Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Worms enrich the soil; learning enriches mind

Ann applied to land grant colleges, including the University of Missouri-Columbia, offering to work for room and board "and perhaps a bit of spending money, if I’m worth it."

Marian Beebe, on the staff in the University of Missouri Extension service, arranged for Ann to spend a month with our family. Ann taught us more than we taught her.

The first thing she taught us was to take life easy and enjoy each day to it’s fullest. On her way to Columbia, the Wabash train from Centralia stopped for no apparent reason. Someone said, "Probably a cow on the track." Ann took her camera and stepped off the train.

The conductor and another man were trying to get a cow off the tracks. The cow moved, the conductor got back on and closed a sliding door.

Several passengers yelled, all at the same time, that Ann was still out there. The conductor watched as Ann adjusted her camera and took a photo of the train; the cow had moved on. Unruffled, Ann climbed back on the train, the conductor signaled the engineer and the trip was resumed.

To rush was not one of Ann’s top priorities. After we became great friends, she referred to my schedule as the American rat race.

Nancy and Walt were eager to entertain Ann that first afternoon while I was teaching a swimming class in our backyard pool.

After lunch, the three of them dug fishing worms from the garden, hiked over to the pond we call "Mokane," caught some little perch and released them back into the pond.

Our habit was to toss the worms in to feed the fish to make them grow to keeper size, but this time, they took the extra worms back to the garden and "replanted" them.

We were eating supper when Walt said, "Fishing worms make the soil rich!" Ann smiled. Walt continued, "They eat a lot of rotten stuff, and after it goes through them, they call it ‘castings.’ " Nancy added, "And those tiny worm holes are tubes that take air and water to the roots of plants." Ann smiled and said, "Earthworms are like unpaid hired hands, enriching the soil by just living there."

"Cheap help," Chub said. Nancy jumped up from the table to get the World Book, a habit we have, even if we have company. We believe that learning enriches lives, and we’re learning that worms enrich the soil.

Nancy read aloud, "In an acre of farm land, worms deposit about 10 tons of fertile castings in one year. One worm has 10 hearts and two sets of sex organs, one male and one female. ... If a worm gets chopped in two pieces, the part with the stomach will survive." Not the greatest table conversation, earthworms. But I kept quiet.

Three years later, we visited Ann at her "pick your own" farm. She was a very busy person with the parking lot filled with cars. Buyers came 12 miles from Hastings and even 50 miles far away London to select and buy top-quality, farm-fresh produce.

As we sat on a sunny bench and watched lush fruit and vegetables being weighed and money rolling in, I recalled her comment about the rat race.

Also I thought about the millions of "unpaid helpers that fertilize her soil and give it air and water. This was busy Ann - not the one who got off the train to photograph a cow!

How fortunate we were to have this young woman spend a month at our farm more than 40 years ago.


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