Thursday, March 18, 2010

Worms From Heaven

It wasn’t manna from heaven, it was worms from the garden gods. All week I have been contemplating purchasing a few wiggly helpers for my compost. When I finally pulled out a catalog, I was shocked to discover the prices. Our compost isn’t composting fast enough and I’ve decided that what it needs is more worms. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that worms are not cheap! In fact 500 worms (the smallest increment available) would set me back $39.95 (plus shipping). This completely goes against everything I believe about gardening, which is that it shouldn’t cost much. Growing vegetables is supposed to save you money, ditto for compost. I pushed the idea aside for more desperate times and moved on to other projects.

One of those projects was moving the hay delivered during the blizzard from where it’s been sitting under a tarp on the driveway (the only place accessible for the hay guy at the time) to the barn where it belonged. I was tired of lugging the 50 lb bales of hay up the hill to the barn every day. The big storm we had over the weekend had pulled the plastic tarp off the hay so now the bales weighed much more than 50 pounds, soaked as they were. Lucky for us the storm also washed away nearly all of our mammoth snow fall. So my husband and I loaded all the hay in to our little pick up and after several trips had the hay neatly piled in the barn. The miracle occurred when we picked up the pallets that were underneath the hay pile. Below the pallets, squirming all over our driveway were hundreds of worms! Free! All we had to do was scoop them up, which we did, loading them in to the back of a plastic dump truck that was handily abandoned in the driveway by one of the kids.

We laughed at our luck. There was only one moment when I was kind of grossed out at the idea of touching all these worms. That happened when I was holding the worms for the picture my husband took and I felt several worms “worming” their way between my fingers to dangle below my hand. Ehhh! I deposited the worms in the compost bin and could almost hear them shriek with happiness. They had spent the previous month under a pallet on our cold cement driveway and now they had been dropped right in to a larger than life smorgasborg. They must have felt like the messiah had come and carried them right to the Promised Land. Another win-win in the natural world.

If you compost you need worms. I don’t think you need to store a half ton of hay on your driveway to attract them. I bet you could leave a piece of plywood on your driveway through a rainstorm or two and you’d find plenty. Worm catching would be a great “chore” for your kids too – I’m sure they can find a few hiding under rocks or under the leaf layer in the woods. (Just be sure they aren’t harvesting worms from your garden!) When you consider that worms cost about eight cents each in a catalog, I think you’d be getting a bargain if you offered five cents – and the shipping would be free!

I’ve been shaking my head and smiling to myself ever since we received our worms from heaven. It’s very easy to spend your fortune on garden gadgets. In fact, that’s kind of second nature to us Americans. We always want the latest, greatest, quickest fix. My husband works for a tool company so he’s all about having the “right tool for the job”. And having the right tool for the job does make it easier. But all those tools, gadgets, boxes of worms, etc., add up in terms of the money you spend, the piles of stuff you accumulate, and the disappointment you feel in your soul. Why do we always need more/new/better stuff?

I learned that lesson all over again this weekend with the worms from heaven. Look around, open your eyes. Maybe what you need is already all around you. It may require a little work and resourcefulness, but it will feel much better on your wallet and your heart to use what you have – or what your neighbor has. We’re headed to a neighbors later this month to borrow his splitter for the trees the storm pulled down. And we’ve already begun trying to figure out which neighbor is most likely to have a pressure washer we can borrow. The father of one of my daughter’s friends called us up yesterday and asked if we wanted the cherry wood from a tree he had cut up for a job he’d just finished. (He’s a hardworking landscaper/do-any-job-outside guy if anyone wants a referral) We heat with wood, so the load of wood he dumped on the driveway (where the worms appeared!) will heat our house for a week next year.

Another great way to keep costs down when it comes to gardening is to swap seeds. Most seed packets hold way more seeds than an individual gardener needs. Nobody needs 25 zucchini plants. Order with a friend and share the seeds. Some gardening clubs organize seed swaps, but you could also organize your own. Our local library is having a plant swap this May. I’m already growing all kinds of extras to take and swap.

Gardening, and living organically for that matter, shouldn’t be expensive. It certainly doesn’t have to be. Look around you. Talk to friends, neighbors, and farmers in person and online. Offer to share your resources, labor, knowledge and you’ll be surprised how much stuff you can get for free!

1 comment:

  1. I took your advice and am paying $1 for a bucket of worms from the neighbor kids! My compost and garden boxes will be happier (and the kids stay out of trouble!) Love the line about Messiah and Promised Land... little like the Aliens in Toy Story...ahhhh the Chosen One! LOL!!