How Does Your Garden Grow?
For the early years of my life, my parents had this incredible garden that we harvested and ate from. I would wander around the amazing jungle of corn and tomatoes, dig holes to China with the kids I grew up with, screaming our high pitched little girl screams when we found a worm! We would pick carrots and beans that were barely ready for harvest, sometimes remembering to rinse the dirt off them under the outdoor spigot, but most of the time not. I remember how magical that place was and how that beautiful, soft soil felt in my hands and how fresh and flavour filled everything tasted.
My parents also had a vacant property on where we would go and stay in campers on weekends. It was the land I first fell in love with. I was the youngest of the family by 14 years and needed to keep busy. A bit of a pest when I was bored. My sister and my mom enjoyed reading their tabloids in the sun, while my dad puttered around with something or other that needed to be fixed. It was a lakefront property and we didn't have a boat. I would bug my sister and my mom every five minutes to go swimming, because really? How can you have a lakefront property and not want to go boating, or swimming??? And then there was fishing. And fishing was their answer to keep me busy and not pestering them while they discussed Elizabeth Taylor and her drinking problem. Again. I found something new to pester my mom for. Money. To go buy the $1/dozen juicy fat dew worms from the Esso Station at the corner. The ones in the soil were plentiful, but were too short and skinny for me to catch a BIG Bass!! I was on a mission. I wanted to catch the biggest fish of Lake Simcoe and bring it home to my family for dinner. Often I think my record was for my persistence and determination, than it ever was for anything larger than a sunfish or a rock bass. In other words, I never caught anything large enough to keep. Until a few years ago. But that's another story.
Those large fat juicy dew worms, also commonly known as Canadian Nightcrawlers, had me fascinated and I wanted to bring them home as pets. Apparently my mom was completely disgusted with the idea of keeping my pet worms in her fridge next to her fine, homemade goulash leftovers. They fascinated me more than fishing - I have some anglers close to me that are probably gasping at the thought right now. Those worms stuck in my head for a lifetime, like a little tickle in the back of my brain. More so than most of the fish I caught, (except of course, for that one I wanted to bring home as a pet and keep it in a bucket). I would observe the dew worms in their styrofoam containers and the moss they used to pack them in back then. I would lie on the damp ground, the grass still glistening with dew and pull the worms out of their bedding and watched them move around and squirming, (I didn't know back then that sunlight was their kryptonite). And then I watched one cast off their poop. It looked exactly like the soil they were inching their way around in. It was as if it all came together for me in that moment when I was around 7 or 8... The soil is made up of worm poop! I knew there were kajillions of worms that lived in soil, and they were probably responsible for quite a bit of that soil. Worms are important little creatures! And in some places of the world, big creatures too!
It took a couple of decades later before my life turned me back to thinking about that moment and the worms and their magic. It's 9 years ago now when I began my journey working with worms as an organic gardener and hobby worm farmer. Back when I started, I wanted to see if what everyone was saying about growing with worm castings was true. I think turning our lives completely in a different direction with the worm farming as our primary focus pretty much is a testimonial of the truth.
One thing I have always done with my gardens because of my curiosity and my love for experimenting, is try new things. New methods, new plants, new ideas. Full out organic gardening and incorporating worms into my gardening were part of one of those experiments.
When I was a kid in the '70's, one of the boxed cereal brands at one time had a promotion and put a selection of seeds as their "prize inside the box" and instructions of how to cut out the box on the dotted lines and make it into a pot to grow the seeds. I was so excited! I'd buy more cereal today if they still did that - that's if I bought cereal for myself still. I ended up with the marigold seeds and immediately grabbed some dirt from my mom's garden and planted them. I think I must have forgotten to water them, but that led me to keep trying. Soon again after, when other kids were doing chemistry set experiments or trying to launch themselves to the moon, I tried to grow a kernel of corn in a cardboard box, All I can say is that it sprouted. I think my mom found it and threw it out. But it was still very cool to see it happen. And I still get a thrill when I see a sliver of green breaking through the earth.