Episode 247. What Is The Carbon Cycle?

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 1st of March 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

From the NASA Earth Observatory site:

Quote:

Through a series of chemical reactions and tectonic activity, carbon takes between 100-200 million years to move between rocks, soil, ocean, and atmosphere in the slow carbon cycle.

End Quote Continue reading “Episode 247. What Is The Carbon Cycle?”

Episode 246. Growing in Sub-Soil???

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 22nd of February 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Quote:

More than a third of farmland in the U.S. Corn Belt — nearly 100 million acres — has completely lost its carbon-rich topsoil due to erosion, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The loss of topsoil has reduced corn and soybean yields in the Midwest by 6 percent, resulting in a loss of nearly $3 billion a year for farmers, and increased runoff of sediment and nutrients into nearby waterways, worsening water quality.

End Quote Continue reading “Episode 246. Growing in Sub-Soil???”

Episode 245. Rain Dirt and Soil

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 15th of February 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

The variations in climatic conditions continue. 136 mm in twenty four hours was very welcome, that’s about 5 and a third inches in the old money. The surprising thing was the lack of run off and pooling on the surface of the fields. I knew things were thirsty but this is quite astonishing. That we had rainfall soaking into the soil rather than pooling and running off as it did our first winter here tells me we are getting more life into the soil. More spaces within the soil profile for rain to find its way into. Always nice to have some positive feedback, I just have to keep a weather eye out in case I’m simply bias confirming and missing something that’s actually happening. I think we’re ok but then I would think that wouldn’t I?  Continue reading “Episode 245. Rain Dirt and Soil”

Episode 244. Five Years In

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 1st of February 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

A little foreshadowing as they say in the trade, I have a partnership announcement coming in the next few weeks. They’re currently dealing with a small tech issue, as we all do from time to time. The fit is great, the people are wonderful and their vision, truly inspiring. But more when we have our links set up and the venture is visible. Continue reading “Episode 244. Five Years In”

Episode 243. Matching Climate and Crops

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 25th of January 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Now this  crops/climate thing is getting to be a little trickier as time passes. The last two years here in the North West of Tasmania have been 300mm down on the average rainfall. In Australia, as a rule of thumb, the average rarely represents any one year’s actual rainfall. It’s the midpoint between the drought and the wet years. Things aren’t in drought here but they are drier than they could be. And a month to six weeks without rainfall doesn’t do the pastures nor the crops much benefit. Continue reading “Episode 243. Matching Climate and Crops”

Episode 242. Work Life Balance

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 4th of January 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the phrase work/life balance would not have made sense. Life was, in some sense, work, particularly for the 98% of the Medieval population engaged in agriculture. In some ways we have been given a glimpse of this life during 2020. From the arbitrary lockdowns in places like India where day labourers were unable to return to their villages from the cities with many attempting to walk, spreading virus and/or dying along the way, to the work from home zoom generation. I mean no disrespect for the Indian decision. A billion people and a rampant novel virus is never a good combination and I suspect there’d be unintended consequences from any decision.

The large scale purchasing of seeds during 2020 points to a more agricultural rhythm imposed upon people who have never lived this life choice.

For many of us living “out of town” as they say, not much changed. We live “out of town” for good reasons. Lack of bustle, traffic and hubbub being high on my list. The ability to grow our own, or a large part of, our own food is another. The cycle of the year too is an important factor. I hope the newly minted veggie growers are coming to an understanding of the wheel of the year. Some had a fairly steep learning curve. Back in March last year I visited a local rural supplies shop in town to pick up some pea and swede seeds. Remember March is Autumn here in Tasmania and I was looking for winter crops. Talking to the owner he mentioned he’d had a huge run on Sweet Corn seeds which is a bit of a head scratcher given we can and usually do cop at least one frost a winter down to sea level. The thing is though, people were showing their willingness to grow some of their own food. Even if, given the interwebs and all, they had a gap in their applicable knowledge.

The thing with growing food is the connection with seasons. The turning of the wheel of the year. We’re at 345 metres above sea level, that’s around 1130 ft in the old money. We receive a healthy number of frosts during the year. A drought year brings more, generally less cloud cover, than a wet year. 

The leaf drop in the small orchard marks the end of Summer. The bareness of the tree limbs, with the sun rising to the north of our orchard when I look out at it from the kitchen sink, also reminds me of the wheel of the year. As the winter rolls on the sunrise moves towards the equator before standing still for a couple of days, at least appearing to, before the long journey back to the south of the orchard. At 41 degrees south and therefore in the roaring forties, the variation is obvious. 

Leaf fall is the sign to plant the garlic. It goes into the beds where I’ve grown buckwheat. This wonderful plant sucks nutrients to itself and makes them available to the next crop. Beautiful flowers and heart shaped leaves, are a joy to watch growing. Incidentally, this crop has nothing to do with wheat or any other of the fertile crescent grains. It is gluten free and extremely frost sensitive. The rule of thumb I’m using is this: if it is a frost sensitive grain, it’s probably gluten free. Things like, maize, buckwheat, sorghum and rice spring to mind. I might be wrong but the rule seems to hold.

Each season brings its own tasks. Winter means trimming the raspberries to about four foot or 120cm and removing last year’s fruiting canes. It means preparing the duck house for the broody period that will come in Spring. This means clearing out the deep litter and spreading it on the garden beds. Then liming the floor of the duck house, spreading straw, cleaning the waterers and grain containers. After that, last year’s ducklings are big enough to move in. The duck houses are connected to three different runs so the ducks rotate across these. This winter I will be planting fruit trees into these three runs. These will feed both us and the ducks.

Pruning fruit trees begins in August as the colder weather begins to bite. I take cutting as I prune, dipping the “root” end of the cuttings in local raw honey to promote growth. There is something special about raw honey that I’m sure science is yet to fully describe. I’ve also used it on an open wound the vet left after a goat had to have a quarter removed because of mastitis. Cleanest, quickest recovery from surgery I’ve ever seen.

Through winter, these tasks continue until finished. The garden beds, once topped up with the duck bedding, are planted to broad beans. I use the Dwarf Egyptian variety as they better withstand the trade winds that come with living in this latitude. These are then slashed when they are in full bloom and left to rot on top of the beds. 

Spring is never really that warm here so things like vines, pumpkins, squash etc and sweet corn I leave until the start of summer, 1 December here. This past summer has been fairly cool too but a large patch of broad beans are up, the buckwheat is powering away and the sweet corn is growing slowly.

There is little to do at this time with those crops but let them grow. Maybe some water if things are dry. Once they’re in and up focus turns to raspberry picking. The ducks are sitting on eggs but they are hopeless mothers. A day after the eggs have hatched, I grab the ducklings and move them to an enclosed area in the shed with a heat lamp. They grow quickly. At present the first batch of 18 are now in an enclosure two pallets long by one wide. These pallets are given away free at major hardware supplier in town. From this area, which is given new bedding each day, they will move onto the clean duck house mentioned above. We will eventually have three of these duck houses with their associated runs. We can sell 20 dozen eggs a week without the overly bureaucratic requirements and costs that kick in over 20 dozen a week. 

In the second half or thereabouts of January, the garlic harvest starts. So not long now.

Then the blackberries that grow wild alongside the train tracks forming our eastern border will be ripe. At about this time we’ll be picking apples. They come in a regular fashion, one tree after the other. We preserve them as pulp, as apple cakes, as apple jelly and, of course, eat an enormous amount fresh. We fit the bean slashing and the sweet corn harvest throughout this time too. 

Finally when the harvest is in brings us back to leaf drop.

As you can see there’s a rhythm to the year. Despite whatever else is going on in the world outside our fences, the year rolls on inside them. It is for this reason, amongst others, that I think we all need to grow something. A small no-dig veggie garden, a dwarf fruit tree or two, or some soft fruit, raspberries, strawberries and so on and maybe a couple of chooks or ducks would replicate the wheel of the year without tying anyone to dawn to dusk tasks. It is possible to do. The more of us who do it, the gentler the world will become. I live for a time where the growers of food are more admired than vacuous celebrity types who provide nothing but envy, dissension and mindless consumption. That’s the problem with having the heart and mind of a poet in time when the word citizen has been replaced with the term consumer. 

Let’s encourage through our examples, the wonder that is a freshly pulled carrot, a ripe, crisp apple and an egg so yellow and bright we reach for sunglasses.

And while we and others are growing our food in our no-dig gardens we will be: Decarbonising the air, recarbonising the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS

The ChangeUnderground Academy

No-Dig Gardening Course

https://worldorganicnews.com/changeunderground/

Christmas Sale on NOW!

 

World Organic News

email: jon@worldorganicnews.com

Episode 239. Rain, la Nina and Climate Change

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 7th of December 2020.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

The need for action is becoming even more apparent every day.

In the last fortnight, during a wet La Nina event in Australia, we still copped the heat waves of desert air pumped down from the north west of the continent, across the red centre and into the major population centres of Sydney and Melbourne. Bushfires broke out, they we jumped on quickly. They usually are but after the 2019/2020 fires the reaction had a different feel to them. Continue reading “Episode 239. Rain, la Nina and Climate Change”

Episode 238. Seeds! The Original Circular Economy. 

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 16th of November 2020.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Seeds are very much on my mind at present. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, you’re collecting or have collected seeds and in the Southern hemisphere, you’re planting or you already have.

I’ve spent the day modifying a chain with cups on it from my garlic planter to ensure the cups will take the sweet corn seeds. The bigger cups on a different chain will pick the garlic cloves from the hopper next autumn. The seeds are ready, the epoxy is drying and rain is due in a couple of days. Hopefully everything will align. We are the world’s most optimistic people, we who plant seeds.

There is much more to this than just seed in / food out. I’m a bit different, I get excited when a chook goes broody, so planting seeds is the great miracle of life on this planet every time I sow. But, there is something especially magical about maize seeds. They’ve always fascinated me. The life cycle and growth habits are so different from everything else I plant. It is a fascination from childhood.

Those first leaves pushing through the mulch cause my heart to beat a little more quickly. The tassels and the silks, where I can “see” to a point the act of pollination. I shake the storks, watch the pollen spread and I feel the world is as it should be. 

Unwrapping, too early every year, the first ear of corn to see if it’s ready is one of life’s little joys. The same excitement I feel when lifting the straw around the potatoes to discover the harvest for the year. All these good things, hidden from view but giving clues as the wheel of the year turns.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the seed savers, the variety makers, and the seed hunters. A huge variety of seeds disappeared from the planet in the twentieth century as the wonders of hybridisation brought miracle new varieties. These did stave off starvation, in some places, sometimes. The loss though is almost incalculable.

In small fields, in attic chests and among the contrarians some have survived. A little bit like the “hobby” farmers saving rare breeds, a novelty can be a thing worth saving for its actual novelty. 

Podcast footnote:

When I say hobby farmer, a little bit of sick comes to the back of my throat. It’s term of derision given smaller landholders by real estate agents and the 10,000 acre types. The smallholder is more likely to experiment, to be biodiverse and have a  far greater % trees on their block than the plough from fence line to fence line crowd. Now the person with five acres and a bloody ride-on mower who sprays fence lines with glyphosate and spends their entire weekend mowing, does not fall into this group. They are just suburbanites with too much land.

Rant and podcast footnote over.

There are seed companies out there with huge numbers of seed varieties and we should support them, I believe. But the twentieth century lost seeds are a matter of great pain.

I’ve mentioned seed banks before, Svalbard in Norway is a big one and the Saint Petersburg Pavlovsk Experimental Station, started by Nikolai Vavilov who died in Stalin’s gulags is another place to which we owe much as a species and as gardeners. Vavilov decided it would be a useful thing to collect seed from the apparent birthplaces of commercial crops. The Pavlovsk station was opened in 1924. By the outbreak of the second world war, it had collections of wheat, barley, rice and other seeds. In those days Saint Petersburg was known as Leningrad. And during WW2 Leningrad was under siege for 900 days.Food shortages, hunger, starvation and death all come with sieges and especially with long sieges yet the good research staff at the Pavlovsk Experimental Station protected their seed collections, some dying of starvation surrounded  by bags cereal seeds. This blows my mind and I think, behooves us to treat each seed we touch, from the tiniest little strawberry seed to biggest ones we plant with a certain reverence. They carry the history of humans moving out of Africa, and the history of those who remained behind, they contain the millions of selection decisions across time, decisions being made for the most part before we had any idea of genetics. And here we are with seeds a plenty, with biodiversity in our hands. 

I think it a useful thing to pause before planting and contemplate the eons of evolution which contributed to the packets of genetic information in my hand that will feed me, mine and others. This is the wonder of this planet. With some water, soil, sunlight and time we can multiply the number of seeds we hold in our hands exponentially. It is awe inspiring, I find it so.

Maybe pause next time before you plant and contemplate the wonders of the seeds in your hands. The shared humanity, the interconnections with Nature, the poetry of existence in those tiny packets of genetic information.

And, of course to: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.

~~~~

LINKS

Growing a No-Dig Garden on Udemy

Or copy and paste this link:

https://www.udemy.com/course/no-dig-garden-course/?referralCode=7393F372D1748E4A4282

World Organic News

email: jon@worldorganicnews.com

Svalbard

https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/

Pavlovsk Experimental Station

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavlovsk_Experimental_Station

Nikolai Vavilov

The Siege of Leningrad

https://www.history.com/news/the-siege-of-leningrad#:~:text=On%20September%208%2C%201941%2C%20German,the%20lives%20of%20800%2C000%20civilians

Episode 237. Nature Always Bats Last

This is The ChangeUnderground for the week ending 9th of November 2020.

I’m your host, Jon Moore 

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

We must realise, I think, how little we know. Compared with 3.8 billion years of evolution, no-till/no-dig farming is, at a scientific, measured and data collected level, about sixty years old. A major part of no-dig is the use of cover crops and they have been known about in ag for much longer. The combination of ground covers and no-dig though is a newish thing. Continue reading “Episode 237. Nature Always Bats Last”