Posted by & filed under General.

This Saturday, June 21st, is the fourth annual International Ragweed Day. For those who are allergic to ragweed pollen, the various varieties of ragweed (Ambrosia ssp.) can be a real bane of life. When someone you care about is swollen up like an itchy tomato and popping antihistamines and decongestants just to get out of bed in the morning, you might be tempted to want to eradicate the plant entirely. But is it all bad?

From an ecological perspective, and particularly in the Americas where it is native, we must first think of ragweed’s significance as a food for wildlife — notably quail, but also including some now-rare butterflies and moths. However, for those of us living in cities and towns where these creatures rarely venture anyway, any value to hypothetical wildlife is moot. Some herbalists may be inclined to follow up on ethnobotanical evidence that the Cherokee used ragweed to cure insect bites and pneumonia.

But for the rest of us permaculturalists, I think the most exciting way to simultaneously dispose of ragweed and put it to use is as a compost activator, particularly in sheet mulches. I should say here that all of my experimentation has been done with giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) and not with common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), for a few simple reasons: it’s more common here in eastern Kansas, it’s easier to spot at a distance, and it’s much easier to harvest in quantity. Given a good thick stand of the stuff, one person can fill a pickup truck with giant ragweed in an hour!

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Posted by & filed under Community Projects, Energy Systems, Society, Village Development.

The Earthworker Cooperative is a community-led initiative addressing two significant problems; the stark reality of climate change, and a lack of secure, dignified work in sustainable industries. Earthworker is responding to these issues by setting up an Australia-wide network of community-owned cooperatives in sustainable industries. This is beginning with Eureka’s Future – a worker-owned factory manufacturing high-quality solar hot water systems in Morwell, Victoria, in the heart of Australia’s coal-dominated Latrobe Valley.

The project is one attempt to move beyond the oftentimes paralysing jobs vs environment dichotomy. Forging unlikely alliances between trade unions, environmentalists, small manufacturers, power-station workers, and faith groups, the project is a powerful endeavour to revitalise local economies, address climate change, and assist a ‘just transition’ to clean renewable energy. While many acknowledge the need to move away from coal and towards sustainable industries, Earthworker is providing a tangible means to do this, while ensuring no one is left behind.

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Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Community Projects, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres, Village Development.

A few generations ago Rusinga Island on Lake Victoria, Kenya, had lush green forest with many species of herbs and trees and the lake was clean with rich aquatic life. As the population grew, the trees were cut for fuel and the practice of modern farming has led to a degraded landscape and a polluted lake.

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Posted by & filed under Consumerism, General, Health & Disease.

The DIY medicine cabinet in full simplicity

It happened a bit more rapidly than I expected: One day my wife Emma read a list of horrors associated with fluoride and toothpaste, and by the evening, she’d sworn off store-bought toothpaste. In the weeks to come, I watched our other toiletries disappear. Realizing she was right, as is often the case with greener, kindlier things of the world, I soon followed suit. Over the next couple of months, we’d converted ourselves completely: shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and whatever else came up.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Deforestation, Health & Disease, Insects, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Photo © Craig Mackintosh

At PermaEthos we are working hard to get our first flagship farm profitable and already thinking about the next few farms. We are working to teach Permaculture to as many people as we can and spread as much knowledge as we can as fast as we can. One reason we are doing this is the true environmental catastrophes that are modern agriculture and modern home “lawn care”. These two activities release more toxins into our environment every year than many more feared types of pollution. They damage soil ecosystems and harm animals of every size and shape from microbes to humans.

Of all of these chemicals it has been insecticides, and, more specifically, nicotinoids that have been implicated as being at least a factor in CCD, or colony collapse disorder. Now before a I proceed I want to state that I love honey bees. I am a new bee keeper myself and want as many people keeping bees as we can get. I say that because the next thing I am going to tell you is, as far as food productivity in North America goes, it should not matter if not a single honey bee existed here. In truth we should not ‘need’ honey bees at all in the US — now we do, don’t misunderstand me, I am simply saying we should not need them in order to have productive farms and permaculture systems. Hear me out because if you don’t already know what I am about to tell you, then you are about to understand how bad things really are perhaps for the first time.

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Posted by & filed under Biodiversity, Community Projects, Deforestation, Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

At the eleventh hour, even as the coal miner’s dozers clawed and smashed their way through our precious local forest, we won an amazing reprieve.

We went to the Land and Environment Court seeking an urgent stay of execution for Leard State Forest – a place that has been the backdrop of my life, from my childhood right through to today.

And we won!

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Medicinal Plants, Nurseries & Propogation, Seeds.

For the last three years, the best-performing seeds in my garden have come from a little local outfit called Heart of the Highlands LLC. It helps that they’re locally grown: adapted to the same arid, frosty-hot climate that my garden struggles with.

Now that I’ve learned a little more about the proprietor and her farm, however, I recognize there’s also extensive experience, expertise, and attention to quality involved in producing my favorite seeds.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops.

As farmers, food growers and land managers we are reluctant to ask the real questions: where has our topsoil gone and how do we get it back? How do we grow better food for less cost and what are we leaving our grandchildren — deserts or fertile soil?

We have the answers to turn this all around and Paul Taylor is one person committed to providing some commonsense answers for recovering topsoil and building soil carbon as humus. Humus is our ‘Natural Capital’ — this is the stuff that long-term soil fertility and profitable production is made of.

Paul is a 3rd generation organic farmer and horticulturist. He has developed Trust Nature’s Bio-Vital™ system of sustainable soil management to provide a basis for soil regeneration. This system takes the mystery out of the complex sciences of soil microbiology and plant nutrition, and includes organic principles, modern technology, and traditional knowledge to deliver a set of answers for the crisis that we all face today — losing our productive soils. As we lose our living soils we become increasingly dependent on more toxic inputs and production becomes less profitable.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Nurseries & Propogation, Seeds.

Dried and Finished “Clay Dumplings”

What’s a Seed ball?

Seeds balls are an ancient technique for propagating plants from seeds without opening up soil with cultivation tools such as a plow.

The rediscovery and popularization of seedballs (or “Clay Dumplings” as he called them) in modern times is typically ascribed to Japanese natural farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka.

As with many natural farmers, Fukuoka believed that tillage over large areas is laborious, destructive to soil health, and ultimately not needed and thus a waste of time and energy. Thus, seedballs have become an important aspect of many natural farming and conservation enterprises around the world.

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Posted by & filed under Demonstration Sites, Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Trees, Urban Projects.

Berries are quick to bear and just make life better

As the perennial vegetable season dries up, berries are coming into full swing. Foraging for fresh fruit in the backyard was a key goal in our garden and this is reflected in the diversity and abundance of berries we enjoy. Within two to three years, all of our berries were yielding well and many were filling in to form nice patches. There’s nothing better than walking out the back door and feasting on five or six different kinds of berries as you make your way through the garden. Jonathan and Meg next door love them on their cereal every morning. We’ve cooked all kinds of dishes with them, but in general, that’s too much work for me: nothing is a satisfying as filling up a handful of berries and shoving them into my mouth, eating them right out in the sunshine.

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Posted by & filed under Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Urban Projects.

When: July 12, 2014, 9-4pm
Where: Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA

Spend a day with Jonathan Bates and Eric Toensmeier, the co-designers and managers of the garden that inspired the book Paradise Lot.

We will tour the garden and sample the vegetables and fruit that are in season. In summer you may taste blueberries, raspberries, jostaberries, currants, gooseberries, marionberries and many more!

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Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease.

12 Leading Experts, 17 Invigorating Talks

12 world renown authorities, including several best selling authors, led by Dr. Brian Clement, Jeffrey Smith, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Richard Oppenlander, Devra Davis, Cherie Soria and Dan Ladermann, Hans Diehl, Steve Meyerowitz – “Sproutman”, Joseph Keon, Elizabeth Grossman and Dr. Anna Marie Clement spoke at this 3 day conference.

This conference is now being offered for free (original price $149).

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