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Soil Testing: Why Is It So Vital For The Natural Environment?

Soil Testing: Why Is It So Vital For The Natural Environment?

Improving productivity is the core goal of each farmer, and good soils assist to gain it. Soil structure, composition, and fertility are key aspects to consider while choosing crops to sow, fertilisers to add, and water volumes to distribute.

Thus, testing becomes a crucial aspect of agricultural success. It boosts yields, prevents erosion, and saves both farmers’ and nature’s resources. Soil tests become a win-win solution as soil health is not only a healthy environment but also healthy mankind, following the famous quote “we are what we eat”, and perhaps, what we breathe.

These are major reasons why smart cultivation and soil testing are vital for the environment.

What Is Soil Testing?

Soil tests aim to determine fertility, type, acidity, salinity, water retention properties, to estimate depletion and erosion risks.

Soil testing is beneficial both to farmers and nature as it completes the following tasks:

  • Prevents soil depletion and erosion. Alongside contamination, soil erosion has been a major concern of ecologists and agrarians. It impacts the climate with droughts, winds, floods as well as shortens arable lands. Soil and fertiliser residues pollute waters.

This phenomenon is mostly irreversible and can be only slowed down rather than stopped. The primary sign for the process is soil degradation and depletion. Thus, noticing the tendencies and taking actions in time are key steps of the prevention strategy.

  • Enriches the soil. Equipped with reliable knowledge, farmers improve the critical areas and maintain sustainability.
  • Boosts yields. Plants demand nutrients to thrive, so to analyse which ones exactly they lack is critical. An experienced farmer can spot the problem with abnormal plant colourings, yet detailed testing provides more extended results.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

10-Plus Edibles That Make Great Houseplants

House Plants
 Image by donterase from Pixabay

10-Plus Edibles That Make Great Houseplants

Herbs, Hibiscus, Citrus and more

To be completely honest, I’m not usually that high on house plants. It’s for simple reasons really. I’ve done my share of babysitting them, and they tend to be high maintenance, requiring regular watering regardless of the weather, prime positioning around the windows, and a periodic supply of imported fertility. I like to maintain that, for those of us not living in urban settings, there is plenty of room outside to grow stuff in the earth, where these plants are part of—even when cultivated—thriving ecosystems.

However, as I settle into life in North Carolina, USDA Zone 7, and in particular with autumn fully upon us, I can feel myself rethinking things a little. Earlier this week, with the first frost forecasted, I found myself out in the garden digging up two habanero pepper plants to pot and put inside. They’ve been fruiting beautifully for the last month or two, and it just feels wrong to see them perish in lieu of such production, with so much life on the horizon. They still have half a dozen peppers growing on them. So far, the transplant seems successful.

With that in mind, I decided to revisit ideas on plants I’d like to, at the very least, grow indoors during the winter. Unlike growing a typical garden of greens, green beans, and so on inside, these are perennial plants that can’t survive the winter here, so our house would then become a greenhouse for them. In turn, we’d get to enjoy, even if minimally, some crops we might not otherwise have the capacity to grow here. In other words, the trade-off feels justified and in the summer, we could stick them outside and treat them like the other plants: special but not better than the apple trees or tomatoes.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Beyond Eggs – Part 1

Beyond Eggs

Beyond Eggs – Part 1

The Pros and Cons of Free Range and Mobile Chicken Pens

Well-managed chickens can provide eggs and meat as well as composting assistance, sanitation and pest reduction, soil amendment services, and entertainment. 

But poorly managed chickens tend to focus all their talents and energy into very destructive pursuits, as you know if you’ve had your seedlings repeatedly dug up or your fruit trees efficiently de-mulched. 

How can we harness all that chickens have to offer, in ways that keep everybody happy, healthy and productive?

Design and management for maximum integration

A major key—perhaps THE key—to making a Permaculture system work is the relationships between the parts (or elements) of the system.

A flock of chickens is an example of an element in a Permaculture system, and it can potentially have relationships with many other elements in the system that it supports/is supported by.

Anybody can stick a flock of chickens in the backyard.

But if you were approaching it from a Permaculture perspective (a holistic perspective) you’d carefully consider how to locate and manage the flock well so that ALL of the outputs it produces, or functions it can perform, are put to use in service of the surrounding ecosystem. 

Healthy ecosystems teem with diversity, each life-form inter-connected with all the others in a complex web that would be weakened and compromised if just one strand were removed. This is what we are striving to emulate.

It’s the interactions, exchanges, and synergy between the components of the system that provide the stability, adaptability, flexibility, efficiency, productivity/abundance, and beauty that we find lacking in a monoculture or in a less integrated system.

With this concept in mind, this article Series will discuss:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Different Kinds of Healthcare–Part 1


The doctor visit and the pharmaceutical prescription​​ usually get us back on the job quickly and with a minimum of inconvenience.

Modern pharmaceutical medicine is like the medical equivalent of fast food ​– it’s fast, it’s convenient, and too much of it erodes our health over time.

​In contrast, at-home healthcare and natural remedies are like home-cooked, real food, in that they take more time and effort. They also ​work more slowly​, and they ​work best if there is already a foundation of healthy living habits in place.

​​Home healthcare ​and natural ​remedies ​may sometimes be less convenient, but over time they build robust ​health on many levels.

Recently, one of our children had a bacterial skin infection called impetigo or “school sores.” It took several weeks for us to resolve it, and there was a point in time when I was not sure that home remedies were going to be sufficient.

In my search for solutions I spoke to women who have dealt with school sores in their family and community, I did lots of reading, and I made an appointment with a doctor. That was our first doctor appointment since well before my children were born more than 11 years ago.

Everyone I spoke to and everything I read told me that I’d end up using oral antibiotics,because that was the only alternative to a long, traumatic battle with a dubious outcome.

I’m relieved and happy to report that although we did go to a doctor and receive a prescription for antibiotics, we never had to use it.

The experience left me pondering the contrast between these twovastly different kinds of healthcare, which led to this article.


On the one hand, we have at-home healthcare.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…



A “Green New Deal” is on everyone’s lips, but how do we actually get there? Our brand new “Green is the New Silver (Lining): Crisis, Hope, and Permaculture,” (http://bit.ly/hope-permaculture) the first of 4 videos in our free-to-view “Permaculture Masterclass,” offers one possible answer. And if we do this right, we can go far beyond organic, beyond sustainability — and towards building thriving communities of abundance. You ready?

The Polyculture Market Garden Study–Results From Year 4–2018



In this post you will find an overview of the trial garden and the polycultures we are growing, a description of what we record and the 4th year results from the trial. You can find results from previous seasons here.

First of all we’d like to say a huge thank you to the team of volunteers that joined us for the study this year and that make it possible for us to carry out our experiments and research. It was a pleasure to work together with you. Thank you Victoria Bezhitashvili, Angela Rice, Malcolm Cannon, Elise Bijl, Alex Camilleri, Daniel Stradner, Emilce Nonquepan, Ezekiel Orba and Chris Kirby Lambert.

It was a great a mix of people from all over the world including university students, a crypto fund manager, ex-nintendo web editor and market gardeners. Thank you all for your valuable input, it was our pleasure to host you and we look forward to seeing you again some day.

The Polyculture Study 2018 Team


Location: Bulgaria, Shipka
​Climate: Temperate
Köppen Climate Classification – Dfc borderline Cfb
USDA Hardiness Zone: 5b – 7a
Latitude: 42°
Elevation: 565 m
Average Annual Rainfall: 588.5 mm
Prevailing Wind: NW & NE
Garden Name: Aponia – Polyculture Market Garden


The six longer beds in the left hand corner of the photo on the right (the Aceaes) are the trial beds, the focus of this study.You can find the location of the Polyculture Market Garden on google maps here (labelled as Aponia on our Project map)

Garden area: 256.8 m2
Cultivated beds area: 165.6 m2
Paths: 50 cm wide – 91.2 m2
Bed Dimensions – 23 m x 1.2 m  Area – 27.6 m2 per bed
Number of beds: 6

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Make Your Garden Have Less Weeds?


In crop gardens, we sometimes get into a spatial race with weeds, and the solution is to replace the weeds with “designed weeds” to take up the space. This can be done with green manure mulches to fertilize the gardens and supply quality mulch. This is an example of how understanding the inner workings of weeds allows us to harmonize with natural systems to both repair the earth and create production for ourselves.

It’s important to understand that the term “weed” is applied to any plant that isn’t wanted in a particular area. While we now call dandelions weeds, they once were sought-after greens. Banana trees are so prone to take root in the tropics that someone might consider them a weed, removing them from the yard, though they are the best-selling fruit in the world. The point is that just because we call a plant a weed doesn’t mean it lacks value. “Weeds” can be useful, or they can be prevented. Often, it’s us, as cultivators, who make and foster these choices or pick our small battles.

Mulch – The best way to have a weed-free garden is to prevent them in the first place, and organic mulch is probably the best way to go about that. Thickly (about 5-10 cm) mulch gardens with straw or leaves to effectively suppress weeds, and those weeds that do make it through are much more easily pulled. Not only will mulching help with weeds, but it’ll reduce the need to water, support soil life, and prevent erosion. Ultimately, the mulch will break down and continually replenish and improve the soil.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saving the Planet


I have often found myself wincing as I hear people talking about saving the planet. It’s felt wrong!  I can hear the voices of condemnation screaming at me now … ‘What a horrible person you are not to agree with saving the planet.’… but let me explain.

I’m the same age as Geoff Lawton!  Though I think he’s doing better than me!

I was brought up in the 50s/60s. I had two dads, my biological one and my step dad. My father was a left wing, ‘why is the government giving money to the farmers just because they have a drought’ type of person. He was always railing against the government because it didn’t look after the poor people. He was also the one who would order me out of the room so he could spray DDT in the living room to kill the flies. We left when I was 10.

My step dad was right wing. He didn’t believe the government should be giving out free money to people. He believed in self responsibility. What can you do to get yourself out of the situation?  He was also a firm believer in organic farming, no poisons, and natural health solutions. (Yes, I know that sounds counterintuitive, but you’d be amazed how many right wing people believe in self responsibly and growing their own food!)

My teen years saw my parents growing all our produce organically and sharing produce with friends who also grew organically.

In Grade 10, a science teacher gave us a scenario. He explained that all energy can be quantified as BTUs, from the physical energy you put into something, to the energy it takes to make a product. He gave us an example…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Growing Grains at the Home-Scale Farm


I dream of growing grains, of being so far down the line in establishing a kitchen garden, a vegetable garden, a food forest, that time can be allocated to developing a system for handling the cereal part of the food supply. Well, let me put that differently: I aspire to get to that project one day, and from time to time, I do catch myself daydreaming and wondering just how it’ll work. Today, this morning, is one of those times.

Now, the truth of the situation, at least from what I deduced, is that producing fruits and vegetables and adopting a diet centered around them is more proximately realistic than growing my own wheat or rice. In large part, I’m on my way. The vegetable garden produced well over the summer such that the pantry has a nice stock of relishes, stewed items, and pickles, and the freezer is stuffed with bags of green beans, okra, and pesto ice cubes. We foraged serious quantities of wild mushrooms and persimmons. We have a box of sweet potatoes and another of autumn squashes. With some tweaks and natural growths (in area), those gardens will be there to provide substenance. With our new property finally purchased, fruit trees and berry bushes will hopefully start this spring. In other words, I can truly visualize how this side of things will get going. It won’t end the way I see it now, but the general direction is real.

Home-scale grain systems, however, elude me. Other than growing some amaranth this year, what amounted to about a pound of dried seed, I have no real experience with producing grain.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Humanure Part 2: Dealing With It


In part 1(1) of this article I explored a little into why humanure is beneficial to the planet, including the need to replenish our aquifers and for people to have access to safe drinking water, the high phosphorous content of human poo compared to the finite and dwindling supply of phosphate rock as an agricultural product, and the reconnection of the ‘human nutrient cycle’ (2). In this part I will look more deeply into the different ways you can safely use humanure, and make some practical suggestions for beginning the process of redressing the human nutrient balance, even while we live within an unbalanced system.

Ways to deal with our crap

In ‘The Humanure Handbook’ (2) , Joseph Jenkins points out that we as a species have four different ways to deal with human excrement:

  1. To treat it as a waste product and dispose of it – this includes all water-based sanitation techniques such as flush toilets. As mentioned in part 1, this method ends up contaminating water even if the sewage is later treated, exacerbates the spread of water-borne diseases, and ignores the principle of ‘Produce No Waste’.
  2. To use it unprocessed in agriculture – at the time of the Handbook’s publication (1999) this was apparently still a common practice in parts of Asia (2). As you may guess, spreading unprocessed human waste on fields can be quite a large health risk because of the pathogens which are present in fresh humanure. This practice, euphemistically known as ‘night soil collection’ (3) , has apparently now been banned in many countries although there are some reports of people continuing to use fresh human waste, or ‘faecal sludge’ on their crops, for example in India (4) .

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Multi-Functional Living: Wood Heat


This year Emma and I are taking something we did last year and making it more functional: We are heating with wood, full-time. Previously, we often had fires at night, giving the heating system a break and enjoying the atmosphere, but it was noncommittal. Some nights we didn’t bother. We used the wood-burning cook stove even less than that, though we did love the event it made of a meal, as well as pulling a couple of rocking chairs in front of stove while dinner was bubbling. It was all in an effort for us to learn the ropes with building, using, and maintaining fires.

Winter has hit hard and early this year, but we have yet to let the heating click on. We’ve set the thermostat at 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius), to prevent any freezing damage or some such thing should we fail to keep the fire stoked. And, in addition to new lessons in heating 100% with fire, something much more involved than nighttime romanticism, we are becoming more and more in tune to the multiple functions heating with wood has. It seems very much in keeping with our permaculture principles.

Function #1: Clean Up

We live in the forest. So do our neighbors. So do the strangers down the road. Throughout the year, a number of trees have fallen. They fall across roads. They fall into gardens. Limbs drop in yards. Leaning red oaks threaten houses. And, trees—regardless of who’s around to hear it—do fall in the woods. A number of factors go into the fact that throughout the year, lots and lots of firewood can be produced by purely cleaning things up. Here are some examples:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Humanure Part 1: Why Should We Give a Crap?


Permaculture is not just about garden design. Even if you don’t have land or access to land, looking at life from a permaculture perspective can help you to make life decisions and take actions towards  upholding the ethics of permaculture in your daily practices. This article series will take a look specifically at one of these practices which we all share, examine the benefits of changing our habits from a scientific perspective, and offer some practical ideas of what to do next.

That which cannot be named

It’s something which everyone engages in, sometimes as often as once or even twice a day. It can often be the first sign of illness if it is uncomfortable, and if it’s comfortable can help us to feel healthy and of course relieved. We do it almost as often as we eat and yet many people only feel comfortable talking about it with their closest friends or doctor. This could be seen as unbalanced, but probably even more unbalanced (especially from a permaculture perspective) is how we deal with our faeces. The most popular way of treating faeces globally is still by using water, either to flush to a public sewage treatment facility or to an onsite septic tank, or, in many places, by flushing it directly into the sea or a river (1). There are many reasons why using water to treat poo is environmentally detrimental, and most readers may well be familiar with these already. However, below I will briefly go into a few. Likewise with reasons why you may wish to change your pooing habits (if you haven’t already) to that of non-water treatment.

Why do we do what we do with poo?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

My Top 10 Books That Inspired Our Project


At the beginning of 2017 Permanent Publications sent us an email expressing an interest to publish a book on our polyculture trials and experiences. I’d been thinking about writing this book for some time and responded with gleeful enthusiasm.  I’m happy to announce that we have signed the publishing agreement and have already started to work on the book.  The working title of the book is Polycultures –  Designing and Creating Polyculture Gardens, Farms and Landscapes, and you can find a draft overview of what the book will cover here.

As I prepare for a winter of writing I’m looking around at the books on our shelves and seeing that many of the books that inspired us to get us started with our project are from authors published by Permanent Publications. So after a little deliberation on whether or not I should do a cheesy 10 top blog, here it is. I should really be spending this time writing the book, but I can’t help but to write this post as a small token of my appreciation and respect to all the incredible authors and people at work, and to Permanent Publications for facilitating the dispersal of so much wonderful and useful knowledge.  So here is my top 10 books that have inspired our project.

The order does not denote how good I think the books are, it’s more based around the order I read the books.


Top of the list and the book that got me in and going with our project is by the ingenious, wonderfully pragmatic and endlessly enthusiastic  Linda Windrow – The Permaculture Garden.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Excerpt From “De-Growth in the Suburbs, A Radical Urban Imaginary.” Part 4


We started publishing 3 weeks ago this series of an excerpt from Samuel Alexander and Brendan Gleeson’s new book, “Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary”.

The chapter we will be publishing over 4 weeks (Reimagining the Suburbs Beyond Growth) is the first chapter in the book.

You can read the 3 parts we already published  here and here and here

Dr Samuel Alexander,  is the co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne, as well as Research Fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne.

This book addresses a central dilemma of the urban age: how to make suburban landscapes sustainable in the face of planetary ecological crisis.  The authors argue that degrowth, a planned contraction of overgrown economies, is the most coherent paradigm for suburban renewal. They depart from the anti-suburban sentiment of much environmentalism to show that existing suburbia can be the centre-ground of transition to a new social dispensation based on the principle of enlightened material and energy restraint.


“There is nothing that embodies the twisted values of growth-addicted capitalism more visibly than suburban sprawl.  Massive matrices of carbon-intensive consumerism, the suburbs reflect the forces that are driving our descent into ecological crisis.  But as deepening crises begin to engulf us, Alexander and Gleeson see an unlikely flicker of hope.  The suburbs, they argue, hold the potential for a new, more resilient way of living that could help see us through the calamities of the Anthropocene.  This is a brilliant, invigorating book, poetically written and full of exciting ideas.  A marvellous achievement.’

Jason Hickel, author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Human Permaculture Part 3: Practical Communication Techniques


In part one (1) of this article I explored the possible efficacy of visualising our communication with each other as a invisible flow, less predictable than other energy flows in a Sector Analysis but still able to be mapped as part of a design; while in part two (2) I looked at what catching and storing such energy flows might look like. This third part is turning inwards from the pattern of the wider concept of communication flows, to the details of how we can use permaculture to help our own personal communication be more effective.

Changing the way we think to encourage Earth Care and People Care

 Following on from the idea that communication can be seen as an ‘invisible structure’, we can also see that within us we have our own invisible structures, made up of the languages which we use to think. We can use permaculture to examine these structures and possibly change them to help us communicate more holistically and honestly with ourselves, hopefully allowing for easier communication with everyone else.

One of the first changes which could be beneficial is that of changing how we speak about the natural world. A number of writers, scientists and philosophers – such as Alan Watts (3), James Lovelock (4) and David Abram (5) to name but a few – have pointed out the power of phonetic language to create abstractions within the mental realm. This means that it is very easy to imagine that we are separate from nature, and thus to allow the exploitation or destruction of our world. This abstraction is probably done more or less unconsciously, if the language one grows up with enables abstract thought in this way.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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