What might be in your (Govt approved) milk

milk chemicals1 What’s in Your Milk? 20+ Painkillers, Antibiotics, and More


This is from the U.K., but I suspect there is little substantive difference in terms of what we get in Canada. I will be buying milk today from the corner store because I am growing a batch of lactobacillus sourced from rice soak-water to experiment with as soil additive (not to drink). Personally, I haven’t purchased agro-business milk in a couple of decades, although I do eat cheese made from pasteurized milk from time to time. I find it deplorable that so-called ‘Health Canada’ essentially has outlawed real milk from the market place. But each age has its own particular forms of insanity. In times past, sexy or overly smart dames in small towns were burned as witches by pompous, bigots masquerading as ‘men of God’, nowadays we are afflicted with a strange belief in ‘progress’ which involves taking the paradise which is the natural world living and growing all around us, from microbes to cloud formations, and killing it, turning fertile soil into lifeless, poison-ridden dust, turning healthy fresh milk into something harmful, turning originally good, nourishing bread into a slow, long-term killer, turning life-giving vegetables into a regular source of malnutrition given there is hardly any life force in them by they time they make it through lifeless soil or chemical nutrient growth media, spraying, cooling, trucking, storing and so forth.

Ah well. (Actually, I am beginning to feel optimistic for the first time in decades. As more people begin to wake up to the nightmare, they will start to push back for a return to a more natural way of living, which is perfectly doable. All we really have to do is dismantle the private credit (banking) cartels, tax large corporations at double the rate of small/individual people local businesses, and in no time at all, there’d be dancing in the streets all over the planet (again).

Anyway, that’s enough of that ‘old year’s rant’ …


Port Williams CSA – Tap Root Farms

Because I am never over there (near Kentville), I have no first-hand experience of these guys, but they are doing the right thing, imo, namely a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture operation which is when clientele are shareholders rather than simply shoppers. This page has a great description of how it works, which is why it is now in the blog…


Excerpt: ”

Shareholders are more than shoppers

Shareholders commit to a new model of food production. This model is designed to create stronger relationships between local farms and local families. By purchasing shares in the farm’s annual production, families help cover the upfront costs of production and guarantee a local market for food before and during its production. Shareholders commit to a whole season or year of farm production by paying for a weekly box of local produce and products in advance.

Community-based farming versus industrial farming

By entering into shareholding agreements farmers invite the community to actively support agriculture. The cheap, often unethical, and sometimes unsafe, production of food (often on the other side of the globe) has given large producers and exporters an unfair advantage. This and other commercial farming practices of the last few decades have placed the family farm in great jeopardy. Shareholders in local farms are a key component of “community shared agriculture.” At Taproot Farms, and other small farms across Canada, shareholders are helping to stabilize the local farm economy. They are countering the commercial farming practices that are threatening family farms and farmland. As a result they are also assured of produce that is the freshest-of-the-fresh.

The benefits for shareholders

  • Guaranteed access to a wide range of tasty, high quality, local (organic and non-organic) produce from Taproot and associated farms during all 4 seasons.
  • Membership in a caring, fun community shared food system.
  • Increased ability to incorporate seasonal “100-mile diet” principles into weekly meal plans and lifestyles.
  • Great recipes featuring local produce.
  • Seasonal farm-based events.
  • Improved knowledge of the nutritional benefits of local produce.
  • Being part of the solution and stewards of the land.

What is the guarantee?

At Taproot Farms we are committed to continually improving our agricultural methods. This is to ensure the sustainability of our natural resources (water, air, soil, ecosystem), long-term viability of our farm and increase biodiversity. We believe in providing people with food that is delicious, nutritious and ethically produced.”

About Biochar


Excerpt: “Farmers Coop Begin Innovative Soil Project
The National Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grants program has awarded $75,000 to the Virgin Islands Farmers Cooperative for a project that will improve the soils at its 60-acre Estate Grange organic farm. The three year-project will produce 750 tons of compost and 60 tons of biochar annually that will be applied to maintain and improve soil productivity at the  farm.  What makes the project innovative is its plan to combine compost, a well established organic farming technology, with biochar, an ancient soil improvement technology recently discovered in the Amazon. In the last twenty years archeologist and scientist have been unlocking the secrets of large pockets of soils known as “terra preta”, dark earth, that are spread throughout the Amazon. These soils had the unexplained ability to maintain their productivity with minimal inputs of fertilizer while at the same time delivering higher yields of fruits and vegetables than surrounding soils.  After twenty years of investigation the mystery has now been explained; terra preta soils are man-made soils. Amazonian cultures had learned, as many as 5,000 years ago, that poor soils could be transformed into super soils by simply mixing charcoal into them. Biochar is the name given to process of taking any form of biomass (wood, grass, crop waste), and heating in to 400 degrees F in a kiln without oxygen to char it; hence the word biochar.   Kelly Gloger, the project’s administrator said, “The process of making biochar for agriculture has two other significant benefits – it’s a sustainable carbon negative energy…”

I am considering using my brick oven to make biochar for my own gardening/farming experiments later in 2013, and possibly also selling it at the CBFM….

Another site about biochar: http://www.biochar-international.org/

Farmers Cooperative in Port Williams article


This is old news, but any story showing how farmers are fighting to stay viable is worthy. Will include later news as to their progress..

Excerpt: “

COLDBROOK — A new co-operative food market — one that would connect farmers with consumers — may rise from the ashes of the failing Kent Co-op grocery store in New Minas.

“It’s unfortunate that Kent Co-op went the way it did,” David Cudmore said Tuesday about the closing of the 41-year-old grocery store that couldn’t survive in a highly competitive grocery market dominated by large players like Sobeys, Loblaws and Walmart.

“At the closure meeting, there was quite a turnout and a lot of support given to why people like to shop at their co-op and all the wonderful things the co-op did for them,” said Cudmore, president and CEO of Scotian Gold Co-operative Ltd., a farmer-owned business.

“Whatever model Kent Co-op had just didn’t work,” he said in an interview at Scotian Gold’s apple storage warehouse and retail outlet in Coldbrook.

“But people expressed an interest in being involved if another opportunity came along.”

So a small group of people passionate about local food formed a committee and started looking at the options. It’s proposing a new co-operative food market that will put local products first and emphasize the connection between good food and healthy living.

“We’re trying to create a whole different format to the co-op structure,” said Cudmore.

Instead of trying to be all things for all people, the new market would focus on consumers who want to know where their food comes from and how it’s grown.

“There’s a core group of people who care a lot about where their food comes from and knowing who produced it and how it’s produced,” Cudmore said.

“They would have part ownership of the enterprise and be able to influence what products are sold in the store.”

Farmers would also be members of the co-op, giving them not only a direct connection to consumers but more control over their products and how they’re priced, displayed and sampled.

The emphasis would be on Annapolis Valley products first, followed by products from elsewhere in Nova Scotia, then Canada and lastly imported products that aren’t grown locally, like bananas and oranges.

“It would have all the groceries you would want,” Cudmore said.”

Commentary: of special note here (for me) in relation to the Cape Breton Farmers’ Market (CBFM), is how the membership/ownership is not just the farmers/vendors but also those creating the market, i.e. the customers. I feel strongly we should do the same thing in Sydney, but making changes like this in an institution is always difficult, and usually not for bad reasons either. Still, I think it’s time for a re-set.

Mimi Kirk, my new heroine

Recently, and for no particular reason other than a sudden passion for eating vegetables, I have gone on pretty much a vegan diet, although personally am not interested in any labels or diets per se, I just have this feeling that all I want to eat is plants, nothing else. Indeed, I am currently researching the best ways of growing vegetables here year round so that at first I can have a supply of fresh, organic produce and then later, perhaps, be able to offer them to others. But this is not about me, rather Mimi. The ‘sexiest vegetarian alive’. \


Mimi the Sexiest Vegan Alive!

Mimi the Sexiest Vegan Alive!

I also do not exercise much, apart from some qigong and occasional walks, so this is doubly heartening…..

Now, without any disrespect to Mimi, I picked this photo because it does not make her look like a thirty-year-old or anything, although clearly she is in fine form with a delightful figure, especially for someone her age. Here’s another one from a Google image search with a closer look of her face:

Mimi - closer up

Mimi – closer up

Another one from an interview linked below, also more realistic:

Mimi - on interview

Again, not meaning any disrespect, but she doesn’t really look like a fifty year old per se, even though there are many at that age who look worse. Put it another way: she clearly is in great health and it shows, and I suspect it shows most in her movements and spirit. And people her age who are not in such good condition look far more battered, shriveled, distorted. Indeed, she looks more cheerful than many a person in their teens or twenties because clearly her spirit is in fine fettle.

Rock on, Mimi!

Three interviews with Mimi: http://www.lowdensitylifestyle.com/FREE,%20flexibility,%20fluidity/mimi-kirk/

Organic growing from a microbial perspective

From http://www.microbeorganics.com/#What_is_Compost_Tea_


Organic Growing from a Microbial Perspective
To come to a rudimentary understanding of how organic or natural growing really works, one must cast off previous miscomprehensions from the chemical model, that when we fertilize or add compost or other organic matter, we are feeding plants. This is not the case. With true organics one is feeding the microorganisms in the soil which convert organic nutrients into a form which can be assimilated by the roots of plants. According to studies, there are only a very few plant species capable of absorbing only a very few organic nutrients. Most plants are only capable of absorbing inorganic nutrients which are made that way by microbes which live at the root to soil interface, the rhizosphere. So the idea which you have, that you are feeding your plants when they appear to need nitrogen and you feed an organic fertilizer deemed high in nitrogen, is bogus. You are feeding the microbes which feed the plants.

Chemical fertilizers, mostly derived from petroleum are inorganic and can be absorbed by the roots of plants, however they are pollutants, which can cause a die off of and population change of soil microbes [** see addendum below], build up unused residues which run into the water table and, in my opinion, create harmful tissue changes in the plants which humans consume as food and medicine. In addition, I believe, the use of chemical fertilizers promote the incidence of plant pathogens like powdery mildew, erwinia, fusarium, pythium, etc. The grower can end up in a vicious spiraling downward fall as they use one chemical after another to control the effects brought on by the others.

The plant is no passive player in the natural growing game of survival but is the master conductor of this delicately balanced orchestra. The plant receives energy from above the soil in the form of light. This photosynthesis results in the plant’s internal production of carbon. It utilizes this carbon to create and reinforce tissue as it grows, so it is a very valuable commodity. As we all know the plant also requires a form of nitrogen (N) and other macro and micro-nutrients which it receives through the root system. As already stated this N must be in a form which the plant can directly uptake and use, usually a form of ammonia (N). Research has shown that when a plant needs to uptake N from the soil it sends out some of its precious carbon through it’s root system as a feed for bacteria and *archaea which live in the rhizosphere. [* Archaea are prokaryotes indiscernible from bacteria except through specialized testing; usually DNA] There are more complexities involved, such as, that certain plant types attract certain bacteria/archaea types but that is beyond the scope of this portrayal. When the bacterial/archaea population has increased in response to the carbons excreted by the roots, protozoa and bacterial feeding nematodes are attracted to the region, ‘hatch out’ from cysts and eggs respectively and in the case of protozoa multiply rapidly. Protozoa consist of flagellates, amoebae and ciliates. Some protozoa can multiply (divide) every 2 to 4 hours so their numbers can increase in short order. The protozoa and nematodes consume the bacteria/archaea and release, as waste, the ammonia (N) which the roots can then absorb. The multiplication rate of the bacteria/archaea increases in response to this predation and so on. This has been called the microbial loop. Protozoa are particularly good providers as their ‘digestive system’ only utilizes about 30% of the nutrients consumed meaning that roughly 70% is released as the waste which the roots crave. This factor, combined with their short generational time makes them real feeding machines. Undoubtedly there are micronutrients also processed and absorbed in this cycle. There are still many mysteries which research has yet to unfold or are not yet known to this author.

This is not the end. The concert continues. The bacteria/archaea also consume the ammonia (N) which is now bioavailable to them, so are in competition with the plant for these nutrients. Because of this, if there are no predators or insufficient numbers to consume the bacteria/archaea they could potentially lock up the N.  When the plant is growing it is in a vegetative state and requires a large load of available nitrogen (N) so it is advantageous for it to continue this release of carbon and maintain a balance of bacteria/archaea and protozoa, while uptaking just the right amounts of nutrients. Don’t get me wrong. There are other players in this orchestra, either playing subdued roles or waiting their turn to play. There are higher order animals like mites, other microarthropods and worms. There are various forms of fungi, most of which are degraders but some of which are mycorrhizal. These all have roles in breaking down organic matter into a form which can then be mineralized by the plant’s bacteria/archaea team or delivered directly to the roots.

When the plant receives its signal from the upper world, above the soil, that it is time to switch gears and produce flowers and or fruit, its nutrient requirement changes. Although the mechanics are not well known to this author, studies indicate that the plant then increases the uptake of the ammonia (N) (bioavailable nitrogen) and reduces or stops excreting the carbon which feeds the bacteria/archaea. This effectively starves the bacteria/archaea which will react by dying or becoming dormant. This of course results in a similar reaction by the protozoa and bacterial feeding nematode population. The mycorrhizal fungi previously mentioned is then triggered into increased growth and production. Studies have indicated that the transference of bioavailable phosphorus and potassium to the roots occur mainly as a function of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae in symbiotic relationship with the roots of the plant. The fungal hyphae (microscopic strands) grow right into the root cells and exchange nutrients. In exchange for carbon, once again released by the plant, the fungal hyphae delivers the required bioavailable nutrients to the root system. The fungal structure derives these nutrients from organic matter and food sources in the soil, some naturally processed by the other players as previously mentioned. It is my hypothesis  that the form of carbon released to stimulate the mycorrhizal activity is of a varied molecular structure from that released to promote the bacteria/archaea population previously discussed, however I have no direct data to substantiate this. There are often different types of bacteria which accompany mycorrhizal fungi, adhering to the fungal hyphae in a symbiotic relationship. It is thought that these bacterial species function to exchange nutrients with the fungi as well as to protect the fungal hyphae from consumption by other microbes and even contribute to the protection of the plant from pathogenic fungi. There are other types of mycorrhizal fungi (ectomycorrhizal) which encapsulate roots rather than entering them but these are mostly associated with trees in the temperate and boreal regions.
So you see it is quite a complex arrangement which the plant conducts or controls and there are many facets which yet remain a mystery.

** Addendum to Organic Growing From a Microbial Perspective

Okay, since I wrote Organic Growing from a Microbial Perspective I’ve received feedback which clearly outlines the need to explain the ‘chemicals killing beneficial soil microbes thing’, the role of NPK ratings as well as the pollutants statement. This feedback is justifiable. Please bear with the redundancy of the following. It reflects my attempt to be thorough.

It may be so, that some beneficial microbial life is out and out killed by chemical fertilizers but the more likely cause of death occurs over an extended period which I’ll attempt to explain.

There are bacteria/archaea that will happily feed on chemical fertilizers. Indeed, there are bacteria that will ‘feast’ on diesel fuel. It is more likely that the use of chemical fertilizers negatively effect soil biota over a period of time. Chemical N (for example) is (to my knowledge) delivered to the roots of plants in ionic form, bypassing the whole microbial nutrient loop, which occurs through degraded organic matter being delivered in several processes; one major way being by bacterial/archaeal [sic] predation by protozoa (& bacterial feeding nematodes). It follows logically that if chemical fertilizers are used over an extended period (days? months? years?) that the microbial nutrient cycle will slow and/or cease.

The other side to this is that plants emit compounds from their roots which feed bacteria/archaea and fungi (of species conducive to their survival[?]) as an active participant in this microbial nutrient loop. Logically, if the plant is receiving direct feed ionic nutrients it is likely to slow and/or cease this process.

I compare this to a patient receiving intravenous feeding for a period of time and then needing to slowly adjust to real food again when the IV is discontinued.

The effects over a period of time (days? months? years?) will likely cause a die off of soil biota of a particular microbial consortia but may stimulate the growth of another microbial consortia (possibly/probably not as balanced and beneficial as the natural one), possibly causing disease.

I hypothesize another factor that may have effect is that when the plant is an active participant in the microbial nutrient cycle it ‘decides’ what nutrients it requires in time shifts unknown to us. If we are using chemical fertilizers quite likely much goes unused by the plant or is absorbed by the plant unnecessarily, perhaps promoting disease. The unused chemicals pass into the groundwater and streams or into the atmosphere. We’ve all heard the detriments around that and this is the pollution to which I refer.

What about NPK in Natural Growing?

I’ll try to write something up which illustrates the difference between nutrient processing and utilization from a chemical and natural (or organic) standpoint (for want of a better word). The following information and opinion is stated by me and is derived from the citations and links provided. I use the words ‘apparently’ and ‘appears’ because I believe knowledge and science is fluid. I also don’t pretend to understand everything perfectly and may need correcting. Just because we know the Earth is not flat does not mean we know everything about it.

To simplify things I’ll restrict the discussion to the plant’s use of nitrogen (N). The forms of N which plant roots are able to uptake are in ionic form or soluble. These soluble forms of N are ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-). Very simply stated these soluble forms of N are instantly available in chemical N and there is no need for any bacterial/archaeal (B/A) mineralization to make them available to the roots of plants. There is some indication that some soluble ammonium is utilized by B/A and mineralized into nitrates, however this appears (to me) somewhat an opportunistic occurrence (from the B/A perspective). So yes we can concur that B/A eats and thrives on some chemically provided ions but this action is not a necessary one for the plant to uptake exactly the same ions as are being consumed by the B/A. In certain circumstances the B/A will be in competition with the plant for these nutrients. So it appears that plants can grow in this fashion without interaction by mineralizing B/A. It appears that the chemically provided ions (soluble N) completely bypass the microbial nutrient cycle.

With natural or organic growing, N ( R-NH2 ) for the plant is contained (sequestered) in a non-soluble (non-ionic) form in organic matter (or in the case of the gardener; compost and other soil foods). It is true that there are certain known bacteria (and now some archaea) which directly fix and supply ionic forms of N to the roots of plants and this is an area where ‘we’ are still learning so all is not known by any stretch. However soil scientists have discovered and it is common knowledge (as knowledge goes) that the bulk of NH4+ and NO3- are delivered to the roots of plants by protozoa (flagellates, amoebae and ciliates). This occurs in a complex network ostensibly, controlled in large degree by the plant. The plant releases compounds from the roots which feed B/A, thereby increasing the B/A population. The B/A consumes/processes forms of R-NH2 or forms which are pre-degraded by fungi and or other B/A. The B/A further multiply with a good supply of food and their large population encourages the excysting (hatching from cysts) and dividing of protozoa. The protozoa prey upon the B/A and in an approximate 30 minute period complete the excretion of NH4+ and/or NO3- available to the roots of the plants. Apparently protozoa only utilize 30 to 40 percent of the nutrient consumed  making 60 to 70% available to plants and many have a division cycle of 2 hours so the efficiency of this nutrient delivery system is considerable. Just as it began, the microbial N cycle can be rapidly shut down by chemical emissions from the plant. It is apparent that the nutrient needs of the plant can change within short periods (perhaps in hours). There is much yet unknown, however I hypothesize that even disease control may be effected by a sudden reduction of N in the rhizosphere. This is certainly something which cannot be effectively manipulated by chemical N applications.

My goal in writing this was to illustrate the stark differences between the use by a plant of chemically provided ions and those derived through the microbial nutrient cycle. I believe I have succeeded. There are other ways which plants obtain N, such as through fungal interactions but that is nature; always have a back up.

I did fail to find information detailing the effects of chemical soluble N on protozoa populations. Although we humans have great confidence in our ability to mimic natural molecules sometimes we discover it is the subtle variances going unnoticed which end up having the greatest effects.

Some References; 
Email me if you wish to track down these references.

Protozoa and plant growth:  2003;
the microbial loop in soil revisited;     Michael Bonkowski;
Rhizosphere Ecology Group, Institut für Zoologie, Technische Universität Darmstadt,
Darmstadt, Germany

Soil microbial loop and nutrient uptake by plants: a test
using a coupled C:N model of plant–microbial interactions
Xavier Raynaud Jean-Christophe Lata
Paul W. Leadley
Plant Soil
DOI 10.1007/s11104-006-9003-9

The mycorrhiza helper bacteria revisited; 2007 P. Frey-Klett, J. Garbaye and M. Tarkka
Interactions Arbres/Micro-organismes, Champenoux, France;
UFZ-Department of Soil Ecology, Helmholz Centre for Environmental
Research, Halle, Germany

Modern Soil Microbiology; 2nd edition 2007 – Chapter 6 – Protozoa and Other Protista in Soil
Marianne Clarholm, Michael Bonkowski, and Bryan Griffiths

Soil protozoa: an under-researched microbial group gaining momentum
Marianne Clarholm
Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Box 7026, S-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Soil Biology & Biochemistry 37 (2005) 811–817

David C. Coleman
University of Georgia

I created a PDF from a write up I found on the WSU website. I created this without permission but I believe the authors won’t mind. I think some may find it helps to clarify the NPK cycle, etc.
NPK Cycle
The link for the write up is    http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb1722/eb1722.html

How to Apply All This to Horticultural Activities

You say, okay so that’s how it works but how do I apply that to my growing situation? The answer is pretty simple really. You need to assure that there is organic matter, mostly in the form of composted plant and animal (manure) substances in or on your soil for a microbial inoculant and food source. Additionally you can add microbial foodstocks such as diluted fish hydrolysate and molasses and kelp meal, alfalfa meal and rock phosphate and other clay and rock powders if available. It is very good to include rock phosphate in your composting process if you are making your own. Rock phosphate in the compost adds a long lasting source of phosphorus for microbes to draw from. At time of planting it is highly beneficial to place some mycorrhizal fungi spores in the hole or on the root system. You can research the best strain of fungi for the plants you are growing and purchase the spores from a number of suppliers. [ http://www.mycorrhizae.com   http://www.fungi.com ] You may also consider seeding companion edible mushrooms which provide a dual benefit of cycling nutrients to your plants and providing your breakfast. You may research this at the fungi.com site. The rest is governed by the plant, as previously discussed, assuming that all the necessary components are available from the organic matter and additional foodstocks provided. In my opinion manipulation of the pH is not a wise practice in natural growing unless dramatic acidity or alkalinity are measured. Soil with a healthy microbial population tends to self regulate the pH. One should disturb the soil as little as possible so as to leave fungal growth and strands intact. I realize this is challenging when growing in containers. I have run trials where wooden bins were constructed (2’x3’x1.5’ deep) where soil was successfully left intact after annual plants were harvested and replanted over several seasons. In between plantings composting worms were introduced to help consume the residual dead roots and plant matter. The worms were later trapped out. Compost tea was applied regularly to boost the soil microbial population. Over time there developed something of a miniature ecosystem complete with mushrooms, rove beetles and other beneficial bugs. If you are growing in smaller containers it is a good idea to provide a high volume of quality compost and or vermicompost at the onset.

Some people grow herbs and edible produce in containers organically. Because this has been practiced extensively utilizing chemical fertilizers, there is a period where growers have flushed the soil with copious amounts of water, the thought being that they are removing the harsh or harmful chemicals from the plant tissues. Too late! Those chemicals are already integrated into what you plan to put on your dinner plate or in your medicinal tea or pipe. At least that’s my opinion. If you have grown your produce naturally allowing the plant to be in control, this flushing routine is not only unnecessary but sort of stupid. Since plants are not able to uptake organic nutrients, what exactly would you be flushing away? You might instead be water logging your soil and roots.

Using Compost Tea

The use of compost tea (CT) is one of the best ways to inoculate your soil with the beneficial microbes you wish to have for optimum health of your plants. It is also good if your supply of compost or vermicompost is limited, as it multiplies those microbes, we have been discussing, by the millions. Remember the protozoa I mentioned earlier? Well you can brew an aerated compost tea specifically to have a large population of protozoa, usually mostly flagellates. If you have a good quality compost or vermicompost, protozoa will already be present, often in a resting cyst. If you have an efficient aerated brewer you can pretty much count on having a high flagellate (protozoa) population combined with bacteria/archaea and fungal hyphae (not mycorrhizal) at 36 to 44 hours brew time (65 to 72 degrees F). If you have a microscope you can examine the CT periodically to be sure that the microbial population is optimum. The use of aerated compost tea also provides the opportunity to manipulate microbial populations for specific purposes by using various recipes and brew times. You may wish to have high bacterial or fungal numbers for pathogen/disease control or have soil or plants that require a higher population of a microbial type. I have a lot to learn yet of fungal species which can grow in compost tea so until I have learned to identify the species occurring I’m cautious about some of the tricks employed to stimulate fungal hyphae growth in compost. Better to count on good quality compost and vermicompost with natural occurring quantities and species of fungi and use known mycorrhizal and mushroom spores in the soil.

As always, I am open to correction or refinement of what I have written.


Natural Farming – the new way forward?

To supplement income from the bakery, which is not quite breaking even after two years, and given the two-day sourdough wood-fired brick oven method is not suited for 2-3 bakes per week, and given I have been yearning to get my hands in the soil for a while now but cannot because have been too busy in the summer selling into two FM’s (Sydney and Baddeck), notwithstanding the numbers are still not adding up, therefore be it resolved that something else has to be done!

So this post is going to be a repository of links about several main topics relating to my search for viable farming methods for here on the island. They must be able to be implemented for little or no money and be organic.

There are currently three main interests:

1. Cold season greenhouse operations. For this will be reading up on Eliot Coleman Four Season Farming technology, albeit also looking into heating mainly with compost the Natural Farming method (see next), and also am quite happy letting things go dormant for a couple of months in Feb-March. It’s good to rest, take a holiday, plan the upcoming year. It’s Nature’s annual version of the seventh day of rest principle. There are no links to this at present except what seems to be good quality greenhouse covering:


2. Natural Farming. This is the one I have been waiting to discover, namely a way of vitalizing soil – obviously the key to good (organic) farming – using fermentation. One of the key underlying principles evident in Nature and her Processes, is Abundance. Seeds of most species, be they plant or animal, are usually several orders of magnitude greater than the individual generating them. Males produce literally millions of sperm to make one baby. Microbial cultures are exceptionally fertile in this way as evidenced every time I build a sourdough starter culture. At the right temperature they double every few hours. Within a week a teaspoon could become a ton. Nature wants to grow, to flourish, things naturally wish to increase. There is not a scarcity problem in the world in terms of population numbers, food etc. There is only a political/cultural/ethical corruption/unconsciousness problem. For a good intro to consciousness-raising, try Eckart Tolle’s Power of Now (and then spend the rest of your life studying BuddhaDharma or contemplative Christianity if you can find it). But for financial and general material/societal corruption, the solution is for many more of us to create more vibrant local economies by providing local production and the simplest place to start is with food, i.e. cultivating the soil. Natural Farming is a great way to do this by growing microbial cultures from existing cultures in the immediate environment in the soil, nearby woodlands, milk, very few inputs (none needed but sugar can help speed things along, as can milk in small quantities to generate lactobacilli cultures). So here are some main links to Natural Farming:


from this site several key links:


7 page pdf article on how to collect your own IM organisms from your location:


THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE ON THIS PAGE: Gil Carandang’s http://hkpi.webs.com/Indigenous%20Micro-organism%28Phil%29.pdf 

This one explains the basic philosophy along with how-to instructions on making indigenous beneficial microbial cultures from scratch from your property or nearby.

Another similar pdf article: http://www.cog.ca/documents/07SU_EffectiveMicroorganisms.pdf


How to make Bokashi
100 lb wheat bran
12 L warm water
240 ml molasses
240 ml EM
Prepare a diluted solution of EM, molasses and water at a
ratio of 1:1:100.
Mix well and pour over bran and continue to mix until the
final product is about 30% moisture
Place the material in a barrel and place a lid on the container
to create an anaerobic condition.
Allow 3–5 weeks in the summer and 7–10 weeks in the winter
and the bokashi should have a sweet and sour fermented smell
(but not putrid).
The pH of the bokashi should be about 5. The material
should be used immediately.

and more:

“The literature on EM is overwhelmingly favourable and includes many peer-reviewed publications that demonstrated a wide-spectrum of benefits including: increased seed protein, crude fat, and seed yield in soybeans; increased N uptake by cowpea from crop residues; control of Sclerotinia in turfgrass; increased yields in banana, oranges, peanuts, papayas, mangos; efficiency of compost production from three months to three weeks, etc. From this superficial scan of the literature, EM appear to have been successful in agronomic applications worldwide, but data are lacking from Canadian experiences. For those growers using EM technology in their agricultural practices, I would love to hear your testimony on the products you used.

Av Singh, PhD, PAg, is the Organic and Rural Infrastructure Specialist with AgraPoint in Nova Scotia and is available for comment or question at 902-896-0277 or at a.singh@agrapoint.ca.”

Another set of how-to make from scratch:  http://forum.hydrobreed.com/showthread.php?1001-How-to-make-EM-1


Official EM site: http://www.emrojapan.com/application/agriculture.html

Case Studies, research links: http://www.scdprobiotics.com/SCD_Probiotics_Case_Studies_s/365.htm

Canadian EM1 re-seller: http://www.gardenerspantry.ca/microorganisms/effective-microorganisms.html

A cheat sheet with quick instructions for how to make EM1 from scratch (hard to find instructions): http://pinoyagribusiness.com/forum/cattle_carabao_goat_sheep/how_to_make_benificial_micro_organism_em1-t942.0.html;wap2=

From Georgia, United States:


Also his research page: http://www.prokashi.com/research/


How to make lactobacillus with pictures. I did this recently starting with brown rice water and it worked fine, although I was not using these precise instructions, rather my memory of prokashi’s instructions. They are essentially the same. http://myfanwe.xanga.com/754896562/making-em-1-culture/


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdNHEpMISmQ (1 hr chicken production for eggs)

This bokashi business (sort of) started again (officially) around 1982 with Dr. Teruo Higa. This clip promotes his derived product but of interest to you, perhaps, is that it can be used to clean off toxins in water or other substances.

So it is an organic, virtually free way of developing healthy soil, essentially meaning you can compost everything – meat, eggs, bread, sugars, not just veggies – and in so doing clean away toxins as well.

This site sells compost tea makers and has very interesting information – and pictures – of microbial life. http://www.microbeorganics.com/ In fact, it is so well written that I am making a companion post which will follow this one – ‘Organic Growing from a Microbial Perspective’…

3. Hugel Culture – or raised beds with wood logs as the nutritive and hydration base. This takes heavy machinery (realistically) up front, but then for years you have vibrant soil with no irrigation or fertilization needed. Combined with some Natural Farming home-grown soil enhancing additions, not to mentions regular infusions of additional nutrients from roaming chickens, perhaps pigs etc., you have a dynamic growing culture far more productive per sq metre than the best conventional farming methods at far lower cost. The problem, of course, is our Northern climate short growing season, which brings us back to Nr 1, winter greenhousing. Nr 2 solves the problem of the soil getting tired inside a greenhouse, albeit it will need an irrigation system, and/or it could be that one good solution is simply to have removable greenhouse covering which goes up from Nov-April and then comes off the rest of the year, covering over these Nr 3 section raised beds which themselves contain plenty of water, albeit still there would have to be some irrigation of course, but nothing intensive. Anyway, some links:\

The Godfather of this nowadays is Sepp Holzer. His latest book is Permaculture. Just Google his name for articles, videos etc.

A film of Holzer – growing lemons at 5000 ft in the Austrian Alps! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oF6-xh34ovA

Also: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ – some videos about making the raised bed with back hoes, results, methodology

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-2/permaculture This is an active permaculture forum and there is a sub-forum in there about the hugels, amongst many other things.

So this post is tagged with Farming, Solutions and Fermentation. It is a solution because I believe if more of us get into doing this, especially Natural Farming, even if it’s just for our flowers and a small vegetable garden, that the world would be a much better place, and the Power of the Evil Doers, whoever ‘they’ are, but ‘they’ are ruining our world and human culture, will be diminished. So this is all very worthy stuff, aka ‘Solution’. Fermentation is of course my special interest. I am not surprised to learn that the best way to farm involves using the natural abundance/fertility of micro-organisms. It’s sort of a head-slapping moment for me: the same stuff that makes sauerkraut (lacto-bacillus) and other great pickles that boost vitamin and phytonutrient content by 20-50 times, is also what you can use to turn any soil into highly fertile, microbially rich living soil. Elementary, Dear Watson!

Related to Natural Farming are various other techniques including, for example, fermenting grasses and the use of biochar, or charcoal.



Making biochar yourself video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqkWYM7rYpU

My fermented Power Oatmeal recipe

2012-12-18-fermented oatmeal

Well, this is one case of where the picture doesn’t really tell the story. First, from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, I think my favorite ever food and cooking book, I picked up on fermenting oatmeal. Somewhere else perhaps I read about how in various part of Scotland, in days of yore, people set aside a lower drawer in their kitchen for fermenting oatmeal where it would stay for months. I just soak cracked oats or groats which I purchased from Speerville Flour Mill for a few days. They are fine after a few hours, but after 2-3 days they become very sour. If you are not used to fermenting things you might think they are rotten but they are not: just as with sourdough fermentation of bread grains (mainly wheat, rye, spelt), the more fermentation you have, the more acid is produced at which point germs (bacteria) cannot feed on it. Or to put it another way: it won’t rot. There could be a little mold on the top at some point, but I think that depends on the temperature and substance. Anyway, the main thing about this post is to mention fermenting oatmeal.

Just as with bread grains, fermenting oat grains greatly increases the availability of the nutrients whilst boosting vitamin and other levels, partly from releasing them from being bound in a dormant seed, partly from the germination process initiated by soaking (at room temperature of course), but also I believe partly from the micro-organisms themselves – they are living things filled with vitamins, minerals and so forth.

Fermentation aside, I’ve always liked oatmeal. It’s not something you rave about, rather a solid friend or neighbour whom you know well and can always count on. Solid. Simple. True. My favorite oatmeal is from steel-cut oats, soaked overnight, then cooked very slowly and served with butter, cream and maple syrup. I remember doing a 6 week meditation retreat in the Rocky Mountains during winter one year. I was in a small, but well designed one-room cabin without electricity or running water. The toilet was a hole in the ground not far from the cabin. Heating was from a kerosene heater. Lights from kerosene lamps. It was very snug. I would wake up at 3.30 or 4.00 am to start practice and then around 6.30 or so break for breakfast, at which point the oatmeal, which had been simmering slowly all along, was now ready. They I could go out on the porch, often covered in a new blanket of fresh high mountain (very dry) snow, brush it away, and have my morning oatmeal with a strong black tea (with cream and sugar), and life was grand. Yes, oatmeal is a true friend.

Here is the (playful) recipe for my Fermented Power Oatmeal, which although far more complex and even dramatic (the Maca Root), is really not as deeply pleasing to me as the steel-cut version described above):

1 cup fermented oatmeal

1.5 cups of water/fresh almond milk*

4 TBS left over ground almond meal (from making the milk)

cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom

pinch of sea salt

table spoon of Maca Root (very cheap if purchased at Bulk Barn)

After it is cooked, which doesn’t take long if has been soaked for more than a day: add in some gloopy flax milk, and 2 tbs fresh-ground flax.

With a sour oatmeal like this (which is sweetened considerably by the almond and flax milks), I find you don’t need or want sugar, but if you do, try adding in some dates or apples (cooked with the oatmeal), or simply drizzle local honey on top.

* the amount of water to add varies with each batch, largely dependent upon how long you have soaked it. I throw away the extra soak water to reduce sourness, and also there might be phytic acid concentrate in it (I don’t know how that works with oatmeal), but if it has been soaked a long time, it seems about 1.5 to 1 is enough water, but earlier on it is more like 2.5 to 1. You have to keep stirring oatmeal anyway so if you see it is getting too dry, just add some hot water from the kettle a little bit at a time and when it stops absorbing any more, you have enough water or milk.

My first flax Almond Milk Smoothie; plus Fats & chemistry links


My mother sent me an Omega VRT 350 HD juicer for Christmas. Being more or less pagan I just opened up the box and got her into production. It’s a great little (and heavy) machine which is not designed for milks and butters, principally juices.  You feed it vertically, don’t really have to push, the augur masticates/presses the produce at a very slow 80 RPM per minute, so this is true ‘cold-processing’ and then away you go. Yesterday I made delicious almond milk. It is SO much better fresh, and unlike when making it with the blender, with this VRT (for vertical augur) machine, I get a rich, creamy milk which holds together as such for days (well, at least one day so far) afterwards rather than separating. It takes about 5 minutes to make including clean-up, though you have to soak the almonds in water overnight first.

Well, last night, having read about how fantastic flax is for you on so many levels, I decided to see what would happen if I tried to make a flax milk. Soaked overnight, put through machine. It is much slower going since the flax turns into a sort of gloopy jelly. I had to put everything through twice and ended up with a flax pudding. In fact, I suspect there are already flax pudding products or recipes out there but I will later blend one frozen banana with this flax goop and get an instant super-healthy jelly pudding. Or that’s the visualisation – perhaps blending will eradicate the jelly effect. But then if next time I add banana in with the soaked flax and process in the Omega together from the get-go, I will have an instant pudding.

For now I added nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and a dash of sea salt and roughly 3 parts almond milk to one part flax gloop for an instant smoothie. It was fine, not all that interesting, but for sure an interesting way to eat flax. I might also try adding all this gloop to a bread recipe just to see how it effects the flour. Each one cup of flax seeds ( I didn’t weigh them since just playing around) seems to yield (eyeballing) about 3 cups of milk (after soaking that is).

More about the Omega VRT model: there is lots on the internet, including many almost hilarious videos by John at discountjuicers.com, but the principal feature which sold me was that, for relatively little money compared to the top of the line Norwalk Juicer costing $2600 plus shipping and customs, this does an excellent job – because of slow, cool processing – in maintaining enzyme and other living elements, so much so that it is fine to keep the juice for up to 72 hours in the fridge after it has been processed. With nearly all other juicers if you did that you would end up with a discoloured, sometimes bad-smelling, unpalatable and unhealthy mess, because there is so much more oxidization in their more rapid processes. Other masticating juicers (principally the Champion) are similar to this one in not destroying so many living elements, but the Champion still processes at about 1300 RPM compared to this Omega’s 80 RPM. That’s a big difference. Because of the vertical augur technology, they seem to get very dry pulp out of it as well, and can handle everything from carrots, leafy greens to wheat grass, which also is a bit unusual for a single machine. Anyway, the key point is the 80 RPM.

Meanwhile, have decided to add growing vegetables in a greenhouse to my list of things that I do, and plan to focus on baking once a week and no more, and then meanwhile develop other skills, some of which I can bring to market, principally vegetables to begin with. But am also in discussion with some people about starting a full service organic farm in the Sydney area. This will be a slow-simmering project, but one that I would like to realise before having to bring out the pensioner’s walking cane as I dodder along who knows where in the deepening gloom (of a no doubt SPLENDID Cape Breton sunset!)….

Back to earth…. a customer/friend of mine just got back from a 10 week raw diet training program in Fort Bragg, California where, amongst many other things, they listened to a few lectures by the teaching scientists at this link: http://rawfoodeducation.com/?page_id=60

(this sort of thing starts to make sense if you listen to the lecture!)

18-12-2012 10-16-26 AM Fat lecture

As a baker and regular consumer of sourdough breads – I prefer whole grain these days but do skip around – I am obviously not a dedicated raw foodie, but I do think that we should be eating about half of our daily foods raw, which of course also means unrefined, whole and minimally, or at least only cold, processed. Which very few of us do. And I suspect that those who do go for raw only have quite a lot of information to impart, so I was glad that Antje gave me this link and now I pass it on to you. After viewing the video you will be up on all the chemistry behind the various fat theories in diet. And also, like me, suspect that adding more flax to the diet is not a bad thing…..





The Urban Homestead at a Glance

Jules Dervaes sold his 10 acres in rural Florida and purchased this “fixer-upper” home in the mid-1980s at a reasonable price by California standards.

Sorely neglected by years of being occupied by renting tenants and located in a low income neighborhood, the home was in bad need of repair (and, heck… we ain’t kiddin‘… it still does in most places! Just sayin’) and the yard was a combination of broken asphalt, large concreted areas, weeds, Bermuda grass, chalky “adobe-type” soil, and a few rather pathetic “landscape” plants.

before and after photos

You will not find movie stars on this set, but we do have our own cast of characters and enough daily dramas here on the Urban Homestead model to be more than interesting. And it’s a REAL reality show, not Hollywood manufactured and scripted. The Urban Homestead model is on a completely opposite spectrum to the hustle and insanity that surrounds us.

Thousands of people zoom by on the freeway in their own little automobile cocoons. A few blocks away, people stroll Old Towne in their latest designer threads, buying things they probably don’t need. We’re a whole different world; our triumphs and struggles are so far different from what the majority of Angelinos experience. It may surprise you but we live under a constant dictatorship! Gardening is not a democracy. We are ruled by nature and there isn’t much we can do about that. This “tough love” dictatorship teaches us the valued lessons of patience and perseverance. One hard lesson learned is that we aren’t in control and can’t vote to change the outcome. In fact if we had custom t-shirts made this might very well be our saying for one of them.

Over the years, we have documented our progress in our journey towards becoming self-sufficient in a densely urban setting with charts, diagrams and stats. The Urban Homestead model is a continually evolving work in progress and these records have helped us to compare our successes and failures. They also serve as an aid in planning future plantings and projects.

In no way are our accomplishments “one size fits all.” In viewing the aerial shots of the Urban Homestead model , it’s hard for even us to even to imagine that such a small space could produce so much. But these aerial shots offer even more — zooming out farther from this isolated view, one sees America. Zooming even farther shows the entire world. We know that in that great big blue marble earth, there are fellow travelers and homesteaders, each scattered about on their isolated oasis, yet all connected in a common effort and spirit. We realize circumstances and situations have allowed us to take these steps. We do not intend to compare or endorse our progress as being possible for everyone.

However, we hope that by providing this information and making our records public we can prove that YOU can make a difference. Perhaps you may get inspired to make your own changes by the examples provided here. After all, no matter how small the change, you too, can take a step in the right direction.

And then, who knows where the path will take you? Let’s walk!

::HELPFUL RESOURCE:: View the 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading Checklist


The Urban Homestead model at a Glance

Location: Northwest Pasadena, one mile from downtown Pasadena

Property Size: 66’ x 132’ = 8,712 sq.ft. (1/5 acre)

House: Simple, wood frame craftsman bungalow. Circa 1917.

House Size: 1,500 sq. ft.

Garden Size: ~ 1/10 acre (3,900 sq.ft. / ~ 66′ x 66′)

Garden Diversity: Over 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits & berries

Productivity: Up to 6,000 lbs harvest annually on 1/10 acre

In Perspective

Comparison Diagram of Property

Elements on the Urban Homestead model

Tour Guide of the Urban Homestead model (2007)

Geography & Climate

Aerial Shots:
north | west | south | east

Satellite Map (via bing.com)

Street View (via google maps)

Food & Garden

  • Growing 99 % of produce
  • 6,000lbs on 1/10 acre Garden
  • Saving seeds
  • Companion planting
  • Square inch, intensive growing methods
  • Polyculture/intercropping


  • Remineralization
  • Self watering containers
  • Integral pest management
  • Square inch plantings
  • Polyculture
  • Successive sowing


  • Making / Using EM Bokashi
  • Vermicomposting
  • Composting food, garden and green waste
  • Brewing compost teas


  • Bread making
  • From scratch
  • Cheese, butter & yogurt
  • Sprouting
  • Canning
  • Drying
  • Freezing
  • Fermenting
  • Brewing


  • Buying in bulk
  • Organic
  • Local
  • Eating seasonally
  • Reducing “food miles”
  • Fair trade
  • Vegetarian (since 1992)

Energy & Fuel


  • “Powering down” – cut daily energy use in 1/2 12 kwh to 6 kwh a day
  • 12 solar panels provide 2/3rds of our energy
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Line drying clothes


  • Front loading washing machine
  • Refrigerator
  • Water heater (gas)


  • Computer/printer/copier
  • TV(no cable)/VCR/ DVD


  • Compact fluorescent bulbs
  • Olive oil lamps
  • Oil lamps filed with biodiesel
  • Homemade soy & beeswax candles
  • Daylighting
  • Solar tube


  • Blender
  • Toaster
  • Grinders(s)
  • Popcorn popper
  • Solar ovens(s)
  • Hand washer/wringer
  • Pedal powered grain mill
  • Straight-razor for shaving
  • Hand-cranked radio
  • Mortar & pestle


  • No Air Conditioning
  • Wood floors
  • Blinds
  • Windows
  • Screen doors
  • Edible forest
  • “Living” screens
  • Solar attic fan
  • No central heating
  • Wood stove that used scrap wood
  • Dressing in layers

Fuel & Transportation

  • Homebrewed biodiesel w/waste veggie oil
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Public transportation

Water Conservation

  • Low flush toilets
  • Grey water to landscape
  • Toilet lid sink
  • Reusing laundry water
  • Limit toilet flushings
  • Polyculture
  • Limit baths/showers
  • Mulching
  • Handwatering
  • Claypot Irrigation
  • Solar outdoor shower
  • Front loading washer-machine
  • Growing food not grass
  • Bottom water bed irrigation (experimental stages)



  • Chickens (eggs/manure)
  • Ducks (eggs/manure)
  • Dwarf rabbits (manure)
  • Dwarf/pygmy goats (milk/manure)


  • Captured wild swarm
  • Without the use of antibiotics
  • Unfiltered, unheated, hand extraction


  • Talapia
  • Water used to grow veggies
  • Solar pump and heater

Simple Living


  • Caretakers of creation
  • Sabbath
  • Tithing
  • Homeschooling
  • No cable, limited TV
  • Staycationing
  • Home socials
  • Aprons


  • Make do, mend or do without
  • Natural beauty/no make up
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, reject
  • Second hand, salvage, thrift store
  • Bartering


  • Homemade soap, deoderant, toothpaste
  • Homemade notoxic cleaning products
  • Natural health practices & home herb remedies

Skills & Crafts


  • Survival skills
  • Forging
  • Hair cutting
  • Sewing
  • Fiber crafts
  • Herbal medicine
  • Animal husbandry
  • Food preservation
  • Carpentry
  • Bike & auto repairs
  • Soapmaking
  • Candlemaking
  • Website, graphics & video


  • Solar ovens
  • Cob oven
  • Depaving
  • Installation of solar panels
  • Greywater
  • Roofing
  • Sheds, chicken coops, etc
  • Edible landscaping
  • Urban farming

Home Economy


  • Honey (since 1974)
  • Produce (since 1995)
  • Hand-crafts & goods (since 1995)



  • Being a good neighbor
  • Recipient of awards from the City of Pasadena
  • Educational tours
  • Screenings, workshops & presentations
  • World wide website reaching over 125 countries & over 60,000 visits per month
  • Network of websites (FreedomGardens.org / BarnyardandBackyards.org)
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