Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Got the Blues? Get in the Dirt!

The Amazing Science of How Dirt Can Make You Happy

Bacteria are lurking everywhere...  doorknobs, handshakes, your kid's runny nose, grandma's kisses. Those little buggers are just waiting to pounce and destroy, causing everything from ear infections to food poisoning, boils to meningitis and everything in between. There's only one thing to do: destroy them before they destroy you.

But wait, is it possible that in our quest to be germ free, we've gone too far? Are all bacteria created equal? Even if it were possible, do we really want to avoid all of them?

For starters, there are 100 trillion (that's 3 pounds!) of microorganisms in your gut. And there's an ever growing body of research demonstrating just how important these little critters are to our health. Imbalances in the "gut microbiome" has been linked to the rise in allergies, digestive disorders, asthma, depression, auto-immune disease and autism just to name a few. Though the causes of these diseases are complex and multi-factorial, there is overwhelming evidence that what's living in your intestines has an enormous impact on your health. As a side note, please talk to your doctor to see if those antibiotics are really necessary, or if there are other options that don't include killing off your gut's good bacteria. If you do need them, consider taking a probiotic and some good quality yogurt, kefir or fermented foods to help restore the healthy gut flora. 

So where does the dirt come in?

Dr. Mary O'Brien, an oncologist in London injected a certain killed strand of bacteria into patients with lung cancer. The bacteria was called Mycobacterium vaccae (pronounced "vah-kay", not to be confused with, "I can't wait to go on vay-kay"). Anyway, she found that the patients had fewer symptoms related to lung cancer. She also found that their mood and cognition improved, and not as a result of a better outlook due to improved physical symptoms. 

Still not seeing the dirt connection? Lo and behold, M. vaccae is a common, harmless bacteria found in... you guessed it, the dirt!

Dr. Chris Lowry, a scientist at Bristol University, decided to further investigate the reason for the increase in mood related to the inoculations, so he injected M. vaccae into some mice. He found that the injections triggered a specific type of immune response that led to the brain producing more serotonin. That's like the benefits of Prozac without the side effects. The increase in serotonin led to mice that were less stressed and performed better on a swim test as compared to mice not given the injection. (I'm not saying they mastered the back stroke, but still impressive). Dr. Lowry states more research is needed to see if this bacteria could be used clinically, but ponders if humans need to spend more time in the dirt.

So, is it possible that after tens of thousands of years of humans being in constant close contact with the earth and its many microorganisms, we have evolved to live more optimally when we maintain that connection? Does our modern lifestyle remove us a little too far from mother nature? Have we developed an unhealthy obsession with "clean" and infiltrated our culture with a fear of dirt? Even the word "dirty" has a negative connotation, as do numerous idioms in the English language, such as: "common as dirt" (low class), "dig some dirt up on someone" (found out something bad about someone), "dish the dirt" (gossip), "do something dirty" (to do something dishonest), "throw dirt enough and some will stick" (if you say enough bad things about someone, it will eventually be believed) and "you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die" (everyone must endure some hardships in life). Should we change our cultural paradigm of how we view and interact with dirt? Perhaps we should all be eating a few pecks of dirt.

Is her Serotonin level rising? 

Further reading: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6509781.stm

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rainy Day and Cool makes Spring Flowers Happy!

Just thought I would share some of the non-edible vegetation flourishing here on the home front.The first picture is of my bleeding heart bush I was SURE died last year. This was taken yesterday.

The next two are some Pansies and Geraniums that I purchased from Radebaugh's Florist . I love that place. You can get a 10% discount for paying cash! (I believe it is 10%, but a discount none the less). As a kid I would love to go into their walk in fridge and create my own bouquet to give my mother.

I LOVE Tulips and their endless color combinations. I hear right now is the time to go to Sherwood Gardens to see their famous display of tulips. Don't forget a camera as this is Christmas Card worthy.

 Lastly, a gorgeous Purple Iris and the simple but beloved Hosta

Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Garden Taking Off

Hi there,

Let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Elaine and I live on Murdock Rd. I am a stay at home mother of my 7 month old daughter and 5 and 7 year old boys who attend Rodgers Forge Elementary during the day. My husband and I have lived in the Forge for almost 1 1/2 years and I am always looking for ways to cut back, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Trying to become more sustainable at home it was an obvious move to grow my own food. In addition to joining One Straw Farm CSA, I am blessed with beautiful southern exposure sun making plants and veggies thrive. As you all know space can be limited in our yards (or sun exposure) so I am also experimenting with container gardening.

This year, for the first time, I have started my plants indoors from seeds. I found an incredible see company that has a FREE catalog you can order seeds from all year long called Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They sell every kind of vegetable, herb you can think of including flowers and cotton. My seed experiment ended up being extremely successful! Maybe too successful (and me being overzealous to get into Spring) because I was left with too many seedlings and vegetables growing too quickly that they probably could not be transplanted just yet outside due to the night time dropping temperatures.I started romaine lettuce, pickling and slicing cucumbers, 3 varieties of tomatoes (Purple Ball, Tropic, and Mortgage Lifter) and lastly shelling peas. All of these sprouted between 3 and 7 days!

One of the more successful and fast growing plant in the window was the pickling cucumbers and the Ashley slicing cucumber (a variety of cucumber that is said to do well in our region) that eventually started to flower inside. I thought they would either die on the sill or die outside trying. I decided to harden them off best I could and give them to the world fingers crossed.

So far I am lucky! They took well and the super warm days we have been having has helped tremendously. Nights are not to bad and if they are colder, I could cover them up (although I am always too lazy to do that..ha! )

Anyhow I am posting a few pictures of what we have going on so far and I will blog more about little projects in the garden as well as a few DIY stuff I find incredibly useful and time saving (not to mention $$$$ saving!!)  Wish me luck and I have never ever written for a blog before so I hope I can make it interesting, somewhat funny, and enjoyable!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Compost Bin and Rain Barrel Sale

WHERE: Auxiliary parking lot of THE AVENUE at White Marsh, 8125 Honeygo Blvd. The parking lot is located behind the AMC Theaters and across Town Center Drive.

DATE: Saturday, April 27, 2013

TIME: 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Rain or shine.

WHAT: Ridiculously cheap compost bins and rain barrels for sale. No limit on quantity and first come, first serve.

PRICE: Compost bin: $35 (regular price $100)
              Rain barrel: $50 (regular price $120)
                   *Tax included in price
                   *May pay with cash, credit card or check

WHY: Reduce waste, help the environment, save money, produce great fertilizer and non-chlorinated water for your plants.

For more information go to:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Welcome Back

The Forge Farm Initiative would like to welcome anyone new to the site and welcome back any previous followers. A new blogger has joined and there will be regular posts again. The mission to build resilience through growing local food, as well as foster community in this great neighborhood remains the same. This is a really exciting time as there seems to be a lot of interest in these areas lately in the Forge. I realize not everyone has the time, experience, space in their yard or even the desire to grow their own food, but let's be creative and see how each of us can contribute in our unique capacity. Perhaps if you have a good plot of land but do not want to garden yourself, your neighbor could use the land in exchange for some vegetables. Perhaps you can purchase a water barrel and a compost bin. Perhaps you can start a vegetable garden as a fun learning project with your kids. Perhaps we can make our community a little healthier, a little less dependent on foreign oil, and a little more resilient. Who's with me?