Biodiversity and the Wizard of OZ



I have come across several authors who are encouraging us from great passion to get off the couch and help in some way. My passion as you know by now are the wild edible plants that provide food and medicine. Intertwined with this passion is my love of this place we call home, the earth. The earth needs us now more than ever to be mindful of our actions and to remember that our purchases cast a vote. Are we changing from a consumer, consuming society to one dedicated to managing our resources with care and regard for the future.? I came across a report that Brazil has cut an 8,000 acre area from the rain forests and grows grains. They are the top or one of the top growers of grains in the world. The number of species  that are removed and displaced in that quantity of land is mind boggling. This photo is an aerial view of a river in the amazon.From a distance it truly is an emerald city.

In reviewing the principles of diversity in the forest setting we see models that work. Ones that we can copy for as I said in a previous post Nature is not wantonly destructive. There is a rhythm to its seasons, cycles, patterns, and can be managed accordingly. Why is it the practices that no longer serve us remain unchanged? Nature works in circles. Yet we continue our mono crop farming linearly. We know pesticides do none of us any good yet we continue to use them.

Jean Houston in The Wizard of Us, asks us this question: ” What would our political, social, and personal lives be like if we could learn the dynamics of whole-system interliving that characterizes communities in nature? Nature is an inspired psychologist and a brilliant Social Artist to boot. For if we look at Nature’s laws, strategies, and principles, we discover that:

  • Nature runs on sunlight.
  • Nature uses only the energy it needs.
  • Nature fits form to function.
  • Nature recycles everything.
  • Nature rewards cooperation.
  • Nature banks on diversity.
  • Nature demands local expertise.
  • Nature curbs excesses from within.
  • Nature taps the power of limits.

Nature provides us with enormous potentialities and isn’t that grand? What can you do today to contribute to the solutions we need today? I encourage you to watch the movie The Wizard of OZ  more closely and see the potentials in OZ, a green city! Thank you Jean for your book on the gifts of OZ.

Enjoy your day. Judith


Edible Forest Gardens, by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier, discusses diversity and reminds me again about the interconnectedness of all of us on this planet. When we examine the models nature presents to us maybe we can begin to grasp that we are all in this together. Interconnectedness does not mean each species, each element is lost. Rather each species, each element has a function, a role. Every element and species in a forest, for example, can influence other aspects, both internally and externally. Many of our ancient models such as Ayurveda, Taoism, five element theory, have looked to nature for answers to living here on this planet in harmony and balance. Let’s take a look at four aspects of functional diversity:

  1. On a personal level, each organism has its own needs, characteristics, behaviors which defines its special place in the system.
  2. On a community level, each forest system is not only made of things but also contains a variety of functions which the authors call professions: each role is filled by those who are qualified to fill those roles i.e. who has the ability to be the pollinator? who provides the canopy? The community level includes everyone’s place in the food chain.
  3. The community depends on each species to perform its function. And, it depends on redundancy which means that there are more than one species that performs a given role. This is important to the longevity of the forest community. If one species is lost the community can still function.
  4. Diversity is just that, a system with diverse roles and functions that interconnect. These are different from simple variety. Simple variety is simply a collection and does not offer a system that is functionally vibrant and maintains integrity.

Diversity encourages diversity. It adds more flavor, elements, structures to the whole and enhances that whole.  I leave you today with a quote from Albert Einstein:

The human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘universe’,
a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts 
and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical 
delusion of consciousness.

This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle 
of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature
in its beauty.”

Today I invite you to take a walk in nature. Can you feel included? We are partners: nature, you and I.

Enjoy your day. Judith


The Importance of Biodiversity




I would like to begin this year and this month on biodiversity and community. 2012 is behind us. The Mayan calendar showed me an extremely complex mathematical system that described cycles, cycles of day and night, the moon, our  364 day rotation around the sun and larger more epic cycles of 26,ooo years. This time was meant for us to grow, stretch, explore and create this world in astounding ways. We have ended an epic chapter of so many years it is hard to understand. We have taken the first steps into the new cycle. Isn’t it amazing?  Has it been easy getting here? Not always. We face many challenges as systems change seemingly overnight. How we have grown, even outgrown paradigms and shifted during the past 25 years, the time of purification my Native American friends spoke of, over and over?

How we go about creating what we are wanting in this new cycle is up to us. I invite you this month to take a walk with me down the path of diversity using the forest as our model. We are creative beings and diverse. What can we learn from this model?

                                 “Nature teaches us that a garden has multiple interactions.  
                                 We cannot hope to understand all of them and we don’t need to.” ( from Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier)

We can look to Nature and its communities to understand our own diversity and needs as a community. In this framework we can see complex systems, interconnected whose primary purpose is to grow, manage pests and diseases so there isn’t weakness and loss. This diverse system effectively reduces fighting or conflict over existing resources. This leads me to ask questions: what are the building blocks of community? Do we create our foundations with respect, integrity, honor, trust? or something else? In Edible Forest Gardens, the authors remind us that in the forest there are roles and yes even professions. For example a species is a pollinator, another provides canopy. In order for the forest to survive and thrive it competes in interconnectedness so that all forms exist, not the few. 

Winter is a good place on the wheel of life to sit a bit, reflect, think about what we want to see, have in our gardens. Preparation leads to results. We have learned much these past 25 years, at the very least what we don’t want. Today I leave you with thoughts of diversity:  What does it mean to you?  How can we bring our ideas into our everyday life? The forest can take us into a stillness. If you have the chance take a walk out in nature today. Though quiet and still there is a dynamic and vibrant peacefulness here in its diversity.

Enjoy your day. Judith


Relationships: Down and Dirty!

The Relationships in Dirt:

Soil, dirt, is about relationships. “Soil is probably the most complex ecosystem on earth. It has physical and chemical properties, structure and integrity and a single handful may be home to more than a billion organisms.” (1)

This earth matter grows only living life. Most of this amazing population can only be viewed under a microscope.  These soil organisms flourish when the soil is in good health. They help convert organic matter and soil minerals into the vitamins, hormones, disease-suppressing compounds and nutrients that plants need to grow.

Soil components: mixture of various mineral particles, organic matter, water and air. Did you know that a handful of soil is about 25% water and 25% air? Both are needed for the organisms to thrive and complete their tasks of conversion as mentioned above. Plants get Nitrogen from the air an essential nutrient. Large pore spaces created by decomposing material and excretions allow water to get to the roots.

Organic matter: the soil matter that remains after most decomposition has taken place. Humus, for ex. is a brown or black complex variable material resulting from partial decomposition of plant or animal matter and forming the organic portion of soil. Humus comes from the Latin: earth, ground and is essential to the fertility of the earth. It’s interesting to note that the word “humble” comes from the Latin humus too.

After you have your soil test results then apply soil amenders as natural as possible.

(1): D. Pettinelli, Assistant Extension Educator, Home and Garden Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Ct.

The East: Stories: The Bean Woman

We take these winter months to plan our gardens, drool over our catalogs, plot and plan to create our garden visions. We still have time to take a few moments and remember family gardening stories. My grandfather had a green thumb. I remember fat cabbages and hot juicy red tomatoes we picked off the vine. I loved the ripe red raspberries though negotiating the prickered vines and dodging bees was a challenge.  I took it on anyway.  The reward was worth it.

Stories can carry lessons for gardening too. For example, one of my favorite is the “The Bean Woman” a story from the Tutelo tradition. The Bean Woman was looking for a husband. Several animals stepped up to the plate for her voice was very beautiful. But it was the quiet corn man who won her heart for the support he offered her. When gardens are planted in the traditional way green beans are found entwined around corn stalks.  Beans are legumes which have  a certain type of bacteria that live on nodules on their roots.  When these bacteria absorb nitrogen , nitrates are formed and needed for the plants to grow. Beans, legumes fertilize the soil and corn provides support.  A perfect relationship? Romance in the garden? You bet.


February: The East: Storytelling


A Storyteller is the Guardian of the history and Sacred Traditions that can help all of us as we try to walk on the Sacred Path to balance. It is most important to keep the ancient knowledge alive for the children to have with them as they grow and begin their journeys helping them to see the Medicine Lessons that still apply today. The arrival of the Storyteller was a much celebrated time for many bands and tribes of North America as they brought the ancient stories along with news of what was happening with the other Peoples they had visited. “

Why stories this month? Winter and the North teachings celebrated the storyteller in many traditions. The days were quiet and most areas too cold to be out for long. It was a time of mending tools, sorting seeds for spring, planning the gardens, telling the teaching stories so the community remembers the wisdom gathered from one generation to another. Today we have movies, television, books, cd’s, with self publishing blossoming so fast we have stories instanty. Who in your family is a great storyteller? Who makes us laugh? I have friends originally from Ireland. The bards and the poets come out creating a lively Saturday night. I have participated in an open mike locally and marvel at the poems and stories that burst forth with passion and a deep need to be heard, especially those from our young folk. Stories have a magic and a mystery to them. Teachings, morality, ethics, right thought and right action can be hidden between the lines. We hear the same story differently when we visit them at different ages. What’s your favorite story? Have you taken the time to listen to your elders stories? Which ones fascinate you? Enjoy…Judith