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Thekla McDaniels

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since Aug 23, 2011
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Thekla McDaniels currently moderates these forums:
Thekla has been studying soil life and the process of soil development since 1965, also, the then new idea that fossil fuels were a limited resource.  She currently farms 2 1/2 acres of what used to be fine grained blowing desert sand but is now 4 inch deep soil, and counting!
Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Recent posts by Thekla McDaniels

Myron Platte wrote:
I’m sorry, not high, rich. There is a huge difference between presence and availability, in terms of minerals. Calcium presence often correlates with alkalinity, but the further the soil ph is from 6.4 in either direction, (and depending on a few other factors) the less available more elements are. That includes calcium. Some plants have the ability to reach through a trapdoor, so to speak, and absorb specific nutrients that are unavailable. This gives them a huge advantage over plants that do not have this ability in places where those nutrients are unavailable. When parts of the plant rot on top of or in the ground, the calcium is returned, in a bioavailable form. This leads to the plant slowly making itself obsolete in one or another area.

Hmmm, are you saying that bindweed is a calcium accumulator?  And that it transforms mineral calcium into bioavailable calcium?   In this country, everything is geared to the acid soils of the east. In the west we have alkaline soils, pH 8 and above.  Here,most conventional agriculture consultants advise that we should put lime on our soils EVERY year to get the pH to the "desireable" range.  

I have come across ONE resource that says why bother with that?  Take the soil as it is,and work with it.  I like that a lot better.
2 days ago
And parsley.  It's biennial, and once established it reseeds.  The bloom is a great one for beneficial insects.  If you plant it two years in a row, then you'll have flowers every year.  Also, if you have been planting primarily perennials, you may still have room in between them.  Cilantro makes small insect friendly flowers, as does dill. They will get crowded out as the perennials take up more and more room.  
4 days ago
Thanks for your attempt at clarification,Myron. I am still trying to understand what you've said.  I don'tknow "high according to what" I didn't say anything about high.  Acidic conditions (humic acid?) would be low pH.  My history is with alkaline soils, and often adobe soils (NO drainage)  and the bind weed has thrived.  

So I am still trying to understand what you are saying, andI imagine it will take me awhile.
1 week ago

Myron Platte wrote:Bindweed indicates very low calcium, phosphate, low humus, poor residue decay, good drainage, and very high potash and magnesium. .

This is going to take me awhile to reconcile with my experiences.  I have lived for most of my life in places where the soil and water coming from it are very calcium rich, and the bindweed has always been very happy in all these places
1 week ago

David Wieland wrote:[
I don't know where the idea of disassembling a mountain comes from. Certainly mining is involved in some way with practically everything we have, even if it's just digging up clay to make bricks or cob. We wouldn't be sustainable without it.
As for perlite, mountain disassembly is hyperbole. Here's a description from a gardening website:
Perlite is a volcanic glass that is heated to 1,600 degrees F. (871 C.) whereupon it pops much like popcorn and expands to 13 times its former size, resulting in an incredibly lightweight material.
(Read more at Gardening Know How: What Is Perlite: Learn About Perlite Potting Soil

The Three Rs practice is good but not enough to sustain us. It certainly can't build a thrift shop, for example.

Disassembling a mountain is mining.    So, it's not that mining is intrinsically wrong.  Mining is a tool of sorts, like burning, like tilling the soil.  Like all tools, there is appropriate and inappropriate use.  In permaculture we try to find that balance, between appropriate and inappropriate use of anything.  It's my opinion that expending resources required in mining and the transportation of the substances mined isn't appropriate expenditure of resources when it's for fashion, and it likely decreases the life of the garment.  No need to agree, we're just exploring ideas here about sustainable clothing and I used "stone washed " clothing as an example.  Probably the clothing would be more durable without having been stone washed.  I chose an example from the past, so that I would not be speaking of someone's favorite something or other.  Probably that specific  texture of cloth is more  important to others than to me.  That's no problem.  In permaculture we look at the specific conditions of our project, and then figure out what's best.  We can't all do the exact same thing because we don't all face the same set of variables.  

David Wieland wrote:

Andrew Sackville-West wrote:  What does "sustainable item" mean?

Not sure I can answer completely, but part of clothing being sustainable is what was utilized  in the manufacture...  There was a phase where "stone washed" was "in".  Stone washed jeans and stone washed shirts and blouses. The stones were a kind of light weight and abrasive mineral being mined.... maybe something like perlite.  The question is whether it is sustainable to disassemble a mountain for this "stone".   If the dyes being used to dye the fabric are toxic and result in pollution of  streams rivers and ocean, that's probably not sustainable.  It is hard work to know these things about commercial products, and especially when the industry and regulatory agencies collaborate in obscuring the information from the buyer.

One other thing is the conditions of the workers who made the clothes.  Are they paid a living wage?  Is it a sweat shop.  The abuse of humans isn't sustainable.  It's short term for the laborers and the exploiters.

I think shopping at second hand and thrift shops is more sustainable than new, because IMO, of the three Rs reduce reuse recycle the re-use is the most effective at impacting the waste stream.

This is a fabulous thread, so glad it's being revived,or at least brought to the forefront for others to enjoy.  I recently moved to anew town, and a little different climate.  I brought a lot of saved seeds with me,and am in the process of shepherding their adjustment to  new conditions.  I also have  new  gardening friends and we are having a great time learning from each other... a sort of cross pollination of three different gardening traditions.

One thing I did not see discussed is the transition of a hybrid to an OP variety.  I am working on that with a small yellow orange "cherry" tomato.  I bet most everyone would recognize the name, but I amnot going to say it.  Anyway, I am growing  5th generation from   the original hybrid.  It is such fun to select the seedlings that germinated quickly into sturdy seedlings, and feed the scraggly ones to the worm bin or chickens.  

I got seeds from Joseph a few years back, among them some cool summer short season tomatoes.  I gave a few to some friends who live at 8200 feet, and the plants got late snow on them twice.  It was a wet warm snow.... anyway, the two plants went on to bear, and I am calling the seeds from those plants "2 snow" tomatoes.

Saving seeds from selected plants is an important skill to develop, so much more to it than saving the cost of buying seeds.  
1 month ago

John C Daley wrote:

One last thing:  engineers and design professionals don't necessarily know as much as they would like you to believe they do.  The desire for a guarantee from them is going to inspire them to overbuild.   Try to find a person with a lot of practical experience and a willingness to discuss the project, and who is not offended if you ask her /him to talk the variables through.

As a Civil Engineer I want to shoot back here.
- Civil Engineers are taught a lot and also taught how to research and observe.
- In specific areas Civil Engineers learn a lot from overseers who work the ground more regularly.
- Over building will always occur with ground works if a guarantee is expected, since the variables are many.
- In my experience I have not met and Engineer who will not talk through variables.

The biggest issue for me is landowners who have fixed ideas, a tiny budget that is not suitable for the problem and no ongoing plans for maintenance.

The second one is landowners who have mates that know everything, but take no responsibility for being wrong.

Hi John,

It looks like you may have taken some of my comments personally.  Sorry if that is the case.  Unfortunately Civil engineers are no more homogenous as a population than any other group of people.  There can be competent ones and incompetent ones,as in all things  :-).

We agree on over building, probably on most road design principles too.  
1 month ago
I lived for a few years at a cabin belonging to others.  The dirt driveway was a mess, their place was uphill from me.  I had plenty of opportunity to watch what they did,a swell astry what I wanted to try.  The road to and in front of my place was much improved by the time I moved out.  

as in all things permaculture, it depends on the particular situation you are trying to address.  Look at the road, consider how much run off there will be.  Give the water a place to go,else if WILL go down the road.  I filled deeply eroded trenches with gravel.  NOT road base with fines etc, because I wanted the water to travel down through the gravel... if it did not travel through the gravelit would have run on top of the road and made a new channel.  One thing to do is slow the water down.  It is fast moving water that erodes.  Slow moving water deposits what it is carrying. I put the gravel in the ravines, the water filled in many of the voids.  

On mud puddles that collect on the level places:  when a person drives through with a great splash,then the mud at the bottom of the puddle is thrown out with the splash, making the hole deeper.  I put many things in the puddles near my place, gravel included, but also odd things like the bale wrappers for huge circular bales.  My idea was to make a bottom to the puddle so that it would not eternally grow deeper.  The owners were not always on board with what I did,picking up the materials unless I covered them with gravel.  There were bundles of baling twine, lots of antique aluminum and steel beer cans,those went in the ravines too.

One place there was a steep section of driveway (with 2 channels, for the right and left tires of vehicles.  The channels did not let the water off the road,so it came down hill fast.  (A road that barely slopes towards the drop off will not gather water and channel it ).  At the bottom of this steep place , I made a place for the water to exit the road.  This is a tricky deal,because too much water too fast will cut the side of the road in no time... the drain has to be pretty flat as it leaves the road.  I made a ditch that traversed the side of the hill,carrying the water to an oak grove.

I don't know what the conditions are that would require inspectors and design professionals and the departments of make you sad.  Maybe you can get away with not calling them in. Maybe you don't have time for a learning process.  Every situation is unique.

Just look at what the water wants to do, because water is in charge. Make the water happy,give it what it wants, because it's going to win ANY fight.  Don't fight with it and you won't have a fight.  

One last thing:  engineers and design professionals don't necessarily know as much as they would like you to believe they do.  The desire for a guarantee from them is going to inspire them to overbuild.   Try to find a person with a lot of practical experience and a willingness to discuss the project, and who is not offended if you ask her /him to talk the variables through.
1 month ago
Tilling is a tool, just like burning.  There are times to till, but  tilling is something I almost never do because if I do,  I'll be working against myself for years after I till.

The soil food web is a community of interacting organisms. It takes a while for the relationships between organisms  to become established.  When I till I disrupt those connections.  That disrupts the community systems, it disrupts EVERY organism's support system.  In the long term,tilling destroys the structure of the soil, fracturing the soil aggregates, which encourages run off rather than penetration of  precipitation.  That enhances the drought flood  cycle, as well as depositing large amounts of inorganic salts in the ocean at the mouth of the river.

The aggregates are largely due to root exudates which "glue" the mineral particles together.  The root exudates are primarily carbon based organic compounds.   When they are exposed to the sun and air, they oxidize.  By many estimates, more of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is due to the release of soil carbon than from the burning of fossil fuels.

When the support systems of the plants are disrupted, then plants require fertilizers which are delivered as salts, and so more water is required because of the nature of salts, osmosis and such.

1 month ago