A Common Sense View of Invasive Plants

Via the Garden Professors blog a sensible letter in Nature from Mark Davis and 18 other ecologists on the tired, in my opinion, native vs. invasive species debate:

It is time for scientists, land managers and policy-makers to ditch this preoccupation with the native–alien dichotomy and embrace more dynamic and pragmatic approaches to the conservation and management of species — approaches better suited to our fast-changing planet.

Clearly, natural-resource agencies and organizations should base their management plans on sound empirical evidence and not on unfounded claims of harm caused by non-natives. Another valuable step would be for scientists and professionals in conservation to convey to the public that many alien species are useful.

Amen.

More from that article here.

Ridiculous Press Release Tuesday

I’m not making this up

I’m getting so many off-target press releases clogging my inbox that I’ve decided to share them until the publicists who send them get a clue and actually spend some time reading this blog. One release in particular should get an award for crassness.

The American Dietetic Association has, apparently, teamed up with industrial food giant ConAgra (am I the only person who sees that pairing as a conflict of interest?) to bring us a condescending website about home food safety that I won’t link to so as not to give them free publicity. The ADA is promising bloggers a chance at winning a free iPad or Starbucks gift card for pimping a food safety website that includes things like the “cookie rookie pledge.” The pledge, aimed at kids, suggests “Wait until cookies are ooey-gooey and fully baked before digging in, ” and “Remind grown-ups to use two separate cutting boards for raw meat, like turkey, and ready-to-eat-foods like carrot sticks.”

At the risk of losing the chance to win that iPad, I can’t resist suggesting a few food safety tips for their corporate partner ConAgra: give your poultry space, sunshine and monitor their health. Compost their waste in a thermophilic (hot) compost pile. Follow these several thousand year old farming concepts and maybe we wouldn’t need the “cookie rookie pledge.” According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, ConAgra ran the most salmonella infested turkey plant in the country. The CSPI also has a nice rundown of what other food giants are in bed with the ADA.

The good news is that we can take yesterday’s stoic flow chart to heart and develop an entirely parallel food system by growing as much of our own food as we can. We might also–and I want to hear from parents on hard this would be to do–try to run this propaganda out of our schools. Perhaps it’s just time to settle down and develop some of our own memes. I have a feeling they’ll spread better, in this internet age, than the work of the ADA’s publicists.

Are Pallets Safe to Reuse?

Now you know. Pallet parts have names.

As a fan and proponent of reusing pallets in building projects, such as chicken coops and compost containers, I’m often asked if I think they are safe to use given that shippers and manufacturers fumigate them with pesticides.

In the United States quarantine regulations require that pallets be treated with methyl bromide, a pesticide being phased out due to its adverse effects on the ozone layer. According to Mary Howland Technical Service Manager at Great Lakes Chemical Corporation, a supplier of methyl bromide,

Methyl bromide products are restricted use pesticides. A certified applicator license is required to purchase and use these products and strict adherence to label directions/requirements is mandatory. Under normal fumigation conditions methyl bromide is a gas and when the pallets are properly aerated according to label instructions, virtually no methyl bromide residue remains on the pallets and wood materials.

Now I’m not a methyl bromide fan and I find it’s use as a soil fumigant in agricultural applications appalling.  But I’m not too worried about reusing pallets. That being said, a Tylenol recall was linked to the use of tribromophenol (TBP) to fumigate pallets. Though, depending on if you believe the trade organizations behind wood pallets or plastic pallets (they hate each other), the Tylenol recall may have had nothing to do with TBP which is not used to fumigate pallets in the US.

So, as with most issues on this blog, no easy answer. But I’m still not concerned about using pallets as a building material.

Going Wired

Cat 5 o’ nine tails via BoingBoing

The dangers of radiation from cellphones has been in the news lately and, from what I understand, existing studies are either inconclusive or deeply flawed. But it got me thinking about the safety of wireless internet networks–should I be concerned about possible health effects?

In terms of a direct physical effect, probably not.  Dr Michael Clark of Britain’s Health Protection Agency, speaking in a 2006 Sunday Times article says,

When we have conducted measurements in schools, typical exposures from wi-fi are around 20 millionths of the international guideline levels of exposure to radiation. As a comparison, a child on a mobile phone receives up to 50 per cent of guideline levels. So a year sitting in a classroom near a wireless network is roughly equivalent to 20 minutes on a mobile.

So I’m probably not going to get cancer from a wireless internet network and the jury’s still out on cellphones. But what about the power of suggestion, so often neglected in our materialistic world? What about the symbolism of a world crowded with cellphones, wireless telephones, radio stations and now ubiquitous wireless internet networks? What about a kind of negative placebo effect?

I think we should acknowledge the symbolic implications of the technologies we use as well as the power of the unconscious mind. Even if we fancy ourselves thoroughly modern, what about those lingering doubts buried in our subconscious? Couldn’t those doubts cause deleterious effects both mental and physical? The placebo effect is real.

Our wireless modem recently failed, giving me the opportunity to put my theory into action by going “wired.” A neighbor gave me a hundred feet of ethernet cable, so all I needed was a few other supplies and a trip through the crawl space under the house to make it work. Initially the clerk at Radio Shack thought that I was insane when I told him I wanted to get rid of our wireless network. After several visits the clerk eventually warmed to my eccentricities and kind of got into the project, looking up things on the internet in the store for me. After a few hours on the phone with AT&T tech support (located in the Philippines!) we went fully wired.

Like the Radio Shack clerk, Mrs. Homegrown also thinks I’m crazy but I hope she appreciates the non-ethereal benefits of our wired network: greater security and higher speeds.

For more on the advantages of an ethernet network see this comparison of wired vs. wireless.

And, as Marshall McCluhan used to say, if you don’t like that idea I’ve got others . . .

What you control

Erik cited a Terence McKenna quote deep in his last post on bacon. It’s a good one, and deserves more attention so I’m giving it this space.

If Erik and I have a single message to offer, it is that you can’t control the world, but you can control your life. There’s plenty in this world to be outraged over, or worried about, but those feelings don’t get you anywhere. What you have to do is tend your own garden: Your body, mind and soul. Your family. Your kitchen. Your yard. Your neighborhood. See to those things. In making those things better, you do make the world better. At the very least you’ve improved your own life. Or, perhaps, you might be one of the many pebbles that makes an avalanche.

And here is McKenna saying something similiar in his inimitable style:

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.” –Terence McKenna

(I’m sorry I don’t know where this quote comes from–but I snatched it from Goodreads.)

Bacon Bits

Van Gogh’s Starry Night rendered in bacon (via Doug Harvey)


With the death of print advertising venues, publicists are, apparently, desperately reaching out to bloggers to hype their client’s offerings. The result? Take a look at this tempest over garden bloggers taking ad revenue and going on junkets. Normally I compost publicist’s attempts to get mentioned on this blog into April Fool’s Day hoaxes. But, at the risk of dispensing free publicity, I had to share this one:

River Run Village in Keystone, Colorado is going whole hog this summer when the Blue River Bacon Tour comes to town . . . Over 3,000 pounds of bacon from a variety of purveyors will be on hand for sampling at the Bacon Showcase alongside live music and bacon lectures compliments of Leo Landis, Professor of Baconology. Yes, that’s his job!

The Blue Ribbon Bacon package is available for $35 and includes admission to the three-day event, a commemorative hat, $10 in Bacon Bucks, a beer koozie, unlimited bacon samples at the Bacon Showcase, live music, bacon educational lectures, and a free drink. General admission tickets are also available for $30 per person.

Keystone’s award winning golf courses are extending special offers to bacon lovers who wish to burn off some of those delicious calories. Tee off after 5pm on June 24-26 and the cost is $55 per person.

While indulging in all things bacon, Keystone Resort is offering rooms from $109 per night.

Bacon bucks? Is this a currency backed by bacon? Will this result in a mass “quantitative easing” at the Keystone Resort after “indulging in all things bacon?”

A note to publicists: While I enjoy your creativity, I’m guided by this quote from the late Terence McKenna. Do a little reading before clogging up my in-box with press releases. I’m not against advertising, but if we ever take on any sponsors they have to gibe with our goals and must be kept separate from our editorial content.

Elderly and Barefoot–that’s how I plan to be

See, even Plato was rockin’ the barefoot look

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Erik is the Thoughtstylist™ in this house, but I’m going to step up on the Stylin’ Platform for a change. As regular readers know, Erik is into barefoot running. I barefoot walk, and am working my way into barefoot running.

Our neighborhood is full of long, steep staircases devoid of handrails. I go up and down these on my walks. When I’m in running shoes, I feel insecure on these staircases–I really watch my step, lest I end up sprawled on the bottom like an Aztec sacrifice. No matter what I do, I always feel like I’m about to pitch forward on my face.

Contrast that to doing the stairs barefoot. When I’m barefoot I feel completely safe. On the way down, my toes grab the edge of each stair, automatically. Going up, I’m high on the ball of my feet, and don’t worry about catching a toe and tripping.

This led me to realize, on a visceral level, that when you’re barefoot, you’re very surefooted. Your foot is conforming to the terrain, and the nerves in your foot are sending a constant flow of feedback to your brain. You walk more lightly–not more hesitantly, but with more awareness.

Surefootedness becomes more important to me now that I’m past 40 and staring down the gullet of my elder years. I also have older family members, and I’m sure most of you do. We all know that one of the biggest threat to the elderly are falls. And falls happen because as we get older, and less active, we lose coordination, strength, and balance.

My thoughtstyling, in a nutshell, was that older folks should spend more time barefoot. Being barefoot really wakes up your senses and trains you to be surefooted.

Of course it can be hard for elderly people to care for their feet, so they need to take time to build up callouses that will protect their feet from cuts. That process can happen in a shorter period time, with work, but it’s easier if we’ve been going barefoot all our life…or at least since our 40’s.

No one may agree with me, but I for one plan to be a barefooted elder. And I’m going to start leaning on my mother about it, too.

I was pleased to find my thoughstyling backed up in this book Erik bought recently. It’s called Barefoot Running, and has a special section on transitioning to barefoot for the elderly and less mobile. The author makes the same arguments that I am here, just somewhat more articulately. Overall it’s a really good book on the basic mechanics of barefooting, how to build up callouses, how to approach weather and different terrains, etc. It also has some not so valuable stuff on diet and stretching and spirituality, as if it’s trying to be a book about all things–but for the basic barefoot stuff, it’s great.