The  living soil

The living soil

 

The science of sound

 

Did you know that fungi in the soil can be influenced by sound? Scientists recently discovered that playing ‘white noise’ to depleted soil increases healthy soil production by up to 20%. The ‘white sound’ mimics the movement of earthworms and other useful insects. 

How do fungi grow?

Until recently all we knew was that fungi primarily respond to environmental factors such as moisture, light, and nutrient availability. Factors such as humidity, temperature, pH level, and substrate composition are very influential on fungal growth. While fungi can detect environmental cues, they do so through chemical and physical signals rather than auditory stimuli. But sound is not something we associate with healthy soil, that is until now.

A few years ago a Swiss sound artist called  Marcus Maeder stuck a noise sensor into the ground. At the time he was working on his dissertation and was just curious ‘What does the soil sound like?’ And there was a lot of sound to discover. The soil is alive and full of screeching, scratching, and tons of other noises. Ecologists have long known that the earth is home to gazillions of organisms. In fact, in a small cup of earth, researchers have counted up to 100 million life forms.

Understanding that underground life is important because it creates ‘the living soil’.  “Soil helps to transform the nutrient elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that feed plants – for food, for forests, or to fill the air with oxygen, so we can all breathe,” says Steven Banwart, a soil, agriculture and water researcher at the University of Leeds in the UK, who co-wrote an overview of the functions of soil in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Worms, grubs, fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers are involved in every step. (source BBC article) 

Next time you start a compost heap, think about the millions of creatures that you will harbor.

The Living Soil 

“The living soil” refers to the complex ecosystem of organisms and processes that exist within the soil. Soil is not merely a medium for plants to grow in; it’s a dynamic environment teeming with life and essential for sustaining ecosystems. The living soil is home to bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, insects, and other microorganisms.

These organisms all play critical roles in nutrient cycling, decomposition, soil structure formation, and plant health. Without them, there is no compost, simple as that.

The recent discovery that introducing extra ‘white sound’ to the soil speeds up the formation of compost could be of huge importance in the coming years. Currently, most of our healthy soil is already depleted.  Making only a small layer of high-quality topsoil takes decades. Shortening this process would be a welcome development.

Maintaining a ‘living soil’ is crucial for sustainable agriculture and functioning ecosystems.  Reducing chemical inputs, promoting crop diversity, and adding organic matter is vital if we want to continue to grow healthy crops.

The law of cosmic forces

The law of cosmic forces

Nature follows the law of cosmic forces. It is slow, predictable, and dependable. When you sow corn in spring, you get corn in autumn and not wheat or barley. 

Day follows night and night follows day. These cyclical patterns can be relied upon and calculated. We may not know its definite purpose, but we can trust it.

Watching the nightly sky 

The rotational path of the planets, and their relation to each other have been the same for millions and billions of years. 

We know that ancient astronomers as far back as 10,000 B.C. and most likely before observed the night sky regularly, tracking the positions and movements of celestial bodies over time. They noted the wandering motion of certain objects against the background of fixed stars. The term “planet” itself comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.”

At first, these observations were made with the naked eye. Later handheld devices called astrolabes recorded time and established the exact positions of celestial objects.

Armillary spheres are models of celestial spheres, featuring rings. First used by Chinese astronomers around 400 B.C. they demonstrated the positions and motions of celestial objects and enabled detailed calculations.

Different cultures tracked different celestial bodies

Stonehenge: The Druids mainly tracked the cycle of the sun, especially the solstices, and the cycle of the moon.  The Full Moon nights were important dates used for gatherings and celebrations.

Mayan Observatories:  like El Caracol in Chichen Itza tracked the movements of the planets, particularly important was Venus. This tradition was shared with the Minoans, if coincidental or not is not clear. 

Babylonian Astronomy: used clay tablets and recorded their findings in cuneiform scripts.   This enabled them to make detailed observations and keep records of tracked positions. These records could be used to predict their future movements. Babylonian astronomers observed the circle of the animals, now known as the twelve constellations and houses.

    Greek Astronomy: Ptolemy’s geocentric model, while later replaced by the heliocentric model, accurately predicted planetary positions using a complex system of epicycles. Meton recorded that 19-solar years equal 235 lunations, the backbone of the lunisolar calendar. 

    The Ancient Greeks were also the first to observe Retrograde Motions. As the name suggests, planets seem to go periodically backwards in the sky. ‘Mercury retrograde’ is now fashionable on instagram, but clearly not a new concept. All planets enter retrograde phases, some short (Mercury takes 21 days and the next retrograde phase is 13th December to 2nd January 2024). Other long (Pluto is 5.5 months.) In 2024 Pluto turns retrograde on the 2nd May, lasting until the 12th October.

    Chinese Astronomy: Chinese astronomers kept meticulous records of celestial events, including planetary movements, comets, and supernovae.  They also found methods for predicting planetary positions such as conjunctions and oppositions of planets, nowadays still in use in astrological charts.

    What we can learn from the law of cosmic forces

    The weather may be unpredictable, but the path of the universe is not! There is not one day on earth when the sun all of a sudden won’t shine (even when covered by clouds) or the gravitational pull is disabled and objects won’t fall to the ground.

    Humans have free will and with it have achieved a lot.  But with free will also comes unpredictability. We often try to reinvent the wheel, but let’s face it a wheel is perfect and does not need improving.

    If you look at the overriding law of nature – it is balance! The Waxing and the Waning Moon has the same length of time, as does the New and the Full Moon. The length of days varies during the year, but the northern hemisphere gets the same amount of long days as does the southern hemisphere.

    The planets and stars form patterns, creating stability and balance. Ultimately what humans really crave is balance and predicatbility. Therefore connecting to these ever-repeating cycles keeps us safe and guides us in what to expect.

    This is why I created the LWTM Lifestyle calendar, a way of predicting the months and year ahead!

    Working with these rhythms creates a sense of balance and stability and this can’t be over-emphasised in these unpredictable, erratic times.

    leaf mulch – nature’s restorer

    leaf mulch – nature’s restorer

    leaf mulch

    It is late autumn again and the leaves are turning red, golden and orange before finally tumbling to the ground. It is nature’s gift and regardless of what the moon phases are doing, it is time to gather them up and put them to good use.

     Bed in your plants for winter

    In nature, leaves like snow protect the roots of growing trees and shrubs from the cold. If you have plants that don’t tolerate a cold winter, add leaves around the stem to protect them from the frosty nights.

    Additionally, you can wrap certain plants and pots with horticultural fleece. Normally I do this every year and my outdoor plants always survive the cold. But last year I forgot and had a few painful losses, especially my lovely banana tree and some tree ferns.

    So this year I made sure to protect my surviving tree ferns. First I generously covered the top (where the leaves grow from) with layers of leaves. Then I covered the soil in the pot with leaves. Finally, I wrapped the stem and pot with agricultural fleece. This will come off around early March.

    Make leaf mulch

    If you own a lot of deciduous plants, don’t dispose of the leaves, but instead make precious leaf mulch.

    Hornbeam, willow, birch and other deciduous leaves will rot down in roughly one year. Evergreens and conifers may need 2 years (pine even longer). Therefore please don’t mix evergreens, conifers and normal deciduous leaves together.

    Here is what to do: 

    1. Rake up the leaves into neat piles. If leaves are very large, you can shred them or hover them up with a lawn mower.

    2. Put these leave piles into garden bags. When the bag is almost full, spray the leaves with water and then punch a few holes in the bags (you can use the rake for this or a simple garden fork) and tie them up.

    3. Place the leave bags in a shady place, for example under a big bush or shady corner of your garden – a place where they are not in the way and can be left for a year or more. Sometimes you may open the bag and stir it around with a garden fork to speed up the composting process.

    Leave mulch is rich in carbon. In spring you can add some nitrogen in the form of grass clippings, nettles and a small amount of vegetable peels.

    4. When you open a  bag a year later, the leaves will have decomposed into a dark- brown crumbly substance, also known as leaf mulch.

    Spread it around your trees, shrubs and flowers to help them retain moisture, suppress weeds, and improve soil health.

     

    Leaf mulch is a great plant tonic and you can sprinkle it over your lawn and add some of it to your compost heap.

    Acid lovers such as camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas will be particularly happy with leaf mulch. It is particularly helpful to add a few handfuls to your soil before seeding a new vegetable plot or flower beds.

    The best dates for bringing out leaf mulch,  are  Water Days and Earth Days during the Waning Moon.

     

    Detox your body

    Detox your body

    Detoxifying TreatmentsHave you ever been curious about this longstanding detox aid, but not quite sure how to use it? This article is for you. Today we are talking about Epsom Salts. 

     

    I have used Epsom salt on and off for many years. But this autumn I have decided to declutter my home, mind, and body on a deeper level and Epsom salts are definitely part of my armoury. For this, I have started to drink each morning a large glass of lemon water where I add half a teaspoon of Epsom salts to make them more palatable. The way to prepare it: Put half a teaspoon of Epsom salt into the glass and add a tiny bit of water, then leave the mixture overnight to dissolve. In the morning add the rest of the water (the dash of lemon juice is optional). I have one with added cinnamon flavour and it has improved my digestion. Additionally, I take some Epsom Salt baths in the evenings, 2-3 times per week. And overall it has benefitted my digestion, my skin, and my mood.

    What exactly are Epsom salts and how often and how much should you use? 

    Chemically speaking, Epsom salt is very different from the general sea salt. It is a magnesium sulfate and is named after a bitter saline spring near Epsom, a small town in Surrey, England. Epsom salt dissolves well in water and is therefore ideal for drinking, bathing and even watering your plants.

    Bathing with epsom saltBathing: One common method is to add Epsom salts to a bath. Magnesium can be absorbed through the skin and helps to reduce inflammation, is beneficial for muscle and nerve function, and helps to prevent the hardening of arteries (a cause of stroke and heart disease). It will leave your skin very soft but dry and it is therefore important to finish your bath off with a good body lotion or body oil to lock in these salts. You should not use it every day, but best once a week or 2-3 times per week during a fast/detox. And as mentioned before a good body oil or moisturiser after the bath is a must!  If you have access to a sauna/steam room use these in-between baths.

    ‘Drawing cream’: Make an Epsom salt cream by mixing 1 teaspoon with oil or cold cream.  It acts like a drawing paste to get rid of infections, spots, and splinters. In the UK you can get a cream in the pharmacy that is already mixed with phenol called Magnesium Sulfate paste.

    Relaxation: Epsom salt baths are also popular for relaxation and stress relief. The warm water and magnesium can potentially help soothe sore muscles and promote a sense of well-being. It has been shown to help with depression and migraines caused by stress and work overload. I suspect a lack of magnesium may play a part here, too. And Epsom salt will replenish depleted magnesium levels.

    Digestive Health: Taken internally, Epsom salt is used as a laxative to help with constipation. It works by drawing water into the intestines, which can help soften stools and promote bowel movements. However, using Epsom salt as a laxative should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as it can have side effects and is not recommended for everyone. You should also avoid it when you have heart and kidney problems. If in doubt please stay safe and consult a doctor first.

    But if you are healthy, you can go ahead and drink a glass a day for a fortnight (say during the Waning Moon) it will help with bowel movements and extra elimination. In this case, only use half a teaspoon in a glass of 250ml water (half a pint – dissolve the salt in a small amount of water and leave it to stand overnight. The next morning add the rest of the water and drink it!) Always drink it first thing in the morning. I always notice when I have a lack of magnesium as I easily have cramps in my leg muscles after a run or during the night. Epsom Salt taken over a few days will replenish the magnesium level in your body. For more symptoms add a magnesium 7 product (it contains 7 forms of magnesium and is easily absorbed by the body).

    Low magnesium levels can lead to migraines, muscle cramps, irritability, and low levels of concentration. It also plays a part in carbohydrate metabolism and a lack of magnesium over time can worsen insulin resistance. But once you are pre-diabetic or diabetic, please ask a health professional first when thinking of taking it, especially internally.

    Foot Soaks: Some suggest soaking feet in Epsom salt as a way to relax and potentially draw out toxins. I find it helpful to soften rough skin. You could make an Epsom salt footbath before a pedicure.  In a more concentrated form, it helps with athlete’s foot and fungal infections.  I read that regular Epsom salt baths also help with varicose veins, but have not found any science on this.

    New Moon detox weekends

    When you have a few stress-free days coming up, ideally a weekend or 3 days in a row around the New Moon, use this regime.

    • Put 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts into a 250ml glass, add a tiny bit of water to dissolve the salt, and leave to stand overnight.  Add the rest of the water in the morning before drinking it first thing in the morning.   It tastes bitter, so drink it as quickly as you can or you can.
    • Stay at home and stay warm. Put socks and a jumper on. It is normal to feel a bit colder during a detox program and more importantly – stay near a toilet as you will need it soon! In the morning don’t eat, but instead prepare a big thermos flask full of your favorite herbal tea. This is how you prepare it: put 1 teaspoon of dried herbs into a sieve on top of a thermos flask, add boiling water, and remove the sieve immediately. You only want a very weak tea for this morning. Sip this tea throughout the morning and it will get the Epsom salts working and provoke a bowel movement.
    • Make a big pot of hearty vegetable soup and stick to just eating this! Additionally have as much weak herb teas and water as you like.  Fennel, peppermint, and nettle are detox favorites. Add some lemon juice or drink a lot of water. Stay off tea, coffee, any fizzy drinks, and of course alcohol. The only time you should not drink is half an hour before eating your soup and an hour afterward. This will help to digest your soup.
    • Enjoy the rest of the day watching some good TV shows, reading a good book, meditating, relaxing, and sleeping a lot.
    • In the evening have a hot bath with 2 handfuls of Epsom Salts. Before you jump into the tub, brush your body with a body brush or peeling hand glove. Then glide into the water and enjoy it by listening to music or an uplifting podcast episode.
    • Coming out of the bath, gently dab off the moisture with a bath towel, but make sure to keep some of the salt on your body. When dry, finish with an organic body oil/good moisturizer.
    • Liverpack:  This is optional but is said to be good for the liver. Soak a flannel in warm water and apply it to your liver (right side just under the rib cage).  Then place a medium-hot (but not boiling) water bottle and a big towel over the wet towel (Please prepare all this before you lie down) and finally wrap a large dry towel over both. Tuck the towel under your body to keep the hot water bottle and wet cloth in place.  Leave the hot water bottle on your liver for a good 20 minutes until it gets cold.  It is important to use this method up to 2 pm at the latest, ideally just before lunch as you don’t want to activate the liver too late in the day. 
    • You can repeat this on the following day. For the next few days take some olive oil or body oil and massage your intestines in a clockwise movement (important – always go clockwise, up on your right-hand side, across on the top and down on the left, and across at the bottom – never switch the direction! You need to massage in the same way the bowel moves naturally. 

    For constipation: Please note, that this is only suitable on an occasional basis. If you suffer from chronic constipation, please consult your doctor.

    Add 1.5 level teaspoons of Epsom salts to a glass of warm water (250ml/half a pint – again dissolve as mentioned above) and drink in large sips. This dosage is for teenagers and adults. For children 6 to 12 years old use half a level teaspoon with 250ml (half a pint) of lukewarm water.

    Always start with the lowest dose and see if you need to increase it. Follow up with a liver wrap (see above).

    Home and Garden:  Dissolve 1 level teaspoon of Epsom salt in a medium-sized watering can and water your plants.  Dissolve again the night before. Please use unperfumed Epsom salts here and not your bathing salts. Potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, lemons, and roses are particularly susceptible to extra magnesium. It helps with the production of flowers and stronger growth. Use this especially in spring and during the flowering season. However, using too much can be harmful to the soil. As with everything in life – it always is a happy balance. You can also sprinkle some salts directly onto the soil, ideally in spring at the time of the Waning and New Moon. The rain will dissolve it.

    It also works for houseplants, especially when they have yellowing leaves and poor soil. You can always add a bit of compost to your pots and a few watering with Epsom Salt will benefit them, too.

     

    Disclaimer: These are tips for healthy adults. If you suffer from health problems, particularly diabetes, heart or kidney disease or you are pregnant, then please consult a doctor first. With all these measures, start with a small dosage and see how you feel, and increase only if needed. I hope this is beneficial to you!

     

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    Eurythmy- Expressive Movement art that is beneficial for body and soul

    Eurythmy- Expressive Movement art that is beneficial for body and soul

    What is Eurythmy? 

    You may have heard of the British band Eurhythmics who most likely have taken their name from this expressive movement art form. It is part art, part therapy, and claims to have therapeutic purposes.

    The dancer moves in slow-moving, rhythmic movements. It helps the body and mind to relax and creates a trance-like rhythmic movement that helps you to feel centered. Some even describe it as an act of  ‘spiritual insight’.

    The word ‘eurythmy’ comes from the Greek word for beautiful or harmonious and graceful rhythm.

    In a world before ‘mindfulness’ (Eurythmics was created by Rudolf Steiner and his wife in the very early 20th century – around 1911), it engulfs the body, mind, and soul into one dancing entity.  Steiner described it as ‘the art of the soul’, meaning that one could lose oneself to the rhythm and feel at one with nature. 

    Its origins are not entirely clear, but it may go back to Ancient Greek chants and dances of priests and priestesses, being part of nature and aligning the physical and the spiritual body. Similar dance forms are the dancing Dervishes or Classical Indian dance.

    The first performances took place in the then newly-built Goeteanum in Dornach, Switzerland, where a small stage group offered weekly performances. It was mainly Steiner’s wife Marie Steiner-Von Sivers, a trained actress and speech artist, who took over this movement. The troupe even went on tour in 1919, performing in other European countries besides Switzerland.

    Most people who have taken Eurythmy lessons claim it has helped them to deal with stress, lack of sleep, and neurotic tendencies. Others said it helps them to focus and feel more centered and content. Children with ADHD show good progress, learning to calm down and move to a very gentle, graceful, and slow pattern of movements.

    These days this dance technique has moved on.  Watch this YouTube Video by clicking on the picture

     

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