from Ella, can be found throughout our house, on our bed, couch and cup holders.

As my day went on, watching a football game, working in the garden, talking by phone to family and friends around the country, enjoy dinner with my wife and son, working on presentation on Gandhi and Ignatius and watching TV, I more deeply realized how our life is like a patch quilt, full of diverse events that sometimes come together in a meaningful way and sometimes just seem like a random collection.

I have posted before about Chaordic systems that blend chaos and order into harmonious existence. Some would say nature is like this. I say each day of life, like a patch quilt, is a coming together of different, sometime random, experiences. If we bring art to this collection of experience we can find order even in chaos. Life is like a patch quilt, rich with experiences challenging us to make them one and whole.


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Fish and Free - Saturday, September 26, 2009

Salmon Caught In Past

This morning on the way back from picking up our food from SHARE I got a phone call from a friend of my adult son asking if I wanted to go salmon fishing with him. Although I had a lot to do today, I said yes, having caught the largest fish of my life the last time we went, a few years ago. He said he would call me back a little later.

I got home, put the food away, cleaned the house a little and sat down to watch a football game while working on some writing and he still did not call.

Finally in the afternoon he called and said we could not go fishing today. I asked why and he told me that he had suffered a personal crisis in the time since the first phone call. We talked more and I suggested we needed more than ever to go fishing and take a time out from the stress of the day we both felt. He agreed.

When we got together all he could first talk about what was the crisis in his life. However, when we finally got to the fishing spot on the Milwaukee River he stopped talking about it and the focus was on fishing. The fishing was not good today but the hour or so of trying was stress-free and gave us a both a chance to relax, watch the river, and see the trees turning colors.

As we drove home we were both ready to face what life has brought us. We had no fish but felt free. Maybe next time we go fishing we’ll get some fish and still feel free.


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Crushing Cardboard & Sifting Soil Party - Friday, September 25, 2009

When it comes down to it, successful home gardening is doing a lot of little things. I found myself behind in two small but important tasks: ripping up cardboard boxes into small pieces for the compost pile and sifting the soil in the Worm Box. So I decided to have a Crushing Cardboard and Sifting Soil Party. However there are only two other persons in the household today to ask, my wife and my adult son who lives in our hospitality rooms upstairs. I really could not ask my wife since it was her “day off” and she suffers from a painful pinched nerve. So I asked my son if would join me in the “Crushing Cardboard and Sifting Soil Party” He said no but that he would rip up cardboard. I said okay.

He was doing a good job for a while when I heard him yell out. He was bit through a t-shirt by one of the many bees or hornets that hang around our garden. This was good excuse for him to stop crushing cardboard. Amidst other little things I did some sifting soil from the worm box.

In business and in my life I have found that persistent effort for a long period of time usually pays off. When I had my direct mail advertising business I remember calling on retailers over and over again for many years. Some of them finally said yes and tried the product, found it a good one and became some of my best customers.

Like others I find rejection hard to take. But I know that if I persist in asking my son to help with tasks related to the garden he does and will. If you have a good cause, like demilitarizing our education system or a good product like a home garden, being persistent with many small things will pay off someday.

Anyone up for a Crushing Cardboard and Sifting Soil Party?


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Milwaukee 14 Today - Thursday, September 24, 2009

Milwaukee 14 Sept. 24, 1968

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Milwaukee 14. This nonviolent action in Milwaukee was one of many across the USA during the Vietnam war that destroyed Selective Service System 1A files of those who were about to be forcibly drafted into the military to kill or be killed in a war that many considered unjust and immoral.

The Milwaukee 14 action divided the local community into two; one group strongly supported the action and one group strongly opposed it. I remember looking out the window of our jail block that night and seeing civil rights leaders Dick Gregory and Father Groppi leading a group of persons, including Marquette students like me, pass our window in a show of support.

The Vietnam War ended and so did the forced selective service system, giving way to a so-called ‘volunteer army.’ However, unjust and immoral wars waged by the USA continued and so did the strong-handed military recruitment of soldiers to fight these wars.

While the peace and justice persons were fragmented into many causes, many in competition with each other for time and interest, those supporting war, even “preemptive war” became stronger and more united. The military draft system went from a forced one to one of incentives, using education, security, patriotism and money to draft persons into wars even when the purpose of the war was morally and ethically questionable. War became ingrained in our society, reporters are embedded and children, as soldiers in training, are taught in video games to kill instinctively. This is Not Your Father’s Military.


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Weak and Waste - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Compost from Waste

This morning I woke up very early to drive a friend to a hospital for day of brain testing. Being up early meant that I got a lot done today, completing the first part of my presentation at a conference on a Conversation with Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola on Nonviolence and Sustainability, delivering some leftover brick stones for another friend, working in the gardens and a few other things. But I did notice that I was sharp in the morning but as the day went on I started to lose my mind’s focus.

Usually when I work in the garden my mind is fully present to the task at hand. However, this afternoon my mind began to wander and I started to think of something I wanted to write for tomorrow, Sept. 24th, the 41st anniversary of the Milwaukee 14 action. Also I started to worry about what others were saying or thinking about my message and me on another issue, something I seldom do. I credit these two useless things, thinking about the future and worrying about what others say, to a mind weak and tired by lack of sleep.


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Rain and Wood Chips Making Soil Worm-Ready - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rain barrels on winter break

They say that rain came yesterday, breaking the September drought, but I did not see it. Today when I was out and about the rain came. It was not much and it was not a hard rain but plants, worms and soil got much-needed rain water.

Rain water, I have been told, is better for plants than water from the faucet. It does not have the chemicals, like chlorine, that we add to faucet water. My rain barrels collecting rain from the roof of the house or garage, filtering it through the ‘tea’ bags of castings and into the garden, have not seen much rain this summer. I have had to add water from the hose to the rain barrels, let it sit for a day to distill the chemicals out of it before using it in the garden as ‘tea’

Like I said, the rain here was moderate. But on the news I saw terrible floods that claimed human lives in places like Georgia. They also need the rain but they had a hard rain, too much too fast for the ground to absorb.

In between the light rain today I gathered some buckets of wood chips from the city dump. Tomorrow I will place some on the compost pile out back and around the garden where the wood chips serving as mulch have composted into the soil. Wood chips in compost add small air pockets to the soil. Worms need air to live in the soil.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Just Add Water worms also need water to survive. They will die without water and without air pockets in the soil. So today I received two important ingredients for growing with worms, wood chips from the dump and rain waters from the sky. Rain and wood chips make soil worm-ready.


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Plants Working Together - Monday, September 21, 2009

Front Lawn Garden 09/21/09

Today fall starts, but the summer front lawn garden keeps on growing. This picture of this new garden in the front lawn shows the flowers flowering, the tomatoes, eggplant and basil flourishing. Now with fall beginning the garden will probably slow down and die for the winter. Where there was grass now there are flowers and vegetables.

All the plants in the front lawn garden are annuals while the rain garden is all perennials and the backyard garden is a mix.

The front lawn garden was new this year and from the compliments on how good it looks from neighbors and friends, and from its production, it will be reborn in the spring.

The key to the garden’s success, I believe, was the homemade soil and the mix of flowers (marigolds) with herbs and vegetable plants (basil, tomatoes, eggplants) that grow well together. This companion planting, also done in the backyard, is new this year for my gardens but, like most innovative ideas, has been around for a long time. From Native Americans to traditional farmers in India, companion planting has been successfully used. It is something we need to rediscover in our home gardens.


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Consistently Growing! - Sunday, September 20, 2009

The sun and warm weather continues and, although we still have no rain, summer continues in the garden and on our dinner table. Yesterday my wife made a delicious pesto chicken and potato dish and added the pesto sauce to a stir fry zucchini mix. She had made the pesto from the abundant basil that continues to grow in the gardens. Tonight it was fresh, homemade salsa on steak tacos that, thanks to garden tomatoes, was the delicious food of the day. The weekdays, when my wife works, I cook and hope to continue, as long as the garden provides, a taste of the garden at the dinner table each night.

The abundance of garden crops came to Church today as a member of our Church brought bags of fresh lettuce and spinach from Growing Power to hand out courtesy of Will Allen of Growing Power. There were at the giveaway table small cups of Growing Power cherry tomatoes. After Church, as the rest of us snacked on doughnuts, my wife had some tomatoes. She said they were good but not as good as the cherry tomatoes we grow at home.

As my outside gardens slow down producing as ultimately they will, I hope to start the growing in the sun room. Although the solar box for the roof of my sun room seems remote, since I do not have anyone yet to build it, I definitely plan to step up food production in the sun room this winter. I am not sure quite how yet but the challenge is there to embrace.

Someone recently reminded me that we can only do what we can do. I believe that is true but I also am aware of the fact that we have within ourselves much more capability that we ever use. So as the summer garden season slowly fades to the fall but the growing continues, I work to do what I can do, while knowing there is more. Consistently growing!


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Just Add Water! - Saturday, September 19, 2009

In the September 7th post, Cow Dung to Worm Castings Part 2, I reported about the slow and ‘sickly worms’ in the compost pile at my son’s land up north. I blamed it on the fact that there was too much carbon material in the cow dung mix.

I brought some of the cow dung/worm compost home with me to sift to make worm castings. The enriched compost mix that did not sift easily I put in a big container. I also put some of the weak worms in that mix. When I was watering the garden I also watered the soil in the container. Today when I was looking to collect some worms to share I looked in the box. The same worms that were slow and sickly were now alive and wiggly. All the mix and worms needed was water. I remember my daughter–in-law saying they had not watered the compost for a few weeks before I collected this sample. It was not too much carbon but too little water that was the problem.

It has not rained in the month of September, 19 days. I have frequently watered the gardens. To turn cow dung to worm castings, like in a successful garden, just add water.


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Bonfire of the Brands - Friday, September 18, 2009

Today my friend and writer Jim Forest, also a member of the Milwaukee 14, send me a link to an English web site called Bonfire of the Brands which calls for an end to outrageous non-essential consumerism. The site features a YouTube video of a bonfire destroying brand name items. The only message sent with the link was in the subject line of the email and said: “I think you’ll agree that there is an M-14 side to the video called ‘Bonfire of the Brands’.”

Now if you look at the Milwaukee Video of the burning of 1A draft files in 1968 and the video of burning the brand-name products you can see a similarity between the two, in the fire, crowd and even the handling of the camera.

The symbolic destruction of Big Bad Name Brands in 2009, like the burning of Selective Service files in 1968, represents a growing awareness of how attached we are to consumer society that needs more and more stuff to attain the happiness that we cannot purchase.


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Squirreling - Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sandy Cheeks

Earlier in the summer I wrote how robins were all over my yard, attracted by the major supply of worms. Now the robins are gone but the squirrels are everywhere. I stopped putting food in the bird feeder because whatever I did the squirrels would find a way around it and take the seeds they liked.

Each morning these days when I go out the front door to get the morning newspaper I see squirrels in my front lawn garden. I usually chase them up a tree as I am afraid they will take a bite out of the tomatoes in the front lawn garden. However, this morning when I went out back to the garage they were there also. I finally realized the multitude of squirrels in my gardens were there to prepare for the long winter months of hibernating by squirreling up on food. Just as the robins were feasting on the worms so are the squirrels feasting on the acorns and other food they might find around the gardens.

The squirrels, however, were not only looking for food right now but were bulking up for winter hibernation. From the squirrel on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon, Sandy Cheeks, I have learned about the significance of a squirrel bulking up for the winter sleep.

Actually I have not noticed any squirrel bites out of my tomatoes. So tomorrow when I go out to get the newspaper, rather than chase the squirrels up the tree, I will welcome them to store up on the fall feast for the winter. After they are done squirreling and go into hibernation I will put bird food back in the bird feeder.


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Rain, Sun & GrowingPower - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wild sunflowers in the rain garden

Today was another sunny day. The weatherman says that it will probably not rain till next week, making it three weeks in a row without rain. Gardens need sun and rain, but whereas sun cannot be replaced outside, rain can be with watering of the garden. So this sunny stretch, with help from watering, has really extended the growing season in the gardens. More tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants today and more to come tomorrow.

As a constant gardener one must always be preparing for the next season. When fall finally comes I will be ready with kale growing strong in the garden, the GP box in the sun room full of compost, worms and castings and ready to grow, the window inserts in and, hopefully, the solar collector box on the sun room roof. The latter needs someone to build. (See The Green Answer is Within.)

Also once the weather turns the great lakes salmon will come upstream on the Milwaukee River from Lake Michigan to spawn and be ready for catching, smoking and eating.

All four seasons contribute to growing power and all four seasons of growing need sun and rain or a substitute, like growing lights and snow. The seasons come and go but sun and rain and growing power remain constant.


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Be Aware! - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

“What you are aware of you are in control of; what you are not aware of is in control of you.” Anthony De Mello, “One Minute Wisdom”

Today I was too busy for my own good. I can tell because I did not work significantly on two things that are important at this time to me. One is my gardens and the other is the Gandhi/St. Ignatius conversation for an upcoming conference.

Looking back on the day I can see that talking and emailing too much prevented my working on what I wanted to do today. I can make up for the time lost working on garden or conference but, unless I learn from my mistakes, I am doomed to repeat them.

This is one thing Mahatma Gandhi and St. Ignatius of Loyola had in common. They were both deeply aware and reflective on their daily lives and consistently worked to do God’s will. St. Ignatius developed a daily examen of consciousness that he told his companions in the Society of Jesus was the one thing most important to do each day.

We have had a string of sunny warm days this fall. The weather has made it easy to work in the garden. I have been blessed with a wealth of knowledge and experience of Ignatius and Gandhi to build my presentation around. Outside and inside the conditions are there for me to work in the garden and work on my talk. What was lacking today was awareness. I knew what to do but kept myself busy with distractions.

Working in the garden clears my mind to work on projects like the conversation between Ignatius and Gandhi. Being aware leads to living alive.


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Day By Day Garden - Monday, September 14, 2009


A friend wrote me today saying they are “reassessing priorities” and thus could not participate in the movement to “demilitarize our schools” one school at a time. One of this friend’s new priorities is planning a home organic garden, also one of my priorities. As readers of this Diary of Worm know, home gardening is what got this web site started and still fuels it.

However, unlike my friend, I cannot say no to other things that come my way, like stopping the teaching of war in our schools, driving a friend somewhere, arranging another Pilgrimage of Peace, and (gladly or sadly) too much more. I gave up trying to say no to something I feel compelled to do, so now I just prioritize each day rather than my life. I try to do my best each day about what I believe is important to do.

Living life day by day or moment by moment is hard, but it is the only way to say yes to all good things and keep one’s sanity. A side benefit I found to this way of life is that when some ignore you or issues you feel are important, you do not care as much, since you are not doing what you do to please others but because you need to do it. There is always something else to say yes to.

The fact that I spend time almost every day in the garden outside and now in the sun room for the fall and winter means that I do consider growing renewable affordable food a priority. But I do not always do each day what I need to do. Distractions, reflections of weaknesses, are always present. But we try.

The garden of my life changes day by day and so must I.


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Taste Not Test - Sunday, September 13, 2009

Baba Ghanoush

I have purchased a soil testing kit and today was going to test the soil in my home gardens, worm castings from homemade compost and that from cow dung. But I forgot, so it the test will need to wait till another day.

But I did get outside today to work on the gardens. While I was doing that a Catholic Worker friend of old came by to say hello. We had a nice conversation since we share a basic philosophy of looking at life. She admired the gardens, especially the tomato, basil and eggplant garden in front of the house.

That garden produced more tomatoes and eggplant today. In fact that front lawn garden was a major contributor of our dinner tonight. Its tomatoes and basil were used by my wife to make her homemade Italian pasta sauce and were also used, along with some garden greens, in the salad. Eggplants from the front lawn garden were used to make Baba Ghanoush, a Middle Eastern dish.

So no testing of the garden soil today but we did get a good taste of the garden.


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Coming Home - Saturday, September 12, 2009

Harley Davidson Shed in 1903

On this sunny day in Milwaukee my friend from sunny California and I went to the Harley Davidson Museum. The museum has been around for a year or so but I had not visited it before.

I grew up in the shadow of the Harley Davidson motorcycle company, My family home was located on the block where the first factory, a 10′ X 15’ shed, stood in 1903 behind the Davidson Family home. My homestead was next to the alley that led to the parking lot for Harley Davidson employees. We were not able to play basketball on the hoop on our garage when the first shift was over. The famous sound of Harley-Davidson motorcycles were to be heard all around our neighborhood.

In high school my second job was working at the Harley Davidson office. In the days before computers draft persons did the designs on blueprints which were copied by a very large primitive copying machine and filed away in a small room of big filing cabinets. My summer and after school job was to copy and file the blueprints. It was a very boring job but had one fringe benefit. In the summer at lunch time some of the Harley executives would take their motorcycles to a nearby hill and climb it. I was a passenger in one of the side cars.

Now my homestead is torn down and the whole block is one large parking lot.

When I worked there in the early sixties Harley Davidson was in decline. Eventually it was sold to another company but then was resurrected n the 80’s into the thriving company that it is today.

So today brought back many old memories, like riding homemade go-carts down the alley and steering into the parking lot to avoid running into the street.


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Humor Heals - Friday, September 11, 2009

Today as we remember the national tragedy of 9/11, an old friend from California came to visit. This is one of my friends who keep me supplied daily with humorous emails. When he comes to Milwaukee for a visit we can enjoy the humor live and up front. He has mastered the way of integrating a joke into a story and conversation so seamlessly that sometimes, until the punch line, you do not know it is a joke. In fact tonight when he was telling me the Native American stories of how the towns near his home town were named I kept waiting for the punch line. There was none since he was telling me history.

My friend has suffered a hard life with relationships and with many illnesses. However, with humor he has kept his balance and been able to enjoy life. Humor has been healing in his life. Even about all the pain he has suffered he says that pain lets you know that you are alive.

I have mentioned before how humorous email from three or four friends have kept me smiling although many emails are bearers of bad news.

I need to work more on the Jokes section of the . For information helps us to understand and opinions influence us but only humor heals.


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My Issue as a Worm of a Man - Thursday, September 10, 2009

I wrote an old friend for an update of his remarks a few years ago that wars, like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, only end when there is no funding for them and soldiers refuse to fight. I wrote for the update in light of our Congresswoman’s betrayal of her stated opposition to present wars by voting for more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and military support in Pakistan. Also my friend’s alma mater was now teaching war and training military officers from 14 regional colleges and universities on its campus.

He wrote back saying I was pushing my priorities and issues on him and others who have other issues of concern. I wrote back saying not to avoid my request for the update by putting me in some category and dismissing me as pushing my issue on him. I do not feel in competition with anyone on any issue.

Afterward, working in the garden, it occurred to me that he never did define ‘my issue’, and in my response, neither did I. What is the main issue that drives me so, on concerns like holding a congressperson accountable for her vote, or a Catholic school accountable for its teaching of war and military values over Catholic values? What drives me to work on this home garden of growing power and to do this daily Diary of a Worm? What drives me to say yes to calls from persons in need of a ride or someone to talk to? What is the issue that led me to the Milwaukee 14 action and to speak up when I see injustice?

It occurred to me that my issue was much deeper than the betrayal by our congresswoman on war and peace, Marquette University hosting military departments of war, or any of the above. I have been driven since high school with a deep desire to bridge the gap between belief and word to action and deed. Gandhi said it best when he said: “My Life is my message”, or St. Ignatius of Loyola when he said: “Love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words.” (SE #230)


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Naturally Good - Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New Orleans: 10 months after the storm

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke).

A friend sent me this quote today with a message that it was a good one for me. I took this as a compliment since I cannot be silent on any important issue. Although I have seen the quote before it was timely. I just wrote another friend questioning his silence on a major issue he has long been concerned about. He wrote back with some superficial message ignoring my main message and question.

Doing nothing or ignoring something that would be uncomfortable to speak or act on seems to be the norm today for moderate or liberal persons. Real conservatives and real radicals speak out on everything, no matter how controversial the issue may be. It seems like it is mostly liberals and moderates that are silent or ignore issues that may run them in conflict with others or be too controversial.

I know that I am talking in generalities to protect the innocent and the guilty. So maybe, this being the “Diary of the Worm,” I had better turn to specifics in nature. Nature seems to take care of itself when it is left to itself. Forest fires happen naturally and are not the “super forest fires” we are now experiencing in California, and there is no such thing as ‘global warming’ without human interference with nature.

I remember reading an article after the tragedy in New Orleans how, it was not the hurricane that caused all the damage but the human made things, like warming of waters, digging out the Mississippi river basin and building insufficient levies that caused the major damage.

If we humans followed our nature, when we saw something that was against who we are, we would speak and act up naturally. We would not be silent or ignore the issue. In nature good always triumphs over evil eventually, but with humans we can choose to do nothing or ignore something and allow evil to triumph.


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Blow the Dynamite - Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Peter Maurin

Persons with mental illnesses often make connections between things we do not normally make. There is bit of this type of behavior in the observation tonight, although I am too normal or not crazy enough to make the connections of these three quotes clear. I do believe that the first and second quote somehow add up to make the third quote.

The first quote is from Howard Zinn, the renowned social historian who has been teaching us for nearly 50 years how to view history. In fact he was a witness in the Milwaukee 14 when we tried to justify our action as necessary nonviolent civil disobedience. It is:

Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience.

The second quote is from Mahatma Gandhi:

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.


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Cow Dung To Worm Castings Part 2 - Monday, September 07, 2009

Cow/Worm Castings

Earlier this year I wrote of a lesson learned in India of turning Cow Dung to Worm Castings. This method of creating castings, rich organic soil from worms, as not unknown in the USA, but there was not much interest in it. As someone from the Nardanya Research Farm told me in India “you in the USA know about worm castings but do not appreciate worm dung.”

On my son’s land up north, with the help of the dairy farmer across the road, I created two rows of cow dung and placed in some worms. In India they just used the cow dung with the worms and do not add any carbon, like wood chips, saw dust, straw or crushed cardboard like we do in making compost to feed the worms. I knew this but also having heard how nitrogen-rich dung was I thought I should add some carbon, and added saw dust provided by another neighbor.

My daughter-in-law and grandsons kept the piles cool with water, and when I was there in July the worms were lively and seemed well. I decided to add some more cow dung but this time the neighbor only had readily available some cow bedding material, a mixture of straw, crushed cardboard, saw dust with dung and urine. He asked if that was okay and again, thinking we need to add carbon anyway, I said okay.

Last weekend I was up there on a short visit and decided to bring some “cow dung to worm castings “ back with me. To my surprise the piles were of very fine brown soil but the worms were few in number and seemed sickly.

The last few years I have noticed in my worm depository where I grow and nurture worms on a pile in the yard and in my worm box where I make castings, that too much carbon, wood chips, on the pile make it hot and the worms disappear. Thinking back over the years to a few remarks made to me about making compost I think I understand what is happening.


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All Shall Be Well - Sunday, September 06, 2009

St. Julian of Norwich

Amidst the turmoil and order of this day, the quote of St. Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English mystic, comes to mind: “…All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” she said. Today, by phone, in person, email or in nature, I encounter all kinds of things. I sought to connect all of them but only hope and pray for the ability to deal with them one at a time. This balance between connecting everything and accepting each one is what I need to find. For in this balance of unity and diversity rest the wellness we all seek.

Specifically today I must have communicated intensely with 20 or so persons and casually with a 100 or so. It was about major issues, like healthy of mind and body and menial things, like taste of a food or comments on a newspaper article. Even in the garden there were major concerns, like the quality of the worm castings from cow dung I brought back yesterday from up north to minor concerns of the number of tomatoes to pick.

All and all it was a very tiring day and I am glad that tomorrow is Labor Day, which means it is, like Sunday, a day of rest. Maybe having two days of rest in a row, today, Sunday, and tomorrow Labor Day, will equal one day of rest and reflection. For it is only when we stop to see, listen, hear, taste and touch the turmoil and order of daily life that we can find unity in the diversity and truly say: “ All shall be well.”


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Cow Cuddling - Saturday, September 05, 2009

Cow Cuddling

On these Diary of Worm posts you have heard me sing the praises of cows, for milk, medicine, and most importantly for cow dung. Today at the Shawano County Fair, where my grandchildren and their friends were showing cows, I discovered a new use for the cow.

My grandsons and their 4-H friends had gotten up early this morning to be at the County fair at 5am to care for their cows and do barn duty from 6am-8am. The cows they were showing were from the dairy farm across the road from my son’s house. This diary farm family has three young boys my grandchildren’s age who were also showing cows and had gotten up early this morning.

By the time my wife and I got there the children had shown their cows once or twice and were waiting for some other cow competitions in the afternoon.

Having been awake since 4am they were all very tired. One of the boys from the dairy farm decided to do something about it and cuddled up to a cow to take a brief rest.

Looking at this picture it occurred to me, besides milk, medicine and dung, this is another good use of a cow, cow cuddling.


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Beatles and Milwaukee 14 - Friday, September 04, 2009

Beatles Milwaukee Flyer 1964

Today is the 45th anniversary of the Beatles coming to Milwaukee for a concert. It was the height of Beatlemania in 1964 and for Milwaukee this was a major event. Actually I would not have remembered this event if it were not for a column in today’s newspaper referring to an online article by a freelance writer in the area about this historic event. You can find the article “A Day in the Center of Beatlemania,” posted at . In the article the writer, Ted Schaar, quotes me as a member of the Milwaukee 14, a group that burned 1A Selective service files in 1968, calling Nick Topping, the Beatles concert promoter, “the first supporter” of the Milwaukee 14.

I did say that, but the story behind the quote taken out of context is a good one. Nick Topping was an active member of the civil rights and peace movement in Milwaukee. He had a small international store near the site where we burned the draft records in a public triangle in front of the Selective Service offices at the time. He heard the fire engines and police cars rushing to the scene of the fire where we stood singing and praying while waiting for arrest. When Nick realized what we had done, he was applauding and cheering us on. Thus he was our “first supporter.”

Now at that time none of us knew Nick. I only got to know Nick after we got out of prison for our action and Nick’s son was one of the first students in the alternative school that three of us, including another member of the Milwaukee 14 Don Cotton, had started.

However, it was years later, after I returned to the Milwaukee area and visited Nick now at a store on the near South side, that I heard the Beatles and Milwaukee 14 stories. Nick’s son, who had attended the high school, suffered a tragic death at a young age, but Nick persisted in his efforts to deliver peace and justice for all.


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Nature and Day - Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tonight my wife and I watched a documentary about Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, called Don’t Call Me a Saint. I had seen the movie at its premier at the archives at Marquette University a few years ago and purchased a copy. Because of my Catholic Worker association, the writer, director, producer, Claudia Larson sent me two. I gave one to the local Catholic Worker community and reluctantly one to a couple of film makers from Brazil who were doing a film about Dorothy Day. I finally got around to purchasing another one and tonight we watched it.

This time, as I’m just finishing reading the book on the diaries of Dorothy Day, The Duty of Delight, edited by Robert Ellsberg, I saw the video in a new light. Usually one thinks of Dorothy Day with the poor, living in wretched conditions in the city, and how she started a movement, Catholic Worker, to do the works of mercy with “God’s ambassadors” (as the other co-founder of the Catholic Worker, Peter Maurin, called them).

Now watching the movie I see, as in the book, Dorothy’s attraction to nature, be it her beach house on Staten Island, the Catholic Worker farms, or time with her daughter and family in the country. In the video in one of letters to the father of her daughter she brags about how all their grandchildren live in the country and in nature.

Now I see Dorothy drawing strength from her time in nature to face the harsh realities of living with the poor in the city. I can relate to this. In my busy days of doing errands for others, today taking someone to hospital for monthly medications, tomorrow driving someone to visit his mother in a nursing home, or talking with persons, working around the house or writing on the computer, my real sanity seems to come from the time each day I try to make for working outside in the gardens, in nature.

The soil saves the soul from the busyness of the daily routine. Nature refreshes and gives us new life and drive to face another Day.


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Mother Cow - Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mother Cow

As in the USA we refer to the earth as Mother Earth, in India the cow is referred to as Mother Cow. In India the primary product of the cow is dung. In a posting on May 5th I described the project of turning cow dung to worm castings on my son’s land up north, across the road from a family dairy farm. Soon I will travel there to check on this experiment.

The same family dairy farmer is also interested in turning cow dung into energy, something that is regularly done in India in an affordable way. For some reason this simple method of producing energy is ignored in the USA or made too complicated and expensive.

Tonight I worked on a page about turning Cow Dung To Worm Castings and Energy. Basically I started to describe this low tech but effective way to turn cow dung to castings and into energy.

There will be more on these methods of producing organic fertilizer and energy on the Cow Dung To Worm Castings and Energy page and in the Diary of the Worm postings. But for today this is enough to start us on the road to enjoying the wealth of Mother Cow.


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Message and Messenger - Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sometimes I find myself sending a message that some persons do not want to hear. This happened the other day when I felt compelled to write to 23 Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus, on my mailing list asking them the question: “Is it moral and ethical for a Catholic University to host departments of military sciences.” Two responded, not with an answer, but by asking for clarification on the question. I gave it to them in an essay on the two different types of officer military training programs at colleges and universities in an essay called Not Your Father’s Military. I have not heard back from these two or any other recipients. I pray and hope they are ignoring the messenger and not the message, which I believe is central to Catholic Education.

This is just one example of something I find myself compelled to do in word and action, confront someone nonviolently with what I believe is an important message, even when I know they do not want to hear it. It used to be that they would reject the messenger and thus avoid the message. I am getting better at not letting that happen, so now they just ignore the message and messenger.

What I am trying to learn is how to put the message into actions in such a way that the action cannot be ignored. I thought we did that initially in our praying in Marquette University buildings last year behind our banner of “Marquette, Do Not Teach War.” But after the first week, when the ‘powers that be’ decided to let us pray illegally on university property, even that action was ignored. Of course when we tried to do it at an Alumni dinner the hammer came down and we were kicked off of university property. Ignoring can only go so far.


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