Welcome to my Keeping Each Other Well Blog!

January 10, 2012

Ticks set off CSS

May 7, 2015

Despite our singularly cold winter, with signs that more moose calves have survived, Deer ticks seem to be more abundant than ever. Four ticks hopped on me during yesterday’s hike in the woods and set off a round of CSS (Can’t Stop Scratching.) We were hiking on Black Cap Mountain, enjoying the yellow wood violets, wild oats, spring beauties, and painted trilliums and stopped for lunch at a panoramic viewpoint of the Presidentials on a grassy knoll.

The local tick population must have been ecstatic with so many hosts to choose from and no one had liquid soap on hand to apply with a cotton ball so the ticks would fall off in 15-20 seconds. We knew enough not to squeeze the ticks to remove them so there was a lot of nail maneuvering to pick off the offenders.

To know what we’re dealing with and how to prevent bites, it helps to understand the life cycle of the Deer tick and what it needs to survive. The tick gets its name because the preferred host is a deer. Adult ticks feed on the deer’s blood, mate and, once the female eggs are fertilized, both the male and female die and drop to the ground where the eggs hatch to larva. The larva seeks a new host, a mouse or whoever is handy. The larvae molt to nymphs and continue to feed on mouse blood and other small mammals. Ticks are usually found on grasses, waiting for other victims, like us and deer, to pass.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control recommend DEET, Picaridin, and Permethrin for insect repellants. All are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. In the past, readers responded that 7% or 30% DEET had not served as a protection from tick bites for them. Products with 99% DEET, commonly used by hunting and fishing people seemed to have more success. However, Permethrin is the insecticide that people are finding effective against tick bites. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide made from the flowers of a species of the Chrysanthemum plant. Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide whose chemical structure is based on natural pyrethrum. As an insecticide, it is currently sold as a 0.5% Permethrin Pump Spray.

When used as directed, Permethrin appears to have no harmful effect on the environment. It is NOT used on the skin. It is sprayed on your clothes (shirt, pants, socks, everything but your underwear) and one treatment will last up to six launderings or six weeks before clothing has to be treated again. You need to wash the sprayed clothes between wearings or check the product label for specific instructions.

Other readers have found Permethrin Tick Tubes to be effective, especially if you live in a wooded/grassy area, have pets, and need protection right in your own yard. Tick Tubes are designed for the little critters. The tubes are biodegradable cardboard tubes filled with permethrin-treated cotton balls. Mice gather the cotton for their nests. Deer ticks intending to feed on the mice are then killed when the mice return to their nests. However, the mice and other mammals are not harmed. Put these tubes around your yard and the mice will love you for it. Caution needs to be taken that children do not take them apart out of curiosity and handle the cotton.

If you are interested in purchasing either of these products, check your local camping or hunting supply store. Otherwise, both products are available on line.

IMPORTANT CAUTIONS: DEET comes in varying strengths and preparations, in roll-ons, sprays and liquid. If applied to the skin (which hikers and gardeners often do,) it needs to be thoroughly washed off with soap and water when home safely. DEET is potentially toxic. Body checking, especially the head and hairline, remains a must. Our heads have a rich supply of blood just under the surface. Check and re-check each other after time spent in tick-infested areas, especially if near grasses; get out of your clothes, do a complete body check, and shower well. Wash clothes to avoid spreading ticks to your home. Check pets routinely. Walk on the center of trails and save bushwhacking for winter. And don’t sit on a nice soft clump of grass to eat your lunch!

Permethrin is ONLY applied to clothing, NEVER to the skin. It is highly toxic to humans but safe when applied to clothing and not when clothing is being worn. For safety, clothing is sprayed according to specific directions on the bottle and left to dry for 2 hrs. before wearing. One reader has a separate bag he stores Permethrin sprayed clothes in between wearings.

A Deer Tick may only be the size of a sesame seed but if it has been sucking your blood, it will swell up much larger. If you are bitten and the tick has been on you for more than 24 hrs, or if you develop a fever, chills, headache, muscle & joint pain, fatigue, rash or any other symptom that seems odd for you, bring yourself and the tick to your health provider.

Time to spread the word and send in suggestions for what works for you. Thanks!

The Value of Seeing Others Happy

May 1, 2015

I just read Russ Roberts’ eye-opening book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. The book is about Adam Smith’s real message to us. Smith, who wrote, The Wealth of Nations, a book that seemed to be the backbone of what has evolved as our US business model, had something far more potent in mind than the idea of creating corporate monopolies.

Smith wrote an earlier book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, detailing his philosophy on the futility of pursuing money with the hope of finding happiness. Rather, it is our interest in the good fortune of others that brings us pleasure.

It is not enough to make a lot of money, get ahead and acquire. We need to sense that we are contributing to the health and well-being of others, that the way we make our money must not leave others miserable.

This week, signs that we are waking up, are encouraging. Lisbon’s zoning board denied the asphalt company’s move to relocate in Lisbon because the town has a rule that no pollution can result from plant operations. The Army Corps of Engineers has just told Canadian hydropower that it has to bury it’s VT/NY line deeper to meet safety regulations, which will raise the cost possibly beyond what Canada is willing to pay for someone else’s safety.

People are signing up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships that assure them GMO-free produce this season. More organic produce is being offered at grocery stores. Workshops on composting, and planning home gardens are lining up. Northern Pass Opposition, now in it’s fifth year, is growing stronger as Hydro Quebec’s empty promises unfold. Plymouth Village Water and Sewer District (PVWSD) has followed the Bristol Library’s lead with a solar array.

More research is coming in that documents the effects of GMO seed, food and pesticides that erode the health of humans, animals and wildlife. Follow-up studies document a return to health when GMO-free food is resumed (see Jane Goodall, Seeds of Hope).

Harry Hintlian, who vacations in our area, manages Reforest The Tropics (RTT), a UN sanctioned carbon sequestration program in Costa Rica to replant the rainforest. These scientifically planted forests absorb over 10 times the amount of carbon dioxide compared to temperate zone forests. This project is supported by companies committed to 100 percent balancing of their carbon footprint.

Bottom line is: how can our efforts bring a better deal for everyone? Therein lies the possibility for real happiness.

Trees are talking. Are we listening?

April 4, 2015

Have you ever wondered What Plants Talk About? If that sounds like too far out a question, check out the video by that title on pbs.org and enjoy a fascinating surprise! I was amazed to hear that we only see a third of the forest above ground. Below is a mind-blowing family network of roots and fungi working together in the two-thirds of the forest that is underground. We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and the bigger the tree, the more it absorbs.

The surprise for me was seeing and hearing about the network of fungi that coat all the roots and are part of a huge underground internet for fungus and tree families. And carbon is sucked down deep into their roots to be stored. Mother trees then send the bulk of the carbon as food to their young sprouts. Fungi cover the roots and bring in organic nutrients to the trees while the trees feed carbs to the fungi – symbiosis at its finest.

Because trees are capable of sucking up massive amounts of carbon dioxide, the more trees we have, the better our chances to decrease global warming. Energy problems invariably bring us to the realization that trees are key to our survival and cannot be exploited. Trees provide us with oxygen, heat, furniture, paper, tools, shade, and habitat for birds, squirrels, tree frogs and other members of the wildlife family. They also serve as holding tanks for water reserves and keep the land around them alive.

I just gave Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse, another read. I hoped to understand the pattern that caused so many civilizations to collapse. I hoped to learned something to enlighten us lest we end up another collapsed civilization. In all of the collapsed civilizations, deforestation was a factor or the major factor. In this information age, we are the first civilization to have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Here’s the pattern that historically puts deforestation in motion: there was always a competitive streak among chiefs, priests, and rulers to outdo each other. Easter Island rival chiefs tried to do so with bigger and bigger statues. They cut down forests to provide the necessary staging to move the statues once completed. The last thing they did was to destroy each other’s statues. Having already destroyed their trees, they also destroyed wild life, water supply and soil, which led to starvation and cannibalism.

We have a big medical system, big food companies, big agricultural conglomerates, big pharmacy, and big energy competitors. Their precedence threatens our trees, water, and soil. Finding out what worked and didn’t work in other cultures can help us make better choices for our future.

Significantly, Japan has 73% of its land mass under forest management. Perhaps this has allowed the Japanese to recover from such devastating catastrophes.
As we reset our priorities this month, Earth Day can have special significance for us if we plant a tree as a symbol of our commitment to make saving our forests a top priority to keep each other well.

Wake Up Calls for Health

March 26, 2015

We seem to be wasting valuable time and energy needed to move forward with renewable energy alternatives. We barely hold one entity at bay when another rears its greedy head.

This week we learned that a NH asphalt plant is trying to relocate to Lisbon from an isolated sand pit in Dalton. The Lisbon location is near residences and businesses that would suffer from both the plant’s noise pollution and toxic fumes that are research-documented as carcinogenic.

Time was when three squares, enough sleep, and exercise were the commonly held prerequisites of robust health. Today, we learn that toxic fumes, noise pollution, water pollution, electromagnetic ray pollution and much more need our constant surveillance and local control to assure a reasonable shake at our health. We cannot count on most of our elected officials to safeguard the big picture.

Our regulating bodies need catch-up time. Our social activities increasingly revolve around gathering together to wake each other up or face a potential demise. We have the Northern Pass Opposition, the Iberdrola Wind Farm Opposition, the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Opposition, and now the Presby Asphalt Plant Opposition

We have Northern Pass Opposition to an energy supplier that continues to disrupt families and neighbors who struggle to stay alert to the dangers and future costs and threat to our health that this power line is set to charge.

We have Kinder Morgan’s Gas Line Opposition gatherings concerned about noise, water pollution, and financial bleeding that awaits us. Nine towns the line would go through have vetoed the project. Who is listening?

Asphalt production is not something that needs to be expanded for the future. We need to develop surfaces that are water permeable so that rain and runoff is sequestered in ground aquifers and by the roots of our trees. We do not need more noisy wind farms disrupting wildlife, destroying forest land and neighborhood ambiance.

Health is not just a matter of eating wholesome foods, getting plenty of exercise, finding satisfying work and friendships. Each day, we still have to muster up energy to stop whatever corporation threatens our health locally while purporting to provide jobs and cheap energy and better roads, none of which can be assured without health risks..

Time to encourage schools to explore new possibilities for energy. Time to encourage innovators to apply for a share of the 9 million dollars the legislature has in the budget to be used for the development of renewable sources of energy. Time to expand more ways to access solar. Time to stop adding new above-ground wires and begin to underground wires and clear out the cobwebs lining every road in NH. Time to develop affordable road and driveway surfaces that sequester precious water. Time to speak for the trees!

Governor Hassan (603-271-2121) and our legislators need to hear from each of us that our health depends on their support of renewable energy, clean air, noise control and sequestered water.

Listen to Sounds of Silence

March 9, 2015

“One of the ways we stay in touch with the rest of the earth is through silence,” says acoustic ecologist, Gordon Hempton in his book, One Square Inch of Silence. The book is about his quest to create that much space for silence in Olympic National Park, WA.

Hempton defines silence as “free of human caused noise.” His story begins in Olympic National Park where he lives and he records decibels at points along his travel route across the country to Washington, DC in an attempt to document the need for regulations that protect silent spaces in our national parks. It is a call to each of us to listen to all the sounds of silence, the drips on leaves, the wind passing through different trees, coyotes, bees, nut gatherers, falling snow…., for our own well-being.

His sound videos taken in different parts of the country are on the internet. I listened to “Forest Rain” which immediately put me back in our tent by the lake and the wonder of hearing rain and all the peeps of frogs and birds luxuriating in the rain as well. It is a profoundly relaxing sound video.

Significant causes of health problems, according to Stansfeld and Matheson’s report, “Noise Pollution: non-auditory effects on Health” in the Oxford Medical and Surgical Case Reports, are aircraft and road traffic noise. This noise impairs reading comprehension, long term memory, and cognitive performance in children. Noise stress may also be associated with high blood pressure and other stress-related conditions.

This key to silence is an important key we need to use to save our well-being on this earth, especially with attention to how we access the electrical energy we need. We could simplify our choices of allowable energy forms based on how much noise new sources generate during building and maintenance of the energy in question.

Tesla Motors is developing a home battery for Solar home electrical backup, eliminating the need to be at the mercy of power companies for compensation of surplus energy produced.

While it is encouraging to see more solar energy applications quietly helping to meet our needs, we in NH will hopefully see the 9 million dollars the legislature set aside for the development of renewable forms of energy that are also in harmony with our environment.

My concern with the Northern Pass project is the noise level generated by industrial equipment brought in to tear up forestland and build 500 miles of access roads in order to build the line and for routine and after-storm maintenance if the project is completed. The noise would be ongoing in forests people come to for R&R.

Having destroyed their once lucrative forest tourism and fishing industries in Quebec with their noisy dams and power lines, Hydro Quebec stands poised to do the same to NH despite doubletalk about having plenty of energy.

Governor Hassan (603-271-2121) and our legislators need to know that we expect the 9 million earmarked for renewable energy development to be used as intended. If you live in other states, consider contacting your legislators. Our health and well-being depend on it..

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

February 26, 2015

For years, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) producers have tried to classify HFCS as Sugar without success. Here’s why: HFCS molecules and Sugar molecules are not the same chemical structure at all and they are absorbed by our bodies at different rates with different effects.

Regular cane or beet sugar molecules consist of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose in a tight chemical bond. They need to be gradually broken down to small enough particles by our body’s enzymes before they can be absorbed through the wall of the small intestine. We absorb sugar slowly, like a time-released capsule.

High Fructose Corn Syrup molecules consist of 45 percent glucose and 55 percent fructose and they are unbound. Fructose is also much sweeter than glucose. Because HFCS is chemically unbound, the fructose and glucose are rapidly absorbed with no need of enzymes. They go straight to the liver where fructose produces fats like triglycerides and cholesterol that set in motion the condition called fatty liver. The liver then sends out fatty deposits to line our arteries. At the same time, rapid absorption of glucose increases spikes of insulin.

When sugar is absorbed, it stimulates the production of leptin, a neurotransmitter that signals when we are full. HFCS does not stimulate leptin production and can lead to overeating.

Corn syrup is cheap due to heavy subsidies we all pay for. This is a classic example of how we in the US have been led astray. This is why sodas and other HCFS sweetened drinks are sold cheaply and in gargantuan containers. They are not cheap when we consider the health dues we then pay for conditions they stimulate: Cardiovascular Disease, Liver Disease, Cancer, Arthritis, Diabetes and more. It’s not the fructose itself that is the cause, it is the massive doses.

Short of a mass organized protest of this blatant misuse of our taxes, what can we do as individuals right now to take control of our health?
1. Check labels and avoid products sweetened with HFCS.
2. Eat whole fruit, not fruit juice that lacks pulp nutrients and may be sweetened with HCFS.
3. Buy fresh produce and learn to cook it.

Change rarely happens overnight, but it usually begins with the first step.

Gratitudes Deliver Happiness

February 13, 2015

Every night before she goes to sleep, poet Carrie Newcomer says out loud three things she is grateful for; “all the insignificant, extraordinary, ordinary stuff” of her life. She finds that she sleeps better “holding what lightens and softens my life ever so briefly at the end of the day”.

Newcomer put her thoughts into a poem, “Three Gratitudes” (available on line). She encourages us to make our own lists for each day.

I looked up research on how the habit of offering up gratitudes can affect our health. It turns out that the more appreciative we are at the end of each day, the better we sleep and begin to show gratitude toward others throughout every day. The idea is that our gratitude itself becomes the measure through which we raise our happiness index.

Here is one of my day’s end lists. Like any habit I enjoy, this one feels so good that I keep adding more feel good thoughts to my list:

I’m thankful for:
A gentle snowfall,
My vest that keeps out all drafts,
Mack’s purr,
Seeing a friend at the grocery store,
A perfectly ripe pineapple,
The memory of Grandpa shucking oysters for me on the back stoop,
My green jacket that keeps me warm even at 7 degrees and wind,
My family’s exuberance skiing,
Perfect skiing conditions,
Leftover lentil soup in the refrigerator,
Plymouth’s new solar electric array,
A fresh column,
The hill through the woods,
The school bus driver’s wave,
…and off to sleep I go.

Whew! Never mind counting sheep! While expressing Three Gratitudes can be depended on to send us off for restful sleep, this habit primes us to express our thanks openly during each day as events occur. Thank you for reading my blog and for your comments.

Beware HQ’s Relentless energy Scams

January 30, 2015

What better time of year to plan an energy scam than winter, especially in January when it’s cold and our bills are up.

Predictably, Hydro Quebec is trying to convince us that cheap electricity is on the way if we accept their deal. Yet, if we look at what HQ has done to Quebec for energy, we see costs escalating. Quebec’s forests were destroyed, a whole culture of people were displaced and their fishing industry destroyed. On top of all that- HQ is again unable to reliably deliver even to Quebec during winter months. Yet, HQ still tries to tell us they will provide cheap energy for NH.

Four representatives and one senator, all from the Nashua/Brookline area of the state, have introduced a bill to the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee to establish Big Hydro (Hydro Quebec) as a form of renewable energy. The Hearing is scheduled for January 27.

HB 143 is an attempt to establish Big Hydro as renewable energy by overturning HB61 (enacted 9/11/2009) in which the State of NH defined Renewable Energy as ‘energy that supplies present energy needs without permanently depleting resources, while considering environmental impacts and without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own energy needs.’ Small hydro is considered renewable in NH.

If HB143 is ever enacted, HQ would be in position to claim eminent domain for land in NH.

Keep in mind that Hydro Quebec not only wants to put an above ground line in, they plan to construct 500 miles of new roads in our forests to build and service their lines. Yet in Australia, HQ put in 100 miles of underground lines that lowered Australia’s outages by 80 percent and helped Australia save money on maintenance and delivery.

The State of NH also has a 9 million dollar fund to encourage renewable energy development in the state. This fund can continue to help expand Solar Energy and stimulate other yet to be developed forms of renewable energy if it is not tampered with by competitors who want to limit other forms of energy development .

Whatever the outcome of the vote on January 27, it is important that each of us contact Gov. Hassan (603-271-2121) and our legislators with our concerns regarding Big Hydro and the Renewable Energy Research and Development Fund.

Here’s to a Well Watered Year!

January 9, 2015

Water may be our best protection against the new viruses reported daily. People often avoid water and claim that it makes them pee at all the wrong times. However, the same folks drink coffee, a dehydrator, and never question the trip to the restroom, which follows the charge of energy.

Our digestive tract, the 28 foot long pipeline that runs from mouth to anus can protect us from unwelcome invaders. Like any plumbing system, it works best with a reliable supply of water.

Fully hydrated, our cells cook up enzymes to digest every type of food, and hormones to regulate the opening and closing of the tract’s valves at each junction to keep everything moving.

Digestion begins in the mouth where water dilutes the acid on any remaining foods around our teeth that might irritate gums and burrow into tooth enamel. Salivary enzymes begin breaking down starches. Enthusiastic chewing stimulates our bodies to continue to pump out more enzymes further on down the line.

We continue mixing chewed food with sips of water to ease it down the esophagus to the stomach through the finicky lower esophageal sphincter, the LES valve, the most famous of all the valves. It leads to Hiatal Hernia and GERD when it doesn’t close properly.

When well hydrated, the mucus membrane that lines the stomach secretes necessary digestive juices: hydrochloric acid and enzymes to pulverize foods in the stomach and bicarbonate of soda to keep acid from digesting the stomach lining.

The slurry moves on to the small intestine. There, the gall bladder squirts the bolus of food with detergent (bile) to break up fats, and the pancreas squirts bicarbonate of soda to neutralize acids, plus more enzymes to work on proteins and carbs. The goal is to break food down to particles that are tiny enough to pass through the wall of the intestines.

As the slurry of food moves through the rest of the small intestine, more enzymes do their best to finalize breakdown and absorption IF we swallow enough water.

The intestines look like a jumble of tubes but are structured more like a big umbrella. If you took them out, you could stretch them in a rough circle like the rim of an umbrella. A thick membrane (mesentery) forms the dome. It contains several veins (like spokes) that funnel into a big vein, represented by the umbrella handle.

Well chewed food with plenty of water sends ultrafine nutrients right through the intestinal wall to the smaller veins in the mesentery and on to the big portal vein that goes to the liver. The liver then decides what nutrients to send where and our circulation takes care of that delivery system.

We must drink enough water. Otherwise, undigested food continues on to the large intestine. A well hydrated stool (feces) is a homogenized mass of fiber, easily evacuated through the last valve, the anus.

Want to give water a try? Start your day with a slow cup of hot lemon water. This acid effectively opens the valve to the intestines, clears the stomach of any leftovers, and stimulates the bowels to move. Unwanted bacteria and viruses don’t get a chance to establish themselves on stagnant sweet foods. Drink a glass of water between meals and take sips with meals. Trade sodas and juice for water and whole fruits and enjoy winter!

To a Well Watered New Year! Skol!

“Each Other” Includes All Colors

December 12, 2014

“I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do.” These words sent a wave of horror through many of us. Psychologist Martha Stout in her book, The Sociopath Next Door, best describes their impact.

Stout asks us to “Imagine – if you can- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members…. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs.”

ABC paid close to a million dollars to Darren Wilson for his interview by George Stephanopoulos. William Boardman called the interview “forty-five minutes of fawning deceit and thruthlessness.” We learn that an unarmed black student was killed and his killer is rewarded for, “Doing what I was paid to do.”

Had a black officer pumped 16 bullets into an unarmed white student, there would have been hell to pay and no ABC interview. Protesters gave a long litany of similar senseless events: the black father who was shot dead at his front door as he attempted to bring dinner home to his family, the black 12-year-old shot dead because he was seen playing with a toy gun, and on and on.

Ferguson, MO seems far away but this kind of treatment happens closer to home. Five years ago, police arrested Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates because someone saw him fumbling with the front door lock to his own house in Cambridge.

This holiday season symbolizes our yearning to experience light, often described as an ability to love that overcomes all darkness. Choristers sing about how ancient “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We are also a people walking in darkness today. We know we have blind spots and each year at midwinter, we pledge to begin again and do better.

May consciously seeing holiday lights remind and inspire each of us to figure out how we can truly love this earth and each other, so that every person of every color has a fair chance to celebrate life. This is all about keeping each other well


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