Posted by & filed under Building, Community, Demonstration Sites, Design, Education Centres, Permaculture Projects.

Tom Kendall from the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast

Tom Kendall talks about what the next step is for the Biogas Bio Digester at his Permaculture Demonstration Site “Maungaraeeda”, which is the location of the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast. The Bio Digester already creates enough gas to cook some meals on, but it is ready for the next step to increase gas production.

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Posted by & filed under General.

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Shopping secondhand starts off for most as an act of frugality. We notice that buying a car, a computer, a TV, furniture, guitar, sweater … anything! … is so much cheaper if it’s been used for a year or two prior, maybe even shows a bit of wear, that unsightly scar on the paint job or the stain from an errant cup of coffee. We take joy in finding stuff for unbelievably good deals.

As students or budding entrepreneurs or just run-of-the-mill misers, this discounted shopping makes perfect sense. In fact, it makes having some things, what would otherwise be unattainable, possible. All of this stuff is still perfectly functional, often even downright optimal. Simply, because it lacks the thrill of “brand new,” which instantly puts items on a pedestal, sometimes quite literally a showroom pedestal, the price takes a nosedive.

After all, many of us were brought up in worlds in which secondhand equated to other people’s old stuff as opposed to logical options. If it wasn’t good enough for them, but it’s good enough for us, then it would seem we are somehow lesser. Of course, our sensible brain knows this is nonsense, but the reality of cultural norms, antiquated ideals, can be challenging to get over.

Well, for me, for a myriad of reasons, this is one cool kid faux pas I’ve learned to live with: Secondhand shopping is not just about budgeting anymore; rather, it is something we should all be doing for the good of the planet, for our fellow humans and for the other things—sentient or not—with which we are sharing the planet.

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Posted by & filed under Food & Food Support Systems, General, Plant Systems, Plants.

To learn more about the Poo to Peaches project and become a backer, visit the Kickstarter page

Every day, the average person flushes 10 gallons of clean drinking water down the toilet. This constitutes a waste of two precious resources: scarce water supplies and human manure, which could instead be composted to form a fertile soil amendment.

While composting toilets (CTs) of various styles are commercially available and legal for home use, they are often too expensive for many would-be users. There are excellent designs out there for affordable, easy-to-construct CT systems, but local laws typically prohibit their use.

Several years ago, the Tucson, Arizona-based nonprofit Watershed Management Group (WMG) set out to change this paradigm. Working with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, WMG launched a “Soil Stewards” pilot program to install and monitor 24 site-built CT systems in homes and organizations throughout southern Arizona. The end goal with this program is to develop a safe and effective, do-it-yourself CT design that is legally permitted for Arizona residents.

The group used two main designs in this project: the Omick barrel composting toilet and Nogales double chamber composting toilet.

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Posted by & filed under Community, Demonstration Sites, Design, Education Centres, General, Permaculture Projects, Plant Systems, Plants.

Tom Kendall from the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast

Tom Kendall from the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast talks about his plans for the swimming pond which was dug 2 years ago. Support species are establishing growth, but after a big rain it is time to do some chopping and dropping and encouraging the growth of other species by creating a forest floor.

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Posted by & filed under Animals.

Please exercise caution 55sec to 1.10 min contains video of a whaling hunt that may distress

From Sustainable Human

A while back, my mind was totally blown with the concept of trophic cascades and more specifically how wolves dramatically improve the ecosystem. It pushed me to rethink the way I saw every living being.

Recently, I found out that whales also play a crucial part in our ecosystem. If you thought saving whales was something reserved to a group of eco-pirates, these two videos will definitely help you understand why their work is so important. From what I gathered, whales are the earthworms of the ocean. Everything a whale is and does directly impacts the well being of our planet.

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Posted by & filed under Community, Design, Food & Food Support Systems, Markets & Outlets, Plants, Seeds.

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In Memory of Anna, Forever My Sweet Potato

Last year, about this time, my wife and Emma and I agreed to take up a project in Panama. We were given six months, a small budget to feed volunteers, and a good plot of land—roughly an acre—to grow on.

There were lots of things either already in place: mangoes, limes, plantains, water apples, and a papaya tree shooting through the greenhouse roof. Other things– cashew, rosa de Jamaica, coconuts, lemon cucumbers—were growing wildly or nearby. And, we hit up neighbors for what they had: sweet potatoes, okra, Malabar spinach, star fruit, different varieties of banana, and so on.

We instantly and excitedly started devising plans for these existing components, but we also hope for much more. We wanted vegetables, annual fruits, herbs, seeds, and other things we associated with the supermarket. True, we had the budget to buy it, but like good little permaculturalists, we wanted to grow it.

Unfortunately, we had no access to a nursery or even a spot to pick up basic seeds, but we didn’t want to let that deter us. After all, our goal was grow most—if not all—of what we ate. And, so, it was from our groceries that we began building our garden.

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Posted by & filed under Design, Plants.

Farming is never without its challenges, especially in San Diego County. Compared to other farming areas nationwide, San Diego farmers face costly imported water ($600/acre ft.), biologically and nutrient depleted soils, expensive land, and difficult terrain. These pressures force San Diego farmers to be selective in the crops they plant or animals they raise.

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Low rain fall coupled with record temperatures can spell disaster for California agriculture unless systemic changes take place.

On the upside, our Mediterranean climate affords farmers the ability to grow exotic and sub-tropical species that can command a high price (until the market is saturated). However, that same Mediterranean climate also means a prolonged dry season with 80% of the year’s water usually arriving between December and March. Our coasts receive the least amount of rainfall, on average, with 9.9″ compared to the inland mountains’ 40″; both paltry numbers for one of the United State’s largest agricultural production zones. Wells are used, but they are steadily lowering requiring deeper wells. Salt levels are rising due to the concentration factor from less water, making them either unusable or extremely expensive to desalinate.

Aggravating the tight space farmers find themselves in, our region has seen below average rainfall and above average temperatures, dry spells lasting 200 years or more, and we import 80% of our water from the Colorado River and Northern California.

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Posted by & filed under General.

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Large expanses and widening fields for crop production have substantially limited the access of beneficial insects to field crop prey. The ecological services provided by naturally occurring pest predators is increasingly impeded spatially as the fields grow. The field edges, being the over-wintering and refuge for beneficial insects, are the primary source of conservation pest management in many crops. As much as 35% of pest management and crop protection comes from naturally occurring biological controls. Increasing the natural capital needed to enhance the supportive habitat is a low investment and a high return strategy for growers.

This technique is also important in the ecological design of food production areas on homestead or in a production orchard. Many times we think of beneficial habitat for the use of pollinators and flying insects. We need to remember that there is a great diversity of beneficial insects that need habitat. Beetles play an important role in controlling past populations in our growing spaces.

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Posted by & filed under General, Peak Oil.

There will be oil, but at what price? – Chris Nelder and Gregor Macdonald

 

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Samuel Alexander – is a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs and research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), University of Melbourne. He also co-directs the Simplicity Institute. The author would like to thank MSSI for supporting the writing of this article, and Josh Floyd, Matt Mushalik, and Jonathan Rutherford for very helpful comments on an earlier draft. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.

 Introduction

 It would be fair to say that the timing of the sudden drop in the price of oil since June 2014 took energy and financial analysts by surprise. After averaging around US$110 per barrel since 2011 (IEA, 2013: 6), suggesting a ‘new normal’, the last six months have seen the price of oil fall to around US$50 per barrel (as of February 2015). But although the timing of this price drop was not forecast by analysts with any precision, there are economic, geological, and geopolitical dynamics at play in light of which the price volatility we are seeing is not actually that surprising.

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Posted by & filed under Animals.

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Fungus-growing termites from the genus Odontotermes. Photo by Robert Pringle, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

What outwardly looks like thousands of termites forming a complex system of tunnels, are, in fact, also creating an oasis for life to survive, sustain and thrive. Unknown to them their mounds prevent the advancement of deserts into drylands and semi-arid regions and make the land more resilient to climate change.

Termite mounds act as a store-house of nutrients and moisture and through tunnel complexes they help for better seepage of water into the soil. As a result, vegetation thrives on and around mounds in an environment which otherwise would have degenerated to a desert.

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Posted by & filed under Animals, General.

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A tractor trailer dropped off a pallet of organic feed onto my tiny dock. This cost me $800 and would only last 3 months. I had organized a feed co-op to save a $2 a Bag. That brought my 50 pound bag of organic feed to $34. That was the fall of 2013 and it ended up being the last time I ever bought commercial feed for my flock.

I’ll Show You How It’s Done.

I’ll show you how I weaned myself off of commercial chicken feed and replaced it with free compost and kitchen scraps.

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Posted by & filed under General.

By Cheri-Lynn McCabe and Sandra Bartram

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The extreme air pollution in Beijing, China was among the leading environmental news stories for the week of January 20, 2015. The smog-causing small particulate matter, PM2.5, reached twenty times the allowable World Health Organization limit as reported in the online edition of the Guardian. Although the Chinese government had committed to reducing PM2.5 by 2015, the current data suggests that efforts to date have been, for the most part, largely ineffective. These particles are small enough to lodge in the respiratory tract causing an increase in health-related respiratory conditions. One of the major contributors of PM2.5 is coal-fired factories that are supported by the world’s over-consumption of material goods.

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