worms, composting, organic gardening, and nature

Archive for August, 2012

Just a Little Patience

It’s that transitional time of the year…school is starting, football is coming, and the temperatures (much to our dismay) are fighting to stick to summer.  This puts a kibosh on best laid plans, but you gotta roll with the punches.

1)  Shipping Worms:  100 degrees and high humidity is not a great opportunity to ship worms.  Best case, the worms would get to your house in less than 24 hours, in air-conditioning all the way, and be handed to you early morning by a cute Postal Employee.  More likely scenario:  Worms get shuffled and squashed under heavy boxes in the un-air-conditioned postal van and forgotten until last drop of the day.  At this point, they would no longer be worms.  Dripping from the box would be a disgusting soup that looks just like the dead vampire goo on True Blood and smells like it comes from the 9th level of Hell.  Unfortunately, for me and a box of worms that got returned (address unknown) to us, I know this personally.  I don’t want to do that to you, your postman, or the worms.  It’s bad, really bad.  Please understand and don’t be mad when we suggest that it would be better to wait a few weeks before shipping.

Worm Orders:

Until it cools down a bit, we are actually in a state of suspended animation at the Worm Ranch.  In an effort to conserve on the electric bill, we have the thermostat at 85 degrees.  Worms can survive at this temperature.  However, it doesn’t matter how much Barry White we play on the stereo…these worms just aren’t in the mood for procreation.  As I overheard one worm say to another, “Hermie, don’t even think about touching me in this heat!”.  So, until it cools a bit, we have enough worms to keep us at a good number for producing castings, but they aren’t laying cocoons so we can sell them to you.  As soon as the temps dip just a little bit, we should have a population explosion and have plenty of worms.  Until then, hope you can understand they just aren’t in the mood.

Gardens:  100 degree heat is great for Okra, Southern Peas and Basil.  When I come home from the gardens, beaming at our bounty, I’m met with the welcome, “Really, more okra!?”.  It’s just too hot to plant those broccoli and other Fall crops and expect them to survive.  I can hardly handle the heat and humidity to manage basic garden chores, myself.  Not sure if the gardens or I are soaked more after I water them.

Soon, we’ll be enjoying cooler temps, pumpkin pie and wishing for Spring…until then, please have a little patience.  Fall Gardening and Worm Keeping is really great (they love pumpkins!) and worth the wait.Image

I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

Wow!  It’s been a crazy couple of years as an Urban Organic “Farmer”.  Last year we saw heat and drought that took me back in time to our Oklahoma farm and the the awful summer of 1980.  Just like then, the earth was scorched, the heat was unbearable and crops sizzled under the Sun.  This year, August is proving a much milder fellow, but our nemesis is falling like rain from the sky.  Our County is dumping toxic pesticide from airplanes in an inane attempt to combat West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes.  So, we have beautiful crops that we can’t eat or sell, because we don’t want to sell anything we won’t feed our families!

Despite all this, I feel hope.  It’s nearly a new season.  I’ve placed my faith in seeds nestled in flats. I’ve given them love and tender care by placing them in sunny spots during the cooler parts of the day and bringing them into the shade during the heat of the day.  I have brought them in to avoid the overnight pesticide spraying.  I pray for sense and reason to come to our local government and awareness and education to enlighten our citizens.

In this vein, Texas Worm Ranch has an educational opportunity to help enlighten people who want to tread a lighter footprint, our Urban Sustainable Ecosystem workshops.  We have brought in a team of experts to help you turn your backyard into an organic and sustainable oasis.  I’m really worried about the bees and other pollinators that have been devastated by this spraying.  North Texas’s best bee educators, Brandon and Susan Pollard, from Texas Honeybee Guild, will teach us how to create a backyard pollinator habitat.

I’ll be teaching you how to create a Fall Garden, which is a big passion of mine.  I’m not sure people realize just how productive a Fall and Winter Garden can be.  Year round food crops are possible here in North Texas, and winter greens and daily salads are a wonderful way to eat healthy at a lower cost.  Also, it is much easier to garden when it isn’t 110 degrees and all the pests are out!

John Krause, from Living Natural First Radio, is a longtime organic gardener and radio host on Natural Living.  He will start off our day by outlining why and how you can become organic and sustainable in your yard.  We’ll give detailed compost education, so you will be successful with saving money by converting your yard and food waste.  Carrie Dubberly of Dubberly Landscaping info on saving water costs by using a Rain Garden.  Finally, Roger Sanderson, Director of Horticulture at Texas Discovery Gardens will be teaching us how we can help our native creatures and save money by using more drought tolerant and native plants (Fall is the best time to install all plants, bushes and trees in our area!).

This is just the first of 2 workshops.  Our educators aim to help our natural ecosystem heal from the effects of heat, drought, and toxic chemicals.  We need to help get the word out on how to accomplish this.  After attending, we hope that you will have a safer and more affordable landscape.  More importantly, we hope you will come and learn how to become an ambassador in spreading these messages of stewardship and sustainability throughout your neighborhoods.  Please consider joining us, learning more, and “beeing” the bridge to saner, more natural living.  Our bees and other creatures, our children and grandchildren, and our communities will be better for it.

Here is the link to sign up for one or both workshops:

Urban Sustainable Ecosystems

Happy Gardening!

Heather Rinaldi

Texas Worm Ranch

Prepping Organic Beds with Sheet Mulching Techniques

Elliot explains the process he used to enrich our soil in our raised beds to begin the Fall Planting Process:

Prepping Sheet-Mulched, Raised-Beds for Fall Planting

Now that it is August and we can expect temperatures to begin to dip as fall creeps in, the TX Worm Ranch has been kicking it into gear to get fall beds ready for planting.  

 Fall planting and Fall crops give us a serious energy boost because it means its time to plan and create.  We were thinking about how we’re going to maximize our growing space so that we can pump out delicious greens for our and your fall dinner plates.  

Take a look at the video example and explanation (please excuse Heather’s poor camera work!):

Soil Prep Video

 The video is a brief explanation of some of the techniques employed in the creation of our new raised beds but, we also wanted to provide a written dissection of what it takes to build raised beds.  

 The planting space we were rehabilitating had seen a lot of use over the spring and summer so it was important to ensure that the garden would have proper drainage.  We set about forking the soil with our spade fork, gently lifting sections to encourage water to move through the layers of soil rather than pool in one subsection or another.  After using the fork we applied decomposing wood chips.  This application serves two functions.  It’s a coarse material that would allow water to move through it: but it is also well on its way in the composting process so we could count on the chips adding a boost of nutrients over time that would aid in the successful growth of our fall crops—and crops of seasons to come.  

 On top of the mulch we added topsoil that we had removed in order to fork and apply wood chips.  This topsoil was good, healthy soil.  It was already moist, an indication that it was rich in organic matter.  It is exactly that composition that we are hoping to reinforce with our bed preparation.  On top of the topsoil we added a mixture of leaf-mold compost and our TX Worm Ranch Castings: about 10lbs castings to 30lbs leaf compost per 10ft bed.  This mixture was turned vigorously in a wheelbarrow and then applied generously on top of the soil.  

 With the compost in place, we turned on the hose and watered in the new beds.  We all know it is hot and sunny in Texas, so the water rehydrated the soil and compost that had already begun to dry out.  After a thorough soaking, we applied a generous amount of mulch.  In this particular case, we reused some seedless straw that had been mulch in another bed, and applied it onto our new beds in a thickness of at least six inches.  A quick note about mulch: it can be any brown organic matter you prefer (leaves, wood chips, etc.), they all have their pluses and minuses, but what we are after is a material that will compost in place, over time, that will also insulate the topsoil from the variables of the external world.  Serious mulch will result in loose, organically dense topsoil that has no need for a till or plow.  

 There you have it, a simple explanation of how and why we use raised beds and sheet mulching at the TX Worm Ranch.  These are techniques for the gardener who wants to work smarter, not harder.  The way we garden, and the techniques we advocate, are not only sound approaches for today but can become integrated parts of a more sustainable garden, family, and community.

Happy Planting!

Elliot Seldner, TX Worm Ranch


Worried about the effects of toxic spraying? Here is what we are doing…

Hello organic friends,

We want to talk to you today as concerned environmentalists and parents.

Many of you are probably as concerned as we are about Dallas County’s decision to spray a toxic mix of chemicals over our natural ecosystems.  Much assurance has been given on the “safety” of these neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors.  At the same time, they are giving a mixed message of “don’t eat your vegetables, protect your pets, don’t go out in your yard, etc.  Earlier this week, Heather spoke against the aerial spraying at Dallas City Council.  Unfortunately, our words fell on our Mayor’s deaf ears.  We are not happy of the effect this spraying is having on our bees, butterflies and other beneficial creatures.  Heather’s daughter has a rash that started the day after they started fogging our neighborhoods by truck.  We cannot eat from our organic garden or sell our organic produce.  As parents and citizens, it is hard to see this destruction and personal impact.

As business owners, we struggle with what direction to take.  See, we know our Texas Worm Ranch has a product that can reduce the exposure to your family and help heal your natural ecosystem—our 100% safe and natural Worm Wine Yard Treatment.  However, we also don’t want to seem like we are taking advantage of this unfortunate decision of our County and City Leaders.  In an effort to reduce the impact of the spray on our families, we will be spraying all of our yards and gardens early next week with our high microbe Worm Wine Yard Treatment.  The research says that soil high in beneficial microbes is the best way to reduce the life of the toxins in the soil.  We’ll give you the information we found, and will let you decide what you would like to do for your family and your property (don’t we wish we weren’t in this position!).

Here is one document we found, which gives differing results from different studies studying cancer and pyrethrins:  http://www.pyrethrum.com/NewsResources/~/media/pyr/Files/Cancer_Assessment_Document.ashx

More info on synthetic pyrethoid exposure:


From a manufacturer’s own website:  http://www.pyrethrum.com/How_It_Works/Environmental_Impact.aspx


“The binding of pyrethrins to soil makes microbial metabolism in the soil an important component of the degradation of pyrethrins, with half-lives of 10.5 days under aerobic soil conditions and 86.1 days in anaerobic conditions.”

Bingo!!!  Something we can do to help reduce the impact on our families and  natural ecosystem.  So folks, that is why we plan to spray our Worm Wine Yard Treatment on all of our property and gardens.  We test every batch of our Worm Wine under microscope to ensure large quantities of beneficial microbes are in our mix, as well as natural plant nutrients, hormones and enzymes which help support a healthy soil ecosystem and ensure healthy plant life. Our Yard Treatment is $150 for a one time spraying or $100 each for a 4 time yearly contract.  This is the time of year to get our yards back in shape after another tough Texas summer, but this year the need for our natural product is even greater.  We are happy to send you more info on our 100% natural and safe product and associated costs.  Please let us know if you are interested in our help, you can call or email Texas Worm Ranch at:

Steve’s Email:  steve@txwormranch.com

Steve’s Phone:  214-755-1111

 Sending Best Wishes for You Family’s Health!

Heather Rinaldi and Steve Clary

Texas Worm RanchImage

Spraying for West Nile Virus in Dallas

Our of respect for the people scared of West Nile ( I am too–for me and my family), and a couple of friends I know who have had it, I have remained quiet about this issue. My friends at the Texas Honeybee Guild are losing bees, I’m seeing huge loss of wasps, bees and dragonflies (that eat gnats and mosquitoes). The spray is literally wiping out the ecosystem designed to pollinate our food (1/3 of all food is pollinated by insects) AND naturally get rid of the pests–which usually equals more and stronger chemical solutions.  We need to be careful that we don’t create a food system collapse, or total balanced ecosystem collapse.

Jim Schutze, from the Dallas Observer, has quite a lot of good info to say about this topic, as well.

The main ingredient in the spray was banned from flea collars on cats, because it was causing death and neurological issues. The ingredient in the spray is a NEUROTOXIN, that they find persists in soil and water (to a lesser degree). Where sprayed on soil, it is found to have a half-life of about 32 days. (Cited from: Heather Imgrund, Environmental Monitoring Branch Department of Pesticide Regulation, Sacramento, CA 95814)
Here’s the problem–we have some troubling neurological issues going on in our country, with no accountability for why they are happening.
Over the last 12 years, the Prevalence of Developmental Delays has increased 17.1%—that’s about 1.8 million more children with DDs in 2006–2008 compared to a decade earlier;
Prevalence of autism increased 289.5%;
Prevalence of ADHD increased 33.0%
There are 450,000 new cases of Parkinsons each year.
Deaths from Alzheimers have risen 66% from 2000-2008
Yep, Let’s keep messing with our nervous system. We gotta find a better solution (avoid being out in the evening and remove standing water is a great start). In case you cannot connect the dotted lines, we are poisoning ourselves and our kids, folks.  Does it seem like spraying neurotoxins might not be the best idea, considering we seem to have an unexplained increase in (drumroll, please) neurological disorders?
Stay healthy, and be smart.  Let’s work together to dump our flower planters and other things that might have standing water.  Avoid evening exposure, or wear long sleeves and pants if you must.  I don’t want anybody to get sick from West Nile Virus, and I don’t want me, my family, you, or our beneficial critters to suffer long term consequences either.

Supporting Local Business–The Dallas Eco-op

I think everybody really thinks they believe the idea of “supporting local business”, but what does that really mean?  Does it mean, “hey, great, one of my neighbors has a business and that’s cool!”, or does it mean you actually use and refer that business to others?  One of the easiest areas we can support local business, that has a huge economic, environmental and health impact is by supporting local “sustainable” businesses.  That’s why we started the Dallas Eco-op

In the Fall and Winter of 2011, several non-profits and small businesses started dreaming together of a way to create a healthier community, healthier people in our neighborhood, a better way to incubate small, green business, and help keep our planet beautiful and healthy too.  We were inspired to create a better ecosystem to live and work in, that truly makes a difference.  Here’s our business and nonprofit partners and how they make a difference:

GROW North Texas:  Our mission is to connect North Texans to food, farms, and community in order to create a sustainable, secure regional food system that enriches the land, encourages economic opportunity through food and agriculture, and provides equitable access to healthy, nutritious food for all residents.  GROW NT hosts our bi-weekly Pop Up Market at the Eco-op, which helps local farmers and artisans get their products to our local community.  A balance of healthy organic food to our neighbors, while keeping the farmers and artisans in business (with your support!!).

Texas Honeybee Guild:  Did you know that at least 30% of our food needs to be pollinated by a bee?  Not only do bees provide lovely honey, they are vital to our food supply.  Brandon and Susan Pollard’s hives are so local, they brand it, “Zip Code Honey”, which helps reduce your allergy intensity.  Education, advocacy, and products from said honey to candles and soaps are what they sell.  You will find the Pollards (who live in East Dallas) at local farmers markets, including the Eco-op…or “like” them on Facebook to see where they might be found.

Clean Air Lawn Care:  Clean Air lawn care is also here in our Lake Highlands, East Dallas and Lakewood areas of Dallas. I highly recommend their service to all my neighbors and friends. They will mow your yard with SOLAR powered (no polluting emissions) mowers and use organic lawn products.  Rick Hauser is all class, and anything we can do to maintain healthy, organic lawns while reducing our air and chemical pollution is a big win for our family’s health, waterways, and creatures depending on our streams and White Rock Lake.

Recycle Revolution:  Owner, Eddie Lott and his family, lives right here in Lake Highlands.  Recycle Revolution, LLC, is an independently-owned, non-landfill recycling company. We provide a one-stop shop collection service for a growing and diverse group of businesses and multi-family communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and waste consulting and project management services to establishments seeking LEED and zero-waste goals. We are also a Community Drop-Off Center for both traditional and Hard-to-Recycle-Materials (HaRM). Ask us about our new Compost and Shredding programs!  Bring your recyclable e-waste, Styrofoam, or other hard to recycle products by the Dallas Eco-op on Saturdays 10-3 or during our Pop Up Markets.

SynergyFish Aquaponics, LLC:  Owner, Dave Pennington, is the mad scientist of sustainability.  From Aquaponic systems, to rocket ovens, to building domes from recycled materials, “Synergy Aquaponics seeks to save the planet from the human species, by educating them about how to sustainably feed, house, and provide energy for themselves.”  Dave provides classes and training, as well as consultations.

Urban Sustainable Ecosystems:  Urban Sustainable Ecosystems (USE) is bringing together experts on sustainable living to teach comprehensive classes & workshops on transforming homesteads into more self-sustaining ecosystems.  Our next workshops are coming up, and we can teach our friends and neighbors how to save money and be more sustainable in their own homestead.  Check out the lineup: 

Texas Worm Ranch:  My business partner, Steve Clary and I each have families that live in Lake Highlands.  As parents, it is important to each of us that we make a positive impact in the community we live in.  Not only do we sell worms for you to compost at home with, we also provide organic yard consultation, install organic vegetable gardens, and help you convert your current chemical lawn care to a safe and effective lawn treatment program.  Email us at rancher@txwormranch.com for help with any of these services.

Urban Acres:  Urban Acres is a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm store.  Every other Saturday, they bring local and organic boxes of produce to the Dallas Eco-op for their CSA members.  I’ve seen the member boxes and they are lovely and full of good-for-you produce.  It’s also a great service to the farmers they buy from, who don’t have to spend hours prepping for a farmers market.  Check them out, it just might be something to help your family get healthier.

So, hope you enjoyed meeting some of these folks.  We are here to help you, your family, our mutual neighborhood and our planet.  Come see us at a Pop Up Market, or email one of the businesses to support their services.  We hope you agree we are in this together!

Shop local, shop green, shop Dallas Eco-op!Image