Thursday, September 30, 2010

Now THIS is Brilliant

Have you ever walked by an old gumball machine and thought: Why is that machine filled up with useless cr*p made in factories in China instead of little seed and compost grenades that I could toss into that vacant lot over there to diversify the plants around here??

Me neither. But I wish I had. Am and thrilled that someone did.

Greenaid, a landscape beautification project started by the Commonstudio design firm, is doing it. They call the little eco-grenades "Seedbombs." They are packed with compost and regionally tailored seeds for wildflowers and grasses. Creators suggest chucking them into a vacant lot or cramming them into a crack in the sidewalk. Learn more here.

(Thnx again, Singleton)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"One kid at a time"

Received this video from my source extraordinaire, Tim Singleton, within the same hour that my Sustainable Agriculture teacher played it for us during a lecture. When forces this powerful collide, I have no choice but to post. Enjoy the refreshing clarity with which this eleven year old discusses the American food system.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Unemployed Americans Not Interested in Farm Work

Last week, I was speaking to an unemployed friend about a now-unconventional work option: farming. Friend elect wasn't super interested in the idea. We spoke specifically about WWOOFing, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, but it seems that the whole nation is talking about the topic - the lack of interest or willingness Americans have in farm work.

The AP reports:

As the economy tanked during the past two years, a debate has raged over whether immigrants are taking jobs that Americans want. Here, amid the sweltering vineyards of the largest farm state, the answer is no.

And the few unemployed Americans who apply through official channels usually don't stay on in the fields, a point comedian Stephen Colbert — dressed as a field hand — has alluded to in recent broadcasts on Comedy Central.

"It's just not something that most Americans are going to pack up their bags and move here to do," said farmer Steve Fortin, who pays $10.25 an hour to foreign workers to trim strawberry plants for six weeks each summer at his nursery near the Nevada border. He has spent $3,000 this year ensuring domestic workers have first dibs on his jobs in the sparsely populated stretch of the state, advertising in newspapers and on an electronic job registry.

But he hasn't had any takers, and only one farmer in the state hired anyone using a little-known, little-used program to hire foreign farmworkers the legal way — by applying for guest worker visas.

Since January, California farmers have posted ads for 1,160 farmworker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents seeking work.

Only 233 people applied after being linked with the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona. One grower brought on 36 U.S citizens or legal permanent residents. No one else hired any.

Hmph. Here's Colbert's address to Congress:

Most Americans simply don't apply for jobs harvesting fruits and vegetables in California, where one of every eight people is out of work, according to government data for a federal seasonal farmworker program analyzed by The Associated Press.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Little Stinkers!!

By now, most everyone in Maryland has heard about and had several encounters with brown marmorated stink bugs, right? Formerly considered little more than a nuisance, the population of shield shaped insects - widespread in Maryland, Deleware, Virginia and West Virginia - is now said to threaten fruit, vegetable, bean, corn, soybean crops as well as trees and ornamentals. (Smaller populations have been detected in Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and California).

The bugs - native to China, Japan and South Korea - are thought to have arrived sans any natural predators via shipping containers in or around 2001. While homeowners are finding more and more of them sneaking inside for the winter, the most damage appears to be in orchards. Associated Press reports:

They are about 5/8ths of an inch long and get their name from their marbled shell (marmorated means marbled). "We're fairly certain now that the primary method of distribution for them is in vehicles — anything from tractor-trailers to motor homes to cars," Jacobs said. "We first had them here, then all the sudden a population cropped up in Portland (Ore.). Like Johnny Appleseed, we're carrying them around and spreading them."

According to a report by the USDA task force, the bugs caused serious damage to apple, pear and peach crops in Maryland and West Virginia last year. Other crops are at risk because the bug has a broad palate. Like other relatively new pests, the bugs thrive because the predators that keep them in check in their native habitats don't live here.

"We expect it to be a really bad year based on the information that came out of working groups and speaking with various entomologists," Cooper said. "The numbers that are being observed in nature are huge, just much larger than anything we've ever seen before."

For a real doomsday report about the little guys, check out this FOX News article in which the insects are being referred to as "enemy number one." 
Here is some advice about how to treat an infestation in your home but as always, we here at JustSaying remind you that we are not experts and our hearts err on the side of compassion for all creatures (even when we know better) so... if you find that you are battling a bug infestation "of Biblical proportions," call a professional who will know how much treatment or prevention is neccessary and will be able to explain the pros and cons of chemical sprays.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Photo Series About Challanges Affecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

This week, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in cooperation with the International League of Conservation Photographers opened doors and links to a series of new, never before seen photographs depicting the beauty and the challenges that are affecting  the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

FYI: Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (R.A.V.E.) = a visual and media assessment designed to address the challenges of modern conservation.

Here is one of the photos, "Rising sea level is drowning what were once vast expanses of wetlands in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland" by Garth Lenz:

More about Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge here.

Best News I've Heard All Week

Some fantastic scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, West London, have graciously spent the last three years working with more than 200 governments to cut 600,000 duplicate names from the Global Plant List. The Telegraph reports:

"Alan Paton, assistant keeper of the herbarium at Kew, said the information will be vital for any organisation or researcher looking at "economically important" plants, such as those for food and nutrition or medicine. He said: "On average, one plant might have between two and three names, which doesn't sound a great deal, but if you're trying to find information on a plant, you might not find all [of it] because you're only looking at one name. "That's even more critical for economically useful plants: because they are more used, they tend to have more names."

The full results will not be published until the end of the year, but so far the researchers have found 301,000 accepted species, 480,000 alternative names, and have 240,000 left to assess."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Acorn Assault

Careful hiking today, folks.

Just got back from a walk in the woods with the dog and I'm pretty sure we were under attack from the acorn army half the time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blackwater: The "Intel Arm" of Monsanto??

This just in from The Nation:

“One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm”

Those of you close to the staff here at JustSaying will appreciate the irony of all this.

Read more here or in the October 4th, 2010 print edition.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Latest HFCS... Err... "Corn Sugar"

Earlier this week, we heard from a reader in St. Thomas regarding the recent HFCS makeover aka name-change and mistakenly thought it was just another one of those cheesy commercials. It turns out this "corn sugar" re-branding effort is as big as the 1988 "canola oil is the new low eurcic acid rapeseed oil" act in advertising. ABC News just launched an eye-opening feature about renaming which even includes some thoughts from JustSaying fave: Michael Pollan

For a quicker read, check out Jacob Goldstein's NPR post.

(Thnx, Jonathan)

State of the Wild Boars

Boars sure are having a tough time lately. In recent decades, the German government has been shelling out big bucks to properly discard contaminated meat. Contaminated by what, you ask? Radioactive cesium-137 that they've ingested via truffles and mushrooms and nose-burrowing in soil still ripe with radioactive fallout from Chernobyl's nuclear meltdown in 1986. It may not be headline news here in the states, where contamination tends to come mostly from a poorly regulated industrialized food system, but in Europe and Asia the boars remind us of the basics: the human impact on soil, the troubles of explosive populations, the perils of farmers and the danger that comes along with progress.

AP writer Verena Schmitt-Roschmann reports:

"Almost a quarter century after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in Ukraine, its fallout is still a hot topic in some German regions, where thousands of boars shot by hunters still turn up with excessive levels of radioactivity. In fact, the numbers are higher than ever before.

The total compensation the German government paid last year for the discarded contaminated meat shot up to a record sum of euro425,000 (about $558,000), from only about euro25,000 ten years ago, according to the Federal Environment Ministry in Berlin.

"The reason is that there are more and more boars in Germany, and more are being shot and hunted, that is why more contaminated meat turns up," spokesman Thomas Hagbeck told The Associated Press. "But this also shows how long radioactive fallout remains a problem in the environment," he said. Boars are among the species most susceptible to long-term consequences of the nuclear catastrophe 24 years ago. Unlike other wild game, boars often feed on mushrooms and truffles which tend to store radioactivity and they plow through the contaminated soil with their snouts, experts say.

 However, boars are actually the beneficiaries of another ecological crisis - climate change. Central Europe is turning into a land of plenty for the animals, as warmer weather causes beech and oak trees to overproduce seeds and farmers to grow more crops the boars like to feast on such as corn or rape, said Torsten Reinwald of the German Hunting Federation. "The number of boars in Germany has quadrupled or quintupled over the last years, as has the number of boars shot," Reinwald said, adding that other countries like France and Poland are seeing a similar proliferation of boars.

Last season, hunters brought home a record 640,000, and following that trend, the amount of contaminated meat also went off the charts. Judging from the total compensation paid out in 2009, about 2,000 to 4,000 boars were found to have levels above the 600 becquerel of radioactivity per kilogram allowed for human consumption. That compares to about 125 to 250 a decade ago."

In China's eastern province of Zhejiang, it's a slightly different story. Reforestation is fueling the boar population and the little foragers are pigging out in the region's farmland, devastating crops and villagers. Treehugger reports:  

"The county's director of wildlife protection, Song Weizhen, explains: "In some aspects, the growing boar population shows us the success of the policy of returning farm land to its original use as forests." Because the boars are enjoying more room to grow, they're forced to look elsewhere for food, which can be found readily in the region's farmland. In some parts, as much as one-third of crops have been destroyed, but that's not the only toll. In the last decade, 22 people were killed and 188 injured by encounters with the animals.

When it became clear that something had to be done to reduce the boar population, the government authorized farmers to hunt them -- but the allowance of 10,000 boars proved not enough to quell their growth rate. Other, more humane methods were ineffective in scaring them off as well.

"The growing wild boar population is now a disaster to our village and neighboring ones. We knock on gongs, explode firecrackers and even use bombs, but there are just so many," one farmer in the region told Xinhua.

Now the gloves are coming off. Vuvuzelas, made infamous for their unrelenting drone throughout the World Cup -- and even karaoke -- are two of the most recent methods being used in the fight against marauding animals.

A group of 23 villagers have gotten together to form a "crops-protection team," patrolling the farmlands with noisemakers at night to ward off the invasive boar."

Bad time to be a boar, huh? Either you're glowing in the dark, constantly dodging hunters or your ears are being assaulted by karaoke!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Phasmid Friend

Check out this fantastic little creature I encountered earlier today. Glad it decided to stick around (tee hee) long enough for me to get the camera despite the fact I was in the garden reading the Insecticides chapter of a Pesticide Use and Safety text!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Hello readers.

Lots of important things have happened while yours truly has been trying to master some techniques for deciphering rye from barley from oats from... lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Here are a few updates:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Majestic Plastic Bag

" with billions of other petroleum species before breaking into ever-tinier plastic pieces."



I've been trying to embed this very cool source for startling statistics for 15 minutes and have finally waved the white flag and hyperlinked. Sorry.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Baltimore's Redefining "Seedy"

Baltimore is highlighted in the Grist's Feeding the City series. Christine Shenot reports:

"For many Americans, any mention of Baltimore conjures up images from two popular TV dramas set in the city: NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street and HBO's The Wire. For nearly two decades, those glimpses of Baltimore's drug trade and violent crime helped define the city.
But that era is fading. In some circles, there's now a lot more talk of sustainability and green living than of the murder rate, and it's an agenda that goes beyond the traditional focus on parks, transit, affordable housing, and other longstanding goals.

Likewise, the hand-wringing over Baltimore's unimpressive high-school graduation rates -- about half those of its suburbs in recent years -- is starting to give way to ambitious planning around workforce training and job opportunities in what some tout as a promising new economic niche for the city's youth.

The common denominator is farming. Baltimore's urban agriculture movement has quietly taken off in the past couple of years, with the twin forces of sustainability and economic benefits providing the boost. Under the eyes of hundreds of visiting school kids, two new multi-acre farms are flourishing at the hands of teenagers who come back to tend seedlings, turn compost, and harvest produce to sell at farm stands. The city also has seen a growing cadre of entrepreneurs launch smaller-scale projects, from container gardens on restaurant rooftops to earthworm-fueled composting, with residents discovering the benefits of worm castings as a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can turn a small garden patch into a prolific source of fresh fruits and vegetables."

(DEFINITELY) Read entire article here.

Somewhat Topical

A few articles from earlier in the year that just surfaced and since blog = web + log and most of our readers are friends and family... I am logging my newly discovered web creds here for your reading enjoyment and my record-keeping.

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

Home Detox Strategy

Thursday, September 2, 2010


JustSaying just found out about WWOOFing: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. We're going to recruit an experienced WWOOFer to write first-hand about their volunteer experience but until we do, here is the website.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Sprouting Everywhere"

Earlier this year we learned that rising levels of atmospheric CO2 (along with higher temperatures and longer growing seasons) are accelerating the growth of trees, specifically in Maryland and the Eastern United States. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that poison ivy is experiencing a boom around here as well. The Washington Post reports:

"...According to a report in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives last year, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has grown by 22 percent since 1960, which may not be so good for humans but is great for poison ivy and other vines. Mohan has been tracking poison ivy since 1998. In a study in the Duke Forest in Durham, N.C., she simulated the carbon dioxide content in the air 50 years ago, today and using projections for the year 2050. "Tree seedlings grew 8 to 12 percent more, with more C02," said Mohan. "Poison ivy grew 149 percent more. Poison ivy is getting bigger, faster and nastier..." "

Read more here. And here are some tips for fighting an ivy rash.