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

Friday, December 31, 2021

ECO-Tours State of Mind

Being in nature only requires us to understand that the microbiome that inhabits us, reflects our diet and health as well as our environment. Thinking about our living organism is also an exploration of nature. Sometimes, all that is required to take an impromptu ECO-Tour is to jump time, or become unstuck in time. Contemplate the source of the calcium in our bones, or the electrolytes required to fire our nerves. Think about the water we drink, where it came from and where it will ultimately end up. If it is time to sleep, where the fabrics that make our bed came from, how they began life and how they will meet their ultimate demise. The effects of our home heating systems, or the waste we generate from cooking all present us with opportunities to re-think or deeply investigate the hows and whys that guide us to the ecological decisions we make.
There are many ways to gain entre' into the state of our ecological thinking like asking, "Have you ever washed a plastic fork?" or "Do you know what can be recycled in your area?" Or even something as mundane as "How far do you commute?" We could develop a twenty questions about ecological factors for many daily activities and attempt to answer them without even leaving our house, perhaps even our bed on a cold and dreary autumn day that even ducks don't seem to fancy could be an opportunity to take an ECO-Tour of the Mind. Here is a cursory attempt at twenty questions that can help guide any ECO-Tour. Animal, vegetable or mineral? Has it been named? Has it been claimed? Has it been shamed? Has it been tamed? What is the resource? Is it finite? Is it essential? What are the opportunity costs to procure it? What are the legacy costs of procuring it? How will the community be altered? How long will the alteration last? Is this a local phenomenon? Is this a temporal phenomenon? Is it a spiritual phenomenon? What relationships underly it? Can we fix it? Can we repair it? Can we make do? Can we do without? Answering these twenty questions about any ingredient, aspect or part of our lives, indeed, any attitude or belief, no matter how insignificant it may seem can lead to a profound level of understanding not only of the environment but of how we either fit into it or are estranged from it. By answering these questions, it gets us in touch with the depth and commitment of our life energy to our surroundings. This is every bit as profound as taking a test to find out your carbon footprint. Knowing what to do to change things is easy, once you see and understand that there really is a need to. This taking stock of any part of our lives will reflect on other aspects of our lives. How we value things and experiences ultimately creates us, as much as what we eat or drink does. The ECO-Tours state of mind can be had easily, anywhere, by anyone. Why then would people want to book an ECO-Tour with one of our Guides? Because we are trained to take the various routes that come back to the same place, answering the question, How can we appropriately give back to Mother Nature? One cannot be sure what steps are best until you begin to understand the complex interaction between and among members of the native world, the soil microbiome, the grasses and forbs, insect and bird life, mammals and predators. Seeing forests or trees may not be the lesson of the day, perhaps investigating the air that exists between and among them is more important. As with our one square foot ECO-Tour, we can use our minds in a variety of ways to produce thoguht experiments that have the power to teach and inform us long beyond the time it took to see things a different way. We wish everyone the luxury needed to slow down look and think critically and we honor the conclusions you may find when you allow yourself to see into this often forgotten world we all share.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

What The Actual F?

These words first graced our paper currency in 1957. Soon, there will be no one left alive who remembers, but it is a relatively new thing to put on our currency. As far back as 1864 those words were first put on the back of pennies, but that was near the end of the Civil War. Americans ofthe United States would have appealed to anyone at that point, they were getting completely demoralized. Except for the tiny cadre of weapons producers and war profiteers. The racist rebels had fought long and hard and victory was not clearly on the horizon. It is long past time to take those words off again. Time to go back to our more rational roots. The only thing that fuels the religious is that it is impossible to prove a negative, so they exist on the margin of possibility, repeating the mantra "So, you're saying there is still a chance."
The fastest growing group when people are asked about religion, are the "none"s. Very soon, non-believers will again outnumber those who accept that there is a supernatural being guiding events, or who has set the multiverse in motion. It is astounding to say the least that we forget that freedom of religion also equates to freedom from religion. We can change our culture in just a genration, back when the Civil War was ending, we let people think that the moral side of the fight would win out, as if god would help the righteous to vanquish the evil. The truth was much more difficult to understand. The industrialized North with it's diverse economy, transit links and voting population eventually wore down the South because even though they would never give up, they eventually ran out of resources to bring to bear on the conflict. Morality and any religious aspects had nothnig to do with the events as they played out. In the environment they faced, it was easy enough to believe that a divine being had intervened. In those days, people still used patent "medicine" which was most likely morphine and alcohol. They imagined their food to be healthful when the truth was more like what you can read in the book, "The Jungle". Trusting without question was literally killing people left and right. The imaginative people of the day had seen dozens, perhaps hundreds of posters designed to get young men to enlist that showed the Spirit of America, a beautiful angelic creature ushering young men to service, and believing angels followed your kin into battle made war4 seem less dangerous to be sure. This could be part of the imaginary mental landscape that says that prayer exists in every foxhole, on every battlefield, in every classroom on the day of the big test. The people I know who have survived battles or in fact did well on tests, had no time to pray. The ratcheting up of God, onto the penny, then on to other bills and coins, made a fantastical being into a motto, it was not done for the good of our country, but to codify religion in a group of mostly non-religious people. Who has not heard the term, C and E X-tians? Those who show up to church two days each year Christmas and Easter, but who spend the other 363.25 days each year being onn-religious folks who refused to believe that they were in th eminority. Religious "belief" actually turned into a sort of litmus test used to "prove" that you were not a godless communist. I laugh, but only to keep myself from crying. The irony is that when the marginally religious answer surveys, they often claim themselves as in the club, even though they are effectively paying no dues. Church is about community, but they don't know that because they don't show up.
Especially the later changes that were made during the Cold War, were a re-hash of earlier sentiments, that there is a moral difference between us and the "godless" heathens of Soviet-era Russia. Interestingly, the same beliefs that were exploited at the end of the Civil War took hold of our collective imagination and tainted our memory. This inculcation continues to this day and no matter how often the slogans are repeated, it will not make them right.
Hundreds of millions of us believe in people, education, science and humanity generally, not the imaginary, folkloric idols of the past, vague whisps, spirits and imaginary rulers over mankind and nature. John Lennon was actually telling the truth when he said that the Beatles are more popular than religion. It isn't even worth creating such a being because we have too much to do with things we can see, tpouch, hold, prove and love. Making up an all powerful being only frustrates our own efforts and abilities, wasting valuable time and I dare say, money. I along with other enlightened beings around the planet work to re-create a more ancient, wholistic approach, presenting a series of tools and classes to teach about the things we know and can see and prove, like the fact that people working together are much more efficient and capable than if they all worked in isolation. We can easily see the value of others if we know how to look. When we learn to give back, and truly appreciate one another, there is less reason to need an all-powerful being to keep people honest and treating one another fairly. In my estimation, when people have the opportunity to be integrated into a community that appreciates them, it only enhances their ability to serve and give back themselves. Many shun interaction with a cadre of like-minded folks because they feel insecure in their beliefs, or ashamed of their behaviors or their imagined capacities. What we need most right now is people affirming and mixing their strenths with those of their neighbors and helping to fill gaps fo rpeople who have, for so long existed alone, or without family. The Lone Ranger and/or Rugged Individualist images need to be erased from our cultural memory for the sake of every one of us. A mythology of mutualism, just like we see reflected in nature all around us, is necessary if we are to survive the 6th extinction. Some people do not know how to value or respect the work of others and often even lack the ability to value their own efforts. Many only know how to take; we need to identify those folks as early as possible, find ways to teach them the error of their ways, teach them by example what compassion is and what the give back or give-away look like as well as why threy are rewarding. Creating the world we want often requires us to identify what we really want. Once we know what that is, we can learn the ways to get there, but the biggest challenge remains, getting past the fictional characters and owning the responsibility for the seeds we sow. Benjamin franklin suggested the motto: Mind Your Own Business should be on our money, I think that would be far superior motto.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Thirty Days

As the old saying goes, 30 days has September, April, June and November...All the rest have thirty-one, except, well, you know, February which can't make up it's mind on how many days to have, 28, 29 sometimes. I guess for accounting's sake they say 30 1/2 days make the "average" month. Since a moon cycle is about 28, I often wonder if february almost got things right. In spite of the vagaries, I'm just looking back now, about a month. Between Mid-Nov. and now, these last thirty days have had me as crew for two Broadway shows, Several other national touring shows and I got to lead a biochar class at Lily Spring Farms a not-for-profit organization out near Minneapolis. The tour of their facility was great and they were warm, welcoming and accomodating beyond all measure. We made char in the morning and into early afternoon, about 900-1000 pounds in all and they will be making more throughout the witner months, then in Spring, I'll travel back out and do a two-day event focused on preparing the char to support the microbiome! These events have all taken place overlayed or embedded in a constant search for property and a house. Due to covid and climate destabilization, our location has changed into a space too small to officially be a home base. Charmaking materials and equipment are in several locations strewn across half the county, getting the things I need in one place is easy, because the back seat and trunk of my car hold all the charmaking essentials. Those things combined with a laptop and I can cover charmaking 101 anywhere I can drive. Since the start of covid, I have taught many times more people how to make biochar online but that's another story. The past month, We finally did a few more placards to help discuss the carbon cycle and the relative sizes of soil microbial communities. We also reached out to both CWAC (Clean Water Action Council) and CCL (Citizen's Climate Lobby) developing more community involvement. There has also been th eslow unfolding trauma of losing a loved-one to covid. My cousin Scott passed from it after a month of hospitalization. This was a man who was happier than I had ever seen him the last we met. In the same thirty days, our state, Wisconsin saw people on th enews championing how our covid rates had dropped to less than half what they had been just a few weeks earlier, but over these brief four weeks or so, we are experiencing new covid infection rates higher than ever. It seems that every time people breathe a sigh of relief and try going back to "normal" the virus remains anxious to continue expoliting the resource we provide, a warm, moist Petri dish in which to grow, replicate, mutate and slough, adapting better and better ways to spread and latch on. I won't say there were no dark times this month, because there most definitely were. Because Scott's brother also passed away during covid, I have lost two very close relatives just these past two extraordinary years. Losing Bradley, Scott's brother was horrible enough, not being able to even have a funeral or service still affects me. Now, another person whose diapers I changed has passed and I can't help saying I would not wish these feelings on anyone. My aunt has now survived her two oldest sons. We are bereft. Wherever our facility lands, we will create a memorial to these two amazing individuals. One, who coined the term "puppyducks" upon seeing ducklings for the first time and the other who came to realize not only his own deeper nature, but that of all out human and non-human relatives when he went to South Dakota to shar ehis skills as a Water Protector. We will tell their stories long into the night, around campfires not yet kindled. As we all remain, affected by covid protocols and growing awarenewss that it really is now or never, we either stop covid-19 or it becomes endemic. The reinforcement of that consciousness weighs heavily on those of us who understand and paid attention in biology when viruses were covered. That too is requiring a death of parts of us many never knew existed. fortunately we as a species have learne dot adapt to new conditions before, it surely isn't the first time we have had to change and it certainly won't be the last. I challenge everyone who reads this to spend thirty days doing as much as you cna for others, reaching out to your community, perhaps a group or organization or two and to spend some time reflecting on what you want to build for the future. Our school is getting closer every day, we still have not found the exact place, but we are getting closer and colser to finding a palce we can bring all of our resources back together into a functyioning school or at least a home base for classes. They may have to be outdoor and reaaonable socially distanced, but in-person classes hosted on site will be a large part of our continuing work.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Helpful Composting Information.

Many people have heard the recipe for compost; 1/3 fresh green waste, 1/3 dry brown waste and 1/3 food waste sprinkled with a handful of healthy soil, about one handful of soil for every shovel full of waste. Nearly everyone has heard that you need to water your compost from time to time as well, keeping it about as wet as a wrung out sponge. Most people also recommend turning the pile several times over about 90 days, to spread biological activity (diversity)throughout the pile and aerate it as well, which aids breakdown. Yes, yes, I know that most people don't like to turn the piles and I get it. however, that is the best way to make the compost work quickly and to yield the most uniform finished product possible. What I want to focus on in this post is the two other considerations that you need to take into account for higher level processing, making boutique compost and creating the best compost for your purposes. These involve the Carbon Nitrogen Ratio, which halps the compost to break down quickly, but also the Fungal:Bacterial Ratio which has more to do with how developed your soils are, or the type of plant life that you want to enrich your soil with using that compost. The right compost changes based on what sorts of plantas you are growing. In light of the fact that all composts are not created equal, this is to help suss out what is important for your specific applications and management goals. I urge some of the same considereations be made when maturing char nito biochar, but even for compost it is worth paying attention to these easily overlooked aspects of compost.
First, we will deal with producing compost, generally: transforming waste into black gold, this requires understanding carbon to nitrogen ratios. If you mix up a compost pile that has too much carbon, it slows the composting process. Too much nitrogen and you end up with a stinky pile. Wood chips 400:1 Cardboard (shredded) 350:1 Saw Dust 325:1 Newspaper (shredded) 175:1 Pine Needles 80:1 Straw and Corn Stalks 75:1 Leaves 60:1 Peanut Shells and Fruit Wastes 35:1 Then, we get into the range of what composts most easily, right between the magical range from about 25 to 30 to one ratio. (Carbon:Nitrogen)Things like: Weeds and Garden Waste 30:1 Wood Ashes, Vegetable Scraps and Hay 25:1 Beyond that we get into the stuff that needs more Carbon to compost well, like Clover 23:1 Coffee Grounds, Food Waste and Grass Clippings 20:1 Seaweed 19:1 Manures 15:1 Alfalfa 12:1 Human Feces and Urine 8:1 Before you get offended or upset, the U.S. of A. Federal rules for application of human urine to cropland is six months between application and harvest for human consumption and a full year between application and harvest for human fecal matter. It also allows the material to be composted for those same lengths of time prior to application and then no specified period between application and harvest is required. Gettign the ratio right makes th eentire process go faster and with less smell. It is worth figuring out exactly what you are putting in, so you can get the best results, the most and the greaest functionality from what you get, so keep these concentrations in mind when mixing up your specific compost bin or pile. Secondly, soils go through a life span as well, pay attention to where the soils you have are in their development, and where you want them to go. This part of the development of specific composts rests on wher ethey will be used. If you only have microbial crusts and lichen, that is the earliest phase of soil generation. Areas that ar elike that can't just fast forward to garden soil overnight, it will require several years or more of development. You can only push nature sofar, so fast. These proto soils cannot offer anything fungal hyphae might want and there are some microbes that exude anti-fungal substances, so even if you introduced them, they would die out. If you can only grow pioneer weeds, the probable fungal-bacterial ratio is around 0.1 to 0.3 to one. When Early-successional grasses come in, that increases to 0.3 to 0.6 to one. Mid-successional grasses indicate 0.7 to 0.85 to one and Late-sucessional grasses row crops and vegetables thrive on soils with 0.9 to 1.5 to one ratios. Shrubs, vines and native prairie typically range from 2-15 to one. Deciduous Forest typically weighs in at 5-50 to one. Conifer Old-Growth Forest ranges 50-100 to one with not only rich, but diverse communities of fungi and virtually no bacteria. So, what does that mean where the rubber hits the road? Your farm, acreage or own back yard? If you ar emaking compost for the deep dark recesses of a forest preserve, you would make sure to have fungal spores from diverse communities included in the mix. You might do the same for makign compost that was to be used in a mature deciduous forest. Even if you are managing for a vineard or parairie restoration, you would probably want to be sure to add substantial fungal representatives within your compost mix. When the compost is for vegetable beds or rows, you may get plenty of fungal spores from the air itself, another reason to turn the pile periodically and protect the compost from the sun with mulch immediately after it is applied.