An Effective Rat Trap That Doesn’t Hurt Our Wildlife

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Today I want to share with you guys a different type of rat trap that is 99.9% effective*. Through the years rats learn to deal with the standard traps (you know, the ones you see in cartoons with hunks of cheddar on them). A lot of people get so frustrated that the traps aren’t working that they revert to poison. Poisoning the rats is not a good idea.

On Maui (where I grew up) we have indigenous owls, the pueo, as well as introduced barn owls. Their main food source is rats. Poison disorients the rats making them easier prey for the owls. The rats build resistance to the poison so they’re able to eat more and more and more of the poison. When it finally does work against the rat, the owls will see them, prey on them and, in turn, ingest the higher doses of poison.

Endemic owl on Hawaii, the pueo, is active at dusk and dawn

[1] Endemic owl on Hawaii, the pueo, is active at dusk and dawn

No matter where you live, you have hawks, weasels, owls, rabbits, vultures, crows… and all sorts of animals that are being poisoned by the rat poison or by eating poisoned rats. When you kill the predator, there is naturally an explosion in the rat population, who no longer has a predator to keep the population in check. So by thinking we’re solving the problem (by poisoning the rat) you are actually adding to the problem.

It’s important to note that wherever the rats die and decompose, there’s poison left in their place. We need to be careful with what we do – action for reaction. Many don’t realize that they’re poisoning the owls, pets, and soil through using poison to kill rats.  It’s a very delicate ecosystem and we have to be aware of how we deal with things.

We have recently come across a great alternative to standard rat traps and poison. The TomCat Rat Snap Trap is incredibly easy to set up and actually work. We just put a little bit of sunflower butter on it and we have had a pretty much 99.9% success rate in our outdoor kitchen. Every time a rat even comes near it, the trap catches it. There’s no getting away from the trap.

[2] An effective and safer (for the environment and ecosystem) way to deal with rats

[2] An effective and safer (for the environment and ecosystem) way to deal with rats

Instead of randomly distributing poison to kill any creature that comes across it, this is a much better way to target the rats that are actually in your house or kitchen eating your stuff. Instead of just spreading poison that’s going to wind up in the environment again and again and again. So try it out.

I have found several dead owls due to people poisoning rats. I thought this would be a good way to educate, by providing alternatives. This is one simple, cheap alternative that works. Hope this helps you guys out!

*No, this is not a paid endorsement. We found this product and it works and wanted to share it with you.

[1] Photo credit: Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, Really Hawaiian

[2] Photo credit: Homehardware.ca

What to Ask Before Planning a Regenerative Agriculture System

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When people approach me and asked me to design and build a Living Earth System (regenerative agriculture) for them, I usually start off with a few simple questions. Our philosophy is that anything we create has to be a garden that nurtures the soul, as well both the sight and the “site”, as much as it does the body, and the environment around you!!

WHAT TO ASK BEFORE PLANNING A REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE SYSTEM:

What do you envision? What is it that you’re looking for?



How much time and commitment do you have? Or are willing to put in?


We build self-sufficient systems, not to be confused with maintenance-free systems. There is a fair amount of maintenance that comes along with any type of farming (despite what “permaculture enthusiasts” claim).
To have a successful large system you have to become one of the players in this symbiotic relationship, you have to live it!
I usually recommend people start off with experimenting with small systems in their neighborhood to answer some of these questions.


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Are you trying to just feed your family? Or are you trying to feed your neighborhood?


What is it you’re trying to accomplish?


This will determine what size of a system you want.

What’s really important to remember is how much maintenance do you want to be accountable for. A large system can take quite a bit of your time and energy, but the rewards can be incredible.

What’s your latitude?

Because the climate is a very important factor.
This is a very important question because you have to ask yourself “what kind of an ecosystem can I set up here?”, and that balances with what is already found in your neighborhood.

Is there frost?

What kind of pests present?

Are there people using pesticides or herbicides, that will effect your system?

What are your resources for energy output?

Is the state spraying RoundUp on the side of the road near you, getting into your water system?

Is there enough sun for a successful solar system?
Is there steady wind?
Do you have running streams or lakes nearby?

What is your water source? Is it chlorinated or full of chloramine?


What type of worms are available in your neighborhood?


What types of fish thrive in your climate zone?

In the warm water, like in Hawaii, one type of fish we use is tilapia. They’re a great fish because the eat plant matter and readily breed in warm water, without any manipulation. Quite hardy and grow extremely fast.


What types of other creatures that create symbiotic relationships are present within your system?

There are different kinds of creatures that accomplish the same thing in slightly different scenarios.



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Success tends to be a journey of observation, trial, and error!


One Illusion of What is “Organic”

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A good friend sent us an email linking to a great article by the Healthy Home Economist, on the illusion of where our food comes from, and what should be considered organic and what is not. We think it’s a very educating article and we want to share another view on it.

In case you were unsure, we have developed our systems using aquaponics, never hydroponics, and we are against hydroponics due to not only it’s detriment to the earth, but also because it produces low quality, nutrient deficient produce.
We have had our aquaponics vegetables and fruits tested and they have received incredibly high ratings in bricks and nutrient density, due to the unique systems we have set up using living medium: fish, worms, microbial culture…
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Happy kale, thriving in the system

In the article it mentions that aquaponics produce should not be given an organic mark – Living Earth Systems is not regular aquaponics. We feel like aquaponics the way we do it should be in the category of “organic” (even “beyond organic”) because with all of the food we produce there are byproducts of new high quality soil, worms, microorganisms, compost…
A handful of worms

Happy worms playing their important role

We do not use an inert medium in our aquaponics systems, we use a living medium. Once a system is built, we bring in no external input – feeding fish organic food that we grow onsite, using compost created by worms on site. We grow the food for the fish, straight from the fish. They grow their own food aquaponically (fish water feeds plants, plants feed fish). Coconuts watered by the ponds and floating ferns both become fish and worm food.
Happy tilapia, sustainably born and raised

Happy tilapia, sustainably born and raised

A Living Earth system we set up at Hale Akua Farm

A Living Earth system we set up at Hale Akua Farm

We believe that puts it even past the organic system. It is a more holistic, sustainable approach. New soil is built through this system due to all of the living components.
100% run off of solar and rainwater, we incorporate lights on the tanks at night to deal with unwanted insects, becoming food for the fish. Incorporating sandy beaches on the ponds as pH buffers, and filter systems that mimic stream beds. The abundance of life found in the system matches up with a healthy ecosystem, somewhere where nature has not been interrupted.
A Living Earth system that we set up at Maui Moon Farm

A Living Earth system that we set up at Maui Moon Farm (picture is halfway through finishing)

Reader Q&A: Details on Worms & Vetiver Composting

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This post is answering a few questions that a reader posted in the comments section of our last post:

How often do you add the pond water?

You can add the pond water as often as you like – depends on how many water changes you want to do out of your pond. At minimum, once per week.

How many worms per pile?

The piles we make are long “buns” (20 ft long, 3 ft wide) with 1-2 pounds of worms per pile, added at the start. Their numbers will increase exponentially as time goes by. You keep stacking vetiver on it as your vetiver grows and as your worms decompose it. We also like to throw bamboo leaves into the pile to increase IMO’s (indigenous microorganisms).

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Are multiple small piles better than one big one?

One big/long pile is better – you want the worms to migrate through it.

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Do you turn the piles?

No turning the pile. The worms turn it. This is not thermophilic composting. Thermophilic composting is a chemical process having to do with Nitrogen heating the pile up. Our piles are cold. Our’s are broken down more through fungus and microbial action, and the worms.

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Is shade or direct sun better for the piles?

Shade is better for the piles, but they also work in the sun.

Is that grass [vetiver] common to find?

Vetiver isn’t common, but we have tons of it. We would be happy to turn you on to some. Email us, sam@livingearthsystems.com and we’ll get you a vetiver start for free :)

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Thanks for the great questions! We love answering everyone’s questions – leave a comment with your questions and we will be sure to answer them.

Earthworms & Vetiver Building Mineral-Rich Soil

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WORMS ARE SOIL BUILDERS


They bring material up from deep in their tunnels and use grit inside their gizzards to break down rocks and other materials in the soil. They bring minerals to the surface and eat the droppings of leaf litter worms along with several other funguses and molds and organic materials on the surface. Then they bring the surface material down and deposit it inside the holes where they are taking previously unavailable minerals and rock dust, totally moving and rotating the surface of the earth.

Worms in action, building soil

Worms are incredible earth movers. The organic matter they deposit within their tunnels helps to break down rocks and minerals from deep in the subsoils and bring them to the surface as living soil. Additionally they provide aeration for the penetration of oxygen into the earth, and also the ability for soil to absorb water from the rain into the ground rather than rapid run off, which causes soil erosion.

So by mining minerals with plants, such as vetiver grass, we allow the subsoil worms on the surface and provide mineral rich green material for food to build NEW EARTH.


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VETIVER GRASS

Vetiver grass has an almost vertical root system, with not much of a horizontal signature. It’s roots go down over 10 feet, enabling it to access minerals from the subsoil which is typically unavailable to the majority of plants which have a much shallower roots system.

By regularly cutting off the top mass of the vetiver grass and laying it in horizontal piles and pumping water from the fish ponds on top of it, we create a supreme environment for worms and decomposition. The worms that we have in place process the vetiver grass into incredible mineral-rich NEW EARTH.

WORMS IN VETIVER COMPOSTING

There are three worms that we use in the process. The first one is a big, deep-dwelling, subterranean worm, known as Amynthus Gracilus, or a Georgia jumper. It has the ability to go deep and move tons of material as well as inundate the soil below with its gut bacteria, such as mycorrhizal on rhizobia and different microbes.

The second worm is a red worm named the perionyx excavatus. It’s common name is the Indian Blue worm, but in Hawaii is called the Waimanolo Blue. It can live in a bin, process large amounts of food and then be able to migrate out when it gets too toxic from it own excrement. It’s known as a leaf litter worm and spends it’s life in the top 1 to 2 feet of the soil. The Waimanalo Blue actually processes all the leaves that fall off the tree. It also decomposes the excrement from the bigger worms, meaning what’s left on the surface in the form of castings. The worms trade-off what each other eats.

Worms promote certain beneficial molds underneath the soil to help process rock in the soil, and minerals and such.

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The third worm is known as Eisenia fetida, or red worm. It’s raised in bins but it doesn’t really have the habit of being able to migrate out once it’s environment becomes toxic from too much of it’s own excrement. Therefore you have to constantly change their bedding. The fetida also eats the castings of the other two worms. It will migrate out of the bin or die within it, but it does not seem to have the great ability to migrate back into the bin. They seem to do really well in the ground underneath the vetiver grass and the different mulches that we create.

The subterranean worm (Amynthus gracilus) comes up and deposits mineral material from deep in subterranean holes as far as 15 feet down. It brings this material up to the surface and the leaf dwellers (Perionyx excavatus) eat that and deposit it along the surface, creating more soil beneath the entire leaf litter. The big worms (fetida) bring down the leaf litter and deposit it in tunnels, increasing mycelium, which the worms also eat. Mycelium also helps build the web for plants and trees to interact with each other.

The three worms can share space with one another. This is an important part of our systems because they process different components for total decomposition. The idea is to integrate all three worms into your garden systems so they start to build their own culture and they can come and go as they like and you can just treat a healthy ecosystem.

This is a general concept of creating New Earth, by taking something as simple as a grass, laying it down, taking any extra water from your ponds and the worms, and allowing them to process it into pure new earth for you.

An Introduction to Living Earth Systems

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I’m going to try and take you on a journey of the last 30 to 40 years of my relationship with this planet. Perhaps the story will bring you closer to the understanding of where you come from and where your food comes from and what our role is as stewards of this planet. Understanding that for every action there’s a reaction and how can we govern ourselves in a direction that takes care of what takes care of us. For me it came in the very simplest way – observation, repetition and consistency. So if we watch what’s going on around us, we create our own observational study. If we consistently try to cross the t’s and dot the i’s and make ourselves better and help other people understand, then we can truly be part of the collective consciousness that is Mother Nature. Everything seems to coincide without the need for thought. Nature, if left to itself, is the closest thing I know to perfect. It’s us who tends to interrupt cycles of perfection in our belief that we can somehow possibly make it better or improve upon something that’s already perfect. I fail to see how we consider ourselves humble when compared to the epicness of all that is without a thought. All things exist in perfect harmony – Mother Nature, space, light, time, liquid…

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I should tell you that I retired when I was seven years old. One day when I was down at the beach, I met this curious old homeless man and we had a talk about what it was going to be like when I got older and why I would want to go to work. I asked him how much money I could make and he told me, “Maybe if you do really good, maybe you’ll make $20 an hour. Maybe you could make $100 an hour if you’re really successful at something.” I thought about what I would pay to do the thing I love to do the most – to go surfing in Fiji, eat the best vegetables, catch fresh fish and lobsters, live off the land close to nature, and just sit on the beach and do nothing and enjoy my own self. I think I’d pay least $100 an hour to do all of that. So that was my decision. I would just do those things instead of “work” because they were what I love to do more than anything else. I did not have to save money to do any of it. I do not have a formal education. I never made it out of elementary school. My school has been nature – worms, insects, the trees.

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I’ve been lucky enough to have access to remote places on the Hawaiian islands, where i have been able to observe  and participate in the cycles of nature and (but I’m not gonna give the names of those places, because I’d like them to stay small, remote) and be really close to beaches. Because the ocean is a very important part of my life. My water has come from the streams and the waterfalls, my electricity has come from the sun,home made water turbines, and windmills,  my food has come from the garden, the ocean, and the forest. I’ve been very lucky to choose this path of least resistance. If I can bring vegetables down and share them with people in my community then I’m on the giving end of the stick.

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I’ve been told that there are three phases that we go through as humans – the first is survival, the second is acquirement, and then after acquiring enough we give back. I was lucky enough to not have to worry about acquiring in order to give back. By following the simple rules that nature set up then I could be on the giving end of the stick by planting, harvesting, foraging, and catching. Why wouldn’t I just retire and have everything I need. I can eat, I can feed other people and I can be a good steward to the planet by just paying attention to the natural cycles that are going on around me and try to actually play a part in that rather than dominate.

I think so many people mistake stewardship for domination and we think that we have to control and dominate the earth. There is no controlling nature, there’s dancing with it or playing a part with it and finding harmony. I think that’s what stewardship is about. It’s seeing the cycles, like matching two strings of an ukulele. You can find the vibration and play in tune with it and go along with what it’s doing. Then we can create this incredible paradise around us by actually taking part in a functioning universe that’s already set around us rather than having to attempt to re-create it. There’s a lot of magic that comes along with that. It is the school of nature.

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I’ve learned from the patterns that exist. If you take leaves at the bottom of the lo’i (an ancient Hawaiian taro patch) and you put them in a pile next to da stream unda da tree, along with the leftover pieces of taro, afta you harvest. When you go back a month later, you’ll notice huge piles of earthworms eating it into a mass of New Earth, sustainable fertilizer. When you throw it back in the taro patch you get even better taro the next time around.

For me, hunting, fishing, surfing and gardening are a way to life. I’ve pretty much learned my way alongside nature. I’ve learned to observe the things around me so that I can get better at living as a part of nature.

I feel like I have done a pretty good job of observing all sorts of patterns and being creative. I’m able to build a solar system and understand what’s going on under the soil. In Hawaii the soil has been badly abused and it is in much need of healing via bioremediation. I have taken time to study and teach a little bit of what I have learned in the process of my own journey to stewardship.

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So this is the intention of the work we are doing here. We want to cover a lot of really simple topics which seem to be really complex for people. They are actually quite simple, with a little bit of common sense. I want to share that if we start observing a little more, and showing a little humility (think humus in the soil), then we can play a good part in living on this planet. We can receive incredible benefits from Mother Nature and Mother Nature can receive incredible benefits from us. Symbiotic relationships are awesome.

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In this day and age, where they claim that only 2% of the topsoil is left on the planet, if you look there are several indicators that the demise of most civilizations has come through bad soil management and horrible farming practices. We have forgotten what stewardship is. I think it’s really important that we realize through the time and all the energy that’s been spent in the last, I don’t know how long we’ve been on the planet as humans, we try to learn from our mistakes. Now we’re armed with a lot of that knowledge and we have the chance to turn it around to create new earth.

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We left nature for technology. We now have the chance to return to nature with technology. We have the ability to bioremediate, in a sense turn the clock backwards, and make up for the mistakes that have been made. This is our chance, in this time, to actually take on a sustainable approach into where we’re going to go and take our own freedom back.

What makes us a little different is that we’re actually trying to empower you with the tools and the knowledge to be able to be a producer instead of a consumer, to be a problem solver instead of a victim. I think it starts with an understanding that as above so below. What exist on the top exists under your feet. Hopefully we can outline some things in this book that make it clear to you that you are able to do this. That anyone of us has the ability to create for ourselves rather than be dependent upon the outside entities that are actually destroying the planet. It’s about making a choice – are you part of the solution or are you part of the pollution? How can you find your way to play a part in what you actually are: soil and stardust.

Some of the topics we’re going to cover are going to be how to build your own solar system from the bottom up, what’s happening under the soil (mycorrhizal, Nitrogen fixing bacteria, rhizobia…), understanding the creatures and the parts they play in building your soil and keeping it healthy, how water flows and how to plan for the future, how to build alternative structures, how to build alternative water systems, aquaponics, complete circular sustainable systems that are beautiful and also can feed you and your neighbors and create all the electricity and everything that you need. I’m basically going to show you how to take technology back to nature, as well as some basics like how to cook what you grow (or catch), hunt, make wine, preserve food, and be completely responsible for your needs.

I’ve learned a lot from working with people that have lots of financial resources as well as people who have no money. I’ve found solutions for both situations, from using completely recycled materials to the most high-end products. It is possible to build superior systems on both ends of the scale. Both directions of implementation are based on the skills that can be done with or without huge resources. The focus is always on more ingenuity, more observation and deciding what you want.

Keep posted for the rest of this journey…

We would love to hear from you! Comment below any questions that sprang up while reading.