Episode 188. Grasslands and Attacks on Agroecology

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 30th of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Grasslands are a somewhat ignored sector of the environment. This is not surprising, especially in the English speaking world. Not until European colonisation did English speakers come into contact with large areas of grassland so the previous understanding of grazing country underpins our understanding of these niches.  Continue reading “Episode 188. Grasslands and Attacks on Agroecology”

Episode 187. Ploughing, Chemicals and Monoculture

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 23rd of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

A couple of Sundays ago I heard a podcast from the ABC here in Australia entitled: Land use, climate change and the role of soil.

Quote:

Rear Vision looks at how we come to farm the way we do and how that fits into the climate change story.

This is not a program about organic farming but it is a program about soil.

End Quote 

I think it’s time we moved beyond organic anyway. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, most organic certification systems rely upon systems that do everything chemical farming does but without the chemicals. The same or more use of diesel and days of hand weeding. There is a better way. Many of them.

The show looks at three areas needing attention in Australian and world, now, probably 20 years go but definitely now. 

  • Cultivation
    • We know but so many don’t
    • Destroying mycillia
    • Destroying bacteria
    • Mud bricks
    • And, of course, loss of soil carbon
      • Which means more CO2 in the atmosphere
  • Chemical additives
    • Poisons the soil microbiome
      • As they die they provide food for plants
      • Once dead, more chemicals needed
    • The faustian pact: more production for 1% of topsoil loss
      • So we have between 40 and 100 harvests left, 60 is the most common figure quoted
    • Embedded carbon in the production system
      • From production to transport
      • Korean Natural Farming/Zero Budget Natural Farming
        • Using what’s available where you are
    • The debt spiral.
  • Monoculture
    • This is somewhat obvious with a little thought.
      • Biomimicry
        • The Steppe
        • The Prairies
        • The Rangelands of South Africa, Australia, South America
      • “Efficiency”
        • Henry Ford approach
        • Boredom
      • Counter intuitive systems stability 
        • Mechanical = minimum number of moving parts
        • Biological = more layers/interconnections
        • Set the systems in motion, monitor!
  • What I’m putting in place
    • No-dig
    • No chemicals
      • Making compost
      • Growing a worm farm
    • Monoculture
      • This is where things get interesting
        • Ten beds
        • 27 seed varieties flowers/vegetables
        • Set a non regular grid pattern based upon 10x10cm squares
        • Companion planting
      • One bed per week over ten weeks
        • Succession planting
        • Seeing what works
        • Seeing what doesn’t
        • Recording results
    • This is my current response to the no monoculture principle.
      • If anyone has other ideas, I’d love to hear them.

The Online Conference Living Soil ~ Backyard Regen hosted by World Organic News and Permaculture Plus finished up last Wednesday, 16 September. It seems a great time was had by all. The knowledge our presenters delivered was powerful. I’m thinking of making the individual night’s sessions available, if you’re interested in that let me know at media@worldorganicnews.com

That’s about it for this week.

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

~~~~

LINKS

email: media@worldorganicnews.com

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Transcript HERE

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

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Permaculture Plus

http://permacultureplus.com.au/

Topical Talks

Rear Vision: Land use, climate change and the role of soil

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rearvision/land-use,-climate-change-and-the-role-of-soil/11507270

Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 9th of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Well folks, we are one week away from the RegenEarth Online Conference 2019: Living Soils – Backyard Regen.

A little background should be helpful. After years of publishing this podcast, I had great hopes during our last federal election for some movement on the Climate situation. The vaguely left side was and still is stuck in the renewables are the answer paradigm. Not bad but only half the story, as we all know. The more right of centre parties pretty much ignored the climate policy area. The right won the election. Continue reading “Episode 185. They might think it’s a movement and friends it is!”

Episode 184. 20 Years and More, We Knew!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 2nd of September 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

I still get surprised when it happens but sometimes I run out of podcasts to listen to myself. During this last week I went looking for some content and stumbled upon and old series that ran for 40 years on the BBC World Service. I thing called The Farming World. I flicked through the listings until I found something which peaked my interest. Agroforestry Success Stories. It contained the usual matter. Planting trees works. A mix of tree lines and cropping works, livestock under trees works. All fairly straightforward stuff. It was when I heard the presenter say: “As we approach the millennium…”  that when my ears really pricked up. I hunted through the material available to discover this gem of an episode was from…. 1996. 23 years ago! Even then the results had been proven. Less water use, greater productivity, improved soil health and as we know now, much improved soil carbon.  Continue reading “Episode 184. 20 Years and More, We Knew!”

Episode 183. An Opportunity Not To Be Wasted!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 26th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

As I record this episode, the 25th of August I am celebrating fourteen years of a new life. In the early hours of the 25th of August 2005, I died, twice, from pneumonia. There was no tunnels of light but there was a trip to the River Styx. No ferry, no jetty, just the jet black waters of that river boundary of the underworld. 

Over the past 14 years, many of the things I saw that night have come to pass. Some things are yet to pass and some visions still puzzle me.

The big question of “Why am I still here?” hasn’t so much haunted me as not really arisen. The knowing I had something to do and I would know what when the time came has sustained me. 

The current global situation may or may not be why I came back. To put it another way. I didn’t fight for life that night and take five years to return to full health to have this planet destroyed for human existence by brainless dipsticks more interested in turning oil into cash that providing a world fit for all humanity.

It’s not just the fires in Siberia and the Amazon, it’s not just the attempts by Bayer to buy off the poor sods suffering from glyphosate exposure, it’s not just the loss of topsoil each and every growing season, it’s not just the littering of the entire biosphere with plastics, it’s not just the suffering of people across the globe from war, famine and pestilence, it’s not just the suffering of billions of animals cages in factory farms and it’s not about the constant loss of biodiversity. It is all these things and so much more. It is about honouring our places within the fabric of Nature. It is about knowing we are not just a part of Nature but an expression of Nature made human. 

So on this anniversary, coincidentally the date one of my grandmothers actually died, I feel the weight of my ancestors, I feel the weight of the biosphere, I feel the weight of 3.6 billion years of evolution screaming at me, at all of us, to actually just do something. 

We know what has to be done, I covered regenerative ag, pumped hydro, wave energy, solar PV, wind, Costa Rica going fossil fuel free for a month or more at a time. 

There are days when this all gets to me but then I remember what a privilege my extra years are and damn it, I’m not going to watch it all pissed up against the wall because it’s all too hard! It’s not. 

As regular listeners will know I’m running an online conference next month on how we can turn suburbia into a giant carbon sink through a few small changes to how we manage the land in the backyards and the front ones too, across the planet. Link, of course in the show notes.

And the thing that I really don’t understand is this: Making the few changes needed will improve the quality of life for all life forms on the planet. It is such an obvious thing to do. And we know how to do it. I understand that in the middle of a heat wave that doing anything when the outside temperature hits 43 plus degrees celsius (that’s 110 F in the old money) but we need to start now or these heat waves are going to come earlier and last longer. 

So, as these extra years I’ve been given are coming no matter what, won’t you join me and other like minded people across the globe in making the changes needed? 

Together we can:

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Episode 182. What The Hell is Soil Carbon?

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 19th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week I’m going to address the question that is this episode’s title. This was triggered by a conversation I overheard on the question and it left me speechless. The level of misunderstanding was something I felt needed to be addressed because soil carbon is so important to the process of reversing excessive CO2 in the atmosphere. So if we are to do this we really should have thorough knowledge of what’s involved.

So from the NSW DPI we have a factsheet entitled: Key soil carbon messages.

Quote:

Soil organic carbon is a vital component of productive agriculture, but there are many myths and misconceptions about it. 

End Quote

Let’s get to it. There are nine things listed in this factsheet but there are just five things we need to understand:

  1. Soil is a significant carbon sink. 
  2. Increasing soil organic matter can improve productivity by improving soil structure, increasing nutrient cycling and encouraging diversity of soil organisms. 
  3. Farm productivity is closely linked to soil functions that depend on decomposition of organic matter. 
  4. To increase the amount of carbon stored in soil, carbon-based inputs need to be greater than the losses. If the balance isn’t right then the amount of carbon in soil is depleted. 
  5. Many soils have the potential to store a large mass of carbon.

Starting with #1 Soil is a significant carbon sink. 

The carbon cycle has been a part of the biosphere since the first arrival of life on the planet. The thing I’ve noticed with natural systems is this: The more complex the system is the more stable it becomes. It is because the carbon cycle has been around for so long that it complexity has, to some extent, protected us from the practices we have been following. Much carbon can be and was stored in the soils of the world. We can return to this state but we need to do it in a way that actually works. It turns out to be relatively straightforward, once we more our mindset away from artificial fertilisers to feeding the soil.

#2. Increasing soil organic matter can improve productivity by improving soil structure, increasing nutrient cycling and encouraging diversity of soil organisms.

By increasing and maintaining soil carbon we actually create better, more productive soils. This is old knowledge. The point of most farming systems prior to WW2 was to conserve and increase the amount of soil carbon. It wasn’t called that, it was called humus or humic acid. The humus is fed by the detritus of production, by the results of growing crops, of feeding plant material through animals and by producing compost. I would refer you to a book available online for free called Ten Acres Enough. Link in the show notes. The author is fanatical about collecting organic matter. He sends his farm hand out to collect fallen leaves in Autumn from roadsides. He bought in calf cows prior to winter, housed them and collected their droppings in huge piles of compost. The cows with calves at foot were sold in Spring with a huge amount of manure available for the growing season. He does have some strange ideas about bare soil attracting rain but we can allow some leeway for a book written in the 1870s.

#3 Farm productivity is closely linked to soil functions that depend on decomposition of organic matter. 

This is a key point. The decomposition of organic matter feeds the microbes that create the humus. By doing this in an organic way, we continual feed the soil. The microbes in the soil feed the plants. There are a couple of ways to do this. Cover crops, green manures are plant based ways but putting organic matter through animals speeds the process no end. This the difference between John Jeavons and the Grow Biointensive method and John Seymour’s animal based production system. Either way you end up with organic matter for the soil to incorporate into itself. Both Jeavons and Seymour are soil turners but the easiest way to get material into the soil is to pile it on top. The natural systems look after the rest.

If we go the chemical route then year on year more chemicals are needed as each application burns through humus. Once the humus is gone, growing is more like hydroponics in dirt rather than letting the soil do the growing for us. Simples.

#4 To increase the amount of carbon stored in soil, carbon-based inputs need to be greater than the losses. If the balance isn’t right then the amount of carbon in soil is depleted.

This is a little self evident. The systems employed must put back more than they take. Masanobu Fukuoka developed such a system. Link to his book The One Straw Revolution is in the show notes. His system comes down to some simple principles:

  1. No digging
  2. No weeding
  3. No artificial fertiliser
  4. No pesticides or herbicides

These things are simple, they might not necessarily be easy to get our heads around but they are essentially easy to implement, it just takes creative thinking. No, really.

#5 Many soils have the potential to store a large mass of carbon.

This cannot be overstated. In colonised countries, native soils held much more organic matter than they do now. After all the indigenous peoples didn’t have access to chemical fertilisers and managed to survive quite happily for centuries before Europeans arrived. In the case of Australia, 60 millennia, at least. So there’s a huge a hole in the carbon cycle which we can refill, quickly. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the site Journey to Forever has a really great compost page and I have a favourite quote from this page:

Quote:

It’s estimated that a human with a compost fork and a watering-can, carefully piling up organic matter with the correct C/N ratio, water content and aeration so that it cooks away at high temperatures and emits jets of steam, can make as much topsoil in a year as nature can make in a century. 

End Quote

This is how we suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and recreate soils producing food fit for human consumption.

We can do this, we must do this, probably yesterday but today will be good enough!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Of course if you’d like to join the movement to recarbonise the soil or you know someone who would, our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen would be a great place to start. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences from our presenters over three night’s, covering everything from compost to seed saving to no-dig gardens all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes. We’d love to see there in September from the 16th to the 19th.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Key soil carbon messages

https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/428851/key-soil-carbon-messages.pdf

Ten Acres Enough

The One Straw Revolution

Journey to Forever has a really great compost page

Episode 181. The IPCC Report, Farming & Food

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 12th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week we begin with a piece from the ABC News site: IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

Quote:

We must urgently revolutionise what we eat, how we grow it and the way we use land if the world is to combat dangerous climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published on Thursday.

Transforming to clean energy, clean transport and industry alone will not cut global emissions enough to avoid dangerous warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report authors warn.

End quote.

It’s almost as if decarbonising the air isn’t going to be enough. Who’d have thunk it?

Anyway the point is we need to change our food production systems. CAFOs over production of vegetables to meet supermarket contracts and the discarding of perfectly good foodstuffs because they look a bit funny have all got to stop. As a footnote to that last point, one of our local supermarkets was selling “mis-shapened” carrots last month. There has been talk in the local press about the waste involved in tossing these out. I was interested. My thinking was that if they were not “standard” the supermarket would be offering these carrots at a considerable discount to encourage the average shopper to change their behaviours. Imagine my surprise when I checked the per kilo price of these “iffy” carrots with the standards located on the other side of the Fruit and Veg section. They were more expensive. So clearly the management could say we offered the non standard carrots and nobody bought them. We are only supplying what our customers want. 

And this is the sort of double think nonsense we are up against and the IPCC report is suggesting we need to change. 

The kicker from the IPCC report is the need to change food production methods to ensure we don’t hit the 2 degree rise in global temperatures which would trigger the release of methane trapped in the permafrost. If that happens the climate consequences for agriculture are catastrophic. More droughts, unpredictable, out of season frosts, desertification, huge flooding events and so on.

Quote:

Improving land management, reforestation, and soil regeneration are essential steps in reducing emissions from the land sector, according to report co-author Annette Cowie from the University of New England.

“We really do need to take drastic action urgently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Professor Cowie said.

“When we plant trees, when we do sustainable land management practices that build organic land and soil, we actually take carbon out of the atmosphere and we store it in the land.”

Emissions from the global food system, including peripheral activities like packaging and transport, are estimated to comprise between 21 per cent and 37 per cent of the world’s human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report.

“About a quarter of the Earth’s ice-free land area is subject to human-induced degradation,” the authors state.

End Quote

I’ve mentioned the soil losses and continued degradation of the world’s soils in previous episodes. I think we can all see that’s not sustainable and that we need to start regenerating what we have before it’s gone. Starting now is easier than trying to roll back the Sahara, but we need to do that too. In a previous episode I discussed the Great Green Wall of Africa. There’s a link in the show notes if you’d like to read more. 

One of the issues with current agricultural production is, like the rest of industrialised society, is the dependence on oil. Overcoming the supermarket issues above could be done with much shorter supply lines. Local growing, less food miles and so on. Our second piece this week from the site The Conversation: IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil. Supports this idea and links soil degradation to the ecology of farming.

Quote:

How is it possible that soils have become so degraded? Don’t we need well functioning soils to produce food? The truth is, the modern farming system is based around oil, not soil.

For most of our history, humans could only produce as much food as the local ecological and soil conditions could support. Every time a crop was taken from the fields, nutrients were removed, making the soil less fertile. To cope, some societies developed complex and sustainable systems in which nutrients were returned to the soil in the form of organic waste. Using the local environment and labour to maintain soils in a good state was the key to survival.

Modern farming, in contrast, has been shaped by the power of fossil fuels. The problem of limited soil fertility was overcome through fertilisation, mainly with synthetic nitrogen, which is made using natural gas or coal.

End Quote

Those complex and sustainable systems referred to in the quote link to book I’ve recommended previously: Farmers of Forty Centuries. It covers the trip of a missionary through Japan, Korea and parts of China at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Well worth a read and a link in the show notes.

The point being made in the quote is the overreliance on fossil fuels. If we think about animal agriculture as it’s practiced in the US and increasingly elsewhere, we think of CAFOs. Both as feedlots and enormous 1000+  cow plus dairies. Feed is grown with artificial fertilisers, harvested with diesel powered machinery, trucked in diesel powered vehicles and fed to animals. Waste is then trucked away or kept onsite in huge manure lagoons and then spread by diesel powered tractors. The food, milk is shipped to factories on vehicles and then distributed to consumers through warehouses and so on. For meat the beasts are trucked to slaughterhouses, and then through the supply chain, all powered by fossil fuels. Not only is this bad for the climate, the soil and the beasts, it produces, bland, homogenised food for humans. The prices of these foods are kept low for the consumer because the environmental and health costs aren’t included in the price. 

And it’s not just industrial ag  that’s got issues. I’ve mentioned before the 100 acre organic farm I visited last year. On some days there must have been at least 9 tractors going full time for days on end. Ploughing, re-ploughing, moving compost, and a variety of other things which made little sense. Busy rather than productive seemed to be the mantra. Anyway, I’m sure a huge systems overhaul is needed to remove the tractors and the hand weeding of triple ploughed vegetable beds. The solution there is probably in the problem. Don’t plough, direct seed/transplant and mulch and the diesel disappears. 

Cutting silage and hay needed for paddocks that are too wet in winter is another area needing attention. Maybe lighter breeds capable of living outdoors all year but that doesn’t remove the need for motive power for grain harvests. I can’t see the world using scythes and rakes. I’m sure there’s a solution I just haven’t seen nor heard of one.

Certainly we can all do our bit and improve our own lives in the process by growing some of our veggies at home. Even if we just start with an herb garden to season our diets, we’d be making a small difference. 

The UN, the IPCC, commonsense and an unbiased look around will lead us to the same conclusions: Shorter supply lines, fresher food and getting off the fossil fuel addiction are all important. I’m fairly sure we can decarbonise the air, solar PV, wind, wave and geothermal options are all getting cheaper and hydrogen as a stop gap or even major slice of the energy mix will sort this. Especially when combined with price signals. 

The re-carbonise the soil part is, relatively, straight forward. More soil carbon from biochar to compost to vermicompost to cover crops and green manures and then we can toss in the animal manures. I wonder why this hasn’t happened yet?

I’ll just let that sit there…

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Of course if you’d like to join the movement to recarbonise the soil or you know some who is, our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils ~ Backyard Regen would be a great place to start, in my humble opinion. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences from our presenters over three night’s, all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

IPCC climate change report calls for urgent overhaul of food production, land management

https://amp.abc.net.au/article/11391180

Great Green Wall of Africa

IPCC’s land report shows the problem with farming based around oil, not soil

https://theconversation.com/amp/ipccs-land-report-shows-the-problem-with-farming-based-around-oil-not-soil-121643

Farmers of Forty Centuries

Episode 180. A Huge Systems Change, Be Ready!

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 5th of August 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

I posted a link on the Facebook page much earlier today about the rate of ice melt on Greenland. I then saw footage of the event on the news. Now instead of this tipping me into a depressive funk, it energised me and I hope to bring you all along with me in this enthusiasm!

We have, I’m sure, heard of the tipping point. That set of conditions where all the measurements, data and lived experience results in a change to the “new” normal.

We’ve all been through this in life, or we will. A moment of satori, a blinding flash of inspiration and our lives will never be the same again. Me before and after my first parachute jump is one such example. Back when I did this we weren’t strapped to an experienced jumper, we went on static lines that open the chute for us. I have no words for the change that occurred in those two minutes from aeroplane to ground but I was a different person.

Stay with me, we’ll get to the soil and air soon.

The melting Greenland glaciers on the TV put me in mind of the tipping point, the moments of change and podcast I heard a month or so ago. 

The episode was on systems change. The key takeaway was that everything changes all at once.

“Everything Changes All At Once” 

If we think back to the financial crisis of 2007, things changed so quickly that we entered a new world almost overnight.

  • A new normal had arrived.
  • The fall of the Soviet Union was a similar event
  • As was the birth of the Soviet Union 
  • This was related to WWI
  • To be fair, WWI was a longer systems change but change things did.

To the point:

  • Things change, all the time
  • Major changes, as we live them happen quickly
  • In retrospect they seem obvious
    • Compromised financial instruments
    • Internal tensions in the Soviets
    • A moribund Tsarist regime and so on.

We are at or near a similar set of circumstances:

  • Rising obesity levels with the ubiquitous American diet
  • Collapsing bee numbers
  • Soil losses every year
  • Monsanto actually being sued
  • Year long fire seasons
  • Melting glaciers
  • Bits falling off the antarctic ice sheet
  • Five month long floods in the US
  • Fires in Siberia
  • Pacific Island states drowning as sea levels rise.

I could go on.

What’s to be done?

  • Let’s assume the paradigm is already shifting
  • Are we able to work in a biomimicry system?
  • Can we grow our own food?

I’ll just step away from the narrative for a moment to say I’m not a doomsday prepper. Most of the ones I’ve seen on the telie don’t inspire much confidence.

But what we actually need to do is seize the levers we can. 

  • Solar PV at the household level probably combined with a battery of some sort
  • Planting for pollinators
  • Growing at least some of food
    • Now I know this food thing seems hard for non-gardeners but it really isn’t
    • No dig/no till beds, accumulating organic matter with a passion and open pollinated seeds are it basically and you can grow a substantial 
  • Community gardens are also a great way to learn skills and meet people.
  • The key living in the changed system is a network of support
    • So not just food growers but cooks, chefs, preservers.
  • If we do this, remember Bill Mollison reconneded we just needed ten percent of us to move from consumption to production to fix most of the world’s problems, so if we do this or rather when we’ll be turning every piece of land from a fossil fuel consuming vacuum and waste production area into a food producing, biodiversity promoting carbon sink.
  • We can fix this. Things will never be the same as they were but they weren’t going to be anyway.
  • Grasp the change, direct it lovingly and bring others with us.

All we have to do is:

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

And if you’re interested in joining others to make this change happen, it’s the focus of our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils. This year’s theme is backyard Regen. Over 300 years of accumulated knowledge and experiences over three night’s presentation all for just $67 AUD. There are links in the show notes.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

Facebook Page:  World Organic News Facebook page.

WORLD ORGANIC NEWS No Dig Gardening Book: Click here

Permaculture Plus

Topical Talks

Episode 179. A Time For Reconnection and the Really Big Picture

This is the World Organic News for the week ending the 29th of July 2019.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

This week I’m in a pensive mood. I’ve just seen a TV show set on the Monaro, the high plains surrounding the Snowy Mountains of NSW. I lived there for seven years, both my children were born there and I really honed my smallholder skills during those years.

Previously and following those years I lived in the upper Blue Mountains above 1000 metres. (3300ft in the old money). 

So many experiments in small scale production. So many apparent fails but actually lessons and course corrections. 

The constant through those years was the seasonality of the locales. They all had four definite seasons. 

Marriages came and went and I moved down 700 metres to the lower mountains. More lessons, no frosts, bugs up to my eyeballs that just didn’t survive the colder winters.

As you probably know, if you’ve been listening for any length of time, Mrs World Organic News and I lived in Ireland last year. Different soils, different rain, the first drought in 40 years and a discovery of the terroir of milk, raw milk, pig meat, potatoes and apples. 

We reside in the Ireland-like region of North West Tasmania. In the roaring forties, with lots of rain through winter. As green as Ireland but a different green. I find it difficult to describe but it is different. Just as many rainbows as I recall from our Celtic sojourn and lingering sense of something missed to be checked out later. 

No foxes in Tasmania but we do have snakes. Only three species will kill you on this little island state south of the mainland but the same antivenin so we don’t have to bring the dead snake with us to the hospital. Win/win.

What’s got me so pensive is the granite and the brown pastures of a Monaro winter. It could be brutal, beautifully brutal. Three inch thick frosts with a stillness the the old masters would have cherished. That and the birth of my children, put the Monaro in a special place, deep within my heart. 

As I look for narratives, explanations and, and,,,, and I’m not sure exactly what else. The feeling of connection to soil, to the rhythms of the year, to the obvious changes I have seen and those described by the elders of the places I have lived. Both here in Tassie and the Upper Mountains, winters were once colder. It still gets cold in these places but not two foot of snow on the ground cold. Apparently this used to occur in the Upper Blue Mountains during the 1930s and just up the road from where we are now twenty years ago. 

All is change. 

Perhaps underpinning these feelings has been the loss of two souls this month. One a good friend, sick for some time but unexpected nonetheless. The second a larger landholder from our part of the Monaro. We used to engage in idle chit chat about rainfall, the weather, stock and the other usual things in a rural setting. His death notice popped up on my Facebook feed as a post from the local newspaper. Twenty five odd years since I’d thought of him yet the shock was visceral. He never wanted to farm, he’s loved the army, was looking to stay on after National Service when his father became ill. It was his responsibility, as eldest son, to take the reins and so he did.

We all make choices. I wonder about some I’ve made. No bitterness, occasionally unresolved grief raises its head but on the whole I at peace.

The soil, the pasture under foot, the growth of stock, the cycles of the years, no two alike, all on the same basic pattern. 

I see the patterns blurring.  Late Spring frosts, warmish winters, horrifically hot summers. The new normal? As we all sleepwalk towards Armageddon. Well not all of us but way too many are sleep walking to that destination. 

The petty concerns of everyday life. Being on time for appointments, meeting deadlines, eating, and a thousand and one other things pick away at our ability to just stop and feel the powerful forces of the seasons. To actually celebrate the cold, embrace the winds and dance in the rain, even if it’s only in front of the pigs.

I stood outside last night, our first relatively cloud free sky in a little while and just stared at the stars. The enormity of existence did not make me feel small but rather, interconnected. Feet on the soil, head in the heavens.

I think we all need to get our hands and feet onto and into the soil where ever we live. Celebrate the wonder that is that thin crust of biology, chemistry and physics that keeps all of us, the entire land based biome, alive and well.

Find a way for you to grow something, or better yet find a way for you to watch something grow. Even if it’s a pot plant. I understand how privileged I am to live out of town, to be able to see the brightness of a starry night, to see more clearly the interconnections between all of life. But it is possible everywhere. Even if you look with your mind’s eye and your imagination. 

So my request is that we all look for, see and explore the interconnectivity of life. We are all in this together people. Let’s find a way to make this little rock in space work.

And on that note I’ll draw this episode to a conclusion.

Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

And if your interested in attending our online conference: RegenEarth 2019: Living Soils there are links in the show notes.

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

~~~~

LINKS

The RegenEarth 2019 Online Conference ~ Living Soil

email: regen@regenearth.net

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