Why Your Garden Should Be Dark at Night

A confession: I was a teenage astronomy geek. This hobby that gave me an awareness of how depressing it is to live in a city so brightly lit that you can count the number of stars in the night sky.

A documentary, currently streaming on Netflix, called The City Dark details just how many other problems lights cause that you might not have thought of:

  • Lighting confuses migratory birds. Millions crash into buildings every year.
  • Sea turtle hatchlings walk towards city lights rather than the ocean.
  • For us humans? An increased likelihood of breast cancer among women who work at night.
  • Depression and sleep problems.

Worst may be the lack of perspective we humans get when we can’t contemplate the vastness of space. One of the astronomers in the documentary noted that when we lose touch with the scale of the universe we don’t appreciate the fact that we will never leave this earth. The distances are just too great. His point is that if we understood the impossibility of space travel, and gave up fantasizing about space colonies, we’d take better care of our home.

Photo: highline.org.

Highline Park at night. Photo: highline.org.

Keeping Gardens Dark
Thankfully light pollution is an easy fix and saves money and energy too. We can keep our outdoor spaces dark at night to benefit our well being and as well as the survival of nocturnal creatures. Night Sky concluded with a brief interview with Hervé Descottes, one of the lighting designers of the Highline Park in New York City. Descottes’s lighting design shows how you can balance the need for security with respect of the night sky by simply directing lighting downwards.

The International Dark-Sky Association has a guide to residential lighting that will help you keep our skies dark and nocturnal creatures safe. Some recommendations:

  • Choose dark sky friendly lighting fixtures that direct light down, not up.
  • Light only what needs to be lit, i.e. create a lighting plan rather than putting up a huge floodlight.
  • Switch lights off when not in use.
  • Reduce wattage–you don’t need as much as you think.

Here’s another idea: garden with moonlight. Rather than light up your garden with artificial light, include plants with silvery-grey leaves or white flowers. Our white sage glows spectacularly during a full moon. I’m also happy we put in a climbing white rose over our entrance arbor.

By embracing the darkness we can open our eyes to the stars above.

Non-GMO Versions of Grape Nuts and Cheerios Less Nutritious Than GMO Versions

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Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health professor Marion Nestle noted on her blog this week that the non-GMO versions of Cheerios and Grape Nuts are less nutritious than the GMO versions. Why? Nestle says,

It’s hard to find non-GMO vitamins (who knew?).  Vitamins, it seems are often produced from genetically engineered microorganisms, or from microbes growing in fermentation tanks that are fed a nutrient mix that contains ingredients from GM sugar beets or corn.

Not that the presence or absence of GMOs matters all that much from a nutritional perspective. Nestle noted, “Cheerios are essentially a vitamin pill wrapped in rapidly absorbable starch.”

At the massive natural food expo, I attended earlier this month, I saw a lot of unhealthy foods with a “non-GMO” label. In the case of Cheerios and Grape Nuts, the “non-GMO” label is either a marketing gimmick or an attempt to start a voluntary labeling program to head off voter mandated efforts.

Here’s where you can help. I need to kick my Grape Nuts crack habit and find a healthier breakfast alternative. Any suggestions?

Note from Mrs. Homegrown:  This post took me by surprise. Erik has eaten Gravel Nuts–I mean, Grape Nuts–for breakfast since I’ve know him (and for who knows how long before that) and that, my friends, is a long, long time.  If we are what we eat, Erik must be half composed of Grape Nuts. I can hardly imagine this new era of breakfasts which lays before us! We are up to our elbows in eggs this time of year, so I’m going to back those of you who suggested egg breakfasts.

Saturday Linkages: Comfrey, a Parking Rock Star and Voracious Worms

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Russian comfrey in flower. Image: Wikipedia.

Does comfrey really improve soil? http://permaculturenews.org/2014/03/18/comfrey-really-improve-soil/ …

Soviet Russia’s answer to the Monsanto house of the future: http://gizmodo.com/that-time-soviet-russia-built-a-house-entirely-out-of-p-1544925507/1544979348/+mattnovak/+mattnovak …

No, your pot doesn’t come from enviromentally conscious hippies http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/marijuana-weed-pot-farming-environmental-impacts …

Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It – Wired Science http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/03/rootworm-resistance-bt-corn/ …

Adapting to Climate by Being a Nomad within your own House http://feedly.com/e/M3JFioqL 

Rock Star or Comedian? Donald Shoup Takes His Parking Show to Berkeley http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/20/ucla-prof-shoup-talks-parking-in-berkeley/#.Uyyal0F4Lo4.twitter …

Residents Fume Over Lead Contamination of Soil in their Neighborhoods http://la.streetsblog.org/2014/03/20/im-a-teacher-im-pregnant-im-worried-residents-fume-over-lead-contamination-of-soil-in-their-neighborhoods/#.UyyaMvrmk2E.twitter …

How to Age Wood Tutorial – http://www.craftaholicsanonymous.net/how-to-age-wood-tutorial-guest-post-from-que-linda …

Dog Portrait from Corrugated Cardboard by Ali Golzad http://www.recyclart.org/2014/03/dog-portrait-corrugated-cardboard-ali-golzad/ …

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