Insectary Plants and Beneficial Insects by Curlydock

My recent surge of interest in insectary plants and beneficial insects found me in the garden with my camera. I spent about an hour taking pictures of any insect I saw and noting the plant each insect was seemingly associated with.

I did this on September 8, 2007, in my small experimental urban organic garden located in Jefferson County, Kentucky, USA. These are a few of the pictures.

I am not expert at insect identification. If you think my guesses or any other data I give are not correct, please feel free to leave a comment with your own opinion.

To avoid the use of chemical poisons, I hope to eventually have enough of the right kind of insectary plants. The theory is that the right plants will attract the kinds of good insects that predate on the bad insects. Bad insects do bad things like chewing big holes in my broccoli leaves, for example.

I understand that one should not attempt to wipe out the bad bugs altogether. Enough of the bad bugs should exist to feed the good bugs so the good bugs will stay in the garden and not have to leave in search of a meal. While this is not mechanically efficient, an argument could be made that mechanical efficiency is not a sustainable way to relate to the environment.

One should seek the productive balance innate in stabilized diversity and then not sully that balance with pollution, poisons, and the exhaustion that comes from expectations of competitively efficient exponential growth. The correct balance can be productive enough to sustain the lives of farmers and those who depend on farmers for meals, were the world not obsessed with greed.

Since the good bugs burn a lot of energy in their hunt, they need the nectar and pollen of flowers to help sustain that energy. To that end, some plants are better than others at attracting good bugs. The shape of the blossom might help or hinder the access of a particular insect to the pollen and nectar the plant offers. Also, some plants can attract aphids or insects that are specific to that plant and will not harm garden plants but will provide meals for the good bugs. Not all plants bloom at the same time, so in a diversity at least one plant will always be supplying the good bugs with what they need. It is also possible that the wrong plant would attract bugs bad for the garden or host diseases also bad for the garden.

So, it can get complicated. I need to study hard to find the right combination of insectary plants to grow in or near my garden. On the bright side, the complexity of the study is deep enough to keep one interested for a whole lifetime. One need not study rocket science to keep from getting bored. How nature grows diversity will suffice.

bumblebee

Image 417 is perhaps a bumblebee. Some think it is, instead, a carpenter bee. They look a lot alike but I understand the abdomen of the carpenter bee is slick instead of hairy. This insect is beneficial because it pollinates flowers. The bee rests on the flower head of Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). The bee was so still I thought it might be dead or asleep. Or drunk? When I finally nudged it, it moved sluggishly but it never flew or even buzzed all the time I was there.

image 498

Image 498 shows what seems to be a different type and much smaller bee. This one is on a marigold blossom.

image 398

Image 398 shows what I believe is a soldier beetle called Pennsylvania Leatherwing (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus). Many say it is beneficial but at least one said this insect’s value may be exaggerated. Even if it does not eat bad insects, at least it seems to be a good pollinator of Garlic Chives, for there were a lot of these soldier beetles there.

image 490

Image 490 may be a Green Bottle Fly, I am not sure. Green Blow Flies are supposedly associated with decaying flesh, but there were a lot of these really interested in the Garlic Chives. Nothing smelled dead.

image 437

Image 437 may be what is called a “Question Mark” butterfly, but I am not sure. It rested close to corn and beans.

image 460

Image 460 shows a wasp that repeatedly returned for a drink of water from the little watering hole. Many wasps are beneficial because they predate on bad bugs.

The watering hole is made of an overturned garbage can lid. I keep it replenished with water from the rain barrel. I change the water at most after every couple of days to keep mosquitoes from breeding in it and to keep it from stagnating. I had hoped the watering hole and an adjacent shelter hole would attract a toad, but I have not seen a toad yet. I did see a blue-tailed lizard not too far from the water, but that was much earlier in the year.

image 378

Image 378 shows, I believe, the eggs of a Leaf Footed Bug or Stink Bug. The eggs were attached underneath a leaf of broccoli. I did not see any adults this day, but I have seen them before. They have hind legs that are flattened like a spatula or leaf. Some of them may be beneficial, sucking on caterpillars of bad bugs. But I suspect the ones around here are only interested in sucking juice from the broccoli.

image 379

Image 379 shows a moth caterpillar that might be an “Inch Worm”. It has been feasting on the broccoli and a bad type. I hope someday I see a beneficial insect feasting on it.

image 383

Image 383 is a young, I think, type of Harlequin Bug. They also eat the broccoli.

image 433

Image 433 is a Garden Spider, (perhaps Argiope aurantia). I understand that these spiders need a source of water. This one was about 4 feet from the watering hole and very near the corn and beans. I believe spiders are, on balance, beneficial.

In conclusion, many insects could be seen in one hour in my organic garden. Some were beneficial and some were not. Many pollinators were seen. Many destructive insects were seen. I would like to see a lot more beneficial predators. I recently transplanted some Golden Rod to my garden. I found it on a farm in an adjacent county. I have heard that Golden Rod is a good insectary plant. That it aggravates hay fever and allergies is a bad rap and is not true, from what I have read. I plan to introduce more selected flowers in the future. When I planted the Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) I did it for food. I did not know it was an excellent insectary too, until I saw it in action.

Sourdough Starter as Ecological Model

By Curlydock

Ever wonder what your sourdough starter gets up to when you are not looking? I spied on mine with a web-cam for about a day. Now I know the shocking truth of its secret life and will show and tell all in this installment.

Why care

about this? There are several parallels between what happens when you feed your sourdough starter and what has happened on this very planet Earth when the human population began to explode.

In both cases, there is a population of living things in an environment that is limited in size and resources.

The sourdough starter is populated with yeast and bacteria in symbiosis. It needs flour for the population to grow and will consume it all if you do not replenish it. Then, there is a die off or crash in the population as a result of starvation, resource exhaustion and poisoning by the accumulation of waste material. Sound familiar?

Earth is populated with people, all the species that people depend upon, and many species relegated to “weed” category, thought of as expendable because we have not yet figured out how to exploit them. Ecologists and those who understand the need for organic farming methods are among the precious minority who value species diversity. As much as we like to think we can dominate nature, the real truth is that we are also symbiots. Our determination to dominate instead of live in harmony is driving the planet and all its populations into a dead-end.

The sourdough starter cannot grow out of it’s jar. (Well, it can but is not likely to find more flour if it does.) The human population cannot leave this planet in any significant numbers any time soon. (And, even if it does, how much organic coffee can we grow on the moon?)

Perhaps the sourdough starter can teach us something about mindless consumption and procreation. “But”, you may protest, “Unlike yeast, people have minds!” I will counter: “A person in a state of denial behaves automatically and just as if they do not have a mind.” Mindless consumers. Purchase what you don’t need. Throw the left-overs in the gutter. Make babies like the world was going out of style. Well, perhaps it is.

The sourdough starter needs flour. Unless you replenish it, the starter will consume all that is available.

The human population of Earth has developed a crippling dependance on oil and other limited resources. Even if we don’t run out of coal and oil, we cannot continue to use them because their use in this already over-populated planet is what is triggering global warming. So, discovering vast new supplies of cheap oil is no solution. In fact, it could aggravate the real problem. Irony.
Procedure

I mixed 54 g of flour with 103 g of water. To that I added 68 g of vigorous starter. Of that 225 g total mixture, I poured 122 g into a glass jar and loosely coverd with a plastic lid. The glass jar was placed in a temperature controlled chamber in front of a camera. The temperature was monitored and never significantly deviated from 79 deg. or 80 deg. F. For a period of about 12 hours, one picture was taken every 5 minutes, resulting in 150 images.

Results

I selected eight of the 150 images to put here. In each image, you will see that I have inserted a set of numbers at the top center. These numbers represent the duration, in hours and minutes, at the time the image was recorded. So, the first image is “00:00”:

00 hours 00 minutes

The next image is after 2 hours and 26 minutes have elapsed:

snapshot-20070105-140039.jpg

At 02:26 you see the normal layer of “hooch” forming. I did not know until I did this experiment that it first forms at the top of the starter. You also see the bubbles of gas forming in the starter, causing the starter to “rise” as it would when used to leaven bread dough. The hooch and gas are the waste products from the yeast and bacteia, the populations of which are beginning to grow rapidly.
At 03:16 the starter has risen a good bit. The hooch layer is
snapshot-20070105-145044.jpg

getting pushed to one corner as the center bulges.

At 03:26 there is another unexpected phenomenon.

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The corner where the hooch was is foaming violently. I say violently because this all took place on a time scale of 5 or10 minutes. This is after almost an hour and a half of liesurly, predictable rise in the starter volume and number of gas bubbles (correlate with population of micro-organisms). I watched this occure on the monitor, bemoaning the fact that all this excitement would be lost to posterity because I had decided to record only one image every 5 minutes. I would have needed a couple of images a second to capture all this short-term activity, which began suddenly and without warning and did not last long at all. I gripped the edge of my seat and practically left greasy nose-marks on my monitor, wondering what this portended for my little microbe-cosm.

At 03:46 the foam is leaving. Where did the hooch go?
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If you look closely you can see the hooch is now all the way at the bottom of the jar.

At 06:26 you see you can’t keep good hooch down.

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Now there are three distinct layers. Under the hooch is a layer of starter that seems to be inactive because there are no bubbles in it. You can’t see it in a few images, but I can tell you it was still very active. Small chunks and particles were seen both rising and falling in the hooch layer. Since the bottom layer was growing, it must be that more was falling than rising. Does this remind you of the economy and the extinction of the middle class?

At 07:01 you can see the first settling of the top layer.
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This tells us that the yeast and bacteria are beginning to die off. They have used up their resource (flour) and are now starving and succumbing to the poisonous effects of their waste products. It looks like the peak occured a bit after six hours in this experiment.

At 14 hours and 30 minutes I ended the experiment.
snapshot-20070106-000205.jpg

The top layer is at its lowest level since its peak. Once it started falling, the fall was pretty monotonous. I could have let it run longer but it had been a long day and this felt very much like the end of history.

Conclusion

Can we take any macro lessons from this micro-biological model? There are some important differences. Our planet, unlike the starter jar that got only one charge of flour, is being re-charged daily with “free” energy from the sun.

The trouble is, we have not been living within the energy budget of the sun since technology allowed us to exploit oil and greed made it inevitable. The energy density of “black gold” cannot be matched by solar, wind, geothermal, etc. Nuclear has a waste problem and the likelihood of catastrophic accidents increases with time and the number of reactors in use.

We may be running out of time to reverse the toxic byproduct of burning fossil fuels: global warming. It may be too late. It could accelerate tenfold or more without warning (remember the foam and the inversion of the hooch layer happened catastrophically). Indeed, there may be evidence of such an acceleration now, see: “Global Warming Already Causing Extinctions, Scientists Say“, by Hannah Hoag for National Geographic News, Nov. 28, 2006.

These sudden accelerations and unpredictable changes can happen in non-linear systems that are under stress. A little push in a certain direction causes changes that themselves add to the push and you get exponential acceleration. The hooch layer suddenly inverts. The die-off caused by global warming or the loss of oil as an energy source could also happen more quickly than predicted by the most dire of doomsayers.

Here is a very good reference for those interested in reading more on the topic of ecosystems that experience overshoot and sudden extinction: “Overshoot in a Nutshell” by David M. Delany.

Personal/Planet Sustainable Survival Practice

If the world changes for the better, it will be the result of decisions made by individuals on a personal level. If we wait for salvation from government or corporate sources, it may never arrive. Many of us have been waiting too long. Now it may be already too late to save the planet. It comes down to you and me.

There are many things each individual can do. Sustainable technologies exist that can be used on a personal and local level. Many of these methods seem old and simple, as indeed they are. Others are not so primitive but are very healthy, like the democratic medium (so far) of the Internet.

Technology is not evil in and of itself. The problem is that science and technology have been hijacked by greed. But there are other ways to use technology.

Here is a list of things we can practice. It is incomplete. I deliberately leave out things like carpooling, walking, using public transportation, etc., because they have been flogged to death elsewhere. Other things, like the root cause of the planet’s problems, even the greehouse effect, being due to overpopulation, and the need to therefore limit our numbers, should be obvious to anybody who wakes up and starts to genuinely seek answers. Overpopulation is not a looming problem. It has been with us too long already. Instead, I list viable methods many people may have never given serious thought to.

Some are methods old to the planet, almost extinct, but new to the modern slaves living in a brainwashed stupor. Try what you can from the list. Add to the list if you can. Research, experiment and let the world know what you learn. I am trying to do the same.

I hope to go in greater detail in later installments.

Intensive gardening

Grow an intensive raised-bed vegetable garden organically. I was elated to learn there is even a way to reap from your garden in the cold of winter. This winter will mark my first winter gardening.

Instead of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that have to be manufactured, purchased and transported, use organic fertilizer from your compost or worm bin. Instead of tap water, use water from your rain-barrel in your garden. It will be better for the plants because it is not chlorinated. You will save on your waterbill. The planet will benefit because energy was not expended processing and getting that water to you.

Insecticides kill not only bad insects but good insects. Good insects do pollination, eat bad insects, help in composting, and condition soil naturally for permeation by air and water.

Herbicides kill plants other than the ones targeted, Even weeds are useful to the organic gardener. Many weeds are edible and nutritious. Weeds are a green manure. Roots of some weeds bring valuable nutrients from deep in the soil where other plants could not reach. Composting these weeds releases nutrients on the surface where the plants we cultivate can use them again.

Agrochemicals leave residues harmful to people and planet. The use of these oil-based products destroys life in the soil. After the abuse stops, soil takes years to recover.

The agribusiness soil is merely a dead thing used to hold the plant upright, and it is barely good for that. The ability of the soil to hold water is degraded, making plants more susceptible to drought. Soil erodes and these chemicals run off as pollutants when it rains. This runoff is toxic to life in rivers and the ocean. The need for irrigation is greater, but irrigating with ground water is also harmful, causing salt-accumulation toxic to even the cultivated plants.

Let’s about-face, people. This is literally a dead end.

Composting

Maintain a compost pile. You can use local inputs costing nothing: lawn clippings, fallen leaves, cardboard, paper, kitchen scraps, weeds (carefully), manure from herbivores, etc. Do not use dog or cat manure because it may harbor disease that infects humans. I live in the city, so I also do not put dead animals in the pile.

There are several ways to compost, broadly known as hot and cold methods. A hot pile happens when the “greens” and “browns” (nitrogen and carbon sources, respectively) are mixed in proper proportion, the pile is not too small, has the right amount of moisture and is turned inside-out and upside-down frequently. Hot piles reaching about 140 F will sterilize many seeds and diseases.

Cold piles are piles that are missing some of the needed ingredients or methods that make a pile hot, but cold piles work too. A cold pile may not finish composting until more than a year has passed. A proper hot pile may be finished in only weeks, depending on what is in it.

A partially finsihed pile may be sifted through a metal screen or mesh. What ges through the screen may be useable but may have more weed seeds that are viable if the pile has not cooked hot enough. Even a cold pile can eliminate seeds, though. I have observed that conditions in a cold pile are ideal for seeds to sprout. But, once they sprout, the seedling will die if it is too deep to get light. And, if it sprouts on the surface, one pile turning will put the seedlings deep in the pile where they quickly become green manure!

As with worm bins, the compost bin will not stink or attract pests if it is done properly. Bury fresh kitchen scraps deep within the pile so they will not attract rats, dogs, etc. If your pile is in the city, you may also want to keep herbivore manure (from cows and horses) out of the pile, merely to control odor. You can use, instead, what is called “green manure”, which is typically a living plant that is freshly cut: grass clippings, weeds, etc.

Composting with worms

Vermiculture is another good basement project. Use earthworms to compost kitchen waste. Cut-up cardboard and newspaper are fine worm bedding. That makes less waste to burden landfills or be recycled outside your home.

When I tried this, I was not prepared for the incredible reduction in volume of the kitchen scraps after they were worked by the worms. They tranformed into little black dots, worm poop! The scraps and bedding became virtually unrecognizable as anyhthing other than good dirt. I was also amazed that I could detect no odor whatsoever from the liquid that drained from the worm bin, worm pee! It took my bin about a full year to mature to this level. That was a bit longer than I expected but I suspecct I did not start with as many worms as I thought I purchased. It’s hard to tell, and I was not about to actually count them. That would have stressed them after already being stressed by shipping.

I use this leachate and vermicompost to fertilze the organic vegetable garden and make potting medium for seed germination.

Composting with worms is not hard to do. Properly done, there is no sigificant odor and no problem with flies.

Water collecting

Use rain-barrels to collect water. This lessens energy use and load on municipal sewer and water supply systems.

Mosquitoes cannot use the barrel to multiply if it is properly constructed and screened.

If the barrels cannot be kept in the shade, the chance of becoming sour or stangant is reduced by periodically dipping out and pouring back some of the water. This gets more oxygen in the water, which is especially important on hot days. A simple trick to maintain freshness is to use an aquarium air-stone and pump in each problem barrel. The amount of electricity used is negligible. You might even find an air pump that will run off an electric solar cell. The brighter the sun, the faster will the pump oxygenate the water; no need for batteries or charging circuitry.

Do not drink rain water unless it has been sterilized by boiling. Remember that it came from your roof where it has probably carried down dissolved bird and squirrel droppings, dead insects, etc.

However, it is better than tap-water for watering your garden because it has no chlorine. You can wash the car (if you must have one), water the lawn, etc., saving money on your water bill. It is soft water because it has not run through the limestone of earth. Once boiled, it is good for washing where you need soft water.

If you don’t like the suspended particles that made it through the screen, a sand filter can be used to remove the particles.

Water filters

You can use sand filters to clean your rain water. There are several types of sand filter.

A coarse filter will quickly remove visible floating things.

The other, the slow-sand filter, is very special. It is a self-healing living organic filter that is capable of making water very clean indeed. It filters water at microsopic level, even removing diseases that affect the roots of plants. The fact that it is a self-contained organic niche with living things in symbiosis puts it, to my mind, in the same class as other personal survival technologies, like the worm comosting bin, the starter used in sourdough bread and the fermentation that makes wine and cheese.

As in the organic garden itself, the substrate becomes populated with beneficial organisms, leaving no room for harmful organisms to grow, even feeding off of them. It is interesting how this theme keeps recurring in the organic world.

The slow-sand filter works by allowing water to very slowly seep through a bed of sand. The filter is not viable until a community of living things inhabit the filter from the surface to several inches below the surface of the sand. They live on whatever they mangage to filter out of the water.

I use an air-lift water pump, driven by an aquarium air pump, to oxygenate and constantly circulate water in the filter, even when the filter is not being used. Also, some s-bend plumbing I use to keep the surface of the head water at least an inch above the surface of the sand at all times. This helps to keep the filter in good health. The life under the surface of the sand will die if it is allowed to dry even a little. But, even if that happens, after restoring the water level and allowing a few days or weeks of circulation, the filter will self-heal!

My first filter ran for over a year. I have never had a filter clog, but it is supposed to be possible. To clean the filter when it is clogged, stir up the surface to suspend the detritus in the head water. The sand quickly falls back. Dip off and discard the muddy looking stuff. Then wait several days as the surface heals.

The slow-sand filters I made produced pristine looking water with no coloration or visible suspended particles. I would not drink it, however, without boiling it. It may be perfectly safe, but I will not take a chance until I have more practice in this method. Someday, I plan to have the before-filter and after-filter water samples tested in a lab. But even if that sample tested clean there is a chance that a later sample would not be clean, especially if the surface of the sand was disturbed in some way after the sample was sent to the lab. The living surface of the filter may easily be damaged if, for example, plumbing going through the surface moves a little bit. So, everything should be rigidly constructed. I made my fliters using plastic storage containers like clean new 30-gallon trash bins and another out of a plastic container meant for holding long rolls of wrapping paper. A better idea, probably, would be to make the filter out of concrete or ferrocement.

Hydroponics

Plants need physical support, correct temperatures, air movement (oxygen and carbon dioxide), water and nutrient salts to survive. They don’t really need soil if they are in a protective environment or enclosure.

You might grow a year-round garden in your basement. There are hydroponic techniques that do away with the need for high-tech. Many plants can be grown in plastic gallon milk jugs without air pumps and without water pumps.

If needed, these jugs can be insulated agains temperature fluctuations by covering them with papiermache (more planet friendly than Styrofoam). It surprised me just how little flour it takes to make the glue used in papiermahe. Paper and plastic jugs are given a new life instead of being discarded.

The trick of doing hydroponics without the need of redundant water pumps and power supplies is to gradually reduce the water / nutrient level as the seedling grows. When the level is 5 or 6 inches below the top of the root system, keep it there. If it rises above that level again the plant will drown! The upper roots become what is known as the “O” roots, or oxygen roots. The roots still in solution are the “WN” roots, or water / nutrient roots.

I stopped my basement hydroponics garden because I became concerned that the HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamp, was using more energy or electricity than could be justified given the amount of food that was produced. But, you can also do hydroponics outdoors during the summer in a screened area. Perhaps you could do it on a roof where it would supplement instead of compete with the organic garden growing in your yard.

If you are growing large plants, like cucumbers or tomatoes, you will need a larger container than the milk jugs. The larger the water / nutrient container, the less often you will need to monitor and adjust the temperature, pH, nutrient and water levels. If you don’t want to use plastic, because it is a product of crude oil, you might build the nutrient tanks using ferrocement.

If you don’t want to use chemical nutrient salts, you can try organic compost tea.

Edible weeds

Carefully educate yourself on what “weeds” you can eat.

Beware: some are poisonous or should only be used after special preparation. Don’t collect plants that were growing next to a busy road where they may have been contaminated by automotive emissions or dog or cat excrement and urine. Be aware that many places have been used as toxic waste dumps. Try to learn the history of the area where you collect. Where has the water been that feeds the area?

What I do is let selected “weeds” grow where they volunteer in my garden. I cultivate them by weeding the weeds, you might say. You may or may not want to make green manure out of them before they go to seed. If a tasty weed goes to seed, the seedlings might make a nice salad when they sprout! Be careful, it is sometimes difficult to properly identify seedlings. Some of the weeds I have tried are extremely delicious. Some are said to be more nutritious than fresh produce from grocery stores. If it should ever come down to it, knowing what “weeds” you can eat may save you from having to go dumpster diving.

Solar cooking

Use solar ovens for baking and cooking.

I was amazed at how easy it is to do this. My very first attempts: baking cornbread and hard-boiling eggs, were entirely successful. It took about 3 hours for each, but I might not have needed to let the eggs take that long. More practice will tell.

These ovens or cookers can be made simply from cardboard boxes, newspaper, aluminum foil, white or wood glue or glue made fom flour, turky oven baking bags, a dark cooking pot that fits inside a covered glass casserole with a lid, and perhaps some of the flat black paint used on cooking grills. There are several types you can construct.

Wood cook stoves

When the sun is behind clouds, you can cook on an efficient wood-burning cook stove.

“Efficient” is the key word here. Through complete combustion, an efficient stove converts all the fuel to heat, water, carbon dioxide and little else. You can par-boil your poke salet with mere twigs for fuel. There will be little smoke or pollution. This is important to me because my lungs are especially sensitive to dirty air.

The stove is made efficient by skill in operation and attention to certain design elements. It needs a flue length and cross section that is able to supply enough air for complete combustion. Without a flue, you could use an electric fan to force the air through, but why use a high-tech fix when a low-tech one works fine?

Also, complete combustion requires high temperatures. The combustion chamber needs to be insulated so heat stays in the chamber. You can use wood ashes for insulation, but it takes perhaps too long to accumulate the ashes. You can also use perlite (heat-expanded siliceious rock) or vermiculite for insulation. My experimental stove was made of perlite held together with refractory cement.

Don’t worry about contributing to greenhouse gases by burning twigs. The carbon in the twigs would go back to the atmosphere as soon as the twigs decayed. The real culprit in greenhouse gases is the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The carbon in fossil fuels stays right where it is until some selfish ignorant monkey burns it.

Preserving food

Preserve food with solar dehydrators.

I have yet to try this, but it is on my plate. I believe driers can be designed in a way to work even in fairly humid environmnents.

This preservation technique requires no high-tech refrigeration. Like solar cookers, driers can be built from cardboard boxes. Neither does it require the purchase of jars and lids, as canning does. Dried food takes less storage space. It weighs less, very good if you’re traveling. I hear that the flavor of some foods improves when the food is dried.

Sourdough bread baking

Bake your own bread.

Particulardy, learn sourdough baking. Using sourdough eliminates a commercial input: yeast. Instead, wild yeasts from the air or the grain itself or even from the human body (the origin is uncertain) in symbiosis (that word again) with bacteria leaven the bread. The sourdough starter takes only flour, water and waiting. Visual and olfactory clues let the baker know when the starter is ready for making bread. The starter is alive, like the slow-sand filter, and must be kept fed and comfortable. It needs more flour and water on a daily basis at room temperature, or a weekly basis if kept in a refrigerator.

Sprouts

You won’t need light but you do need relatively cool and stable temperatures to grow sprouts, another good candidate for basement gardening.

Sprouts are cheap when you grow them yourself. It is said they are more nutritious and more easily digested than cooked seeds and beans. Since they don’t need to be cooked, energy is saved.

You don’t need big sprouting jars, unless you are going into production. If you have several small glass jelly jars, the sort of thing that might end up in a landfill or be re-cycled, you can have an assortment of sprouts at different stages of growth. That will give you just the amount of very fresh sprouts you want each day without the need to refrigerate anything.
Rinse the sprouts seversl times a day in cool water to help them breath and keep them from becoming rancid. Except for the smallest seeds (use a screen or strainer for those), hold your clean hand over the mouth, turn the jar upside down, and drain through your fingers until the water just stops dripping. Return the jar to an upright position and cover loosely with an over-sized non-metalic lid. Be sure flies and gnats cannot get to the sprouts.

If the sprouts smell bad, which might happen on hot summer days, feed them to your worms and start over after sterilizing the lid and jar in boiling water.

Enough mung beans to just cover the bottom of the jar will eventually grow to fill the whole jar!

Conclusion

These personal/planet survival methods are interwoven in many complex and beautiful symbioses.

I used the slow-sand filtered water initially to supply my basement hydroponics experiment. I use the water to hydrate my worm bin when it needs it. I mix flour with the water to make or feed the sourdough starter. Baking would surely sterilize any pathogen that the slow-sand filter may have missed.

I eat vegetables from the organic garden. Scraps feed the worms. Worms produce fertilize for the garden. The circle is complete. There are many other cycles. That is the way nature evolved to work. We should study and nourish these cycles instead of breaking them.

If you want to learn more about any particular practice, search the Internet. Some of the information may be ambiguous or just wrong; time for an experiment! Share what you learn! I plan to continue doing the same. I may not update my blog as often as some do because I will be spending time and energy gaining the experience to share when I finally return to the keyboard. However, I do hope to go into greater detail on some of these methods in future installments.

We can discover an alternative to the way that the world is now organized by man. We get to know the new-old survival technologies. They will help us survive on both the personal and planetary scale. Many of these methods are in reach of even those who are financially burdened. Knowing what weeds you can eat will keep you out of the dumpster. An efficient wood cook stove will not pollute the air or contribute to greenhouse gases and will cost only twigs to operate. With or without the cooperation of government and corporations, practice can renew and sustain our hope of survival.

Practice is so full of surprises that you are never bored. You discover a non-toxic fatigue, but no burnout and no spiritual or emotional damage. You discover something hard to explain but feels ancient and deeply right. The Green Man is waiting in the composting leaves for the next cycle.

You begin to understand how we are misled about our proper role on this planet because the resulting confusion is so profitable for a few. You discern the true meaning of freedom and how liberty is being lost today. Practice will heal your broken lifeline to the living planet. Practice insures your life means something more than that of being a corporate or government slave.

Down with noise, slavery, speed, greed and competition. Up with communication, consideration and cooperation. We can do it.