Thursday, August 29, 2019

Because I'm worth it!

Eating my last slice of raw bannoffi pie, somehow at the optimum defrost: Like a Viennetta! 
So the base is oats and walnuts, then a date paste, then slices of banana, then a whipped up coconut cream layer and finally the raw cacao and maple syrup. 

I know, I know, not all sourced here but what I want to know is how do other raw eaters serve their food?

If it's a dessert, each layer softens at a different rate so many of mine I have like organic ice-cream, 10 minutes out of the freezer, just once the flavours can be detected again. 

Savouries, I warm up a few degrees for a few minutes to dry them out at bit, especially things like my raw pizza.

Has anyone cracked a system to produce something deluxe and raw that doesn't fall apart when fully defrosted?!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

5* and Michelin * versus Harmony Hall Organic B&B

I’m really upping the ante at Harmony Hall Bed & Breakfast. Organic tea and coffee with organic coconut sugar. Organic homemade bread with spelt, toasted organic pumpkin seeds on top. 

Organic jams and organic cereal and milk. Organic bananas, apples and pears. Today pushing the boat out even further, I served organic avocado and organic tomato on toast, with a little organic lemon juice and Himalayan salt on top. Always the raised frequency water and then some background serenading, including Chopin, more Chopin and then Love by John Lennon and Yoko.

Has it occurred to people yet that 5 star hotels and Mitchelin starred restaurants don’t even serve clean food. Don’t even try to. The likelihood is that every ingredient is laced with pesticides. Take your average tea bag – Bleached: Yes, the same chemical bleach people may still clean their sinks with but not here; all shampoo/conditioner/shower gel/ kitchen and bathroom cleaners are not harmful to the environment, chemical-free and no animal ingredients or testing. 

And the tea leaves inside, those tea plants will have been sprayed until the cows come home, it may not have rained for weeks so little of it would be washed away. And the poor people tending and picking the leaves, do you reckon they’re healthy? And/or getting a fair price for their risk and labour?

Every crop needs care: This is rosemary, tarragon, avocado trees and  plum  trees...the onions and cauliflower already harvested. Tomatoes yet to ripen.

So I’m giving my place 7 stars, although it’s unorthodox! For consistently aiming for mindfulness, peacefulness, being cruelty free, fairtrade, organic, acoustic and plant-based. No ducks pulled apart for the bedding. No animals sheered. 

It’s like I met a couple traveling the world but still gainfully employed. He said he was in mobile phone development. I said brilliant, have they made one safe yet to put to your ear or how is that research progressing? He said they’re not even looking at it. Companies are still only commissioning innovations in speed and size. Money no object. Radiation no object. Health no object. At Harmony Hall, we are wifi free and no TV or radio. No one gets to syphon in misery on the consciousness here. I still have a mobile phone but consider that technological harassment really…I know this as I woke up trying to turn off the alarm on it and found myself saying out loud, ‘I said no!’ and we all know that No means no!

Of course, I leave it to you to decide what you actually call quality! Personally, I respect hospitality and sales people who care whether the customer lives or dies.  

Take nothing for granted. That new God-forsaken plastics recycling plant Trifol, in Laois, is selling its 'finest' melted down plastic to coat Irish red apples (Note to self, must do something about that before it gets off the ground. Their process and other stuff is good though so just want to keep their products out of the food chain). If potatoes are not organic, they have been sprayed at least 30 times while they’re in the ground for their short 6 months. Salads, including celery, cucumber as well as leaves are particularly absorbent and should definitely be eaten organic and the body only benefits from the nutrients if they're raw so don't heat anything about 40 degrees if you don't have to. 100% of bread has trace pesticides in it now. And we are eating the equivalent of a credit card-sized amount of plastic every day. 

I know it’s a slow journey to eco awareness and living in line with your conscience. Only some of my breakfasts are fully organic – the Linda McCartney sausages and waffles have a few other things going for them though, like being packaged in simple card and also being tasty and converting many a passer by to give up eating the poor, confined animals, being fed GM and farm-sprayed feeds and hay, which comes into the food chain through meat and dairy.  Don’t think it goes away. Those chemicals accumulate and disable four of your crucial digestive enzymes – hence so much intolerance to gluten. We literally can’t break things down anymore, even if they were once edible.

To know all this, you might worry that I’m on the war path and likely to put people off. However, the atmosphere here is super calm – because of the sacred geometry and solar orientation of the house. The nature of the light and the animals and my energy too make it a rejuvenating place to stay.  It is a laugh and not at anyone’s expense. It seems such an obvious commitment to not trash the environment or the lives of others but it’s so rare to find. It’s no one thing that brings a palpable relief to guests. It is the whole thing: the food, the golden proportion of the rooms, the piano tuned to 432 hertz rather than the more abrasive 440 of your average orchestra these days.

David Corley and Chris Brown (Wolfe Island Records, Canada) in concert here - and Ger on accordion!

And don’t mind the lawn please. I am re-wilding!!! Releasing my addiction to cultivated grass with no purpose and much work and petrol to a labrynth of shrubs with edible fruit and flowers for early-waking bees and another section nut orchard and another part more forest garden, with many layers of canopy. All aiming to provide food for the flora and fauna here – including me. I have thought I had the highest consciousness on the property but it turns out it is held by a little stone I found at Baurnfree. Then probably the birds, then the animals. In between the stones and the animate life, trees and other plants have their superior presence. Dammit, I’m probably at the bottom of the pile. But, if I listen carefully, I can be a good steward of the land at least.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Biochar: Practical Masterclass by Albert Bates

When I say, I understand that farmers do not have time to protest and do not have time to go to workshops on important practices and transitions, like in the use of Biochar (charcoal), I really do. When I say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take good notes’. Again, I really do!

I’m sitting down to write up eight and a half sides of A4 and it’s fascinating, informative and practical, so please read it and incorporate it into your general plan.

You can make biochar in an open pit 

People asked, must it be a sealed unit to produce charcoal? Doesn’t the openness to oxygen, turn everything to ash?

No, the thermo dynamic is created by keeping the flames at the top as the cap, to burn off the gases. 
There is a toroidal motion created by a wok-shaped pit. The heat goes down the centre and gases escape up the sides, leaving just carbon (which is what we want)

In proper conditions (like dryness of woody waste) we can expect to produce 4 wheelbarrows of biochar in 45 minutes. 

In practice, we built the fire out of twigs – one to two inches thick. Then we put the kindling on the top, with cardboard and newspaper and lit it. This is counter-intuitive to the usual arrangement of lighting a fire at the bottom. 

Be mindful of what you are burning. You will not want to use biochar from treated pallet wood onto your land as fertilizer or indeed into feed or as a water filter. Newspapers are usually printed with soya ink nowadays so not toxic and can be used.

Flames are providing the cover, depriving the bottom of oxygen. Therefore, the fire gradually burns downwards. The volatiles will burn off, leaving behind black charcoal. Ash is the second stage burn, charcoal the first. Like, if you blow out a match before it has burned away, charcoal remains.  

When you are getting your fire established keep looking for ash, as an indicator. We don’t want ash so build the canopy of flames further. There might be a flame 5 feet high and this is a good thing. There will not be smoke, only the blur of gases burning off.

Is charcoal from some woods more acidic? 

Yes, there is a recent categorizing called ‘fit for purpose’.  There are more non agricultural uses than agricultural uses. It can be used in building materials and obviously municipal bio-waste would be too contaminated to use for agricultural use. But it is another area for farms to make the most of, that their waste, could be fit for the purposes of water filtration and soil amendment. 

Also, one can check the pH of the soil and choose the pH of the biochar to add.

To what extent does biochar remove carbon from the atmosphere?

One study said half a giga tonne removed over a century but that was when they were only looking at it as a fertilizer.

Charcoal has an amazing structure which both retains the surface definitions of the plant it once was. In the burning process, it can bond to itself. It makes tetrahydral connections that make it ‘recalcitrant’ – i.e. refusing to be released back into the atmosphere. Safely stored, like in the bogs or in coal. 
Peat and coal were formed 360 million years ago, out of just plant matter mineralized and are understood now to be a carbon sump – safe storage for carbon, balancing out the increase in the atmosphere from industrialization.

The Cornell Study from 2010 says that actually bio char could remove 1.7 gigatons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere every year. At the moment there’s 417 parts per million in the atmosphere. Using biochar, that can be brought down to 370 per million. At this point, the ice can start to form again at the ice caps at the North and South poles – which will also correct the ozone holes there, where our atmosphere has been scattered and damaged.          

Non-Agricultural Uses for Biochar

Wider uses for biochar include strengthening cement and asphalt in roads – instead of bunker fuel and tar, used now. It is heat resistant and cold resistant. Massive amounts of roads are being built all the time, especially in China, where there is major infrastructure being put in but also closer to home. They found that if we get onto it, we could have the situation back in balance by 2050.

What can be used to make Biochar and why?

There is a risk of farmers wanting to grow crops specifically to make biochar but it is important that we don’t suddenly justify growing swathes of genetically modified Eucalyptus or other woods. It must be mixed age and mixed species. 
Most importantly, we should use waste products: Wood chip, woodland thinning, litter and bedding from animals. Also, wood furniture, cardboard, paper and all woody waste from the landfills.

In Tennessee the instructor was able to use the waste of two paper mills and chicken litter from a nearby farm. Large biochar operations are underway in Finland and Sweden that process all the municipal waste that is loosely made out of natural materials. Because of wood treatments and their contents, there is a risk of chemicals and heavy metal contamination so it will be important to keep that out of the food chain. However, it can be sequestered in roads and crumbling infrastructure. For example, in bridges with weakened columns, a carbon exoskeleton that won’t degrade at all can be wrapped around and it will not degrade at all. 

News flash: 20 minutes into the pit experiment. There is a clean burn now, no smoke. Always watch for ash as a litmus test. Keep fire on top of wood, not the other way around, as it will stop the oxygen getting to the carbon. The flame is tall.
25% of the weight of non-carbon material is left when finished.
50% is lost but would have been lost anyway.
60-85% carbon will be left. 
That could be as high as 90-95% in the efficiency of a retort (I think this is a sealed reactor). An effective way of gaining our climate goal.

We are starving the bottom of oxygen. You’ll see the gas escaping, not smoke. That’s good! 

In a sealed unit, the volatiles can be saved, stored and distilled for bio-oil, bio plastics and bio-sourced long chain hydrocarbons. Look up studies to understand more how this is harnessed carbon, like coal is not releasing, using or withdrawing carbon. It is safely stored. These are as good as fossil fuels.
We have an opportunity for a new industrial era.

Some countries are already using bio-vinegar, made this way, as a natural pesticide. Also fertilizer is often made from rice husk biochar. This must be in China where they only eat white, therefore de-husked, rice. We would have the same quantities of some other waste product, here.

A rotary kiln is needed to make electricity from the process. In these larger operations, the reactor is placed close to the waste product food shed, be it millet, sorgon by-product or another biomass.

Biochar as fertiliser

Biochar generates a 15% better yield and is one dollar cheaper. Furthermore, biochar is cumulative. It is feeding plants through the nemetodes. That biology starts a process so that after two years, there is no need to apply it anymore.

Worldwide, there are 200 biochar reactors, utilizing wood waste from municipal landfills.
Individual farms can make it out of any wood chip. 
It is very effective in compost toilets and will completely stop the smell of ammonia in any drains, animal barns etc.

Can it be used RAW? No.

We must apply the four M’s to charge the biochar.

1)    Moisten 

A study tried putting raw charcoal straight into soil but it simply drew out all the nutrients present into the pores of the charcoal and the plants wilted. Raw, it is hydrophobic, repels water. It is not good in soil at holding microbes. It has a micro pore structure. It is a carbon skeleton of the original plant. There are pores on the walls of the pores and pores on the walls of the pores. It is fractal!! Microbes stash in core structure – so suitable for compost toilet as absorbs nutrients in. But on the soil, it would absorb at the expense of everything else in the garden. However, real studies looked at biochar, moistened straight out of the fire – started possibly by the putting the fire out process – pouring water (or ideally urine!!) into the bottom of the pit. This activates an hdrophyllic effect – now sponge-like. It makes a time-release possible, in dry periods. Quench with slurry or cow urine, there is a 30% gain over a water quench.

2) Micronize

Ideally biochar will look like rice husks or chip or chips at first. It needs to be ground down into uniform size – the size an earthworm would digest, therefore a powder. 

If you are going to use the biochar to filter and clean water, the biochar should only be broken up to chunkier dimensions, like to the size of BBQ charcoals. A powder would clog up pipes.

3)  Microbialize

This is the adding of microbes. Vocashi is a sort of fermentation and is a fast composting system. Biochar is a coral reef for microbes. Thermophyllic compost, is what results. So, to charge the biochar, put it in the compost to absorb the microbes by filling in its pores.

4)  Mineralize

Microbes need food. Adding the biochar to a good compost pile will do it or add the particular mineral lacking.
After these four M’s: Moisten, Micronize, Microbialize and Mineralize, you have:
Charged Char.

Charging the Biochar: Do this conditioning. 

The expansion of the microbial profile, within one week, amounts to 1000s of DNA markers and each has their own function.

In the soil, the nemetodes tell about any nutrient deficiency in the roots, to the fungi that go off to find what’s needed.

If we are lacking these moderators, we can’t have a nutrient rich diet. Plant can’t get a good diet, then we can’t and animals can’t. It’s the efer generic board - I think this is an I-phone reference about unlocking your phone and a parallel situation in a crop's root system.

Compost toilet. 

Using biochar accelerates composting between 15% and 30%

For animals and fish.

It scavenges sulphur and nitrogen best, nitrous oxides. Nitrogen is needed for ammonia, so reduces smell completely. It is a natural deodorant. Added to a fish tank, it improves the cleanliness of the water. Also leads to a 1-2% weight increase in fish. Added to animal feed, there is greater efficiency, increased weight gain, 30% reduction in digestive gases and no need for animal antibiotics. The biochar takes the poisons out of the digestion, scavenging toxins.
There is an 80% elimination of greenhouse gases from compost – the lifecycle of compost was recently studied in Cuba.

Feeding biochar means that cow manure will already have biochar in it. Then the dung beetle does its thing where it makes balls out of the dung that reaches the roots and improves the soil and distribution of nutrients for you. It leads to nutrient density, a burst of greenery.   

News flash
The appearance of a blue flame tells us it’s ready. 

Make biochar in your home stove

What we have done in a fresh-dug pit can be done in a stove at home. Look up how to do it. I think it involves making a little tray with holes in it that you put in your twigs and again light from on top. This might take a bit more research on my part but it’s worth it as you can make a little for the compost or whatever at the same time as keeping your house warm.

We dragged all the charcoal out of the now wet pit. Pieces that weren’t burnt through, we put to one side. Ash obviously was left behind. If the black washes off your hands after your initial micronization of the charcoal, which it did on the day, then it’s clean. Otherwise, it has volatiles still entrained in it.

It needs to be further cleaned as a pre –inoculate for its next use or use for clearing drains.

Brilliantly, grey water, of which we have a bumper harvest still, thank God, in Ireland can be filtered and cleaned by passing it through carbon cascades!

It is literally photosynthesis going both ways. 

Can I just add that Albert used all my favourite words and concepts and that is how I know that using biochar would lead to a bright rejuvenated future.
Words, in particular included Toroidal, Tetrahedral, Fractal and Recalcitrant!

This course was held on the 12th August 2019 at the beautiful Highbank Organic Orchards, where delicious Apple Cider Vinegar, ciders, organic vodka, molasses and brandy are made - as well as what is known as vegan honey, their Apple syrup. Hosted by Rod and Julie Calderpotts. Organised by  Máire ní Bhraonáin and Brian Dillon and delivered by the brilliant Albert Bates, following his 10 day permaculture course at Cloughjordan eco village. All such inspirational people and those attending, many thanks to all!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Rampart Ragwort Plan

Do Two Wrongs Make A Right?

Have we all conveniently forgotten that ragwort is poisonous to cows and horses? 
Have we forgotten that there is a €1000 fine attached to letting ragwort spread on your land?
Can we not use this law now to get the roads authority to employ their staff (once a road is built and as they go along) to pull it up? Don’t tell me that they are too skilled as I see many in charge of a sign or cones or surveying and they could and should take on this responsible verge management plan. The farmers don’t have a hope, if every roadside is flowering like mad and blowing in to their fields.
So that ‘s the quintessential negative…which is like a double negative but five times over…I’m hoping it makes a plus!

Ragwort ID

What you need to know about ragwort. It has a tall stem, multiple yellow flowers and jagged pointed leaves. It damages the liver and the animals know it and avoid it…until there is no grass left and there is nothing else to eat. The other time they will eat it is if it’s dried in with hay as they can’t recognize it. SO, the ragwort must be pulled out and cleared out of the field where the animals can’t reach it and eat it by mistake as it rots or dries. 

Engage Us All

As well as the council tackling ragwort on public land and on road sides, I also propose a ragwort day. Every man, woman and child find a moment to pull over in our cars – and pull one or two plants up. As the ground is wet, they are coming up easily. I have done my random act of kindness for the day. I spent an early hour in the small paddock of a donkey, I am very fond of. I cleared the whole front half  and threw the plants, roots and all, out onto the road. They currently lie  under the sign that reads ‘Do not feed the donkey.’ I feel like saying, ‘I won’t as long as you do!’ because she needs to be put in a different pasture from time to time to let the grass grow back and the area needs to be cleared of ragwort. Don’t get me started on the hazardous wire fencing and the fact that everyone knows donkeys need company.

Don’t tell me, I should be glad at least that she is not having her eyes poked out intentionally or made to carry 7 times her own body-weight all day long. Note to self, be thankful for small mercies.

Fines Finance Biodiversity Recovery 

But back to the point, we have a biodiversity loss emergency. We’ve lost 60% of our wildlife through spraying chemicals on crops and on verges and gardens, that would otherwise be habitat and provide food. We have to pay people to do some weeding. And this is the clause that justifies directing public money to it.

The toxic plant can be lethal, if eaten by horses or cattle. It is also an illegal substance. Under the 1936 Noxious Weeds Act, failure to prevent the spread of poisonous plants like ragwort is an offence.

Any owner, occupier, user or manager of lands who allows the plant to grow can face a fine of up to €1000 on conviction.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Animal Poll To Inform Parliamentary Debate on 8th September

This is the poll I would like to run past the people of Britain while they have the opportunity to set new policies after Brexit. It is a long time since the government took out sentience and promised to put even greater protections in place. This is their chance to do that but I suspect they won't unless there is big pressure to do so.

Do you understand and agree with:

1. Laboratory testing on animals?

2. Puppy farming?

3. Companies running dog pounds for profit?

4. Companies running stray horse collection for profit?

5. Should all abbatoirs be closed?

6. Intensification to Factory Farming acceptable?

7. Do you agree with increasing the national herd for 2020? 

8. Should we import any food grown using chemicals that are banned for use here?

9.Would you help a farmer in exchange for food?

10. Should we ban the grinding of male chicks alive, in the egg industry?

11. Should we ban chopping off testicles, tails and teeth of piglets without anesthetic?

12. Should we ban Fur Farming?

13. Should sonic boom fossil fuel investigations be banned, to protect sea life?

14. Should super trawlers be banned?

15. Would you like to see British coastal waters made into a ‘no take zone’?

16. Do you know what the five freedoms that should be afforded to farmed animals are?

17. Do you think that animals should have rights?

18. Do you agree with a badger cull?

19. Do you agree with a deer cull?

20. Should there be a ban on fox hunting?

21. Should there be a ban on zoos?

22. Do you agree with the government subsidizing blood sport industries with public money?

23. Should horse racing be banned?

24. Do you understand and agree with force-feeding ducks to make liver pate and foie gras?

25. Do you understand and agree with veal production methods?

26. Do you understand and agree with removing calves from the cow for dairy?

27. Would you like to see plant-based nutrition taught in schools?

28. Should chemical companies be fined for ecocide, damaging land, food and biodiversity? 

29. Should the use of wild animals in circuses be prohibited?

30. Should public money support animal welfare groups? 

31. Should public money support meat producers?

32. Should the slash & burn of hedges be allowed during nesting season?

33. Are animals sentient? Can they suffer?