Remineralising Your Soil - Gardens and Farms

It's interesting that the idea of Eden - a place of bounty and bliss - is a garden; that a garden is seen as the ultimate form of paradise in many cultures.

Those who choose to grow any form of plant aid the process of re - creation in many different places that hold bounty. Gardeners tend gardens, farmers tend fields or livestock, orchards are nurtured by growers. The activity involved, though not referred to as bliss but hard work, produces not only bounty but emotional and spiritual well-being.

Growers, gardeners and farmers know the true meaning of the reference "getting your hands dirty" which is now often used to reference issues of corruption by the media nowadays - and we object. Getting your hands dirty in the garden really means you’re engrossed, involved, and truly creative while growing something beneficial. In biblical terms, gardening began long before ever farming did. Gardens are smaller and more manageable, sustainable and supportive, not only for our own needs but for the need of our local communities and for the planet at large. Smaller plots where less machinery is used have less negative impact on the land.

De-forestation and desertification -- the removal of vast amounts of vegetation -- increases CO2 and contributes to the loss of tons of topsoil each year. The more we plant food and trees that support our local economies and their immediate ecosystems, the healthier the soils and atmosphere of Earth.

A Green fact - from the UK Soil Association’s tweeter page:

"If organic farming was common practice we could offset 23%+ of UK agriculture's current greenhouse emissions."

The following video is a talk by Allan Savory on TED about hot to grow in deserts:

Growing in the Back Garden

England has been known for its gardens and gardeners for centuries. Ornate, functional, exotic, climate specific, species specific any variety of plant that can, could, should or might be grown has been grown in the UK.

Be it an estate garden of formality, a postage stamp plot beneath the parlor window, a collection of indigenous field flowers, the attitude toward nurturing the verge seems instinctual, for some. As we have learned more about climate, climate change and soils, we've generally learned that the more respect we give a plant – its natural right to grow in the right place - means greater success of life abundance in vegetation. The more plant diversity, heights and layers we recreate in any one space, the more diverse the presence of other living things – insects and wildlife.

We at one point cultivated gardens to a state of formality that drove away the animals. In some instances we have deliberately killed them to plant something in their stead. Arguments about disease "those filthy animals!", a fear of predators "they could attack the children!" are mute points compared to the reality of the need which we have to sustain diversity while remembering that our ancestors lived and loved these animals for centuries, much more than they feared them. There are as many good references to the character and beauty of native wildlife than there have ever been bad ones.

Some may want to garden desperately but have such little space they think it impossible. Allotments may not serve everyone's needs, be it an issue of distance or a mode of transportation. Yet there are enumerable references that can show us how to grow foods were desire to eat, lovely flowers and patches of grass to stick our feet in. We can still have the joy of gardening in small spaces. I once had an apartment terrace where I grew cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes and tomatoes and still had room for a table and chairs.

The first things I ever planted were strawberries and pansies - I was five. To this day, that first, small act of growing things, nurtured both my sentiment for flowers and my taste buds for good food. Many adults remain mesmerized by the soil's ability to - with the help of water - turn a seed into a plant. It makes us realize the wonder of growing anything; working toward the creation of something that grows outside of ourselves, beyond our own bodies, means we have entered into a contract to nurture Nature in a very big way - by planting those initial seeds.

Since the nineteen sixties and the grass-root movement that took us back toward self-sufficiency, many different paths have been created, followed, abandoned and re-worked. A consensus was reached by many that the older model of smaller gardens and farms had the potential for supporting more diversity, in both food variety being grown and the wildlife being supported. This sustainable method which combines the reuse of biological composed material provides an opportunity for us to have good, healthier food with less waste and more nutrition. Gardeners and growers can determine for themselves and their local markets the quality of food they produce by the levels of chemicals they are willing to ingest or pass on to their neighbours.

While growing up, we grew things organically; it was the cheapest, easiest way to grow with less labour and less cost than applying chemicals, not much different than it is today. The current organic movement informs us of how more people are coming to realise the importance of being chemical free. The National Health Authority acknowledges that pesticides contribute to specific disease. Many health issues are now commonplace that were rare in the paste. A physician and allergist told me twenty years ago that allergies had continued to escalate proportionate to pollution - and not just pollution in the air. Food allergies have escalated as well.

Allotments Are Community Gardens

People who grow their own food have a tendency to be more self-aware concerning their own health and that of the next generation than what has been the general attitude toward growing things in the last thirty years. People want to be healthier, now knowing their environment’s health does indeed impact their own. Allotment growers in the UK are now leaps and bounds ahead in knowledge compared to the victory gardeners of the nineteen forties. Environmental consciousness has encouraged diversify for the benefit of the soil, air quality and the people, growing and eating a broader variety of food that can also help the birds and the bees. Allotment growers, their associations and local councils support the expanding gardening movement; communication in the rows between their plots are teaming with discussions of soil amendments and pest controls that aren’t chemically based, while composting is cleared marked as being organically or non-organically sourced.

This thought process and planting attitude is true amongst many specialty growers and small organic farms too. Innovation is being born of practicality and necessity; gardening on a slope could mean erosion; dry soils up-top and marsh land below. Terracing and non-digging methods can solve such problems, as can forest gardening and permaculture which allows for moisture retention. These sustainable practices are employed regularly and innovation continues the more people dig around in their back gardens, on allotments and farms.

Smaller crops and diversity are at the centre of many farm guesthouse businesses found throughout the UK. Farmer’s markets are more popular, now found in more urban settings because there are more growers interested in producing small crops for direct sale; no packaging is required. More wide spread are farm stores carry many varieties of produce, fruits and vegetables, preserves, handmade cheeses and muesli. Having such shops allows urban dwells to try fruits and vegetables that may never make it to the popularity of the larger food chains. Buying locally supports the community financially as well and spiritually; providing support to the growers that are doing the right thing in their own neighbourhoods.

We at Mother Earth’s Minerals grow our vegetables in Mother Earth’s Garden with this end in mind, and want to support others who have embraced these sustainable methods.

Forests and Orchards

Juglans regia autumn 2009

Trees are the tallest terrestrial plants with the broadest stems. Few species of plants still remain from the time of the dinosaurs. What plants do remain - giant tree ferns for an example - give us just a little indication as to the size of all the plants that fed the dinosaurs, all supported by rich mineralised soil.

Trees store more water in their trunks and leaves than do smaller, softer stemmed plants. All green plants have a pigment called Chlorophyll (previously mentioned in the discussion on the food web), that makes food for the plant within the plant. Its food is produced from combining carbon dioxide, water, nutrients, and energy from sunlight. This process is photosynthesis.

Carhampton Wassailing Song - January 17th - Somerset
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bear well
So merry let us be,
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout to the old apple tree!
Old apple tree, we wassail thee,
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls and three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs, Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Few indigenous forests remain on our planet; they have been periodically clear cut or selectively harvested, removing under-storey plants that hold topsoil and contribute to the detritus of the forest floor. Today, many acres in timber have been mono - cropped for commercial use, with no under-storey and no room for the trees to develop an adequate canopy that would produce leaf matter to replenish soil structure or any viable amount of oxygen. Tree plantations can’t support the diversity of wildlife that a naturally organized forest or even an orchid can do, left to age and create for itself many of its own nutrients.

The human practice of deliberately growing trees in England is more closely associated with the planting of orchards; some orchid communities are more than six hundred years old. Medieval forestry did exist as a practice, generally limited to vast estates. Identification and protection of individual trees have been recorded, some due to their association with the sacredness of place, others selected to be used to replace deteriorating sections of architecture, such as oak beams in Oxford.

The orchards we grow today could become our ancient forests; knurled and twisted wood of character, with tasty, colourful fruit, promotes an abundance of wildlife in feathered, furred and scaled varieties. The older the orchard, the less disturbed its soils, where even more species can exist below ground than they do above.

The ancient Celts believed that all things were sentient; trees were high on the list as conscious beings and from an ecological prospective may have been the originators of the concept of green consciousness. The Green Man remains an environmental archetype - ‘of man’s oneness with the Earth’, associated with the spirit of the forest and protector of wildlife. The vast forests of the western isles once held many wildlife species that are extinct today, as most of them had a direct connection to a temperate forest biome that is no longer the dominant feature of the landscape.

Permaculture often uses a forest for its model. A healthy forest has seven layers of vegetation as below, each contributing something to one or more of the other layers.

From Cornworthy, Devon, recorded 1805
Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the very health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stors
That the bags and chambers and house run o'er
CANOPY
largest, tallest tree species
SUB-CANOPY
smaller trees that grow beneath the larger ones
SHRUB LAYER
woody plants
HERBACEOUS LAYER
softer vegetation beneath the woody layers
RHIZOSPHERE
thick rooted plants - tubers and bulbs
SOIL LAYER
ground cover
CLIMBERS
deep rooted vertical, growing plants

The diversity of micro-organisms in any old stand of trees is greater than any intentionally fertilized field of vegetables. Leaf mulch contributes to leaf root which builds hummus naturally; it’s self-manufactured compost from above. Historically, trees lived the longest lives as they were generally self-perpetuating; left undisturbed, they maintained the ecosystem in which they grew. Frogs, toads and salamander can travel substantial distances through moist leaf mulch and earth, seeking a feast in the way of insects around the roots of trees. Fungi and nematodes also thrive there. Though blamed for disease in both animals and plants, nematodes are vital to soil health in support of plant ecology.

Much remains unknown about the specific nematodes that function as a natural pest control agent in biologically managed crops, while commercialised, chemically treated farms and orchards are home to fewer organisms. Nematodes circulate nutrients through the soil. Though some nematodes eat plants and algae on the first trophic level, others feed on fungi and bacteria, grazing in the second trophic level. Some nematodes feed on other nematodes (higher trophic levels). One variety of nematode can function on several trophic levels in the soil of specific food webs but are most abundant in the surface soil horizon.

Our dependence on trees is amazing, considering there are so few of them to what there were four thousand years ago. The Neolithic period in Europe saw mile upon mile of contiguous oak forest, where man and large mammals foraged and hunted. The humus or new soil layers made up of leaf debris, moulds and fungi would have support soil organisms we can only guess at, but we do know of one type that is still very important.

Trees in Snow

Nematodes

Nematodes are both producers and consumers but it’s their bi-products that we and the soil benefit from. They are microscope worms with unique mouth parts, "a tube within a tube" with almost twenty-thousand different species that have already been classified but are thought there are many more yet to be discovered. A nematode has all the internal functions that we rely on as humans, with the exception of a respiratory and circulatory system. They are a fraction of the size of an earthworm and a large one may fit on the tip of one of our fingers. Years ago, I had a friend who researched these little guys and she always said "they aren't actually worms as we know them". They come from the phylum Nemata where earthworms come from the phylum Annelida.

Nematodes found in soil are predominantly microscopic roundworms found in all climates and ecosystems. Each requires moisture to survive so they can lay dormant during spells of draught. Among the many varieties that are known, they eat bacteria, plant roots, fungus and other soil animals but provide benefits by increasing the nutrient levels within the soil itself. Those nematodes that do eat plant roots and fungi maintain a natural balance by working in subsurface soils and the plant communities on the surface. The increase the availability of organic soil material through speeding up decomposition of leave matter which increases both nitrogen and phosphorus levels organically - without the aid of fertilizers.

The predatory nematodes feed on other soil animals, providing the natural fluctuation needed for a predator prey relationship to work in a natural environment. The addition of the nematode’s ability to take up mineral compounds from volcanic basalt and convert it to useable minerals for the plants, passes the minerals on to us for better nutrition. The use of the basalt promotes expansion of these soil micro-organisms and worm populations - the hardier and healthier the soil, the more life is generated therein - the better the fruit from the trees and the vegetables from the soil.

In support of growing your own food, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has a corporate repository of information on line that has been produced by the Natural Resources Management and Environment Department. It offers the general public an opportunity to look at all kinds of information that has been deemed important internationally, concerning various ecosystems in which food is grown. The files and reports are listed as annexes and one very interesting one is about the benefit of nematodes. It explains more thoroughly the role of nematodes in the food web and can be found online. The web address is www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0100e/a0100e0d.htm. This website was reached with the following search topic - "beneficial nematodes that distribute soil nutrients in the UK".

The website ehow.co.uk can tell you the conditions needed to grow nematodes yourself, also giving you the name of the sites where they can be purchased.

Whole Systems Design

The body, mind, spirit relationship is influenced by the conditions of an ecology of place the region, area, space or home from which we each take so much but from which we can learn so much more.

Whole Systems design recognises the interconnectedness of all living systems, as well as their connections to non-living systems, be they mechanical or social by nature. Whole Systems design recognises that organic and inorganic systems exist in parallel to one another but can form connections not only because they are opposite in nature to each other but because they possess interiorly different driving forces to obtain their goals

For a living system - forest, meadow, ocean, desert, etcetera -it lives intrinsically- or for its own benefit, when left alone, without the presence of external forces that alter its self-generating mechanisms to sustain itself. It's generally been agreed that no such places exists any longer, as humans now live everywhere and can have an effect on the environment from a distance.

Most of us acknowledge the presence of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as understandable concepts; they can be things, ideas, nematodes, tree planting methods or adverse actions inflicted by others. They can be the foods we eat, the products we use or technologies we have come to rely upon, knowing full well that they are damaging to our health and that of the planet. Being deliberate about or choices in gardening can help us through such dilemmas - the whys and wherefores of such dualities in life. Gardening teaches us not only how the ecosystem works through close observation, but the rules by which it functions in order to exist at all and how it existed intrinsically in the first place. Permaculture has been used in the design of sustainable communities and agricultural practices based on models created from the observation of natural ecosystems.

The core tenets of permaculture are:[3][4]

Take Care of the Earth:
Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
Take Care of the People:
Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
Share the Surplus:
Healthy natural systems use outputs from each element to nourish others. We humans can do the same. By governing our own needs, we can set resources aside to further the above principles.

A branch of philosophy called teleology has been taught in conjunction with Whole Systems Design; it's all about cause and effect. Teleology was studied by the likes of Plato (428-347 B.C.), Aristotle (384 - 322 B.C.), St. Anselm(1033 -1109 A.D.), Immanuel Kant (1724 -1804 A.D.) andGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 -1831 A.D.). Professions shared amongst these men over centuries included philosophy, anthropology, theology, mathematics, linguistics, metaphysics, biology, zoology and ethics. Each worked toward understand the relationships between intrinsic finality and extrinsic finality within living systems - the why or cause behind the drive of one group of life forms willing to work for the benefit of someone or something outside themselves, while the other functioned for only its own benefit. Trying to comprehend the ultimate purpose for existence - in isolation or in connection with other living things - was the goal of these scholars; questions gardeners ask themselves when seeking the best course to follow when "growing their own".

Ethic is involved in gardening and farming; maybe we don’t want to talk about the good versus the bad, so choose not to define what we do in terms of ethics; we just do what we think is best. Yet the presence of ethics is experienced within the aesthetics of a plot, garden or field, expressed by the grower through conscience, as much as consciousness.

Ethics are at the root of the principals behind permaculture.

The first principal
is to care for the Earth by providing whatever is needed for all living systems to thrive and reproduce because we as humans cannot survive as a species without Earth's ecosystems intact
The second principal
is to take care of everyone, making available everything necessary for a healthy existence, everywhere
The third principal
is to share any surplus; each ecosystem uses its own output to nourish (nurture) others, and we have the capacity to do likewise by governing our needs and preserving our resources to fulfil the first three principals
Stewart and the Hawthorn

By employing a Whole Systems design approach allows people to identify the potential for more resources through integration and diversification. Balance promotes sustainability - positive and negative forces, resources and attitude stimulate change - as do flood, fire and wind in nature. A whole system is the sum of its unique parts that creates something bigger than its individual components where encouragement inspires better function of the whole, while suppression of any one part can affect it negatively. Making deliberate choices - be it in growing methods, adding organic or inorganic materials that have been depleted from an environment, or creating cooperative for better distribution of resources, may be appropriate to the benefit of the global village, the local community or ourselves as individuals, providing deliberate energy and consciousness be employed at the start of the process. People who grow things with a deliberate goal to reduce their impact on the earth, encourage and inspire others to do likewise.

We are impressed by the Global Oneness Project and you can watch the trailer here or click through to their site to download the full film. Click Here to download the full film.

Dairy Production, Grazing and Minerals

cows

Organic dairy farmers have our health in their hands in many ways, just like in the benefits of free- range feeding of chickens. The vibrancy of the yellow yolk of eggs says much about its food value, as does the brightness of the butter from pasture-fed herds.

We use organic cream and try to eat unpasteurized cheese and butter from unpasteurized milk. The point for us is to get as much from these foods without the loss of nutrients in the heating process (used in for pasteurized, homogenized foods). This is true with sheep and goats milk products, too.

Though re-mineralizing soil is important for growing better quality fruits and vegetables, so is passing on any good nutrition cattle take up from the grass. If the soil is good, the grass will be better. Brighter yellow organic butter comes from grass fed cows - visually more appealing and better tasting than butter from cows fed on silage. You can read both Sally Fallon’s Book Nourishing Traditions and Graham Harvey’s book entitled We Want Real Food for more information on butter and cream.

cows

Like us, cattle's immune systems benefit from the increase of naturally acquired minerals and trace elements taken up in their food, as will their off spring and the rest of us who use any dairy products. One of the many ailments that arise from a lack of trace minerals is a suppressed immune system. Deficiencies in essential elements in pregnant females can lead to issues later in life for their offspring.