I have a great app for my iPhone. It’s called Moon Phase, and it tells me, on any given day, what phase the moon is in and scientific factoids such as how close to the earth it’s passing and what constellation it’s in. It also tells me the name of the moon, depending on who I want to refer to: the English, American Colonial Tradition, Native American, Medieval Tradition or Wiccan. Of course, you know me, I’m going for Native American, even though I suspect the names in the app represent Northeastern tribes not the tribes that would be native here. I guess it was the Snow Moon and Beaver Moon that tipped me off.
In any case, today is the full phase of the Worm Moon. Which got me thinking about gardening, because farming by the moon is part of what you do in Biodynamics. In reality, Two Terrier Vineyards will probably never be certified Biodynamic as I’m not sure I can bring myself to embrace all the-dancing-around-a cow-horn-stuffed-with-manure-and-planted-at-the-full-moon rituals of a system developed by an Austrian in the Twenties and Thirties. Now if the Navajo were selling this, I’d be buying. But I know what the Austrians were up to during that time and it wasn’t sustainable farming. We’ll just stick with organic.
But back to the Worm Moon. And farming. My motivation really got rolling when I got my newsletter from Sonoma Mission Gardens — hands down the best gardening store in the county if not the Western U.S. It’s not just the acres and acres of plants and the commitment to native plants. It’s their whole focus on teaching, no matter how novice the gardener.
I’m pretty much their most clueless customer. Especially since I always make it a point to walk in and announce to one of the staff, “I need help and I know absolutely nothing.” It’s amazing how much knowledge you can pick up with this approach. And not just in gardening stores.
In any case, I told my helpful gardening buddy that I wanted to prepare the soil in my raised beds for an eventual crop of tomatoes and corn. She was very encouraging and surprised when I told her I’d been rotating the crops, I didn’t plant the corn and tomatoes in the same boxes and I’d planted Fava beans as a cover crop and to fix nitrogen after the harvest. I didn’t tell her I was just following what she’d told me to do on past visits.
In any case, I walked out of The Gardens with four sacks of well-composted manure, a bag of worms and some interesting advice. (Plus some Mason Bee houses and a pack of radishes.) First suggestion was to go to Starbucks and ask for a cup of their used grounds. I can just see a bored barista trying to deal with that request, so I went to Sonoma Market, which is pretty much the Platonic Ideal of a locally owned and committed organic market. Without blinking an eye or needing an explanation, the coffee bar attendant started filling up coffee cups until I said, “Stop!”
I do have limits in the ignorance I want to show, so I stopped short of asking my gardening buddy why she wanted me sprinkle trails of used coffee grounds through the compost and turned soil before I put the worms in. I’m thinking it’s because caffeinated worms are just that much more efficient in turning the soil. Or maybe since over-caffeination is the Northern California way, this ritual is just a way of inducting the worms into our culture. Go to it, Worms! There’s more North Coast Roast in your future if you need it.