Dec 20, 2013

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work - YouTube We believe that we should work to be happy, but could that be backwards? In this fast-moving and entertaining talk from TEDxBloomington, psychologist Shawn Achor argues that actually happiness inspires productivity.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work - YouTube

Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned.

Dan Gilbert: The surprising science of happiness

Biochar, The Future: Lauren Hale at TEDxUCR Beneath The Surface - YouTube

Lauren Hale graduated with a Bachelors of Science from North Carolina State University in 2007. During her time there she studied the use of bacteria to degrade pollutants such as gasoline additives and chlorinated solvents. In 2009 she began a Ph.D. program at the University of California, Riverside where she currently researches the suitability of biochar to deliver plant growth-promoting bacteria into agricultural soils. When she completes her Ph.D. she hopes to continue to work with biochar and beneficial microorganisms and microbial generated enzymes of environmental significance.

Biochar, The Future: Lauren Hale at TEDxUCR Beneath The Surface - YouTube

Published on Dec 15, 2013
Lauren Hale graduated with a Bachelors of Science from North Carolina State University in 2007. During her time there she studied the use of bacteria to degrade pollutants such as gasoline additives and chlorinated solvents. 

In 2009 she began a Ph.D. program at theUniversity of California, Riverside where she currently researches the suitability of biochar to deliver plant growth-promoting bacteria into agricultural soils. When she completes her Ph.D. she hopes to continue to work with biochar and beneficial microorganisms and microbial generated enzymes of environmental significance. 

Techniques for Making a Candlestand Table - YouTube

Published on Dec 20, 2013

Ernie Conover expands on his project from the January/February 2014 issue of Woodworker's Journal Magazine, showing off some techniques for creating a stunning, turned table.

Techniques for Making a Candlestand Table - YouTube

Designing a Food Forest with Goats

Published on Dec 20, 2013


Dr. Tom Goreau on Rock Dust and Biochar as a Strategy for Carbon Sequestration at SER2011 - YouTube


President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance
and Coordinator of the UN Commission (SIDSPINST).

Has published around 200 papers
on global climate change, the global carbon cycle,
stabilization of atmospheric CO2, tropical
deforestation and reforestation, microbiology,
soil science, atmospheric chemistry, mathematical
modeling of climate records and other fields.

Was educated at MIT, Caltech, Yale,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Harvard.
Dr. Tom Goreau on Rock Dust and Biochar as a Strategy for Carbon Sequestration at SER2011 - YouTube


Video - Published on Dec 13, 2013

Biochar at the Harvard Community Garden

Featuring Logan Balliett, Tom Goreau, and Cool Planet Biochar


Filmed and edited by Werner Grundl and Julie O'Neil

for further information see:


Knight2013.pdf (1973 kB) Erich Knight - 2013 Umass Biochar presentation
Thomas J. Goreau - Wikipedia
Dr. Tom Goreau on Rock Dust and Biochar as a Strategy for Carbon Sequestration -

Stuffocation: Why We've Had Enough of Stuff

Streamed live on Dec 12, 2013

James Wallman, journalist and trend forecaster, visits the RSA to explain why more and more of us are suffering from "stuffocation" -- where, instead of feeling enriched by the things we own, we are stifled and overwhelmed by them. In our busy, cluttered lives, "more" is no longer "better".
Why We've Had Enough of Stuff - YouTube

Wisdom 101 by Wendell Berry (at Stone Barns) for National Young Farmers Conference

Wisdom 101: Wendell Berry at Stone Barns
published December 11, 2013

Joy was palpable in the air at the 6th National Young Farmers Conference, as Wendell Berry came to Stone Barns Center the first week in December to address the annual gathering of beginning farmers. Called at times the “prophet of rural America” and the “modern-day Thoreau,” Berry—poet, farmer, author and activist—has been writing about farming and our relationship to the land for more than four decades. In the process, he has influenced two generations of Americans to care for the land and take up farming, and many of them were present. To witness the meeting and mutual admiration between 20-something-year-old beginning farmers and 79-year-old esteemed teacher was nothing short of remarkable, and very moving. “Magical” and “life-affirming” were just some of the words farmers used to describe Berry’s presence among them.

The stone Hay Loft at Stone Barns was packed floorboard to rafter on Thursday night for Berry’s keynote conversation with his daughter, Mary Berry. In his introduction, Stone Barns President Fred Kirschenmann noted that ever since he first met Wendell Berry in the early ‘80s, Berry has been “a personal mentor.” More than anyone else, he said, “Wendell helped me understand what good farming is about.”

“Your company in this effort has been invaluable,” replied Berry, noting that when he met Kirschenmann, at a time when he said he had few allies, “Fred showed me what’s possible.” For the past 40 years, Berry and Kirschenmann have been working to reform our relationship to land, farming and food. In 2009, together with their colleague Wes Jackson, President of The Land Institute, they proposed a 50-year farm bill to the Obama administration, a proposal that would lead to systemic change in American agriculture. For the assembled farmers, it was remarkable to see these two important leaders of a movement together in the same room.

“A bunch of young farmers have never been placed in the way you are,” said Berry, a 7th-generation farmer from Henry County, Kentucky. “Things are in a bad way,” he said, noting slumping public interest in the long-term care of the earth and an industry that has been “let loose on the land. . . our country invaded by corn and beans.” Farmers, he said, have been “burdened with a pit of land use”—problems such as fracking, oil and gas pipelines, mountaintop removal mining and other forms of destruction. “It’s a terrific responsibility, for you will need to find solutions and set patterns for what comes after.”

Berry’s advice was spare and direct.

Know the land’s limits, what the nature of the place offers you and allows. “Your familiarity with your place is money in the bank,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have nature work for you, and she works for minimum wage.”

Build community. Work with your neighbors. “The neighborly exchange of work in communities is an intangible. . . .Good farmers draw on intangibles.” It’s another form of capital, he said.

Practice thrift. Hunt and gather as a pleasure. “Be satisfied with things you’ve already got. . . .You may live all your lives on the edges of a bad economy.”

Fielding questions from farmers, Berry was asked if it’s possible to form a deep connection to land and place if you weren’t born there; if you didn’t grow up on a farm, such as is the case with many of today’s beginning farmers. Yes, he said, it is possible. But you must “practice patience as a virtue. Accept your own ignorance and mistakes as a curriculum.” It all depends on “character, strength, ability to suffer.” And, he added a bit playfully, yet seriously, “It doesn’t hurt to have a job in town,” as an insurance policy of sorts. Farming is difficult, a theme that Fred Kirschenmann echoed in his closing remarks the next day.

Mary Berry said that it’s important in farming to enjoy yourself and your family as much as you can, for when you’re under economic stress, you can suffer. “Don’t be zealots: Eat salt, sugar, fry something once in a while”—an admonishment that sparked laughter. “Maybe those not raised on farms can avoid some of the mistakes that we made growing up on farms.” A farmer herself, Mary recently founded The Berry Center to archive and preserve her father’s and family’s writings. It also works to foster sound land use, farm policy, farmer education, urban education about farming and local food infrastructure.

“You won’t become familiar with a place by being frantic all the time,” said Wendell Berry. “Learn by looking at it, watching it. Going somewhere and sitting down is a country pleasure.” Both he and Mary talked about the loss of simple country pleasures in today’s world—pleasures like fishing and swimming in a river, resting on Sunday and stopping to observe animals in the woods, which, as Mary said, are “free to us in the places we’re lucky enough to get to know.”

After having the opportunity to talk to Wendell Berry in conversation with some Stone Barns staff, Zach Wolf, a 31-year-old farmer, said, “That was the best hour of my life.” He told Berry that he got into farming in large part because of Berry’s writings. Craig Haney, the 48-year-old Livestock Director at Stone Barns, was also present and said the same thing. Berry’s influence runs deep in this crowd.

In the introduction to Berry’s 2009 book, Bringing It to the Table, the journalist Michael Pollan wrote: “This indispensable voice is still out there addressing us in our time of need, and remains as bracing as ever.” And so it was at the National Young Farmers Conference.

We remain in a time of need—and we need Wendell Berry’s guiding words and example more than ever.

Stone Barns Center - Wisdom 101: Wendell Berry at Stone Barns

Dec 18, 2013

The 5 Biggest Meat Stories of 2013 | Mother Jones

By Tom Philpott
Wed Dec. 18, 2013
Eugene Sergeev/Shutterstock

The food-politics beat took a carnivorous turn in 2013. It's not that all the year's biggest stories involved the meat industry, but most seemed to. Here they are, in no particular order.

We're emerging as the globe's factory farm.
First, Virginia-headquartered pork giant Smithfield Foods announced it was phasing outractopamine, a growth-enhancing, stress-inducing drug banned in China, the European Union, and Russia. Then it shocked the world by announcing it had been bought out by Shuanghui International, a Chinese conglomerate. And then several huge beef processors announcedthey were dropping Zilmax, a ractopamine-like growth enhancer for cows, also banned in big foreign markets. Meanwhile, China's expanding industrial footprint is rapidly degrading its farmland even as its appetite for meat continues to grow. What do all these data points have in common? They signal a US meat industry increasingly looking to foreign markets for growth as America's meat appetite wanes. And that means that even as we eat less meat, American communities will have to deal with the consequences of ever-intensifying meat production:water pollution, hollowed-out local economies, "egregious" food safety violations, deplorable working conditions, and an ongoing explosive manure foam problem.

The USDA really, really wants to speed up poultry slaughterhouse kill lines while reducing its inspection responsibilities.
Shaking off fierce opposition from food safety and worker advocates and a scathing report from the Government Accountability Office, the Obama administration tenaciously clung to long-brewing plans to cut inspectors on poultry kill lines while simultaneously allowing those lines to speed up, a move that would save the poultry industry a cool quarter billion dollars per year. The gory details are here and here. Meanwhile, the Obama administration isn't alone in its eagerness for the change—this week, a bipartisan group of 13 US senators, mostly from chicken-heavy states like Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina, signed a letter to the USDA urging finalization of the speedup.

The FDA took tentative but important steps to curtail antibiotic abuse on meat farms. Finally. Sort of.
Way back in 1977, the Food and Drug Administration acknowledged the obvious: When you stuff animals together by the thousands and give them low daily doses of antibiotics, their bacteria will evolve to resist those drugs. Thirty-six years later—just this month—the administration finally did something about it. Kind of. True, most of the new rules curtailing antibiotics are voluntary. But as I noted, it rolled out a new proposal that would force meat producers to get a veterinarian's approval before treating animals with antibiotics that are commonly used to treat human infections—a potentially (depending on how it's enforced) significant reform.

Fast-food workers push back against low wages.
One major way Americans access the meat industry's product is through fast-food chains, those $200 billion a year emporia of burgers, chicken nuggets, and the like. The industry profit model hinges on selling high volumes of cheap food while clamping down on costs, including labor. The nation's 2.9 million fast-food workers make a median wage of $8.69 an hour, a level that has risen by (literally) just a dime in real terms since 1999. Contrary to the industry's reputation as a benign source of mad money for moonlighting high schoolers, 70 percent of fast-food workers are 20 and older, and more than a third are 25 and older. Adults can't support themselves, much less their families, on such stingy wages, so taxpayer-funded safety nets pick up the industry's slack—to the tune of $7 billion per year, according to a2013 University of California-Berkeley study. And 2013 marked year two of a high profile pushback, coordinated by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and punctuated by a series of one-day walkouts. Maybe slaughterhouse workers—who make a median hourly wage of $12.03 in one of the nation's most hazardous jobs—will be next?

Europe says "no" to bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides.
What do pesticides have to do with meat? Well, US livestock farms rely heavily on abundant corn and soy crops for feed, and those crops in turn are largely grown from seeds treated with a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. A growing weight of science links widespread neonicotinoid use with the declining health of honeybees and other pollinators—and birds, too. In response, the European Union issued a two-year moratorium on the use of the chemicals,enraging their makers, European agrichemical giants Bayer and Syngenta. The US Environmental Protection Agency, for its part, has no plans of changing its laissez-faire position on neonics.

The 5 Biggest Meat Stories of 2013 | Mother Jones

Dec 16, 2013

Cool Planet's Cool Terra Biochar Receives International Biochar Initiative's 1st Certification, California Organic Certification, and Support from United Nations Enviro - BWWGeeksWorld

December 16, 2013

Cool Planet Energy Systems, a developer of small-scale bio refineries for the conversion of non-food biomass into biofuels and soil enhancing biochar, announced today that their biochar soil amendment product "Cool Terra" is being recognized both in the United States and internationally with certifications and endorsements. These announcements show the leadership role Cool Planet has taken in the broad field of Agricultural soil amendments. The recent certifications complete the requirements needed to begin commercial biochar shipments in 2014.

"It has been a great year for Cool Planet, and the Cool Planet biochar research team. After announcing successful field trial results for Cool Terra at the 2013 US Biochar conference, we now have the ability to produce and ship commercial volumes in 2014," said Rick Wilson, Vice President of the Cool Planet Biochar Group.

Cool Planet biochar has recently received certification from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to be classified as a commercial Organic Product. This validates Cool Terra for use in organic farming, in addition to its role as a high-performance biochar soil amendment.

Cool Planet is also the 1st company with a product to be certified by the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) ( for having met the criteria established in their most recent standards. This includes a standardized product definition, testing guideline, and how the product will be used in the soil.

In addition, Cool Planet has been recognized by The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), stating "[We are] pleased to support the biochar applications in commercial agriculture being conducted by Cool Planet Energy Systems."

A recent UNEP publication1 has concluded that, "Storing carbon in soil for centuries while making nutrient-poor soils fertile, reduce the need for polluting fertilizers, conserve water and prevent desertification, this ancient technique may prove to be part of the solution to 21st century problems."

The company plans to continue expanding application opportunities with selected partners in the agricultural community with its commercial product release in 2014. With the necessary certifications received and extremely successful field trials, the company plans to ship thousands of tons of commercial product in 2014.

Cool Planet CEO Howard Janzen stated, "Our investors have always seen us as both a biofuels and biochar company. With U.N. recognition and organic certification from California, Cool Terra will see significant sales in 2014 and rapid growth in future years to serve multiple segments of the global Ag market."

Cool Planet's commercial trials with California and Florida farmers have shown accelerated growth rates, and yield improvements consistently averaging 60%, with input fertilizer and water reductions of 40%, enabling cost-effective farming in regions that are currently restricted due to structured drought issues.

About Cool Planet

Cool Planet is deploying disruptive technology through capital efficient, small scale biorefineries, to economically convert non-food biomass into high-octane, drop-in biofuels. The process also generates value through biochar production, which can be returned to the soil, with the "Cool Terra" product enabling fertilizer and water retention for increased crop productivity, and more robust plant health. The process is capable of being carbon negative, removing over 100 percent of the carbon footprint for every gallon used, reversing the consequences of fossil fuels. Cool Planet's technology has a broad portfolio of pending and granted patents. Global investors include BP, Google Ventures, Energy Technology Ventures (GE, ConocoPhillips, NRG Energy), and the Constellation division of Exelon.

Connect with Cool Planet on Facebook at, on Twitter at and at

Read more about Cool Planet's Cool Terra Biochar Receives International Biochar Initiative's 1st Certification, California Organic Certification, and Support from United Nations Enviro Page 2- BWWGeeksWorld by www.broadwayworld.comCool Planet's Cool Terra Biochar Receives International Biochar Initiative's 1st Certification, California Organic Certification, and Support from United Nations Enviro - BWWGeeksWorld

Hines Farm - Homemade Log Bench

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Finished making another log bench...

2 Homemade Wood/Charcoal Chimney Starters Per YouTube Video Instructions

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I constructed 2 Homemade Wood/Charcoal Chimney Starter Per YouTube Video Instructions Below
I used #9 Wire and 1-1/2" Dowels for Handles....

THANKS! doityourselfstan

Start your charcoal for cooking quickly -- even in the dead of winter -- with this charcoal chimney starter. By far the best and most detailed charcoal chimney how-to video on the web! A No. 10 can, a couple of coat hangers, a pop can opener (church key), and a few standard tools and bolts are all you need! For more home projects, maintenance and repair how-tos,home improvement help, technology tips, holiday ideas, garden hints, recipes, and more, visit

How to Make a Charcoal Chimney Starter - YouTube

Tackling the Epidemic of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds with Sustainable Solutions - The Equation

Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist, Food and Environment

Weeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate herbicide used with Monsanto’s engineered herbicide resistance trait have reached epidemic proportions. A recent survey puts the area infested by these weeds at 61 million acres, and increasing rapidly.

Palmer amaranth, also known as pigweed, infests a soybean field. Photo: United Soybean Board/Flickr.

Glyphosate resistant weeds have resulted in greatly increased levels of herbicide use, and an estimated 404 million pounds more pesticide (when insecticide savings from Bt GMO crops are counted) than may have been the case without these crops. They make it harder to grow crops, adding substantial expense and reducing yields, and are leading to increased tillage, which reduces soil fertility and leads to soil loss from erosion.

A new briefing paper by UCS, “The Rise of Superweeds — and What to do About It” concisely lays out how these crops are causing big environmental problems, how the seed and pesticide industry’s proposed solution will only make things worse, and how we can resolve this problem sustainably while achieving multiple benefits.

The paper shows that resistant weeds are mainly a symptom of a broken industrial agriculture system, which needs fundamental reform to address not only resistant pests, but also a host of other problems. Proposed solutions that do not recognize these underlying issues will only make matters worse.

In fact, the seed and pesticide industry is set to exacerbate the problem, because waiting in the wings are a new generation of engineered crops resistant to old herbicides like 2,4-D, developed in the 1940s. 2,4-D is a possible carcinogen, and threat to natural vegetation and fruit and vegetable crops due to its high toxicity to those plants and its propensity to drift beyond the soybeans, corn, and cotton it is intended for.
Not Just Your Parent’s Resistance Problem

The science community recognizes that glyphosate resistant weeds are not just another pest resistance problem (which are bad enough), as a few uncritically pro-GMO scientists have suggested. The National Academy of Sciences charged the Weeds Science Society of America with the task of holding a “weed summit,” convened in the spring of 2012, to address the problem, recognizing its severity. Another summit is being planned.

Almost two years later, though, nothing has changed to reduce the epidemic. In a recent meeting hosted by the USDA Economic Research Service on November 8, long-time leading USDA weed scientist Harold Coble said that we are heading for a train wreck, and that technological solutions will result in the same problems as in the past. Other weed scientists concur with this assessment.

Most importantly, it does not have to be this way, because, as the briefing paper shows, cost effective, highly productive alternatives are available. And these alternatives—such as cover crops and crop rotations—combined with minimal tillage and, in non-organic systems, minimal herbicide use, also provide big environmental payoffs.

Cover crops, besides suppressing weeds, can provide nutrients to crops, greatly reduce soil erosion, and increase soil fertility. Crop rotations reduce pest damage and improve yields. So moving to these systems is a win-win solution.
Different from Other Weed Resistance

Some commentators, including some scientists, have tried to downplay the crisis facing farmers. They have noted, correctly, that resistance has been a problem for many years for all chemicals, and even for genetic traits.

But despite the similarities to previous weed resistance, glyphosate resistant crops have exacerbated the problem substantially. And for the same reasons, the new generation of these crops in the pipeline, resistant to other herbicides, will only throw fuel on the fire.

Crops designed to allow an herbicide to be applied without harming the crop initially made weed control easier and more convenient for farmers, giving them more flexibility for when they could spray their crops.

But this advantage led to overuse of glyphosate, greatly increasing the selection of rare resistant plants, and giving them a huge competitive advantage over their susceptible siblings. It’s a case of Darwinian selection on steroids. Without regulations, or other means, to make sure this technology was used wisely, it has instead has become a liability. Without herbicide resistant GMOs, this perfect storm of selection for resistance would not have happened.

It is not a coincidence that this has come about. The industry has lobbied hard against better regulation. USDA has not developed better regulations under the 2000 Plant Protection Act, and has instead been greasing the skids to allow more “deregulated” engineered herbicide resistant crops under older, inadequate, rules. And industry has prioritized research development of these crops because, through patents and contracts and high cost, they have allowed increased control over the seed supply, increased seed costs, and increased herbicide sales. As noted in the new briefing paper, 13 of 20 GMOs in the regulatory pipeline at the time of writing were for new herbicide resistant GMOs.

It is also unlikely that glyphosate-resistant crops would have been made without genetic engineering. Some crops resistant to other herbicides have been developed without engineering, but they have not been nearly as successful as glyphosate resistant crops. And for various reasons, alternatives to engineering, such as mutagenesis, did not work for developing glyphosate resistant crops.

Therefore, in several ways, GMO technology has contributed greatly to the resistant weed problem.

As also analyzed in the briefing paper, the next generation of resistant crops will inevitably lead to weeds with resistance to multiple herbicides. Some weeds resistant to glyphosate already are resistant to other herbicides, and some populations of these weeds are already resistant to 2,4-D or dicamba.

It is only a matter of time before several serious weeds become resistant to all or most of the herbicides available, leaving no good herbicide choices. And, as several weed scientists have noted, there are no new herbicides in the development pipeline. This is the coming train wreck that Coble was referring to.
When in a Hole, First Stop Digging

Meanwhile much of the mainstream weed science community seems unable or unwilling to take effective action, perhaps because of the heavy involvement of the pesticide industry. For example, at the weed summit in 2012, there was essentially no mention of the herbicide resistant crops, poised to be approved, and little evidence since that they will tackle this 800 pound gorilla. If these crops are approved without big restrictions on their use—and given USDA’s record, that seems probable—history is likely to repeat itself with a vengeance.

The resistant weed problem should be a good teachable moment. Much better solutions are available, but also could be improved and made more farmer friendly with the right research agenda at USDA, and the right policies. There is also a need to adapt these practices to local conditions in various regions. This agenda has long been neglected, and this needs to change.

But as long as we are led by the nose by those with a vested interest in the current failing status quo, we will only see things get worse for everyone but the companies that stand to sell more of their products.

About the author: Doug Gurian-Sherman is a widely-cited expert on biotechnology and sustainable agriculture. He holds a Ph.D. in plant pathology. See Doug's full bio.
Tackling the Epidemic of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds with Sustainable Solutions - The Equation

Now This Is Natural Food -

Future of Farming: Mark Bittman speaks to Wes Jackson from The Land Institute, who predicted that a prairie-like system capable of providing food for humans would be viable within 100 years.

Published: October 22, 2013

A few weeks ago at the annual Prairie Festival in Salina, Kan. — a celebration, essentially, of true sustainability — I sat down with Wes Jackson to drink rich beer and eat delicious, chewy bread made from the perennial grain Kernza. The Kernza we ate was cultivated at the Land Institute, the festival’s sponsor and the organization Jackson founded here 37 years ago.

For Op-Ed, follow@nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow@andyrNYT.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Video Link:

At 77, Jackson is a big man with big ideas. Clearly he was back then as well, when he became determined to change the face of agriculture from being dependent upon annual monoculture (that is, planting a new crop of a single plant each year) to one that includes perennial polyculture, with fields containing varieties of mutually complementary species, planted once, harvested seasonally but remaining in place for years.

Jackson has a biblical way of speaking: “The plow has destroyed more options for future generations than the sword,” he says. “But soil is more important than oil, and just as nonrenewable.” Soil loss is one of the biggest hidden costs of industrial agriculture — and it’s created at literally a glacial pace, maybe a quarter-inch per century. The increasingly popular no-till style of agriculture reduces soil loss but increases the need for herbicides. It’s a short-term solution, requiring that we poison the soil to save it.

Annual monoculture like that practiced in the Midwestern Corn Belt is one culprit. It produces the vast majority of our food, and much of that food — perhaps 70 percent of our calories — is from grasses, which produce edible seeds, or cereals. For 10,000 years we’ve plowed the soil, planted in spring and harvested in fall, one crop at a time.

In an essay he published 26 years ago, called “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” Jared Diamond theorized that this was essentially our downfall: by losing our hunter-gatherer roots and becoming dependent on agriculture, we made it possible for the human population to expand but paid the price in the often malnourishing, environmentally damaging system we have today.

That’s fascinating, and irreversible; barring a catastrophe that drastically reduces the human population, we’ll rely on agriculture for the foreseeable future. But if we look to the kind of systems Jackson talks about, we can markedly reduce the damage. “We don’t have to slay Goliath with a pebble,” he says of industrial agriculture. “We just have to quit using so much fertilizer and so many pesticides to shrink him to manageable proportions.”

Perennial polysystems are one way forward, because they allow us to produce grains, legumes, oils and other foods with a host of benefits. Gesturing across the road from where we sat, Jackson said to me: “That prairie — a prime example of a self-sustaining system — doesn’t have soil erosion, it’s not fossil-fuel dependent, you have species and chemical diversity. If you look around you’ll see that essentially all of nature’s ecosystems are perennial polycultures; that’s nature’s instruction book.” In perennial polycultures, the plants may fertilize one another, physically support one another, ward off pests and diseases together, resist drought and flood, and survive even when one member suffers.

When Jackson founded the Land Institute, he predicted that a prairie-like system capable of providing food for humans would be viable in 50 to 100 years. About 15 years short of the near end of that spectrum, there is definite progress, most notably in the form of Kernza, which is not yet sold commercially but has been domesticated in Salina and elsewhere.

Kernza is just the beginning. In addition to domesticating wild food-producing species, the Land Institute staff has taken on a far more challenging task: converting annuals into perennials. Perenniality is a complex trait, controlled by multiple genes. Perennials put more energy into their roots and less into flowers and seeds and greens, they send reserve energy into storage to wake up in the spring and they seldom die.

The work might go faster if Jackson had adequate funding, which isn’t much; he’d consider himself fully funded for the next 30 years with about one-third of the 2011 Federal subsidy for producing ethanol.

If Jackson’s followers are successful, we could see prairies producing different kinds of foods in commercial quantities with little or no chemical applications, irrigation, annual reseeding, tillage or tending; the work would be maintenance and harvesting. Creating the right plants for these habitats will take time, so much that we may not see the benefits in our lifetimes but, as Jackson says, “If you think you’re going to complete your life’s vision in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 29, 2013

Mark Bittman’s column on Wednesday did not specify the year for which one-third of the federal subsidy for producing ethanol would have been enough to finance a program to perennialize an annual for 30 years. It was 2011, not “one year.”
Now This Is Natural Food -

Sea Kale: Moving Away From Varieties That Need to be Replanted Every Year | TakePart

October 23, 2013 By Willy Blackmore

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor. He has written for The Awl, The New Inquiry, and elsewhere.
full bio

A packet of seeds arrived in the mail yesterday, a kind kale. I’m slowly switching my gardenover from summer’s tomatoes and chiles to fall and winter crops: Another round of radishes, turnips, carrots, and greens. Except rather than buying Russian Red or Lacinato or another kind of kale you stumble across just about everywhere these days, the seeds I bought are for sea kale.

Belonging to a different genus but the same family as more familiar kale varieties, sea kale or Brassicaceae, was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and has one significant difference from its leafy cousins: It’s a perennial. A single plant will persist year after year, yielding tender asparagus-like shoots in the spring, then greens and peppery flowers throughout the summer and fall, before it goes dormant in the winter. Other annual kales have to be planted, well, annually.

Beyond being a sucker for weird vegetable seeds, my reasoning for planting sea kale is that a few plants will provide many, many more salads than an equivalent quantity of annual kale plants. Additionally, planting perennial food crops—which are few and far between outside of fruits and nuts and berries—helps to reduce topsoil erosion, can reduce the need for weed controls, and, in aggregate, can build a rich polyculture that, according to Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, could offer an alternative model for agriculture in the coming decades.

Kale Bites Back: Turns Out the Popular Green Has a Potent Self-Defense System

My sea kale experiment is by no means so utopian in scope, but a new column and video about Jackson’s efforts to breed perennial cereal grains done by Mark Bittman for the New York Times makes a compelling case for making a broader shift to perennials in agriculture. Jackson’s inspiration? The prairie ecosystem that, over the course of thousands of years, built up the deep, rich topsoil that made states like Kansas, where the Land Institute is located, into such prime farmland—topsoil that’s been slowly depleted thanks to the erosion caused by farming annual crops.

Video --->
Jackson tells Bittman, “That prairie—a prime example of a self-sustaining system—doesn’t have soil erosion, it’s not fossil-fuel dependent, you have species and chemical diversity. If you look around you’ll see that essentially all of nature’s ecosystems are perennial polycultures; that’s nature’s instruction book.”

The breeding program at the Land Institute is working to domesticate a perennial variety of wheat grass into a grain-producing crop. The project is still in the experimental phase, but it could become commercially available in the next decade or so.

Named Kernza, flour produced from the grain is mixed with traditional wheat to bake what Bittman calls “delicious, chewy” bread at the Institute.

Sounds like it would go well with a sea kale salad.

Sea Kale: Moving Away From Varieties That Need to be Replanted Every Year | TakePart

15 Surprising Uses For Eggshells

A couple of weeks ago I bought a composter for my garden. It’s a pretty fancy contraption. It’s actually TWO composters in one. The idea being that you can have one batch “brewing” while another batch is being utilized. They even SPIN…which is apparently important because compost needs to be “stirred” as its’ “cooking”.

As you can probably tell, I don’t know a whole lot about composting….YET. But I am learning…things like what you can and can’t put into your composter. One thing I have learned CAN go in, and is a rich source of calcium and other essential nutrients that plants need, is egg shells! So recently I started my egg shell collection in a container under the kitchen sink which has grown quite rapidly because we eat a lot of eggs around here. (Naturally gluten-free!)

Ironically, since I’ve started saving my eggshells for the composter, I’ve also been learning about many OTHER uses of eggshells. Now I’m torn between throwing them in the composter and using them for some of the MANY other ideas listed below. I guess we’ll just have to start eating MORE eggs so I can do them BOTH.

An egg shell is made of calcium carbonate, which is also the main ingredient in some antacids. Each medium sized egg shell has about 750-800 mgs of calcium.
The shell makes up 9-12 percent of an egg’s total weight, and contains pores that allow oxygen in and carbon dioxide and moisture out.
The shell color of an egg is representative of the breed of hen that produces the egg. White hens produce white eggs and brown hens produce brown eggs.


Nourishing Face Mask
Pulverize dried egg shells with a mortar and pestle, then whisk the powder in with an egg white and use for a healthful, skin-tightening facial. Allow the face mask to dry before rinsing it off.

Treat Skin Irritations
Drop an eggshell into a small container of apple cider vinegar and let it soak for a couple of days. Dab the mixture on minor skin irritations or on itchy skin.

Powerful Cleaner
Ground eggshells make a wonderful (and nontoxic!) abrasive for those tough-to-clean pots and pans. Mix them with a little soapy water for a powerful clean.

Hummingbird feeders tend to grow all sorts of nasty stuff. Clean it by first by rinsing with hot water. Then add some crushed egg shells, fill 1/2 way with water, and shake. The shells act as an abrasive, removing mold or other built-up gunk. Rinse well before re-filling with hummingbird food.

It’s almost impossible to get a scrub brush down the narrow neck of a thermos. Clean your thermos using the instructions above for hummingbird feeders.

Garden Fertilizer
Eggshells are rich in calcium and other minerals that help your garden thrive. Crush eggshells into tiny pieces and sprinkle into each hole before planting. Then, sprinkle additional shells around the base of your plants every two weeks.

Start Some Seedlings
Fill an egg carton with empty, rinsed eggshell halves and poke a hole in each one for drainage. Then add potting soil and one or two seeds to each shell. When the seedlings are big enough for transplanting outside, just crack the shell at the bottom and plant them, shell and all.

Pest Control
Crush eggshells and scatter them around your vegetables and flowers to fend off slugs, snails, and cutworms. These soft-bodied critters don’t like crawling over sharp pieces of shell. The smell of eggs will also deter deer.

House Plant Booster
Keep a mason jar of eggshells covered with water for watering indoor plants.

Cat Deterrent
Have a problem with cats using your garden as a litter box? Crushed up egg shells will keep them away, too. Just scatter shells in the areas that they frequent, and after stepping on those shells a few times, they’ll move on.

Better Tasting Coffee
Add some crushed eggshells to ground coffee before brewing it to make it taste less bitter. When you’re done, toss the grounds and shells on your compost heap!

Make Your Own Powdered Calcium Supplement
Skip the pills and simply bake your shells at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Let them cool and grind them to a fine powder. Add your supplement (a teaspoon or less) to your favorite smoothie or juice once a day.

Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk

What you need:
Approximately five empty egg shells
1 teaspoon flour
1 teaspoon very hot water
food coloring (for colored chalk)

Wash and dry the egg shells.
Crush the egg shell into a bowl and grind it until it is a powder. Make sure all the pieces are ground. Take out any big pieces before going on to the next step.
Mix the flour and hot water in another bowl. Then add 1 tablespoon egg shell powder and mix into a thick paste. Add your favorite color food coloring. Just add a drop or two for colored chalk. If you want white chalk do not add anything. Shape the paste into chalk sticks or press into soap molds for fun shapes. If making chalk sticks roll the sticks up tightly in a paper towel.
Let your chalk dry for 3 days.

Laundry Whitener
Some say that if you toss some shells in a mesh bag in your laundry, the gray tint to your whites will disappear.

Eggshell Candles
The next time you have eggs for breakfast, carefully crack the shells in half and save them as a base to fill with beeswax for candles. Just insert a wick, let the wax set and remove the peel.

For most eggshell uses, it is better to make sure they are clean and free from bacteria. If you don’t wash the eggs thoroughly before using, bake the shells at 150 degrees Fahrenheit on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes.

15 Surprising Uses For Eggshells | One Good Thing by Jillee

Scientists Say Microbes Create Hardier, Bigger Crops—Without Chemicals | TakePart

Wheat fields outside Pullman, Wash. (Photo: Vetta/Getty Images)

December 12, 2013 By Clare Leschin-Hoar

Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.
full bio

Ever since Michael Pollan shared the nitty-gritty details of his gut bacteria, a lot of us have been not-so-secretly obsessed with microbes. Supermarket shelves are jammed with products boasting good-for-you probiotics.

What if microbes can give plants the same benefits?

Considered through the lens of a warming planet with a burgeoning population, that question has scientists buzzing with the possibility.

In the early 2000s, plant biologist Rusty Rodriquez studied plants that survived near Yellowstone National Park’s geothermal vents. How could plants withstand the kind of heat that would cause other species to wither? It turns out, they weren’t facing the intense heat alone—they carried a symbiotic fungus. Together, the fungus and the plant could survive Yellowstone’s hot soil.

That discovery prompted Rodriquez and his colleagues to look at other habitats and plants; what they found were other similar symbiotic relationships, which may make it easier for the crops we humans rely on to weather a future in which temperatures are on the rise and droughts are more common.

How? Certain fungi can help a plant survive fluctuations in heat, survive drought, or flourish in salty soil, and the fungi can successfully be transferred to other plants. If you stop to take that in for a minute, the possibility is thrilling.

Dr. James White, who studies the microbial endophytes of plants at Rutgers University, says we’re still in the early stages of this type of technology but that it holds great promise.

“We’re finding microbial endophytes in plant after plant after plant. They’re bacterial and fungal. There’s a whole community there that contributes to how a plant performs. And understanding that might enable us to grow crops without so many agrichemicals on them,” says White.

Field trials have been promising. Corn, rice, wheat, sugarcane, barley, and other seeds treated with a fungus identified by Rodriguez’s company, Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, showed increased yields during drought and required less water. Other trials showed seeds could do well in salt-affected soils, a problem faced by California farmers.

“We are not modifying the plant genome. The fungal genome itself is not being modified. When you put a plant out in a field, it will get colonized with fungus. We’re just bringing in a fungus we know will be a mutualist inside the plant. They’re nontoxic, pose no threat to animals or invertebrates, and do not end up in the plant products themselves,” says Rodriguez.

“It’s nowhere near genetic modification,” says White. “It’s very comparable to the gut microbes that enhance the stress tolerance of a host and provide nutrients to a host.”

Rodriguez says the ability to commercialize the process isn’t far away.

“We’re pursuing organic certification for our products,” he says. If all goes well, a commercially available product could be launched by the first quarter of 2014.

How will it work? Farmers will buy seeds treated with the fungus.

“The farmer just sticks it in the ground. When the plant germinates, the fungus germinates, and they form a symbiosis within a few hours,” says Rodriguez.

Scientists Say Microbes Create Hardier, Bigger Crops—Without Chemicals | TakePart