Nature & Environment Archive


Permaculture Special: Last Chance!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

This is it. Your last chance to reap the savings on all of our permaculture books. But hurry – sale ends June 1st.

By adding a permaculture twist to your garden design you can spend less effort, improve the health of your soil, and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for key home-scale permaculture books for thirty years. Learn more about this simple but revolutionary system with these groundbreaking books—on sale for a limited time.

Happy reading from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. In case you missed it for the month of May we put our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal. Take a peek at the last Q&A posts here: Are Swales Right for You; Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix; and Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade.


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)
Permaculture Sale: until June 1st

 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00
Edible Perennial Gardening
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $29.25
Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
Retail: $150.00
Sale: $97.50
Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Paradise Lot
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
The Permaculture Kitchen
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Grass, Soil, Hope
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
Perennial Vegetables Set
Retail: $35.00
Sale: $22.75
Edible Cities
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Food Not Lawns
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Top-Bar Beekeeping
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Natural Beekeeping, Revised and Expanded
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
Permaculture in Pots
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Letting in the Wild Edges
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sowing Seeds in the Desert
Retail: $15.95
Sale: $10.37
Outdoor Classrooms
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Earth User's Guide to Permaculture
Retail: $37.95
Sale: $24.67
People & Permaculture
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
The Basics of Permaculture Design
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
Desert or Paradise
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Woodland Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 2
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Permaculture
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Pioneers
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Permaculture Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Earth Care Manual
Retail: $75.00
Sale: $48.75
The Permaculture Garden
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Uses of Wild Plants
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
How to Make a Forest Garden
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Plants
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Permaculture Design
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Permaculture in a Nutshell
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $8.42
Getting Started in Permaculture
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Holistic Orchard with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)

Finding Hope in an Era of Climate Chaos

Monday, May 19th, 2014

There is no shortage of stories about how climate change is affecting us now, rather than in some distant future. It can seem overwhelming to watch the news about extended droughts, extreme weather events, melting ice caps and not feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

So, can a book about soil and carbon give us … hope? Award-winning author Michael Pollan thinks so.

“Hope in a book about the environmental challenges we face in the twenty-first century is an audacious thing to promise, so I’m pleased to report that Courtney White delivers on it,” writes Pollan in the foreword to White’s new book, Grass, Soil, Hope.  “He has written a stirringly hopeful book, and yet it is not the least bit dreamy or abstract. To the contrary, Grass, Soil, Hope is deeply rooted in the soil of science and the practical work of farming.”

Pollan notes that White’s key achievement is “that it asks us to reconsider our pessimism about the human engagement with the rest of nature. The bedrock of that pessimism is our assumption that human transactions with nature are necessarily zero-sum: for us to wrest whatever we need or want from nature—food, energy, pleasure—means nature must be diminished. More for us means less for it. Examples of this trade-off are depressingly easy to find. Yet there are counterexamples that point to a way out of that dismal math, the most bracing of which sit at the heart of this book.” Read Pollan’s full foreword in the excerpt below.

In his new book, Quivera Coalition founder and author Courtney White sees hope in some of the groundwork being done by permaculturalists, ranchers, farmers, and citizens all around the world. Grass, Soil, Hope is White’s journey into what he calls “Carbon Country.” A country where we live, we breathe, and we eat. Why carbon?

“Carbon is key.  It’s the soil beneath our feet, the plants that grow, the land we walk, the wildlife we watch, the livestock we raise, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the air we breathe. Carbon is the essential element of life. Without it we die; with too much we suffer; with just the right amounts we thrive,” writes White in his prologue, which you can read below.

It is the hopefulness of White’s book that has garnered praise from key visionaries who have shown that it is possible to keep more carbon in the soil and produce healthier livestock and food, without the use of invasive agricultural practices that require extra water and pesticides.

Read praise for Grass, Soil, Hope from Allan Savory, president and founder of the Savory Institute and other environmental leaders.

The best part is that anyone can be part of the solution, because we all live in White’s Carbon Country. “Whether you live in a city, go to school, graze cattle, enjoy wildlife, grow vegetables, hike, fish, count grasses, draw, make music, restore creeks, or eat food—you live in Carbon Country. We all do. It’s not a mythical land; it exists.”

Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country is available now and on sale for 35% off until June 1.

Grass, Soil, Hope: Foreword and Prologue by Chelsea Green Publishing

Can We Afford to Keep Plundering the Planet?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Mineral treasures that took millions, even billions of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries—even decades. A central question that has been vigorously debated for the last two centuries is simple: Are we going to run out?

Ugo Bardi, author of Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet says, “We have been acting with mineral resources as if we were pirates looting a captured galleon: grabbing everything we can, as fast as we can.”

In Extracted, Bardi argues the issue is not purely one of depletion of mineral resources, but also that most minerals are becoming gradually more and more expensive to extract as the easy access to high-grade ores becomes progressively scarce.

For example, in the oil industry, scientists have examined the amount of energy needed to extract crude oil and compared it to the amount of energy that oil can produce. In the past, oil was an excellent investment with returns close to 50-100 to 1, but today, Bardi writes, “oil extraction is nearing that fateful point of non-return in which it becomes a useless exercise of energy waste.”

Skeptics will continue to claim there is an abundance of natural resources available beneath the Earth’s crust. They believe human ingenuity and technological advances will develop the mining machines necessary for extraction. However, the question remains, at what cost?

The issue of cost, and the broader global impacts, is a crucial reason that Library Journal had this to say in a review of the book: “With input from other mineral experts, Bardi also rebuts critics who argue that emerging technologies, like a ‘universal mining machine,’ will be able to solve most of these problems. A skillfully written guide to a crucial, little-understood subject and an urgent wake-up call.”

Or, as Jorgen Randers (2052) explains in his foreword, Bardi’s book arrives at a critical time when countries are beginning to question the headlong belief that we can continue to extract minerals at no incremental cost – either financial or environmental.

“At a time when discussion of mineral depletion often resorts to black-and-white analyses of what we are running out of, what has peaked, and how we might cope without it, Extracted offers a full-bodied analysis that illuminates the real consequences of relentlessly plundering the planet for its mineral riches: an altered landscape, massive pollution issues, potential economic upheaval, and, among other serious results, the unleashing of greenhouse gases by mining and burning fossil fuels,” writes Randers.

At present, with Russia flexing its natural resource muscles in its annexation of Crimea and the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warning policy makers that the world must take action now to save our climate balance, it seems clear we have reached a crossroads in our state of mineral wealth. Bardi’s Extracted reads like a road map of our mineral history and explores how we can use this knowledge to navigate toward a more sustainable future.

Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet is available now and on sale for 35% off until May 5th.

 

Extracted: Foreword and Preface by Chelsea Green Publishing

Think Like a Creek: Using Water to Repair Rivers, Rebuild Floodplains

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Let the Water Do the Work is the book that introduced people to the important concept of “thinking like a creek,” or learning how to harness the regenerative power of floods to reshape banks and rebuild floodplains along gullied stream channels.

The Chelsea Green edition of this important book aims to bring its innovative contributions to the field of riparian restoration—including the concept of Induced Meandering—to a wider readership.

Induced Meandering is at once a science, an art, and a philosophy of river restoration; it is an artful blend of the disciplines of geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology that govern channel-forming processes. The river “self-heals” as the growth of native riparian vegetation accelerates the meandering process. Floodplains are essential to the proper functioning of many, but not all, types of rivers—serving as pressure relief valves, escape ramps for rivers swollen by rainfall or melting snows.

Let the Water Do the Work includes sample field charts, diagrams, project outlines, and step-by-step instructions on how to evaluate, implement, monitor and maintain a restoration project.

Let the Water Do the Work is on sale for 35% off. But hurry – it only lasts until May 1!

Anyone with an interest in natural resource management in these uncertain climatic times should read this book, put these ideas to work, and learn how to go with the flow.

Praise for Let the Water Do the Work

“This book is equally at home in the class as it is in the field, expertly bridging theory and practice throughout. It is a unique contribution that provides students of ecology and resource management with a powerful set of tools to manage what is quickly becoming our most valuable natural resource.”—Craig Conley, PhD, Natural Resource Management, New Mexico Highlands University

“Truly one-stop shopping to tackle a hands-on stream restorative project at almost any scale.”—Owen Hablutzel, Permaculture Whole Systems Design and Holistic Management Certified Educator

“Anyone interested in natural resource management will find this book helpful and thought-provoking.”—Ann Adams, Holistic Management International

 

How to Start a Traditional Compost Pile in Your Yard

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As a society, we make a lot of waste, especially in this culture of on-the-go single-serve disposables. As we work toward the Zero Waste Solution with Extended Producer Responsibility and other government mandated universal recycling of solid waste in the works, there is plenty you can do to reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

Use less, recycle and reuse packaging materials, and compost your organic waste. And if you’re a gardener, there’s no reason to throw away this beneficial (and cheap!) source of nourishment for your soil. Compost is the key to a flourishing garden. Easily turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into food your garden will love.

******

The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the Web.

If you have enough space to start a compost pile in your yard, make sure your local city and county ordinances permit it. Some of them have restrictions because open piles can attract rodents and create odors. Assuming that your area allows open-air composting, consider whether you can fit three piles in your yard: one for new compost, one for aging compost, and one for the finished stuff that goes back on your plants. If you just have room for one, that is fine, but in order for your pile to fully break down, you will need to stop adding new material at some point and let it decompose.

Some compost piles are hot, while others never get very warm, and this is a function of the biological activity in the pile while the organisms do their thing. Getting your pile to heat up naturally depends on a long list of factors, including pile size, materials, layering, moisture, external heat, and other variables. But even if it does not heat up much, sooner or later the stuff will break down and you’ll have some good dirt to use on your plants.

Cold compost is perfectly acceptable stuff; it just takes a bit longer to make. Some gardening purists hold that the nutritional content of hot-cooked compost is far superior, but if you are using it as more of a soil amendment than a fertilizer, then this should not matter much. If you want to follow the pure wisdom, then the minimum size for a hot pile is about 4′ x 4′, which will allow enough internal space to create the proper conditions for this biological activity to take place.93 In lieu of this, any untidy heap will break down at its own pace.

Compost Bin

What should you put in your compost pile? Will it stink? Do you have to turn it regularly? The answers are: anything organic, a bit, and not really.

Dead leaves, lawn clippings, food scraps (except meat or fat), newspaper, cardboard, and manure are all organic matter and will break down in your compost pile. Ideally, you want to add a diversity of ingredients.

The pile will break down faster if you add both “browns” (dry ingredients such as dead leaves, newspaper, and cardboard) and “greens” (wet stuff such as food scraps, lawn clippings, and fresh manure).

“Greens” contain plenty of nitrogen while “browns” have more carbon, and your pile needs both. Conventional wisdom holds that the proper ratio is 2 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens,” but you can vary this ratio somewhat. Just remember that a pile of 100 percent leaves takes a lot longer to break down, and 100 percent food scraps may turn into a very wet and slimy mess long before it breaks down. Also, the more diverse sources of waste you add, the better its nutritional output will be for your soil.

Your new pile will stink a bit at first, but if you have never composted before, then you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s not as smelly as you would think. In its early stages, you can cover the compost pile with burlap, a tarp, or a layer of “brown” ingredients such as leaves or cardboard, which will help seal in the moisture and limit any odors. As the compost ages, it begins to smell more earthy, a fragrance that some actually enjoy.

Your compost is finished when you can no longer recognize the individual materials that went into it.

Aerating the pile is optional, but it may speed up the process by delivering oxygen where it’s needed. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile and make sure that both air and moisture are reaching each part. You can do this weekly or less often. And, if you do not want to turn the pile, then it will aerate naturally with time as the layers break down and settle.

Dealing with Bear Encounters

Monday, April 7th, 2014

In this excerpt from Out on a Limb:What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition author Ben Kilham provides insight on best practices when it comes to keeping bears from feeding at your back door, and offers his tried-and-true tips on what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild — tips you’re not likely to find from other so-called experts.

*****

Up to 900,000 black bears live in North America, and in many regions, like my own, they live in close proximity to humans. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in many regions humans live in close proximity to bears—and that we are moving deeper and deeper into their habitat all the time. So, it’s not surprising that bears and people meet up unexpectedly, and frequently. But of the millions of interactions between bears and people every year, very few result in human deaths.

Bears, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Many are shot, either as a fear-based first resort or after other techniques have failed to deter what we’ve come to call “nuisance” bears. These are the bears that wander into backyards, campgrounds, landfills, or other places where food is often lying around. People can and sometimes do get injured by these nuisance bears, but even these incidents could be mitigated by understanding how to read and understand bear behavior. Not only would this knowledge help officials deal more effectively and humanely with nuisance bears, but it would also help individuals who find themselves in bear–human encounters.

In short, the solution to the nuisance bear problem is not so much about managing bears; it’s about managing people.

Stop inviting bears to dinner 

First, the best way to end what we consider the nuisance–bear behavior is to just stop inviting bears to dinner. If the food sources in problem residential areas are reduced to a minimum, these areas will no longer be worth the risk to the bear and the problems will cease. How to do this?

    • Remove bird feeders, and any other food placed outside to attract wildlife.
    • Don’t feed pets outside.
    • Keep any livestock feed indoors.
    • Don’t put kitchen scraps in your garbage can. Composting your kitchen scraps in a smell-proof way is as good for the environment as it is for avoiding bear encounters. Try a bear-proof composting container, or an indoor vermiculture bin (in which worms help digest the waste). Or, if you’re using an open compost pit outside, layer fresh waste underneath material that is already decomposed, or add a layer of lime, wood ash, or sawdust to mask the odor that can draw a bear’s interest.
    • If you cannot compost, then secure your garbage can in an indoor area, such as a garage, or freeze your garbage until it’s time for disposal.
    • Use bear-resistant food containers while camping, never keep food of any kind in your tent, and follow local guidelines for cooking or disposing of anything that smells of food, even the water you’ve used to wash your pots, pans, and dishes.
    • Clean outdoor grills, barbeque pits, and coolers after use to remove odors.
    • Remember, the secret to controlling bears is controlling smell.

It’s no surprise, then, that when people do start feeding bears, it ends badly. They get into a situation that they can’t stop by themselves. There are, though, nonlethal measures that can be used to resolve the issue.

With bears and people encountering each other more and more frequently, it is essential to understand how to properly handle an unintended meeting in the backyard or on a hiking trail. The vast majority of all bear aggression toward people is protective, not predacious, and it is entirely possible for people to manage these protective encounters without injury. A key to doing so is to understand how bears communicate.

The most important thing to understand is that when a bear wants to intimidate you, keep you at a safe distance, or otherwise modify your behavior, it will square off its lips—drawing them forward so that they appear square and the face looks long. Then it will perform any of the following behaviors in varying degrees of intensity: chomping its teeth or lips, snorting or woofing (blowing air through the nose or mouth), huffing (inhaling and exhaling air rapidly), swatting, or false charging. These are actions that bears take to help reduce the chance of attack whenever two unfamiliar individuals come together. However, this behavior does not reflect the bear’s true mood. Bears are able to turn this behavior on and off like a light switch. They are simply trying to delay confrontation long enough for communication to take place.

Moods, on the other hand, come and go very slowly. It is therefore necessary to analyze the bear’s mood when it is not displaying these behaviors, its intentions when it is, and then to apply both to the context of the situation. This may be a tough concept to apply in the field, but a necessary and important one to understand. Being faced with a bear that false charges or bluffs is actually a good thing as it means you have time to analyze the bear’s intentions and modify its displeasure or fear.

How do you know the bear is false-charging and not attacking?

The false-charge is done in combination with other bluff displays, like chomping, huffing, and snorting. Depending upon the situation, this usually reflects the bear’s desire to delay or avoid direct confrontation.

However, if you find yourself in such a situation and act in a reckless manner while the bear is within critical distance—as when a bear holds its ground and displays rather than flees—you can escalate this kind of situation into an attack. Reckless behavior would include breaking sticks, yelling or screaming, making yourself big by raising or waiving one’s arms, or basically doing anything in which you could not anticipate a correct response. A safe response would be to de-escalate the situation by standing erect and speaking softly to the bear, thus signaling to the bear that you are dominant but not a threat.

When you have an encounter with a bear, it is always important to try to put yourself in the bear’s shoes. Does the bear have any reason to harm you? Have you provoked the bear intentionally or unintentionally? Is the bear already nervous about other bears in the area? Remember that bears, like all other animals, including humans, have four major drives: hunger, love, fight, and flight. These drives are usually in conflict with each other.

How Close Are You?

It is also important to assess just how close you are to the bear. While it’s always important not to take any action that leaves you unable to predict the reaction of the bear, it is particularly important if you and the bear are in close proximity (normally less than twenty-five feet) and the bear appears reluctant to leave. This twenty-five foot distance is known as the “critical distance” outside of which bears and many other animals are likely to flee. Within this distance, they are hesitant and uncertain as to whether they should act in self-defense or flee.

A conflicted bear in this situation will act as described above. My advice is to stand erect with eyes toward the bear. Do not attempt to stare the bear down but rather maintain a normal facial expression and speak softly. Standing erect and keeping eyes toward the bear will keep him or her honest. Bears, like dogs and humans, may choose to enforce dominance when the opportunity arises. If you show weakness (by lowering your eyes, turning your back to them, lying down on the ground, or showing fear), it increases the chance that they will take advantage and advance on you.

My advice to keep your eyes on the bear conflicts with almost every other message given about what to do when you are in close proximity to a bear. I look at the bear to remain dominant while I decrease the threat level with my voice. Others will argue that you should avert your stare because a direct stare is aggressive and may provoke an attack. My experience tells me that this is not the case with bears. Animals that live in group-social environments often have hard, top-down hierarchies. A stare at an alpha chimpanzee or wolf may be perceived as a challenge to its position of authority. Bears are different; they interact and cooperate with strangers on a regular basis and are used to negotiating with unfamiliar individuals.

Baby Bears

The bear that gets too close is usually a sow with cubs. Her concern is the threat you present. She is perfectly capable of assessing that threat. Give her a chance, and she will walk away from you, sometimes even leaving her cubs up a tree nearby. I have been inside that critical distance with more than thirty wild sows with cubs, been false-charged and circled (bears circle to check scent, to see who you are), and have then gone on to peacefully spend up to two and a half hours with them. Every female will exhibit a different level of aggressiveness. Most of the wild sows and cubs I have encountered ran, hid nearby, and waited for me to leave. There are many myths about sows with cubs—the prevailing one being that if you get between a sow and its cub you are toast. The reality is that sows with cubs have been responsible for only 3 percent of the fatal attacks on humans in the last 109 years. Their cubs are usually safely up a tree when close encounters occur. Having preconceived ideas in your head at these times will only make it more difficult to control the situation.

So, imagine that you meet a sow with cubs on a trail. You are torn between running and standing your ground. She is torn between running and defending her cubs. She would like to run, but her cubs are up a tree. She chooses to display aggressively in an effort to prevent you from attacking. You would like to run, but you know that she can run faster. You try to relax, knowing that fearful behavior could be seen as a threat. You speak softly to her as a gesture of appeasement. She acknowledges your gesture by reducing the intensity of her displays. Be patient. Eventually, she will stop displaying altogether and her true mood will be revealed with a relaxed facial expression. Slowly, she will walk off. For obvious reasons, the drive to escape is generally stronger than the drive to fight. She knows a fight could leave her wounded or dead. Yelling and screaming to drive away a female bear away, on the other hand, may inadvertently frighten her cubs and escalate the situation.

If you meet a male bear, the situation may go somewhat differently, but the same advice about handling the encounter applies. Male bears are much more likely to run off than be caught inside the critical distance. If you see a bear coming in your direction, it is a good idea to let it know that you are there. Bears read scent in the wind, but sometimes the wind is coming from the wrong direction and a bear may be completely unaware of your presence. Let the bear know that you are there by moving, talking to it, or making other noise; it will run off.

But there are situations where attacks are more likely. A bear that is surprised while eating–or while its senses are otherwise compromised—may strike out without warning. For instance, a bear feeding on a carcass is highly concerned that other bears may be attracted to the carcass by smell and is preconditioned to attack. A person who suddenly appears in this situation may trigger that preconditioned attack.

Bears are highly tolerant of humans

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bear encounters every year where humans do everything wrong without any negative response from the bear. It’s important to remember, though, that in the vast majority of cases, black bears are dangerous only if you make them so. The situation is in your control; they tend to signal their intentions, and you can modify your own behavior to influence theirs.

Hemp, Hemp, Hooray! Get Ready for America’s Next Agricultural Revolution

Monday, March 24th, 2014

You can eat it, drink it, read it, tie it, wear it, drive it, live in it, and make money growing it, all while saving the soil and protecting the climate.

What is it?

Hemp. That’s right, hemp.

How can a single plant possibly live up to all this hype? Glad you asked. Here’s just a sampling of what this incredible plant can do: 

 

    • Hemp fibers can be stronger than steel and are found in today’s BMW, Mercedes and Dodge door panels;
    • Hemp plant by-products can be used as a biofuel and, with more research, could create sustainable energy independence in the US. According to a recent study, an acre of hemp can produce power equivalent to a thousand gallons of gasoline;
    • With foot long, soil-restoring taproots that require half the water of a corn crop, hemp can be used as a successful rotational crop;
    • Hemp-fed laying hens can pass on the plant’s impressive essential fatty acid profile (omega-3 and omega-6) into the eggs we eat; and,
    • Hemp can be used as a construction material to build new homes that create a carbon-negative foot print.

Given this impressive list, is it any wonder that after 77 long years of prohibition, hemp supporters across the country are shouting, “Hemp, hemp, hooray!”

Check out this video to see some hemp applications in action. Click here to test your hemp knowledge with our Pop Quiz and to dig even deeper into the History of Hemp.

2014 Farm Bill

In February, President Obama, together with the US Congress, passed the 2014 Farm Bill which included an amendment allowing hemp to be cultivated for university research.

This is a huge first step in hemp’s domestic comeback, officially distancing itself from its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, and growing across party lines — from conservative Senators Mitch McConnell  (R-KY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to liberal Congressman like Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Even the American Farm Bureau has jumped on the bandwagon and opposed the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance. This is an important action according to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer because, “It shows the growing movement by agriculture leaders to embrace industrial hemp as a crop of the future.”

Author Doug Fine, for one, is ready for that future. In his latest book, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, Doug explains why one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is poised to rejuvenate the U.S. economy and help save the planet.

Praise for Hemp Bound

So, what are people saying about it?

Willie Nelson (yes, the Willie Nelson) calls it “a blueprint for the future of America.” Put that in your pipe and … oh, never mind.

Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing calls Doug’s book, “engrossing and eye-opening.” While William Martin, senior fellow, drug policy, at Rice University’s Baker Institute agrees: “This is an important story, engagingly told.”

Fine’s enthusiasm for the subject leaps off the page when he advocates for hemp. “It’s effective because it’s all true,” he said. “I’ve found that anytime someone gives me five minutes, and I get to discuss the facts, hemp’s role in the founding of our country and where we’re going next as a nation, that person is a convert. I think I’m batting a thousand on that.”

Whether you are a farmer, entrepreneur, investor, or just a curious reader, this book could turn you into the next voracious hemp consumer and leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop in the first place.

Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution is available now and on sale for 35% off until March 30th. Also, check out Doug Fine’s emerging Post-Prohibition Hemp Planting Tour with stops in Colorado, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, DC, and more.

Think You’re Hip to Hemp? Take Our Quiz

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Looking for something to talk about at your next dinner party or social gathering? Impress your friends with some hemp trivia by taking this pop quiz. You’ll have interesting facts to share like how long ago humans started using hemp and which hemp farmer became Kentucky’s first millionaire. Trust us, people will think you’re cool.

For more information about the incredible array of hemp applications, check out this previous post featuring Doug Fine’s new book Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. For a lesson in hemp history read a full chapter from John Roulac’s 1997 book Hemp Horizons: The Comeback of the World’s Most Promising Plant (now out of print).

Pencils Ready? Begin!

1) How many years ago did humans start using hemp?

a. 12,000 years ago
b. 1,200 years ago
c. 200 years ago

2) What important U.S. historical document was drafted on hemp paper?

a. The Emancipation Proclamation
b. Pres. John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
c. The Declaration of Independence

3) Name one way Colonists used hemp?

a. As a currency to pay their taxes
b. As a thread to weave textiles
c. Both

4) Who was Kentucky’s First Millionaire? Hint: his fortune came from hemp

a. Abraham Lincoln
b. Daniel Boone
c. John Wesley Hunt

5) When did the U.S. government sponsor hemp production contests?

a. In the 1720s
b. In the 1820s
c. In the 1920s

6) Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which U.S. state produced the best hemp in the world?

a. California
b. Kentucky
c. Colorado

7) What law effectively banned hemp in the U.S. in 1937

a. The Marijuana Stamp Act
b. The Food and Drug Act
c. The Hemp Prohibition Act

8) In 1942, an 11-minute film extolling the versatile uses of hemp—and how it can be grown and processed in the United States—was released to movie audiences. What was it called?

a. Hooray for Hemp!
b. Hemp for Victory
c. Hemp, Hemp and Away

9) What was the parachute harness rope made out of that saved George H.W. Bush in World War II?

a. Cotton
b. Nylon
c. Hemp

10) In an executive order, which president included hemp among “the essential agricultural products that should be stocked for defense preparedness purposes.”

a. Bill Clinton
b. Barack Obama
c. George HW Bush

11) When did Canada re-legalize hemp cultivation?

a. 2014
b. 1996
c. hemp cultivation was never illegal in Canada

ANSWER KEY

1: a) Humans have used hemp for the past twelve millennia for clothing, food and medicine. And, just recently, a Stanford-led research team uncovered hemp clothing in good condition from a 9,000-year-old Turkish village. This stuff is durable, to say the least!
2: c) In 1776 Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Though, if you guessed “a” you were close: President Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation under the light of a hemp oil lamp.
3: c) Hemp fibers were used in many textiles, but perhaps more surprisingly, hemp was so valued during colonial times it was used as a currency to pay taxes.
4: c) Hemp created Kentucky’s first millionaire, John Wesley Hunt. Today the global hemp market is growing more than 20 percent annually.
5: b) In the 1820s, the U.S. government sponsored contests to produce domestic hemp that could compete against expensive imports.
6: b) From the 1850s-1930s, Kentucky hemp germplasm was considered the world’s finest.
7: a) The Marijuana Stamp Act of 1937
8: b) Hemp Prohibition got off to a poor start in 1942 when the government sourced large quantities of hemp due to wartime Navy rope rigging needs. To make the decision legit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the 11-minute film titled “Hemp for Victory.”
9: c) OK, that was an easy one. It’s hemp, of course!
10: a) President Bill Clinton included hemp in his 1994 executive order.
11: b) Canada re-legalized hemp in 1996 and now has a booming industry that is worth a billion dollars annually and growing 30 percent per year.

 

Photo 3: Courtesy of ropelocker.co.uk

Hemp History 101

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The historical prominence of hemp can be seen in dozens of American towns that still bear its name, including Hempfield, PA, Hemphill, KY, Hempstead, NY, Hempfork, VA, and more.

How did humanity’s longest utilized plant, that has more than 25,000 uses and so many towns named after it, end up nearly extinct in the U.S.?

We first explored hemp’s potential in 1997 with the publication of John Roulac’s book, Hemp Horizons: The Comeback of the World’s Most Promising Plant. Roulac, Founder and CEO of Nutiva, was ahead of the curve when this book was published, and is now a leader in the lucrative superfood industry in which hemp plays a major role. We’ve resurrected a chapter of this now out-of-print book to give readers a glimpse at hemp’s many uses throughout history (from the dawn of civilization). In looking back, we get a sense of what could be in store.

Speaking of which: We return to the promise of hemp — environmentally, agriculturally, and economically — this year with investigative journalist and goat farmer Doug Fine and the publication of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. In this book, Fine introduces readers to a variety of innovative hemp applications from riding in a hemp-powered limo to testing hemp-based building insulation.

To learn more about Doug’s book and just how hemp could be the next billion-dollar plant that’s going to change our diet, restore our soil and wean us from petroleum, check out this post. And, test your hemp history knowledge with this Hemp Quiz.

Hemp Horizons: The Comeback of the World’s Most Promising Plant by Chelsea Green Publishing

Photo: Courtesy of teepeesigns.com

A Conversation with Gene Logsdon

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Author Gene Logsdon appears to be picking up steam as he rolls into his ninth decade. He has developed a prolific body of work as a writer, novelist, and journalist on topics ranging from a philosophical look at woodlands (A Sanctuary of Trees) to the higher calling of manure (Holy Shit), and his ever-popular contrarian look at life and farming (The Contrary Farmer).

In his latest book, Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever, we find Logsdon at the top of his game as he reflects on nature, death, and eternity, always with an eye toward the lessons that farming taught him about life and its mysteries.

We asked Logsdon some questions about his latest book, recurrent themes in the book and whether or not immortality is overrated. Enjoy.

 

Q1: The subtitle of your book is “thoughts on living forever.” So, after writing the book and thinking about it: Is immortality worth it? Is it overrated?

I wanted to come up with a book sort of making fun of the concept of immortality, one that would be critical of conventional religious views but not showing the kind of atheistic righteousness you see in books by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens on this topic. I more or less agree with them, but found them a little too angry and strident for the religious believers I grew up and belonged to — too nasty. I used to be angry that way, but I got over it. That kind of approach just makes religious believers all the more convinced that they are right.

But it’s a tough subject to write and talk about without irritating someone. Ideology starts dominating the talk right away. Discussion quickly comes down to ‘my religion versus your religion’ or ‘my lack of religion versus your lack of religion.’ We’re all so filled up with such fear of the unknown about this topic. Even atheists can get religious once in a while, and by that I mean too fervent about their beliefs. As can those who believe that science has all the answers. I have made snide remarks about black holes being quite a stretch and in doing so irritated scientists. I see where the famed scientist, Stephen Hawking, who started the monstrous notion of black holes now says they don’t exist.

To answer your original question, I’ve come to realize that it’s really not worth it — immortality, that is. Ask yourself: What time of your life would you like to immortalize? I know that I don’t want to be immortalized in this winter; this has been the worst damn weather I can remember.

I think even religious people can chuckle about that – what time of life in which you’d like to be immortalized. That kind of mild humor is what really guided me in the writing. I wanted to write about all the Great Notions in a gently mocking way that didn’t irritate people too much — or maybe each side a little bit, both those who believe in science and those who believe in religion. In the end I think I irritated everyone.

 

Q2: Birds are a recurring animal in the book—killdeer, bluebirds, and even buzzards to which you devote an entire chapter. How come buzzards have such a bad reputation?

I’m an avid birdwatcher and have been for years, and often in the wintertime I don’t want to go outside and so I watch birds come to the feeder. And we get hundreds of them.

You don’t often see raccoons, coyotes, or wolves, but birds are always around and so I suppose that birds more often sink into my subconscious. But buzzards would anyway— they are the creepiest looking things. Society has demonized buzzards and bats because they look so ugly, but when a buzzard is soaring in the air it’s a very elegant thing. And bats in motion are awesome too.

I describe in the book, the time I saw buzzards circling over the pasture and I knew they had come across a sheep carcass. I sneaked over the hill very slowly so they could only see my head, and there were about 10 of them on the ground wrestling over the carcass, and six of them were on separate fence posts sort of overseeing the carnage. When those six black birds with their red heads saw me they all spread their wings wide, each a six foot span— it was quite a sight. I defy anyone who travels to the farthest regions of the world to find anything more awesome than that, and it was right here close by.

Buzzards are a symbol of death in many cultures and the more I thought about it, the more angles I found to write about—Andrew Wyeth painted them, and a friend of mine and his wife had one as a pet if you can believe it. This is what often happens to me, this kind of serendipity where a subject will become interesting to me in a very tangential way and then feed into my writing.

 

Q3: You talk about a lot of non-farm topics in the book, the Higgs boson, compound interest and even death cafés. What exactly is a death café and do they serve organic food?

That would make a great article — Menus for a Death Café. Perhaps it should include a bowl of cherries. I’ve never been to one, but as I understand it a group of people get together, drink a little truth serum—alcohol—and tell each other what they really think about dying and death.

The interesting thing I learned about death cafés – or death dinners that people are now holding – is that far from turning people off, the subject makes them perk up their ears. People want to know more.

This is not about ushering off a dying person with a party, although I think that would be a good idea too, but people just hanging out and talking about what they think is going to happen when they die. The point that I think needs to be brought out and what motivated me to write about this topic, and this book, is that younger people are not at all satisfied with what their religions have taught them about death. But there’s a hesitancy to start a conversation about it. When you get a dozen of them together, they feel freer to talk.

If you can bypass traditional ideological mindsets and just talk, then that’s when people begin to open up. That’s also where the humor can come in and that was part of the challenge of this book — writing about death lightly without being flippant.

 

Q4: People often play the games of whistling past the graveyard or holding their breath when they drive past one. Are cemeteries good for something more than just interring our dead? Should we be viewing, and maybe using them differently?

We’re missing an opportunity to use graveyards for a lot more than just burying people. First of all, we should be viewing them as arboretums and nature preserves rather than just a vacant park. A good place to go bird-watching. Sometimes in old cemeteries you can find native plants that have been all but destroyed elsewhere. Cemeteries can also be gathering places. I’ve read about a cemetery in Washington DC where some of the tombstones are shaped like park benches and people are encouraged to come in and eat picnic lunches there. I think that’s a neat idea.

I like cemeteries. They are so quiet and you are usually allowed to go in them without asking permission.  Why not plant apple trees, pear trees, hickory trees for the express purpose of producing food. People could come in and harvest them and remember that this tree or that tree is growing right over Grandmother’s bones. She made the best pies with these apples. Trees could be grown for the wood too and if all of the cemetery caretakers got together and planned out a schedule for timber harvesting, they could change the places into an ongoing source of lumber  and wouldn’t that would be fantastic. The trees are going to get old and die anyway, so why not use them? Make coffins out of them.

 

Q5: On a serious note, you write, “There is no such thing as vacant lots or abandoned farms. Nature will always fill them with life.” This is a consistent theme in the book and seems to be a core realization as you came to terms with your own mortality. Why do you think people focus too often on the vacancy rather than what is filled around them?

Nature abhors a vacuum. Yes, this is a very important part of my thinking. There is no such thing as something empty or vacant in nature, and the fact that we tend to look at nature and see emptiness or vacancy is an example of how our education so often is failing us. All around us all the time are marvelous wondrous things happening—like buzzards. We’re so eager to tell people that excitement comes from looking at the Seven Wonders of the World, or to get into an airplane and go far away. It’s just not so and leads to many misunderstandings about nature and reality.  People think that travel will relieve boredom, but boredom is a problem inside the mind, not outside it.

And this idea of there being nothing ever empty was a key inspiration for me because it led me to decide that matter is eternal. There never was nothing. This is where I upset both my religious and scientific friends. To my religious friends, God is eternal, and for scientists every effect must always have a cause. If matter is eternal, they are both wrong.

Deciding that matter was eternal, that the universe in some material form was always going to exist, was electrifying to me because it got rid of all those haunting questions about how life got started. To me the Big Bang theory is as ridiculous as a god hauling off and creating the universe from nothing. When I first thought of this I thought I was brilliant. Or nuts. Then I learned that people have had this thought for thousands of years, and they call it Taoism. That made me feel a little bit better, because I felt that if I’m nuts, then at least I’ve got a lot of good company.

This gets us back to this idea of immortality — that there’s no such thing as an empty place and never will be. Time is only the overflowing NOW. Couldn’t this be the most uplifting notion of all? That the key to immortality lies in mortality? That in nature there is not death but only a change of form.


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