weekly watch

The Weekly Watch

Riding the Cycle

Wheels within wheels...inside and out. Balance is key, but we seem to have lost our sense and are wobbling out of control...a spinning top losing momentum. At the same time the natural cycle swings into play showing the colors of spring and the quick flush of green. It is as though the world is bipolar...oh yeah, it is. So this week I've been thinking about the difficulty of balancing the joy and beauty of the natural cycle with the horror of human activity. The Assange arrest hit me harder than I thought. I really expected something like this, but none the less feel stunned. Another disappointment was "Pompous" declaring Iran's army to be a terrorist organization as Bibi (the real terrorist along with the family Saud) wins another term. The speed of our climate collapse is accelerating faster than models predict. So weeks like these I try to spend time outside with the trees, despite the pollen blast. The chestnuts we planted have leafed out. We've been harvesting lettuce and eating fresh salad most days. The blueberries have a strong bloom. All is not doom and disaster...we each have to find our balance on the cycle of life.

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The Weekly Watch

Bloomin' Idiots

It's an orgy! Flowers are spreading their pollen far and wide. Perhaps plants go insane like breeding animals...thoughtlessly spending their energies in hopes that their pollen will land on a fertile stigma....caught in a sexual frenzy. To paraphrase Jimi, it's a yellow haze gonna kiss the sky. Flowers are attractive (for the most part), at least to some pollinators. Many pollinators are insects and they are disappearing, you know. In the cycle of life there is a time to create seed by blooming. Later in life, at maturity, is the time to sow seed. In recent years I've come to the conclusion that as a species, we never matured beyond the selfish infant stage (which might explain why we are such bloomin' idiots)...but evolution happens and there are pockets of growth and progress. Are the choices we have illusory, or can we direct our own development? What choice does the flower have?


The Weekly Watch


The world around me is greening. Trees are budding, blooming, and leafing. Last year's sugars stored in the roots return to the growing tips and are converted into green leaves - solar powered carbon fixers. Creating sugar from air and water is the nature of plant growth. The sugars are used to build more plant tissue as they reach for the sun. I guess we have to strive toward a goal ourselves to experience growth - the human equivalent of reaching for the sun. We could use more of the sensibility and sustainability of cyclic plant growth, relying on the sun and water for our power and energy. Perhaps we could grow to be a sane and functional society focused on the needs of people and the natural system rather than the cancerous growth of profit hungry war mongers in the US and around the world.


The Weekly Watch

Pruning Out the Dead Wood...

I hope my fellow southerners have already pruned their fruit trees, shrubs, and vines. However you folks in the northern zones still have time. Pruning fruit crops is important to provide sunlight, aeration, and good plant health which in turn improve their yield. It also makes a good political analogy...pruning out the diseased and unhealthy components of government and society. So join in this social and political pruning thought experiment as well as a practical discussion of pruning techniques for fruit crops.


The Weekly Watch

Here Comes the Sun
Come on Baby Light My Fire

The wheel of the year turns to spring this week. There will be more sunlight...longer days... here in the Northern hemisphere. Light is the key to fixing carbon...through photosynthesis. Plants taking CO2 and building it into sugars and other compounds. When we eat plants we burn them back into CO2 and H2O. This balance of photosynthesis and respiration maintains the carbon cycle. For most of human history we have burnt wood as our primary fuel. Trees will regrow and recapture atmospheric carbon. However over the last century we converted to fossil fuels over plant based renewable energy sources. That (and population growth) is what put us on the path of rapid climate collapse.


This diagram of the fast carbon cycle shows the movement of carbon between land, atmosphere, and oceans. Yellow numbers are natural fluxes, and red are human contributions in gigatons of carbon per year. White numbers indicate stored carbon.

The Weekly Watch

Fixating on Nitrogen and Spreading Manure

Nitrogen is the most common substance in the atmosphere, existing mostly as two atoms held together by a triple bond. Nitrogen enters the system through the activity of various bacteria (some associated with plants but others free living). Nitrogen in natural systems also falls with rain... lightening will fuse nitrogen and oxygen together in several water soluble configurations (also fusing oxygen to itself forming ozone, O3). Ever noticed how green things look after a thunderstorm? In part because there was a dose of N added.

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The Weekly Watch

Growing Fertile Ground

Soil is a complex ecosystem, but you don't have to know engine mechanics to drive a car, nor soil ecology to grow a garden. Despite the wide ranging difference between soil types, building soil fertility is remarkably similar across most conditions. It boils down to the addition of biomass, organic material. There are many approaches. You can grow cover crops then "chop and drop" them as a mulch. Use the lasagna method with an initial layer of cardboard before applying organic amendments. Sheet composting is a common technique, although many people create and add compost and compost tea to their plants. Some people use a thick layer of wood chips to establish garden plots. Others go to additional lengths to bury woody material creating hugel beds or pits. Many urban growers use containers and literally build or create their own soil. In all these applications the objective is to promote the growth of the complex mixture of soil organisms which in turn benefit the plants you want to grow. Let's also take a brief look around the world to see if we can find some fertile opportunities for positive growth.


The Weekly Watch

Directing the Flow with the Magic of Water

What a long, wet week its been. About a foot of rain last week. It rained every day. It's just breaking up today with a forecast of a few dry sunny days. So with water flowing everywhere, it seems a natural topic for this column. Like other lifeforms, we are mostly water. Water is life. Over two thirds of our planet is covered with water. However less than 2% is fresh water, and most of that tied up as ice. As the climate continues to become more extreme, we can expect both more droughts and more flooding. However if we manage our environment sustainably we can cope with these wild variations.

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The Weekly Watch

Round and Round We Go


Deja Vu All Over Again

This week I want to focus on the myriad of cycles in which we live and interact. When I first thought of this topic, my idea was the cycle of seasons, the carbon cycle and its balance of photosynthesis and respiration, the slow geologic gyre of the rock cycle and soil formation, the phase changes of the water cycle, the chemical cycles like nitrogen which orchestrate a dance between the atmosphere, soils, and biosphere, and so on...all natural processes on which we depend for stability of the ecosystem. However, as the week progressed I couldn't help but think back to my youth and the Vietnam war. I fear our immanent invasion of Venezuela will be like multiplying the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos...and then squaring it. With the appointment of Elliot Abrams it really is deja vu all over again.

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Constipation of Imagination

You see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Back to Methuselah, act I, Selected Plays with Prefaces, vol. 2, p. 7 (1949). The serpent says these words to Eve.

Robert F. Kennedy used a similar quotation as a theme of his 1968 campaign: “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.”

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Get with the System...the Ecosystem

Really a garden, farm, or homestead is an ecosystem. Working with nature, emulating natural processes, and flowing with the system is the key to producing food in a sustainable manner. It can be done in almost every environment. Soil can be improved, but as climate chaos accelerates, we all may need to consider how to buffer our gardens from the wild weather swings we're beginning to see. So this past weeks cold weather led me to write about techniques for winter production as well as creating a food producing ecosystem. We can live in harmony with the planet...(3 min trailer)

The Weekly Watch

The Cancerous Growth of the American Empire

Is There a Cure?

The United Snakes of America is spreading its poison again...this time declaring the elected president of Venezuela is a dictator, and recognizing the leader of the assembly as president. That's like Russia and China announcing Pelosi is now our president. The Carter Center stated "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world." Old tiny hands, the liar in chief, is at it again. We use slightly different strategies in different countries to prop up corporate hacks as president. Both parties have been complicit. Consider Honduras and the stolen election the US recently recognized. Not to mention the coup supported by Obomber and the $hill. Brazil provides more evidence of our support of corporatists with the illegal removal of Dilma, and the imprisonment of Lula on trumped up charges. Bannon was in Brazil promoting Bolsonaro as was the CIA.

I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.

― Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: by America's Most Decorated Soldier

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Planting Seeds...


I felt I was planting seeds as a teacher...not just ideas...but also an approach of using evidence to support our concepts. That's the nature of science, but not human nature. We cling to our beliefs and rarely examine our deepest held ideologies. It is a challenge for scientists too...to let go of ideas they find profound because new data indicates they are incorrect. Like most sectors of our lives, science has largely been purchased by the corporate oligarchs. They fund the research and and are highly involved in the hiring and firing of the staff. Recent decades have seen continuous cuts to government funded studies and increasing dependence on corporate and foundation moneys. The current situation with seed production tells the story.

The Weekly Watch

The Best Laid Plans...

When it comes to gardening (and farming), there are as many approaches as there are gardeners. Like designing a house or creating your lifestyle, gardens reflect the people that cultivate them. Imagining and dreaming are tools we use to produce personal unique crafts, arts, and projects...including gardens, homesteads, and communities. There is not a recipe. So it's time to invent it ourselves and put together a plan.

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The Weekly Watch

Learn and Grow

It is a new year and time for new growth. When I arrived (like the shipwrecked person floating on the C99 sign) on this site, I was hopeful. I thought Bernie was destined to the presidency and our nation was going to move in a better direction. As Bernie was being cheated from the nomination illustrating the impotence of politics, we had the Standing Rock protest which I saw as a powerful statement about many things from environmental justice, indigenous rights, and citizen movements to fossil fuel's dominance, climate chaos, and complete corporate control... including mercenary domestic policing. I continue to study and learn of our situation...social, political, and ecological. Perhaps there are answers and political paths toward peace and prosperity, but I personally don't see a political way forward. I come more and more to the conclusion of my youth - to be a gardener, a naturalist, a musician and enjoy my corner of the world - the biologically rich eastern deciduous forest. So I want to shift the focus of this column to look at stories about people and communities that are living at peace and harmony with the planet while maintaining an eye on the news of the day.

(3 min)