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Emergency preparedness: Buy toilet paper. September 2, 2014

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There may have been something funny about the theme of this year’s Disaster Prevention Day in Japan, “Let’s stockpile toilet paper!” But there’s nothing funny about the disaster that prompted Disaster Prevention Day, held every September 1st. One Spetember 1, 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck an area of Tokyo and killed more than 140,000 people. Most of the lives were lost due to fires sweeping through the area and burning down the closely packed buildings, which were made of wood, bamboo and paper and used flames for cooking, heat, and light. In a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, being prepared for a disaster makes a lot of sense.

Our friend Ben also approves of stockpiling toilet paper, tissues and the like for emergency purposes. The Japanese government suggested keeping a month’s supply for every household member in reserve; in Japan, they sell special emergency rolls that are something like 460 feet long and are rolled so tightly they look like those big rolls sold in the U.S. I wish we had those here!

I’d take this even further. Of course you could blow your nose with toilet paper if you ran out of tissue. But if you’re dependent on a well for all your water, as we are here at Hawk’s Haven, if the electricity goes out, your water stops running. Normally, we try to never use “picnic products” like paper plates and bowls, paper or plastic cups, and plastic knives, forks, and spoons. But we keep a supply on hand for emergencies, and actually used some of them when the power went off for almost a week last winter. When you have to drink bottled water, use it to brush your teeth, and use it to flush the toilet, you don’t want to waste it washing dishes! Paper towels and napkins are lifesavers here, too. Not to mention extra toothpaste, soap, and so on.

Even if you’re on a sewer and get city water, if something contaminated your city’s water supply so the water was basically unusable for drinking, bathing, etc., you’ll want a backup supply of bottled water. Those big gallon jugs are great for flushing the toilet, but we find that, over time, they deteriorate and spring leaks. We use them in our greenhouse and to water our raised beds and container plants, but always keep an eye on them and recycle any that spring leaks. We also keep some on hand for the toilet, but keep an eagle eye on them to make sure they’re not leaking on our mudroom and laundry room floors! For permanent, leak-proof water storage, our friend Ben recommends those perfectly clear plastic jugs that a lot of “spring water” is sold in. They’ll never leak unless you step on one. And for drinking water, we get cases of real spring water in glass jugs, which we’ll also use for tooth-brushing in an emergency.

Besides toilet paper, the Japanese government recommends stores of food and water, a portable toilet, and a first-aid kit. I don’t know what they mean by “portable toilet,” but our friend Ben doubts that it’s a Port-a-Potty. Instead, it’s probably one of those sturdy buckets with toilet seats that are sold at camping, hunting, and sporting-goods stores like Cabela’s. You put a plastic bag (like a plastic grocery bag) inside the bucket, anchoring it with the lid, then go when you need to go and toss the bag when it’s full.

If you have a lawn and garden, you might think about buying a chamber pot (a porcelain receptacle for urine) at a flea market and pouring the nitrogen-rich urine on your lawn and flowers (not your food garden!). Urine has been known for eons as an excellent natural fertilizer.

Here in scenic PA, we’re in the path of the aftereffects of major environmental disasters rather than on the front lines. We won’t have to face off against earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, or other terrible acts of nature. But we could certainly suffer their effects, as well as terrible droughts and winter ice and snowstorms. It’s always best to be prepared.

We always have a cord of wood curing for our woodstove, since if the power fails it could mean the difference between frozen pipes (and frozen us) and reasonable warmth. Our gas stove can be lit by matches if the electricity goes off, so we can have warm food, even in winter (you can also use your outdoor grill if you have one). But we also have canned food that we can eat cold if we must, along with food that’s durable and fine at room temperature like crackers, nuts, dried fruit and cheese.

Since we’re not in the eye of a storm or other catastrophe that would force us to abandon our home, we’ve basically tried to disaster-proof our home so we could continue to live in it in the face of a power disruption, ice storm, or whatever. But we have stocked our cars with durable emergency items (including first-aid kits and space blankets, toilet paper, bottled water, tissues, sani-wipes, condiments, utensils, etc.) just in case.

Last but by no means least are your pets and critters, who’ll find themselves cut off just like you. Making sure you have extra food (and litter, in the case of cats) for your pets on hand at all times just makes sense. We keep our cat, dog and wild bird seed in big pest-proof tins and our parrot and parakeet food in pest-proof glass jars. The chickens’ scratch grains and egg-layer pellets are stored in metal garbage cans in the chicken yard, safe from invasion.

“Be prepared” is more than a Boy Scout motto. It could be a lifesaver!

Don’t throw out those fish and frogs! August 26, 2014

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When our friend Ben moved to scenic PA after grad school, I set up a goldfish tank in my new apartment. One day, I returned from work to find my biggest goldfish, Agamemnon, lying stiff, dry, and to all intents dead on the floor. (After that, I always put a hood on my aquariums. It never occurred to me that anybody would try to jump out.) Picking up the seemingly lifeless fish, I decided that there was nothing to lose, so I threw it back in the tank. Within minutes, Agamemnon, now aka Lazarus, had revived and was swimming around as if nothing had happened. He lived for many more years.

Our friend Ben was reminded of this today when I went into the kitchen and saw one of our two aquarium frogs lying stretched at full length on the floor in a pile of our dog Shiloh’s fur. It looked like a poster frog for rigor mortis, but I picked it up and began removing the dog hair. Eventually, its legs started moving, so I tossed it back in the tank. (Our current aquarium has a tight-fitting hood, so I have no idea how it escaped.) Soon enough, it was swimming around with the other frog and the fish, seemingly unfazed by its misadventure.

If you have an aquarium, or are thinking of setting one up, my advice to you is this: If something dies in the aquarium, it’s dead. But if it “dies” outside the aquarium, it ain’t necessarily so. Put it back in and see if it revives. And always put a hood on your tank!

Morning rituals. July 31, 2014

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Do you find yourself beginning every morning the same way, with some soothing activity that brings you a little calm, peace of mind, and feeling of security before you plunge into your day? Maybe it’s as simple as picking up a cup of your favorite coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts on the way in to work. Or maybe a walk or bike ride every morning sets you up for the day. Sometimes a hot shower or a soothing rub of body lotion is enough to make you feel pampered and centered.

We have a friend whose morning would be a disaster if he couldn’t pore over the baseball box scores, and another who begins every single day by reading the comics, convinced that a good laugh is the right start to a good day. Another rises early every day to meditate. For yet another, it’s worth getting up an hour early to go to the local diner and indulge in the “farmer’s breakfast”—pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, homefries, and toast, with plenty of coffee to wash it all down. (Gulp. But it’s heaven to him.) One relative couldn’t imagine a morning beginning without attending morning Mass.

Of course, we have our own morning rituals here at Hawk’s Haven, too. Silence Dogood is not what you’d call a morning person, yet she wakes with the light. In the interval between daylight and the return of consciousness, she likes to keep things calm and absolutely quiet. She sits at her computer and reads Yahoo news and her e-mail, then visits a few favorite sites, and then will write a blog post or two to kick the day off. Our friend Ben, meanwhile, will put on some coffee, take our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, out for her morning walk, feed the chickens, water the garden, and get the papers, which he (and, eventually, Silence) will read. OFB enjoys hot toast or croissants or English muffins and marmalade or hot pepper jelly and lots of butter along with that morning coffee and the papers. Silence can’t even look at food before 10 a.m., and then she’s more likely to opt for fruit and cottage cheese or a quinoa salad.

It doesn’t really matter what you do in the morning, as long as it makes you feel good and sets you up for the day. But we do think that morning rituals, whatever they are—doing the same things at the same time every morning—will get your day off to a healthier, more empowered start. We even think that applies to the eye-popping diner breakfast, morning walk, and meditation equally.

That’s because so much of the modern workday is about powerlessness—you do this for this many hours in this exact place and you’d better do it just the way we say and produce these results, even if that’s impossible, or else. Your time, your life, your mind are not your own, your talents are unappreciated, you’re just another faceless cog on the wheel, a “worker bee,” as a heartless boss at one old company described his employees.

But before work, you’re in charge. You have the power. No one can tell you what to do, can make you keep up with 50 social media sites while also doing your job for the same pay but ever-increasing hours, can put you on call after you’ve already put in a full day’s work. The difference between morning ritual and the lack of it can be the difference between feeling in control and out of control. So don’t feel ashamed of that Mickey D’s Egg McMuffin you pick up every single morning. Think of it as an empowering ritual.

Patriotic pooch and cat. July 3, 2014

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There are plenty of breeds developed right here in the USA, from coonhounds to sled dogs. But if our friend Ben had to pick just two breeds to celebrate this Fourth of July, they’d be the American foxhound and the Maine coon cat.

You see, the American foxhound was bred by the Father of Our Country himself, George Washington, in the 1770s and 1780s, using foxhounds imported from England and France. I guess our first president was as interested in animals as in agriculture. (Mount Vernon still has descendents of some of his favorite livestock breeds, including cattle and sheep, but alas, no American foxhounds, or at least, none that Silence Dogood and I saw on our last trip there.)

The American foxhound is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), however, so it must still be out there, a long-legged, handsome breed. (Our friend Ben saw a recent photo of an entire pack, proving that they’re still alive and well.) But before you go rushing off to acquire one, bear in mind that, like all hounds, it was bred specifically to hunt. If you want one of General Washington’s hounds, you’d better be prepared to provide it with plenty of exercise.

Moving on to America’s most patriotic cat, the official State Cat of Maine, the Maine coon cat, is the obvious choice. These regal, gentle giants (think a majestic lynx and the personality of Hodor of “Game of Thrones” combined) have tufted ears, thick coats, and luxuriously furred paws, ideal for surviving the cold New England winters. They are also, in our friend Ben’s humble opinion, the most beautiful and affectionate of all cats, with their open, laid-back, loving, doglike personalities. (Full disclosure: We’ve been privileged to welcome five Maine coons into our home over the years, and would never even think of another breed.)

No one really knows how Maine coons came to be. Unlike American foxhounds, they weren’t bred, they simply turned up. As a result, numerous rumors have arisen over the years. One of the most popular was that Marie Antoinette, planning her escape from France before its citizens separated her head from her body, sent a ship ahead to Maine bearing her beloved cats, which subsequently went feral. Another is that Maine coons descended from cats on the Viking ships brought to America by Eric the Red.

The lack of knowledge of their origins makes the Maine coon even more All-American, since so many immigrants’ records and history were lost when they cast their lot and shipped out to the New World. But if you’re wondering about the breed’s name, the answer is easy: The original Maine coon cats’ coloring and enormous size reminded Mainers of raccoons. And like raccoons, Maine coons are drawn to water.

Now Maine coons are available in many colors, and they’re the ultimate lap cats. They love everybody (even dogs), have the most adorable tiny squeaky voices, despite their huge size—“Meep!”—purr like there was no tomorrow, and are perfectly happy as house cats. And, despite their often goofy, clownish antics, they’re really, really smart. (They had to be to survive the Maine climate, outside on their own, right?)

You might want to dispute my choice of breeds and say that the true All-Americans are the mutts, the cats and dogs who, like most of us, were forged in the melting pot that defines American freedom and have no distinct breed to call their own. Our friend Ben is not about to argue with that! Our shelters are overflowing with sad, discarded animals who need homes.

I can think of no more patriotic act on July Fourth than to bring one of these shelter dogs or cats home and give them their freedom with a loving, caring family. But—I cannot tell a lie—should you wish to follow our first and greatest President’s lead, or answer the call of American freedom and independence, the American foxhound and the Maine coon cat are, in my opinion, definitely the way to go.

There’s a dog in my soup. June 28, 2014

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“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup!”

Thus begins the hoary old joke we’ve all heard so many times. But it’s not so funny when it comes to some real-life object in our food that shouldn’t be there. Just today, two news items on Yahoo news featured unintended items that ended up in people’s food.

Over in England, a 7-year-old boy bit into what he thought was a fried piece of boneless chicken breast from KFC, only to discover that the crispy fried coating concealed not chicken but a blue kitchen towel (the kind made of paper, not cloth). Our friend Ben figured that KFC would quickly offer his family free chicken for the rest of their lives to avoid a suit, but no: The franchise offered the boy and his mother one free meal, and that only after the distraught mother had returned to the restaurant to complain and been told to call customer service instead, and the story had gone viral. Oliver, the little boy involved, declined this generous offer.

Meanwhile, back in the States, a family ordering fries from a Sonic drive-in discovered an unexpected item in their take-out container: a bag of marijuana. “Free pot with every purchase!” or “Get high on our fries!” would probably do wonders for the franchise’s bottom line, but our friend Ben suspects that the fries just went to the wrong customer. There probably will still be an uptick in patronage as customers hope to get lucky.

Given how many meals fast-food restaurants serve, and the emphasis being on speedy service, it’s amazing that stories like this don’t hit the news every day. (Well, maybe not the pot story.) Which means that most fast-food franchises must be doing a darned good job of monitoring their kitchens.

Not that there aren’t the occasional scandals caused by other actions, like substituting, say, cat for chicken a few years ago at KFC franchises in China. (Though cat might be a perfectly acceptable meat source in China, just as the very popular dog stew is in Korea.)

Nor are the alien objects limited to fast-food restaurants. Years ago, our friend Ben accompanied Silence Dogood to one of the few vegetarian restaurants then extant in the South. We had barely raised our forks when a little boy at a nearby table announced that there was a cockroach in his food. Far from expressing outrage, his parents suggested that he simply stop complaining and order another dish from the menu. But for some reason, like little Oliver in the UK, the child had lost his appetite. And so had we.

Being an omnivore, after all, shouldn’t involve eating dish towels. And being a vegetarian, by definition, means not eating insects. Or dogs.

Help stop black dog syndrome. May 14, 2014

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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are the delighted owners of a BIG, black German shepherd, our beloved Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special (that’s just Shiloh to you). So we were horrified to read this morning that there’s something going on in shelters that’s so common that it even has a name: Black Dog Syndrome. Apparently black dogs are the last to be adopted, and big black dogs, especially if their ears stand rather than droop, are pretty much doomed to be euthanized or stay in the shelter for life. Apparently, people are afraid of them.

We’ve had two wonderful golden retrievers, and OFB grew up with an adored cocker/Springer spaniel mix and several springer spaniels, so it’s not like we’ve always had black dogs. But our Shiloh is so loving (towards everyone), so fun-loving, such a happy dog, with her constant huge smile, that she’s more than earned her name “Special” (from her grandfather, Lucas von Shiloh Special).

The thought that someone would reject a happy, loving (and, incidentally, gorgeous) dog because she happened to be black is appalling. After all, haven’t Labrador retrievers been the most popular dogs in America for more than 20 years, and aren’t most of them black, fairly large dogs? People come up to us in parks all the time and ask who we got Shiloh from, something that never happened with any of our other dogs (all of whom were also great, people-loving, attractive dogs).

We understand that some people are “big dog people” and some are “little dog people.” For us, even in our small cottage home, big dogs rule. Let others have the pugs and chihuahuas and bichons and papillons and all the rest. But please, whatever your preference, give black dogs a chance next time you want to adopt. That black poodle is just as smart and loving as the golden one in the next pen. And so is that black German shepherd. Please help put a stop to the stereotyping of Black Dog Syndrome and give these wonderful dogs the forever home they deserve.

Pit bull mauls boy; public supports pit bull. March 17, 2014

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What the hell are we thinking?!! This morning, our friend Ben read a story about how a pit bull in Arizona bit into a four-year-old boy’s face, breaking his eye socket, cheekbone, and jaw. The article showed a horrific photo of the mauled four-year-old and said that a Mayo Clinic surgeon said he would need at least two years of reconstructive surgery requiring numerous operations and hospitalizations. This is a tragedy, right? Our hearts should go out to the child, and to his family, who are now facing this nightmare.

But no. Apparently people’s hearts are going out to the pit bull instead. A Facebook page was set up to save the dog, which now has 4,000 names on a petition against euthanizing him and 40,000 likes. People have donated $5,000 so far to a fund to defend the dog in court against the charges. A lawyer has given his time pro bono—free—to represent the dog. An organization that exists to keep dogs who harm people from being euthanized has gotten on the case.

Meanwhile, a helpless little boy lies in the hospital in agony, tubes all over his body, unable to open his mauled eye. Apparently, the surgeon was successful at reconnecting the muscles and ligaments of his jaw so he’ll eventually be able to speak and eat.

The pro-dog contingent claims that it was the fault of adults, not the pit bull, that the mauling occurred: That the boy’s babysitter was nowhere in sight when he wandered into the pit bull’s yard. That the owners of the pit bull kept him chained in an open yard where anyone could wander in.

They are right, and more than right. A chained dog, left outside in the baking Arizona sun all day on a chain, enslaved, with only a bone, will not view people kindly. And he will especially not view anyone kindly who comes within chain’s reach and picks up his sole possession, the bone, as the little boy did in an attempt to play with him. It is the owners’ fault for not socializing their dog, for not spending time with him, for not making sure that he didn’t develop aggressive, possessive, dominating tendencies.

A dog should be trained from puppyhood to instantly surrender any toy or treat to its owners without displaying resistance or aggression, but this can only be done if the dog adores its owners and recognizes them in the adult role, hardly likely to happen if he’s chained outside alone all day. The owners of that dog should be in jail for the inhumane treatment of an animal and reckless endangerment of the dog and everyone who came in contact with him.

However, a dog that has been so terribly mistreated and who has developed such a dominance/possessive response is a public danger, and is unlikely to be treatable through behavior modification. If freed, he will most likely respond in the same way toward others who “invade” his territory or pick up his possessions. No, it isn’t his fault, but he should be euthanized before he hurts someone else. Euthansia, as those of us who have experienced it can say with total assurance, is quick and painless. If more people had watched their suffering pets’ faces relax in relief the second the injection occurs, we’d all be begging for the same treatment when our own suffering becomes unbearable. It’s a humane solution.

What dumbfounds our friend Ben is the social media outcry for the dog, as the boy lies suffering. Do you remember, as I do, the chimpanzee who ripped off the face, eyes, and hands of a woman a few years back? Imagine if Facebook had launched a page to save the chimp, if it had received 4,000 names and 40,000 likes and $5,000? What about the grizzly who ate two people alive? Picture the “save the poor grizzly” page. Surely in these instances someone’s voice would have been raised in outrage. But here we are, speaking up for the pit bull while no one speaks for the boy. What kind of people are we?!!

Don’t kill your dog. March 16, 2014

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Our friend Ben read an article on the Vetstreet website this morning about 26 things that could poison your dog. (Or cat, though given that Silence Dogood and I have had plenty of both, we find that it’s dogs who are most likely to eat anything they can manage to get hold of, from appetizers left unattended at a party to the contents of the cats’ litterbox.) The list included the usual suspects, like chocolate and antifreeze, but it also had a few shockers.

While it’s fairly well known that raisins and grapes and all members of the onion family (including garlic) are toxic to dogs—think kidney and liver failure—the article presented more in-depth information about the usual suspects: That dark chocolate was more toxic than milk or white chocolate, but that even cocoa-bean mulch could be toxic if a dog ate enough of it, and the good news that antifreeze manufacturers had volunteered to add bittering agents to their products to keep them from tasting so seductively sweet. (A single tablespoon of antifreeze can kill a dog, a teaspoon can kill a cat; please get your garage to top up your antifreeze rather than doing it at home.)

Obviously, toxic chemicals in chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides can harm or kill your pets. It’s so telling that vets insist that you keep your pets away from chemically-treated lawns until they’ve dried or the chemicals have been washed into the soil. What are we doing to ourselves, our children, by dumping these toxins on our land and therefore into our water?!!

Houseplants tend to present more of a threat to cats. With Easter on the horizon, please bear in mind that true lilies (including Easter or Madonna lilies) and lilies-of-the-valley are extremely toxic, especially the leaves, which are what cats are most likely to chew on.

Soft bones, like fish and chicken bones, pose a dreadful risk to both cats and dogs, as they can splinter and puncture the esophagus, stomach, and intestines. An unwatched plate of irresistible chicken wings or fried chicken could spell doom for your dog, and plates of fish bones set on the counter for a few minutes before the dishes are cleaned off could mean a late-night emergency-room visit with your cat.

But the most startling items in the article were things I’d never considered: coins and pills. Zinc is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, and since it’s a major component of our contemporary coinage, including so-called “copper” pennies, this is a serious issue. If a dog eats a penny it finds on the floor, it could die.

This was news to our friend Ben, but it didn’t come close to the revelation that the cause of most pet toxicity was people leaving out medications or dropping pills on the floor and not finding them, so that their pets wolfed them down and then died as a result of their owners’ carelessness. The meds can be over-the-counter, such as ibruprofen. They can be prescription meds like pills to lower blood pressure or prevent strokes. Even seemingly harmless stuff like Xylitol in gum, sugar-free candy, and toothpaste can kill your pets.

The vets said that you should never take pills in a place, like the kitchen or bedroom, where dropped pills could be eaten by a dog. They say to keep and take them in the bathroom, and keep them locked away, as you would to protect your children. Good advice for all of us.

Please love your dog. March 10, 2014

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This morning, a friend e-mailed our friend Ben a poster for a dog that had gone missing in our area over the weekend. The dog, a young male named Flynn, was a breed I’d never heard of, a Maremma sheepdog, fluffy and white with caramel-colored ears. He apparently got loose in his training collar. His owners had him microchipped (so vets can identify him) and have contacted all the appropriate authorities, and he’s only been gone two full days, so hopefully he’s already been reunited with them.

Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are dog lovers, so of course we’ll keep our eyes peeled for Flynn in case he’s wandering lost, thirsty, hungry, and sad. But I was appalled by the language used on the poster asking for his return. Flynn’s owners made the poor youngster sound like a monster: If you see him, do not approach him, chase him, make eye contact, try to grab him, or otherwise interact with him in any way. Just call our number (they did not reveal their names) and tell us where you saw him.

This makes poor Flynn, who is probably still an adolescent pup since he was in a training collar, sound like an attack dog. But their training program has a different goal: to alienate the poor dog from human companionship so that he identifies with and guards his flock of sheep. I have seen this with Great Pyrenees, the giant white dogs who also herd sheep, barking and snarling nonstop as they guard their flocks, completely unacclimated to humans, even those who’re just walking up the road, in Virginia. The dogs live outside with the flock and never experience the richness of human companionship. To me, this is the greatest disservice to an intelligent dog that there could be.

We own a sheepdog, a German shepherd. We don’t have sheep, but we appreciate our shepherd Shiloh’s keenly honed herding instincts as she tries to collect us, our cats, and her numerous toys all in the same room. She may not always succeed, but her herding instinct is very evident, and she’s never happier than when she can keep an eye on us (her flock) while reclining in our midst. In Scotland, the prized Border collies, perhaps the ultimate herding dogs, are allowed back in the house at the end of their workday, allowed to take their place among their human families. Like them, they deserve some R&R for a day’s work well done.

To isolate a dog from human contact so that it may serve a “purpose” seems to me to be a sin. The purpose of the dog-human bond is to work together, to rest together, to play together. Not to banish the dog to the outer reaches, away from human contact, even eye contact with strangers. Maybe Flynn realized that when he ran away.

Save milkweeds, save monarchs. March 7, 2014

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Another reason to hate Monsanto. Our friend Ben read an article on LiveScience this morning that said that monarch butterfly populations were being driven to extinction because of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (generic: glyphosate). Because Roundup is so widely used in this country, milkweeds are being killed countrywide. And because milkweeds are the only food of monarch butterfly larvae and the only plants on which monarch females will lay their eggs, the monarch population has declined drastically, from over 1 billion to 3.3 million in just ten years. Our yard used to be full of monarchs; last summer, we didn’t see one.

People sometimes ask me why I hate Monsanto. Is it because of their “Frankenfoods,” GMOs (for “genetically modified organisms”) like corn and soybeans created out of things like mouse DNA to withstand massive applications of Roundup, with no thought to how these so-called foods might affect the animals and humans that eat them? No, not really. Is it because of the trick Monsanto pulled on farmers, forcing them to buy the GMO seeds, which they produce and sell, AND the Roundup in ever-increasing quantities every year to keep weeds at bay? No, not really. Surely farmers are smart enough to figure out this devil’s bargain for themselves.

What really frosts my flakes about Monsanto is its ruthless pursuit of world domination. When its horrible GMO pollen gets into the field of a small farmer who’s nurturing an heirloom strain passed down in his family for generations, instead of the farmer suing Monsanto for contaminating his crop, Monsanto sues him for “stealing” its seeds. And wins. Money talks, and Monsanto has ever so much of that. Every time a state wants to have GMO ingredients listed on food labels so its citizens can make an informed decision about whether to buy them or not, Monsanto throws big money around and buys so many votes that not one of the many GMO-labelling initiatives has passed.

Worst of all, Monsanto goes to Third World countries and persuades their small farmers, who have grown crops suited to their areas for thousands of years, to give them up in favor of Monsanto’s supercrops. And suddenly, they too find themselves paying for seed every year instead of saving their own, seed that isn’t suited to their climate or their diet. Or else.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with Roundup residue in our food and water and soil and pet food, whether we want it or not. (Soon to be combined with 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange, to give its waning efficacy a boost.) And we’re seeing the die-off of beautiful species like the monarch butterflies as a result, and wondering why our own cancer rate and our pets’ is shooting up.

I’d like to encourage everyone who loves monarch butterflies to stop using Roundup on your property and to plant milkweed. If you feel the need to fight weeds on your property and don’t want to pull them up, use one of the flamethrower weedkillers, sort of like a bigger version of a grill starter. (Except in the case of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; you really need to keep after these while they’re small and pull them up wth latex gloves, then toss them and the gloves out in a plastic bag. Flame could blow the active ingredient, urushiol, on you, and give you a rash like you can’t imagine.)

We have encouraged the growth of our native milkweed (showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa) here at Hawk’s Haven, as well as planting the aptly named butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Both are highly decorative; showy milkweed has dense heads of pink flowers, and you can now find butterfly weed in every shade from yellow through orange to red. Showy milkweed will form sturdy colonies if you let it, and butterfly weed is one of the perennial joys of summer. Please try to help the monarchs. And defeat Monsanto.

As the Catholic crusader for workers’ rights Dorothy Day said, “People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”

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