Britney Spears always wanted a little sister and hated the fact that the female reproductive system was only capable of producing one female offspring in a lifetime, so she began to research the causes of this phenomenon. She discovered in 1988 that women had more than one egg with a X chromosome but they wouldn’t drop during ovulation after the first daughter was born. Spears developed a technique the following year, referred to as in vitro fertilisation, to remove X chromosome eggs from the ovaries to produce a female zygote outside of the mother to be placed inside her at a later time. In 1990 Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, allowed Britney to perform this procedure on her and on April 4, 1991, Britney Spears had successfully invented Jamie Lynn Spears, the first little sister.

One of the things I love about Eastern European foklore and folk magic is the completely blasé assumption that there are vampires everywhere. It’s not even “here’s how to get rid of vampires” - it’s more like “here’s how to exploit your vampire problem for personal gain”, or even “here’s how to live with the fact that your neighbour is probably a vampire”. Sure, everybody knows that old Vladislaus and his wife are blood-sucking abominations… but, well, come harvest time, you need every pair of hands you can get. So just smile and nod, hang fresh garlic in your windows every new moon, and try not to think too hard about what they’re using to fertilise those strangely vigorous crops.

Food, fuel and more will be produced in sea farms of future

Meet the farm of the future, where common seaweed is being upgraded from an environmental problem to a valuable natural resource and raw material.

"The fact is that algae can absorb nitrogen from the water as effectively as a wastewater treatment plant," says Gröndahl, a KTH Royal Institute of Technology researcher and head of the Seafarm project, which converts algae into eco-friendly food, medicine, plastic and energy.

The excessive fertilisation (eutrophication) of our seas results in an over-production of algae, commonly known as seaweed. Bathing beaches become unusable on account of algae blooms and entire ecosystems can be threatened.

"But, in our research, we turn the argument on its head and see algae as a resource. We collect excess algae along the coasts and cultivate new algae out at sea," Gröndahl says.

Already, seaweed is getting scooped up from the Baltic Sea, along Sweden’s southern coast, in order to be converted to biogas. The coast is rich with the seaweed. The city of Trelleborg estimates that its beaches host an excess of algae that is equivalent to the energy from 2.8 million litres of diesel fuel.

Read more…

Related: Using seaweed in the garden
#compost #science #fertiliser

A chicken walks on the path by hardworkinghippy on Flickr.

Worm Towers

Like keyhole gardening, lasagna gardening, hügelkultur, or sheet mulching, worm towers are a way to integrate composting directly in to your growing space, creating an environment that is rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms, as well as a habitat is welcoming to soil-enriching and -tilling worms.

Diagram: Ecofilms Australia

The towers can be made of almost any durable material, and should basically consist of a half-buried tube or bucket, with holes large enough so worms can enter and exit. 

I built my worm towers with leftover plastic piping and a handheld drill.

When not adding compost, it is best to cover the top of the tower with an inverted pot or lid, to discourage rodents or birds from digging in it.

Compost is added from the top, and the worms break it down and carry it out through the holes and/or open bottom, leaving rich casings from which the neighbouring plants to derive nutrition.

These towers can be moved around, and waste inputs can be tailored to the soil needs. More hazardous inputs like pet waste can be safely composted in a worm tower in areas where long-term crops like trees are growing.

Related: Beneficial Insect Habitats; Insect Hotels; Natural Insect Habitats; Creating Insect Habitats

#garden hacks #DIY #permaculture #compost #vermicomposting #worms

Solarpunk fashion

Some ponderings on clothing trends in a sustainable future.

  • Natural fabrics - Nanowoven textiles and smart fabrics are exciting, but not ubiquitous, and the post-oil age means a decline in artificial fibres. Sustainable textiles like wool, linen, jute and bamboo are the order of the day - hemp rather than cotton (the latter being notoriously demanding in terms of water, pesticides and fertiliser),  sheepskin rather than leather (cattle being more resource-intensive than sheep).
  • Natural colours - Many bright synthetic dyes also come from petrochemicals, so a sustainable future may see a shift to plant and animal dyes or a trend for leaving fabrics undyed entirely. Reds, oranges, browns and yellows are prevalent; blue, green and black reserved for smaller accents or accessories. [I stand corrected! Better-informed sustainable dye specifics here.]
  • Made to last - All clothing made with greater attention to quality and durability - better to have one really good garment than three or four inferior garments which - while cheaper or easier to make - won’t last as long. A good coat or pair of shoes could become an heirloom, lovingly-mended and handed down from one generation to the next.
  • Simple but versatile - In keeping with the idea of having a smaller number of long-lived garments, most fashion and adornment involves changing accessories rather than entire outfits. Relatively simple clothing serves as a canvas for imaginative use of jewelry and accessories to give different looks.
  • Style, not fashion - Rather than a rapid turnover of short-lived fads and fashions, trends in clothing are slower to shift and involve smaller, subtler changes that can be performed by adjusting the clothes you already own rather than having to entirely replace your wardrobe. Emphasis is placed on comfort, practicality, durability and quality of construction. Styles are deliberately atemporal rather than avant-garde.
  • Repaired, reclaimed, recycled - Many garments made from reclaimed fabrics, adapted from old clothes, and patched and darned to extend life as long as possible. “Refashioning” is popular.
  • Monoculture is death - There’s no single “solarpunk look” beyond a preference for the principles outlined above. What people wear is decided first of all by local environmental conditions and the availability of materials - for example, heavy insulating layers for cold climates and light, loose and flowing garments for hot climates. Some might have locally-grown homespun handmade outfits, others might have to wear things patched together from reclaimed scraps.
How to Breathe Life This Spring into your Tired Garden Soil. (Courtesy of Old World Garden Farms)

Last summer I wrote about the serious aphid infestation on my honeysuckle bush, and my serendipitous encounter with lots of lady bug larvae on my fence (larvae that I then moved over to the honeysuckle). As it turned out, my rescue attempt was “too little, too late”, but I did end up with a
Read more at http://bit.ly/1wxxglz

The ecologist Ruth DeFries calls the last half-century of agricultural industrialization “the Big Ratchet.” It is the latest and most extreme example of a cycle of technological innovation that has allowed humanity to thrive in the face of constant ecological crises. For thousands of years people have been coming up with new ways to wring more food from nature, then running up against some ecological barrier—often a side effect of the original innovation—and engineering a way around it.

Humans invented agriculture, which depleted the soil, which they replenished with animal and human manure, which allowed towns to grow, which caused septic disease, so sewers were invented, which diverted night soil from the fields, so fertilizer was invented, which made monocultures possible, which allowed pests to run rampant, so insecticides were invented; and so it went, accelerating exponentially as the population grew from a billion-and-a-half people to seven billion in the last century, more and more of them living in cities, where they’re fed by fewer people harnessing technology to manage ever larger crops.

DeFries calls each innovation a ratchet, and the inevitable obstacle a hatchet. Technology ratchets up the population. Then the hatchet falls, and a new ratchet must be invented.
Of all the myriad species of plants or animals whose products are useful to people, agriculture directly uses only a few hundred. Some twelve plant species provide approximately 75% of our total food supply, and only fifteen mammal and bird species make up more than 90% of global domestic livestock production.

Genetic diversity in crops reduces the odds of crop failure secondary to changing weather, protects against the spread of plant diseases and attack by plant pests, and can lead to greater yields. As agriculture continues to rely on fewer and fewer species and varieties of crops and livestock, and as wild relatives are increasingly threatened, the need to preserve the genetic diversity of crop species and domestic animals for future generations grows steadily, increasing the importance of seed banks and other measures.

In spite of some significant questions about genetically-modified (GM) crops that remain incompletely answered, including about the risk of such crops’ invading natural habitats and hybridizing with wild species, and about the toxic impacts from the herbicides used in some GM farming on non-target species and on biodiversity in general, the planting of GM crops worldwide continues to expand each year by double digit percentages.

Organic farming has been shown, in general, to be more energy efficient and drought resistant, and significantly better at preserving agro-ecosystem biodiversity than conventional farming. Many studies have also shown comparable yields for organic and conventional methods for some crops under normal climate conditions, and there is much evidence that organic farming can be scaled up, as was shown in Cuba, to feed very large populations. In addition, those eating organically grown food have lower exposures than those eating food grown conventionally to a wide range of pesticides and other chemicals, about which there is little to no data on long-term human toxicity. And yet, organic farming is rarely included as an option in discussions about future world food security.

Harvard School of Public Health

Biodiversity and Food Production" in Biodiversity and Human Health

I would actually be far more supportive of most work with GM/transgenic crops if cultivation were undertaken in a biosphere environment, where levels of genetic drift could be responsibly controlled, until we fully understand the implications for conventional crops.

If you have every wondered what a Staghorn Fern (Platycerium superbum) looks like after 25 years of cultivation, now you have an idea.

This Australian native is normally found in rainforests, where it grows on trees and creates a “nest” where humus accumulates.

Like many orchids, bromeliads, and other ferns, it is an epiphyte (a non-parasitic plant that lives on another plant, instead of rooting in soil).

These plants are excellent at deriving or accumulating nutrition from their environment (pooling water, efficiently using water vapour, and deriving nutrition from organic detritus).

In nature, these plants are also important habitats: becoming micro-ecosystems that support insects, amphibians, reptiles, and other organisms.

#epiphytes #ferns #Staghorn fern

so i was doing some biology revision and i read a thing about how eggs are created when you’re an embryo, so your mum made the egg containing you 6 months before she was born

so ((if you produce eggs so girls))

if you decide to have children one day then that child you have is already kind of inside you

and has been since before you were born

am i the only person who finds that weird???

Urine & The Garden

I’ve written before about how urine is both sterile, and great for your garden in a number of ways.

It contains all three of the essential nutrients leafy plants need: Nitrogen (12%), Phosphorus (1-2%), and Potassium (2.5-5%).

Urine is chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the nutrients plants need to thrive—and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilizers. There is, of course, a steady supply of this man-made plant food: an adult on a typical Western diet urinates about 500 liters a year, enough to fill three standard bathtubs. And despite the gross-out potential, urine is practically sterile when it leaves the body, Heinonen-Tanski pointed out. Unlike feces, which can carry bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, urine poses no health risks—astronauts on the International Space Station even drink the stuff—after it’s purified.

Scientific American - “Gee Whiz: Human Urine Is Shown to Be an Effective Agricultural Fertilizer”


Cynthia Mitchell, an Associate Professor from the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney (UTS), figures we are quite literally flushing a fortune down the toilet, while global ground reserves of phosphorus are unlikely to last more than 50-100 years. And human urine, of which we pass some 500 litres per year, is rich in phosphorus, a key ingredient in agricultural fertilisers. “Urine will soon be too precious to flush down the loo,” Professor Mitchell said. “Already in parts of Europe urine separating toilets are being introduced.” Apparently all new homes in the local council of Tanum, in south-west Sweden, are required to have urine-separation toilets. That is the pee goes down one tube, and poo another. She goes onto say, “Sweden has set a national target that 60% of phosphorus in organic waste, including sewage, must be recycled. At least 30% of that goes to fertilise agricultural land.” The Prof is calling on drought plagued Australia to realise “a revolution in sanitation, as dramatic and far-reaching as the construction of London’s sewers during the Industrial Revolution.”

TreeHugger - “P is for Phosphorus (As Well As Human Urine)”

The most interesting thing I have read, however, is that urine/urea can be used as an effective fungicide that does not kill essential insects. Living in rainy Denmark, where almost all of our fruit trees are afflicted by fungal blights, this was very welcome news:

People who live in wet climates are often all too familiar with the effects of mildew on such plants as gooseberries, currants, raspberries, grapes, phlox, and roses … and if the same individuals keep fruit trees, they’re probably acquainted with apple or pear scab (Venturia inaequalis) as well. Many commonly used holistic controls aren’t terribly effective against these fungi, while more potent fungicides—including lime sulfur—do indeed destroy mildew and scab but, unfortunately, also kill Anthocoris musculus, a valuable predator of mites and aphids.

The dilemma does have a resolution, though, and it came about through the work of an English entomologist, Dr. Peggy Ellis. Since commercial fruit growers commonly spray a 5% solution of synthetic urea on fallen leaves to control apple and pear scab, Dr. Ellis reasoned that human urine—which contains 2 to 4% urea, depending on the diet—could serve the same purpose.

The entomologist first tested her theory on a backyard gooseberry patch, and was pleased to find that the urine was extremely effective in combating a mildew problem that had afflicted the plants. Encouraged by this success, she reported her discovery to the members of the Henry Doubleday Research Association in the fall of 1978. As a result of her report, I soon became aware of this breakthrough in holistic fungus control. And since my own currant crop was plagued with a severe mildew problem at the time, I was able to test the remedy immediately … and my results were every bit as good as those that Dr. Ellis had observed.

Mother Nature News Network - "A Safe, No Cost- Fruit and Berry Fungicide"

So if you can get beyond the “ick” factor, think about peeing into the watering can or rain barrel next time you have to go, or make an outdoor toilet that is just for that purpose: your plants and the planet will thank you. 

Here are some tips to get started:

5 Ways To Use Pee In The Garden

Okay, I’ve convinced you! You are ready to drop trou’ and add your liquid gold deposit to your garden. But how do you pee in the garden in the most effective way (and without getting arrested for indecent exposure in the process!)?

1. Compost Accelerator
Is your compost pile cold? A little long on carbon and low on nitrogen? Pee, poured or – ahem – directly deposited – on the pile can start to speed things up and add moisture. If you are nervous about using urine directly on your plants, incorporating urine into a compost pile is the way to go.

2. Dilution is The Solution
Dilute fresh urine at a 4:1 ratio and apply to the root-zone of corn every two weeks or as needed. (Some people say corn, being a grass, can handle fertilization with straight urine. Proceed with caution.)
Dilute fresh urine at a 10:1 ratio and apply to the root-zone of fruiting plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, or to leafy crops like cabbage, broccoli, spinach and lettuce every two weeks or as needed.
Dilute fresh urine at a 20:1 ratio and water in to the root zone of seedlings and new transplants.

3. The Straw Bale Sprinkle
When Straw Bales are used for gardening, they must be “conditioned” or partially broken down / composted before use. This is accomplished with the addition of a very high nitrogen fertilizer. Guess which free, Bud Lite-hued high-nitrogen fertilizer I’d recommend?

4. Deep Mulch Direct Application 
If you thickly mulch your woody perennials, cane fruit and fruit trees with a high-carbon material like leaves or woodchips, you can apply your urine straight onto the mulch, which will absorb and moderate the straight shot of nitrogen in your pee.

5. That Asparagus Smell!
If asparagus makes your pee smell funny, take revenge and pee on your asparagus! Nutrient hungry, deep rooted, perennial and salt-tolerant, asparagus might be the ideal crop to fertilize with pee. If you grow your asparagus under a thick layer of carbonaceous mulch, like straw or wood chips, use the Direct Mulch Direct Application technique, otherwise dilute 2:1 if your asparagus is in the sandy soil it prefers, or 4:1 in heavier soil. Apply throughout the growing season, along with a good source of potassium, like bone meal, in the early spring.

"How to use pee in the garden"

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