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Helen Atthowe: goddess of the soil  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Helen Atthowe, Norris Thomlinson and Tulsey Latoski convey their very experienced opinion on how many acres does it take to feed one person when there are no external inputs.





 
paul wheaton
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I will be interviewing helen for a podcast on friday. What questions do you all have for her?
 
Michael Radelut
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Always great to hear from her - I'd like to know her opinion on Base-cation saturation ratio (BCSR).
 
paul wheaton
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Daniel Hatfield
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Helen mentioned in a previous podcast that she killed a bunch on tomato plants in pots because her compost was not ready. How long does compost need to rest/mature to be awesome in pots/seedling mixes etc. or was something else at play in that circumstance?
Thanks
Dan
 
Mike Underhill
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paul wheaton wrote:I will be interviewing helen for a podcast on friday. What questions do you all have for her?


Lots of questions for Helen, thanks for roping her back in. Please choose any or all of the following:

What's your round guess for a sustainable global human population? I suppose that we would need to maintain global communication systems (like the internet), but not unsustainable global transport systems (like importing fruit from South America). We're at 7 billion now, how low would you go?

In a previous podcast you described a compelling vision of sustainability where we'd have a sort of transect in the human environment from city to intensive farms to food forests to wild areas reserved for critters. In practice, how might soil replanishment occur for the intensive farming areas?

Would you agree that cities ought to be constructed as densely as possible, or what does your vision hold for the urban end of things?

Please list a few calorie-dense crops that one might grow in a homestead setting in order to obtain sufficient yields to sustain a small family, or at least approach that level. How many acres per person would you guess is needed to sustainably support a veganic family, and could that number go down a bit if the family incorporated animals into the system?

When to do a soil test and how to test. If you arrive at a new site to set up a garden and the soil seems pretty good (healthy existing vegetation, loamy, etc), would you advocate testing the soil anyway or would you wait to see if there's a problem that needs to be addressed? If you'd test, then what sort of initial soil test would you do?

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights.
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Helen review the movie, The Beautiful Truth in this podcast.
 
Dan alan
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Thanks for the pod cast! I always like to hear what Helen has to say.

I cant help but add my 2 cents though, lol..


I think people population control would happen beautifully if everyone was responsible to grow what they eat or get their poop back to the farm. I agree with paul that the earth could feed more than twice the people it does now. However, if that many people were pursuing all the stuff that we currently are the world would really be in a mess and our air and water unusable. Our government decided we would be a nation of consumers and our economy only survives if it grows. This pyramid scheme really has to change before we can live a life thats sustainable. So, everything we do and think is going to have to change as a society. Right now something like 90% of what is ripped from the earth is in a landfill in just over a year.. Of-course, the taxing and exploitation of workers would have to come to an end and "thems fighting words" to people that are in power; willing to start wars and kill most everyone to maintain their way of work-less life.

So... we just need to get over our poop and put it to use, lol..


Helen, I really look forward to getting to read your book! I too am looking for ways to work less as I get older. I will not have a retirement and am not willing to accept a government check so it seems a food forest is the answer for my last years. The slow start up time is hard to endure because I'm used to instant results, but I look forward to years of harvest when I am old and can only walk out to collect dinner.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Mike Sawley wrote:
Please list a few calorie-dense crops that one might grow in a homestead setting in order to obtain sufficient yields to sustain a small family, or at least approach that level. How many acres per person would you guess is needed to sustainably support a veganic family, and could that number go down a bit if the family incorporated animals into the system?


I'm being a big butinski and suggesting you take a look at Biointensive gardening (ultra small-space) and the book "One Circle" (nearly complete vegan diet in the smallest space) for some ideas.

http://growbiointensive.org/

http://www.bountifulgardens.org/prodinfo.asp?number=BEA-0370
 
David Miller
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Bio-intensive really is the way to go if you're trying to grow ALL of you own food without external inputs and with limited acreage. Posts implying that there were inherent un-calculated costs for eating the food thereby making it an unsustainable cycle didn't figure in the 12-15 billion years of free fusion we're receiving from our Sun. It really is possible to do closed loop if you've got enough time on you hands and use bio-intensive approaches. my two cents

btw, I know its not permaculture but it is a much smaller acreage sustainability model.
 
Dan alan
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I have been growing bio intensive and it really is a great way to get everyone fed without a lot of land. however, the methods are very labor intensive. I now compost in place (as sheet mulch) and it seems to work just a well. This year I am trying it with hooglekulture too. Transplanting is more labor intensive than I'd like, but it does work very well with the mulched beds. I am using some of Helens ideas of growing my fertilizer too..

Either way it keeps me fed until my fruit and nut trees mature. More and more I am liking growing perennials, and in the long run I want only perennials. The question is what trees/plants will it take to get a nutritionally complete diet..
 
David Miller
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Dan alan wrote:I have been growing bio intensive and it really is a great way to get everyone fed without a lot of land. however, the methods are very labor intensive. I now compost in place (as sheet mulch) and it seems to work just a well. This year I am trying it with hooglekulture too. Transplanting is more labor intensive than I'd like, but it does work very well with the mulched beds. I am using some of Helens ideas of growing my fertilizer too..

Either way it keeps me fed until my fruit and nut trees mature. More and more I am liking growing perennials, and in the long run I want only perennials. The question is what trees/plants will it take to get a nutritionally complete diet..


It sounds like we're on similar paths, I spent the morning chopping the tops off of my winter rye/vetch cover to compost in my paths (unless I found bare spots in the bed in which case the cuttings went there). I still make compost piles but not nearly like Biointensive calls for. I started with huge compost pile so that I could take a year off from growing my own ingredients and really focus on soil health. The best part of composting in place is the mulch effect too. NO wheelbarrows, no buying straw/woodchips. Just a dedicated winter and spring, a little chop and drop and voila. I only transplant about half of my plants too, I'm getting there but I am still not awesome at starting from seed in my unheated and uninsulated greenhouse.
 
paul wheaton
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This is helen atthowe doing some sort of weird backwards pushups at "St. Joe's Peak"

Helen sent me this picture because she if feeling uber healthy and powerful. And a podcast will come out more that will make this make more sense soon.
helen-atthowe-JG-push-ups-St-Joe-peak.jpg
[Thumbnail for helen-atthowe-JG-push-ups-St-Joe-peak.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 21946
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
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