Podcast 276 – Resource Review: Winnie Finn Worm Farmer

Look at the worms, Eric. See how they glow with life? Like jewels! Aren’t even the smallest lives beautiful?

Tim W. Burke, The Flesh Sutra

In today’s PERMIE KIDs podcast I share one of my new favorite books as a resource review called Winnie Finn Worm Farmer by Carol Brendler. This is a fantastic book to add to your collection, not simply to help a younger child learn about worm composting (vermicomposting) and eco-living, but also to show how people’s passions can be the mechanism to enriching learning, community, and life. Furthermore, this is a story that explores the values embodied by and positive results when someone like Winnie Finn leads a life guided by the ethics Care of People, Care of the Earth, and (Responsible) Return of Surplus. She doesn’t just talk the talk, but also walks the walk.

Winnie Finn

Winnie Finn Worm Farmer actively lives the ethics by using and developing the principles, as if they are skills that we can all learn and refine rather than a universal truth that either is or is not. She puts the principles to practice in order to take action – the principles are now the vehicle to decide ‘how to’ care for people and the earth. What is even better is that she uses the principles to enrich not just her life or that of the worms (element of the earth), but to enrich relationships with and between people in her community.

Winnie Finn was one of those “strange” kids who loved things like worms. In this community, for many it might be more strange to not be fascinated by creatures found in nature like worms, but that is probably because our children are encouraged to inquire about, engage with, and even revel in the elements of the great outdoors. Natural elements, resources, and cycles are not seen a novelty, but a natural part of understanding life. Winnie Finn doesn’t just pick them up, she even takes them for a ride in her old wagon and has worm races. She knows all kinds of interesting facts about them. In order to better care for her own passion and better care for the worms found in her neighborhood, she dreamed about winning a blue ribbon and a prize at the Quincy County Country Fair so she could afford to get a new wagon. However, there is no contest for the best worms.

Everyone else that Winnie Finn talks to in her community makes sure to let her know just how unimportant her passion with worms is not prize worthy. For example, Mr. Abernathy responds when she asks about entering her worms in the fair for a prize, “Nonsense! There’s no prize for worms.” Now, Mr. Abernathy is planning to take first prize by growing the tallest corn stalks, but he lacks the right fertilizer.


Hands down, Winnie Finn is a problem solver – a thinker who acquires knowledge, comprehends, analyzes, synthesizes, evaluates, compares, and contrasts in order to achieve one or more potential solutions. A child who sees themselves as a problem solver might say, “I think carefully and use what I know to make responsible decisions and solve problems.” Problem solver is the first characteristic that makes up the acronym PERMIE KIDs (P for Problem solver), but that is not the only characteristic that Winnie Finn exhibits.

Interestingly, Winnie Finn embodies all of the characteristics that are foundational for being able to answer for oneself ‘why’ it is important to make decisions and take action that is caring for people and the earth by seeing the abundance that is around us all and using it wisely and responsibility. Where principles help us know how to make ethical decisions, the characteristics inform our internal compass about why we should take on responsibility, especially when such decisions might not result in more work or perhaps sacrificing some of our time, energy and resources to do something of benefit for others. It is not common to have a single character in a story exhibit all of the characteristics and still seem “real,” but Winnie Finn manages to do this this.

Finally, I want to thank Piper, one of our community members, for bringing this book to my attention. Piper and her daughter have been coming to many of the PERMIE KIDs classes that I do on the homestead. Recently she told me about how she read this book to her daughter and she was seeing not only the ethics, but also the principles like Observe and Interact, Catch and Store Energy, Produce a Yield, Produce No Waste. She couldn’t wait to share how she was able to see a resource for not only the informational and skill building value, but also for the ability for her and her daughter to really explore the values of our community through this story. All of a sudden, learning, education, and being educated is reaching a much deeper level than simple knowledge acquisition.

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This is really the goal of these classes. Sure, we do learn about things to learn information and develop skills like building no till gardens, propagating plants from seed and root cuttings, building bee hotels, exploring the mathematical concepts found in the inner-workings of nature, design and plant pizza gardens, harvest and learn to cook with fresh foods, building natural, living forts with surplus materials, drying and preparing herbs, as well as simply observing and valuing (dare I say indulging in) the aesthetic and musical beauty of nature. However, these classes are really about helping children (and those of use with bigger shoes who are dedicated lifelong learners and perhaps also children at heart), as Richard Louv would say, to live in nature and learn to take on personal responsibility as active, regenerative elements in our human and natural ecosystems. It is not only about the children’s inquiry but modeling and mentoring for our children collectively that our community values inquiry, innovation, and solutions-based thinking that enriches individuals, families, communities, and the earth. Winnie Finn Worm Farmer is a fantastic element to drop into my family’s and our community’s learning landscapes. Thanks again, Piper!

By the way, if you enjoy this podcast and the other offerings here at PERMIE KIDs like free collaborative seminars (Edge Alliances), consider joining our community.  The solution, the only ethical solution, is to take responsibility for ourselves and our children, to paraphrase Bill Mollison. Taking responsibility in learning and life begins within and spirals into the world around us. It means valuing each individual, recognizing intrinsic worth, and trusting that we each can find and forge our own path, in our own time and in our own way.

You have knowledge, skills, and experiences right now that are of value. If you have gifts and passions that you want to share through a work-share-learn exchange, that is not only welcomed but encouraged. Together, we can network and support each other in our individual and community journeys. Become part of the solution. Empower the educator within and let’s work with our children to make this world a better place.

In this show I cover:

  • Update on PermaCognition – only 4 seats left
  • Winnie Finn Worm Farmer
  • Connections to the ethic and principles

References and Additional Resources

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Only four seats are left. Check out this opportunity to learn from and help shape a new endeavor designed by one of our very own community members. Course starts on April 18th.

Rachael, a current PermaCognition learner, shares her thoughts in the video below. She has been working to complete a project focused on food preservation and on how to share her knowledge with her community by offering workshops and classes. Her kids have noticed her modeling and are now taking it upon themselves to start up their own project and have a market place that they set up in front of their house to sell goodies to their neighbors.

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INHABIT comes out Earth Day 2015!

I saw this movie at a screening at PV2 and I just found how it can be pre-ordered or even rented by going here!

Check out the trailer:

Description: Humanity is more than ever threatened by its own actions; we hear a lot about the need to minimize footprints and to reduce our impact. But what if our footprints were beneficial? What if we could meet human needs while increasing the health and well-being of our planet? This is the premise behind permaculture: a design process based on the replication of patterns found in nature. INHABIT explores the many environmental issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design lens of permaculture. Focused mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices ranging from rural, suburban, and urban landscapes.

Edge Alliance Opportunities

Sunday, April 26, 2015 from 7:00-8:00 pm (EST): The experiential, child-led philosophy of education is growing among alternative and traditional educational circles. However, many are hesitant to pursue this because they lack confidence in their ability to assist children along such a path and fear children will not adequately develop cognitively or socially. They recognize the theoretical value of experiential learning or unschooling, but the scarcity of concrete tools and techniques leaves many without the confidence to do so. Our discussion will focuses on techniques to capture and use questions, identify and connect individual passions to propel learning, establish a shared positive framework of expectations, and build confidence to design an education with our children.

Sunday, May 17, 2015 from 2:00-3:00 pm (EST): One person, of any age, who has a passion for anything can make a difference in the lives of many. This idea is as valid for our children as much as it is for ourselves. Let’s talk about your and your children’s passions and how to not only learn, but move through the 10 levels of development and become an educational model and mentor. We will explore how passion-driven projects can blossom into educational opportunities for others and even, sometimes, entrepreneurial and management experiences for the learner. Finally, what might a project look like that starts with an individually beneficial yield and grows to better care for others in your family or even your community.

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