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Interesting Information and Turkey Tracks: Weed/lawn Chemicals

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Interesting Information and Turkey Tracks:  June 1, 2014

Weed/lawn Chemicals


Here’s a really lovely column from my neighbor Marina Schauffler on using lawn chemicals and weed killers.  This column appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram today.



Here’s an attempt to paste the column–not always easy with the ipad…


Sea Change: Create a thriving backyard community
See your yard as habitat, not lawn.

By Marina Schauffler

Landscape planners encourage us to visualize the area around our homes in terms of rooms that act as external living spaces. If we extend this idea, going beyond visions of upscale patios with grill stations, we can see our yards as habitats that help supply what we need to thrive: food, water, community and beauty.

Consider starting with “edible landscaping” – plants that provide fruits, blooms, roots and greens to enjoy through the growing season. Foraging opportunities include plants that typically have only decorative use – like daylilies and wild beach rose. Ample guidance exists for those seeking to create edible yards, thanks to the tireless efforts of Scarborough’s Roger Doiron, founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (kgi.org), and book authors like Rosalind Creasy and Lee Reich.

To generate abundant food, your backyard habitat will need consistent water. Gutters and rain barrels can capture downpours and help redirect water to plants during dry spells. Mulching with materials like shredded leaves or composted wood chips can help the soil hold moisture, and reduce the number of uninvited plants that take up residence. Mulching also helps feed the staggering number of microorganisms that share in the habitat underfoot: one square yard of healthy soil can contain more than a billion bacteria, fungi, nematodes, earthworms and other creatures reliant on organic matter. To keep them happy, factor a “compost room” into your yard design if you can, or sign up for a service like Garbage to Garden that takes away food scraps and delivers finished compost.

Many species that live within backyard habitats contribute to the health of the whole in ways we’re only beginning to understand. It helps, therefore, to approach yard management with humility – striving to observe carefully, learn continually and consider the essential needs of other creatures. In her book “Suburban Safari,” South Portland writer Hannah Holmes characterizes this as a move from “biological boss” to “benevolent dictator.”

In an increasingly developed and polluted world, our yards need to be a safe haven. Consider, for example, a pair of warblers that takes up residence in a nearby bush. They’ve migrated thousands of miles, possibly from wintering grounds compromised by deforestation. That journey, made more challenging by light pollution, may have been through areas of drought where food and water were scarce. Their grassy nest is interwoven with ubiquitous plastic trash. Will the yard they rely on for insects be doused with toxic lawn-care  products?

If we take a communal view of our yards and acknowledge the needs of all the resident creatures, applying pesticides becomes a short-sighted and untenable choice. By definition, habitats are places that foster life, so deliberately introducing a far-reaching agent of death produces a fundamental conflict. E.B. White described this paradox in his 1949 poem “Pasture Management” (see sidebar) about the herbicide 2,4-D. Still a common ingredient in lawn-care products (with more than 40 million pounds applied annually in the US), 2, 4-D is linked in numerous studies to groundwater contamination, wildlife die-offs and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

As White demonstrates, taking a more benevolent view of our fellow species moves us beyond the spray-bottle illusion that we can eliminate unwanted “pests.” When we see ourselves as part of an interdependent community of organisms, we gain confidence that imbalances will rectify themselves if we foster the health and resilience of the whole. That principle applies in our yards, and in our watersheds – where our backyard actions have impacts far downstream.



E. B. White

Down below the pasture pond,
O’er the lovely lea,
I went spraying bushes
With 2,4-D.

(For young, susceptible annual weeds,
apply one to two pints per acre.)

I had read my bulletins,
I was in the know
The two young heifers
Came and watched the show.

(Along ditches and fence rows, use 2,4-D when weeds
are in a succulent stage. Won’t harm livestock.)

Rank grew the pasture weeds,
The thistle and the bay;
A quiet, still morning,
A good time to spray.

(Control weeds the easy way with Agricultural Weed-No-More –
not by chemical burn but by hormone action.)

Suddenly I looked and saw
What my spray had found:
The wild, shy strawberry
Was everywhere around.

(An alkyl ester of 2,4-D is produced by
reacting alcohol with the raw 2,4-D acid.
The result is an oily liquid that sticks to weed leaves.)

What sort of madness
Little man is this?
What sort of answer to
The wild berry’s kiss?

(Any 3- or 4-gallon garden pump-up sprayer
can be used, after the standard nozzle
has been replaced with a new precision nozzle.)

It seemed to me incredible
That I’d begun the day
By rendering inedible
A meal that came my way.
All across the pasture in
The strip I’d completed
Lay wild, ripe berries
With hormones treated.

(The booklet gives you the complete story.)

I stared at the heifers,
An idiot child;
I stared at the berries
That I had defiled
I stared at the lambkill,
The juniper and bay.
I walked home slowly
And put my pump away.
Weed-no-more, my lady,
O weed no more today.
(Available in quarts, l-gallon and 5-gallon cans, and 55-gallon drums).

— E.B. White, “Poems & Sketches of E.B. White”


1. Learn more about ecological practices to foster healthy lawns and gardens at sites like
Visit the yardscaping demonstration garden along the Back Cove in Portland.
2. Think soil health before lawn care. Take a soil sample – kits are available through county Cooperative Extension offices – and build organic matter (leave grass clippings on the lawn and top-dress each season with a quarter-inch of fine compost).
3. Avoid a summer buzz cut: Mow at a height of 3 inches since taller grass withstands drought better and helps shade weed seeds.
4. Create diversity: Consider replacing some of your turf with native plants, flowering shrubs and groundcovers.
5. Go native: Avoid botanical thugs like purple loosestrife, burning bush and Asiatic bittersweet. Read “Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape” at http://www.umaine.edu/publications/2500e/
6. Look online to find the Material Safety Data Sheet for any substance you (or your lawn-care firm) might apply. For reference, read “The Organic Lawn Care Manual” by former Maine resident and Safe Lawns founder Paul Tukey.

Marina Schauffler, Ph.D., is a writer and environmental consultant who runs Natural Choices (naturalchoices.com). She is also a volunteer Master Gardener.










Written by louisaenright

June 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

Interesting Information: ITP, or Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura

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Interesting Information:  October 16, 2013


Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura

One year ago this month, our Kelly and his brother were taking a shower after a soccer game.

Nine year old Bowen wrapped Kelly, then 7 1/2, in a towel and brought him to his parents.

Kelly was covered with bruises–big dark bruises all over his trunk, front and back.

That moment will go down in family history as being one of the darkest.

The feared words lept into everyone’s mind:  leukemia, cancer…

But, fortunately, I guess, Kelly had contracted an immune system illness:  Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura, or ITP.  His body was turning on its own blood platelets and killing them.  Kelly was down to about 7,000 when he should have had somewhere around 200,000.  HIs doctor wondered how he was walking around, let alone playing a soccer game.

Here’s an explanation from the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics web site:

What is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a platelet disorder in which the body produces antibodies that bind with platelets that are the small, sticky cells of the blood that help the blood clot. The platelet-antibody complex is then destroyed in the spleen or liver. This can occur as a short-term event or can be chronic. Patients who have low platelet counts are more likely to have bleeding with trauma or surgery. Some evidence suggests that ITP is related to an overactive immune system; however, the cause is not clearly understood. The condition happens more frequently following certain viral infections and certain immunizations. It also can be associated with autoimmune disorders such as lupus.


With both parents at his side and his siblings farmed out to nearby family, Kelly went straight into the hospital where doctors tried to trick his body into stopping its immune reaction.  The lobster pillowcase went with him.  (Kelly picked out these fabrics, and I made the pillowcase.)

Kels in hospital edited

Everyone held their breath to see if the treatments would work. to see if this would be an isolated incident or would become a chronic condition that would alter his life forever.

Parents worked to keep him amused, as with this loaded dinner tray–ordered to try to get him to eat as much nourishment as he could.  Kels loves mac and cheese and hamburgers.

Kels at dinner edited

HIs siblings visited and crawled into the bed with him.  And his first cousin Ailey visited as well:

kelly and Ailey after hospital, Oct 2012

Even Sea Breeze  visited:

Kels and Seabreeze edited

Thankfully, the treatments did work, and when his platelets had grown to numbers that were not so life-threatening, Kelly was allowed to visit even sicker children and, eventually, to go home himself.

The pillow went, too, but not before many, many people had remarked upon it.

Kelly going home edited

Kelly and his Mom Tami decided they would make more pillowcases and bring them back to the children’s wing of the hospital–and a local quilt store donated fabric.  Halloween fabric.  Here is Kelly giving a pillowcase to one of the nurses to give to a child.

Kelly and the pillowcases edited

The pillowcases make a nice story.

But, the real story here is the one that asks “why did this event happen to Kelly?”

Note that ITP is associated with having had a virus recently.  Or, a vaccine.  Or, certain drugs.  And the internet is full of people making associations with aspartame.

The fancy word for an association is a correlation.  It’s always important to remember that correlations are not causation–which has to be proven to be called a causation.  One thing that is really wrong with our culture today is that all sorts of correlations have been made to seem as if they are causations–like cholesterol and heart disease.  Or, saturated fat and heart disease.  Or salt and high blood pressure.

In the end, medicine and scientists do not know what is causing ITP.  And as near as I could discover, no one is asking about any correlations between toxic chemicals and ITP.

Who would do this work?  Who would pay for it?  Not industry.  Especially not the chemical or drug industries since either might be to blame.

Charleston folks do a lot of lawn spraying and mosquito/bug spraying.  Like too many folks today, they seem brain-dead about the effects of this kind of indiscriminate killing.  They ignore the fact that lawn chemicals have long lives and get on their children and are tracked indoors.  Skin is a very permeable organ.

Mosquitos are sprayed from planes that drop toxic chemicals on everyone and everything.  I’ve been told that after such spraying, local bee hives are surrounded by hundreds of dead bees and the beach is littered with dead butterflies.  Disrupting a food chain in this way causes a ripple effect that spreads and spreads.  Chemical fogging trucks patrol the streets at dusk.

Research shows that we are learning daily that very small amounts of toxic chemicals have long-lasting effects on humans.

It mystifies me why anyone would think that a chemical that kills an insect by harming their nervous system would NOT harm them.

Airplanes sprayed not long before Kelly got sick.  Now, there’s a correlation for you.

A year has passed–a year in which Kelly, who was quite fragile for some time after his hospital stay, has grown stronger and more sure of himself.   The circles beneath his eyes are gone.

But there remains for me a nagging dread as to what caused Kelly’s very serious illness.

Nothing much has changed in his environment…

And, again, I ask myself, where is the tipping point where people say enough is enough and something has to change.  Clearly the tipping point is a long way away when one out of two people now gets cancer, and no one acts.