How to Make a Pair of Permaculturalists Laugh So Hard They Have to Wait to Drive Home
Today Nathaniel and I did presentations at Gardening for Good‘s Community Gardening Symposium. Nathaniel sat in on a “Going Green in the Garden” discussion panel and I did a talk on “Perennial Vegetables.”
We weren’t at last year’s Community Gardening Conference so we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be a high-quality, affordable conference with thoughtful care put into choosing speakers, topics, and planning the day. We strongly recommend that you go when it rolls around next year.
Patryk Battle of Living Web Farms was the keynote speaker with a lecture on “Nature’s Default” — how an ecosystem will take care of its imbalances (like pests and disease) if you can stand to leave it alone long enough. He followed it up with a talk on “Soil Fertility” during the first breakout session. It was a thorough overview of the soil food web, cover crops, and how mushrooms can break down just about anything.
My talk covered a couple dozen perennial vegetables that can be grown in the upstate, from well-known asparagus to otherworldly Chinese artichokes. If you’re sorry to miss it, I’ll be repeating this class topic at my Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery urban homesteading class series.
Nathaniel’s “Greening the Garden” panel was at the end of the day, alongside Rebecca McKinney, Cecil Leviner, and Anna Strick. The conversation started with garden projects and recycling before winding its way to composting, the soil food web, and mycoremediation.
The disappointing thing about symposiums is that we can’t attend ALL the lectures. Many of our friends did additional talks and we hear they were well-received.
At the end of the day we hung out with Sara Harding for a bit and then dropped by The Fresh Market on our way home to pick up sushi for our daughter’s dinner. Nathaniel also decided to get her a coconut… because Rayna likes coconuts.
If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the title of the blog post, don’t worry, we’re finally here. I want to preemptively say that the woman checking us out at the Fresh Market cash register was delightful and we’re so glad she enjoys sharing random trivia with customers. That said, here’s the conversation that inspired so much glee:
Cashier: Wow! These are some gorgeous blood oranges!
Cashier: Ooh, a coconut!
Nathaniel: Yep, it’s for my stepdaughter.
Cashier: Did you know they JUST discovered that coconut fibers last FOREVER?! I’m serious! The ONLY thing that can make them rot is bacteria!
Us: Uh.. Wow!
We managed to keep a straight face until we reached the parking lot. The people passing us on the way into the store probably wondered why we were squealing with laughter and saying, “ONLY bacteria!” and “FOREVER!!!!!!!” over and over and over again.
Yeah, we’re geeks. But you already knew that, right? Our permaculture friends understand why it was so funny. We swear!
That said, we are geeks, so I also want to present the source of info the cashier was so excited about — it’s actually pretty cool. She said, “they just discovered coconut fibers that are at least from the 17th century” as evidence that coconut fibers last forever. I can’t find any recent discoveries of ancient coconut fibers in the news, but I did find this Wikipedia info on a place called Oak Island in Canada that has this excerpt:
“In 1851, treasure hunters discovered fibres beneath the surface of one beach called Smith’s Cove. This led to the theory that the beach had been converted into a giant siphon, feeding water from the ocean into the pit via a manmade tunnel.
A sample of this material was sent to the Smithsonian Institution in the early 20th century, where it was concluded that the material was coconut fibre. The origin of these fibres has been a source of heated debate among Oak Island researchers, since coconut trees do not occur naturally in Canada. Carbon dating was conducted on a sample in the 1960s and returned a date of 1200–1400 CE.”
The same Wikipedia article mentions the History Channel released a reality TV show called “The Curse of Oak Island” on January 5th, 2014. Perhaps it made mention of the coconut fibers and that’s why the cashier believed it was a recent discovery.
We”ll concede that coconut coir is rot resistant… but resistant isn’t synonymous with permanent. Organic matter might survive intact to antiquity in the right conditions, like 30,000 year old seeds. That doesn’t mean bread won’t mold if you leave it on the counter too long or wet grain won’t spoil in the chicken feeder.
Still though, as geeks we love that bacteria is not the only thing that can rot coconut fibers. Fungi and bacteria are not as tiny and insignificant as they might seem.