Thursday, April 26, 2007


This was my first project at Local Roots.



Monday, April 23, 2007

Double Dig

I decided to do a little experiment in the front of our duplex. I decided to combine the Biointensive double dug bed and the newspaper sheet mulching of Forest Gardening fame. The area I had to work with was about 10 feet wide and 7 feet deep. I left a small 4 by 7 plot there on the south side with some Solomons Seal, tulips, ferns, and a small oak tree. I'm not sure what we'll plant there but it will probably be a combination of shade tolerant perennials and some edible annuals.

In the first picture I have dug the first row out and put it on a plastic sheet to use for the last row. I then spread a small amount of compost I picked up at the local free compost pile. It was pretty nice stuff, not too much sticks and garbage. I had barely enough to count, but at least it was something. I then dug the next row and filled the first row. With my crappy shovel I loosened the second row up. I noticed some clay compaction.

You can see my progress. The soil was dry but nice and black. I mixed in the pine needles that lay about from the big white pine north of the house.

It was sweaty work, and took about an hour and a half. When I was done I raked the soil so that it was somewhat even. Then I soaked a whole bunch of newspaper and laid it down on top of the the loose soil, overlapping the edges by six inches or so, 5 to 8 pages thick.

The paper dried quickly, and I noticed it blowing away, so I decided to go get some more free compost, two garbage bags worth, and spread it on top to keep it from blowing away. Now it kind of looks like shit, but what can you do. At some point I want to get about 4 times as much compost to lay down on top, and also a nice layer of mulch to retain moisture and prevent overheating of the soil, but I'm done for the day and I have work tomorrow and a full weekend so maybe I'll get to that next week at some point.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Carbon-based life forms

So here's the scoop on carbon sequestration.

We burn fossil fuels to produce energy, and the byproduct of this process is the rapid release of carbon dioxide into the environment. Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Global warming is part of our overall global climate change, which has devastating consequences such as the melting of the polar ice caps and subsequent rising of the oceans, affecting weather patterns around the world. We can offset our own carbon dioxide emissions (driving our car, heating our house, buying our food) by carbon sequestration.

"Carbon sequestration refers to the provision of long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground, or the oceans so that the buildup of carbon dioxide...will reduce or slow." (1)

A carbon dioxide (CO2) sink is a carbon reservoir that is increasing in size, and is the opposite of a carbon "source". The main natural sinks are (1) the oceans and (2) plants and other organisms that use photosynthesis to remove carbon from the atmosphere by incorporating it into biomass. This concept of CO2 sinks has become more widely known because the Kyoto Protocol allows the use of carbon dioxide sinks as a form of carbon offset." (2)

Here in Minnesota we can preserve and create carbon sinks by protecting and planting forests and prairies. Native plants are better adapted to our soil profile and climate, as well as having natural pest and disease resistances.

On the individual scale, Scientist Jonathon Foley has been creating a carbon budget alongside his financial budget. He and his family have reduced their carbon dioxide footprint as much as possible, including using energy efficient appliances and moving closer to work, as well as getting rid of a car.

"Every square meter of forest, Foley says, stores 10 to 15 kg of carbon in biomass above ground and 10 to 15 kg in the soil. A prairie stores only three kg above ground, but 30 to 40 below. Midwest soils are deep and fertile because the prairie built up humus there for millennia. Prairie restoration is a popular community activity around Madison, so the Foleys will help do the work and also contribute money to prairie and tree planting groups." (3)

Jonathon's brother David has taken up organic gardening. When David and his family first began, the soil tested at only 1 percent organic matter. Now it's at 7.7 percent, about double your average farm soil. His brother Jonathon runs the numbers for him to see how much carbon he has offset.

"A silt-loam soil, Jonathan says, weighs roughly 85 pounds per cubic foot. Eight inches of it weighs 56 pounds per square foot.

Organic matter is about 58 percent carbon. So soil with 1 percent organic matter contains (hmmm, 1 percent of 58 percent of 56 pounds) 0.3 pounds of carbon per square foot. Soil with 7.7 percent organic matter contains 2.5 pounds of carbon per square foot. David and Judy have increased the amount of carbon in every square foot of their garden by 2.2 pounds.

It's a big garden, 0.4 acres. (Actually it's a communal garden, which David and Judy share with their neighbors.) That's 17,424 square feet. Multiply by 2.2 pounds of carbon per square foot -- let's see here -- that makes over 38,000 pounds of carbon removed from the atmosphere -- 19 tons!

Jon writes to David: "You have sequestered 19 tons of carbon into your garden over the last 10 years. If you think that the soil test is representative of a deeper soil profile (let's say 16 inches instead of 8), then scale that number up. This is impressive! The average American releases 6 to 6.5 tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year. So you have offset about three years of an average American's emissions." (4)

Obviously this is only part of the solution. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, and Peak Oil is just around the corner (or maybe it's in the past). But by reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar we can certainly take a giant leap forward.

If the average American can reduce their consumption by 50%, down to 3 tons of carbon per year, they would have to plant the equivalent of about 15 trees a year. At 20 to 30 kilograms of carbon storage in a cubic meter of an average forest vs 33 to 42 kilograms in an average cubic meter of prairie, prairie plantings are 40% to 65% more effective then tree plantings in the storage of carbon in terms of area. Given the chthonic perennial nature of the biomass of a prairie vs. the terrestrial linear expansive nature of a forest, prairie plantings would fit into the urban niche better then forest gardens.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The old paper vs. plastic debacle

"Reusable vs. Disposable Cups

University of Victoria 1994

This classic life-cycle energy analysis was performed by University of Victoria professor of chemistry Martin B. Hocking. Hocking compared three types of reusable drinking cups (ceramic, glass and reusable plastic) to two types of disposable cups (paper and polystyrene foam).

The energy of manufacture of reusable cups is vastly larger than the energy of manufacture of disposable cups (Table 1). In order for a reusable cup to be an improvement over a disposable one on an energy basis, you have to use it multiple times, in order to "cash in" on the energy investment you made in the cup. If a cup lasts only ten uses, then each use gets "charged' for one-tenth of the manufacturing energy. If it lasts for a hundred uses, then each use gets charged for only one-hundredth of the manufacturing energy."


Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring doth cometh

I predict that spring is here to stay. According to this, here in MPLS we should be frost free by the end of the month. That's odd though because here it shows that May 15 is the cutoff date. So between the end of the month and the middle of May is when we are free to plant our little baby plants without fear that they will die a miserable frozen death.

But in any case I think that Global Climate Change has altered the climate such that spring has sprung for the year.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another blogger on the GSK/PBS alliance

The Livin' La Vida Low-Carb™ Blog

Fat lovers unite

I'm gonna blog about this show I watched last night because it pissed me off. The show was on PBS and it was called "Fat: What no one is telling you." The show immediately began by excusing personal responsibility towards ones physical health, and placing blame on various psychological and physical disorders. The show goes on to reveal that the intestines have a marvelous nervous system, and is essentially a second brain. This is exposited by an intelligent doctor who lets out the secret that most doctors think that the digestive system is totally gross, dude.

I have to tell you that I love fat and I love food, but the way most people eat is abhorrent and unbelievable to me. Basically if you're fat you're probably not exercising, which means you have a sedentary lifestyle; the answer is to move, do, act, work. If you're fat you probably eat too much junk food. Stop it. At least try to, anyway, I know how hard it is to resist buttery mashed potatoes and such. But don't whine about your weight, then, if you can't stop eating and you can't start moving. Walk to work. Walk up the stairs. There are millions of ways to move, just start. And then of course you have fast food, or any processed food in general. Don't buy it. Wow, I'm sorry, but thats the only answer, and it's not too complex. Don't turn into the Hardees to get your Thickburger, you idiot. One hundred years ago there were no Hardees and no giant blubber people! Hey, I know about addiction to processed food, and it's not easy to forgo, but of course you can just say no. So much sodium and calories are injected into such small portions in processed foods, not to mention nasty preservatives and whatnot, and your body has to work so hard to process all the garbage. Well, thats my rant on that.

But whats worse about this PBS show is that it was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, one of the top five pharmaceutical companies in the world (1). Anyone else noticing the surfeit of funder advertisement on our so-called public airwaves? I am sure there are a million things to uncover about GSK but I'll just mention one relevant piece of info. A little over a month ago, on February 7, the FDA approved an over-the-counter form of the drug orlistat. GSK will market this drug as "alli". It says here that "alli is the only FDA-approved weight-loss product available to consumers without a prescription". To me it seems that the program I watched last night was merely an hour long infomercial for conventional medicine's solution to weight gain: drugs, surgery, and costly physical therapy.

Evidently this alli drug is ineffective.

" Well, it turns out that Alli is just barely effective in clinical trials. Patients who took this drug lost about 1 pound a month. That's hardly any weight loss that all. That's the same amount of weight loss that you could experience simply by eating about a thousand fewer calories a week, which comes down to just a few cans of soda per week. By the way, that weight loss reversed itself as soon as people went off the drug, meaning they gained it right back. Still, the drug is being heralded as a potential blockbuster because so many Americans are desperate to lose weight and it seems that they will do almost anything to accomplish that goal." - source

As well as having unpleasant side effects.

"My question is, will they tolerate soiled underwear to accomplish it? That's one of the most common side effects of this drug. People actually spotted their clothes with uncontrollable anal discharges. I don't know about you, but to me that's not worth losing a pound a month. I think losing your self respect might be more valuable than that, but I guess that's up to each person to decide. I wonder how this works when dating? Do you wear, like, diapers?

However, it's not the side effects that I'm most concerned about with this drug. What I'm actually concerned about is the potential harm this drug might cause. This drug works by absorbing fat; that way, when people eat fats like those found in milk or cheese or even salad dressings, this drug binds with those fats and carries them on out of the system where they can't be digested. But at the same time, this drug also blocks all those essential fats that we need to be healthy.

Those acids include omega-3 fatty acids, which is why you're hearing about all the benefits of eating oily fish like salmon. But people who are taking this drug are inevitably blocking the absorption of these essential fatty acids as well as blocking the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins that go along with them. Some of those vitamins are extremely important to human health. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin D." - source

Hmmmmm.....sounds unpleasant.

I don't know much about the stock market but a quick glance at Google Finance reveals that at the start of February, GSK stocks were at 54.71 and by Feb 14 they had climbed to 58.37 an almost yearly high (2). Hell if I know what that means, but check out todays stocks here. At the end of yesterday the stock was at 55.93, and today its at 57.00 right now. It looks like quite a significant jump overnight. I wonder why that is.

Wait, there's more.

"Glaxo Wellcome plc and SmithKline Beecham plc merged in 2001 to become GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK), the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.
At present, private pharmaceutical companies control the development of new medicines. Profit margins, not global health needs, are what determine the next new drug. GlaxoSmithKline’s corporate motto is ‘committed to improving the quality of human life’[1]. GSK has shown it’s commitment by suing the South African Government for trying to supply AIDS victims with medicine they can afford [2], knowingly producing toxic drugs [3], and by emitting more carcinogens than almost any other chemical producer in the UK.[4]" - source

So think what you will, but I think PBS is a shill for GSK.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I feel like I'm in a bubble right now

Nothing new is happening right now. I am in a bubble. Trapped, or consigned?
Irritation at having to do chores.
No one around.
Same old food.
Not feeling arty.

bla bla bla bla bla bla bla

everything is happening next week. what is art/stop/what is cognitive inconsonance/stop/I found a button in a shoe.....................................................................................................................where is my mind...
maybe tonight in Uptown Pundits etc,,,

alive, terribly unimportant....

What we do need is a revival of spiritual/scientific/artistic dominance...not religiopoliticomilitarial madnesses. Fuck the power.

sad to say I have no readership no authorial maintenance....can god live in a seed in a bubble in a word where does it differ Einstein thinks there cannot be a Unified Theory of Everything.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Grow Biointensive

I went to a lecture by John Jeavons on Monday, from Grow Biointensive, Executive Director of Ecology Action. I thought it was a good amount of quality information. Together with Permaculture and Forest Gardening, Biointensive Gardening is part of the growing interest in and thirst for a meaningful relationship with the earth. What we have is a populace starved for meaning and context. When you begin to decipher the puzzles of the planet you began to see an underlying meaning in the machinations of the universe. What I don't get is what the hell is everybody doing all the time? What the hell does anybody care about? Why aren't we working hard to create meaning, beauty, and comfort for all of us rather then creating video games or strange colognes or lighter cameras? It seems like a particular sort of large brained madness.

Monday, April 02, 2007


These are my two cute-as-the-dickens nieces, Maya and Brin. Maya turned two a couple days ago.


I went to see the film An Unreasonable Man, which was all about Ralph Nader. I found it to be an essential film to watch if you care at all about the political world, which is a world that seems to stand apart from day to day life but is in fact the underlying brickwork of our corporeal reality. The movie really points out that Nader in no way "spoiled" the 2000 elections, and made me realize what a total fallacy that presumption is. In the end, the Democratic party presented itself as little more then a big gaseous basket full of the status quo and reeking of corporate money and influence, and the people that really care didn't want that. The movie showed the vitriol of the establishment "Left" press and institutions for what it was, a psychotic attack on a man who literally has saved us from the disregard of big corporations. Go watch it.

We also went to the French Meadow Bakery on Lyndale which is a totally delicious local eatery. Eat there. Good prices for local organic fare.

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