Speaking of extinct earthworms-and we were–here’s a funny little story from a funny little planet about another vanishing species–oligochaetologists. Make of it what you will.
An excerpt from an excerpt from a new novel on Upton Sinclair called U.S.! by Chris Bachelder, in which titles for a book on earthworms are imagined…and said book is then imaginatively sent to the remainder bin.
NPR : ‘U.S.!’: Resurrecting Upton Sinclair: ” The strong, near-rotten smell in the car made me remember the way the summer rains would bring up long, knotty earthworms in the streets of my childhood neighborhood. It occurs to me now that I haven’t seen worms like that in years. Perhaps the earthworm is a bellwether, a coal-mine canary, yet another harbinger of planetary doom. No doubt there will soon be a book, called The Missing Tiller, perhaps, or Dearthworm, blurbed as ‘quite possibly the best of the disappearing animal books.’ And the books about disappearing frogs, disappearing dolphins, and disappearing eagles will disappear to the discount table, three for ten dollars.”
I was so happy to see the folks from Yelm Earth at the Seattle garden show. This worm farm in Washington state has been through a lot of changes over the years. I went to visit it when I was doing research for The Earth Moved and I think it was for sale then. Anyway, there’s a good group of people tending the worms, selling castings, and more. They’ve got a rich supply of manure for feedstock, good equipment, and plenty of knowledge. Check them out.
Their Latin name is Mesenchytraeus solifugus. They’re in the same taxonomic class as regular segmented earthworms that live in your garden.
They eat snow algae.
There can be as many as 2600 ice worms in a square meter of glacier. One glacier can hold more ice worms than the entire human population.
They live in temperate climates in Alaska, Canada, Oregon, and Washington.
Check them out here:
We take a break from our regularly scheduled worm programming for a special announcement:
I need some help choosing a title for my next book. It’s just four or five little words–you wouldn’t think it would be so hard, but my editor and I have been taxing our poor little brains for weeks now and we still haven’t settled on the perfect title.
So now I’ve set up an online survey and I’d really appreciate it if you’d go take the survey and encourage your friends to do the same. You won’t have to log in or provide any personal information.
If you have more ideas than what the survey can handle, feel free to post a comment or send me an e-mail.
By the way, I’d like to thank the author Po Bronson for the inspiration for this survey. He went through a similar process with the cover design for his last book, Why Do I Love These People?
Now here’s a win-win situation. Feed water hyacinths to earthoworms. They don’t call this plant “the blue devil” for nothing: it’ll clog a river or a lake in no time flat. Turns out that worms love the stuff and 180 tons of yanked-out-and-piled-up water hyacinth will become 60 tons of rich worm castings. Go, worms! Then can you start on my dandelions?
This just in from the Seattle Times. These worms have not been seen in over 20 years and some people feared they were extinct. William Fender and his mother Dorothy did some of the early research about these earthworms, and she had a few specimens in her collection in Oregon when I spoke to her a few years ago as I was doing research for The Earth Moved.
“A University of Idaho graduate student recently found a rare giant Palouse earthworm. Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon is apparently the first person in nearly two decades to find a specimen of the worm, which can reportedly grow to 3 feet long.
She found the 6-inch white worm in May while digging at Washington State University’s Smoot Hill Ecological Preserve near Palouse, Wash. The Palouse occupies an estimated 2 million acres of northcentral Idaho and southeastern Washington.
Earthworm experts who gathered for a workshop in Sanchez-de Leon’s native Puerto Rico in November confirmed Sanchez-de Leon’s identification, as did Northwest earthworm expert William M. Fender-Westwind of Portland, Ore.
“By earthworm standards, they’re pretty cool,” said James Johnson, the head of the university’s Plant, Soil and Entomological Sciences Department.”
The good news about worm composting is always rolling in from Cuba. They’re quite focused on reducing inputs (i.e., fertilizer) and increasing self-sufficiency, not to mention recycling, and what does all that mean? Worms, worms, worms. If only we all lived on islands. Oh, I suppose we do, in a larger sense.
“As part of the efforts that Cuba is making to increase the areas dedicated to urban agriculture, a plan to set up 135 new organic vegetable plots is being organized in eastern Las Tunas province.
These areas of land of approximately one hectare are mostly sown with green vegetables and spices. They have watering systems and use earthworm humus. “
This is a crazy, but very cool, idea: Buy earthworm eggs and plant them in the ground like seeds. Let the little critters hatch and make magic in your soil.
I believe the species is Lumbricus rubellus. This is a little red worm that will thrive in fertile soil and compost piles, but it is not a deep burrower like a nightcrawler. It’s also not necessarily the best worm for a worm bin; for that I’d recommend Eisenia fetida, the red wiggler, which is the kind most commonly sold by worm farmer to use in worm bins.