Healthy soil is the real key to feeding the world

6 04 2017

Image 20170329 8557 1q1xe1z
Planting a diverse blend of crops and cover crops, and not tilling, helps promote soil health.
Catherine Ulitsky, USDA/Flickr, CC BY

David R. Montgomery, University of Washington

One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Their experiences, and the results that I saw on their farms in North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ghana and Costa Rica, offer compelling evidence that the key to sustaining highly productive agriculture lies in rebuilding healthy, fertile soil. This journey also led me to question three pillars of conventional wisdom about today’s industrialized agrochemical agriculture: that it feeds the world, is a more efficient way to produce food and will be necessary to feed the future.

Myth 1: Large-scale agriculture feeds the world today

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food. The FAO also estimates that almost three-quarters of all farms worldwide are smaller than one hectare – about 2.5 acres, or the size of a typical city block.

Enter a caption

A Ugandan farmer transports bananas to market. Most food consumed in the developing world is grown on small family farms.
Svetlana Edmeades/IFPRI/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Only about 1 percent of Americans are farmers today. Yet most of the world’s farmers work the land to feed themselves and their families. So while conventional industrialized agriculture feeds the developed world, most of the world’s farmers work small family farms. A 2016 Environmental Working Group report found that almost 90 percent of U.S. agricultural exports went to developed countries with few hungry people.

Of course the world needs commercial agriculture, unless we all want to live on and work our own farms. But are large industrial farms really the best, let alone the only, way forward? This question leads us to a second myth.

Myth 2: Large farms are more efficient

Many high-volume industrial processes exhibit efficiencies at large scale that decrease inputs per unit of production. The more widgets you make, the more efficiently you can make each one. But agriculture is different. A 1989 National Research Council study concluded that “well-managed alternative farming systems nearly always use less synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics per unit of production than conventional farms.”

And while mechanization can provide cost and labor efficiencies on large farms, bigger farms do not necessarily produce more food. According to a 1992 agricultural census report, small, diversified farms produce more than twice as much food per acre than large farms do.

Even the World Bank endorses small farms as the way to increase agricultural output in developing nations where food security remains a pressing issue. While large farms excel at producing a lot of a particular crop – like corn or wheat – small diversified farms produce more food and more kinds of food per hectare overall.

Myth 3: Conventional farming is necessary to feed the world

We’ve all heard proponents of conventional agriculture claim that organic farming is a recipe for global starvation because it produces lower yields. The most extensive yield comparison to date, a 2015 meta-analysis of 115 studies, found that organic production averaged almost 20 percent less than conventionally grown crops, a finding similar to those of prior studies.

But the study went a step further, comparing crop yields on conventional farms to those on organic farms where cover crops were planted and crops were rotated to build soil health. These techniques shrank the yield gap to below 10 percent.

The authors concluded that the actual gap may be much smaller, as they found “evidence of bias in the meta-dataset toward studies reporting higher conventional yields.” In other words, the basis for claims that organic agriculture can’t feed the world depend as much on specific farming methods as on the type of farm.

Cover crops planted on wheat fields in The Dalles, Oregon.
Garrett Duyck, NRCS/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Consider too that about a quarter of all food produced worldwide is never eaten. Each year the United States alone throws out 133 billion pounds of food, more than enough to feed the nearly 50 million Americans who regularly face hunger. So even taken at face value, the oft-cited yield gap between conventional and organic farming is smaller than the amount of food we routinely throw away.

Building healthy soil

Conventional farming practices that degrade soil health undermine humanity’s ability to continue feeding everyone over the long run. Regenerative practices like those used on the farms and ranches I visited show that we can readily improve soil fertility on both large farms in the U.S. and on small subsistence farms in the tropics.

I no longer see debates about the future of agriculture as simply conventional versus organic. In my view, we’ve oversimplified the complexity of the land and underutilized the ingenuity of farmers. I now see adopting farming practices that build soil health as the key to a stable and resilient agriculture. And the farmers I visited had cracked this code, adapting no-till methods, cover cropping and complex rotations to their particular soil, environmental and socioeconomic conditions.

Whether they were organic or still used some fertilizers and pesticides, the farms I visited that adopted this transformational suite of practices all reported harvests that consistently matched or exceeded those from neighboring conventional farms after a short transition period. Another message was as simple as it was clear: Farmers who restored their soil used fewer inputs to produce higher yields, which translated into higher profits.

No matter how one looks at it, we can be certain that agriculture will soon face another revolution. For agriculture today runs on abundant, cheap oil for fuel and to make fertilizer – and our supply of cheap oil will not last forever. There are already enough people on the planet that we have less than a year’s supply of food for the global population on hand at any one time. This simple fact has critical implications for society.

So how do we speed the adoption of a more resilient agriculture? Creating demonstration farms would help, as would carrying out system-scale research to evaluate what works best to adapt specific practices to general principles in different settings.

We also need to reframe our agricultural policies and subsidies. It makes no sense to continue incentivizing conventional practices that degrade soil fertility. We must begin supporting and rewarding farmers who adopt regenerative practices.

Once we see through myths of modern agriculture, practices that build soil health become the lens through which to assess strategies for feeding us all over the long haul. Why am I so confident that regenerative farming practices can prove both productive and economical? The farmers I met showed me they already are.

David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Feeding 9 billion

16 01 2017

I have just been tipped off to this fantastic Joel Salatin video…… I think it’s ironic that Eclipe, a fan of Polyface Farm, is in complete disagreement with Joel who is totally anti hi-tech farming. In fact, like me, Joel believes in walking away from the Matrix (exemplified in this video by McDonald’s), and he lets both barrels go at the establishment…..

Enjoy.





Harquebus’ latest newsletter….

30 06 2016

Howdy all.

The state and quality of main stream journalism (MSJ), including that at our own ABC and despite what they might think of themselves, has deteriorated to the point of being totally useless. Instead of news, we get stories about cats in schools, fanfares about stupid celebrities making stupid remarks and any other triviality that might distract their audiences from the real world and the little that does resemble credible news, is either government propaganda, incomplete, misleading or a combination of all three. The credibility of MSJ is now non existent.

The collapse of Venezuela, shattered climate records, the release of Arctic methane and CO2, unsustainable global debt, Bilderberg meetings and the sixth mass extinction event currently under way are never mentioned. Our environment continues to be destroyed, the oceans polluted and fished to exhaustion, finite resources are wasted on corporate profits while poverty and overcrowding due to unsustainable population growth continue unabated and the fault lies squarely with MSJ which, has failed to hold those responsible to account.
Tony Jones, Australia’s most popular TV journalist, is the worst of the lot. For decades he has reveled in his popularity while all that sustains us is destroyed in the pursuit of growth and profit. He and his MSJ peers must change or we can kiss our sorry little behinds goodbye and if they think that they and theirs are somehow going to be exempt from the bloody mess that will inevitably befall us then, they are even more stupid than the ignorant fools who govern us.
Aussie journalists are only slightly more trustworthy than the corporate bought and paid for politicians that they serve. How proud they must be.

https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/top-10-most-untrustworthy-aussie-professions-050959497.html

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” — Mark Twain Here is my usual list of links which, also proves my point.

Cheers.

———————————

“As the economy unwinds, doctors are now stealing hospital food to feed their families.”
http://www.naturalnews.com/054383_Venezuela_starvation_food_shortage.html
“”We want food!” Looting and riots rock Venezuela daily”
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-looting-idUSKCN0YY0IR
“With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/20/world/americas/venezuelans-ransack-stores-as-hunger-stalks-crumbling-nation.html

“Half of the world has passed the point of maximum energy consumption. This point is marked by large scale economic crisis. Asia Pacific is approaching that point now.”

http://wakeup.stubbornbull.com.au/the-environment/industrial-issues/have-we-reached-peak-oil/

Trans-Pacific Partnership will barely benefit Australia, says World Bank report”
The average Australian worker will not benefit in any way shape or form from this agreement.”
http://wakeup.stubbornbull.com.au/society/financial-system/trans-pacific-partnership-ttp-what-is-it/

“The EPA states that methane is a greenhouse gas that could have 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide over the next century.”
http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-exploding-permafrost-methane-craters-global-warming-2016-6

“The melting of the permafrost represents one of humanity’s greatest fears for it contains vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/gateway-to-the-underworld-siberia-batagaika-siberia-russia-permafrost-melting-a7063936.html
“we are now experiencing the highest level of relative and absolute global inequality at any point in human history.”
“the 21st Century will be a new dark age of luxury for a few and barbaric suffering for most. ”
http://www.greanvillepost.com/2016/06/07/planetary-crisis-we-are-not-all-in-this-together/
“the UN warns bluntly that world population, now well over seven billion ‘has reached a stage where the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available
http://churchandstate.org.uk/2016/06/there-are-not-enough-resources-to-support-the-worlds-population/
“Mexico’s wells are running dry.
You would almost not know if you took your news from television or the mainstream media. It is like a closely guarded secret — the aunt in the attic.”
http://peaksurfer.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/the-aunt-in-attic.html

“We have forgotten the lessons of the 1760s, 1850s, and 1920s. We have let Economic Royalists hijack our democracy, and turn our economy into their money machine. Now the middle class is evaporating, infrastructure is crumbling, and pressure is reaching a breaking point. Anti-establishment candidates are on the rise, and no one knows how things will turn out.”
http://evonomics.com/trump-phenomenon-is-a-sign-of-oligarchy/

“Australian scientists report that many surviving corals affected by mass bleaching from high sea temperatures on the northern Great Barrier Reef are the sickest they have ever seen.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/acoe-hsc062016.php

“In 2009, Obama promised to help “rid the world of nuclear weapons” and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama.”
https://newmatilda.com/2016/05/30/silencing-america-as-it-prepares-for-war-john-pilger/

“Thus, if tomorrow a war were to break out between the US and Russia, it is guaranteed that the US would be obliterated.”
“If attacked, Russia will not back down; she will retaliate, and she will utterly annihilate the United States.”
http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/06/03/41522/

“Whether we believe that innovation and technology ultimately make the world better or worse, there is now overwhelming evidence that they are unsustainable in any case. Between economic over-extension, energy over-dependence, and the ruination of our atmosphere and other environments by our civilization and its technologies, it is now almost inevitable that we will soon see a collapse that will make the Great Depression, and perhaps even the five previous great extinctions of life on Earth, look like nothing.
“Modern technology requires cheap energy, and, notwithstanding the recent power games between the US and Russia temporarily and artificially driving down oil prices, we are quickly running out of it.”
http://howtosavetheworld.ca/2016/06/06/technologys-false-hope-and-the-wisdom-of-crows-repost/
“the evidence supports their theory that his death was in no possible way a suicide, as has been reported by police and the mainstream media.”
http://www.naturalnews.com/054302_Jeff_Bradstreet_murder_autism.html

“Having successfully used the EU to conquer the Greek people by turning the Greek “leftwing” government into a pawn of Germany’s banks, Germany now finds the IMF in the way of its plan to loot Greece into oblivion .”
http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/05/25/we-have-entered-the-looting-stage-of-capitalism-paul-craig-roberts/

“All references to climate change’s impact on World Heritage sites in Australia have been removed from a United Nations report.”
“Australia’s Department of the Environment requested that Unesco scrub these sections from the final version.”
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-36376226

Peak oil mates, peak oil. Those that deny it do not understand it.
“when oil companies (and governments) talk about oil supply, they include all sorts of things that cannot be sold as oil on the world market including biofuels, refinery gains and natural gas plant liquids as well as lease condensate.”
“If what you’re selling cannot be sold on the world market as crude oil, then it’s not crude oil.”
http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Condensate-Con-How-Real-Is-The-Oil-Glut.html

“You’d think this would be pretty big news.  The Prime Minister of one of the biggest economies in the world just made a presentation saying we are on the brink of collapse not only in Japan but worldwide and it was mostly swept under the rug.
“The same globalist elites who are orchestrating the coming collapse own all the major media companies.  They don’t want Joe the Plumber and main street to get an inkling that something is wrong until it is too late… just like in 2008.”
https://www.dollarvigilante.com/blog/2016/06/01/now-japanese-prime-minister-abe-predicts-global-economic-catastrophe-imminent.html

“Neoliberalism hasn’t delivered economic growth – it has only made a few people a lot better off.”
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/31/witnessing-death-neoliberalism-imf-economists
“Ocean plastic has turned up literally everywhere. It has been found in the deep sea and buried in Arctic ice. It has been ingested with dire consequences by some 700 species of marine wildlife.”
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/
“inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.
This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns:”
http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune16/collapse6-16.html
“If our leaders had made better decisions since the last crisis, things could have turned out differently.  But instead, they continued to conduct business as usual, and now we will reap what they have sown.”
http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/worst-jobs-report-in-nearly-6-years-102-million-working-age-americans-do-not-have-jobs

“The high-profit, low-risk nature of environmental crime is matched by the low funds and uncertain priorities given to fighting it by many decision-takers.”
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/03/value-eco-crimes-soars-26-with-devastating-impacts-natural-world

“That $1.3 trillion bubble was enough to bring down several major banks and cause cascading damage across the global financial system.
Today’s bubble is EIGHT TIMES the size of the last one”
https://www.sovereignman.com/trends/this-financial-bubble-is-8-times-bigger-than-the-2008-subprime-crisis-19590/

“The Arctic is on track to be free of sea ice this year or next for the first time in more than 100,000 years”
“Scientists have monitored greenhouse gas methane – once frozen on the sea bed – bubbling up to the surface at an alarming rate.”
“We’re on a runaway train, scientists are blowing the whistle, but politicians are still shovelling coal into the engine.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/arctic-could-become-ice-free-for-first-time-in-more-than-100000-years-claims-leading-scientist-a7065781.html

“A husband should be allowed to lightly beat his wife if she defies his commands and refuses to dress up as per his desires; turns down demand of intercourse without any religious excuse or does not take bath after intercourse or menstrual periods.”
http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/husbands-can-beat-their-wives-if-they-refuse-sex-according-to-islamic-council-of-clerics-and-scholars_06042016

“That has left economists and fund managers worried the unconventional measures are setting the stage for exactly what central banks are trying to prevent—another financial crisis.”
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fund-managers-fear-central-banks-will-create-next-lehman-moment-2016-06-08

“Australia has amassed a huge pile of debt—over 120% of GDP—and most of it is mortgage debt on overvalued real estate. Now that Australia’s economy, which was driven by commodity exports to China, has tanked, a lot of this debt is being turned into interest-only loans, because Australians no longer have the money to repay any of the principal.”
“as conditions deteriorate further, the Australians will become unable to afford taxes and utilities.”
http://cluborlov.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/the-money-cult.html

“the internet has fallen into the hands of large corporations and governments and become the “world’s largest surveillance network”.”
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2460894/sir-tim-berners-lee-internet-has-become-world-s-largest-surveillance-network

“if you care to avoid vaporization and, assuming we do avoid it, live a life other than serfdom, you must wake up and realize that your most deadly enemy is Washington, not the hoax of “Russian aggression,” not the hoax of “Muslim terrorism,” not the hoax of “domestic extremism,” not the hoax of welfare bankrupting America, not the hoax of democracy voting away your wealth, which Wall Street and the corporations have already stolen and stuck in their pockets.”
http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/06/09/where-do-matters-stand-paul-craig-roberts/

“We are heading into a very dark time…a time where technology will be used to enslave, not enlighten or uplift mankind.”
http://www.shtfplan.com/headline-news/economic-collapse-will-serve-one-purpose-global-governance-and-the-enslavement-of-mankind_06112016

“Its fast-growing stalk yields one of the strongest and most useful fibers known, used in superior paper, canvas, ropes, insulation, cardboard, clothing, shoes and plastic — plastic that is, by the way, biodegradable. This one plant can provide many of the products an industrial society needs, sustainably, while drastically reducing pollution, energy consumption, deforestation, fossil fuel use and providing income for millions of farmers”
“Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants. Hemp is cannabis sativa and marijuana is cannabis indica. So when regulators wanted to prevent people from getting high on cannabis indica, they criminalized cannabis, which included cannabis sativa, which made it illegal to use one of the most useful and sustainable crops the world has ever known.”
http://www.dailyimpact.net/2016/06/07/the-war-on-hemp/

“There is no such thing as sustainable agriculture. It does not exist.”
http://dark-mountain.net/blog/how-did-things-get-to-be-this-way/

“The economic reality, evident to anyone who isn’t a spin doctor for the Coalition or a journalist for The Australian, is that we have a weak economy, unable to finance our expected living standards.”
https://newmatilda.com/2016/06/06/australias-open-for-business-and-yet-incomes-are-down-and-were-basically-in-recession/

“The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) [CO2] reading has reached it.”
“That’s the first time it’s passed that level in 4 million years (no, that’s not a typo).”
“the planet as a whole has likely crossed the 400 ppm threshold permanently”
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/antarctica-co2-400-ppm-million-years-20451

“Seven climate records set so far in 2016”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/17/seven-climate-records-set-so-far-in-2016

“What will corporations blame when they can’t use “tighter money supplies” as an excuse?”
http://imgur.com/bbwlZZF

———————————

Harry aka Harquebus
Salisbury North.
South Australia.
harrycebex@hotmail.com




Life in Syntropy

15 01 2016

Great inspirational video, had to share……..





Sustainable Greywater

4 03 2015

One of the best aspects about Mon Abri that I have never written about here on DTM is our greywater system…. and the only reason I have so far omitted to do so is because I mysteriously ‘mislaid’ the photos I took of the system way back in maybe 2003 shortly after the slab was poured.  I’m not one to lose computer data, I usually have multiple copies of everything I’ve ever written or photographed or downloaded on various CDs and DVDs and now memory sticks, it’s just that sometimes I don’t know what I’ve done with them!  Last year, I did a talk about this amazing greywater system for Noosa Permaculture, and had to rely on some less than perfect pictures off the internet.  Well dear reader, one good thing about cleaning up in readiness for a big move is that you find things you haven’t seen in years, and what a trip down memory lane some of those finds can be…..

Greywater is what goes down your drains, usually to sewerage.  For 99% of people, pull the plug, and you never ever have to worry about where all that stuff goes, but when you live somewhere not connected to any sewers like us, then you have to deal with the waste that goes down your kitchen sink, hand basins, shower, bath, and laundry.

Unless you pour paint down your drains, or vast amounts of chemicals like bleach or other nasties (definitely NOT recommended in ANY case…), greywater is not toxic.  Councils treat it like it is, yet when you think about it, what’s in greywater?  Apart from soap and washing detergents (which are by now largely bio-degradable), you’ll get hair, skin particles, lint, body fluids and… well lots of water.  The kitchen sink is a different issue because food scraps and fat from pots and pans also go down the gurgler.

Now to my way of thinking, and the thinking of the inventor of this system, none of those things are particularly ‘nasty’.  “Out there” in the environment, wild animals die, poop, piss, and yet you never smell them.  Mother nature has a way of treating this ‘waste’ by returning it to the soil as a resource, and there’s no reason why we should not be treating our own wastes in the same way.  But humans believe we are too clever to mimic nature, and we like to involve technology to do our bidding, often when it’s not even required, and so it is with sewerage; which after all, is 19th Century technology.

Now normally, when you live in the country like us, councils will make you install expensive treatment plants with pumps and storage tanks and complicated plumbing like the Biolytix I mentioned in another post, or devices with names like enviroflo, or ecoflo, or ecosafe or any other number of ‘green’ marketing names.  Some deal with your toilet waste as well, some don’t.  As a firm believer of not mixing water with toilets and thus making ‘black water’, I would never consider any system that mixes the two.

Most commercial greywater systems involve storing your waste water until the tank is full whereupon an automatic valve will allow the stuff to be pumped, usually to a sprinkler system, well away from your house and gardens of course, because councils consider greywater unsafe.  Which it highly likely does become, IF you store it like that!  Germs love water to breed in.  The longer you store greywater, the more bugs it will have when you spray it all over the lawn (which you then have to mow).  I’ve seen such systems all around us break down (pumps don’t last forever) and as a result they have to be inspected yearly, or even twice yearly depending on what they are.  Filters have to be serviced, float valves checked, plumbing unclogged, and frankly paying someone hundreds of dollars a year for the pleasure of owning an unsustainable system really gets up my nose….

Enter Jonathon Berry’s Ecodesign greywater system…….

Trenches from the house with greywater pipes laid

Trenches from the house with greywater pipes laid

No pumps, no filters, no inspections (you can’t do yourself), zero electricity use, and less than half the price to buy.  Ours was the first to go in within the Noosa Council jurisdiction, and they had never seen one before; as a result, they gave us a hard time approving it, but there was no way I was installing anything else…..  after paying two geotechnicians to prove this would easily work in Cooran, the Council relented and allowed us to put it in as a ‘pilot scheme’.  There are many others around here now, thanks to us paving the way to sanity.

This system is simple beyond all expectations.  All the waste water is gravity fed to a disposal area via a series of distribution pots, which are basically irrigation valve housings drilled with 13mm holes to allow the water to go to the soil, all below ground.  Instead of growing lawn around this area, you grow trees (bananas in our case, and loads of Arrowroot and Pigeon Peas and Crotalareas for mulch use elsewhere).  The pots mentioned above are like upside down buckets, the bottom of which (now at the top) is removable

Distribution area showing how the pipes split the flow to a total of eight pots

Distribution area showing how the pipes split the flow to a total of eight pots three metres apart

so that you can see what’s happening in there.  Once a year, you are supposed to inspect them all and remove any hair or lint that may supposedly fill the thing up and make it inoperable, but in practice, there’s nothing to see.  Worms in the soil simply dispose of it all organically.  I recently had another look after a six year absence (I’m slack like that!) and found very little to do apart from removing some dirt that ants, I presume, had placed there.  It’s my kind of system, almost maintenance free!

Water filling pot

Water filling pot

The kitchen side of this system is in some ways even more brilliant…..  anyone who’s ever had to deal with a grease trap will know what I mean when I say it has to be the most disgusting job on the planet.  Grease traps alone are one reason why owning any other system is as dumb as dumb can be….  especially when you know common composting worms will not only make the grease disappear, but also turn it into worm castings for your garden…

What Jonathon came up with here is basically a worm farm to replace the grease trap.  He calls it an Aerobic Grease Filter, because the trick here is to not have everything smothered in water and becoming anaerobic and smelly and toxic….  just like nature does all the time!  The water flow from your kitchen sink is divided into four equal outlets over a 1200mm plastic trough originally designed for livestock to drink from.  A 100mm waste attached to two more pots downhill take the waste water to the soil.  This water is first intercepted by another pot placed over the outlet as a filter of sorts.  100mm of gravel is then placed at the bottom of the trough, and covered with compost.  Add a handful of composting worms or two, and then mulch.

Aerobic Greas Filter before filling with compost worms and mulch

Aerobic Greas Filter before filling with compost worms and mulch

As your dirty kitchen water hits the mulch, the food scraps and fat are filtered, and the worms come up to consume it all.  The water continues down through the gravel, down the outlet, and out the two aforementioned pots.  This never smells, is a constant source of vermicastings for your garden, and is easily the most sustainable way of dealing with your kitchen waste water……

Ours is under our deck (this shot was taken before the deck was built) and believe me, if it ever smelled, we’d know about it!

Once it’s filled and operational, it’s virtually maiGreywater Aerobic Grease Filtersntenance free, and I only dig it up if I want to fertilise a new garden bed.  The stuff that comes out of this has to be seen to be believed, and why anyone persists with the alternatives selling for thousands of dollars more and costing hundreds of dollars a year in maintenance is all beyond me.  I’ve included a pic of a finished unit from somewhere else, ours is awkward to get a good shot of now it has a deck over it.

On the day of our first ‘pilot scheme’ inspection, the head honcho from Noosa Council plumbing section personally did the deed.  Jonathon was there to make sure his system made a good impression, and he helped me ‘service’ the aerobic grease filter.  The look on the inspector’s face as he watched the pair of us elbow deep in the worm farm, fishing out thousands of odourless worms for the garden was priceless…..!  The inspectors never returned, we had proven our point.

 

 





Peak Footwear

18 07 2014

I was reminded to write about this subject some weeks ago when a Tassie friend of mine started listing essential things needed post crash.  On that list was footwear.  Shoes and boots, to anyone thinking like me of moving to a colder climate, are high on the list of essential things.  You can get away with walking around bare feet in Queensland for most of the year, but I suspect in Tasmania it would be out of the question, especially during the wet Winter season…….

So why write about footwear you ask…..  can’t I afford to buy sturdy boots to walk around the property?

Look around today at what people wear on their feet, and you will see shoes entirely made of plastic – read OIL.  Joggers and even loads of cheaper footwear these days are no longer made of leather.  I expect that with oil still being relatively cheap, plastic is still not as dear as leather.  Personally, I can’t wear plastic shoes, they make my feet smell for starters, and I know it’s not a personal problem, because I can wear leather shoes with woollen socks for days on end without even washing the socks with zero foot odour.  It’s definitely the plastic, and I include synthetic socks here.

So what will happen come the day oil becomes too precious for food production?  Will Nike stop making plastic shoes?

Years ago, as I was still contemplating building our house, I decided it was time I bought myself some steel capped boots; safety on a building site is always in my mind, and wearing such boots has saved my toes many times from dropping concrete blocks and heavy pieces of timber on them.  Today I wear such boots as a matter of fact, the additional steel toe never really costs much more, as I will show further down this article…..

At about that time, we were planning a trip to the snow in the old Lada Niva; so I thought now was a good time to buy some boots, I could wear them in the snow, and wear them in at the same time.  Being scroungers, we started shopping for ski gear at op shops – we did after all have to buy stuff for four of us.  One of the op shops we visited had ‘never worn’ steel capped boots going real cheap.  They looked brand new, in their original boxes…  I tried them on, and I was rapt……  great looking boots for half the price of really new ones.

However, within just two days, the soles started completely falling apart……  now I don’t normally return things at op shops, but these were supposed to be ‘brand new’, and there were more in the shop, so I took them back and the op shop gladly replaced them.  The very next day we left for our epic trip.  When you drive a couple of thousand kilometres, you don’t tend to do a lot of walking, but soon enough, the soles on these boots started falling to pieces too, just sitting there behind the wheel of my car!  I was not impressed…..  buying shoes at Thredbo is not how one gets a bargain, let me tell you!!

To cut to the chase, I eventually bought a pair of Blundstones in Brisbane, and they lasted me many many years while building, climbing up ladders, dropping aforementioned concrete blocks on them, etc etc…..

Never worn, gathering dust

Never worn, gathering dust

heel peeling off

heel peeling off

But then, another boot buying event sparked my attention on the looming footwear problem.  At a nearby hardware store, they were selling shedloads of Makita tradies’ boots.  Normally costing $160 a pair (and we are talking maybe 2005), these quadruple stitched steel capped suede boots looked like they were worth $160, and they were going for $69!  So I stupidly bought three pairs, thinking I’d now be set for life, bootwise.  I even bought Glenda a pair.  My mate Dean down the road in Cooran did the same thing I recently discovered as we were discussing these self destructing boots…..

My Blunnies were starting to seriously wear out by now (but not falling apart…) and I switched to the Makitas.  Within six months, to my horror, they too started falling apart.  So I took them back.  The store exchanged them for new ones (I discovered they had bought Makita’s entire stock as Makita was getting out of all work apparel), but within a fairly short time, they too were falling apart.  I checked the as yet never worn spare sets….. and they were cracking too.  What on Earth was going on?

Old faithfuls..

Old faithfuls..

..falling apart with still plenty of tread

..falling apart with still plenty of tread

I decided that as my last set of Blunnies had served me so well, I’d buy another pair from the local farm produce store that stocked them.  To my amazement, the boots started falling to bits.  Some energetic googling found that shoes are now pretty well exclusively soled with Polyurethane, which has a shelf life of approximately five years, regardless of wear and tear.  Talk about planned obsolescence….  So, I reluctantly returned those boots too.  What I had also learned from google is that most boots have a stamp on the sole that tells you when the boot was made, usually consisting of a ring of numbers from 1 to 12, and the year in the middle with an arrow pointing to the month of the year the item was made.  So if your boot has a stamp saying 12 with an arrow pointing to 3, your shoe was made in March 2012.  Armed with this information, I rummaged through the shop’s entire stock of Blunnies my size, found the newest ones possible and went home.  Almost on queue, they fell apart five years after the manufacturing date.  I can’t tell you now exactly how long I wore them for, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of years.  So I bought another pair somewhere else, this time Blundstone’s top of the range waterproof steel capped boots for the princely sum of $129.  So you see, it’s not like I was skimping….  I really did go for quality.  Unfortunately, three years on, these are now too badly cracked to wear, and they are definitely no longer waterproof.  More googling determined that Blundstone warn consumers about ‘Hydrolysis’…

What is hydrolysis damage?

Hydrolysis damage occurs when moisture builds up in the thousands of air bubbles found in the soles of the footwear.  If not worn for a considerable amount of time, or stored correctly, the moisture build-up causes the soles to break down.  If stored for an extended period of time, footwear with a polyurethane sole should be kept in a cool dry spot.

And I’m not the only one who’s discovered this problem…….

It now appears one cannot buy anything not soled with that dreaded Polyurethane crap.  And why would a quality brand use material for its soles that has “thousands of air bubbles“?  So two days ago, I bought a $30 pair of Chinese made steel capped boots from Aldi.  I’m sick of wasting my money on expensive shoes that don’t last the distance.  Even if I only get 12 months wear out of them – at least I know they are brand new this time! – then they will have been better value than anything I’ve bought over the past few years.

This, however, does not solve the problem of what we might be wearing in the future when shoe shops are far away, there’s no fuel to supply them let alone drive there, and we are left to our own devices for footwear.

I find it hilarious that when confronted with collapse, most people put toilet paper at the top of their list of things that will be hard to do without……  I’m much more concerned about footwear.  Some enterprising persons who know about leatherwork are likely to become highly prized members of any community if you ask me.





The Look

29 05 2014

Reblogged from Steve Harrison’s http://tonightmyfingerssmellofgarlic.com/  blog Posted on 26/05/2014

More than a look
A letter from the pottery and the late autumn garden

I heard a couple of young designers talking about sustainability and recycling, as if they had invented it.

Apparently, it’s the new hot topic in design. It’s so interesting to listen to young people talk about things that they know very little about. I must have sounded like such a twat when I was young  –  and probably still do for that matter. These people were talking about sustainable design as a ‘feature’ of design.  It wasn’t the effect of consumerism, or its consequences, that was of interest to them.  It was the look of things. It was all about design and The Look! Real sustainability didn’t seem to be the core issue.
Being a baby boomer, I grew up through the sixties and seventies and was very involved in the ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of sustainability. The grass roots approach. When I met ‘The Lovely’ at Art School and we set up house together in a flat in Bondi, I promised her, not a lovely home or plain comfortable house, not even a shed.  I knew that I would never be able to buy a house earning the sort of money that potter could earn, so I was only looking for vacant land.  I initially promised her a life in a tent! Fortunately she said OK!  Count me in!  She didn’t mind a bit of hard work. I thought that I would find some little piece of bushland and pitch a tent while I built a mud brick shed, a pottery, a kiln and then, at a later date, a house.
This was what a lot of people did here in Australia in the past. Especially the returned solders in the post war period. My own father bought a vacant bush block and cleared it with a mattock, and hand cut a track to get trucks to the site. Then we all lived in a caravan for a year while he built the first two rooms.  After that, we all lived in that cramped building, while he built the next few rooms.  The house was only just finished a few years before my older brother left home. Everything was paid for, bit by bit, as you went along.  There was no credit, or ‘LendLease’ in those days.  No plastic card credit.
I was interested in living what I thought would be a less-complicated life.  I was wrong.  All lives are complicated.  However, in my youthful enthusiasm.  I considered that living directly on the land and eating from the that land as much as possible by way of gardens and orchards, then making pots to sell that were made out of the land, should all be doable.  Well, as I said, I was naïve and full of youthful hubris.  For someone interested in DIY sustainability, the obvious choice was to build with earth, dug free from the land and turned into capital by shear effort and will power.  Creating capital out of virtually nothing is a pretty neat trick.  So all but one of our buildings are made from mud bricks.  Of course, keeping chickens and ducks and eating the vegetable that we grew ourselves in an organic garden were all part of that daydream.
Well, it all came true.  It wasn’t a dream.  It was made real by dogged hard work of two dedicated people who teamed up and concentrated in a single minded effort to make it reality. Of course it didn’t all happen as planned.  There were detours and setbacks. Lots of little hiccups along the way.  But we made it happen.  Janine turned out to be one hell of a tough girl.  I’m so glad that she accepted my offer.  And as it turned out, we didn’t need the tent.
A kiln was built and pots were made and sold, but we always had a big vegetable garden and one of the first things we did, was to plant fruit trees for the future.  Once we were a little more secure, I made pots and glazes from the raw materials that occurred in the landscape around us.  It took time to research and uncover all the potential of the local geology, but bit by bit, I found one material after another that I could use to replace a previously bought ingredient in my recipes.  These days we buy very little, but I do still buy some ingredients that are very hard to find, or make from what we have here to work with, like bentonite and alumina powder. Recently, I have even bought some plastic kaolin to add to my mixtures to make them a lot more potter friendly on the wheel.
Unlike young designers in the inner city, we are not interested in ‘The Look’ of things so much as the reality in total, their cost, both in money terms but in particular the cost to the environment, their carbon debt and their running costs. That is why we have chosen not to own a big car, an air conditioner, a microwave, a large plasma screen and other energy hungry appliances.  So we don’t have The Look, we have chosen not to buy into it.  We have a busy sustainable life which takes a lot of time and personal effort  to maintain.  We just don’t have enough time or energy to have a real job to pay for ‘The Look’.  We’ve ended up with the blisters, the gritty, real, sustainability part, but without ‘The Look’.  One very good outcome of all this DIY, is that we don’t have a mortgage and we can afford to live this small life.
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In the garden, the cauliflowers are in full flower just now, so we are finding ways to use them up. One of our long time favourites is to cut it into bit sized chunks and eat it raw dipped in aioli made from our own garlic, lemons, local organic eggs and locally produced olive oil. That’s an entrée that is worth waiting all year for. It’s just terrific, great flavours and textures. Almost a meal in itself.
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1 egg
1 lemon
1 cup of olive oil
5 or 6 or 10 cloves of garlic, depending on size.
Chop up the garlic and add the egg, whip it up into a thick yellow frenzy with half of the oil and the lemon juice, lastly add the remaining oil and mix it into the emultion, add pepper to taste and a little salt if you like. I don’t. If your eggs are small, use less oil, or add a second egg.
At the end of the summer, we ended up with a silver beet ‘tree’ that grew on the edge of the garden path. It grew as tall as me and finally had to be held up with a tall wooden stake. It finally ripened its seeds and the wind blew them all over the garden. We now have loads of the green stemmed silver beet growing everywhere. I’ve been mowing it to keep it down to a manageabe amount. The Lovely transplanted a dozen or so seedlings into a bed, where they will be safe from my whipper snipper and garden chipper hoe.
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They grow so fast at this time of year, so we have to find ways eat it with out getting too bored. The usual way is to just scorch it in a fry pan and sweat it down to a small warm mass. I believe that it’s called ‘whilted’ spinach. What is nice about it is that it doesn’t involve any oil or even water, just some heat. We serve it with a little lemon juice or alternatively with a dash of white wine vinegar. It seems to go quite well with most things that we eat.
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Because these plants are so prolific just now we are constantly trying new ways to use it up. Not unlike the situation with zucchinis in the summer time.
It makes a lovely fresh side dish that is really quick to make and no washing up. just rinse the pan and it’s back up on the hook. A more substantial dinner at this time of year that is warm, satisfying and low fat is spinach and ricotta pie.
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Wilt the spinach, as above. You can make ricotta very easily from milk that is past it’s use-by date by heating it gently and adding some lemon juice to it. It will separate into curds and whey, drain off the whey and add the curds to the spinach and place into the pie crust, cap it off and add a little grated cheese and /or brush with the whey or milk to get a nice brown top.

We have completed 2 of our 5 wood firing, weekend workshops and had work shown in the Manly Regional Gallery and at Ivy Hill Gallery down the south coast to coincide with the International Wood firing Conference. I couldn’t afford the time to go for the whole thing, but managed to get down there for a couple of days. So now it’s back into the workshop to start throwing more work. I have shows coming up in Singapore and Taiwan in the next few months, so I need to get productive.
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The Lovely, catches my visage in the mirror, so that it shows my bald spot. It’s not a good look.  Its not ‘The Look’ either.
It’s just a look and that’s how I am. Best wishes from the thinning potter, and I don’t mean waistline, and his happy snapperJanine was given a really simple recipe for pastry from Marta Armarda, a ceramic artist from Spain, who was in residence at Sturt workshops in Mittagong.