Sunday, November 15, 2009

Vermiculture Update

Time for a worm update.

There has not been quite the population explosion that I was expecting. I am still just at 3 tubs but I am just about to start an additional tub or perhaps two. My local aunt likes the idea so I am setting up a bin for her to use. Her husband, my uncle, is an outdoorsman hunter/guide and he loves to fish so I suspect many of their worms will end up bait. I feel a bit odd at 36 years old, talking like this (seems like something a 12 year old might write about!), but I think that is just some silly residual social programming that I have not quite exorcised. I am more than happy to have this beneficial little hobby that is catching on with some family and friends.

Back to my bins.

As I stated before, I was running low on drink tray cardboard so I was trying to use straw as bedding material. This has been working quite well but quite a bit of chopping helps to speed up the process and this can be kind of a pain in the ass. Scaling up will definitely require a small tub grinder or chipper but this will allow the processing of old round straw and hay bales. I think it will be a good investment because it can also chop up the bedding straw from the livestock. This is always mixed with plenty of manure so after it is piled to heat awhile, it can be shredded once more and then fed to the worms. This will maximize the nutrients and microbiological organisms present in the worm castings.

One mentionable aspect to using the straw as bedding is that I believe it has slowed their reproduction from what I saw in the first bin. That drink tray cardboard seems to provide the ideal breeding environment for these things. So anyone wanting a slow population increase might do well to find some straw to use as bedding for their worms. However, I may also be wrong about this, there may have been a low amount of adults spread among the 3 bins. The bin with the most adults seems like it has had a significant population increase lately, although I will look more closely tomorrow. At the very least, the straw provides them with plenty of oxygen and they definitely seem more physically active in it.

I have also discovered that compost worms LOVE pumpkins. This may be true for all melons but they are simply devouring the unusable pumpkins that I have been feeding them. I suppose this is because the flesh is so soft and mushy but there are not even traces of rind remaining after just a few days. I guess I will be planting lots of melons in the garden next year.

Here is a little video to give an idea of what I mean:

In the background of the video, you can hear Dmitri Orlov of Club Orlov being interviewed by KMO on the C-Realm Podcast. If you've not yet had a listen at the C-Realm, I seriously suggest it. I enjoy it so much that I have gone back to listen from the beginning. I started back in June or July and I am up to episode 129 now. That is 128 hours of listening so far! And I have loved almost every episode. From psychedelia to peak oil to philosophy, this show feeds my head amazingly well. I am downloading most of them, since I know I will want to listen again later.

Before I go, I want to pass on a little suggestion, regarding vermicomposting. After putting raw potato skins in my first bin, and turnips in a recent bin, I really suggest avoiding dense root vegetables without chopping them up quite a lot. I am not joking at all when I say these things last a LONG time in your worm bin, if you do not do so. Potato skins bits may even sprout. I would watch the starch concentrations anyway.

That's all for now, I think.

Be good to each other.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Brain....can't...take much...more...information.

I love this feeling, after a few hours spent following information thread after information thread, learning more and more...cramming more into my under-utilized brain. For example, in wanting to know why styrofoam recycling seems to be pretty much non-existent, I learned about RecycleTech, a company that designs and builds EPS recycling equipment AND which has built a market for the main product (the other by-product being air) of the recycling process. I suggest everyone lobby their local government to look into this company and removing EPS/styrofoam from our landfills. Their website led me to, another site that promises to jam more information into my poor brain...albeit important and required information. With all the building that I am considering, this might well be a very handy site. A worthy learning opportunity indeed!

I remember sitting in classrooms looking forward to the day when I didn't have to learn more boring crap. Windows in these classrooms are kind of like double edged swords. The natural light they allow is so important, but the view to outside can be soooo torturous. Some days I almost wanted to cry from feeling so...imprisoned.

I know now that this environment did nothing to show me the real joys of learning. I realize that there is a necessity to learn some form of structure and discipline, but I can assure anyone reading this that school did nothing to teach me discipline. I learned discipline first from fear and then from maturity...well, I kind of learned it anyway. I must admit it is a lesson I am still but barely passing (even these posts serve as distraction sometimes), but my point is in the source of what improvements there have been.

I look at a family like that of Sugar Mountain Farm, and I see how young learning CAN I think it needs to be, for some. This doesn't mean that I lament my youth, at all. Quite the opposite, as I have said before I believe I grew up "better" than most of my age peers. But I maintain that such an environment as provided on the Sugar Mountain Farm, will result in happier, more balanced and more productive human beings, than 12 years of what I see as little more than learning cells within youth camps. And because of this, it always amazes me that there are not more, a lot more, ex-teachers who have lost their minds. My jab here is not intended at teachers, at all. The vast majority of them were taught how to teach in exactly the same kind of environment so, best of intentions or not, most of them are fighting a lost cause. I should also add that I feel it is very possible to create this sort of environment in an urban setting as well, even on the same grounds as education currently occurs.

My other issue with modern western schooling is the opportunity for potentially questionable social programming. Combine this with the overt AND under-toned push towards conformity and I think you have a recipe for serious trouble. It's no wonder we have a society so full of adults who despise learning, while being so intent on avoiding responsibility and seeking more and more mind-numbing entertainment...and looking more and more for someone to "take care" of everything else.

Along this line, there is another point that we should be thinking about. More and more of our information, our KNOWLEDGE, is being stored electronically. I love the internet and its opportunities, but it would seem highly prudent to be storing our knowledge physically as well, including all known languages. 10 or 20 modern Library of Alexandria's ought to keep a lot of people employed for a long time, hmm?

Learning has to be made important again, and that doesn't have to mean forced in camps.

Feed your heads, my brothers and sisters, feed your heads.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Simple Comments Poll

Yesterday the CBC website carried a news article about a senior official/whistle-blower at the International Energy Agency claiming that the IEA is covering up information which points to validation of looming Peak Oil theories. This will have caused a good deal of buzzing around the world and that was the case in the comments section for that article as well. People on both sides, myself included, were tossing their comments back and forth. As always, I was dumbfounded at the comments of some who seem to feel that stupidly stubborn liberal environmental types who deter exploitation in sensitive areas are the main cause of the apparent supply crunch in global oil supply.

Suddenly it occurred to me that this was a good opportunity to toss out a very simple (5th grade?) public opinion poll. This is what I came up with:

Perhaps a little CBC comments section poll.

Assuming there is no real geological limit to world oil reserves (for, say 500 years), just a liberal stubbornness which prevents necessary exploitation:

Should we ignore the suggested "invisible" costs (ecological, social, health, etc) and focus solely on meeting the demand for cheap energy, ie. oil and gas?

Yes = Agree
No = Disagree

Please, if you choose to respond, do so in seriousness.

I am thankful to be able to say that I found some hope in the responses!

When I checked last, at nearly 4pm today, only 17 had said Agree. 80 people said they disagreed. I did not cast a vote but I hope it is obvious that I would be the 81st. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this response even though it would have been nice to have a lot more responses overall.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Br`er Coyote

The star of the last post was out with me again today. Upon another look, I think this is actually a male after all...hence the Br`er of the title. I enjoyed sharing the space with him but it definitely bothers me that this shy creature is forced to hunt in such close proximity to us.

Handsome bugger isn`t he? I managed to get a short video that I thought I would share as well. I missed the pounce but, well you can see what I did get.

WARNING: This clip was recorded from inside the cab of a tractor so please watch your volume. I suggest starting quite low and increasing to comfort.

I took one more video as well, a trip from the field and back with a bale, but it is over 20 minutes long so I will need to edit it before uploading to youtube.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Winter is fairly set in here in NW Alberta, Canada, albeit fairly mild still. The temperature is getting above freezing most days, some days almost to +10C even, but a thick snow a couple of weeks back is keeping the feeling of winter around. Today the ground stayed frozen, as did the water which has been melting in the afternoons these past few days. I have been using the tractor to fetch the last of the straw bales from the field so the big tires were hastening melt and causing slush. Well all this was frozen today so there was quite a bit of sliding about even in the big heavy tractor (seen below). Next summer we HAVE to convert an old hay rack to carry these bales because I have spent waaaaay too many hours driving back and forth to the fields, bale at a time, this year. It is quite relaxing actually, but still a waste of time and fuel. Some steel, a welder and a few days work and voila, we'll have a cart that can carry 9 bales. This means 10 bales a trip, instead of 1.

As I have been fetching these bales, I have been given several reminders of what amazing things are often seen when one has no camera in hand. About a month back, a huge coyote was out in the field hunting for mice, as I was fetching hay bales and dad was raking straw for baling. This fellow (assuming it was male) was more bold than any other coyote I have seen (until today). Most would have darted off out of sight completely, whereas this one remained quite near us both for some time. At one point, it was right up on one row of large round bales. He hopped off as I drew near, and moved away.

Then yesterday, as I was coming in with a bale, I met a different (I think) coyote running along the road toward me. She (for some reason I think this one was female) seemed rather surprised to see me and the tractor but instead of running off completely, she just ran back the way she had come...looking back at me and keeping just a few feet in front of me, before finally scooting off the road to one side and curling back in the direction she had been headed. She ended up in the same field as I was, and would remain within feet of the tractor at times. She never did move away to a different field, and was again up on a row of the bales, this time laying down for a nice rest after hunting. She would hop down as I drove right by, but would just stretch and hop back up. As I moved away after the last pass, I looked back to see her still laying comfortable on her soft bed with a view.

I think I saw this one out hunting yesterday as well, in the same general area. The first time I saw her, she was in mid-freeze and I actually got to see her pounce and drive her feet and muzzle into the snow...and come back up with a FAT mouse. She played with the unfortunate morsel a bit before finally giving it a few serious chews, then flipping her head up and swallowing it down. Funnily, as she was frozen and waiting to pounce, she flipped 2 or 3 annoyed glances over at me and my loud tractor as if to say "will you and that racket please piss off and leave me to my meal-finding?".

I saw yet a 3rd coyote today, this one much smaller and with more yellow in its coat. I suspect it was a yearling. I think the population is so high in this immediate area as there is likely a den in the bush of the large pasture that we only use sparingly. I am considering moving 3 or 4 old straw bales out to this pasture to attract mice. This should provide plenty of food for the family of coyotes and keep them from being too interested in our chickens. Seems a good use of old straw to me. Many people would just go wipe the coyotes out but I like them. They are handsome and clever animals which keep down the rodent population. I think it would be better to provide incentive for them to avoid our livestock and to let them live and have some kind of wildness in their life. If they get to be too many, however, or should they start coming at our chickens anyway, it will be .22 target practice time...and perhaps skinning time.

All this monotonous bale fetching leaves plenty of time for thinking, and led me to wondering about trying to convince the County to set up the farmland they bought from us, as a County wildlife sanctuary. I would think such a thing would have nice carbon credit potential (though I despise the necessity for such necessary incentive). I was thinking that a non-profit agrarian organization could be set up to administrate this sanctuary, and wouldn't the family who has been stewarding the land until now be a good candidate for operating said non-profit organization?

This kind of thinking leads, of course, to thinking about all the various things which could then be done with the land. And it leads to thinking about the obstacles...

Obstacles like county bureaucrats with too much power and caught in non-sustainable development paradigms, or like County Councilors from competing districts who will not support anything that doesn't happen in their district. Obstacles like a growing landfill right next door, which generates profit for the County and whose harm to the County is not immediately visible. And obstacles like this being an area which is not yet willing to see peak resources as any kind of threat.

Oh well, I am glad to have the time for this, and the various other thinking that I am getting the chance to do. It certainly seems that a lot of it should be done as significant chaos looms larger and closer on the horizon. So often I find myself wondering how many of the people that I see scurrying about every day, give any thought to what lies beyond the next few days. They're just keeping on keeping on, I guess...but then that is exactly what got us where we are. What angers me, however, is the knowledge that a time is coming, very soon I think, where all these grasshoppers are going to need the fruits of the preparations we ants are making. Their selfish short-sightedness and complicity to brainwashing is going to mean greater suffering even for those who have tried to warn and prepare. I don't hate them for it, at all, but it definitely saddens me...and angers me.

Speaking of short-sighted...just last week I read an article that made this point so clearly. I read that the Canada Pension Plan had invested $11 billion in an Australian toll highway. I couldn't help but comment at the CBC webpage where I read the article, that this seemed a rather stupid gamble to me. This drew a few disparaging comments in return, which shows many Canadian financial types do not see peak oil as any kind of issue. Personally, even if peak oil wasn't an issue, I think privatized infrastructure (like highways) is a BAD thing that I do not want my part of our pension plan to be supporting, whether it will earn a strong immediate return or not. Luckily for anyone still reading, I will not make this post any more boring by explaining my reasoning for this just now! If anyone is interested, however, Max Keiser talks about this very issue in the last 10 minutes of his most recent Truth About Markets radio show. Max can get a little crazy but I really appreciate his ideas about BOTH the private and public sector being necessary, in appropriate balance and scale.

Thankfully, there are so many things in my life again now that are still able to alleviate sadness, heaviness, and/or anger in a moment, or a breath. Like late this afternoon, taking a few steps away from the idling tractor, standing on a low rise, looking off to the west toward the low sun glinting back at me and mixing stunning pinks into the blue of the clouds (all that CO2 certainly makes more stunning sunsets). The slow breeze had backed off and the mild, darkening afternoon forced a grin onto my face. I am glad for all my wandering, but this is most definitely right for me now. Its a looooong way from balanced, but I surely feel that I'm on the right path, even as the world goes to shit.

Peace and comfort to all.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Samhain and A Sort of Beginning

I knew it was a good idea when a nearby tree offered up a near-perfect stick.

This might seem an odd way to start a post with Samhain in the title, but I think it will make sense eventually. Being of at least half, perhaps as much as 3/4, Scottish blood, I find myself easily drawn to pagan Celtic lore and ceremonies. This is especially true as I open to the importance of balance. As such, Halloween is coming to be more powerful to me as the eve before Samhain (pronounced sow-en) than the more recent christian derivation or even the modern dress-up and gorge on candy or booze fests.

I decided this year to make a special effort to celebrate this end-of-harvest and Celtic New Year day. I had originally intended to have a bonfire on the bank of the lake last night but, as it is wont to do up here, the weather intervened and it was a shitty windy evening. I came home already thinking to next year and perhaps inviting some family and friends if the weather was decent. But today was a calm and rather lovely, although still rather cold, day do the urge to do something this year returned.

I used some logs which were originally cut for the old house wood heater which is burned so very very rarely nowadays, to build a firepit on the very edge of the bank of the lake. I had to carry the logs quite a little distance so two trips, bearing 4 logs each time, was nice exercise and kind of rough on my niggling lower back. The last 7 logs went over in the back of Dad's truck. Just as darkness was set in, around 7 pm now that the clock has fallen back an hour, I had My little box of fire alight. I realized I would need a poker stick so I went to a nearby fallen dead tree where, lo and behold, I was able to snap off a thick but gnarled branch of the PERFECT height to lean on, which also had a spot at the top which fit my hand ideally. Obviously the spirits were pleased so I spent the next two and a half hours enjoying the flying sparks, fresh air, and a moon oh-so-near full, all the while pondering the year past and the one coming, the revitalizing winter before that which now seems begun, and souls close to me which are now passed from this world.

The evening was definitely chill, harvest is WELL done with now, but near the fire it was just a fantastic night. I could well imagine a larger fire, perhaps two or three or more, with family, friends and neighbors milling around and sharing the special night. I am hoping that within a few years, this day will mean inviting the community to share an evening on our farm, reversing the trend of isolation and stand-offishness towards "outsiders" which can be quite heavy in part of my family. I want our farm to be important to the community, from a leadership and spirit standpoint.

In truth, I was quite intent on this plan for another reason, so I think I would have had the fire tonite anyway, even had it been -15C. The reason for this is that I learned of a close family death yesterday. It seems that my brother and his new wife had been pregnant and there was a they lost what was to be their first child (for which I know they have been hoping so much...) and I lost my first niece or nephew. As Samhain is a time of a blurring between life and death, I felt a strong impulse to use this powerful day to celebrate this and all such brief lives, and to grieve with my brother and sister-in-law...even over thousands of miles. I know God or Mother Nature or whichever, have their reasons for such things, and balance can be a grim business at times.

For this reason, and for others, this tradition will continue at our farm until (God forbid) it is no longer possible to do so. I hope that it will grow and grow.

Peace and comfort to all, especially to we Northern Hemisphere folk who are now entering the darker half of the year. And peace to you, little niece or nephew.