By Wendy Langhans
In honor of Thanksgiving, for the next three weeks I’ll betalking about the small things in nature we often take for granted.
Much of what I’ve first learned about baking came fromwatching and helping my Mom, Grandma and Aunts. Like how to mix a batch of biscuits. Too much stirring and the texture will be doughy; too little stirringand the texture will be lumpy. But justthe right amount of stirring and – yummm – you’ll have a flaky and tender biscuit.
The same principle applies to topsoil: to be fertile, soil must be mixed justright. Earthworms are the “wooden spoon”that mixes the soil.
Earthworms function as totally tubular “eating machines”:organic stuff (dead vegetation) and inorganic stuff (rocks and minerals) goesin one end and concentrated, enriched and well-mixed stuff comes out the otherend. As earthworms eat their way throughthe soil, they:
- Bore channels to increase water filtration and aeration within the soil.
- Create empty spaces in the soil for tender new seedings to send out roots.
- Chew up the larger, tougher parts of leaves so that microbes and fungi can break them down into the nutrients needed by plants.
- Increase the surface area for microbes and fungi to live. It is estimated that the surface area of particles contained in a couple of tablespoons of soil “add up to a million square feet – the area occupied by a city block.” (J. Nardi, from Life in the Soil)
The earthworms we see around our homes and gardens are mostlikely non-native species introduced from Europe, Asiaand Latin America. You have to head out into undisturbed open spaces like our Oak Woodlandsto find native species.
Naturalist Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin ofSpecies, knew about the role earthwormsplay in keeping the soil fertile. In1881 he wrote, “Worms have played a more important part in the history of theworld than most persons would at first suppose.” So later this month, as you sit down to enjoya Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends, you may want to add earthwormsto your list of things to be thankful for.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Saturday, November 8 and 22th, and every Wednesday, 8:00 AM. Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.
Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderieand a heart-thumping workout. For more information contact Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565.
Saturday, November 8, 8:30-noon. NatureCenter is Open at Towsley Canyon.
Stop by for close-up view of our displays, including amountain lion (stuffed, of course).
Sunday, November 9, 3-5 PM. Autumn at ElsmereCanyon. Join us for an easy walk as we explore ElsmereCanyon at the end of a fallday. We meet at the Whitney Canyonparking lot.
Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and ConservationAuthority.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report",brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by theMountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.