the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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biochar, worth all the hype?

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I first heard about biochar from a gentle and unassuming older lady who was making biochar at home in her kiln. She explained the role that biochar could play in both the fight against climate change and the improvement of soil quality, before gifting me a small bag of it to try out in my own small vegetable garden. I decided to carry out some citizens science in my back yard and put biochar to the test. I planted 5 squash plants and added biochar to the soil for two of the five. To be frank, I didn’t really know what to expect but I will happily test anything that will  organically allow me to fight climate change and grow better vegetables at the same time.

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from the horses mouth

Okay, so perhaps we don’t like to repost to some of the bigger, traditional purveyors of economics, but here is a podcast on alternative local currency coming at you from Bloomberg…

The episode focuses on BerkShares, which is currency started in the Berkshires, MA. If you’re familiar with E.F. Schumacher (Small is Beautiful) you may also know that his thinking inspired some very cool projects that continue to this day. One such initiative is the local BerkShare, one of the longest running and successful alternative currencies in the US.

So, back to Bloomberg – here is one of the largest US media publications ,that focuses on the economy (re: free market), taking the time to look at local currency. Hey, that’s pretty good news and it’s also a very informative and interesting podcast!

Give it a listen here.


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read a book: agee and walker’s “rediscovered masterpiece”

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During these turbulent political times where the country feels more divided than ever, we should still take the time to put away our devices, crack open a book, and see what the history of our country can teach us.

Enter writer James Agee and photographer Walker Evans. Many of us are familiar with their seminal work Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Published in 1941, the book was an instant American classic. Agee’s words and Evans’ photographs shone an unflinchingly honest eye at the daily lives of sharecroppers in rural Alabama during the Great Depression.

What’s more, Agee wasn’t afraid to look inward at his own privilege and role as a reporter in documenting the lives of impoverished farmers. This theme is expanded upon in the duo’s lesser known work, Cotton Tenants: Three Families, a “rediscovered masterpiece” about Southern cotton farmers that was shelved and finally published in 2013. As a critic from the New York Times wrote:

Agee squabbled with his editors over what he felt was the exploitation and trivialization of destitute American families. . . . What readers are about to discover now is what all the fighting was about.

 

In these days of “alternative facts”, attacks on the media, and a supposed urban/rural divide, both books are well worth a read. Cotton Tenants can be purchased HERE or run on over to your local library to borrow it!


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resistance of the heart against business as usual

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Bread and Puppet Theatre, Vermont

by Samuel Oslund

Today might have us thinking a little obsessively about some big level tsoris.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the reasons why we choose to get into farming in the first place. Speaking personally, I decided to farm because I felt it was a very concrete way to have some sort of impact on the troubles I perceived in the world. Disillusioned with politics, education and these broad means of change I saw farming as personal direct action.

Through the repetitive act of farming I slowly stopped seeing it as a political statement, and with each year that past, each additional scar on my hand and wrinkle on my face, I began to see the world through the lens of agriculture. I began to see the connections it makes – how good stewardship of land can bring a community together, that it’s about a lot more than vegetables and cows and endless hours- because through this daily act we begin to see ourselves in relation to all of these things.  Continue reading


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how the wolves saved yellowstone: a lesson in keystone species

The first of two videos that we have for you nature lovers this morning!

Some brief and interesting context for the information presented here: wolves did not disappear from the Yellowstone landscape by incident or historical coincidence. In fact, historians say that since nearly the beginning of westward expansion by European settlers, settlers and ranchers (whose cattle were at risk of being poached) engaged in what some historians call a “war with the wolf” that culminated in the early 20th century in a governement-sponsored nation-wide “wolf control” policy. The history involves mountains of wolf carcasses, canine bounty hunters, rifles, traps, and poison– tactics so widely supported to have included environmentalists like Teddy Roosevelt and John James Audubon. For more information on this, we recommend this piece from PBS.

Just goes to show that when it comes to the incredible fragile balance of ecosystems, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Interested in learning more about how these majestic canines shape the landscape of the park? There are great resources on Yellowstone’s website.


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10 things to know about standing rock

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Thanks be to High Country News for this latest piece that brings us back to a much-needed review of the ins-and-outs of our representative federal form of government as they relate to the latest events at Standing Rock. Have you found yourself wondering over the past few months, how did we get here, why can this happen in our country, or, even, wait, what does usufructory mean? Then we can’t encourage you more to take five minutes to read “Back to Civics Class: 10 Things to Know About Standing Rock.”

This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING. Just because it’s a well-worn cliched doesn’t make it any less true, friends, knowledge is power. Short, clear, and so freaking well-written, these ten points review historical moments including the Louisiana Purchase, relevant supreme court cases, and the current status of treaties with Native American nations.

For instance, point one: usufrcutory rights; it is an important legal construction that is currently so obscure in our collective consciousness that spellcheck reports that it is not a word. (Spoiler alert: usufructory rights have nothing to do with high fructose corn syrup and mean  the right of tribes to hunt, gather and fish in their “usual and accustomed places.)

As the culture-war rhetoric simmers with caustic venom on the Northern Plains, the results of the civics survey mentioned earlier are sobering. Is it not disquieting to learn that 70 percent of us lack a rudimentary understanding of the basic principles of federalism? At what point do we cease to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and become a nation of the blind leading the blind?