Noel Deering

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since Feb 27, 2014
Until recently, I was one of those dipshits who (even with a B.S. in Ecology) thought industrial agriculture was a "necessary evil."
Not anymore, thanks to Paul Wheaton, Bill Mollison, Mark Shepard, Joel Salatin, Fukuoka, Holmgren, Hemenway, Bane, Ussery, ...
NW Iowa, zone 5a
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Recent posts by Noel Deering

Does anyone have experience with these?

Protex® Pro/Gro Solid Tube Tree Protectors

The reviews on the site are positive; would value permies' opinions.
1 year ago
Looks like a green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) to me.  I wouldn't have guessed they would be found in AZ, but perhaps it's trying to outrun the emerald ash borer.  
1 year ago
Also wanted to post these:

The screenshot below is from the video at the link above. I highly recommend viewing this entire conference.
3 years ago

...lead me to believe that there is a reason to fear science being involved in finding facts regarding accumulator plants...

Shee-it, I ain't afeared

It just sounded (at first) like a lot of unnecessary caution/skepticism. My quibble is this: I think "Science welcome!" is more accurate than "Science is needed!"

Like I said before, I look forward to some verification/vindication/quantification of this concept, I'm just not holding my breath.
3 years ago
Pokachinni, you never implied that people should ignore the concept of dynamic accumulators completely but you did say, "there is no science showing that those concentrated nutrients thus deposited are actually available to other plants upon decomposition" ... and if memory serves me Kitsteiner did suggest that people should stop teaching it. MikeH (your first link) says they can be ignored, and Kourik and the other proponents are backing away. Rather than encourage them to back away, I'm saying, "Great job, Bob."

Saying we need more data sounds a bit like climate change deniers, when there are already "mountains" of data...and sounds like those who can't accept Natural Selection when there are several "missing links" and 157 year's worth of nothing but supporting evidence.

How long before there is a measureable effect, is certainly a valid question. We know it takes some time, that's why I applied small amounts of Borax and Azomite on my property. This was not because it was necessary but because I'm impatient- figured it ought to jumpstart the soil-building process after the previous owners tried growing corn, then mined the soil with alfalfa for a few years. How long does decomposition take? A while...some things take longer than others. (shrug) That's a good enough answer for me.

This Accumulators hypothesis seems very much like Permaculture in that it's nothing new, just some things that we already know brought together, articulated well, and put in a slightly different context. Oh, and I forgot to mention plant tissue analysis earlier. Phytoaccumulation, plant tissue analysis, and decomposition- bing bang boom, done deal as far as I'm concerned. Seems to me, not spending money on soil amendments is the whole point of utilizing the concept of dynamic accumulators. That, and changing how we think about fertilizer and minerals in the soil generally.

I mentioned the development of prairie soils to make the point that no inputs were necessary then, and they're not necessary now. The fertility that's there came from the parent material(s). That we are unable to create or destroy matter or energy is not an assumption, it's the First Law of Thermodynamics. This was to, sort of, echo what Elaine Ingham says- you won't run out of fertility as long as you still have some sand, silt, and clay. Also I mentioned that law to respond to your question regarding Selenium- if it's not there, no plant will magically make it appear; you will have to import some or do without.

I agree with Peter Ellis's posts above regarding the unhealthy obsession, and I agree with Wheaton who said in a podcast something like (paraphrasing), "in some ways anecdotal evidence is even better than, say, a double-blind highly structured study because it's real world data rather than a contrived experiment." There's probably no study thoroughly demonstrating that one should look both ways before crossing the street, but we can "put two and two together" to determine that looking both ways is wise. I wouldn't tell anyone not to teach others to look both ways, just because I can't find a peer-reviewed study on the subject.

I assume (perhaps unfairly) that someone like Kitsteiner, an M.D., has plenty of cash. Why not do your own study, John? Or finance someone else who has the time, the stats background, etc.? Many would welcome it.

If I were to study whether the nettles and lambsquarters are improving the soil in the berm below my recently-constructed terrace, I would have to somehow exclude all the birds, my cat, etc. that spend a lot of time in there poopin' all over...and that would be purt near impossible, I reckon.

Attached is a screenshot of one of Jerry Brunetti's presentations. I don't know if this will be considered good enough, but he seemed like a smart dude to me- I believe his numbers. It's something that I want to look into more someday.
3 years ago
I read Kitsteiner's article some months ago, and it really got me thinking, but I was never concerned that the Accumulators hypothesis might not be true. (Although I always thought the "Dynamic" descriptor was unnecessary, but that's just me splitting hairs.) While I look forward to a concise confirmation that will convince skeptics, I'm not waiting for it.

Kitsteiner points out that plants accumulating elements is well documented, but then wonders whether the nutrients in a plant are going to be available to other plants after decomposition. This, frankly, seems silly to me. (Although, to his credit, he recites the adage, "Lack of evidence does not imply evidence of a lack"). Does the C:N ratio in a compost pile matter? Yes, because a certain amount of carbon and nitrogen, in certain proportions are necessary for life... and matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. It has to be there, and when it is, it is used. Same goes for all other nutrients.

Deep soils of Iowa exist not because Mammoths were fond of using Miracle Grow and superphosphate, they're here because living things break down soil particles and they use, and are composed of, nutrients and when they defecate and die those nutrients are returned to the soil from whence they came. That's all obvious. I wouldn't call that folkloric; it's at a higher level than that, it's common sense. (Of course, we also have to thank those helpful glaciers for conveniently stealing a bit of Canada's fertility a few times, which has been recycled and added to ever since...well, most of the time since then, until we started losing it in vast quantities, but that's a separate topic.)

This is not to say that all soils will eventually become perfect if they just have the right plants growing in them. Some parent materials are devoid of certain elements, and if you need those elements (i.e. if you're not going to follow Shepard's advice to know your biome and limit yourself to what already belongs there), then you will have to import those. The well-established concepts of phytoaccumulation and decomposition are all that's necessary to explain the Accumulator hypothesis.

I know I'm taking a lot for granted, but it is granted. No?
3 years ago
Tyler Ludens-

Successful business people know that "the customer is always right." In contrast farmers get pissed, raise their hackles, and pass laws like Right To Farm (what Salatin appropriately refers to as a Right to Stink Up the Neighborhood) and the one that makes it illegal for anyone to see what happens in CAFO's. They get defensive instead of getting responsive, which is unwise to say the least. It's surprising that these types of laws ever become laws until one realizes there are several multi-billion-dollar companies on the side of those pissed off farmers. Voters don't necessarily have the attention of those who write and pass laws, but Money does have their attention (via lobbying/bribery, campaign support, etc). And obviously Money has the attention of Business; not buying from them is heard loudly and clearly.

case in point: (they're fighting over who has changed for the better, more)

For decades, most consumers (myself included) only seemed to care about Cheap Cheap Cheap- just make food that's cheap and I'll stuff it in my face... but a change in preferences is underway which has lead to a change in production methods. If voters stop wasting their time petitioning unresponsive politicians, and instead buy pork from those who share their values and don't have anything to hide then the part of the pork industry that lost money will soon respond too. Their response may very well continue to be crossing their arms and saying "you customers are stupid," in which case their business will probably ultimately fail...or they might be smart instead. That's a good result either way.

It seems like retail businesses are not overly concerned about a slight drop in sales, but a slight drop in market share is what really gets to them. Not everyone has to change their buying habits to effect change because they're sensitive to a mere 5-10% drop in market share. (To contradict what I said earlier about fracking though, simply changing the way you heat your home is probably just going to result in someone else paying slightly less for their gas... i.e. certain things will only change due to government regulation. Still, it's important not to be a hypocrite.)

What I'm trying to emphasize is that Industry and Agriculture are not completely separate. They're serving our needs/desires/preferences and are generally responsive to what consumers want. Consumers' choices (our dollar-votes) matter very much, even if our votes don't always matter so much!
3 years ago
I came across a youtube video entitled "Regenerative Agriculture - Eric Toensmeier"

Toensmeier starts talking about Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture system at about 31.5 minutes. He has plenty of praise but also an erroneous complaint, "...a marvelous, marvelous effort. Some of the numbers in his book are totally, inaccurate or making the wrong comparison between his systems and corn production. He does not get more calories per acre than corn, although he claims that he does. I'm hoping he's maybe just bad at math."

I gather Toensmeier is just bad at reading comprehension. Shepard did not make the simplistic, easily-disprovable claim that his system beats corn in calories per acre.

On p.154 Shepard writes, "Corn yields are impressive- massive, actually. acre of average fertility crop land planted in corn can produce around 13.9 million calories of food energy. That's a lot of food." On p.180, the total calories per acre on Shepards farm is listed as just under 6 million calories per acre. He never makes the ridiculous claim that 6 million > 13.9 million.

Shepard's claim is more nuanced and far more important- it's not about quantity of industrial raw ingredients produced per acre, it's about producing large quantities of quality human food.

p.155 "...monocrop systems of annual grains do not have enough nutrition in order to feed people."

He goes on to point out that people don't eat much of that corn, you can't survive on corn alone, and the livestock that we do eat don't make very efficient use of those calories. So to make an apples-to-apples comparison between corn farming and restoration agriculture, the 13.9 million calories is whittled down to 3.06 million calories per acre.

(see attached scans)

I suppose the whittlin' down to 3.06 million might be debatable, but it's completely disingenuous to claim that Shepard said anything like, "In absolute terms, with some added pigs, trees, etc. I can grow more calories than a corn farmer."
3 years ago
Very versatile indeed! I have a rifled barrel in mine too, for deer hunting with slugs, and will use it again this weekend.

I probably ought to reconsider using steel in the bird barrel though.
3 years ago