Archive for November, 2015

Be Good to the Bees

 

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by Gladys Hutson

Many concerned with the decline in our Honey Bee population may know that President Obama has created a task force entitled “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” It was implemented in June of 2014. The First National Conference on Protecting Pollinators in the Ornamental Landscapes was held in October and was well-attended. Almost every state college in the U.S. was represented at the conference, which included those from the UK and Canada as well. The president’s task force approved grant money allowing field trials to be conducted regarding the status of our pollinators. A day and a half of reports presented by professors and undergrad students about these field trials showed overwhelming evidence that there has been a decline of all pollinators due to three factors: lack of habitat, pests and pesticides. For those who may not know, pollinators refer  to Honey Bees as well as Native Pollinators (Bumble Bees, Orchard Mason Bees, Leaf Cutter Bees, etc.)

There was no media present at this conference and none of this made headlines news. The silver lining was learning that studies and trials are now being undertaken by people unrelated to the companies that produce the pesticides in question. Below are summaries of the three issues stated.

Lack of Habitat: Urban sprawl is at an all-time high. Subdivisions are popping up all over, on land that was previously farmed or wooded. Most new subdivisions enforce Home Owners Association (HOA) rules and ordinances in their sale contracts. HOA ordinances often include clauses forcing the homeowner to have what could be called a “cookie cutter” yard: grass, no weeds, and all the same button-shaped bushes and shrubs. This is what is referred to as “mono culture.” Many of the Japanese or Chinese cultivated varieties of bushes and plants have no food value for our pollinators.

So what can a home owner in a subdivision such as this do for our pollinators? This is a difficult question because these HOAs have a lot of power. However, approaching your HOA to see if by-laws can be revised to include the addition of some native plants that are beneficial to our pollinators is a step in the right direction.

For those not regulated by an HOA, the best thing to do is to plant for the bees. If you must have grass—which is no benefit to our pollinators—don’t use herbicides. Let those dandelions grow! Start some Milkweed, or let the clover intermingle through the yard. Those are foods for bees and pollinators. Dead Nettle and Hen Bit are some of nature’s first foods in the spring for pollinators. Maybe take a corner of your back yard and create a pollinator-friendly area with native plants. They can look quite beautiful if designed correctly. Or for a less structured look, don’t mow and let an area go wild. Simply throw native plant seeds out and let them do what they will. The pollinators will thank you by being around to pollinate the veggies in your garden and fruit on your trees.

Pests: The bees are really under siege from a pest called the Varroa Mite. It is a mite that attaches to the bee and kills them. They are horrible pests and are responsible for many losses in the Honey Bee apiaries.

The average person can’t do much about this pest. However, much research is being done to breed mite-resistant bees. A recent study shows a positive result when mushroom fungi is fed to the bees. Most colleges have research programs studying this pest. N.C. State has a very active program. Those interested in increasing our Honey Bee populations can support these programs with a financial contribution.

Pesticides: Everyone can do something in this category! Try to increase your tolerance for a bug or two in your garden. Their life cycles are pretty short.

In Mother Nature, there is a balance. There are good bugs and bad bugs. When people kill the bad bugs they reduce the food source for the good bugs, so they go elsewhere. Sometimes a spray of water can dislodge an insect such as an aphid. If we must use a chemical, choose a less toxic one and always spray either early morning or late evening when pollinators are not out foraging, and please never use Sevin Dust!

There is probably a group of Master Gardeners in your county. Before you spray, ask a Master Gardener an alternative way to deal with the pest(s) that you are encountering. You can find Master Gardeners through your County Extension Service.

By all working together and learning the best practices to manage pests, we will in turn be helping to save our pollinators. Education is the key!

Gladys Hutson is a Beekeeper and Master Gardener, as well as the Piedmont Regional Director of the N.C. State Beekeepers Association and the Secretary of Union County North Carolina Beekeepers Association. Learn more at her website, TheBeeLady.org. To read about the task force, visit the website of the White House at Go.WH.gov/nho8jW.

7 Simple Steps for Stress Free Holidays

by Dudley Evenson

Here come the holidays and with them a bundle of stress triggers and challenges that may take away from the fun and festivity of the season. While we love to get together with family and friends, sometimes the extra tasks and pressures can add up to create situations that are less than fun and definitely not festive. Extra shopping, more cooking, cleaning, preparing, crowds, traffic or traveling with flights delayed or other inconveniences can take the fun out of the season. Whatever form it takes, the strain and tension of being overloaded can sometimes rise up and ruin our fun family time.

So how can we deal with this inevitable stress of the holidays and put the joy back into the season? Here are some simple steps we can take to uplift our spirits and make sure we don’t get overloaded and react emotionally in the presence of habitual family patterns or simply collapse from exhaustion when we should be having fun. These seven steps are based on the chakra system and begin with the crown or seventh chakra going down to the root or first chakra.

Set Intention (Crown)

Decide in advance how you would like your holiday experience to be. You can use ideas like – peaceful, meaningful, relaxing, fun. Whatever words you come up with, you might want to form them into a simple mantra or affirmation to keep in the forefront of your awareness as you go through your socializing. Remember the aspects of an affirmation are threefold: positive, present tense and repetition. An example would be ‘I am peaceful and relaxed’ or whatever idea you want to remind yourself of when intensity arises. Say it often.

Visualize (Third Eye, Mind)

Use mental images to picture how you would like to see the holidays unfold. You can imagine your home beautifully decorated with family members happily enjoying a home cooked meal and conversing with one another in pleasant tones. Or you might picture young children playing well together with their new gifts. Don’t forget to picture yourself attending to your tasks with ease in a relaxed manner. You may want to focus on the deeper meaning of the holiday you are celebrating and especially the fellowship of gathering together with family and friends.

Communicate (Throat)

Talk to family members and friends that you will be socializing with and make plans so everyone is on the same page. Get input and add your own ideas. Try to share the tasks and planning so it isn’t all on one person’s shoulders. If past holidays were overwhelming, perhaps try simplifying your plans. Consider a potluck instead of one person doing all the cooking. You might want to add the element of giving back to the community or to those less fortunate who need some extra holiday cheer. This will make the holiday much more meaningful to you and your family.

Collaborate (Heart)

Invite your family and your friends to be part of your festivities. Work and play together and enjoy each other’s company. Remember the love that brought you together in the first place and be careful not to let stress or emotions trigger unnecessary reactions. This is a time to enjoy and appreciate each other. Express your gratitude in random ways and you will find it returned to you. Minimize gossip and politics. People in the same family often hold different points of view so it’s best to avoid conversations that cause conflict. The long-term benefits of unconditional love will be the reward.

Take Action (Solar Plexis)

If you are hosting a gathering, let yourself enjoy the activities and tasks involved. Enlist close friends or family members to help you with preparation and logistics. If you are attending other people’s events, be sure to help in the kitchen and contribute to the workload. Put on happy holiday music to lift your spirit and remind you why you are doing all the extra work – shopping, cooking, cleaning, gifting, decorating and so on. You may want to take time for yoga or stretching to release pent up energy so you have the vitality you need to carry out all you have assigned yourself to do.

Enjoy and Play (Sacral)

Remember the reason for the season and, even in the midst of all you are doing, be sure to let yourself feel passion and joy for the blessings in your life, your family, friends, food to eat and roof over your head. Many people have much less in life and still manage to keep smiling. In fact, a good laugh is always in order, even when the turkey falls on the floor or your dog overturns the holiday tree or a child knocks over a glass and breaks it. Especially turn your enthusiasm toward your elders or those suffering or in need. This season is a perfect time to reach out to others who can use a physical or spiritual boost.

Grounding (Root)

This is the level where you take care of the basics, the details and all that is necessary to manifest what it is you want. This is also the place where you can connect with the earth and honor all that it provides for your physical needs. Be specific to check off the tasks on your list so you can feel you have accomplished what needs to be done. You also may want to ground out by taking a walk in nature or sitting quietly in your room or a sacred place in your home. In this sanctuary, try playing some peaceful, relaxing music to help remind you of the inner peace you are so wanting in the midst of life’s normal chaos.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and you are able to find peace and fulfillment during the holidays this year.

Read more about healing with the chakras at healthylivingdreams.com or listen to meditations and what Dudley and Dean Evenson create at soundings.com.

Think Before You Ink

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How to Make Body Art Safe and Reversible

by April Thompson

Few things in life are more permanent than a tattoo. Yet those most likely to change their life course – in careers, relationships or fashion styles – are also most inclined to get inked. Nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 have at least one tattoo, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

“If you change your hairstyle or look often, you probably aren’t a good candidate for a tattoo, because of the limited flexibility to change that decision,” says Dr. Gregory Hall, a primary care physician in Cleveland, Ohio. Hall created the website ShouldITattoo.com to help inform others after seeing so many patients that regretted the tattoos of their youth. Hall has also authored Teens, Tattoos & Piercings to try to reach school-aged kids before they even consider body art.

Career Concerns

The Millennial generation, which is getting inked in record numbers, is also the leading demographic for ink removal. More than half the tattoos removed by medical professionals in 2013 were for people between 19 and 34 years old. Removal often costs many times more than being tattooed, sometimes requiring a dozen or more sessions over several months.

Beyond the likelihood of changing one’s mind about a tattoo, Hall cites employment, discrimination and health concerns in urging teens to decline getting inked or pierced. Employers have the legal right to reject a job candidate because of a tattoo – a challenging fact of life for young people to reconcile when they’re still undecided on a career path. Different branches of the military have their own restrictions on body art, which can include the tattoos and piercings altogether.

The commitment of a tattoo never interested Lauren Waaland-Kreutzer, 25, of Richmond, Virginia. “I don’t know how I’m going to age and who I’ll be in five years,” she says. Two days after turning 18, however, she got her nose pierced, a decision she hasn’t regretted, even though it’s affected her employment. “while I was working my way through college, I gave up slightly better paying jobs in order to keep my piercing,” she says.

Her current employer, a local nonprofit in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is piercing-friendly, but she has friends who have to cover their tattoos and piercings at work; a former classmate-turned-lawyer even had to remove a small star tattoo from her wrist.

While piercings are more reversible than tattoos, they are also more prone to certain health risks. Tongue and cheek piercings can accelerate tooth decay, according to Hall, and the risk of infection can be high, especially if it impacts cartilage. “Some skin rejects piercings, and you can end up with permanent scars,” he adds.

Healthier Alternatives

The good news is there are more natural, less permanent alternatives for young adults to adom and express themselves, including custom-made temporary tattoos, plus magnetic and clip-on jewelry that are indistinguishable from a permanent piercing. Temporary tattoos work to try out the look before possibly committing.

Henna tattoos, an import from India, are another popular alternative, although Hall has seen many patients develop allergic reactions to this plant-based ink, so it’s always best to test on a small spot first.

Permanent organic inks fade more over time, a downside for someone that keeps a tattoo for life, but “come off beautifully” in a removal process compared to the standard heavy metal inks, reports Hall. Also, “We just don’t know yet what impact the heavy metals may have on people’s immune systems down the road,” he says. “Organic inks are much safer.”

Helpful Facts

State laws vary regarding age criteria, some allowing tattoos at any age with parental consent. Hall’s tattoo website has a downloadable contract to encourage kids to talk with their parents before making a decision, regardless of the need for consent.

Name tattoos, even those of loved ones, are among the tattoos most likely to be removed later in life. Hall saw this with a young man that had the names of the grandparents that raised him tattooed on his hands. He said, “I still love them, but I’m tired of looking at them and I have got to get them off me.”

A Harris Interactive poll revealed that a third of company managers would think twice about promoting someone with tattoos or piercings – a more critical factor than how tidy their work space is kept or the appropriateness of their attire.

Connect with freelance writer April Thompson, of Washington, D.C., at AprilWrites.com

The Fight Against Genetically Modified Seeds and Food

by Beth DavisNo GMO March

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, 70 to 80 percent of the foods we eat in the U.S. contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients, mostly from corn, soy canola, sugar beets and cottonseed oil. Yet, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require GMO food labeling.

Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide, such as Monsanto’s Roundup, and/or to produce an insecticide. A growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and more. It’s a well-known fact that most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, there are significant restrictions or bans on the production and sale of GMOs.

Each month, marches and rallies take place in many major cities around the world protesting Monsanto and GMOs. Participating protesters believe they have a right to know what is in their food and to be able to grow their own food with seeds that have not been genetically modified. For example, in Oklahoma City, concerned citizens take part in the March Against Monsanto in Bricktown. Dedicated to enlightening and educating the public on the issue, a variety of speakers offer their input and information. Among them has been Magdalena Slavova, a woman who was instrumental in leading the ban of GMOs in her home country of Bulgaria. As part of a large anti-GMO campaign, she and others worked diligently to ensure other Bulgarians understood the negative impact GMOs could have on health and the environment—and it worked. In 2010, the country effectively banned cultivation of genetically modified organisms.

How did they do it? Slavova, a passionate advocate for the environment and a self-professed lover of food, nature and people (she loves organic gardening, has a line of handmade mineral makeup and is an Aromatherapist), says education was key.

“We presented the public with facts about GMOs—information that was proven by research,” she explains. “We handed out fliers and had a strong presence on Facebook and online forums. Social media is a great tool because it’s free and it reaches all parts of the world.” The goal was simply to spread the word and get people to care. She says she recommends the same strategy for Americans.

“Americans need more information; some people have never heard of GMOs,” she notes. “If they know the facts—that genetically engineering foods can cause problems with our immune system, cause allergies, impact fertility and more—then they may be more willing to take a stand.”

For the anti-GMO campaign in Bulgaria, a core group of about 20 people worked to make the ban happen, although many more participated outside of the group and were just as essential to the process. She says it was a real team effort with a wide range of individuals creating an energetic, dynamic group. They met two or three times a week—to strategize and divide job duties. The group remained very professional and was sure to always check their facts—even participating in discussions with scientists, attorneys and more. Meeting often is critical, she says. “It takes time, but you are able to determine what to do next.” Because of their efforts, others became passionately involved in the cause.

“For example, we had an online forum of mothers who craved information—they didn’t want their children to become victims,” explains Slavova. “They would protest in the street every single day—no matter the weather conditions. The media would show up and support them.”

During the most emotional part of the campaign, Slavova says national research revealed that 97 percent of Bulgarians did not want GMOs. The National Assembly took into consideration the public will and adopted the most restrictive law in the European Union—making Bulgaria the country with the strictest law for GMO release into the environment.

She says in the U.S., pushing for GMO labeling is a good start. For ways to get involved, she recommends:

  • Research events and groups in your area. For example, West Michigan has a website, org.
  • Get involved; talk to organizers.
  • Attend events and meet with organizers afterward. If you like what you see, meet again each week to plan together what is next.
  • Host an event every week.
  • Use Google Groups to organize work, correspondence, documents, plans, graphics and participants.

So, why is Slavova so driven to help other countries in the fight to ban GMOs, “The world is one place—we are all one,” she states. “I would love to see Americans stand up for their land and protect it.”

For more information about the Bulgarian anti-GMO campaign, contact Magdalena via Facebook.com/MagdalenaRoza.com.