May 24, 2009

A busy couple of weeks

I had an acquaintance and his girl friend from BC move in and settle in to the farm last week, with the intention of staying for the summer, but they have moved a farm with a bigger bathroom, or some unspoken reason, and it was a bit of a setback for a few days because it was so good to have the help and company. I'm practiced at dusting off and getting on with things and it hasn't hurt that the sun has has been generous to my garden seedlings, that germination looks good on the early planting (I'll try and climb to the top of the barn to get a "bird's eye" view and post some pictures) and that my first market this saturday was a fun, happy day - I sold all my food (salad, ruby chard, baby beets, easter egg radish) and many of the flats of bedding plants.

nanosilver we get it yet?

Food storage material silver nanoparticles interfere with DNA replication fidelity and bind with DNA
Wenjuan Yang et al 2009 Nanotechnology

"The results showed that the replication fidelity of the rpsL gene was differentially compromised by all three kinds of nanosilver particle compared with that without nanosilver. This assay could be expanded and applied to any other materials to preliminarily assess their potential long-term toxicity as a food additive or biomedical reagent. Moreover, we found that nanosilver materials bind with genomic DNA under atomic force microscopy, and this might be an explanation for the compromised DNA replication fidelity".

May 18, 2009


A neighbour has decided not to plant GMO corn this year and I was so happy I conceded to mow the front lawn and left some flowering weeds in a heart!

May 11, 2009

seasoned workers

I was down the valley yesterday on errands and observed, as I drove by some farm fields, that the Jamaican farm workers are back!
What I see from the truck are little vignettes, but the snapshots are telling: in a strawberry field, 4 men all bundled up for the wet and the cold, rows of new plants and mulch, the one white man pointing instructions... further down the valley at a large nursery white folks busy with seed flats, someone driving forklift, and there, 3 black men with shovels digging a pond or huge pit, knee deep in the muck with buckets of mud.

The work that needs hands out in the full rain, and long repetitious labours in the beating sun of summer. For the tedious, the laborious, those lonely disagreeable or lowly farm labours we have the "foreign" workers.

But here's the best kept secret - free self-directed thinking and attentive nurturance are intrinsic to the job. No one is as free as a seasoned farm worker.

Last fall, I was in Canning on a Saturday evening and passed by a cluster of Jamaicans in town for a saturday night: a half dozen bikes, a ghetto blaster and a party of a dozen on the corner of the small Nova Scotian town.
Whether the local was by choice or for lack of a party house I'm not sure, but I think it would be fun to hire a Jamaican for the summer just so this could possibly be the party house on a saturday night.

May 6, 2009

What's on IRRI's table?

A photo essay by GRAIN

"The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is one of the 15 international agricultural research centres that come under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It was set up in 1960 in the Philippines with funds from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation. GRAIN staff visited IRRI in March 2009 at a time when it is at the crossroads. It was set up to support 'poor rice farmers' in Asia, build capacity of the national agricultural research centres (NARS) in various 'developing' countries and then fade away. Turning 50 in 2010 it is still very much alive though its beginning to show shades of grey. After a mid-life funding crisis, it has set about doing its 'make-over' with much closer ties to the private sector."

NDP: Conservatives must pull approval for genetically modified alfalfa

New Democrat critic calls for protection for the integrity of this vital crop

OTTAWA – New Democrat Agriculture critic, Alex Atamanenko, today challenged the Conservatives to reverse the environmental and health approvals for genetically modified (GM) alfalfa that have been awarded to Monsanto. He was joined by Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator for the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), a coalition of 18 groups, and spokesperson for the "No to GMO Alfalfa" campaign which is endorsed by 80 groups.

Read the NDP press release

May 5, 2009

A primer on pesticide propaganda

"Since the recent streak of municipal pesticide bans were put into place across Canada, the pesticide industry has been on the defence. Represented by trade association CropLife Canada, the public relations strategies used by the industry were front and centre at the association's September 2007 conference in Saskatoon, which Deconstructing Dinner host Jon Steinman attended.

But how is the media presenting those messages?

Deconstructing Dinner explores the messages coming from industry and Canada's regulatory bodies; it examines research on the pesticide and cancer connections; it digs deep into the care that agricultural migrant workers receive when working within our borders; and it challenges one of the most frequently used arguments -- "Without pesticides, the world would go hungry!"

Check out A Primer on Pesticide Propaganda on Deconstructing Dinner

Germany joins the Euro bt corn blockade

Germany joins 5 other European countries to ban bt corn (Mon 810)

The press seem to want us to think Monsanto will win in court:

"Germany has banned the cultivation of GM corn, claiming that MON 810 is dangerous for the environment. But that argument might not stand up in court and Berlin could face fines totalling millions of euros if American multinational Monsanto decides to challenge the prohibition on its seed".

But there is growing evidence that bt toxins are dangerous in aquatic systems - studies that had never been done and that, interestingly, also reveal new proof of the stupidity of "substantial equivalence". see for example Testing Time for Substantial Equivalence: Daphnia magna survival and fitness reduced when fed MON810 (Bt Cry1Ab) maize

And for the story on Germany's ban, read Monsanto Uprooted, Spiegel online

May 3, 2009

stirling steam engine on small solar collector

Engines available here

and here is a great link to a collection of blueprints if you want to build your own steam engine

May 2, 2009

why we should call it swine flu

"Dr. Raul Rabadan, a professor of computational biology at Columbia University, said six of the strain's eight genetic segments are purely swine flu and the other two are bird and human but have lived in pigs for the past decade.

"It's clearly swine," said Henry Niman, president of Recombinomics, a Pittsburgh company that tracks the evolution of viruses. "It's a flu virus from a swine. There's no other name to call it."

Will flu name change put pigs back in a good eye?
World Tackles A/H1N1 Flu, China View