Savage Farming

Friday, May 19, 2006

The fascinating world of transplanting

While punching holes in the soil for my little tomato plants I was fascinated by the plastic mulch we work with.

We used to punch holes in the plastic or slit it with a knife but both of these methods lead to an unnecessary number of plant deaths when the plastic contacted the stem of the plants. The plastic would either shrink back or flap over and touch the stem and then get so hot in the sun that it would kill. Nowadays we take a small propane tank and burner on the end of a long hose and melt our holes into the plastic.

This leads to some interesting phenomena. The water and soil under the plastic affect the manner in which it melts or burns, leaving these crazy weird looking patterns half melted, half burned and some untouched on the edges. The patterns sometimes look like reptile skin or clouds or weird striations. I've made fractals for years using my computer, the image beneath my blog title is one such. Now I find them occurring in many arrangements around me.

Another for instance: when the poly-mulch first comes off its roll there is considerable static discharge. Splays of dust will be sucked up onto the sides of the mulch and the tug of war between gravity, air currents and static charge will create hundreds of instances of circular patterns which look very much like the Mandelbrot set or the so-called "magnetic Mandelbrots" which are derived from the equations determining the behavior of magnetic fields. I've noticed the dust being sucked onto the plastic before but this new green poly we are using has a much better contrast and the fascinating self-similar patterns of some fractal dimension are vividly visible.

Anyhow, that's my interesting observation of the day. I'm sure the rain has ruined all such patterns and unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me last time I noticed them. If the chance arises when we make some more poly-mulch rows I'll try to snap a pic for y'all.


  • I absolutely love fractal images. They look like the "Sacred Spiral" in action, to me anyway. I've noticed that smoke behaves in similar ways sometimes. Or maybe that's just my perception? ;-)

    By Blogger Rae Ann, at 8:26 AM  

  • Smoke has several fractal aspects to it's nature. The one which first comes to mind is "Cantor Dust" which is created by successive subdivisions and removals of intervening segments. Another is diffusion limited aggregation. As if the diffusion of particles into air is waging a struggle with the cantor like source within the flames.

    Roger Zelazny's Amber series spectacularly highlighted the tension between Chaos and Order and although I have no way of knowing this it seems that much of his thinking had its roots in the mathematical development of fractals.

    By Blogger The Guy, at 5:20 PM  

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