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fukuoka raised beds (smells like ruth stout)  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Somebody just posted this video, but I thought it deserved its own thread.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=2865701754864235132

I think this would be a good one to show to folks that don't understand the value of raised beds.

 
jeremiah bailey
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I'm experimenting with the Fukuoka method soon. I have cowpea and buckwheat seeds ordered. I just received the cowpea rhyzobium. I'm going to pelletize the seeds and toss them on the lawn and stop mowing soon after seeding. I like the idea of raised beds, but I have limited land resources (1/4 acre.) Besides it seems like a lot of extra work. This video if anything pointed out a glaring mistake I've made with my garden. No mulch! And I have two untouched square bales of straw. Shame on me! One new and dry, the other a year old and weathered since March this year. I'm going lay the old bale out first and cover with the new bale. I'm thinking that after raking in the cowpeas and buckwheat that the lawn will be sufficient living mulch for that project. I am really into Fukuoka's "do nothing" method. I know there is work involved, but reducing it to a bare minimum is a great idea. Let nature do her job, instead of trying to tell her how to do what she's done for millions of years. I'm amazed at how much I've learned since joining this forum. I hope what I've learned is effective. My wife has her doubts about it, but since she is leaving all the work to me... I get to choose the what, where, when, and how.
 
Brenda Groth
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can't get the video to play..poor signal today..but I love raised beds..unfortunately I don't really have them any more..i had a 45 x 45 raised bed garden area..but that is where my son's new house sits now..it was beautiful and so easy to use..i even had a drip irrigation system worked up in it and had a whole passel of bearing dwarf fruit trees as well..the peaches were fantastic..

we also used chipped aspen tops and stable manure in the beds..and the chips in the paths..and we got the best looking and tasting morel mushrooms you would ever dream of..not only in the beds but in the paths ..lovely..

one of these days i'll get around to building up the raised beds here again..just haven't had the time or effort needed to get back to building them..so i'm on ground level and going up with sheet mulch for the time being.
 
jeremiah bailey
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These raised beds were very cool. When she told about how you could make any shape you desired, I thought about writing things visible from the air. How cool is that?! You could sell advertising space as a new source of gardening income! I guess the practicality of that would be enhanced in valleys, near air ports, and under tall buildings.
I do have a bunch of maple branches that I have laying around. They were cut down last fall as part of a tree removal. If I were to pile them in a lower area of my garden, then pile compost on them, would they be too fresh? I am composting the stump grindings with leaf mold, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Would it help to add a layer of fresh grass clippings over the branches before the compost?
 
                  
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I can't say that I've read Fukuoka extensively but I have come to understand his oft quoted statement "o Nothing" a bit differently than most might think.  I understand that this statement is from a larger commentary that goes something like this:

    Do nothing.
    Observe Everything.
    Timing is everything.

    I imagine that this does not mean to literally do nothing as in sit on your lounge chair with a tall drink and watch the world go by...    I imagine that this statement might have been directed to those who live in a western culture who might often be action oriented, as in "I am a man of action..."  I imagine that Fukuoka may have been suggesting that one should not simply do something for the sake of doing something, or that one should not simply do the first thing that comes to mind, or the thing that has always been done.  In the west, what has often been done is to cut everything down to "clear" the land and then set up a "factory farm" complete with chemical fertilizers, etc. and then think about what one wants to plant...  In this case, "o Nothing" would be a call to stop and think...
    Then comes the request to "Notice Everything."  As in, "pay attention to nature and its cycles in the specific context that you might find yourself" (my paraphrase).  I imagine this to be a very "active engagement" with the environment"--a hands on learning and exploring of the patterns and natural rhythms in the world around.
      Then comes "Timing is everything."  Following up on all of one's observations, it would seem to me that it would be obvious that one would want to "Join Hands" with nature and its cycles, engaging with nature and immersing oneself with its patterns and rhythms.  I very different process than imposing one's will on nature.

    So, in conclusion, I hear a call to observation and to harmonious action in Fukuoka's statement "o Nothing" when I include it in this context with "Observe Everything.  Timing is Everything" which would be very different than simply sitting around and doing nothing.
 
jeremiah bailey
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In that respect, Fukuoka essentially described gardening and farming as a martial art. Having studied Aikido, there are many parallels between Fukuoka and Morihei Ueshiba, Aikido's founder. They were both about harmony and blending with the natural order of things. I wonder if the two ever met? Both championed achieving the most by doing the least through blending the energy of two or more bodies.
Two ideas inherent in Aikido are "mushin" and "zanshin" (moo-sheen/zahn-sheen), or literally translated: "no mind" and "remaining mind" Interpretations vary a bit, but they generally follow a common thread. Mushin is a state of mind that is not occupied with thought and emotion, leaving it to react to anything. Zanshin is a state of mind that looks ahead to the possible results of an action, which brings awareness to how one's actions affect the surrounding environment. Zanshin also maintains awareness in the aftermath of an action. Mushin and zanshin combine to help one be effective with the minimum effort needed to achieve a goal. They help one weigh their options based on inputs and outputs. The two both require and cultivate awareness of your surroundings. These two ideas are also inherent in other martial arts as well as in Fukuoka's method.
Do nothing, observe everything, timing is everything are also of utmost importance in martial arts. There are other parallels as well, and I think this only scratches the surface. A lot of it has to do with the values ingrained in the roots of Japanese culture.
 
paul wheaton
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I have two untouched square bales of straw. Shame on me! One new and dry, the other a year old and weathered since March this year. I'm going lay the old bale out first and cover with the new bale.


Do you know if they are organic?

Be careful.  Most straw is tainted with clopyralid (or something similar) and can either kill your growies or make them sad.

I do have a bunch of maple branches that I have laying around. They were cut down last fall as part of a tree removal. If I were to pile them in a lower area of my garden, then pile compost on them, would they be too fresh? I am composting the stump grindings with leaf mold, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Would it help to add a layer of fresh grass clippings over the branches before the compost?


I would use the branches inside of a hugelkultur

 
jeremiah bailey
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The straw has hasn't killed anything yet, as I've used several bales from the same source for other things starting last year. Left over seeds in the chaff vigorously sprout when left in the rain. I had already laid them out on the garden by the time you responded. Everything is growing well, aside from the hail damage we've received from several storms this past week. My peppers were especially hurt by this. The soil seems much happier and is moist on even hot days. Earthworm activity has very noticeably increased as well.

Hugelkultur was my inspiration for the raised beds. As the branches aren't very rotted, I was thinking some fresh grass clippings between them and compost would help speed the process, and provide extra N.

Your reminder of clopyralid did spur me to do some more research. It's made here in Indianapolis, were I live. I also found rumor of it particularly affecting legumes and namely peas. So it sounds like growing peas in suspect soil is a poor man's test for it. I'll try that out. And write a letter to my man Mitch about why this company is allowed to do such atrocious things in our state. Mitch Daniels is our governor. DowAgro makes clopyralid.
 
paul wheaton
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Peas are particularly sensitive. 

If your soil has a full dose of clopyralid, then the peas will die (or not grow).  If your soil has 1% of that, then your peas will grow, but will be sad.

 
Travis Philp
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I'm glad that she mentions that plants themselves hardly take anything out of the fertility of the soil and that tilling is the bigger consumer.
 
Scott Reil
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This completely dovetails with Elaine Inghams teachings on soil food web. Not even organic fertilizers; completely done with mulches (composts in the greenhouse, but still incredibly low in inputs). While I still add compost yearly the rest of this is very similar to my garden (tilled the first year but never again after, mounded raised beds although mine are narrower, intercropped rows, cover mulches from yard debris). I am encouraged to be less intensive with amending this season; worm castings were off the chart last year, so something has been going right. This system rings very true with me; the only thing I need overcome is the need to hoe and rake and fuss...

and simply Do nothing...

HG
 
Travis Philp
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helpfulgardener wrote:
. This system rings very true with me; the only thing I need overcome is the need to hoe and rake and fuss...and simply Do nothing...


It can be hard to go against the 'traditional' bed prep and replenishment doctrine when it's so drilled into us from all sides (colleagues, internet gardening sites, most gardening books and television shows, magazines, not to mention habit)

But the  system in this video works...and for a lot less effort and inputs
 
Scott Reil
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Another conversation on another thread led me to this thought; what about soils so fungally or bacterially dominated that they chemically resist the move towards the balanced fungal:bacterial ratios our row crops want? This method seems ideal for a soil already near this median ideal, but isn't amendment a necessary "evil" in an unbalanced soil? Or should we be selecting crops that suit the soil?

HG
 
                                          
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helpfulgardener wrote:
Another conversation on another thread led me to this thought; what about soils so fungally or bacterially dominated that they chemically resist the move towards the balanced fungal:bacterial ratios our row crops want? This method seems ideal for a soil already near this median ideal, but isn't amendment a necessary "evil" in an unbalanced soil? Or should we be selecting crops that suit the soil?

HG


Well, I'd have to say the core of your concerns can be remedied by getting away from row crop planting.  It's unnecessary to begin with and certainly less efficient than guild polycultures for the amount of space in raised bed.  The bacterial/fungal balance will even out on it's own if you stop tilling and amending.  Turning the soil is what sets the balance off to begin with and yearly amendment can actually set the soil health back to zero every year.  The plants themselves will adjust the soil, as there is no better soil amendment than biomass and no better biomass than roots, because they get underground without soil disruption.

Still, row cropping is the core of the problem in my mind and getting away from it is one of the hardest and most important step to success in the permaculture model.
 
Scott Reil
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SM, I meant row crop more in the sense of traditional crops. The F:B ratios these plants thrive at are not functions of planting type, but genotype. While I agree that the balance will usually return to suit the crop as the plant's select specific soil microorganisms to favor (and vice versa), certain soils  like highly alkaline soils of the Southwest, and boreal forest soils resist this process pretty stubbornly. While the former is mostly about water issues, the latter is simply because natural soil succession is ALWAYS trying to be more fungal, no matter where on the planet we are talking about.

Take a bare rock with the first lichen on it and we are talking about soil, but it is completely bacterial. Add a wee bit of duff and the first fungus begins to appear. As fungal counts increase, so does plant diversity and thereby, animal diversity. The climax of this process is evergreen forest like taiga, where the fungal dominance is nearly complete. Interruption of this cycle is not just better for our regular food crops; it is necessary IMO.

I concur with your assessment of row planting being less healthy for soils, but do not agree tilling of soil resets soil to zero. Thankfully soil is a far more resilient structure, always recovering from the backwards bumps toward more bacterial soil counts that fire, flood, drought, landslide, and yes, tilling, throw at it. As a living thing, healing of wounds is an integral survival skill, and soil can survive a lot worse than we throw with a chisel plow.

While I am a newbie to the whole PC concept, I am not likewise hindered in my knowledge of soil biology, and still view tilling as a viable tool to move fungally dominant soils towards more acceptable bacterial levels. I do not know if I am committing PC heresy with this statement or not, but can certainly back it up on a scientific basis...

HG
 
                                          
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HG, soil science is a funny subject and you would be benefited by talking to Larry Korn, a true to god soil scientist, regarding this subject as he knows far more than I do on the subject.  My short rebuttal would be that although there is a major short term of explosion in microscopic life in the soil directly after tilling, the reordering of the layers that are built in soil over time return the long term health of the soil to a beginning point; a point of having to build layers all over again.

Fukuoka, and later Bill Mollison, both talk heavily about the long term dangers of tilling and promote a no-till method all but exclusively.  I understand you are educated in your opinion about soil, but I have to observe that there are many well educated experts that disagree with you in part or whole.  Just a thought.
 
Scott Reil
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Indeed, just the kind of thought I was looking for, Shaman.

I am not married to any of my thinking so much I cannot countenance new science. I leave that sort of thinking to intelligent design fans and global warming denialists. Dr. Kron's writing and Fukuoka-san's first book seem good places to start.

Thanks!

HG
 
rose macaskie
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A soil scuientist eh, I have so many questions that it comes out as a sort of scream, i have to calm down and take it one by one.
    Fukouka was a soil scientist.
  The woman in the above video says that the to great quantities of oxygen that the microbes are exposed to if you till or dig, kill many microbes. Is that right.
  Which systems of break down fixes most carbon in the soil?
  paul stamets argument or one of them is  is that the hypha of fungi are great for plants, they fill soil with micro air poctets and water, you say they are not good for crop plants i suppose for vegetables and wheat. He is a micologist not a soil scientist.
  He has grown onions and a few other things with micorhizae and a control crop without and the micorrhyied ones grew ever so much bigger than the other ones.
a great deal of his book is published on the web it is called mycelium running the article on it put in by google is the one with a great deal of the book availiable if you open it up.
 
  What about the electric condutivity of clays, i read someone was trying to find  this out about a certain clay, i wondered what importance it had?
  I have read about he electromagnetic forces round a clay particles. My book talked about very small ones, called  a colloidal particles it said that such small particles have electrro magnetic forces round them that  bind other things to the particle, such as nitrogen in such a firm way that plants can't unstick it . It was given as a reason to give more nitrogen to the soil, of course this is not a permaculture answer, i think he was refering to chemical fertilizer maybe to both the book dealt with organic fertilizers. I suppose the permaculture answer is breaking up the tight grasp of clay particles with organic matter and scientific humus.
  Well in another thing i read the other day, i think they said too much nitrogen is a problem in clay so i began to feel confused about the two postures. May be their is a difference between more than usual and frankly much to much.
  If you break up the soil you damp down fungal activity you say, without doing for it all ? Is some fungal activity good for normal crops.
What is a, wee bit of duff, is that scottish? Are you a scot scot reil . agri rose macaskie..

 
 
rose macaskie
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I read somewhere that wheat straw has allelopthetic qualities and it inhibits growth of things growing under it and so maybe you should let it lie a while before using it. The tradition is to use it as bedding and then it goes on the manure heap.
  i have just read a bit about a old fashioned bit of advice on manure in Jane Downs book Magick Muck and this person she quotes says that you can use straw that has been laid on roads but he suggests leaving it to ferment awhile before using it, Gervaise Markham 16. agri rose macskie.
 
Scott Reil
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Now Rose, I didn't say that I don't want fungus. I most certainly do. But my maters and taters are going to be happier around a 1:1 F:B ratio. In a fungally dominant soil they will be less happy. Try to grow a tomato in leaf duff and forest soil, and best of luck. I am fully in agreement that tilling is a bad deal long term; that it breaks down macroaggregation, gasses off fertility and most evil (and topical) destroys hyphal nets and that does lead to compaction. Agriculture is now dealing with deepening compaction by plowing deeper; in the 70's it was compaction at a foot, in the 80's it was two, and now some guys in "modern" agriculture are seeing 4 feet of compaction. Plowing deeper or more often ain't it. I know.


I would never do this more than once; I have only been tilling the first time and I am here to learn ways to avoid even that in the future. But I do think in a fungally dominated soil, tilling could be a tool to regress back to that balanced F:B point for vegetable crops. The reduction of the existing fungal strains would open habitat for plant selected species (like your mycorrhizae) to grow. I've read Paul's work, and completely agree that fungal soils are good soils. In PC Zone 2, tilling becomes even less attractive as we start to work with more shrubs, berries and crops in need of more fungal dominance. And as we move into food trees our need for bacteria has faded away almost completely; our F:B should be around 50:1. Not much need for regression there.

Cation Exchange Capacity is the ability of a soil to store nutrients. The soil has a fixed capacity to do so, and in a purely chemical model, is the limiting factor for nutrition. Soil's all full; anything else remains in a soluble form and washes away (gross oversimplification, but it works). Clay has a particularly high CEC because of its high surface area but should you overload it, the fertility, like N and P and even some K, will head downstream or gas off. Lost.

We can store a lot more nutrients in biology, but nitrogen is best stored in protein or gas. Some plants can directly source from air, but most are reliant on microbiology to release either the nitrogen stored in the CEC (by weak acid response from both fungal and bacterial activity), or the nitrogen stored in our best protein sink, bacteria. They are also the ones that take ammonia and make it nitrite and then nitrate, which our veggies really need. Bacterially excessive soils encourage weeds, which like too much bacteria and not enough fungi (the case WAY too often around here). Any soil below a F:B of 1:1 is unattractive to me. Evergreen trees and ferns and other woodland plants are adopted to ammonium as a direct source and have much less need of bacterial natural services, so the fungi can dominate without issue. It isn't good or bad soils; it's which crop do we want to grow... and balanced F:B soil, 1:1 is best for veggies...

I still need more convincing that no input ALWAYS leads to optimal conditions for plants, probably because I've never seen truly optimal conditions, and the tendency of soil succession is to push for more fungal soil than is optimal for some crops. I think we can eventually achieve soils so perfectly tuned and balanced that we can raise Brix levels in plants beyond the ability of insects to digest or diseases attack. I believe with all my heart we can garden without impact and even benefit to our biota. But I always need a lot of selling on any rule that starts with the word "Never"...

And yes, I'm a wee bit Scottish (Black Douglas on Mom's side); I lived there a little over a year (when I was a bairn), and I will eat haggis and can recite the Selkirk Grace for Robby Burns Day from memory. And wee is a bonny word. A braw word. And no, I don't have a kilt.



HG
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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The one thing I disagree with here is the notion of biological transmutation.

There are important ways that plants can obtain trace minerals, like accelerating the weathering of soil minerals, or providing a nice place for animals to hang out after they have eaten elsewhere.

Thankfully that* doesn't seem to detract much from the overall message, and I think the method is sound even if it's partly justified by a crackpot theory.

Edit: by "that," I meant "the prominence she gives to biological transmutation"...sorry if that was vague.
 
Scott Reil
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Joel, how does a plant accelerate weathering of trace minerals? Root exudates are basically sugar. How can sugar weather parent material?

And you are losing me with the biological transmutation. Are you saying you don't think biology is part of our nutrient sink? Or that they are the primary agent in solubilizing mineralized nutrition? Those are pretty scientifically accepted processes...

S
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Scott Reil wrote:Are you saying you don't think biology is part of our nutrient sink? Or that they are the primary agent in solubilizing mineralized nutrition? Those are pretty scientifically accepted processes...


I'm not saying any of that! I'm saying I don't believe living things work to actively host nuclear reactions within their bodies, in order to make elements they need.

The "related reading" section toward the end of the video includes some literature that suggests, for example, chickens do nuclear chemistry to balance the Ca/Mg ratio in their egg shells. As far as I understand it, the amount of transmutation for one egg would use up all the food the chicken has eaten in its whole life and then some, and kill half the farm in the process. I've been to a chicken coop, and my hair didn't fall out afterward, from which I infer that any transmutation happening was at a very slow rate compared to the nutrient requirements of the creatures there.

Scott Reil wrote:
Joel, how does a plant accelerate weathering of trace minerals? Root exudates are basically sugar. How can sugar weather parent material?


For starters, a plant's dead roots can be eaten by a worm, which then rubs mineral grains against one another in its gut as that root is digested.

Sugar rarely stays sugar for long, in the soil. Fermentation often produces acids, which would help to dissolve minerals. I doubt it's nearly that simple, though.

Like you said, living things dissolve minerals to obtain nutrients. There are bacteria adapted to living on the surface of metallic iron: they have a whole chain of enzymes that strips ions from the surface and extract energy from the oxidation process. I'm not sure if they use this energy to fix carbon, but it certainly is the main driver of their metabolism. I only know about them because I've taken classes on corrosion: I'm 100% certain there are microbes adapted to extracting scarce micronutrients from stone, and I bet there are a whole arsenal of clever mechanisms, for different circumstances.

It would not surprise me if the soil food web found a way to channel more calories to specialized weathering bacteria when the minerals they mine for became scarce: maybe the roots exude more sugar where they find ions a plant lacks, or maybe worms dig through that patch of soil more often. Maybe both.
 
Scott Reil
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Joel,

If I whistle to keep tigers away, does the lack of New England Bengals prove my point? THAT would be a crackpot "theory".

Biological processes are chemical processes, not nuclear. MOST of the planets functions are; nuclear reaction is not a natural process but a man made one, and has no place in the discussion. Can we agree to leave that out?

For starters, a plant's dead roots can be eaten by a worm, which then rubs mineral grains against one another in its gut as that root is digested.


Correct. The only clarification I can offer is the worm want decomposing roots, as they get a lot of their nutrition from the biology accomplishing that. Bacteria and fungi again.

Sugar rarely stays sugar for long, in the soil. Fermentation often produces acids, which would help to dissolve minerals. I doubt it's nearly that simple, though.


WAY correct (and it mostly IS that simple). But when we make wine or beer, who does our fermenting? Yeasts right? a fungi. I am making sourdough starter that I just poured  the hooch off (alcohol) and tasted. Lactic acid that would pucker you like lemon juice.  Lactobaccillus, the bacteria that is accomplishing this for me, is the most common genus of soil bacteria on the planet. Guess who does this job for plants? Bacteria and fungi again.

I'm 100% certain there are microbes adapted to extracting scarce micronutrients from stone, and I bet there are a whole arsenal of clever mechanisms, for different circumstances.


This field is just starting to open up, but I'd say you are still batting a 1000. For instance, phosphorus can be a bear to get back out of CEC, but it turns out there are Phosphorus Solubilizing Bacteria (PSBs) that actually specialize in getting phosphorus in bacterially dominated soils. But it's usually produced in quantity in fungi as phospholipids (sort of a fatty wax, which is one reason why water beads and runs off most 'shrooms), so if your soil is fungal enough, it's not a problem. Bacteria and fungi again.

It would not surprise me if the soil food web found a way to channel more calories to specialized weathering bacteria when the minerals they mine for became scarce: maybe the roots exude more sugar where they find ions a plant lacks, or maybe worms dig through that patch of soil more often. Maybe both.


Me neither, Joel; e.g. it has been shown that they alter their exudates to attract PSBs, for instance. Dr, Ingham calls polysaccharide root exudates "cake and cookies" that the plant furnishes to attract biology to the vicinity of the root (called the rhizosphere) so all these processes we are talking about take place right in the vicinity of the plant root, right where we want them. It's a truly beautiful system, evolved over billions of years, and we are stupid to think we can improve it.

As you can probably see by now, nothing you have said is incongruous from what I said, There really is no divergence in the scientific model and your thinking, just a few points of clarification here and there. Science actually backs most of your thinking,and more and more points toward natural systems as our best methodology for maintaining soil fertility. So while referring to proven science as a "crackpot theory" might be an emotionally satisfying response, it does little to further a discussion or one's learning, and might actually retard all of the above. I'm just trying to share what I know and find out what I don't.

S


 
rose macaskie
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Scott reil, what do you mean we can store more nutrients in biology? Isn't protein ibiology.
    Leaf duff is leaf mold right. Dont think i know more about leaf mold than just its name,
Is leaf mold leaqves rbroken down by molds?

    Clay has a lot of surface area because each grain which are tiny has a surface, right, that makes a lot more surface than a lump woulod have. For instance if you pile leaves up and stick them toogether the block of leaves would have less surface than  than the surface of all the leaves seperatley, with their many top and bottom surfaces, if you mant to reduce the surface of a block of 500 sheets of foolscape paper you would stick all the sheets of paper together.
    The surface of the intestines is increeased by lots of waves of skin on the surface or  with sticking out fingures of skin that gives the intestines  more surface than a smoth tube would have and so more room for the absortion of nutrients.

      A tree increases the world surface by adding to it the surface of its own, the surface of branches and twigs and the tops and bottom surfaces of many leaves, so a plant covered world would have a much bigger surface than a empty one, an ant walking round the equator who had to walk round each branch and leaf that fell on the equator would have much further to walk and if we flatten out Afghanistan how big a contry would it then be.
    Why do tatties need bacteria?
      What is  a FB ratio.
What is macroagregation. They say if their are clumps of soil caught on the roots that is good, i reckon that is part of macroagregation.

      i have a fight against tehnical language, In a lot of parts of the world i would imagine i could say, "a murderouse, totalitarian, tyrant,  like Hilter" and they would know who I was talking about, in others, i might have to tell them all about Hitler before using him as an example. Students in universities have nothing ese to do all day but study and can look up things like fb point but in the adult world there are working mothers or working men and not only are they working but their children need their parents attention when they get home and they can't spend too much time looking things up without abandoning some other duty , so if you want them to get your meaning , it is better not to use scientists shorthamd.
      I believes in methods used by people who follow organica farming or permaculture as essential for avoiding desertification optimizing crops and reducing the use of dangerouse chemicals and so would like everything that helps to convince people of usefullnes of this to be as easy as possible to pick up.
    I am not asking what is the fb point so you explain it, i don't know what it is, though i could look it up. 
    Black Douglas sounds exciting , I thought the scottish could recite the whole bible by heart, my mother thought they had the edge on the english because they studied the bible so hard that if they had learned nothing else they had that. Braw is  brave or isn't it?agri  rose macaskie
 
Scott Reil
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Hi Ruth,

Let's look at bacteria; pretty much all protein (which is amino acids, which are mostly ammonia, which is nitrogen). Their carbon to nitrogen ratio is about as low as it gets for life on this planet at 5:1.

Plants put out root exudates which attract bacteria who feed on them. Fungi like the mycorrhiza actually connect with the plants for direct exchanges of nutrients, with the fungi providing gas, water, or nutrient, depending on species, and the plant feeding sugars. SO in the interface of root and soil we get a tripling of species (exactly like the forest edge analogy familiar to PC folks). There's part of the picture...we call that the rhizosphere

Let's look at our little ecosystem; we have fungi and bacteria all munching cake and cookies and having a party. Let's think of them as the plants and herbivores in a jungle, and our plant as the watering hole. What do you think happens when everybody gathers at the watering hole? Predators are attracted by all that food, right? That's exactly what happens here, except our first hyenas and jackals and cheetahs are flagellates, amoebas and ciliates. These guys average around 30:1 C:N ratios; our bacterias (their chosen food source) are 5:1. In the consumption of bacteria (about 10,000 a day per protozoa) they keep the nitrogen they need to grow, and dispose of excess N. So our cheetah (ciliate) eats 6 bacteria to get to 30:6, and excretes the excess nitrogen as ammonia. 5 parts ammonia back to soil in a solubilized (plant ready)form. Performed 10,000 times a day by creatures who populate a teaspoon of soil with more beings than NYC. AND there are still lions and tigers and bears to eat protozoa, with even more nitrogen amplifications going on. And plants have figured out how to make this all work very well for them, thank you. We should mostly stay out of the way...

Tatties (glad to see you embracing my love of the Scottish) are little potash factories, storing heaps of the stuff. Potassium is NOT a biologically stored mineral usually; it is found in parent material (rock, sand, clay) and is slowly moved from there by the biological weak acid actions I talked about in the last thread, so tatties need soil bacteria for sure.

Macroaggregation is exactly what you thought it is. It is mostly dependant on fungal structure, and accounts for porosity which accounts for field capacity of water. Important stuff. Microaggregation is the gluing the of soil particles like clay into bigger pieces, which helps stop you 500 sheets of foolscape paper from stacking up (called plating). This is mostly a function of the polysaccharide exudates excreted by bacteria (but some root exudate too) Microporosity is also important to field capacity but even more to fine root and fungal growth. So both fungal and bacterial populations are very important to soils; we call the ratio of one to the other the fungal to bacteria ratio, or F:B.

Your point about technical language is taken, but when discussing biological process it is handy to have a common language; I have had to learn this one to speak to people smarter than me about this stuff. I tried very hard here to make this accessible to all and hope you and everyone else that reads it find it helpful.

And braw means fine or excellent... I think brave is brae, but not sure And the Black Douglas tribe of the Douglas clan was certainly a bit more exciting than most; a little too exciting for many tastes (still, it seems  :wink

I remain,

Scott Reil
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Scott Reil wrote: referring to proven science as a "crackpot theory" might be an emotionally satisfying response, it does little to further a discussion or one's learning


I did not intend to do so, at all!

I used the phrase "crackpot theory" to refer to "biological transmutation," and not to any proven science.

I think the effects we have discussed are responsible for the phenomena that Ms. Hazelip attributed to bio-nuclear activity, and I only brought this up because I don't want anyone discounting her work due to that one belief of hers.

It sounds like you and I are on the same page, but I would like to find out where the misunderstanding between us arose. I should probably have been more clear that I believe the "biological transmutation" aspect of her work to be the only part of it that might be inconsistent with scientific understanding.

I've added a footnote to my original comment on transmutation in the interest of clarity, and re-worded this post...but if that wasn't the issue, I would like to know what was.
 
larry korn
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Hi.  I have heard of "biological transmutation" before and heard it explained more than once.  Everything went fine until there was this, shall we say "jump" that didn't seem to be based on anything scientific that I knew of.  I'm in kind of a weird position since I studied soil science then went to "grad school" at Fukuoka's farm.  Actually he was first trained as a plant pathologist then developed a strong aversion to the way scientist went about doing research and solving problems since they are so specialized and largely ignored the interconnectedness of nature.

Even with the sciences like ecology that studies the interconnectedness of living things and the environment he felt that the human intellect was simply incapeable of understanding nature.

Hey Joel, where do you live in Oakland?  I just moved to Ashland, Oregon from Oakland after running a landscape contracting in the East Bay for about 25 years.
 
Scott Reil
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Hi Larry,

Thanks for weighing in. An honor, sir. I ordered your translation of Fukuoka-san's work today and hope to be more knowledgeable about it in a very short time.

I make no claim to being in any thing other than the natal stages of finding out about permaculture, and I find myself leery of "the jump" I find some places. I agree that a general suspicion of science is not unfounded as "science" is still being used to espouse real horror shows of agriculture, but there are good people like Elaine Ingham and Mike Amaranthus (and I am happy to note most here are already familiar with Paul Stamets) who are swapping notes, comparing findings and doing real research into the mechanics of organics, mapping pathways and strategies that seem ideally suited to this meme.

Didn't Fukuoka-san talk about observation? You are a scientist, sir. What is the scientific process if not the most intensive, best recorded observation you can make? Yet that kind of thought is not well met by some permies I meet; talk of nuclear eggs aside, the science of the soil food web seems key to the concept but little understood. That worries me...

Perhaps in your travels in Japan you came across the work of Mokichi Okado, or toured Ohito farms. My good friend and recent coworker Chandra and I were talking about the farms the other day and he sent this...

I visited this farm 5 times and just cannot express the feeling as it is a paradise there


The lab at Ohito is quite famous, studying soil, water food and many come to study. Chandra was such a lab technician with vast experience in organic science, yet his response sounds much like the love of earth and water and air I hear here. Ohito melds science and sense of place in a most natural and beautiful form; I think that feels right for this artform too. You youself are a perfect example of the melding of science and soul, mind and spirit, that I feel can be a bridge to better understandings between man, plant, and planet. I find "the jump" between the two realms of thought somewhat daunting (but do see a strong need to do so) and hope for some words of wisdom for a tire-kicking organic gardener who still likes a microscope once and a while...

Scott
PC Wannabe
 
larry korn
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Hey Scott...Fukuoka's main problem with science is that it can't help but isolate what one is studying from what that subject is connected to.  The problem was worse in the 1930's when he became a scientist, but the general problem will always exist.  No matter how sophisticated our scientific techniques become we can never "know" nature.  Our human intellect is simply not capeable of that.  I appreciate the work Laura Ingham is doing (she's right here in Oregon), but how can people ever "understand" the super complex relationships of microorganisms in the soil, their interaction with plants, root hairs and their exudates and so forth?  It's impossible.

The problem is that we take the results of scientific research and then apply them to either fixing existing problems or creating new, "better" ways of say, increasing productivity.  Either way it seems that no matter how good the research we always seem to make things worse.  What was that quote by Einstein?  Something like how can we fix our problems if we use the same methods to solve them that created the problem in the first place.
 
Scott Reil
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Larry, thanks so much for the reply...

I guess the hurdle most bothersome to me is the ready use of plant materials to accomplish certain ends, even some plants that I know as troublesome invaders with environmental detriments, but there is no extending that thinking below the soil level, to use microbiology in the same fashion. I see little sign that the plants or microbes value such distinctions; their lines blur indistinctly as mycorrhizal helping bacteria provide an interface between fungus and plant, exactly who's who becomes a matter of molecular scale. I see these same synergies espoused in permaculture and sense an intrinsic link, a Grand Unified Theory of soil, as it were, but the perception seems not to be shared from the other viewpoint. I think folks like Elaine are seeking that grail knowing full well it won't happen in their lifetime, but respectfully I can't agree with your assessment of impossibility when I see such amazing results from her work already. And we stand on the shoulders of giants; science is never finished. Bad science always get thrown out eventually. I worry that future generations may need this information.

I also feel the same sense of mystery and wonder about this organism we call soil that my friend Chandra did at Ohito. A little over a decade ago I was still foolscaping and unaware of what lies beneath my feet; now I have somewhat of an understanding and a reverence born of that  understanding. What I do not know lures me. I acknowledge it all as a journey, and I am barely off my welcome mat, and also that my most important life lessons are seldom classes I have elected. I surely do thank you for your time and will think on what you have said, and look forward to reading.

Scott
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I live in Temescal (west of Piedmont, east of Emeryville, south of Berkeley, north of downtown Oakland). I like it a whole lot.

A fair proportion of the front garden plots here are perennial xeriscape, which is fun to learn from. When I go out gardening on public or abandoned land, or on unclaimed margins, I often see evidence of other gardeners.

The government practice of heavily mulching their unused land with woodchips helps a lot; I think CalTrans and the city both do so, but caltrans has started sheet mulching with straw, in addition to staking down bundles of straw on contour. Many signs of hope, around here!

>What is the scientific process if not the most intensive, best recorded observation you can make?

I'm not saying this is the best thing science does, but a prominent part of it is organizing observations into a self-consistent theory, then testing that theory's predictions to explore the limits of its applicability. And discussion is tremendously important, to the point that some cultural constructs that facilitate communication, especially scientific paradigms, become perhaps too prominent.

I'm drawn to the rigor and scope that highly-systematic thinking can bring, but I have a special respect for pure phenomenology. It rarely contradicts science, but it very often transcends it.
 
larry korn
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Hey Joel,  One of my problems with science is that it is used to justify some really bad ideas.  Pure science is one thing...the quest for knowledge, rigorous observation, one idea building on the next and so forth.  But it is a relative knowledge, especially in its early stages.  Something thought to be true today is often disproven tomorrow.  Take the GMOs for example.  Science thinks it has found a good idea and rushes it out there without really knowing what it is doing.  In fact, society as a whole has no idea where it is going.  It does know that it wants to get there as fast as possible, however.  Until we have a clear course in mind I think we should stop doing anything new.  We are simply digging a bigger hole for ourselves.  Do human colonies on the moon or Mars sound good to you?  Many people actually think that we should be figuring out how to do that.

I lived in the Dimond district for many years.  When my daughter reached high school age I found a rental in Piedmont so she could go to school there.  I moved to Ashland a month after she graduated but still enjoy coming back for visits.  Temescal is a really nice neighborhood.  It feels real, somehow.  And it's so close to the Regional Parks.  I spent many happy days hiking and throwing a Frisbee in the redwoods in Joaquin Miller and Sibley parks.  I really like the Albany Bulb, too.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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larry korn wrote:Do human colonies on the moon or Mars sound good to you?


As a member of an extremely invasive species...I'm ashamed to say: yes, on a gut level, they do. But not the sort of program JFK would've sold us, and probably not what Blue Origin is working on (although it's tough to say much about them, with all the secrets they keep). As something to do when we have nearly figured out how to live sustainably on Earth: nurturing a small, more-delicate ecology as sort of a master's thesis in our study of living with the one we were born into. Almost certainly, something for us to try long, long after I'm dead.

Have you heard of the book Gaiome? It's a permaculture book on space colonization, which definitely puts figuring out where we're going as a first priority.

Unlike the space colonies of science fiction, gaiomes do not promise a way out of our global crises. Only a sustainable civilization would have the competence build them, and then of course it would not need to. Not all that life does is driven by need, however, so Gaiome explores not just what we must do to make space accessible to large populations, but what we must become.


http://gaiome.com/intro.html
 
Mori no Niwa
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I patterned my garden last year on Emilia Hazelip's methods as shown in this video, and I found it to be very successful, in addition to being beautiful, functional, space-saving, soil-building, and unconventional!

You can see photos of my process and results here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pjchmiel/sets/72157618007545306/

I feel that next year it will be even better (if I end up staying in this same place, but unfortunately I may be moving). Even so, I have to think it did as well or better than a conventional garden even in its first year, and I think soil tilth and fertility would improve with each passing year. I had few problems with insect pests or disease, apart from a few cabbage worms and the dreaded late blight that got so many tomatoes last year. Slugs did some damage but not enough to take drastic measures.

PJ
 
Paul Cereghino
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good job with the photo-documentation!
 
Travis Philp
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Nice photo album PJ. With putting that sod over-top of the cardboard, did you get much grass growing through to the top of the beds? I saw a fair amount growing on the beds edges so I thought maybe it crept through to the middle, which has happened to me in the past. Now I put the sod underneath the cardboard.
 
Mori no Niwa
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Hi Travis,
I didn't get any grass growing up vertically through to the top, though as you noticed there was some on the edges of the sheet mulch. A wider sheet mulch (overlapping the trenches more) may have helped in this regard. This issue lessened somewhat over time as I filled in the trenches with wood chip mulch, but I let some of it alone in the interest of maintaining the stability of the area at the bottom of the slope (not wanting the light soil to fall or wash down into the paths/trenches). I did have an issue with grass sprouting from seeds in the straw I used, but that was mostly at the beginning of the season, and it was easy enough to pull out if caught early.
PJ
 
Travis Philp
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In my first sheet mulch beds I made the mistake of leaving grass on the edges of the bed and next year they threatened to take over, sending roots all throughout the whole of the beds. You're probably aware of this but just incase I thought I'd caution you.
 
samiam kephart
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pj_chmiel wrote:
I patterned my garden last year on Emilia Hazelip's methods as shown in this video, and I found it to be very successful, in addition to being beautiful, functional, space-saving, soil-building, and unconventional!

Its good to see someone else doing Emilia's raised beds My experience was similar to Pj's in that I feel now the soil can regenerate on its own if it isn't abused and opened up like a big scar every year.how much skin could we sacrifice off our bodies every year?
      We made the raised-bed spirals in soil that had previously been hayed for years. The project was hand dug after disking and we found 3 worms in maybe half an acre. Now there is life in every handful. We did add minerals.. Amitie and planters 2 and in some places we added compost on top of the already cardboarded and strawed beds in order to plant seeds which was my solution  as in Emilia Hazelips video there is no mention of how to plant carrots for example.
    The biggest problem is in doing nothing.... as its ingrained in me to dig and break up all the clods and feel the earth in my destructive fingertips ... hard to stop that thinking....

AS to the probelm with grass growing on around or in the sheet compost just add more cardboard and straw and the grass will remain weak and easy to manage.

the best thing about her video is that it teaches that anyone can garden and in these times an easy way to grow food,even in suburban backyards is most welcome  I have made a few videos and teaching about this... not that I'm a great expert but more on learning as I go along.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=591SyGEqlVs
 
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