Whew! I can't tell you how great it feels here in Wisconsin this time of year. Southwest Wisconsin is loaded with organic farms and gardens. With the ground starting to thaw, me and my earthworm buds are making our way to the surface, anxious to grub on all that delicious decaying stuff in the soil around here. The other day I got above ground and squirmed over to this girl named Rose. Rose is a 12-year-old organic farmer where I live, which is pretty loose talk, since I live underground, and when you're underground, well, you're pretty much all over the place, because the underground is everywhere. It's all connected. So are we. Here's how it went:
Ovie: G'morning, young lady. Is this your garden?!
Ovie: Yeah, uh…how'd you know?
Rose: Well, you're picture's right here on this milk carton, isn't it?
Ovie: I'll be. Sure 'nough, that's me. Those folks at Organic Valley must be nuts to think an earthworm is gonna help sell their milk.
Rose: Don't be so silly…we love you, Ovie!
Ovie: Okay, that's enough…you're making me blush. Let's start over. Is this your garden? And what's your name? How old are you?
Rose: My name's Rose and I'm twelve. This is my family's garden. Nothing's planted yet, but we're about to order seeds this week. We're going to do the farmer's market this year. My brother's going to grow vegetables, and I just got some chickens, so I'll be selling eggs.
Ovie: Chickens, 'eh? How many?
Rose: Twenty-six. I take care of them every morning before school.
Ovie: How do you take care of twenty-six chickens?
Rose: By giving them fresh water, fresh feed, and holding them.
Ovie: You hold twenty-six chickens every morning?!
Rose: Not every one every day, Ovie. I just want to get to know them because I'm going to show one at the county fair this year.
Ovie: Sounds like you like animals.
Rose: Yeah…I love them. I started a new organization called ALO. That stands for Animal Lovers' Organization. I have maybe twenty members. I email them a bi-monthly newsletter that talks about the latest news and facts in the animal world.
Ovie: Neat! Sign me up! I love animals, too. How about those vegetables you mentioned. What's your brother going to grow?
Rose: I don't know for sure, but I think he's going to grow a salad mix, and we usually do potatoes and beets.
Ovie: Eggs, potatoes, beets, salad mix…that's a meal! You could really feed yourself with an operation like that.
Rose: Yep. We do. Have you ever heard of the Earth Dinner?
Ovie: Sounds familiar…does it have anything to do with Earth Day?
Rose: Well, sort of. The Earth Dinner is about an appreciation for the earth and the food we eat. Lots of people have an Earth Dinner on Earth Day, but you could really do it any day of the year.
Ovie: How do you have an Earth Dinner?
Rose: Organic Valley publishes a deck of cards called The Earth Dinner. Everybody sits down to eat, and passes the cards around the table. The cards get people talking about experiences they've had in their garden, their kitchen, or even at the dinner table.
Ovie: Is that fun?
Rose: Yeah, I like it. I like telling about my farm and what I do there, and I like hearing other people's stories.
Ovie: I need an example here. Like, what's a story you've told?
Rose: Hmm… One card asked me what was the first food I ever cooked. I told everyone about how I used to make scrambled eggs for my family for breakfast, and how I made myself my own chef hat out of paper. It's a great memory for me.
Ovie: And now you're a 12-year-old egg farmer!
Ovie: So will you be hosting an Earth Dinner any time soon?
Rose: Last year I went with my mom and dad to their work and celebrated Earth Day at an Earth Dinner with about a hundred people. We'll probably do that again, but even if we don't, I'm sure my family will pull out the Earth Dinner deck around Earth Day.
Ovie: Squirm-o-rama! Can I come?
Rose: Uhm…you look okay on a milk carton, Ovie, but I don't think we really want any earthworms at the dinner table. Besides, you'll get our leftovers sooner or later in the compost. I think it's time for you to get back underground to nourish our soil.