—The New York Times
The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthwormsby Amy Stewart
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In The Earth Moved, Amy Stewart takes us on a journey through the underground world and introduces us to one of its most amazing denizens. The earthworm may be small, spineless, and blind, but its impact on the ecosystem is profound. It ploughs the soil, fights plant diseases, cleans up pollution, and turns ordinary dirt into fertile land. Who knew?
In her witty, offbeat style, Stewart shows that much depends on the actions of the lowly worm. Charles Darwin devoted his last years to the meticulous study of these creatures, praising their remarkable abilities. With the august scientist as her inspiration, Stewart investigates the worm's subterranean realm, talks to oligochaetologists—the unsung heroes of earthworm science—who have devoted their lives to unearthing the complex life beneath our feet, and observes the thousands of worms in her own garden. From the legendary giant Australian worm that stretches to ten feet in length to the modest nightcrawler that wormed its way into the heart of Darwin's last book to the energetic red wigglers in Stewart's compost bin, The Earth Moved gives worms their due and exposes their hidden and extraordinary universe. This book is for all of us who appreciate Mother Nature's creatures, no matter how humble.
—The New York Times
—San Francisco Chronicle
—The New York Times
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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- Barnes & Noble
- NOOK Book
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- 5 MB
Read an Excerpt
8 Bizarre Facts About Earthworms
The earthworm may be small, spineless, and blind, but its impact on the ecosystem is profound. Now, thanks to Amy Stewart, author of THE EARTH MOVED, earthworms of the world can stand a little taller.
- Worms' ancestors date back over 250 million years. They survived two mass extinctions, including the one that killed the dinosaurs.
- There are over 4,500 species of earth worms and many more species have not yet been identified and cataloged.
- Worms are hermaphrodites. To mate, they line up head to tail and can stay that way for several hours.
- If you cut a worm in half, you will not get two worms; however, the end that contains the head will usually grow a new tail.
- Charles Darwin played the piano for worms, to see how they react to different notes. He breathed on them with various scents on his breath to see how they would react to different smells.
- A giant earthworm in the Pacific Northwest measures two or three feet long and secretes a mucus that smells just like lilies.
- An ordinary nightcrawler lives about five years. Giant Australian worms live over twenty years.
- Earthworms have been used as bioindicators to identify soil pollutants. They have also been fed pollutant-degrading bacteria, which they carry far below ground in pollution clean-up projects.
Meet the Author
Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world. She is the cofounder of the popular blog Garden Rant and is a contributing editor at Fine Gardening magazine. She and her husband live in Eureka, California, where they own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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An amazing book on a subject I would have thought creepy. It's not. It is a fun read and extremely informative, too. Entertainment and information have seldom been so well combined.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book on the natural history of these greatly unappreciated creatures. Not sure where the reader was coming from who complained about torturing animals... the author's treatment seemed respectful and interesting to me as a gardener. Final bits on creating your own worm 'farm' to harvest castings was inspiring. Well written and well researched.
THis is probably the 4th book of hers that I've downloaded. Earthworms are like Honeybees; we really need them more than most of us realize. Amy Stewart keeps it flowing nicely. I like her writing style.
As the proud owner of a new worm farm, I wanted to learn everything I could about earthworms. But this book taught me more than what kind of worms to farm, what to feed them, and when to harvest their casing in hopes of having a yard that looks like something out of the 3D Avatar movie. Any Stewart is a thoughtful, precise writer who clearly gives much thought to her subject matter. And her perspective is big -- when you begin to think, as she does, of the whole underground world beneath your feet of worms, calmly and ploddingly burrowing through the soil, eating their way through the dirt, devouring the banana peels, lettuce leaves, and asparagus stems you feed them from your compost, you have a lesson in patience and fortitude. They just keep going. Stewart tells us that they survived the dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and will probably survive whatever comes next. While we present-day humans are busy bombing each other, eradicating natural resources, poisoning our crops and treatout our bodies to extra-large doses of stress and other immune-system destroyers, the worms go on, patiently chewing and burrowing and living in their own feces, and rewarding us with the bounty of all that by riching up our soil and enlivening our lives. Stewart's account of Darwin's late-life fascination with worms is particularly interesting and engaging. We all know about Darwin's marriage to his cousin and the genetic mahem that caused, and I have pointed this out to a friend of mine, saying, "What do you expect??? He was fascinated with earthworms in late life." "Yes," she replied, "and you have a midlife fascination with earthworms." The book is not a page-turner. There is little drama. But I learned a lot in a leisurely way from Stewart's musing, lyrical, and yet particular style.
Yet another book whose hype far outweighs its heft. But really, how exciting can a book about earthworms be? A chapter that did bring me to the edge of my seat, was one that described the search for the giant Palouse earthworm of southeastern Washington State. One hasn't been seen for twenty years and is feared to be extinct. I couldn't help thinking, 'How would they know? These things live far underground in Jimmy Hoffa territory.' The worm grows as long as three feet, and get this, to protect itself, it releases a mucus that smells like ... lilies. This Driloleirus americanus would find life easy at any graveyard with one of its functions to provide mourners with a lovely fragrance. You could almost say that visitors would be smelling the ghosts of the dead. There are hundreds of species of worms and each of them sprout the sex organs of both female and male. No wonder they are all blind. Some varieties eat table scraps, newspapers, leaves, pine needles, but never any meat or meat by-products. Some simply digest the microscopic organisms living in the soil. They have no lungs and breathe through their skins. And contrary to what I thought prior to completing this 206-paged large-fonted book, worms aren't always beneficial for all situations. In example, author Amy Stewart discovered that stowaway European worms dropped in the Minnesota forest have begun to kill new growth. This is because at night millions of worms pull into their tunnels the fallen leaves and debris that for centuries had hidden and sheltered the very young trees and shrubs from the vegetarian wildlife. Without the protection provided by the thick natural occurring debris, the ruminants consume not only all the groundcover, but all the baby trees that require decades to mature from a green-budded shoot into a young buck's rubbing post. Finally there are experiments afoot that may use millions of worms to change the sewage of our cities (of which only 5% is solid matter) into vermicompost (worm castings) that, after much sanitizing and de-stinking, can be re-used as fertilizer for growing food we eat. Anyone who delights in backyard gardening or creating first class compost will find The Earth Moved, fascinating.
What a horrific book for anyone who cares about animals and their feelings! With an early veneer of compassion, this descends into the hells of animal experimentation for which, as usual, there is no compelling reason except for pulling the wings off butterflies.
Very, very disappointing.