J Garlits

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since May 21, 2019
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I'm a passionate advocate for living at a human scale and pace and staying connected to what Rudolf Otto called the Numinous, with others, with nature, and with myself. 

I'm the author of Forest Bathing: The No-Nonsense Guide to Shinrin Yoku and several other books, and I've just set up a new Substack Newsletter called Mindful in Nature which will chronicle, in diary format, my efforts to permaculture my 3/4 acre property in Northern Indiana.

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Wabash, Indiana, Zone 6a
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Recent posts by J Garlits

I've never experienced anything like that, but I'm sorry you're going through it.

There could be quite a bit of things in there that would cause problems for a susceptible person. Since it is a known occurrence for you, you might consider wearing a mask from now on when messing with the chips. If it keeps up, I'd at least do a video appointment with a nurse practitioner if that is available to you, or ask your PC if he or she wants to see you.


Jae Gruenke wrote:I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm feeling ill from mold toxins or something like that after spending a couple of hours last night shoveling wood chips out onto my land. I always sneeze and cough a bit when moving wood chips around, but this is another level.

The chips are from a linden tree my neighbor took out of his back yard. The pile has been sitting around on our patio for a couple of weeks, and the wood may have been sitting around a couple of weeks before being chipped.

Here's what happened: I shoveled, wheelbarrowed, and crawled around on hands and knees spreading the stuff until well after dark. When I came in, I blew my nose a couple of times and the snot was brown, and I ended up wiping my nose out for surprisingly long until the tissues were no longer brown. (Sorry for the gorey detail.) I could tell I had it in my lungs too, and I was coughing a bit and figured it would probably take a couple of days to work itself out. Otherwise I felt 100% fine.

But then during the night I woke up with a high fever--not sure exactly what it was, but I felt hot and freezing at the same time and was shaking, so I knew it was bad. It gradually improved but now, in early afternoon the following day, I'm still feverish and crushingly exhausted.

I would think I had just come down with something, but this same exact thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and although I can't be 100% sure, I think it was the night after shoveling the wood chips from the trailer to the patio. I recovered pretty quickly--much better the following day, though it took a few days to get back to normal.

So I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced anything like this. Am I crazy or could this be a toxin issue rather than a bug? Unfortunately we still have more wood chips piled on the patio, so if that's what made me ill, I'm going to have to work out how to deal with them safely.

1 month ago
Whether known or unnoticed, nature itself is an interconnected system of systems (SoS).

I think Permaculture attempts to mimic that, at a high level, moving beyond observation, interaction, and imitation.

How difficult can it be to recognize one system, and to look for the points where other systems "plug in" to that system, and what sorts of benefits are derived?

Maybe quite difficult in some cases, like Wohleben's popular book "The hidden life of trees" where he presented the idea that tree roots and mycorrhizae hook up to connect entire forests, sharing information and nutrients through that web.

Very interesting to think about...

2 months ago
I'm thinking about cutting out the middleman with my tree acquisition.

Ya know how sometimes good samaritans will see an obviously abused dog chained up in a yard and covertly "rescue" it?

I'm thinking about doing that with neglected gardens and orchards. I'll just swoop in, in the middle of the night with a backhoe and rescue struggling cultivars.


2 months ago
The problem isn't so much with growing zone, but elevation. High grown, hard bean coffees like arabica have to grow at least 2000 ft. above sea level.

I mean, they'll grow, I believe. Probably even be healthy and prolific. They might become a show piece. But the roasted beans won't have the same flavor profile. They grow much slower at elevation and develop the density and compounds that produce those flavors we seek in a good cuppa.

Arabica coffee bushes grown at lower elevations would have softer, much less flavorful beans. Maybe the appropriate word might be unpalatable.

If you grow it just to see if you can get it established and keep it going, I say go for it. Just don't expect anything from the cup.


2 months ago
Broccoli microgreens have been in the news a lot lately because of a compound found in spades in the early stages of growth: sulforaphane.

It is one of the healthiest things you can eat.

One pound of seeds costs around $20. You put two tablespoons of seeds to soak in a Mason jar for twelve hours and then rinse and drain them through a wire screen a couple times per day for five or six days. It fills one tightly packed jar, which you'd pay around $3 for at the grocery store.

How many jars will you get from a pound of seeds?


That many containers of microgreens at the store would cost you $70, but you only pay $20 for the seeds. And you don't have those pesky plastic trays to deal with from the store.

You saved over $50, and boosted your health in the process!


2 months ago
In line with the concept of "brighten," my go-to is:

"Good morning, sunshine!" borrowed from a beloved factory co-worker back in the 90's, Bobby Owens.

Sadly, he died at age 49 from complications after a heart attack.

2 months ago
If you told a bunch of people, "hey, there's this great social media site called Permies, you should check it out..." and they came here and found us, built a profile and started posting, they would quickly discover that they'd been duped.

Social media is misnamed.

Permies is waaaaay more sociable than anything else claiming to be what it isn't.

And I'm happy to be part of it.

2 months ago
That's tricky to answer because I don't do it much. I've usually direct sown, results be damned.

That said, the weather has to be agreeable when you first start moving them out into the big, wide world. Put them out for a few hours a day when there isn't a deluge, a hurricane, or a scorcher. A gentle breeze is best for them, Increase the time they're out each day until they're ready to plant.

I always put my garden hose nozzle on "jet" and spray under my nails. Gets it all.

2 months ago
Ah yes, the insurmountable obstacle! It can be overwhelming for a kid. It is an opportunity to teach an important life skill: breaking the insurmountable into a bunch of small tasks that seem doable. If someone said you have to move this six foot tall pile of rocks to a new location, you might start whining. But finding the new location and grabbing an armful of rocks is easy. Then go play. Then grab another armful of rocks. No big deal. Hey, the old pile is getting smaller, and the new pile is getting bigger! Progress!

With the dishes-for-cash scenario, maybe, "Well, let's see if this is better... why don't you get everything out of the sink and fill it with new, soapy water? Can you do that? Don't worry about the rest just yet. Then you can go do something else. Do you want to put the forks and spoons in there now, so they can soak for a few minutes? It makes them easier to wash. Everyone has the same problem, we burn a lot of mental energy thinking about how big the task is and how "not interested" we are. But if you break it down into easy-peasy steps, before you know it you're done with the whole project."

Every project is simply a pile of smaller, doable tasks. Some are interesting, some not. But if instead of burning all that mental energy, one simply knocks out even the smallest of related tasks, you get that dopamine rush of having accomplished something that gets you closer to the goal of completing the whole project.

Talking with a kid about this strategy, what he or she has the energy and interest to do right at the moment, or even a mindless task that will be over quickly, and discussing how good it feels to see progress... that can be a powerful revelation and skill to acquire. Best accomplished calmly and with praise for tasks that are well done.


Christopher Weeks wrote:I remember this scene from my childhood. I think I was six. I wanted to accrue some money in order to purchase some thing -- the details are lost in the mists of age, but the way my folks handled that kind of occurrence was to give me chores-for-cash on top of what was expected each day. So my dad suggested some chore -- maybe washing the dirty dishes or something. And I whined that it was too big a chore -- that it would take forever. I remember thinking how insurmountable it seemed. And my dad scoffed, saying it would take 30 minutes if I'd get to it. And I said "I know!" Thirty minutes was an overwhelming length of time to spend working to me at that time.

Remembering that helped me a lot when dealing with my own kids (who are 22 and 29 now). It doesn't provide a solution to parenting fatigue, but for me at least, it helped to empathize with them when their big feelings seemed a little overwrought and maybe it prevented that fatigue just a little bit.

2 months ago