Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nip it in the Bud

In the last few weeks I've been hearing a lot of people talk about illnesses, mostly colds. Everyone wants the magic bullet that will kill the thing before it becomes debilitating.

There's an old phrase that some might have heard but few would know the meaning of.

"Nip it in the bud" literally means to nip (or cut off) the bud before the fruit appears. If you don't want the fruit, kill the blossom. If you don't want the cold, you need to catch it when it first shows its head rather than waiting until it's gnawing at your ankle.

There is no magic bullet that will kill a cold, but there are a lot of things you can do to keep it from becoming a monster. The same things that kill any other disease.

First, a healthy immune system. Vitamin C and D support immune system function, as do zinc and selenium. Vitamin B is another important vitamin for immune system function. Ironically, most of these items are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, something that was once much more difficult to acquire during cold season. Coincidence?

Lots of sunshine will take care of the D problem (although during the winter we all mew ourselves up like we're hibernating). Antioxidants also help build a strong immune system, but they are easily destroyed by excess heat--i.e., eat fruits and vegetables raw or steamed rather than boiled. Processed vegetables out of a can are better than nothing, but most of the nutrients are gone.

Another irony--the vitamins taken out of our food are re-processed and sold as vitamins on the shelf. But that's a rant for another time. Where were we?

Oh. If your immune system is in peak shape (which very few are) it will throw off the effects of most bacterial or viral diseases easily.

So when a cold rears its head, you need to take action.

1) A tablespoon of honey, morning and night. Taken on bread, in an herbal tea or simply from a spoon, honey has a multitude of beneficial vitamins and minerals that make it a miracle food. Too bad the bees are dying, huh?

2) A clove of crushed garlic every night (and every morning if your stomach will handle it). Eat it WITH the skin. Don't peel it. Whether in a capsule, a bowl of spaghetti or raw, garlic is an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-biotic all rolled into one tasty little package.

3) Vitamin C, as much as your system can handle. If you have the chewable vitamin C, use them as lozenges rather than the chemical drops you buy from the store. Save those for the sore throat stage. Orange juice, pineapple juice

4) Drink. Lots. Drink water until you leak, but leave the sugar drinks and caffeine drinks strictly alone. That's a general rule for all the time, because they make you lose more water than you get from them. It's the definition of a diuretic.

5) Sleep deprivation is one of the most common maladies in the modern world. If you can go to sleep an hour earlier or get up an hour later, it will help.

6) Destress. A no brainer, but sometimes the most difficult to do. Meditation, breathing exercises, reading a good book--whatever it takes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Winter Garden Update

I went out this morning and my potatoes and pepper (inside the hoop house) were dead. I dug them all up and planted peas.

So it appears that potatoes are an OK late season crop in the hoop houses, but the "Sandy" temperature last night was in the high twenties and we're typically 5 to 10 degrees below the posted temp in the winter, so it might have gotten down into the teens. In either case, potatoes don't do well at 38 degrees (assuming that the temp in the hoop house remained 10 degrees above the outside temp). Lettuce, carrots, beets and onions are just fine. Lettuce and spinach continue to sprout.

I put up a "high" hoop house for the cabbage and broccoli. We'll see how well that does in the first wind-storm. :)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Off the topic

Sorry I'm so wishy-washy on this blog. Right now other things take precedence--like a job hunt and...

My hoop-houses, since nothing herbal is growing.

I have two hoop-houses this year. Last year was our first test. With two water bottles inside the temperature never got low enough to freeze the plants. The water bottles release their heat, so they're the first things to freeze. The bottles did freeze a couple of times (when the temperature got down into the teens), but nothing else inside even got nipped. I'm guessing that another water bottle in each would bring the survivable temperature even lower. Anything that touches the plastic will freeze, and the condensation on the plastic also froze quite regularly. It's amazing to lift the cover in the morning and have ice snap off, but the green inside hasn't been affected.

The hoop-house on the east has beets, lettuce and spinach. On the west, I'm experimenting so that one has potatoes, carrots and a pepper that I'm hoping will survive the winter. We'll see. Right now it's looking pretty sad and not growing.

We harvested our first out of season potatoes today, and I dug up the dill because it was infested with aphids. So I now know that I need to pay attention to insect control...

We've been eating salad (fresh from our garden) for the last month. :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Another interesting tidbit

I know I haven't been very active on this blog recently, and I palologize. :) Been crazy-busy, but this morning I want to write about something new.

Sometimes I wake up with my left hand numb. It doesn't affect movement, it isn't painful, and working the hand makes the numbness go away relatively quickly.

I did some research on the topic and it appears that there are many causes, from heavy metal toxicity to heart attack.

Of course, heart attack would normally be in the right arm, but it's still a possibility.

We don't have a well (municipal water is tightly controlled) so heavy metals are unlikely.

The simplest (and most common) cause of temporary numbness appears to be carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel is caused by compression of a nerve as it runs through your wrist and usually affects people who use their wrists a great deal, such as people who spend a lot of time on the computer. It can be caused or exacerbated by extra weight, so often the first thing prescribed is to lose those extra pounds. The second thing prescribed is often surgery, but there are other options. Using an ergonomic keyboard (one that supports the natural movements of the wrist) is probably the most effective. Support your wrists while you type, even if it's just books lined up along the front of the keyboard.

My problem doesn't fit carpal tunnel, so I kept looking.

Most of the options fit in the "nerve damage" category. Causes could range from a sudden addition to your weight training regimen, to a sudden blow or trauma to the shoulder. i.e., did you recently help someone move or build a fence? Sleeping wrong (or long periods of inactivity while you sleep) can also cause the nerves to go to sleep temporarily.

The Brachial Plexus is a set of nerves that runs down the neck and into the arm. Once the nerves pass the shoulder the group breaks up, so depending on where the pressure is any of the nerves (or the whole group) could be affected.

It can also be environmental. I think I may have narrowed mine to constrictions around my shoulder from my pajamas, pressing on that nerve. I also wonder if my dreams are causing me to tense the shoulder and compress the nerve. It is always the left hand, and apparently the nerves of the right hand are situated differently than the left so they're not as likely to be compressed.

Please note that if there are other symptoms (nausea, pain, dizziness, etc) you should seek medical attention.

Going to be an interesting test, eliminating factors one by one until I can identify the problem--and then target it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Emergency Preparedness #1

Emergency preparedness is not something you can just ignore, although most people seem to be trying. If I think my neighbors aren't my business, my attitude may change when I'm trapped inside my home in a flood or under six feet of rubble after an earthquake.

There are a number of different types of emergencies.

Individual, such as unemployment or a house fire.

Local, such as a flood or an earthquake--emergencies that are local in scope but affect a number of people.

Universal, such as a war or an extended depression.

All of these can be prepared for with a little foresight. First step, request the "neighborhood watch" area list. Since those areas already exist, you can use that foundation for your emergency planning.

Sample text for a neighborhood emergency preparedness flier:

Preparedness Meeting

Area Leader:
(Date, time and location)

List of families in the "area"

There are a number of different types of emergencies to be considered, from personal (such as unemployment or a house fire) to local (such as an earthquake, where help should arrive within apx 72 hours) and universal (which could be something like a major depression or a war). We would prefer to have a representative of each family or house at the meeting.

The following will be discussed:

Special Needs: In our area we have autism, dementia, and several others with various medical problems. These needs must be addressed in an emergency. A family medical survey has been included with this letter. Please fill it out and bring it with you. Do you (as a family) have sufficient medication, food, and water to last at least 72 hours? Do you have sufficient food, clothing and medication to last a year if necessary?

Abilities: In an emergency all special skills might be necessary, from babysitting to flying a plane. Please come prepared to discuss the skills of your family. Skills such as budgeting or writing a resume could be used in personal emergencies, so please come prepared to say whether or not you are willing to offer these skills to your neighbors in case of need.

Communication: What I propose is a fanout program. Each house has other homes within sight--those families would be your first priority after your own family is safe.

What we can expect from an emergency

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Garlic Update (a little late)

I don't think I'm going to try the garlic experiment again this year. The plants grew really strong but the bulbs never developed.

This is a picture of my entire garlic harvest from the hydroponics last winter. I planted the biggest cloves I had (none less than an inch long) and the largest clove is less than half that size.

Instead I have my two hoop houses (NOT poop houses, lol) and I'm growing apricots from seed. I still want an indoor garden, but I haven't had much success no matter what I try to grow. Tomatoes and squash got too big, garlic and onions don't bulb up. Lettuce grows long and spindly then dies. The peach tree got infested with bugs and died. Herbs grew for a while then keeled over.

So much for my green thumb. :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Forcing seeds update

I wasn't successful in forcing beets into hibernation.

Test 1: Put the beet in the freezer (it turned to mush)
Test 2: Put the beet in the refrigerator for a month, then replanted
-----Took root and grew, but no seeds
Test 3: Took the beet out of the ground, let it dry out for a month then replanted
-----Took root and grew, but no seeds

I'll try again next year, because we STILL don't have beet seeds.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seed Exchange?

I just looked at this blog and realized I haven't posted since MAY. Weird.

A little bit of an update: I'm drying mint right now. Aragula and basil were last week. Onions will probably be next. I have a couple baby watermelon and we've got zuccini coming out our ears. Corn is coming on, but for some reason the tomatoes aren't ripening.And I have seeds.

Please, does anyone in the Salt Lake area have need of seeds? Particularly carrot seeds, since I'll be harvesting the new seeds in the next few weeks and I still have a lot from the last batch. I have carrot seeds, parsnip seeds, zuccini seeds, watermelon seeds, and a couple other kinds. Onions and beets are unavailable this year, but I should have plenty of onion seeds next year. For some reason I just can't get beets to survive through the winter, so we're short on beet seeds. I hate throwing the seeds away, poor little things, but with the new crop coming on I don't have much choice if I can't give them away.

I tried the seed exchange I found, but unfortunately it appears to be merely a scheme to sell books. I am also looking for Sonoran White wheat, if anyone is growing that in this area.

I have set up an open seed exchange, Seeds For The Future.

I'll try to be more regular on the blog, although with the job hunt and the garden and writing full time I'm rather overwhelmed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Part 3: What do you know? I mean really?

1 + 1 = 2, or does it? Why can't 1 + 1 = 11 or I-don't-really-care?

Our brains are built for pattern recognition. It takes time and work to convince the brain that an arbitrary shape on a piece of paper has a specific meaning that will not change. It takes time for the brain to learn that a sound has a particular meaning. But once that connection is made, the brain will quickly latch on to other ideas, assigning meaning to just about anything it experiences.

That does not mean that these things actually have meaning, or that the pattern the brain recognizes is real. Or that the pattern is good for us.

A child draws a circle and some squiggly lines on a piece of paper. We may determine that the circle is a sun, or a flower. We may ask the child "Don't you want clouds in your picture?" and said child looks at us strangely because to the child that's not a sun, or a flower. It's a hand. A palm and fingers. We can see this if its pointed out to us, but our brains know that a hand isn't just a circle with squiggly lines, so that connection isn't immediately made.

As we grow (i.e., age) our minds form patterns from the world around us. Many of us get sick during the winter--how much of this is because of physical stimuli and how much is because the mind sees "sick in the winter" as a recognizable pattern? We sleep more easily at night than during the day. How much of that is pattern recognition on the part of the brain? Infants have to be taught that this pattern is more acceptable.

At some point it may be necessary to differentiate between what we know, and the patterns we have grown used to seeing. If I get ill every January, there's no real physical reason for it. The illness, yes, but that particular month? How much of that is the brain, running along a well developed pattern? When a marathon runner starts feeling tired at mile ten in spite of years of training, is that real exhaustion, or the brain trying to get her to stop?

Why can a singer hit higher notes when he isn't reading music? Because the brain has connected an arbitrary limit to that line on the page and determined the pattern?

In research when they talk of the placebo effect they're talking about the percentage of people who feel a real improvement in spite of the fact that the "medicine" they took was deliberately useless. But they believed it would help, and so it did.

There are so many of these. If you identify the patterns in your life, you may find that they are not patterns at all.

If you tell your brain to stop and the pattern stops...

Monday, May 6, 2013


Armoracia rusticana
Family: Cruciferae

If you are allergic to or sensitive to cabbage, broccoli, or brussels sprouts you may have that same sensitivity for horseradish.

Horseradish is generally used as a seasoning. In large amounts it can cause internal problems and/or irritation of the nose and throat lining rather like any other strong herb. That strong taste is a concentrated dose of natural chemicals that protect the plant from the depredations of herbivores, so eating the top (greens) is not recommended. Horseradish contains coumarins, phenols, volatile oils, ascorbic acid, asparagin, peroxidase enzymes and other chemicals as well. It prevents the breakdown and absorption of alcohol and some other substances. It stimulates digestion and blood circulation so it may be used in situations where people have circulation problems.

It is used for clearing the sinuses (for obvious reasons) which makes it useful for mild allergic reactions such as a pollen reaction when a stuffy nose is the main symptom. It is an expectorant with strong anti-biotic properties. It is also used to expel worms in pets (vermifuge) and for fevers. There are a number of different chemicals in horseradish, some of which interact and cancel each other out.

My drug interaction book says to avoid anticholinergic as well as cholinergic drugs when using horseradish, but I wasn't able to find any information as to whether it cancels out or enhances the effects of these drugs. It also should not be taken by anyone with an underactive thyroid.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Force Plants into Hibernation

I've got a little problem. The onions and beets I planted for seed died over the winter (I still have one onion, but that's not enough) so I won't have seed for beets or onions next year. I'm going to try something this year that I've thought of before but never actually did. I'm going to wait until the bulbs of this year's plants are about an inch in diameter and then pull them and try to force them into hibernation. If it works, I should be able to get small amounts of seed this year. Not as much as I'd like, but a little. I'll give updates later this year.

The other problem with doing it this way is that I can't choose the plants for seed--I have to just use whatever I get rather than using the largest bulbs. Next year I'm going to pull the seed beets and onions and keep them in storage. Hopefully that way they'll have a better chance of surviving.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Herbs are up!

It's spring again, so you're likely going to hear more from me. This week I need to thin the yarrow--the root-mass is about three feet across and I'll probably end up throwing most of it away. I want three pieces so I'll thin one back each year rather than messing with a massive plant every three years.

So (in the herb garden, not including what I have in the rest of the yard) I have chives, catnip, yarrow, horehound, tarragon, lemon-balm, lavender, basil, valerian, foxglove and parsley. Anything decorative or ground-coverish is in other areas. The mints are in their own pots, along with the thyme and the tansy.

The rosemary died over the winter and I'm actually thinking of getting rid of the horehound, planting something else there. Not sure what, yet.

The space is about 10 feet x 20, so there's a nice aisle down the middle. I'm trying to decide whether or not to stagger it and use that space--I'd lose my path, but have room for more plants. I have three spaces left in my herb garden if I don't decide to go in that direction.

Come to think of it, I'm going to go up and tear out a horehound bush.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Part 2: The Brain; Your Best Frenemy

By the time a fetus is three weeks old, the brain is fully functional. That doesn't mean full formed, but functional. It is in operational control of the autonomic system (heart, lungs, etc) and is sending nerve impulses to the extremities. It is also able to learn.

During this time the brain learns that it is warm, it is cared for, it has no worries. Then it's kicked out into this cold dry environment where it has to fend for itself. Put me back! Don't make me do this! Depending on the circumstances, a child quickly learns to cry when it's uncomfortable. The brain learns that in order to get what it wants all it has to do is make a fuss. Lovely thought.

But the brain is unformed. It doesn't understand cause and effect, doesn't understand that once it starts a chain reaction it can't choose the consequences.

And this, unfortunately, it will never learn.

Now understanding that this is all my own opinion, what would happen if you started getting a cold and told your brain out loud, "Brain, I do not have time for this cold. Put it off to the weekend."

Skeptical? You might find yourself surprised.

What if you said (again out loud) "Brain, I want to climb Mount Everest." Well, the brain doesn't really know what Mount Everest is. It might have pictures, it might have a vague understanding of "Big," but it can't carry you bodily to Mount Everest so that you can climb it. What it can do is push you into seeing ways that your dream might be possible. Or it might send you a nightmare of climbing some unknown mountain in the dark.

Your brain is your best frenemy. It makes everything possible, from the feeling in the soles of your feet to the playing of a concert. It also makes (or at least starts) every reaction that creates illness or health in the human body.

But as I said before, it doesn't understand cause and effect. "She needs down time" might seem to the brain to be a perfect excuse to let microbes run rampant, resulting in a cold that lasts weeks and puts you flat on your back. "He's doing something he doesn't like" might seem sufficient to create a chemical reaction that results in repeated panic attacks. Once these things start, it's much harder to make them stop. The Brain does not understand this. It's a computer, and can only put out what goes in. Most rational cognition takes place on another level entirely.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Part 1: Mind Games

Can I just say I hate needles? Still, one of the simplest ways to serve other people is to give blood or platelets.

I started giving blood regularly when I was eighteen, just barely starting college. Years later I learned that I could give platelets and watch a movie while donating. Fun! Then one day, I went to give blood and the woman asking all the questions asked me if I'd been feeling weak.

No. I had a lot of energy, felt completely fine, but she said my iron count was so low that if it went down any more they'd send me to the emergency room.

Wow. Um... So I walked away (deferred for the first time) and halfway back to class I suddenly felt weak and tired. I sat down on a bench and slept for three hours, missed several classes. Until that moment, I had no idea that being low on iron might be any kind of problem. She said I should feel weak--I started feeling weak. She said I should be tired--I started feeling tired.

Years later I was giving platelets and one of the phlebotomists (which sounds like something that grows in a diseased swamp) told me about a citrate reaction--she becomes short of breath, her fingers and toes go numb and start to cramp...Can you see the punchline? Half an hour later, boom, I was having the identical reaction. It had never occurred to me previously that a reaction to donating platelets was possible. I think it stems from my dislike of needles....and the brain's desire to give me what it thinks I want.

The role of the brain in our health is interesting, and I think it has far more to say on this subject than most of us want to admit.

1 The Brain is lazy. If there's a way to get out of doing something, it will take that path
2 The Brain is in control. Not only in control of the autonomics but also pain impulses, the use of nutrients and many other processes
3 The Brain is not an autonomous organ. If you tell it what to do, it will try to obey
4 The Brain will try to give you what it thinks you want or need

When I was going to college I always got sick over spring break, without fail. For some reason I never got sick during the school year. Always on the breaks. Was this because the germs were only present during the two weeks prior to the breaks? Somehow I don't think so. Was it because my immunity slowly ground down during the school year? Maybe, but that doesn't account for the fact that I was always healthy again by the time classes started.

The fact is, I knew I didn't have time to be sick. I had classes to be to, tests to take. I couldn't be down for any length of time. So if I started to get a sniffle, I told my brain to stop it and forged on.

Did it work? Is illness all psychosomatic? If we knew how, could we stop illness, aging, diabetes, cancer?

I think to some extent this may be exactly the case. The problem is, where do we draw the line?

Next week I will discuss "The Brain: Your Best Frenemy"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Garlic Update

I started harvesting my garlic, and it looks like I still have a lot of adjustments to make. The garlic cloves on the outside are from last year's spring crop (average size). The garlic cloves on the inside were grown on my windowsill.

One that is slightly larger is still in the moss. These are from the first planting; I waited until the roots were well developed and then let the moss dry out. The second planting appears to be doing much better, although the skins of the old cloves are rotting rather than drying and falling off. I have to wipe it off.

One thing I notice is that the roots are growing straight down and the base of the bulb is larger than it should be. You can see in the picture that the root area at the base of the bulb is about the same size on all four. This suggests to me that the bulb should be much larger but something failed. Nutrients? Water? We'll see how the second planting turns out. That will give me a better idea of what's going on.

I'm going to try vegetable grafting this spring.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My health diagram

Many years ago I learned that I loved diagramming sentences. The idea that a sentence had an easily discernible and LOGICAL structure was amazing. Being able to take a sentence apart and figure out which pieces were most important, to build a skeleton with the pieces, made me giggle. Literally.

The ability to diagram sentences has no logical use in this world, but I can use the diagram structure in other ways. For example, if I have a serious cough. How did it begin? After exercising. (Assumption, lung irritation) Why did it begin? Unknown.

Symptoms are the second step of the diagram. The main line (the sentence core, the subject of the sentence) is the cough. That's what I'm trying to remedy.

Is it worse at night or during the day? Worse at night

Is it worse standing or lying down? Lying down

Is it worse outside or inside? Inside

Is it worse at home or at work? Neither

Does exercise aggravate it? Yes

Lots of etcetera; whatever questions the situation calls for. If I determine that there may be an emotional connection I use different questions and go deeper.

In this way I can construct an assumption of what is causing this cough. Along the way I can come up with possible remediations, things that will make the cough easier to deal with such as sleeping partially upright or taking antihistamines. [*** see below.]

Based on the information as I built my diagram, this does not seem to be disease related. If the diagram indicated it was worse at work or at home I could suggest that the cause was environmental (such as mold, or temperature). If it got worse when the air quality was lower I could suggest that it was related to that. If it's not environmental, I go on to the next level.

The structure of the diagram has four sub-clauses; Situation, symptoms, remediation, and diagnosis. There would normally be a fifth clause, treatment, but I don't want anyone accusing me of practicing medicine.

There are three levels to the diagnosis--Disease (external), physical/environmental (internal) or emotional (internal). Technically I could add a few more layers.

Once I determine whether it's physical or mental, internal or external, I have a much better chance of choosing treatments that will work.

Mental is a subject for another post, or maybe a series of them.

***Do not confuse a remediation with a cure. They are totally different things. Many pharmaceuticals are in the remediation category, controlling symptoms but doing nothing for the disease.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Third Medicine

Once our need for air and water is satisfied, we come to all the other things that make life not only possible, but comfortable.

The food we eat, theoretically, gives us all the nutrients, minerals, vitamins and trace elements to keep the body working at its peak. People who do not get the correct nutrients fall apart slowly. Without sufficient calcium for a growing body the bones are weak. Without enough iron the blood doesn't work right. Many of the minerals and trace elements support the wet cell battery that is the brain.

So the third medicine is food.

The human body was designed for a nomadic or agricultural lifestyle--constant work, enormous amounts of food to fuel the body for the work it was required to do. If a nomad ate a 16 oz steak s/he was getting eight times the nutrients we get from the RDA of two ounces of meat per day. (The RDA is generally based on a sedentary lifestyle.) Our hypothetical nomad would be working off the excess, using it. Mostly in the hunt for more food.

We're barely into the first steps of understanding the human body and what it needs to function.

I have to laugh every time I hear someone say that a particular vitamin or other element "isn't necessary" or "has no function." If that's the case, why does the body create it, store it, or absorb it? It's another way of saying "Ignorance is bliss."

Still, in spite of scientific theory the body will try to tell us what it needs.

To some extent, cravings are the body's way of indicating that something is wrong--it's not getting something it needs, to the point that the "wet cell battery" is running low on power. Unfortunately, without knowing precisely what is needed the brain often creates cravings for things that may be related but not precise.

For example, a child is not getting sufficient potassium in his diet. When the child eats salted potato chips the brain connects the obvious taste of salt (rather than the potato under it) with the nutrient levels returning to normal. It "learns" that salt will solve the problem. There are other elements to this, but it gets the point across.

The next time that child's body runs low on potassium, he's likely to start craving salt.

Nomads ate a very healthy and balanced diet. Green foods and meat were their staples, accompanied by a great deal of exercise. Berries, grains and roots in the proper season, and if they were able to get enough food (which was difficult and time consuming) they would have had all the nutrients they needed.

As a society, we've gotten to the point where we can isolate and concentrate various nutrients, enough in some cases to make up the lack of volume. Supplements are used with wild abandon, and I've been told flatly by certain people that they don't need to eat because they're getting everything they need from the supplements they're taking.

All I can say to that one is "Duh."

Unfortunately, like water and air most of the damage from missing nutrients is done as children. A child refuses to eat any vegetable and the parents don't push it. A child doesn't like milk and the parent doesn't find another source for the nutrients. By the time a child reaches adulthood, many of the problems already exist and are waiting for a trigger.

Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes, asthma and many other lifelong ailments could be the result of nutrient deficiencies either as adults or children. It is interesting to me that people find various solutions--exercise, extra calcium, extra vitamin K, etc. One person may "cure" their diabetes with a particular element, while the cure does nothing for another person. We like to see duplicatable solutions, but the fact is that every person with the same chronic illness might have a different cause and therefore a different cure.

The best source for the nutrients remains the food we eat. A balanced diet--including a sufficient amount of protein, grains, vegetables or fruits and fats--will often help or completely eliminate symptoms of diseases we thought insurmountable.

Once we've made sure we're breathing correctly, we're appropriately hydrated and we're eating a balanced diet, if the symptoms remain it's time to do some research and check what other elements we might be missing.

Food is the third medicine.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Second Medicine

There are three things the human body requires: Air, water, food.

The body can survive for about 7 minutes without air, 7 days without water and 7 weeks without food. Not easily, or comfortably, but it can survive.

As infants we start out in an enviroment where our every need is supplied even before we understand it. Then we emerge into this odd space where we have to express our needs.

Saying "I need" usually results in something being put in an infant's mouth, resulting in crossed signals--as infants, we learn that "I'm hungry" and "I'm thirsty" are interchangeable. Later, we discover that "I'm hungry" tastes better and "I'm thirsty" is no longer consciously recognized. As adults, for the most part we assume "hungry" when we're thirsty because those first few months of life taught us that they were the same thing. So we eat instead of drink, never satisfied because we're not feeding the correct appetite.

Many diseases, from strokes to headaches and on through some forms of cancer and dementia, can ultimately be traced back to dehydration.

The body relies on a liquid conduction system. Like a wet cell battery, if the liquid level is too low the current drops. When the current drops the body thinks "drought" and goes into survival mode. Everything that is not absolutely essential (skin, digestion, and immunity to name a few) goes into maintenance mode, where the least energy and resources are used.

In the short run, people who do not drink enough are prone to (the short list) muddled thinking, emotional rollercoasters, exhaustion, elimination problems and headaches.

The problem with "drinking" is that many people consider any kind of liquid to fit the bill. So they go for coffee, tea, sodas, all of which increase urination (they're diuretics). Drinking a cup of coffee may actually make you get rid of more water than is in the coffee, so it doesn't work. Same with alcoholic beverages. Any time you add anything to water, it's adding chemicals that are going to have a reaction with your body, either positive or negative.

As we age our bodies fail to adapt to shortages as easily, and the habits of a lifetime catch up to us. Dry skin, brains that don't fire as well as they used to, cell elasticity problems and many others can be traced ultimately back to a lifetime of starving our bodies of one essential nutrient--water.

If you know you're breathing properly and you still have whatever problem you're trying to figure out, drink water. It's not going to be as immediate a solution as breathing correctly. If you're breathing incorrectly it will take about seven minutes for the effects to start showing. If you're dehydrated, it may take a week or more.

Water is the second medicine.

The First Medicine (Air)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Garlic update

When I started this thing I forgot one critical component of any hydroponic system. Oxygen. Most hydroponic systems are flood and drain systems, where the roots are immersed for a few minutes every hour (or every few hours, depending on the situation). I don't have the space or the time to devote to a full hydroponics system, and I don't like using electricity for that anyway, so I make do.

I have the plants in straight water, and until last week I had forgotten to pump air into the water. Blah. Anyway, I've started pumping air into the water on a daily basis, so we'll see what kind of difference that makes.

In this first picture, you can see the difference between the two plantings of garlic. On the left is the first planting. I kept the moss moist until the roots were well developed, and then I let it dry out and let the water level drop. The second planting the moss has remained moist and I've left the water level high. You can see the difference. The other difference is that I stopped adding fertilizer to the water when I planted this batch. I was afraid that the nitrogen level might be getting toxic.

The second picture, below, shows the water level. I keep the plants in a nursery planter tray (the kind with the little hanging baskets) in a plastic tub that I purchased from a craft store. In the spring it (and two more just like it) will be used to start my plants for my garden.

I tried to get a picture of the comparative root-mass, but it didn't work. It's not really visible in this picture, and balancing the tray in one hand while manipulating the camera with the other isn't my favorite thing. So what you see is what you get.

What you don't see is that the roots of the most recent planting are white, thick and strong, the roots on the left more spindly and an odd yellow color where they're not brown and dry. They also tend to grow straight down rather than bunching and spreading.

Garlic usually has a MUCH larger root-mass than this, so I'll have to wait and see how it works. Maybe the larger root-mass isn't necessary with so much water available. Who knows? A few of the bulbs are starting to divide into cloves, so they're almost ready.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The first medicine

Air is something we tend to take forgranted, unless we have some kind of breathing disorder. We hunch over, restricting our lung space. We breathe shallowly (especially when there's some kind of odor in the air, which is when we need MORE oxygen). We hold our breath and deliberately mess with the amount of air we get.

As humans we seem to think that breathing is just a thing we do, without considering the ramifications.

Too little oxygen results in headaches, disorientation, in some cases euphoria or dizziness. Ladies who wore corsets had to breathe more shallowly. They were often ill, they fainted a lot, they were more frail and seemed to have more psychological problems than their contemporaries who didn't wear corsets. There are other reasons, but not breathing enough was probably one of them. Bone problems, digestion problems, mood swings, all may be linked in one way or another to improper breathing over an extended period of time.

Take a deep breath. Let it out.

Breathe in deeper. Let your ribs expand sideways and your belly puff out. This is why your ribs aren't connected, to allow your lungs to expand. Deeper. Breathe in until you can't breathe in any more.

Feels strange, doesn't it? Now breathe in again but keep your ribs in place and don't let your diaphram work. Feel the difference? Probably much more familiar.

Very few people use the full capacity of their lungs. The blood rushes past the lungs, but if we breathe too shallowly there's nothing for it to pick up. If it doesn't pick up any oxygen, it just keeps moving and swings around for another try. Which means that for most people a large portion of the blood is doing nothing but moving in a big loop. Motion without meaning because it isn't carrying any oxygen to feed the muscles and cells.

Next time you feel anxious or worried (or angry), try breathing. Not to discomfort, but full deep breaths. Next time you get dizzy, try to determine if you were breathing correctly. If your eyesight is strange or you're feeling light-headed, check your breathing.

Air is the first medicine we should take, and in many cases a few deep breaths is all we will need.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Christmas Cactus

The topic seems reasonable, for the time of year.

A lot of people have questions about how to make various plants bloom. Amarylis and christmas cactus are two that I hear questions about most often (and aside from that, I have both).

The important thing to remember with christmas cactus is that they are southern hemisphere transplants. They bloom during the southern summer and fall, when the days are shorter.

I have a white christmas cactus (which is actually pale pink) that bloomed for the first time this year. Because of where it grows, half of it is in the sun most of the day and half in the shade. The half that is in the sun is covered with blooms, while the other side has none. The CC beside it is completely in the shade most of the day and only has a few small blossoms on it.

I know from experience that the plants in the shade won't bloom as profusely or as early--I'll get full bloom from them around the beginning of February.

To make either amarylis or christmas cactus bloom, you need to simulate their normal blossoming conditions. The amarylis is a bulb, meaning it needs a dormant period each year. Letting it continue to grow and hoping for a flower (or scape) is usually not effective. Once the plant has bloomed (or after the leaves die back, depending on the variety) put the amarylis in a dark place until the leaves die completely and dry up. Removing the bulb from the soil is not usually necessary, although it will prevent dirt on the floor if the pot falls over. If you have questions of whether your amarylis bulb is still alive--if it's still hard, plant it.

The main point is to trick the plant into thinking it's spring, when the days are longer and the soil starts to warm from the sun.

The christmas cactus, being a lower level cacti (generally living in shaded and very humid areas), will bloom when the light reaches the appropriate level and the days are shorter. If you move a christmas cactus into a more shady area or into a dark closet for a month or so, then move it into the light, that should trigger the blooms.

Just don't forget about it.