ECO-Tours only purchases trees and dirt to plant them in...

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Late Season Frosts

Our winter, in my part of the world, was relatively mild. We had a few days that were cold and a few more nights that were bitterly so, but it was nothing like when I was growing up. Back then, we would have whole weeks where the temperatures remained below zero. Your nose couldn't run while you were outside, because the snot would freeze each time you took a breath. Ice would grow so thick on the Bay that motorcycles and cars would race on the ice and in Spring, when the ice shoves would happen the giant blocks and sheets would be feet thick. That thick ice would not be plain white, riddled with long thin crystals, but it would have the azure, turquoise of pale blue sky or the luminance of a marl bottomed lake. Pantone 17-4139 The clarity of the ice being like a vast prisim that transmitted only that one color. This winter, we had ice and a few foolish drivers put their cars through it, but it was stable enough to walk on and do some ice fishing, but the season was cut short by warms days and nights above freezing. Interestingly, maple sap flowed early and for a long season this year, warm days and cold nights seemed to come early and stayed late this year to the delight of many sap collectors however, when that time passed it did so abruptly and we have been having fairly warm evenings for over a month now. So many were led to plant early. This, combined with the resurgence of victory gardes and so many new growers has led many to cove rtheir newly planted sprouts and larger tomato plants with blankets for the recent cold nights.I'm glad that so many new gardeners are coming to learn about the joys of eating food produced in their yard or on th eporches and patios of the world, however the late season frosts are always a concern if you get the urge to plant your seeds or seedlings too early. Many old-timers waited until after the Indy 500 to plant. I don't put anything in the ground until Memorial Day Weekend they would say, as if Mother Nature cared about our calendar. In their defense, they had a family to feed and no money for buying more seeds, so they could not afford to take any chances. I listened intently when I was young to this relatively ancient wisdom. Memorial Day was only 100 years old back then however, my life had been less than a decade, so it seemed ancient to me. I did not realize for many more years that what I was hearing in those words was their conservative nature speaking. They also wanted to avoid the extra work of putting plastic or blankets over their gardens as many old folks do now. Many of my ancestors didn't have extra sheets, blankets or quilts to throw over their rows and rows of tender plants. Even if they had, it would have been too much work covering an area larger than the footprint of their house! What we find when we look into the whole climate issue is that Mother Nature really does bat last and as we destabilize the atmosphere more and more, the planet is constantly seeking to stabilize itself. After all, that is why the wind blows. it moves from high pressure areas to low pressure ones. That is why the seasons follow the relationship of the Earth to the Sun by about six weeks, because it takes that long to heat the atmosphere and the water. That is why the ephemeral plants of spring jump up to grab as much sunlight as they can before the trees leaf out and that is why, if you are going to plant early, you have to invest in blankets or green houses or enough plastic to cover your rows for a few of those late season frosts.We are living through an age so out of balance that we don't care to honor the systems that have existed for generations. We like to eat sprouts instead of waiting until the whole plant matures. Think of it. I like sprouts as much as the next guy, but think, just for a moment. In the case of alfalfa or mung bean, sunflower or radish, all make tasty sprouts, full of life's energy and vigor. The tiny seed combines nothing more than water with its' inherent genetis lust for life and makes ten times as much food for us as we might have been able to get from the unsprouted seed. If we let it mature and express the genetic code fully, we would experience a thousand or perhaps even a million-fold increase in the food value of the plant. We are willing to sacrifice at least a tenfold increase, possibly one of a thousand fold, but boy those sprouts are sure tasty and who has time to let a radish mature? Who has time to wait for a sunflower to set seed? I would like to end this with something Cat Stevens said, many years ago. "Take your time, think a lot, think of everything you've got for you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not."

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Biochar Introduction in 2 min.

We have been teaching people to make and use biochar for more than a decade, but the past year we have turned almost exclusively to online classes. It has been much easier and more efficient in many respects, but there are still a number of people who would rather have in-person classes. That is why we are fundraising to buy land on which we can teach about this and other skills important to become more sustainably oriented. Permaculture design, foraging classes, animal husbandry and regenerative ag. skills, even home economics and other sustainable living skills are more necessary now than ever and there are dozens of great teachers who have offered to teach at our facility. Things from knitting to soap and candle making, canning, drying and putting up th eharves during the fat times so we still can appreciate Earth's abundance during the lean times, etc.
Making and use of biochar can be taught in a fairly comprehensive way in just two or three hours, but some of the other skills we teach can take considerably longer to learn. For guests who want or need to stay longer, we have a plan to offer glamping opportunities as well. Just enough "roughing it" with just enough luxury to have fun and stretch to the limits of our comfort level. That is why we are developing a broader plan to purchase a significant acreage upon which we can offer opportunities fo rno trace camping while teaching a variety of management strategies that layer functions, emulate nature by closing the loop on nutrients, energy, carbon, water and other "resources" and adapt creatively to our rapidly changing world. In our experience, we find that appreciating the gifts of the nature and investing in them often pay dividends that are not necessarily financial, but are every bit as important to our quality of life. what we put in, or give away often comes with unimaginable rewards.
One of the most important aspects of permaculture is that one needs to look, listen and learn, really get down to the level of what goes on in nature, before ever trying to make change happen. The often quoted belief that native people have that every decision needs to be weighed for the good of the next seven generations may seem like far too long a timeline to consider seeing as many are predicting that human actions may make our species extinct within a decade or two, but for those people who have been paying attention, we know that even if people don't want to change, they are going to have to. Far from being a drag, or predicting destruction of society as we know it, we teach ways that the recovery of sound ecological practices will enhance quality of life, jobs and the sense of community that seems to have evaporated under the powerful, but often nearly invisible hand of capitalism.

Far too many use words to describe themselves that were arrived at by focus group or polling data, so I try to refrain from naming myself, our group or the direction our guests are headed. A wise older gentleman laughed at me once, when I was struggling to give him a word to describe myself. I know that far too often descriptors can be pejorative. He said, "I know what you are, a bioneeer!" and at first it felt a bit like the same slap in the face that tree hugger had always been, but as I learned the depth of meaning behind the term and came to understand that he meant nothing negative about it, I took it to heart and more and more have grown to like it. After all, pioneers are eternally optimistic that perhaps over the next rise will be some sort of Shangrila, a place where the cool fresh springs will be plentiful enough that our livestock will have water and that the lush, green grasses will feed them abundantly, the winds and snows won't be too harsh and that we can find straight, tall and strong timbers with which to build shelters that will serve the coming generations. Bioneers do the same, but they can find their lush abundance right where they are, without packing all of our worldly goods in a prarie schooner and striking out across a vast sea of grass to get there. We often find rich abundance by turning over a single rock, or collecting enough from nearby to build the foundations of a new, rich and abundant life, through interaction with the natural world. We invest time required to turn wast to resources or trash to treasure, getting creative to save money and eliminate waste. When I was first called a bioneer, I was still a young man. I had explored hundreds of thousands of places, slept out under the stars in hundreds of them, gotten to know biota on their terms and within their various biomes. I had come to find many dozens of wild foods that thrive where I live and learned how to propagate ones that were finding it difficult to thrive, learning what they needed that had been missing, creating more stable and habitable niches not only for myself, but hundreds of thousands of other species even though I could not name them all.
At this point in my life, I may be an elder, but the motivation I have is not the same as the elders I met and saw when I was young. Most of them had exuded a holier than thou attitude and explicitly said that things were "My way or the highway." Many of the elders I had when I was growing up taught me far more abotu the wrong way to be than how to grow adapt and create meaningful positive change in the world around them.
I choose to continue to strive toward something better, more fulfilling, to learn and grow, even though it sometimes brings painful consequences. Yes, I am sometimes forced to admit I was wrong or to stretch my boundaries, adapt and change. That hope for a better place, for the bioneer lies in the same space we are in today, the same culture, the same location, we don't find it by traversing a vast wilderness. More likely it lives within us already and by digging deeply into the difference between needs and wants, understanding that there is no "away" and that once we discover how to help nature to be abundant, the hardest task becomes equitably redistributing the abundance. I have written at length about the give away, or the give back. The time I have left may be short, but the depth of experience I bring to the table will not die with me. Stories allow us to transcend death, as long as people continue to tell them and find the meaning worth putting into practice. When I teach people to make and use biochar, it is a story that was told over nine thousand years ago. Before humans had developed written language, there were those who knew how important it was to give back to the soil. The only thing that has really changed is that today it is far more important to know, instead of me speaking, think of it as our long dead human ancestors, reaching out across time to show you how to make the soil healthy and life thrive.