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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

Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full, and to post your comments on it.

Say No To Violence - Monday, May 31, 2010

This morning when I heard of Israel’s attack on humanitarian aid ships to Gaza I was stunned. Images of water hose and dog attacks on civil rights persons in Birmingham flashed in my mind. However, this attack was much worse. People were killed, others were wounded and imprisoned, and needed aid for the suffering people of Gaza was stopped. I turned on the TV to follow this news story, but could only find slanted information from Israel on Fox News. Tonight there was more news and information on this violence. Now I feel once more that I have Too Much Information (TMI) about the oppression of the people of Palestine and need to act.

I keep thinking about Martin Luther King and his letter from the Birmingham jail. I hope and pray that this act of violence will for once and all expose the militaristic plans and oppression of the USA and Israel on the people of Palestine and the Middle East. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., in his letter, I pray that the disciplined nonviolence of the peace persons on the flotilla totally confused the rulers of the Israel. They did not know what to do. When they finally reached for guns, clubs, weapons they found the world was watching, and then the power of nonviolent direct action became manifest.

What to do? How to respond, not react. Like Martin Luther King “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate” or as I would say “peace liberals”. They are the sort of person “who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action.’”

Fortunately today I had time to work in the garden and forget this heaviness of heart that I feel. But I cannot forget. I wait for the call for direct action from those in the peace community who are willing to “break the silence” and say No to USA and Israeli aggression and violence.


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Three Free Children - Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three Free Children

I need to do a pictorial essay on the modern day Sunday family ritual I experienced today, but that will need to wait till another time when I have more time and am not so tired. Tonight I want to share with you my three dinner companions and share some of our dinner conversation.

Today was my granddaughter’s birthday party. She was six this week. Family and friends gathered for a cookout tonight. The food and drink was put on a table in a large garage, out of the heat of the sun, and after a birthday cake ritual we began to eat. There were four groups of tables. I noticed that the group split up into four around the four tables. One group was the ‘boys’ 8–12 year old, my grandsons, a cousin and two brothers from the dairy farm across the road. Another group was all women, grandmothers, mother and neighboring women. In another group of mostly men were my son and neighbors. After I got my food I noticed a fourth group, my six-year-old granddaughter, her five-year-old cousin and six-year-old friend from the dairy farms across the road. They were at a card table with one spot open and so I sat down.

I tried my old joke on the three children, checking ages of each one and saying “I am free”, but my granddaughter and her neighbor friend had heard it before. They told the five year old cousin what I was saying and she asked me what I was free from? As I stumbled to answer this question which I have not been asked before, she said “Are you free from prison”?

I do not remember much of the rest of the conversation but know it was not about any big thoughts or about the past or future. It was a reality-based conversation with as much silliness and humor as we could make of it. It was a joyful sharing of the meal.

Although I have been feeling tired these last few warm days, the sharing of this meal with the three free children renewed my spirit and woke me up to life.


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Tired Cow - Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tired Cow

Tonight I am in the country and tired as a cow. It might be because today I shoveled cow dung onto two rows of compost and added worms to make worm castings. I am trying again this summer to duplicate the method of turning cow dung to worm castings that I saw in India on the Pilgrimage of Peace. Perhaps the fact that it was hot up here in northern Wisconsin is what has made me so tired tonight.

Being tired really slows the mind, so tonight I will give the posting a rest. Like a tired cow there is not much to do except get some rest and try again tomorrow to write.


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Permanent Peace or War - Friday, May 28, 2010

“U.S. law officially proclaims Memorial Day ‘as a day of prayer for permanent peace’.” Thus begins an article by Bill Quigley, law professor at the Loyola University New Orleans. Professor Quigley goes on to say: “the U.S. is much closer to permanent war than permanent peace.

“Corporations are profiting from wars and lobbying politicians for more. The US, and the rest of the world, cannot afford the rising personal and financial costs of permanent war.”

Today on the news it was casually mentioned that the 1000th death of an American took place in the war in Afghanistan. I remember how every anniversary of 1000 deaths of American soldiers in the war in Iraq was remembered by the peace community with a memorial service.

I found these anniversaries like Memorial Day, to honor those who have died in war, difficult. It is not that I do not feel sad and want to honor those who have died in war, I do. However, I have a difficult time with those who say how we must honor the dead by fighting more in a war that I consider unjust and immoral. They say we need to fight on and more must die so those who died will not have died in vain. I just do not believe we should remember and honor fallen soldiers by more war and killing.

How do we honor soldiers, especially those who have died or been injured, yet resist these “permanent wars”, which profit the corporations and politicians but leave our country less safe and security? How do we resist war and respect soldiers?

I look to the various veteran peace groups for leadership. These veterans know the horrors of war and want not to glorify war but to stop war and bring the soldiers home.

One of the early casualties of the Iraq War was a young man whom I had known as a youth minister at his church. At his funeral I was full of mixed emotions. I felt great sorrow and sadness for the loss of this young person who, I knew, was full of life. Yet I was upset when I heard the traditional gun-fire salute outside of the Church.

Memorial Day was created “as a day of prayer for permanent peace” yet it comes when the USA is in a state of “permanent war”.


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Small and Simple Beauty - Thursday, May 27, 2010

Small and Simple Beauty
in the Garden

I wish all of my gardens around the house, rain garden, front and back vegetable and herb gardens looked beautiful, but they do not. So I need to find beauty wherever I can in the small parts of the garden. Today it was in this flowering purple plant in front of the house, a small beauty in the garden.

Big ideas can often be told better in words. Below is an ‘easy essay’, Peter Maurin-style, I wrote today expressing a lot of big ideas in simple words.


Americans worry about the thousands and thousands of Mexicans coming illegally to the USA,
But do not seem to care much about the thousands of thousands of guns going illegally to Mexico.
The guns make life more unbearable in Mexico thus driving more Mexicans to the USA.
Peace activists cry out against the a 32 billion military supplementary bill before congress,
But ignore the 726 billion dollar Defense Department bill before congress,
While USA military spending is as great as that of all other countries with a military combined.
Everyone is concerned about the sorry state of education in America
Yet money for teachers and schools is being cut.
While “racing for the top” we are forgetting about those on the bottom.
The ‘tea party’ people call for less taxes and debt.
Yet ignore the biggest expenditure of our taxes and debt,
Military spending, some of which even the Secretary of Defense calls ‘wasteful.’
A Catholic university is accused of discriminating against a lesbian professor,
But no one says anything about the three military departments on the campus discriminating against lesbians.
The University says it did not discriminate but the professor’s views did not fit with its ‘mission and identity’.
The same University teaches “reflexive killing”, killing without conscience, and priority of government orders over conscience.
Recently I heard a renowned writer on the “fall of the American empire” being asked if had a religion.
He said he would be a “Dorothy Day”-like Christian if paying Federal Taxes and living comfortably would not make him feel like a hypocrite.
I say we are all hypocrites, not practicing what we preach,
So it is better be a hypocrite breaking the silence of our time in word and action,
Than to be a hypocrite that talks the talk but does not walk the walk.

A friend from India studying in the USA would always say when he saw something beautiful: “It is simple.” For him simple meant beautiful.

Small and Simple can be beautiful.


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Broken Birthday Day is Good for the Garden - Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sifter screen over the wheelbarrow
with the flat tire

Monday was my granddaughter’s birthday, she turned 6; Tuesday was my younger son’s birthday, he is 38; and today is my friend’s birthday, she is 43. My friend who is 43 today suffers from a painful and debilitating disease. After many doctors, operations and procedures the focus of her treatment now is to modify the pain she daily suffers. However, she is making the most of her life with her disability. Another friend who suffers from an illness celebrated his 58th birthday last week. He is younger than I, 67, but looks older. His great sense of humor keeps him going.

I felt like it was my birthday today since I had almost a whole day to just work on the home gardens. When I put too much weight in my wheelbarrow the seal on the tubeless tire broke and the tire went flat. Unable to repair it myself I thought I was in trouble and started to sift soil for the garden using my sifter, which fits over the wheelbarrow, over a smaller plastic box instead. Then I remembered the sifting casting systems I had seen in Guatemala and India used gravity to move the soil over the screen. So I took the tireless wheelbarrow to the compost I was sifting and put the plastic box on the lower end of the wheelbarrow. I filled the screen with compost and just lifted and shook the high end. The rough compost ended up in the plastic box and the fine soil went through the screen. The screen over the wheelbarrow being on an angle made the sifter more efficient and easier. I have been looking for a way to sift castings from compost more effectively and thanks to an accident and a broken wheel have found it.

It seems like a birthday kind of day when even with something going wrong you can make the most of it. On a birthday kind of day a broken tire on a wheelbarrow can be made into something good for garden.


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Rejection Can Be a Blessing - Tuesday, May 25, 2010

“Blessed are the Rejected”
Mother Teresa

I had contact today with the dairy farmer who lives across the road from my son’s family home up north. He will deliver the cow dung to my son’s land and I will bring the worms so we can start another year of turning cow dung to worm castings. This is a technique that I saw performed successfully by farmers in India. Worm castings, especially those made from cow dung, are an excellent natural fertilizer. Out of one rejected material, cow dung, comes another rejected material that makes plants grow.

Today in our faith sharing group we talked about how sometimes rejection can be a blessing. We might get fired on a job only to have another and better job open up. Often in my life I find that what I considered a ‘curse’ in my life was really a ‘blessing.’

The recent controversy at Marquette University, rescinding a job offer to a woman who was a lesbian, and hand written articles questioned by Church authorities, seemed at first a lot to do about nothing. However, I quickly realized that the issues of discrimination and ‘Christian Identity’ surrounding this controversy were the same as the issues relating to Marquette, a Catholic Jesuit University, hosting military training on campus.

I wrote three letters comparing this hiring controversy at Marquette to its hosting military schools that discriminate and violate the ‘Christian identity and mission’ of Marquette. The three letters, to Fr. Wild S.J., President of Marquette University, to Archbishop Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, local newspaper, were not responded to. I like to think the three letters were rejected not ignored by these three recipients.

If they were ignored that would mean the three did not care. If they were rejected this means they do care but choose not to respond.

Ignoring something or someone is a form of hate and disrespect. Rejecting something or someone is recognition of the thing or person. Rejection can be a blessing.


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Water Everywhere! - Monday, May 24, 2010

Water for Birds in Garden

Working in the garden on a hot day, today, I quickly worked up a sweat and needed more water in my body. The plants needed water and so did the worms.

Tonight on the news we heard more of the man-made disaster in the Gulf of the oil polluting the waters, waters that are essential to the chain of life for fish, animals and humans. We seem to take the ocean waters for granted until such a tragedy strikes.

In Milwaukee we live on the Great Lakes, the largest fresh water source in the world, yet our water bills are going up. Suburban communities that have drained out their well water are now negotiating to get water from Milwaukee. Large areas of the world are barren from lack of water while some areas suffer devastating floods.

We use water to drink, clean, to raise animals and plants. Some say that future wars will be fought over water, not oil. We cannot survive without water yet as seen in the Gulf oil spill, treat it so casually.

When I was in India on the Pilgrimage of Peace we learned something about the value of water. For showers in the morning we were given a bucket of hot water to mix with cold water from the faucet. When someone asked why there are no regular showers like in America the answer was quite simply: “We cannot afford such wasteful use of water.”

Water is everywhere and we all need it.


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Overheated - Sunday, May 23, 2010

Today was the first day this year that I worked outside the house in our gardens that it was hot. The heat took the strength out of me. I came in sweaty, hot and tired. Hopefully my body will adjust to the heat since we have a week of over eighty temperatures ahead of us.

I always get hot and tired of persons saying one thing and doing another thing, including myself. I spent some time tonight adding to our congressperson’s war spending record. She claims to be for peace and against war but keeps on voting for more war spending as proposed by our Democratic President.

Fr. Wild S.J. and Marquette University say they do not discriminate and uphold a Christian mission and identity yet continue to host the base School of the Army that does discriminate and teaches values contrary to Catholic values.

The Catholic Church says it upholds Catholic morals and values yet fails to condemn wars that the Catholic Church hierarchy has declared “immoral, illegal and unjust”.

The “Tea Party” people say they are against more taxation yet say nothing about the majority of spending which is for military, even when the Secretary of Defense and military says it is wasteful spending.

I as an individual do not always do what I say I should do. However, I believe that groups and organizations, like US representatives and the Democratic party, Marquette University, Catholic Church and Tea Party, need to be held to a higher standard of doing what they say. Changes may start with individuals but the system only changes when groups and organization change.

Maybe it is the heat talking but the disparity between what we say and do must stop or else we will all be overheated.


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Sense of Time, Identity and Food - Saturday, May 22, 2010

Taste of Sierra Leone

Our sense of time depends on where we grew up, our family, culture and circumstances. When I was invited to a graduation party for my African niece, held today in a park, I knew better than to be there at the starting time of 2pm. I arrived at the park around 3:45pm and was still the first one there. About when I started to wonder if I was in the right place I saw a car pull up. The four-year-old son of my African niece got out of the car and ran at me calling “Uncle Bob!” and jumped into my arms. His “cousin” followed and also jumped into my arms.

Soon the family and friends started to arrive with smiles and children. Most of the African Americans were first or second generation from Sierra Leone and consider themselves related. My African niece calls me Uncle Bob and her four year old child also knows me as Uncle Bob.

At an African-American celebration like today everyone brings food and drink and everyone takes home food and drink. Most of the foods are ethnic dishes from the culture of Sierra Leone but the drinks, like Guinness beer, are usually items brought into their culture or from the American culture.

Eating is the central event of the celebration. There is an ethnic dish for everyone’s taste. Before the meal there were two prayers, one an Islamic prayer in the language of the Koran and one by a Christian minister in English. Like the sense of time and the sense that everyone is related, it does not matter what one’s religion is. The important thing is not the individual but the group, family or tribe.

If you want to be at place where everyone is related, where the food is great and where diversity is unifying, attend a Sierra Leone celebration in the city of festivals, Milwaukee.


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Where Are All the Fish? - Friday, May 21, 2010

Will Allen & Aquaponics System

Tonight my wife made dinner for a few friends and me. It was a well planned and prepared meal. She decided to have baked fish but had trouble finding affordable fresh fish. I told her that I had seen some tilapia on sale at a local supermarket, and that is what she ended up buying. It was not cheap but it was excellent the way she prepared it.

I mention this experience because despite all the talk of growing fish in urban environments like at Growing Power, you cannot find good fish at a reasonable price. I know the tilapia grown at Growing Power and other urban growing places in town go to nice restaurants that will pay a good price for fresh fish since they can sell it for a good price.

Frozen fish is still reasonable but when I looked at the back of the label and see it is from China I really cannot justify buying it. I avoid “Made In China” when I can, although it is becoming difficult. Even the fresh tilapia I see in the natural food stores in town usually comes from Ecuador.

When I asked local urban fish farmers or ‘wannabes’ why we cannot find their urban growing fish in local markets they say that Aquaponics, as it is called, is not done on a large enough scale yet to make it reliable enough for grocery stores to purchase and sell to us.

In the news surrounding Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, going to a state dinner at the White House, I heard he was purchasing a large building in the central city for an urban farm featuring Aquaponics, “cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment.”

Perhaps with more efforts like Will’s one day soon we will no longer need to ask where are all the fish?


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Where Time Is At! - Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rain Time

These spring days, with limited time and too much to do, I am thinking about priorities for my time. Due to five rides to health clinics today I missed working in the gardens around the house. However, one of the appointments at a clinic was for me, two were for family members and two for friends. Friends, family members and I take priority over gardening.

When I give priority to what is most meaningful for me, my beliefs and values, I feel healthier. That is another reason for the home model of Growing Renewable Affordable Food (G.R.A.F.) Besides the Soil and Sun therapy value, it feels good and gives a person a chance to reflect leisurely, something important but often ignored in the busy world of our times.

This view of the priority of time fits well with the reading I was doing in waiting rooms at clinics today. I was reading about the philosophy and theology of Ignacio Ellacuria, the Jesuit priest, who was killed in El Salvador. Although a great intellectual, he strongly believed in practicing ideas in everyday action, in the immediate historical situation we find ourselves in. For example, Father Ellacuria taught that the task of faculty and universities was not to prepare students to be professional but “to be a critical and creative consciousness effectively at work in the service of the community.”

Immersing ourselves, working in the garden or waiting for friends at a clinic, in the moment of history that presents itself is where time is at.


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Nature Is The Easy Way - Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When we lived in Madison, Wisconsin my wife and I, one day, took a walk through a nature preserve called Picnic Point. “Picnic Point, a nearly mile-long peninsula along Lake Mendota’s south shore, is among Madison’s most distinctive features and is probably the most popular destination in the Preserve.” I remember that going on the walk my mind was hectic and after the walk my mind was relaxed. I now realize it was a taste of what I now call “Soil and Sun” therapy.

I have always been interested in the relationship between science and religion. After walking through the park a thought came to my mind: ‘The world will end when humans can create nature.’ I am not sure what this thought means but am reminded of it after, like today, I have a chance to work in my growing power home model gardens.

For the amount of work that I put in these home gardens, the amount of food production is minimal. But my work in the garden makes me feel creative in a way that no technology experience can do.

Based on my thought above, the end of world coming when humans can create nature, we have a long way to go. There are many ways to find God, the higher power or the power within. There are many ways to be creative. Nature is the easy way.


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Be Not Afraid - Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Prayer Vigil Today

There is no noticeable fear amidst the plants in a garden. This is good since the only results I see from fear are not so good.

We honored three homicide victims today. The prayer vigil was at a site of grandmother who was asleep Sunday morning with her three grandchildren. Guns were fired into the house. She grabbed her grandchildren and went to the floor. It was a fearful situation. After the gunfire ceased she got up to take a look at what had happened. She fell to the floor again, this time with a fatal heart attack.

After the prayer vigil I was with a group of persons in a prayer group. Two of the persons in the group are dying and are in hospice care. They both know they are going to die but are not afraid. In fact both of them expressed appreciation for life.

The grandmother who had a heart attack was a person of faith. Her pastor and others spoke of what a wonderful singer she was in the church, and together we sang the spiritual that was the last one she sang at Church. The gunfire might have caused her heart attack, but according to family and friends she was fearless.

Jesus in the Gospels constantly tells his followers to “Be Not Afraid”. This is hard, living in a world full of fear. But like the plants in the garden, my friends near death, or the woman protecting her grandchildren, to live life fully we must face death and Be Not Afraid.


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Garden or TV Sports - Monday, May 17, 2010

Over the weekend my niece graduated from Iowa University with an education Masters degree. At the end of the ceremony “Herky the Hawk”, the school mascot, made an appearance as the Iowa ‘fight’ song was sung. The ceremony was very nice but what struck me with a close-up sighting of the mascot was how mean he looked. I guess a mean look is fittingly for a “Herky the Hawk” sports mascot. But I was glad that no small child was in the way of this fighting Hawkeye. Herky the Hawk is no Bernie Brewer, the sports mascot for the Milwaukee Brewer baseball team.

Sports are big in this country and take a lot of time and energy. I know the lure of sports. Recently I have had a TV baseball or basketball game in the background as I work on the computer or sort my mail. It really slows down what I am doing but I keep doing it. When the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team lost again tonight I was more disappointed than I would have been if I had just heard abut the loss. I enjoy watching sports on TV but afterward feel like I have wasted time.

After the weekend trip to Iowa it was back to the garden today. Garden work, unlike watching sports on TV, is very engaging. The garden game never ends. There is always more to do. It takes time and, like watching sports on TV, is enjoyable while I am doing it. However, afterward I feel satisfied, not like I have wasted time. This is true even when I work in the garden to transform waste into soil.

Working in the Garden is day work; watching the TV is night work. Working on the garden is refreshing and engaging. Watching TV is okay and passive. Working on the garden feels satisfying and watching TV feels wasteful. It is our choice: Garden or TV Sports.


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Wait For Life To Grow - Thursday, May 13, 2010

Artist Nnamdi Okonkwo with
‘They Are Waiting’

I drove two friends to clinics today. One without any health insurance had to wait nearly five hours to get some basic medication and an appointment next week at another clinic. The one with some basic health care coverage had an appointment but still had to wait for over a hour for a procedure and also got another appointment for next week.

Being in solidarity with people in need I have learned how to wait. Today I took a book along about liberation theology in Central America, particularly El Salvador. Since I was so tired from getting up early the last two days the reading was rough, but I got the impact of the writing since I was living it, in some small way, waiting with persons in waiting rooms of clinics.

By the time I finally got to the city dump for wood chips to make compost it had just closed, and when I got home there was not much time left to work in the gardens. Garden time today was spent waiting in clinics, but that is okay. The plants in my sun room can wait till next week but the two persons I took to the clinic needed treatment today.

The reading I got in was all about finding Christ in history with the suffering and poor, those who wait and wait in clinics. In the garden we plant and wait for life to grow. In life we wait and wait for life to grow.

It is time for graduations, being with family and friends and a time to grow. Diary of Worm will return Monday, May 17, 2010


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Filthy Rotten System - Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“Our problems stem from
our acceptance of this filthy,
rotten system.” Dorothy Day

Early this morning I drove a young adult friend and his friend to the County Behavior Health Center. It seems if you are a young adult with particular illnesses but without insurance the only place you can get help is this place. There were other young adults waiting for the place to open, some being there as early as 5:15am. They were talking about prisons they or their friends have been in. I left my friends there. A little after 8 am I got a call to say the walk-in clinic had opened but only took five cases. They will need to return tomorrow morning very early again.

I finally got around today to going to the city dump to pick up wood chips for my garden and compost. The gates to the city dump were closed and a sign on the gate announced the dump was no longer open Wednesday. I will need to return there tomorrow.

One reason I drive persons to hospitals and doctors’ appointments is because we have a poor and expensive bus transit system in Milwaukee County. Over a year ago the people of Milwaukee County overwhelming voted yes to raise out sales tax by a slight amount to be used for the transit system. However, our vote was advisory since only the State legislature can raise the sale tax in Milwaukee County. Although the business and worker groups, education and social organization were all for the new Regional Transit Authority and the people wanted to pay for it, the state legislature failed to pass the necessary legislation.

When I was learning civics, I was taught that government existed for the ‘common good’, not for the individual, and the will of the people reigned in a democracy. This seems to be no longer true. Individualism reigns and the will of the people can be ignored by the government.

The irony of the situation is that a few select persons and the politicians say they are saving us money in all these cutbacks, from city dump to library hours, to a lack of medical services to people in need and to letting our bus transit system die. Yes we pay a lot of taxes but the majority of money, at least on the Federal level, is used for things many of us do not want — to make war and to subsidize the rich. When we want our taxes to pay for things we deem important, like a good transit system, those “in the know” say No.

If this sounds like taxation without representation, maybe it is. However, this time it is not a country far away that is taxing us without representation. It is our own country and it is us that are doing it to ourselves. As Dorothy Day said: “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”


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Marigolds Affirm By Giving - Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yesterday I purchased some more marigold plants to place on three sides of the raised vegetable garden on my front yard. I choose marigolds last year not only because of their beauty but I have been told that their pungent scent repels bugs and insects. In the front garden which is exposed to the sun all day I do companion planting of tomatoes, basil, and peppers. So marigolds serve a double purpose, beauty at the borders and a deterrent to insects.

Gardens, especially with companion planting, often contain many examples of one plant nurturing and protecting others and itself. Many plants, like marigolds, serve a number of purposes.

In life I have noticed that true concern and compassion for others, especially persons in need, serves a double purpose. It helps another and brings blessings to the person doing the service. As Thomas Merton says: “The mature person realizes that life affirms itself most, not in acquiring things but in giving time, efforts, strength, intelligence, and love to others.”

Tomorrow I will drive a friend to the hospital and another one to visit his mom in an assisted living home. These acts of giving will be life affirming for others and myself. Sometime during the day I will plant the new marigolds in the garden so they can affirm who they are by giving to the garden.


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Wiki Gnomes and Coffee Grounds - Monday, May 10, 2010

WikiGnome?… what’s that?

Today, checking behind a local coffee shop, I discovered a bonanza of plastic bags of wasted coffee grounds. Usually I find only a few bags but today there were about 8 large bags of coffee grounds. Some coffee grounds went into the worm depository, some into the compost pile and a little was added to the worm condo. Coffee grounds add needed nitrogen to compost and are easy to digest for worms. Tomorrow I will go to the city dump for wood chips, carbon to make compost, and I will have the two large volume items for compost, growing soil.

I was grateful for this find and was going to write about it on this site when an even better bonanza for this web site came tonight. There was something wrong with the web site, some type of error message on top of the home page, pictures did not appear, and links led to error messages. Seeing it was not on other wiki web sites using the same server I called my wiki gnome, the builder, designer, support person and editor of this wiki web site. She sprung into action, did her wiki magic and now the wiki web site is working normally.

Reflecting on the coffee grounds and wiki gnome I realized my Wiki gnome made it possible for me to talk about my great find of coffee grounds. Like nitrogen is necessary for good compost pile, having a good wiki gnome is essential for a good wiki web site. Check out some of Tegan’s web sites at her Client Gallery. Coffee grounds make compost and wiki gnomes make web sites.


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The World Needs More Mothers - Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother and Child
Buried In Guatemala

When I asked my wife today what she would like to do for Mother’s Day one of the things was cleaning the garage. That was okay with me since most of the mess in the garage is garden-related and I have been putting it off for some time. The throw away waste in the garage fell into two groups, the leaves, dirt and stuff that could be composted and the other stuff, plastic, metal and such that went into the garbage can. Some spring cleaning seems right for mother’s day.

Today I wrote an email to peace groups that, although it might be ignored, also seemed right for mother’s day. It was about listening to our youth when they speak out, like recently at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about the increasing cost of education and last week at Marquette University about discrimination based on sexual identity. We, people active in peace and justice issues, are usually so concerned about our own issues that often we fail to hear the voices of youth, even when their concerns, the high cost of education and discrimination at a university, relate directly to our issues, the cost of war-making and the discrimination at the military bases on campus. I indulged in a little motherly preaching about listening to what youth are teaching us.

Mothers seem to be able to connect things like saying ‘please’ and being a considerate person, or wearing clean underwear and being in an accident. I was reminded of this quality today in Church when our pastor gave a talk about how some Catholics can disconnect religion from politics. This I see all the time, the disconnect of what we preach and what we do.

In the United States one of the early calls to celebrate Mother’s Day was the “Mother’s Day Proclamation” by Julia Ward Howe. It was a pacifist reaction to the carnage of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. Mother’s day is one to celebrate peace and love.

We say a mother’s love for her children is unconditional and a love that compels her to always work for the good of her children. This reminds me of a quote I read about making peace by nonviolent action. In the book “Freedom Made Flesh, The Mission of Christ and his Church” by Ignacio Ellacuria S.J., he says: “Nonviolent action is born of two very powerful forces: the absolute and total rejection of injustice committed against human beings, and a love that impels one towards the construction of a new society.”

Nonviolent Action and a mother’s love, both absolute and unconditional, both compelling to work for a better person or society, sound alike. The world needs more mothers.


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Diversity, Day By Day - Saturday, May 08, 2010

Diversity Garden

Today was a mixed bag of activity and non activity. This morning I slept late, did some laundry and work on the gardens and wrote an open letter to Fr. Wild S.J., president of Marquette, on discrimination at the base school of Army located on campus. This afternoon I went to a surprise 60th birthday party for a friend from the past and a drove a friend and his daughter grocery shopping. There is more activity and non activity in my life today but this is enough to show the diversity of the day.

Diversity makes each day different and worth living. Working with worms to watching a baseball game on TV, all flows together when you go with the flow of each day. Diversity, day by day, makes for one wonder full life.


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Sun or Rain - Friday, May 07, 2010

A full day of rain kept us all in today. No sun, no soil, no sun and soil therapy. It was a time to catch up with mail, regular mail and email and to get some things done around the house.

Although there was no sun outside today, I was awakened this morning by a sunny phone call from an old friend who is now dying from a painful cancer. He was thanking me for a Milwaukee 14 Today newsletter update I did, but also telling me of how wonderful his life has been and how blessed and full of gratitude his life was and is. His phone call was a blessing for me since, despite my optimistic nature, I can get a little down about what I am doing making a difference.

Another high spot of our dark rainy day was reading the local newspaper about how a group of Marquette University students were protesting Marquette University rescinding a job offer to a lesbian. This was interesting since we have tried and failed to get Marquette University students interested in closing the base school of the army on campus. We have been using moral and ethical reasons since Marquette is a Jesuit Catholic university. Maybe we should have used the other two reasons for Marquette not hosting a military base on campus. These reasons are academic, some military courses and professors do not seem to meet the standards of the university and discrimination, and the military with its “Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask” policy discriminates against openly gay and lesbian students that desire officer training in the military. If moral and ethical reasons do not incite students perhaps academic and discrimination reasons will.

One bit of good news came today with the individual friend calling me this morning with a bright outlook on life. His message spoke to how one individual can make a difference. The other good news today came from the students at Marquette who spoke out against institutional discrimination at Marquette University. With sun or rain we need both kinds of good news, individual and institutional change, to move on.


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“Whad’ Ya Know?” - Thursday, May 06, 2010

Michael Feldman-
He looks funnier on radio!

When I was living in Madison from 1978–1995, I started to listen to a Saturday morning comedy show on public radio “Whad’ Ya Know?” The host Michael Feldman started the comedy show on a local public radio station and over the years it grew to a national syndicated show. Michael Feldman is known for his one liners like “Goldman left holding the Sachs”. You can find a lot more at his blog.

I saw in the Milwaukee paper that the “Whad’ Ya Know?” comedy host is holding a contest to find his biggest fan. Here is my entry:

Why I should be picked as Michael Feldman’s biggest fan?

If I am picked I will not tell anyone how you ‘bombed’ on the David Letterman show many years ago.

I was in Madison during the early years of “Whad’ Ya Know?” when the show was broadcast on radio from some diner and I actually laughed at some of your jokes. Look where you are now, at the Frank Lloyd Wright Monona Terrance on the Lakefront and with a national audience.

I used to regularly listen to you show on Saturday mornings but now that I have a life I do not listen as often.

I am big fan or just plain fat fan.

Although I lived in Madison for 17 years I never went to your show and took a seat away from someone else.

You are of Jewish heritage and I am of German/Lebanese heritage, whatever that means.

I like doing nothing, a nice quality for your best fan.

I grew up in Milwaukee as I believe you did and in Milwaukee we are all related.

Today is the anniversary of the song: “I can’t get no satisfaction”. Is that not the theme song of your fans?

I am very serious minded and need to lighten up some. The light humor of your show is good for me.


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Being Naturedly - Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Being a Tree

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him. It consents, so to speak, to His creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.” — Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation, New York: New Directions Books, 1961; p. 29.

While driving the car, working around the house or talking with persons, I am often distracted and have thoughts of past or future in my head. However, while working in the garden I am usually focused and my mind is where my body is, working in the garden. Like a tree, I believe I am doing what I am meant to do, working in the garden. This kind of being happens at other times when I do something naturally like helping a friend or cooking a meal for others. When I am reacting to what people may say or think about me I not doing what comes naturally and thus am distracted.

If a tree, with no brain, can give glory to God by being a tree, and a worm, with a very small brain, can give glory to God for being what it is meant to be, then we humans, with large brains, should be able to easily give glory to God by being who we are, naturedly.


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Healing Hospital Gardens - Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Healing Hospital Garden

No matter how many times I experience it I continue to be amazed by the way poor people are discriminated against in our country. Be it the right to food, health care or education, they are made to feel that being poor is a crime and of their own doing. As one friend said to me today about her family, “I guess we need to pull harder on our bootstraps to get out of this situation.”

After much of a struggle to get health care by his parents my young adult friend without health insurance was released today from a local hospital, still weak and with prescriptions he cannot afford. Now that he is out of the intensive care unit the hospital no longer wants him. His parents will hopefully find some care for him tomorrow as they themselves struggle to survive in a society where many do not care.

They are blessed persons who despite facing discrimination and countless bureaucracy have managed to stay together as a family. They have not given up and are generous persons, seeking to help others despite their own struggles.

In between driving this family back and forth to the hospital today, I was able to get some healing work done in the gardens at our house. Healing gardens seem to have been discovered recently by hospitals. A major hospital in Milwaukee just built an indoor and outdoor healing garden, and the one that rejected my young friend without insurance today is in the process of building a healing garden. Except in emergencies a hospital can reject patients without health insurance, but those with money and insurance now can enjoy a ‘healing garden.’

I am glad to see hospitals discover healing gardens, but just wish they could realize the healing they could provide by caring for the poor and uninsured. People in need, ill and without insurance need healing and do not need to face the discrimination that comes with being poor in our society. When will the hospitals discover that “Blessed are the Poor?” Healing gardens in hospitals are great, but hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured are blessed.


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Blessings Found in Nature and Poor - Monday, May 03, 2010

Works of Mercy vs.
Works of War

In nature and the poor we find God’s blessings and grace. So when you can combine both, being with nature and those in need, in everyday life you can find peace and joy.

I was blessed today by the chance to drive some Catholic Worker friends back and forth to a hospital where their son rests injured. I was also blessed today by the chance to work in the gardens around the house.

Catholic Workers have always chosen by word and lifestyle the Works of Mercy over the Works of War. Peter Maurin, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, called for agrarian communities doing the works of mercy along with sustainable living.

This is the answer to finding the blessings and grace of God, being with nature and the poor. The answer was always here but often we fail to see it as Peter Maurin did in nature and the poor.


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Being Ignored Feels Good - Sunday, May 02, 2010

Can Marquette Ignore This?

Going from a rural area up north and attending church there this morning to my urban home in Milwaukee and participating in a ‘die in’ in front of the church on campus this afternoon to to close the officer training School of the Army at Marquette University, was like moving nonviolently from behind the lines of a war to the front lines. As the sign says the “The War is at Home, and in the heart of the city at a military base training school the war is more intensive.”

In the ‘die in’ outside and after the student mass on the church on campus we were difficult to ignore. Some wore death masks and blood stained clothes, some held signs To Teach War No More and some passed out flyers. Yet despite the dramatics of street theater some tried to ignore us, even refusing to take a flyer. Although we broke the silence of Marquette’s, a Catholic Jesuit University’s, cooperation with the militarism of the government, some still did not want to hear or see us. However, as I told my friends, “Being ignored never felt so good”.

As a friend reminded me today, groups that proclaim peace and justice have always had internal conflicts and divisions which have stood in their way of accomplishing goals, be it to close the School of Army at a Catholic University or to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, what is new now is that there is some that proclaim the same values but “do not want to hear about it”, do not believe in any conflict, even though it be creative and civil, and just choose to ignore the message and the messengers. Marquette security, just like the administration and many students and faculty, just ignored our nonviolent action. But some did take the flyer, saw visually that teaching war kills human beings and heard the wailing.

Perhaps this “hit and stay” tactics is the way to capture the attention of a few. Even if one person hears and acts on our message today it will spread, even though it is ignored by many. And besides, being ignored never felt so good.


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Where Does Our Imagination Go? - Saturday, May 01, 2010

A few of the Oompa Loompas

Tonight I went to a middle school musical, Willy Wonka. My grandson was one of many in the Oompa Loompa Chorus. The Oompa Loompas, in case, like me you forgot, were the little people who ran Willy Wonka’s Candy Factory. Right at the beginning Willy Wonka sings a song about ‘Pure Imagination’ and states he has looking for a child to take over his famous candy factory.

This makes sense since children are best at imagination, a key element of being creative as Willy Wonka seems to be. Yet the factory he tours with five children and adults is full of technological gizmos. At the end of the tour the child from the poorest family living a very simple life is chosen to be Willie’s successor. At the end the hope is that this child can keep his imagination even with all the power and glory of owning this most famous candy factory.

I have witnessed my grandchildren, as all children, slowly lose some of their imaginations as they grow up. The wonder of nature, of playing with an empty box has been replaced by sports, good grades and countless activities. My youngest grandchild, only five, still can play the silly games that we make up with our imaginations. But this is also slowly fading away.

I know that in our American culture, especially with all of us living a comfortable lifestyle, there is not much left to the imagination. Even the sets for the play tonight, built by the parents, were excellent and real looking. In the world of ‘reality TV’ I guess there is not much room left for imagination.

I remember some years back when I was a youth minister and went with a group of teens to a very poor area of Appalachia. My job was to take the young children on long walks in the woods so the teens and the adults can get work done on the project. The children told me some wonderful tales, some of which I believed until I talked with their parents. However, I got back at them with a tale of how David Crocket got his coon skin hat that they believed.

I have many happy memories of playing with my grandchildren and other children using only our imaginations. As we grow older, the children and I, we lose our imagination. Nature helps to restore it but even my grandchildren, Graf Kids who live in a rural area, like kids in the city with comfortable income families, lose their imagination.

I do not think we really lose our imagination but it gets crusted over by heavy doses of reality. So to get our imagination back we need to ask: “Where does our imagination go?”


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