Posts tagged ‘permaculture’

Who doesn’t like free food?

I’ve had these pics on my computer for a while now, but I’ve been trying to document my adventures in urban foraging.  Almost a month ago, I spent the afternoon finding wonderful free food, like elderflowers, wild garlic scapes, wild grape leaves, mullberries, wild cherries, and black raspberries.

IMG_0058

I couldn’t help but brag about this when I visited my friend Alex in Toronto, so we went on an urban foraging walk.  And so I present to you:

Things you don’t expect to find in a park in Toronto.

Namely, food. (more…)

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August 3, 2009 at 12:44 am 3 comments

from the ARE YOU #$@% KIDDING ME department…

We all know that food safety issues are a problem.  Although the cardinal law of business is “don’t kill your customers,” businesses like Peanut Corp. of America and Earthbound Farms are negligent or evil enough to continually attempt just that.

“If we want to have bagged spinach and lettuce available 24/7, 12 months of the year, it comes with costs.” -Bill Marler (the lawyer who represented plaintiffs in the 2006 spinach E. coli outbreak)

In an article that could be out of a spoof magazine, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines how, rather than holding Big Ag and food processing companies accountable for food safety, giant food retailers are imposing new restrictions on farmers.  Okay, that’s fair enough, I guess… except when their regulations are based on pure paranoia, at the expense of science.

In perhaps an unconscious nod to the fact that it’s managing the perception of safety rather than safe practices, it’s called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”  Here are some of their great ideas:

  • An Amish farmer that uses a horse to plow his fields can’t sell his greens to retailers, who would much rather purchase bagged lettuce trucked from hundreds of miles away (check the “product of” signs on those packages)
  • neither can a farmer who has children under 5, because, of course, diapers are our biggest threat to food safety.
  • “I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop”  “On one field where a deer… didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.
  • ponds are poisoned and bulldozed, poison traps are placed on the edges of fields and between rows, and companion plantings on the edges of fields are razed for “bare-dirt buffers”.

in the name of sterility.  Because everyone knows that the ecosystem is out to harm us, and the best way to interact with a system that has sustained life since the beginning of time is to beat the living shit out of it.  Real live UC Davis scientists understand that  “vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water”, but the perception of safety is more important than actual safety.  News flash:  we’ve been growing food in the dirt for a very very long time.  Did you ever notice that food safety issues seem to be happening more now than they ever did?

“In 16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, I can tell you I’ve never had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market,” Marler said.

Farming isn’t the problem.  Sustainable farming definately isn’t the problem.  Gigantic companies that can afford the occasional customer drop off here, in the name of saving some cash there, are.  (Which do YOU think is more dangerous: a container of poison, or a toad?) Instead of buying your food from companies that are trying to kill you, or that think that scorched-earth practices are a good idea, visit the farmer’s market.  The businesses there are small enough to know the value of a healthy customer.  Or better yet,  grow your own.  The dirt won’t hurt you, I promise.

(just remember to wash your food!)

July 14, 2009 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

complete energy system by a 15 yr old boy

“An invention that is narrowly focused on solving a single problem often inadvertently creates more problems because nature is highly complex and interconnected.” – Javier Fernandez-Han

Who is Javier Fernandez-Han? He’s a 15 year old boy, who invented an energy system, centred around salt-water algae. The system is made up of six subsystems, which “can treat waste, produce methane and bio-fuel, and is a source of livestock and human food production… produces oxygen and sequesters greenhouse gasses”. He calls it the VERSATILE system.

The system uses waste from one part of the system, to fuel others. Not unlike feeding rabbit poo to a garden that will feed rabbits (I wish mine did). My understanding of permaculture is still very shallow, but this seems to sum up the principles pretty well: work with the interconnectedness of ecosystems to make things easier, rather than trying to beat nature into submission to accomplish a single thing. The more I pay attention to the world around me, the more I realize how much more sense it makes.

The benefits of the VERSATILE energy system include better health for villagers due to cleaner burning methane stoves, less deforestation due to wood scavenging for fuel, possible income from the sale of algae biomass for pharmaceutical or nutraceutical products, easier livestock production because of more availability of feed, LED lighting powered by electricity generation from the PlayPump, and a source of fuel for machinery (from algae oil).

Do yourself a favour and read more about VERSATILE on Clean Technica. It’s fascinating.

Javier’s idea won the “Invent Your World Challenge” sponsored by Ashoka’s Youth Venture program. The program empowers youth (“a global community of young changemakers”) to create positive social change, which seems like a pretty freaking good idea to me.

From their website: “everyone in society could take initiative and address social needs, rather than looking to the elite few who lead today.”

June 15, 2009 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

Build your own Low Impact home. Seriously.

Simon Dale built his own low impact house with £3000, 1000-1500 man hours, and almost no previous experience. And with few exceptions, the only tools he used were a chainsaw, a hammer and a chisel. It’s absolutely stunning, and looks like it came straight out of the pages of a fairytale.
hobbit house exterior

He says,

Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

interior

His website is packed with information about how and why he did it, including plans for the house. I’m absolutely floored.

hobbit house kitchen

Via Bad Time.

June 10, 2009 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment


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