Posted on

PLANETARY BOUNDARIES PART 5 OF 9 BIOGEOCHEMICAL FLOWS

Part 1 – Stratospheric Ozone Depletion

Part 2 – Loss of Biosphere Integrity

Part 3 – Climate Change

Part 4 – Ocean Acidification

The biogeochemical flows, this planetary boundary is referring to, is the phosphorus cycle and the nitrogen cycle. These cycles happen naturally in nature over time, and without our intervention, remain in balance.

Let’s start with nitrogen

Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air we breath and so, it is all around us. This gas is made of two atoms with triple bonds. These bonds are very difficult to break. Plants and animals, including us, need nitrogen to survive. We cannot use the nitrogen in the air and neither can plants. So how do we access this nitrogen?
Tiny microscopic bacteria that live in the soil take nitrogen from the air and fix it into the soil. These bacteria produce enzymes that break these triple bonds and put nitrogen into a form that is accessible to plants. We can then access our nitrogen requirements by eating the plants. Nitrogen is returned back into the system when plants and animals die or when animals urinate or produce manure. Plants take this nitrogen up from the soil to grow. There are also special bacteria that convert this accessible nitrogen into atmospheric nitrogen or nitrogen gas. Another name for this  gas is dinitrogen.

Commercial agriculture uses synthetically made nitrogen to fertilize crops but this chemical leaches into rivers and lakes when it rains and causes algae blooms. When the algae dies, bacteria break them down but consume all the oxygen in the water by doing so. These oxygen consuming bacteria turn the river or lake into a dead zone. It’s called a dead zone because no other aquatic life can survive in water without oxygen. America’s dead zone off the eastern coast is visible from space. 

You can see from looking at the planetary boundaries picture, that we have crossed this boundary into the red high risk areas. This means we have too many dead zones around the world because of nitrogen pollution in seas and lakes. Commercial agriculture takes a lot unhealthy shortcuts to produce food but affects the natural balance of nature and thus negatively impacts our ecology. Permaculture methods do not use chemical fertilizers but lets nature do the work for us. 


The Phosphorus Cycle

Phosphorus is found in rock especially sediment layers and with constant weathering, is released into the ground. Plants take up phosphorus from the ground and we take up our needed phosphorus from plants. When animals and plants die, this phosphorus is returned back to the soil or runs into the sea, becomes a sedimentary layer and in a few million years, pops up as a mountain exposed to weather again. It’s a really slow process.

Commercial agriculture has messed up the phosphorus cycle so badly, that it is becoming deplete in the soil. Phosphorus is mined and used in chemical fertilisers that commercial farmers use. Permaculture does not use synthetic fertlizers to grow crops and harmonises with nature’s processes. Permaculture is the sustainable and regenerative method of farming because it treats the land as a permanent source of nutrition by building top soil and not depeleting it.

Nitrogen and phosphorus cycles
The Phosphorus Paradox
Fritz Haber – his paradoxical life
Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Lughnasadh or Lammas in February

If you are part of the green revolution and have a yard or allotment, then you are probably harvesting corn round about now.
We have such a rich history with corn and grain as humans domesticated teosintes to maize  some 6000 years ago. A tradition has evolved with harvesting corn and grain, where we celebrate the good things in our lives.

I know I am not alone in revering the earth as sacred. It is important to remember how we physically depend upon the land for food. The soil sustains our existence and so to treat ourselves with respect, we must start with the living earth beneath our feet.

With this celebration of our good yields, a theme of fairness runs through this time of harvest and distribution. Sharing our harvest with others by having a communal meal is one way to celebrate the corn harvest. Traditionally, a loaf baked in the shape of a ringed braid or a sheaf of corn is shared and includes a thanksgiving element. Sharing and thanksgiving can also be celebrated by volunteering time or money to charitable work.

We can acknowledge and bring awareness to the environmental damage from pollution and irresponsible farming methods that compromise nature’s balance and future harvests. This festival provides an opportunity to metaphorically separate the wheat from the chaff and symbolically rid ourselves from things that are no longer needed. Let’s consider what we might do to ensure that future harvests are uncontaminated and equally distributed.

Unicorn Cafe wishes you a fruitfuil harvest and is thankful for your continued support. 

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Ditch the Trashy Life – Up cycle Old Light Bulbs

You will need gloves and protective eye wear for this. Break the seal and using pliers, take out the tube and empty out the contents. Click here for more detail. Find a metal washer that is big enough for a 12 cm cotton string to go through but also hold it in place. Glue the washer to the the part that you use to screw in the bulb. Find a round base to place the bulb on. This could be a washer, a large nut, a plastic bottle top or even a piece of wood with a circular hole carved into it. Glue the glass part of the bulb to the base so it is secure. Fill the bulb with lamp oil and thread the string through the washer at the top. Congratulations! You have now converted an old light bulb into an oil lamp. For video tutorials, click here or here.

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Recipes for Litha


Sun’s Up Cobbler

Ingredients:

3 and 1/2 cups of halved peaches in syrup
3 slices slightly dry or lightly toasted bread
1 tbs. cornstarch
1/4 cup melted vegan butter or margarine.
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegan butter or margarine 
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 

Method:

Drain the peaches, reserving 1 cup of syrup.
In a pan, combine cornstarch and salt and slowly blend in reserved syrup.
Over medium high heat, cook and stir until the mixture comes to a boil.
Reduce heat and cook and stir for 2minutes.
Add lemon juice, vegan butter or margarine and peaches.
Heat until it looks like it’s about to to bubble.
Pour into a  medium size baking dish. 

Cut bread lengthwise into 2 /3 cm strips.Dip the pieces into 1/4 cup melted vegan butter or margerine, then into mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Arrange over peaches. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until toasty. Serve with whipped coconut cream. Makes about 6 servings. 


Lavender Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients:


1 pint water
28g lavender flowers 
225g sugar
Juice of 4 lemons


Method:


Pour boiling water over the lavender flowers and allow to infuse for about 20 minutes. Then add sugar and lemon juice, and chill. Store in the fridge.To make up, mix about 1 part of the syrup to 4 parts water, serve with ice

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

PLANETARY BOUNDARIES PART 4 OF 9 OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

PART 1 – Stratospheric Ozone Depletion
PART 2 – Loss of Biosphere Integrity 
PART 3 – Climate Change

If you know about climate change, then you will know that burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas is releasing carbon into the atmosphere. This carbon affects the ability of the suns rays to be bounced back into space.

Between 30 and 40 percent of this atmospheric carbon is absorbed by the ocean. As the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic. This increased acidity is killing sea creatures that use calcium carbonate to survive. These include animals with shells like oysters, coral and crabs. Many of these creatures are keystone species which means that they support the ecosystem in a big way. As keystone species collapse, then ecosystems collapse.

What can you do to help?

  • We don’t need a whole car to ourselves if there are other people who travel the same route or go to the same destination near us. Using public transport allows us to read, crochet and communicate with others instead of being stressed out by aggressive traffic. Doing a little bit of homework and setting up a car pool can save you hundreds of rands and it’s fun. If you can ride a bicycle to get where you want then you get to burn fat instead of fuel and your body will thank you for your efforts! It’s a win win all round!  Live close to work or find work close to home. What about working from home?
  • A healthy tree can sequester about 20kgs of carbon dioxide in a year and 1 ton in 40 years. By planting trees, you are sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. You will also be creating shade and reducing the city temperatures, building topsoil, and creating a habitat for wildlife. Trees filter noise, wind and increase property value and they provide shelter and food. You don’t need any help or petitions to plant a tree. Find some indigenous seeds, do a little research and plant some love in the world. If we all planted one tree a week, the world would start going green, literally.
  • Eat from the backyard and not from the shop. You save money, fossil fuels, doctor bills and electricity costs. Who needs refrigeration when your food is fresh and alive in the ground? You may have never grown a tomato before but it’s never to late to learn. By building this skill, you can be more independent than you have imagined. You will also appreciate food more and understand  the energy gone into it. The majority of us cannot say the same for what is on the grocery store shelves. There are horror stories full of poison, deforestation, world hunger, food wastage and abuse of resources lurking in those ingredients. What is even more disturbing is that you are paying for it with your hard earned money and becoming addicted to unhealthy food traced with poison. Stop this cycle of abuse and plant some food bearing seeds in the ground.
  • Recycle, up cycle, reuse and compost what you don’t need so that you produce no trash. If that sounds a little impossible for you, starting an ecobric will get you on the right track. Click here for more about Ecobrics. Join Facebook groups that are about zero waste and find support and knowledge. Join Freecycle – it’s a great way to turn your trash to someone else’s treasure. The more people who join in South Africa, the more useful this platform becomes.  Perhaps their trash becomes your treasure! I have already benefited from this resource by finding building materials for our natural water pool.
  • Get to know your neighbours and community. Strike up a conversation and find creative ways to network. We are sociable creatures and need social systems to thrive. As an African proverbs says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
  • Invest in clean energy and harvest water. You can reuse your grey water for the garden by making your own biodegradable cleaning products. Guerrilla House regularly hold workshops to learn how to do this effectively. Guerilla House also host many other workshops about permaculture, fermenting foods, growing mushrooms, fertility and more. You can also join their community of willing permaculturists who support each other through permaculture principles. Through this network, I have been given logs to inoculate with mushrooms, biochar for garden fertility, seeds and more.
  • Search with Ecosia instead of Google. They have planted over 40 million trees and offered 1 million Euros to save Germany’s forest from coal mining. I have helped plant 31 trees since using them. That’s enough to offset one plane trip!
  • Watch Surviving Collapse by Geoff Lawton and he will show you how he is greening deserts. The most arid, barren, dry, hot deserts where nothing grows. Read Permaculture – A Designer’s Manual by Bill Mollison and Permaculture – Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren. This knowledge will empower you to provide for yourself.
  • Invest in an eco loo and build a compost bin. You can use all that water that you were using to flush, for your food garden. Plus, in year’s time, your biowaste would have turned into lovely black compost for your trees. Nature does all the work for you. Soil that has been well dressed with compost holds a good amount of water which means it needs less watering. So you save water by not flushing and you save even more by making compost for your garden. If everyone grew their own food by composting their biowaste, reusing their greywater and using water retaining soil, we could collectively save monumental amounts of water. Commercial agriculture has become so specialized, it misses the essence of good practice which often is low tech.
  • Support small local businesses instead of transnational companies.

The green revolution is in the gardens!

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

UNICORN CAFE IS HOME TO THE MILNERTON SEED LIBRARY

Did you know that you can borrow seeds just like you borrow books from the library? It’s true and it’s called a seed library. You can make a withdrawal, plant the seeds and enjoy the fruits of your harvest. In order to be self sustainable and regenerative, some plants must be left to produce seeds. These seeds are harvested to grow during the next season. This is called seed saving and closes the loop so producing food is like a cycle that feeds itself. Once you have saved some seeds, you then return a small portion back to the seed library so others can borrow seeds to add to their varieties of food crops.

You don’t need to pay to borrow seeds however being an active part of the library helps build stock and keeps the seeds fresh. You can also donate seeds to the library which increases the diversity. Maintaining a large variety of seeds helps us to protect food biodiversity and preserve heirloom seeds from privatisation, destructive and deadly monoculture and genetic splicing.
For more information about why this is an important issue, read ‘Protecting Our Seed Biodiversity‘. Click here for information aboutsaving seeds.

What can you borrow from Milnerton Seed Library?

Here is a list of what we currently have:

Bean – Broad Bean
Bean – Dwarf Bean Contender
Bean – Non GMO Soy
Beetroot – Crimson Globe
Beetroot – Early Wonder
Broccoli – Green Sprouting
Carrots – Nantes
Calendula – Orange
Cauliflower – Snowball
Coriander
Corn – Non GMO Bloody Butcher from Transkei
Cosmos – Sensation Mixed
Cucumber – Ashley
Eggplant – Black Beauty
Leek – Giant Carentan
Melon – Honeydew Green Flesh
Melon – Hales Best
Onion – Australian Brown
Onion – Caledon Globe
Peas – Antique
Pepper – California Wonder
Radishes – Cherry Belle
Squash – Caserta
Squash – Rolet
Squash – Waltham
Swiss Chard – Fordhook Giant
Sunflower
Tomato – Floradade
Turnip – Early Purple Top Globe
Watermelon – Charleston Grey
Watermelon – Congo
Watermelon – Crimson Sweet
Zulu Clover

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Remember & Renew December

We celebrate Day of Reconciliation on the 16th of December. and the Summer Solstice on the 21st of December.

Day of Reconciliation

December the 16th is a day to remember our past but also to remember that we have reconciled as South Africans. South Africa has a rich biodiversity of people adorned with many cultures. Through good human relations, harmony is achieved and it is up to us to maintain that harmony.

December the 16th was first celebrated as Day of the Vow by Afrikaners and was also known as Dingaan’s Day. This is because the Voortrekkers believed that they won the Battle of Blood river on the 16th of December 1838, with their God’s help due to a covenant made before.

Due to apartheid and minority rule, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) was formed as a military wing of the African National Congress (ANC) on the 16th of December 1961. The MK was formed to wage an armed struggle against apartheid as peaceful resistance became ineffective. This day was commemorated by ANC members since 1961.

On the 16th of December 1995, Day of Reconciliation was celebrated in South Africa for the first time and continues to be celebrated. It represents reconciliation and unity of all South Africans. A significant public holiday worth celebrating with love.

I encourage you to watch the video below about The Battle of Blood River if you haven’t had the opprtunity to learn about it. I especially like the part where, on the 16th of December 1866, the boers and the zulus stacked a heap of rocks at the site to commemorate the battle of Blood River and the peace between them. The history lessons taught at my school did not include this story and now that I know a bit about the history, this public holiday holds a special place in my heart as a South African.
 

The Summer Solstice

We will experience the longest day and shortest night on December the 21st. The power of the sun is observed at this time as it will set in the same place for a few days. Summer solstice is celebrated outdoors where there is a clear view of the midsummer sunrise and sunset. People come together to watch the sunset and keep vigil during the shortest night to sit round bonfires, tell stories, sing, and share food and drinks. The sunrise of the Summer Solstice sun is welcomed while energy is absorbed from this magical moment for the shortening days to come.

Unicorn Cafe wishes you a peaceful December and a magical and an energizing summer solstice.

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Braided Pesto Bread

Ingredients

500 g white bread flour
300 g lukewarm water
¾ cup pesto of your choice – I use Pesto Princess Vegan Basil Pesto – Yum!
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp grated vegan parmesan cheese – I use violife
1½ tsp dried yeast
1 tsp salt

 

Method

Add the yeast to the water, stir and leave for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl add the salt to the flour and mix well. Make a well in the centre, add the yeast water and the oil. Mix to a soft dough.
Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place to allow the dough to double in size.
Turn the dough out, knock back and gather into a ball.
Flour the surface and roll the dough out into a rectangle 60 cm x 23 cm.
Spread the pesto onto the dough leaving a gap of about 1 cm all the way around.
Roll the dough up along its long side. Trim the ends and cut the dough in half along its length.
Turn the halves so thst the centres are facing upwards. Twist the two halves together in a loose braid.
Form the braid into a circle and press the ends together. Carefully slide onto a lightly-greased baking tray.
Sprinkle with the parmesan and place in a large plastic bag. Leave in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Bake at 200°C in a fan oven or 220°C in a normal oven for about 20 minutes.
Place on a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Bring Back the Safety Razor

 

You can save a lot of money and save the planet from a lot of heartache by no longer buying disposable razors. These disposable razors end up in landfill or the ocean. Throwing away is not an option because we are now smart enough to realise that ‘away’ actually means somewhere else on the planet. We are better than buying and throwing away stuck on repeat. We can buy a safety razor that we can use over and over again. If the blade is dried after use, it can last quite a while before replacing. These blades can be recycled as they are madce of stainless steel and are much cheaper than other disposable blades. Give it a try, you won’t look back!

Please follow and like us:
Posted on

Letting go of a trashy life – Zero Waste Tip for November – Toothpaste

I searched for ways to upcycle toothpaste tubes and honestly, I wouldn’t waste the time.
So, finish that tube, wrestle the hard plastic under the nozzle with scissors and shove it into that ecobric of enlightenment.

From now on, you can make your own toothpaste for next to nothing and without all those nasty chemicals that you haven’t heard of.

Mix 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate (bicarb/baking soda) and you are ready to go.

Spoon a pea size onto your toothbrush and brush, brush brush.

If you want to go easy on the flavour, add some stevia and peppermint oil drops. For more recipes, click here

Please follow and like us: