Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A long term response to dealing with Covid 19 virus.

 The Corona 19 virus has disrupted the life of societies around the world like nothing I have seen in my life. The repercussions will have a great impact on the worlds ability to function as it has leading up to this pandemic. I am not an epidemiologist or even a pathologist, but I know something about dealing with diseases in nature. Disease problems are indicators of an imbalance. In dealing with such a problem you must first examine the factors that allow it to become so prevalent. To begin with, it helps to understand how they operate. Viruses are less common than other parasites. Viruses are a lot smaller than bacteria and fungi. They consist of a genetic material, like RNA or DNA surrounded by a protein in a fat coating. If you wash the virus molecules with soap you render it unable to survive. This is why it is important to wash with soap when exposed to it. Unlike bacteria or fungi, it is a total parasite. It cannot replicate or live long without a host. Bacteria and fungi can grow without a host. Viruses cannot. So it needs to be more aggressive to live. Being highly contagious helps with that. Some viruses have been used to disinfect bacteria in labs. So it spreads rapidly yet is very fragile.   There are two factors that favor it's development in human society.
  The first one is finding the right environment. If I grow a large crop of one plant it is more susceptible to whatever pest targets that plant. This is why I stay away from growing a monocrop. I have been in cattle feed lots and large chicken houses where there is a dense population of one species. This is a ripe environment for whatever parasite targets that group. I have seen many situations where people congregate inside subway stations or events or even in downtowns that closely resemble a feed lot or chicken house on a much larger scale. Considering how our cities are designed, I am actually surprised an epidemic of diseases are not more common. The way we design cities is that we pave over nature and fill it up with structures for high density human occupation. Living in South East Asia was incredible to see so many people in such close proximity. A diversity of species favors a balance in nature. This balance supports resilience. This is a rule for growing using agroecology. So if our cities were allowed to invite in more nature like parks and pedestrian beltlines this would help. The way cities are presently designed is not a healthy environment to live in. This is a hard sell to real estate venture capitalists. The disconnect with nature is part of the disfunction of modern society.
  The second factor is the internal environment, that being our bodies. The primary role of diseases in nature is to cull out weakness. This is what plagues and diseases did in ancient history. It kept human population growth controlled. In my work I grow healthy plants because they have mechanisms that ward off diseases. Modern medicine works with allopathic methods that treat symptoms only. Preventative medicine is a word that is thrown around but rarely used in treating health problems. Most people who have died from covid 19 had underlying health conditions or were elderly. That is a troubling thought since I am a senior citizen. Being healthy is not about taking probiotics. It is about eating foods that create abundance in your body. I wonder how much soil I eat while I am munching on carrots during work. I have been growing my own food for 4 or 5 decades. So health is a lifestyle. The changes of this pandemic needs to be a wake up call. Our society and the way it is structured needs a paradigm shift if this is truly a wake up call. This is not something you buy but something you do. Realign your priorities. Develop wealth beyond money. People want this to end and to get back to normal. Yet change is inevitable and constant. This is a good time to restructure how you spend your time to develop a healthy environment that supports diversity and symbiotic relationships with nature.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Regenerative Permaculture Reforestation

 Trees represent greatness. They are living antiques in nature. They create sanctuaries that feed our souls. Planting trees is a good way to regenerate unused land. Trees are an important way to restore habitat and balance. They work well in permaculture design. On farm land they create micro climates in the form of wind breaks, shelter belts and catchment areas. Tall trees capture moisture and attract rain. Their roots store nutrients. Leguminous trees fix and release nitrogen. A balanced ecosystem depends on them to thrive in the form of a forested community. Trees are an important and  permanent component in developing regenerative agriculture.
 Tree Planting Program. In early 2020 with my non profit, REAP. I coordinated tree plantings across Georgia. We acquired 20,000 native trees. The trees were distributed in communities where secure land would allow the trees to grow for many years. The concept was to offer people something tangible they could do that would make a positive impact in there immediate area. The trees were made available free of charge. The idea was to offer ideas on how to regenerate land as a way of learning how to become better caretakers of the planet. I had originally did this thirty years ago for the 20th anniversary of Earth Day in 1990. Back then we organized and planted close to 17,000 trees. That program was very successful because of all the enthusiasm around Earth Day in 1990. In 2020 I choose to make it an even 20,000 trees. We worked with foresters, city arborists, the  DNR, county extension agents, environmental non profits, a few church groups. Many colleges got involved and utilized students to plant the trees. The trees were a mix of mostly hardwoods and a few evergreens. We donated a thousand longleaf pines to wildlife biologists that are working on bringing back endangered species in Longleaf pine habitats. In hindsight I wish I would have acquired more longleaf pines to donate to such a worthy cause. The trees were seedlings ranging from 1 foot tall to six foot tall. They are trees for the future, for our grandchildren. When I did this program in 1990, I went into many schools to plant trees with children. I would tell the 4th and 5th graders that they could come back in 30 years with their children and tell them that they planted that tree when they were in the fourth grade. Now that that concept has reached fruition, I thought it was time to do it again. Reforestation and regenerating a forest is done in several phases. First planting the taller trees that will become the upper canopy along with staggered plantings of smaller trees that are the understory. Next introduce native grasses, broadleaf plants, legumes and wildflowers that will cover the floor. Some habitat trees like serviceberry, mulberry, quince, etc, also contribute to habitat restoration. Some of this needs to be replanted as needed to fill in empty spots and for a healthy succession. Once the growth becomes established it would be useful to introduce mushrooms to encourage a healthy mycology in the soil. Most important is to check all erosion. Regenerating a piece of land is incredibly rewarding and helps you connect with the earth in a way that is very fulfilling. Regenerating land is a way of regenerating ourselves and helps us to become whole.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Enhanced Ecosystems

Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Enhanced Ecosystems: Center for Eco Literacy.                                                                                                                    ...

Monday, November 4, 2019

Enhanced Ecosystems

Center for Eco Literacy.                                                                                                                                   In my last blog, I discussed that diversity favors balance which supports resilience. All this enhances ecological stability. Resilience encourages the plants built-in resistant traits. Healthy plants are less prone to diseases and insects. Plants have defense mechanisms that help them deal with insects and diseases. Plants use metabolites to help them digest the nutrients they need. Secondary metabolites help build plant defense mechanisms. Monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids are the main components of essential oils. These are toxic to insects. They also inhibit bacterial and fungal attacks. Phytoecdysones can mimic insect molting and disrupt the development of larvae. These also contain anti fungal properties. Defensins are another defense mechanism contained in plant proteins. Besides this, plant resistance also depends on structural barriers between cells. When there is a disturbance the cells are triggered and increase growth that blocks disease from entering. A good example of defense mechanisms is, when temperatures drop near freezing plants are triggered to send sugars out into the leaf. Sugars freeze at a lower temperature then water. This way the plants are more protected and we harvest the more nutritious and sweeter greens after a good frost. Plant roots are highly sensitive. Plant roots can release root exudates that are anti microbial  to inhibit diseases. When plants have an imbalance of nutrients they excrete certain compounds that make them attractive to diseases. Diseases in nature act as the culling out of weaker species. The diet of insect is more carbon than ours. So insects are less attracted to healthier plants.
 So can we mimic these behaviors through hybridization to support this type of development? It does work on a very short term basis with GMOs. Yet this short term is not truly sustainable. It relies on outside inputs and artificial interaction. This means it addresses issues on a one dimensional level. The dynamics of a biologically balanced ecosystem is three dimensional and difficult, if not impossible to manifest with genetic interference. To facilitate the forces of nature is to hold obedience and reverence to the laws of nature. Nature works in multidimensional patterns.
 So creating a healthy environment is key to growing the best plants. This is done both above and below the ground. With diversity I incorporate my cut flowers or herbs in or near beds with vegetables and fruit. They attract beneficial ones and deters unwanted ones. This is part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Here is an example. Buckwheat attracts a wasp that preys on squash bugs. Grasses harbor spiders. Grasses also attract leafhoppers and thrips that can be vectors of disease. that can be a problem for grapes. So grasses are allowed around squash but not grapes. With diversity I try to introduce compatible relationships. Learning what works is an ongoing process. The dynamics of each microcosm is unique. Plants adjust to their surroundings. If I were forming an education group, I would prefer it to develop organically. Plant groupings develop their own dynamics. In ecosystems the ability to adjust to their environment is very important. Each garden setting is unique and a one of a kind. It's individuality favors it's beauty. Plants acclimate to more extreme weather than ever before. So hardy plants are needed to deal with these challenges. Healthy soils create healthy plants. Biotic or biological factors are important to maintain. Cynobacteria (blue green algae), azospirillum,  rhizobia, and antinomycetes are just a few bacterial that build healthy soils. The best way to encourage this is with quality compost. I try to use diverse manures in my piles. I also use minerals like granite sand (high in K). I also use high nutritious plants like compfrey, stinging nettles, dandelions, yarrow, chamomile, Good compost does so much. Epigenetics: the study of changes in organisms caused by modifications of gene expression rather than alterations of the genetic code itself (which is what GMO is trying to do. Plant growth substances (phytohormones) that promote cell division or cytokinesis. A PH of 6.5 helps make nutrients available to plants. Soils that hold water yet drain and breathe are important to a healthy biology in the soil. Being a good steward of land is a commitment that comes with an ongoing learning process. There is more information in my book, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Hortic...

Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Hortic...: Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming: Horticulture Therapy :  I have done a few gardens over the decades for the disable community. Th...

Principles of Regenerative Agroecology

  My video is a recreation of a part of a talk I recently gave at a conference. You will notice the tall grass. That is the best way to deal with extreme weather conditions. The weeds create cover and protect the soil and help hold moisture. We have had 2" - 3" in of rain in the past 5 months and nothing in the past 3 months along with record heat temps. My talk in part is trying to deal with a lot of misconceptions about how to regenerate land and be a good land steward.
  If you wish to work with land and grow some of your food then you want to do it with integrity. That is how you produce high quality food. There are also incredible rewards in revitalizing land to bring it to it's full potential. Soil responds to positive inputs. Developing land is done in stages. For instance at the  I started by assessing the land and building compost piles. Where some of the compost piles were built I later planted fruit trees. I laid out beds, dug and planted them. In the fall,  I dug them again and planted them in perennials. The garden was developed in phases. Developing healthy soil takes time. To take exhausted and degraded land and turn it into a beautiful garden is incredibly rewarding. To enhance the life of a piece of land fills me with life. If you love this type of work you can pour that love into the land and it will pay you back several times in many ways. It is a labor of love that replenishes the soul. If it seems like too much work then maybe it is not for you. There is a lot of land in need of healing and not enough people who want to do it.  It is also an investment in your future. Done correctly, the yields and quality improve, problems become less and there is less work involved. It is more than a job. It is a lifestyle. Developing a close relationship with the land helps me connect with the life around me and how to fit into it. Life attracts life and this adds rhythm to my dance of life.