Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Garden

It's almost impossible to take a good photograph of a garden in sunlight. There's just too much white light bouncing around. Even though I know this, the side garden was so beautiful today when the sun hit it that I ran for my camera. I had a polarizing filter, which I thought would help, but as you can see, my serene and lovely garden looks like chaos in this picture. Well, take my word for it, it really did look great.

Made another batch of Soil Soup. This time I applied it only to the plants that needed the most help--roses, berries, new transplants. I have noticed new blooms on several plants this week, including the roses, but to be perfectly fair and balanced I must also say that we had a good deep rain followed by days of warm sunshine, and that probably helped, too.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Made my first batch of Soil Soup compost tea this morning. You know the tea is ready when it forms a foamy head, kind of like the head on a beer, and when "bioslime" builds up around the bucket and the air pump. ("Bioslime" is their term, not mine.) The whole process was quite easy--because I'm using city water, which contains chlorine, I set up the brewer and let it run with plain water for a few hours to let the chlorine evaporate, and then I added the tea bag filled with worm castings (castings provided, but I added some of my own, of course) and poured in a little of the nutrient solution, which consists of molasses--a sugar source for the bacteria--as well as other ingredients like kelp that are found in organic liquid fertilizers.

Because it is chilly here right now, with temps rarely reaching 70 degrees, it took about 36 hours for my brew to reach this completed stage. I confess that I found myself wondering whether the electricity consumption outweighed the environmental benefits that I might gain by brewing my own tea, but I'll reserve judgement on that issue.

I mixed the tea with water--ideally, I would use water from which the chlorine had evaporated, but I didn't have the patience for that--and poured it on all of my plants that needed a little boost. This included new, struggling transplants, roses with blackspot, berries and apple trees that are prone to disease, etc. I don't have a lawn, but I thought grass would be a good testing ground, so I sprayed some on a section of my neighbor's lawn, too. Oh, and I poured some into the large compost pile of dead weeds that I'd created over the last week, to see how it might work as a compost activator.

One observation so far: a near-dead clematis is putting out a few green shoots. Now if only I can keep the snails away.

The product information that comes with the Soil Soup brewer says that it can take the place of compost by adding to plants & soil all the microbes that compost provides, and that the tea can even help improve soil structure. There are plenty of spots in my garden with hard, unimproved clay soil, so I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

This brewer retails for $300. That's an expensive toy--far more than I would normally spend on something for the garden. You can buy more worm castings and nutrient solution from them, but over time I intend to use my own worm castings and I wonder if I can create an acceptable substitute for the nutrient solution with a combination of molasses and liquid organic fertilizer.
I figure I probably spend around $100/year or less on fertilizer, and another $100/year on bagged compost, manure, etc. Compost tea might not replace all of those purchases, but if I can, in fact, stop buying MOST of those products, it might pay for itself over 2 years.

I've invited the folks at Soil Soup to follow along and post comments, insights, information, etc. about the brewer as I test it. I plan to make another batch this weekend to use on other parts of the garden. I might try to brew most weekends this summer, alternating where I use the tea so that most sections of the garden are getting two applications a month.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I Am Not Alone

There's another worm blogger out there, folks, and she's posting a lot more than I am these days. Check out the other Amy's worm blog. I do intend to set up the Soil Soup brewer this weekend and give a full report on home-brewed worm castings tea.
I've been engaged in a massive weed-pulling job now that the book tour's over. Back to it...

Thursday, May 20, 2004


Finally, the garden's in bloom.

Thanks, worms.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Diane Rehm

You can listen to the interview on the Diane Rehm Show here. It's the May 17 broadcast.

The last day of the book tour, last leg home, and I miss the connection. There does not seem to be any good reason for this. The plane sat on the ground in DC for a good 20 minutes or so, just enough to get us off to a bad start, and when we landed in San Francisco we sat for another 20 minutes or so. Long enough to ensure that my plane for Eureka would take off without me.
I’m so painfully tired, so completely worn out, that of course I took this personally, as if United Airlines had realized they didn’t like me and my silly little plastic tub of worms any more and had decided to express their dislike by making sure I didn’t get home at a decent hour.

I got the last seat on the 10:30 flight, a blessing I really should be grateful for, because there were people behind me in line at the ticket counter who did not get a seat and will be spending the night in San Francisco. If I had been told I had to spend the night in some crappy hotel by the airport and fly home tomorrow, I probably would have burst into tears at the ticket counter. As it was, I took my boarding pass and called home with a trembly lower lip to tell Scott that I’d be stumbling in around midnight. That’s 3 a.m. DC time, for those of you who are keeping score.

And I know, I know, there are worse things in life than having your flight delayed on the way home from your interview on the Diane Rehm show. I get it that I’m whining. But it’s my diary, so I get to be a little self-indulgent.

Diane was great. She was so enthusiastic about the book, as was her producer. She seemed genuinely amazed and fascinated at all things invertebrate. I brought some worms into the studio with me that I’d gotten from a worm farmer at the plant sale on Saturday; Diane loved that I had worms. “Just like Amy Tan with her little dogs,” she said.

That’s right. Amy Tan with her dogs, me with my worms.

Anyway, I think it went well. The interview felt very natural, in part because I did not have to wear headphones. I kind of like the headphones because I can hear my voice and get some idea how it sounds over the radio, filtered through the mike and the mixing board. It makes me sound a little better, a little more polished, a little more NPR, than I do in real life, and it gives me confidence. But there’s an advantage to not wearing them, too: our interview felt more like a conversation, more natural. I forgot that we were live on the radio, being broadcast to over a million listeners.

Wow. Actually, I did not think about it until this very minute. I guess that’s best. I would have frozen for sure.

Lots of people called in. People sent e-mails—when I left, they gave me a stack of a couple dozen of them to take with me. They said it was a surprisingly good response. Diane said I did a great interview. I don’t know, maybe they say that to everybody. I never have any idea how I sound, and when I left, I spent the metro ride back to the hotel doing what I always do after something like this: I re-lived the most awkward moments of the interview and thought of much more clever and interesting things I should have said. Ah well, it’s over now.

Two people wrote in to say how uplifting, how peaceful it was to stop thinking about all the awful things happening in Iraq right now and to think instead of the quiet and beneficial toil of the earthworm.

Lovely. That makes it all worthwhile. Well, almost all: I’d still rather be home right now instead of sitting in still another airport terminal. At least the worms have been spared this indignity. Since I had DC worms with me in the studio, I left them there with the radio station’s staff. I’m worm-free tonight.

Sunday, May 16, 2004


Did a worm composting demo and signed some books at Green Springs Garden in Alexandria today. They had a plant sale going on; it took a lot of impulse control to walk around and look at plants and not take any home with me.

I did not have to bring a worm bin or worms because they’d arranged for a worm farmer to be there and supply all of that for me. So I didn’t bring any worms with me, but then I realized that it might have been fun to take some worms into the studio with me on Monday when I do the Diane Rehm show. Worms lend themselves to radio, they really do. So I bought a little baggie of castings with some worms in them from the worm farmer and once again, I’m sitting in a hotel room with some worms.

Joined a sweaty throng of my fellow Americans on the mall today. They’re getting set up for the dedication of the WWII monument so the mall was criss-crossed with temporary fencing, stages, tents. A bit of a mess. And here’s a surprise: the landscaping around the mall is really not so hot. I was amazed, for instance, at how weedy the White House lawn was. All around the mall, with a few exceptions near some of the Smithsonian buildings, I saw dull, dismal little plantings like the kind of thing you might see around a dentist office parking lot. Why is that? You’d think that we’d have world-class gardens on the mall, or plantings that show off native plants from across the country, or state wildflowers, or something like that.

Back tomorrow to check out the Smithsonian. The worms will stay in the room. It’s too hot for them out there.


Went to the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights…it was really moving to see it all…to see the Constitution with Washington’s handwritten corrections, to see the smudged signatures. As I was entering the room, the guy behind me said to his wife, “This isn’t the real Declaration of Independence, right? It’s just a replica.”

Nope. That’s why they call it the National Archives. This is the real deal.

OH—and here’s an idea for the lousy lawn on the Mall (and it really is lousy—I’ll post a picture in a couple of days)—worm castings! How about a National Worm Castings Project on the Mall? They could raise the worms at the National Botanic Garden or maybe at the Natural History museum, some kind of hands-on exhibit using food scraps from the cafeteria, maybe. This lawn needs some help, and I think worms are the answer.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Washington, DC

I’m in Alexandria, VA, sitting in my hotel room, mulling things over. Today Stephanie (I’m sorry if I have not mentioned Steph earlier in this blog, but after all, this is not a novel, with well-developed characters and skillful plot development, this is just a sporadic diary that is mostly about worms, and Stephanie’s worms all died, which is another story, but anyway, Stephanie and Jim are also the parents of our godchild Max)…so today Stephanie gave birth to our twin (oh, I guess they’re our godchildren, although now that I think about it, have they really asked us? I can’t remember…huh…) well, regardless, she had twin daughters today.
Girls. Wow. Two of them.

Scott was headed down to San Jose anyway to help Jim get the nursery ready, so when he got the call at around 7:30 this morning, he just left early and picked up Max from daycare while Jim was standing heroically by in the delivery room, doing whatever it is fathers do in that situation. The girls came quickly—they were in the world by 11 a.m. or so.

Phoebe and Zoe. Or is it Zoey? How will she spell it? I’ll ask her when I meet her.

So Scott is there, visiting the little girls in the hospital and tucking Max into bed and all kinds of other godparent-like things, and I am wandering around Alexandria in search of a dry Martini. Actually, now that I think about it, this is about par for us.

Girls, this is how your aunt Amy spent the first night of your life: sitting in an Italian restaurant near the Potomac river, sipping a Martini with three strange little black olives in it, eating a vegetarian antipasto platter, and watching this amazing thing that was happening in front of me.
Eight girls, all about 10 years of age, who had just finished some kind of choir concert, were ordering dinner. I know they were in a choir because they all wore black pants or skirts and white shirts, and they broke into well-orchestrated song from time to time. Their parents were seated in the next room; they got to sit by themselves and talk and laugh and be girls out on their own for a little while.

I remember that age so well. Annette, if you’re reading this—you and I met at about that age. How long ago was that? Over twenty years ago. Damn. Somebody bring me another Martini.
Anyway, I watched these girls and I thought about what a perfect, brilliant age that was to be. Girls that age are smart and fearless and beautiful. They are passionate about the world they live in. They are passionate about each other. I sat watching those girls and I thought, at least two of you will still be friends when you’re my age. Someday one of you will be sitting in a bar in a strange town, drinking an ice cold cocktail, while another one of you is in the hospital, your twin daughters under heat lamps, wondering when the next Demerol shot will arrive. Cheers, Steph.

Worm composting workshop at Green Springs Garden Park tomorrow (oh, it’s after midnight…make that today), and then I’ll be exploring our nation’s capitol.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Butterfly Rescue

I've been intensely focused on attracting butterflies to my garden this year. Many larval plants--the plants where adult butterflies lay eggs--are impractical for my small space. For instance, this Western Tiger Swallowtail likes willows and sycamores, both of which are much too large. I have put in some milkweed, the preferred food of Monarch caterpillars, but I almost never see a Monarch in my garden.

It's much easier to plant nectar sources for adult butterflies--butterfly bush, pincushion flower, tall verbena, etc. Anything with small flowers and a flat landing space is likely to attract a butterfly. Still, the swallowtails drift through my garden but rarely stop to eat, in spite of the buffet I've put out for them.

This swallowtail landed on a hydrangea bush yesterday. It seemed to hang from a flower, suspended by its proboscis--the long, narrow tube butterflies use to drink. Its wings were wide open, and they did not flutter--the creature was utterly still except when a breeze moved it. I inched close and realized that it was not drinking--the proboscis seemed to be stuck to an outer petal and not even inserted into the center of the flower, where I was not sure it would find much nectar anyway. Was the butterfly stuck, trapped, tired, resting? I didn't know. I thought about rescuing it, urging it off the flower so it would fly away. But I'd spent so much time wishing more butterflies would visit my garden that it seemed silly to shoo this one off.
It sure did look pretty against that light blue hydrangea, though, so I ran inside and got my camera, and also summonded Scott. Fortunately, Scott does not find it at all unusual that I would be so concerned about the fate of one individual butterfly, so he followed me downstairs without hesitation.

When we got there, the butterfly was gone. After a few minutes we noticed it on the ground, which is where I took this picture. Something was wrong. We knew not to touch its wings, which are covered with fine, feathery scales that brush off easily. Instead, we tried to use a stick to get it off the ground in hopes that it would still be able to fly. It fluttered around a little but didn't move much. Finally Scott came outside with a magazine, which I scooted underneath the creature. That seemed to give it enough purchase to get it back into the air. It flew to the top of the hydrangea, waited a minute, and then flew away.

This is, I think, my fourth weekend of Soil Soup brewing. More on that soon.

Soil Soup

Yipee! My new Soil Soup compost tea home brewer has arrived. I'm off to DC this weekend (tune into the Diane Rehm show on Monday, and if you're listening live and she's taking calls, give us a call!) Anyway, when I get back, I'll brew up a batch and let you know how it works. The brewer came with some worm castings, but of course the goal is to use my own worm castings for the stuff. And no, don't ask me to bottle some up and send it to you--this stuff has to be used FRESH!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Worms in Trees

Now, here's something to contemplate. A Mercury News story about some research going on in my own backyard--right here in Humboldt County--about the rich life in tree canopies. There's enough soil up there to support earthworms. I don't know about that as a strategy, worms: sure does make for easy pickings for the birds. I suggest the worms re-think going airborne.

Monday, May 10, 2004

There's No Place Like Home

(continued from yesterday)

And the interview the next morning was fine, of course. The phone worked, there was no static, no one cut in on me, and Michael Olsen did a great interview. As soon as that interview ended, we got into the car and drove right to Elliot Bay for my next talk. I got crankier as we drove, frustrated that we couldn’t find this Indian restaurant in Seattle where we’d been wanting to eat, suffering from both hunger and an upset stomach at the same time, and I’d settled back into worrying about my next event. The time of the event had changed a couple of times and there had not been as much media attention as I would have liked (although that didn’t seen to hurt the Bellingham event, but that sort of logic rarely works with me.)

So we ate a quick lunch near the bookstore and I gave a talk to 5 or 6 people at Elliot Bay. How depressing to talk to such a small audience at such a big bookstore. My heart wasn’t in it, either, so I kept the talk short, answered a few perfunctory questions, and got ready to head home.

But something happened at the end of the talk, as something always does when I least expect it: a middle-aged woman who had been sitting in the back came up to me with a hardcover of my last book, From the Ground Up, and told me that she loved the book, she’d read it over and over, she’d given copies to all her friends, and she’d made a special point of coming down here so I could sign her book. She told me that the book had meant a great deal to her, and to her daughter, who had just started to garden.

Wow. I just don’t know what to say when people come up to me and pour out their hearts about that book. I mean, I’ve had people tell me that the book changed their life. And then they come down and sit through my tedious little talk on worms just so they can meet me. I can’t help but think, what a disappointment it must be for them. I mean, here I am, weary, desperate to get home, not very eloquent, probably nothing like the person they imagined when they read the book.

I signed her book and thanked her for coming. We chatted about her garden, and her daughter’s garden. What else should I have said? I don’t know. I never know in those situations.

Anyway, that’s it. The tour’s over. In a few hours, we’ll be back in Eureka.
Actually, I’m lying when I say the tour’s over. I’m going to DC next weekend. There are a few more events lined up in July. But it’s mostly over, and—hang in there worms—we’re almost home.

P.S. Got home and released the nightcrawlers back into the soil--see photo above--they are plainly delighted to be home, don't you think?

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Homeward Bound

We’re on I-5, somewhere in southern Oregon, headed home at last. This morning I opened up one of my worm containers to see how they were doing and caught a pair of red wigglers in the act. In honor of Mother’s Day, one (or both?) of them were becoming mothers. So I suppose they have not been too unhappy in their confinement or they would not be reproducing. Still, I’m sure they’ll be as happy to get back to their home as I will be.

It’s funny…when I started this book tour, I always planned to leave the worms at my last stop rather than haul them home. But I haven’t been able to do that. They’ve come this far with me; it seems like they deserve to come home, rather than be abandoned in the compost pile of some complete stranger in Portland or Seattle.

A couple of nights ago we drove up to Bellingham for a reading at Village Books. Now, before I begin this story, let me just say that for the last couple of days, I’ve been ready to go home. I was worn out, my stomach was uneasy from so many restaurant meals, I missed my garden, and I was tired of talking about worms. So keep that in mind as you read this next cranky, whiny entry.

We were booked into a B&B for the night in Bellingham, which had caused me a little bit of worry: I had a live, one-hour radio interview with Michael Olsen the next morning by phone, and I was concerned that there would not be a phone in the room I could use. I don’t get very nervous about radio interviews, but what I do worry about is the logistics: if it’s in person, I worry about getting there in time, and if it’s on the phone, I worry about having a good working phone that will not be tied up by someone else or have static on the line or anything like that. In other words, I worry about the picky little details surrounding the interview, but the interview itself doesn’t concern me at all.

So my publicist, who books this stuff, checked it out in advance and made sure there’d be a good working phone. Well, there was, but it turned out to be a cordless phone, not an old-fashioned, plug-it-into-the-wall phone, and I worried about static on the line. It was an extension of a phone line that seemed to serve the entire B&B, so I worried that someone else would pick up the phone while I was on it.

As I said, I was a little tired and punchy by this time. I was ready to go home. I was getting cranky.

So I didn’t like the B&B from the beginning because I was already predisposed to be freaked out about the phone. From the outside, the place was a pleasant Victorian house, but inside, oh, good lord. It was as if a manufacturer of plastic flowers had gone out of business and the innkeeper had bought the entire warehouse. Really, I have never seen so many plastic flowers in one place. And you must understand that I am personally offended by fake flowers, unless they are truly, obviously fake, like those enormous paper flowers you can buy in Mexico, or artsy glass flowers, or something like that.

But to just put pots of plastic geraniums around the living room—really, there’s no excuse for that.

So the front parlors were pretty offensive, with their fake flowers and tasteless chintz and general country frilliness. Now, remember, I live in a Victorian house, and while I don’t like ornate Victorian decorations, I understand what an authentic Victorian parlor might look like, and this is not it. Let us proceed to the bedroom, which we documented with photographs, so that you can see what I was up against for the evening.

In the bedroom, we had:

Floral print sheets, bedspread, and wallpaper.

Fake ivy draped around the room near the ceiling, and other plastic flowers tucked in wherever there was room for them.

Two bedside garden nymph lamps that hung from the ceiling. Around the nymphs were clear wires from which oil dripped, in an attempt to simulate, I suppose, a waterfall.

A large gold fish and angel sculpture on the wall above the TV. The sculpture did have an electrical cord coming out of it, but it was not plugged in and we could not figure out what it would do if it was plugged in.

A pair of windows that looked not out to the garden, but into a stairwell that had obviously been added after the house was built. These windows were fringed with lacy curtains and faced the stairwell wall directly across, which had been papered with some of that photo-realistic wallpaper.

The image? A garden, of course. A field of tulips. More plastic flowers sat in a windowbox to contribute to the natural effect. There was also a dimmer switch that controlled a light in the stairwell, allowing guests to simulate any time of day in the garden by raising or lowering the light level.

I just can’t tell you how miserable this room made me feel. I was so tired, and so ready to go home.

We certainly weren’t going to spend any time in the terrifying garden room, so we dropped our suitcases off and ran. Bellingham has a cute little old downtown, but we were tired of cute little downtowns, too. We had a dull little dinner at an Italian restaurant and wandered over to the bookstore, where I was expecting a dull and poorly-attended reading.

Boy, was I wrong. A half an hour before the reading, there were already people milling around, saving seats. Before I started talking, I counted about 25-30 in the audience, and after about 15 minutes, the crowd had grown closer to 50.

And there were some serious worm people there: worm farmers, worm composting educators, and lots of people who already have a worm bin. They asked interesting questions. One guy had noticed that his red wigglers change color slightly in different food stock—what did I know about that? Gee whiz, nothing, I told him, but I’d check it out. Someone else thought that there had just been a sighting of the nearly-extinct giant Palouse earthworm, something else I hadn’t heard. There were organic farmers in the audience, and schoolchildren, and everybody wanted to come up afterwards and hold the worms and tell me more worm stories. It was an amazing evening, one of the best events on the book tour.

So we went back to the room in much better spirits. I had noticed that Andrei Codrescu, whose new book Wakefield is also published by Algonquin, was going to be in Bellingham in a month or so, so I scouted around town and found a better hotel for him.

I’m a big Andrei Codrescu fan, so Andrei, this is my gift to you: you do not have to lay your head to rest in the Scary Garden Room. The mere thought of you going through this would have kept me up all night. There’s a nice normal little hotel in town, just behind the bookstore, and I’m sending the information about it to Algonquin. You can thank me later. (Although Scott points out that if you’re looking for material for your next NPR commentary, who knows, maybe you’ll find it here and not at the nice little inoffensive hotel by the bookstore. Well, I’ll leave it up to you.)

We turned off all the lights in the Scary Garden Room, so we could see as little of it as possible, and watched the playback on CSPAN of Rumsfeld testifying about prisoner abuse in Iraq. That was enough to banish the sticky sweetness from the room. Only the fish-and-angel wall statue glowed slightly from the light of the TV.(to be continued tomorrow.)

Friday, May 07, 2004

Soil Soup

We finally got some of that famous Seattle rain. Driving up to Bellingham today for a reading in their historic Fairhaven district. Last night I read at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island--another good crowd, 20 people or so. To think they chose worms over the final episode of Friends. One of my favorite garden writers, Ann Lovejoy, lives on the island and she came to the reading, but she had to leave early so I didn't get to say hello. One woman who came to the reading said she was buying the book for her daughter--when her daughter started a garden for the first time, she'd sent some worms from her own garden to get her started. Wow. The things people will do.

Also met a guy from Soil Soup, a company that makes compost tea brewers. This is the hot new thing to do with worm castings--brew up a tea that you can spray around the garden. Really makes a little go a long way. He's offered to send me one to try out. Who am I to say no?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

More Seattle Fun

Ah, Seattle, with its clean air, crisp snowy horizon, two dueling newspapers, and pleasant debates over the future of the monorail. This is a smart and lively city, and as Scott and I sat in the restaurant on top of the Space Needle, watching the skyline drift slowly past, I told him I could imagine us living here in one of those snappy waterfront condos. It would be an urban existence, totally different than our own. “The traffic is awful here,” he said. “We’d never drive,” I said. “We’d take the monorail.” “I prefer Portland,” he said. “Portland’s nice too,” I said.

That’s how it is on a book tour like this—you visit one city after another, someone else is paying for your meals and your room, you have your days free, and you start to imagine that this could be your life.

Had a great reading at the university last night. 25 or 30 people, and they were a very happy crowd, very ready to laugh, even at things I did not intend to be funny. I felt like a standup comedian at times, they laughed so much.

That’s what I’ll do. I’ll move to Seattle and become a standup comedian.

One of the guys at the reading last night told me he used to pick nightcrawlers for bait. That was his job, outside at night in the wet grass. “Sign the book to Dr. Mold,” he said. “That’s what my PhD is in. Molds.”

He told me he’d like to write a book about molds. I told him to figure out what the story is first. The narrative, the characters, the essential plot, concerning molds. I’m sure there is one.With the exception of these events in the evening, the worms have been in the hotel room all week, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Seattle, City of Worms

I’m in Seattle. Scott’s been gone for an hour and a half—he went to Spokane tonight for a business meeting tomorrow—and already I have that morose, lonely feeling that I get when I travel alone. I had dinner alone (oh, if you are in Seattle, you must check out Palace Kitchen) and sat there nursing a Martini and wishing I wasn’t drinking it alone. It’s just funny how quickly I can start to feel sorry for myself when I’m left alone in a strange city.
But really, I love Seattle. I walked back to the hotel tonight and looked up at the skyscrapers all around me, lit up against the sky, and a full moon that kept appearing and disappearing from behind the clouds. There’s nothing like the thrill of a big city.

So…what have I been up to…we drove up to Eugene on Friday, spent the night with family, and on Saturday I got to meet the editor of Worm Digest, Zorba Frankel, and do a worm composting workshop alongside him. We held the workshop at Down To Earth Home & Garden—really, this is an incredibly hip place and if you are ever in Eugene, you must stop in. It’s a nursery and a garden supply center and they sell their own line of worm castings and compost, and all kinds of other stuff you can’t live without. Several people had attended a worm composting workshop hosted by the city earlier that day, and they stopped by my talk afterward. One guy even brought the worms he’d purchased at the morning workshop. “You understand that you don’t need to bring the worms everywhere with you?” I asked.

He assured me that he’d take them straight home.

We headed to Portland that night to stay with some friends, and on Sunday I did a talk at Portland Nursery. They had worm bins for sale and a worm farmer showed up at the talk and offered her card to anyone who wanted to buy worms. I also stopped at Powell’s to sign books and—can you believe this—they actually have a section just for worms. It’s right in between the sections for bees and chickens. Man, that’s such an incredible bookstore. I only had an hour to spend there, and I nearly wept when it was time to go.

Tonight I gave a talk at Third Place Books and handed out the business cards of a worm farmer I met at Pike’s Market this morning. He was selling worm tea in little juice bottles. “I have to explain to people that it’s not for them to drink,” he said. Only in Seattle would people assume that something marked “Worm Juice” would be a beverage for them.

Anyway, it was a good reading at Third Place Books—they’re a big, well-stocked independent bookstore just north of Seattle and they had a nice setup for me and the worms. Tonight the worms and I are on our own at the hotel, and tomorrow I’ve got a radio interview in the morning, a talk at the University bookstore in the evening, and time to kill until Scott gets back to Seattle. Sleep well.