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Monday, January 16, 2012

Dr Tom Chalko ....Mt Best Sustainablility

I've just spent a fascinating hour exploring the website of Dr Tom Chalko who holds a PhD in holographic light since 1979. Yes, he is a Brain, and he has put his considerable intelligence towards achieving sustainability. Highlights for me are his chest freezer to fridge conversion  and bubble wrap window insulation.... both are fantastic innovations which look surprisingly great and work well. The fridge uses a tenth of the energy of a conventional fridge. Having just had a $2,000 4 year old fridge conk out on us, I will be ordering a chest freezer conversion kit from the Amazing Dr Chalko online shortly and never entering Harvey Norman for a 5 year wonder destined- for- the- tip again.. Tom has created a wonderful abode at Mt Best in the general vicinity of Wilson"s Promontory in Victoria. He has been regenerating rain forest, building a fully renewable energy efficient waste recycling home and has constructed a gorgeous dome glasshouse. He  writes books,  conducts retreats (where you can learn to read auras, walk in the rainforest and  and swim in a natural pool with cascading waterfall) and does all this at very reasonable cost. I love him. Here's the link to this marvellous man's website

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bamboo is Beautiful !

Happy New Year !  If it isn’t The year of the Bamboo, it should be! See below.
This week we have, for the visitor to the farm, the following produce :
Apricots, lemons, radish, beans, strawberries, rhubarb, amaranth, silverbeet, basil, sweetcorn, turnips, carrots, parsnip, potatoes, garlic, onions, eggs, and many other fantastic nutritious food. Phone us on 97561408 to arrange a time to shop here in Nannup. And while you are here, admire the bamboo.
Apologies to who said that, ever so sorry but I am not sure who it was, but I agree.
It could have been Victor Cusack. He has written a greatly helpful  book called “Bamboo Rediscovered”, which is one of my faves. He  goes into the cultivation of various breeds, propagation , managing a plantation  for timber or edible shoot production, special joining techniques for building, furniture fences and musical instruments.
But first some fact about bamboo that will astound you:
In addition to not requiring pesticides or fertiliser to grow, it reaches its mature harvested height in 3 to 5 years (versus 10-20 years for most softwoods).
BAMBOO generates up to 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees, and absorbs four times as much carbon as hardwood.
BAMBOO can detoxify wastewater (due to its high nitrogen consumption) and improve soil quality.
It has been grown and husbanded for thousands of years and has been on Earth for over 200 million years.

Bamboo, the biological airconditioner! When its 39 celcius, as it was the other day on the farm, our chooks , chicks and ducks don’t stray far from the  shade of this  fledgling bamboo .

Bamboo has the widest range of uses and the widest spread of habitats. It is a woody perennial evergreen plant that is actually part of the true grass family. Although they can grow to towering heights, bamboo is not actually considered a tree. Bamboo belongs to the family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae.
Bamboo along with being one of the tallest grasses in the world, is also the fastest growing plant in the world, capable of growing 1M per day! Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant on this planet. It grows one third faster than the fastest growing tree. Watching the new bamboo shoots emerge in the spring and early summer is a phenomenon unlike any other a gardener is likely to experience. The new shoots emerge from the ground the diameter that the full culm will be, and then grow to their full height in about 60 days. These culms never grow any larger. When conditions are favourable, the bamboo will put up larger shoots, to grow into new and larger culms each spring, until the bamboo reaches its maximum size for the species in those conditions. Bamboos are giant, woody grasses which put out several full length, full diameter, naturally pre-finished, ready-to-use culms ("stems") each year. A single bamboo clump can produce up to 15 kilometres of usable pole (up to 30 cm in diameter) in its lifetime.

Bamboo can be found all over the world in varied climates, from the cold mountainous regions to the hot tropical areas. It can quickly provide shade. It creates its own mulch which can be borrowed for poultry nesting boxes ect.
Bamboo utilizes carbon dioxide at a rate astronomically higher than other trees, and does it year around because it is an evergreen.
Bamboo has the fastest reforestation potential of any plant, making a new canopy in burnt landscapes in a matter of months. Bamboo also provides a  canopy for the greening of degraded lands, lowering light intensity and protecting soil  against ultraviolet rays.
A cutting of a tall bamboo will be a useful shade plant after just 2 years, however it will still take 10 years  for a fledgling bamboo clump to start producing full size culms ( width and height) . So if a bamboo house is on your wish list , take lots of cuttings this spring!
Thomas Edison's first successful incandescent lamp (light bulb) used a filament made of carbonized bamboo. It was patented in 1880. This light bulb still burns today in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC . Thomas Edison also used bamboo as rebar for the reinforcement of his swimming pool. To this day, the pool has never leaked. Alexander Graham Bell used bamboo for the first phonograph needle. Bamboo survived the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and provided the first re-greening after the blast in 1945.
With a tensile strength superior to mild steel (withstands up to 52,000 pounds of pressure psi) and a weight-to-strength ratio surpassing that of graphite, bamboo is the strongest growing woody plant on earth. There is a suspension bridge in China 250 yards long, 9 foot wide and rests entirely on bamboo cables fastened over the water. It doesn't have a single nail or piece of iron in it.
Used in ladders, scaffolding and construction, bamboo is twice as stable as oak, walnut and teak.
Bamboo can be made into fabric : linen, towels, socks,etc .BAMBOO fabric has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties too. BAMBOO has natural “wicking” properties meaning that it absorbs and evaporates moisture very quickly. BAMBOO is anti-bacterial even after 50 washes,– this natural anti-bacterial function along with the excellent permeability and evaporation of moisture makes BAMBOO apparel more odour-free,  and the fabric itself is also incredibly smooth ….great for people with allergies and sensitive skin.                                                                    
Bamboo has thousands of uses including airplane "skins", aphrodisiacs (!?) , blinds, brushes, crafts, desalination filters, diesel fuel, fly-fishing poles, flooring, food, furniture, medicine, musical instruments, ornaments, paper, rope, scaffolding, chopping boards, back scratchers, umbrellas, walking sticks, wind chimes and many, many, more. Bamboo is harvested and replenished with no impact to the environment. It can be selectively harvested annually and is capable of complete regeneration without need to replant.
 It  provides income, food, and housing to over 2.2 billion people worldwide.
The new shoots emerge from the ground the diameter that the full culm will be, and then grow to their full height in about 60 days. These culms never grow any larger. When conditions are favourable, the bamboo will put up larger shoots, to grow into new and larger culms each spring, until the bamboo reaches its maximum size for the species in those conditions. Bamboos are giant, woody grasses which put out several full length, full diameter, naturally pre-finished, ready-to-use culms ("stems") each year.
Bamboo plants can be classified as “clumpers”  which expand in size but virtually stay put and “runners” which spread underground roots rapidly . Shoots can pop up meters from the main plant. It is always recommended that you buy or propagate only clumpers, not runners.  Runners are apparently capable of taking over acres of land and generally being a nightmare to eradicate or control. We are not sure that this is the case in WA, and have friends who have grown all types of bamboo for 30 years in Balingup say runners are not as rampant as they are in the eastern states, but we err on the side of caution born of other battles with invasive plants  . Consider yourself warned!
At Merri Bee Organic farm we are into bamboo! Some bamboos specialize in having edible shoots, others in producing useful timber for building or furniture. We have found that not only the shoots but the bamboo foliage is relished by many of our animals: cows, sheep, rabbits, even chooks!  Unfortunately rats are also partial to its new shoots.
The plant makes a great lot of leaf litter so is a source of mulch. 
I love that bamboo seems to condense moisture from the night air and will often be dripping with condensation in the morning where other plants are dry.  See! Seew Ss See
As a cheap and ever improving fence, it is super ! Tall, inpenetrable  hedges can be formed in a few years from it with the simple aide of a line of trickle irrigation. Try to make this on a contour line for extra benefits like erosion control .Shoots of suitable bamboo species ( clumpers only!, ) are planted 30 cms apart along the trickle line which is placed where you want a fence. This is best achieved by digging out an entire clump of  bamboo and dividing it  to create many plants. With regular drip irrigation, each plant will produce a clump in a few years , forming a dense fence. Obviously you  would not expect a fledgling fence to stand up to a huge herd of cows, but with a mature fence visited infrequently by rotationally grazed stock, a bamboo fence would be very practical and another source of fodder. When you consider your fence is big and wide enough, simply cut right back on the irrigation.
How to propagate this marvellous gift of nature
Its not difficult so have a go! Best time is Spring.  Always keep everything wet and shaded when propagating bamboo. Early morning or late arvo would be best operating times.
Branch cuttings

Branch cuttings are good because you can take many branches off a culm and they just regrow . Culm cuttings have a higher and quicker success rate but you need to take a whole mature culm from the plant . Take a large central dominant branch from a mature node . Saw it off, cut it off, carefully remove it somehow trying to reduce damage to the parent culm or swollen part of base of branch.
After removal, cut the primary branch off just above the second or third node, and cut off any secondary branches immediately after the first bud. Stick these cuttings in a pot of course sand and water in. Thereafter, keep in a shaded, humid environment, misting with water a few times a day.
The best method we have found... Culm cuttings

We took 2 mature ( meaning at least 12 months old) culms about 12 feet long from which we obtained 9 new plants in about 6 weeks. Stewart learnt this method in QLD from his mate Stan White. You cut the culm such that there is about 6 inches of culm left below a node. This you bury in sand. Leave a few branches on the node which will stick out of the sand. Remove all the big leaves from it.... leave one  small one only. The cuttings should be about a foot long, because you are going to have 6 inches( 150 mms for my younger friends) of culm above and about 4 " or 100 mm below each node. ASAP, place the cuttings, as you make them with a pruning saw and secateurs, in a bucket of water ...THE RIGHT WAY UP! I use recycled  deep polystyrene boxes half filled with course sand . The pots or boxes of cutting must be kept in a shady and humid environment for the next 6 weeks. To create this we threw some UV light stabilized plastic, followed by some shade cloth over a frame and set up a trickle pipe with a misting mini sprinkler and a timer tap. The timer tap was the best $40.oo I ever spent, as no matter how busy or forgetful I am,  the cuttings receive 3 X  1 minute  bursts of fine "rain" every 24 hours.  Wonderful! It is always important not to fully rely on such gadgets however, as its easy for a pipe to blow off its joiner and this happened when I was away and Stew was in charge.Grrr. Lost a box of coprosma cuttings due to that oversight ... cest la vie.
Place your cuttings into the sand , with the node just under ground level. Roots will form from the node.
Now for the tricky bit that ensures the success of this method. Fill the 6 inches of culm sticking up with water!
I wish you luck propagating the biological air con, it really is a gorgeous plant.

Cheers !   The merry Bee