Blog: All ABout Worms

 

 

As a child, I didn’t like crawly critters like worms. It took me a while to get comfortable picking one up. Whether in garden beds, composers, sighting a worm hopefully means the soil is being aerated, decomposition is going on and in general, there’s a sigh of “it’s a good thing.” Kids are fascinated too. Worms are easy to hold and handle and make for a successful hands-on show and tell. Gardeners like to look for worms too. It took me a while to get used to them. But as a gardener, I now know how invaluable they are to maintaining healthy soil.

Vermiculture is the official name for using red wiggler worms to decompose waste materials. Other types of worms help out too. What I found particularly helpful is that you can keep red wigglers in the house for table scraps. Their decomposed poop, known as worm castings, are especially good to add back into the soil.

“Because the earthworms grind and uniformly mix minerals in simple forms, plants need only minimal effort to obtain them. (Wikipedia)

Nightcrawlers and red wigglers are frequently mentioned in vermiculture. But, we now have an “invasive” species of worm. What’s the difference?
My podcast guest this week, Gail Reynolds, gave us an introduction to worms as composters and how we can use them in our homes to decompose vegetable matter. Pretty interesting right? She tells us how to have them in our home which works well in the winter. Worm castings can be made and added to our garden beds even in winter.

A nightcrawler/dew worm eats soil. A Red Wiggler, Eisenia fetida, eats decomposing matter like rotten fruit, vegetables, manure. They are reddish in color.

Jumping worms, however, Amynthas spp., are a different story. They devour forest floors rapidly and then flood the floor with nutrients. Our forests use matter that decomposes more slowly so we don’t know the long term implications yet. And the decomposing matter is larger, more grainy like coffee grounds which alters soil composition, especially for understory plants. The photo below, from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources site, gives a good visual of the damage they can cause. these worms have a white ring around them and slither like snakes and can move quite quickly.

Jumping worms effect on woods
What can you do?  Know your worms. If you should find any jumping worms inform your state’s agricultural department. Wisconsin has a ban on them. Sadly we are seeing them in our forests here in the NE. Spring is here. It will be good to get outdoors. As you garden be vigilant.  Many invasive species are harming our landscapes.Together, one yard at a time, we can make a difference. Enjoy. Judith

Blog: March: Honoring Women

 

 

 

 

A couple of years ago one of my poems was selected for an international women’s online publication. This poem reflected my reverence for my body. Our bodies are amazingly designed, a masterpiece of complex interconnectedness. Yet, we women have been subjected to the media definition of what our body should look like. Most of us do not fit the bill. We’re not skinny enough, too curvy, not the right hair color, too old etc. What makes me sad is that many of the print models are airbrushed to look the way they do, giving us a false impression. Stripped down, they are no different than the rest of us.

The good news is we are breaking down some of these image stereotypes. I see the younger gals going more natural wearing little to no makeup. I see baby boomers, my generation, claiming our aging, celebrating our accomplishments that are reflected in our wrinkles, our grey hair, Our bodies change as we grow older, we fill out, more flexible and use our sexuality more creatively if we choose.

Who are my heroines? There are so many to choose from. On a recent post, I highlighted Jean Houston, Caroline Myss, and Marianne Williamson. For this month’s national and international theme of honoring women, chose my earth teachers.

Seeds: Vandana Shiva: Seed Saver Extraordinaire! Scientist, pioneer, rebel, activist, saw the handwriting on the wall. When big chemical companies were introducing seeds injected with systemic pesticides she inherently knew those kinds of seed manipulations could cause unforeseen consequences.

“In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. For the last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organizations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya’s efforts have resulted in the conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and the organization has established 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country. ”

I have read she has had to face great obstacles in her travels of spreading her vision. I admire her courage and fortitude and guiding light.

Plants and Medicine: Rosemary Gladstar: One of our Herb Mothers: I have had the privilege of studying herbal medicine with Rosemary. She and others awakened the herbal movement in the early seventies with the advent of the Aids epidemic. Many fellow herbalists sought out native elders and learned rituals, ceremony to honor the earth. They, in turn, became our teachers, instilling reverence for the species we harvested and consumed.

Rosemary began in California, founded  California School of Herbal Medicine, moved to Vermont and began Sage Mountain Herbs. She’s a co-founder of United Plant Savers and the International Herb Symposium, a biennial event, one I have attended and highly recommend. Herbalism has matured.  Many of the presenters share their vast experiences of using herbal medicine in practice and offer practical, tested advice. I admire Rosemary for her activism in protecting plant species and offering reliable herbal knowledge.

Earth Partner: Pam Montgomery: Pam was my first herbal teacher. We spent several afternoons way back when, as teacher and student, learning about wildcrafting in responsible ways and learning how to make herbal preparations for family and friends.

Today, she is the founder of Partner Earth Education and has now transitioned into Wake up to Nature, in Vermont. Pam too is an activist seeking to awaken us to our partnership with nature. She is one of the founding members of the Organization of Nature Evolutionaries. or O.N.E. This relatively new organization is working with other organizations that seek to have the legal rights of nature finally recognized. They offer ceremony and ritual to help us feel nature’s deep presence. I respect Pam’s dedication and deep commitment.

All three women embody advocacy, education, and action. Today we have many environmental problems. Like many others, I seek to follow those who inspire us to a more responsible partnership with this earth. Is it easy? No, but that’s where passion and courage come in. We all have unique gifts and talents and as my guest this week reminds us, we can make a difference one project at a time and create change.

So thank you Kelly Rafferty and Kyleigh Hillerud for sharing your story. How in eight short months you took proper action, offered education for informed decision making to your college campus and today celebrate zero plastic bags on campus.
Know you are in good company. Established women, young women starting out, making a difference, Isn’t it great!.

Who do you admire? Let us know. Your comments and stories are appreciated. Enjoy. Judith

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Meet Owen Taylor, Founder of TrueLove Seeds

Description: Digging into his own ancestry and that of the other farmers he works with has led the growers at Truelove to tend and keep many special seed varieties, as well as the amazing stories that go with them. These seeds and their stories reach back into many cultures including Italian, British, West African, and Syrian foodways, and are keeping alive and sometimes reviving crops that have important cultural significance but go far beyond the basic seed selection you can find at most garden stores. You may often hear Owen say “The story is in the seed”, and all you have to do is peek at the descriptions on the Truelove website to get a glimpse into this world and why the stories and rare variety seeds are so important.

About My Guest: Owen Taylor recently launched Truelove Seeds, a seed company that offers rare, open-pollinated, and culturally important vegetable, herb, and flower seeds grown by urban and rural farmers committed to community food sovereignty, cultural preservation, and sustainable agriculture. He coordinates and mentors the Truelove farmers, and also grows open-pollinated seeds, herbs, and flowers at Mill Hollow Farm in Edgemont, Pennsylvania, west of his home in Southwest Philadelphia. Owen also spent a decade working with food justice organizations in San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia, and later managed William Woys Weaver’s historic Roughwood Seed Collection in Devon, Pennsylvania, for four years.

Transcript:  #48 Owen Taylor 

Podcast: Holistic Nature of Us: Meet Craig Floyd, Coogan Farm Manager

Description: Do you garden? If so, have you ever wondered what the potential of a single non-hybrid tomato plant could be? My guest this week, Craig Floyd, manages an 11,000+ square foot acre garden for the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic CT. Passionate about sustainable farming; he gives us detailed advice about soil health, water needs and practical tips for any level gardener. It’s exciting to meet folks like Craig who are out there walking the talk, growing fantastic gardens. He relates how troubled children, teens and those with disabilities are transformed by walking in his gardens, how the soil heals. Fascinating? Definitely!  I hope you will join us and leave your comments. They are appreciated.

About My Guest: Craig Floyd. Farm Manager for the Coogan Farm in Mystic CT. Craig manages 11,000 sq feet as part of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. He’s passionate about using his extensive farming experience creating a sustainable, healthy no-till,, no-spray garden in order to give quality food to the needy. He watches children with emotional and physical handicaps change as they roam the garden. It works for adults too. I encourage everyone to put the Coogan Farm and Nature Center Trails on their to-do list this year. It’s worth it. and if you have the time, why not lend a hand? Volunteers are always welcome.

Transcript: #47 Craig Floyd (1)

#47 Craig Floyd (1) Craig Floyd potting soil mix

Blog: All About Seeds: 3 Tips for Saving, Germinating and Planting

 

 

The vegetable life does not content itself with casting from the flower or the tree a single seed, but it fills the air and earth with a prodigality of seeds, that, if thousands perish, thousands may plant themselves, that hundreds may come up, that tens may live to maturity; that, at least one may replace the parent. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Seeds, amazing structures, some tiny, barely the size of the head of a pin, some large like the sunflower or a bean, that produce an almost infinite variety of plants, delight and nourish us. When January comes along so do the seed catalogs. We have the time and the energy to pour over endless possibilities. Never boring, we drool over page after page of color and form all in preparation for that spring garden. Seeds, tiny and large have the potential of infinitely so much more. I wonder how we can doubt that the universe is abundant beyond measure?

Here’s a couple of basic seed facts, good reminders for the upcoming growing season.

1. Seeds develop in the ovary of a flower, most from flowering plants and some from non-flowering plants.
2. It is a miniature plant with a protective cover in a suspended state of development
3. Inside each seed is the genetic information for future growth, a food supply, called endosperm that can be made up of proteins, carbohydrates or fats. Considered nutrition, this food store supplies the world’s major foods e.g. cereals, wheat, and rice.

Seeds are precious. Together with healthy soil, good water, and air they feed us, nourish us, delight our senses in so many ways. Yet, we have manipulated them, doused them and injected them with substances not natural to their very existence. I hope you will continue to buy heirloom, organic varieties of seeds. When we support the companies that offer us these invaluable choices we cast a vote. We make a difference, one choice at a time.

Seed Starting Tips*
1. Get your timing right for seeds chosen.
2. Buy fresh seed. Remember seed is alive.
3. Inoculating seeds is one of the best ways to encourage healthy production. “Inoculation may be defined as the process of adding effective bacteria to the host plant seed before planting. The purpose of inoculation is to make sure that there is enough of the correct type of bacteria present in the soil so that a successful legume-bacterial symbiosis is established.”
4. Use seed-starting mix or germination mix.
5. Cleanliness counts: when reusing flats, trays, cells or pots wash with a dilute bleach solution: 1:10 bleach to water; soapy water can also be used.
6. Pre-moisten mix before using but do not leave soggy.

Seed Germination Tips
1. Bottom heat is recommended and a dome or plastic lid or plastic wrap can create a germination chamber too; looking for 70 degrees.
2. Once plants have emerged, take off the lid and shut off heat.
3. Don’t let seeds dry out before they germinate: let the soil go slightly dry between watering.
4. Water new seedlings lightly. Heavy hose sprays can damage tender growth.
5. Seedlings need lots of light; Take outside by day and bring in by night till time for planting

Seed Planting Tips
1. Harden off seeds first: place outside during day 1-3 hours in a sheltered location. Do this over 7-10 days. Protect from strong sun, wind, and cool temperatures.
2. Chose the strongest and healthiest looking seedlings to plant in the garden. Weak or smaller than average can yield poor results.
3. Plan for succession sowings. Sow a short row every couple of weeks to avoid large servings of lettuce in a single day’s harvest.

We forget our holistic relationship to the world around us, a partnership is a dynamic, thriving one. While the above offers practical advice let us not forget about our connection to all that is around us. It is my deepest hope to kindle within you a reverence again for nature and that includes seeds.

“In every seed lie the components of all life the world has known from all time to now.” 
—Sister Joan Chittister
from “Seeds of a New Humanity”

* Disclaimer: I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn small fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliate sites. Thank you so much for supporting these efforts to pass on worthwhile and invaluable resources. And as I said before I love books and high-quality garden supplies. It’s a pleasure to share with you my favorites.  Enjoy. Judith

Blog: Small Farmers Make a Big Difference

 

 

 

 

 

My guest this week, Gunther Hauk and I talked about the detrimental effects climate warming is having on our planet. His farm is based on biodynamic principles. I had the privilege of visiting Spikenard Farm, Honeybee Sanctuary a few years ago. Set upon a hilltop in the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by an organic farm, forests, creates a safe haven for many critters and plant species including honeybees. These folks create a deep reverence for nature and all its species. Here’s a link to an upcoming biodynamic farming class.

However, we ask tough questions: Are we doing enough?  Are we doing enough in a timely enough fashion to make a difference?

I trust and hope my podcast series: Holistic Nature of Us is making a difference in some measure to remind all of us how precious nature is to us. There is a hidden genius and an intelligence in nature that we have ignored as we focused on building a strong economy, developing an industrial based society. Today we need to look at the whole, how everything we do impacts everything on this planet.  ( photo, courtesy J Dreyer, Spikenard Farm, Beehives)

Enjoy this short yet informative video about how small farmers contribute to the solutions we desperately need now.

Remember to like and share. All comments are appreciated too. Thanks. Judith

 

 

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