Sunday, January 24, 2010

A good book and some other stuff

I finished reading The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. This book is a terrific compliment to Coleman's past writings. On the cover of the book it says,

Year-Round Vegetable Production ~ Using Deep-Organic Techniques ~ and Unheated Greenhouses

Coleman describes what he means by "Deep-Organic" in the book. With this he differentiates between "shallow organic" "deep-organic". I thought he made an excellent point in doing that. Since "organic" has been hi-jacked by the big corporate interests it's over due that people know the difference between say, Wal-Mart "organic" and 'real' food. Here is an excerpt from the book,

"Deep-organic farmers, in addition to rejecting agricultural chemicals, look for better ways to farm. Inspired by the elegance of natures systems, they try to mimic the patterns of the natural world's soil-plant economy. They use freely ( emphasis mine) available natural soil foods from deep-rooting legumes, green manures, and composts to correct the causes of an infertile soil by establishing a vigorous soil life. They acknowledge that the underlying cause of pest problems (insects and diseases) is plant stress; they know they can avoid pest problems by managing soil tilth, nutrient balance, organic-matter content, water drainage, air flow, crop rotations, varietal selection, and other factors to reduce plant stress. In so doing , deep-organic farmers free themselves from the need to purchase fertilizers and pest-control products from the industrial supply network - the mercantile businesses that normally put profits in the pockets of middlemen and put family farms on the auction block. Needless to say, the industrial establishment sees this approach as a threat to the status quo since it is not an easy system for outsiders to quantify, to control, or to profit from.

Shallow-organic farmers, on the other hand, after rejecting agricultural chemicals, look for quick-fix inputs. Trapped in a belief that the natural world is inadequate, they end up mimicking the patterns of chemical agriculture. They use bagged or bottled organic fertilizers in order to supply nutrients that temporarily treat the symptoms of an infertile soil. They treat the symptoms of plant stress - insect and disease problems - by arming themselves with the latest organic weapons. In so doing, the shallow-organic farmers continue to deliver themselves into the control of an industrial supply network that is only too happy to sell them expensive symptom treatments. The goal of shallow-organic farming is merely to follow the approved guidelines and respect the primacy of international commerce. The industrial agriculture establishment looks on shallow-organic farming as an acceptable variation of chemical agribusiness since it is an easy system for the industry to quantify, to control, and to profit from in the same way it has done with chemical farming. Shallow organic farming sustains the dependence of farmers on middlemen and fertilizer suppliers."

Deep-organic is something that can't easily be patented and marketed. True soil fertility comes from free natural processes. When you think about it, God is actually the one who came up with recycling. The natural breakdown of organic materials is something that God Himself invented.

It takes some time and effort to provide the proper nutrients to grow crops. Even if it is free from a monetary sense it is not free from work. You still have to move piles of compost/manure and then spread it and work it in. So I can see why people want to take short cuts and buy products already made. But, that is the difference between "shallow' and "deep" organics.

It's a matter of breaking out of the box as well. The establishment often keeps people confined to a rigid set of guidelines when a better or more successful approach can be just a stones throw away. But, in order to do this one must often go against the flow. That's a hard thing to do sometimes, especially for the green horn. Speaking for myself I was very unsure of myself when we started doing this. We'd hear so many different ways to do a thing and we just didn't know who to listen to.

And of course the established industry will have you pouring every single dime you have and even what you don't have into every facet of your enterprise. But, if you are just doing it all for fun and never intend to move beyond hobby status, paying for it all from your off farm job, then big deal. If you have money to burn then who cares. Most any problem can be fixed with a pile of cash. But, many of us want to become as self-sustaining as we can be. If we can do as much as we can on our own and create an even better product or living with as little outside provisions as is possible then the farther ahead we will be. Could make the difference between really farming or homesteading and just doing it as a hobby.

Coleman has some good points about breaking away from the industrial paradigm and later in the book he punctuates the tension he describes between the industrial establishment and "deep-organic" methods. He writes,

"The reason for this still very active attempt to villainize organic farming is that our success scares the hell out of the other side. Just like the fear of nature that the merchandisers and scientists have worked so hard to create in farmers in order to make purchased chemical products and reductionist science seem indispensable, so has our success with organic farming created in the scientists and merchandisers a terrible fear - a fear of their own redundancy; a fear that all farmers will realize other solutions are possible; a fear that agriculture will learn the truth. Organic farmers have succeeded in producing a bounty of food through the simple means of working in harmony with natural processes, without any help from the scientists and merchandisers. "

There's just a whole lot of baloney out there that we have to wade through. I know I've mentioned here in the past how we were so unsure of our selves when we first started and how we thought we had to run to a veterinarian every time something went wrong with an animal. We thought we had to pump them all full of antibiotics, vaccines and wormers and so forth, the standardized remedies most Vets prescribe. Can't imagine how life on this here earth ever managed to get this far without those things. This type of point can be switched right over to vegetable crops as well. The truth is we don't need to be chained to purchasing all those outside amendments when most of what we need can be found through good management and an understanding of how God made the natural world to function.

The truth is so much of what is for sale these days is just not necessary. So much of what is out there is just somebodies bright idea, a big ole money making scheme. That's why I like authors like Eliot Coleman and Joel Salatin. They help us wade through all the nonsense and report to the world that there is another way based on proven experience. And experience is what so many of us lacked going into our homestead adventures. Even up to a year or two ago I felt like I really didn't know what I was doing. Still figuring it out as we go. But, it is all finally starting to sink in. If it is all starting to feel too complicated it probably is.

I probably never would have come here if it weren't for some advice from my cousin Bob. He made me see that I was trying to over complicate it all. And even after we did move here I tended to keep falling back into that trap. Even to this day really I struggle with that. Of trying not to over think stuff. Just do it. For me, I learn best that way anyhow. I learn best by doing.

Anyway, if you haven't figured it out by now I definitely give Eliot Coleman's latest book two thumbs up. He makes tons of good points and has spent many years refining what he does. We can all benefit from his experience. One thing I forgot to mention is he gives some great history on this idea of year round gardening and how it was already practiced extensively in France 150 years ago. He has a whole chapter devoted to this called "Historical Inspiration". I would recommend the book on this chapter alone.

So on that note I guess that's about all I have for now on that subject.


And now for an update on Kelli's sister Doreen....

It would surely seem a miracle occurred with her, in that the next day after that really bad night, she was perfectly peaceful and has progressed very well ever since. For a couple days now she has been up and walking around, is in good spirits and is looking forward to when she can check out of the hospital. She did have a mishap though the other night. She was coughing hard and something about that triggered her defibrillator and she got zapped. Kelli said her arms and legs went strait out. The nurses came running because it set off an alarm or something I guess. But, she was none worse the wear and apparently she didn't experience any serious harm.

Doreen has no recollection what so ever of how bad she had gotten before, however. People have been filling her in on it and she can hardly believe it. I really believe a miracle happened.


Other news........

For those of you who are into rustic decor for your homestead or retreat here is a website that was recently recommended to me The store used to be located in Three Lakes a neighboring town to us. The site will be listed in the links section over on the right hand side bar as well.


Until Next Time


Blogger Kat said...

I am definitely going to check out the book. Sounds like my kind of thinking. I hate that the term "organic" has been hijacked by the corporations and now has so little meaning in the terms of food production. We have strived to restore our land by encouraging the ecological cycle to restore itself. "Deep organic" is the only way to go for us. My husband says that I am compost obsessed and I guess in a way he is right! Prayers continue for your SIL. I am glad to hear that she is progressing and improving. What a wonderful blessing. God bless and take care, Kat

3:50 AM  
Blogger RL said...

Thanks for the comment and the prayers are very appreciated.

Doreen is doing remarkably well. Kelli is back home now and reported that Doreen even got to leave the hospital for a couple hours to go out to lunch with the family.

9:17 AM  

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