Sunday, September 17, 2017

Is Apple Acing Chemistry but Flunking Biology?

"It used to be that half of all heart patients first report their condition to their physician by dropping dead. Today it seems they are reporting it first to Apple."

“If Yeats is right, the next divine influx will be on Oedipus’ side of the balance — the side of full participation in the world, not of withdrawal from it; the side of wholeness, not of perfection; the side of earth, not of heaven. If he’s right, in turn, we face a revaluation of all values considerably more wrenching than the one Nietzsche thought he was proclaiming — a revaluation precisely as wrenching, in fact, as the one that came when Great Pan died and Christ took his place.”
— Frankenstein’s monster to Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful

We watched the September 12 Apple Event webcast from the Steve Jobs theater with eager anticipation. We came away both intrigued and concerned.

A year ago we were on a long overnight flight to Hangzhou and unable to sleep in the dark cabin. We were staying up watching a film about Nixon and Elvis when our heart began racing. We knew it had nothing to do with either Nixon or Elvis.

The doctor had by this point given us a prescription for our condition but had not yet instructed us in the vagal maneuver or other ways to arrest the arrhythmia quickly.
An arrhythmia can occur if the electrical signals that control the heartbeat are delayed or blocked. This can happen if the special nerve cells that produce electrical signals don’t work properly. It also can happen if the electrical signals don’t travel normally through the heart. An arrhythmia also can occur if another part of the heart starts to produce electrical signals. This adds to the signals from the special nerve cells and disrupts the normal heartbeat.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Fortunately, we were wearing our Apple Watch, so we touched the heart icon on the face and it started tracking our heart rate. As we watched, it refreshed its digital display at ten second intervals — 134, 140, 148, 153. We brushed to the stopwatch feature and began the timer.

We had been journaling these episodes to report to the doctor. This particular transient went on for more than 20 minutes, our longest, and somewhere in the middle of it, another passenger came to tell us that what was being observed was not good and that we should call for a doctor. She had been surreptitiously observing the watch display from the opposite aisle seat two rows behind us. We reassured her that we were under a doctor’s care and that the event was not unusual for us, although, in fact, its duration was.

We later reported this, along with other entries in our journal, to the cardiologist in Tennessee and he changed our prescription and instructed us in three techniques we could use to stop such events quickly. He warned us that prolonged transients of this type could bring about a stroke and that the damage a stroke could do would be in many ways “worse than death.”

So it was that we were pleasantly surprised when Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO, let it drop that we were not alone and Apple was listening. While describing the features of his company’s new Series 3 line of watches (Apple is now the number one watch brand in the world, with 97% user satisfaction), Williams said that Apple had received a great many queries about the heart rate monitor from customers who were experiencing precisely what we were — unexpected and unexplained surges in their heart rates (the Apple Watch is also now the number one heart monitor in the world).

It used to be that half of all heart patients first report their condition to their physician by dropping dead. Today it seems they are reporting it first to Apple.

Apple listened. The new line of watches includes an alert to stir its users to take action if abnormal heart rate initiates inexplicably. Apple has teamed with Stanford Medicine and the Food and Drug Administration to mine user data streaming from all those wired pulses around the world and try to piece together an epidemiological picture.

As Williams described it, the new series 3 Apple watches have their own cellular SIM cards, antennae, radio, power amplifier, GPS, barometric altimeter and data plans. Inside is a new dual core processor and a custom W2 wireless chip for WIFI and Bluetooth (the new earbuds, which can relay from watch as easily as phone, are wireless).

“And if you don’t do it right, it gets so big it looks like a house arrest bracelet and you are not going to wear it,” Williams quipped. Thus, the new Series 3 is the same size as Series 2, but with a “two sheets of paper” greater depth (0.25 mm). That packs a lot of radiative power density into a small space, microns from a major artery and a centimeter from rapidly dividing, white-cell-forming bone marrow.
All of this is concerning when we contemplate the effect of wireless radiation on the human body and pause to consider whether Stanford’s Apple Heart Study is a dog chasing its own tail.
One must know that the effects of past actions, whence cometh all sorrow, are inevitable.
— W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetian Yoga and Secret Doctrines (1935)

“Very recently new research is suggesting that nearly all the human plagues which emerged in the twentieth century, like common acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, female breast cancer, malignant melanoma and asthma, can be tied to some facet of our use of electricity. There is an urgent need for governments and individuals to take steps to minimize community and personal EMF exposures.”

Ninety-five percent of USAnians use cell phones daily. Nearly all businesses and most households have WIFI. Schools and medical centers are going ubiquitously wireless. And yet, none of this increased exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) have been shown to be safe for long-term exposure. In fact, the opposite is true, if anyone bothers to read the studies. We know beyond doubt that EMF emitted from common electronic devices causes biological changes in ourselves and other living beings. It can lead to a long list of health concerns — some of which can be pretty serious.

Remember, this new electronic environment is still in its infancy. It might be a hundred steps of Moore’s Law along, but it is still less than one human generation from its inception.

And yet, we have only scratched the surface of the technology still to come. We are being outfitted for wearables. EMF emitters, like EMF itself, are becoming invisible and ubiquitous. Children born today will be exposed to much higher doses of electric smog than those born just 10 years ago.

Dr. Milham tells the story of how he discovered an unsuspected source in the residence of a patient.
With the electric service turned off:
  • Sitting on toilet: feet off ground — 4.1 uA
    * Bare feet on floor — 17.3 UA
    * Hand-touching shower control — 40.5 UA
  • Showering: Hand touching shower control — 55.0 uA
The same pattern repeated in neighboring residences and was traced, eventually, to natural gas service pipes leading to gas meters for the apartment complex. Those currents contacted the cement floor and all metal connected to the concrete slab, such as door frames and plumbing — toilets and showers — had high contact current.

But that’s not all.

Seneff, Why Glyphosate Should be Banned, Globally MIT CSAIL 2017
Last week we watched, and recommend, the 10-part (nearly 30-hour) series, GMOs Revealed. At one point the series interviewed Dr. Stephanie Seneff, Senior Research Scientist at MIT, who mentioned the increase in abnormal heart rate — such as we’ve experienced since becoming an Apple Watch wearer.

Dr. Seneff explained that cardiovascular plaque, which develops with aging, serves to gather sulfates and make cholesterol sulfate, which the heart needs. “Cholesterol is not a problem,” Dr. Seneff said, “it is essential to all of the body’s functions.” The brain has 25% of all the body’s cholesterol with only 2 percent of the body’s mass.

What is a problem is a deficiency of cholesterol sulfate, which can be induced by GMO corn and soy, glyphosate exposure, aluminum and statin drugs, among other culprits.

Some symptoms of glyphosate poisoning, commonly from wheat and soy:
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Respiratory distress sometimes necessitating intubation
  • Dysrrhythmia
  • Renal failure
  • Altered consciousness
  • Shock (very low blood pressure)
  • Blood parameters
    * Acidosis
    * Low serum oxygen
    * High white blood cell count
    * High serum phosphate, potassium; low serum bicarbonate
We are only just starting to learn these things by studies of large groups of patients that look for commonalities that might be associated with causation.

Seneff, Why Glyphosate Should be Banned, Globally MIT CSAIL 2017
But the whole point of epidemiology is that association is not causality. We can say that our glyphosate-contaminated diet is associated with everything from autism and cancer to dementia and asthma, but we can say the same of our electronic environment, or the ionizing radiation loosed by atom bombs and power stations. When you get a cancerous tumor it does not raise a little flag and say “I was caused by radiation,” or “I was caused by Round-Up.” The Anthropocene is less forgiving to human health than was the Holocene from which we evolved.

Maybe the good doctors at Stanford will tell us whether the number one heart monitor in the world is giving us all heart disease. 

Whether a particular individual could then sue for damages from Apple is a different matter, but we suspect the Apple Heart Study is more defensive than public spirited.
Seneff, Why Glyphosate Should be Banned, Globally MIT CSAIL 2017
We could not say whether the racing heart we experienced on that flight to Hangzhou was caused by our Apple Watch, by the glyphosate residues in our gluten-free meal, by the odors of jet fuel while we waited at the gate, or by the increased levels of non-ionizing radiation experienced at that altitude. We just watched our heart race and hoped it would soon return to normal.
The Babylonian starlight is still waiting, with no shortage of fabulous formless darkness to bring in its train. And the new influx? That will come when it wills, not when we choose.
— Frankenstein’s monster to Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful

Sunday, September 10, 2017


"Denial and existential climate threat are a stable pair."

Image courtesy Tatyana Tomsickova

We hesitate to write about the march of hurricanes across the Atlantic as our weekly post because it is social media trending so strongly we probably have little to add to that conversation and besides, we said it all in Climate Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What You Can Do in 1990.

Nothing much has changed since 1990. Industrial civilization, fueled by the consumer culture, has continued its exponential growth in all the metrics; population, urban sprawl, extinctions, pollutants, resource depletion, and the build-up of greenhouse gases.

Exponents have an arc like a child moving forward on a swing — they pass through level, begin to climb, and momentum pushes them towards vertical until they collide with a wall of gravity and fall backwards. The child delights in this and immediately wants to repeat, pushing higher and higher.

There is a reckoning coming. We all know it although some of us are better at denial than others. Timing is always a dicey game. That is how climate scientist Stephen Schneider put it when he lectured Congressional committees in the 1980s — a game of dice. The more you load the dice, the more predictable the outcome.

As we write this the dance of the hurricanes looks like a science fiction film:

But the fantasy/tragedy part of our drama is the human reaction in default world. In case you missed it — 
1) Irma at 190 mph
2) Harvey at 54 “ of rain
3) West ablaze
4) Record California heat
5) Donald Trump speaks at an oil refinery in North Dakota
Trump told several hundred supporters gathered at a Mandan refinery on Wednesday that he understood the devastation the drought has brought. But he noted the damage Hurricane Harvey has done in Texas, and said, “You are better off.”
Charles Tuttle set up a table to sell a range of Trump gear, and said business was good. Tuttle said he had even sold a couple of baseball caps, featuring the presidential seal and Trump signature, despite a hefty $75 price tag.
In 1990 we traced the new shorelines of Florida for our book:

Notice that the caption says the middle view of the State’s contours arrives in the event Greenland drops its ice cover. For reasons we described last week we think Greenland is going to stay cold for a while, because AMOC (the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is slowing, reducing the flow of warm water from the Equator towards the Arctic.
There are signs in the paleoclimate record that melting ice sheets may have once slowed or stopped the AMOC for decades at a time — triggering massive shifts in monsoon rainfall in Africa and India, changes in hurricane patterns, and even mini ice ages.
Most climate projections assume that the AMOC might weaken, but would still persist even as global temperatures creep steadily upward. But climate scientist Wei Liu at Yale University suspects that these models overestimate the AMOC’s stability, according to a new study recently published in the journal Science Advances.

What is not slowing is the breakup of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet — the right-most concept for Florida mapmakers in our 1990 projection. These changes do not happen gradually. Typically coastal contours respond to major storm events. The tide comes in. It doesn’t go out.

If we had been delusional, we might have imagined in 1990 that merely getting the word out would make a difference. For reasons that have been well articulated now by cognitive scientists, human denial — a DNA-level defense mechanism — goes into overdrive when our survival is placed into jeopardy. Denial and existential climate threat are a stable pair.

Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind The history of science abounds with momentous theories that disrupted conventional wisdom and yet were eventually…
“I want all of America to be inspired by what’s happened in North Dakota and the North Dakota example. This state is a reminder of what can happen when we promote American jobs instead of obstructing American jobs.”

We are penning this on a Friday morning and, via You Tube, there is an image CNN’s weathermen created for the audience in Miami. Using Google Earth, they projected what a 5 to 7 foot storm surge on the “dirty side” of the storm will look like for Miami.

UPDATE: As of 5 pm Saturday Irma is tracking more Westward. They are forecasting 9 foot of surge over Naples, Fort Meyer and to 16 miles inland.

 Fare well, Houston. Fare well, Naples. May you hold up a lantern that finally cuts through our collective fog.

We post to The Great Change and Medium on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page. Albert Bates will be traveling and speaking later this year at Web Summit-7 in Lisbon, COP-23 in Bonn, IPC-13 in Hyderabad, and ESP-9 in Shenzhen.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Beauty of Biomass

"You probably wouldn’t want to invest in beachfront property at the rate sea level rise and superstorms are accelerating"

Hemp and Cob houses at Cloughjordan Ecovillage
“The solution to our living arrangement problem is not going to be more cars of a different kind, it’s going to be returning to more towns and traditional neighborhoods. The solution to our agriculture problem is not going to be bigger pig farms, its going to be smaller farms distributed more equitably around the parts of the country where you can still do agriculture. The solution to the medical problem is not going to be larger combine corporate hospital chains and so-called provider services, its probably going to be more small local clinics.”
— James Howard Kunstler, Peak Prosperity Podcast with Chris Martenson Aug 27, 2017 

If you are like one of the Burning Man Billionaires who are prepping a doomstead in expectation of Trumpocalypse, you could do worse than to direct your gaze towards Ireland.

Tulum, Ibiza, Marabeque and Bali are soon going to get very hot, and you probably wouldn’t want to invest in beachfront property at the rate sea level rise and superstorms are accelerating. Heat also rules out Sedona, Sante Fe, the 7th District of Budapest, Canal St. Martin, Kathmandu and the French and Italian Rivieras.

Radioactive fallout plumes, by accident, war, powerplant meltdowns, or all of the above, would eliminate any place too close to an Empire outpost, one of the 450 economically foolhardy but heavily subsidized nuclear power plants, or the billion-dollar atomic targets for terrorists — more than 60 of them — still being erected.

By too close we mean a distance of a few hundred miles in the downwind or down-current direction, or more, if you are contemplating an island redoubt in British Columbia, downstream of Fukushima. And remember, North Korea doesn’t have to complete the half-dozen steps The New York Times says are still required before it can deliver a warhead to the mainland US. It just needs Federal Express, or a small plane.
Wild weather will eliminate many more choices, and so will potential hoards of walkers who could take to the roads in the 3 days it takes most major cities to run out of food. You’d want to avoid places with fragile water supplies or potential for catastrophic wildfire. And don’t forget the overdue super-quakes and volcano zones around New Madrid and Yellowstone.

As the Atlantic current continues to slow due to melting ice and permafrost in the Arctic, the warm air and water that once moved North from the Caribbean to moderate the Maritime provinces of Arcadia and the temperate archipelago of the British Isles could stall, allowing those regions to feel the full impact of their latitudes. Edinburgh is at the same latitude as Moscow. In 1812, Napolean was defeated at Moscow by “General Winter” even though French forces numbered 691,501. Winter had merely -40° C. 

Winter of 2009–10 NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz,  
MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center.

Changes in air and ocean currents sweeping down out of the Arctic could deliver similar devastation to Ireland and Great Britain, and not only in winter.

This week we are at the Cloughjordan ecovillage in County Tipperary, Ireland, teaching a permaculture course and preparing for the Electric Picnic. 

The ecovillage, just going on 8 years old, is really a marvel. There are houses of cob, hempcrete, straw and timber. Rooftop rainwater is caught and channeled to blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, Rosa Rugosa, plum, pear and cherry trees that line the streets and paths alongside 70 heirloom varieties of Irish apples grafted onto some 600 trees. The village rescued semi-mature oaks from a motorway in Dublin and gave them a new home here, along with 17,000 sweet chestnut, ash, alder, blackthorn, hawthorn, downy Birch, elder and rowan.
The Cloughjordan Community Farm, with 50 household subscribers, is spread over 40 acres. It distributes from an old stone coach house on the main street, near the entrance to the village. Bruce Darrow, a Canadian transplant, harvests a bounty from his “RED” garden allotment each day (“Research, Education and Development” — doing comparative side-by-side trials), and puts his surplus out by the road. Passersby are invited to take what they’d like and pay what they wish. 
Other community enterprises include:

  • WeCreate offers co-working, shared workspaces for local businesses, entrepreneurs and projects and courses for colleges.
  • Among the WeCreate enterprises is the only community-based FabLab in Ireland — established by two ecovillage members. It allows the manufacture of almost anything by scripting or downloading plans and using computers to make the products.
  • Django’s eco-hostel with 34 beds.

  • RiotRye wood-fired bakery and bread school
  • Sheelagh na Gig, a bookshop and coffee shop on Cloughjordan’s main street
  • Walnut Books, an on-line bookshop
  • Cultivate, an NGO for community resilience and permaculture
  • FEASTA, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability
  • Cloughjordan Arts, currently working on the Cloughjordan Community Amphitheatre, a multi-purpose facility with a 300-audience capacity
  • Cloughjordan CoHousing
  • VINE (Village Internet Network Engineering) bringing internet and telephone services to ecovillage residents
What a great thing it is in a cold, damp climate to be able to walk into passive solar, biomass heated homes and businesses, climate controlled and always pleasant, where you turn on the tap and the hot water comes from trees. 

Recognizing that renewable energy may require something more dependable than silicon wafers and neodymium generators, the biomass district heating system occupied a central part of the master plan for the village when it was first laid out in 2003. The two-boiler unit and insulated ground pipe is designed to serve 130 homes and businesses over the 67-acre area, although only 55 houses have been built, so far. The plant sells its surplus heat to the older, less well insulated parts of Cloughjordan to replace imported coal. In 2014 the village was named by the European Commission as one of Europe’s 23 most successful ‘anticipatory experiences’ in the transition to a low-energy society.

Peat, coal, propane and kindling wood sold outside a Tipperary quick stop market.

“BECCS [Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage] sounds great in principle and allows you to remove carbon while producing energy, but it has several challenges. There is a lot of debate on the scale of sustainable bioenergy, with many conflicts in the literature. Most environmental NGOs and many scientists are against large-scale bioenergy.”

If we were to offer a few improvements to the ecovillage’s biomass system, we might recommend they retrofit to gas pyrolysis, improving Btu capture and yielding biochar and wood vinegar — possibly electricity, too. That would significantly elevate carbon sequestration at negative cost.

They might also look at bamboo. In recent years, temperate bamboo species have been introduced in Europe not only as an ornamental plant, but also as energy. To observe adaptation stress of bamboo in the climate of Ireland, daily cycles of chlorophyll fluorescence were measured in Phyllostachys humilis in Ballyboughal, County Dublin [Van Goethem et al, Seasonal, Diurnal and Vertical Variation of Chlorophyll Fluorescence on Phyllostachys humilis in Ireland (2013)]. The damp weather and cloudy skies slowed bamboo’s prodigious photosynthesis only marginally. Bamboo is still the fastest growing of all terrestrial plants and provides more co-products than all the rest. Its the co-products, including food, biodiversity, soil rejuvenation, and building material, that will make biomass energy a better choice for drawdown than non-renewable renewables or geoengineering fantasies.

At nearby Gurteen College we took a site walk with college president Mike Pearson to see the biomass energy cycle all in one location. In 2010 they’d reached the end of the old, oil-fired boiler’s life. That boiler had cost the college a euro per liter for diesel fuel, 100,000 euros per year. For just over twice the annual heating bill (€220,000) they bought two biomass boilers. They planted 10 hectares of willow (€80,000) and built a drying floor into a building next to the heating plant (€80,000). Their heating bill, which included harvesting and drying the willow (250 t/y — €10,000), labor, maintenance, and fertilizing with animal manures (€7,000), and finance charges, took their annual heating bill down to €20,000/y when the rising cost of oil would have risen it to €150,000. They saved the €80,000 — €130,000 difference for other tasks, like new college buildings.

While both the college and the ecovillage use solar photovoltaics to supply electricity, there is no reason why their biomass district heating units could not also be combined heat, power and biochar systems. Having your energy situation solved in such an ecologically and economically sustainable way is true security.

The best part of the Gurteen and Coughjordan stories? The willow. Each year those groves take carbon from the atmosphere and put it back into the soil. With the regular application of animal manures to the stumps after harvest, their soils gain fertility and depth. A freshly harvested grove grows back 3 meters tall the first year. Abiding the light touch of rotational harvests, the forest gives habitat to songbirds and other wildlife. The rotating patch harvest cycle and replenishing nutrient flows can sustain the college and the ecovillage indefinitely, and keep their buildings comfortable and climate controlled all year round, no matter what the North Atlantic current does or doesn’t do.

If you are one of the Burning Man Billionaires you could do worse than to put your doomstead here, in the company of happy villagers on good land.

We post to The Great Change and Medium on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page. Albert Bates will be traveling and speaking later this year at Web Summit-7 in Lisbon, COP-23 in Bonn, IPC-13 in Hyderabad, and ESP-9 in Shenzhen.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Creative Loafing with Joe the Baker

"I just want to make a really good loaf every time."
Malthouse Couching by Andrea Gentl
While we have come to rely on experts for many things, most of what we want to achieve with the Great Change will not come from those. They will come from us.
Community design cannot be left to professional architects, engineers and planning officials alone but, once trained in whole-systems design, these professionals can become powerful change agents. Regenerative and sustainable communities emerge from the active participation of all (or most) of their members. Therefore, widespread education in community design and processes that stimulate civic engagement and community participation are essential.
— Daniel Wahl, Designing Regenerative Cultures (Triarchy Press, 2016).

Joe Fitzmaurice and Julie Lockett are Riot Rye. Joe’s parents, Pauline and Joe, founded The Golden Dawn macrobiotic center in Dublin in the 1970s. His sister Lorraine set-up Blazing Salads, a whole-food/vegetarian restaurant in 1986 and then opened Blazing Salads Food Company with another sister, Pamela. 

BSFC is a whole-food/vegetarian delicatessen with an amazing cookbook of the same brand. Brother Joe joined them as the baker, making rye, spelt and wheat sourdoughs for the deli.

In 2004, Julie visited Findhorn and after an infectious experience in ecovillage living persuaded Joe to join Cloughjordan Ecovillage. To sustain the move, they set out to create a small business that could support the family in a rural area, far from the bustling foodie scene of Dublin.

Joe: “We wanted to look at having a wood fire oven and we got talking to this fellow who was from Tasmania, Alan Scott, blacksmith by trade and designed wood ovens. He got started by designing a better oven for Laurel Robertson of Laurel’s Kitchen fame in California. He traveled around looking at traditional French communal ovens and Quebec farmhouse ovens. He noticed that the ratio of the height of the dome to the height of the doorway was critical to the efficient firing of these ovens.

“The height of the dome is not the height of our oven. It relates to the height of the door. 

“Beech is one of the best woods for firing a wood-fired oven. The beech forest here was planted after the Second World War and beech is one of the best woods for baking. We got 50 ton of timber out the first year. Timber John has the contract to cut this forest. He takes it to Johnny Woodcutter who cuts it to the lengths we need.

“This year was the coldest its been in the last 7 years. Up until now the oven has never dropped below 100°C (212°F) — we can leave for a week or 10 days and it is still that hot when we come back.

“It takes 8 hours to fire the oven. We fill it a third with wood. We aim for 150 in the middle of the ceiling. There are 6 thermocouples, showing the layers from hot to cold. For this pizza night they are showing from 107 at the outer to 438°C at the inner right now. We’ll bake 150 loaves on average without having to re-fire. The most we’ve ever baked was 420 loaves on one firing.”
‘Did ye ever ate colcannon that’s made from thickened cream, 
With greens and scallions blended like a picture in your dream?
Did ye ever take potato-cake or boxty* to the school,
Tucked underneath your oxter with your book and slate and rule?
Margaret Saunders, A Taste of Ireland

Julie: “We serve 250 households in this area. We sell everything locally. Our radius is the ecovillage and a few shops in Cloughjordan and a coop and café in Limerick and once a week to Nenagh and Roscrea. We run a bread club. Here in Cloughjordan people can buy our bread at a discount if they make a monthly standing order. The children take their wagon around the village and knock on the subscriber’s door or open the door and shout ‘Bread!’ and leave the sack.”

Joe: “We went for a black oven. It set the limits of our business. We can’t expand to 50,000 loaves per day. We can do 400. We fire this oven. That energy goes up there (points to the ceiling of the oven). It’s stored in the wall. When it gives up we’re done. We’re finished for the day. We don’t fire it up again. So we can’t bake any more than that. We can’t expand our business. We put a stop on how much we could grow our business, and that was a very conscious decision.

“A bakery used to have the market radius of as far as a horse could go and back in one day. That was the limit on a bakery. If there was lots of people in that area you could sell a lot and if there were few you’d sell less. Today there are bakeries in Dublin that ship off to New York and to Australia. It is not the same bread.

“We only bake 3 days a week at most. The usual rise is about 16 hours but it can vary. We work in the day, not at night, and the bread we bake lasts four days. It’s a bit like working on a Farm. Some days we will work 2 hours or 3 hours. Other days it is 14–15 hours, from 6:30 in the morning to 9 or 10 at night. Once all the bread is out you fill it up wood again so it can light easily again.”

When they first opened in 2011, the little oven shed next to their home was called Cloughjordan Woodfired Bakery. “Then someone brought us the rye taken straight from these fields out back here and we tried it and we loved it so now we are Riot Rye.”

Joe: “I don’t normally bake white bread anymore. I want the nutrition to come out of the earth. Now and again we will make special things, like pizza night, but we want to focus on the bread that comes straight from the earth and takes a long time to ferment. We only use wheat, rye and wild yeasts.

“Baking came out of two main historic themes — soda powder or cultured yeasts, and natural fermentation. In the natural fermentation you have lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeasts, and the bacterial feed on the proteins and break down the gluten and release the sugar and the yeasts will feed on the products from the bacteria and release carbon dioxide. Without the bacteria we don’t have the breaking down and releasing to feed the yeasts. There is an enzyme in the bran that will be chelated in the natural ferment but would remain in the other types of baking. Properly fermented bread will release all the nutrients and make them available for digestion in your body.

“So we need a long fermentation. It starts the day before, and allows the time to break down and release the nutrients.”
These enterprises and many others are helping to revitalise communities at the human scale where regenerative cultures can emerge. They all share two important insights: we can design as nature by deeply listening to and learning from the places we inhabit; and the first step towards creating regenerative cultures is to engage people in conversations to re-envision the future of the communities they live in. To do this we also have to re-envision our systems of production and consumption.

Julie: “We don’t want to develop it as a business to where I spend more time on the computer than I have with my kids. And Joe says he doesn’t want to have to do this every day, but he enjoys it with the days each week that he has now. And he would rather be baking than selling.”

Joe: “My community of bakers is worldwide — Ireland, UK, San Francisco, Tasmania, Denmark, Germany. When you work at the scale we work we can share information about the things we discover. It used to be very hierarchical and lots of secrets, but now the information is democratized. We actively share knowledge with each other. We have to get lots of knowledge out there to allow baking to shift to this scale of production.

“The important thing is that it stays local. You can try a recipe from San Francisco that makes a crisp crust and really big holes, and you can order their sourdough starter, but you would have to get their local grain to make it work right. And their wild starter is not your wild starter. You are likely going to get something completely different.

“We have lost a heritage of Irish grains because people came to think they were no good. We don’t have the experience or the confidence to allow our grains to stand up against the mass-produced grains we import now.” 

Joe and Julie are founding members of Real Bread Ireland to help spread the craft of local baking.
“We just want to enable everybody to have access to really good bread. And I just want to make a really good loaf every time.”


Update: In the early hours of the 22nd August 2017 the ecovillage barn was razed to the ground in a huge fire. You can help with a small donation to the rebuilding!

Rye Sourdough Starter

This starter takes one week to develop and then will last in perpetuity. Download the Riot Rye PDF to print this.

You will need:
— Container (1 liter) with lid (a kilner jar is a perfect shape, however, do not lock the jar as carbon dioxide is produced during fermentation and needs to escape. If the container you choose is too wide, during the initial stages the starter may be liable to spread too thinly and inhibit fermentation)
— Scales (digital preferably)
— 325g Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour
— 325g Water
Day 1

25g Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour
25g Water
In your container, mix the flour and water together so that there are no dry bits, cover with the lid and leave in warm place (21–25°C or 70–77°F), a warm part of your kitchen should be fine or your hot press.
The wild yeasts and bacteria on the flour will then begin to ferment the flour and after a couple of days you should notice a slight sour smell and taste and also some air holes.

Day 2


Day 3

You are now going to refresh your starter by adding more flour and water to your juvenile starter. As the fermentation process has begun, this addition will ferment more quickly.
Add 50g Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour
50g Water
Mix the flour and water together so that there are no dry bits, cover with lid. Leave in warm place (21C-25C or 70–77°F). 

Day 4

As you build up the beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts, you do so by keeping 1/3 starter and refreshing it with 1/3 flour and 1/3 water. To prevent from being over-run with and having too much excess starter you discard some.
Compost 100g of starter keeping 50g
Add 50g Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour
Add 50g Water
Mix the flour and water together so that there are no dry bits, cover with lid. Leave in warm place (21C-25C or 70–77°F).

Day 5

Compost 100g of starter keeping 50g
Add 50g Organic Wholemeal Rye Flour
Add 50g Water
Mix the flour and water together so that there are no dry bits, cover with lid.
Leave in warm place (21C-25C or 70–77°F)

Day 6

You are now going to build up enough starter so that you can make your bread tomorrow.
Add 150g Organic Wholemeal Flour
Add 150g Water
Mix the flour and water together so that there are no dry bits, cover with lid
Leave in warm place (21C-25C or 70–77°F).

Day 7

Make the ‘Common Loaf’.
The recipe for the ‘Common Loaf’ uses 300g starter.
Whenever you make the ‘Common Loaf’, you will use 300g of starter and the remaining 150g should be stored in your fridge for your next bake.

Next time

12hrs before bake
Repeat from Day 6


Porter Cake

Adapted from Theodora-Fitzgibbon, A Taste of Ireland (1970)
from Margaret Saunders (b. 1875), Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary

Liffey Riverfront, Dublin
In Dublin the best ales traditionally came from the country, arriving by flatboat down the River Liffey and off-loaded to Temple Bar establishments like the PorterHouse. The ale was carried off the boats by longshoremen walking up planks with a cask on their shoulder. These heavyset men were called porters, hence the name of the distinctive artisanal ales. The heavier, darker ales had greater gravity and required especially stout porters to shoulder the casks, and thus we get stout.

1 lb (4 ½ cups) sifted cake flour
1 lb (2 ½ c.) brown sugar
1 lb (3 c.) seedless raisins or currants
½ lb (1 ½ c.) sultanas (Thompson seedless grapes in USA)
1 level teaspoon biocarbonate of soda, melted in warm porter
4 eggs
½ lb (1 c.) butter
4 oz (1 cup) glacé cherries
4 oz (1 c.) blanched chopped almonds
4 oz (1 c.) mixed chopped peel
½ pint porter or stout, warmed
grated rind of 1 lemon
pinch of mixed spice

Rub the butter into the flour and add all the other dry ingredients. Blend very well. Beat the eggs with the lukewarm porter and add the bicarbonate of soda. Mix this very well into the dry cake mixture. [note: if you leave this to stand for a day or two, the wild yeasts and bacteria on the flour and in the porter will then begin to ferment the flour and after a while you should notice a slight sour smell. Alternatively, you could blend in some sourdough starter and let stand for 8–10 hours. This adds in the element of wild fermentation that Ms. Saunders left to the porter.] Turn the dough into a greased and lined cake tin, measuring 9 in. in diameter and 3 in. high. It should be covered with greaseproof paper and baked in a slow oven (200–250°F) for about 3 to 3 ½ hours, removing the paper for the last half-hour. Test with a skewer before removing from the oven. It makes a good Christmas cake and if iced will keep well in the tin.

*Boxty Bread

from 1879–80, Patrick Gallagher, Co. Donegal.
Boxty is a traditional Irish potato dish served on the eve of All Saint’s Day, All Hallows’ Eve (before El Día de Muertos).

Ingredients:1 lb raw potatoes
1 lb (4 c.) flour
1 lb (2 c.) cooked mashed potatoes
4 oz (1/4 c.) melted butter or bacon fat
salt and pepper

Peel the raw potatoes an grate into a clean cloth. Wring them tightly over a basin, catching the liquid. Put the grated potatoes into another basin and spread with the cooked mashed potatoes. When the starch has sunk to the bottom of the raw potato liquid, pour off the water and scrape the starch onto the potatoes. Mix well and sieve the flour, salt and pepper over it. Finally add the melted butter or fat. Knead, roll out on a floured board and shape into round, flat cakes. Make a cross over, so that when cooked they will divide into farls. Cook on a greased baking sheet in a moderate oven (300°F) for about 40 minutes. This quantity will make about four cakes. Serve hot, split in two with butter.

We post to The Great Change and Medium on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page. Albert Bates will be traveling and speaking later this year at Web Summit-7 in Lisbon, COP-23 in Bonn, IPC-13 in Hyderabad, and ESP-9 in Shenzhen.




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