Worm-Herding


Yesterday morning was a good time to be out–cool, a little drizzly, but not soaking–the perfect time to herd worms.

As I was broad-forking my way down a 30″ row, driving those tines into the soil and levering backward, a mass worm migration was taking place. The heaving of the soil, coupled with the cracks, crevices, and tine-holes, signaled those fertility-makers of the earth to move out of the way.

Because I was working backwards, as you do when broad-forking a row, I was privileged to see dozens of them–big and small–coming up out of the speedy exit-ways I made for them and making for the shelter of the next bed over.

Would you bring a mowing machine into a field of your sheep and proceed to mow over them in the process of cutting hay? No. But when you are a gardener or farmer, and you till up a bed without first herding the worms out of the way, you’re killing off many of those residents of the soil who help make it possible for you to farm or garden there.

That it was cool and damp yesterday gave my “flock” a little extra time to move without risking the desiccating effects of the sun. When I went in with my hand-tiller to work the surface into a fine tilth, most of them had vacated the immediate area, and very few were lost to the steely tines of my cultivation.

There are some who would laugh at the idea of worm intelligence. But I would wager that those creatures of the soil have at least as much intelligence and desire for self-preservation as a sheep–maybe even more because they are wild, and have not had their cleverness bred out of them for ease of production.

Because their work benefits me, and because they can do this work better than I could ever hope to, even with an arsenal of man-made fertility treatments, it only makes sense that I offer the resident worms of my garden the respect, care, and herding-cues they need to survive.

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