Sep 4, 2010

Organic Ecology - New Publication Focuses on Organic Food

What does “organic” mean? The University of Minnesota’s Jim Riddle and Bud Markhart have created a new publication, “What is Organic Food and Why Should I Care?” which explains in simplified terms USDA National Organic Program requirements and presents footnoted summaries of scientific studies about organic food and farming.

Great info... Monte

Sep 1, 2010

Wild Turkey Family On Hines Farm

Wild Turkey Family On Hines Farm - HD Version
Mother Wild Turkey and family of 7 make a hurried trip across our yard. Mother is always keeping an eye on me.

Aug 30, 2010

Is the U.S. tech industry oiling its own guillotine? | Tech Sanity Check |

In the future, will Andy Grove be viewed as a prophetic visionary or a misguided agitator? The U.S. better hope that it’s the latter — or change its current economic policies — because when Grove looks into the future he sees a U.S. tech industry that is likely to be severely diminished.

Grove, the former head of Intel, is best known for his quote, “Only the paranoid survive.” His paranoia was once aimed at staying a step ahead of competitors in the PC wars of the 1980s and 90s, but in recent years Grove has expanded his purview to focus on the future of the larger tech industry and he is deeply concerned by what he sees in the U.S.

Grove has been telling anyone who will listen the last couple years that the American technology sector is in decline and he has proven himself eager to diagnose its ailments. Unlike other tech leaders, these days you won’t hear Grove calling for a bunch of extra H1B Visas or other short-term tactics to buoy the tech sector. Instead, Grove has turned idealist, some would even say, “protectionist.”

The patent mess

When Grove received a lifetime achievement award at the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony in May 2009, he told the audience, “As we celebrate the accomplishments of the last 50 years, I can’t help but wonder if the next 50 years will be equally productive. I’m dubious.”

In that speech he decried the U.S. patent system, explaining that in the early days of the transistor there was much more cross-licensing of patents and a greater spirit of companies building upon the same technologies — even among fierce competitors. “Patents themselves have become products [today],” said Grove. “They’re instruments of investment traded on a separate market, often by speculators motivated by the highest financial return on their investment.”

Grove compared the patent system to the derivatives that led to the 2008 collapse of the U.S. financial markets and suggested that the patent system should use Thomas Jefferson’s basic assertion that “The true value of an invention is its usefulness to the public,” as the guiding principle for fixing the patent mess.

The decline of U.S. manufacturing

However, Grove has become even more passionate about another issue: The decline of the U.S. manufacturing sector, especially in tech. He has attacked the current American ideal that a continual stream of startups can provide all of the jobs and innovation that we need to build a healthy economy and maintain our leadership in the tech sector.

In a guest column for Bloomberg, Grove recently stated:

“Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world… Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter. The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that’s the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.”

He pointed out that Apple has 25,000 employees but it outsources its manufacturing to a Foxxconn facility in southern China that employs 250,000 workers to build Apple products. And this 10-to-1 ratio is essentially the same for Dell and other high-tech companies that use Foxconn, a company that now employs 800,000 workers — more than Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Sony combined.

The common refrain in the U.S. in recent decades has been to devalue and dismiss manufacturing jobs and hang our hats on the fact that most of the high-end knowledge workers remain in the U.S. for these tech companies, and that those jobs are much more valuable and much less commoditized.

Grove challenges that line of thinking, saying:

“Not only did we lose an untold number of jobs, we broke the chain of experience that is so important in technological evolution… abandoning today’s ‘commodity’ manufacturing can lock you out of tomorrow’s emerging industry… Transferring manufacturing and a great deal of engineering out of the country has hindered our ability to bring innovations to scale at home. Without scaling, we don’t just lose jobs — we lose our hold on new technologies. Losing the ability to scale will ultimately damage our capacity to innovate.”

The example that Grove uses to illustrate this is batteries. The U.S. makes a fraction of the Lithion-Ion batteries used to power the world’s computers and electronic devices. The U.S. lost the battery race a couple decades ago when it started shipping the manufacturing processes for consumer electronics to Asia. But now, Lithion-Ion batteries are going to be used to power electronic automobiles and that market could quickly dwarf the electronics industry and the U.S. is out of the game before it even begins.

Andy Grove speaking at the Computer History Museum in 2009. (Photo credit: CNET/James Martin)

Groves’ solution

You can find a lot of people who agree with Groves’ assessment of the state of the American technology industry. However, where the real controversy is over his prescribed remedy. Groves concludes:

“Long term, we need a job-centric economic theory — and job-centric political leadership — to guide our plans and actions… The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars — fight to win.) Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their American operations. Such a system would be a daily reminder that while pursuing our company goals, all of us in business have a responsibility to maintain the industrial base on which we depend and the society whose adaptability — and stability — we may have taken for granted… If what I’m suggesting sounds protectionist, so be it.”

Such a radical proposal has naturally drawn intense criticism, especially from free market proponents.

Peter Cohan of DailyFinance responded, “It would immediately raise taxes on any business that uses workers offshore, and those higher taxes would be passed on to U.S. consumers of those products in the form of higher prices. In theory, such a move would be popular with those who were hired through the proceeds of the tax. But those same people would also be paying higher prices for products made overseas.”

James Altucher of The Wall Street Journal wrote, “I wish Grove could point out one country in the 100,000-year history of mankind that flourished because of protectionism.”

Sanity check

What’s interesting to me about Groves and his crusade to restore the U.S. as a high-tech manufacturing center is that it’s a stunning departure from the Andy Groves that ran Intel in the 80s and 90s. Sure, you could argue that Intel was a chip manufacturer at its core and Groves is sentimentally attached to that idea and simply doesn’t want to see that heritage lost.

However, this is the same guy that once lobbied vehemently for H1B Visas to allow more foreign workers (often working for much lower wages) into the U.S. to fill high-tech job openings. It’s also the same Andy Groves who was almost anti-idealistic in the past. He once stated, “Technology happens. It’s not good, it’s not bad. Is steel good or bad?”

Now, he’s suggesting that businesses have a “responsibility” to the society and communities that germinate them, and that part of that responsibility involves employing as many of its citizens as possible in the valuable work of the corporation. Make no mistake, he also believes it is imperative for the future success of the company itself to have closer control over its manufacturing processes. But, at its heart, Groves’ message is one of altruism and civic responsibility as much as economic incentive. And maybe that’s what’s most appealing about it — especially in an age of soulless robot CEOs who speak in nothing but platitudes and cliches.

Contrast the message of Groves with the reign of former HP CEO Mark Hurd, who decimated and demoralized his workforce at HP in order to maximize profits, and was almost universally praised for it by Wall Street bankers.

That said, I have my doubts about Groves’ recommendations. Altucher is right. Protectionism has rarely ever worked for any economy, not in the long run. In fact, it has typically caused more harm than good when viewed in retrospect. And, that’s when looking at economies hundreds of years ago that moved at a comparative snail’s pace. In today’s highly-connected global economy, protectionism is even less reasonable.

Still, something must be done. U.S. companies need to be incented — both economically and culturally — to build their products at home whenever possible and to train U.S. workers to take the lead in the kinds of next-generation high-tech manufacturing processes that Grove is talking about. The economic realities are brutal and will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome in some cases.

But, the biggest issue may be the cultural and psychological one. The U.S. needs to champion and celebrate the companies that do show the kind of civic and community responsibility that Grove is advocating, and give them a regulatory and tax environment that help them flourish (that’s the hard part).

High tech companies ship manufacturing and other jobs overseas because it’s currently considered a best practice, and U.S. companies and public policy have greased the wheels to make it a turnkey process. In doing so, the rapid development of new tech products in the U.S. now funds a lot more job growth in China than in its own backyard, as Grove forcefully points out. To Grove, the situation begs a brutal analogy:

“The story comes to mind of an engineer who was to be executed by guillotine. The guillotine was stuck, and custom required that if the blade didn’t drop, the condemned man was set free. Before this could happen, the engineer pointed with excitement to a rusty pulley, and told the executioner to apply some oil there. Off went his head.”

Right ON Andy!!! ... Monte

Documentary of 2008 Summit | Financial Permaculture Institute

Financial Permaculture from Greg Landua on Vimeo.

A documentary about the 1st Financial Permaculture Summit in Hohenwald, TN. This summit brought together local leaders and international permaculture designers to help create a resilient and healthy local financial system.

Produced by Byron Palmer

The summit and video explore key ideas for just and sustainable communities like:
Total Economic Return
Zero Waste Economy
Local Economy
Local food System
Natural Building
Green Incubator
Business Incubator

A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden - Homemade Organic Fertilizer




A Better Way to Fertilize Your Garden - Homemade Organic Fertilizer

By Steve Solomon
Because my garden supplies about half of my family’s yearly food intake, I do all I can to maximize my vegetables’ nutritional quality. Based on considerable research and more than 30 years of vegetable growing, I have formulated a fertilizing mix that is beneficial for almost any food garden. It is a potent, correctly balanced fertilizing mix composed entirely of natural substances. It’s less expensive than commercial organic fertilizers, and it’s much better for your soil life than harsh synthetic chemical mixes (see "Chemical Cautions" below.")
In my gardens, I use only this mix and regular additions of compost. Together they produce incredible results. I’ve recommended this system in the gardening books I’ve written over 20 years. Many readers have written me saying things like, “My garden has never grown so well; the plants have never been so large and healthy; the food never tasted so good.” The basic ingredients — seed meal, various kinds of lime, bone meal and kelp meal — are shown below. The complete recipe is on the tear-out poster located within this article.

Complete Organic Fertilizer

To concoct the mix, measure out all materials by volume: that is, by the scoop, bucketful, jarful, etc. Proportions that vary by 10 percent either way will be close enough to produce the desired results, but do not attempt to make this formula by weight. I blend mine in a 20-quart plastic bucket, using an old saucepan as a measuring scoop. I make 7 to 14 quarts at a time.
This mix is inexpensive judged by the results it produces; it’s also inexpensive in monetary terms if you buy the ingredients in bulk from the right vendors. Urban gardeners may have to do a bit of research to find suppliers that have the right ingredients. Farm and ranch stores as well as feed and grain dealers are the best sources for seed meals, which are typically used to feed livestock. If I were an urban gardener, I would visit the country every year or two to stock up. The other ingredients usually can be found at garden shops, although they probably will be sold in smaller quantities at relatively high prices per pound. You may find the best prices by mail order or on the Internet.
Seed meals and various kinds of lime are the most important ingredients (keep reading for "Basic Organic Fertilizer Ingredients"). These alone will grow a great garden. Gypsum is the least necessary kind of lime, but it’s included because it contains sulfur, a vital plant nutrient that is deficient in some soils. If gypsum should prove hard to find or seems too costly, don’t worry about it — double the quantity of inexpensive agricultural lime. If you can afford only one bag of lime, in most circumstances your best choice would be dolomitic limestone. You also could alternate agricultural lime and dolomite from year to year or bag to bag.
Bone meal is usually available at garden centers. Guano, rock phosphate and kelp meal may seem costly or difficult to obtain, but they add considerable fortitude to the plants and increase the nutritional content of your vegetables. Go as far down the recipe as you can afford, but if you can’t find the more exotic materials toward the bottom, don’t worry too much. However, if concerns about money stop you from obtaining kelp meal, rock dust or a phosphate supplement, I suggest taking a hard look at priorities. In my opinion, you can’t spend too much money creating maximum nutrition in your food — a dollar spent here will save several in health care costs over the long term.

Applying the Fertilizer Mix

Before planting each crop, or at least once a year (preferably in the spring), uniformly broadcast 4 to 6 quarts of fertilizer mix atop each 100 square feet of raised bed, or down each 50 feet of planting row in a band 12 to 18 inches wide. Blend in the fertilizer with a hoe or spade. This amount provides sufficient fertility for what I’ve classified as “low-demand” vegetables to grow to their maximum potential and is usually enough to adequately feed “medium-demand” vegetables (see "Which Crops Need the Most,” below). If you’re planting in hills, mix an additional cup of fertilizer into each.
After the initial application, sprinkle small amounts of fertilizer around medium- and high-demand vegetables every three to four weeks, thinly covering the area that the root system will grow into. As the plants grow, repeat this “side-dressing,” placing each dusting farther from their centers. Each application will require more fertilizer than the previous. As a rough guide, side-dress about 4 to 6 additional quarts total per 100 square feet of bed during a crop cycle. If the growth rate fails to increase over the next few weeks, the most recent application wasn’t needed, so don’t add any more.

Chemical Cautions

Nonorganic synthetic fertilizers should come with labels warning against giving plants too much. One reason I don’t recommend the use of chemical fertilizers is that it’s too easy for inexperienced gardeners to cross the line between just enough and too much.
Chemical fertilizers are too pure. This is particularly true of inexpensive chemical blends — even so-called “complete” chemical fertilizers are entirely incomplete. They supply only nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Unless the manufacturer intentionally puts in other essential minerals, the chemical mix won’t supply them. Especially troublesome is that chemical fertilizers rarely contain calcium or magnesium, which plants need in large amounts along with tiny traces of several other minerals. Plants lacking any essential nutrients are more easily attacked by insects and diseases, contain less nourishment for you and often don’t grow as well as they could.
There is yet another drawback: All inexpensive chemical fertilizers dissolve quickly in soil. This usually results in a rapid burst of plant growth, followed five or six weeks later by a big sag, requiring yet another application. Should it rain hard enough for a fair amount of water to pass through the soil, the chemicals dissolved in the soil water will be transported as deeply into the earth as the water penetrates (this is called “leaching”), so deep that the plant’s roots can’t reach them. With one heavy rain or one too-heavy watering, your fertile topsoil becomes infertile. The chemicals also can pollute groundwater. The risk of leaching is especially great in soils that contain little or no clay.
Organic fertilizers, manures and composts, on the other hand, release their nutrient content only as they decompose — as they are slowly broken down by the complex ecology of living creatures in the soil. The soil temperature determines the length of this process. The rate of decomposition roughly doubles for each 10 degree increase of soil temperature. Complete decomposition of most organic fertilizers takes around two months in warm soil. During that time, they steadily release nutrients.
Chemical fertilizers can be made to be “slow-release,” but these sorts cost several times as much as the type that dissolves rapidly in water. The seed meals in my organic fertilizer mix are natural slow-release fertilizers, and they usually are less expensive than slow-release chemical products.

The Quick and Easy Guide to Fertilizer

Organic Fertilizer Recipe

Mix uniformly, in parts by volume:
4 parts seed meal*
1/4 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground
1/4 part gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)
1/2 part dolomitic lime
Plus, for best results:
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano
1/2 to 1 part kelp meal (or 1 part basalt dust)
*For a more sustainable and less expensive option, you can substitute chemical-free grass clippings for the seed meal, although clippings will not provoke the same strong growth response. Use about a half-inch-thick layer of fresh clippings (six to seven 5-gallon bucketfuls per 100 square feet), chopped into the top 2 inches of your soil with a hoe. Then spread an additional 1-inch-thick layer as a surface mulch.

How Much to Use

Once a year (usually in spring), before planting crops, spread and dig in the following materials.
Low-demand Vegetables:
1/4 inch layer of steer manure or finished compost
4 quarts organic fertilizer mix/100 sq. ft.
Medium-demand Vegetables:
1/4 inch layer of steer manure or finished compost
4 to 6 quarts organic fertilizer mix/100 sq. ft.
High-demand Vegetables:
1/2 inch layer of steer manure or finished compost
4 to 6 quarts organic fertilizer mix/100 sq. ft.
These recommendations are minimums for growing low-, medium- and high-demand vegetables on all soil types, except heavy clay. (Gardeners dealing with heavy clay soils should amend the recommendations. The first year, spread an inch of decomposed organic matter and dig it in to a shovel’s depth. In subsequent years, apply manure or compost and fertilizer mix as described above, using about 50 percent more fertilizer.) In addition to these initial applications, add side-dressings of fertilizer around medium- and high-demand crops every few weeks through the season; altogether, these additions may equal the amount used in initial preparation.
This organic fertilizer is potent, so use no more than recommended above. Excessive liming can be harmful to soil. If you can, increase the amounts of manure and compost by 50 percent to 100 percent, but no more than that. If you think your vegetables aren’t growing well enough, do not apply more manure or compost; fix it with fertilizer mix.
Sacked steer manure is commonly heaped in front of stores in springtime at a relatively low price per bag. However, this material may contain semidecomposed sawdust and usually has little fertilizing value. However, it does feed soil microbes and improves soil structure, which helps roots breathe. And it is not raw manure; it has been at least partially composted. It is useful if not overapplied.

Which Crops Need the Most

For thousands of years, home gardens received the best of the family’s manures, and lots of them. Few vegetable crops can thrive in ordinary soil, because they have been coddled for millennia in highly improved conditions. However, different vegetables demand different levels of soil quality. Both low- and medium-demand vegetables will become far more productive when grown in soil that has received at least the minimum applications of fertilizer listed above. High-demand vegetables are sensitive, delicate species and usually will not thrive unless grown in light, loose and always-moist soil that provides the highest level of nutrition.
Low-demand Vegetables
Jerusalem artichoke, arugula (rocket), beans, beets, burdock, carrots, chicory, collard greens, endive, escarole, fava beans, herbs (most kinds), kale, parsnip, peas, Southern peas, rabb (rapini), salsify, scorzonera, French sorrel, Swiss chard (silverbeet), turnip greens
Medium-demand Vegetables
Artichoke, basil, cilantro, sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts (late), cabbage (large, late), cutting celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, giant kohlrabi, kohlrabi (autumn), lettuce, mustard greens (autumn), okra, potato onions, topsetting onions, parsley/root parsley, peppers (small-fruited), potatoes (sweet or “Irish”), pumpkin, radish (salad and winter), rutabaga, scallions, spinach (autumn), squash, tomatoes, turnips (autumn), watermelon, zucchini
High-demand Vegetables
Asparagus, Italian broccoli, Brussels sprouts (early), Chinese cabbage, cabbage (small, early), cantaloupe/honeydew, cauliflower, celery/celeriac, Asian cucumbers, kohlrabi (spring), leeks, mustard greens (spring), bulbing onions, peppers (large-fruited), spinach (spring), turnips (spring)

Basic Organic Fertilizer Ingredients

Seed meals are byproducts of making vegetable oil and are mainly used as animal feed. They are made from soybeans, flaxseed, sunflowers, cotton seeds, canola and other plants. Different kinds are more readily available in different regions of the country. When chemically analyzed, most seed meals show similar nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) content — about 6-4-2. Because seed meals are used mainly as animal feed and not as fertilizer, they are labeled by protein content rather than NPK content. The general rule is that 6 percent protein provides about 1 percent nitrogen, so buy whichever type of seed meal gives you the largest amount of nitrogen for the least cost.
If you want seed meals that are free of genetic modification and grown without sewage sludge or pesticides, choose certified organic meals. Seed meals are less expensive in 40- or 50-pound bags, which can be found at farm stores rather than garden centers. Seed meals are stable and will store for years if kept dry and protected from pests in a metal garbage can or empty oil drum with a tight lid.
Lime is ground, natural rock containing large amounts of calcium, and there are three types. Agricultural lime is relatively pure calcium carbonate. Gypsum is calcium sulfate. Dolomite, or dolomitic lime, contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates, usually in more or less equal amounts. If you have to choose one kind, it probably should be dolomite, but you’ll get a far better result using a mixture of the three types. These substances are not expensive if bought in large sacks from agricultural suppliers. (Do not use quicklime, burnt lime, hydrated lime or other chemically active “hot” limes.)
You may have read that the acidity or pH of soil should be corrected by liming. I suggest that you forget about pH. Liming to adjust soil pH may be useful in large-scale farming, but is not of concern in an organic garden. In fact, the whole concept of soil pH is controversial. My conclusion on the subject is this: If a soil test shows your garden’s pH is low and you are advised to apply lime to correct it — don’t. Each year, just add amendments as shown in “How Much to Use”. Over time, the pH will correct itself, more because of the added organic matter than from adding calcium and magnesium. And if your garden’s pH tests as acceptable, use the full recommendations in “How Much to Use” anyway, because vegetables still need calcium and magnesium in the right balance as nutrients.
If you routinely garden with this homemade fertilizer mix, you won’t need to apply additional lime to the garden. The mix is formulated so that, when used in the recommended amount, it automatically distributes about 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet each year.
Bone meal, phosphate rock or guano (bat or bird manure) all serve to boost the phosphorus level, and phosphate and guano usually are also rich in trace elements. Bone meal will be the easiest of the three to find at garden centers.
Kelp meal (dried seaweed) has become expensive, but one 55-pound sack will supply a 2,000-square-foot garden for several years. Kelp supplies some things nothing else does — a complete range of trace minerals plus growth regulators and natural hormones that act like plant vitamins, increasing resistance to cold, frost and other stresses.
Some rock dusts are highly mineralized and contain a broad and complete range of minor plant nutrients. These may be substituted for kelp meal, but I believe kelp is best. If your garden center doesn’t carry kelp meal and can’t order it, you can get it from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply of Grass Valley, Calif.: (888) 784-1722.
— Adapted from Gardening When it Counts, a Mother Earth News “Book for Wiser Living” from New Society Publishers.