March 2007 Newsletter

Vegetable Starts

Barefoot Soil Worm Tea Brewer Kits

Yelm Home and Garden Show

Teaming With Microbes

Loosening Clay Soils

Use Your Old Seeds

An Inconvenient Truth II

Quick Facts

Previous newsletters

Vegetable Starts

 

We received more certified organic vegetable starts today:

 

Spinach – America

Swiss Chard – Rhubarb

Cauliflower – Snowball

 

Our last delivery sold out quickly!

Barefoot Soil Worm Tea Brewer Kits

 

Towards the end of next week we will have BFS Worm Tea Brewer kits in.  Instead of providing the 5 gallon pail as we did last year, we figure you either have your own, can purchase one locally or we can give you a small recycled one.  In either case, they are very easy to come by.  So, this year’s kit will include a high capacity durable air pump, large air stone, 3’ of  tubing, a castings bag and instructions.  We also have the ingredients for the brew (BFS Earthworm Castings, seaweed and soluble fish) so that you can brew your tea at home for immediate and liberal use.  $79.95.

 

Surprise yourself with even more fantastic results and add BFS C-Gro earth elementals at the beginning of your brew!

Yelm Home and Garden Show

 

We will be sharing a booth with the Yelm Food Co-op at the Yelm Home and Garden Show March 31-April 1st.  For those in the Yelm area, this is a great one time a year event to see what businesses in our area are doing.  Please see the NVN for more information.

Teaming With Microbes

 

Here is the final in a 3 part series on some fantastic new organic growing guidelines:

 

We now know that we can team with microbes in our soil to provide a growing medium for all plants that is superior to petrochemicals in disease resistance, drought tolerance, water requirements, productivity, yield, produce shelf life, plant nutrition levels and insect repellency.  And this is a only short list of  benefits!  We do this by cultivating large numbers and diversity of microbes that are the basis of the breakdown of organic residues into usable plant nutrients.  In our last newsletter, we listed the next 7 Soil Food Web Gardening Rules mentioned and recommended  in Teaming with Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lownfels and Wayne Lewis.  Here are the last 7:

13.  Applications of synthetic fertilizers kill off most or all of the soil food web microbes.

14.  Stay away from additives that have high NPK numbers.

15.  Follow any chemical spraying or soil drenching with and application of compost tea.

16.  Most conifers and hardwood trees (birch, oak, beech, hickory) form mycorrhizae with ectomycorrhizal fungi.

17.  Most vegetables, annuals, grasses, shrubs, soft  wood trees, and perennials form mycorrhizae with endomycorrhizal fungi.

18.  Rototilling and excessive soil disturbance destroy or severly damage the soil food web.

19.  Always mix endomycorrhizal fungi with the seeds of annuals and vegetables at planting time or apply them to roots at transplanting time.

 

By employing these simple guidelines (and more that will be presented in future newsletters) you can join with the microbe team which is ready and willing to create an ecosystem in your soil which will provide an extraordinary growth medium for anything you want to grow.  This team has been playing together for millions of years (they have their playbook down!) cycling dead plants into reusable material.  These guidelines allow you to set up your own “factory” of nutrient cycling in your yard and garden to achieve similar spectacular results in a child, pet, wildlife and earth friendly manner.

 

That rounds out our summary of the book.  Each of  the 19 rules require a whole chapter to explain, but certainly our Barefoot Soil products as well as other organics and minerals in our Soil Depot continue to represent this sustainable and Earth friendly manner of soil management.

 

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Loosening Clay Soils

 

One of the most common questions we get is how to loosen clay soils.  Gypsum is always one part of the answer because the calcium ions interfere with and hold apart the ionic bonds in a clay soil.  But we also always recommend repeated applications of worm tea, for the microbiology will also separate those clay ionic bonds.  In a confirmation of this process, Don Chapman, President of Bio-Organics, Inc. writes in his current newsletter:

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Improving Your Clay Soils - Naturally.
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The most frequent articles about mycorrhizal fungi deal with their ability to improve the nutrient and moisture uptake for host plants, which are obviously important benefits.  However, we can't overlook the powerful physical effects that the fungi have on the surrounding soil after they colonize a plant's root system.
 
After the fungi send their many millions of microscopic root-threads (hyphae) out into the soil, acting like foraging hair roots, the effect on clay soil is to separate "stacked" clay platelets.  This allows air to penetrate deep into the root zone and permits water to drain through without causing soggy anaerobic conditions.
 
Some years back, when we moved into a new home, I planted some extra potato seeds in extremely heavy clay - had to work to wedge a shovel in. I was surprised at how well the plants grew with no fertilizer, and even more surprised when I went to dig some new potatoes for dinner one day.  I could push my hand down several inches into the soil around the plants with no effort.  It was like reaching into a bag of loose potting soil.  About 18 inches out from each plant, the soil was still rock-hard.  The mycorrhizal fungi had, in effect, created ideal growing conditions for their host plants out of what would otherwise be a suffocating soil situation.
 
I also found it interesting that about a month after the final harvest, the spots where the potato plants were located went back to being just as hard-packed as before.  These fungi are obligate organisms, dependent on host plants, and could not continue living after the plant was dead. This is part of a normal cycle for annuals, and there would be fungus spores left behind in the soil for next year's crop. I still put a small pinch of new inoculant on my transplants each spring, but it is probably not necessary as long as the soil has not been drenched with liquid fertilizer or fungicides.
 
Rototilling will fluff up soil for a short time, but having the right type of mycorrhizae on plant roots will keep it fluffed for the season.  Both commercial growers and home gardeners can use this technique to their advantage - putting nature to work for you.
 
Soil chemistry still dominates our cultural practices, but microbiology is gaining ground (or soil?) each year because of advantages in cost, performance, and sustainability.  Good healthy soil produces good healthy plants.”

 

More informative archives of his newsletters about the microbiology of soils can be found in the archive section of his website here.

 

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Use Your Old Seeds

 

Seeds are always packed and labeled with a packing year.  Most assume seeds are not useful in later years, which is a great untruth.  When packed in cool, dry place or in airtight containers, seeds can last for 10s of years and more – longer if nitrogen sealed or vacuum packed.  A tomato and potato breeder recently came to the farm and said he grew some of his older varieties by seed that were packed 23 years ago.  More recently, Jan in our office was given a jar of seeds packed and vacuum sealed 14 years ago with 100% germination!

 

Here’s a quick test to see if those old seeds will work:  take 10 seeds and wrap them in a moist paper towel.  Keep the towel moist and warm in a dark place for the stated germination period to see if they sprout.  1 of 10 is a 10% germination rate, 5 of 10 is 50% and so on so that you know the expected viability.

 

Many seeds such as peas or beans are best started this manner anyway before transplant into trays or soil.

 

An Inconvenient Truth II

 

There are many inconvenient truths in our society today which can be discovered by anyone through proper research and study, or by observation.  Al Gore’s movie, book and lectures An Inconvenient Truth point out the most important and popular inconvenience because it is a direct immediate threat to life, limb and property of everyone on this Earth that hears the message.  Also, many are already experiencing and witnessing the events that support the thesis!  But perhaps the sequel to this truth – especially for those that reside in the US - should be a truth that is insidious, unseen, ever present and unpopular to many in the US, but it nonetheless is a direct threat to life, quality of life, mental health and limb.  This truth is documented by Randal Fitzgerald in a book entitled The Hundred Year Lie:  How Food and Medicine are Destroying your Health published in 2006.

 

The Hundred-Year Lie presents a devastating exposé of how chemicals in everyday products are ruining our health.  It started in 1906 with Congressional passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act.  This provocative and frightening look at the synthetic chemicals used by the processed foods, pharmaceutical and chemical industries delivers an excellent, up-to-date summary of "what is really in our food, water, vitamins, prescription drugs, childhood vaccines, cosmetics, and in our homes.”

 

Fitzgerarld has put together and excellent summary in a 5 point slippery slope index that documents the slippery slope of declining American health.  It chronicles the discoveries, industrial developments, government actions, and accumulating health problems over the past century.  The United States is the primary home and testing ground for these changes with, as Fitzgerald documents, devastating results to the health and well being of most domestic Americans.  You can read the 5 point slippery slope index here

 

Although Fitzerald’s book is now receiving rave reviews, there are now other books and websites out that highlight this theme.  Find them at your local library, bookstore, or online.

 

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Quick Facts

 

In a recent example of what the An Inconvenient Truth II means to you real time, the below consumer warning published this month was written about in Our Stolen Future published in 1997.  In the book, the authors studied existing published studies of the interaction of man made chemicals to man, animals, birds, fish and our environment.  These studies were performed years before, yet apparently no meaningful industry or regulatory effort has intervened in the last 10 years since its publishing to prevent this poisoning.

 

In contrast to Silent Spring published in 1962 that caused an uproar in farming and chemical manufacturers’ circles when Rachel Carson pointed out the dangers of  the widespread use of DDT as a pesticide, it took Congress until 1972 to outlaw its use in the US, but at least something was done, and now we are all glad action was taken although every human on Earth now has DDT in them.

 

In fact, the only debate about another class of plasticizer popular in children’s toys, teething rings and PVC (your dashboard, for instance) is phthalates.  California is trying to outlaw their use in children’s toys – especially teething rings – but is running into stiff opposition by the chemical industry, manufacturers and retail sales.  The chemical industry and manufacturers say eliminating them will make them too expensive and reduce their cost competitiveness, although they are already outlawed in the EU, and manufacturers and retailers are doing just fine there.  Retailers are calling foul stating they do not want any regulation - just let the “buyer beware.”

 

A new study out in the last week linked phthalates to men’s obesity, low testosterone and abnormal sperm counts.  Read story.

 

In what would be a great Harvard Business School Management class, this could be a classic study of how to build and retain customers!  In it, you would learn that as a chemical company you can lace food, air and water with chemicals that you know will make people ill.  Then you develop, manufacture and sell a different chemical that makes them feel better.  (No cures, please, because then you would loose your customers!)  As a chemist that recently visited the farm said to us, this was and is exactly what is happening.

 

CONSUMER WARNING:
TOXIC CHEMICAL BPA LEACHING INTO CANNED FOODS
An alarming new study from the Environmental Working Group analyzed samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula on sale in the nation's supermarkets and found that more than 50% were tainted with a chemical linked to birth defects, ADHD and cancer. The chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), is an ingredient in plastics that lines food cans. According to the study, the chemical has been leaching into foods at levels up to 200 times the government's recommended "safe" level of exposure. According to Dr. Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and a long-time expert researcher of BPA, there are 94 scientific studies indicating deleterious health effects from BPA. "If BPA was treated as a drug, it would have been pulled immediately. This chemical can be replaced right now by safer materials, and the public would never notice the difference." OCA is planning to launch a campaign later this year to pressure food companies, especially organic companies, to stop using BPA-tainted cans and other toxic or non-sustainable packaging.
Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4414.cfm

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HOW TO AVOID BPA

  • Metal canned beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while metal canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels.
  • Canned foods in glass containers are not a BPA risk.
  • Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.
  • One-third of liquid baby formulas have high levels of BPA. Powdered formula packaging is generally considered safer.
  • Avoid heating foods in plastic containers and do not wash plastic containers in a dishwasher.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain and stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Do not let plastic wrap touch your food in the microwave, or better yet, avoid microwave ovens altogether.
  • Many metal water bottles, such as those sold by the brand Sigg are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles, such as those sold by Real Wear and Kleen Kanteen that do not have a plastic liner.

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A Short 15 minute video about several organic farmers in Ohio

In it they discuss how and why they came to organic farming.  You may find it interesting.

 

14741 Lawrence Lake Rd SE

Yelm, WA  98597

360-894-0707

www.yelmworms.com

M-F 9-5

Sat 10-4

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