Have you ever worked with acrylic paints and wondered how they are manufactured?
Acrylic paints consist of two parts:
Have you ever worked with acrylic paints and wondered how they are manufactured?
Acrylic paints consist of two parts:
The carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio is often considered to be of utmost importance in composting, particularly hot composting. If the C:N ratio is too high, the compost will break down extremely slowly. If the ratio is too low, the pile can produce a displeasing smell as excess nitrogen escapes into the atmosphere in the form of ammonia.
While many gardeners probably obsess over C:N more than is strictly necessary (and those who use cold composting methods typically do not need to worry about it at all), attention to the C:N ratio of your compost pile can keep it working smoothly and quickly. And it may be useful for troubleshooting!
Experts disagree on the optimal C:N ratio, but most scientific literature typically recommends something between 25:1 and 30:1. Higher ratios are fine if a slow composting process is acceptable.
Here’s a list of the average C:N ratios of common compost ingredients, pulled from a variety of sources:
Gardeners often simplify matters by thinking in terms of color—materials with a C:N ratio higher than 30:1 are browns, and materials with a ratio lower than 30:1 are greens. (Note that high-nitrogen materials can actually be brown in color and vice versa.) However, a compost pile that has a ratio of 30 parts brown material to 1 part green material actually has a disproportionately high amount of bulky carbon. If you are using browns:greens instead of C:N, you will want to use the ratio 1:1 or even 1:2, both of which take bulk into consideration.
Do the math to see why 1:2 works. Let’s say we’ve chosen to use one part leaves for our brown and two parts fresh grass clippings for greens:
This C:N ratio is slightly on the high side, but with patience should come out just fine. The mathematics will work on any other combinations of ingredients we choose to evaluate.
Also of interest is how the C:N ratio applies to plant residues left on the surface of the ground to protect the soil. The same 25:1–30:1 rule applies. If the ratio is lower, soil microbes will eat up all of the available carbon too quickly and leave the soil bare. If the ratio is higher, the microbes take a long time to eat up the high-carbon materials, leaving a great deal of chunky debris in the soil. Furthermore, the microbes will need to absorb more nitrogen to balance their diet, and this will have to come from the soil—leaving less nitrogen available for growing plants.
The practical implications? Often the best cover crop is a blend of high-carbon grains and high-nitrogen legumes. This mix, highly favored among organic gardeners, works because it keeps the C:N ratio close to optimal.
The C:N ratio will also affect the mulch you use. Wood mulches are attractive in ornamental gardens, but they pull a great deal of nitrogen out of the soil to balance out their high carbon levels—not good for growing sweet corn. For a vegetable garden, something a little closer to the optimal C:N ratio will foster healthier plants.
As you enter the field of sustainable agriculture, one term you will come into frequent contact with is permaculture. Permaculture is a very complex, systems-oriented topic and is thus difficult to summarize without leaving out any pertinent information. This discussion is intended to be merely an introduction.
In short, permaculture seeks to imitate natural systems and take a holistic approach to sustainable living and growing food. This emphasis on natural design results in a system that can be modified and applied anywhere around the globe (thus its appeal to urban gardeners). No design element is emphasized more than another because the key lies in the interaction of elements. In other words, the whole is larger than the sum of the parts.
The word permaculture was originally a portmanteau word combining permanent and agriculture. It is now considered a combination of permanent and culture, reflecting an expansion of the system into all aspects of society.
Note that, while permaculture is usually organic in nature, it is much more than simply growing things without chemicals. What is typically regarded as “organic farming” is often a prime example of a focus on one part of the system to the exclusion of all others.
The roots of permaculture go back as far as interest in sustainable farming practices. The term itself, however, originated from the subtitle of a 1929 book by Joseph Russell Smith, Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture. The concept of forestry agriculture sparked interest among those seeking ways of making farming sustainable.
Besides forestry agriculture, other ideas and systems from the early and mid-1900s that may have influenced the various renditions of permaculture include:
In the late 1960s, Australian scientist Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren began their observations of the rise of industrial agriculture and its consequences. A brief examination of the loss of biodiversity, topsoil, and water quality associated with commercial farming convinced them that a more sustainable system needed to be developed. As a wildlife biologist, Mollison was particularly disturbed by the effect farming was having on natural ecosystems. However, he quickly came to the conclusion that he wanted to respond with a positive solution rather than impotent rage. The result was the term permaculture (coined in the mid-1970s by the scientific duo) and the system it represented.
Permaculture has continued to evolve since its creation. One of the earliest changes came in the 1980s, when the focus shifted from farming specifically to society as a whole.
Permaculture is now popular among sustainable farmers across the world. Elements of permaculture design have influenced many more farmers who do not adhere dogmatically to any particular theory (e.g., Joel Salatin).
Permaculture advocates often list the following benefits of their system:
It has been noted that a permaculture system is only as good as the designer. Because permaculture is inexorably founded on ethics and observation, the whole system breaks down in the hands of the unethical and the unobservant. The permaculturist must be willing to continually learn, grow, and plan.
Permaculture and agroforestry are not inherently synonymous (although one might think so reading some descriptions of permaculture systems). Permaculture is, by design, adaptable to any ecosystem. But the heavy emphasis on creating forests may present a challenge to those seeking knowledge on practicing permaculture in native grassland environments. Building a grass-based permaculture system will require particularly close attention to nature and some dedicated research.
And, of course, conventional agriculturalists argue that permaculture cannot match the yields of modern farming methods. But they are not the only ones. Some biologists also note that the natural forests permaculturists seek to mimic are not capable of feeding the world—in fact, that is why humans developed agriculture.
Again, this post is merely an introduction to a complex topic. Permaculture is an involved subject in and of itself; plus it takes on a variety of forms as it is adapted to varying circumstances. Farmers of all stripes and beliefs use permaculture, and the system tends to reflect their different values. If you are interested in permaculture, take the time to search for a presentation that will fit with your values, as well as your natural ecosystem.
Tired of counting calories? Some health experts are now proposing an alternative—counting colors.
The pigments that give fruits and vegetables their varied, luscious hues are associated with nutrients important for peak health. Eating a variety of colors helps ensure that we receive a balanced mix of vitamins and minerals.
Here are some common colors and their associated nutrients.
Some red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelons, derive their color from lycopene, an important antioxidant. Others, such as grapes and strawberries, receive their rosy hue from anthocyanins.
The red family of nutrients includes:
This nutrient group contains important antioxidants that remove free radicals from the body and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and tumors. Fruits and vegetables in the red family are associated with lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. They appear to have beneficial effects in arthritis patients.
Ready to eat your reds? Try the red varieties of some of these fruits and vegetables:
Nutrients commonly found in this color family include:
This group can be divided into two groups—citrus and everything else. Citrus does not boast the beta carotene levels of vegetables like carrots, but it is much higher in folate and vitamin C.
Not surprisingly, there are many antioxidants and immune boosters in this group. But there are more goodies that you will find here! The orange/yellow group promotes the building of bones and connective tissue, and it helps ensure healthy pH and blood sugar balances in the body. And, of course, the lutein and beta carotene in carrots and other orange produce will keep your eyes healthy by protecting them from cataracts, inflammation, and age-related degeneration.
Try some of the orange and yellow varieties of these plants:
That beautiful green color in fruits and vegetables comes from the pigment chlorophyll.
Here are some of the benefits of eating your greens:
Note that this group can be subdivided into two categories—green crucifers (plants in the mustard family) and yellow-green noncrucifers. The crucifers are rich in isothiocyanates, while the noncrucifers supply an abundance of lutein.
This group boasts superb immune-boosting powers. And the high fiber levels associated with these plants will have a positive effect on your digestive system, as well.
Make sure some of these greens have a place on your plate from time to time:
Next in series: Blue and white, plus menu tips
Green foxtail (Setaria viridis) is also known as “green bristle grass,” and little wonder. This common grass has a peculiar upright or nodding cylindric inflorescence covered in bristly hairs. The inflorescence is green on the whole, but often has a purplish tint. It varies from one to five inches in length and can be up to an inch wide. Because of the unusual shape of the inflorescence, it is tempting to classify it as a spike, but it is actually a panicle with many branches—the branches are just very short and hard to find without dissecting the plant. Mutant green foxtail plants with forked inflorescences have been seen in west-central Kansas.Continue reading Green Foxtail
Running a farm or ranch is not the only way to cash in on your agricultural interest. These days, there are plenty of fields where a knowledge of agriculture and agricultural sciences can be a plus, and where you will have an opportunity to aid those who have chosen to work the land.
Here are a few ideas:
Looking for a rainy-day project? How about learning an instrument, taking up a new type of art, or building something you can use around the farm?
Give one of our readers’ favorite posts a try:Continue reading Top 10 Skill-Building Resources
Are you looking for new ways to improve your garden soil faster? Have you thought about ditching the rototiller?
No-dig gardening, no-till farming’s little brother, offers an exciting way to improve soil with less labor of the back-breaking variety. It also presents a far more natural way to garden—after all, Nature doesn’t own too many rototillers.
Are there pitfalls? The answer is yes. Even so, no-dig gardening may be right for your garden.
Let’s look at the pros and cons to determine the situations where no-dig gardening will be most effective.
Yes, no-dig gardening is a very natural way of building good soil. However, it requires an investment.
These two tips may make the transition easier for you:
The international letter code system is a standardized method of identifying cattle based on year of birth. Each year is associated with a letter of the alphabet. For example, the next few years have been assigned the following letters:
Note that four letters are excluded from the international letter code system:
Letters count back to 1969, the first A year, when the system became popular, and have been rotating ever since. Every time Z is reached, the rotation starts over at A.
The international letter code system is typically paired with other identification numbering systems to provide more specific information that differentiates calves born in the same year. Examples include:
Some cattlemen put the numerals before the letter for male calves (001F) and after the letter for female calves (F001). Others switch the order to distinguish between calves they co-own and calves they own by themselves.
Animals may be identified with their code by means of ear tags, tattoos, or brand marks. Some level of duplicate identification is commonly recommended to avoid accidental lost identity. For instance, a calf might be tagged in both ears or tagged in one and tattooed in the other.
The most important thing when choosing an identification system is to have a clear, consistent method of distinguishing one animal from another. Which of the variants listed above will work for you depends on the type of information that you will need to be able to see at a glance.