Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Friday, July 1, 2016

Goodbye from Small Batch Garden

Well.  It's been an interesting experience blogging these last 6 years or so, but I think that 100 posts and 100,000 page views is where I'm going to leave it.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this little project.  I had fun, and met some great people.  And I wish you all the best in the uncertain years ahead.

I think that the Brexit referendum marked an inflection point, where the trends that the energy descent crowd has been talking about for the last decade or so have become an obvious reality - a reality that must be understood and adapted to, rather than shouted down, brow-beaten, or swept under the rug.  Down that road lies open and bloody revolution.

I hope we can be smarter than that.  I hope that the affluent classes can begin to recognize their not-insignificant role in the creation of the swelling underclass that is now beginning to fight back.  Brexit was their first move.  Electing Donald Trump will be their next.  And if it isn't Trump it'll be someone else like him.  Someone perhaps even less savory.

I hope that the affluent classes can stop pretending that we Americans live in a class-less society where anybody can become whatever they dream, for they are the only ones who pretend that.  The masses on the receiving end of their class warfare, and now schoolyard bullying and name-calling, certainly don't.  Yes, occasionally an individual from a more impoverished background makes it big - it does happen.  But to think that the exception defines a rule is myopic, and self-serving.

In historian Arnold Toynbee's words, the "internal proletariat" is rising up against the "dominant minority" who've hijacked the political system for their own advantage.  And in the 23 distinct civilizational case studies he examined and compared, that never ended well.  Particularly for the dominant minority.

Stop listening to the people and they will stop using such benign tools as words and votes to express their disdain for the world you have built.  And left them out of.

Peace, friends.  And safe travels.
Tripp out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Show Me to the Brexit Please

It's just that Brexit wasn't supposed to happen.  

The markets were betting against it, which is why they're losing ground now.  Or rather, the markets that did bet against Brexit are hurting while the markets that didn't remain steady.  It's a crying shame that our "free" markets are controlled so heavily by speculation.  And the speculators seem to be able to convince ordinary people that their problems are everyone's problems.  In fact they are so used to being able to guide public opinion that they assumed the UK would remain in the Eurozone simply because they said it would.  

Even though 83% of Brits didn't want to join the EU in the first place!  

Is anyone listening?  Do we have your attention yet?  This was obviously an enormous upset for the business as usual crowd.

I know that most people don't question our leadership as much I do.  But I think we're dealing with bad people at the top who buy friendly results (friendly for themselves anyway) regardless of the collateral damage.  And I think Hillary Clinton belongs to that same group of influence peddlers that got side-swiped last Thursday, the financial/political elites who don't actually care what people think or how they vote.  They just keep doing whatever they want until someone takes them out.  I was encouraged to see David Cameron step down as PM when it became obvious that the electorate didn't side with him, even when they were supposed to, even when the media spin-doctors assured him it was a done deal.

This interview with UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage is possibly the best, most sincere, political interview I've ever witnessed.  (Can you believe I'm quoting Faux News??)  I loved it.  I loved him.  And I loved the way he made the female interviewer look like a tool for the same media spin machine that assured Cameron it was in control.  I hope it goes viral and Americans can see for themselves the solid political motives behind Brexit.  So many just assume that what the media tells them is more or less true.  I'd like to think I don't suffer from that malady...

"London isn't a financial center for Europe!  London is a financial center for the WORLD!  And 85% of global commerce is not in the EU."

The UK was supposed to stay in the EU because the bigger the government is, the easier it is to skim off of it.  The skimmers are desperately trying to keep their cash cows lactating.  Hillary among them.  (Gawd, the mental image of HRC breast-feeding that just popped into my head is horrifying.)  The larger the organization, the more wasteful it is.  That's just an inherent part of longer food chains.  Period.  End of thought process.  That's why Obamacare was put in place - larger profits for the kleptocratic medical establishment.  More fat to be skimmed.  I mean, it surely wasn't put in place to make American medicine better.  Surely no serious person believes that.

It also strikes me that this vote wasn't so much a vote against the globalists' politics, but against their religion.  That's why it's so damned offensive to them.  This is the cult of Progress at work again, and political/economic organization is only allowed to move in one direction according to the cult of Progress: toward bigger, more centralized entities, toward global government and central banks, (then galactic government and central banks, or whatever they fantasize about in between unwelcome bouts of reality), but definitely not in the reverse.  

Let me say that again.  The universally-accepted narrative of the cult of Progress makes no room for smaller, more localized governance.  Such thoughts are the opposite of Progress, they say, no matter what results emerge in the real world as a result of their doctrine.  Results like third world sweat shop enslavement to keep the price of consumer goods down.  Results like millions of Americans unemployed or drastically underemployed because their jobs have been sold off to countries where a lack of even basic environmental regulations and living wages makes the products of their labor less expensive for rich Westerners.  Results like turning a blind eye to increased illegal immigration because it keeps the work force more mobile and domestic wages suppressed.  All of these things are wonderful for a small minority of the Earth's population, and not coincidentally those are the folks who voted Remain, or the folks who couldn't vote but regret the result anyway.

What was it they liked to say before the vote?  Not everyone who votes Leave is a racist, backwards idiot, but all racist, backwards idiots will vote Leave.  Or something to that effect.  Well, it's just as easy to turn that on its head and say that not everyone who votes Remain is a rich white sociopath, but all rich white sociopaths will vote Remain.  Fun to hurl insults, isn't it?

But when you break down what exactly it means to be a member of the cult of Progress, what it means to accept only bigger and more centralized political and economic arrangements - what it meant to vote Remain - the results I listed above don't exactly paint a pretty picture of these people.  They certainly don't represent the shining light of tolerance and social justice to me.  Quite the contrary actually.  In essence, they are simply fighting to keep the crap they buy cheap.  However it gets spun.  It isn't so clearly a matter of the good and tolerant versus the evil and isolationist now is it?

This slight majority vote against globalism was the first time industrial Westerners officially voiced the opinion that Progress wasn't delivering on its promises.  That this particular conception of Progress is making our lives worse and we want it to end.

I'm just beside myself with this decision.  I've been in a celebratory mindset ever since I heard the official results.  This is really big for the (obviously growing) energy descent crowd, and horrifying for the Nancy Pelosis of  the world.  I would say that I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when she heard, but I know precisely what she said, because it's one of the best-rehearsed scripts in modern thought.  

Those racist, nostalgic, backwards simpletons!  How could they choose to hamstring our destiny??

Um...because your destiny is ruining our lives?


Normally I would post a photo update around the Summer Solstice, and there is more than ever around here that is worthy of photographing.  Forgive me for waxing philosophical instead.  This is just really big to me and I feel like it's time we all stopped and took a good hard look at what exactly it is that we are fighting for.  Suffice it to say that crops of all manners are doing great here!  Many superlatives to be proud of this season.  And I will get to that as soon as I can.   

Tripp out. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Farming, Drugs, and Drink

2-3-2!  Man, those are high N-P-K numbers for an "organic" fertilizer.

That's what was crossing my mind when I opened up the bag of Black Hen in the kale patch this morning.  This was a desperate situation, and it called for desperate measures.  You know, as desperate as an organic-approved 2-3-2 composted manure fertilizer can be anyway.  But the thing is, those numbers actually are high enough to warrant some care in application, because of their level of refinement or, said a different way, because of their level of extraction (and abstraction) from the whole system from which they were refined.

For example, I have no idea what the numbers for whole fresh comfrey leaf are, not even a very good guess, but I know comfrey is a dynamic potassium miner and accumulator, and I know that when I apply it around other food crops - herb, vine, or tree - it ALWAYS does magical things.  I know I can eliminate black spot in Prunus fruits with it - usually in less than two weeks - just by applying a decent layer of comfrey leaves on the ground around the tree, and that it's probably one of the best general plant immune optimizers out there.

In it's whole form.

Isolate and standardize "the active ingredient" potassium from within, however, and suddenly you're not dealing with an immune optimizing, biomass building, wound-healing wonderplant anymore.  You're just dealing with a mineral: potassium.  Just an element.  Just some granules from a bag that you probably shouldn't touch with bare skin.

What happened?  The comfrey we started with was large and robust, fuzzy and fleshy, with attractive purple-blue flower stalks - something you might carry around with you just to rub it on your bare skin.  And here's the important bit: you could probably pile comfrey leaf a foot thick around the target plant and get nothing but even better results.  I really don't recommend doing that with potassium granules!  Removing and isolating the potassium from its whole system makes it dangerous.

Isn't that funny?  All three of the major plant nutrients - Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, the very things plants cannot live without - can become red-hot toxins in excess.  That's why fertilizers come with very specific dosage instructions, and why soil test results are so important.  If you're applying something that can KILL your garden if it's present in excess, you're going to want to know precisely how much your soil needs.  And add no more than that.

You can only overdose on comfrey the same way you can overdose on cannabis: by physically laying it over the target organism thick enough to smother it.  No one's ever died from a cannabis overdose because at some point the herb's gonna put you to sleep.  Then your body will rest and recover.  You can keep at it every day if you want to, just to verify my claim, and you might get pretty forgetful, maybe a little stupid, and you might get ostracized by your more pious friends, but I promise you will get tired of smoking the stuff long before it kills you.  Same with comfrey.  Lay it on, and lay it on thick.  More comfrey only makes things better.  And when you remove the potential for toxicity doesn't that take away some of the potential for failure too?  Some of the anxiety and paranoia?  (Pot paranoia is a product of the law, not the plant.  And the red eyes come from smoking the chemical fertilizers used to grow the pot, not the pot itself.  Try an organic version some time, and see if I'm lying.)

Any number of pharmaceuticals can kill you if taken in excess.  So can liquor.  For the very same reason I laid out in my potassium argument!  To my mind, that fits the definition of "drug" a lot better than cannabis does.  Just as chemical fertilizers strike me as a lot more toxic than organic biomass fertilizers.  At least that potential is there.

I've met so many herbalists whose main concern is standardization and dosage.  What?  Why?  Have you refined your ingredients so thoroughly that you've made them toxic?  If so, is that really still herbalism?  Granted, one should try any new food or medicine in small quantity to see how the body responds, but from then on, aren't we all smart enough to keep increasing the dosage slowly until our body tells us that's enough?  We are if we're not dealing in toxins!  And if we're used to thinking that way.  I don't know about you all, but that's how it works for my family.  And has for a decade now with fine results.  Try that approach with a standardized pharmaceutical isolate, though, and you're taking your life in your own hands.

See how that works?  Whole medicines, properly "tasted," like whole fertilizers and whole ferments (as opposed to refined liquor), just don't have the toxicity issues involved.  Yes it requires more of it to do the job sometimes.  Grab a friend one night and one of you shoot tequila as fast as you can and the other drink beer as fast as you can and see who ends up in the emergency room first.  Likewise, the amount of plant material in a teabag is probably vastly bulkier than a comparable pill.  So?  The tea dregs are also wonderful compost material.  Can I have yours too?  I can also simply step out the door into the kitchen garden and pick it for free...and come back for more free medicine half an hour later if needed!  I don't need the (understandably expensive) advice of someone highly trained in toxicity issues if I'm not dealing with toxins!!

Understand what I'm getting at here?  The medicine we're after is the same, whether that's a lone mineral like potassium or zinc, or the most complex organic molecule ever recorded, but one form is isolated, standardized, and toxic, and in need of strict dosage requirements, while the other is whole, subjective, and not just non-toxic, but also possibly synergistic.  You don't get unexpected synergistic healing from pharmaceutical isolates.  Ever.  They do lots of things that are worded to look like marginal problems (really? stroke, paralysis, death??) and talked about in hushed tones as "side" effects, but they definitely don't have any shot at synergy.

OK, yes, herbal medicine requires a little knowledge on the user's part.  Of course it does.  But I hope you're not taking any pharmaceutical medicine without researching it a little bit first either!  Buyer beware.  In all cases.  Especially the toxic ones!

This whole train of thought began about a week ago when I asked my more conventional father for his advice on phosphorous deficiency in a new garden plot.  Of course I got the very educated insistence that it couldn't be fixed (not in a timely way anyway) without chemical fertilizer.  And if I really did want to eat that kale this spring I would have to use something like triple 13 to get it done.  Now this might shock you, but I didn't take his advice!  Instead I used comfrey leaf and flowers, and bone meal, and the Black Hen composted chicken manure this post opened up with.  The stuff with N-P-K numbers high enough to get my attention.  High enough to open the door to toxicity.  To my mind a desperate situation!

Well, I've had that 40 lb. bag of Black Hen for a couple of years now and just used it up this morning.  I'm not likely to buy something with numbers like 13-13-13.  Numbers like that might as well be printed in fiery red with flames licking off the edges to me.  Caution!  This shit is toxic!!

And probably works wonders for your garden-variety biochemist, like my father.  Me?  I'm an ecologist.  A biophile.  I don't want a recipe.  I want a garden absolutely thronging with biodiversity and natural negative feedback loops to minimize damage.  Just like I want thriving children whose bodies are well-versed in general immunity due to natural exposure and organic plant-based medicine.  And I want to admire all of them from the porch swing with a cold hard cider on a hot afternoon.

Whether it's reductionist solutions in the garden, "active ingredient" medicines, or concentrated ethanol down the hatch, they're all symptoms of the same problem of isolation.  I want to live life in situ, not isolated.  Isolation is toxic.

Happy Earth Day, everyone!
Tripp out.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Guardian Sounds a General Alarm for Global Collapse

Limits To Growth model looking a little too accurate for comfort.

Wow.  The (so far excellent) model published by the Club of Rome in 1972 predicts a sudden rise in the global death rate in just 4 years, and then the beginning of global population decline - by about half a billion per decade - just 10 years later.

I hope you guys are settled in.  I'm not feeling all that prepared suddenly.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alphabet Soup

There are some big changes afoot in our lives, and though I'm going to keep them under my hat for the moment, I do want to pull up a question from the new matron in the picture for closer scrutiny.

Before the big dinner and discussion a few weeks ago, she asked me what my experience in gardening/orchards was.  I gave a fairly stock answer for someone of my experience level that went something like this - "well I have a degree in biology from the University of Florida, with a minor in chemistry, my great-great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my great-grandfather was a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my grandfather is a fantastic gardener/orchardman, my father is a fantastic gardener/orchardman - I just grew up immersed in big, productive gardens.  My professional experience is in watershed ecology, botany, and soil science, and I practically live outside in my gardens and orchards full time, and have for several years.  (And then cheekily,) I do go inside now and then to sleep!"  OK, and to blog eight times a year.

But why should I list my "official" credentials first, when I have lived in and participated with a garden for most of my 42 years (how is four years better than four decades?), and surely had some subconscious genetic leanings, not to mention extensive nurturing, in that direction passed to me through generations of garden-loving forebears.  Even in my wayward 20s and ladder-climbing early 30s, whenever I rented a new place my greatest affinity was for the raspberry thicket at the back edge of the yard, or the hops growing up to the second story bedroom window, or the little sunny patch in the side yard deep in the student ghetto at UF where I could grow a few tomatoes.  Or at least try to.

Why do we put so much emphasis on a few years of intense (but rarely practical) study?  In fact, as soon as one reaches a certain level of practicality the academic community tends to redefine that more as "technical" school.  Obviously implying a lesser entity.

Nah, the years of experimentation (and what decent gardener doesn't experiment constantly?), the thrilling successes - the spinach leaves bigger than my hands!, and probably most importantly, the failures, mean so much more than the alphabet soup we sometimes like to dangle behind our signatures.  At least they do to me.  And I think they should more generally.

There is merit in the letters, though, I think.  In a way it's a concise means of conveying that you care enough about a subject to have taken the time (and probably the debt) to spend 4 years of formally-sanctioned (and expensive!) study to further your chosen path.  But honestly, I've learned at least an order of magnitude more about my chosen path SINCE college than I did in it.  And it didn't require the psychological and not-insignificant social pressure of student loan debt either.  Debt that may not ever get repaid.  As a currently-popular millennial musician says it, "between student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter."  Or was that ladder?

But even that concise packaging really only works because we live in a culture that identifies closely with credentials, so sometimes credentials feel necessary.  I for one would love to see a general return to apprenticeship systems, slowly wedging their way into the space currently (and fairly securely) held by banks and universities.

How many psych majors with 50k in student loan debt does the country really need?  At what point do the rest of us start discouraging young people from wasting their time on such things?  At what point do we get tired of education (and medicine, and...) costing as much as it does at least partly because of the number of administrators and regulators, the number of layers of people on the dole, requiring themselves to be paid before the letters of recognition can be passed on.  It's like we've had to make jobs up (and pay for them all!) to fit everybody into a space that just doesn't require them.  Because, well, what else are we going to do with all these people in a country selling its jobs abroad as fast as it can?

Energy descent will eventually make all that look like the folly that it is, but it will take a while.  Nobody's going to offer up their job willingly on the altar of efficiency, nor take a new, more practical one in the name of resilience.  But perhaps we should consider redirecting some of our cultural energy toward prying the death-grip of the banks and universities from the throat of the overly-credentialed and under-employed populace!  Just thinking out loud here.

Maybe it's time to realign ourselves with practicality, and give some of the certification outfits the boot to the backside they so richly deserve.

Meanwhile, here's something practical for another spring immersed in severe colony collapse disorder among our honeybees, an ongoing threat no doubt presided over by plenty of knuckleheads dangling alphabet soup behind their names.  (Alphabet soup that probably aligns better with doctrine than critical thought.)

Our first top bar honeybee hive!

And a darling little future beekeeper (my daughter Ella) modeling the new bee gear.  Bees in two weeks.  Can't wait!

Happy Spring everyone.
Tripp out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Long Way to the Land of Milk and Honey

With Donald Trump running amok inside the American political machine, soaking up the admiration of an entire social class that has been discarded like so many pairs of worn-out gym socks in the race to the dream, I want to take a moment to talk about an alternative route to the future.  Fortunately, it has precious little to do with politics.

It's frustrating to watch cycle after cycle of politicians plucking at the heart strings of the electorate, lying to the faces of millions of people who desperately need them to be honest, promising that land of milk and honey that seems to slip faster and farther away every election cycle.  And rightfully so, because it IS slipping farther out of reach every election cycle.  Unless we're talking about a land of actual milk and honey, that is.

What the industrial world needs now more than anything else is a prominent and responsible figure to stand up and tell them what's up: that the modern industrial way of life is going down by the stern and that seats in the life boats are available, but we're running out of time to get you safely aboard.

Now wait a minute here.  Does that mean that everyone should panic and start pushing the boats off before everyone who could be aboard is in fact aboard?  Of course not.  Does it mean that there is some sort of event horizon when it will be too late to put the gin fizz down and actually get on that boat?  Again, no, probably not.  Does it mean that we need to hoard up all the amenities of the industrial age in a lifeboat for ourselves, and wait in the dark with the pistol cocked for the thieving zombie hoards to inevitably barge in, eat our brains, and take our stuff?  Don't be absurd.  But every election cycle, every year actually, that goes by without meaningful change consigns you to a worse position on the life boats than need be.

And someone who matters needs to tell folks that time is of the essence.  There are plenty of players out on the fringes of society who have been pushing people in the right direction for years, but not enough people are reading them.  In fact there are at least as many on the other end of the spectrum, shouting down the people who really are trying to help at the top of their lungs.

To wrap up the Titanic analogy (thank you, Tripp!) there are plenty of things that can be saved, time still even to put a few of your favorite but non-essential belongings in the pocket of your overcoat on the way out.  But the rest of the cargo needs to be seeds, and tools, and small livestock, and books, and forgotten skills.  We need to make friends with the neighbors.  Fruit trees need time to settle in and reach bearing age.  Breeding programs need to be tailored to the new realities of energy descent, not some flashy hyper-efficient and unnatural industrial formulation.  Effective (and organic) crop polycultures need to be worked out over years of trials.  And worked out without the use of modern (and expensive) machines and additives.  And then, after that's done, we will need to invest that much time again, to build resilience in our life-support systems.  As an example, I have a few fruit trees that are now of crop bearing age, but that tend to bloom too early and get hammered by late frost.  Later blooming cultivars are on my list of items to acquire this spring.  But they won't be ready to fruit any time real soon even so.

The way we've done business in the industrial world since the end of WWII only made sense under the specific environmental and market conditions that existed up until recently, but continue to unravel at a hastening pace.  Kudos to us for being so successful under those conditions!  But contraction is a very different animal than expansion.  Whole systems tend to behave in radically different ways under different energetic trajectories.  What we're dealing with here isn't an economic hiccup or a trendy stab at simplification, and we need to stop thinking that.  We need to stop being lied to about that.  What we have before us instead is a long, slow, ragged decline from the giddy heights of the fossil fuel age to some deindustrial version of what would be to us an unrecognizable way of life.

If we want to continue living in a land of milk and honey - and who doesn't - we'll have to build it for ourselves, preferably right now, where we are, with what we have.  If you have a cube truck with 4 tons of cargo ready to roll out when the zombie hoards show up, where will you run that could possibly be better prepared than home?  Will the protective and nurturing community you've been working on be ready to roll out with you when you give the word?  Or will they just think you're a reactionary nut?  Productive organic garden soil is a lot easier to come by when you've spent years developing it just outside your kitchen door.  And you can't dig up a 5 year old peach tree.  At least not in a hurry.

It is heart-breaking to see the very poor twiddling their thumbs day after day, not even a tomato growing in a bucket or an egg bird wandering around, waiting for help to arrive when we know good and well that help will not be forthcoming.  Not from the politicians who don't promise it, nor from the politicians who do.  Politicians only say what they need to say to get elected, and nobody serious about getting elected is going to tell us the truth about the future.

But a smart fella (multi-billionaire, remember?) like Donald Trump is willing to bank his campaign strategy on a forgotten class of blue collar folks who've had their jobs sold to third world sweatshop hellholes or given to illegal immigrants for peanuts in compensation with no legal recourse against being stepped on and underpaid.  That being the case, I'm guessing Trump doesn't believe the official unemployment statistics any more than some of us do.  And Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh are listening.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he will do better in the northeast and midwest states than he did in Iowa.  And he didn't do too badly there...

Milk and honey have always been available to those who go out of their way to secure it.  But if you're thinking that someone will just give it to you, or that it's your birthright as an American, or even that paper money will always be able to buy it for you, the future might end up being a disappointing place for you.

Me, I'm gonna be adding honeybee hives to all three of my projects this spring.  I like honey.  And milk.

Peace, beautiful people.
Tripp out.