We Grow From Here's Blog

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The Great Worm Escapade

So many things to blog about, so little time…

It is my hope to make up for long absence from writing by giving something of real quality—so here goes—I will not attempt to recap all of the exciting things which have happened over the past month and a half, but will focus instead on one…or many, actually:


Yes, this is all about my journey into the realm of the dark and mysterious world of those dirt-workhorses, the worm. You may have heard many things already about worm bins, worm composting, worm tea—I won’t attempt to cover all of these, just a couple: free range worm farming, and what I have found to be the simplest method of keeping worms in a bin.

So, first: why have worms at all (and if you have them—should you share)?

  • Worms are good…no, great little dirt-makers (ok, soil builders—I know—you purists want the right language—I prefer ‘dirt’, but like worms, I like to get down and durty).
  • Worms in your garden mean something is happening the way it should—there is balance.
  • Worms in bins mean you can make worm tea from worm castings: worm castings are GOOD, loaded with all kinds of things our plants need and want.
  • Worms are fun—as I learned in my seventh grade biology class, when we were (unfortunately) dissecting them—great fun to waggle them at lab partners and generally make a nuisance of oneself.

I’ve been studying all of the recommended methods for keeping worms so that you can use the castings and therefore the tea, but it wasn’t until I saw a presentation (see video) in what I dubbed “Free Range Worm Farming” that I realized there are potentially many ways of using worms in our sustainable/regenerative garden systems. One of our greatest tasks to undertake as permaculturists is to rebuild depleted and potentially toxic soil environments as quickly as possible, to obtain untainted yields for healthy consumption, right?

Here is one way of doing that—by creating small, concentrated planting areas, with worms as the centerpiece of the system…

Creating an optimal space within your garden for worms to feed and multiply, well, what could be better than that?

Well, you might ask: “What about the castings…and the tea?”

Ok, not a great system for that—so have two systems—one which rapidly recovers your garden soil, stacking functions right in your planting beds, and another that you can harvest castings, tea, and reproduce wormies to your heart’s content! After great deliberation and many months of research, my method for keeping worms in an enclosed space is simple: an old cooler, with convenient drain plug for harvesting the tea. What could be easier and more portable than that? (Please do not complain when visiting that I have no way to keep your beer cold, though…sorry! Grumble, grumble—can’t leave anything lying around this place—she WILL compost or upcycle it!)

Before I leave you with these ideas, let me tell you a little story about what happened while I went through the process of installing and tweaking my creations—the part that did not make it into the video…the part with the scraping dried worms from the floor, the attempts to reason with the unruly little creatures…and the shrieking. I think the neighbors have recovered by now, so I will share.

Around Day #2, second day I arrive at Casa Seranita, where the bins are stored in preparation for the free-range install—I open the front door to see (yet again), a veritable worm graveyard—a bleak and depressing landscape of kamikaze wormage scattered in a three-foot circumference of the temporary shelter I had hoped to house them in. Clearly, they saw my efforts as being no more than a refugee encampment—surely not the New World they had been promised.

I quickly set myself to adding amendments to the unfit system—gathering a bucket of straw from the half-rotten bale out by the compost bin, I brought it inside, where the water I had added was beginning to leak out of the unplugged drain. Thank goodness no one was home…

It was when I added the straw to the cooler-bin that I saw the REALLY BIG worm scurrying away under the chair nearby. By “really big” I mean: Florida red wigglers do not get that big. I had inadvertently invited a baby snake—mind you, I must have picked it up, not once, but twice, before it attempted it’s getaway in the cool shade of the furniture. “Eek!” you say? I was actually more concerned with saving what kamikaze survivors were not already stuck to the tile, but I did bravely brandish my handy spade to dispatch the critter out the door, once he reappeared. I don’t think it was poisonous—it did not behave as aggressively as the pygmy rattler I saw once at Brooker Creek Preserve–pretty sure it was a rat snake of some sort.  Can’t be too careful, though, right?

I now have a small pitchfork by the compost hay bale…

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Who is “We”?

maypop01-24-13(*) Who is “We”?
There is something truly daunting about the blank page, as well as something else purely inviting, as if it begs to be filled with scribbles or these regimental symbols we call “words”.
It is 4:14AM. Sleep has been erratic, at best, since “The Great Shift” in December last. I am in the Vata stage of life now as well, which means my energy is shifting from primarily fire to air and water.
I thought a few words of introduction would be appropriate, because, while “We” is indicative of multiple people, and in fact I have been that in this life, the writer of this blog is one person: Me.
Some facts which have brought me to this point, and particularly, to this “permaculture” thing:
• My father’s family have been farmers in this country for over two hundred years. I know this, because until this past century, pretty much everyone did, in fact, grow at least some of their own food—it was necessary for survival. I’ve always been a little confused when, in Permie circles someone poses the question: “Can we grow enough food to sustain us?” (Meaning, of course, in our own backyards.) Of course we can—how do you think our ancestors brought us to here? But, back to the family—the Buckners were in fact a prolific bunch, who bred their children by the dozens to work in the fields…at least, that’s how my father tells it. (They did breed in nines, but I’ll tell that story another time.)
• In 1978, also known as “The Last Great Recession”, this same father, a bit ahead of the curve some might say, was living on what was then the family farm: 160+ acres in Siler City, NC. Along with organic farming—something unheard of in that region at that time–he was also attempting to sell solar heating products (water tanks), and synthetic fuel. Are we noticing any patterns here? Let me help: recession: recession; fuel shortage: fuel shortage; alternative energy and chemical free food growing: we’ll get to that in just a moment.
This is the part where I go into more detail regarding my involvement: my sister and I each went to NC to help—we were teenagers, fairly typical–full of romantic ideas and not terribly in touch with the realities of what goes into putting food on the table, even though we may have known a little more than the average American even then. She–my sister that is–was far more responsible than I: she took on the role of learning to cook and can and such things. I attempted to grow controlled substances and got a job at the local convenience store. (Rebellion has always been my forte.) I did learn about the market economy, however—I will never forget my father telling me that a cantaloupe was priced according to how many other cantaloupes were also for sale that day, and that this was known as “supply and demand”, regardless whether they were pale and tasteless.
• Leap forward thirty years (we’ll skip the garden which actually did quite well when my daughter was pre-school—I had tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, herbs—many of which I’m sure grew out of simple ignorance of the fact that they weren’t supposed to grow well in this climate).
As most people are aware, the real estate market began to tip and tank in 2006, shortly after I shifted from accounting and finance, becoming a real estate broker (emphasis on the first syllable). It seemed like a safe bet at the time—in 1998 I had noted that the homes in Orange County, CA, were virtually identical to those in Pinellas County, Florida, the regions also quite similar, and yet the prices of these tiny suburban block homes were three times the price in the OC. When I returned to Florida in 2000, I began investing in real estate, and watched my wee rental portfolio climb in value for the next six years.
I don’t think I have to tell you how the rest of this story goes—suffice to say that depression was a big part of my reality by 2010. Everything I had worked for, from nothing, for ten years, was worth just that. With the knowledge that my property was not even really “my” property, now that the bank truly owned more of it than I did, the only thing I could do was make the best use of it that I could think of:
I planted a garden.
I might not make enough money to pay the mortgage, but I can eat what I grow on the land. Thus, “We Grow From Here” came out of the process of removing my own head from my… I mean the sand.
(*) A note about post date/time: Several weeks ago, after having spent two months attempting to switch from Bright House to Verizon, I chose to unplug instead, just to see exactly how important having a house phone, internet and TV really are. In short: I don’t miss them, and now I am writing (more!) blog posts offline, and posting once or twice a week, from the library or some charming, locally owned coffee shop, such as I am today, at Eco-Bean in Tarpon Springs!