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Trashing the Environment to Support Environment?

September 23, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes the things that just make me go huh? So there was a big protest this past weekend in New York City. Environmental concerns. Aren’t we all concerned about the environment?

I mean I bought a travel mug that goes with me any time I go to an event so I don’t have trash and styrofoam cups around. Reduce packaging, reuse, recycle, compost…of course we want the environment healthy. Send money to the Arbor Day foundation to support growing trees and the environment. There is too great of a danger if we don’t take care of it – from water use to electricity to what we do or use in our outdoor living space.

But face it folks – we pee and take a dump in water then flush it “away” – how many for composting toilets? Ewww right? Let someone else do that environmental thing. Never mind what cities do – let’s talk about agriculture right?

Lets. Please. Because to some it’s an obsession the last few months…runoff, contamination, glyphosate, poison…the words come like an ag version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. So this spot has some challenges. Consider it a magnifying glass for bigger farms. It sits lower than the road on the side, and drops several feet from where I’m standing to the grass line. The grass has been cut down and there’s a few tomatoes and peppers planted out there, as I try to decrease the weeds and lay out growing areas with challenges. A small ankle deep ditch (or observation after a rain storm!) shows where water runs off this hill, hitting about 10 feet from the left side edge. The lowest area is about half way between the utility pole and tree, back a little over 100 feet. The low lying area means we can’t till this up (initial thought) because if we do when it rains (and it will!) not only will it erode out and destroy what’s planted, but it contaminates further back. What little good soil is there we’d like to hang onto! This means a grass covered waterway, which will make it difficult to mow and grow on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnter raised beds. Something like at right. Labor intensive, lots of fill needed 5×10′ raised beds across that space with four foot walkways that allow for water flow. The grass in the foreground will be maintained – and improved – as forage for the rabbits. The four foot walkways could hold portable pens for geese or chicks or rabbits to be rotated. Pushed up in the first 15 feet or so a dozen raised beds fit well. Could be up to 36-40 in this space plus the critters. Some beds will have accessories – greenhouse elements. Are we green enough yet?

In that spot towards the back weeds have grown up. After mowing some of it was sprayed with glyphosate (after consulting several other farmers, both organic and conventional, for ideas) – short of a moldboard plow (which we don’t have access to!) glyphosate was the recommendation, especially because we’re not certified organic. So…bought a convenient sprayer with Roundup. Sprayed. The weeds…flourished. Thrived. Turned green and grew. What?! This can’t be!!

It’s all over the internet that Roundup is the death of anything it touches! Monsanto is poisoning everyone, so says the protestors. Yep. The weeds grew. Cut again. Try #2 – some turned brown and died. Whether from the Roundup or seasonal I guess could be argued but I hope the $15 did *something* to kill them. This is an area that hasn’t been sprayed in, that we know of, at least 8 years. No resistance can be argued. In order to plant useful forage with deep roots, it must have a chance to grow without competition from weeds. Even thought of putting one of those natural swimming pools in this low spot, building around it and planting nothing.

So we have less weeds, a basic layout, a challenging area to grow in that sits lower than the land around it. It’s not wetland, but stays damp in the soil enough to not need irrigation without being too wet. Drainage is good, drying out not a problem. Because of the volume of water coming off that hill (especially spring storms), compost, spraying, how the land sits is huge in planning. Balance. Compost bins would have to be on the right side out of camera due to staying dry. The hoop greenhouse would be on the right, secure on a slight slope, catching morning sun on winter mornings.

Most people protesting probably don’t think of these things.  Some reports online of the trash left behind made me wonder. While they protest farmers using pesticides what does more damage, a gallon of pesticide distributed over several acres or the amount of waste created by just one city? How much water is conserved by those seeking to capture and reuse rainwater for crops or gardens and does it matter if it’s flushed? You ok with filtering that out and drinking again?

The truth is it’s up to everyone to look at an environmental mindset – it’s not just for someone else to do but for all to do. Looking at things from a long term best practice is a good thing. As my friend Katie points out in the wake of pesticide talks on Dr. Oz, not everything said is true. Experts have opinions too, but that doesn’t make it fact.

So how green is your life?

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