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Looking for Live Red Worms For Your High Desert Garden?

I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Anderson of WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, California recently and I must say that I was extremely impressed with his breadth of knowledge with all things pertaining to high desert gardening. We’d only intended to pick up a pound of worms for composting, but we ended up getting an awesome tour of Greg’s farm in the process. To say that I was fascinated by Greg’s use of space, land and recycled materials is an understatement of the highest degree.

No Master Gardener Here…Yet!

Now, I’m just going to be honest with you– I’m no gardener. Having never been successful in cultivating anything green, I’ve always fancied the talents of others who can. And if you can literally grow your own food, you’re nothing short of a rockstar in my mind. I bow down to the master gardeners of the world, which is why meeting Greg was such a delight.

At this point, I’m sure you’re all wondering why on earth I’d be at a live red worm farm if I can’t grow so much as a dandelion, right? Well, since moving to the desert, my husband’s been learning quite a bit about green living from Neville Slade of the Sustainable Learning Center (in fact, it was Professor Slade who originally introduced my husband to Greg Anderson). Anywho, I’ve always been sorta interested in greener lifestyles, too, and as a freelancer I’ve learned a little here and there about things like composting, repurposing old things and the like. So, I may not be a high desert gardener yet, but I think I’m heading in that direction and am happy to learn from people like Greg Anderson as I go. Just don’t be too surprised when the day comes that I blog about my own square foot garden or cabbage patch or something really cool like that, ok?

WorldWideWorm Farms

But back to the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley. When we arrived, Greg took us around back to show us his worms in action. While en route to his composting areas, however, we got to tour his property where we saw a bunch of cool things like the greenhouse he built with his bare hands and a few recycled materials.

Homemade greenhouse at worldwide worm farms in Apple Valley, Ca

The entrance to Greg Anderson's handmade greenhouse.

 

The following are a couple of shots from the rear as well as the interior of the greenhouse:

 

Plenty of shelving and room for Greg's plants

 

Greg also has a full on garden filled with fruits and veggies. He jokes that the only thing he ever needs to go to the grocery store for are his favorite candies, since he can’t grow them, lol.

Here are some of the grape vines, which we can see are edging towards producing delicious edible grapes very soon– check it out:

One of the things that I loved about Greg's garden is how organized everything is. High desert gardening takes a bit of planning, which this guy makes look oh so easy.

 

Tiny grapes are beginning to bud at the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca.

 

Just beyond the greenhouse area, Greg showcases a square-foot garden. Here, you can see what I mean about being organized. Each square features its own vegetable like kale, cauliflower,  onions, garlic, etc.

Square-foot garden filled with a variety of veggies and fresh herbs.

 

Notice the worm tube Greg uses to insert live red worms into his square-foot garden. The worms create vermicompost, which fertilize his vegetables.

 

Greg also sells worm tubes and vermicompost at his WorldWideWorm Farms. Above is a photo of one of the tubes he uses in his garden. Here’s a photo of what they look like brand new just to give you an idea of their size and how deeply they’re inserted while providing many of the nutrients a garden needs:

Brand new live red worm tubes for sale at WWWFarms in Apple Valley, Ca

 

Greg’s chickens love fresh vegetables from his garden. While we were there, they followed him around like crazy begging for a bit of kale, collards and other greens that they regularly feed on. His chickens all have names, they are never slaughtered for food and they’ve pretty much got the run of the yard (with the exception of the areas he’s had to fence away to keep them from eating the live red worms and fresh veggies. We were the ones fenced in on this photo, not the lady birds).

These girls love kale! The grey striped one is named Zebra (pronounced like Debra, lol). I don't recall the white one's name, but she's a Leghorn and the other one produces beautiful blue eggs.

 

No dye for these eggs. Featured in blue, tan, brown and white, each chicken produces a different colored egg.

 

She's happy to dine on her veggies all alone while the others are preoccupied with their kale feeding.

 

Once again proving that High Desert gardening doesn’t require a lot of space (even though he’s got plenty), Greg crafted ths “salad pyramid”. Even if you’ve got little more than a patio, there’s no excuse not to grow your own fresh vegetables if you’re so inclined to do so.

This salad pyramid is one of my favorites. Lettuce, radishes and anything you need for a delicious salad are right here for the picking.

 

Greg was kind enough to send us home with a few fresh-picked radishes. They were soooooo delicious, too!

 

No real ick factor like I would have expected at a live red worm farm. I mean, really, besides a little bit of an earthy scent (which I rather like), Greg’s worms and compost are very well maintained. Here are a few photos of his worms and vermicompost areas:

 

Just what we came for...live red worms!

 

Live red worm beds at WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca

 

And lest you think that it’s all worms, chickens and veggies at Greg’s place, he’s pretty handy with recycled items, too. You’ve already seen the greenhouse featured in his High Desert garden, but take a look at what else he’s built with using items that most others would consider trash:

Bat shelter

 

BTW, did you know that bat poop is an excellent fertilizer, too? Greg’s been studying this stuff– first as a hobby, then as a business– for years. His passion for High Desert gardening has led him to build a bat shelter, which is positioned just above his square-foot garden. The plan here is to regularly attract bats, which will eat gnats and other insects that hang around the garden, and, in return, Greg hopes the bats will leave him a little “something” for his garden.

Greg keeps track of the climate in his High Desert garden with this handmade weather vane.

 

Zebra, Dog (these are actual chicken names, folks) and about 7 other feathery residents of the WorldWideWorm Farms rest here when the sun sets.

 

Greg says he makes the best homemade bread in the world inside of his handmade outdoor brick oven.

 

Greg admitted to being most proud of his latest creation, a windmill that he made using discarded pipe, metal, a treadmill engine and other materials that were going to end up in a landfill.

 

Handmade windmill

 

Pretty nifty, huh? And this windmill doesn’t just get points for its cool factor or for being a good conversation piece…it actually works! Greg’s hard work will more than pay for itself in the form of electricity powered by this incredible device.

A close-up of the windmill's handcrafted blades.

 

Last, but not least, a few snapshots of the gourds that Greg grew. Note all of the interesting shapes and sizes:

 

Gourds Galore!

 

 

 

 

To purchase live red worms or to learn more about high desert gardening, give Greg of WorldWideWorm Farms a call at 760-792-9660. And for more photos and information on vermicomposting, visit Greg’s blog at WorldWideWormFarms.WordPress.com. And be sure to tell my friend that Laura from the High Desert Blogging network says hello!

Let’s Hear It

Have you interested in High Desert gardening? Are you already well on your way to being a master gardener? What are your thoughts on live red worms, vermicomposting and all that jazz? Your comments are more than welcome in the space provided below.

My Day At the Sustainable Learning Center by Guest Blogger Laura M. Sands


Neville and Tammy Slade's Environmentally Friendly Home

A Hand-Built Sustainable Home


Many thanks to Neville and Tammy Slade for allowing me to tour the environmentally-friendly home they are building just east of Apple Valley. Having only read about, seen photos of or viewed YouTube footage of sustainable housing projects, I was thrilled to be able to experience one in person…and in my own backyard, no less! A special shout out to all of Mr. Slade’s Sustainable Practice students from Victor Valley College– who the tour was actually arranged for and I was merely a grateful tag-along.


What I witnessed during my time on the sprawling 7.5 acre property was nothing short of inspiring. From the natural beauty which surrounds the home to its mostly hand-built construction, it is an astonishing display of what we can all accomplish with barely any disturbance of the environment at all.


I’d Call First, If I Were You


The Slade’s home is nestled only slightly beneath one of many hills which embrace the land surrounding Highway 18 en route to Lucerne Valley. Anyone hoping to find this masterpiece on their own, however, is advised to wait for an invitation and a detailed set of directions first. Save a few handwritten posts, there are zero street signs or even paved roads to guide a would-be visitor. Folks, when I tell you that this home blends into the landscape, I’m being nearly literal as there is very little else that surrounds it.


Simple, Smart, Stewardship


As longtime environmentalists, the Slade’s live by a three-fold creed that is summed up as ‘simple, smart, stewardship’. The home absolutely reflects this, as well. Simple in structure, smart in materials used and architecture, and good stewardship in making use of what is naturally at hand. In fact, Mr. Slade defined the latter as one who is a ‘good manager’ and who, “uses the resources given and expanding their use as opposed to tearing it all down”. This is evident in the vintage Airstream RV that has been repurposed to support an outdoor kitchen (where we enjoyed the plentiful sunshine during our lunchtime visit), the old cast iron sink that was installed in the home’s interior kitchen and the recycled indoor cabinetry no longer used by Habitat For Humanity.


Other highlights of this well-planned, environmentally conscious two-bedroom home include:

 

 

  • Metal roofing, which is 60% recycled

  • Windows made of recycled glass

  • Flooring made from natural materials


Large straw bales used to make the home’s walls are stacked in brick-like formation and are temporarily held together by nails and rebar. While straw walls are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and easy to build with, Mr. Slade shared that bare straw walls don’t stand up too well against water. Completed walls, however, are covered with sand and polyurethane, which effectively guard the home against water.


For those of you who are as in the dark as I was about straw bale construction, here are a few facts that may interest you:


Walls made of straw bale…

  • Are proven to stand up well against earthquakes and fire

  • Provide excellent insulation

  • Are celebrated as green building materials


More information on using straw bale to construct walls can be found on Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center Blog and in California’s Health and Safety Code, Section 18944.40-18944.41.


Sustainable Living


The home has its own well, which is pumped to an uphill storage facility and provides a downhill run of generated water only when needed. Very little is wasted here as grey water is used to for plant irrigation and will eventually also be used to irrigate future vegetable gardens and fruit trees. The Slades are also planning a living roof (garden) atop the repurposed container featured below, which provides an additional structure detached from the home and currently overlooks the community garden being regularly tended to by students of nearby Apple Valley Christian School.


Recycled Container Put to Good Use

Everything Becomes New Again


And speaking of no waste, the Slade’s not only use waterless composting toilets, but the couple also have an area for composting non-meat organics. In fact, instead of filling trash barrels after our lunch, leftovers were dumped and buried in the composting center, which is made from the manure of the sheep that the couple tends to at their temporary residence.


Garden Composting

Simple Composting


A Cool Place


When the Slade’s finally do move into their home, there is no doubt as to the comfort they will enjoy. Having put much thought into the house’s construction, it has been built in ways that optimize the natural resources around it while enhancing the home’s comfort and appeal. Eventually, it will rely only on solar energy for heat and for much of its electricity, and it is built in such a way as to deflect the hot desert sun, which would normally overheat a home in the desert via its southern and western walls. Since it is a desert residence and hot sun is a hallmark of this area, additional cooling may be needed, which is why the Slade’s plan on installing an energy-efficient system that will be programmed to only run during periods of sunlight and will automatically disable as soon as the sun sets.


A Place to Retreat


As much as I enjoyed learning about all that the Slade’s home had to offer in terms of energy-efficiency and resourceful planning– and I mean no disrespect to the hard work invested in bringing this hand-built home to life– I do want to go on record with saying that its most striking feature is the surrounding acreage. The fragrant creosote and sage bushes that ramble throughout the property alongside noble, statuesque Joshua trees, and a vast array of colorful cacti and wild desert flowers are, without a doubt, a large part of why the Slade’s chose this particularly remote area of the high desert to call home. With natural fauna that includes owls, roadrunners, bobcats, jack rabbits and (ever-adorable) kangaroo rats, one begins to feel an overpowering sense of serenity and awe after just a few minutes outdoors.


Lots of flora, fauna and unique insects at the Sustainable Living Center

A Yucca Moth busy pollinating the area


High Desert Pioneers


Having grown up on a farm in South Africa, Neville Slade appears solidly connected to the beauty surrounding his Mojave kingdom; and with a deep respect for the environment, he is a dedicated advocate of disturbing as little of it as possible. During the tour, I overheard one of Slade’s students quietly expressing her admiration for Tammy Slade, a remarkable woman eager to embrace her husband’s minimalist ideals. As she so effortlessly served our lunch in the outdoor kitchen equipped with fresh well water and makeshift countertops, her joy, peace and contentment were clearly evident. As high desert residents with the same resources within our collective reach, we could all stand to learn quite a bit from these modern pioneers in our midst.

Community sustainable living leaders

Owners, Neville and Tammy Slade, Built the Sustainable Learning Center by Hand


See For Yourself!


For more information about Neville and Tammy Slade’s Sustainable Learning Center or to donate time, items or materials to the site, please visit their blog at www.SustainableLearningCenter.com. Be sure to also check out Neville Slade’s YouTube videos to watch the home’s progress on the Neville Slade channel.


Professor Neville Slade, the man behind the high desert's Sustainable Living Center

Neville Slade enjoying the cool shade of his porch overlooking Lucerne Valley

 

More Photos:


A well at the Sustainable Living Center in the high desert

That little structure in the distance is the property’s 400-foot well

 

Water storage location for sustainable living needs

Well water is pumped uphill and stored in a special shed. When needed, its downhill flow provides adequate water pressure for the property's needs.


Recycled and reused kitchen cabinets
Discarded kitchen cabinets donated to the Sustainable Learning Center courtesy of Habitat For Humanity
A recycled cast iron sink lives again at the Sustainable Learning Center
Recycled glass windows
Recycled glass windows are present throughout this environmentally-friendly home
Straw bale walls at various stages of the building process:
Walls made of straw
Densely stacked, these straw bale walls are surprisingly hard and sturdy!
Side view of a wall in-progress at the Sustainable Learning Center
A completed outdoor wall covered in polyurethane
Recycled Metal Roofing at the Sustainable Learning Center in the High Desert
The outdoor kitchen is where Professor Neville Slade and his wife, Tammy, prepare meals until the home’s interior kitchen is completed.
Community garden and composting area for students of Apple Valley Christian School

A view from the patio extending across the front of the home (and Neville Slade’s fortunate view from the porch swing in the photo above)

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