Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fewer, better fed, farm animals: Good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor

‘Fewer but better fed animals can make livestock production more efficient.’ This was said by Mario Herrero at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. Herrero was speaking on 13 November 2012 in the fourth of a series of science seminars organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food security (CCAFS). The presentation was live-streamed to an online audience of 220 people.
Herrero, an agricultural systems analyst at ILRI, gave an up-to-date overview of ways the livestock sector in developing countries can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing global warming. `We face the challenge of feeding an increasing human population, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, and doing so in ways that are socially just, economically profitable and environmental friendly,’ he said.
This matters a lot. There are about 17 billion domestic animals in the world, with most of these in developing countries. The raising of these animals generates greenhouse gases such as methane (emitted through enteric fermentation and some manure management practices). And the number of livestock in the developing world will only increase in future decades.
Mitigating potentials of the livestock sector
Livestock benefit many of the world’s poorest people, with at least 1 billion of them depending either directly or indirectly on livestock for nourishment and income and livelihoods. But most of the inefficiencies in livestock production occur in developing countries, where people lack the resources to refine their production practices.
The good news is that livestock production in poor countries can be improved dramatically to close big yield gaps there. Herrero gave some examples:
  • Discourage and reduce over-consumption of animal-source foods in communities where this occurs,
  • Encourage and provide incentives to small-scale farmers to keep fewer but better fed and higher producing animals, and
  • Promote ways of managing manure from domestic animals that reduce methane emissions.
Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector
Herrero leads ILRI’s climate change research and a Sustainable Livestock Futures group, which reviews interactions between livestock systems, poverty and the environment. He says,  `In the coming decades, the livestock sector will require as much grain as people. That’s why there’s great need to keep fewer but more productive farm animals. We need to find ways to produce enough food for the world’s growing human population while reducing global warming and sustaining livelihoods of the poor.’
That, says Herrero, will involve some hard thinking about hard trade-offs.
For instance, while reducing the number of animals kept by poor food producers, and intensifying livestock production systems, could reduce global methane emissions by livestock, we’ll have to find efficient and sustainable ways for small-scale farmers and herders to better feed their animal stock. And while raising pigs and poultry generates lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than raising cattle and other ruminant animals, pigs and poultry cannot, like ruminants, convert grass to meat.
‘There’s no single option that’s best,’ cautions Herrero. ‘Any solution will need to meet a triple bottom line: building livelihoods while feeding more people and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’
Click on this link to view Mario Herrero’s full presentation: Mitigation potentials of the livestock sector,

When Family Abandons You-An Update

I wrote a blog post a few years back entitled "When Family Abandons You."  It was about my experience with my father leaving and turning half the family against the other half and the grieving process that one goes through in such a situation.  This has, over the years, been the most popular post I've ever written.  Isn't that terrible?  It is a sad state of affairs when more people find our website because of family abandonment then that they want a thanksgiving turkey.

I wanted to post a little update to this article.  Since this very sad time in my family, I have been working hard to create an environment that pulls together the family that I have left.  My sister and her husband have since moved to the ranch and some of my cousins will hopefully (cross our fingers) be moving here next year to help with our farmstay that we plan to have in full swing (meals, horses, activities of all sorts) by June of next year.

As the grieving process comes to a close (five years this June), the family (or at least the half of the family that didn't turn against anyone) is closer than it's ever been and I feel like I have a bigger family now than I did before my father left.  It will always be sad and I still pray every night that my dad and, especially my little sister, will someday be able to re-establish a relationship with us.  This is not something that ever goes away, but it is something that becomes less and less painful over time.

For those of you who search about family abandonment, I just wanted to let you know that there's hope at the end of the grieving process if you put effort into improving your situation.  That is nearly impossible in the beginning, but as the pain fades (year 3) you can really start reaching out to family that you have left.  Even the family that you don't know.  You can re-establish old relationships and establish new ones.  If you have no family at all, then reach out to friends, new or old.  You can create a family you never had, but you will most likely be putting out all the effort at first.  People only want relationships that they get something from, nothing wrong with that -it's human nature.  So give emotionally to those around you and they will want a relationship with you...and then they'll start giving back.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Factory Farming

In the last few decades, consolidation of food production has concentrated power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations. Many of today's farms are actually large industrial facilities, not the green pastures and red barns that most Americans imagine. These consolidated operations are able to produce food in high volume but have little to no regard for the environmentanimal welfare, or food safety. In order tomaximize profits, factory farms often put the health of consumers and rural communities at risk.
Does Industrial Agriculture Feed the WorldSome argue that factory farming is the only way to meet the growing demand for food in the world today, but this is not true.
Industrial production of food has resulted in massive waste,i while hundreds of millions of people still live with hunger.ii
Many believe that the answer to global malnutrition and famine is small farms and sustainable agriculture, not industrialized food production.iii
What is a Factory Farm?The government calls these facilities Concentrated (or Confined) Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a CAFO as "new and existing operations which stable or confine and feed or maintain for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period more than the number of animals specified" in categories that they list out. In addition, "there's no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season."  
Numbers for both large and medium CAFOs (factory farms) are listed on the EPA's site. A large CAFO includes 1000 cattle (other than dairy, which is 700), 2500 hogs over 55 pounds, or 125,000 chickens (as long as a liquid manure system isn't used). A liquid manure system is when the animal's urine and feces are mixed with water and held either under the facility or outside in huge open air lagoons - these manure systems create a lot of pollution (which many times taxpayers end up paying for). The chickens they refer to are chickens other than laying hens – laying hens must number between 30,000 - 82,000, depending on how the manure is handled.

medium factory farm (CAFO) has between 300-999 cattle other than dairy (200-699 if dairy), 750-2,499 hogs if 55 pounds or more, and 37,500 to 124,999 chickens (other than hens that lay eggs) if the facility doesn't use a liquid manure handling system.

These industrial facilities share many characteristics, including:
Excessive Size
  • Unnaturally large numbers of animals are confined closely together. Cattle feedlots generally contain thousands of animals in one place, while many egg-laying businesses house one million or more chickens. The main animals for such operations are cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys, but this practice is also applied to sheep, goats, rabbits, and various types of poultry.
Disregard for Animal Welfare
  • Metal buildings confine animals indoors, with minimal room for normal behaviors and little or no access to sunlight and fresh air.
  • Animals are mutilated to adapt them to factory farm conditions. This includes cutting off the beaks of chickens and turkeys (de-beaking), and amputating the tails of cows and pigs (docking).
  • Pens and cages restrict the natural behavior and movement of animals. In some cases, such as veal calves and mothering pigs, the animals can’t even turn around.
Misuse of Pharmaceuticals
  • Low doses of antibiotics are administered regularly to animals in a preemptive move to ward off the diseases bred by unnatural, unsanitary conditions.
  • In addition to preventive medicines, animals are fed hormones and antibiotics to promote faster growth.
Mismanagement of Waste
  • Excessive waste created by large concentrations of animals is handled in ways that can pollute air and water.
  • Man-made lagoons on industrial farms hold millions of gallons of liquid waste, from which contaminants can leach into groundwater. The manure is normally sprayed on crops, but often excessively, leading it to run off into surface waters.
  • Nutrients and bacteria from waste can contaminate waterways, killing fish and shellfish and disturbing aquatic ecosystems.
Factory farms are also known as:
  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)
  • Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)
  • Industrial Agricultural Operation
  • Industrial Livestock Operation (ILO)
Socially Irresponsible Corporate Ownership
  • One corporation often owns or controls all aspects of the production process, including animal rearing, feed production, slaughter, packaging and distribution. Known as vertical integration, this approach leads to tremendous consolidation of power that is leveraged against small farmers and diminishes corporations’ accountability for irresponsible practices.
  • Contract growing indentures independent farmers to grow livestock for a corporation. In the contract system, the corporation dictates all aspects of raising the animals, while the farmer is left with the risk, overhead, waste, and the disposal of any animals that don’t survive until slaughter.
The True CostsIndustrially produced food appears to be inexpensive, but the pricetag doesn’t reflect the actual costs that we taxpayers bear. Factory farms pollute communities and adversely affect public health, thereby increasing medical costs for those living near such farms—costs that are often shouldered by public budgets.iv Taxpayers fund government subsidies, which go primarily to large industrial farms. Jobs are lost and wages driven down, as corporate consolidation bankrupts small businesses and factory farms pay unethically low wages for dangerous, undesirable work.
Because factory farms are considered “agricultural” instead of “industrial,” they are not subject to the regulation that their scale of production (and level of pollution) warrants.v Because they employ powerfullobbyists that can sway the government agencies responsible for monitoring agricultural practices, industrial farms are left free to pollute, to hire undocumented workers (and pay them next to nothing), and to locate their businesses without regard to the impact that has on surrounding communities.
What You Can DoWe can all help put an end to the factory farming system by buying our food from smaller, sustainable farms. These businesses still aim to profit from their labor, but that’s not their only objective. They have essentially a triple bottom line - of social, environmental and financial gain - which means they won’t sacrifice the health of the land or the quality of food simply to make a few dollars more.
  • When you buy local fruits, vegetables, and meat products, you support your local economy. More of the money you spend goes directly to the farmers themselves because less goes to transportation and middlemen. Buying locally also means burning less fossil fuel to get food from the farm to the table, which benefits the environment.
  • You can buy local foods by joining a CSA group, visiting a farmers market or using the Eat Well Guide to find a farm near you.
Did You Know?
  • Two percent of livestock farms now raise 40 percent of all animals in the
  • In the United States, three percent of farms generate 62 percent of all agricultural production.vii
  • In 2002, half of all hogs in the U.S. were raised on large-scale farms that managed more than 5,000 hogs at a time.viii
For More Information
Reports and Articles

Monday, November 26, 2012

More about our Mission

Our mission is to preserve breeds of livestock that are critically endangered on the point of extinction.

Traditionally, farmers throughout the world have raised thousands of different animal breeds and plant varieties. However, since today's industrial farms rely upon only a few specialized types of livestock and crops, thousands of non-commercial animal breeds and crop varieties have disappeared, along with the valuable genetic diversity they possessed. Fortunately, a growing number of sustainable farmers, such as ourselves, are preserving agricultural variety and protecting biodiversity by raising “heritage” or “heirloom” animal breeds and crops.

Heritage Livestock Breeds

We raise heritage breeds such as Dorkings, Cotton Patch geese, Nigerian Dwarf goats, Guinea hogs, Australorps, Ancona ducks and Bourbon Red Turkeys.  Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture. Within the past 15 years, 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide, and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct. In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct. 

In the US, a few main breeds dominate the livestock industry: 
  • 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins, and five main breeds comprise almost all of the dairy herds in the US.
  • 60 percent of beef cattle are of the Angus, Hereford or Simmental breeds.
  • 75 percent of pigs in the US come from only 3 main breeds.
  • Over 60 percent of sheep come from only four breeds, and 40 percent are Suffolk-breed sheep.

Heritage vs. Heirloom

They both mean the same thing, though “heritage” is usually used to describe animals, while “heirloom” refers generally to kinds of plants. These terms describe varieties of animals and crops that have unique genetic traits, were grown or raised many years ago, and are typically produced in a sustainable manner.
Heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them particularly well-adapted to local environmental conditions. Breeds used in industrial agriculture are bred to produce lots of milk or eggs, gain weight quickly, or yield particular types of meat within confined facilities. Heritage breeds are generally better adapted to withstand disease and survive in harsh environmental conditions, and their bodies can be better suited to living on pasture. 

These livestock breeds also serve as an important genetic resource, and when heritage breeds become extinct, their unique genes are lost forever and can't be used to breed new traits into existing livestock breeds. Therefore, by raising heritage livestock breeds, sustainable farmers not only maintain variety within our livestock populations, they also help to preserve valuable traits within the species so that future breeds can endure harsh conditions.

What You Can Do

There are still small farms throughout the US and Canada that specialize in producing heirloom and heritage foods. Visit the Eat Well Guide to find a farm, market or restaurant near you that sells meat, eggs and dairy products from heritage animals.

Try cooking with heirloom crop varieties to add exciting new elements to your meals; heirloom fruits and vegetables have unique colors, textures, and tastes that can't be found in factory-farmed industrial produce. They can often be found at farmers markets around the country.

Read a bit more about our mission here.

Visit us at

Why do we do what we do?

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, its five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

Okay, okay, I'll stop my Trekki-ness.  But really, a mission is very important.  It brings clarity and purpose to a business and to life in general.  It's taken us a number of years to figure out what our mission is, but I think we've pretty much got it at this point.

Our ranch started out as just a hobby farm.  My dad was farming alfalfa on a separate property and we were just a farmer's family.  One day, we were getting feed for our horses and there were chicks for sale.  "Get one," my mom told me.  I looked at her like she was crazy, but I'm the kind of person who never turns down anything that's free so I picked out a chick.  Betty was a crazy looking "frizzle" chicken with feathers that curled backwards.  She was adorable.  And of course she needed friends...hence the gazillions of animals we now have.

But at some point we decided we needed more purpose in life then just breeding animals.  I learned that there are breeds of livestock that are going extinct (read more about livestock extinction here).  So we started collecting these breeds.  It was very difficult.  Our dorkings for instance took three years to find and our cotton patch geese took two years and a road trip to Texas.  We decided we loved preserving endangered livestock and maintaining our american farming heritage and diversity.  Of course it is more expensive to raise these animals.  They haven't been bred in sometimes centuries to produce consistently or at a quality level.  Our dorkings for instance have not laid in the past two weeks and we still have to feed them even though we have no babies to hatch out and sell.

We decided that we needed a way to support our mission and so the idea of a farmstay was born.  Why not invite people out to the ranch to learn about farming?  People will love that and the general population really needs to be educated about where their food comes from and it will generate more of an income to support the preservation of endangered breeds.  Plus, being on a farm in the middle of nowhere is sometimes lonely so we're bringing more social interaction to us.  It works out great all around!

Our idea of hosting overnight guests at the ranch is not the point of the ranch.  The farmstay supports the main goal of preserving livestock that might otherwise go extinct.

We also have some subgoals.  For instance, we want to hire (and have hired) veterans to work on the farm.  Veterans have a huge rate of PTSD and suicide right now and working on a farm has been shown to decrease the risk of these.  Hence our motto, The Endangered helping the Endangered.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Cantering is a difficult gait on a horse.  The faster you go, the more things there are to remember at one time-keeping your legs in the right position, keeping your back relaxed, keeping your hands low, ugh.  This gait has been quite a challenge for me as for most other riders.  Just look at what it takes to get a horse into a canter:

  • Inside leg at the girth
  • Outside leg behind the girth
  • Inside rein rhythmically asking the horse to bend
  • Outside rein supporting
  • Weight on the inside hip 
  • Sit back and deep in the seat
  • Keep the shoulders back
  • Keep the hands low
  • Don't pull on the outside rein, but keep supporting contact
  • Ask as the horse's inside shoulder is moving back

...did I forget anything?  I know I forget bunches of these when I ask for the canter.  Most of the time it works out anyways, but often you go into a trot instead of a canter or the horse canters on the wrong lead or is all strung out and on and on.  It's quite an art form.  One thing I learned that helps is that the aids to a canter are the same as when you're asking the horse to do a circle.  You are just asking with more energy.  This concept helped my canter transitions significantly.

Here is a good description by Jane Savoie, an amazing dressage rider:

The first exercise is done completely in the walk. It's a great rider coordination exercise. You'll practice positioning your horse alternately for the left lead and then switch to the right lead after a few strides.
Let's say you decided to pick up the left lead:
  • Put your weight on your left seat bone.
  • Flex your horse to the left by turning your left wrist as if you're unlocking a door. That is, start with your thumb as the highest point of the hand, Turn your thumb to the left, and bring your baby finger very close to the withers but don't cross over the withers. In this moment, your knuckles or fingernails will be pointing up toward your face. Then put your hand back in the original position with your thumb as the highest point of the hand.
  • Support with your right rein so your horse doesn't over bend his neck to the left. His face should be one inch to the inside of a neutral position. (Neutral means his head and neck are straight in front of his body so that his chin is directly in front of his "cleavage".)
  • Your left leg is on the girth to say, "Go forward to the canter."
  • Your right leg is a couple of inches behind the girth because it will signal his right hind leg to strike off into left lead canter. (He has to start cantering with the outside hind leg in order to end up on the correct lead.)

Stay in this "left lead canter" position for a few strides in the walk, and then switch your aids as if asking for right lead canter (Remember, you're doing all of this in the walk). That is:
  • Weight on the right seat bone.
  • Right rein flexes the horse's head one inch to the right.
  • Left rein is like a side rein that prevents too much bend in the neck.
  • Right leg on the girth.
  • Left leg behind the girth.

Imke Bartels-Schellekens and Sunrise.
Picture: Kit Houghton/Rolex
When you get ready to ask for the depart, do the following things:
  1. Keep the horse positioned to the inside as you did above.
  2. When you ask for the canter depart, push your inside seat bone forward toward your horse's inside ear.
  3. Give a little squeeze with your inside leg on the girth to tell your horse to go "forward into the canter".
  4. Use your outside leg in a windshield wiper-like action to signal the outside hind to strike-off into the canter.
Check that you're on the correct lead by:
  • Keeping your head erect, but peak down at his front legs. If you're on the correct lead, the inside front leg should reach further forward than the outside front leg.
  • Make a circle. If you're on the correct lead, the canter will feel balanced. If you're on the wrong lead, the canter will feel unbalanced.
If you end up of the wrong lead, chances are you didn't keep your horse bent through his body and flexed at his poll to the inside during the transition. Your horse will pick up whatever lead he's bent and flexed toward.
Here are two things you can do to help with the bend:
  1. Walk on a small circle to bend your horse. Just before you finish the small circle, keep the bend and apply the aids for the canter. Once he canters, arc out onto a larger circle.
  2. Walk or trot on a small circle. Leg yield (that is, push your horse sideways) out to the larger circle. Keep your inside leg on the girth as you leg yield to help with the bend. If you're circling to the right, imagine you're pushing his rib cage to the left while his neck and hindquarters stay to the right.

  • Put your weight on your inside seat bone.
  • Flex your horse to the inside by turning your inside wrist as if you're unlocking a door. That is, start with your thumb as the highest point of the hand, Turn your thumb to the inside, and bring your baby finger very close to the withers but don't cross over the withers. In this moment, your knuckles or fingernails will be pointing up toward your face. Then put your hand back in the original position with your thumb as the highest point of the hand.
  • Support with your outside rein so your horse doesn't over bend his neck to the inside. His face should be one inch to the inside of a neutral position. (Neutral means his head and neck are straight in front of his body so that his chin is directly in front of his "cleavage".)
  • Your inside leg is on the girth to say, "Go forward to the canter."
  • Your outside leg is a couple of inches behind the girth because it will signal his outside hind leg to strike off into inside lead canter. (He has to start cantering with the outside hind leg in order to end up on the correct lead.)

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Winter beekeeping

    Beekeepers want to ensure that their bees survive through the winter months. Pollen is in short supply or non existent for the bees to harvest, therefore, they must have easy access to a food source. While beekeepers are to make sure the bees do not exhaust the food reserves, many wonder 'what are the incorrect things beekeepers can do over winter?'

    One of the common mistakes beekeepers carry out is going into the hive constantly and releasing the stored heat in the hive. Worker bees are rarely found outside of the hive when temperatures are below 57 degrees (F) and once it reaches 55 degrees (F), bees are unable to fly. During winter months, they will cluster in the brood chamber and maintain a constant temperature of 94 degrees (F). Going into the hive will release this heat and will cause stress upon the colony. Only visit the hive in emergency situations if temperatures fall below 55 degrees (F).

    One of the more serious issues in the hive over winter is the moisture content. It might seem fitting to close off your hive to help maintain a constant heat inside but you are also trapping in the moisture. It is best to keep the hive ventilated (ventilated inner cover works great) and reduce the size. The bees will create one big cluster within the brood chamber and will need 50 - 60 pounds of honey stores going into winter. Any supers that were not fully drawn need to be removed from the hive to limit the empty space the bees need to maintain. Remove these underdeveloped supers and ventilate your hive to help the bees reduce moisture and keep a constant hive temperature.


    Certain feed and feeders are not practical during winter. Corn syrup and sugar water will crystallize and become hard for the bees to acquire. An entrance feeder and hive top feeders are not easy access for the cluster to proceed to. The cluster will need direct access to feed that will be easy to consume during the winter. Using  fondant, which can lay right on the top bars, or a wintering inner cover that can be used as a candy board are the best options. Both of these are great because the fondant and candy help absorb some of the moisture in the hive and are easily accessible to the colony.

    Limit your activities within your bee hives, do not close up or leave unused supers on and make sure that you provide the proper feeders and feed for your bees. This will help keep your bees warm, dry and fed throughout the winter.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Do Plants feel?

    Do plants feel...? Do vegetables feel...? Do they have thoughts? Do they communicate, feel pain, detect danger, experience fear? What about... love?

    It's far easier to accept that animals have feelings. We know when they're excited, we know when they experience pain, and anybody who has ever had pets can easily recognise their love. But plants don't wag tails, don't lick our faces when we're feeling sad, don't run, don't cry... And yet, how can we be totally sure that they don't feel? Well, we can't, and furthermore, we could have already proven that they do indeed have feelings and react to their environment and to other living beings, including us.
    There's still an intense debate within the scientific community with regards to this area of research, being the main point of discussion that plants don't have a nervous system or sensory organs. They react to physical and chemical stimuli, but could not be aware of these reactions and that's why they aren't considered by a large part of the community as 'conscious beings'. However there is a debate, because like in any other field of research, there are those who, throughout time, have carried experiments and studies which do point to the contrary. The debate itself began in 1966 when a lie detector expert, Cleve Backster, connected a plant to a polygraph. But before Backster carried out his experiments with the polypgrah, a quintessetial polymath (physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist), Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, had already made a
    number of pioneering discoveries in plant physiology that had left him astounded.

    Considered as one of the fathers of radio science, alongside Tesla, Popov and Marconi, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a U.S. patent and he used his own invention, the crescograph, to measure plant reaction to various stimuli, in order to prove parallelism between animal and plant tissues. Which he did.
    When Bose attached his device to vegetables, he discovered that they, too, became excited when vexed. And he realised that plants communicate, even if we don't notice it.
    He wrote that they grew more quickly when exposed to nice music and gentle whispers, and poorly when exposed to harsh music and loud speech. In fact, he wrote that plants were reactive to all types of stimuli: light, changes in temperature, plucking, pricking, screaming... Even they became numbed by drugs and drunk from alcohol.
    Needless to say that his findings sparked great controversy, but they also opened a path of interest for later researchers, and others, like Backster, amplified the scope of stimuli to a... thought.A threatening thought, such as the idea of lighting a match to set a plant's leaf in fire. (Watch this video clip, below, to find out more)

    Following Backster's footsteps, the authors of the famous bookThe Secret Life of Plants (1973), Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, also used the polygraph to carry out their experiments,writing that plants may be sentient despite their lack of a nervous system and a brain. However, the book is still being considered as pseudoscientific, same as Backter's findings.
    But, what about recent scientific research?
    According to the peer-reviewed monthly journal Plant Physiology, which covers research on physiology, biochemistry, cellular & molecular biology, genetics, biophysics, and environmental biology of plants, and which has been published since 1926 by the American Society of Plant Biologists, plants are capable of identifying danger, signaling that danger to other plants and assemble defenses against perceived threats. Botanist Bill Williams of the Helvetica Institute concludes:'plants not only seem to be aware and to feel pain, they can even communicate.'
    In fact, this research prompted the Swiss government to pass the first-ever Plant Bill of Rights in 2008, which concludes that plants have moral and legal protections. Swiss vegans... watch out. 

    Professor Stefano Mancuso, who runs the world's only laboratory dedicated to plant intelligence, the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV), and which combines research on physiology, ecology and molecular biology, said:
    'If you define intelligence as the capacity to solve problems, plants have a lot to teach us. Not only are they 'smart' in how they grow, adapt and thrive, they do it without neuroses. Intelligence isn't only about having a brain.'
    In 2010, Professor Stanislaw Karpinski from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland, led a research that discovered the 'nervous systems' of Arabidopsis plants, using fluoroscence lights to record their electro-chemical signals. His findings were covered by BBC News in an article titled: Plants 'can think and remember'
    'When we shone the light for on the plant for one hour and then infected it [with a virus or with bacteria] 24 hours after that light exposure, it resisted the infection, but when we infected the plant before shining the light, it could not build up resistance. So, it has a specific memory for the light which builds its immunity against pathogens, and it can adjust to varying light conditions.' 

    Floranium lamps, inspired by Cleve Backster’s polygraph tests

    Professor Christine Foyer, a plant scientist from the University of Leeds, said the study "took our thinking one step forward".
    'Plants have to survive stresses, such as drought or cold, and live through it and keep growing; this requires an appraisal of the situation and an appropriate response - that's a form of intelligence.' she told BBC News, for the aforementioned article.
    The truth is, even Darwin was fascinated by the reactions of plants to external stimuli -- especially with carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). He believed its almost instantaneous response snapping its trap shut around an insect indicatedthe presence of a central nervous system - such as that of an animal.
    All this leads us to the inevitable question: If plants feel, communicate, perceive and enjoy music, and old and new research claim that they could even have a particular 'nervous system' or 'intelligence'... is it 'immoral' that we eat them, such as it is the debate between vegetarians and non-vegetarians throughout the world?
    Bose believed in the fundamental unity of all life; 'Existence and awareness are deeply connected, and dismissing the fundamental unity of matter is dismissing a fundamental truth about life.'

    Well, so far we know that both plants and animals seem to live intuitively within the intelligence of this notion and still feed, without worrying about any moral dilemmas.

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

    What is a cold frame?

    You have probably seen these small structures around at some point or another, usually in the colder months in the middle of a garden.  Cold frames are essentially mini greenhouses without all the trappings and are designed to extend the growing season or get an early start on the next season.  The best part about a cold frame is that it can be inexpensive and simple to build, as long as it has a transparent top, solid walls, and placed in a southward direction, it will work.

    The fall is the best time to build or order and install your cold frame.  You’ll be glad you did this winter.

    If you want to build a cold frame, there is no rigid “standard” way and you can get creative depending on how large or small you want to build your cold frame and what materials you have around the garage or can afford.  The only point of the cold frame is to keep the plants inside warm by capturing the light and heat that enters the clear top inside to keep the plants warmer than the outside temperatures and prevent large daily temperature swings.

    There are plenty of cold frames on the market. However, if you want to just try out a cold frame, simply create four walls out of brick or wood, and then put an old window on top as a lid.

    1.    Make sure the lid can be moved or lifted because during those unusual really warm spells, you may need to vent the box a little to prevent the plants from wilting or burning.

    2.    Make sure the area you place the cold frame in has good drainage. If it doesn’t the structure will collect water and this will drown the plants.

    3.    Choose a southern exposure for the cold frame to take advantage of the sun as much as possible in the winter months.

    What’s great about a cold frame is that once set up, there are no maintenance costs. If you are getting windows replaced, it’s a great way of re-using your waste. Your extended harvest season will not only add convenience to you life, give you some additional satisfaction, but  will save you money, reduce “food miles”, overall reduce your carbon footprint another smidge.

    Perhaps the best use of a cold frame is for fall gardening. Here’s a link to Hume Seeds with their advise on all the different types of fall plants you can grow, and when you should plant them.

    As you can see, a lot of great vegetables can be grown including broccoli, beans, peas, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower and more.  Extend the growing season for summer crops if you want to try replanting and achieving a second harvest or simply extend the life of summer crops like herbs. Finally, in the early spring, cold frames can be used to get a jump start on your summer planting by allowing for starter plants to be planted in the ground early on, with the cold frame providing warmth that will sustain them even if the outside weather isn’t perfect for growing them. With cold frames being so easy to make and experiment with, it’s an excellent idea to try one out in the fall, and see if you can grow some fall/winter vegetables because there’s no risk if it doesn’t work, and all you have to gain is a reduced carbon footprint and fresh produce on your dinner table.

    Wednesday, November 7, 2012

    Proposition 37 fails

    I am so disappointed.

    I don't think there's anything else to say, but I will tell you why I'm disappointed.  Not only is the research showing GMOs being super dangerous, but I was looking forward to being healthier.  When I lived in Europe for a time, I ate all grass fed meats and no GMOs.  This was easy to do because that's just how everything is raised in Ireland.  You don't have to carry around a Non-GMO shopping guide or pay exorbitant prices for grass fed meat.  It's just the way it is.

    When I was living in Ireland, all my health problems went away.  My fatigue, my skin problems, my thyroid problem, my allergies (which I think caused all of the above) and even my extra weight.  They all began going away within a week of being in Ireland without me trying to do anything different.  And they stayed gone as long as I was there.  Each time I came back to America, they all began coming back.  I actually ate healthier in America than when I was in Ireland and I still got more benefits!

    So I was really hoping that prop 37 would pass.  I guess maybe I'll just have to move back to Europe :-}