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01 Mar 2017
natures pathwayas

The strength of our character

  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • March 2017

Written by 

The strength of our character

“Doing the right thing” is often a phrase tossed around without giving much thought to what it means or how it’s accomplished. Even writing about what it means to do the right thing has proven to be difficult, but it’s worth the effort.

Winston Churchill once wrote, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.” While I disagree with his generalization, I do agree that we are in a time when we are more willing to sacrifice the benefits of the greater good for the benefits of ourselves. Is that doing the right thing?

Are we doing the right thing if it only benefits us or our family? Are we doing the right thing if we increased business by providing inferior products and/or services? Are we doing the right thing only when we think others are noticing?

I believe doing the right thing is much like a muscle training exercise that requires a routine that develops a habit that creates strength. Occasionally or often we will run into situations that test the strength of that muscle and force us to make a choice, and it’s our integrity that will take us down the right path. If we recognize the need to do the right thing and remain conscious of always trying to do the right thing, our integrity becomes the strength of our character. These moments happen often and continuously throughout each and every day, and some people are paying attention.

As the father of a 7 year old and an observer of human habits, I often see both the positive and negative effects parents have over children. If we as parents are not doing the right thing or are making choices without integrity, what are we teaching the next generation? I recently recalled a brief conversation I had with my parents as a child. It was a simple conversation but one I remember vividly and one that impacted many of my adult choices. Certainly many of us can recall simple moments like this with big lessons. Children hear and see everything, far more than our myopic adult eyes can focus on. We need to consider what we want them to learn from us — as parents, as neighbors, as community members. When we see our children interacting with other children, do we not want to see them sharing? When we hear our children expressing frustration, do we not want them to speak with honesty and respect? When we watch our children interacting with the earth, do we not want them to treat all of nature’s creatures with gentleness and awe?

This impact doesn’t need to end when the training wheels come off. I’d like to think we can positively impact and guide young people as long as they’re willing to listen. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of environmental studies students about my business in general, but more so about finding passion and purpose in what we do. Sharing some of my unique personal and professional life experiences and my regrets about not finding purpose earlier informed the perspective I offered these young people. Impressively, I found that the students were eager to hear how doing the right thing can work in their professional and personal life. Ultimately, these experiences teach me far more than my guidance probably offers them, but I’d like to think all of us are better for these chances to reflect, consider and teach.

Because I deal with natural ecosystems, my business has taught me that perhaps the answer to what it means to do the right thing might be found in nature itself. Nothing can survive on its own. Plants require an entire ecosystem to survive, and we require a village to raise a family. Until we recognize that doing the right thing means doing what’s right for the greater good, we will all struggle with finding our purpose and determining the “right” path to take.

Maybe it’s as simple as the answer my daughter gave me when asked, “What does it mean to do the right thing?” to which she replied “be nice.” It’s certainly a great start.

Todd Rockweit

Todd and Tara Rockweit are owners of Backyard Organics, LLC, Wisconsin’s first organic land care business accredited by NOFA, one of two organizations in the country that accredit Organic Land Care Professionals (AOLCPs). Since 2004, Backyard Organics has been supplying natural and organic products and services for people, pets and property, including a complete do-it-yourself program. To read more about our products and services, or if you would like to submit a question, please visit us at http://backyardorganics.net, email info@backyardorganics.net or call 920-730-3253/888-200-0446.

Website: backyardorganics.net

01 Dec 2011

Creating a Self Sustained Lawn Care Program and Why Bacteria Play a Large Role

What They Are and A Few Interesting Facts

Bacteria are minuscule, one-celled organisms that can only be seen with a powerful light (1000X) or electron microscope (we’re talking TINY). They can be so numerous that a pinch of soil can contain millions of organisms. Bacteria are tough—they occur everywhere on earth and have even been found over a mile down into the core of the earth.

Bacteria can be classified into five functional groups. Autotrophic (literally, self-feeding) bacteria are photosynthetic. They are the primary producers. Decomposers consume soil organic matter, plant litter, and simple carbon compounds, releasing the nutrients in these substances for use by living plants. Mutualists, such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria, form associations with plants and help them absorb nutrients. Pathogens are the bad guys— they cause disease in plants. The last group, the chemolithotrophs (literally, chemical and rock-eating) obtain energy from minerals rather than from carbon compounds.

Bacteria are common throughout the soil, but tend to be most abundant in or adjacent to plant roots, an important food source.

Actinomycetes are a broad group of bacteria that form thread-like filaments in the soil. They are responsible for the distinctive scent of freshly exposed, moist soil.

Why They Are Important

Bacteria are important in the carbon cycle. They contribute carbon to the system by fixation (photosynthesis) and decomposition. Bacteria are important decomposers in grassland environments. Actinomycetes are particularly effective at breaking down tough substances like cellulose (which makes up the cell walls of plants) and chitin (which makes up the cell walls of fungi) even under harsh conditions, such as high soil pH. Some management activities, particularly those that change nutrient levels in the soil, can shift the dominance of decomposers from bacterial to fungal. When one group becomes dominant where it shouldn’t be, there is also a shift in the rest of the system. The shift from bacterial to fungal dominance, for instance, can enhance the conditions favoring weed invasions on rangelands.

Bacteria are particularly important in nitrogen cycling. Free-living bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen, adding it to the soil nitrogen pool. Other nitrogen-fixing bacteria form associations with the roots of leguminous plants such as lupine, clover, alfalfa, and milkvetches. Actinomycetes form associations with some non-leguminous plants (important species are bitterbrush, mountain mahogany, cliffrose, and ceanothus) and fix nitrogen, which is then available to both the host and other plants in the near vicinity. Some soil nitrogen is unusable by plants until bacteria convert it to forms that can be easily assimilated.

Some bacteria exude a sticky substance that helps bind soil particles into small aggregates. So despite their small size, they help improve water infiltration, water- holding capacity, soil stability, and aeration.

Wait! Aren’t there also “bad” bacteria? Yes, there are, but some soil bacteria suppress root-disease in plants by competing with pathenogenic organisms. The key is in maintaining a healthy system so that the good guys can do their work.

Bacteria are becoming increasingly important in bioremediation, meaning that we (people) can use bacteria to help us clean up our messes. Bacteria are capable of filtering and degrading a large variety of human-made pollutants in the soil and groundwater so that they are no longer toxic. The list of materials they can detoxify includes herbicides, heavy metals, and petroleum products.

The process that Backyard Organics uses to cleanse and enrich the soil, focuses on the quality, quantity and diversity of the microbiology that goes into our applications.  Diversity is important because, (depending on your soil conditions) every soil is different.  Having a wide variety of bacteria handles a wide variety of deficiencies.  In order for the bi-products of the microbiology to be of any value, however, the soil food web needs to continue its cycle with the help of arthropods, nematodes and protozoa’s, (the shredders, predators and grazers found in the third trophic level of the soil food web).  Backyard Organics provides the necessary predators by using good quality compost, naturally rich with nematodes and protozoa, and then extracts them using our brew process.  We then add a variety of appropriate nutrients that help the microbiology live and prosper until your soil is able to sustain itself.

 

Learn More!

“BLM NSTC Soil Biological Communities – Learn More.” BLM – The Bureau of Land Management. Web. 29 Nov. 2011. <http://www.blm.gov/nstc/soil/learn/index.html>.

Ingham, Elaine. 1998. The soil biology primer, soil bacteria. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Soil Quality Institute.

Kennedy, A.C. and R.I Papendick. 1995. Microbial characteristics of soil quality. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 50 (3) 243-248.

Vollmer, A.T., A. Au, and S.A. Bamberg. 1977. Observations on the distribution of microorganisms in desert soil.Great Basin Naturalist 37 (1) 81-86.