Guernsey or Jersey? Both are winners

Guernsey or Jersey? You really have to choose. This exciting debate is one you may not be aware of, but small farmers and homesteaders get passionate about.

Guernsey and Jersey are two English islands of the coast of France. They also are the origins of two of the best milk cows for the family farm. Unlike the Holsteins of German origin, these two breeds don’t produce watery milk that almost looks blue. Instead their milk is almost golden due to the high concentration of beta carotene. Beta carotene is not digested by these cows so it passes into the milk and produces the wonderful golden color. Beta carotene is found in green vegetable matter like grass and gives protection against certain cancers and even aging, they say. You know it’s healthy to eat vegetables high in beta carotene, like carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach. But did you know you can get the same benefits from drinking Guernsey or Jersey milk? Drinking their milk is like having a serving of veggies.

And many folks who think they can’t digest milk, find Guernsey or Jersey milk suits them just fine. That’s because their milk proteins are the A2 protein which has been bred out of the most dairy cows in order to get high production of that watery substance passed off today as milk.

Whether Guernsey or Jersey milk tastes better is not an debate I want to enter. Both sides are just too passionate. Bringing up the topic is almost as bad as bringing up politics at Thanksgiving dinner. Some like Jerseys because they are smaller and produce more milk on less grass. Others like Guernseys because they have a little more A2. The rancor doesn’t last though. Unlike Democrats and Republicans, Jersey and Guernsey lovers have a whole lot in common. They love living on small farms and producing healthy food. No matter which of these English breeds you like the best, you know they are better than the German Holstein breed.

Jersey and Guernsey were also at the forefront of another English-German battle you may have heard of. The two islands were occupied by the Germans in the Second World War soon after they took over France. The English got early warning so the children were evacuated. The adults were left to cope with the German invaders.

The Germans confiscated nearly all the islands’ animals to feed their soldiers in France. About all they left the islanders was potatoes. They even invented potato peel pie which has no flour or sugar or fruit. Only potatoes.

A few animals did remain hidden. In defiance of curfew a few residents roasted a hog one night and consumed it along with some home brewed spirits. When confronted by German soldiers while heading home, they invented the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society since such literary society meetings were permitted by the Germans. Read about it in a book named after the Society or watch the movie based on it.

The Germans were defeated and left Guernsey and Jersey. But the modern Holstein milk cows still remain dominant worldwide. Modern people like the low fat Holstein milk, not realizing that wholesome natural fat is good for you. It’s only the artificial fats that hurt you.

After the war, back in the late 1940s, 50s and early 60s, there were still plenty of Jerseys and Guernseys supplying high quality milk to Americans. Efficient, industrial agriculture has made short shrift of them in the last 50 years. Modern attitudes have taken over. Relations between the sexes and races has changed for the better, but we may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

In decrying the stifling attitudes of the past, we’ve abandoned a way of life which was much more resilient. We need to speak up for many of the attitudes of the 1950s. Everyone used to value working with your hands, being self-reliant, raising your own food. Some of us still do. My family still milks Jerseys on the family farm in Missouri. Three households raise their own eggs and meat on the farm where I grew up. I’m writing this in a small country in Eastern Europe where people still value the wholesome food produced on small farms.

Some in the US are waking up to the realization that some of the old ways were not so bad. We’d all be better off if we threw off the shackles of modernity and kept the old attitudes of the family farm. To be resilient, you have to innovate, but it must be conservative innovation. You must conserve the tried and true from the past. Conserving while innovating is tricky, but it’s the only way. Only the resilient survive.

Improving soils through biochar: the water bed method

The daffodils are blooming everywhere here in the Delta. Spring is coming, but the winter rains are hanging on, keeping us from doing much in the garden–except making biochar.

Biochar is the most revolutionary change in farming since organic methods. Biochar improves soil health by improving soil structure, increasing organic matter, reducing soil acidity, reducing the need for chemical and fertilizer inputs and increasing drought resistance. Most importantly to farmers, biochar increases productivity and crop yields. If you aren’t familiar with biochar, read this article and you’ll want to try it.

Comparison of traditional rainforest soils with biochar plot. Source:

We especially like it down here in the Delta because our soils are much like those where biochar was first found. Five hundred years ago Spanish explorers, winding their way through the Amazon River Basin of South America, came upon an interesting phenomenon.  Due to high rainfall, most rainforest soils are leached of plant nutrients and organic matter.  However, periodically the explorers would find small patches of black, highly productive soils.  Upon further investigation they found that these patches were created by local Indian tribes using the partial burning of biomass.  They made these soils from biochar (charcoal).

There are fancy ways of making biochar using pyrolysis in closed containers, but we like quick, easy ways that don’t require any equipment except our trusty shovel, rake and pitchfork.

Water stands on our soils nearly all winter. We have to build them up in raised beds if we want to get any early crops in. Since we have plenty o’trees growing on our property, biochar is the perfect method for us.

We have developed a unique method which might also work for you if you have wet soils and trees you need to thin out. We call it the water bed method because it uses our plentiful winter water and beds.

We start by double digging the soil in dry weather (digging in wet weather just leaves huge clods). We dig down about a foot. We pile all the topsoil in one bed leaving a ditch beside the bed. The ditch fills with water in the wet winter.

As we are cutting firewood in the winter, we haul the branches over next to the new ditch. Then, on a nice still, cold day, we light the brush pile on fire. We enjoy the warmth of the bonfire, but don’t let it get too fierce. We don’t want all the wood to burn up, we just want to turn it into charcoal. When one section of the brush pile has burned down to charcoal, we push it into the water filled ditch. The pleasant sizzle of hot charcoal hitting water means the wood has quit burning and we have just contributed a little biochar to our next bed.

When the winter rains lessen in Spring, we cover the now biochar filled ditch with soil from the side of the plot where we burned the branches. Since it was burned, it has no grass or weeds to deal with. Nice clean soil for our next bed is what we are putting on top of the biochar filled ditch. And we are creating a new ditch for our next biochar prodution phase.

It’s a simple easy method for us. And fun. We have an excuse for nice bonfires in the winter when everything is cold and wet. And we know we’re doing something productive with all that wood waste. It will be soil in the Spring. A resilient soil which can be planted early.

If you create biochar, you’ll be creating the most resilient soil system. As shown in the rainforest plots in the Amazon Basin, biochar appears to sequester carbon for hundreds if not thousands of years.  It is resistant to the microbial breakdown that is common with crop residues and other types of soil organic matter.  Crop residues break down in a couple of years and humus oxidizes in less than 25 years.  So, biochar is not subject to the “leakage” that is a concern for carbon sequestered with no till farming and the carbon capture and sequestration of fossil fuel carbon emissions 

You’ll be countering global warming. Biochar has been shown to reduce the soil emissions of nitrous oxide (as a greenhouse gas, it is 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and improve the uptake of methane (21 times more potent than carbon dioxide).

Biochar has a unique ability to reduce atmospheric carbon levels. 
Biochar production takes plant based carbon that originated from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and sequesters it in the soil. 

Plus its a great way to spend a clear winter day when you want to be outside and you want to be warm. Start a fire and make biochar!

Bats, rats, innocence

Ever been woken up by a bat crawling across your face?  It happened to me last night at Meadowcreek.  I flicked it off with a start and a yelp.  When I was totally awake, I realized I needed to capture the bat or it would be back on my face before the night was out.  It wasn’t flying too well and mainly fluttered along the floor.  I captured it with a big pan and a lid and released it outside.  After all that excitement, it was tough to fall back asleep.  Bats on your face just are not dream-inducers.


Some of the not-quite-country-yet residents of Meadowcreek told me about the bat.  They’d been watching it for days.  One extreme newby even petted it.  They’ve had it trapped in a closet off the room where I often stay in winter.  It’s been so warm this year that I’ve been staying in an upper room with big windows so I can see the stars when I first wake up.

So I just opened the closet door night before last and slept upstairs as is my wont.  The bat moved out of the closet and into the great room.  While watching the Super Bowl stream live last night, I noticed it clinging to a curtain near the sliding glass doors to the patio.  That will make it easy to release, I thought, but didn’t deal with it because I was too tired.  It’s easy to put off things you know you should do when you convince yourself you are too tired or a myriad of other reasons our native laziness makes up for us when we let it.

Also because I was lazy, I moved the Super Bowl into the room where the bat has been living the past few days so I didn’t have to haul the computer upstairs.  The bat decided during the night that it liked me and the old room better than the now empty great room.

That set the stage for the “Great Bat on the Face in the Middle of the Night Adventure” and the bat’s return to a habitat much nicer than the closet.  It’s still warm at night and getting really warm during the days so maybe it will find a good place to hide out the oncoming winter.  Or maybe not.

The not-yet-country newbies will probably sympathize for the poor bat out in the cold.  Just as some of their friends and relatives are worried about them out in the wilderness with no central heating and miles of gravel roads to the closest grocery store.  And just as they don’t want to poison the mice and rats that love country homes.

Sooner or later, if you become a country person (which most never do), you become inured to death.  You realize death is just a part of life.  Without the death of a tree, the fungus can’t grow.  Without the fungus digesting the tree, the nutrients can’t be released for the next generation of trees.  Everything is food in nature.  All our wastes are valuable resources for other species.

Well, maybe not some of our electronic inventions with tons of heavy metals available for ingestion.  But all wastes, all death, in resilient systems, is food.  The complementary diversity of such systems takes care of all wastes to complete a cycle providing more and more resources.  Not necessarily the metals and hydrocarbon fuels the environmentalists often means when they speak of resources being depleted.

We’ve explored how to deal with that in previous posts.  So search life cycle analysis, if you like.  I’m not going to repeat it here.

But the Ukrainian approach to bats, I must mention.  Though Ukraine is right next to Romania and you can visit Transylvania and Dracula’s castle a short drive from the border, Ukrainians don’t really fathom the American obsession with bats as evil incarnate.

Once, my favorite driver/translator in Ukraine, a former spy who was one of the first from Soviet Union into Vietnam after America pulled out, felt under the gun and was driving really fast to get to an appointment.

I told him he was driving like a bat out of hell.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  Bats are not associated with hell in Ukraine.  But my comment did get him to concentrate on cultural and language differences and he slowed down.

You, too, might slow down and appreciate  the bats who crawl across your face.  Or like me, flick them away and wonder why the innocent city folk coddle or imprison wild animals.


Stepping outside in January in Michigan makes a Southern boy question his resilience.  Why would people willingly come to such a cold, wind-blown place?  I guess the Netherlands in the 1880s must have been even worse.

michigan winterAnyway, the Dutch who migrated to western Michigan a little over a hundred years ago have certainly created a little chunk of European civilization.

Academics love to despise “modernism,” but I kinda like modern conveniences.  The question is: how resilient will our modern systems be? As we deplete and destroy the resources which our modern comforts require, we are undermining our future.

Why do we destroy our system’s resilience for the sake of momentary comfort?  One ecology researcher came up with an answer more than 20 years ago.

Richard Norgaard contends that five basic assumptions have led our modern American culture into the morass of climate change, species extinction and lack of resilience.

Today the acronym for these assumptions is even more trenchant: OMUMA.  If you thought Obama was bad for the country, you have never met OMUMA.  It explains why all our recent leaders and would-be leaders are pushing our culture to destruction.

OMUMA is Objectivism, Mechanism, Universalism, Monism, and Atomism.

We like people who know stuff at Meadowcreek, unless they are sure they know everything.  We are rightly suspicious of everything they say. Then again, we take everything with a grain of salt.

Traditional engineers and scientists, poor folks, are especially apt to fall for the dead end of OMUMA.

See what Norgaard had to say about it in his 1995 book, Development Betrayed:

Once you have digested OMUMA, you will have some tools to address the failings of traditional engineering approaches to ecological problems.  Some engineers are beginning to wake up, but many  need to hear from those of us who know the whole is often greater than the sum of their parts, systems are seldom mechanical, universal principles are wholly dependent on context, systems cannot be understood apart from the past effect of our values on those systems, and any one view of reality is inescapably partial.

It’s a hard sell, you’ll find out.  Nearly all who need to appreciate the destruction wrought by OMUMA are immersed in the sound bites which pass for wisdom in today’s dominant cultures.  No politician can admit he doesn’t have all the answers. This first step is required before you can ever learn to run away from OMUMA.

Atomism: Systems consist of unchanging parts and are simply the sum of their parts. Holism: Parts cannot be understood apart from their wholes and wholes are different from the sum of their parts.
Mechanism: Relationships between parts are fixed, systems move smoothly from one equilibrium to another, and changes are reversible, Systems might be mechanical, but they might also be deterministic yet not predictable or smooth because they are chaotic or simply very discontinuous. Systems can also be evolutionary.
Universalism: Diverse, complex phenomena are the result of underlying universal principles which are few in number and unchanging over time and space. Contextualism: Phenomena are contingent upon a large number of factors particular to the time and place. Similar phenomena might well occur in different times and places due to widely different factors.
Objectivism: We can stand apart from what we are trying to understand. Subjectivism: Systems cannot be understood apart from us and our activities, our values, and how we have known and hence acted upon systems in the past.
Monism: Our separate individual ways of understanding complex systems are merging into a coherent whole. Pluralism: Complex systems can only be known through alternate patterns of thinking which are necessarily simplifications of reality.

Thanksgiving that rich city folk are so ephemeral

On a beautiful day after the recent rain, three of us were standing on the pickerel pond dam looking at the new greenhouse site.  My gaze wandered from the new beds to the cliffs and spires on Angora Mountain.  And I didn’t want to leave, ever.

cropped-selina-anna-leesa-fun.jpgBut then I did, because you should spend Thanksgiving with your relatives, they say, and that is fun.  But holidays in the country with family is even better.  Or just any time in the country with close family and friends.

Some politically correct types would banish use of family as a positive term since it is painful to many.  The anguish such a childhood can cause makes the empathetic among us wince.  But why wallow in your bad childhood and force others to join you in the pig sty?  I remember a planning session for a multi-million dollar foundation sustainability initiative being totally disrupted when an Amerindian woman made such an effort.   We all had to feel her pain of an abused childhood before we could get back to work.  The planning never got back on track and the foundation’s effort was eventually shelved.

Too bad something like that didn’t happen to some of the Gates Foundation projects.  I know Bill Gates has a lot of money and he sure had some insight on the best ideas to steal.  But he has no knowledge of agroecology or Nature or resilient systems and his money and his foundation are hindering progress toward a more resilient world.

Promoters of chemical-intensive agriculture and GMOs are fond of telling us all that traditional approaches to agriculture will not be able to produce enough food to feed the world. For example, the former UK environment minister flew to South Africa earlier this year to praise the apparent success of the ‘green revolution’ and to promote the supposed wonders of genetically modified (GM) crops. Paterson warned that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back. He rounded on opponents of GMOs and chemical-intensive agriculture by stating:

Not since the original Luddites smashed cotton mill machinery in early 19th century England, have we seen such an organised, fanatical antagonism to progress and science. These enemies of the Green Revolution call themselves ‘progressive’, but their agenda could hardly be more backward-looking and regressive… their policies would condemn billions to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment. And their insistence on mandating primitive, inefficient farming techniques would decimate the earth’s remaining wild spaces, devastate species and biodiversity and leave our natural ecology poorer as a result.

Proponents of GM crops constantly claim that we need such technology to address hunger and to feed a growing global population. We are told by the GMO biotech lobby that GM crops are essential, are better for the environment and will provide the tools that farmers need in a time of climate chaos.

By seeking to denigrate traditional forms of agriculture, these guys are attempting to eliminate low cost, time-tested farming methods in favor of promoting high cost external inputs and proprietary technologies, such as GMOs, on behalf of global agribusiness corporations.  Only the rich with lots of equipment and access to industrial inputs will be able to farm if they have their way.

New research by the Oakland Institute shows Bill Gates, Monsanto and their ilk are willfully ignorant.  This report on 33 case studies show the success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent in the face of climate change, hunger and poverty.

Too bad Bill Gates has been taken in by such the tomfooleries of Monsatan and  its minions.  A fool with money can cause damage, luckily it disappears.  It never lasts.  But as long as the money flows, some will suck no matter how sour and non-nutritious the milk.

Agriculture based on expensive external inputs is aimed at making a profit–mainly for the input suppliers.  Profit is extraction without giving back to the system.  Just as high yield, without building the soil, is extractive and non-resilient.

Agroecology, and its successor, ecogically resilient agriculture, is aimed at ensuring we have a future.

When you move beyond agroecology to agroecological resilience, you will learn the tools we all need to enjoy wonderful productive work in the country.

You’ll need that work tomorrow after all the food you consume this Thanksgiving Day.  I hope you are enjoying it with family and friends in the country.  If not, maybe next year at Meadowcreek?


Learn about how resilience research improves agroecology by starting with Chapter 10 of our free online book available at:





Climate change and poverty

It’s easy to get upset watching the news. But why?  It has nothing to do with you.  It’s not real.  It’s just a story occurring out there somewhere that is definitely slanted.  You’ll never know the whole truth unless you reallly dig into the story.

Now and then we see articles with interesting headlines, such as

100 Million More People Will Be In Poverty By 2030
Without Action On Climate, World Bank Says

That appeared on Nov 8, 2015 in the Huffington Post.  Laura Barron-Lopez wrote this wholly fictional article.

It didn’t take much digging to find out she was lying.  The fatuous author had a link to a World Bank press release which said the exact opposite of her story.  Here’s the World Bank headline:

World Bank Forecasts Global Poverty to Fall Below 10% for First Time; Major Hurdles Remain in Goal to End Poverty by 2030

President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, greet Tom Fletcher's family in Inez, Ky., in 1964. Fletcher was an unemployed saw mill worker with eight children.

President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, greet Tom Fletcher’s family in Inez, Ky., in 1964. Fletcher was an unemployed saw mill worker with eight children.

So instead of poverty increasing due to cllimate change, the World Bank says poverty is decreasing and may even be ended by 2030.  I know it’s not nice to call someone a liar.  And maybe she meant well.  I mean, we are all against climate change and poverty, so maybe we should just give her a pass.  NO WAY!

People who ignore reality, make up stories to suit their political ends are just idiots who do nothing to advance solutions.  Here’s more from the World Bank story:

The World Bank projects that global poverty will have fallen from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012 to 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the global population, this year.

World Bank president says in World Bank press release dated October 4, 2015:
“This is the best story in the world today — these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,’’ Kim said. “This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty. It will be extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change. But it remains within our grasp, as long as our high aspirations are matched by country-led plans that help the still millions of people living in extreme poverty.”

I’ve experienced some stark poverty in my life and I want to end it, as I know you do.  But I am getting more and more fed up with those who would destroy our ecosystems just to put a few more dollars in their pockets–even if they are poor.

In Kenya, poor villages live near wild animal reserves. I helped Kathekani and surrounding villages plan a cooperative poultry production enterprise to supply meat to the resorts at the biggest reserve, the Tsavo National Park.

On the weekends the cooperative president took me to visit the reserve to look at the elephants, zebras, giraffes and try to find a rhino.  We spent all of one day driving around the rhino reserve and encountered a dozen or so rangers, but none of the endangered black rhino.  I finallly called it quits so we could get out of the reserve before dark.

Another day we visited Mzima Springs which has a resident population of hippos.  After I enjoyed watching the hippos, the president told me of his belief that the water from the spring was being wasted on the animals and should be diverted to help his villages irrigate their crops.

Later in the trip he convinced me his family was in dire need of food and got me to give him money.  When I got back to Nairobi, I found out he is one of the richest men in his village.

Meadowcreek is a nonprofit organization and benefits from the same altruism which led me to help this cooperative and give money to a rich man.  Many researchers contend that we all have an innate need to help others.  They cite scads of supporting studies.

I’m not so sure that all societies instill altruism equally.  I visited Malawi in Central Africa to do an assessment for a rural development project.  There I found that all the hospitals were mostly staffed by nurses from Europe.   They trained dozens of Malawians as nurses every year.  The Malawians mostly left the country to take jobs in Europe and the US.

I still enjoy traveling to underdeveloped countries to help them improve themselves, but I think we might have taken altruism a little too far in the US and Europe.

In 1858, a German philosopher noted the need for a new term: empathy. An empathetic person is someone who can share another person’s feelings. If you tell an empathetic person that your heart is broken, she might touch her own heart and gaze at you sadly through moist eyes.

I wonder why it took so long for the term to be invented.  Maybe because people have to have a lot of free time and be raised in a basically all-Christian society for empathy to arise.

Some of us do help others in need out of genuine concern for the well-being of the other person.  If we feel the other’s pain or need, we will help the other, regardless of what we can gain from it.  This directly contradicts the standard model of evolution, but seems to work for a variety of charities.

When I left my small town for college I did have a little too much of this empathy/altruism.   I learned that some people will just take and take and take.  As long as you are willing to give.  So I try not to run myself ragged trying to help everyone I see anymore.

I think the nine parts Moses: one part Jesus approach works best. You may have heard of it.  It combines turn the other cheek and eye for an eye.  Say you are working to improve some situation. Everyone has something they can give, even those you are trying to help.  If they are willing to give to help a joint effort, I gladly give.  I even give willingly  now and then when they don’t give.  But if they consistently refuse to give, I do too.  If if they change heart, I start giving again immediately.    These simple rules have been shown time and time again to result in the highest levels of productivity in cooperative and competitive situations.

I try not to let my overdeveloped empathy/altruism get out of control.  I wish everyone was altruistic, but I know some aren’t.  Some folks are great at making you feel sorry for them or their cause.  But they are in it for themselves.  They take advantage of your altruism for their own selfish goals.

The same occurs with some minority groups.  They take advantage of the altruism of the larger society by making us feel sorry or even guilty for them and their cause. Yet they aren’t interested in giving, but only taking.  Time to apply the nine parts Moses approach.

Doing that with other people is tough enough.  What’s really tough is applying it to natural ecosystems.  Hippos are seldom going to be altruistic toward humans. Should we be empathetic/altruistic toward them?  What about when their needs conflict with the needs and desires of people?

I wanted to tell the cooperative president that the Mzima spring water shouldn’t be diverted to crop fields while the hippos died of thirst.  I didn’t.  It’s pretty tough to be accused of putting animals above people.

But from a resilience perspective, humans can’t survive without a healthy ecosystem.  We need other species to increase our own resilience.  Do we really need the hippo, the rhino, the giraffe, the zebra?  Or should they all be sacrificed so people can have more productive fields or more and more children.

It’s a tough question when you are trying to help some really poor people in Africa survive in a parched land and the animal reserve has plenty of fresh water.  But I vote for the wild.

Eat and be eaten

It’s a foggy morning in the Delta.  The accumulated heat of the summer is fighting against a sporadic North wind.  The Northern winds will get organized, overwhelm the warm soil, and the geese and ducks, along with their attendant tourists and hunters, will flock back from the frozen North, but so far they are only a trickle.  For now, the vibrant colors  means the Ozarks gets the visitors.  We had a couple of batches at Meadowcreek in the last four days.

food chainOur deluxe resident chef outdid himself for both groups of visitors.  He prepared breakfast for a fastidious  army.  The presentation of the hand-made hash browns was magnificent.  it looked like a macaroni cake. And it all tasted great–from sausage gravy to scratch biscuits to free range eggs.  My job was to round up the breakfasters, which I failed at.

I’d looked everywhere for them, but then, when I’d given up and the lumberjack chef and I had already eaten, there they were.  They’d been up exploring the ghostly conference center..  Nighttime is a little scary up there.  They did spot the resident owl.

When reminded of repast, an artist, an artist-teacher and an ecology professor came down to dig into their forgotten feast.  Their compliments were unending and their pleasure enticing.  I can’t promise you such an enjoyable and satisfying breakfast every time you come to Meadowcreek–only if the lumberjack is there.

Since it was Sunday, they had to get back home to prepare for the week’s lectures.  I remember the little nexus of anxiety in my core on Sunday evenings back when I had a full teaching load.  No more.  It’s been more than 30 years since I escaped the lecture preparation cycle.  (I did have a momentary relapse when I agreed to a Fulbright in Ukraine, but I think that’s excusable.)

Nowadays, I just facilitate the facilitators of our workshops. The one we did on Halloween went exceedingly well for a first try.  Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we’ll have to see how many resilient, job-generating businesses result–since that was the goal of the workshop.  

Meanwhile I began the process of recycling the egg shells and other remains from our hearty Meadowcreek breakfast.  Taking out the garbage is a task that usually falls to me.  I’m not sure why folks don’t want to work with garbage.  I enjoy it.  I used to love to scavenge usable furniture and other household goods from refuse left on the curb.  Near the end of the school year in college towns is the best. Some of my fellow garbagemen earned substantial sums reselling rich kids’ discard.  Just drive around a college town and pick up what the sorority girls and frat boys can’t get into their sports cars for the trip back to their hedge fund father..

I haven’t done that in a while, but I am the Meadowcreek garbage man.  I especially like feeding our compost piles.  We have a new one next to the dorm. Compost piles are always slightly sad to me.  Much like graveyards.  I’ve been able to suppress my fear and grief at graveyards lately, but compost piles still cause momentary melancholy.  This one is especially fraught with memories.  The exterior is cherry branches from a beatiful limb which used to hang over the kitchen entrance.  It wasn’t low enough you had to duck, but you could stroke its speckled bark whenever you walked under it in to breakfast.

I’d dissuaded our more practical residents from cutting it down.  We did have to prune more and more branches as it gradually descended into the dorm roof.  Whenever one touched the roof, we cut it off to avoid damage to the shingles.

Then, one day when I was gone, the entire limb split from it’s trunk and fell on the roof and entrance.  One of our sturdy lumberjacks got it out of the way, saved a few five foot sections to make some furniture, and left the branches to become a compost pile.

Leaves have penetrated all the crevasses between the branches now.  I just dump our meal remains deep inside this stack.

The compost rule of thumb is one third each of green material, brown material and soil.  The brown material is mainly carbon, the green material supplies some nitrogen and the soil provides the digesting worms, insects and microorganisms.

Nitrogen is needed because the microorganisms need it to grow and reproduce.  If they don’t grow and reproduce, there will never be enough of them to colonize the whole pile and turn it into rich dark soil.  Brown material alone will never compost.  Sawdust added to a garden can actually take up nitrogen from the soil and cause weak growth the next season.

Each of us can supply nitrogen to a compost pile.  Instead we send it down to the sewer or septic tank.  Why?  So wasteful.  If you can, please add your daily nitrogen excess to your compost pile.

At Meadowcreek we like compost piles and recycling everything we can.  We know that resilient systems are always composed of eaters and eaten who are also eaters.  These is no waste in a resilient system.  All outputs from a resilient system are valued and  needed inputs to another system.

For dozens of examples and further exploration of this topic see our free online book, Roots of Resilience by clicking this link:

And when you come to Meadowcreek, just enjoy your breakfast, take your pictures and don’t worry about the garbage.  I’ll take care of that.