What Do Microbes Have To Do With Homesteading?

So what are the activities that microbes make possible around the homestead? To name just four:

  • Fermentation
  • Beekeeping
  • Soil Fertility
  • Human beings

Pretty important stuff. In fact, new systems thinking, applied to our natural word, is demonstrating that things like human beings are really just symbiotic sacks of microbial life. An article in the Economist, “Microbes maketh man” discusses just how important microbes are to human health:

The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes. If the revolutionaries are correct, these numbers radically underestimate the truth. For in the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes. The biological Robespierres believe these should count, too; that humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together.

Natural beekeeper Michael Bush has made the same argument about bees. Elaine Ingham has emphasized the importance of microbes in soil.

Mess with the complex interdependent relationships between microbes and people, soil etc. and you’re asking for trouble. This, for me, is the argument against things like GMOs, Miracle Grow or conventional chemical beekeeping. We don’t know enough, and probably never will know, how 100 trillion bacteria will react to our latest innovation. Best to be conservative when it comes to microbial life.

Looking forward to seeing more of this microbial paradigm shift in science.

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  1. Wisdom gleaned at breakfast on Saturday: Do NOT read the Economist article on microbes while eating. Best wishes!

  2. Thus why I named my old canning, gardening, fermenting, homebrewing blog “Microbiotic Alchemy”. I always feel a bit like a mad scientist / witch when I stir my foaming mead or gleefully watch bubbling airlocks.

  3. I am just not beyond Miracle Gro, and I hate my inability to give it up completely. However, I use no poisons. Actually, now that I think of it, I used none for the last two years, just chicken poo. I suppose I keep the leftover MG on the shelf as a crutch, just in case.

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