Practical Application of a Lifetime Study of Habits
of the Most Important Animal in the World
by George Sheffield Oliver, B. Y. P.
There must be something wrong somewhere -- Nature's laws governing these errors -- What is wrong when we have so many human ills? -- When we have want in a land of plenty? -- Why not old age pensions? -- Why poultry dies young -- The earthworm as an answer
"There must be something wrong somewhere."
WHEN a human being is periodically indisposed; when there is want in a land of plenty, where there is nationwide unemployment with factories idle and work to be done; when old age must depend upon charity or a social security that does not secure; when fruit trees are chopped into firewood because they die many years before their natural span of life has been completed; when poultrymen find their chickens dying a premature death by wheelbarrow loads -- " there must be something wrong somewhere."
Why should modern man labor under these distressing and unnatural conditions? Are they the fault of a blind and disinterested nature? Or are they, after all, of man's own making?
It is the purpose of this book and the lessons it contains -- all books and teachings without purposes are empty things -- to encourage the reader to find the something that is wrong and, where possible, alleviate it.
At this point the writer wishes it definitely understood that he is not coming forward with a new theory, or fad, or panacea for all our individual and collective ills and disorders. What appears in the following chanters, was especially prepared for farmers, orchardists, nurserymen, poultrymen, gardeners, trout-farmers and all persons interested in any manner in such matters, is founded on scientifically established data, approved by eminent authorities, and designed by, and functioning through, natural law -- the only law from which there is no recourse, no appeal, no hung juries.
Not only are Nature's laws foolproof, but they are as irrefutable and enduring as the laws of mathematics -- and two and two will make four as long as numerals are used as media with which to count. And nature's laws need no policemen, for they are guardians within themselves.
Probably the chief cause of most of humanity's mental and physical disturbances is too much food of the wrong sort, and too little of the beneficial sort. Properly balanced food means a well balanced and healthy body, and such a body contributes an equitable mental condition to its owner, or, if you prefer the expression, an equitable spiritual well being.
"When there is want in a land of plenty."
Here indeed is a paradox. And this writer firmly believes that if it were humanly possible to stay the hands of politicians from signing politically expedient documents and statutes; gag them to silence their similarly expedient utterances and purge their thoughts of forthcoming elections, a fair distribution of the nation's wealth could become a reality. Here, again, we may safely disregard man's laws and turn to natural laws, for an answer. In Nature there is no waste. Everything, animal and plant, when its life is terminated, returns to its original elements, either in the soil or in the waters. Here, through chemical reactions, it is broken up and again becomes a beneficial part of these elements. But man's laws not only permit waste, but actually seem to thrive upon it.
This is particularly true in political, governmental and social spheres. Modern civilization, of which our American loose-leaf form of Democracy is a major part, seems incapable of producing unselfish statesmen. As examined by the thinkers and philosophers of the world today, general conditions point unmistakably to a decrease of intellectual and moral fiber in those who are elected, or take by force, the responsibility of public affairs. America's financial, industrial and commercial systems need revamping by humanitarians, not politicians. The fact that these systems are all-powerful, as well as gigantic, should not give them a license to act as dictators.
In truth, America has less to fear from a political dictatorship than from a financial, industrial or commercial dictatorship. Certainly no reasonable or reasoning person will deny that our financial system, so cleverly interlocked with the international system, needs a thoroughgoing house cleaning. Were this done, and done according to the principles set forth in the Constitution of the United States, industry and commerce would be forced to change their tactics and operate in a less plutocratic, dictatorial and monopolistic manner.
And again we may safely turn to Nature. She does not permit monopoly. Nowhere in either the animal or plant kingdoms will one find monopolistic tendencies. Monopoly, political, industrial or economic, while it is undoubtedly beneficial to a few, is destructive to the mass. In the final analysis, monopoly is self-destructive, and any system that has within it the germ of self-destruction brings widespread disorder to other systems directly or indirectly related to it. Essentially, monopoly is a form of greed and the similarity is decidedly, if amusingly expressed, by calling the reader's attention to a pig pen at feeding time. Invariably, the fattest porker will push and shove and shoulder its way to the feed trough. Greedily it comes very close to monopolizing all the available food. Thus it grows faster and fatter than the others in the same pen -- and reaches the slaughterhouse first! Here we observe how greed and monopoly ultimately does lead to destruction.
"When old age must depend upon charity or a social security that does not secure."
Do natural laws ordain that the aged, animal or plant should suffer in their senile or infirm years? Definitely, no. Having lived naturally, all animals and plants complete their cycle of life in an even tenor, barring, of course, accidents, which are as much a part of Nature as the ebbing and flowing of the tides. Through progress, enlightenment and education -- the latter being far less perfect than our paid scholastics would have us believe -- we have graduated from many primitive customs which ordered that the aged members of some races, being senile, and therefore unproductive, should be destroyed.
Yet the system we boastful Americans employ in caring for our aged is relatively not far removed from the barbarous system of aged destruction. Today we do not kill our aged outright. We condescend to permit them to slowly starve or freeze to death, making them the while more susceptible to the ills to which old age is heir. Many Americans make of the aged, with their pension dreams and aspirations, a political football to be booted hither and yon about the political gridiron. In considering the problem of our aged, politicians obviously refuse to consider Nature. Probably few of them realize that mutual aid is a natural law; that very early in the nineteenth century, philosophers dimly developed the theory that in every branch of Nature mutual aid is as permanently fixed as the laws of conception and demise. It was Professor Kessler who, in 1880, while Dean of the St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) University, declared reciprocity to be a natural law. Prince Peter Alexevitch Kropotkin, Russian geographer, having absorbed Professor Kessler's declaration that mutual aid in Nature was irrefutable, wrote and published (1902) his great work, "Mutual Aid as a Law of Nature and a Factor of Evolution."
What both of these men know, or should know, is that the soil is deficient in one or more vitally necessary ways or elements. The orchardist who begins "guessing" about what is wrong with his soil is playing an ultimately losing game, for the law of averages is against him. Such a man, desiring to learn the true nature of his soil, the element or elements it lacks or with which it may be over supplied, should have samples of his soil analyzed by capable chemists. Most soils are deficient in elements necesary for plant life not because the elements are not present, but because they are unavailable to the plant roots.
It is into this picture that the burrowing earthworm makes its potent appearance. All the elements that are in the soil, but which are hidden and unavailable to the plant roots, are broken down by the earthworm and made available. Man has yet to invent, devise or manufacture any machine, and solid or liquid fertilizer as efficient as the earthworm. In this invertebrate animal Nature has a perpetual soil builder, a four-in-one creature that acts upon the soil as chemist, triturator, cultivator and distributor -- as we shall see as we continue to peruse this volume.
"When poultrymen find their chickens dying a premature death by wheel barrow loads..."
For over a quarter of a century Southern California has been a mecca for thousands of individuals and families trekking here to enter the poultry business. Scattered, estimated and authentic figures give us the information that, in a period of fifteen years, well over 50,000 such business ventures failed. Among those who have managed to remain in business are many who suffer a poultry mortality that is astounding. One set of figures shows that some sixty per cent of pullets die before they reach maturity. Others show that fifty-five per cent of laying hens have to be replaced every second year, when they should live and be productive for from four to six years. Still other data point out that it costs many poultrymen twenty cents a dozen to produce eggs, when thinking members of their business are producing the finest eggs for less than ten cents a dozen. Poultry raisers and breeders of fowls for meat seemingly have great difficulty in producing birds with a necessary amount of feathers on them.
Why do such conditions exist in the poultry business? When we come to the portion of this work that deals with poultry we shall learn that the cause of all these conditions is in the poultryman himself. It is not the nature of domesticated fowls, nor is it Nature's design, to suffer such a high mortality rate, produce sterile eggs, or half bald chickens. For over forty years this writer has known and demonstrated the fact that, if there is little or no deficiency in the diet poultrymen feed their flocks, there will be a minimum of premature deaths, unfertile eggs, and featherless birds. It is no idle remark, no promise of magical prowess, no guesswork to declare that all of these adverse conditions may easily be remedied by the proper application of the earthworm, as we shall eventually see in a chapter devoted to this subject.
The statement taken for our premise -- "there must be something wrong somewhere " -- may be accurately changed to "there is something wrong somewhere."
It is the aim of this book to point out what and where that wrong is and how it can be overcome. Around and upon one word -- earthworm -- is built the highway to better and more productive trees, plants, vegetables, poultry, game birds and fish.
Such an animal as the earthworm, whose importance is universally accepted and admitted by scientists, deserves a more pretentious volume than this humble effort of mine, but I find solace and satisfaction in having prepared a book for the lay reader in which I have eliminated, as much as possible, the use of confusing technical and long, jaw breaking zoological terms.
In preparing this work I have included data about the earthworm that has long been recognized and admitted by men and women of science, and, in addition, I have embodied many facts which I myself have discovered through nearly half a century of experimentation.
This work was planned to be of especial interest to farmers, orchardists, nurserymen, gardeners, poultrymen and all others interested in agriculture, horticulture and their kindred professions. However, it will, I hope, be welcomed as an instructive review of the life and habits of the annelids discussed herein.
In offering this work to the public I do so in the sincere hope that it will add, to an already long list, many new and appreciative admirers of our friend, the earthworm.
-- GEORGE SHEFFIELD OLIVER
History of the Earthworm
The animal kingdom -- Earthworm low in animal life -- Description of various types of worms -- Charles Darwin's opinion -- What is "Dry land?" -- External description of the earthworm -- Internal description -- Its sexual life -- The eggs of earthworms -- Their progeny
THE animal kingdom of the planet earth is divided into two subkingdoms, invertebrate and vertebrate animals. That is to say, animals with backbones and animals without backbones. The invertebrate group is distinguished by nine phyla or divisions. In this group there are over 500,000 known kinds of animals, ranging from the lowest form of animal life, the protozoa, or minute, single-celled creatures, to arthropoda, which includes crabs, insects and spiders. In the vertebrate group there are well over 30,000 known kinds, including fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
When it is stated that in this vast array of creatures the lowly, segmented earthworm is probably the most important to mankind, the uninitiated might aptly declare that such a statement sounds neither logical nor reasonable. Yet few creatures equal the burrowing earthworm as an essential to better health and greater growth to plant and vegetable life, and, therefore, indirectly is of the utmost importance to man.
The burrowing earthworm is Nature's own plough, her chemist, her cultivator, her fertilizer, her distributor of plant food. In every way, the earthworm surpasses anything man has yet invented to plough, to cultivate or to fertilize the soil.
While it is unquestionably true that plants and vegetables grow and reproduce their kind without the aid of the earthworm, most naturalists claim that all fertile areas have, at one time or another, passed through the bodies of earthworms.
It is likewise unquestionably true that the finest plants and vegetables will become healthier and more productive through the activities of this lowly animal, which the ordinary person considers useful only to break the early bird's fast or to impale on a fish hook.
The lowly earthworm has been playing a very important role in the drama of plant life from time so distant that scientists can merely guess as to the age of this invertebrate animal. But, regardless of the age of this lowly organized group, scientific men are agreed that mankind may rightly acknowledge the earthworm as one of his best friends.
In this chapter, or lesson, the reader will be presented with a brief genealogical background of the earthworm and the manner in which it has indirectly aided mankind by directly aiding plant life. This background should help the reader to understand facts regarding the earthworm which should be known to all persons interested in gardening, farming, orcharding and poultry raising.
If must first be realized that there are worms and "worms." All are invertebrate animals. But, except those known to science as the phylum annelida, we shall dismiss all others as beyond the scope of this work.
The division of invertebrate animals, of which the earthworm is a member, is composed of five families or classes. These, in turn, are divided into two orders. The phylum annelida, that is to say, the entire division of earthworms, contains upward of eleven hundred species.
Of this extensive array we shall concern ourselves only with earthworms, for there are marine worms, swamp worms and beach worms, many of which, to most casual observers, appear to be "just worms."
While all annelida are, more or less, closely related, each specie has distinct features. Some have habits quite foreign to other species. Some prosper only in certain, specific environments and die if transplanted elsewhere. Some have definitely formed heads, with whiskers, teeth and eyes. Others have no heads, as we understand the word, are toothless and eyeless. Some worms are hermaphroditical, others bisexual. Some live exclusively in water, others in soggy soil, others in decayed animal matter (manure), others in decayed vegetable matter (humus).
Low as earthworms are in the scale of life, they show unmistakable of intelligence. Charles Darwin's experimentations with them conclusively proved that instinct alone could not guide them so consistently. (See Darwin's famous work, "The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Actions of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits.")
Full text online at the Soil and health Library: http://www.soilandhealth.org/
Some earthworms come to the surface of the soil and crawl hither and yon (traveling many miles from the section of their nativity during their lives ) especially in rainy weather, when their burrows or tunnels are flooded. All throw their bodily excrements, technically known as castings, behind them. Some species throw their castings above the surface of the soil, forming small hillocks or mounds.
Countless thousands of years before the rocky face or surface of the earth disintegrated to form what we call soil, an extensive list of animals and plants lived in the waters. Marine worms were undoubtedly present in those obscure ages.
In time, as the waters receded, various animals and plants -- to meet the requirements of their changing environment -- evolved certain anatomical organs to meet the new conditions.
Joining in this natural and evolutionary parade of water born animals and plants, some marine worms acquired physical characteristics which permitted them to live, first in very marshy ground, later in "dry land."
The phrase, "dry land," should here be qualified, for, in the strictest sense, there are exceptionally few spots on the face of the earth that are dry. No creature can live on, or in, dry land. It is a common remark, "we breathe air," but what we are actually doing -- what all living things are doing -- is breathing nitrogen dissolved in water.
We should keep this fact regarding the vital need of water constantly before us as we study the worm and its relation to plant life, for both must have moisture to live.
Now that we have cursorily traced the earthworm from its parent environment to the so-called dry land, we are ready to dismiss all worms from our minds except those known to science as Oligochaeta.
This group is composed chiefly of terrestrial worms, and it is of these that this book concerns itself.
The earthworms, like all other families, is sub-divided into various groups, but for our purpose all we need know are the common names for this class. These are orchard worm, rain worm, angle worm, dew worm, brandling, compost worm, night crawler, fish worm, night lions and similarly descriptive names familiar to certain areas of the United States.
Let us now combine all these common names and visualize the earthworm as we last observed one.
In size, it may have been from two inches to perhaps a foot in in length, though twelve inches is long for an earthworm on the North American Continent except in very damp forest lands.
In offering an external description of our friend, the earthworm, we find all species so much alike that few can distinguish one specie from another without careful examination.
All are "headless," eyeless and toothless. There are no external antennae or feelers. From tip to tail the body is composed of ringlike segments. A short distance from the "head" is seen a band, lighter in color than the balance of the body, which is usually a deep red.
That, briefly, describes the earthworm as visible to the naked eye. The earthworm's internal system is highly complicated. Yet, paradoxically enough, it is magnificently simple. The reader may grasp this marvel of Nature by picturing a flexible metal tube the size of a lead pencil, in which is built a plant capable of refining gasoline from crude oil. In a comparative sense, the earthworm's system does to soil what the modern refinery does to crude oil.
The earthworm has a multiple system of hearts, minute tubes circling that part of the alimentary canal between the pharynx and the crop. Through a complicated system, these hearts supply blood to all parts of the body.
Minus lungs, the earthworm "breathes" through its moist epidermis or outer skin. The blood corpusles are colorless and float to the surface of each segment where they absorb oxygen.
Under an ordinary magnifying glass, the pores of the various segments are visible, and if one were to gently squeeze an earthworm, minute drops of yellowish serum would be seen coming out from it.
This serum is composed chiefly of oil of high medicinal value, and experiments for its extraction (which will be discussed in a later chapter) are now in progress. It is hoped that this oil may be extracted in quantities sufficient to encourage production.
Except for a number of hearts, all the vital organs of the earthworm are under the previously mentioned band, which zoologists call the clitellum. This band is the chief characteristic of the earthworm, distinguishing it from all other worms except a few leeches and a few other marine worms.
Here, under this band, in compact uniformity, are seminal vesicles and receptacles, testis, ovaries, oviduct and egg sac. Directly back of these is the crop, where the food is held until the gizzard, just beyond the crop, is ready to accept it. Next follows the intestine, a distinctly oval shaped tube, and then the rest of the alimentary canal to the vent or anus.
Our earthworm is bisexual, that is, it contains both male and female organs of procreation, and must perform a reciprocal act of copulation to fertilize and be fertilized.
The sexual act of the earthworm, usually occurring in the cool hours of the early dawn and twilight, makes an interesting and curious study of nature's method of propagating the specie.
Neither animal has external sexual organs, though the pores, through which the seminal fluids appear, are visible under a small magnifying glass. The sexual act is not preceded by any display of amorous cooing or lovemaking. The worms, driven solely by instinct when the procreative glands demand relief, seek a position that brings their bands together and remain thus, quite motionless, for as long as fifteen minutes. If exposed to a bright light during the sexual act, the embrace is broken, for worms, though sightless, are very susceptible to light.
During the act of coitus, each worm exchanges male sperm, impregnating, or, at least, theoretically impregnating, their female ovas. Also during the act, there is an increased flow of the fluid which keeps the entire length of the worm's body moist. This fluid forms the capsule in which the eggs are deposited, and is, therefore, heavier and thickens rapidly.
When the hymeneal act is completed and the earthworms separate, this fluid forms an outer band. The new band or shield begins to move forward, eventually dropping from the earthworm's "head."
During the forward movement of the gelatine-like band, the impregnated eggs are held firmly within it. As it drops off the earthworm it closes into a yellowish-green pellet or capsule, slightly larger than a grain of rice. This capsule resembles, to a remarkable degree, a very small currant.
Earthworm capsules examined under a powerful microscope show a lack of uniformity in the number of cells. There will be, however, from three to fifteen fertile eggs in a capsule.
Earthworm eggs hatch in about twenty-one days. The newborn appear as short bits of whitish thread about one-quarter of an inch in length. In from twelve to forty-eight hours they become darker but are visible to the untrained eye only after a painstaking search for them.
Once hatched, it is a case of each worm for itself. Close observation, however, seems to lead students of these lowly organized creatures to believe their mortality rate exceptionally low.
Worms begin to mate from 60 to 100 days after birth, depending upon the richness or poorness of the soil in which they live or in which they are cultured.
Mating follows at periods of from six to eight days, Thus, if we are to follow the average fertility of each capsule laid, that is, three worms, one mature worm will beget over 150 worms each year of its life. Each mating, therefore, should produce twice that number, or over 300 worms a year.
Certain species of earthworms, particularly those that come to the surface and crawl about during wet or rainy weather, seemingly are chiefly active during the nocturnal hours. Other species -- which we will discuss later -- are, apparently, active throughout most of the day and night. This specie seldom, if ever, comes to the surface, depending on the porosity of the soil.
Except in highly porous soils, the earthworm must eat its way through. Having no teeth, everything before it, if not too large to swallow, is sucked into the mouth. It is by necessity, therefore a ravenous eater.
Every morsel of soil and decayed vegetable and animal matter taken in by the earthworm passes through its digestive system. This is equipped with a gizzard-like organ. Here the food value in the swallowed matter is extracted for use by the worm. The rest is carried by muscular action down through, and out of, the alimentary canal. This waste matter is called castings.
The Habits of the Earthworm
Terrestrial earthworms differ from other annelida -- Are found in nearly all parts of the earth -- Man helped to scatter them -- How the compost worm lives -- How the orchard worm lives -- Habits of both compost and orchard worms -- Diet of earthworms -- How one man made a mistake in feeding earthworms -- Nature's scheme -- Man can improve upon Nature
AS we have already seen, the burrowing earthworm of our time is an animal that evolved from similar animals which once lived exclusively in the waters of the earth. While the terrestrial earthworms differ greatly from their marine relations of today, there are, however, many features and characteristics in both that are relatively alike. It is on these likenesses that science bases its contention that the earthworm evolved from its marine prototype.
Earthworms abound in practically every geological section of this planet. The exceptions to this rule are the extreme northern and southern latitudes where extended cold periods preclude the existence of this branch of invertebrate animals. But in torrid and temperate zones some 1000 species of earthworms live, prosper and procreate.
The dense, humid jungles of equatorial climes gives us the largest specimens of the earthworm. These are undoubtedly the direct antecedents of all terrestrial worms that have spread from one end of the earth to the other.
Assuming that the first progenitors of our present-day earthworm began in equatorial sections, we may inquire how they became so widespread over the great portion of the face of the earth lying between the two frigid zones.
This is satisfactorily explained by the realization that many species of earthworms peregrinate, that is, they travel and migrate extensively. Some species are known to scale and cross high mountain ranges, though such migration probably required many hundreds of years.
Man, too, has undoubtedly, though unknowingly, aided in transporting earthworms from one hemisphere to another. This has been accomplished through the movement of trees and plants in whose roots worms, or their eggs, have been hidden.
It is quite possible that the early species of terrestrial worms were habitues of soil rich in organic matter or humus. It is also quite possible that these earthworms lived exclusively on the diet supplied them through humus and that the common brandling, or compost worm, is an evolutionary product of them.
In the early works regarding the life and habits of the earthworm we find no references to the compost worm. In fact, all references to earthworms lead us to believe that the early students of this branch of zoology, though they examined and studied the digestive organs of their subiects, failed to discover or to realize, or, at any rate, failed to describe, the ease with which the earthworm becomes a slave to its environment.
The compost worm demonstrates this slaveship admirably. As its name implies, it is found exclusively in manure compost piles, or in soil heavily laden with decayed animal matter. Tests have proved that in such fertilized soil the compost worm will become extinct if fresh manure is not repeatedly added.
To understand the peculiar dietary demand of the earthworm is vitally important for all persons interested in any way in the habits and life of the earthworm. Without this knowledge, any attempt to domesticate the earthworm for fertilizing purposes will be fruitless.
Due to the inability of the compost-raised earthworm to absorb nourishment from soil minus decayed animal matter, any transplantation of it to ordinary soil will prove fatal. Likewise, an attempt to transplant an orchard worm to a compost pile will result in its death.
Strangely enough, however, if the eggs of the compost worm are gathered and placed in a rich soil minus decayed animal matter, a large percentage of them will hatch and prosper. While the first offspring may not be high in quality, either in size or health, they will eventually become accustomed to their environment, and each following generation will show a decided improvement. It is therefore advisable to conclude, and work from this premise, that the brandling or compost worm is a distinct specie of earthworm.
Outwardly, the brandling or compost worm, is almost one-third smaller than the common orchard or rainworm. But being of the same family, its head band and rings or segments are identical, except that they are more emphasized.
In habits, the compost worm seldom burrows deeply beneath the surface. This is probably due to the fact that when soil is fertilized with decayed animal matter, the fertilization seldom is buried deeper than eight to twelve inches. And, inasmuch as it is from this organic substance the brandling gets its food supply, it remains within that depth.
Another characteristic of the compost worm is the fact that it does not throw its castings above the surface. Because it is a much fatter worm than the orchard worm, it can release its excretions behind it without fear of packing the tunnel through which it has eaten its way.
These conclusions have been reached after more than a decade of close scrutiny of the habits of the earthworm. The reader may prove these facts to his own satisfaction, and there is considerable evidence available to further substiantiate these conclusions.
Inasmuch as the earthworm will devour anything it can swallow, it must, like every other animal, including man, receive certain dietary necessities from what it eats. If the soil in which the earthworm lives is deficient in life-giving necessities, the worm suffers. Deficiency in food values, either for animal or plant life, ultimately ruins that which is so deprived.
All earthworms eat raw and cooked meat, seldom if ever anything putrid. They like fats, nuts, milk -- in short, anything and everything that enriches the soil.
The digestive fluid of the earthworm is of the same chemical nature as the pancreatic secretion in higher animals, which accounts for the worm's ability to digest meats and fats as well as starches and sugars.
To illustrate the manner in which the dietary habits of the earthworm are governed by their environment, the following actual story is worthy of consideration here.
A California orchardist developed a culture bed of 50,000 breeding prolific earthworms, of whose history and development a later chapter is concerned.
He had been instructed how to properly feed his earthworms, but discovered that he could procure beef suet at an invitingly low price.
Believing that he could revolutionize his system of feeding, he began to place small pieces of suet in his culture trays. Slowly he increased the amount until eventually suet became the worms' complete menu.
This method of feeding reduced the labor, what little there was, in tending to them, but the day of reckoning was not far distant.
When he was ready to harvest his crop of egg capsules, he discovered that the breeders had failed to breed. What few eggs there were contained no live germs.
Charging his well intentioned experiment to experience, the orchardist decided to impregnate some of his trees with the obviously sterile worms. Having adapted their digestive organs to an all-animal fat diet by slow degrees, these worms could not adjust themselves to an organic diet in time to prevent starving to death -- which they did in a short time.
Similar experiences are on record, and the lessons learned from them have led us to the logical conclusion that the soil should be impregnated, not with young or mature worms, but with their eggs.
By this method, tests have proved that when the worms are hatched in the environment in which they are intended to work, they will adapt themselves to its food.
From this brief description of the dietary habits of the earthworm we come face to face with natural laws reminding us that Nature, constantly working blindly, ungoverned by all but one rule -- the continuation of her various species -- is not interested in improving individuals of any of her species.
This fact has long since been accepted by man.
One should not be considered egotistical for claiming that he can improve upon Nature. Every stock farm and nursery disproves the once accepted statement, "You can't improve upon Nature." Our finest horses, cattle, dogs and other domesticated animals and fowls, as well as many trees, plants and vegetables, are the result of man's persistent and intelligent efforts to improve what Nature has given him.
Furthermore, these man-bred animals, trees and plants, if not carefully cared for by man and properly mated by him, eventually become atavistic: that is to say, they revert to their ancestral type -- a type far inferior to the product evolved by man's intelligence.
Therefore, if we are to accept the earthworm as an important part of nature -- as our friend, a natural friend that should be cultivated, developed and domesticated -- it behooves us to do our part to help and encourage the earthworm to do its part.
The possibilities of thought training are infinite, its consequence eternal, and yet few take the pains to direct their thinking into channels that will do them good, but instead leave it all to chance.