The Worm Poop Farm

If you have read the book or seen the movie The Martian, you would remember that the stranded astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) planted potatoes on Mars to increase his food supply until a rescue mission could be launched. Since the soil of Mars was lacking in nutrients because there is no life on Mars, he fertilized it with his own body waste and the dessicated, sterilized waste of the crew which had been discarded by the them during their mission. It was mostly scientifically correct – the soil would have had to be washed first to rid it of chemicals poisonous to humans  – but the basic premise that growing things need nutrition was accurate.

Around the world over the millennia, feces (the medical term for poop) has been a source of fuel and fertilizer, among many other uses. And why do I bring this up? Well, I’ll tell you…..

There is a small patch of ground on my property on which I set my sights for my next project. After clearing out the weeds, we realized that there was no drainage system installed in that particular area, so we needed to fill it in and raise it up to the level of the rock-and-cement wall with extra dirt so excess rainwater could run off the top.


My neighbor had piles of dirt on his property as a result of construction, and he allowed us to take as much as we needed. The problem was,  the soil was devoid of the nutrients plants would need to survive and thrive.  His solution? Go to the worm farm.

So off we went to the worm farm, and what I saw and learned were quite amazing.  Long, deep tanks made of cement blocks greeted me after I entered the property. When the lids were lifted, I could see they were full of soft black dirt with millions of worms wriggling about.

The owner told me that they put dirt and organic matter in these tanks –  mostly the unused organic material from sugar cane and the pulp and skin from the coffee cherries (which are removed from the coffee bean during processing), and some organic matter from other fruits and vegetables, but never any animal matter.

The worms are then allowed to eat, poop, and make little worm babies to their hearts’ content for 8 months, and then the process begins to remove them, so you end up with pure, rich soil.

To preserve the lives of the worms while separating them from the dirt, the workers begin to place their food in one area of the tank. As the worms migrate towards the food, the worm-free dirt is extracted. This continues until all the rich soil is separated from the worms.

It is then bagged and sold to people like me to allow our plants to grow happy and healthy, courtesy of the circle of life.


And there ends your biology/organic farming lesson for now – so enjoy your day, wherever you might be, and catch you next time!


Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia !

Although this is a blog about being an ex-pat living in Mexico, it is not entirely about the country of Mexico, but rather about my experiences AS an ex-pat, no matter where I happen to be at the moment.

I often find myself at a loss for what to post, so if you have any suggestions, please write them in my comments section. When I first arrived in Mexico, there was so much to experience, and therefore I had tons of material to work with. Now, I often think that I would be repeating myself and have writers block, so suggestions and questions that have not been addressed are more than welcome.

So now, I am in Atlanta, Georgia for the Rotary International Convention. I absolutely love these events, as I can meet and interact with people from all over the world, find out about their lives and learn about their projects.

I was last here in 1996, passing through on the way back from Florida with my family. We didn’t have tickets to any of the events, but wandered around the venue anyway. I remember the fountains spurting from the ground, and my son playing in them, as it was incredibly hot at the time. We returned to our car by way of the metro. Being from New York, I have been calling it the subway, and have to explain to people what I mean when I get a puzzled look in reply to my queries about where the “subway station” is.

I wonder if my son, who was 8 years old at the time,  remembers any of this, including the child who was continuously singing while we were on the train car.

One of the things I had been wanting to do for many years, was visit the Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, and I it was one of the first things I did, after registering at the Georgia World Congress Center for the convention.

It was a 3-mile walk from the GWCC each way – and I am eternally grateful for the modern technology that brought us Google maps, as I notoriously have absolutely no sense of direction.

The center had beautiful gardens outside, a research center and an incredible museum dedicated to Jimmy Carter’s life and his dedication to serve humanity. I do remember many of the things from my lifetime, such as the peace talks between Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat.  It was noted that after the Camp David Accord, there has not been any incident of an Egyptian killing an Israeli, nor of an Israeli killing an Egyptian.

He has also been the leader in the fight to eradicate Guinea worm, a painful disease which has plagued mankind for millenia. I had thought it was eradicated, but apparently there are still a few cases. I listened to an interview he did one time describing this campaign and how he was privileged to use his status as a former president to coerce leaders to join the fight.

Apparently, this disease had already been eliminated in Guinea, where it was first discovered. President Carter was trying to convince the head of Ghana to join in the effort to eliminate it in his own country, and the leader was resistant. President Carter then told him that if he did not commit to eradicating this condition, he would be forced to re-name it Ghana worm, and this tactic did work. He said that if he had not had the status of a former president, he would not have been able to talk to the Ghanian leader in this way.

At 91 years old, he is still actively involved in lifting up humanity and making the world a better place, including Habitat for Humanity and eliminating other diseases and promoting world peace efforts.

For those of you who would like to learn more about his life, I would suggest you read the books “A Remarkable Mother” which describes his life growing up and the influence his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, had on him. I believe she is the reason he is such a humanitarian.

I would also suggest the book “Letters from Home” written by Lillian Carter and her daughter Gloria Carter Spann. It details her decision to join the Peace Corps at the age of 68, and what it was like as a nurse in the Peace Corps in India.  “Miss Lillian” was a great inspiration to me, and I have given these two books as gifts many times.

After visiting the Carter Center, I walked the 3 miles back to the Georgia World Congress Center.  I like walking when I have plenty of time, because you see many things you would not notice when in a car, bus or airplane.  So please enjoy the pictures, and there will be more about the convention in the next post.