Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Egonomics

We all try to make our difference in the world. It seems like a more than human task to "save the world." But all it really takes is small steps.

My step: my first ride on the Maui Bus.

There is a stigma that exists with public transport. People's acceptance of public transportation is based on status, or better yet, perceived status, and that making use of it is somehow injurous to their person. They may support its existence, but never actually ride it. The notion is that you appear to be poor and don't have the resources to pay for a car (or gas, insurance, repair bills, cleaning, GPS, moon-roofs, cupholders...). It often seems that the more convenient something is, the less some people are willing to use it, the decision purely based on how they feel about it. It also seems that the more inconvenient something is, the same group is proportionately just as likely to adopt it. Really, how much of a convenience is it to have a car? Ok, on Maui, it is almost necessary. Almost. But in many places, it is straight ludicrous to own a car, for reasons such as taxes, parking, traffic, theft, and other needless headaches. The only reason to own a car would be to flaunt the affluence to those who, honestly, don't really care (and if they do, then they aren't worthy anyway). Although I am also to blame, it seems odd that pride has much to do with our preferences and lifestyle decisions. Why do people fly in terribly uneconomical, inefficient private jets? Because they can! And they want people to see them in it. Why else? Of course they wouldn't be caught actually sitting next to any of those people, else they'd take the coach, row 56, aisle seat to L.A. on Southwest. It's not economics, it's egonomics.

But I digress, back to Maui. With the introduction of the Maui Bus, there is now an option to car indebtedness, and egos can be put to the test. Granted, the Maui bus schedule is lacking in frequency as well as stop numbers, but Maui's ridership is small at the moment. As it catches on, routes and schedules will improve, and that's economics. Egonomics is people riding alone in their car, watching their neighbor in the rearview, going to the same place.

Riding the bus can provide much benefits. Apart from the obvious like less pollution, you can read, nap, listen to music, chat with a friend/other member of society, and text others on your cell-- all while not having to worry a bit about traffic, weather, other wonderfully considerate drivers, and adjusting the a/c or radio. It is much more relaxing to read a book in traffic rather than be in the driver seat stressing about stop and go traffic. Best of all, if you get into an accident, it's not your fault! Isn't that enough to get you onto the bus?

So I will take a trip on the Maui Bus and take my small step out of my ego--if only for a day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

I haven't posted in a while so I figure Earth Day would be an appropriate day to make a comeback.
What did you do for the earth on its day? Since today was Wednesday, I attended my Master Gardener class. We learned about growing vegetables and herbs organically. Our guest lecturer was Theodore Radovich from CTAHR at the UH Manoa Campus. Overloaded with enthusiasm about his subject, he presented the material in a casual and informative manner. We were all fed more than we could handle, but enjoyed the process.

Just watched this video, titled "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil." If you believe in the idea of peak oil, then this would be a good video to watch. It is short, but a good lead into the world of sustainability and organic gardening. It might also be a sign of things to come and what we can expect if peak oil is real.

A friend showed me Geocaching, an interesting way to travel and see the world. Basically, there are these boxes that are hidden around the world. People geotag them, trade with an item left by a previous finder, write in the box's log, and go online and say they found the box at such and such latitude/longitude. Others can find the boxes and do the same. What an idea. Almost useless in its practicality, but so cool that it deserves commendation.

Last week I attained employment at I place I frequent quite a bit, Kula Hardware and Nursery. It is an easy job, but still challenges me in the aspects that I desire. I wanted to work there to become more familiar with plants, both local and exotic, gain plant disease and pest knowledge, and also meet the growing growing community and become a part of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bountiful Hoods

I know I've mentioned this before, but restating it just shows how important it really is to all of us, whether you are concerned or not. I pulled this story about commercial agriculture in America from www.farmpolicyfacts.org. We all need to take at least a bit of our future in our hands (literally). We may never escape taxes, oil, foreign markets or junk mail, but we can all mitigate our dependence on imported foods and commercial agriculture, with all of its inherent weaknesses.

Imagine a small ficticious community with 10 homes. Each house has a family consisting of two parents and two children. Each home is on a quarter of an acre lot. This community was relatively close and friendly with each other. Apart from their regular professions, they also all had a penchant for home gardening. No one is an expert, but enjoys growing things. Now let's say that they get together and discuss that each family can produce one crop, enough for their along with the other 9 families. Each crop was one that was commonly used, and also commonly imported. Limes, tomatoes, peas, oranges, apples, various nuts, lettuces, potatoes, corn, and bananas for example. Each family grew their crop as a hobby, not by coersion. Imagine the benefits of such a system.
Now, don't go putting words in my mouth like "utopia" or "communist" or anything like that. This would simply be a neighborhood getting together to grow locally what they usually import. These are crops that are relatively easy to grow and wouldn't take up much of a backyard. Mind you, this wouldn't replace their total nutrition, but suppliment it. Now imagine that each family grew two crops! We could add such things like berries, broccoli, eggplant, garlic, avocado, beans, squash, herbs, papaya, and onions. Such advantages (better nutrition, stewardship of the land, education, economics, social building, lessening dependence on outside forces, less pollution, etc.), could be reaped that it seems strange that this isn't a common thing (at least not to me, nor to this era). Maybe this was more common in the "old days" or "tough times." Well I would argue that now is a tough time for many.

I realize that this imaginary neighborhood is highly idealized, but to a lesser degree, it is completely possible and even established in some places. This idea of community and sharing is one of the cornerstones of permaculture.

We may not need to have our food shipped 3400 miles or depend so much on the large farm industry.

Imagine the possibilities...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Maybe Athletes Foot Isn't So Bad...

I am always inspired by TED videos and speakers. If you don't already know about them, have a look for yourself and you will become their greatest fan.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maui Food Sustainability

I've been thinking about the idea of the island of Maui being self sustainable in terms of food. Would something like this be possible? Could we really supply all that we consume in homes and restaurants on this small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean?

I would like to think it is, but I haven't done the calculations. I read that supermarkets only have a 3 day food supply. So if for some reason, we couldn't ship food here, we would only be stocked for three days. It may not be possible to make Maui completely self sustaining, but I'm sure we are far from being as good as we could. How could we create an independent food surplus?

I don't believe it would require all to take to their backyards armed with hoes and seeds, although that wouldn't be a bad thing. I don't think we would have to slow down much, though again, it might not be negative. It would require, however, a shift in values and philosophies about the land, capitalism, human interaction and heightened awareness of the natural world. This would probably prove to be the largest obstacle, as we are creatures of habit.

Some steps we could take to move towards paradise sustainability would be to:
-have fruit/productive trees in parks and public areas
I would love to walk through a park and pick some fresh mangoes or mulberries from the tree I was sitting under. Nutritious and free.

-use unused lots in the "city" for food production
I wouldn't say Maui has any real cities, but the unused urban land could be used for something productive that could either be sold in a market, or donated to families/communities who need it. People could volunteer or be community service hours for lawbreakers.

-school gardens
Schools could independently provide some of their food, reducing need for gov't funds. Students could have the satisfaction that they grew their own food.

-youth gardening programs
Getting the youth accustomed to veggies and gardens would be a large step. If more people grew up with gardening skills, they would be more apt to use them.

-rooftop gardens
What wasted space the roof is. They get great sun and rain exposure and take up a large percent of urban space. Reclaim the roof.

-city parks/gardens
Imagine a park where all could go to see how gardening is done. With beautiful as well as useful/productive plants, people would be inspired to recreate it at home. the park garden would provide useful examples of plant companions, resource management and layout to assist the home gardener. The garden could also sell plants to subsidize its existence.

-dedicated place for a farmers market
I have been to the Maui farmers market in the Maui Mall. It looks pretty sad, with a couple of tables of fruits and vegetables. And come on, the Maui Mall! Who goes there? If Maui had an area designated for a farmers market, possibly enclosed, complete with information on farms, gardens, growers, latest guidelines, tips, contact information, etc., it might be a more fruitful venture for all.

-Maui specific online resources and education
You might often read gardening tips that are irrelevant to your situation. Do I really need to read about last frosts here on Maui? No. What I want is water requirements and heat/sun preferences, soil recommendations, etc. that relate to my situation.

-label food with foodmiles (the distance it travels from farm to store)
I am willing to bet that if all things being the same, you would choose the strawberry that travelled 5 miles, opposed to 500. That would motivate local farms to supply the local demand.

Just some ideas. I will to share them with those at the Master Gardener class, including the instructor.

Challenge #3: Tell one person about this blog

I came across this article that deals with farming, the global economy, oil, global warming, and all that junk and thought you all should read it. Those oil men really do control the world. From the blog of PMH Atwater. This story is about mariju..., I mean, hemp.

Read the article then think about why hemp is illegal, not how you feel about it.

An article about food safety and the future of it going down the drain. We can have an impact if you believe you as an individual can foster change.

Challenge #3: Tell one person about this blog. A friend would probably be easiest.

This may seem a bit self-indulgent on my part, but if you believe in and appreciate what I write here, then you ought to share it with others. On my side, more activity will provide motivation for bigger and better things.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Master Gardener: Week 2 Botany and Plant Propagation

Let's delve right into it. Today was plant botany and propagation. Lot's of horticulture minutae was tossed around today about dicotyledons and chlorophyll and stomata and germination and xylem's and rhizomes and... that it was hard to catch it all. Although I don't have a superb memory, it is amazing what interest will do for your retention of the subject. Many of the concepts were familiar, but again, many were not. I did my best to find places to fit the information in my brain.

The plant propagation section was especially fun, as we had hands on time working with plants and practicing various methods of propagation. There are many ways to propagate a plant, the most common being from seed. Some other common ways are division, grafting, layering, budding, and cutting. Of these, I had experience with cutting.




These pictures are from the MCC demonstration garden. We are learning and practicing "air layering," a propagation technique.


I now have new tools in my attack on the yard. Next week we will cover soils. Can't start nowhere but from the ground up.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Time to Mow the Lawn

Today is a day of stolen materials. First article comes from the SeattlePI.com written in 2005 by Ann Lovejoy. She extols basic lawn maintenance, should you decide you need it.

The Truth About Clover and Dandelions

By ANN LOVEJOY
SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER

This spring several readers have asked how to cope with dandelions in their lawns. Personally, I enjoy dandelions. I was recently in an orchard of ancient, sagging fruit trees in brave bloom despite their age. The trees stood in shaggy grass generously spangled with starry golden dandelions.

It was a lovely picture, and I think it sad that many people who might appreciate the scene as a picture would feel compelled to destroy it should the same sight occur in their own backyards.

Why do we feel such disdain for dandelions? For much the same reason that we dislike clover: we have been taught to. A few decades back, clover was a standard item in nearly every lawn mixture sold, countrywide.

A natural nitrogen fixer, clover stores atmospheric nitrogen captured from the air in little white nodules on its roots. (This trait is shared by all members of the legume family, from peas and beans to Scotch broom.) When annual clover dies, the stored nitrogen is released as natural plant food to nourish the lawn.

Annual clover was a standard addition to most turf mixtures because it grew lush and green where soil was too poor to support turf. In dying, it enriched the soil, making a more hospitable situation for slower-growing grasses.

Indeed, most lawns, private or institutional, were traditionally a healthy mixture of several types of grass blended with low-growing perennials, such as veronica and lawn daisies.

Today's mainstream lawns are far less resilient and less drought-tolerant than our ancestors' lawns because they don't represent a healthy ecosystem but an artificial and rather weak monoculture.

What happened? We got sold a bill of goods. As the chemical companies began looking for more ways to market their products, they realized that blended lawns represented a market opportunity.

If people could be taught that anything but turf grass was a problem in a lawn, chemical toxins might become an attractive alternative to weeding.

This marketing ploy succeeded to the point that North Americans spend billions of dollars each year on lawn care, much of which ends up as toxic pollutants in our natural water supplies.

So must you bite the ecological bullet and tolerate dandelions? Not necessarily. Dandelions are not really hard to get rid of once you know their simple secret. In fact, with this amazing technique, you won't even need to bend over. Like that idea?

Here's the scoop: Dandelions are quickly killed off by a robust, healthy, deep rooted lawn.

I found this fascinating fact in a trade article aimed at the farmers who grow dandelions as a trendy restaurant market crop. (Dandelions are very popular in spring salads and as early steamed or grilled greens.) Conversations with several growers revealed that, indeed, the leading pest for dandelion crops is none other than turf grass. Ironic indeed.

Before you decide to rid your own lawn or meadow of dandelions, try taking off your glasses. See how pretty they look? If you're not convinced, you'll probably want to establish an effective program of turf root building. While deeply rooted grass spells doom to dandelions, it also is what makes lawns more drought-tolerant and resistant to pests and diseases. Ideally, your lawn should have 12 to 14 inches of thriving roots. Typically, irrigated lawns have as little as one to two, so they have some root growing to do.

The essence of this root-building program is very simple: Give all your lawn areas an annual mulch of an inch of compost.

This can be done all at once in late winter or early spring, or in half-inch increments in spring and fall. Dump and rake in compost or use a manure spreader to get fairly even coverage. Don't worry about covering up growing grass; it will deeply appreciate the compost nutrients and rebound with zeal.

If you are starting a new lawn or renovating a tatty one, this technique will work for you, too. Spread the compost, then overseed with a drought-tolerant, regionally reliable turf blend, such as D. F. Marks' Low Mow.

The grass will come in stronger and more deeply rooted each time you carry out this simple practice. As the grass roots knit together and penetrate more deeply into the soil, several things happen. The turf becomes more drought-tolerant and less attractive to crane fly larvae. In addition, the dandelions begin to die.

In many cases, the dandelions are completely choked out in two to three seasons. If you can't wait, here's another secret: Dandelions are most vulnerable to root damage when in flower, especially in spring.

It takes a lot of energy to create blossoms and set seed. In spring, most of this energy comes from the storage root, since the plant's leaves are young and somewhat immature (thus not very good at storing nutrients back into the root).

Roots cut when the plant has made this big investment represent a serious loss from which the plant may never recover. Cutting is less deadly in summer and fall, when the storage roots have been replenished by mature foliage.

Still anti-dandelion? Get out there now with your hori-hori and you may reduce your repeat crop by a third.



Let the grass die. The next one is a joke I found on gardenweb.com that is similar to the above story, and rings true for us.

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on earth? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sodworms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it -- sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn leaves fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No fooling? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a really stupid movie about....

GOD: Never mind. I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.


What is the addiction to lawns? They do nothing, yet require lots of time and maintenace to make them do nothing. If you watched the video, Suburban Foodshed, I posted earlier, you would know that we have yards to grow productive plants, not resource-intensive plants. I hope one day we can all see the ridiculousness of it all, just as God did in the joke.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Think Link

Today I will link you up to some media that I've been consuming and digesting. I don't necessarily agree with all statements, but most of them I believe in.

I have been watching a YouTube cast called Peak Moment for some time now. They are based in San Fransisco (I think), and meet/interview people all over California about green living, peak oil, permaculture, etc. They are very forward thinking and discuss topics that some would rather ignore.

This video talks about oil, energy, and the situation we find ourselves in. We have become so used to cheap energy that we fail to think about what would happen if the fragile chain of supply were fractured or severed. Disregard the wobbly beard, and listen to the mouth within.





This next video speaks about how we as communities can meet the potential food shortages that may occur as populations grow and agriculture fails to meet the ballooning demand.




They have many videos on YouTube and I encourage you to watch some of them. Many of the topics they discuss presume that human cultures are destined to fail if we continue on the path we are on. The interviewees are those who have followed the path into the future, seeing that steps are taken now to prevent inevitable demise.

For those of you living in Hawaii, there is Green Hawaii, a site dedicated to all things green in our state. Clayton (I assume he is the creator), posts information, events, and the latest happenings on the green front in the aloha state. His website is well done, if not a bit overwhelming.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Master Gardener: Day 1

Today was day one of the 2009 Master Gardener (hereinafter noted as "M.G.")program on Maui. Starting at 9:00AM and going til 3:30, it was a day packed with talking. It was a day of introductions of the program, which incidentally began in Seattle in 1972, introductions of students (of which there are roughly 45), introductions of staff, and introductions to the kinds of things we can expect.


Anne Gachuhi, Maui's M.G. coordinator, gave us a fat binder full of information about gardening in Hawaii. Jayme Grzebik, coordinator for the M.G. program on O'ahu, came to introduce the Urban Garden they have there. If memory serves me (and it often doesn't), they have 30 acres of land in Pearly City, between Home Despot and the H-1 freeway. From the looks of it, they do some really cool stuff out there. Lots of stuff for people to look at as far as "how-to" examples, all maintained by their M.G. volunteers.

The part that was most interesting though, was hearing the other students introduce themselves. Many of the students are already highly involved in gardening/growing stuff communities. From people like myself with little experience and just a backyard plot to work with, to community organizers, to transplanted long-time farmers, there is a wide variety of folk. The reasons for joining the program are just as diverse.

Having just recently returned from Taiwan, I am looking forward to joining this community on Maui. From first impressions, this group seems vigorous and hungry to eat of the land. It may prove to be the key to what lies ahead for me.