This section is devoted to the information that will be useful in the creation of a Kin's Domains.
Underwater Birth and Dolphins
Igor Tscharkofsy, Dr. Igor Smirnov and Elena Tonetti in Russia, Dr. Michel Odent, M.D. in France, Estelle Meyers in New Zealand, Dr. Gowri Motha, M.D. in London, Binnie Dansby in England and others pioneered underwater birth.
Now underwater birth is an accepted as part of the British health services and recommended for those who anticipate problems with their pregnancy. Literally thousands of succesful underwater births have occured throughout the world. The initial enthusiasm for this technique has grown and its benefits for the mother and child are increasingly confirmed.
Parallel to these developments, the practice of dolphin assisted therapy developed through the work of Dr. Hank Truby, Dr. Betsy Smith, Dr. David Nathanson, David Cole, Scott Taylor, Dr. Horace Dobbs, M.D., et alia. The direct experience of many people who have encountered dolphins and been healed by them also confirms this approach.
As the advantages of underwater birth became clear, and the therapeutic value of dolphins was demonstrated, the concept of humans birthing underwater with dolphins developed. Since birthing in water is beneficial, and dolphins are able to heal or improve a wide range of medical conditions, it is reasonable to suppose that their presence at water births could be beneficial.
Some 20 years ago, after developing and confirming the benefits of water birth, Igor Tscharkofsy began to birth human babies in the Black Sea with the dolphins. Some of the reported occurances include a mother and a baby playing with the dolphins within 45 minutes of the birth, another instance of a free dolphin escorting a newborn human baby to the surface for its first breath. According to Igor Smirnoff, their research director, water babies develop six months faster over their first two years and development of waking, talking etc. occur earlier. According to Elena Tonetti, who managed the Black Sea birth project for several years, the children are also ambidexterous.
Dolphins are curious about pregnant women and often come around to check them out. This is a common occurance according to Dean Bernal, companion to the free dolphin Jo Jo who swims with many people in the Turks and Caicos islands. In commercial "swim with dolphin" programs, pregnant ladies are often excluded from the swims because the dolphins often concentrate their attention exclusively on her to the exclusion of the other guests.
In the Black Sea, dolphins would often come close to the people in the water and were present at many births. Dr. Gowri Motha, M.D. took 8 preganant ladies to the dolphin facilities at Eliat so they could birth with the dolphins. She is convinced that this is beneficial for the mother and the babies. More evaluation and repetition of the process will more firmly establish the benefits of underwater birth with the dolphins.
The work of Dr. Stanislav Grof and others have established that the birth experience is the major formative experience for our personality. A good birth results in an imprint of basic trust in the universe while a difficult birth can lead to an imprint of struggle. Whatever the imprint, it tends to be repeated in our later lives.
From a physical point of view, human babies at birth have proportionately the largest head of any land creature with the smallest body. Dr. John Lilly found that angular accelerations can create sheer forces on the brain.
Above a certain critical value that depends on brain and body size, the brain can be damaged by accelerations. A birth into water allows a smooth transition where the head and brain are neutrally bouyant. The mass of the water minimizes the accelerations to the brain and helps insure its intact delivery.
The fact that humans like water, swim, dive, and are attracted to birthing in the water has led to the development of the Aquatic Ape Theory that postulates that humans are partially aquatic creatures and evolved in a watery environment near rivers and coastlines for millions of years. This has resulted in several "marine" characteristics including the structure of the nose, the position and shape of the breasts, subcutaneous fat, and tear glands which are characteristic of some marine animals like seals, dolphins and sea birds.
This puts water birth in a context in where it is part of our aquatic heritage and approaches the conditions of our ideal primal environment. We now know several cultures practiced water births including the ancient Egyptians and the Hawaiians. In fact, Hawaiians performed underwater births with dolphins as late as 1937 and still privately maintain this practice.
At the moment, the birth activities in the Black Sea have ceased. While several projects have sought to establish places where people could birth with dolphins, this has yet to occur.
Hawaii is ideal for underwater births attended by free dolphins. The climate is ideal and there are coastals areas throughout the islands where dolphins come close to the shore.
A Sample of the type of coastline suitable for the habitat is seen below.
There are tide pools, hot ponds, access for free dolphins. This area of Hawaii is the only area where all these occur together. Therefore this is a prime area for establishing water birth with dolphins and the human-dolphin habitats where we can live and learn from each other. This area can also be the first embassy for the Cetacean Commonwealth.
The Dolphin Attended Water and Natural (DAWN) Birth Center
Going Wild: How to Enjoy Nature With Your Kids -- Wherever You Live
If nature came in a bottle, you can bet that every pediatrician would prescribe it. Time spent in nature can improve a child's attention, boost creativity, reduce stress and provide a host of other benefits. It's also good for parents. Exploring nature together can strengthen family bonds. And you don't need to trek to the wilderness to enjoy these positive effects -- it's as easy as going wild right at home. Here's how...
Curing 'Nature Deficit Disorder'
"Natural connections can occur anywhere, from the core of a city environment to a suburban neighborhood to a rural desert landscape," says Cheryl Charles, PhD, president and CEO of the Children & Nature Network. In other words, there's no need for any child to suffer from "nature deficit disorder," a term Richard Louv coined in his groundbreaking book Last Child in the Woods.
Louv links rising rates of childhood depression, obesity, attention disorders and other problems in part to a lack of nature in children's hyper-wired lives. A growing body of research supports his contention that giving children more time in nature can help counteract these trends and support their well-being.
So where does a busy parent begin? It's easier -- and more fun -- than you might think. Here are eight ideas to get you started right out of the chute.
Nature Rocks is a delightful website that offers fun and surprising ideas for enjoying nature. And, best of all, it bases its recommendations on how much time you have to spend, your location and the age of your kids. Activities range from making a secret space in nature, to exploring urban wildlife to planning an outdoor adventure for the entire family. This site, which was inspired by Last Child in the Woods and cofounded by the Children & Nature Network, is loaded with resources including books, maps and excellent links to information on natural areas and activities around the US.
Create a Little Habitat
"Help your child discover a hidden universe," urges Louv, who's a font of wonderful ideas. It's as easy as setting a scrap of lumber on a patch of bare earth, waiting a couple of days, and then checking out the insects and other creatures that have made a home beneath it. Louv suggests using a field guide to identify the creatures and revisiting this little universe every month to "discover who's new."
Create a Big Habitat
Invite your kids to help make your backyard a great hangout for wildlife. The National Audubon Society provides tips on creating a healthy yard with how-tos covering everything from attracting birds and bats to reducing pesticide use and conserving water.
Get Your Hands Dirty
Jennifer Ward rounds up loads of nature activities for kids in her books, I Love Dirt and Let's Go Outside. Building a nest is one of her favorites for kids between the ages of 4 and 8. "Birds construct the widest variety of homes with only their beaks and feet, and what's even more remarkable is that their nests withstand weather and predators," Ward reveals. "For this activity kids are encouraged to collect items in nature, such as grasses, twigs and leaves, and try their hands at constructing a nest. They'll find it's not easy, even with the advantage of fingers, and will discover a new appreciation for these feathery architects." Speaking of which...
Count the Birds
You and your kids can join the Great Backyard Bird Count on President's Day Weekend, February 12-15, 2010. Co-sponsored by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this site offers a special section for kids and great tips on identifying birds. The information everyone reports helps scientists track changes in bird populations around the country.
Look for Signs
A fresh snowfall reveals the secret comings and goings of deer, coyote, rodents, birds and other critters that frequent backyards and city parks. BioKIDS, a joint project of the University of Michigan and the Detroit Public Schools, offers a useful online tracks and signs guide for kids. The guide also covers scat, structures and other animal signs.
Enjoying nature with your kids means not over-scheduling them. "Well-intentioned parents think they're helping their children by planning and structuring most of their time, when free time in nature is one of the keys to children's creativity and healthy development," advises Charles.
If you need support, join the slow parenting movement. It is a growing phenomenon described by Carl Honore in his book, Under Pressure: Rescuing Childhood from the Culture of Overparenting.
Tap into Wonder
You don't need to be a nature know-it-all. "Parents and children can learn together," Charles suggests. "It all starts with a sense of wonder and an appreciation for the mysteries in nearby nature all around us." Go outside and look around with your children and then follow their curiosity.
As Rachel Carson famously wrote in her book, The Sense of Wonder, "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in."
Image Copyrights: http://childrenandnature.ning.com/; http://www.visitsweden.com/
Junk Food Nearly as Addictive as Heroin
by: David Gutierrez
Junk food appears to be almost as addictive as heroin, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Scripps Research Institute and presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
"This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neuro-biological foundations," researcher Paul Johnson said.
The researchers fed rats one of three diets: a nutritious diet, a healthy diet with restricted access to junk food, or a diet of unlimited junk food. Junk foods included cheesecake, chocolate, sponge cake and fatty meat. Mice in the third group quickly became obese, while the weight of mice in the first two groups did not change.
To test the effects of junk food on the brain's pleasure centers -- the areas affected by drugs -- the researchers electrically stimulated those areas whenever the mice ran on a wheel. The longer a rat ran on the wheel, the more pleasure it would receive.
While rats in the first two groups did not change their wheel-running behavior, the rats eating junk food soon began running on the wheel for longer periods -- suggesting that their brain's pleasure centers had become less sensitive. Consistent with this finding, the rats began eating more and more food, suggesting that their bodies had become desensitized to the pleasure the food was producing.
The researchers then began exposing rats to painful electric shocks whenever they ate junk food. The rats on the restricted junk food diet quickly stopped eating the food, but the binge-eating rats were undeterred.
"You lose control. It's the hallmark of addiction," researcher Paul Kenny said.
When the bingeing rats were deprived of junk food and given only healthy food, they refused to eat anything for two weeks.
"It's almost as if you break these things, it's very, very hard to go back to the way things were before," Kenny said. "Their dietary preferences are dramatically shifted."
"What we have are these core features of addiction, and these animals are hitting each one."
Image Copyrights: http://www.herbalextractok.com/
The Truth about Junk Food & Fast Food, Clinical Nutrition
Four Ways Junk Food Marketing Targets Your Kids
By Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
You walk through the grocery store, planning to buy only the few items on your list. You have just about made it down the first aisle when your young child begins to beg for junk food item #1, green catsup. You give in hoping it will make the rest of the trip easier, when just as you turn the corner your child begins begging for another junk food item, this time sugary cereal. Sound familiar?
Well, there's a reason why your kids want just about every sugary, greasy, processed food that they can get their hands on. Since the day your child was exposed to the outside world, through TV, magazines, the radio--even school--they have been inundated with the persuasive messages of the junk food industry. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, advertisements target children as young as 3 years old. As an adult it can be hard enough to resist these marketing ploys, but for a child to resist is almost unthinkable.
Junk food marketers spent an estimated $15 billion in 2002 on marketing aimed at children. They seek to push their low-nutrient foods into the heads of children so that they in turn pester their parents to buy the products. And their ploys appear to be working as one out of every four American children are now seriously overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
Of course, the ultimate decision of whether to purchase junk food is up to you, the parent, but becoming aware of some of the most obtrusive methods junk food marketers use can help you to protect your children from these unhealthy messages.
You may have seen Pepsi's Web site, which features pop-singer Beyonce and Cubs baseball player Sammy Sosa. Beyonce is quoted as saying "For me, to build a relationship with Pepsi is incredible," while the site says about Sosa, " For the past three seasons, Slammin' Sammy has been powered by Pepsi."
This is just one example of a company using celebrities and athletes to promote a less-than-nutritious product. Pepsi is certainly not the only company to do so. Snickers brand candy bar has a TV commercial that takes place in the Chicago Bears locker room and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes cereal is touted as "The official cereal of the National Hockey League (NHL).
Many children see celebrities and athletes as role models and feel that the products they endorse are worthwhile. They listen to these messages because they like the messengers. Unfortunately, the underlying message to kids--aside from the more obvious "buy this product"--is that eating these products can make them a celebrity or athlete, or at least will make them look and perform like one. And even if that doesn't happen, they still feel that the products are worthwhile since they're popular among the people they look up to and respect.
Saturday Morning Commercials
Saturday morning cartoons are a tradition for many children. Not surprisingly, junk food marketers have claimed their space among the cartoons--90 percent of food commercials aired on Saturday morning kids' TV shows are for products of low nutritional value such as sugary cereals, candy and fast food.
As though placing the ads among children's cartoons is not enough, many of the junk foods will even feature a cartoon character or cartoon theme as part of their packaging and promotional angle.
By the time you head to the grocery store that afternoon, your child's mind will be thoroughly saturated with junk food items to persuade you to buy. Of course this is the time when you as the parent can be strong and only buy foods that you will feel good about your child eating.
School Vending Machines
You may send your child to school with a healthy lunch in hand, but your efforts may soon be sabotaged by junk food marketers where you least expect them--in your child's school. Most school hallways are lined with vending machines that sell soft drinks and unhealthy snacks, and most school cafeterias serve any number of fast foods each day. It's not uncommon for schools to make marketing deals with leading soft drink companies such as Coca-Cola from which they receive commissions--based on a percentage of sales at each school--and sometimes a lump-sum payment.
The revenues are used for various academic and after-school activities, but what activity could be worth devastating the students' health, which is exactly what consuming all that soda and junk food is doing? Getting rid of vending machines in schools--or replacing their contents with pure water and healthy snacks--could make a big difference, as vending machines can increase the consumption of sweetened beverages by up to 50 or more cans of soda per student per year.
More and more children have access to the Internet, which means that marketers have gained another avenue to market their products. Almost every major junk food, from snacks to candy to soft drinks, has its own promotional Web site. The sites typically cater to children and teenagers and are filled with interactive games featuring the product, giveaways, contests and other information about the product.
Kids are likely to be drawn in by the games and are subtly inundated with images of a particular junk food or junk food brand. Although they may think they are simply playing a game, the games typically have a junk-food theme that exposes them to nutritionally devoid products even during their time off.
Although you can't realistically shelter your child from every advertisement out there, you can sit down with them and discuss the ads you do see. Explain to them that a business is selling the product and that they need to think about all aspects of the item (nutritional value, price, etc.) and not rely solely on the ad to make their decision. And, make sure that you are a good role model for you child. If you eat a lot of junk food, you'll have a hard time convincing your child that they shouldn't eat it.
Dr Ed Group's blog on http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/
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Watch: Anti-Aging Doctors Panel
The main topic of this panel discussion was how to choose an anti-aging doctor as your personal physician, but as you can see in the video above, we also touch on several other aspects of anti-aging medicine.
This particular panel, hosted by Dr. Stephen Coles, consisted of Dr. Philip Miller, founder and medical director of Los Gatos Longevity Institute, Dr. Karlis Ullis (whose subspecialty is sports medicine), Dr Dave Woynarowski, who specializes in age management medicine, and yours truly.
I agree with Dr. Woynarowski's comment that there is a disconnect between what people want and what they get from their physicians today. Many doctors simply are not able to truly help their patients get well because they've been more or less handcuffed by the pharmaceutical industry, which rules this current medical paradigm with an iron fist.
However, the number of doctors beginning to side step the drug paradigm to focus on optimizing health as opposed to simply treating symptoms of disease, is growing.
But how do you, as a consumer, find and select such a doctor?
It may surprise you, but the panel members agree on the point that choosing an anti-aging, wellness doctor is not a matter of simply checking for licenses and board certifications. In some cases certifications will mean little when it comes to finding a suitable doctor that can actually help you live longer.
Checking your doctor's depth of knowledge and personal philosophy on longevity and wellness may be far better criteria.
Dr. Ullis mentions the importance of finding out your doctor's level of passion, because someone who is passionate about what they do are quite likely to become an expert at it and do it well.
When it comes to finding a suitable doctor for your needs, your local community is a great place to start. Health food stores, for example, can be excellent sources of word of mouth recommendations.
Beyond that, the Internet has become an invaluable tool.
Social networking sites like Facebook, for example, can help you identify reputable health professionals. There are many Facebook groups available, and the networking opportunities are near limitless!
In July 2009, Facebook had 250 million users. Now they are over 400 million - that's a lot of potential feedback and word of mouth recommendations!
That's an important question, particularly in the field of wellness and longevity where the advances in knowledge are growing daily.
For example, conventional medical doctors have gotten locked into the science of chemistry, and now we realize that it's really about physics.
Any doctor who ignores the physics of health is really missing the biggest component.
One way to discern your doctor's level of sophistication would include asking questions. Can she answer them? What's his personal philosophy on health? Does she walk the talk?
Anti-aging medicine is about functional medicine. It's about maintaining or restoring you to your optimal functional self. It's not about combating sickness, but rather about optimizing health.
So it's a different approach that offers different solutions from conventional medicine, which is largely based on the idea that "health" can be achieved by suppressing symptoms of disease with chemicals.
Although I'm not known as an anti-aging doctor per se, my focus is on overall wellness, which naturally forms the base for a long life. The three primary areas of wellness, in my view, consist of:
- Diet (nutrition)
- Addressing your emotions and stress
The last one is the aspect that frequently receives the least amount of attention, both in conventional- and alternative medicine, and this is highly unfortunate.
I have long maintained that your emotional state plays a role in nearly every physical disease -- from heart disease, to depression, to arthritis and cancer.
Even the conservative Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 85 percent of all diseases have an emotional element, but the actual percentage is probably much higher. Other scientists and medical doctors who have left their conventional medical and scientific dogmas behind -- once they saw the proof for themselves -- claim that 100 percent of your current health status is due to your mental and emotional reactions to events that take place during your lifetime.
Fascinating research from the likes of Dr. Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden, and Richard Bartlett have in the past decade uncovered the immense importance of your emotions on your state of health and genetic expression.
Energy medicine, which includes various forms of energy psychology, is truly 21st Century medicine!
There are many different techniques, but in my experience some of the most effective include the Emotional Freedom Technique/Meridian Tapping Technique (EFT/MTT).
I want to stress that you cannot be optimally healthy if you avoid addressing the emotional component of your health.
Learning how to use energy psychology tools can help you get a better handle on your emotions and buried pain, including the stress from unexpected tragedies.
In severe cases you might not be able to perform these techniques satisfactorily on yourself, in which case I would highly recommend you seek out a trained professional. Here's a list of certified EFT practitioners across the world, plus helpful advice on how to choose a practitioner that is right for you.
The most widely accepted idea for life extension is the free-radical theory. According to this theory, you begin to "self destruct" as you age. Your DNA becomes damaged beyond your body's ability to repair and you eventually accumulate enough damage that can't support life, and consequently you die.
The main agents of this destruction are oxygen free radicals; aggressive chemical compounds created as a byproduct of your natural metabolism. Over a lifetime, this progressive damage accumulates to the point where your body's basic biochemical processes fail.
This is one of the primary reasons that Coenzyme Q-10 works and why I take the reduced form, ubiquinol, every day.
One of the most destructive processes is protein carbonylation, in which oxygen radicals attacks the carbon-hydrogen bonds in proteins. This process has been implicated as a cause for many age-related diseases, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, chronic renal failure and adult-onset diabetes.
Antioxidants continually combat these free radicals - which is why a diet high in natural antioxidants is so important for your health - but over the years, your biological defense systems eventually begin to suffer from oxidative damage as well and can't function as effectively. Your state of health suffers as a result, and "age-related ailments" set in.
Glutathione (GSH) is a very important and underutilized antioxidant, according to Dr. Woynarowski.
Increased glutathione levels may actually play a role in stopping telomere shortening, which is one of the most exciting anti-aging discoveries of late.
As many of you already know, I do not generally advocate using many supplements, and I have reservations against using glutathione supplements. However, you may still be able to reap the health benefits associated with glutathione supplementation by consuming high quality whey protein. Other food sources include free range animal foods and eggs.
Just remember that there are vast differences between whey products. You'll want to make sure your whey protein is of high quality, from grass-fed cows, and very carefully processed to preserve the fragile amino acid precursors.
I am so convinced by the research on telomeres and glutathione that I take our Miracle Whey protein every morning (typically after my morning exercise program).
Another bridge to longevity is omega-3 fats.
As discussed by the panelists, population-based studies show that the closer you are to a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the better your health and longevity.
It's important to remember that nutrients that are generally considered "healthy" may not be what you need. Optimal diet and nutrition is highly individual, and is based on your personal biochemistry and other factors such as your current state of health, nutritional deficiencies and so on. And unless the supplement in question is a good fit for your personal biochemistry, it could potentially worsen your health!
Everything you take must be tested specifically for you, and one of the ways to do this is to use a biofeedback-based diagnostic tool such as Autonomic Response Testing (ART), as developed and refined by Dr. Klinghardt.
It may seem centenarians have stumbled upon some secret formula of life extension that eludes the rest of us, but in reality, the truth is likely far simpler and more basic than that.
Common denominators among the people who've lived the longest include:
- Eating a plant-based diet
- Drinking diuretic-type teas on a regular basis
- Living in areas that promote regular physical activity, such as daily walking as the main means of getting around
- Living in societies where friends and family encourage a healthy, natural, active lifestyle
- Having effective strategies for coping with stress, such as prayer, meditation, strong social networks, and napping daily
In fact, being able to effectively cope with stress, it turns out, is one of the MAJOR common denominators for those who live long, healthy lives.
One of the proposed reasons for this strong link is that stress promotes inflammation, so being able to reduce the inflammatory response in your body can have a significant impact on your overall health. This is also believed to be one of the major reasons why so many centenarians appear to be more or less immune to brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Regulating your insulin pathways, and all the other important lifestyle changes I advocate, would clearly increase not only the quantity of your years but the quality of them as well.
Proper nutrition; feeding your body the fuel it needs based on your individual biochemistry rather than a one-size-fits-all regimen, exercise, and maintaining emotional well-being should never be underestimated in the anti-aging quest.
Rather than sitting idly by, waiting for some "magic pill" that will stop or even reverse the aging process, you can take control of your health, and hence increase your lifespan, right NOW.
Image Source: http://nestlines.files.wordpress.com/
Secrets of Overseeding
Tough winter? Here's how to bring your lawn back to life, naturally.
Just like people, lawns can get tired and worn out. Heavy shade, high traffic areas, compacted soil and recurring pest infestations such as grubs can thin even the lushest turf.
One way to bring your lawn back to life is by over seeding. Because grass seeds need warmth and moisture to germinate, the best time to do this is mid to late spring or late August. Avoid the high temperatures and relative dryness of full summer. To do this you can hire a lawn care company to prepare your lawn and apply the seed, or you can do it yourself.
Reap what you sow
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, the first step is to buy the highest quality disease-resistant seed from a garden centre with a good reputation, giving you the best chance for success. Make sure it's not last year's seed, which will have a lower germination rate.
Pay attention to seed bag labels, which will tell you if you're buying the right grass blend for the area you intend to reseed. Some seed mixtures do better in shade, others in full sun. Still others are especially adapted to dry or moist conditions.
The most common mixtures include Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. Garden experts recommend staying away from mixtures that include a lot of quick-germinating annual ryegrass seed because one good harsh winter will kill the grass.
Laying the groundwork
Before you start sowing, be sure to properly prepare your lawn. The first step is to remove the old turf with a trowel or shovel, marking out the area you need to replace. Next, break up the soil underneath and enrich with organic material (such as rich compost or well-rotted manure) and level it with a rake.
Now you're ready to sprinkle your carefully-chosen grass seed across the area according to the package directions. Be sure to apply a topdressing layer of soil overtop of the new seeds to maximize moisture retention. Soil cover will also keep seeds from being blown away and protect them from hungry birds.
Over the next few weeks you'll want to make sure the newly seeded patches stay moist. If Mother Nature takes care of this chore for you, all the better. If not, get out the sprinkler or garden hose to keep your lawn evenly moist, but not soggy.
Once the grass germinates, let it grow to about 10 centimetres before cutting it.
Image Copyright: http://www.truehealth.org/
SPRING SOIL TILLING
Leeks are delicious in stews and salads, and of course, in sumptuously delicious leek soup. Mature leeks are also extremely cold hardy and can stay in the ground (well drained) all winter to add their fresh and incomparably delicious mild onion flavour to soups, salads and all manner of sauteed ingredients of our cuisine at any time they are needed and wanted.
We have two favourites; "Durabel", a mild, sweet variety which is excellent in salads, and "Winta", an extremely hardy leek with a strong leeky flavour, which is excellent for soups and stews. A common and oft encountered phrase in gardening is "... but well worth the trouble", and this applies to leeks, but only in their infancy. Once established, leeks grow like weeds.
It is in the establishing that we need to take some care. Leeks may be started indoors in February if giant leeks are wanted, in light fluffy potting soil, for easy transplanting. That is why we keep our propagating soil mix light and light, so the young seedlings may be lifted easily without losing all their fine feeder roots (see previous article).
Sow seeds about one half-inch deep, half an inch apart in rows about two inches apart. This is to allow them growing room as they should not be transplanted outdoors until the soil is dry enough to provide a nice, loose seedbed. This will vary with your location, usually anywhere between the beginning and the end of May. During he early part of the year, when days are short, leek seedlings will benefit greatly from and additional two to three hours of Grow-Lux or similar light. Keep the tops trimmed to three inches long to make stockier and sturdy plants for transplanting.
Now then; there are two methods of growing leek seedlings in the garden. One is in two-inch individual holes; the other is in an open trench. We prefer the trench method as it provides more light for the young seedlings. Choose the most well-drained area in your garden as the leeks may well stay in the ground until next spring in splendid health, if the ground does not get soggy with our winter rains.
With tiller or fork, work up a nice loose bed (which is not necessary if you've made raised beds as described here) about 10 inches deep. Excavate this to the width of a garden shovel, six to eight inches deep. Pile the lifted soil to the north or west of the trench, so there will be maximum light (their life-energy) in the trench. Sprinkle about 10 lbs. of well-rotted chicken manure in the bottom of a 10-foot row, or about five pounds of fishmeal for the same length of row. Mix this well with the soil at the bottom of the trench. Plant the seedlings about 4 inches apart in two staggered rows four inches apart. Spread the root hairs gently in all directions, and holding the seedling gently, lightly press about half an inch of soil over the roots, first on one side, then the other.
Water gently so as not to wash away the soil over the roots. Depending on the weather, water frequently for the first week to 10 days to keep the soil constantly moist. After this period they can be left alone, and nothing but a prolonged drought can harm them. From here on in, they will grow like weeds. As growth proceeds, keep filling in the trench with the excavated soil, keeping about three inches of top growth exposed. Be careful not to get any soil above the point where the leaves start to branch. You will find this soil again in your soup or your salad. If the leaf has not branched by the time it is completely above ground, the leeks can be hilled with additional soil for a longer white stalk.
Harvesting can begin in the fall when stalks are about one inch in diameter, and from then on can be dug as needed. Leeks keep on growing for a long time, even in mild spells in mid-winter, to as much as three inches in diameter, and sometimes even more.
Leeks may be sown outdoors in early May in the same manner as for transplants. They hardly ever get beyond the thickness of a pencil by fall, but will make additional growth by the next spring. In any case, leeks must be harvested before seed stalks appear the next season, when they become unpalatable, and their very special delicious flavour is lost. And that you can have garden-fresh leeks, straight out of the ground for six to 8 months, including all winter long, in my mind makes it "well worth the bit of trouble" of getting them started. Next we'll get into the rhubarb.
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Top 10 Natural Building Materials
New home construction comes at a tremendous expense to the planet. Building 1.7 million homes with traditional wood, steel and concrete frames consumes the same amount of energy as heating and cooling 10 million houses each year, according to the Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials. The environmental costs stem largely from the manufacture of the materials. Cement production, for example, requires an astounding amount of energy and results in water and air pollution and industrial waste that is usually not recycled. Using natural materials that require minimal processing or refining reduces these environmental impacts.
Natural building offers a way to construct a home with renewable, naturally occurring and locally available materials, as opposed to industrial or man-made products. Many of these materials are available throughout the world, so the costs and pollution associated with the transportation of these materials across the country falls. Using natural materials also reduce toxins in the home. As a bonus, many of these methods are energy efficient, inexpensive and easy to build with little construction knowledge. In this article, we'll look at 10 natural building materials that are being used today.
It's much easier to build with perfectly shaped bricks or slabs of concrete, but it's possible to build beautiful homes with locally available rocks. The rocks can be mortared with earthen plasters such as sand and clay or lime. Rock walls have very good thermal mass, which means that they absorb the outside temperature, hold it in and then radiate it through the home. Rock structures are extremely durable but very labor-intensive.
Thermal Mass vs. Insulation
Most earthen structures provide thermal mass, which is the ability to absorb, store and release heat energy. Insulation, on the other hand, stops heat from flowing in and out of the building. Thermal mass is best used in desert climates because of the difference in day and night temperatures, and the release of heat is cyclical. During a hot day, walls with thermal mass will absorb and store the sun's heat while the inside of the house remains cool. At night, when outside temperatures drop, the daytime heat stored in the walls radiates inward to warm the home. Thermal mass can be energy efficient since the house heats and cools itself, instead of relying on a furnace or air conditioner.
Sticks and straw spelled doom for some famous little pigs, but as we'll see, these natural building materials can create stable and sturdy homes.
9. Straw Bales
A couple building a post-and-beam straw bale home.
Straw bales provide an extremely strong building block for homes. They can act as the actual structural building block or as the fill for insulation in a traditional post-and-beam structure, where the frame supports the home, as opposed to the straw bale. After the bales are stacked, the walls are plastered. The thick walls provide excellent insulation and are about 75 percent more energy efficient than conventional homes. Contrary to what you may think, straw bale houses are not a fire hazard. Rather, they provide roughly three times the fire resistance of conventional homes. Because the bales are so tightly packed, there's no oxygen and no chance of combustion. To learn more about how to build a straw bale home, take a look at How Straw Bale Homes Work.
But if you'd rather leave the straw bales to the farmers, there are plenty of other options for natural building materials, including the next one that panda bears like to munch on.
Decorative bamboo has long been fashionable in home design, and bamboo floors are beginning to become popular in the United States. In Asia and South America, houses are frequently made out of the wood. Bamboo is an extremely strong wood, so much so that it's being used for highway and bridge construction in Asia.
This strong wood is a renewable resource because it's one of the fastest growing plants. It has a shorter growing cycle than timber, and harvesting bamboo does not affect the roots of the plant. Bamboo does have to be treated with some chemicals in order to ensure that it's waterproof and insect-resistant, and it requires some different building methods, particularly in joining different pieces of bamboo. However, bamboo is an extremely flexible building device because it bends, and it's immensely durable.
Bamboo isn't the only wood solid enough for building houses. If you use the natural building material described on the next page, you'll wind up with a home halfway between a castle and a log cabin.
If you like the look of log cabins, but are hesitant to go through that much lumber, cordwood building might be a good compromise. Cordwood building uses wood that is cut into short lengths, about the size of firewood, which might otherwise go to waste. You can check with local sawmills, furniture manufacturers and even log home builders to see if they have any scrap wood, or you can use dead trees.
The pieces of cordwood are laid into mortar so that the length of the log makes the wall. The ends of the log stick out of the mortar on either side. The mortars that are commonly used include mixes of cement, lime, clay, sand or sawdust. Cordwood is a natural building material that offers both good insulation and good thermal mass. The logs provide insulation that keeps heat in the building, while the mortar provides the ability to store and release heat into the building. The wood might expand or shrink over time and crack the mortar, but you can remedy this problem through caulking.
Over one-third of the world's population lives in earthen structures [source: Hunter, Kiffmeyer].
6. Rammed Earth
For many people, wood is neither affordable nor available, so resourceful builders use what they have: the ground beneath their feet. To build a rammed earth home, a mixture of soils is packed down into a temporary wall form that shapes the mixture. The form is usually wooden, and it must be strong enough to withstand the compression of the ramming. Ramming can either be done by hand or by machine, and once it's completed, the forms can be removed, leaving an earthen wall about 18 inches to 24 inches (46 cm to 61 cm) thick.
Rammed earth walls require a cross-grade of soils, but too much clay will cause the walls to crack. Walls can be plastered with stucco or left bare; bare walls usually are internally stabilized with a small percentage of cement. When properly constructed, rammed earth walls are extremely durable, holding up in bad weather, as parts of the Great Wall of China can attest. They also provide energy savings because of their thermal mass.
Challenges of Natural Building
One of the primary challenges of building a home with natural materials is getting it built in the first place. Natural materials are rarely, if ever, mentioned in building codes, and building officials may be unfamiliar with these methods of construction. Banks are hesitant to finance alternative methods, and it can be difficult to prove safety standards to insurers. While many of the materials lend themselves to do-it-yourself construction, it can be difficult to find contractors if backup or consultation is needed.
If you decide to pursue natural building, it's important to present strong research to officials. Sit down with building officials early and often and show off the advantages of natural building. Know where these materials work best, and find data on structural safety. Have consultants and specialists evaluate your plans. While gaining acceptance for an alternative building method might be difficult, it will pave the way for increased natural building in the future
If you prefer your earth neatly bagged rather than rammed, read on.
An earthbag home during construction
You may have seen pictures of flood barriers and military bunkers created out of stacked sandbags. With their ability to hold back rushing waters and protect soldiers, you can see how sandbags are inherently strong. Earthbag homes, which are made of polypropylene or burlap bags stuffed with dirt and stacked like bricks, are similarly strong.
But how do a bunch of dirt bags form a home? The dirt in the bags presses down after each layer is placed, and this compression makes the dirt into a kind of self-supporting brick. Barbed wire serves as the mortar between the layers, and the compression makes the dirt bricks so sturdy that even a stray hole won't affect the wall's durability. The walls are plastered to add to their durability. These homes usually have domed roofs, which are formed by stepping in the bags gradually until the bags come together to close the dome. Structural tests have shown earthbags to be seismically sound and able to withstand the elements.
If you happen to have a bunch of old car tires littering your landscape, you'll definitely be interested in the next natural building material we'll discuss.
An earthship home under construction
Michael Reynolds got the idea for earthships after watching a television special about the possibility of a looming garbage problem. Soda cans were made out of steel, so they weren't recycled, and Reynolds saw their potential as a building material. During the energy crunch of the 1970s, he discovered that packing dirt into recycled tires created good thermal mass. The earthship was born from these revelations [source: Cooper].
To build an earthship, you fill old car tires with earth and stack them like bricks. Because the tires are so thick, you don't need a foundation, and the tires are plastered after stacking. Internal walls are made from aluminum cans or bottles. These materials would otherwise be thrown away, but when assembled properly, they can save a good deal on heating and cooling costs. Earthships commonly are built right into the ground, with the exposed wall made out of tires pointed out to the sun.
To read about more earthen dwellings and how you can live underground, keep reading.
Earth-sheltered homes in Iceland.
It turns out hobbits had the right idea. Earth-sheltered homes, such as the underground dwelling of Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit," are energy efficient, soundproof and fire-resistant. They can also be built above ground, with the sides of the home or the roof covered with earth. Underground earth-shelters aren't completely dark; windows and openings provide heat and natural light.
Water drainage systems must be designed to channel the water away from the structure, and it's best to build earth-sheltered homes in soils that are permeable, which allows the water to drain, as opposed to a cohesive soil like clay, which will expand with the water [source: U.S. Department of Energy]. Soils also should be tested for their load-bearing capabilities. The construction materials for building the inside can be natural, including earthbag, rock, local wood or straw. An earthship is a type of earth-sheltered home.
If you want to get up close and personal with your building material, cob might be the way to go. Cob is a combination of earth and straw that you usually mix with your feet, and then form into lumps that you mash together by hand to form the wall. Cob comes from an Old English word meaning "a lump or rounded mass" [source: Smith, Evans].
Cob lends itself easily to creative, free-form construction that includes curvy shapes and sculptural forms, and it requires minimal tools or construction experience. When the cob dries, it's like concrete, thanks to the reinforcement of the straw; however, waiting for the cob to dry is essential before placing the next layer of cob lumps. Building on top of wet lumps will cause the building to sag, so cob building is very time intensive. Cob walls also cannot be built very high, but when completed, cob walls, like all of the earthen methods on this page, provide thermal mass that cools homes in the summer and warms them in the winter.
You may not have heard of many of these natural building materials before reading this article. After all, how many of your neighbors live in earthbag homes?
An adobe home with solar panels
Adobe is one of the oldest forms of building with earth, with examples all over the American Southwest, the Middle East, South America and Africa. Adobe is made by pouring a mix of clay, sand, water and sometimes straw into a form, most commonly a brick. The forms are left to dry in the sun, and then the forms are removed. This curing process can take some time, and it requires a continuously dry climate so that the bricks can solidify without getting wet. As the bricks dry, they shrink, so they should be inspected for cracking. Adjusting the ratio of clay and straw can help to prevent cracking; because the levels of ingredients vary widely among adobe bricks, it's best to make some test bricks to determine if they'll crack.
Adobe bricks are stacked just like conventional masonry and typically connected with a mud mortar. However, adobe walls are vulnerable to moisture and usually need large roof overhangs and elevated foundations in wet climates. In addition, adobe buildings are not a good idea in earthquake-prone areas, although concrete can be added to bricks to stabilize them.
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