Saturday, October 02, 2010

Some land, a new job . . . and a whole new (weird (??)) science . . .

Let me begin with the land, the property.

I don't know when this first came up. Quite a number of months ago.

Sarita said she was disgruntled with how we are invested for retirement. "You have money in conventional investments," she said. "That's okay. But I want some money invested in land."

More particularly, she wanted some land for some kind of end-of-the-world scenario family retreat. Kind of.

To be honest, even today, months later, I'm not really sure what her real goal was or is other than to "own some property." And she wanted me to make it happen.

I tried to write up her goals as best I could. (After all, how can one choose property if one doesn't know what the property is going to be used for?)

I don't know that my document was really all that helpful. But next thing I knew, Sarita was talking about the (empty, undeveloped) property next door to Amy and Phil over in Virginia.

"But we don't want to live in Virginia!" I protested. "We love Colorado!" (If you're a Virginian, please forgive my personal predilection for Colorado.) "We have no intention of moving to Virginia! We don't want to own a home there. . . ."

"But I want some property. And I would rather it were somewhere close to Amy and Phil than anywhere else. . . ." (Notice for anyone who may feel we are slighting our other kids: Justin hasn't really decided where he might settle. And our other two married children live right close by where we are. So, I imagine, if Sarita feels the need to "retreat" somewhere in an apocalypse, that would mean she would feel the need to move away from where we are--which means it would be away from where our kids other than Phil and Amy are. . . . So the property next door to Amy and Phil is attractive.)

"I want us to purchase that property," said Sarita.

"And then what? Just let it sit there?"

No answer.

"If we are going to own land, I don't want it simply to sit there, doing nothing. It has to be productive."

More silence.

I really wasn't interested in the property. It was Sarita's idea. . . . But guess who was sent to Virginia to check out the property and to negotiate a purchase?

Yep! Me.

As of sometime late in August, Sarita and I were able to come to an agreement with the (now, previous) owner, and as of early last month, we became the new owners of 57 acres of relatively undeveloped timber and farmland in Esmont, VA.

. . . And at the same moment, I think I got a new job as, more or less, manager of this new property.

And you know what? I'm pretty excited. I've got a whole new world to explore and study.



So on to the "whole new (weird(??)--certainly unexpected/out-of-the-ordinary!) science."

I think I've been moving in this direction slowly for quite some time. Maybe I began, ever so slightly, back several years ago when we discovered that Amy and Luke had some kind of strong reactions to wheat. Not allergic reactions in the anaphylactic sense of the term. But sensitivities nonetheless. Debilitating reactions that were not immediately nor obviously related to the ingestion of wheat until we (or, I should say, really, they--both Amy and Luke) took deliberate and careful steps wholly to eliminate wheat from their diets and then gently test to see whether reintroducing wheat caused certain symptoms.

It took several months, but eventually we--Sarita and I, our family--could not deny what we (or, rather, they) were experiencing.

And then there were the issues I've been dealing with. What I discovered about all the things conventional doctors don't talk about: my interactions with my rheumatologist (see this series of posts); discoveries about the interaction of wheat with my body that seems to exacerbate my rheumatoid symptoms; and so on and so forth.

But it's gone beyond that. The alternative medicine discoveries I've been making--about cholesterol (just for a minor example: average size and number of particles per volume of blood matters more than total volume of cholesterol; see also Marc's comment at the bottom of this post) . . . or about the interplay of autoimmune disorders and Grave's Disease and rheumatoid arthritis . . . or the things I mentioned a few days ago about thyroxine. --All this stuff, and my traditional/regular doctors seem totally oblivious.

But the drumbeat continues. There were discoveries not just about organic milk, but about (what aficionados want to call real milk, but what we will agree to call) raw milk from cattle fed solely on organic grasses and other forage rather than on grain.

And then, semi-finally, Amy and Phil took off for Virginia to start homesteading. And they have gotten deeper and deeper into some--what appears . . . or, rather, appeared--to be very "weird" views about food and food-growing.

"You don't want to eat non-organic foods."

"Stay away from GMO."

And my longevity and vitality doctor kept talking about the importance of eating organic. ("But it's so expensive!" I replied.)

And then, suddenly, maybe four months ago, Sarita, trained (though no longer licensed) dietitian that she is, and über skeptic, when it comes to foods, of everything that hasn't been thoroughly proven through double-blind scientific tests . . . --Sarita suddenly came out and said, "We are going to eat organic."

So we are eating organic.

(I ought to comment, here: We are eating organic, but--from my perspective--without as much pleasure as I would hope, especially considering the expense. So much of the fruits and vegetables we buy are so lacking in flavor! --But that is a subject I intend to return to in days to come. I am learning about these things and will be glad to share. . . .)

Meanwhile, now, I have begun to study how to turn our new farmland into something productive. . . . And I have been introduced to enough "weird" things that I have begun to follow the lead of Amy and Phil at least to check out what they are doing and advocating.

And so I am studying what practitioners call "biological farming" or, as one speaker I've listened to described it, organic farming "beyond zero-input"--what we might call stimulated or positive organic farming.


Sadly, so much organic agriculture seems to be defined by what farmers avoid or don't do. They don't add certain chemicals or 'cides (pesticides, herbicides, etc.) that aren't naturally present in the soil. But biological farmers--among whom I hope to take a place--seek to use scientific understanding wisely to manage the natural resources that are normally present in healthy soil--the natural elements (yes: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium--the stuff on which modern commercial agriculture is founded, but calcium, sulfur, boron, sodium, manganese, and all the other elements, too) and, almost more importantly, the microbes, the fungi, the protozoa, the worms, and so forth that are also present when soil is healthy.

Biological farmers avoid all the bad stuff, but they seek to add resources that may be missing. They don't sterilize the soil--as so many of the modern chemical agricultural products do. Rather, they bring the missing ingredients into the mix to encourage healthy growth and, thereby, push out the unhealthy.


I intend to say much more on this topic in the future, but I would like to pass on just this one story at least to whet your appetite.

It's from a lecture in which the speaker, Bruce Tainio, described some of the work he has done.

Early in his career, he said, he was a plant breeder. One of his jobs was to produce a mildew-resistant spinach. He did that and was successful. "But then, about a year and a half or two years later, I found that my mildew-resistant spinach had a new variety of mildew growing on it!" So he developed a new variety that was resistant to two types of mildew.

"After going through 13 varieties of mildew, I decided I was helping Mother Nature produce these strains of mildew . . . and I became frustrated as a plant breeder."

He said he began looking at the reasons plants get diseases and to see if he could develop some kind of testing mechanisms by which farmers could predict whether their crops were going to be attacked by pests or diseases.

Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he could do that by testing the pH in the petioles of plants.

After years of study, he said, he came to the conclusion that there is an optimal pH level for all living plants. The sap in the petiole should measure 6.4 on the pH scale. If they measure 6.4, you can sleep well because they will not suffer disease or attack from insects. If they are at 5, you have an 80% probability that the plants will suffer damage from disease or insect attack. If they are at 4, they are, without doubt, diseased.

That is what he said.
I had a group of grape growers from California who had studied my work on pH. They wanted to call me and tell me that I was incorrect. Maybe my theory applied to every other crop, but it didn't apply to grapes.

I said, "Why do you say that?"

"Well we are good grape growers. We have been grape growers for 40 years. There are five of us in our group. We have taken the pH of our plants, and the highest pH we could find in the tissue is 3.1. The average is 3."

I asked [my caller], "How many acres of grape plants have you replaced in the last five years because of phylloxera?"

The phone went silent for a minute. Then he said, "Well, yeah. We have replaced about 50% of our grapes right now and we are scheduled to replace them all eventually because the phylloxera really takes its toll on our grapes."

I said, "Well, that could be an indicator that you are wrong on your pH."

"Well, we have grown grapes for 40 years, and we know how to grow grapes."
End of story.

Grape growers right, or Tainio right?

Beyond that, why would pH have anything to do with disease or pest resistance?

Tainio noted that low calcium in a plant cell means there will be high hydrogen, hence low pH, and hence, susceptibility to disease and insect attack.
Low cell pH yields a high resonance frequency. . . . Hydrogen has a higher resonance frequency than does calcium, potassium, or sodium. . . . Diseases and/or insects come from low calcium in the plant cell, simply because it is helping to modify the frequency, the infrared frequencies, for insects to see. . . .

Calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and hydrogen: the balance in these five nutrients yields a pH of 6.4. Healthy, disease- and insect-free crops are the result of balancing these five and getting 6.4. I have never seen a disease or insect attack a 6.4 pH crop, period. If you have insects on a crop and bring it up to 6.4 through foliar nutrition, the insects will walk away. They won't even recognize that it's a crop. If you have diseases, the diseases will stop, period, if you bring it up to 6.4.

Why will the insects walk away? . . . One of the ways insects recognize crops . . . is through infrared. Infrared in the 720 nm range, we can't see. In the 660 nm range, we can see. . . .

[Similarly with insects.] When we balance the nutrition, we are holding the signature of that crop to a realm that the insects don't even know that it's there. They will fly right by. They won't even recognize it.

(There are other ways that they recognize crops, but this is one of the easiest to explain.)
Okay. More than enough for one post . . . and you get to know a little bit about some of the things I'm working on!
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