How Botanical Sexism Agitates Your Allergies

By Elizabeth Crews

This post contains Affiliate Links.

Introduction

After years of his wife suffering with severe allergies and asthma, Thomas Leo Ogren was determined to find a solution to suppress her symptoms. What began as a singular journey to help his wife transformed into decades of research that established him as an allergy expert and the author of the most comprehensive botanical allergy books in existence. He realized that the number of individuals with allergies was increasing exponentially, although one of the causes for this suffering is simple: botanical sexism.

Male v. Female Plants in Landscaping

In The Allergy-Fighting Garden, Ogren discusses the reproduction of plants and trees, focusing specifically on those that are dioecious. These plants have distinct male or female reproductive systems. The males produce pollen, which travels  to the females to create seeds and fruit.

Male plants are most often used by cities and homeowners because they do not produce seeds or fruit like the females. Because of this, females are considered to be high-maintenance and require more upkeep, whereas the males are considered easier to manage. This practice is called botanical sexism.

Issues with Botanical Sexism

Ogren maintains that the best treatment for allergies is avoidance. There are medications and inhalers we can use when we experience reactions; however, he states that intentional planting  is the key to decreasing reactions. The males are designed to create pollen and they will continue to send the highly-adhesive particles into the air. If there are no females there to accept the pollen, it seeks another tall surface to adhere to: often people . Breathing in these sticky particles  causes trouble for those with asthma, allergies, and compromised respiratory systems. While planting male trees is often perceived as lower maintenance, the lowest-maintenance option is actually to plant females alone: they do not produce the same high rates of irritants, and without pollination they cannot produce messy seeds and fruit.

That being said, there are benefits to planting males and females together for sexual reproduction. The singular incorporation of male plants and trees has decreased  biodiversity, which increases vulnerability to diseases like the Dutch Elm Disease. It was introduced in 1930s and laid waste to male American elm trees, which were commonly used for their shade. Their close proximity allowed the disease to easily spread from one elm to the next until they were all but completely wiped out. The impressive American elm population never recovered from that devastation.

Governments have also planted male clonal trees. Groups of asexual clonal trees or plants are called colonies, and they are genetically identical and connected by the same root system. As a colony asexually reproduces, single cells multiply to create more, and mutations can occur at a higher rate than during sexual reproduction.

In a study of famous clonal aspen trees nicknamed Pando, botanists have noted that the trees’ sexual fitness decreases with age, meaning the trees do not reproduce as rapidly. If dangerous mutations occur and are asexually produced rapidly, the organism runs the risk of continuing to produce mutated cells, which make them even more vulnerable to diseases like the Dutch Elm Disease.

OPALS: The Solution

To help people plan the most allergy-friendly gardens and landscapes, Ogren developed the OPALS system. The acronym stands for the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale and it details the least to most allergenic plants in an easy-to-read scale of 1-10. It is currently the most comprehensive guide and it was met with such high esteem that branches of the USDA have incorporated it into their landscaping. In addition to landscaping with low-OPALS-rated plants, planting females to receive male pollen (especially in public spaces) will dramatically decrease human exposure to allergens. This book and the rest of Ogren’s work have made it possible to easily create a garden that is allergy friendly.

To learn more about how you can apply this to your own home or homestead, we recommend purchasing Ogren’s book! Using this link to Amazon doesn’t cost you anything, but we are paid a percentage of Amazon’s profit from your purchase!


© THE LANDERHOLMSTEAD, 2018

Chatting Climate Change & Biodiversity with a Molecular Biologist

The Landerholmstead cares passionately about climate change and human impact on the earth. Sustainable ecosystems are essential for our success in helping people and the environment, as our Mission & Vision mandate.

Last week, I interviewed a friend and peer to get his take -as a molecular biologist – on climate change, biodiversity, and mitigating potential threats to sustainability.

Matt Martello graduated from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania in 2013 with a B.S. in Biology (Molecular/Micro/Cell) and Minors in Mathematics and Biochemistry. He has experience in environmental workings and the importance of biodiversity, including previous employment with the Institute for Environmental Health/Molecular Epidemiology Inc. He has worked to reduce his carbon-footprint in the last year by making small but effective lifestyle changes. Matt says, “I look forward to helping the Landerholmstead make a change in our local environments and around the world.”

Understanding Climate Change

Climate change analysis is both an art and a science: one of patience, observation, and statistical investigation. According to Matt, climate change can be defined as weather patterns and temperature changes caused by human interaction including fossil fuels, CO2, and replacing trees with impermeable surfaces like buildings and roads. He characterizes humans as the greatest threat to our climate: through road/industry development, destruction or disruption of ecosystems, and pollution. Our reliance on our current waste-model (landfills, etc.) is unsustainable because of how long unassisted waste takes to break down. And all the while it’s breaking down, it is releasing CO2 and methane, among other wasted gases.

The Necessity of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is what makes functioning ecosystems possible. It increases productivity and stability. Each element in a biodiverse system fills a niche and plays an essential role. Biodiverse systems “support a greater variety of crops, protect freshwater resources,” and promote the formation and protection of soil structures, Matt urges. Nutrients are recycled into the system instead of being wasted. Think of a basic example with animals, says Matt: “Animal feces breaks down into soil, soil makes plant growth possible, the animals feed on those plants, and so it goes on.” Nutrient breakdown can speed decomposition of potential pollutants and contributes to “climate stability.”

Interestingly, Matt also pointed out that biodiverse systems, because they are more resilient, recover more quickly from natural disasters.

A hot subject in (and out of) the science community, according to Matt, is the potential extinction of bees. Pollinators – like bees – make human life possible. Their potential extinction is a threat to our food source: humans would have to hand-pollinate plants in order to sustain our need to eat. Further, the same plants pollinated by bees feed our livestock for meat production, meaning all parts of our food system would be disrupted by their disappearance.

Biodiversity doesn’t only support our food systems, but also our energy production, medicinal research (including pharmaceutical resources), and contributes “environments for recreation and tourism,” Matt says.

Adapting to Change

Extreme weather patterns are seen increasingly and globally. Matt referenced the dramatic seasons Pennsylvania has experienced in recent years – harsher-than-average winters and extremely hot summers. The lack of tree coverage on monoculture farms creates less shade, meaning the surface of the earth warms and heat comes from both above and below. Further, trees are our best method of carbon sequestration, and less trees = more CO2 released, perpetuating the heat problem.

Being a huge agricultural state, these changes dramatically affect food production, requiring farmers to adapt by using more water (or other cooling measures), changing the crops they rely on to be ones better adapted for extreme temperatures, and adjusting planting dates to save crops from late/early frosts or heat waves. This unpredictability makes an already tricky career far riskier.

Plants and animals are adapting to the changing climate, just as humans are. Matt mentions that plants are adjusting their growing conditions in order to survive, including becoming more/less shade tolerant and more drought resistant or flexible to temperature fluctuations. Similarly, animals evidence their adaptations to changing climate through reactionary life cycle and lifestyle adjustments: including shortened hibernations and migrating to new habitats in search of food.

How to Mitigate the Threat

One of Matt’s first recommendations for adapting is increasing our use of solar, wind, and hydroelectric power sources. These stable, renewable  sources of energy can passively collect power without disrupting ecosystems or threatening human lives.

He then referenced international fast food chains that use unsustainable and unnatural food practices. “Stop eating there,” he said, “or eat there less.” Buy local, sustainably produced foods when you can. “Alcohol and other processed foods often have a huge carbon footprint from production to transportation,” he went on, encouraging people to minimize their use of such products.

Next, he urged, “Stop spewing greenhouse gases. Don’t drive long distances if you don’t have to. Use public transport. Avoid flying when possible.”

He also encouraged using less paper. “Apps can do so much these days.” Electronic communications can often do the same work, and they create less waste.

We recognized together that our impacts often feel small, but small influences from many people can have a huge outcome.

My final question for Matt was what message he would pass on to deniers of climate change. He sighed, as it’s a dilemma plaguing the science community. “Climate change is a fact,” he said. “Look at the predicted 2 degree celsius increase and its effect; wild weather patterns worldwide – of massive systems, some the worst we’ve ever experienced and they’re increasing in frequency and intensity; and the melting ice caps.” Alone, they might seem like natural occurrences in an unpredictable world, but when we consider all of these together, in combination with the elements influencing climate – including humans, the facts are undeniable. And that is the duty of scientists: to look at the whole picture (not a single, lab-bound subject) for a comprehensive analysis.


Written by Rebeccah landerholm, © The Landerholmstead, 2018

Landerholmstead Landscape Design Services

Now that we have acquired our WA State Business License, we are proud to launch our Landscape Design Services for the greater Seattle area!

We specialize in sustainable, permaculture designs that take advantage of your property’s existing elements and challenges. Our designers are unpaid volunteers, allowing us to maintain inexpensive rates. We are Licensed, Insured, and qualified.

We are offering discounted rates to our first 10 customers,
and we would love to work with you!

Please Contact Us today to schedule a Consultation. You can view Rates and Packages for more information.


© THE LANDERHOLMSTEAD, 2018

 

How You Can Help during the California Wildfires

As most of you already know, extreme wildfires are rampaging through California and are quickly closing in on Los Angeles. These natural disasters, likely exacerbated by climate change, have already devastated parts of California. People are losing their homes, their belongings, and their spirit.

At The Landerholmstead, we keep in mind that our country faces a massive homelessness crisis, and our goal is to protect the lives of that specific population. We already know these fires have made the homelessness issue in the northern part of the state even worse, and now it could have the same effect on the rest of California.

According to CBS News, there are about 55,000 homeless people in LA alone, which is up 16,000 from the year prior, and around 80% of them don’t have access to shelters — meaning they are sleeping on the streets.

With the potential circumstance of the fires reaching the city, it is important to remember this extremely vulnerable faction of citizens who need all the help they can get. Here are some ways you can help:

Donate

If you are financially able, try donating to these organizations who are working tirelessly to help during this crisis:

United Way of Ventura County

The American Red Cross of Ventura County, or text REDCROSS to 90999

Direct Relief – Be sure to choose “Southern California Wildfires”

Salvation Army – They are also taking food and water donations locally.

If you’re local, join a CERT program.

Volunteers are trained to respond safely, responsibly, and effectively to emergency situations, like natural disasters, through these local training programs. While you may not be able to help out immediately, you will be equipped for the next strike of wildfires or other natural disasters.

– LAFD program: www.cert-la.com

– Ventura County: http://vcfd.org/cert

– Santa Barbara County: www.sbcfire.com/cert/

– San Diego: www.sandiego.gov/fire/services/cert

We at The Landerholmstead are thinking of all those affected by the wildfires.

Do you know other good places to donate/volunteer? Let us know in the comments or via our Facebook page.


© The Landerholmstead, 2017.

Climate Change: Why We Care

The Landerholmstead’s main purpose is to provide self-sufficient, sustainable housing communities for people in need. Our dream is to design a site where crops and livestock are in abundance, where the soil is fertile, and the people who live on it have access to healthy, clean food and water.

climate-3But there’s one thing that can make it a lot harder for us to achieve these goals in the future: the imminent threat of climate change.

To say that climate change isn’t as bad as people make it out to be, or even that it’s a hoax, is a dangerous and irresponsible way of thinking. Our world is heating up each and every month and each heat record will break the one that precedes it. The arctic region just saw its second-lowest summer ice levels ever recorded. These things are happening right before our eyes.

Some more facts:

  • The world just passed its threshold for CO2 emissions – over 400 PPM – and it’s likely we’ll never see emissions below that in our lifetime.
  • Methane and ethane emissions by oil and gas have had a dramatic increase since fracking (hydraulic fracturing) became a popular way to obtain gas. These emissions negatively affect air quality and can destabilize the climate.
  • The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is actually allowing oil and gas companies to dump their fracking waste into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Oil pipelines are leaking into our water.
  • Experts say the world only has 17 years to transition to renewable energy before we start to see devastating effects.

These are just some of the many consequences we have brought on by allowing oil and gas companies to continue their harmful practices. Climate change is a scary, real and persistent threat that we, and only we, can interrupt. While our presidential nominees either promote dangerous practices like fracking or even deny climate change altogether,climate-2 we have to take action at a local level. Vote into office people who care about our world and our environment; call your local politicians and voice your concerns about your environment and ask them to oppose fracking and other destructive operations; condemn the fossil fuel companies and demand a transition to clean, renewable energy; stand with our brothers and sisters fighting to stop dangerous pipelines, like those brave people protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline; raise your voice when you hear someone say climate change isn’t a threat; even sign that Facebook petition you see people share.

If each and every one of us commits to a healthier, safer world, we can reverse climate change and save our planet for generations to come.

We depend on nature. We need nature to survive. The Landerholmstead cannot and will not thrive with a contaminated and damaged Mother Earth. We need not only to care about climate change; we need to act on it.

And we need to start now.


© THE LANDERHOLMSTEAD, 2016.

Vermicomposting: Instructions for a DIY Upcycled Worm Bin Composter

Hello and welcome to the Landerholmstead!

We are excited to tell our story and share instructions for DIY projects as we experiment on the road to self sufficiency.

So first things first: Composting!

Hopefully you already know the value of compost, but if not, check out 5 Reasons Why Composting is the Greenest Thing You Can Do.

There are numerous ways you can compost, but today we’re focusing on vermicomposting: using red wiggler worms to break down organic matter into nutrient dense worm castings – yes, worm poop.

Planet Natural refers to worm castings as a “Plant Superfood”, and explains how vermicomposting “refines” your composted materials, reducing “nutrients, including minerals… to their most usable form.”

Although castings are incredibly nutrient dense, they cannot damage your plants with chemical burns (like many on-the-market fertilizers) because they are coated in a mucus that causes nutrients to slowly leach into the soil. This also means their effects will last much longer than chemical or other fertilizers!

Additionally, worms are being researched for their ability to detoxify soil, meaning you may not have to restrict what organic materials are added to your composter: your worms remove toxins and make it safe for garden use!

And one extra bonus – worm castings are odorless! So no matter how many stinky things you put into it, the final product won’t affect the smell of your landscaping.

food-waste-composting-free-natural-nutrient-rich-soil-for-your-garden-with-minimal-effort-via-everything-needs-cheese

Now, what do you need to get started??

Supplies:

    • Plastic bin, any size. Size will only affect how much you can compost at once.
      • Great way to upcycle unused and space-consuming storage boxes!
    • Drill + large drill bit
    • Red Wiggler Worms <— purchase here and you’re supporting our blog and homestead! (Read how)
    • Handful of soil
    • Newspaper, shredded in strips
    • Compostable materials (Produce scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, yard waste, lawn trimmings, etc.)
    • Cardboard – optional
    • Helper dog – also optional

 

lolly-our-plastic-storage-container-for-a-diy-worm-bin-via-everything-needs-cheese

drill-10-20-holes-in-the-bottom-of-the-storage-container-diy-worm-bin-instructions-via-everything-needs-cheeseSteps:

  1. Drill alternating holes in the bottom of the bin. (These give the worms an escape-route in case of too much or too little heat, water, or food. Don’t worry, as long as you keep adding food to the top, the worms will keep coming back for food. This just ensures their survivability!)
    • We started with 10 holes in our approximately 12″ x 18″ x 12″ bin. After later observing standing liquid in the bottom of the bin, we increased their size and added 4 more for a total of 14.
  2. Add a handful or two of soil, just enough to cover the bottom of the bin.
    • Any soil will do for this, no need to purchase a specific type. Grab a handful from your yard and you’re good to go!
  3. Top the dirt with your Red Wigglers.
  4. Carefully add your initial compostable materials
    • Your worms will require semi-regular feeding. The more food you add, the more they will reproduce, and vice versa. For this reason, make it easy for yourself! If you know you’ll dump the day’s end food scraps in their every evening, great! Just be consistent and monitor the levels of food to worms, worms to food.
  5. Finish with a layer of newspaper and cardboard, if using.
    • If you live in an area with seasonal fruit fly problems, load up on this top layer!

red-wiggler-worms-eggs-for-vermiculture-composting-via-everything-needs-cheese

This post was originally on one of our sister sites: Everything Needs Cheese, which will exclusively share food-related posts henceforth.

Please comment below if you’ve tried this or other composting methods! 🙂


© The Landerholmstead, 2016.