We have reached Utopia without even realizing it. Screens of various sizes surround us and replace reality as we perceived it before. The one, who controls the flow of pictures on the screens controls us. Are we happy to be controlled? Are we questioning, doubting the pictures? Are we still alive or are we the Zombie-audience of Google, Hollywood, Facebook, Disney, Twitter, Clear Channel, Fox, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, Sky, and the rest of the mass media pack?
The lights that men have made
Outshine the moon and all the stars
The sounds of human works
Drown out the twiddling of the birds
While concrete, steel, and plastic buries
The earth and all the life she carries
What’s left are pictures flickering
On the screens setup around us
Whatever may happen and regardless of anything else, enjoy the coming spring and be happy, if your social media duties leave you enough time for it.
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/02/istanbul-turkey-cats-documentary-kedi.html Rare good news from Turkey
https://news.mongabay.com/2017/02/environmental-lawyer-killed-in-the-philippines/ Unsung heroes.
Trump seeks 54 Billion US$ increase in military spending, while the budgets of most federal agencies will be cut. Especially the EOA (Environmental Protection Agency) will be on the chopping block to balance increased military spending.
Well informed citizens make better decisions. A survey by Statista (January 28, 7,150 participants) about the percentage of US-American adults who consider one of the following countries their main enemy:
The class war is nearly won. What’s still left to do is the official reintroduction of feudalism and slavery.
Imperial conquest news:
Russia is one of the few nations who are reducing military expenditures, it is outspent nine times by the USA, three times by China, one time by Saudi Arabia. How can Russia be considered a threat to Western countries, why is it necessary to deploy more and more troops on Russia’s borders? As a defensive measure this makes no sense.
Make your own conclusions about Western intentions.
News from cat paradise:
It is raining and for that reason there is a little spare time to write and publish this blog post. Normally I would work in the garden, weeding, pruning, clearing foliage away. The fallen leaves protect plants during winter but in spring they have to be removed because they could suffocate the ground vegetation, especially the moss. Blackberry bushes and common hornbeam are still shedding leaves, so this is a never ending task.
A few tiny sprouts and leaves have emerged, but most of nature is still sleeping. Because of climate change the gardening season is now two month longer, including March and October. More time to grow, but also more risks of failure.
The huge neighboring field, which right now is just a mud desert, reminds of the unmitigated catastrophe modern farming has become. Industrial farming turns fields into factories. Inorganic fertilizer adds nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous to the soil; pesticides kill anything that crawls, herbicides anything green and unwanted — all to create an assembly line that spits out a single crop.
Organic farming, agro-ecology, no-till farming (Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution), permaculture are related and complementary methods which try to utilize nature’s complex systems to do the same thing more efficiently without chemicals and large machines. Nitrogen-fixing plants are grown instead of inorganic fertilizer, flowers are used to attract beneficial insects which reduce pests; weeds are crowded out with more intensive planting. The result is a polyculture which produces many crops (fruits, vegetables, herbs) simultaneously, though not in industrial quantities.
Back to the cat paradise and the associated garden.
The strawberry runners which didn’t develop a solid root connection with earth have all died but the strawberries in the green houses are okay. I have to remove all dead strawberry leaves because they could be carrying fungal infections like leafspot.
Quite a few thyme colonies survived but they are not as numerous that self propagation is guaranteed. How many sage, camomile, marigold, and dill will grow by itself cannot be foreseen right now.
Mint plants are still in an embryonic stadium but there are enough stolons to make it clear that the various mint species this year will overtake lemon balm to become the most prominent herb. I planted all kind of mint varieties, including peppermint, spearmint, aquatic mint, apple mint, pennyroyal, Korean mint, moroccan mint, Spanish mint, ginger mint, horsemint. Natural hybridization seems to have occurred and there are now mint varieties popping up which I’ve never seen before.
Fennel unfortunately is gone, I will have to make serious research to find out how to grow and propagate it.
The categorization of plants as weeds, herbs, vegetables, forage, ground cover, etc. changes from year to year, even from season to season. Many of the weeds are edible, are medical herbs, deter pests, or simply produce bio mass via photosynthesis, removing CO2 from the atmosphere and creating mulch.
All kinds of clover are welcome, white or red or crimson, because of their symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Yarrow is plentiful in the garden, there are white and pink blooming varieties. Field horsetail is also growing nicely. I like it because it looks good and reduces mold, yet one has to be careful that it doesn’t get too dominant.
Purple dead-nettle, sow thistle, broadleaf plantain are filling gaps. Like some other not too aggressive weeds they will be usually tolerated and ignored, as they contribute to the desired species richness.
Small geranium and dovesfoot geranium are kind of cover crops, modest and easy to remove. I would prefer sedum, but the slugs have killed every sedum colony I tried to set up. Sedum grows nevertheless in protected places like retainers and elevated beds, but has to be watched constantly and guarded with slug traps containing beer. When I go out into the garden early in the morning with scissors to commit the daily slug mass murder I first look at the sedum.
I’ve already discovered and “neutralized” a few slugs. They are tiny, only six to ten millimeter long. There were also a few small green caterpillars. They have exactly the same hue as the leaves and are hiding on the backside of the leaves, being nearly invisible. As there are no leaves at the moment they cannot hide. Bad luck.
Fig buttercup would also be a nice cover crop because it grows excessively in April but soon wilts and in May has completely withered away, making room for herbs and vegetables. Unfortunately fig buttercup is poisonous for greasing animals and though this doesn’t matter here I want to keep it in check. Ramson (wild garlic) is also developing early to be active only till May, it is growing in some areas but not spreading much. Replacing fig buttercup with ramson would be the ultimative solution, yet that will need longtime strategic planning.
Creeping buttercup is also poisonous and I’ve nearly eradicated it. This weed is deep rooted just like ground elder and dandelions, which both would be useful but are very hard to manage because of their strong roots. When the garden experiment started six years ago, dandelions and ground elder were all over the place, now they are rare (endurance pays off).
Hedge bindweed has nice white blooms but spreads rapidly; European ivy looks good but has to be kept in check, it is fortunately not poisonous like the American variety. Ground-ivy is edible but it also spreads rapidly and so has to be decimated.
Rosmarin and lavender, together with mint, lemon balm, and other aromatic herbs, are deterring aphids (lice) and other pests. Unfortunately aphids and ants live in symbiotic relationship, where the ants protect the aphids from spiders and other predators. The ants on the other hand are useful against mice and voles. Tricky!
There are hundreds of other things to keep in mind, because a garden is indeed a very complex nonlinear dynamical system. The thousand of web pages with tips and tricks are sometimes useful but many tips and tricks don’t work because of differing circumstances. In this case one has to find the solution by oneself. Decades of experience and an intuitive understanding of the ways of nature would be needed.
I don’t have the decades of experience, I make this only since six years. It nevertheless goes rather well — I muddle through somehow, learning by doing.
It has been mentioned before, but just as a reminder: The garden is a huge operation with 30 fruit trees, nearly 200 berry bushes (mainly blueberries, gooseberries, jostaberries, raspberries and blackberries, some red currants and black currants), 20 grapevines, 9 hazelnut bushes, a thousand strawberry plants, tomatoes (in two green houses, on a large covered balcony, and under the balcony), pumpkins, chard, onions, garlic, chive, ramson, various tee herbs (lemon balm, many mint varieties, sage, thyme, nettle, camomile, marigold).
There are three levels of vegetation: Moss. strawberries, and low growing herbs on the ground, berry bushes and high growing herbs in the middle, trees, large bushes, and vines at the highest level, providing a protective canopy. Trellis keep the vines and blackberry bushes in place.
The area is large enough to support a family, but there are limitations. Two years ago I planted potatoes in two areas, just to get experience with them. The buried potatoes multiplied by three, but there was not enough space to grow them in meaningful quantities and I had to abandon the project. Never mind, the potatoes don’t give up easily and every year there are more potato plants from the tubers which were left in the ground. I wonder how this will end.
No carrots and beans this year, there is no space left.
The garden has 8 big compost containers and 24 rain water barrels with 4.000 liter capacity. Some additional water from the tap (municipal utility) is nevertheless needed, disbursed with sprinklers and water hoses. Watering is always early in the morning (right after the slug killing spree).
Even eight hours work a day is not enough to maintain the garden, and for that reason blog posts will be rare in spring and summer.
The cats are fine and they are busy catching mice. Every day I have to collect the remains (head and intestines). One has to do it and as the cats will never learn to clean up the mess on their own, it is my job. Rosy has still a slight cold and sneezes occasionally, Miss Marple is now 19 years old and fortunately still in reasonable good health.
On one occasion Miss Marple slipped and nearly fell down from the couch while she was approaching her favorite place on the windowsill east. She panicked, growled and hissed at the other cats which didn’t growl and hiss back but just went up and looked at her disapproving. For a few moments it was completely quiet as Miss Marple seemed to realize how awkward she had acted, sighing and just slowly walking to the windowsill. She appeared to be very ashamed.
The cats grew together over winter, being most of the day in the living room sitting around the wood stove. No separate territories which one has to defend against intruders, only one shared territory.
The cats play with each other and tease each other, they have their tree climbing competitions, and Linda tries to show that she is the boss (with mixed results). There is never a fight among them, they never hurt each other. Im sure that they would miss each other, as they are indeed not just a group of cats, but a close family.