Small scale rooftop farming, natural farming and autism, auto immune disorder, eczema, ADD, MS and others..

One thing which has bothered me about urban agriculture is that it is difficult to get the bulk at a price that makes sense. I mean, what are you going to do; grow your own corn in the backyard. Not a chance! How many people have a quarter acre/per person around their house, even with biointensive agriculture? I’ve pondered this for a while and the solution seemed far from reach.

I believe I have found a way forward, I cannot say whether it is a solution or not at this point, since I won’t know until I get there.

I think the important thing at this point is not to provide the raw calories, but rather grow enough to ameliorate the effects of the poisoned calories we obtain from GMO crops and chemically tainted industrially farmed crops. I came to this conclusion by happy fate, even when what that seemed fate seemed far from happy.

My 3 year old son appears to have some mild developmental disorders, namely a marked inability to make social connections with other children, an unwillingness/inability to make eye contact, a delay in potty training and language. In short, my son is at the mild tip of the autistic spectrum. It’s much more common among boys than girls.

However, if this has not occurred then I would not have been in a position to research the relationship between the gut and psychology, and prior to this between the garden and the gut. I’ve been reading a book about the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. The argument that this book puts forward is that mental health begins in the stomach and gut, and that processed/GMO foods/ingested antibiotics hijacks this health. The author of the GAPS diet book, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, writes that she had a child diagnosed as autistic but through diet modification he was cured.

I believe such a modification of diet, from unhealthy to healthy, is more within the scope of urban farming on one’s balcony or in one’s miniscule backyard. It’s not the full weight of the balance, just the tipping balance that decides the outcome one way or another. It seems that our fate is in the balance and that our personal cultivation may decide the issue.

I should add that my travelling the world exposed me to things like amoebic dysentery. It’s the cost of living and working in SE Asia when you don’t know enough to be careful.  My stomach hasn’t been right in 18 years and conventional medicine has basically shrugged its shoulders and told me it’s work related stress. Given that I work 18 hours a week and get four months paid vacation and love what I do, this explanation was hard to swallow (pun intended).

Natasha’s book tells me that amoebic dysentery can cause long lasting changes in the gut flora and that this, very much like as if the foundations of a building were undermined, can put the whole structure in jeopardy. I find myself believing this explanation because I’ve lived through it.

I’ve ordered water kefir from Dom at This is a water based culture of bacteria and yeast (scoby = symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that produces probiotic (ie strengthens the symbiotic relationship between you and your body’s beneficial/protective bacteria) liquids/solids for consumption.

If you read the section on fermented plant juice from the Korean Natural Farming, you will read that the vital essences of plants can be extracted by using brown sugar. Interestingly, water kefir works within a solution of sugar (the more organic and raw the better). It’s just a hunch, but I think if I were to dump cherries into brown sugar the osmotic pressure from the sugar would pull out the vital essence of the cherries. If I were then to put the augmented sugar into  a bottle with water kefir such that the essences were incorporated into the water kefir solution that I could cure a friend of recurring gout. If I could pull the vital essences from GAPS vegetables such as brocolli, carrots green beans and the like then I may be able to pull my son out from the edge of the autistic spectrum. I believe the cultivation of such ingredients is within the scope of balcony, rooftop and yard gardening. Essentially you are multiplying the benefits of plant material with brown sugar and a Kefir culture. There is a lot of evidence that a kefir culture on its own can do a lot of good, but I’ve never been one to settle.

In summation I believe the combination of kefir fermentation and small garden outputs provides a means for improving the conditions of our bodies and those of our children. I will attempt to update you on my progress on this front.

The science on this is far from explored so advocates and detractors have to argue in the absence of facts, so you will find both. My feeling is that it is very clear that diet is implicated in developed world diseases and that any diet which basically says no processed food, no processed sugar, no GMOs is likely to be on the right track. Even if some other process is curing your problem, other than a diet which specifically bans certain food and promotes certain foods on the basis of this food is great for toxic gut bacteria and this food hammers them, I don’t care. I will try this avenue, because let’s face it- the cost of prevention is always cheaper than the cost of treatment.

World March Against Monsanto takes place this Saturday

Research now shows that community gardening has health effects..


A small study undertaken in Salt Lake City found that community gardeners had a lower body mass index (BMI) than their peers who were not community gardeners. It also found that community gardeners were less likely to be fat. 46% less likely for women and 62% less for men.

Coming soon, details on how to purchase the handbook..

I’ve once again looked into how people overseas can get their hands on an original copy of the Natural Farming Handbook and this time I am making some progress. I should be able to provide the details over the next few days.

Natural Farming and Biochar video

Here’s a wonderful video which shows how to make your own biochar. Biochar basically acts as a coral reef in the soil, increasing the soil biodiversity and acting as habitat, thereby increasing soil fertility. The charcoal also acts as a sponge, so there is no nutrient leaching.

The video here does most of the work.

Kickstarter fundraising Toolkit for Climate Stabilization with Tree Crops

One of the writers that I follow religiously and is the inspiration for a lot of my thinking on these subjects is Eric Toensmeier. He wrote Edible Forest Gardens, a bestselling book on permaculture design, with another author. He also wrote Perennial Vegetables, essentially the world’s first book on agriculture using plants that you don’t kill at harvesting. 

You can find out about his previous authorship here. He even has his own Amazon author page, which tells you something right there.

Right now, he’s trying to write a book about using forest gardens for carbon capture as a means of reducing the speed and effects of climate change. Unlike other geo-engineering experiments, this one works by covering the land with food producing forest gardens that also sequester carbon. There’s probably only a few people on the planet that know this stuff inside out but Eric is one of them and along with people like Toby Hemingway about the only guy actively authoring books on the subject for the rest of us.

He is trying to raise money with Kickstarter, a ‘crowd funding’ website, that helps people trying to make a difference in the world obtain financial support from lots of small investors so they can get done those jobs that need doing.

I’ve invested 50 bucks and will get a book and some stuff around 2015. More importantly, I will have helped get this knowledge out there, where it absolutely needs to be.

I figure it’s worth it just to buy the book alone, so I am delighted to be in a position to help fund something so worthwhile. 

If you want to know more, and perhaps contribute…. here’s the url





Three steps forwards two steps back…

Well, the Guro thing is making progress of a sort. Still haven’t got anything down on the roof yet, since I can’t find the components. It’s the kind of thing that would take me a morning in the UK, but its a massive obstacle here. So, I went looking for someone who knows their way around and can speak English. Found a guy from Kazakhstan who is interested in helping. Unfortunately for quick progress, but perhaps fortunately from a commitment perspective, he wants to see a complete business plan before he joins in. So  farm is again on hold while a write what promises to be a forty page document. I believe the word he used was brochure.. gulp. So, like the title says three steps forward two steps back. I don’t think this thing will go further without him, or someone like him, so it’s progress of a sort. Does anyone know the Korean for Black Soldier Fly? It’s really difficult finding a source for something when you have no idea what it’s called in the local language. Pretty much found out that there are things you cannot find out on Google. I am finding lots of examples.. Groan..

A bit out of the loop

Recently, what with small son, full time job and project work, I’ve not been updating my blog as much as I used to. I apologize to my readers/subscribers for this. I think there comes a time when you have to put your ideas into practice and not just write about what you are going to do. I am presently doing this, which adds a little flesh to the project work mentioned in the introductory sentence.

I have acquired the use of a roof in the Guro region of Seoul. I am presently trying to find where to get the stuff to put on it, not an easy task when your Korean is not that great and the ideas/concepts are pretty complex. Needless to say, though I have just embarked on saying it, it is something of an uphill struggle.

Please continue to watch this space and in the future I hope to bring you videos, showing how I put this all together.

Stay happy, stay well, stay involved..


Black Soldier Fly combined with Biochar, Earthworms and Korean Natural Farming EM

I like systems. I am also not frightened by complexity, which is just as well since systems tend to be well… complex.

Everything in the title is concerned with using what is to hand. Simple fact of the matter is that most of this will be waste. Korean Natural Farming uses waste of all sorts from seared bones to fish heads. The Black Soldier Fly is a beneficial insect, just ignore the word fly, that converts food waste (putrescent or not, meat or not, dairy or not) into chitin, fat and protein, which you’ll agree are all very useful (if you don’t believe me type uses for chitin into Google and see what comes up).  Earthworms take the leavings from your cutting board and plates (with the exception of dairy and meat) and turns it into worm poop, also called vermicompost (which is in my opinion the best growing medium on the planet). Biochar takes a wide variety of organic waste and unbinds the carbon from everything else in it such that you have basically pure carbon, and more than this, pure carbon in a form which does not degrade in the soil for hundreds of years.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I should start trying to link the various forms of waste management into something which then serves as a fuel, catalysts and habitats for soil ecology. However the more I looked into this the more I found..

When I emailed Tristram Stuart, the author of the book Waste, which details the mind boggling massive and universally prevalent waste of food in developed countries about connecting that waste to black soldier fly, his concern was the possibility of it smelling bad. I took that on board and mulled it over. However, from my reading it appears that the other uses for biochar is that it removes odours from the air. So, the biochar, which is a soil improver can also be used to reduce the possibility of foul odours coming from another part of the system, namely the Black Soldier Fly bins.

There is also some evidence that the worm bin functions better when you dump Black Soldier Fly excreta into it. This of course makes perfect sense in that worms often get to something after the flies have taken their best shot at it. Could it be that this is a natural synergy that we are only now discovering? So that links the biochar odour reduced  black soldier bins with the worm bin.

Biochar (charcoal essentially)  itself is basically a sponge. It has a huge surface area, basically lots of pits, holes, tunnels etc with each and every surface space on it (of which there are a mind bogglingly huge number) capable of latching onto something and binding it. Put another way it’s an empty lattice just waiting to be filled. Biochar traps water and nutrients in a form which plants can then unbind. So it’s a good idea to soak it before you put it in the soil, or it will just suck the water right out of your soil.  Now Korean Natural Farming inputs are all solutions which means that biochar and Korean Natural Farming inputs is basically a match made in heaven.

Therefore a system which connects Korean Natural Farming Solutions with biochar with vermicompost systems with black soldier fly seems like a really good place to start.

Oh and biochar can be used to remove chemical and metal contamination from water, which if you have heavy metal laden ‘yellow dust’ storms flying in from China is certainly something to consider. Also if you connect your garden to an aquaponics system, some biochar could come in handy for your water supply, while the Black Soldier Fly and Worms feed your fish.

Coffee grinds to heat cold frames in winter

Hi all,

I’ve been pondering for some time now how to grow vegetables on rooftops over the winter. I know that I don’t want to make a DIY Passive Solar Water Heater and I really know that I don’t want to use my fresnel lens solar concentrator, since this would have the unfortunate side effect of burning down the building.

So I am looking at heating the self irrigated planters using compost. I first came across this, which is basically making a compost heater out of a wheelie bin and some tubing. I suspect there is more to it than that, but it looked promising.

Here’s the link..

I then came across an article which stated several things..

Firstly, that coffee grinds are not acidic. Apparently all the acidity went into the espresso.

Secondly, germination tests on lettuce for coffee grounds ploughed directly into the soil in quantity showed stunted growth for lettuce.

And thirdly, and most importantly, when coffee grounds made up about a quarter of a compost pile, the compost pile stayed at between 135 to 155 degrees for two weeks, a sustained heat period longer than when manure was used. The piece essentially says that you can use coffee grinds in place of manure. This is wonderful news since manure is a problem in cities. Why? Well generally because the only large animals in cities tend to be humans and most people have a problem with people using the compost heap as a toilet. However, without the manure component you cannot get the heat loving (heat producing would be more like it) bacteria and without the heat loving bacteria there is no heating up plants in winter.

Here is the link..

So what I intend to do is heat my self irrigated planters with the wheelie bin compost heater using coffee grinds obtained from the local coffee shops. Should there be any smell associated with this I mean to use biochar to keep it down, since charcoal is apparently great at removing noxious smells from the air in confined spaces. And since I will be making my own biochar from coffee grounds.. :)

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