Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015: Year of Soil, Part I

Round Up sprayed on "weeds"
by one of our neighbors early this past Spring.
For the first time in modern history, an entire year has been dedicated to soil. 2015 is
none too soon in my view. When I see the desecration from Round Up and feel the
loss of life of the soil and all its inhabitants, my whole BEing is filled with grief.

The 68th United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the 
International Year of the Soils. And not a minute too soon,
 if you put any stock in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1937 warning:
 “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”

For decades, we’ve been poisoning our soils with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
 We’ve been overgrazing and overfarming our soil to the point that 
what were once prairies and grasslands teeming with life, 
are now lifeless dust fields.

     from Organic Bytes weekly e-newsletter

In the week past I attended one day of a two day conference in Richmond, California: Soil Not Oil (the title originated from Dr. Vandana Shiva's book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Change). Those of you living in the Bay Area are well aware that Chevron has a huge refinery that periodically spews toxins into the air threatening the health and well being of Richmond's inhabitants. So, in my humble opinion, it was no accident that Richmond was chosen for this awesomely stellar conference and its mayor gave the welcoming address.

Before my life changing illness, conferences, lectures and such were common places for me to accumulate information. Once the rooting process at MuRefuge began my attention shifted to listening to the ancient knowing of the land and its inhabitants. This conference spoke to me and I am ever grateful to have listened. The basic message of the day was that global capitalism, practicing extraction from our planet to pour dollars into investors pockets and patriarchal dominance, is no longer viable. Regeneration* was the "word of the day" so to speak. 

     *"Regenerate: to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the

      the moral nature; to cause to be born again" New Webster's Dictionary, 1997

The myths that capitalism wants us to believe are now repeatedly refuted with hard science and logical approach: the land tilled (raped) by agribusiness grows little food to feed the world. This land is used to raised crops for biofuel or to feed animals, mostly cattle, in feed lots. Growing nontoxic healthy food is a solution to climate change. Not tilling the soil 
and not using manufactured fertilizers nor soil amendments, not using herbicides nor pesticides (oh my gosh how those practices would undermine agribusiness capitalism!) is the foundation for regeneration of the soil. Research has repeatedly been done to demonstrate that tilling the soil is detrimental to its maintaining its vibrant, dynamic population of worms, insects and microscopic organisms that not only absorb carbon but feeds the plants living in undisturbed soil as well. Growing food on the present amount of land presently farmed world wide is enough to feed not only the present population but the one predicted for the future IF regenerative practices replace the capitalist ones so widely now used.

Soil carbon restoration can be accomplished with methodical practices, and with many of us participating we can make a difference in climate change. Each one of us have the choice whether to support in our daily lives the present path to our extinction OR alter our beliefs, attitudes and habits and get on board with regeneration of the soil. 

The action steps printed below have been copied from the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter

How can you take action in your own life to restore carbon to the soil and help rebuild the marvelous system that nature has put in place to renew our atmosphere?
Below are just a few of meaningful action steps for farmers, gardeners and homeowners, landscape managers, consumers and businesses, activists and educators, and policy makers to take. We will be editing and building on this list regularly, so check back often.
  • Plant nitrogen fixing cover crops and living row paths.
  • Incorporate no-till or shallow till practices.
  • Recycle biomass with livestock (grazers, browsers, compost to poultry).
  • Replace pesticides and fungicides with diverse beneficial organisms.
  • Incorporate perennials or pasture cropping into your farm plan.
  • Plant your lawn with diverse species, including deep rooted grasses and nitrogen fixing species like clover.
White clover growing between all our gopher proof raised vegetable beds
and our Tootsie Rolls (the 2 youngest female
Indian Runners) who by the way are now
producing daily an egg each. 
  • Mow, cut back, and/or heavily mulch over weeds instead of pulling.
  • Incorporate multi-layer, perennial, diverse plantings into your yard.
  • Compost, rather than burn, your yard waste.
  • Plant nitrogen fixing cover crops and living row paths.
Landscape Manager
  • Emphasize perennials in plantings and fill in gaps with annuals.
Spring flower annual natives growing amicably with native
Nodding Needlegrass (Nassella cernua) beneath one of my favorite trees the
Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) which fixes nitrogen and is a native to the
Eastern U.S. but has naturalized in California.

  • Incorporate nitrogen fixing trees and perennials into the landscape.
  • Minimize the use of pavement and unproductive mulch.
  • Maintain diverse forested buffers and perimeters (can be productive).
  • Mow, cut back, and/or heavily mulch over weeds instead of pulling.
Consumer, Investor, Funder or Business
  • Purchase food from farmers that use regenerative and organic practices.
  • Stop buying from/supporting large scale, conventionally grown soy, corn, canola and cotton products which use synthetic nitrogen and persistent herbicides, contributing to massive soil loss every year.
  • Compost your kitchen waste.
  • Consume only 100% grass-fed and pasture raised meats, looking for farmers and ranchers prioritizing soil building.
  • Invest your food dollars in local farmers building soil, invest your climate action donations and advocacy into reforestation and reversing desertification (rehydrating the land) locally and globally.
  • Advocate against factory animal operations and for properly managed grass and pasture based farming.
  • Support replanting your local environment, support diverse meadows and deep rooted grass landscapes
  • Get to know diverse plants and biodiverse ecosystems in your region.
  • Invest your climate action donations and advocacy into reforestation and reversing desertification (rehydrating the land) locally and globally.
  • Study soil microbe biodiversity and support composting everywhere.
Policy Maker
  • Rule out synthetic nitrogen fertilizers on athletic fields, institutional and public park lands.
  • Prioritize climate funding for carbon farmers and ecosystem restoration.
  • Align local building codes with biodiversity and habitat regeneration and protection.
  • Emphasize development projects that regenerate, preserve, and do not destroy soil ecosystems.
  • Prioritize green infrastructure for coastal and inland flood management.

Did any of you view 20/20 last week? David Muir was at the Vatican with the Pope who then communicated with people gathered in 3 U.S. cities (Los Angeles; McAllen, Texas; and Chicago). I was brought to tears as the Pope opened his heart to these people telling their stories. Pope Francis is an beatific  amazing BEing; an exemplar for each of us whether Catholic or not.
"Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, 
its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems 
which may be gravely upset by human intervention . . . .
It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection
of nature with financial gain, or the preservation
of the environment with progress.
Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster."
Pope Francis, Papal Encyclical "Laudato Si," June 18, 2015

As we each consider how we each may contribute to this exciting life giving process of restoration, may we


  1. From my dear, longtime friend in Palm Springs: "Excellent Cathie!! Lots of great information. And the kids are getting so big! Theyre so cute."

  2. An email from Healdsburg, CA: "Outstanding. Now if I can just find a way to print it so I can read it over and over...
    And that is one amazing pope!
    Your Tootsie Rolls are cuties, and the flowers and other exuberant growth are inspiring.
    thanks again for sharing.

  3. An email from San Francisco: "We all have to do our part."

  4. I will place this latest blog in a prominent position so that I can refer to it when I am choosing plants, doing yardwork, basically any gardening.
    It is hopeful in the power it gives individuals.
    I am very sad to lament the loss of Sonoma Compost our go-to place for mulch. Thank you again, Cathie, for your thoughtful and inspiring piece.

  5. A recent email: "Hi Cathie,
    Outstanding blog with much thoughtfulness .....splendid & helpful details to say the least.
    Truly appreciate all the caring and sharing that you do for others...much GRATITUDE, Cathie!!
    Looking forward to reading Part 2 also!!

    MUCH LOVE......Vickie :) "