Feeding the Soil, Which in Turn Feeds the Plants That Feed Us

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Today, Josh and I prepared the raised bed at our community garden. When we arrived at our little plot of land, the bed was bare, and had a few weeds growing. So, we pulled up the weeds, raked out some trash and dug down a bit to see what the soil was like. We did not see any evidence of worms or other small life forms. Yet, we know that alive and healthy soil is full of worms and other small critters. So we set out to fix that.

Josh and I went home to get some worms from our worm bin and some supplies in order to make them comfortable in their soon-to-be new home.  When we returned, we dug a little trench down the center of the bed, and put in some red wigglers and many, many worm eggs. Then we covered them over with soil. Worms do not like sunshine!  Next, we watered the soil. Worms do like moisture.  Finally, we put on a layer of leaves to cover over the soil, and provide the worms with something to eat until the compost arrives.

A good friend of mine, and organic gardener, Moira Ryan, who we dearly miss, always advised, “Nowhere in nature, does bare soil exist”.  That is to say, when soil is left bare, the life in it is destroyed and then the soil disappears. Many folks may not think of soil as alive, but it is. Amazingly, there is more life living in healthy soil, than can ever live on top of it. Healthy soil will be alive with worms, other small critters, micorrhizae, and all sorts of microbes that I have come to think of as ‘the micro-herd’.   All of this life is desirable and we should encourage it and support it. This is the reason that when we garden, we try to disturb the soil as little as possible and this is why we keep it covered.

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Once we finished preparing the bed and covering the soil, we then stepped back to see how nice it looked. We thought to ourselves that perhaps we might lose our leaf mulch if there was a big wind. That would not be a nice thing to happen to our neighbors, finding our leaves all over. So we topped it all off with some cardboard boxes. To hold them in place we used a few pieces of wood. A good rain would sure help the soil and the soil critters a great deal right now. We intend to keep the leaves and cardboard in place in order to retain soil moisture and to also keep the weeds down.  An extra bonus of the mulching is that it will all eventually break down into new and healthy soil.

It is so nice to have fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, but gardening, to us, is about much more than just growing food. This project will be a part of Josh’s homeschool curriculum.  He can learn about horticulture and community building while working on this project. Furthermore, because the small act of gardening puts one in touch with nature, it is natural that he will be learning about environmental issues, too.  In this way, our summertime fresh-food project will be a hobby that produces, rather than a hobby of consumption.  Our little garden plot will produce fresh fruits and vegetables, some healthy outdoor exercise, plus an educational opportunity in the sciences, social studies, and in creation care.  This is truly a More-with-Less adventure.

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On Mother’s Day, my dear son and I plan to return to our little garden plot in order to install some fencing for trellis, and perhaps plant a few cold weather crops, too.

When we were done working today, Josh said, “This is fun!”

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Living With Less

Living With Less: America's Quest for Simplicity

Infographic Source: mastersinhumanresources.org

The Domination System in Our Food System

http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/2013-FarmBill_Process.jpg

“What does the Farm Bill mean for me?”

The extension of the current (2008) federal Farm Bill expires at the end of September.  If a new bill (or an extension of the current bill) is not passed, federal price supports to farmers will revert to those of the 1949 permanent bill.  Some farmers, such as those involved in wheat or dairy production for example, would profit from the 1949 supports.  Yet farmers who produce commodities that were added after the 1949 legislation, such as soybeans would lose support.  This uncertainty makes it difficult for major food producers to plan for the future and to run profitable businesses.

 “I’m not a farmer, so why should I care?”

The Farm bill does not consist of only commodity support programs though. A larger portion of federal funding is dedicated to nutrition and food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps.  The Democrat-controlled Senate passed its version of a Farm Bill that included nutrition and food support programs in addition to commodity support programs.  The Republican-controlled House passed only commodity support programs and not the nutrition support programs.  Both programs have always been supported by both major parties until this year.  This is the first time in history that support programs designed to assist those needing food have been split from support programs designed to assist producers achieve security and profit in unstable production and market conditions.  During a time period of increased unemployment and increased underemployment, the House is proposing to cut $10 billion from the SNAP program over the next ten years.  This has caused the entire Farm Bill to be stalled.  This puts our nation’s food producers at risk while bipartisan politics try to reach an agreement.

The Farm Bill Also Affects Animal Rights

Additionally, according to Live Science’s August 9th Op-Ed, the Farm Bill Tramples States Rights to Protect Animals Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, states that,

“As members of Congress left Washington and returned to their districts for the August recess, opposition to the farm bill amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), began to swell. The King amendment is a sort of legislative kudzu, so invasive and dangerous it could crowd out hundreds of state and local laws setting appropriate standards for agriculture.”  and  “For the animal welfare movement, to put a fine point on its impact, King’s measure could easily repeal all the state laws against shark finning, puppy mills, extreme confinement of farm animals and the slaughter and sale of meat from horses, dogs and cats.”

How Our Tax Dollars Support the Degrading Quality of Our Food

If you would like a deeper understanding of how federal supports affect what farmers produce and how they produce it, please view the 2007 documentary, King Corn.


“King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.” (kingcorn.net)

Our food system has become a Domination System.

The system no longer works for our wellbeing, but instead we are dominated by the system’s need to create ever increasing yields and profit at the cost of our wellbeing, the wellbeing of our farmers, and of the crops and livestock they produce.  The domination system under which we all live is described by theologian Walter Wink in the Powers that Be.  I do recommend reading it.

We can choose to create another way to feed ourselves while also supporting our farmers and caring for animal wellbeing and the wellbeing of our environment.

. . .

We can grow a garden for ourselves with what space we have.

We can also support small local farmers.

http://www.localharvest.org

PickYourOwn.org

http://www.pickyourown.org

Before we can dismantle the current systems that dominate us, we must first create suitable structures and systems with which to replace them.

This is Gandhian Economics – Constructive Program

This is Jesus’ Third Way – Nonviolent Social Change

This is Restorative Practices – Creating Systems to Meet People’s Unmet Needs

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Homemade Laundry Soap

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Laundry Soap is one of those expensive grocery items that we really can make ourselves, and make it much, much, much cheaper too.

You can make a liquid gel or a powder.

A five gallon pail of laundry gel costs only about $2.00.  That’s only 1 or 2 cents a load !

Here’s how:
Grate a bar of soap, add water and heat until it is dissolved.  Do not let it boil.
Pour into a five gallon pail and stir in Borax and Washing Soda until they are dissolved.
Fill pail with water and stir again.
When cool, it will gel.
Use between 1/2 – 1 cup in your laundry – depending on how soiled the clothes are.

If you prefer a dry laundry soap, grate the soap finely, add the washing soda and borax and use like any other dry laundry soap.

Use the bar soap of your choice.  Common choices are Fels Naptha and Octagon as pictured above.  Zote is another choice for laundry too. I sometimes use the little left over bits of bath bars instead of discarding them.  It’s easy to adjust the amount of Borax and Washing Soda to suit your own personal needs. Fels Naptha, Borax and Washing Soda can be found in many supermarket laundry aisles.  Note that this is Washing Soda, not baking soda.

You can make your own washing soda too.  It is very inexpensive to make from a bulk supply of baking soda.  Baking soda in bulk can be purchased at feed stores.

Bake your baking soda @ 400° for 30 minutes to turn it into washing soda.

Happy savings and simple living.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.