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Worm Dancing


I’ve heard writers talk about finding inspiration at the weirdest times or places. I’ve also heard from menfolk, fifty and older, about suffering from insomnia. As a testament to both conditions, its 2:30am Sunday morning with a steady rain pitter-pattering outside my window and I’m tossing and turning thinking about, of all things, worm dances!

In the midst of the sheet flinging, hot flashes and recanting Saturday’s compost spreading, I rustled my wife’s slumber asking, “Whadaya think the worms are dancing to?”

“You’re weird,” resonated from across the pillow.

A few moments passed (with us both now thinking about this question) and then she sleepily contributed, “How about the Cupid Shuffle?” As the lyrics, “To the right, to the right, to the left, to the left,” danced in my limbs and mind it was time to get up and capture the magic of this latest inspiration.

I have to admit this has been on my mind since I fired up the ole’ 7006 model Deutz tractor and rental spreader up at daybreak yesterday and started hauling the 6 month old composted manure from our outside feeding area to paddocks 14 and 18. It’s just amazing to see how the decomposers can take a mass of bedding pack and reduce it to a quarter of its size while stabilizing the nutrients and smell.

Since our Bobcat tractor loaded this earthy, worm food with relative ease, there was plenty of time for the mind to wander while delivering a track of fertility on the recently grazed, stockpiling grass. The first load’s thought process against the warming sun morphed back to “The Night before Christmas”. The grass whisperer’s interpretation was slightly different however, as the worms were nestled all snug in their soil while visions of succulent organic matter danced in their heads. Who knew spreading was so inspirational!

The next few rounds had me whistling the “Watermelon Crawl” by Tracy Byrd.

The worms wiggled and they giggled and be all you ever saw,
this is how you do the watermelon (worm) crawl.

It reminded me of Daniel Kline’s witness to the red wigglers actually wrapping tightly on a grass blade and pulling it in to its hole for the evening meal. Would that be like eating a sweet juicy watermelon I wonder?

In subsequent loads, you can only imagine the kinds of melodies, one compost wielding, grass farmer can fling. There was Van Morrison’s “Moondance”, now worm-dance. And this childhood favorite:

The Apple and the Worm

I bit an apple
That had a worm.
I swallowed the apple,
I swallowed the worm.
I felt it squiggle,
I felt it squirm.
I felt it wiggle,
I felt it turn.
It felt so slippery,
Slimy, scummy,
I felt it land – PLOP –
In my tummy! I guess that worm is there to stay
Unless . . .
I swallow a bird some day!

After several hours of spreading the black gold and exhausting all the humming, my fancy oddly turned toward worm dancing. There were night crawlers going “Gangnam style” and doing the worm limbo. However my personal favorite has to be the iconic 1980s breakdancing sensation, “The Worm” in which a very limber dancer lies in the prone position and forms a rippling motion through their body, creating a wave reminiscent of a worm crawling. Definitely something my body won’t do! (See the 6 second video of the worm dance and you’ll understand!)

All worm ditties and dances aside, the personal satisfaction of applying soil building nutrients and creating an organic matter sponge never gets old. This yearly exercise of enhancing specific fields that need help is the backbone of a nutrient management plan. I’ll take it one step further and say that my planned grazing strategy is really a fertility plan because it complements the soil health in adding sloughed off root exudates, litter to the ground and plant diversity creating homes and dance studios for all sorts of party animals.

Allegany County Dairyman, Kim Shaklee said, “We grass farmers are simply here for the amusement of the microbes.” If that’s true, watching our grazing practices must be like go to the circus. I guess now all there’s left to do is create an electromagnetic shrink ray and do some real worm dancing.

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Troy Bishopp
Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is a seasoned grazier and grasslands advocate who owns, manages and linger-grazes at Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters, grandchildren and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raise dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased pastures. Troy also mentors farmers on holistic land management for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. This award-winning free-lance writer, essayist and photographer maintains a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com