Bokashi composting, also spelled bocashi composting, is a new way to deal with kitchen scraps. The proponents of the system claim that it has a number of benefits not found in more traditional composting methods. In this blog post I will have a close look at Bokashi composting and separate myth from reality.Bokashi composting

Bokashi Composting—What is it?

From we have the following description; “Bokashi composting is a safe, convenient, and quick way to compost food waste in your kitchen, garage, or apartment.”

To get started you need a special bokashi bucket that has a tight lid, and a spigot at the bottom to drain off liquids (pictured above). These will run you $60 to $150, or you can make a DIY for $20. You also need the ‘special sauce’! It would not be a very good process if there was no special sauce to sell you. It is normally referred to as bokashi bran or Effective Microbes.

The process is fairly simple. Put your food scraps in the pail and sprinkle some bokashi bran on top. Squish it down tight to get the air out. Close the lid. Each time you have more scraps, add them to the pail, add bran, and squish.

After a few days, liquid starts to form in the bottom of the pail. This needs to be drained or it will start to stink. This liquid, the  ‘bokashi tea’ can be used to fertilize your house plants or your garden plants.

After a few weeks, when the pail is full, you take the contents outside, and either dig it into your garden, or add it to your compost pile.

Garden Myths book by Robert Pavlis

That is the basic process. If you want more details or have specific questions about the process there is lots of info on the net.

Benefits of Bokashi Composting

I found the following benefits listed at various sites on the net.

1)      You can compost dairy products and meat.

2)      No strong odors

3)      No nutrients lost

4)      No insects or rodents

5)      No turning necessary

6)      No need to worry about the amount of greens and browns

7)      Food scraps are inoculated with EM (Effective Microbes)

8)      Produces a nutrient rich tea for plants

9)      Can be carried out on a small scale which is perfect for apartments

10)   Very quick – complete in 2 weeks

11)   Saying the word ‘bokashi’ will impress friends. 🙂

This sounds like a good system, and any system that returns kitchen scraps to the soil is a good thing. So in general, I have no problem with bokashi composting. If it gets you composting—great.

But….. there is always a but. Is this really a method of composting? Is this system better than the more traditional methods of composting? These are the important questions and the ones I will look at in the rest of this post.

Soil Science for Gardeners book by Robert Pavlis

Bokashi Composting—Is it Really Composting?

If you read the above quickly, you might have missed the statement which says “After a few weeks, when the pail is full, you take the contents outside, and either dig it into your garden, or add it to your compost pile”. Does this make sense? Why would you add fully composted material back to the compost pile?

If you read the fine print you soon understand that bokashi composting is not a composting process at all. Bokashi in Japanese means to ferment. This process is actually a fermentation process. What you are doing is turning your kitchen scraps into pickled kitchen scraps. At the end of the process the food looks just like it did when it went into the system, except it’s pickled. An orange looks like an orange, and an apple looks like an apple.

There is no composting taking place in bokashi composting—talk about false advertising!

Knowing this fact makes the earlier statement make more sense. Once you have fermented your scraps, you then need to compost them. You can do this by adding them to a compost pile or you can just dig them into your garden soil where they will compost naturally.

Building Natural Ponds book, by Robert Pavlis

This system is especially promoted for apartment owners—what do they do with it after fermentation? Throw it in the garbage? They could have done that before fermenting.

Now that you understand the process it is also clear why it is so fast—only 2 weeks. It is fast because there is no composting, which is a slow process.

Bokashi composting is not composting!

Bokashi vs Traditional Composting

The benefits listed above as #2 to #6, inclusive, are really not benefits when we compare the two methods. I make compost in bins and don’t worry about greens and browns—I just add whatever I have. It is outside so smell does not bother me, and if a mouse comes by for a bite to eat, so what! Nutrients can be lost if it rains too much, but they are lost to the soil below the compost pile—they are not really lost since the tree roots under the compost pile use the nutrients. If I really care about nutrient loss I can cover the compost pile to keep out the rain.

Traditional composting, if higher temperatures are reached, can even compost meat and cheese.

The difference in the two systems is the pickling process. The apparent benefits of pickling are the Effective Microbes added to soil and the bokashi tea.

For more information on traditional composting see Compost – What is Compost?  and Benefits of Composting.

For a detailed comparison of Bokashi and traditional composting see: Bokashi vs Composting.

Effective Microbes

Dr. Higa, the person who originally developed the bokashi system, also developed a special sauce which he called ‘Effective Microbes’ (EM). All kinds of special properties have been assigned to this mixture, but nowadays lots of people sell the microbes already added to the bran. Everyone in the industry now has their own ‘secret sauce’ ie Effective Microbes + bran.

Adding the microbes is important since they control the fermentation process. For example, in wine making, special starter yeast mixtures may be added to start the process. The reason for doing this is that you want the right kind of microbes to grow quickly and out compete the ones that will create a lot of bad odors.

There are also claims that the EM are good for the garden. That is not likely to be true. In the bokashi system it is important to keep oxygen out. The EM are microbes that grow best in anaerobic conditions ie no oxygen. If too much oxygen gets into the system, the EM die, and aerobic bacteria take over and fermentation is slowed or stopped.

When the EM are added to soil or the compost pile, both of which contain oxygen and are aerobic, they die. The EM are not going to grow effectively in soil or the compost pile. Except for the nutrients in their dead bodies they add no benefit to the soil or for plants.

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Reference 2 below tested EM tea on field grown crops and found that they did not increase yield. Similar field studies have has the same results. Effective microbes are important to make the bokashi system work, but they don’t really add any benefit to your garden.Nutritious Bokashi TeaAs fermentation progresses, excess liquid drains into the bottom of the pail, and you need to remove it. It is claimed that this tea is a great source of nutrients for your plants.How nutritious is it? If it contained a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, you would expect that the companies selling these systems would brag about the high levels of nutrients in the tea. Not so. I could not find a single site that provided these numbers. Are they embarrassed about how low they are?Some sites say that you can use it straight or dilute it 1:100. That is a huge red flag. A fertilizer that can be effective at full strength and at a 100 dilution rate does not make sense.Since the proponents of bokashi don’t want to report nutrient values we can look at a similar process for some clues. It is not exactly the same thing, but there are several reports analyzing pickle juice. It contains 0.05% calcium, 0.14% potassium and 0.01% magnesium, indicating low levels of nutrients. After diluting it by 100 it is essentially water.Let’s look at it logically. The nutrients come from two sources. The liquid in things like fruit contain some soluble nutrients. These might be extracted with the tea and drain to the bottom of the pail. On the other hand the Effective Microbes need nutrients to grow, so any nutrients present will also be consumed by the EM before they drain to the bottom of the pail. In either case the amount of such nutrients in food scraps is quite low.The majority of nutrients in food scraps is contained in large molecules like protein, DNA, carbohydrates, fats, oils etc. Since bokashi does not break down the food scraps these nutrients are still bound up in large molecules at the end of the bokashi process. That is why an apple still looks like an apple at the end of the process. The nutrients will not get released until the future composting process is completed.It seems fairly obvious to me that the tea is going to have very low levels of nutrients. Until I see some analytical data that contradicts this point of view I must conclude the tea is not much more nutritious to plants than water.Real Benefits of BokashiI am still not sold on Bokashi. The tea has no real value, and the fermented food scraps still need to be disposed of. If you are going to dispose of them in the garden, you might as well compost instead.

In recent years a new way of handling the Bokashi ferment, called Soil Factory, has become popular. I have discussed it in detail in Soil Factory Using Bokashi Ferment. It is a way to process the scraps in the home in a few weeks. You can even use my improved Instant Soil Factory method and eliminate the two week period. Using these methods Bokashi makes sense for apartment owners and others with no garden.

Both bokashi composting and traditional composting provide your garden and plants with the same benefits. Bokashi just seems to be an additional extra step that is not necessary. I would not use it.

That leaves us with one benefit from the list presented above and this one can’t be denied. Saying the word ‘bokashi’ is cool and will impress your friends.

There are over 510 million square kilometers of area on the surface of Earth, but less than 30% of this is covered by land. The rest is water, in the form of vast oceans.

Today’s visualization uses data primarily from the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to rank the world’s countries by their share of Earth’s surface.

Breakdown of Countries Share of Earth’s Surface
The largest countries by surface area are Russia (3.35%), Canada (1.96%), and China (1.88%).

Together they occupy roughly 7.2% of Earth’s surface. Russia is so big that even if we divided the country between its Asian and European sections, those new regions would still be the largest in their respective continents.

Country / Dependency Total in km² (mi²) Percentage of Earth’s Surface
Russia 17,098,246 (6,601,670) 3.352%
Antarctica 14,000,000 (5,400,000) 2.745%
Canada 9,984,670 (3,855,100) 1.958%
China 9,596,961 (3,705,407) 1.881%
United States 9,525,067 (3,677,649) 1.867%
Brazil 8,515,767 (3,287,956) 1.670%
Australia 7,692,024 (2,969,907) 1.508%
India 3,287,263 (1,269,219) 0.644%
Argentina 2,780,400 (1,073,500) 0.545%
Kazakhstan 2,724,900 (1,052,100) 0.534%
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Antarctica, although not a country, covers the second largest amount of land overall at 2.75%. Meanwhile, the other nations that surpass the 1% mark for surface area include the United States (1.87%), Brazil (1.67%), and Australia (1.51%).

The remaining 195 countries and regions below 1%, combined, account for the other half of Earth’s land surface. Among the world’s smallest countries are the island nations of the Caribbean and the South Pacific Ocean. However, the tiniest of the tiny are Vatican City and Monaco, which combine for a total area of just 2.51 km².

The remaining 70% of Earth’s surface is water: 27% territorial waters and 43% international waters or areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
In the past, nations adhered to the freedom-of-the-seas doctrine, a 17th century principle that limited jurisdiction over the oceans to a narrow area along a nation’s coastline. The rest of the seas did not belong to any nation and were free for countries to travel and exploit.

This situation lasted into the 20th century, but by mid-century there was an effort to extend national claims as competition for offshore resources became increasingly fierce and ocean pollution became an issue.

In 1982, the United Nations adopted the Law of the Sea Convention which extended international law over the extra-territorial waters. The convention established freedom-of-navigation rights and set territorial sea boundaries 12 miles (19 km) offshore with exclusive economic zones up to 200 miles (322 km) offshore, extending a country’s influence over maritime resources.

Does Size Matter?
The size of countries is the outcome of politics, economics, history, and geography. Put simply, borders can change over time.

In 1946, there were 76 independent countries in the world, and today there are 195. There are forces that push together or pull apart landscapes over time. While physical geography plays a role in the identity of nations, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former ruler of UAE, a tiny Gulf nation, put it best:

“A country is not measured by the size of its area on the map. A country is truly measured by its heritage and culture.”

SOUTH AFRICA – July 2011: The fynbos side of the SANBI Kirstenbosch floral display. Beautiful varieties of proteas are showcased, as well as restios and other types of fynbos. Feature text available. (Photo by Gallo Images / SA Garden / Lizette Jonker)

Nearly half of South Africa’s Protea flowering plant species face extinction, with some wild populations having dwindled to a single individual, such as the Kraaifonein spiderhead — a member of the Proteaceae family — and others like the Swartland sugarbush hanging on by a thread.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, which is the world’s indicator of the health of species biodiversity, has released its first comprehensive assessment of the southern Hemisphere’s protea plant family, finding 637 of the 1464 known species are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

The outlook for the plants is bleak, particularly in the country’s fynbos regions. The assessment, carried out by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) and  fynbos experts, revealed that 47% (165 of 353 species) of local species face extinction.

“Their publication on the international IUCN Red List for the first time reveals that our South African species are among the most threatened — more so than in Australia and South America,” Sanbi says.

“We have a couple of species seriously on the brink of extinction — some with only one individual left and one that we think we lost earlier this year,” says Domitilla Raimondo, lead of the species component of the National Biodiversity Assessment at Sanbi.

She adds that the species people thought were still vibrant in their ability to remain viable have dwindled because neither pollinators nor fires can get to them.

“The bottom line is we need massive upscaling of effort to save these species.”

The assessment reveals that the country’s national flower, the King Protea, has been assessed as a species of least concern because it remains plentiful in the Cape mountains.

According to Sanbi, urban and industrial development of Cape Town has irreversibly modified more than 95% of the habitat of the critically endangered Kraaifontein spiderhead, causing the population to decline by 99% in one generation. A single mature plant from the original population remains.

The Swartland sugarbush is another species pushed to the brink, declining from four subpopulations totalling 1 090 plants in 1975 to three mature individuals from one subpopulation in early 2020

The small sugarbush depends on fire for seeds to germinate and its survival depends on correct fire return intervals and being burnt in the correct session. 

The last remaining habitat for the species was burnt in February 2020 in a controlled burn organised by the City of Cape Town’s biodiversity management branch staff.

Seeds were augmented from the Millennium Seed Bank collections at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, banked from the population over the past decade. 

“It is unknown if the plants will recruit and survive to maturity; if not another fynbos species will be listed as extinct in the wild,” Sanbi says.

Believed to be extinct by 1969, the elusive Mace Pagoda, which emerged after a wildfire in 1999, is now listed as critically endangered. 

“No more than 34 of these plants have ever been observed in the wild, despite it being closely monitored for 87 years. It is just one of many of the naturally rare treasures endemic to the Cape Floral Kingdom,” Sanbi says.

There are an additional 37 critically endangered species — but there is hope, Raimondo says. 

“We can grow these plants up, reintroduce them, we can restore habitat and we can conserve these last really important pieces.”

A recent focus on conserving critically endangered vegetation through conservation stewardship on private land has meant that the daggerleaf sugarbush protea, which has only two subpopulations remaining, is now listed as endangered instead of critically endangered, after it lost almost all its habitat to wheat farming. 

Its improved status is because 95% of its remaining population has been included in a new stewardship contract nature reserve where its habitat is being well managed.

Globally, the IUCN assessment reveals that  there are now 128 918 species on the Red List, of which 35 765 are threatened with extinction. 

Conservation efforts have led to the European bison, the largest land mammal in Europe, being moved from vulnerable to near threatened, along with the recovery of 25 other species, “demonstrating the power of conservation”, Buno Oberle, IUCN director general, said in a statement.

But the world’s freshwater dolphin species are now threatened with extinction, and one third of oak species are threatened with extinction.

But 31 species have become extinct: 15 freshwater fish species endemic to Lake Lanao and its outlets in the Philippines; three Central American frog species; three Macadamia species of protea and nine Asian oak species. And the lost shark may already be extinct.

“The species was last recorded in 1934. Its habitat in the South China Sea has been extensively fished for more than a century and remains one of the most overexploited marine regions in the world. As it is unlikely that the species could have persisted … the lost shark may already be extinct,” according to the IUCN Red List

Oberle says the growing list of extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand. “To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.”

A Japanese shrub’s unique foliage arrangement leads botanists to rethink plant growth models

Aloe Spirals
The spiral pattern of an Aloe polyphylla plant at the University of California Botanical Garden. (Stan Shebs via Wikicommons under CC BY-SA 3.0)

JUNE 6, 20193140540

To the untrained eye, plants may appear to grow rather impulsively, popping out leaves at random to create one big green jumble. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll find that a few curiously regular patterns pop up all over the natural world, from the balanced symmetry of bamboo shoots to the mesmerizing spirals of succulents.

In fact, these patterns are consistent enough that cold, hard math can predict organic growth fairly well. One assumption that has been central to the study of phyllotaxis, or leaf patterns, is that leaves protect their personal space. Based on the idea that already existing leaves have an inhibitory influence on new ones, giving off a signal to prevent others from growing nearby, scientists have created models that can successfully recreate many of nature’s common designs. The ever-fascinating Fibonacci sequence, for example, shows up in everything from sunflower seed arrangements to nautilus shells to pine cones. The current consensus is that the movements of the growth hormone auxin and the proteins that transport it throughout a plant are responsible for such patterns.

Leaf Arrangements
Leaf arrangement with one leaf per node is called alternate phyllotaxis, whereas arrangement with two or more leaves per node is called whorled phyllotaxis. Common alternate types are distichous phyllotaxis (bamboo) and Fibonacci spiral phyllotaxis (the succulent spiral aloe), and common whorled types are decussate phyllotaxis (basil or mint) and tricussate phyllotaxis (Nerium oleander, sometimes known as dogbane). (Takaaki Yonekura under CC-BY-ND )

However, certain leaf arrangements continue to stump popular models for plant growth, including the Douady and Couder equations (known as DC1 and DC2) that have dominated since the 1990s. A team led by University of Tokyo researchers studying a shrub known as Orixa japonica found that earlier equations couldn’t recreate the plant’s unusual structure, so they decided to rethink the model itself. Their updated model, described in a new study in PLOS Computational Biology, not only reproduces the once-elusive pattern, but it also may describe other, more common arrangements better than previous equations, authors say.

“In most plants, phyllotactic patterns have symmetry—spiral symmetry or radial symmetry,” says University of Tokyo plant physiologist Munetaka Sugiyama, senior author of the new study. “But in this special plant, Orixa japonica, the phyllotactic pattern is not symmetric, which is very interesting. More than 10 years ago, an idea came to me that some changes in the inhibitory power of each leaf primordium may explain this peculiar pattern.”

Botanists use the divergence angles, or angles between consecutive leaves, to define a plant’s phyllotaxis. While most leaf arrangement patterns keep a constant divergence angle, the O. japonica shrub, which is native to Japan and other parts of East Asia, grows leaves in an alternating series of four repeating angles: 180 degrees, 90 degrees, 180 degrees again, then 270 degrees.

 Orixa Japonica
An Orixa japonica shrub with the various divergence angles of the leaves visible. (Qwert1234 via Wikicommons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

This pattern, which the researchers dubbed “orixate” phyllotaxis, is not just a onetime anomaly, as plants from other taxa (like the “red-hot poker” flower Kniphofia uvaria, or the crepe myrtle Lagerstroemia indica) alternate their leaves in the same complicated sequence. Because the leaf arrangement pops up in different spots on the evolutionary tree, authors concluded the similarity came from a common mechanism that warranted further study.

After testing the Douady and Couder equations with different parameters, the authors could produce patterns that were close to the alternating orixate arrangement, but none of the simulated plants matched perfectly with the O. japonica samples they dissected and studied. So the team built a new model by adding another variable to the Douady and Couder equations: leaf age. Former models assumed leaves’ inhibitory power stayed the same over time, but this constant was “not natural from the viewpoint of biology,” Sugiyama says. Instead, Sugiyama’s team allowed for the possibility that the strength of these “keep-away” signals changed over time.

The resulting models—which the team refers to as expanded Douady and Couder models, EDC1 and EDC2—succeeded in recreating, through computerized growth, the intricate leaf arrangements of O. japonica. Beyond this feat, the expanded equations also produced all the other common foliage patterns and predicted the natural frequencies of these varieties more accurately than previous models. Especially in the case of spiral-patterned plants, the new EDC2 model predicted the “super-dominance” of the Fibonacci spiral as compared to other arrangements, while previous models failed to explain why this particular shape seems to appear everywhere in nature.

“Our model, EDC2, can generate orixate patterns in addition to all major types of phyllotaxis. This is clearly an advantage over the previous model,” Sugiyama says. “EDC2 also fits better to the natural occurrence of various patterns.”

 Orixa Japonica Model
Leaves on an Orixa japonica branch (upper left) and a schematic diagram of orixate phyllotaxis (right). The orixate pattern displays a peculiar four-cycle change of the angle between leaves. A scanning electron microscope image (center and bottom left) shows the winter bud of O. japonica, where leaves first begin to grow. Primordial leaves are labeled sequentially with the oldest leaf as P8 and the youngest leaf as P1. The label O marks the shoot apex. (Takaaki Yonekura / Akitoshi Iwamoto / Munetaka Sugiyama under CC-BY)

The authors can’t yet conclude what exactly causes leaf age to affect these growth patterns, although Sugiyama speculates that it may have to do with changes to the auxin transport system over the course of a plant’s development.

Such mysteries could be solved by the “push and pull” between computational models and lab experiments, says Ciera Martinez, a computational biologist who was not involved in the study. The authors’ model provides an exciting step toward a better understanding of phyllotaxis and leaves room for other botanists to fill in the gaps with plant dissection and analysis.

“With models, even though we might not know the exact mechanism yet, we are at least given powerful clues on what to look for,” Martinez says in an email. “Now we just have to look closer at the molecular mechanisms in real plants to try and discover what the model predicts.”

Leaf Growth Gif
A top-down view of leaf arrangement patterns in “orixate” phyllotaxis as new leaves (red semicircles) form from the shoot apex (central black circle) and grow outwards.(Takaaki Yonekura under CC-BY-ND)

Sugiyama’s team is working to refine their model even further and get it to generate all known phyllotactic patterns. One “mysterious” leaf pattern, a spiral with a tiny divergence angle, still evades computational prediction, although Sugiyama thinks they’re close to cracking the leafy code.

“We don’t think our study is practically useful for society,” Sugiyama says. “But we hope that it will contribute to our understanding of the symmetric beauty in nature.”

Maddie Burakoff

Maddie Burakoff is an editorial intern with Smithsonian magazine. She is currently a junior at Northwestern University, where she studies journalism and Spanish.

Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. ⠀⁣
You must have magnesium for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax.⠀⁣
The reason we are so deficient is simple: Many of us eat a diet that contains practically no magnesium — a highly-processed, refined diet that is based mostly on white flour, meat, and dairy (all of which have no magnesium).⠀⁣
Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or an even a mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency.⠀⁣
Including the following in your diet as often as you can:⠀⁣
Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, buckwheat, brazil nuts, dulse, filberts, millet, pecans, walnuts, rye, tofu, soy beans, brown rice, figs, dates, collard greens, shrimp, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, and garlic.⠀⁣
I also highly recommend a daily magnesium supplement.⠀⁣
The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good. To properly absorb magnesium we need a lot of it in our diet, plus enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium to get the job done.⠀⁣
Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements).⠀

When I was married to a doctor he always told me to de-worm the children and ourselves…..a problem that is global.

The Myth: Parasites infect only dirty people and foreigners

This is the #1 myth and it is nonsense. You can pick up an infection on the slightest contact, such as water used to rinse your salad. A 1978 study showed about 75% of all sewage sludge samples sampled in United States urban catchments contained Ascaris ova, with rates as high as 5 to 100 eggs per litre.

Get real. Parasites are rampant in the Western world, not just Third World countries.

The biggest parasite outbreak ever recorded was right here in the USA (1993). Over 400,000 of an estimated 1.61 million residents in the Milwaukee area became ill with the stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea and dehydration caused by the pathogen Cryptosporidia. Over 100 died. Parasites don’t know they are not supposed to kill people in “nice” friendly countries!

Besides, parasites do not remain in the country of their origin.

China supplies a huge amount of food to the Americas and other Western societies ($27 billion food exports in 2006). US supermarkets buy millions of tons of “fresh” produce and meats from China every year. Yet Chinese food hygiene standards are notoriously lax.

But it’s worse than that. I found a study review showing that in certain regions of China (such as the Yangste basin) over 50% of the population were infected with helminths. That group includes roundworms, pinworms, flukes, Trichinella (nasty!) and tapeworms.

A high number of Chinese were infected with the “unholy trinity” of intestinal nematodes: Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, and hookworms Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus — an estimated 531 million, 212 million, and 194 million cases, respectively. Of the 374,753 children under 12 years of age tested for E. vermicularis, 26.4% were infected.

[Xu L-Q, Yu S-H, Jiang Z-X, Yang J-L, Lai C-Q, Zhang X-J, et al. Soil-transmitted helminthiases: nationwide survey in China. Bull World Health Organization 1995;73:507-13].

Meat isn’t so much a worry. Pork meat frozen at minus 30 degrees for a week or more will be cleared of all living Trichinella. The real danger is “fresh” produce, such as leaves, fruits and roots, which cannot be deep frozen.

I don’t want to turn readers Sinophobic but, as I said, China’s own poor hygiene standards call for caution on our part.

Don’t forget to deworm yourselves and your children.

We live in a sensory world both inside and outside of us.

Our senses do not stop in the gateway you acknowledged them through.

Smell doesn’t stop with your nostrils, it is felt, it is held and remembered within the heart and body.
A sound doesn’t just stop in the ears, it travels to the heart then over flesh and through bones.
Touch doesn’t stop at your skin, it fills the heart, the knowing the wondering.
Sight doesn’t stop with eyes, it is digested, pondered, tingled and tasted by the soul, our cells, our knowing.

We are in a full body conversation with the earth, with our lives, and our bodies, always communing together.

How well do you take notice, how often do you stop and feel into how the conversation makes you feel and what this tells you about the earth, your body, others, plants, trees, surroundings, your mind.

So many have learnt to not take notice of what they sense, pick up, feel.
Only taking notice on a surface level, like basic survival.
They have taught themselves not to trust this inner and outer conversation.

But what if everyone started to go deeper, letting the senses melt the concrete that covers the heart, the felt sense.
Igniting the conversation older than words.
Helping a person to understand better their surroundings and how they affect them, deep within their marrow.
•. Words by Brigit Anna McNeill •
• Art by Djamila Knopf •

If we want to grow food, heal ecosystems, get healthy, or interact in pretty much any biological system (which includes human communities) probably the single most useful thing we can understand is the 80/20 principle, or the Pareto curve.

Simply put, we get 80% of the results (change) for the first 20% of our work (inputs.) This has been a key in Agricultural science for pretty much as long as there has been Agricultural science, and it’s the theoretical basis for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and new alternative approaches like Holistic Management and yes, Permaculture.

So research shows we get an 80% reduction in pest damage from our first 20% of pest control efforts, and after that we get “diminishing returns” for the same level of pest control. We get 80% of our water savings from 20% of our efforts. 80% of the benefit of weed control from the first 20% of our weeding efforts, and so on.

We’re biological systems so gym bros talk about “noob gains” and unless somebody is a genetic freak or takes steroids, 80% of the muscle we can build in the gym is built in the first year or so of just an hour or two per week.

So, the process of REAL, VALUABLE education for most of us is to learn enough to know what that 20% of truly transformative information is. This was part of the thinking and design of the original Permaculture Design Certificate Course, to give “regular people“ a selection of 20% powerfuel info on a variety of topics necessary for designing a human settlement, including food, passive solar, community organizing, money, etc.

But in academia people are rewarded for mining deeper and deeper truths well past the point where there’s any practicality, so it’s easy for us to fall into the same trap! That’s useful for pure knowledge, but I don’t personally need to know the maximum air speed of an African swallow to enjoy watching birds.

For example, it’s easy to fetishize the minutia of soil science, and for hundreds of years BS students have been peddling “scientific agriculture“ products like rock dust, designer microbial tea concoctions, humus (which later are found to not even exist!,%2060-68,%202015%20Lehmann.pdf)

But none of these refined, often expensive products appear to give much if any improvement at all over what French Intensive gardeners were achieving 150 years ago with composted manure and their 20% info of scientifically optimized plant spacings, minimal pest control, and scientific watering procedures. One could spend YEARS understandng soil carbon cycles and analyzing microbes under a microscope and still not improve one iota on the yields documented by John Jeavon’s decades ago using compost, mulch, deep digging and scientific plant spacings. When it comes to sustainable high productivity that also stewards biodiversity and ecosystem health, it would be difficult to improve a whole lot on the self-maintaining traditional forest garden systems, slash mulch systems, and so on that indigenous people’s evolved around the world, and from what I understand they accomplished all that without too many University PhDs and microscopes.

If you want to become a great, knowledgable practical gardener, here’s my advice as someone who’s been at it for decades now: follow the Pareto curve in your studies, find the things that will have the biggest Return on your Investment (ROI.)

This means study “patterns” and systems of application. Know that general principle that soil microbial diversity and abundance improves plant health and productivity. Then, let PhD’s fuss over identifying the various 10,000 organisms in a teaspoon of soil while you learn which SYSTEMS will most encourage microbial diversity and abundance in your garden. Focus on the 20% that will get you 80% of the benefit. And for the least possible cost. Hint: most of the time research has sown that’s probably just using polyculture, perennials and organic mulches, which works better than fancy teas and inoculations. Done. So the thing to really study is systems for growing with deep mulches and polyculture, not memorizing the names of 28 microbes in somebody’s signature tea.

If you want a good return out of your garden, then stack 20% approaches: do the 20% most impactful actions on pests, the 20% for water, the 20% for weeds, the 20% for fertility, and so on. That probably looks like our Transformative Adventures ”Holistic Intensive Gardening” management system.

If you want a good return on life, IMO, it’s probably good to stack 20% efforts there, too, do the 20% you need for a healthy body, the 20% you need for a healthy environment, the 20% for stable finances, the 20% for a vibrant community, 20% for an optimized diet, the 20% for a healthy mind…. That’s Holistic Life Management I suppose. And that’s the topic of the Transformative Adventures, group if that sounds interesting to you.

This also makes us naturally more self reliant and resistant to scams selling us corporate junk and expensive designer garden minerals, microbe mixes and fitness drinks and so on.