Mis à jour : 15 oct. 2018
Quick update on the chickens: they have all contracted bronchitis. This means that few will die, but the rest will suffer a lower quality of life, effectively not laying any eggs at all. We preemptively killed one. It was delicious.
I have had a really busy week. I participated in two Native American ceremonies, a trade show and one Green Party presentation/meeting. As often happens, tackling one research heavy problem opened the doors to many others. This week has been expansive. I will carve out some of my thoughts here.
I was commissioned to research our next irrigation system. It was easy to separate, in the abstract, that we should either do drip irrigation or clay pot irrigation. Originally recorded in an ancient Chinese farming text called the Fan Sheng-chih Shu, the clay pot method of irrigation seemingly evolved into what we call drip irrigation today (Bainbridge, 2000)(Goyal, 2012).
Clay pot irrigation is good because, when heated, placed, and maintained properly, the clay pot’s pores allow the plant to access exactly as much water as it needs. For a description of costs and techniques check out a short report done by the United Nations Environment Programme where its use is tracked from Brazil since 1978.  Clay pot irrigation is little researched, the two most cited papers can only be found in Spanish. Based on the principle of porosity, I imagine it would be possible to tailor the porosity of the pots to certain plants, thereby starving the weeds. This might provoke something like cloud seeding in a weed intense area like our farm in the future, but it is nothing like the future imagined for drip irrigation.
Drip irrigation suffers two major problems and one minor one. The system is highly susceptible to clogging, and requires extensive filtration at both the source and the destination. Furthermore, should anything happen to the pipes, whose decomposition in sunlight produces estrogen, the entire system would have to be fixed. Many technical solutions are available, and make the maintenance costs not as great as the clay pots, which would have to be refired every few seasons. However, drip irrigation needs to be monitored all the time should any of its problems arise anywhere on the line, making diagnosis challenging. The minor problem of drip irrigation is that it distributes water/resources imperfectly. In Nanotechnology in Agriculture and Food Joseph and Morrison suggest that technological improvements will improve the precision of water distribution in drip systems (2006). Sensors will be placed near the plants so that water will be delivered when it is needed. Low flying planes will have thermal cameras to detect water levels and trigger the system to distribute water.
The best thing about drip irrigation, at this stage of my understanding, is that it allows the farmer to introduce fertilizer into the stream (though it may exacerbate clogging). Obviously, nanotechnology and the clay pot system (maybe by controlling the porosity) can converge and have the plants regulate their own water supply. That’s exactly what the ancient clay pot has done, and what the techno-future of drip is after. It is called ‘precision farming’ (Joseph, Morisson, 2006).
The sub-problem is resource allocation. One of the interns here is an expert in mycology. Before speaking with her I did some research to validate my hypothesis: mycelium, the underground network of fungi, should, if extensive enough, properly allocate chemical resources throughout the farm (while clay pots allocate water to individuals). Once again, the scientists were busy; however, there was one paper which suggested that mycelium might obey something called biological market theory.
So, armed with a hypothesis I confronted Jaime, who proved insightful. I asked her if mycelium had any particular bias, does it like some plants more than others and if so why? She explained that there are many types of mushrooms, and sometimes, if deprived of resources, they’ll become aggressive. She believes that mushrooms arise as a result of certain circumstances. As we talked she explained that we tend the plants and the soil for our own survival, and that they would continue without us. It’s our efforts that keep certain fruits alive, and the exchange of kilojoules, she said, would be in favor of the plants, not us. The best we can do is foster the growth of beneficial organisms
When I see drip irrigation leading to precision farming I see this:
When we put stakes down for tomatoes this...
...combines to this:
Every weekday morning we have ‘scrum’ where we talk about the tasks to be done that day. Usually Justin starts and today he mentioned a tension of forces and the need for a proper allocation of ‘masculine energy’. Once someone finishes outlining their tasks for the day, they select the next person to speak, creating the day’s narrative from the top down. Let’s use a labor paradigm that has actors competing for labor, and think of the scrum as a micro agenda setting meeting. The agenda is set well outside of the democratic scrum, either by influence or by greater forces.
Take this miniature and construct a fourth industrial future in parallel. Labor is commandeered well in advance of the scrum. To see a picture of what labor competition looks like check out Red Mars page 83 which shows how newly landed Martian colonists compete for the local labor force (the trilogy is becoming my life, I live between the farm, you guys, the towns, and Mars). Anyway, it became evident that I was the muscle, the material labor, Jaime was the expert of the immaterial, and Rachael was the mover of both.