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Archive for the ‘Soil Building / Composting’ Category

I have been working for the last month very hard to find gainful employment and I have come to the conclusion that there is none. It no longer exists and we are not out of this continued recession, depression. In my book, Recession Survival Guide self-published in 2009 I said it wouldn’t be over before 2015. Now it looks like it will never be over. Anyone who thinks they are being told the truth by the news owned by the companies that manufacture the news is dumber than shit and ought to be composted. At least that would create something of value. The U.S. has an enormously large number of dumb people as compared to other industrialized countries. Reagan even lowered the I.Q. scale by ten points to raise the national I.Q. level.

The future on the current path looks very bleak. I have to back up for just a moment before going forward.

Robert Hayes who likes to comment on everything I post followed me from Facebook where all he did was post negative shit and now he is here doing the same. Here is my response to one of his comments he posted – a quote from Wikipedia:  “Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline. Every oil well and field exhibits similar characteristics of being discovered, the logistics to extract the oil being put in place, a peak or plateau of production, followed by a decline.  US domestic oil production peaked in 1970. Global production of oil fell from a high point in 2005 at 74 mb/d, but has since rebounded, and 2011 figures show slightly higher levels of production than in 2005, as the definition of “oil” was changed in 2007 to include synthetic liquids.”   [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil]

So yes, the world oil production has gone up only because of fuzzy questionable bookkeeping not because there was anymore oil found all of a sudden which had peaked in the 1960s. We have only found less and less oil fields and wildcatters are coming up with more dry wells each year. Robert Hayes only finds enough information to support his point of view and doesn’t spend hours reading or cross references to see what he is saying is factual or supportive.

I say all this to show how so many people keep saying that we have lots of oil left for(ever), a long, long time. Discovery peaked in the 1960s and the entire planet has been surveyed so the question is where, or how, are people finding “new” oil. It is scientifically impossible.

So much for that.

The closer we get to the end of cheap fossil fuels the fewer choices we have or time left to act. Former president Clinton, Matthew Simmons an energy investment banker and adviser to George W Bush, and Dick Cheney all have said in one form or anther that we are running out of oil. Whether directly or indirectly stated we are on the downside of the Peak Oil curve and headed downward at an alarming speed. As Cheney said, “That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day.” That means replacing that which we have lost due to decline. There has been plenty more people in the last decade that have come forward to say the same thing from former geologists, oil explorers, and people who worked with oil production information (like the U.S. Energy Dept.).

No one agreed when Peak Oil will or has happened. That doesn’t matter so much as it will, or has and we are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for no more oil! Technology will not save us like some white knight or some savior, they don’t exist. Technology is utterly dependent on cheap energy to work or for its production. Without oil absolutely everything collapses. Do a mind exercise and research to find something that isn’t dependent on oil in some way or another. (I’ll give you a hint: You find a single thing that isn’t dependent on oil.)

I am afraid this country is being pushed into a Mad Max scenario where people will fight over whatever scraps they can find.  In the book, Raising a Nation of Whimps by Hara Marano, editor-at-large and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, has been watching a disturbing trend: kids are growing up to be wimps. [from Amazon]

People in the U.S. have little or no backbone or character worth acknowledging.  That said I have come across some very remarkable people but when it comes push to shove many of them would whimp out.  Too many who would give in to anyone doing violence.

What does the future hold for us. Nothing good. There will be those who will know how to grow food, process fiber and produce enough energy for their needs. They just lack the ability to defend themselves against the people who would rather steal what they need than produce it on their own. My wish that everyone learn to defend themselves, be able to produce what they need, create a strong reliable resilient community in order to survive the decline in cheap and once abundant fossil fuels. It will be through these communities that people will be able to not decline to far into a dark age and find solutions for a real sustainable  future based on the principles Nature has set forth where there is no waste, everything has worth.

My mantra has become: Learn to grow food & fiber. Learn to become energy independent (that doesn’t mean using only trees for fuel or you will see a localized Haiti effect).

 

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I have no idea why so many people treat what Nature does as something new, it’s not. Maybe it is because people have so removed themselves from the natural world, the soil, food production, or even maintaining a healthy organic garden that it seems like new science to them. Nature was the original architect here and it’s been around a lot longer than we have. It not new it is ancient knowledge.

What am I talking about? Simple, the biology of living soil. Of the Earth itself. Without it we would not exist.

I came across an article in the Colorado Gardner: A Thinking Gardner’s Companion, Education Issue 2012. The article titled, ‘Biological Farming & Gardening,’ the author Mikl Brawner. In the article this biological method is actually referred to as a “new” method (his quotes). He is right in saying that, “instead of a bellicose mentality that birthed the pesticide-fungicide-herbicide and chemical fertilizer approach, the biological approach taps the same cooperative relationships that Nature herself has long employed successfully for survival and sustainability.” So why use the word, ‘new?’

The author is also correct in that we shouldn’t be blaming Nature for poor responses in our farming or gardening methods. Pests in the form of unwanted plants (weeds) or insects are not Nature’s fault but people’s own misguided ideas about how to manage them. Plant health is dependent on far more than chemicals. We need to look at the soil itself, the health of the soil to see if all the macro- and micro-communities are fully intact and healthy.  The soil itself is a living organism teaming with many lifeforms from fungi to bacteria and even insects.

The chemical approach looks at only NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash (potassium)) and sees the soil only as a holding medium for the plant and not as a living thing or living community. That is what “better living through chemistry” has given us – dead soils. Desertification, salt accumulations on the surface, increased water usages, land that is dying are all the result of this method of raising plants for food. The once ‘fertile crescent’ where farming began was turned into a desert by improper farming practices. The fertility of Egypt is disappearing the same way and in California as well as many other parts of the world still relying on improper use of the land. Technology will not help us with this problem. It would actually be better to put aside technology. Only Nature can help us, and is waiting for us to ask for her service.

Masanobu Fukuoka came up with a brilliant approach when he suggested making seed balls. Using seed balls along with other techniques can rehabilitate the soil by reviving the soils communities and allowing green to come back to land once abused by people.

Not many people have heard of Bob Dixon who created the imprinting technique for the Arizona desert. It is actually a simple technique. By dragging a drum with ‘V’ shaped points creating alternating ‘V’ shapes in the soil traps seeds when the wind blows and the next time it rains the desert comes to life with new grasses which begin the process of rebuilding the soil, preventing soil erosion and building up organic matter after just the first year.

Using such techniques along with composting in place or adding organic matter that decomposes on its own time, encouraging microbes and fungi, and the return of humus to the land rather than burying it in a landfill will go a long way to greening deserts and repairing the damage people have done.

In the home garden making compost or dung (poop) tea without brewing it, by steeping it like a sun tea overnight, will help to rapidly rebuild the soils organisms. The various enzymes released will help to break down other matter that then becomes available to the plants.  Using worm castings will help plants to be more healthy and resist damage. Learning to companion plant will help support desired plants or fend off invaders or insects. Once the community is rebuilt it is actually less work than current gardening methods.

In rebuilding your soil’s community it is very important to not constantly disturb the soil by digging or plowing. Rather learn to leave the soil alone and plant using seed balls or by making single holes to add a seed, or to transplant a small plant. Then add additional mulch and compost. Digging is one of the most harmful things we can do to the soil and isn’t necessary. Fukuoka and other No-Till methods have proven this. Whether in the field or garden, leave the soil alone to encourage better health of the soil.

A big thing in many cities is that people have learned to take away dead plants in the Fall or early Spring and send them to the landfill. This is one of the worst things anyone can do. Organic matter does not belong in a landfill.  In the Fall, gather up the leaves and other organic matter and either store it if it is too windy or mulch it right away. The same in the Spring as the ground thaws. All organic matter belongs where is came from, it shelters the soils organisms below, prevents soil erosion by not allowing rain to hit the soil directly, and provides nutrients to new growth. That is Nature’s cycle.

In keeping the soil healthy we stay healthy. By increasing the soils organism we encourage the number of healthy organisms in our own guts which keep us healthy.

Healthy soil = Healthy people.

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Where I live in Denver there is a wonderful project, the GrowHaus, in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.  Before I even took a trip out there I was told it looked like a bombed out city. There are a number of industries and train tracks that run through the area with people living wherever there is space enough for a house. In the past the area has had its share of  problems with pollution. It is listed as a Superfund site because the  soil is contaminated namely with arsenic and lead. There are other contaminants I am sure. What to do with such a site? How can you honestly encourage people to grow their own food when it would become contaminated?

Let me say this from the onset: I have not seen the EPA report on the levels of contamination or anything else. What follows are just my ideas in hopes to get something moving forward, maybe an idea, and begin the process of allowing people access to clean food from their own garden.

How to deal with persistent poisons like lead and arsenic? After all arsenic is a poison found in rodent kill kits. I’m not exactly sure the exact years, sometime during the Victorian era, people used arsenic in small quantities to harden nails or improve their looks and become resistant to it should anyone try to poison them which had deadly consequences in the end as arsenic accumulated in the body.

In bioremediation plants and other natural sources are used to deal with environmental pollutants. Lucky for us nature has a bacteria and an enzyme that breaks down, reduces arsenic to arsenate. I am no chemist or fully understand the process that allows this to occur. But it seems this bacteria uses arsenite as a food source. Arsenite and Arsenate are two versions with an electron shift. That’s as far as my chemistry goes. I’m sure there’s plenty of scholarly papers on the subject someone could find online.

Onward. Since we have these two toxic substances in the soil we have some ways of dealing with it: take the soil away and bury it or leave it in place. If you leave it in place there are plants along with soil organisms that can be used to help pull the toxins from the soil or deal with them in place.

In studying composting methods and soil building methods I suggest the following two things:

1) A combination of sheet mulching, worm towers and using straw bales to build up healthy soil levels to be able to grow food.
OR
2) Create raise beds that are about four feet tall (or five) filled with clean healthy soil and worms with organic matter.

Both methods work well to get a garden started but the raised bed does little to address the toxins.  People would also have to be completely committed to composting and creating new soil which is added every year. The toxins can become diluted to a point but they are not gone. People would have to go against what they know about gardening and not stir up the soil by plowing or digging. Instead, it would be a process of building up, adding to the top new soil in the form of finished compost.

That is where I would also add worm towers. A PVC pipe with holes drilled in the bottom part of it which is buried in the ground. Compost materials would be added through the top closing it off with a cloth stretched over the opening. This encourages the materials to break down which encourages worms to come into the area to eat and deposit their poop. They will also go in and out of the pipe depositing their poop outside the pipe. Worm poop is a rich fertilizer which can help build up soil nutrients. This will encourage a host of other organisms to move in that can work with the contaminants to help make them not as harmful. Mushrooms have also been used to help clean up sites because they release various enzymes which break things down and recombine substances to make them bio-available for new plants.

Again, this is where I am a little lost in the chemistry. Arsenic is technically something that can’t be broken down. It is a metalloid, being the same family of metal like substances.

By combining methods of bioremediation, sheet mulching, adding new organic matter like compost, clean leaves or straw will help dilute the lead and arsenic in the soil. It is by dilution and as the soil becomes more active with organisms of all kinds that the toxins can become less of a problem. It would take quite a bit of work and time to accomplish this, but it is possible.  Bioremediation makes use of microorganisms which can reduce, eliminate, contain, or transform to a more benign state contaminants present in the soil.

By applying the methods of sheet mulching, composting, worm towers, and adding a good layer of organic material of leaves or straw can help those microorganisms to do their job much better. Feeding them will build a healthier soil and every year the process continues and the better the harvest becomes.

Just so people are clear, I am not claiming that all the poisons will just disappear or be gone in a year and everything comes up roses. This is a process which takes time and it may be that the first year will be a year of planting and discarding plants while adding more compost and organic materials the whole time. This process has been used and can certainly work for the Elyria-Swansea area too. I would love to be there to help this process of bioremediation along, and then maybe someone can teach me the chemistry behind this process.

Build some soil. Grow some food.

 

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