Monday, June 30, 2008

Pesticide Peddler

I spoke with one today. He is a a self-proclaimed pesticide peddler and organic farmer. I asked about pesticide screening and he said that it could run me $400 per pesticide. It isn't something you can broad scan, you need to zone in on the exact component you wish to find. Expensive prospect! I think I will stick with testing for lead, arsenic, maybe the water and soils in the areas.
I asked him why organic farming can't compete with conventional; does he think it can?
"Well, if you go into a store and there is a worm in one nectarine next to a worm without a nectarine..." No, he said a nectarine without a worm next to a wormy one, "which would you buy?"

I understand the financial situation for farmers, but that helps me clarify my goals. I want us to envision balance in our lives. Grow more gardens with beneficial insects and birds to maintain enough balance so that we don't have such uni-crop problems. Huge fields with only one crop is absurd for nature. It cannot control such an out of control gift for specific predators. In the mean time, slugs are out of control; eating them is one easy way to tip the scales a bit. My pesticide peddling organic farming friend, wow, he cancels his own vote. Most people need another person to do that. He said it is very progressive to imagine everyone getting personally involved in food production. But really, if you spend 2 hours a week at a community garden, grow some berries, have a few chickens, tomatoes, sprouts, anything that creates edibles. Even hunting for mushrooms, garden mollusks, wild greens, you will have such positive impact locally and globally.
Maybe my political and philosophical views are too independent and interdependent. I am upset by the chasm between my concept of wealth and say, our president's. If you are battling enemies all the time, when can you actually nurture your dependents? When can you actively care about the details of harmony and hope? If you focus on all the problems, you'll become a wreck. If you focus on all the fun, you'll become a wreck. Better to have fun solving problems and taking train rides. There is a risk of a wreck, but you're going somewhere!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

not mentally ill, just spiritual

What a trail. I am talking with people every day about how to find a lab that will test the slug and snail tissue. I mean, how to find funding for the analysis. I can see the opportunity for a grant; combine the fact that garden mollusks are an untapped local (organic?) resource, a protein source with no antibiotics or irradiation, and eating them is a way to avoid pesticides or garden mutilation, that adds up to a serious agricultural food science pesticide reduction GRANT! (and if we discover they are toxic little pollution receptacles, good to know)

And I keep the faith. The faith that mental illness comes from blocking these ideas, not from patiently excavating and seeking alternate routes. I bring up mental illness because most people I know have at one time or another been concerned about their mental well being. Most likely they were on the cusp of a new awakening or spiritual growth spurt. Perhaps they were grieving a loss left unattended for far too long, or a recent setback. Maybe working so hard at something stressful and forgetting about food, rest, and fun. I see this whole snail, slug, and coral thing (that has to do with my work to help the coral reefs) as a direct link with my spiritual need to live in the eternal center of life and death. Recently when asked about my use of the word spiritual:

Chris: What do you mean when you say "Spiritual?" I am curious because a lot of people say "spiritual" and it seems like what they are expressing is a higher emotional sensitivity to things. Almost like if they have a strong emotional connection or feeling towards things, they are somehow more spiritual than others...

Me: I guess when I say "spiritual," it's about life and death. Religion and spiritual questing originated with people's desire to understand life and death. Not just life and death of the physical body, but life and death of thoughts, feelings, dreams, phases...change and passage. How do we live in the presence of the passing and the becoming?

And we biked on. And so with that little side trip, I return to the situation at hand. I am going to call Scott Exo of the Food Alliance and see if he has any guidance. He's very involved in matters of sustainability and agribusiness. Wise to these things that we eat, breed, and seed.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

As I await...

Well, As I await a reply from Dr. Tim Pearce at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, I accept his website info as validation that slugs truly are snails with their shells on the inside. They are edible and he is credible. I wrote to him with questions about slug nutritional data; perhaps he'll recommend labs that might do tissue analysis. I embrace the hidden whorled ones as peers to escargots.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

another nocturnal adventure...

Snails are such night owls, and so am I. And they meander, as I. And most importantly, while you read this, envision a snail shell. It starts at a point and spirals out. No need to ask, "What's the point?" I started at one when I typed "snails," and it is all expansion from there.

Back to last night. Riding my bike all over Portland with friend, Chris Carlsson (author of "Nowtopia," "Critical Mass," and other books about radical social change), I absorbed the full moonlight and let it guide me home. Without my bike lights, I was a lucky pedaler to have such a clear and glowing path. We discussed the challenges of public spaces and privatization. How newly built shining boxy structures with overly-manicured cement and plant layouts will one day thrive with the decay and recovery that occurs with all places and spaces. People and plants will reclaim a new order out of the persistence of life and death.

We mused about relationships, about serial monogamy and the joy and challenges of love and partnership. Acknowledging the differences between males and females, I only recently realized how differently we think and behave. A blessing and a curse to wake up and smell the pheromones. It isn't that I didn't get attraction and the obvious, but the way we respond to the opposite sex and some of the sociobiological theories newly printed are fascinating. If you are curious, check out (PAX programs) and the book, "Sperm are From Men. Eggs are From Women," by Joe Quirk. Angles that aim to stir the pot of peace and frustration yet more. I can no longer assume that a man is going to get it, or vice versa. It is a conscious choice to collaborate and accept the differences. Now to wake out of my Sleeping Beauty Cinderella stupor. I still hope for something more "meaningful" from an intimate, sexual relationship than fixating on the size and reactivity of my amygdala.

Snails have it all!! As Hermaphrodites- they really do have it all. And the love-making lasting 4-12 hours.... Now that makes for a grand show of reciprocal affection. Do you know about Professor Ronald Chase at McGill University in Canada? You must. I wrote to him a few times about his research and my love of all things sex in the snail. I am not sure if my last email missed him, or if my interest in feeding my snails colorful foods to attempt to create rainbowrific shells caused him to recoil and rethink my integrity. No matter, I encourage you to Google "Prof Ronald Chase-home page." You will see how Cupid may have been born from snail gazers, and why again, snails are leaders of our time with their massive neurons.

Can you smell the Calcium! I swear there is something about snails, something about their Calcium and slime that will benefit human reproductive health. I feel it and have felt it for a few years now. Just seeing Dr. Chase's mention of the mucus as a means to secure reproduction for the dueling swords, it all clicks. That mucus really sticks, and all that Calcium. Oh sure, skeletons seem like the obvious connection. Bones need fortification. But an artist with no real scientific education like myself, why would you doubt my hypothesis? It is in the peptides!! Reproductive human health will receive a boost once we figure it out in about 12 and half years. Please, sooner than that. Molluscan mucus has some vital healing, generative force. Once we get to eating all these garden mollusks (not all, remember, balance) we will need to skim the vital slime for creative scientific purpose.

And that is where I conclude: science, art, health, environment. Do you have a snail story to share? Any sluglore? Sling it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I wrote something last night...

I think it is more of an editorial piece, but I will share. It came to me as if I were writing for some garden magazine or newspaper. An attempt to persuade, I suppose. Whether you are on board or not...

If you are growing a garden, any plants, odds are you are raising pests as well. And you probably hate them for destroying your hard work and vision of "your garden." You didn't hope for a row of holey lettuce and headless sunflowers, but now that you have them, your anger spurns you to torture the thoughtless, cruel organisms devouring your photosynthesizing babies.

I used to hate snails. I could step on them and throw them to the eucalyptus park across the street. There were hundreds in the garden. Every time I put the last pat of earth over some glorious new roots, I felt not only happy satisfaction, but anxious tension that some land mollusk troop would slide on over for a feast. This is what I call a problem. Everyone I know complains about it and everyone continues to reach for a way to kill or ignore this perceived enemy.

Sure, chickens. We have them. And they do eat so many pests. If you can go this route, do. They are great pets and their eggs are free range. But again, not all people want chickens, and wild birds just can't get all the newborn slugs and snails; these hermaphrodites are quick to procreate. As slow movers, they need some defense against predators, so they reproduce constantly in a numbers battle against speed.
And that brings me to us humans. When did we rise above consuming garden mollusks? Related to clams, mussels, and oysters, so highly valued as delicacies, snails and slugs are overlooked by mainstream American society. We are fools for neglecting our backyard bounty! With gas costing $4+/gallon, and grocery prices soaring, why not do some backyard exploring? (Dr. Seuss influence)

If you read all the websites talking about chemical and physical warfare against these invertebrates, you might actually believe they are hard to catch. They are not. Hand collection is the number one method for reducing their populations. When I became Miss Snail Pail in 2004 (not a pageant), I enjoyed swinging my pail of helix aspersa, also known as the petits gris. I maintained my prejudice against the sleek slug. Not only by name, but also appearance, I was discriminating against the shell-less gastropods. I preferred to await my Slug Thug to drown them in beer. When he arrived, we were sure to embody our own personal mythology:

Miss Snail Pail collects snails. She purges them and prepares them so to feast.
By this practice, she honors the cycle of life and death that is natural and necessary
for survival. Slug Thug nefariously drowns them in a mug of beer. He swills the beer and lets the slugs die a sad, useless death in his bottomless mug of hate.

Oh maybe a bit heavy handed, but aren't mythologies all about the contrasts and drama of nature?

And here I sit, on my little uncomfortable throne, the kind I remember my mom sitting on to apply make-up when I was a little girl talking to her while she was getting ready for a night out with dad. The wood is hard and flat and squashing my ass, yet I need to let you know, all garden mollusks deserve the mercy of our murderous ways. If we must kill them, why not let them nourish us and give us their protein-rich strength? This chain links us with the truth: we are natural. Hunting and gathering for whole foods is still possible. When we speak of sustainable energy, are we really just talking about fueling our cars, computers, lights, and coffee pots? Can we afford to forget our bodies, minds and spirits?
Miss Snail Pail says: Eat your garden mollusks and you will feed your soul!!

If you live in Portland, OR, I am looking for your garden mollusks. Please put them in an empty plastic container: yogurt, cd's, ...and make some slits for air. Label with the date of collection and location. I want to do some tissue analysis to determine the nutrients. Also see if there are harmful amounts of pollutants. Seems like snails are "food" by most, but I think slugs will take a bit more sneers, so best to get the data.
Do you have a lab? Connections? That is my next challenge. To find an affordable way to test the tissue. It is expensive and I hope that I can get some funding or find someone who wants to help with this food science. If slugs are indicators of heavy metals (lead, arsenic,cadmium), that is important scientific data. I am sure the Fish and Wildlife will want to find out, don't you think?