A Treasure for Me

I laughed when I saw that today’s Daily Prompt is Chuckles. I also thought of the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” That is exactly how I feel about dandelions this time of year.

Two days ago, I saw this strip of dandelions near my home. It was at least 50 feet long and maybe more. Throughout the winter, I have been going to the grocery store to pick up lettuce that is going to be discarded. I feed it to the worms in my vermicomposting bins. The worms seem to be losing their enthusiasm for the lettuce, but they love the fresh dandelion greens.

The problem with the dandelions in this field is that it is part of light rail property and is completely fenced in. I have no way to access it, so I have to be satisfied with using the dandelions in my yard and the few that are on the street side of the fence.

Even though I know that it is important for me to focus on what I have, rather than what I don’t have, I have no doubt that I will still look longingly at the treasure that is beyond my grasp whenever I pass this field.

I’m Laughing at Myself

51g-buogkpl

I recently finished reading Novella Carpenter’s book Farm City. Years ago, Novella turned an empty lot in Oakland into an urban farm. On it she had a big garden, as well as bees and animals. At one time or another, she raised chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and pigs! I loved the book and felt sad when I reached the end. I related to many parts of it.

One part that I related to was Novella’s comment that when you have an urban farm, part of the farm ends up in the house. In her case, she had beekeeping and gardening equipment throughout the house. Even though my gardening attempts can not be considered farming, I do end up with so many outdoor items inside. This weekend when I looked around my house, I remembered her statement and laughed.

I don’t raise bees, but I have two worm bins; one inside and one outside. The indoor one stays in the kitchen. In addition to transforming food into vermi-compost, a high quality fertilizer, the worms produce a liquid that can be turned into “worm tea.” I’ve been diluting it and pouring it around plants, or just pouring it around the plants undiluted. Today I read some articles that have shown me that much more goes into making worm tea than draining the liquid from the worm bin, so I need to change that practice.

Anyway, back to the subject of how the outside world ends up inside my house. As I looked around my kitchen yesterday I saw:

My worm composting bin with a jar to collect the liquid they produce in addition to the castings.
My worm composting bin with a jar in front to collect the liquid they produce.

Inside the bin are my worm friends and all of their castings.

img_4467

Novella went dumpster diving to feed her animals. I’ve never done that, but the worms now eat way more than I can give them from my food waste, so I beg grocery stores for some of their damaged or wilting produce. Therefore, I have bags of produce for the worms in my refrigerator. That is certainly not something that would be inside of a “normal” household!

img_4483

img_1472

As I continued to look around the kitchen I saw:

img_4492

img_4486
Egg shells that I will grind up to put in the worm bins
img_4488
I recently separated the worms from the compost and took a big box of the compost to the outside shed. This container has some extra compost.
img_4490
This is a jar of the liquid from the worms; there were four jars there a few days ago. Behind it is the food waste bin. Food I don’t use for the worms goes into the big yard and food waste bin that the city picks up and this container is for that. To the right of it is a jar with some vinegar in it that is used to trap fruit flies that may be in the food waste bin. I have no problem with fruit flies in any part of the vermi-composting processes.
img_4462
I use a food processor to chop up the food that I put in the worm bins. That really increases the speed of vermi-compost production. Sometimes I also add coffee grounds that my friends give me. The worms really love that!

My outdoor clippers are also in the kitchen at the moment.

img_4500

I have something new in my kitchen. It will be there until I figure out what to do with it.

Three years ago my dahlia plant was in the back yard. It would grow tall but it only produced one flower a year. That fall, I dug out the tubers and in the spring planted them in two parts of the front yard. What a difference that made! By summertime, the new plants were six feet tall and often had stalks that were more than an inch in diameter. They produced flowers until November, lots of them.

The dahlias have been taking up so much of my garden space, that I decided to dig the tubers out again and give most of them to the neighbors and friends who had asked for them.

So this past Friday my friend Rachael and I set out to accomplish that task. We were amazed at what we found.

img_4438
Rachael saying “It’s SO big!”

My plan had been to separate the tubers and give them to people right away, but I couldn’t separate them without breaking them. Rachael looked on the internet and discovered they should be placed upside down for a few weeks so that any liquid could drain out and be then stored inside for the winter.

What would I do with them? I decided to put them upside down in a wheelbarrow at first and leave them outside. I put a tarp over them but that night we had a big windstorm and the tarp blew off. And rain was expected for the next day.

So, yes, for the moment the tubers from one of the plants resides in my kitchen. I need to figure out what to do with it.

img_4484

In my hallway closet, I have two bottles of the diluted vermi-compost liquid. My friend Vince gave me some Coke bottles to put the liquid into. Eventually, this will make it to the outside shed. Next to the bottles are some egg shells that I need to grind up for the worms.

img_4497

Inside my front door is the room I call the “entry way.” Garden tools often occupy part of that space.

img_4503

At this point there is also box with a bit of vermi-compost there.

img_4475

When I brought in the tuber ball from the second plant, it was so big and heavy that the best I could do was get it through the front door. So at this moment, that is where it is living.

img_4472

I decided to weigh the bundle of tubers so I could share that information in this post. It is almost 30 pounds! In the process of weighing it, I created a mess.

img_4506

I think I made my point. There is a whole lot of outside, inside my house. It is time for me to finish this post and go clean up the mess in my entry way!

 

cropped-senior-salon

Shared on Senior Salon

End of the Season and More

It is near the end of the season for most of the plants in my garden, but it isn’t over yet!

It was an interesting year for the blueberry bushes. Four years ago, I planted three blueberry bushes, of different varieties. One died the first year and half of another one died last year. Neither had ever produced any blueberries. The third bush had a few blueberries the second two years. This year it there were many more, but they were very tiny. A few weeks ago it started producing fruit again, and they were full size. I wonder what will happen next year? Maybe I will be able to enjoy eating lots of blueberries!

A few days ago, I noticed some flowers coming out of the play chips in my back yard. I had never seen flowers like them before. Do any of you know what they are?

The other day it occurred to me that it is almost the end of the summer and I have never mentioned my worms. Normally, I would have written several posts about them by now.

I have a small worm bin close to my kitchen and a large one in the back yard. These creatures are very special to me. In fact, I consider them to be my pets!

In addition to providing me enjoyment, they also make vermi-compost, a high quality fertilizer, that I use in my garden. This year I had so many worms in my bins, even after I gave a lot of them away, that I had trouble keeping them fed. My problem was solved when I discovered that the nearby grocery store was more than happy to give me lettuce and other produce that they normally discard.

As the garden season ends, another season begins. This coming Sunday, the Seahawks have their first regular season game. After a life-long dislike of football, I became an avid Seahawks fan in the autumn of 2012. Since then Al, Ramana and I have often come together to watch the games and enjoy a meal. Last year, I told my friends if I am not somewhere that they think I should be, they should assume that I’m watching a Seahawks game. Same thing goes for this year!

20141006_152223

A Mystery… at least to me!

We have lots of gophers in my neighborhood so I’m used to finding gopher holes in my yard. This year, when I came back from India in mid-January, I discovered that the gophers had been very active.  Soon thereafter, I noticed different kind of holes, ones that I wasn’t used to, scattered around the dirt portion of my driveway.

The ground is hard there but something was burrowing out from the earth. I couldn’t imagine what it would be. The holes were miniscule in comparison to a gopher hole but big enough to completely stump me.

Soon after I added top soil to one of my new garden beds, I noticed the holes begin to appear there as well.  I’ve never seen anything go in or out of these holes so I stayed mystified.

One day a tree service employee came to do some work in my yard. I asked him if he knew what created the holes. His immediate response was “Worms.” I wondered if he was kidding but he seemed totally serious.

WORMS?????? How could that be? I knew that my gardens contained a lot of worms, and some of the earthworms I’ve seen are very big, but I had never seen one of them on top of the earth. If his statement was true, I have to assume that there are a lot of worms coming out of the ground during the night.

Does that mean there are giant earthworms roaming the land at night? That question conjured up images worthy of a 1950’s science fiction movie.

So to those of you who know about such things, are these truly worm holes?

Food Waste: More Information to Ponder

https://livinglearningandlettinggo.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/1024px-gi_market_food_waste.jpg?w=432&h=290
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I included some food waste facts in my Challenge for Growth Prompt #10: Ending Food Waste post. Below you will find a quote from Gandhi, an abundance continuum from Jean I. Clarke, and some more relevant facts.

1)  Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

2)  Jean I. Clarke created an abundance continuum.  It looks like this:  “too little … enough …   abundance …  too much”

3)  “As of 2013, half of all food is wasted worldwide, according to the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME)”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_waste.

4)  “Food waste that goes to the landfill breaks down anaerobically and produces methane; methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.” (Environmental Protection Agency) from End Food Waste Now

5)  “Every ton of food wasted results in 3.8 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)” End Food Waste Now

6)  “A single restaurant in the U.S. can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste in a year, according to the Green Restaurant Association.” End Food Waste Now

7)  “Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).” Food and Agriculture Organization

8)  “Hunger is still one of the most urgent development challenges, yet the world is producing more than enough food. Recovering just half of what is lost or wasted could feed the world alone.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

9)  “Around 100 million tonnes  in the EU. If nothing is done, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020.” Another source Reported: “Each year, 22 million tonnes of food is wasted in the European Union, according to a new study, of which 80 per cent is avoidable.”   (Both studies are reported.  I do not know how to account for the discrepancy in numbers.)

10)  “With an estimated 70 billion pounds (~32 million tons) of food waste in America each year, we must work together to capture more of this valuable resource for the nearly 48 million people in the United States who feel the effects of food insecurity.” Feeding America

Personal reflections:

Not wasting food has long been a value of mine but I am far from perfect about it.  It will be a life goal I think.

I am lucky to live in a city, Seattle, where recycling and composting of food and yard waste has been available for years.  Nowadays, if city residents put food or recyclables in their trash cans, they may be fined.  The city’s food and yard waste is sent to Cedar Groves where it is turned into garden compost.

I also compost some of my food waste in two worm bins.  One is a big outdoor wooden bin, and the other is a Worm Factory bin that can stay inside my house or on my back deck.  Vermi-composting creates high quality fertilizer.

20150221_093011

Worm composting

I LOVE MY WORMS!

A Glimpse into the Worm Bin

Vermi-composting is a process by which worms make high quality fertilizer for the garden.  I have a large outdoor worm bin as well  a smaller bin that stays in the house during the winter and on my deck the rest of the year.  I blend most of the food scraps I put into both worm bins, but last week I decided to put some bigger pieces of food in the small bin so that I could watch the worms at work.

First, I gave them part of a large round zucchini that had been partially cooked.  I tore it into 4 pieces before I put it into the bin.  Within 36 hours nothing remained of the zucchini except the skin and the hard stalk that had connected it to the plant.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next, I decided to put an acorn squash that had fallen off of the vine and was starting to deteriorate in the bin.  Again, I tore it into four pieces.  This time the vegetable was raw so it is taking considerably longer for the worms to eat it.

I took these photographs over a three-and-a-half day period.  It is clear that only the seeds and probably the skin will be left when the worms finish their meal!

Eclectic Corner: Perspective (Written Piece)

Perspective means different ways of seeing things.

20150221_093011

When some people see worms they get squeamish.  They wouldn’t even think holding them and letting them run through their fingers.

The picture above is of the worms in my vermicomposting bin.  I feed the worms and in turn they create fertilizer!  I love watching the worms.  I particularly enjoy it when the time comes to separate the worms from the fertilizer (the fertilizer goes to the garden and the worms go back into the vermicomposting bin) because I get to pick them up and feel them squiggle in my hand.

As I look at the vegetable plants that are growing in my garden now, I know the worms have played a significant role in making them so healthy. I feel immensely grateful that they are doing such an important service for me and for the earth.

Perspective can make such a difference.

20150608_185556

20150608_185452

20150608_185417

eclectic-corner-heat-medumWritten for Eclectic Corner: Perspective (Written Piece)

They Wiggle and Squiggle!

I love the variety of challenges Writing 201: Poetry is offering us.  Today’s assignment was to explore Concrete Poetry, also known as Shape Poetry.

“The idea here is to arrange your words on the screen (or the page) so that they create a shape or an image. The meaning of the image can be obvious at first glance, or require some guesswork after reading the poem. It’s up to you to decide how difficult you want to make it for your readers.”

We were also encouraged to use enjambment.

Enjambment “may sound like a mouthful. But what it describes is a really simple phenomenon: when a grammatical sentence stretches from one line of verse to the next.”

The word prompt we were to use was “Animal.”

“Polar bears, microbes in your cells, unicorns, your pet hamster, lolcats: find a way to include an animal, today’s word prompt, in your poem. Or write about a situation that can bring out the animal in you (or someone else). Or dig deeper into the word’s etymology (anima = latin for breath). One way or another, give us a beast of a poem.”

It was a fun assignment to do, although figuring out how to do the formatting in a way that it held when put into the post was a challenge.  I am grateful to the various people who offered suggestions.

So here is my animal shape poem using enjambment!

Shape poem2

And here is a photo of my “pets!”

My Worms!

Life Lesson: Acknowledging My Arrogance

By 9:00 this morning, I had already been given the opportunity to witness one of my less virtuous sides. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of the sevas (volunteer work) I do at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India is to work in the vermicomposting center, separating the worms from the compost they make. The harvested worms are sent back to make more compost and the finished compost is bagged and stored for use in the gardens. This is the third year I am doing this seva.

Last year, there was a woman in the center who was working so fast. It seemed to me like she was taking handful after handful of the compost and making no effort to separate out the worms. She had way more experience than I did and worked many hours a day, but my judgment was that she was being careless and not taking her job seriously. “I”, on the other hand, was being meticulous, going carefully over every handful of compost looking for even the smallest of worms. “I” knew what I was doing and “I” was doing it way better than she was.

Fast forward to this year. Yesterday, while I was harvesting the worms, another woman joined me. This year there is a different set up in that the material we are to separate has been formed into mounds that are about 16 inches high. The woman sat down in front of a mound and started picking up handful after handful of the compost and placing it in the bucket which contained the finished compost. She didn’t even seem to be looking for worms, and I rarely saw her put a worm in the worm bucket. Then she started lightly brushing the sides of the mound with her hand.  She would pick up the material she had brushed off and placed it in the compost bucket. Again, I was full of judgment. She was being so careless, while “I” was working slowly and methodically, making sure that “I” didn’t miss a single worm.  I left soon after that so did not see how she completed the process.

I should mention that my way of harvesting the worms is very different.  I know that worms gather at the bottom so I take the mound apart and go directly to the bottom.  I am then able to quickly gather large numbers of worms and place them in my worm bucket.  That process is very satisfying because I see the fruit of my action right away.  Next, I examine every bit of the remaining compost to make sure I haven’t missed any worms.

I thought about that scenario during the day and began to wonder if there was something that I was missing. Was it possible that the two women knew something that I didn’t know? That would make sense since they were the ones who did this work day in and day out. This morning I decided to try it their way.

Once I looked at the mound with fresh perspective, I had a sense of what was happening. The outer part of the mound is drier and, in addition, is exposed to light. Worms want to be where it is damp and dark, so if the compost is dry or there is light, they would burrow deeper into the mound. And the act of someone brushing off the outside layer of the mound would certainly result in the worms quickly moving deeper inside.

Today, when I picked up the compost around the base of my mound, I discovered it didn’t contain a single worm. That was also true when I brushed the outside of my mound; none of the material that I brushed off had worms in it.  It was not until I was much deeper into the mound that I found more than the occasional worm. Once I reached the center areas, I joyously harvested big clumps of worms!

Worm composting
Worm composting

It had taken me a full hour to separate the worms from one mound of compost when I did it “my” way.  Using their techniques, I finished sorting two mounds in about 40 minutes!  Clearly, these two women knew how to efficiently separate the worms and the compost and I did not. I not only had learned a new way to harvest the worms, but I had also received an opportunity to examine my arrogance! And it is still early morning. I wonder what the rest of this day will hold?

Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India- Dec 5, 2014

20141201_073133

Sights, Sounds, Smells of India
• When you arrive in India there is a distinct odor; one that is hard to describe. “Sweet” is the word that comes to my mind. I’ve heard numerous people say when they smell that fragrance, they want to kneel down and kiss the earth. I can relate to that experience. To me it is the smell of “Home.”
• Kerala, the state in southeastern India where Amritapuri is located is very tropical. When I gaze into the distance from one of the ashram roofs, the palm trees go as far north and south as my eye can see.
• From the ashram it is a three minute walk west to the Arabian Sea and a two minute walk east to the backwaters that separate the peninsula where the ashram is located from the mainland. I love to sit and gaze at both bodies of water.
• Every morning, there is tremendous sound from thousands of white and black birds as they fly away from the trees where they have spent the night.
• Every evening, the sound of the birds is even louder as they return to perch in the trees for the night.
• In the early morning, and throughout the day, you will hear music from nearby temples, sometimes coming from many directions at once.
• During the day, the sight and sound of crows are everywhere. Be careful or you will lose your food!
• Beautiful sunrises and sunsets occur at the same time of day throughout the year.

DECEMBER 4, 2014

Amma returned to the ashram
It is always so special to be here when Amma returns from her international programs. Anticipation builds for days. This time there were rumors that she would return around 10:30 a.m.  Soon, there was a line of people stretching from the front gate, or beyond, to the house where she lives. Continue reading “Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India- Dec 5, 2014”