Love letter to Gaia and her microbial children. Full text from radio broadcast on KZYX for Farm and Garden Show Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Photo by Raphael Giesbrecht on Unsplash

Here is the Full text from my solo show (Without Lama and Leela, who were out of town) on KZYX for the Farm and Garden Show. This is about microbes and the future of humanity and how to think about compost and the new agricultural paradigm we are entering. The microbes are heading to the future into deep time with or without us! Please dear fellow humans let us re-join them in their ultimate and infinitely mysterious endeavors of biosphere creation and sustainment.

Microbes and the quality of our relationship with them with surely determine the future of the current iteration of the biosphere and perhaps the future of the current iteration of our species, that strange wandering hominid who forgot who and what it was and is.

And now the Full text, this one is for you Gaia!:

Good day to you out there!

Today is the day we broach the most import topic for any being whom would consider themselves a respectable farmer. Today we are going to talk about compost and soil management techniques sprinkled with small flights of fancy and a dash sneak peek of recent advancements in our understanding of soil science.

Right now in board rooms all across America big Ag execs are shivering in their boots as we are on the verge of a new revolution in our thinking about our human relationship to farming. The greatest threat to big ag are the microbes all around us! Microbes either ignored, misused or allied with will determine the fate of our species and potentially the fate of the biosphere. To fight the vagaries of our currently broken food system you might want to re-enter into relationship with the eco-system and reconnect with the essence of all living things.

Soil and the Microbes which manage the soil, create soil, recycle soil, rock eaters movers and shakers. Etc oh and the micro arthropods (those little wiggly jiggly’s in the soil) are the ultimate underdogs in our journey away from the degradation of our biosphere and towards a truly harmonious balance of all things terrestrial. We large bodied folk whether steed or bird or fish need the help of the ancients, they are the first ones to have created a home for themselves and by extension we, their future ancestors on this terrestrial world called earth.

To use a gratuitous technological metaphor for all my screen dwelling homies living within the screen cultures, we might say that Microbes are the software of the hardware that is the living earth. The raw super charged glowing nutritive materials which make their way up from the vibrant rocky interior of this time capsule planet eventually become food for the plants and animals above. A true perpetual motion that has no equal. A magical convection in the ether of this cosmos. So far as we know the life systems of this planet began before the end of the hadean period that wonderful presumably pre-biotic planet wide lava ocean that took eons to cool and solidify. The microbes which streamed into the atmosphere floating above the surface were drooling in anticipation of the food below.

Perhaps microbes were even in the upper atmosphere before the surface was adequately cooled enough for their fall to the ground. It was thus that they began their infinite creative march into deep time. After all are we not in a chicken and egg scenario? Did microbes get here first or were they borne on the earth? Dynamic matter becomes inert and back again towards creativity. Who knows, Time seems to keep its secrets forever.

Microbes are the ether that make up the very spirit of life in the cosmos. Yes I am assuming that if the ancient gnostic maxim of as above so below is to be taken seriously I take it upon my imagination to infer that life is on every surface or topological construct in the entire universe. Perhaps even pardoxcally surviving the journey into blackholes and venturing forth into other mother universes playing towards infinity in the depths of awe and wonder…… Turtles all the way down my friends, all the way.

In Short if you can take away anything from this wild ride today it is this simple equation:

Microbes = good

No microbes = Bad

The journey towards compost was and is a hero’s journey in my humble opinion.

From the Known into the depths of the unknown through the threshold, meeting with helpers and mentors, and making our way through the abyss of the under world, experiencing transformation and finally receiving the very essence of life, the microbes all around, brought home to the village for its own delight and transformation. From soil to grave and back again we walk hand in hand.

Enough of that non sense lets get practical.

What is Compost according to modern thinking? The theme of todays show.

Compost is simply properly decayed organic matter. There is no consensus on what properly decayed means though. Heres my two cents. If it smells bad it’s not compost its rotting organic matter, that’s improper compost, not the kind you would invite to a family dinner.

If it smells good (you will know because it resides deep in our morphogenetic instincts) and if you cant tell what the original parent material was you have properly decayed organic matter. It will most likely look dark and have micro-arthropods(little hard to see and identify wiggly jiggly’s) and worms coursing through it’s substrate. It should not be hot to the touch or steaming, it should be as cool as the soil under your feet. Hot organic matter is in the beginning stages of decay and has many harsh bio-chemical residues and disease causing microbes completing their normal life cycle of succession towards a stasis of biological equilibrium.

Cool fully composted material is likely well oxygenated and contains a diverse array of fungi and bacteria. By the time the process is complete you might not even see little wiggly jiggly’s and only a few worms here and there. This kind of compost is sadly something most people never get to see especially if you buy your stuff from the store. Making large batches of aerobic no turn cold compost has yet to reach the industrial levels of compost production most are familiar with.

Large municipal windrows where tractors rule the day and do their best not to start a flammable thermophilic chain reaction are how most compost is made today. High quality compost has a higher ratio of fungi to bacteria. But dont take my word for it check out any recent agricultural research journal or extension publication and you will see we are entering into a new paradigm of agriculture, ideally we are ceding the land back to the ancient intelligence’s of the microbes both below and above, but one should only do that if they yearn to call themselves sustainable. This Fungal:Bacterial ratio is turning out to to be one of the greatest metrics you will have for measuring the efficacy of how your compost is going to affect your farming system. Lots of bacteria and few fungi mean you have low microbial diversity and your plants will suffer greatly.

The carbon cycling of the soil system is hampered if the denizens of this metaphorical house party fails to invite all of its friends. Fungi are much better at metabolizing the complex lignin cellulose makeup of decaying organic matter and making it available to the bacterial community for further breakdown and release of simple sugars to feed the plants and microbes around the root zones.

Again we face the conundrum of the chicken and egg scenario, are the plants feeding the microbes? Yes, Are the microbes feeding the plants? Yes. Are they two sides of same synergistic coin? Yes. A thriving churning diverse array of microbes keep each other in check and don’t allow disease causing agents to interfere with the great harvest of carbon know as photosynthesis.

Here is an interesting brief history of compost by national geographic writer Nathan Sidder.

“Ancient Methods

The application of reclaimed organic material to farmed fields dates to at least the Stone Age. Archaeological evidence from the British Isles suggests that Scots improved their small-scale farms with compost as far back as 12,000 years ago. These early farmers likely plowed and seeded compost heaps in situ; instead of moving compost into fields, they turned the heaps into plots and planted directly in them.

From the Stone Age, it took another 10,000 years before someone eventually wrote about compost. As the first empire to implement a functional bureaucracy, the Akkadians in Mesopotamia kept records by scrawling cuneiform onto clay tablets. Some of these tablets, from King Sargon’s reign around 2300 B.C., are believed to include the earliest written reference to compost.

The practice was not limited to Mesopotamia though. Mediterranean farmers in Greece and Italy commonly cycled agricultural “waste” from one farm operation to another, and Chinese farmers regularly fertilized their rice paddies with anaerobic (lacking oxygen) composting techniques.

Westerners also recently discovered ancient composting methods in African and Amazonian rain-forests (see How Africans Are Saving Their Own Soil).

In North America, Native Americans wrapped seeds in fish parts to supplement nutrient availability.”

end of quote

And lets not forget the non human intelligences namely our plant and animal brothers and sisters composting techniques Lets remember how the bears of north America that carry the salmon carcasses high into the timber to supplement the food for the microbes of the forests. There is a species of turkey in Australia called the brush turkey that purposely builds compost piles to incubate it’s eggs during brooding season.

Even the earth’s rivers have a hand in making naturally formed piles of organic matter along side tumultuous streams where a build up after a storm can create perfect thermophilic conditions for a compost to begin its journey on the road to awe.

Last but not least the greatest curators of compost on the planet. The trees and plants all around us. Every year some gargantuan megaton amount of organic matter falls to the ground to begin its journey into the underworlds where the microbes begin the cycle all over again. Trees are the worlds experts in creating perfect conditions for a no turn cold compost pile, rich in fungal and bacterial diversity.

Remember Masanobu Fukuoka of one straw revolution fame? The dude who made seed balls famous and started his own movement of natural farming in japan? He asks us to ponder a simple question. Who fertilizes nature? Nature fertilizes nature. Masanobus infinite spiral of creation goes towards the center and not out and away from harmony and perfection. Water is the prime mover in this perfect union of chaos and order, in this splendorous world dance of living sparkling intelligence’s.

Does compost = nutrients? Is compost a fertilizer? Or is it the secret held by the microbes which break down the materials into that which plants can digest and consume below into the incomprehensible black box we call the root zone?

Which humans noticed the reality of compost first?

My intuition feels that it was most likely domestic caregivers or the shaman in trance states at the edge of the human habitats.

A fundamental question we must as our selves is are we merely adding organic matter to the soil or are we adding a microbe party to the soil?

If plants are mostly made of air and water then what in the world are we adding to the soil? I implore you to consider this question!

Here is an excerpt from askaabiologist.asu from arizona state university. Let’s learn something fascinating.

“Carbon sequestration: Are Plants Made from Thin Air?

Plants need energy from the sun, water from the soil, and carbon from the air to grow.

Air is mostly made of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. So how do plants get the carbon they need to grow? They absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This carbon makes up most of the building materials that plants use to build new leaves, stems, and roots. The oxygen used to build glucose molecules is also from carbon dioxide.

Water is another important material plants need to grow, and they get it by absorbing it through their roots. Water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The hydrogen in water is used to help build glucose molecules.”

A plant can be up to 95% water. Think of the water as the filler they use between carbon structures. If we take away the water from a plant though, and look at just the dry material, a large majority of that material comes from thin air.

Plants also need tiny bits of vitamins and minerals to grow properly, which they get through their roots.

Plants need a lot of energy to take care of their cells and to build new ones so they can grow. Plants get their energy from the sun.

Once again that was from ask abiologist at arizona state university.

Houston is there a fungus among us?

Speaking of thin air did you hear the news that came out sometime in march of this year about the discovery of unknown species of bacteria happily living on the outside of the international space station? “quote Nicknamed Conan the Bacterium for its ability to endure extreme conditions, it’s thought the bacteria would withstand interplanetary travel. It raises the possibility that humans will not be the first species from Earth to colonise Mars or other planets.”

Sometime around the beginning of the 2020’s (its sounds futuristic to say that…) Japanese scientists announced they put petri dishes on the outside of the ISS with bacteria in them and one year later the bacteria had survived.”quote

New research from the Tanpopo mission team was published in Frontiers in Microbiology that details how multiple species of Deinococcus bacteria survived three straight years of exposure to the hostile space environment. This type of bacteria is renowned for its unusual ability to resist genetic damage from high doses of ultraviolet radiation, which classes it among other so-called “extremophiles” like tardigrades. But researchers weren’t sure exactly how it pulled off this feat. “

Much is unknown about the upper boundaries of the potential unlimited survivability of the extremophiles. Life and its potential to inhabit non terrestrial environments may be found to have no limits even in cosmic sea environment outside of solar systems. Water is found everywhere we look. Ocean worlds and moons abound in our solar system. The James Webb space telescope will begin peering into the planetary atmospheres in far away solar systems starting sometime in january.

Although to be fair we now know the atmosphere to be much larger than previously imagined. Recent research has shown that the prevalence of earth bound whisps of air with hydrogen atoms reaches far past the orbit of the moon according to study and lead author Igor Baliukin, of Russia’s Space Research Institute. Old data form the soho space observation platform confirms this to be the case. Earths geocorona stretches up to 360,000 miles past the orbit of the moon. We are in a big bubble indeed. Which makes Mendocino now a triple bubble county. No longer can we claim to reside in double bubble.

Now lets get back to earth, enough of that poppycock space talk.

Lets talk soil microbiomes.

Lets hear what famed soil scientist and groundbreaking microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham has to say.

“”If we want clean water, we have to get the biology back in our soils. If we want to grow and harvest crops, we have to build soil and fertility with time, not destroy it. The only way to reach these endpoints is to improve the life in the soil.”

And here form another giant in the field of soil microbiology we hear from Australian regenerative farmer and scientist Dr. Christina Jones. And I quote from a talk given by her at Chico state university at the center for regenerative Ag and resilient systems.

Healthy Soil for a Healthy Future

Dr. Christine Jones says that every human civilization that degraded their soil has collapsed. Soil degradation is currently occurring at such a rate that it is estimated we only have 60 years of topsoil left worldwide. Jones believes that paying attention to the biology of the soil, especially the microbiology, is essential to help solve this problem. After all, microbes and other organisms in the soil create the humus that constitutes healthy soil with structure that can sequester carbon in a stable form. When that soil is covered with plants—as is the norm in all but the most degraded natural environments— water infiltration is better, the soil holds water better, soil erosion decreases and its fertility dramatically improves. In fact, even badly degraded soil can be restored using cover crops and biostimulants that support the soil microbiology without the need for synthetic inputs.

Actually, Jones says, outside inputs, especially the use of nitrogen and herbicides, are so detrimental to the microbiology that eventually farmers need to add more and more to make up for what the microbes are no longer able to provide. The soil becomes compacted and the fertility eventually declines even with added fertilizer. It is her opinion that by reducing the use of fertilizer step by step over about three years, while keeping the soil covered with a diverse mix of cover crops, farmers can expect to build more nitrogen through the increased soil biology than the synthetic nitrogen has been seen to provide. In her native Australia, farmers such as Ian and Dianne Haggerty have proven this can be done. 

Ian and Dianne Haggerty have been reclaiming 8000 hectares of badly salinized sandy soil on the edge of salt lakes in western Australia. They use no added fertilizers except for those provided by sheep allowed to graze on the land for the first year while the land rests and then cover crops added through seeds coated with vermiliquid (worm compost tea) that activates the soil biology. The results were fast. One year after they started they were able to successfully grow a barley crop. Today they get four times the value of their land from their crops every year. The land is not tilled—they plant straight into the cover crop—and they use no other fertilizers or herbicides. “

Dr. David Johnson faculty affiliate of Csu and co-discoverer of the no turn, aerobic composting system known as the Bio-reactor with his wife and science partner Hui-Chun Su has this to say about the life in our soil’s microbiome. Quoting from an interview with Dr. Johnson says:

“How we look at soil today is counterproductive. It’s a living system, not a sponge that you put nutrients into so that plants grow. We need to ask the question, what biology do I need, not what fertilizers do I add. Besides free-living, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, I’m also finding phosphorus-solubilizing bacteria. We probably have a 40-year supply of phosphorus from fertilizer in agricultural soils but it’s inaccessible by plants without the right microbes to make it available. I also see microbes that secrete plant growth-promoting hormones. This system is beautifully and exquisitely dynamic in nature. If we can restore it back on our farmlands and rangelands, there’s a lot of potential. “

end of quote

We as farmers and gardeners have been given a new challenge. The challenge of the century if you ask me. The challenge of the next forty centurys and beyond. Advancements in our understanding of the soil microbiome will be some of the greatest achievements during this century. We have the tools and knowledge now to balance out the carbon budget of the planet in less than ten years if only 10% of global agriculture switched to a soil microbiome oriented management approach like multi-species cover cropping and soil inoculations, low till or no till applications and disturbances.

Rapidly emerging research posits that Soil fertility could be said to be a measurement of the total biological activity of a sample of soil and not only its reduced lifeless dehydrated inert chemical constituents. Of course its well known that You can achieve incredible results and yields with proper scientific soil testing and chemical analysis techniques, I know I have, but notice that very few if not all of the available soil tests you will find do not mention the biological activity or fungal bacterial ratio.

And also notice your bank account dwindling under the pressure of inflation and currently hard to get fertilizers. Farmers all across America are being given a choice right now, buy the fertilizer if you can get it or make the slow painful transition to a bountiful future where the microbes harvest what they need and feed the plants with all that abundance. This ignorance of the complexity of the coil microbiome is a great mistake and one consequence we will have to all face together in the coming decades. Have you ever spoken to a large scale organic grower or farmers?

Not using pesticides or fertilizers is wonderful to the bottom line. It is possible to make money farming and also keep the biosphere healthy in the process. Unfortunately many large scale organic growers have simply changed the brand of fertilizer from one inert substance to another both causing similar damage to the soil diversity. We have many choices to make this century, or they will be chosen for us by James Lovelock’s mother Gaia.

Our modern challenge is not unlike the challenge of looking into Galileo’s telescope but this is a challenge of looking within, deep within into the microscope to peer at the unknown universe below to glimpse the surface of the soil microbiome? Are you afraid to look? Afraid that everything we have been taught about the soil was wrong? Surely if recent research and breakthroughs are any indication of the direction wee are heading in we are on the cusp of a new paradigm of agricultural thinking. This is undeniable. This can only be the case if you have the courage to think outside the box or rather to peer into the depths of the black box called soil. Dr. David Johnsons metagenomic analyses discovers new species of bacteria and fungi almost everytime he investigates his compost samples.

Part of the challenge doing this kind of science is taking the time to classify and document the new species discoveries. Who would have know this would slow us down. So far E.O. Wilsons diversity of life keeps on providing new insights and surprises even as the current iteration the biosphere is eroding from right under our feet. So my dear listener can you join me and muster up the courage to journey forth into a new horizon of human understanding when it comes to the soil microbiome?

Lets do a short whirlwind tour through some common composting and soil management techniques. And then we will open up the phone lines to have a wide ranging discussion about your composting techniques and insights. Perhaps I have it all wrong and you know just the perfect bottled liquid solution or bag of inert powder for me to add to the garden to cure it of its fertility woes. Perhaps all this talk of the promise of microbes is a flight of fancy. None the less lets get on with it.

1. Multi species cover croppin :

Cover cropping is the practice of keeping the soil covered with living growing plants all year round in and between produciton plantings and not allowing your soil to go bare.

Here we learn something form

Advantages of diverse mixes

The decision whether to mix species or plant a single species as a cover crop depends on your goals, time of the year, and costs.

Planting a mix can increase biodiversity on a farm and can also insure against weather extremes, since different species will thrive in different weather conditions. Planting more than one species can help fulfill multiple goals that producers often want the cover crop to achieve.

Grass cover crops, such as cereal rye, are most suited to prevent erosion and nutrient loss. Legumes, for example hairy vetch, can supply N to a subsequent crop. Brassicas, which include turnips, radish, and mustards, are fast-growing, scavenge nitrogen and can be grazed. Brassicas mature quickly and winterkill in our environment, but cereal rye and hairy vetch will survive Nebraska winters and must be terminated in the spring.

Drawbacks of mixes

Combining grass and legumes in a cover crop mix may reduce erosion and provide N, although there is often a trade-off where both goals will not be fully realized. Keep in mind that selecting cover crop species with mutual benefits (for example, grass and legume for both erosion control and N supply) is more important than simply increasing the number of species in you multi-species mix.

On the other hand, picking a well-adapted single species may be the most productive and economical choice for most situations. If you focus on one goal, for example preventing erosion, it makes more sense and is cheaper to plant a single species suited for that goal, such as cereal rye.

2. built up piles

Here is an excerpt form ecology actions newsletter form the summer of 2015:

The method
Compost piles need to be a minimum of a cubic yard to generate enough heat to decompose materials into humus.

Loosen the area 12 inches deep and cover with 2 to 4 inches of roughage such as twigs and small branches. Layer two 5-gallon buckets of mature, dry matter, such as straw or dried leaves. Thoroughly water the pile.

Top with two 5-gallon buckets of green material like grass clippings, kitchen waste and green leaves. Water the greens so they don’t dry out.

Add 2 1/2 gallons of soil to hold in moisture and hasten decomposition. Water the pile and repeat the steps above until your pile reaches a height of 3 feet and cap it with one 5-gallon bucket of soil.

Continue to water the pile daily while it heats up. After about three to four weeks put a metal tomato stake down the middle. Let it sit for a few minutes before removing the stake to gauge the temperature. It should be hot to the touch. If using a compost thermometer, the pile should be around 129 to 139 degrees.

Return the stake to the pile and repeat daily for two weeks until the temperature drops from hot to the touch to significantly warm or 111 to 119 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turn the pile, moving the less-decomposed material to the middle; water daily. The pile will heat up again to about 119 to 129 degrees for 10 to 14 days before the temperature drops once more. After three to four weeks, review the material. Once the compost is dark brown and fully decomposed, apply to the garden by broadcasting it onto previously loosened soil. Using the spading fork, sift the compost into the top 2 to 4 inches of soil. Use no more than six 5-gallon buckets over 100 square feet.

3. windrow composting

Here form we learn about a municipal composting system turning heads all across party lines and political affiliations,

A compost experiment that began seven years ago on a Marin County ranch has uncovered a disarmingly simple and benign way to remove carbon dioxide from the air, holding the potential to turn the vast rangeland of California and the world into a weapon against climate change.

Experiments on grazing lands in Marin County and the Sierra foothills of Yuba County by UC Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver showed that a one-time dusting of compost substantially boosted the soil’s carbon storage. The effect has persisted over six years, and Silver believes the carbon will remain stored for at least several decades.

The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries.

The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found. In theory, Silver calculates, if compost made from the state’s green waste were applied to a quarter of the state’s rangeland, the soil could absorb three-quarters of California’s greenhouse gas emissions for one year, due in large part to the one-time offset from waste diversion.

“For a lot of people, this sounds a little fantastic,” Silver said. “There’s nothing magic about it.”

Soil is a major source of carbon, “and we’ve been bleeding it into the atmosphere for many, many years through plowing, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices,” Silver said. “So anything we can do to get some of that carbon back into the soil is going to be beneficial.”

Unlike high-tech geo-engineering schemes to pull excess carbon dioxide from the air and stick it in old coal mines or under the ocean, applying compost is a simple way of creating what scientists call a positive feedback loop.

Plants pull carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and transfer a portion of the carbon to the soil through their roots. Soil microorganisms then turn the carbon into a stable form commonly known as humus.

This not only sequesters the carbon but improves the soil’s fertility, boosting plant growth and capturing more carbon while also improving the soil’s ability to absorb and retain water.

Wick says that since he started spreading compost on his ranch, he’s seen an increase in native perennial plants and bird life, and “we now have green grass year round during a drought.”

“We stepped into a crashing system and we bumped it once and it corrected,” Wick said.

4. comprehensive scientific based soil testing and amendments. From gardening

Why Test Soil in the Garden? Most soil nutrients are readily found in the soil provided that its pH level is within the 6 to 6.5 range. However, when the pH level rises, many nutrients (like phosphorus, iron, etc.) may become less available. When it drops, they may even reach toxic levels, which can adversely affect the plants. Getting a soil test can help take the guesswork out of fixing any of these nutrient issues. There’s no need to spend money on fertilizers that aren’t necessary. There’s no worry of over fertilizing plants either. With a soil test, you’ll have the means for creating a healthy soil environment that will lead to maximum plant growth. What Does a Soil Test Show? A soil test can determine the current fertility and health of your soil. By measuring both the pH level and pinpointing nutrient deficiencies, a soil test can provide the information necessary for maintaining the most optimal fertility each year. Most plants, including grasses, flowers, and vegetables, perform best in slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.5). Others, like azaleas, gardenias, and blueberries, require a somewhat higher acidity in order to thrive. Therefore, having a soil test can make it easier to determine the current acidity so you can make the appropriate adjustments. It will also allow you to fix any deficiencies that may be present.

Korean natural farming form

Korean Natural Farming (KNF) takes advantage of indigenous microorganisms (IMO) (bacteria, fungi, nematodes and protozoa) to produce fertile soils that yield high output without the use of herbicides or pesticides.[1] A result is improvement in soil health, improving loaminess, tilth and structure, and attracting large numbers of earthworms. KNF also enables odor-free hog and poultry farming without the need to dispose of effluent. This practice has spread to over 30 countries, and is used by individuals and commercial farms.[2]

The fundamental insight of KNF is to strengthen the biological functions of every aspect of plant growth to increase productivity and nutrition. Biology thereby reduces or eliminates the need for chemical interventions, whether to protect against predation and competition with other plants. For example, the metabolism of indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) produce complete proteins, while insects prefer incomplete proteins.

KNF avoids the use of waste products such as manure, which reduces the chance of transferring pathogens from the waste back into the food production chain, although in nitrogen-poor conditions adding manure can increase yield.[7][8]

  • Use the nutrients contained within the seeds
  • Use indigenous microorganisms (IMO)
  • Maximize inborn potential with fewer inputs
  • Avoid commercial fertilizers
  • Avoid tilling
  • No use of livestock waste

Cho Han Kyu, or Cho Han-kyu, born in 1935 in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Korea, invented the Korean Natural Farming method. Cho completed high school education at the age of twenty-nine, while he worked on his family’s farm. In 1965, he went to Japan as an agriculture research student for three years and studied the natural farming method of three teachers: Miyozo Yamagishi (Japanese: 山岸 巳代蔵), Kinshi Shibata (柴田 欣志) and Yasushi Oinoue (大井上 康). [3]

Lets talk crap, lets talk humanure here from

from the article titled Humanure part 1: Why should we give a crap?

Most permaculture practitioners are aware that human manure, or ‘humanure’ to use the phrase made popular by Joseph Jenkins (2), “makes a fine agricultural resource suitable for food crops.” (2)

Jenkins reported in 1999 that “We in the United States each waste about a thousand pounds of humanure every year, which is discarded into sewers and septic systems throughout the land.

Much of the discarded humanure finds its final resting place in a landfill, along with the other solid waste we Americans discard, which, coincidentally, also amounts to about a thousand pounds per person per year.” (2) It is possible that since this report the figure has decreased.

One of the main logistical problems of dealing with human waste is that the vast majority of ‘solutions’ throughout the globe to the collection of this valuable resource is to flush it away with water and then to treat it with chemicals and/or dump it in a body of water, preferably one that is as far away as possible from the toilet in question. As Jenkins points out, humanure is part of the human nutrient cycle, and in order for soils to be replenished and regenerated once crops have been grown, it is essential to return the digested nutrients (i.e. humanure and other discarded organic matter) to the soil (2). So why do we, instead of putting it it the ground where it can help our food to grow, throw our faeces into the sea or rivers?

Though humanure composting could be argued as being needed on a global societal scale, then easiest way for you and I to start doing it is with our own bodies. If you have the space, building your own compost toilet can be relatively easy and cost-efficient. There are some things to consider when building one, though; the most important probably being that of ensuring that your humanure is pathogen-free. Part 2 of this article will explore some practical ideas for how to do this.

Ennd of quote

bio dynamic composting techniqes here form

Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements.

Biodynamic compost is a fundamental
component of the biodynamic method; it serves
as a way to recycle animal manures and organic
wastes, stabilize nitrogen, and build soil humus
and enhance soil health. Biodynamic compost is
unique because it is made with BD preparations
502−507. Together, the BD preparations and BD
compost may be considered the cornerstone of
biodynamics. Here again, “biological” and
“dynamic” qualities are complementary:
biodynamic compost serves as a source of
humus in managing soil health and biodynamic

compost emanates energetic frequencies to
vitalize the farm

MY favorite method: The johnson-su bioreator composting method.

Dr. David C. Johnson, molecular biologist and research scientist at the University of New Mexico, has developed a system that brings lifeless soils back to life by reintroducing beneficial microorganisms to the soil with biologically enhanced compost.

The Johnson-Su composting method creates compost teeming with microorganisms that improve soil health and plant growth and increase the soil’s potential to sequester carbon. This simple composting method produces a biologically enhanced compost by creating an environment where beneficial soil microorganisms and thrive and multiply. When this biologically alive compost is applied to the soil the microorganisms inoculate the soil and work in harmony with growing plants to improve soil health and increase the amount of carbon drawn out of the atmosphere and into the soil.

Benefits of Johnson-Su Bioreactor Compost:

  • Increases soil carbon sequestration
  • Increases crop yield
  • Increases soil nutrient availability
  • Increases soil water-retention capacity
  • Produces biologically diverse compost
  • Produces nutrient–rich compost
  • Results in a low-salinity compost
  • Improves seed germination and growth rates
  • Reduces water usage up to six times
  • Reduces composting labor time by 66 percent
  • Requires no turning and little manpower
  • Is a low–tech process that can easily be replicated
  • Can be made using a diversity of compost materials
  • Produces no odors or associated insects
  • Materials generally cost less than $35 USD and can be used for up to 10 times
  • No leaching or groundwater contamination

Benefits of Johnson-Su Bioreactor Composting System:

No one is going anywhere without microbes? No one is going to mars succeffully if they dont find a way to harmonize with microbes. Terraforming will only be done with microbes, sorry elon your nukes are going to have to be put back in the toy box bro. Besides microbes laugh and easliy survive nuclear explosions so whats the point? The recent discovery’s of antibiotic resistant and disease causing microbes coating the inside of the international space station are clues as to how far we have to go in reintroducing microbes into the space faring environment.

The human microbiome is another can of worms for another day but once again I infer that the future will be determined by the ultimate underdog, the invisible guests on every known surface. Good microbes keep bad microbes in check and also keep human bodies healthy. Heckity heck they keep the whole biosphere in check with or without us they will continue to plod along towards infinity why not join them and the ourosborus for the ultimate ride? I know I want to.

I hope you have enjoyed this micro introduction to wonderful world of compost and soil management techniques.


Biochar and oyster mushrooms for driveway oil cleanup.

Here is a couple photos from our small biochar plus oyster mushroom oil stain cleanup experiment.

Here’s a photo of spent oyster mushroom substrate which has been ground into a mixture of redwood forest biochar. Here you can see the oyster mushroom gleefully growing out of the biochar oyster mushroom mix which has soaked up the car oil in the driveway. We were pretty happy with the results.
Close up of the oyster mushroom doing its beautiful dirty work.

It would seem that a combination of biochar an oyster mushroom mixed with spent substrate has done an adequate job of cleaning up the oil. Although without a chemical Trace analysis we can’t be too sure that we’ve cleaned up the oil but studies have shown the likes of stamets and company that oyster mushrooms are great at dissolving and metabolizing the hydrocarbons in oil and Diesel. Some people have been known to create oyster mushroom substrate booms that they float on the top of streams to try to capture any chemical pollutants or oil. Then you can find that they are growing oyster mushrooms successfully. Supposedly they are edible because the oyster mushroom completely metabolizes the contaminants.

Sure is nice having a lot of oyster mushroom substrate since we are oyster mushroom Farmers here at the forest people farms. One day we will become forest people under an umbrella of a human sustainability project. Until then we will continue these small-scale regenerative experiments.

Soldier fly red wriggler seasonal-symbiosis

This is not the first scene from terminator two where the renegade super intelligent A.I. Skynet crushes a defeated human skull. Nope this is a different scene. This is the result of billions of years of panspermia. The microbial software of the rocky planet hardware. It’s called Life. It’s the proverbial snake eating its own tail!

We move our kitchen compost into aerated plastic up-cycled bins and partner with red wriggler worms early in the year. Red wriggler worms eat up to 50% of their body weight in compost every day.

As the days grow longer and the heat sets in, the soldier fly larvae arrive and set up shop too. Alone they are a powerhouse, together, it is truly a sweet harmony. SFL also emit pheromones which keep the common house fly at bay for a house sized radius which becomes an unintended function stacking gem.

They work night and day creating a micro-macerated paradise for an ever increasingly diverse array of fungi and bacteria. Once the macro food supply runs out we transplant the worms to another bin and start again. The original bin sits for a whole year slightly mimicking the bioreactor process.

Once, in the only workshop I’ve had the opportunity to attend with Dr. Johnson, he took samples from the class and examined my vermicompost. To my great joy he exclaimed “this is good stuff! Whose is this?” It sure made my day.

I’ll bet those worms, SFL, and micro arthropods have the perfect successional microbes in their guts which lead to the quantum quorum sensing wonder that is a fully mature bio reactor pile.


Biologically Enhanced Agricultural Management, BEAM us up Dr. Johnson

Ingredients for civilization starter kit: Microbes, Intention, Water, Seeds.

It has been said by David and Su Johnson that the whole approach to regenerative farming using the B.E.A.M method is 1% inoculation and 99% management. Using microbial inoculation with mature bio-reactor compost, cover cropping, transplants, and never leaving the ground bare we create a long term carbon sequestration environment with fertile soil for the abundant creatures that live there. The soil is a vibrant and living substrate of infinite complexity. This is so as long as you have an intact/diverse soil community of bacteria, fungi, plants, and micro-arthropods just to name a few.

We recently got around during a break in the rain to sowing a late cover crop inoculated with B.E.A.M. juice, so to speak, in some of our garden beds.

Favas and, Brassicas, and Oats oh my! Freshly coated in a Bio-reactor compost slurry.

Using a 5 gal bucket for a container, mix two cups of mature bioreactor compost into about 2 lbs of mixed species cover crop seeds and spritz with a little water while shaking back and forth. This will take some practice. Feel free to add dry soil to make the seeds balls drier and then you can make them smaller and smaller. Broadcast sow to your hearts content.

Be careful to make sure you get the seeds just wet enough for the compost to stick to them but not so wet that you end up with big mud balls. We are shooting for seed balls like those made by Dr. Masanobu fukuoka.( of one straw revolution fame.

Dr. David Johnson, the creator of the Bioreactor composting process ( has a recipe where he uses milk and molasses to make a seed-water-compost-slurry. We have found at the H.S.P. that the milk and molasses are unnecessary. He is using his recipe on large mechanical tractor seeders so perhaps it helps lubricate the seed as it moves through his seeding equipment.

The compost needs to contact the seed as it germinates and begins to creates symbiotic relationships with plants, soil and, microbes. Be sure to broadcast sow as soon as you are done mixing to make sure the moist compost sticks to the seeds as you spread them into your rows/beds.

We are only in year two of implementing serious inoculation methodologies. So far we have used the compost extract on nursery trees, perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, transplants, root drench, houseplants, and so much more to discover! Never having to fertilize again sounds like a good deal to me! Pics when we observe germination upcoming!

Have fun out there!

H.S.P. infographic and reflections on Biosphere 2

Core focus areas of the Human Sustainability Project

Remember Biosphere I, II and other similar projects? ( (

The H.S.P. is essentially an open air biosphere project within a semi stable terrestrial environment. All of the previous biosphere projects were fantastic failures. They were essentially a cybernetic research project. (

“The essential goal of the broad field of cybernetics is to understand and define the functions and processes of systems that have goals and that participate in circular, causal chains that move from action to sensing to comparison with the desired goal, and again to action. Its focus is how anything (digital, mechanical or biological) processes information, reacts to information, and changes or can be changed to better accomplish the first two tasks.[3]” – Wikipedia

The aim of the technological Biospheres being how to make technology become suitable habitat for human beings. The goal of the research was for humans to use these experiments and lessons learned to take it to the stars so to speak and colonise distant Biospheres into human habitat. Those projects were jumping the shark though because it turns out we have still not found a way to live in closed loop systems even within an intact terrestrial environment like the earth. In fact one of the main reasons for the failure of Biosphere 2 according to John Jeavons of ecology action was unfinished compost. The gases produced by the immature microbial community threw off the balance of the whole artificial Biosphere. They might have succeeded if they had fully mature fungal rich compost.

Food forests, permaculture, and organic farming are a step in the right direction. We still have not seen a demonstration though of a truly closed loop farming and habitat system.

The aim of the H.S.P. is to conduct cutting edge research into the means and methods of building small scale appropriate tech regenerative farms. They must be accessible to all humans. The research done should transfer anywhere microbes can survive. Instead of using cybernetic tech to create a simulation of habitat we will use symbiotic micro biology (compost systems) to alter our environment and create true lasting living habitat and refugia for others in the ailing Biosphere.

Before skipping out on earth and heading to mars we might benefit from showing how closed loop farming systems can be created in the first place. As it stands now, in regards to human survivability even the most dire and horrifying climate change projections pale in comparison to the relative lack of habitability of the Martian environment. Geo engineering and terra forming have been accomplished by microbes for billions of years, we are just now starting to catch up. Time to get to work and become micro symbiotes!


“We stand on the ceiling of an unknown universe” – unknown

V.A.S.A. finds water!

Brandon of boontberry community farm found the cotton vertical array of strings built at H.S.P. catching water in the Anderson valley! What a sight for sore eyes during this drought in NorCal. Brandon created a quick makeshift setup to run a quick test on the VASA. We will be building a more systematic approach using t-posts and found gutter pieces.  For our appropriate tech approach form and function are equally loved just not always equally available. Farm bone yards shall become treasure forevermore.

All photos credit to Brandon.

It will be interesting once we can set up a system for harvest and measurements that don’t take too much labor. Rock on Brandon, we will be building many more!

Partnering microbes with plants where they are needed most.

Instead of adding large volumes of compost try instead to add the compost directly to where it’s needed at the plant’s roots. Plants and the compost microbes work together. Dr. Su Johnson once said that if you have a whole bunch of money in the bank but no one to spend it this makes the money useless.

Let’s try to spread our valuable compost over the soil areas where seeds or plants will be grown. We spread it only exactly to where it will be needed which is at the plants beginning, transplant, the seed, or vegetable propagation matter, and even soil-less media…

Spanish Roja garlic cloves on approximately 4 in. Centers. Gently coated with mature 2 year old Bioreactor compost-microbes.

Photos of prototype organic materials based “Fog Harp” or Vertically aligned string arrays for atmospheric water harvesting

Here are the two prototype Vertically aligned string arrays or what shall be known from now on here at the H.S.P. as V.A.S.A.’s. I believe that the fog harp is going to be a trademarked and protected idea that they hope to market to the world’s thirsty farmers. (Hopefully for as cheap as possible with maximum access for third world peoples)

This V.A.S.A. was made using reclaimed wood, and polyester sewing thread. The vertical strings are a commercially available polyester sewing thread. It used approximately 1500m of string. It is 3′ X 3′. This whole array could be made not including labor for under ten dollars. I used metal fasteners due to my lack of knowledge about wood joinery but I am confident that this could be made using dowels and other sorts of organic connectors. Conversely this thing could be made entirely out of cordage from local sources and tree boughs fallen on the ground. in short this is appropriate tech for the masses!
Here is a macro up close shot of the Vertical polyester strings. Compared to the smooth stainless steel strings these bio-mimetic nano tendrils should hypothetically increase the fog collection values. With limited time and resources (AND FOG!) I still have not been able to to a serious side by side test. Although all of the research on the fog gathering capability’s of desert plants with similar nano structures coupled with the anti clogging nature of the vertical strings should increase the water gathering capabilities.

Next up is the cotton sewing thread based VASA.

This VASA was made using almost entirely organic materials except the metal fasteners which again could be replaced with the appropriate joinery technologies. The cotton sewing thread was found to be slightly more expensive than the polyester threads per Meter but if you buy from industrial sewing thread manufacturers the cost is similar.
Here is a macro shot of the cotton based VASA. Look how much smaller the nano tendrils appear to be! Due to limitations on the spacing of the thread we are not exactly going with the research on the pitch to diameter spacing . The optimal spacing in the VirTech research was found to be a 2:1 Pitch:Diameter ratio meaning that every space between strings should be twice that of the diameter of the string. I believe we can overcome this problem with the added efficiency of the nano-tendrils and their superior stokes numbers or the incidence of fog droplets smashing into the strings.

As you can see with even just some preliminary efforts at building a cheaper and more accessible VASA these construction methods could still be vastly improved for strength & accessibility for a global user-base and lowering the cost therein.

In our initial test in our fog simulation chamber (I.E. Our oyster mushroom growing fog machine called Aquafogger from jaybird manufacturing and fruiting chamber) we did observe the same “tangling issues” as the initial “fogharp” research experienced. They recently put out a new research paper that showed (using unintelligible mathematics for me) that by simply halving the size of the VASA to 1.5′ these adhesion factors of the strings glomming onto one another can be over come. This is a welcome discovery as the winding process for each VASA which takes about 2 hours will be easier to wind and the sense of accomplishment will go up with each finished VASA. It will be exciting to see if fixing the tangling issues gathers as much fog as the 2x size VASA due to its increased efficiency sans “tangling”. We are still at the beginning of a new frontier in these discovery’s and they are ripe for the taking and SHARING!

P.S. After realizing the potential for cotton to breakdown from microbial action and lack of UV resistance I began eagerly seeking ways to fix this weakness of the cotton sewing thread using naturally available materials. I found a whole lot of really inspirational research on the usages of Chitosan (“made by treating the chitin shells of shrimp and other crustaceans with an alkaline substance, such as sodium hydroxide” and Aloe Vera to over come these limitations of the cotton threads. ALOE VERA!!!! YES!!!! Accessible appropriate technology will be the hallmark of the success of the biosphere refugia principles of the HSP. In my next post I will showcase this research and my attempts to treat the cotton threads with chitosan from Tidal vision in bellingham WA, and locally grown Aloe Vera treatment made by yours truly. The future is looking brighter and brighter all the time my fellow earth dwellers.

Until next time.

Matthew Gammett

Revolution in the fluid mechanics of vertical strings and also catching fog!

Recently researchers at the Virginia tech institute have conducted research into a new fog catching design. Previous research into fog catching has relied on certain hydrophobic or hydrophilic polymer coatings of existing raeschal mesh designs. There are dozens of biomimetic designs and reasearch on the market including trying to replicate namib desert beetle fog gathering techniques redwood needle fog gathering techniques desert succulent fog gathering of a certain desert species among other naturally occurring fog harvesting abilities.

Researchers at the Virginia tech institute we’re inspired to build a vertical strand oriented fog gatherer which improves on existing designs by three fold.

The Virginia tech researchers we’re inspired by the fog gathering abilities of coastal redwood needles. During periods of zero rain many species under the redwood canopy including the redwoods are able to harvest and utilize this atmospheric water. Fog is at it’s base a cloud that touches the ground so these bio mimetic tech breakthroughs are learning to harvest clouds essentially.

Here at the human sustainability project we have been greatly inspired by the appropriate technology and sustainable application of a multidisciplinary creation of a atmospheric water gathering device. Upon further inspection we discovered that this technology was available to us and so we began to look deeper.

First we thought it would be interesting to see if there were any consumer available nano technological coatings that we could apply to stainless steel strings which are used in the vertical fog harp. Then it occurred to me that the stainless steel wire was far too expensive to do any kind of meaningful experimentation on a small budget. After pondering the other available materials like monofilament, aluminum, copper wire, it occurred to me that simple sewing thread which is cotton could do the trick to replace the stainless steel strings at least for a temporary experimental basis. Then in a flash of insight I realized that the cotton strings themselves have spun tendrils and fibers that come off of the actual twisted string themselves which act exactly like macro vertically aligned carbon nano tube forests. These tendrils greatly increase the Stokes number or incidents of fog droplets hitting the string and also the surface area of the string itself. The cotton tendrils also mimick the fog harvesting capacity of desert plant species of which there are volumes of research available stretching back to the mid-70s concerning fog harvesting and biomimetic technologies. The researchers of the fog harp discovered that the smaller the diameter of the string the more incidents of water droplets will smash into the string.

So what we have done is make an improved prototype fog harp that is significantly cheaper (although not nearly as durable). We will show how this design can be made more more durable while still utilizing the surface area increase of the cotton strings and their tendrils. Also we have built a prototype out of wood with polyester strings of similar diameter which display the same nano hair properties. Although the polyester is a petroleum products it’s embedded energy is significantly cheaper than stainless steel strings.

Keeping to a sort of eco appropriate technology we are delighted to begin building innovative prototypes which can also be made entirely from locally gathered wood and fibers. We will attempt a fully “natural” version when we have mastered the principal’s and properties of our current hypothetically improved prototypes.

Stay tuned for prototype pictures coming soon……getting a new camera soon hopefully with macro ability so we can document the strings nanoish properties. Until then.