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Biochar Garden Terrace – One Year Later

The experimental biochar garden terraces – one year later

Mixing of charcoal, diluted urine, alluvial sediments, lime and organic refuse into virgin mountainside soil has resulted in an unimaginably productive terrace garden without use of commercial chemicals.

On May 1, 2012 a steep, densely vegetated hillside in the gold-bearing region of the Georgia Mountains was cleared to build agricultural terraces that mimicked the Track Rock Terrace Complex. Two months later, the new garden became the opening scene of the premier of the History Channel’s America Unearthed.

Since that time, the productivity of this garden, based on Creek and Itza Maya farming techniques, has been phenomenal. While nearby chemical-based gardens, planted “by the signs” according to ancient European traditions, were barely out of the ground by early June of 2013, the magic biochar garden has produced food every month since June of 2012.

Lizards from the land of the Mayas

Several varieties of potatoes, summer squash, butternut squash and muskmelon are thriving in a new section of the garden, created by slash and burn techniques.

Several varieties of potatoes, summer squash, butternut squash and muskmelon are thriving in a new section of the garden, created by slash and burn techniques.

Many of the millions of people, who viewed the premier of America Unearthed on television or now on “YouTube” have been puzzled by a strange, “Jurassic Park-like” sound that played in the background of the program. Most assumed that it was a mechanically produced effect. It was not. Seven inch (17.8 cm) long black skinks, indigenous to the Maya Highlands, were the performing artists. These musicians have now dug a labyrinth of tunnels in the terrace garden. Every night they sweep it clean of insects and slugs.

How such a large tropical lizard arrived in the region that the Creek Indians called Itsapa and the Cherokees called Itsayi (both words meaning “Place of the Itza Mayas”) is a matter of speculation. Why it continues to thrive is inexplicable, since theoretically such lizards would be killed off by winter temperatures. Our last snowstorm was on April 8. Perhaps its ancestors adapted to the new climate by living under human habitations in the winter, as most seem to do now.

If interested in reading more on this subject and seeing photos of the garden, Read more

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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