Monday, March 30, 2009
And, to be perfectly honest, I'm not really much of an "Activist" anyway. Takes too much energy!
But for this, I will make an exception...
This all started with Garden Rant. Actually, it probably "started" somewhere else, but that's neither here nor there, at this point.
Many of us (myself included) have "continued" the rant... And now I'm happy to see that someone is spearheading an effort to "get through" to HGTV and their sad departure from Garden programming.
Check out HGTV Protest Campaign. They're basically calling upon all us Gardeners to send emails, write letters, call, whatever on APRIL 13 (not before) and express our feelings about the disappearance of all "Garden" related programming. Not only to HGTV/Scripps Network directly, but ALSO to their sponsors, threatening a Boycott.
Okay, that might be a bit extreme... Or it might actually make a difference... Who knows?
Me? I'll definitely send an email off to the HGTV/Scripps execs, for sure. And I'll probably "selectively" contact some of their sponsors. There's actually a fairly extensive list on the Protest Campaign site - and I'll definitely be sending off notes to any sponsors who might have a "stake" in the Gardening World (i.e. Sears, Home Depot, Lowes, Troy-Bilt, among others). Pizza Hut? Probably not...
But that's just me.
By all means, I think - any-and-all Gardeners out there - *should* jump on the bandwagon. Maybe, just maybe, our "collective voices" can be heard!
So go to HGTV Protest Campaign and join us on April 13!
Worst case: You'll waste 15 minutes of your life sending out a bunch of emails...
Best case? Maybe we CAN be heard!
Heck, it's worth a try, right?!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
A site devoted to encouraging the current residents to grow a veggie garden: Eat the View.
Garden Rant posts here, and here, and here.
And official White House blog post here.
(I have no doubt there are others, but those are the ones I read most recently!!!)
And some news reports here:
I think this is Just Plain Cool!
Some folks might find this downright silly - in light of all the "Important Issues" facing the current administration - but I'm not going to get into political commentary (kinda like wrestling a pig, right?).
I *will* say that "Getting Back to Basics" is most-definitely a Key Issue that faces ALL of us. And how much more "basic" can you get - than growing your own fresh, healthy produce for your dinner table?
I especially love how they're getting elementary school children involved... I mean "Free Labor" - Love it! Noooooo - just kidding! This is all about that "Next Generation of Gardeners" that I was talking about in an earlier rant.
And yes, I absolutely believe it *will* make a difference, if we can get more kids excited about gardening. Hell, it almost makes me want to volunteer at a local school or something (would that I had any credentials!).
Anyway, seeing this makes me happy.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
(Paul, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, is an organic gardener who hails from Tulsa, OK. His show, Gardening By The Yard, is mostly filmed in his backyard. His is not a perfectly manicured garden, free from weeds and pests - and that's what I love about his show! He demonstrates a very realistic approach to gardening. And he's quite funny, downright goofy, and extremely entertaining and educational, to boot!)
Yeah, at least 70% of the shows were re-runs, but it didn't matter! I was hooked to the point where even Rog knew better than to try to talk to me while I was watching! It was still "inspirational" for me to watch my GBTY! I'd watch Paul and his cheesy antics, and get all "motivated" to "Get Outside" and "Get it Done!"
Hellll-oooooo??? I can't even begin to tell you when I *started* gardening, but I'm quite certain it was before I turned 35!!! Hell, I remember - back when I was in my early-20's - I'd at least START a garden on my apartment patio and my roommate, at the time, would roll his eyes and make snide remarks about my "Annual Attempts at Horticultural Genocide!" (Okay, so the patio didn't get much sunlight - and I was a little lax about watering! But still!!!)
- The "Under 35" demographic, with kids (and SUV's, and orthodontia, and college savings, and many-years of mortgage pymts still looming on the horizon)?
- Or the 40-50+ "Empty Nesters/Baby Boomers?" (Who's homes are nearly paid-off?!!).
While you may be aiming for the Under-35 crowd (and there's nothing wrong with that!), I don't think it serves your best interests to alienate the - cough-cough - "Older" demographic!
(Why yes, I *do* have my dainties in a wad over this! I *did* say I was ranting, didn't I?!)
...And since I'm sure it's all about the $$ (as opposed to "what people want to watch!") I have little doubt that there *are* Advertisers who would be happy to pay for some air-time to sponsor a GARDEN SHOW that caters to us - ahem! - "Too Old" Gardeners: Home Depot and Lowes have Garden Centers, if I'm not mistaken; Then there's Troy-Bilt (lawnmowers, tillers); DR Power (who makes those ginormous brush-clearers and mini-cultivators); John Deere (lawn tractors); And I believe that Sears sells more than *just* stainless steel kitchen appliances (Ummm... Our rototiller sports a Craftsman logo); Hell, there's even annoying Billy Mays and his Awesome-Auger-Thingie...
BTW - I almost *never* watch H
GTV anymore. I used to have it on for several hours/day... Now, hardly ever. And soon, probably NOT AT ALL!
Note: Many posts related to the demise of Good Garden-Related-Programming can be found here.
Monday, March 9, 2009
So I was diagnosed as Type 2 in December '07. I probably had "Metabolic Syndrome/Pre-Diabetes" long before that. But that's a separate rant that falls under "Why I don't trust Doctors" and best left for another time...
"It is what it is."
I now have a doctor that I *do* trust. She's an Assistant Professor at Stanford's Endocrinology Clinic. She's helped me make HUGE progress in the past 6 months - and I feel WORLDS better than I did!
Anyhoooo... Over the past couple-three years, I've gained an enormous amount of weight - no matter WHAT I did. Exercise more? Eat less? (Cut fat/Cut carbs/Eat Cabbage Soup/Drink Protein Shakes/Eat Nothing/Ad Nauseum).. Uhhh... Nothing worked!
Since my diagnosis, with the veritable cornucopia of pharmaceuticals I've taken, the weight-gain has not only continued, but increased at an alarming rate! I don't want to say exactly how much I've gained, so let's just say that it's A LOT!
Along with that, I am highly-highly insulin resistant. My problem is not that my pancreas can't produce enough insulin (it produces plenty, actually). It's that my body can't/won't utilize the insulin properly. In fact, about the ONLY thing about insulin that does seem to "work" for me, is it's ability to convert food (glucose) to FAT. Ohhhh yeah, it does that VERY well!
Doc switched me over to Humulin R U-500 which is 5x the strength of "normal" insulin. That actually metabolizes very well for me and I've definitely seen a HUGE improvement in my Blood Glucose [BG] numbers. I remain highly carbo-phobic, however. Carbs send my BG#'s thru the roof, but the U-500 insulin (in conjunction with *strict* carb restriction) works extremely well and I am happy to report that - as of February anyway - I am now a Proud Member of the "5% Club!" My last A1c came back at 5.7 (I'd started out at 11)! So "Yayyyy Me!"
The U-500 does work very well. And, in fact, my weight gain has *slowed* significantly. But... I'm still gaining!!! My hope was that if I got my BG#'s in-line, that the weight gain would stop and - maybe, just maybe - get replaced with weight LOSS, right?
Not so, Kemosabe!
Yes, I feel better... Yes, I have a *bit* more energy... Yes, I *have* increased my activity levels (from being a total slug [NOT by choice!] to being able to take the stairs at work and work in the yard)... I even took it a step further and started experimenting with cutting back carbs to ridiculously low levels (aimed for 20g or less, managed to maintain appx 40g/day) and cut back calories (aimed for 1300, managed to maintain appx 1600 cals/day)... I even started dialing back my insulin usage as far as I dared (to the equivalent of appx 300 units/day - which was as low as I could go without experiencing spikes) (and I've NOT been able to maintain that, I had to ramp-back-up to 390u/day). I worked on that DILIGENTLY for one solid month...
The payoff?! Ohhhh, I ONLY gained 7#!!!!
Words cannot describe.................................................
Anyhooooo... During my early-Feb appt with my endocrinologist, I expressed Extreme Dismay over my inability to lose weight - no matter what I did!
See, it seems I'm stuck in a Vicious Circle with my Insulin Resistance and High Insulin Requirements. It seems the more insulin I take, the more weight I'll gain. And the more I weigh, the more insulin I'll need. So add more insulin, gain more weight, and need still MORE insulin!
"Lather. Rinse. Repeat."
So we kicked around a few ideas and finally settled on Byetta (Exenatide). Byetta is an incretin mimetic that was originally derived from some sorta poisonous lizard. I don't claim to know a whole helluva lot about it (despite my Googling the hell out of it!), but the Bottom Line is - it seems to "play well" with T2 diabetics and helps with BG control. And one of it's side-effects is weight loss. That seems to (mostly) come from the fact that it slows digestion so you feel "fuller" for a longer period of time (but the downside to that is you might end up getting nauseous)...
It is not FDA approved for insulin-dependent diabetics, and it's not prescribed as a diet medication - but I've heard-tell of many insulin-dependent diabetics who have had WONDERFUL success on this medication (likewise, there are many who it hasn't worked for).
But since I seem to be a bit of an "Extreme Case," she agreed to let me try it. First, we wanted to draw more lab tests and make sure it wasn't contraindicated in my case. Plus, I wanted to do a bit more Googling...
Well, during my early-March appt, she wrote the prescription for it. She also warned me about side-effects (which are plentiful - and some sound pretty nasty, especially "Acute Pancreatitis!"), and gave me a list of things to "watch-out for." She basically scared the beejezus outta me!
I have found a good Support Board: Diabetes and Byetta
Anyway... I started the Byetta last Friday... One of the (many) things the doctor warned me about were hypos, so I dialed-back my insulin before I started it, and also ramped-up the carbs. I figured it was safer for me to run higher numbers initially and then tweak it from there.
I have posted to the D&B board, but I thought I'd also post my results here - in case there are any Diabetic "lurkers" out there who might find this interesting..
Here are my notes about starting Byetta @ 5mcg:
- I've had no stomach issues - other than a little burpy-gas, and I'm starting to get a bit more "brave" about what (and when) I'll eat after I take the injection.
- I can't say that I necessarily feel "full" faster - and certainly not over-stuffed after eating. But as long as I remain vigilant and eat *less* - I'm finding that I don't get ravenously hungry a couple of hours later. So I'm going to call that a "subtle" improvement (Meaning: I have to pay attention to it - NOT that it's an "insignificant" thing!).
- I haven't found any foods that "disagree" with me (yet!) - so I'm counting myself very fortunate (If I had to give up BBQ pork ribs... Arr! Don't go there!) (Of course, I haven't tried BBQ pork ribs since I've been on it!) (But when/if I do - it'll only be a couple of small ones!)
- I have been able to cut my insulin usage by appx 25% (from 390 units/day to 300!). My avg BG has risen slightly (avg 130 now - it had been in the 115-120 avg range before) - but I'm attributing that to increased carbs. I'm going to start experimenting with dialing the carbs back.
- I've had NO hypos. But I have had a few "spikes" over 170 - and one over 200 (again, carbs are to blame - and that was partially "by design" b/c I wanted to ramp-up my BG#'s while starting Byetta).
- Even when I do spike, it drops back and stabilizes pretty quickly. This is another positive improvement (previously, if I hit a 200+, I'd be sick, and my BG would be all-over-the-board, for a full 24 hours+ afterward)
- Yesterday, I had lunch w/a friend at a Mexican Restaurant. Tortilla Chips are like cocaine in that they're highly addictive... I also had a "real" margarita (with sugar and everything). Yes, I sinned. Yes, I spiked. No, I didn't suffer (Yay!).
- Normally, after sinning like that, I could expect to see a 3-4 lb. gain the next day - plus I'd feel like a Zombie. Today I felt surprisingly good, first thing this morning, ANNNNNNND... The scale (a very accurate model, BTW) actually showed a 1 lb drop! Yaaayyyy!!! (No, I don't intend to make a habit of it - but I'm happy to know I can indulge ONCE in awhile!)
Soooooo... I'm thinking and hoping that this IS gonna work for me! In fact, I think I'll even upgrade from "Guardedly Optimistic" to "Fully Optimistic!" I expect to stay @ 5mcg for a month (longer, if I feel comfortable with my progress). I'll probably upgrade to 10mcg at some point though.
And I'm still experimenting w/food (especially carbs) and insulin dosages. I'd like to get my avg BG#'s down a bit lower and need to figure out how best to dial-it-in (Obviously Mexican Food ain't the way go!)...
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Nahhh - Not in this case! I'm a Gardener, remember?!
See, last week when I attacked my compost bins and discovered an insignificant quantity of usable compost, I pretty-much decided that the "Old Fashioned" method of composting wasn't workin' for me (My Bad - but I just don't have the time, energy or desire to obsessively turn my piles every week)! Bottom Line: A dearth of earth is more work than it's worth!
Yes, I'll still maintain my bins, but I don't think I'm gonna get much in the way of compost...
At least not until somebody buys me a RolyPig!
So anyway, I went to the San Jose Composting workshop yesterday. I re-learned about "regular" composting, and learned *some* new-stuff about vermicomposting. Of course, I'd already Googled the hell out of it, and already kinda knew The Basics - but I figured it couldn't hurt to attend the workshop...
Plus, after the workshop, they sell "subsidized" bins to San Jose residents. So I picked up a Wriggly Wranch Worm Bin:
I also found a worm supplier who, as it turned out, was actually at the Workshop, selling his - umm - wares! He's a nice guy, very knowledgeable - and "local" to boot! And he responds to questions and emails quickly, which is always a "Plus" in my book! Anyway, I'd hoped to purchase some worms from him yesterday, but he was a very popular guy! Everybody was crowded around him (this was *after* the workshop, mind-you!), and it seemed as though he was conducting his OWN vermicomposting class! Had I been able to get close enough to listen in, I would've stayed...
Alas, I ended up leaving wormless! But I figured that was okay because I could assemble and set-up my bin - and just arrange to buy my worms from him directly at another time...
Plus P, a FaceBook Friend (and pal from the ceramics studio) said she could give me some worms from her compost bin...
So I emailed Jerry aka The Worm Dude (Cool site, definitely worth a look if you're interested in worm composting!), and he wrote back yesterday afternoon and said I could swing by today.
That was cool because P was also available. So I met WormDude Jerry around noonish and bought a pound of Red Wigglers (small composting worms - different from earthworms).
After that, I hooked up with P for lunch. We had a lovely late-breakfast at Aqui's and we discussed composting, and worms, and chicken sh*t, and rabbit poop while we ate our eggs, sausage and tamales! (Funny... All of the tables in our immediate vicinity were empty! :::shrug:::)
Nahhh... P is Good People and we had some good laughs! And she sent me home with a plastic bin o' worms and 3 swiss chard plants that will go into my raised bed.
Anyhooooo... Back to the worms: The Wriggly Wranch is identical to the Reln Worm Factory. It's a two-tray system that allows for "vertical migration" of the worms. When they fill the lower bin with castings, you encourage them to wriggle up to the upper tray (by giving 'em shredded newspapers to climb, and moving the fresh bedding and food to the upper tray), then you can remove the bottom tray, harvest the castings, and start all over again. It comes with a coconut coir brick that you soak in water and it expands like nobody's business. That's the worms' bedding. All you do is add worms and food! Adding shredded, moist newspaper (soaked for 24 hrs, then wrung-out) is also appreciated by the worms...
The main thing is finding the right location for the worm bin. Some people keep them indoors (but that ain't gonna fly with Rog!)
Around here, temps tend to be fairly worm-friendly (So sayeth The Worm Dude - and he's only a couple-three miles from me!). They'll slow down significantly during the winter months - but they shouldn't die. Summer temps can be deadly, however. And with the bin being black plastic, they can easily "cook!" Luckily, we have a breezeway alongside the house (actually, it's more like "hurricane alley" if you want to talk about 'breezes!'). It's a narrow walkway leading from the driveway to the back yard - with a fence on one side and the house on the other. It's situated on the NORTH side of the house and, literally, never sees direct sunlight.
Plus it's fairly close to the back door - and totally paved, right? No slogging through mud to discard kitchen scraps... In other words: Perfectomundo!
So the Wriggly Wranch is all set-up; my new worms are settling in; and I'd already started gathering kitchen scraps during this past week... I've actually got a plastic coffee can, lined with a biodegradable plastic bag (so I can toss the bag in the compost bin if things start to get stinky). It's sitting on the bar by the sink. And I've trained Roger to dump the coffee ground in there. Also any carrot peelings, lettuce leaves, "science projects from the back of the fridge" (provided they're strictly vegetative!), crushed eggshells and whatever get tossed in there.
To feed the worms, you bury a small amt of food in their bedding, in the corner of the bin. The worms will migrate to the food and convert it from kitchen waste to Super-Fertilizer. And I don't gotta do nuthin'! (Other than keep 'em fed and about as moist as a wrung-out sponge).
So I'm a Happy Composter!
And - just so's this post could be considered Educational - I will summarize what I've learned about vermicomposting here:
- Composting worms are different from earthworms, You can't dig-up worms from your lawn and expect 'em to be happy in a composting bin. Buy some Red Wigglers or Night Crawlers. Personally, I'd recommend The Worm Dude (appx $25 for a pound of Red Wigglers -and yes, he ships).
- Worm bins can be purchased or home-made. I'm lazy, so I opted to buy one, But you can Google Worm-bins and find a ton of ideas. Wood is a better insulator than plastic, but it will eventually break down.
If you do choose to make your own bin, make sure you include screening or use super-duper small air-holes because you don't want to invite flies (or their larvae) into your bin...
- Worms like "moderate" temperatures. They'll slow down in cooler temps (50's or lower), and they might die if exposed to prolonged freezing temps (under 32°F). Our temps can dip into the upper 20's, but that's only for short bursts. The worms will cluster together, but they can survive. Upper ambient temps: They can survive temps in the low triple-digits - but they won't survive in a black plastic bin subjected to direct sunlight (even if the ambient temps are only in the 80's).
- Quantity of worms: 1-3 lbs will work for most families. It's just Rog and me here, so 1 lb should suffice. They'll consume roughly 1/2-3/4 of their body weight, per day. I have 1 lb of worms, so I can feed 'em roughly 1/2-3/4 lb of scraps per day (once they get settled in and happy). To start a bin, err on the side of "under-feeding" them - until they get settled in and you get a sense for what, and how much they like to eat.
- Yes, they'll survive if you go on vacation for a couple of weeks. Under-feeding is better than over-feeding. Don't dump too much food on 'em before you go on vacation. You might kill 'em!
- Worms are primarily bacteria feeders, they eat the food when it is all slimy and covered with bacteria (Tasty, yes?!)...
- Once you buy 'em, if all goes well, you won't ever have to buy more... They're hermaphroditic (male and female) and they reproduce like crazy. They'll control their population, by themselves, based on the quantity of food and amount of space available.
- Feed worms kitchen scraps by burying the food under one corner of the bedding. The worms will migrate to the food. By keeping the food in one corner (or moving it to a different corner), you can get a sense of what they like.
Also, by keeping the food to one side or the other, that can help facilitate harvesting the castings. If you encourage them to migrate to ONE side of the bin, they'll stay there and not move until you start providing bedding/food on the OTHER side of the bin (that's especially useful if you're just doing a "one-level" bin. Mine is a multi-level bin).
- It should take appx 2-3 months for me to get enough worm castings that I'll want them to migrate UP to the next level of the bin. Then I'll harvest their, umm, output...
- Keep them moist. Spritz their bedding with a misty spray bottle if it gets dry. Their bedding should be like a wrung-out sponge. DON'T let the bedding dry out. DON'T dump, like, a Big Gulp's worth of water directly into the bed and DON'T let them sit in a puddle of water.
Most likely, the kitchen scraps you give them should supply sufficient moisture on their own...
- Worms Like: Damp shredded newspaper (not shiny paper, though - just newsprint), damp cardboard boxes (pizza boxes!), paper towels. Also: Kitchen scraps like lettuce leaves, peelings (potato, cucumber, carrots, etc.), melon rinds, rotten fruit (they won't eat the pits, but you can pick them out later), crushed eggshells (best if you whir 'em in a blender 'til they're like a powder - WARNING: Don't open the blender in the house if you do this! Take it outside b/c you'll get a cloud of eggshell dust). Eggshells are good because worms need "grit" to faciliate digestion. Toss in a couple of non pulverized eggshells, worms like to curl up in 'em like a bed! Old tomatoes, mushrooms, veggies, etc. etc. etc. Although... Some foods with seeds (well, the seeds themselves anyway) *might* not be palatable to the worms and could "hide" in your worm castings - meaning when you spread the vermicompost (castings+remaining organic material), you might end up with "volunteer" plants.
Hint #1: The smaller the foods are to begin with, the sooner the worms can break 'em down so shred 'em fine.
Hint #2: (Especially useful during winter when your worms may not be eating as much), if you freeze veggie matter (and store it that way for awhile) - it will tend to break down the molecular structure and help facilitate the process. Of course, you'll want to thaw it before you put it in the bin.
- Worms Like - in moderation: Coffee grounds (and filters). Coffee is high in nitrogen and can heat-up the bin. Citrus (peelings or fruit). Highly acidic and can make for a very unfriendly environment for the worms.
- Worms DON'T like: Meats, oils, dairy products, moldy bread, hot peppers. Paper towels with a *small* amt of grease - or pizza boxes - should be okay.
- Harvest your vermicompost when it looks all black and fluffy. Apply liberally to your plants and they will THRIVE!
Okay, I think that about sums up what I know about worms! Wish me luck - and I'll keep you posted!