The Wormhole

#2 – American Farm Boy Rides Herd in Tokyo

Worm herds, that is. I grew up on a farm in the 60’s. I enjoyed countless hours riding horseback in the surrounding mountains, but I dreamed of living in the city where the streets were paved. Skateboards just don’t roll on gravel roads. 50 years later I find myself living in Tokyo, but skateboards have changed.

My migration to the city has been convoluted. I spent four years attending an agricultural high school on a 360-acre farm in southern Utah followed by four more years on a 100-acre farm in the mountains of Okinawa where I became fluent in Japanese. My father was a machinist and automotive technician and I had always gravitated to the machinery aspects of agriculture. So back in the US I spent a decade in autobody repair, and then 15 years in IT (computer and network support). I started college at age 29 and spent the next 29 years earning a double-major B.A. in Applied Linguistics and Japanese. Some years before finishing my degree at Portland State University I made my way back to Japan, working as a linguist at a medical university. I have no intention of ever returning to agriculture, at least not as a farmer.

I love crowded streets and trains. I try to imagine where all those people come from and wish I could get to know more of them. I am fortunate to have two homes. Part of the time I live just 3 minutes’ walk from one of Tokyo’s busy train stations in high density jungle of concrete hi-rise apartment towers, but most of the time I choose to stay in my country home just a minute’s walk from rice paddies where frogs sing in loud choruses at night. In the city I wonder how all those people will find food if the economy collapses, and in the countryside I am surrounded by small-scale farms, mostly run by very old people. I feel more secure around farmers and feel more at ease surrounded by farms and gardens. This has driven me over the last several years to look for a way to contribute something directly to the farmers near me and to Japanese agriculture and food security in general. Then along came the new SARS-COV2 corona virus. The pandemic spurred me into action. When the local organic gardener complained that everyone should be growing their own vegetables, another voice told me there are many people like me who simply can’t or don’t want to grow vegetables, but who would be happy to contribute soil they’ve built using their kitchen scraps, composters and worm herds. Since then I have spent countless hours reading books and articles on vermiculture, searching the web, watching videos, planning, and generally attempting to accelerate my vermiculture learning process by coupling my acquisition of theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience. In May of 2020 I set up more than 10 herds of redworms in various types of environments and am practicing everything I already know about the husbandry of redworms while continuing to read. In this series I will keep you posted.

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