Beyond Back Yard Sustainability (178)

pm178_580Four years ago (in episode 51, An Experiment in Back Yard Sustainability), Scott McGuire asked “how much food can I grow in my back yard to feed my family?” In this episode, we learn the results, and that food supply is not an individual project — it takes a community to feed one another. Scott’s garden later became a CSA (community-supported agriculture) for eight families.

Scott is a co-creative gardener — he asks the plants where they want to grow. When plants participate in the design of a garden, they build in energy meridians (like acupuncture lines in our bodies) for optimal vitality and health. Episode 178.

Watch videoAudio |  iTunes | Review: Self-Sufficiency vs. a Backyard CSA | Janaia’s journal: Meet Scott McGuire, “Maniacal” Co-Creative Gardener


  1. Iselin Celestine says:

    I just realized that more extensive input followed the first two communications. I recognize Ed’s point. We have been conditioned to be skeptical–to question and even refute that which is not “proven” by modern academic science. And, I wonder if Scott took full note of Ed’s subsequent remark about the “…helpful and right on the money.” I think that the underlying point Scott makes about other life forms potentially having more wisdom and ability than we humans have attributed to them is of value. One could acknowledge this possibility (even likelihood?) and allow intuition to become more a part of the growing experience without delving into any particular philosophy or practice. Myself: I disagree with respect to the “scientific types.” Science has allowed our population to balloon not just by way of our modern food “system,” but via many other factors as well. Modern medical science for example? While ethics can be debated, has the last gone too far in extending human (and sometimes other) life? What of the toxic (to life) waste the scientific and industrial fields have generated? Are scientific advances more significant than clean water, air, and (food-growing) soil that we and all beings depend upon for life? I am conditioned to be skeptical too–most of us have. Yet, I come to rely ever-more upon my sense of intuition. Certainly, thoughts and emotions are apt to be a part of this. However, just as this is so, neither is science impervious to subjective thought, expectation, economic and other interests, etc. One realization I have come to have per Ruth Stout, the Dervais family, and many others: everyone CAN be a farmer! Or, at least a grower of healthful food. The methods, environment, scale and more will differ. But, ultimately, everyone can be a farmer.

  2. “…science is just verifiable knowledge.” Science is investigating and exploring to produce new understanding. Knowledge itself is not sufficient, and what is known is no longer at the cutting edge of science. Ed is correct to require methods to test mechanisms and theories. Scientific study requires human creativity and inspiration to develop an approach, theory, and hypotheses, but it is not science without also developing tests of the hypotheses and theory.

  3. Loved the interview. Nice to hear someone speak of plants as living beings with consciousness. I too believe all things have awareness and all things are living and can be communicated with. I am also whoowee and woowoo! Glad the subject of insects and soil were brought in the mix, so important to look at the whole picture. Yes, let’s all feed each other again and listen to nature.

  4. Well, I feel the need to comment here, my motivation being to calm down the tempers a bit. There are simply too many people involved that I think very highly of and I hope no one stops coming to Peakmoment out of anger.

    I have to say I agree with Dan and Ed that listening to “woo” really turns me off. While it is popular to blame science for all our ills, sciience is just verifiable knowledge. What we choose to do with that knowledge is up to us. While “woo” may at first glance appear to be harmless fun, it generally leads to defrauding people of their money, and at worst, it leads to religious wars.

    Yesterday I went to pick up my biodynamically grown vegetables. I don’t for a second buy any of the “woo” propaganda associated with that movement, but the people are friendly and the veggies are delicious (maybe the insects are trying to “communicate” that to me because they seem to have munched on many of the vegetables before I could!), so I will try to avoid antagonizing them.

    Last, I think I should point out that anyone who puts themselves forward as an expert in some field might be a little thin-skinned when it comes to criticism. Especially on the Internet, they tend to react as if their whole credibility depends on it and harsh words are the result. In my opinion, real scientists tend to deal with criticism better, they are more confident in their assertions and peer review is a process they are used to.

    I can’t begin to say how much Peakmoment TV has enriched my life. I have “met” so many interesting people and received much inspiration. Just like real life, not every conversation at Peakmoment has been life-enriching and inspiring! But I am overjoyed that Janaia and Robyn take the time and trouble to produce these conversations and I will never try to tell them who they shouldn’t interview.

  5. I really appreciate; but, I agree with Ed on this one. Scott seems like a well intentioned guy; but, I would choose another teacher. For one thing, he conflates scientific method with materialism. If you communicate with your plants, that is for your own subjective good. By all means enhance your own subjective good; but, understand objective observation has value, too. Mr. McGuire is a storehouse wu-wu hoodoo and, unfortunately, close minded to the appoach of rational people like Mr. Adamthwaite. All of his wishspeak adds very little to peak moment ideas.

  6. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    I just went to
    And was amazed by lines such as:
    “They told me where they wanted to be,” he said. “The only one that didn’t survive was the spruce.”
    Why not? I ask. Did it have suicidal tendencies?

    “Scott’s a co-creative gardener, meaning he communicates with the plants. For example, he asked the transplants where they wanted to located in the new garden, and used muscle-testing and similar techniques to get their answers.”

    It’s fortunate for Scott that our services have been largely deinstitutionalised, 50 years ago people with similar views were at risk of being committed.
    I rest my case.

  7. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Hi Doug,
    It looks like you have made the usual mistake of lumping me into the same sort of people that promote GM and fiddling with life like the people behind Mon$anto. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have no problems with research, it is the serendipitous discoveries from pure research that has been the source for much of human knowledge. However when a bunch of corporate suits try to manipulate life and patent it, try to dominate the world food market by contaminating other strains and reducing diversity, I think that gets as close to the definition of “evil” as one could get. I have no truck with that.
    As a Humanist I think that a sound education for all children, with emphasis on the “scientific method” and critical thinking is the way to go.
    The unfounded belief in lay lines with no verifiable proof other than an assertion is hardly scientific and shows a deficiency in critical thinking.
    From what I have seen so far on the subject, the proponents of lay lines consider them to be a form of magnetism and related to magnetic lines of force. They also say that there are beneficial sites at the crossing of these lines. Well duh! First year science shows that magnetic lines of force don’t cross just as contour lines on maps cannot cross. It is logically impossible.
    The word infantile was used earlier on. What is infantile about requiring that the verification of a theory be repeatable? It is the assertion of unfounded beliefs that is being infantile. What’s so bad about being rigid about that?
    I repeat the challenge that I made to Scott. Prove that lay lines exist by showing a method for observing and measuring them. I’ll then happily agree with you.
    Regards, Ed.

  8. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Hi Scott,
    I suppose I was a little bit rash in using those terms for the first comment of the interview. I was hot under the collar after just having an argument with a local biodynamic person regarding the selling of “Paramagnetic Crushed Rock” and was annoyed about these perveyors of snake oil that use a little known scientific property that has effects many orders of magnitude below other better known properties. Sure, the crushed rock when added to a garden in the correct amounts will have a beneficial effect, but this is most likely due to the minerals and trace elements, not paramagnetism. When you compare the relative strengths of paramagnetism and the electrostatic bonding of molecules, the former is between of 5×10^-5 and as much as 7×10^-15 below. Of course, as soon as you add water the salts split into free floating ions anyway. Moreover, the fact that the magnetism must have an AC component which is not present, the biodynamic argument falls to pieces. They are using unproven “scientific” arguments to get a premium for their product. I should report them to the local office of Consumer Affairs.
    But I digress.
    It’s been a while since I looked at the subject lay lines, and had decided in the past that any relationship between them and magnetic lines of force seems to be a product of wild imagination. Add to that, many of the proponents claim that there are antennae at many of the crossing points of these “lay lines” and when you look at the pictures provided, you see common ham radio stations, comms towers and in one case a sea anenome under the water!
    I have yet to see any credible explanation of lay lines with regard to plant growing that cannot be better explained by local conditions whether it be soil, companion planting, nutrients, the local micro-climate or the combination of these.
    I do not deny that the proponents of many of these ideas actually get results. You only have to look at a properly done biodynamic garden to see that it is far superior to a garden prepared by conventional methods. It’s their theories that are right off the planet. Many of their explanations are not much better than what a tribal shaman can provide and are just about as credible. However, by ritualising their procedures, they ensure that the complexity will be retained over generations. This may be a good thing if we have complete social breakdown some time in the future.
    The sad part is that truth and the scientific method are lost.
    I’d appreciate it if you could point me to a truly scientific, peer reviewed
    explanation of lay lines. When I last looked, the whole subject could be easily dismissed with a simple understanding of electronics.
    Speaking with non-verbal species is fine as long as you realise that it is simple anthropomorphism (spelling?). I often talk to chooks, my compost heap, individual plants. Its part of the fun of being human. I am just as amazed at the wonder and complexity of life as you obviously are. However I find that the scientifically repeatable explanations are far more amazing and wonderful than the rather twee ideas put forward by those of a mystical bent.
    So, I have a challenge, prove that lay lines exist by showing a method for observing and measuring them. I’ll then happily agree with you.
    Regards, Ed.

  9. Doug McCormack says:

    Dear Janaia & Scott,

    Thank you for all your wonderful work and effort you put into sharing with us these gems of knowledge and wisdom you’ve gathered here on Peak Moment. I think they really are capable of transforming our old paradigm into a newer and better one.

    I was a bit incensed at Ed’s comments and apparent rigid thinking and closed mindedness and decided that I didn’t want Ed’s comments to be the only ones on this subject. I needed to put my two cents in and tell you and Scott just how fantastic I thought the interview was and how I’d really love to see more of Scott and have him share more of what he’s learned.

    You know, I believe that Truth speaks its own language and that when we here Truth we’ll recognize it. When I heard Scott speak and talk of an intelligent biosphere it stuck me like a hammer, “Well duh! Of course it is.” I was also greatly impressed with Scott’s sense of urgency that we change the way we treat our food supply and with the need to get back to a more sustainable way of living and growing our food. I’m afraid that the path back to a sustainable way of growing our food is not, like Ed and I’m sure many others think, through the laboratory or test tube or following the standard mantra of ‘better living through chemistry’.

    I think the magic of Scott’s message is that he has cracked the door open and shown us a peak of what is possible. If we’re to create a vibrant, healthy and fertile environment in which we’ll have to grow our food, then it is incumbent that we start to communicate better with our surroundings. If that means getting off our high horses and talking with nature, treating it with respect, and, heaven forbid, having to listen to it, then so be it. Let’s get started!

    So bravo on you Scott! You’re showing us what can be done and how we can do it. Keep it up. You’re an inspiration to those of use looking to get started. Love your work. And Janaia, keep it up and bring us more of Scott’s work.

  10. Scott McGuire says:

    Yo Ed,

    Your preference for scientific credibility is eroded by infantile name-calling like “snake-oil” “claptrap” and “off-planet”. A 25-minute interview is not nearly enough time to get into the details of a yes, scientific method I’ve used for over 30 years with astounding results.

    The truth is that plants are NOT little bio-machines for us to manipulate, and if this alienates the materialists among us, oh well. What passes for proof is the pudding, not the published paper recipe. I can’t pretend that I chose where to place every plant in my gardens; there is a communication that occurs, information exchanged, and the methods I use are all consistent and repeatable.

    But the idea of speaking with non-verbal species just freaks some folks right out. Sorry about that. My role is to teach those who want to learn, not those who insist my gardens aren’t on this Earth.

  11. Ed Adamthwaite says:

    Hi Janaia,
    I really like Scott’s enthusiasm and energy, however as soon as he started talking about energy meridians with a supposedly knowledgeable authority, he lost me. It was just more mystical claptrap presented in a pseudo science like manner.
    I have found that most things can be better explained by straight forward science 101. The more you go into the detail of these pseudo scientific explanations, if they are real, the supposed effects are often out by huge factors of magnitude when compared with the scientifically measurable effects. Take paramagnetism as espoused by the Biodynamics fraternity as a case in point.
    As I’ve mentioned before, presenting unproveable happy clappy snake oil takes credibility away from Peak Moment.
    Fortunately he moved on to mention other aspects about community and gardening that were helpful and right on the money.
    As proponents of the “peak everything” paradigm and it’s social consequences, it really isn’t good for Peak Moment to alienate the scientific types, it is they who will have the smarts to fix technical problems if we find ourselves in a social crash sometime in the future.
    A little discretionary editing when interviewees get a little too off-planet may help, although it wouldn’t be good for truth in reporting.
    This won’t stop me from viewing more interviews or occasionally donating to Peak Moment, I’ll just tell it as I see it when an interview either delights or disappoints me.

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