July 18, 2013

Most gardens and farms around the world have had the same basic approach for millennia. First you clear the land (often with fire), till the land, plant your food, then weed and water, repeat as deemed necessary, followed by the harvest.

Jimmy Always Liked A Good Hoedown
Farm workers tilling and sowing a hillside. Image Source: Wikicommons, Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849–1914).

Tilling has been considered a good thing because it turns over the top soil, bringing fresh nutrients to the surface while burying the other vegetation and the previous year’s crop waste – providing a seed-free medium for planting an alternate crop. This initially provides a lot of fertility because it kills a lot of the organisms in the soil and that rot provides nutrients. Tilling ultimately shakes down the smaller materials (these have more surface area for hosting beneficial micro organisms). Over time, the small materials are compacted down into an acidic hard clay pan at the bottom which then needs to keep being broken to mix the material. The larger materials are left near the surface, where, being larger with less surface area, they dry out and drain quickly, often becoming salty because of its drying effect. The tilled soil is also left open and barren. Even when planted with crops much of it is kept cleared by weeding, leaving the soil vulnerable to compaction – removing air from the soil, killing more organisms. The crop takes up the nutrients from the soil and then is removed from the soil when harvested year after year. Overtime the soil fertility goes down because only so much nutrition can be removed and you can only kill so much soil life before there is nothing left alive. Once the soil is fully exploited, there is nothing left to provide nutrients to your plants. The traditional response to this is to leave the land go fallow (letting it go wild), and clear some place else to till again until the fallow land recovers. This is what we are currently seeing in the Tropics, most popularly in the Amazon (and the most media-reported of late, Malaysia – where fires for clearing new land has caused international smog problems).

There is an alternative approach to this problem that stems from the 1940’s & 50’s when For our next experiment, what happens when we heat a factory in a bottle... a new perspective took hold – we can take control of our environment with chemistry. Through this worldview it was discovered that all that plants needed to grow is a set of specific elements – Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium, often referred to as NPK (the K is for Potassium) and different plants required different proportions of those. Once it was discovered that acids could be industrially manufactured, it was then possible to lock up these major elements for storage and travel. This is mostly done in salts, with the major element suspended within. This is then spread on the soil and washed in to release the element which is then drunk by the plant. Along with it came everything else commonly used in conventional agriculture – Pesticides, Fungicides, and Herbicides. This approach was considered very economical as it is convenient and simplifies the processes. It created a whole industry that we see everywhere today.

Richard momentarily forgot that this field was called Cliffield for a reason
Image Source: Department of Environment & Primary Industries

What the modern chemical fertilizer approach ignored was that plant nutrition is so much more complex than that, requiring a larger set of about 12 elements and about 25 trace elements that are essential parts for the health, vitality and immunity of plants. And they needed all of these elements accessible in different ways, not just blended and liquid fed.

The plant interacts with the micro organisms with its root hairs to obtain the nutrients it requires, supplying starch to the micro-organisms in exchange. The equivalent to walking to the market and bartering for healthy food to eat. Having the elements drunk by the plant is comparable to driving to a fast food joint for a slurpy cup of blended carbs and little nutrition. The root hairs are no longer needed, and so they wither, leaving no place to ‘barter’ – no place to host the soil organisms. Also, because of the salts, the plant has to drink more. So what you get is a lonely, obese plant. This leaves the plant without nutrient density, but large volume. This is why you get the ‘fullness’ of foliage and flowers, but not the fitness to fight off the pests when using chemical fertilizers.

So what comes next are predators– or what are normally referred to as ‘pests’. And having a vast monoculture field filled with weaker plants, it is a buffet of easy food for the predators. This brings in the response of pesticides, that happens to also kill the bacteria in the soil. The bacteria had shaped the soil crumb structure, so without it the soil collapses – making it more necessary to aerate the soil with tilling so water and air can penetrate.

If it is a humid or wet year, the already water-bloated plant is susceptible to harmful fungi. So fungicide is applied, which also kills the beneficial fungi in the soil that bring back minerals from great depths and distances. This causes more soil collapse, making it more airless, waterlogged and raising the acidity, favoring the anaerobic micro organisms that are more harmful to the plants. This compaction also increases the water runoff and therefore erosion.

What typically happens at this point is a whole bunch of different weeds come in response as that is the germination condition these plants thrive on. The usual response at this point is a herbicide.

The water canister is photobombing
Biocide Cocktail. Image Source: Colorado Environmental Pesticide Education Program

These three _cides are a Biocide Cocktail, making it just a matter of time before the amount of money put in is bigger than the money gotten out for the work. This is because there is no recovery system in the soil. Not to mention that the Fertilizer, Pesticide, Fungicide, and Herbicide are all based on the fossil fuel industry which will become scarce, as the increased prices show. Where it is virtually past the break even point and has become cheaper to be organic.

Many hail Organic as the solution to the problem, but Organic-grown foods only solve part of the problem, and sometimes are merely ‘greenwashing’ what is being done, and sometimes are even more destructive than chemical dependent agriculture, because it often still is industrial agriculture. Organic doesn’t mean that its sustainable. You can plough up and down steep cliffs and be organic; You can enslave lots of people and be organic; You can exploit water tables and be organic; You can transport compost thousands of kilometres in large trucks and be organic. For the most part Organic just means not using pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides – so long as they are not ‘synthetic’ treatments. With so much invested in the crops, most opt for ‘natural’ treatments when the predators come around, which do the same basic thing with little difference in outcome. If not using the ‘natural’ sprays, really cheap labour is hired to hand pick the weeds and pests. These workers often have no workers’ rights and receive little pay, virtually being slave labour. Land is still cleared, there is still mass monoculture, aquifers are still tapped, land is still tilled, and weeding and killing pests and fungi are still rampant. All of these degrade and kill the soil and therefore the ecosystem, with the exception of aquifers (these will, however, be unable to replenish themselves and will be an unreliable water source.)

But Wait, The Soil Can be Killed, So Soil is Alive?

Oh yeah, it sure is! There is no larger, more complex, more diverse life system in the universe that we know of than soils.

There are at least 50 million genus of bacteria and 50 million genus of fungi in the soil.

What Mite be at the bottom of this?
Soil Ecosystem. Image Source: Nature Education Knowledge Project

99% of these have yet to be named and very little is known about the 1% that is named. The groupings, ‘good’, ‘bad’, and categories of these lifeforms are not yet known. The categories are just starting to be established now.

All this was revealed through the discovery that health and nutrition are definitely linked. There is a lot of connection between soil life and its ability to mobilize nutrients and make them available to plants through the root zone interaction; you can’t really feed the plants well organically, you have to feed the soil and the soil organisms feed the plants all the nutrition they need. With the soil ecosystem maintained, it does all the intricate and diverse feeding of the plant with the exchange of carbon through the root zone.

How to get your soil healthy again to make your plants healthy takes some unconventional methods.

The most commonly accepted one is compost – love the rot and ensure it rots well, is highly aerated and about half and half of dry and wet matter. Dry matter is stuff like dry grass, wood chips and leaves, and wet matter are things such as fresh plant by-product or even dead animals. I’d stick to the plant based stuff if you’re new or a bit squeamish. If you’re in an small place I recommend a vermi-composting bin (worm farming). The resulting soil is then added to your garden.

The other method is to embrace the weeds. Yup, that is what I said. Weeds are your friend.

This is how all weeds greet you, right until you up root them...
Let’s Be Friends! Image Source: Beruby.com

They are like the paramedics working in a disaster zone. They are part of the natural succession process of recovering disturbed land, and are support species for the soil – stabilizing soil and water resources, and providing habitat while other longer lived species become established. If they are too thick around your individual plant, just chop them off from the base (leave the roots in the soil, they are important), and drop them right there to mulch down. You shouldn’t have any exposed soil. This leads to the most unconventional of all methods.

Do not till, ever. Why? Because it destroys the root systems of beneficial fungi that share nutrients throughout the soil, exposes the beneficial bacteria and other organisms and kills them, and it shakes the clay particles down lower and pulls the larger particulate up to the surface. This creates an anaerobic (airless) base that is deadly for organisms, and leaves you with sandy soil on the surface. It’s akin to breaking skin, it is far more susceptible to disease and bleeds out. Not a very good idea.

To regain soil fertility life has to be encouraged in the soil because it’s life that recycles nutrients. When the soil remains intact, the root systems of the weeds can aerate the soil, protect the surface from rain impaction – preventing a hard top on the soil and therefore erosion; become their own mulch at the end of their life cycle, and provide habitat to beneficial micro-organisms. Without soil disruption the beneficial fungi can take root and establish connections between the plants and other soil organisms. Life is good.

... and now I can't find the house ...


Watch this video to learn more on how to start your garden right and grow your own or a community food forest!

To view other videos on food forests follow this link

Research Sources from the Permaculture Research Institute and the Permaculture Design Course by Geoff Lawton.

(To learn more about how to have fertile prosperous land that mitigates flood and drought. Or alternatively live in an area that is prone to fires and floods and want to know solutions. Go to the article Cultural Quandaries: Water)

May 31, 2013

In the vast emptiness of space there are an unimaginable number of galaxies, each galaxy containing billions upon billions of stars. Looking at one galaxy we find an average star that hosts eight unassuming planets – four gas orbs, and four rock orbs. But one of these planets is very different. It is suffused with life, and that life is diverse as a result of the different environments this planet holds. Yet, even with all this diversity none of these life forms would exist without the intricate interconnections of a vast network of life-sustaining processes. This larger system is, itself, composed of many smaller networks of life – each local system is a vital part of the whole.

What do you know of your local environment?

Solterrestriale Vocabulum (Solar-Earth Terms) Brief

Here are 40 questions to evaluate your awareness and literacy of the greater place in which you live:


1) Point to the nearest Pole (north or south pole).

Answer: The nearest pole can be determined by watching the shadows of a tall object in the open. Marking where it is at daybreak, midday (where the view of the sun is at the highest point in the day), and before nightfall. Where the shadows were during the day is the direction of the nearest pole,with the midday shadow pointing straight in that direction. If within the Tropics (are between the Borealis and Australis Sol Axis) this only works during the shorter days of the year.
This will not work if right on the equator as both poles are the same distance. Or if right on the Australis Sol Axis during Australis Lux (Pecora-Giraffa 1/December 21), or if right on the Borealis Sol Axis during Borealis Lux (Reptilia-Anguis 1/June 21), as the turning view of the sun is directly overhead during these times, only casting shadows in the east-west directions.


2) Name a constellation and find it in the night sky.

Suggestion: Find a star chart or ask a stargazer. Note: It can be a constellation recognized in whichever culture in the world


3) What Star/Constellation can you find in the dark half of the year? The light half of the year?

Suggestion: Find a star chart or ask a stargazer. Note: It can be a constellation recognized in whichever culture in the world


4) What is the current moon phase?

Suggestions: Read up on the moon and take a look outside, or find a lunar calendar
Hint: the moon can sometimes be seen during the day


5) How long until the next lunalux (full moon)?

Suggestions: Read up on the moon and take a look outside, or find a lunar calendar


6) Point to where the horizon crosses the sun at daybreak and nightfall on the equinox/equilux.

Hint: This is due east and due west; Suggestion: Go out during daybreak/revertosol (‘turn to sun’) and nightfall/avertosol (‘turn from sun’) on either equilux or equinox to see


7) Where does the horizon cross the sun on Lux (longest day of year) and Nox (longest night of year)?

Hint: The sun appears closer to the equator of the earth during the shortest days of the year, and appears closer to the poles for the longest days of the year. Within the Tropics it is a matter of the turning view of the sun being either on the other side of the equator or the same side as you’re on. Suggestion: Go out during daybreak/revertosol (‘turn to sun’) and nightfall/avertosol (‘turn from sun’) on Lux & Nox to see


8) Today, where does the west horizon cross the sun at nightfall in relation to due west?

Hint: It shifts north-west and south-west at different times of year


9) From what direction do storms generally come?

Suggestion: Keep an eye to the sky


10) What is the region’s average rainfall?

Suggestion: Find a mean total precipitation map or The Weather Network Statistics for your area



11) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt?



12) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?

Suggestion: Talk to local geologist or find geology map


13) How high above sea level are you?

Suggestion: Find a topographic map


14) What water body or water course does your runoff feed into?

Suggestion: Go out and follow the flow


15) What is your local watershed?

Suggestion: use a topographic map. [Wikipedia, Watershed]


16) Where is the nearest watershed outside of your local one?

Suggestion: use a topographic map. [Wikipedia, Watershed]


17) If you live near the ocean, when is the next high tide?

Suggestions: Talk to local fishermen and enjoy more frequent walks on the coast


18) What is your ecosystem type?

Suggestions: Find a ecosystem map of your area or talk to a biologist


19) How long is the growing season in your area (from frost to frost)?

Suggestion: Find a hardiness zone map, or a gardener


20) Name seven common trees in your area.

Suggestion: Find a Field Guide for your area and/or a gardener


21) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom where you are?

Suggestion: Find a Field Guide for your area and/or a gardener


22) Name five native edible plants in your region and the season(s) they are available.

Suggestion: Find an Edible Plants Field Guide, or a gardener


23) Name five birds that live where you are. Which are migratory and which stay put?

Suggestion: Find a birding book or a birder


24) What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude?

Suggestion: Find an Atlas


25) Name a place on a different continent that has similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to your area.

Suggestion: Find an ecosystem map


26) Name 3 species in your area that are threatened or endangered.

Suggestion: contact your local wildlife agency



27) What primary geological processes or events shaped the land in your area?

Suggestions: Read up on local geology or talk with a local geologist


28) What extinct species once lived in your area (within the last thousand years)?

Suggestion: Read up on extinct species of your continent or talk with a local biologist or ecosystem related agency.


29) Name three wild species that were not found in the area 500 years ago but are now present. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 10 years.

Suggestion: Look up a regional or national ecosystem related agency or talk with local biologist



30) How did/do the indigenous people of the area sustain themselves (pre-industrially)?

Suggestion: consult local indigenous people, an archeologist or historian or their books


31) What has been the land use of the area in the past two hundred years?

Suggestion: Talk to local archeologist or look up the local cultural heritage agency


32) Are there any culturally significant geological features in your area?

Suggestion: Talk to local archeologist or look up the local cultural heritage agency
Advice: Ensure continued, or create, community identity to the landscape in so that the land is treated respectfully


33) What valuable minerals can be found in your area?

Suggestion: Talk with local geologist or find a geological map.
Advice: Virtually all metals in current use can be post-consumer, having no need for the majority of mines – buy post consumer metal.


34) What valuable plants are cultivated in your area?

Suggestion: Talk with local farmers.
Advice: Practice Permaculture – creating a self-sustaining food forest that supplies all your needs


35) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

Suggestion: If not in remote location ask your municipality.
Advice: Source your water from Roof Runoff (rainwater harvesting)


36) Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated?

Suggestion: Read up on or talk with your electrical provider.
Advice: Develop lifestyle that doesn’t require electricity (passive design)
where what is left that does need electricity are luxury items that can self power (small solar panel/gravity) Essentially leaving only the computer and lights for night, everything else can be passive (air conditioning, fridge, cooking, heating, light, water, etc.)


37) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

Suggestion: If not in remote location ask your municipality.
Advice: Prevent wasting resources , preserve water and create valuable soil by going with composting toilets


38) What happens to the items you recycle from your neighborhood?

Suggestion: Ask your municipality
Advice: Go plastic free as all plastics end up as toxic waste


39) Where is the closest source of significant pollution?

Suggestion: Take a look at your local industries, agriculture and transportation in area.
Advice: Advocate for pollution free options in your area.


40) Where does your garbage go?

Suggestion: If not in remote location, ask your municipality.
Advice: Create a zero-waste lifestyle where all “waste” is instead a “by-product” that can be reused as compost or recycled resource (Regenerative Design)


If you liked this quiz, you may also like the questionnaire
available on Worldview Connections


This questionnaire was inspired by “Where You At – A Bioregional Quiz” by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynn Milliman and Victoria Stockley, first published in the Winter, 1981 issue of Coevolution Quarterly and subsequently reprinted in Home! A Bioregional Reader (New Society Publishers, ISBN 0-86571-188-7, 1990).
May 23, 2013

If you are unfamiliar with what Ehoah is, I suggest going to the official website prior to reading.

I have a lot of fun reading various interpretations of what Ehoah is. I’ve seen everything from animistic, pagan, and pantheistic to humanistic and atheist applied to its description. But amidst the pleasure of reading the variety, I realized that there may be confusion that may need some clearing. Ehoah can be all of these things, yet it is none of them at the same time.

If someone who is animistic finds that being a saegoah suits them and applies it to their way of life, it is very much animistic, for that practitioner. The same goes for someone of a pantheistic world view, and any other world view. Which is fantastic in that people from such diverse backgrounds can find common ground as saegoahs. That is the point in its design. Yet, to say that Ehoah is, as an example, a pantheistic path it isn’t accurate. Because it’s foundation isn’t animistic or pantheistic, or any other worldview or philosophy other than its own. It is merely open ended for personal or group use to what ever outlook. The only real way it can be described is as an environmental and secular path, but not much else. Environmental in that it revolves around the environment, and secular in that it is impartial. Its foundation developing around only what is confirmed through the scientific method – removing any potential for bias, and establishing an undeniable common connection that each individual or group can build on top of in their own way.

I’ve come across writings from individuals who have found great appeal to Ehoah, but turn away the moment they find that the founder (me) is essentially an atheist in lifestyle, believing that it is an atheist path – its not. I try very hard not to project what I personally believe onto the development of Ehoah, while at the same time don’t want it to close doors to awesome potential of various world views – hence it being secular. Secular sometimes gets a bad reputation, when all it really is is not favouring one worldview over another – its impartial.

Everything in the Ehoah Path, outside of the Three Basic Tenets, is explicitly optional. Again, to open great potential that would otherwise be suppressed with rigid rules, as it is intended to encourage diversity – ideally interactive diversity or else it would become isolated pockets that could fall into dysfunction, like elsewhere in Nature. With interactive diversity there is resilience, adaptability, and harmony among its participants, as expressed throughout Nature. The structure of the Ehoah Path is meant to facilitate this.

I am very open about my personal perspective, being philosophically an empirical agnostic, which makes my lifestyle very naturalistic/atheistic in expression. In other words, is there empirical evidence to your claim? If not, then I am skeptical of that claim. I remain encouraging of scientific studies into any claims regardless of how they are perceived, as I believe all phenomenon is worthy of study to further our understandings of them. But this is only an expression of myself, so I ask that my personal stance not be taken as the stance of the Ehoah Path. I’ve met Muslims, Buddhists, Druids, Pantheists and others who consider themselves of the Ehoah Path. And that is great. I have no intention to influence those individuals or resulting groups in the direction they deem best to go toward in achieving Ehoah. I only hope that there remains a collaboration of ideas that result so that everyone who is involved has a better opportunity in reaching Ehoah.

You are welcome to ask any question that comes to mind regarding Ehoah, or even myself, in the comments below and I’ll answer to the best I am able.

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