The Plant Destroyer


The plant pathogen genus Phytophthora, a water mold with similarities to a fungus, is a worldwide threat to ornamental and commercially valuable plants due to how it can develop undetected in the early stages of an infestation. While there are some species of Phytophthora that begin an infestation on the above ground portion of a plant, a much larger portion of the approximately 170 known species of the pathogen start out destroying a plant from within its roots. Phytophthora moves upward from the roots through the water channels of the plant, interfering with the plant’s ability to absorb water as it goes. The effect makes the plant appear drought-stricken, which is essentially the case.


One of the plants heavily afflicted by Phytophthora in the past 30 plus years has been the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao, and specifically the cocoa trees planted in western Africa, where most of the world’s cocoa beans are produced. The species of Phytophthora doing the most damage in that period has been Phytophthora megakarya, a disease that blackens the pods which contain the cocoa beans, rendering most of them unfit for consumption. This disease and a virus transmitted by mealybugs called cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV) in combination have decimated cocoa tree plantations in western Africa in recent decades.

Plant Disease Triangle
A Venn diagram showing the combination necessary for disease to form. This can apply to humans and animals as well as to plants. Illustration by Earlycj5.

Phytophthora megakarya was introduced from the Americas, where it had long co-existed with the native cocoa trees. The cultivated cocoa trees of western Africa had developed for generations without having to cope with infestations from megakarya, though they had long been contending with Phytophthora palmivora, a less devastating disease for them.

CSSV was native to the forest trees of western Africa, where it did little damage because of long term co-evolution of the trees with the virus. The introduced cocoa trees had no inherited defense against CSSV, resulting in afflicted cocoa trees losing vigor and dying within a few years. Meanwhile, the ants that farmed the mealybugs for their sugary secretions have ensured they continue to live safe from predators by guarding them, even building shelters for them.

Chocolate has grown steadily more expensive, at a rate beyond ordinary inflation, due primarily to shortages of cocoa beans caused by these pathogens. Another reason for chocolate price increases has been related to the salutary shift away from indentured labor on cocoa plantations, making the price more accurately reflect the true cost of production. The cost of production is bound to catch up with any resource as nature asserts itself in one way or another, or in many ways, and imagining that we are immune or insulated from the effects of that assertion is mere hubris and folly. Ultimately, we will pay the price.
— Izzy


Working Up a Sweat


We evolved to chase down game using a tactic known as perseverance hunting. Most land mammals evolved to run fast for short stretches, while we became uniquely adapted for endurance running. Perseverance – or persistence – hunting involves wearing down prey animals until they overheat and are no longer capable of evasion, or running them into traps of one sort or another from which the animals are too weary and bewildered to escape.


To keep ourselves from overheating during the long chase, we evolved to sweat through our skin, a process which carries heat away through evaporation. Sweating as a means of cooling is most efficient in dry air. In humid air our sweat does not evaporate readily, and consequently we seek alternative methods of cooling, such as finding shade or a pool or spray of cool water.

WNA Heat Wave Temp Anomaly
During the 2021 western North America heat wave, data from the NASA Earth Observatory shows temperature anomalies on June 27, 2021 as compared to the June 27 average from 2014 through 2020. Map compiled by Joshua Stevens.

All of this hunting and running and sweating expends energy, which works against our other evolved trait of conserving energy. We call expending energy “work”, and the conservation of energy “leisure” or “relaxation”, and sometimes “laziness”. We have attached attitudes to these words, and the attitudes follow the words as we adapt them to evolving circumstances.


Runners participating in the June 5, 2010 Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton Mud Run are cooled off by fire hoses at Lake O’Neill. During the event, runners traversed various obstacles, including a 30 foot long mud pit.

“Work” is typically not fun, and “laziness” is usually not productive. At least that is how many of us teach ourselves and our children to think of those activities or conditions. These ideas carry over to our feelings about exercise, especially when we undertake it primarily to fend off the detrimental health effects of a sedentary lifestyle. In that case, exercise is a chore, it is “work”. “Relaxation”, on the other hand, is pleasant. “Leisure” can be downright fun. Exercise can only be fun when it is the byproduct of play, as it is in sports.


Interestingly, we consider work virtuous, and leisure is something we gain in reward for work. Work first, play second. This would appear to make sense on the grounds that hunting procures calories to sustain ourselves. No work, no food. But that’s not entirely accurate. Hunting and running and sweating expends an awful lot of energy in the pursuit of gaining energy. Meanwhile, plants don’t run away. There is still work involved in obtaining calories from plants, just not as much as in bringing home a steak dinner. Maybe a life of gathering plants for food involves a bit more leisure than hunting down animals in order to gnaw on their flesh.


Unless through greed and a desire for an easy lifestyle for themselves the idea of producing a surplus of food is introduced by an aggressive minority of people. With control of the surplus comes wealth and control of the majority population. Some of the hunters, the most aggressive ones, set themselves up as the dominant members of the group, the tribe, the clan, as if it were in the natural way of things. Through it all winds the twin salient features of our species: Our near constant need for water, and our large brains.

Laos - Kuang Si waterfall 07 - beautiful swimming pool (6579632711)
Swimmers cool off in the Kuang Si waterfall and pool in Laos on August 4, 2011. Photo by McKay Savage.

We sweat because of muscle activity that generates heat, and to replace that sweat we require continuous replenishment by drinking water. Our large brains also generate heat, and they too need water regularly to remain productive. A prominent symptom of dehydration is impaired brain function, the same condition that affects animals run down in a hunt to the point of overheating. Our need for regular access to healthy drinking water makes us vulnerable to control by people who take it over. Who controls access to water, controls the populace.


Upper Table Rock (15701306787)
Overlooking the Rogue River Valley in southwestern Oregon on September 20, 2012. Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.


Having large brains enabled us to develop tools for successful hunting, and eventually tools for agriculture and animal husbandry that produced a surplus which allowed a minority to amass wealth and to exert control over the majority and their most vital resource, water. We were told that productive work generated from the sweat of our brows was good and honorable, the better to produce wealth and power for the minority. And somewhere along the line the conditions of work for the majority began to flip from sweaty, manual labor to sedentary, brainy employments. To keep their muscles from atrophying, they began to exercise, and it seemed like work, manual work, and exercise in service to that goal became a virtuous duty, all while their brains continued to proclaim their thirst.
— Izzy


Many More Than 57 Varieties


The Heinz “57 Varieties” slogan is well known but not well understood, which is just as well for a slogan, especially since it doesn’t mean anything particularly. The slogan was meant to evoke in the consumer’s mind a satisfied feeling that the H.J. Heinz Company offered them a lot of products, in great variety. People seem to want that feeling, and corporate America has been willing to oblige them.

Cherries - a "Heart" variety, illustration from The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemas Ward
An illustration of Cherries of the “Heart” variety from The Encyclopedia of Food, a 1923 book by Artemas Ward. In this case, the reason for enclosing the word “Heart” in double quotation marks has to do with reference to the shape of the fruit, not to a cultivar, in which case only single quotation marks would be the practice. Botanical nomenclature can be confusing.


Horticultural companies and plant breeders have tried to fulfill that desire as well, for a variety of reasons, from interest in making a profit from patented cultivars to academic interest in genetics and in improving plant varieties. To speak of cultivars and varieties is not to use two words for the same thing, since varieties are naturally occurring while cultivated varieties are cultivars, a portmanteau word. To create cultivars, however, companies and breeders often take advantage of naturally occurring varieties.

A cultivar is not always an improvement in the long run, as shown by rose bushes which cannot stay healthy without human intervention in the form of applying copious amounts of pesticides and fungicides, some of them environmentally costly, as well as expensive to purchase. It has been short-sighted to breed roses for traits like flower shape and fullness and repeat blooming at the expense of plant vigor. it has been unforgivable to lose fragrance in many rose cultivars along the path to achieving other less salient rose traits. What is a rose, after all?


Fortunately, most plant geneticists are not like Dr. Alphonse Mephesto, a fictional scientist who produced useless anomalies for the gratification of his own ego and morbid curiosity on the animated television show South Park. The Green Revolution of the 1950s through the 1960s was fueled by botanists in academia and the private sector working hard to forestall what they perceived as the imminent possibility of widespread starvation as worldwide population exploded.

Cutting cinnamon sticks, illustration from The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemas Ward
Cutting cinnamon sticks, another illustration from The Encyclopedia of Food, by Artemas Ward. Cinnamon identification has been confusing over the years, with several closely related plants being called cinnamon in the spice trade.

The Green Revolution scientists and horticultural companies did important work, even though the problem with alleviating hunger has rarely ever been horticultural primarily, but a problem of human greed and lack of empathy in the distribution of food and other resources. Abundant food rots in granaries and warehouses on one half of the world while the other half starves, often for no reason other than to enrich already wealthy speculators. It’s good to have a wealth of choices and to be able to choose a healthier plant over a weaker one, but what really needs changing are our choices about what to do with what we already have.
— Izzy


Marking Time


   Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers.”
   “If you knew Time as well as I do,” said the Hatter, “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. It’s him.”
   “I don’t know what you mean,” said Alice.
   “Of course you don’t!” the Hatter said, tossing his head contemptuously. “I dare say you never even spoke to Time!”
   “Perhaps not,” Alice cautiously replied; “but I know I have to beat time when I learn music.”
   “Ah! That accounts for it,” said the Hatter. “He won’t stand beating. Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock.”

— from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.


Did the new decade begin a few days ago, or more than a year ago? Sticklers for numerical accuracy would say the 2020s began on January 1, 2021. But for most people, referring to the decade in the course of everyday conversation, it makes more sense to speak of January 1, 2020, through December 31, 2029, as the 2020s. It’s awkward to claim the year 2020 is not part of the 2020s, while the year 2030 is the last year of the decade. This enumeration is technically correct, but it requires a tedious explanation every time it’s dragged out and it smacks of pedantry.

In the Christian system of marking time since the birth of Christ there was no Year Zero. Unlike the rest of us, whose lives begin at 0 and progress through the days, weeks, and months up to our first birthday, when we are said to be a one-year-old, by the accounting of two monks in the Middle Ages Christ started His time on Earth at the beginning of the Year One, Anno Domini (in the Year of the Lord). He was presumably nonetheless an infant for a time, and did not spring forth fully formed as a toddler, at least according to artists and theologians over the past two thousand years Christ was an infant first.

Illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for the 1865 edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. At the table for the Tea Party are Alice, the March Hare, the Dormouse, and the Mad Hatter.

There has been confusion ever since in our decimal system of counting the years as units of ten, one hundred, and one thousand years tick over. Recall the most recent change of century and the confusion over whether the 21st century began on January 1, 2000, or January 1, 2001. Without a Year Zero to fall back on two thousand years ago, the correct year to anoint as the beginning of the New Millennium was 2001. Looking back from the Year 2000 would, despite it’s name, take one back only one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine years. It’s as if Time were a bank teller whose true accounting for a check’s amount came from reading the numbers spelled out in alphabetical characters, and not the Arabic numerals in the box to the right. And that supposes there are still a significant number of people around in this New Millennium who use and understand written checks.

So yes, there are discrepancies. Not that they matter much to most people: it’s not as if there is real money at stake from missing appointments and having communication failures. Those dates and times have a finer point to them than the decades that roll by, as Alice knew when she disputed with the Mad Hatter the necessity of broad markings of time on a watch. A watch is for marking seconds, minutes, and hours, and a calendar is for marking days, weeks, and months. Nature, however, continues to mark the time for all on the broadest possible scale and, for those who pay attention, on the smallest scale imaginable.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash perform “Wasted on the Way”, a song written by Mr. Nash.

Stroll through Nature and you will note that Time is subjective, and different creatures and plants exist on different scales. A hummingbird lives at a pace unimaginably fast to us, but of course the hummingbird is adjusted to its own timescale. To a hummingbird, we must appear to be moving in slow motion. The opposite may be the case for a giant redwood tree, if it can be said to have perceptions. To the redwood, we are perhaps like hummingbirds. We lose sight of Nature’s timekeeping, and instead give undue importance to our own arbitrary social constructs for timekeeping. The middle ground from seconds to years suits us well on the timescale of our lifespans, which are not as short as that of hummingbirds nor as long as that of giant redwood trees. Take the time to stroll through Nature, and leave the watch behind.
— Izzy


Sing a New Song

A white-crowned sparrow in Sacramento, California, in January 2017. Photo by ADJ82.

Researchers studying white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) in the San Francisco area this past spring during California’s coronavirus shutdown found that the males had changed their song, presumably because it was easier for them to make themselves heard on account of the drop in human-caused noise. The birds no longer had to trill high and loud to pierce through the cacophony. The researchers noted that the calmer, quieter environment allowed the males to use a wider range of sounds in their calls, increasing their chances of mating success since the females find the wider range, with more low frequency notes, more appealing. The white-crowned sparrows in the Bay Area benefited from the reduction in human activity, and there have been similar stories from around the world this past year of animals enjoying a world less in conflict with people.

A video from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology of a male white-crowned sparrow singing.

Eaux Claires is a social activist group in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, that also hosts an annual music festival. This video of the singer, Feist, covering the Yusuf/Cat Stevens song “Trouble”, was filmed on November 1, 2020, as part of the group’s efforts to encourage people – particularly young people – to vote in the November 3rd election.

The political events of the past week in the United States herald a calmer, quieter environment to come, one in which everyone can be heard, not just those who tweet the loudest in ALL CAPS on social media, sowing hatred and tumult. Through the majority of their votes, Americans elected to step back from the brink of authoritarianism. While a disturbing number of their fellow citizens voted their support for climate destruction, white supremacy, and a sneering contempt for the rights of women and minorities, thankfully a greater number turned out to vote in favor of progress down the road of reason and empathy, not continuing on a death march. Those voters, many of them young people voting for the first time, have given all of us another chance to sing a new song.

“Oh Very Young”, a 1974 song by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. The haunting backup vocal was performed by Suzanne Lynch.

Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens performs “Oh Very Young” in December 2008.

— Izzy

Song of the white-crowned sparrow as recorded by Jonathan Jongsma for the Xeno-canto Foundation in April 2012 in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, California.


An Underground Kingdom


Mycorrhizal fungi are almost entirely underground, with only their fruiting bodies – mushrooms – appearing briefly above ground to sporulate and then disappear. We may think the mushrooms are the most notable part of the Kingdom of Fungi, but that would be like thinking there is little to consider about plants other than their flowers and fruits. It turns out the underground parts of many plants – their roots – could hardly survive without the symbiotic relationship they have developed over 450 million years with the mycelium of mycorrhizal fungi.


The mycelium is made up of numerous filaments called hyphae, and it is the hyphae that interact with plant roots to facilitate the plant’s uptake of water and mineral nutrients, for which in return the hyphae receive sugar and carbohydrates from the plant’s roots. Unlike plants, fungi cannot produce their own food. Mycorrhizal fungi secure food through this mutually beneficial exchange with plants. This has been known for quite some time. But there is something else going on that scientists only recently discovered, something they call the Wood Wide Web.

Scaly Hedgehog mushrooms, Sarcodon imbricatus, found in coniferous woods in the district of Eggingen in the city of Ulm in southern Germany. Photo by H. Krisp.

Mycorrhizal network
Mycorrhizal fungi are in a symbiotic relationship with autotrophic plants. The relationship is usually mutually beneficial, the fungus providing the plant with water and minerals from the soil and the plant providing the fungus with photosynthesis products. Some fungi are parasitic, however, taking from plants without providing benefits. Conversely, some mixotrophic plants connect with mycorrhizal fungi to obtain photosynthesis products from other plants. Finally, saprotrophic fungi live on dead organic matter without establishing a symbiosis with plants. Illustration and explanation by Charlotte Roy and Salsero35.

An underground network of connected mycelia and roots can span thousands of acres, and through it plants such as trees can send chemical signals to other trees. In effect the trees in a forest can be said to be communicating with each other through their underground social network, facilitated by miles upon miles of mycorrhizal fungi mycelia and hyphae. It is not unlike the system of pipes of varying diameter underlying a city, where some pipes deliver water or water-borne materials, while others carry communications between the inhabitants above ground.

“The Wood Wide Web”, a segment of the PBS NOVA web series Gross Science, produced and presented by Anna Rothschild.

Are the trees sentient? Are mushrooms aware of their part in the bigger picture during their brief look around above ground before they produce spores and collapse back into the fecund earth? Of course not. But assemble all the parts, adding pieces as in a jigsaw puzzle, and it does indeed seem the Earth itself is a living thing called Gaia. This awareness, lost to us for centuries, is now returning dimly, though it was always there for those prepared to observe carefully the natural world, such as how a plant wrenched from its native soil and potted with great attention to its needs still rarely thrived as it would have had it been allowed to stay at home. The newly potted plant receives all it requires in water and mineral nutrients; yet in isolating the plant from its underground social network can it be said, perhaps only fancifully, to be lonely?
— Izzy


They Might Be Mites


Of all the ills afflicting bees, giants of a sort may not be among them, but mites may be implicated in their decline. If you believe the sort of giants that may be afflicting the bees worst of all, which is to say pesticide manufacturing giants such as Bayer and Syngenta, the primary culprits to blame for bee colony declines are not their neonicotinoid pesticides, but rather Varroa mites. The mites afflict honey bees, weakening them as they feed on the bees’ fat reserves and injecting viruses into the bees through their sucking mouth parts.


But all manner of bees and other pollinating insects are declining around the world, not just the honey bees that are afflicted with Varroa mites. Neonicotinoid pesticides work systemically by being absorbed into every part of a plant, including the flowers, attacking the nervous system of whatever invertebrate feeds on the plant, including the flowers. As the name suggests, neonicotinoids are derived from nicotine, a poison found in tobacco and other plants in the nightshade family.

Nicotine has long been applied topically to plants and insects as a pesticide. Japanese chemists synthesized Imidacloprid, the first neonicotinoid, in the 1980s. In the 1990s, Bayer began large scale manufacturing and distribution of the pesticide, which was an advance over plain nicotine on account of its solubility in water and consequent ability to disseminate systemically throughout a plant for long-term protection from insect feeding, rather than being restricted to the temporary effects of topical application.

Bombus lapidarius queen - Echium vulgare - Keila
A red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) queen feeds on the flower of a blueweed (Echium vulgare) in Keila, northwestern Estonia. Photo by Ivar Leidus.

It’s interesting then that the pesticide manufacturing giants have followed the lead of Big Tobacco in muddying the research waters regarding their products. In the previous century, the tobacco industry fought efforts by researchers and regulators to fully inform the public of the dangers of tobacco use, generally by spreading the spurious claim that there was more doubt about the issue than there really was, and by persuading a vocal minority of clinicians and media flacks to side with them. This model has since been followed by the fossil fuel industry in denying the human causes of climate change.

A 2013 cover by Circe Link and Christian Nesmith of “Your Move” by Yes. One could choose to hear the lyrics in the background chorus as “Give bees a chance” instead of “Give peace a chance”.

Now, after scientists and environmentalists sounded the alarm about neonicotinoids in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the pesticide giants have adopted the same methods, and their fall guy, as it were, is the lowly Varroa mite, a creature difficult to like in any scenario. Bayer and Syngenta and the rest have been aided and abetted in their disinformation campaign by the current presidential administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, an agency rendered ineffectual in protecting the environment by the hiring of right wing ideologues who are all too eager to sow goodwill among multinational corporations by not allowing the collapse of bee populations to get in the way of reaping enormous sums of money. After all, what are friends for?
— Izzy


Money to Be Made


Garden centers around the country are very busy with the spring rush, and some may be even busier than in a normal spring on account of the many people who are staying at home due to coronavirus lockdowns and have more time on their hands than usual for gardening and home improvement projects. In most cases the garden centers can maintain social distancing through written reminders posted throughout their facilities, and by setting up physical barriers and limiting the amount of shoppers on the grounds at any one time. Social distancing at a garden center is probably most difficult to maintain in the confines of greenhouses.


Amanda Tapping, actress on the Stargate series of television programs, visited the Arctic in March 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Jeff Gossett, of the Arctic Submarine Laboratory. Note the ice crystals formed on the outside of her face mask by her humid exhalations.

Staff at garden centers may try to diligently follow an advertised policy of wiping down surfaces with disinfectants, but that is not always possible considering shortages of disinfectant supplies and the inherently dirty environment around potted plants and associated materials. Management may require staff to wear masks whenever they are dealing with the public, citing CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Many customers wear masks voluntarily, while others are encouraged to do so by posted reminders. Few garden centers or other retail establishments go to the controversial length of prohibiting customers from visiting their premises without a mask.

Social distancing and disinfecting of surfaces are reasonably effective measures in countering the spread of a virus that is only one micron wide; wearing a mask is far less effective, at least when it is the kind available to the average citizen. Yet somehow mask wearing has become the definitive symbol of the coronavirus pandemic, as if it were just as important and useful as the other two measures, perhaps more so. It has certainly become an important symbol for virtue signaling. The problem is not that wearing a mask is bad, because it isn’t; the problem is that it encourages far too many people to attribute to it nearly magical properties that the typical surgical mask simply does not possess, contributing to a false sense of security.

The reason masks have become the symbol of the coronavirus pandemic is money. Wearing a mask in public makes it possible to re-open businesses for people to visit, with consumers sure in the dubious knowledge they are not spreading the virus to others in their proximity. More importantly than its real effectiveness, wearing a mask is a sign to others that you are going about your bit as a consumer safely and responsibly. No doubt it is a good thing to get people back to work making money for themselves and their families, particularly in the case of working class people who were ill prepared to stay at home for weeks or months without income.

A brief, entertaining overview of magical thinking.

To that limited extent, the promotion of mask wearing by the CDC, probably under pressure from the White House to get the economy moving again, has been a decent nostrum. If people feel safer going out to stores when they are wearing a mask and the shopkeepers are also wearing masks, then fine, for as far as that goes. But people should not lose sight of other more effective, less publicly identifiable measures, such as keeping your distance and cleaning hands and surfaces regularly, or just continuing to stay home as much as possible. Wearing a mask does not suddenly entitle one to get up in someone else’s face, for good or ill. Wearing a mask may be helpful while shopping at a greenhouse for supplies for a coronavirus garden. Greenhouses can be tight quarters, but everywhere else at a garden center, inside or outside, that mask you’re wearing and perhaps entrusting too much with your safety and that of others is scant protection that doesn’t amount to much if you’re aren’t taking more effective, less magical measures to keep the virus from spreading.
— Izzy


Spilt Milk


“Oats. n.s. [aten, Saxon.] A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.”
— from A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson.

The detrimental effect on the dairy industry of lockdowns state governments have instituted in reaction to the coronavirus could have long term consequences, tipping the balance abruptly toward greater production of plant derived milks, butters, and cheeses. Traditional dairy has been losing market share to plant derived dairy for decades, with losses getting larger especially in the past decade. Now loss of revenue due to coronavirus lockdowns of schools and restaurants could mean bankruptcy for many dairy farms and a long term shift toward lower production as traditional dairy transforms into a lesser role.

There will no doubt always be demand for traditional dairy products, but if supermarket shelf space is an indicator of what consumers want, then plant derived milks have taken the largest chunk of shelf space away from traditional dairy, while butters, and particularly cheeses have been less competitive. The consumption of animal milk products has always been a peculiarly human practice. The desire for milk and associated products is so great that people will go to great lengths to produce and consume ersatz milk derived from nuts and grains. It is beyond the scope of this article to investigate why that is; it is enough merely to point out that consumption of milk fulfills for many people a deep-seated need, a need met for all other mammals in infancy, and then forgotten.


Hafermilch aus dem Bio-Supermarkt
Different brands of oat milk available in a German organic supermarket in September 2015. Photo by Fretdf.

“Milk. n.s. [meelc, Saxon; melck, Dutch.]
1. The liquor with which animals feed their young from the breast.
2. Emulsion made by contusion of seeds.”
— from A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson.

It follows then that animal milk production for human consumption is an artificial activity, consequently involving some pain and suffering by the animals, both mothers and their artificially weaned young. We have done these things for so long, for centuries going back ten thousand years or more to the beginning of agriculture, that we think the activities are natural. They are not. The closest parallel in the rest of the animal kingdom can be seen with how ants tend to aphids in order to secure for themselves the aphids’ honeydew secretions. Those secretions are not intended for consumption by the aphids’ young, however, but are merely a byproduct of their ingestion of plant juices. The relationship is closer – but not entirely the same – as our relationship to honey bees than it is to our relationship with dairy animals. The relationship we have with dairy animals is mere exploitation, closer to that of vampire bats with their prey, or to bloodsucking insects with their victims, or even to a virus with its host.
— Izzy


Ah, Floriferousness!


“‘Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.'”
— said by the flower in The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

This year it’s finally time to turn as much as you can of your lawn over to flowers. Go ahead and do it. If a homeowners’ association stands in the way, perhaps it’s time to reconsider being a member of such an uptight organization. Where zoning ordinances favor grassy lawns over flowers tall and short, crawling and upright, push to the limit and grow flowers right up to the curb. Your neighbors may grumble about your yard’s new look, or they may be pleased. You’ll never know unless you grow it the way you want.

Doorgang in muur. Locatie, Chinese tuin Het Verborgen Rijk van Ming. Locatie. Hortus Haren 01
The Moon Gate of the Chinese garden, in the Hidden Realm of Ming within Hortus Haren, one of the oldest botanical gardens in The Netherlands. Photo by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma. Not a blade of grass in sight!


If you live in the countryside, you may already be familiar with the joy of minimal mowing and maximal flowering plants because neighbors and public officials are less likely to impose on you their views of how you should care for your land. In the cities and suburbs the situation is different, as is well known by too many people forced to spend too much of their time with lawn mowers and weed whackers. Push back! Where there had been 75 percent lawn and 25 percent flower bed, flip that this year and blanket over half the yard in flowers.

Plant densely with flowers so that weeds have a difficult time taking over. Use walkways, stone edges, benches and other features to define the space so that it doesn’t appear to your neighbors and public officials to be an undifferentiated meadow which will spew weed seeds onto the rest of the neighborhood. Busy bodies have an easier time accepting flower borders than meadows. It’s just that your yard will be mostly flower borders, and very little lawn, maybe none if you can arrange it and it suits you. Go ahead and do it. Surround yourself this year in floriferousness.
— Izzy


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