Bare Bones Biology 237 – I Don’t Cook

And before you start telling me how to cook – didn’t say I don’t know how. My mama did her job, and then I went through my own cooking phase, but now I’m just primarily interested in the simplest way to eat healthy. Next year that will include the garden. So I’m thinking about seeds. They must be non-GMO (and I’ll talk about that some other day). Organically grown and harvested is also a plus because it nurtures our earth system.

The last time I was back in civilization, I think it was in a health food store in Santa Fe, I found the Whole Seed Catalog, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( I brought that catalog back up home with me in the cab of the truck, and in the back of the pickup I brought a bucket full of food scraps, coffee filters, and that sort of thing that were left over from eating organically in the big city, where you can buy organically grown non-GMO food all ready to cook or eat.

141214-Bitsy-ASC_3222RLScards copyLast week I was able to get into the canyon – all is well, gorgeous as usual – and I dumped all those scraps on top of my compost heap. The compost heap has been growing for the last couple of years, mostly using weeds from the yard, some egg shells from the neighbor’s chickens, and of course the coffee filters, but I had not yet added any dirt to it, nor the juicy kinds of things that bears, for example, might like to eat. Actually, I’ve seen no sign of bear this year, but elk were stomping in the front yard while I was gone, and it appears that a really big bull elk is resident. I hope he stays on my property so nobody will shoot him.

Anyhow, I dumped the entire bucket of organic food leavings on top of the compost pile and covered over the whole thing with dirt from last year’s garden, and some dirt also from where gophers had been digging, because it’s easier to shovel than the frozen surface soil. I noticed last year that gopher-hole dirt is very low in organic material, but so is nearly all the dirt out here, except that we bought last year when the project began ( And of course, that’s the point. Every year our soil will be better ( able to support the veggies, and so now it’s time to buy the vegetiable seeds, and that’s why I mentioned cooking in the above. The plants that I grow need to suit the equipment I have for cooking.

No fires, no generator, nothing that burns, because of course the whole point of being in the canyon is to have clean air for my chemically sensitive lungs to breath. So that’s it, a a pot and a solar “oven,” a spoon, a knife, a cup and a little water-heating coil for early morning hot drink, and a few solar panels.

We said before that nothing beats organically grown, non-GMO food for healthy eating, mostly because we don’t want to eat man-made chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and other things that may come in our water supply such as hormones and medicines that people throw down the drain. And then use the water to irrigate the plants. Not a good idea. What goes around comes around in the Biosystem. If you wouldn’t want to feed it to your children – don’t run it down the drain.

This year, we will plant some local heirloom seeds, such as blue corn from the reservation and native flowers that we order from a local organization called There are many sources ( And just a few heirloom veggies from Whole Seeds, that I’ll list below. First we will decide what will cook in one pot on a sunny day, and that will be things like carrots, tomatoes etc. And then we will look for plants with the shortest growing seasons that do well in high-desert climate. Also some nice leafy vegetables that we can eat raw.

Then we will consider the health of the soil – it will want legumes with the corn and squash – the three sisters. And then of course we must consider the health of our community beyond the soil in our own garden, to include the air and water, and the organisms: plants, animals and people.

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS FM, 89.1, in Bryan, Texas. A copy of the podcast may be downloaded here:

Seeds ordered so far:

Bolita half runner bean – “one of the original varieties brought by the Spanish as they settled New Mexico.”
Parisienne Carrot – Round carrot might do better in shallow soil that has gophers
Bushel Basket Gourd – I like the fun idea of growing a gourd big enough to store things in.
Russian Red Kale – Because it’s nice to pick kale out of the garden and eat on the go for snacks, and might do well here.
Glacier Tomato – 55 days and reliable in cool area.

SOURCE List for Seed and Plants for the Upland Southwest

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.

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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.

Gardening at Upaya