living and cooking for the planet, for the health, for the animals

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And the sad game goes on – Agropoly

Last week’s news: German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer AG has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion. The tie-up of two of the six largest companies for agricultural chemicals and industrial seed (alongside Dupont, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta) would result in the world’s biggest company in agricultural production. The question that arises now is: what does this mean for food sovereignty and seed sovereignty?

A conventional farm becomes habit-forming of the agricultural chemical producers and suppliers and international agricultural trade corporations (Nestlé, Unilever, Mondelez, etc.) as purchasers of their products. Especially the pesticide producers Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta have, of course, an interest that alongside of the cultivation of their plants also their pesticides must be used.

“Food sovereignty” emphasizes the access to agricultural inputs such as land, seeds and water, and emanate from the right of all people and nations to define their own agricultural and food policies. However, because of the nature of capitalist industrial agriculture there are no free lands or areas. It deprives the planet of energy and other commodities, and it impacts the climate.

Also the “seed sovereignty” suffers from this trend. The industrial agriculture does not use locally adapted varieties and does not promote it either. On the contrary: Due to the proliferation of hybrid seeds and due to property rights on seeds  which prohibit the reproduction and seed exchange between farmers (in Europe the TOP 5 own half of the patents on plants) the conventional seed market is growing rapidly.

The acquisition of Monsanto is basically a 62-billion-dollar bet against a required change in agriculture, a change that argues against concentration processes within the separate sectors of feeding stuffs, livestock, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Bayer is betting that the industrialization of agriculture continues with more and more factory farms, genetic engineering and pesticides. But we do not want a mega-corporation, which has a monopoly on our food and promotes the industrialization of agriculture.

The point is rather to promote the proliferation of antique seeds and an agriculture that is not based on chemistry and mechanization but on biodiversity. This includes organic farming and permaculture. Food should be primarily produced and distributed regionally rather than exported to rich countries. Especially people who suffer hunger and malnutrition need to get access to resources such as land, water and seeds. Everyone needs to have the opportunity to feed him/herself in dignity – whether auto-productive or not.




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Garden Markers – Repurpose some very natural things

Since planting season is in full swing and most of it has been done we can move forward to some other points of the to-do list: aesthetics. Once we have crossed of the most important things we can focus (or just use our free time) on some projects which makes our vegetable garden look nicer and have even a structural function.

Today, I decided to make some stone vegetable garden markers which are very easy and minimalistic in design – just the way I like it. Our 3000 m2 are divided in four terraces of a hillside of a valley (just the typical Italian surrounding) close to a nature reserve and for this we have not only a very fruitful mother soil but also rocks ‘en masse’. So why not use some (because we have plenty of them) to make a nice decor that, at the same time, fits in perfectly to the natural habitat?…

You really don’t need anything else but the amount of rocks (and if course those ones that suits best according to your taste) and a permanent marker. Use your nicest or ugliest handwriting to paint the rocks and voilà! The labels are done.



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All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of yesterday

Plant seeds are small miracles: they contain all the genetic material of a plant, they can fly and swim. They survive heat, fire and cold. They can also spend years in a deep sleep and travel hundreds of kilometers. After some or all of these stresses and strains they germinate to grow again to a complete plant. What a miracle.

If we cultivate plants we take control over the seed process by, firstly, collecting seeds, secondly, store them carefully, and, thirdly, put them in the soil and let nature do the magic. But can we do more? Yes. We can prepare the best fundament by mixing the perfect soil which, by the way, we don’t buy, but mix ourselves.

What you need is very simple. You need to follow a basic principle of 60, 30, 5, 5. It takes 60% of the top thin layer of forest soil, 30% of your basic or “mother” soil which you find in your garden, 5% of wood ash and the other 5% organic fertilizer (e.g. “Deltafert stallatico super” which is 100% biologically active humified bovine and poultry dung).

The top layer which is the “forest floor” is composed of fresh and partially decomposed litter that has accumulated over many years. It contains whole or fragments of twigs, leaves, seeds, bark, and wood. It is full of organisms and most of the nutrient cycling happens here, making it a very important part of the overall functioning of the ecosystem. For this reason it makes 60% of our recipe.

The 30% “mother soil” is a good mix already and has a moderate organic matter level and iron oxides. Wood ash contains potassium (which regulates the plants’ water balance) and also calcium (which the plants use to build cell walls and membranes). The use of cattle manure is a popular practice in many rural areas, and this has a reason: among other things, it contains beneficial bacteria, which convert nutrients into easily accessible forms. Sounds like a good support for a germinating seed!

There are many recipes for mixing good soil and it always depends on the plant you are planting, because a vegetable’s seed is different from an herb or flower. However, we had good experience so far and I recommend it plAntily 🙂



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Why it’s important to connect to NATURE

Why it’s important to connect to NATUREhere exists e lack of information. You might want to say: Hold on! We live in the information age and considering the internet we can say that we ARE the evolution of technology, so how the heck can there be a lack of it? And I say you are right. However, this is the paradox of our time: we can create an enormous network of data sources and in no speed exchange information, but we do fail to connect to the one thing that is actually natural to us: nature.

I recently stumbled upon a book by Galina Schatalowa whom particularly German raw food activists will know very well. The book Fylosofyya zdorovʹya, 1997 (The Philosophy of Health) has been, luckily, translated into German and is an approach that brings together scientific research, practical experience and a holistic perspective about health. Without going into details I want to share what I found fascinating. Schatalowa explains that the major characteristic that distinguishes her approach of natural healing from any other system is its intense use of natural information. In this context I thought of the importance of connecting to NATURE and that we cannot forget that the exchange of information not only determines the life of human community, it is also a condition for the existence of living organisms, the living matter at all.

Unfortunately, today the exchange of information between nature and human beings has a less important role. The information we get is based on the fact of socialization per se, of being part of a human society. Only a small portion of the information comes from nature. However, we need to bear in mind that hundreds of thousands of years ago the sensory organs of human beings have been programmed for the accumulation and processing of information directly from nature. Who thinks that it does not matter for our eyes and ears what type of natural data they receive is very much mistaken. The self-isolation from nature of the modern man results in a chronic lack of information, and is reflected in his physical, but especially in its mental health.

New technology means of course progress and new innovations which I am totally in favor of. However, we do let us distract ourselves from the ringing, vibrating and buzzing of our phone, tablet, TV and computer. Right now I do work at my Laptop and I don’t want to miss this commodity but I need to get away from it and find my balance in nature. How else can I listen to my body signals or to what my body needs during e.g. winter or summer? How it reacts to humidity or dry weather conditions? What is the effect of eating meat vs being vegetarian or vegan? Is there a difference in life quality in the smog of a city or the clean air in the countryside? … I need to find tranquility in order to be capable of hearing what my body is telling me.

I, on the other side, decided to be very caring and loving with my body. I respect my body, my health, my fitness because there are two great attributes I cherish very much which Galina Schatalowa also highlighted to explain that we human beings need them in order to be “guardians of life”: reason, which increases our knowledge and gives us the ability to see far ahead, to foresee the consequences of our actions (what we eat or drink), and benignity that manifests itself in our willingness to share with others the most valuable thing we have – our knowledge. In this respect I really appreciate the internet and the new technologies we have. We can share knowledge and be also inspiration, and hopefully, give impulses to (in my case) connect to nature in order to find our balance.