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How To Get There 3/11/19

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, November 3rd, 2019 - 9 comments
Categories: Deep stuff - Tags:


This post is a place for positive discussion of the future.

An Open Mike for ideas, solutions and the discussion of the possible.

The Big Picture, rather than a snapshot of the day’s goings on. Topics rather than topical.

We’d like to think it’s success will be measured in the quality of comments rather than the quantity.

So have at it!

Let us know what you think …

9 comments on “How To Get There 3/11/19 ”

  1. Robert Guyton 2

    This is a bit of a cheat, but I’ve been commenting on a very interesting site dedicated to regenerative farming in New Zealand and some of the discussions might be of interest here on How To Get There, as regenerative farming is on the path, trending the right way to changes needed in agricultural practices here and across the globe. I’ve removed names, called myself, “A” (not really, “A” stands for “answer” and other people “Q” for “question. In the first thread, the “Q” was about which trees to grow for firewood:

    A: I have a suggestion for firewood; more a practice than a particular tree (though sycamore are especially good for this 🙂 Grow your tree for 2 or 3 years until their trunks are as thick as your forearm, then cut them close to the ground; coppice them, in other words, with a hand saw then sw them up green into lengths that fit your fire. Store them till next winter. The stump left behind will sprout several new trunks; let them grow for 2 or 3 years, then repeat the process. That way, you'll have firewood forever, never have to replant, never disturb the soil, never kill a tree. That's sustainable firewood production. Don't let them get too big and you'll have a practically effortless system. Many trees suit coppicing; hazel, sweet chestnut, willow etc. You can feed the "slash" to livestock, or convert it to charcoal for soil building or bbqing, or compost it or lay it down to build fungal communities. What's not to like?

    “Q”: Totally! Keen to find more about sycamore and sweet Chestnut. Thankfully we have many trees already, some of which B found out about coppicing too – willows in particular. We need some more long hot burning wood as one of our fires heats our central heating! The smaller stuff will be superb for the coal range. I have discussed making charcoal with B and he is keen to give it a go – just got to think of a good place to put a pit. Just a thought, does decomposing wood produce heat? Enough to warm something planted or housed above? Thanks so much for your great ideas

    A: Compost heaps made in one day using plenty of nitrogenous material (grass clippings etc – fresh greens) create an enormous amount of heat due to the bacteria that feed on them and release the stored energy, bur wood-based "composts" employ fungi as an agent of decay and they work more slowly and without making heat. Charcoal-making for soil remediation is interesting but it's not yet certain how effective the methods we use are, compared with the ancient terra preta processes. Personally, I feel direct application of woody material to the ground is the best method, as it creates environment where a myriad of living organisms, especially the fungi, can thrive; charcoal, not so much. I'm also unsure about the gases created by an imperfect charcoal-making burn; some of those are greenhouse gases. If I burn wood, I'm always conscious that I'm robbing the fungal community of sustenance 🙂 If you want to heat plants above some heat-producing, composting material, you could easily make a "hot-box" using fresh horse manure with a layer of soil on top, into which you plant seedlings etc. The Victorian gardeners did this in chilly England in late winter, early spring, to great effect.

    • weka 2.1

      Grass clippings Robert? I'm shocked 😛

      Love the in-depth thinking here. Can you please briefly describe the terra preta process and how it differs from other charcoal use on the land?

      • Robert Guyton 2.1.1

        Charcoal-making's easy and digging it into your soil will help improve its quality but the "magic" of the terra preta soils has not been yet fully explained. The indigenous people who were producing it, not sure how the did it or how they learned it would be so wonderful, may have included materials or processes that are as yet undiscovered or not verified (it was a long, long time ago, but this terra preta soils continue to function as they did when they were produced. One common description is that the carbon "net" that charcoal is, provides a "reef" for tiny soil organisms to shelter and live in; it's an elegant explanation and I like it. Modern attempts to reproduce terra preta soils are inconclusive, but the romance remains. As for grass-clippings, I was writing for a farming audience; don't want to startle the horses too much smiley

        Presently we are talking coppicing Quaking Aspen, which is called, Mr Bleeple will be interested to hear, the Asbestos Tree, due to its fire-proof-ness. These farmers are transitioning away from conventional agriculture and sparky with it. I'm enjoying mixing with them, they don't bristle as conventional farmers often do when IO enter the room or chat forum smiley

        • Robert Guyton

          More to the point though, I'm outside reducing some of the understory of my forest-garden to mulch with a very sharp spade smiley The weather here is delightful!

  2. greywarshark 4

    I have just finished (again) The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith. It's part of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series.

    I recommend it for a quiet, slow, reflective storyline that is set in the not really ordinary life of a woman in Botswana whose father dies, and leaves her a useful piece of land and a herd of fine cattle, which she sells and sets herself up as a detective helping people sort out their problems.

    As the story wends its way, she has to use tact and judgment, kindness and firmness, emotional and other sorts of intelligence, ethics, and minor law-breaking. What is right in this situation? And helping to decide the appropriate course of action is her dead father's precepts which were admirable, and the leader of Botswana on independence who was also admirable and set high standards based on Enlightenment thinking and probity.

    As we grapple to hold onto appropriate behaviours and practical morals that allow us to be human, but with boundaries on behaviour, this is a good little story which says something about the adventure of everyday living. Exciting war, spy, exploration, confrontation on a grand scale stories, are powerful reads and often too real for comfort. But the battleground for gracious living at the simple level, with wellbeing for everyone as a rallying cry, is laid out for us here by McCall Smith

    He's done a lot and has a sense of humour, and brings all his talents and experience into his books I think.

    He returned to southern Africa in 1981 to help co-found the law school and teach law at the University of Botswana.[5] While there, he co-wrote The Criminal Law of Botswana (1992).[8]

    He was Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and is now Emeritus Professor at its School of Law. He retains a further involvement with the University in relation to the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.

    He is the former chairman of the Ethics Committee of the British Medical Journal (until 2002), the former vice-chairman of the Human Genetics Commission of the United Kingdom, and a former member of the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO. After achieving success as a writer, he gave up these commitments.

    He was appointed a CBE in the New Year's Honours List issued at the end of December 2006 for services to literature.[9] In June 2007, he was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at a ceremony celebrating the tercentenary of the University of Edinburgh School of Law. In June 2015 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters at a graduation ceremony at the University of St Andrews.

    An amateur bassoonist, he co-founded The Really Terrible Orchestra. He has helped to found Botswana's first centre for opera training, the Number 1 Ladies' Opera House,[11] for whom he wrote the libretto of their first production, a version of Macbeth set among a troop of baboons in the Okavango Delta.[12][13]

    In 2012, he appeared in a documentary about the life and work of author W. Somerset Maugham, Revealing Mr. Maugham.[14]

    In 2014, McCall Smith purchased the Cairns of Coll, a remote, uninhabited chain of islets in the Hebrides. He said, "I intend to do absolutely nothing with them, and to ensure that, after I am gone, they are held in trust, unspoilt and uninhabited, for the nation. I want them kept in perpetuity as a sanctuary for wildlife – for birds and seals and all the other creatures to which they are home.” [15]

    During a visit to New Zealand in 2014 McCall Smith visited Rawene where his grandfather George McCall Smith ran the hospital for 34 years and created the Hokianga area health service.


    He and his whole family have been bright sparks in the world.
    Last bit of poem 1 September 1939 W.H.Auden.

    Defenceless under the night
    Our world in stupor lies;
    Yet, dotted everywhere,
    Ironic points of light
    Flash out wherever the Just
    Exchange their messages:
    May I, composed like them
    Of Eros and of dust,
    Beleaguered by the same
    Negation and despair,
    Show an affirming flame.

    W.H. Auden

  3. greywarshark 5

    I was talking about the idea of getting a little booklet of hints and discussions from How to Get There which could be run off as a pdf for Christmas. But I wouldn't know how to do it and would need help. And nobody has replied to my idea, and I haven't time anyway so won't put myself out. Just confirming that i am no longer interested in this at all now.

  4. greywarshark 6


    No caption

    Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

    North Canterbury farmers Melissa and Hayden Cowan have a small flock of rare black-nosed Swiss Valais sheep.

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