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  • VA2SFX 10:40 pm on May 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Nature, ,   

    Planting a food forest 

    I’m really not an expert on this. I’ve planted some fruit trees that lived, and some that did not.

    My basic concept is “set it and forget it.”

    Plant ’em, don’t water ’em, mulch ’em if you got ’em, but don’t weed ’em. Fuck the rest.

    I don’t have advice for anybody, I have only what I’m trying.

    Whether my approach is a success will take years to determine. I planted some of these fairly close together, but I figure if in ten years I have to decide which amazing perfect super fruitful tree I have to trim or remove, my time won’t have been wasted. And right now, the closeness maximizes the available space.

    The trees are on about 12′ centers. 2 ea. apple, pear, plum. 2 ea. serviceberry, blackberry and two ea. of two different types of seedless grapes. Plus two each of elder and hardy fig will arrive in a separate delivery.

    Elsewhere I have peach, fig, kiwi, cherry, plum, raspberries, (unproductive failing) blueberries, grape and pears. We’ll see what survives and produces fruit over time, over years.

    I used a grub hoe to take away the top tufts of grass and roots. Then covered in a square-ish shape the soil around the tree with some tough thick tarp pieces I have (the plastic doesn’t degrade much), and marked them with larger sticks, and with logs which I have in abundance.

    Over the mounds I sowed mixed edible, wildflower and other seeds, and in the spaces I sowed heavily oats over the grass and sunflowers round the perimeter. My idea is to stock the soil seed bank and add rather than subtract. Try to mimic an emerging meadow transitioning to a forest…

  • VA2SFX 8:00 pm on April 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Nature,   

    Spring garden as snow melts 

    It’s tough to capture with a camera, the beauty of a sloppy wet garden emerging from the snow, having been heavily mulched the year before. Winterkill oats and teff, parsely rotting to black. Old garlic stalks. Many many bags of leaves gathered from the winter. Embedded experiments, plants coming back to life you thought were never alive in the first place. I almost care more about creating the right textures now, what materials that consists of, and what the soil life effects are. The plants are kind of just along for the ride for me rn. They are harvestable indicators. I want to see the full processes of them as they generate and regenerate across cycles. Growths and decays. Periodicity. Wavelengths. Creating leprechaun habitat.

  • VA2SFX 1:41 am on April 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Nature, , , Writing Prompts   

    Nature is what we do. 

    An Invironment writing prompt

    For the editors and readers of Invironment, ‘Nature’ isn’t a place you go on weekends

    Photo by Somin Khanna

    Nature is what we do.

    Nature is all around us. It’s like the Force. It exists inside us, flows out through us. Waves crashing on waves — onto rocks. We cannot escape it. 
    It’s in our nature.

    So how do you Nature?

    DIY Nature writing wanted.

    Theme: How do you Nature?

    • Are you an eater, a watcher, a listener, a toucher, a smeller, a taster?
    • Do you have practical, hands-on experience, expertise and interest as an avant-gardener, a forward-thinking forager, an adventurous culinary artist, enterprising farmer, or concerned climate scientist?
    • Do you watch the Weather Channel religiously? Do you talk to animals? Do you check moon phases? Do you try to identify birds from your back porch with binoculars? Do you take up close pictures of flowers? Do you just like mowing your lawn?

    If you answered yes to any of the above and can condense your Nature know-how into engaging first-person essays with a tutorial slant and 1 or 2 original photos, we would love to share your DIY Nature with our community of nearly 11K readers.*

    Email us: pitches and links to published posts for consideration at the email address below. Thanks!

    *Stories selected to be published in Invironment remain the copyright of their respective authors, are not edited by us (though we may offer occasional suggestions) and are unpaid.

  • VA2SFX 1:13 pm on April 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Nature, Outdoors   

    What to do with wood 

    Managing windfalls of materials in the garden

    We bought a house at the beginning of February with piles and piles of old semi-rotten wood out front:

    I would estimate there is probably about 10x this quantity of wood piled in various spots around the property, thanks to some big old dying trees that were cut down last year.

    Part of the vista from Google Street View:

    There are some other stashes in other places as well, not shown above.

    Since we were living just next door when those trees were cut last year, I was happily able to capture a big quantity of mulchy goodness, which I incorporated onto my garden soil.

    View story at Medium.com

    Option #1: Firewood

    Clearly the most obvious option for using a bunch of pre-cut logs is turn it into firewood.

    Now, I’m no expert here — and we do have a woodstove (plus electric heat)— but people with more experience in the matter say that this wood won’t produce quality heat as it’s old and in some cases rotten. It will burn too fast, and maybe dirty. Sounds probable.

    Plus splitting and storing all of it sounds… boring!

    Option #2: Mushrooms

    I’ve played around pretty extensively with inoculating logs with various types of edible mushrooms, like shiitake, oysters and even reishi.

    View story at Medium.com

    This season will tell me whether or not I’ve finally found the pathway to success on that front. But I know from experience, again, you don’t want to inoculate old bad wood with mushrooms, as there will be too much competition: wild strains, etc will have taken hold by now. Best practice seems to be cut fresh wood, let it age a few weeks and inoculate once it’s only somewhat dried out.

    Option #3: Hugelkultur

    There’s a permaculture thing, hugelkultur, where you bury a bunch of wood in mounds, it decomposes slowly and holds moisture and builds soil over time.

    View story at Medium.com

    It sort of works/sort of doesn’t/maybe I haven’t found the right technique yet. From my experiments, it seems that on a relatively small scale, it’s a challenge to get these things to perform.

    I suspect, based on the Sepp Holzer examples you always see of this, that you have to pile these things really high with tons of material in order to achieve the critical mass necessary to accelerate the biological processes at play. It’s *probably* like a hot compost pile — it won’t get hot if it’s not big enough and the chemical reactions at play are restricted.

    That said, I finally think I have a large enough quantity of wood to actually try out a freakin’ big mound of buried wood, plant over it and see what happens. For the soil moving though, I will enlist the aid of someone with a tractor. Because I don’t want to spend the next 4 months spading soil out and getting nowhere.

    Option #4: Beds

    There are any number of variations on the old “wood in soil” trick in gardening.

    • Use logs for garden bed borders.
    • Dig a trench and stick logs in it. Plant over top.

    Or some combination of the above.

    Given the sheer quantity of material with which I have to experiment, you can rest assured that I will exhaust every possible configuration of the above and post my results. Oh the wheelbarrowing that is going to take place!

    Option #5: Walls

    Lastly, we’ve noticed a benefit of having the wood in stacks as they presently are, since it forms a basically free barrier between us and the street. It’s a bit haphazard though, since it was “built” by a tree-cutting crew. A more formalized wall or walls, perhaps even including masonry of some sort — a more true cordwood wall — is in my future.

    Anything is possible, but everything requires work. I’m fine with wheelbarrowing, and a certain amount of digging, but I’m not into “getting my hands dirty” just for the sake of it. I have a limited amount of energy and tons of things to do in the house, garden and at work — and the name of the game with land management seems to be the least effort for the maximum payoff. So we’ll see what develops!

  • VA2SFX 3:27 pm on March 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Arabian Sea, , Nature, ,   

    Algae bloom size of Mexico in Arabian Sea 

    Via Science Alert:


    “An algae bloom the size of Mexico has appeared in the Arabian Sea, thanks to a growing ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Oman. […]

    But what’s really concerning is the fact that these dinoflagellate blooms weren’t regularly seen until the past decade or so, and now are becoming increasingly common around the planet — particularly in the Arabian Sea. […]

    A 2008 study in Science found that, globally, dead zones have doubled in size each decade and now cover more than 153,000 square km (95,000 square miles) of the planet’s oceans.”

    Image via NASA.

  • VA2SFX 1:26 pm on March 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Britain, , , , Nature   

    India gives legal rights to rivers— Brits dump shit in it. 

    I just find the timing of these two stories in my news feed amusing —


    “New Delhi (CNN) — A decades-long fight against river pollution in India has been given a much needed boost.

    On Monday, a court in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand declared the Yamuna and Ganges rivers “living entities.”

    The ruling said the rivers, both of which are considered sacred to Hindus and personified as goddesses, were crucial in providing “physical and spiritual sustenance” to locals.”


    “Thames Water has been fined a record £20m after pumping nearly 1.5 billion litres of untreated sewage into the River Thames.

    The company admitted water pollution and other offences at sewage facilities in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

    Fish and birds died following the spills in 2013 and 2014.

    The £20.3m fine is the largest penalty handed down to a water utility for an environmental disaster.”

    If you haven’t been following, there was a recent ruling in New Zealand, of which India’s is an echo, that a river has been granted legal personhood in recognition of the role it plays in both the ecosystem and traditional life. It’s a bit similar to the notion of giving legal personhood to corporations…


    This is part of the larger Rights of Nature movement, and comes out of essentially Deep Ecology of the 1970’s.

    See also: 1982’s more or less ignored World Charter for Nature.

    Critics tend to call the Rights of Nature movement, in usually a shrill voice, communist/marxist or similar — in that it threatens the supreme right of man to make profits by actively destroying the ecosystems in which he is embedded and on which his continued existence is entirely dependent. I guess from that statement, you can probably tell where my sympathies lay.

  • VA2SFX 3:41 pm on December 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Nature, ,   

    Social Networking in Cyber-Ecology 

    Maybe you’re wondering what the hell this is all about. Well, me too…


    The entity is the atomic unit of what I’m calling (for lack of a better word) cyber-ecology.*

    * Cyber-ecology is an attempt to usefully mash together how the natural technologies of living things (ecosystems) work and how human technologies such as computers work, or could work on the emerging hybridized "Internet of Things."

    So an entity, to me, is kind of like a point in geometry:


    From Wikipedia:

    “An entity is something that exists as itself, as a subject or as an object, actually or potentially, concretely or abstractly, physically or not. It need not be of material existence. In particular, abstractions and legal fictions are usually regarded as entities. In general, there is also no presumption that an entity is animate, or present.” [Source]

    I like that the word “animate” comes up there, because I think there’s a certain utility in borrowing from animism (or maybe even panentheism?) as a lens in understanding entities in emerging cyber-ecosystems.

    Animist perspective

    Animism basically suggests that everything — whether scientifically considered animate or not — partakes of perhaps a universal spiritual substance, and in some sense is “alive” or has a kind of non-human “person” or “self” of some kind.

    Potential POV

    I agree that’s animism described that way sounds a bit mysterious (maybe even ‘woo’?), but it seems to jive with my own day-to-day experience of other entities. Regardless, if you’re agnostic about that as a premise, we can strip it down further to be even more flexible:

    An entity is a potential point of view (POV), a focal point in a experiential field.

    So a rock or a bird, a chair, refrigerator, human, corporation, an A.I., a temperature sensor on a smart-home network — all of those things may serve as a potential point of view when observing, analyzing or situation oneself within a network of relationships. We can look through its eyes (metaphorically, depending), step into its shoes and observe the connections radiating out from that node. There need not be any pre-supposition either about sentience, consciousness, self-awareness or “spirit” of any given node for this to be useful as a way of exploring, talking about and designing entity-networks.*

    * And insofar as this, or any, model becomes not useful, it should be discarded. 

    Entangled webs

    Just as points in geometry can be linked together with lines and planes to form complex shapes, entities are grouped in associations, assemblages, proximity, networks, fields, biomes and other relationships.

    Entities “just hanging out.”

    Entities, as nodes in a network, can also be linked together. Links may be, for example, “pathways of exchange” (for transactional tokens) or structures which connect two or more entities together.

    Links between entities

    When multiple entities are linked together, we can consider this a “network” regardless of who, what, where, or when the entities “are.” That group of linked entities can itself also be considered an entity.

    More ordered network

    Actants in ANT

    Actor-network theory overlaps usefully here, renaming entities as actors/actants in a complex system:

    “Actants denote human and non-human actors, and in a network take the shape that they do by virtue of their relations with one another. It assumes that nothing lies outside the network of relations, and as noted above, suggests that there is no difference in the ability of technology, humans, animals, or other non-humans to act… If taken to its logical conclusion, then, nearly any actor can be considered merely a sum of other, smaller actors.”*

    * If that doesn’t describe the Internet of Things, I don’t know what does…

    Witness Linking Sensors

    So if an entity is a kind of potential point of view, it would follow that we can attach to it components such as sensors, event listeners, perceptual systems, analysts, translators, etc. to enhance the richness or density of signals associated with that particular point of view. In so doing, we improve the ability of any witness to adopt or analyze that POV and to derive actionable data from it.

    In a more “woo” direction, we might say that by witnessing via an entity’s POV, we enable those nodes in a self-experiencing universe to become even more self-experiencing. We make them more animate.

    Tverd GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

    Applied IRL

    Here’s one interesting applied example of the above, vis-a-vis forests whose “internet” consists partially of interlinked roots:

    Entity network of trees and fungi [Source]


    “For instance, here [above] is a diagram of the mycorrhizal network for a single 30 by 30 meter plot of British Columbian interior douglas-fir forest. It shows only the douglas-fir trees in the plot (green saw-blade looking things, whose size is proportional to tree diameter), and only two species of mycorrhizal fungus. In reality, there would be a few other species of tree and hundreds more kinds of ectomycorrhizal fungi. Hundreds. This is the wood-wide web.”

    The trees are exchanging tokens — water, sugar, chemical and even audio signals — with a mycelial network which transmits in turn to other trees.

    See also:


    So anyway, yeah, whatever. Blah blah blah. Happy New Year!


  • VA2SFX 7:05 pm on December 22, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Nature, Networking,   

    Animist Networking 

    Food Web [Source]

    The Internet of Entities

    Personhood of all things

    I keep coming back to this quote, about the personhood of all living things…

    “…the forest is made up entirely of living selves and the communicative relations they have with each other.”


    Ecological Network of Entity Relationships [Source]

    Actors & messages

    There’s a computer science concept I keep trying to mash on top this — the Actor model:

    The actor model in computer science is a mathematical model of concurrent computation that treats “actors” as the universal primitives of concurrent computation. In response to a message that it receives, an actor can: make local decisions, create more actors, send more messages, and determine how to respond to the next message received.


    Actor Model and Messaging [Source]

    Product Ecosystems

    I’m not the first either to note potentially fruitful links between ecology and networking:

    The links between nodes in ecological networks can have a variety of meanings, in particular they can represent transfer of energy or material, they can represent the net effect on fitness or population size (direct and/or indirect) of one species on another, or represent the exchange of information. These differences create at least three types of interaction networks: competition networks, mutualistic networks and food webs (consumption networks), all of which are subsets of the full network of interactions in any community.

    Smart Home & Smart City

    Interestingly, the word ecology comes from Greek oikos “house, dwelling place, habitation.” While we’re still waiting for the Internet of Things to figure out what the hell it’s doing, the microcosm of the Smart Home is a more manageable instantiation of the emerging super-pattern. Routers, laptops, tablets, Google Home, Alexa, Sonos — these connected devices are all “actors” sending each other messages. They are all, in some very real sense, entities within an ecosystemic web of exchanges.

    Smart home with networked devices [Source]

    Zoom out to the next level, the so-called Smart City with an embedded sensor network sending transactional messages back and forth between actors, entities, nodes in the web:

    Smart City with sensor network [Source]

    And zoom out to the environment, the natural world in which the Smart Home, the Smart City and the Internet of Things are all ultimately embedded. Smart Nature. Smart Planet…

    Nature-integrated sensor network

    Sensors reaching into natural phenomena, converting raw signals to human-readable messages which we can act upon — our actions sending feedback signals back into the biosphere. Where does one begin and the other end when we reach this level?

    I’m not a techno-utopian. Far from it.

    I just see this convergence as inevitable — natural even; the logical progression of current trends. I wonder if by broadly embracing it, we can actually change our worldview enough to move the needle on bigger issues like, say, Climate Change.

    Earth as energy transfer circuit

    Imagine we had a kind of Gaian global animist sensor grid which could essentially listen to the Earth, get a read on how it’s feeling and report back to us. Earth could send us messages in forms we could easily comprehend — is it already doing that? Aren’t sensors just extensions of our senses?

    Who is whose antennae?

    If we can build technologies that mimic natural systems, then we can build technologies which enmesh harmoniously with natural systems as well and do not pollute, destroy, disrupt or displace them. It’s a no brainer.

    For me, this is one possible hopeful Future Timeline Scenario for the human race that doesn’t end in Climate Destruction.

    “…the objects themselves within a smart home / ambient intelligent environment have feelings, need to be propitiated and cared for, [and] have a web of relationships with all other objects and entities within a given system, and a state of optimal dynamic equilibrium in which all members are exchanging and feeding back into one another as components in an externalized animist nervous system.” [source]

    Why not apply that universal recognition of self to all living and non-living beings?

    A.I. will eventually force us into this position, anyway. If corporations are humans, why can’t we all accept as default position to be more sensitive to the “full spectrum of tree concerns?

  • VA2SFX 1:19 pm on December 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Nature, ,   

    NS: Half surface water lost in some countries since 1980 

    Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq


    Elsewhere, 90,000 km2 of permanent waters have been lost — an area equivalent to that of Lake Superior in North America. Another 62,000 km2 have changed from being permanently covered by water to being seasonally covered.

    Most of this surface water loss occurred in just five countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have lost almost the entire Aral Sea — once the world’s fourth largest lake. Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq have lost 56, 54 and 34 per cent of surface water respectively.

  • VA2SFX 2:54 pm on September 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Conservation, , Nature, , Wilderness   

    Washington Post: Planet Earth lost a tenth of all wilderness in past two decades 

    This article defines wilderness as “any area on Earth which didn’t have a human footprint.”

    I think we could argue that such a state doesn’t exist at all on this planet anymore, but the study is interesting regardless. (ie, whether or not we have ‘boots on the ground’ our fingerprints are everywhere at this point…)


    “Wilderness areas on Earth have experienced alarming losses in the past two decades, a new study suggests. By comparing global maps from the present day and the early 1990s, researchers have concluded that a 10th of all the world’s wilderness has been lost in just 20 years.”

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