Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Way We Were? Saved by a Worm.

First an apology.  Somehow a draft I was working on got published before its time.  This is what I was working towards and if you have time to read it great. I hope you will find it interesting.

Now the blog post
Giving back to the land, going back to the land...all things that fascinate me. 

A friend sent me a couple of articles today about the use of Red Wiggler Worms in Central America.

It got me thinking about just how we got to the place where third world countries  whose fields had been naturally productive and health giving for centuries had to now be taught about the use of worms for compost.

Once my former neighbours, born and raised in the countryside in Ecuador,  were helping us weed the alfalfa crop.  The wife came across a gigantic, glistening worm.  Had to be about a foot long . She pulled it out of the ground and casually tossed it onto the chain link fence where it wriggled helplessly, drying and dying in the Ecuatorial sun.

"And all they eat is earth,"  she said by way of instructing me.

I immediately went over, gently disentangled it from the hot metal fence,  laid it tenderly into some soft cool earth out of harm's way. 

She stared blankly as I said, "They eat dead leaves and other vegetable matter that has dropped to the ground. They turn that into a rich earth that helps you grow your crops. They are your best friends in the fields."

She and her husband stared at the crazy gringa,  in total disbelief.  I am sure it gave them lots to talk and laugh about with their ten children when they got home; stories to tell in town as they bought chemicals to put on their corn field.

Talk about taking something for granted.  Worms are something to be casually cut with your shovel, crushed under your shoe, or if they are lucky, just ignored.  They have no value unless it might be for fishing bait, right?  Wrong.  I have written about this before under my post entitled Better Worms and Gardens - Part I - Vermicomposting -  published in October 2009.

I got to thinking about how we had come to this, to a point where we had so terribly depleted the life giving earth. Where we had so little understanding of our part in the cycle of life.  What had gone wrong?

Today I saw it all so clearly. Until recent history,  fields  everywhere were tilled by hand or assisted by oxen, after harvest crops were ploughed under, chickens and other animals roamed freely and acted as a natural insecticide as they picked off bugs to supplement their diet, people used the fields as a bathroom, kitchen waste was thrown on the fields as well.

When Progress and her Sister Hygiene arrived things changed dramatically. In stead of oxen, tractors tilled the fields, producing pollution instead of rich poop.   People made their daily deposits to an outhouse instead of a field. Chickens and other domesticated animals were confined instead of roaming freely and their waste was collected into putrefying piles buried far from where it would do any good.

In the past,  when small quantities of human and animal waste were deposited randomly over the fields it was not a problem as it was quickly taken care of by.... bugs and bacteria and most of all worms.  

The household waste that was thrown on the fields was no longer totally biodegradable spoiled vegetables, fruits and grains.  People had progressed, become sophisticated. They were using non biodegradable disposable diapers, processed foods in plastic and cans.  But they still threw them on the fields.

The land, starved for food now, could no longer produce bountiful, vitamin rich crops. The yield was smaller, and weaker, susceptible to diseases and pests. Something had to be done.

Enter the chemical companies with their products that were going to increase the yields with one simple fix.  And they had just the thing to kill those pesky bugs as well.

Poor people scraped up enough to buy chemical fertilizers and insecticides  and were rewarded with bumper crops.  It was a miracle!  This continued for a few years until the land became exhausted and used up. 

he chemicals did not FEED the land, only made it easier for the plants to take up more minerals, depleting it even further. More and more chemicals were needed to try to replicate the results obtained initially.

Now at last there is a movement back to, not the way we were, but to something that combines the modern way of living with a cheap and effective solution; one that will clean up land fills and put vitality back into the land.

That lowly, unloved creature, the earthworm!  She is finally getting the respect she deserves.  And Pachamama is so proud of her child.

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