Bare Bones Biology 234 – Soil

Up to now we have wandered around the subject of organic gardening, because you can find a great many books written by people who are far better gardeners than I am, and if you were to ask a question we could answer it. That leaves room for me to chit-chat a bit as we both think about growing healthy and meditate about gardening as communication with and homage to the ancient beauty of the reality of our Life (Bio) system.

But now we need to think about next year because this is a good time get our seeds. Seeds are important. We do not want genetically modified seeds (GMO seeds), for a number of reasons. GMO is in my career field, and I’ll discuss it later. In the meantime, if we buy plants or seeds, we should ask. Unless they are guaranteed non-GMO, find them somewhere else.

We live in a mountain/desert environment, so it might be best to get seeds that are known to do well locally – maybe seeds that are saved every year for the next season, or maybe from a catalog that sells “heirloom seeds.” ( Heirloom seeds and plants have been saved from the generations before “agribusiness” took over food production in the corposystem. They are adapted to the many different environments of our earth. Plants that have grown here before are more likely to do well here again.

141123-Bryan-ASC_2673RLSs copyNow for the soil. (For an example of a specialized publication, somewhat technical, that relates to our is an interesting book by Dr. Kelly J. Ponte, Retaining Soil Moisture in the American Southwest.) In addition, Old-style farmers and native American traditions, and of course your local organic-gardening neighbors, offer many tips on organic soil improvement. Our three gardens have died back and are covered with snow, but before that happened, we started working “organic materials” into the soil. In one garden, the one where we bought “organic” soil, we simply returned to the garden the beans, corn and squash that we grew this year, the whole plants, roots, stems and all, except for what we ate.

Then we dug up a new garden area and planted a bunch of pinto beans and let those die back on top of the soil. That’s known as a cover crop. It’s often best to use some kind of legume for a cover crop, and that’s another thing we’ll discuss later. As soon as possible in the spring we’ll plow all those bean plants back into the garden soil along with whatever compost is available.

We are building compost piles where we throw organic material to make “compost.” That means we pile it up, often in some kind of container that is well ventilated, to provide a good environment for organisms that live by decomposing the “garbage.” The compost can later be put on the garden and dug into the soil.

Or we could just throw the garbage on the garden, but piling it up helps to grow the micro-organisms that do the work of composting and make up as much as a third of healthy soil. It also cuts down on varmints such as mice, rats and bears. Micro-organisms generate soil by feeding on the “garbage,” breaking down indigestible parts, and releasing nutrients. The organic material also helps to retain moisture in the garden. This is how soil is created by nature, and we want to encourage it to happen faster in our garden, which now is mostly sand and clay. So over time we hope that billions of micro-organisms will find a happy home in the ecosystems of our compost and our garden soils.

141123-Bryan-ASC_2690RLSs copyWe can put any organic material on the garden that is good for our own bodies, from organic brown coffee filters and coffee grounds to the piece of elk skin that Bitsy brought back from the woods, but we do not add the man-made chemicals I have mentioned (,…2-healthy-body/) that are not healthy for us or for the Biosphere. We do not use wastes from dogs or other animals that are being treated for fleas or worms, because the flea killers are either pesticides or hormones and the wormers can kill worms in the garden. I did actually see a worm in my garden last season. Also, we do not want to be eating flea hormones or worm poisons (or their byproducts) with our Thanksgiving dinner, and we do not want to use toxic corn in any of our rituals.

Similarly, we do not add wastes from humans who have been taking medications like antibiotics or hormones — because antibiotics kill micro-organisms, and we don’t want to feed hormones to anyone, especially children. No plastics, and no potatoes, corn, wheat or soy beans (aka meat) from McDonalds or similar organizations, unless they are labeled non-GMO. No problem; next year you can grow your own compost ingredients.

Basically we want to nurture our plants only with healthy air, water, soil, and additives, because as a generalization, what goes around, comes around; what the plants eat, we eat (…2-healthy-body/). The good news is, if we do a good job, our garden will be more productive every year than it was the year before.

Or so they tell me. Let’s see what happens in our three gardens this coming year.

For a podcast of this blog, go to:


Dirt the Movie

Kelley J. Ponte, PhD. 2004. Retaining Soil Moisture in the American Southwest. Sunstone Press. Santa Fe At the end of this book is a list of 35 suggestions that were discussed, including: Add organic matter; create a compost pile; cover water bodies; use efficient irrigation methods; collect and save rainwater; mulch thickly; keep land covered with vegetation or eosion control barriers; pull out all weeds.

Bare Bones Biology 233 – Organic Gardening

Sorry, I need to rush the production this week as a result of tending to my own health, which is always a problem. Medics of all kinds require man-made chemicals to ply their trade, and of course, man-made chemicals are chemicals, and chemically sensitive people may or may not be sensitive to any particular man-made chemical. Because there are hundreds of thousands of man-made chemicals – and to my knowledge nobody is studying how they affect chemically sensitive people — this is a very difficult balancing act for the people who need to get treatment without getting sicker than they would be without the treatment.

 We all know (
bare-bones-bio…arden-recycled) that the best way of being healthy is to not use, eat, breath or drink man-made chemicals, but it’s not always possible. Yesterday – I goofed. So now I will finish this off in a hurry and then I’ll take two whole days to relax and recover.


Organic gardening. The healthy way to grow, is the art and craft of growing a garden without adding man-make chemicals. The word “organic” means the way nature does it in living organisms. It might be stated as the Biosystem way or even God’s way of growing living organisms. Originally, organic gardening was about growing healthy food by imitating the way food grows in nature.


141027-Abiquiu-ASC_2563RLSs copyHowever, that’s not the Government’s definition of organic, and now that the Government certifies organically grown products in the supermarket and elsewhere, we also have a government definition that must be followed by anyone who claims to be selling organic products. And our government is not God, nor the Biosystem, nor nature. So it has its own definition. If you grow food for yourself and your friends, it doesn’t matter and it’s a lot easier to use my definition – grown without man-made chemicals. When you are buying products, the government label really does help us to avoid foods that are unhealthy.


So, yesterday I was reading labels in a local supermarket, trying to find a healthy cereal. We can say right off that in our culture, more sugar is not healthy. We get more than enough sugar of all kinds, natural or unnatural.


That’s another way the Government helps us out. Food manufacturers are required to provide labels on foods. I once thought that meant they are required to tell us EVERYTHING that’s in the can, but that turns out not to be so. T he producers are allowed to add things that are not on the label, if they are added in very low amounts. Especially if they are believed to be harmless.


But there’s that problem again. The government (or often industry) gets to decide what’s harmless and what is not, and most of the time the government doesn’t really know whether a thing is harmless or not until after a lot of people have eaten it. But here is a short version of the government definition of organically grown. I found this on the back of a package of Nature’s Path cereal: “ . . . certified organic products are guaranteed to have been grown without chemical herbicides and pesticides, and there are never synthetic preservatives or additives.”


A study at Stanford University (Smith-Spangler et al., 2012) suggests that organically grown foods really do contain a much lower level of pesticides and herbicides, and that’s good news, because those things are poisons.


However, in the long term, we have to take responsibility for our own health, based in the principles of healthy living. Or, grow your own food. It’s much less confusing and very much more healthy for all the levels of life, to just not add the chemicals in the first place. Grow your own organically, or whatever you call it, using healthy soil, healthy water, healthy air and healthy additives with no poisons, no plastics, no sugar, no hormones. It doesn’t need a fancy name. Call it healthy.


The podcast of today’s blog may be found at:…arden-recycled

Crystal Smith-Spangler, et al. 2012. Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? Ann Intern Med. 2012;157:348-366.



Bare Bones Biology 232 – Healthy Body

Imagine that you are a woman sitting in a covered wagon that someone else is driving through the wilderness into an unknown land. How do you feel? We Americans should certainly be able to imagine back that far, it’s what we learn in school. The oxen pulling the wagon huff and puff, their nostrils just above water, trying to keep their footing in the flood. If we make it to the other side, we will be the first humans, or a least the first anglos, ever to see this new land.

The men in the driver’s seat, are working themselves into a frazzle trying to believe they are in control of the situation, but the reality is they don’t even know what rocks, holes or eddies are hidden under the swirling waters that might sweep away the wagon with us inside.

Usually when we have that kind of daydream, we imagine ourselves in total control, like a TV movie. Really, we have no control over the river, the rocks, holes and eddies; and not much control over the men and the oxen. But we can control what we do about the situation.

141019-sky_color-ASC_2498RLS-posterize copyNow imagine that river of Life is our rampaging corposystem. How do you feel? Oh, that’s the wrong question. We know how it feels, because we are living in that wagon. The better question is: “How, in these circumstances, can we live a healthy life?” How can we rise above our circumstances and build a healthy future?Assuming we don’t drown straight away, we need to first envision what we mean by healthy life. If we can’t picture it, we can’t work for it. So let’s say the healthy life is one that can recycle itself so as to stay in balance: body, mind and soul, while pioneering that unknown river of Life.

Most of us were raised to believe that our corposystem culture will sit up there in the drivers’ seat and make sure that we are given what we need to be healthy. Sadly, this is no longer true. We feel betrayed, and we will feel very insecure until we learn to take charge of our own welfare in our brave new post-corposystem world. We need to learn how to grow our own healthy environment. Or micro-environment. And an excellent place to begin is taking charge of our own healthy bodies.

What the body needs are the resources to recycle itself, over time, more and more healthy. It needs clean air to breath, clean water to drink, and good, healthy food. Therefore, to have a healthy body, we need to give it clean air, clean water and good healthy food.

The basic rule of thumb in trying to accomplish this is to understand that most man-made chemical molecules not good for your health. In building our personal healthy micro-environment, we should avoid chemicals that are not natural to the whole earth environment, unless they are chemicals that are essential, for example for medical reasons.

141019-sky_color-ASC_2486RLSs copyIn general, we cannot grow a healthy environment by adding man-made chemicals. We are much more likely to make it unhealthy, because the natural pure clean air, water and soil are more healthy than anything that we can add. This is why, in your own back yard or your windowsill, using good healthy soil, you can grow food that is far more healthy than anything you can buy in the supermarket. And save money while you are doing it.

Fortunately, for most people, health is not a yes-or-no gift of Life. There are all kinds and degrees of healthy and unhealthy, and you can move yourself toward healthy quit easily if you know what to look for. First, of course, avoid unnecessary man-made chemicals. Look for the labels organically grow and non-GMO.

But remember, whatever you feed your plants may eventually become a part of your own body, and that includes toxic chemicals that may be in the air and water, as well as those in the soil. To avoid toxic chemicals in groceries, look for the labels “organically grown” and “non GMO.”

Beyond that, the more you know about healthy soils and clean air and water, the better you can treat your own body.

And that is exactly what you need to begin. Healthy soil. We’ll talk more about that next time, or if you can’t wait Google Organic Gardening/soil.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, in Bryan, Texas. A download of this podcast may be obtained at:


More commentary below the references:

Recommended References
Greg Horn, Living Green (who survived a severe case of MCS – multiple chemical sensitivities) has written this guide to healthy living.
Bill McKibben, eaarth
Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything
Center for Ecoliteracy <>

There are now hundreds of thousands of man-made chemicals, so we can’t pinpoint certain chemicals to avoid. For this reason, I have identified classes of chemicals that make me sick, and I suspect if they make me sick they probably are not be good for you. My four biggest poisons are: pesticides; most plastics; perfumes, including all candles and incense; and pollution from engines, especially diesel.

If you can’t for any reason begin to create your own healthy micro-system by growing your own food, you should seriously consider taking the time and effort to support those who do grow clean food by putting your mouth and your money on organically grown food that can be obtained in the farmers’ market, where it promotes your community as well as your health and your pocketbook. Make sure it is grown nature’s way, without pesticides or artificial fertilizers.

If you don’t have a farmers’ market, or a health food store, then ask your local supermarkets to carry organic produce and canned goods. You will need to make some trade-offs because I also recommend that you try to not put anything into your body that was packaged in plastic. The science is not in on this yet (at least nobody has told me, and they probably never will) but if you get to be as old as I am, your body might by that time also be so sensitive to the plastics that you just might end up living in the bottom of a canyon somewhere near the Continental Divide. Lovely air, but not very many people to talk to.

And then as a long-term goal, you can work with your local communities to clean up your air and water. For example, fracking is a major health hazard. As are asphalt plants.

We may not be able to control that rampaging corposystem right now, but we can prevent it from controlling us and our healthy micro-environment.

Bare Bones Biology 231 – Vote Against the Beast

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I arrived back home to the belly of the beast a couple of days ago. I talked with a lot of nice people who live here. Yesterday was election day. One of the things we talked about was that all the people here are nice people, but the “beast,” the culture we support, is insane. It’s important to define one’s words, especially when we are using words like insane, so we defined them. When you do things that are obviously suicidal – that is insane. The beast, of course, is the corposystem culture, of which nearly all humans now are a part.

There were two headlines in the local paper the day before we voted. One was a well written report on Climate Change. The other was about Australian Shepherd Dogs. Everyone I talked to read about the dogs first and maybe noticed the report that clearly describes the fact that our current climate change disaster is caused by human behaviors on earth.

I will point out that my expertise, my whole career, has been about biology – that is, the basic biological question of how Life functions to stay alive, that is different from technology and it is different from nature study. Real biological scientists have known for more than 200 years about the real facts of human impact on the Biosystem, including climate change.

If anyone tells you in this culture in this age that they are a biologist, they generally mean one of two things. The first is that they are a technologist trained to believe they can control the laws of nature. These laws are gravity, the laws of thermodynamics and the like. These, plus the laws of Biology, are the laws of nature that respond to human interference by changing the climate of the Biosystem. These laws DEFINE how the Biosystem functions and how it responds to change. They respond to human technologies – well, you have seen it, the laws of nature respond to human technologies by changing the climate. The laws of nature (think of gravity for example) they do not care what we believe.

The second group of people who think of themselves as biologists also often aren’t studying how Life functions to stay alive. They tend to “love” the Biosystem, but they also do not want to learn facts that contradict their beliefs about how the Biosystem functions to maintain its own Life. These people often believe – not so much that humans can control the Biosystem, but that the Biosystem is human and will react to our human belief systems the same way that other humans react. It won’t. Because the Biosystem is not human. It will do what it will do, and it does not care what we believe.

And then there is a smaller group of hard scientists – most of them seem to be physicists rather than biologists, according to the newspaper, but who can believe the newspaper. It is written by people who don’t even claim to understand biology. Anyhow, according to the newspaper, evidently most of the hard science about Climate Change is built around the debate over whether or not humans have caused Climate Change. Basic biology has known the answer for at least 200 years. Why are we arguing about it now?

One of the political people I talked with yesterday, who is not a biologist, is well aware the argument about whether or not we cause climate change is a bait and switch question that is meant to stop us talking about the real question, which is “What are we going to do about climate change that will not be suicidal?” (ref.)

People tend to wring their hands and moan when I say “DO SOMETHING,” so I’ll suggest, minimally, that we should require the “beast” to obey the law. If you are a real American, learn about what made America great. It was not more and better technologies. It was our innovative Rule of Law. If you, and I do mean you. If you don’t make it your responsibility to be sure that our rule of law works to protect the people, then the American experiment will have failed.

Remember that other statement — government by the people and for the people? By the people means everyone is responsible. It does not mean sit around moaning about what the other people are doing that is illegal, and it does not mean go to the polls once or twice a year. It does not mean change the laws to suit the corposystem. It means enforce the laws – international, national and local — that were already on the books to protect the Biosystem.

141019-sky_color-ASC_2458RLSs copyIn our lifetime, there never was any valid question that climate change is real and it is caused by overpopulation of humans, taking the food out of the mouths of the other species of organisms that MAKE the food energy and the soil, and recycle the air and water that we humans require to stay alive. The corposystem DOES NOT and CAN NOT make these things. The Biosystem makes them. The corposystem is destroying them.

The body of the living Biosystem consists of – it IS those other species that are being destroyed to make room for us. THEY make our climate, and when the climate changes enough — when we also run out of food — then we will follow them into extinction, and I mean now – some time early in this century. Real biologists have understood this problem for at least a couple of hundred years but we have nevertheless grown a suicidal corposystem. That is, indeed, insane.

The people I talked to yesterday seem to understand this reality. I don’t know what they are doing about it, but I have stopped voting FOR anyone, rather I voted against the corposystem – against overpopulation and every other sort of effort to dominate the Biosystem, because none of them will work, and because I care about your children and grandchildren and the horrors that will happen to most of them if we continue on this path.

The Biosystem is by far a bigger beast than the corposystem, and it does not care what we believe. It will simply spit us out.

Its methods will be starvation, disease and war, caused by Climate Change.


This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of FactFictionFancy and KEOS radio, 89.1 FM in Bryan Texas.

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