1. 9.7.2014 Side by side comparison of tomatoes at the Turntable in Pasila

    Since we transplanted tomatoes into the greenhouse at the Turntable project, I’ve been trying to maintain a photographic record of the different demonstration soil mixes. The image is pretty self explanatory, but I’ll run through again:

    1- Control 1&2= 10L of peat soil + .5L of a commercial organic composted chicken manure and sea weed fertilizer that the organization has been using for years

    2- Myco 1&2= same 10L of peat soil and .5L of fertilizer, but with 150g of a mycorrhizal fungi inoculant that includes some mineral and organically derived nutrients to assist fungal growth

    3- V + B 1&2= 8L of same peat soil and 2L of vermicompost along with 25g of blood meal to activate the soil organisms. 

    4- V + B + M 1&2= same as #3, but with 150g of the same mycorrhizal fungi inoculant as in #2.

    You can find earlier posts with these images, but here they are all compiled in one huge file. I used pretty much the same focal length (~30mm on APS-C format) to keep the perspective the same. But towards the end of the series it was difficult to get all of the tomatoes into the frame.

    What else… well, you can read my little notes there. I would like to make a longer post later, but other key take aways are:

    All the plants were started indoors under the same conditions. You can see in the second image how they were under a small light. This is a non-profit and they don’t have the kind of money to spend on huge lighting set ups. Also remember that we are in Helsinki, which is very far north…

    I would like to say one more time that I think the effects of mycorrhizal inoculation would have been visually perceptible if we had been able to inoculate from the day of seeding. This would make a huge difference. Inoculating upon transplanting when they are already months old means it will take weeks before the fungi get to do anything.

    The effects of vermicompost and bloodmeal are quite dramatic, but even those would be even more so if they are able to try to start some tomatoes in the #3 & #4 configurations from day 1 next year.

    Hoping I can get some sleep soon… have a flight in the morning. Cheers!


  2. Once again, behind… and

    Leaving for the States to visit my grandmother Thursday morning. 

    Hopefully I’ll have time to finally finish up all of the photos I have taken while at the summer cottage and such and upload them.


  3. Thank god it wasn’t a high explosive shell. Better keep my head down when I travel back to the States this July.


  4. When you grow your own food, you know for a fact that every piece does not look as ‘perfect’ as those sold in stores. They are each unique, sometimes odd-looking, but taste delicious nonetheless.

    In our industrial world, these so-called imperfect fruits and veggies go straight to the dumpster and contribute to a shocking amount of waste. Intermarché, a French supermarket, came up with a brilliant concept – The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.

    They saved tons of perfectly edible food and put them where they deserve to be – in the produce section! To top it off, they educated the general public about how delectable these different veggies are. A successful story that will connect consumers with what food can look like.


  5. hqcreations:



    I know, I know. It’s kind of like ranting against myself, but my issue isn’t with the movement as a whole, but the image it seems to portray to the uninformed that farming is really easy to get into. You get some chickens, a few goats, and you plant some seeds and wa la! You are now self…

    I agree completely, my very first flock of chickens were wiped out in one night by a raccoon. The first few goats I had died, one from bloat, one from some unknown issue, and one because of the state of ct and a rabid skunk. This year I have nothing in my garden, it has rained so much it stayed flooded till about 2 weeks ago. Farming is hard work and I only do it part time. Soon to be full time, about 4 years. But that takes 100 times the effort. If anyone has questions before or while raising animals ask. There is more knowledge in farmers then you will find in any book

    This is a great rant thread! I feel like too many people when they want to go down this path rush to the question “how much land do I need to grow/raise everything for my family?” People either rush in and take on too much too fast and get way in other their heads, or become completely paralyzed into by the enormity of the challenge. The more sane approach in my humble opinion is to first ask, “What are my skills now and what else should I be learning?” “What can I do now, and what are things I like to be doing 1year, 5years, 10years from now?” “What is my bullshit threshold and what level of risk am I willing to take?”


    I’m no homesteader or farmer (yet). But I do know those of us in the same vein rarely share enough of our failures. I think part of that has to do with insecurity, especially if we are “selling” our knowledge in the form of workshops, courses, or designing for others. 

    Who wants to hire someone that is so honest?


  6. 10 Happiness Hacks: Backed By Science

    1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

    You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.
    Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow up assessments proved to be radically different:

    The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate.The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

    You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

    study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

    Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

    We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

    2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

    We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

    In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

    Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

    In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

    The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

    Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

    Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

    Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

    Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.
    And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

    Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

    3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

    Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

    According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

    … while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

    We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

    Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

    4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

    Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

    Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

    I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

    We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

    George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

    In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

    He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

    The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

    In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

    Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

    I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

    The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

    We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

    5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

    In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

    Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

    This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

    A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

    Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

    The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found thathappiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

    The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

    6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

    One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is theoptimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

    If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

    …when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities–such as concerts and group dinners out–brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

    The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

    Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happierimmediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

    So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

     Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

    In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

    …we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

    7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

    Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

    A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

    According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

    Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

    A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

    Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

    One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

    8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

    As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

    In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

    After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

    Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

    One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

    9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

    Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

    In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

    Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live.

    According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

    Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

    The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

    We’ve explored the topic of meditation and it’s effects on the brain in-depth before. It’s definitely mind-blowing what this can do to us.

    10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

    This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

    In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

    The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

    The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

    Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.
    Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

    For further reading, check out 7 Simple productivity tips you can apply today, backed by science, which goes even deeper into what we can do to be more grateful.

    Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

    As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

    Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.
    Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

    So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

    Source: Huffington Post

    (Source: thespiritscience.net, via mylittlerewolution)


  7. Our garden back in the USA is going through the same process. We have already seen a huge shift in just 4 years. 

    Very nice to have this on hand to show family here in Finland what is possible in cold climates too. These principals apply everywhere!

    (internet from the summer cottage is nice to have in between storms)


  8. Summer Cottage tomorrow thru Sunday

    I’ll be taking it easy this time around. Just tending my vegetables a little bit, photographing whats up (if anything is alive after this cold weather), and sketching plans… I think that the last trip broke me of my gardening fever and now I really want to get to work on actually designing something there. Digging holes in the ground for potatoes that you can buy locally, organically, and pretty affordably makes little sense. 

    Now’s the time to enjoy the summer cottage and see what I can really do.


  9. What’s next?

    Since my internship ended, I am contemplating my options for the future.

    I have the opportunity to continue for another 3 months at Dodo’s Turntable, but:

    this week is “Midsummer” and we will be out of town for five days at the summer cottage. 

    After that, I will be flying back to the States to visit my grandmother who is ill for about two weeks.

    Which means I won’t really be around in Finland to get started on too much until the end of July. 

    So I will be using my time to further flesh out my business plan so I can work with an advisor to see whether or not I can receive any assistance (start/seed money) from the government for my multifaceted permaculture-based business. After that, well, maybe a few weeks helping with the harvest at a local farm while business things get off the ground. 

    Let’s see what happens.


  10. 16.6.2014 Turntable, Pasila

    Yesterday was my last day as an intern at the Turntable Kääntöpöytä Project. Three months in and it ends when the fun begins? Yep.

    Anyway, check those vermicompost tomatoes! The others are beginning to catch up in height, but the stem density and overall health is beyond compare. They never skipped a beat! I think that we are starting to see the mycorrhizae do their thing, at least in the containers that are marked Myco 1 & 2. Those were the ones planted with the same peat moss and .5 L of commercial fertilizer. At the moment, the vermicompost has made the most difference.

    But then again, when plants are started with mycorrhizae from the get go the relative strength and health of the plants is much more obvious since the fungi take a while to grow.

    Those are the last photos I have for now. I’ll see about compiling the comparison photos into a single image so you can see how they changed throughout the past month…


  11. 15.6.2014 Kasavuori/Tuomarila Kauniainen/Espoo Finland

    Violets on the mountain. Birch that has been cut to make room for the path with moderately aged regrowth and either a) a new sprout or b) a seed of another birch germinating inside the stump.

    Dead birch.

    The very rare pizza bush.

    Robin photo bombing once again.

    Strange rock marker.

    Lilies inside the fenced off portion of the cliff behind our apartment complex.


  12. Whoa, 14 posts in one day

    Thats what happens when I try to correct laziness about updating… and I still have more photos from the past couple of days…


  13. 14.6.2014 Robin having a bad day

    Poor guy! Good thing he cheers up instantaneously when we step outside the apartment.


  14. 12.6.2014 Turntable, Pasila

    The champion tomato. One of the 20% vermicompost, 25g bloodmeal tomato plants producing the first fruit of the season. Yeah, it isn’t the hottest looking tomato vine I’ve ever seen- or grown- but there is a story behind all this. Lets just say that cultural inertia and lack of resources for now. But I think that the stunning difference between these plants and the others is going to begin to change the course of the project.

    Other views from around the greenhouse. The crimson clover has been largely cut out (not pulled out) and then used as mulch on the west side to protect some basil from drying out.

    The components of living soil are all here in these frames:

    1) protecting the soil from the elements with mulch and living ground covers

    2) Planting many species in one place for diverse root exudates and resource partitioning

    3) Inoculation of soil with beneficial organisms through different kinds of compost and mycorrhizae (particularly important in soil that starts off sterile from a bag)

    4) Allowing the soil to self structure by cutting plants at their stems rather than pulling them out and disturbing the soil life and profile


  15. 12.6.2014 Turntable, Pasila

    Vermicompost tomatoes still dominating, but the others are coming around. Which is a good thing! The cafe will be using tomatoes like all get out (if this freezing weather we are experiencing now at midsummer doesn’t cause serious problems) and I don’t wish poorly on the plants regardless of what soil they are growing in.

    Just want to post the power of vermicompost…