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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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 098-Climate Change-What Can We Do?

The ecosystem is not a democracy. Neither is it a matter of opinion, nor can we match its power. Not in our wildest dreams. The ecosystem – whatever it is – it is a factual reality. Just look at the veins in your hand. Then look out the window. Then remember where your food, water and air are created – no, not in the supermarket – the ecosystem. It’s a fact that the ecosystem is constantly changing in response to its interactions among all the factors that make up its existence. My critics and their grandchildren will not be at all happy about our choice to continue destroying the climate that the ecosystem created, that has been our cornucopia of life.

So to round out this series on climate change, I want to play some quotes. Here is a short one from an activist at the climate talks that recently took place in Durban, South Africa. Amy Goodman is interviewing Kumi Naidoo on Democracy Now (the only good coverage of the talks that I know about, see dates 12/05/2011 and 12/06/2011 as part of the series).

“the problem is that the level of ambition and the level of urgency in these talks do not match what the science is telling us to do.” He means the science tells us the problem is urgent.

Climate change is just as real as overpopulation, and if you know a few facts (facts are realities that aren’t about people and people can’t change them, like gravity for example) if you know a few facts, then climate change will be as common-sense as my story about overpopulation. The one about putting a cow and a bull in a pasture with plenty of water, and never feeding them any hay and see if they eventually have a population problem. Or a resource problem, which is nearly the same thing. Common sense.

“The greatest challenge for Burma and the countries of the Arab Spring, as well as all peoples who hope to enjoy the flowers and fruits of their endeavors in 2012, will be to bring wisdom to bear on passion and power, and to create a blend of the two that is both effective and wholesome.” Aung San Suu Kyi

This is Harvard Professor E. O. Wilson on Earth/Sky

“Biology is going to be crucial also in feeding the world. We’re about to run out of water, and we’re running low on arable land. And we’re just now reaching 7 billion people on earth, and we’re not going to slow down or peak until somewhere in the vicinity of 10 billion, the most recent projections indicate. We don’t have enough water in enough countries to feed all those people and to restore soil to arable condition. And then there comes the matter of saving the rest of life, which is a major concern of mine. We’ll have to do a better job of exploring the natural world and figuring out how to carry it through what I like to call the bottleneck of the 21st century, when we go through the population crunch and use every bit of information – science based — that we can get, to make that journey through with the least amount of damage to the world.”

So what can we do to help? Number one, find a way to provide birth control for every person who wants it on earth. Number two, work to provide a reasonable standard of living for those who are living. This will require dethroning the corposystem and the growth ethic in favor of a sustainable economic system. Number three, join together with other countries of the world and let them help us do these things. How do we do those things? In any way we can, so long as what we do does not cause more long-term harm than help. That’s practical, self-serving compassion.

Bare Bones Biology 098 – Climate Change-What Can We Do?
KEOS FM 89.1, Bryan, Texas
Audio download available later this week
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Bare Bones Biology Ecology Handbook downloadable on lower right of this blog.

Bare Bones Biology 066 – Corposystem Power

The corposystem can not destroy our heritage, the rule of law, the soil, water, air, the climate and our freedom. That is, they can’t do it unless we let them, and because we all know that this is true, the corposystem gives us games to play to prevent us from thinking about the reality of our power.

One game is to change the subject away from real facts by claiming there is a debate. Rather than consult experts and discuss opinions, they display their own ignorance by debating fake or peripheral issues. We saw this clearly in the so-called debate over climate change. Also “Darwinism” and others you can name.

Another game they give us to play is to use really important issues, like fracking to make us forget the root cause of the multiplicity of our lesser problems. Fracking is as important as global warming, but the root cause of both is growth, because economic and population growth require resources that come from the living earth ecosystem – resources like food, minerals, water, soil – and the economy and every living thing requires these resources in order to grow. We can not grow forever because we will run out of food, clean water and good soil. And we run out of them because they are being destroyed by fracking and chemicals that are used in an effort to support more growth. And the game is, while we are fighting over fracking, or “Darwinism,” or poisoned soil, the corposystem is trying to grow some other part of itself, so that whatever we gain by reducing fracking is more than lost by the overgrowth of something else.

Or some important problem bubbles up in the news, and immediately the corposystem might start a fight over whose fault it is. Fight! Fight! We all gather around to watch and have a good old time blaming each other. Blame-placing, of course, takes away all our personal and social power, because we can’t change anything that has already happened. We can only do one thing at a time, and fussing over things we can’t change doesn’t change anything. That’s why political blaming and fighting is one of the corposystem’s favorite games, because it distracts us so effectively from the bigger problem. The bigger problem is — us — sitting on our TV watching the fight when we could be using our brains and our hands to make positive change.

If we would stop debating and blame-placing, and hand-sitting, and think factually about reality, we KNOW that growth beyond resources is NOT A GOOD THING. The solution to our problems is NOT growth, after we have already reached the capacity of the earth’s ability to feed us. From that point, which is approximately now, the solution to all these problems is to stop using more food energy and other kinds of energy than the earth can grow. But that’s not what the corposystem is doing. Instead of looking for real solutions, the corposystem just gives us another game. This time it’s a cliff-edge panic decision that is meant to grow the corposystem. Bush chose war — Obama chose debt. Neither war not debt nor any other kind of growth addresses the real problem.

So there is no point poisoning the future water and soil and air, just to squeeze out another dollar or two for a dying corposystem that will crash anyhow. Or maye it will change. It can’t continue as it is, because, there aren’t enough resources. Our better option would be to build a more compassionate and sustainable social order for our future. We can begin this by refusing to play the corposystem’s power games. Blame-placing, political board games, aintitawful games, cliff-edge panics. And use our own personal power to do something positive.

Anyone can do that.

Bare Bones Biology 066 – Corposystem Power
KEOS radio 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Transcript at
Audio later this week at

Bare Bones Biology 060-Fracking I

I have lived in a Tokyo suburb, and in the shade of a mountain in Montana, but it’s in rural loneliness where I learned the most about community. I learned to sit under a tree in the forest until the little creatures gathered around to investigate this stranger in their midst. Almost like a Bambi forest glade with the little birds and flowers, but I learned this before I ever saw a motion picture. And I always knew it was no fairy tale, but the deepest source of life itself.

So I already knew this when I went to college, and there I found the wonder of basic science and I dedicated my life to learning how we humans can use our knowledge of basic science to bring to ourselves a life of ordinary happiness, in a perpetual way, like a forest glade that blooms for us and for our children unto the seventh generation yet to be born, and beyond. I mean learning how the whole system works so that we can help us to continue nurturing us on into the future. And now we know; we are choosing not to do it, and that is our human tragedy.

For a long time, I have been wondering how anyone could make that choice.

This morning I woke up remembering how exciting it was in college, that three year period when I understood how forest glade ecosystems function – using all the species at once, and all the cycles, and the flow of energy at all the levels (see the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook) – to maintain the well being of us all, the rabbits and birds and flowers and all of us who are a part of the ecosystem.

This morning after the fracking ]presentation, I woke up remembering how that felt and wondering how anyone, as we heard yesterday and have been hearing for the past 15 years or so – how anyone could dedicate his life to tearing down this wonderful dream of a forever fine future.

And then I realized there isn’t very much difference between a young person who dedicates her life to understanding the factual truth of a functioning world ecosystem (that would be me). There isn’t that much difference between me and, say, a young man who grows to that age of enlightenment and observes the amazing power of the workings of the corposystem. A young man raised on Star Wars make-believe instead of the beauty of factual reality can believe in the corposystem very much in the same way I believe in the ecosystem. Very much as Bernie Madoff’s clients and even his sons believed in his Ponzi scheme, even though anyone can do the math and know there is no future in it. Star Wars economics is of course impossible to sustain for the same reason that any Ponzi scheme is impossible to sustain within a universe that operates according to the laws of energy and the law of cause and effect. Anyone can do the math. But when we are dreaming big dreams and deciding where to devote our lives, if we don’t know about schemes and scams and the first and second law of thermodynamics we get big ideas and are willing to make big sacrifices for them. That’s the tragedy of human kind.

Of course there are no tragedies at levels three and four (corposystem and ecosystem), so far as I know. It’s all about cause and effect. But level one, the individual person and level two, the communities – the tragedy is all around us now, in the air and the water and the soil and every forest glade. Not only the sacrifice of our best human values – honor, honesty, compassion — but also the promotion of suffering – and the effort it takes for idealistic people to believe that what they are doing is for the best.

Even though anyone can do the math.

Bare Bones Biology 060 – Fracking
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Audio download later this week at