Yesterday, when out of the corner of my eye I sensed some slithering-type movement on the rock border of my vegetable garden, I quickly jumped back in anticipation of seeing my first snake of the season. But instead of the anticipated garter or little ring-neck snake, it was just an earthworm-a huge, long, slimy, juicy earthworm-the kind fishermen love to snag as bait. As I dug in the soil, I encountered hundreds (really, literally) of them in all my beds, and I was one happy soil-digger! Lots of earthworms = good, fertile soil!
I turned the soil with a special awareness of their presence because I did NOT want to slice one into pieces. As I studied them, I marvelled at their complex simplicity. My fascination with them must have begun early on when my father and I would go hunting for nightcrawlers on the college practice field right below our old house in Boone. And, I remember dissecting earthworms in high school biology class and thinking they were pretty neat creatures.
One can't discern where their eyes are, nor do they respond to sound (to my knowledge), but they are extremely sensitive to temperature changes and touch. The one I picked up squirmed quite energetically in my fingers and quickly disappeared into the loosened dirt when I put him back on the ground.
Apparently, the robins, grackles, and other fowl think earthworms are tasty fare, and fish go for them as well. My friend, Betsy, ate a couple on a dare in 8th grade science class, but I don't remember her commenting on their succulence. I do recall that she looked rather "green" once the excitement of her accomplishment was over and she began to think about what she had consumed.
This afternoon, I'm going to work again in the deep bed. Now that I've seen so many there, I have a little guilt about tilling the soil with my mantis tiller. Oh my!