Saturday Tweets: Naked Gardening Day Edition

Prickly Wisdom

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We wanted to share this great comment by Mangofish left on one of our posts about prickly pear cactus:

Way back when I was just a lad, 40 years ago, My neighbor was a very old and almost completely blind Mexican. Good ol’ Sal Franco! In his younger days he lived wild and free, riding his horse in the deserts of Mexico. He actually briefly met Pancho Villa. He lived off the land, selling rattle snakes to earn some money, and ate what the desert provided. To eat the prickly pears he would gather a fist full of weeds to make a brush. Green weeds were the best since they held onto the tiny spines the best, but dried weeds worked OK but they allow the fine needles to blow in the wind. With the wind at your back dust the prickly pears with the weeds and knock off the needles. In bright sunlight you will see the needles glittering in the air as the wind carries them away, strong wind is preferred otherwise hold your breath so you don’t inhale the fine needles if the wind gently stirs around you. Once the needles are gone you can pluck the tunas off the cactus or use a pocket knife and slice the tunas open while they are still attached to the cactus and scoop out the inner fruit with your finger tips. I usually take them inside the house and enjoy them by slicing them in half and holding one end with a fork and with a spoon scoop out the flesh. But on a hot day working in the yard I’ll have a snack and using my pocket knife slice open the skin and access the juicy center while it is still attached to the cactus. I have 6 varieties now including the two which Sal originally gave to my dad. I can only wonder where Sal may have originally obtained those!

Day to day, our decisions count

I found this video was on the Global Soil Week website last week. It’s oddly creepy for something which is supposed to be informational and I assume, inspirational, yet the agribusiness Transformer monsters stick with me. I thought I’d share the creepiness. You’re welcome.

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[This is another post in the Back to the Garden series, which can be accessed by clicking on the tag to your left]

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Last week I introduced the subject of soil. Healthy soil is fundamental to a the loving landscape, to healthy people, to a healthy world. Initially, I’d imagined that I’d just do one post on soil and move on, but I realized that I’m going to need to linger in the topic and get my hands dirty, so to speak.

Today I wanted to talk about how our behavior, particularly our consumer choices around food, impact the health of the soil world-wide. I’m only focusing on two areas of behavior. There are, of course, many more to consider, but these two I like because they are achievable on a home-scale.

Remember, we are all gardeners, whether we have land or not. Every day we tend the garden which is the world.

Continue reading…

045 Whole Grain Baking

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In episode 45, Kelly and Erik discuss whole grain baking, specifically a workshop the Los Angeles Bread Bakers put on featuring the very talented Dave Miller. The picture is of the bread Dave baked in the workshop. Clockwise from upper left: einkorn, sonora wheat, charcoal wheat and spelt/rye. Miller was featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s book Cooked. During the show we mention:

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Saturday Tweets: She Sheds, Wild Chickens and Fatbergs

The Soil Beneath Our Feet

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This is what I see when I look down in our back yard. I feel best with something like this under my feet.

(Another post in our Back to the Garden series. Find others by clicking the series tag on the left, under the date.)

I’d planned to talk about soil this week, and by happy chance, it turns out that this happens to be (the 3rd) Global Soil Week, marked by a big conference in Berlin. It’s actually being livestreamed, so if you want, you can put on a suit, sit in a folding chair with a notepad balanced on your knee, and pretend that you are there.

(It’s also–I just found out–the International Year of the Soils.  Soil is the new black!)

The concerns they are talking about at the conference are huge, global in scale: food justice, mass migration, climate change–indeed, the future well-being of the planet and all of us upon it, because our lives are dependent on soil.

Yet these concerns can be scaled to our own back yards. The microcosm reflects the macrocosm. We may feel powerless to influence the course of the world, but we can shape our own lives, our own neighborhoods, to mirror the change we’d wish to see across the world. We can, in short, start the work of crafting Eden, step by modest step.

Healthy soils are evidence of a loving landscape. Healthy soils bring many gifts, gifts which scale from the back yard to global economies. Healthy soils make strong plants, increasing food yields and discouraging pests. Healthy soils wick and hold water, helping in times of both drought and flood. And healthy soil sequesters carbon.

When we think about CO2 emissions, we think about the burning of fossil fuels–and we should, because those account for 65.5% of carbon emissions, according to this fact sheet from the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology. But did you know that the act of clearing and converting land for crops accounts for another 29% of our total emissions? Deforestation makes up the final 5.5%–and of course much deforestation is for agricultural purposes. As a result, much of our personal carbon footprint hinges on our choices about what kind of food we eat, and how it is grown–and those questions revolve back eventually to soil and soil health.

Soil sequesters carbon, so building healthy soils is going to be a vital tool in the fight to mitigate climate change. This article, Soil as Carbon Storehouse from Yale’s Environment 360 magazine gives a good concise overview of the issues.

Personal Action

On the personal scale, we can do quite a lot. First, whether we have soil to tend or not, we have considerable influence on soil world-wide through our daily actions. In this global economy, our consumer decisions count. A simple trip to market brings up a lot of issues, soil health being one of many, since everything is connected.

At home, day to day, we also have influence over various patches of soil. We may have a yard, or a community garden plot, or we may help in the school garden, or attend meetings about the landscaping of a local park or the future of a recreation area. In all these places, we can exercise soil stewardship.

Soil is so important that I’m going to really drill down into this topic. In the next few posts I’ll  be talking about 5 areas of personal action on behalf of the soil:

  • Our consumer decisions
  • Composting
  • Mulching
  • No-till gardening
  • Committing to not using chemical fertilizers and pesticides

This being Root Simple, I know our readers are savvy–in fact, I suspect our readers know more about this stuff than we do. But I natter on nonetheless, preaching to the choir.

I hope the information I’ll be posting helps to provide you all with a little inspiration, or a fresh idea. And if you are already a member of the choir, then by all means, get out there and spread the gospel! Help your family, your friends and your neighbors understand how important soil health is for all of us.