Posted by & filed under Compost, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Waste Systems & Recycling.

by James Reid

Humanure, which one is it – embarrassing waste product or invaluable, free fertiliser? Heh, what do you reckon?!

The human body has within its waste products (faeces and urine) pretty much all the suitable nutrients needed to help grow the food we need to keep ourselves healthy and well fed. Everyday we produce this free fertiliser and flush it down the toilet when it could be being collected, managed correctly and transformed into truly amazing compost. Right now most of us live within a broken loop consisting of:

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Posted by & filed under Land, Soil Composition.

Soil is one of the basic resources that we have when beginning to work with land. Along with water, climatic patterns, and existing ecosystems, soils form the canvas on which we paint our agro-ecological life support systems.

In the US the Web Soil Survey (WSS) managed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service operates one of the largest soil resource information systems in the world.

Soils of more than 95% of the counties in the continental United States have been mapped as part of the National Cooperative Soil Survey. That data is available online through an easy to use map-interface, and a wide range of data is freely available for download as a (well formulated) PDF or as tabulated and spatial data for Geographical Information Systems (GIS) program.

In this article I’ll show you how to navigate the WSS interface, and where to find soil data which is most relevant for initial site assessments for permaculture design.

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Posted by & filed under General.

Friday night. For something like seven years I’ve been wondering what to do with Friday night. You know — party, spend quality time at the pub, drink, dance, vomit and go home to a weekend filled with the things that people do on the weekend. Hmm….

I’m even more moderate than that.

On Friday night I’ve spend inordinate amounts of time twiddling my thumbs, ho-hum, wondering what the hell I should be doing if I’m not blasting my head off in a night club or chilling with a lover. I’ve learned a lot about Googling and cooked a lot of unnecessary cakes. Today after my zen seven years of Friday nights (not) I came up with a brilliant idea. Sharpen the chisels.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Health & Disease, Land, Medicinal Plants, Plant Systems.


Fresh herbs right outside the kitchen door

The herb spiral is more or less an ubiquitous installment at the permaculture farm, so when we came to work on a property in Panama, building a spiral as near to the kitchen as possible was a top priority. Not only would it supply us with fresh and flavorful meals, but it wouldn’t take long to establish a useable system, a harvestable, sustainable crop. At least, with a herb spiral, we could start eating sooner rather than later.

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


Photo © Craig Mackintosh

Last week, newly-published research (1) in the Nature journal links a type of pesticide whose use has been restricted in the EU to the decline of bird population in the Netherlands.

The study, which focussed on a particular type of neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, found that where the chemical was present in a “high concentration” — more than 20 nanograms (ng) per litre of surface water — it has led on average to a 3.5 percent annual decline of insectivorous birds (1). Considering that the EU has defined the amount of pesticides allowed in drinking water as 100 ng per litre for each compound and 500 ng per litre for overall pesticide count (2), the findings seem a little worrying in terms of human health.

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Posted by & filed under Building, Eco-Villages, Society, Village Development.

The tsunami of construction that washed over Spain in the decade of the 2000s has drawn back, leaving behind some very odd jetsam. Unused airports, white elephant projects like the City of the Arts and Sciences in Valencia, uninhabited housing developments in the middle of nowhere — and massive debts, public and private.

But nearly all that concrete has been poured into a few places: around the main cities, the Mediterranean coast and islands. There’s another Spain where nothing much has happened — and it just goes on happening, decade after decade.

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

Neonicotinoids appear to have devastating effects across the natural world: we need a global moratorium.

Here’s our choice. We wait and see whether a class of powerful pesticides, made by Bayer and Syngenta, is indeed pushing entire ecosystems to oblivion, or we suspend their use while proper trials are conducted. The natural world versus two chemical companies: how hard can this be?

Papers published over the past few weeks suggest that neonicotinoids, pesticides implicated in killing or disabling bees, have similar effects on much of life on earth. On land and in water, these neurotoxins appear to be degrading entire foodchains. Licensed before sufficient tests were conducted, they are now the world’s most widely used pesticides. We are just beginning to understand what we’ve walked into.

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Posted by & filed under Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Shocking new research commissioned by Lock the Gate, based on a painstaking analysis of water licences, shows that coal miners in the Hunter Valley hold entitlements to a massive 143 billion litres of water.

The research reveals for the first time that the miners own 55% of all ‘high security’ water shares from the Hunter River, which means that in times of drought, the coal mines will get preferential access to water. Most of this water is used for washing dirty coal and suppressing dust in open-cut mining operations.

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Posted by & filed under GMOs, Health & Disease, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss.

Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.

Abstract: Demand for organic foods is partially driven by consumer perceptions that they are more nutritious. However, scientific opinion is divided on whether there are significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic foods, and two recent reviews concluded that there are no differences. Here we report results of meta-analyses based on 343 peer-reviewed publications that indicate statistically significant, meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop based foods. Most importantly, concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop based foods, with levels of phenolic acids, flavanones, stilbenes, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanines being an estimated 19 (95% CI 5, 33), 69 (95% CI 13, 125), 28 (95% CI 12, 44), 26 (95% CI 3, 48), 50 (95% CI 28, 72) and 51 (95% CI 17, 86) % higher respectively.

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Posted by & filed under Food Forests, Food Plants - Perennial, Plant Systems, Trees.


Mandarin orange, a main crop of Fukuoka’s food forest.
At one time he was shipping an impressive 90 tons of citrus fruit annually

Many of us in the permaculture and organic movements have read Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution, which lays out his ingenious (though hard to replicate) no-till organic rice production system. I was surprised and pleased when, in my job as librarian for the New England Small Farm Institute in the late 1990s, I stumbled on his Natural Way of Farming, a translation of his 1976 book Shizen Noho. At that time he had already been running his orchard as an organic polyculture food forest for over three decades — since the 1940s! Natural Way of Farming offers much detail about Fukuoka’s methods of grain, vegetable, and fruit production. It was a major inspiration to me as I worked on writing Edible Forest Gardens (Vol. 1 & Vol. 2).

Fukuoka’s food forest (he refers to it as his orchard) is a fantastic example of a warm temperate/subtropical food forest featuring multiple layers, abundant nitrogen-fixers, a diversity of fruits, nuts, and perennial vegetables, with sophisticated use of self-sown and broadcast annual crops. There is much for us to learn from his lifetime of experimentation in his humid, warm-temperate to subtropical climate. This is a good-sized operation, covering ten or more acres. In the 1980s Fukuoka was shipping 200,000 pounds (about 90 metric tons) of citrus annually from 800 citrus trees. (1)

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