Snakes on a Plane!? Try worms on a plane…

March 2nd, 2015

A friend of mine works half the year in Vermont as a State Park Ranger and the other half of the year (when VT is coldest) she lives in Cost Rica where she dedicates herself to the rescue and protection of dogs.  She has brought many homeless street dogs back to the US for a better life.

I get involved in animal protection in Costa Rica too, especially sea turtles and Howler monkeys.  We have plenty of snakes here as well but they are not quite so compelling.  In fact. the photo above is of a semi-poisonous (to mice and lizards more than humans) 6 ft Lyre snake that I interrupted while it was eating a two ft iguana that lived on our roof.  The iguana died and I relocated snake.

snake eating iguana compost story will raap in costa rica

The gardeners in the development in Costa Rica that I started and where I also live are compost green season leaves and trimmings from our 220 acres. There now is enough kitchen waste to start a separate food waste comporting operation.  So, I began looking for red wiggler worms as our food waste composting helpers.



Red wigglers are used in Costa Rica coffee processing operations to help digest the pulp (the skin surrounding the coffee bean) and make it into organic fertilizer and soil amendments,  But the coffee growing region is 5-6 hrs from us.  Plus, I knew of some red wigglers in VT that wanted a new home, far away from the most brutal winter temperatures in 100 years.

But how to get my new compost helpers to Costa Rica from VT?

I googled “red worms on a plane” and got some good advice: the TSA does no prohibit them.  So, I loaded the adventurous worms into a plastic container with moist coffee grounds and yesterday’s salad so it could pass as my lunch in case Costa Rica officials got curious.  The container went into my backpack so the worms would not freeze in the luggage compartment.  We took off to Costa Rica.

As we flew over Lake Nicaragua and began descending toward the Liberia airport in Costa Rica I noticed my backpack had turned over and worms had escaped through the air holes.  Some were exploring the floor and others were heading up the wall toward the airplane window.  The unsuspecting tourist next to me was still sleeping but the flight attendants were about to start the last collection of service items

I had minutes to collect the 2-3 dozen worms.  The immigration form was just thin enough and also stiff enough to scoop up and corral the slithering escapees.  Back into yesterday’s salad they went.

Now these ‘extranjero’ compost helpers are happily eating local mangos, bananas, star fruit, and melons, plus coffee grounds, tortillas and old rice and beans.  They will never need to worry about freezing again. 


My Top 5 World-Changing Gardening Innovations from 2014

February 4th, 2015

I garden in Vermont 8 months each year, and then we have a winter garden in Costa Rica.  This leads to very different gardening challenges.  I am always looking for new and better solutions for my garden and so much the better if they help with the big issues I see us wrestling with now and in the future: loss of biodiversity, depletion of soil, water resources and ecosystems, and climate change.

So, here are my current favorite World-Changing Gardening Innovations”…

Groasis works for trees as well as vegetables 

1. Groasis: let the desserts bloom

It is rare to find a gardening innovation that saves water, reduces fertilizer use, builds soil and leads to 90% survival of trees and plants even in the harshest climates and without added irrigation.  That’s what the innovative new Groasis delivers. 

Test Groasis in your own garden, for FREE.  You will be part of a world-wide program of reforesting deserts, feeding a billion hungry people living on degraded lands, and restoring soil and ecosystems.

Our First Steamed Milkweed Greens of the Year (like Spinach, Green Beans)

2. Plant Milkweed to Save the Monarchs (and feed yourself)

In the past decade I learned to view common Milkweed as much more than a weed.  It is a uniquely important plant critical for the survival of the Monarch butterfly. I wrote this piece last year about the importance of milkweed as a food source and breeding habitat for Monarch butterflies when I learned 90% fewer Monarchs made it from the US to Mexico to overwinter. I encourage gardeners to help reverse this Monarch emergency. Just plant some easy-to-grow common milkweed seed.

You control the flow

3. Every drop of water counts

The new “Deluxe Micro Snip N Drip Irrigation Kit” makes it easy customize micro drippers to deliver pinpoint-precision watering that sets up in minutes. You can set up pinpoint-precision, root-zone drip irrigation in minutes and flow controls let you fine-tune watering, even from a rain barrel.  You will get healthier plants and use 90% less water.

4. Can the ‘sun’ indoors, and kill those blasted spider mites?

Here’s an idea for a product that does not yet exist, but it should, for indoor gardeners? It turns out that certain spectrums of light are 100% lethal to some insects. Someone could figure out the light spectrum that kills spider mite larvae and work that into a next-generation LED grow light array. Then, we would have an energy efficient lighting solution with built-in insect control and every indoor gardener would be interested in it. Any “makers” out there?

5. Gardening and wifi

The Edyn Garden Sensor and Water Valve monitors and tracks environmental conditions so that outdoor plants can maximize their health potential. The system includes the Edyn garden sensor, water valve, and a supplemental app, which helps you monitor soil quality and make sure the garden is healthy any time of day. It’s too complicated for my disorganized approach to gardening but if you try it please let me know how you like it.


To reverse global warming, we must first rethink agriculture

6. (Sorry, one more BIG idea).  Gardening with ”The Carbon Underground”           

Last year I wrote about how regenerative agriculture can help solve climate change. Here’s a great new article on the topic.

And here is a smart new advocacy organization to check out, The Carbon Underground!

NASA’s Amazing Video Makes You Appreciate Composting and Organic Growing!

December 30th, 2014

I read a very interesting article last month - Nature Wants Her Carbon Back .  It made a strong case that slowing the ravages of climate change and indeed reversing the core problem of carbon dioxide (CO2) build up in the atmosphere is possible simply by doing what all good gardeners do.  We use organic matter to make compost and we enrich the soil with organic matter to grow better crops.

This process is possible through the 'magic' of photosynthesis by plants capturing CO2 in the air, and breaking down the molecules to release oxygen we all need and to feed the remaining carbon to the web of life above and below the soil.  The carbon is stored in healthier soil, roots, plants and trees.  We see the benefits of nature 'vacuuming' CO2 from the atmosphere every time we harvest an organic tomato or enrich a kitchen garden with compost.

The article made the point that up to half of CO2 emissions today result from industrial agriculture and its toxic chemicals that prevent nature from absorbing carbon and kill soil life.  Plus, that by "transforming even a small part of industrial agriculture land to healthier, regenerative methods can lead to sequestering more than 100% of current CO2 emissions in just three years".  Makes sense! We know in three years of good organic gardening practices our gardens can become alive and make our yards healthier.  Turns out the same is true for the whole planet!

The video above shows a wonderful new NASA computer simulation visualizes CO2 flows around the world (read National Geographic's excellent writeup on the video). In the simulation, plumes of the greenhouse gas spew into the atmosphere from major industrial and agricultural centers, swirling around the globe carried by the seasons and winds (see video above and ).  This is "pollution" in action.  But with more regenerative agriculture this CO2 pollution can be transformed into healthy and productive gardens, farms forests and ecosystems.  We can partner with nature to put the atmosphere back in balance.