by Cyndi Hubach  February 27, 2015

“I’ve got two caterpillars and a chrysalis in my freezer right now, heading to their doom.” That was how a friend of mine thought I should start a blog about my misadventures in raising monarch caterpillars. It was the end of a litany of disasters I’d shared with him, and he thought it was the most hysterical thing he’d ever heard. “You’ve got to write this stuff down. All you want to do is help them, and you’ve got them dying in your freezer. You’ve got to admit it’s kind of funny.”

So, not everyone is a bug person.

Even when it’s something as lovely as a butterfly, it can be hard to relate to bugs in the same way we do to most birds and mammals. They’re so “other”—with their multiple legs and

Monarchcompound eyes—their articulated bodies, and I’m sorry but yes, often horrific mien. Butterflies may be great ambassadors to this foreign bug world because of their beauty, but it’s clear from my friend’s comments that even they are often low on the human empathy scale.

That being said,monarchs with their striking orange and black coloring and epic, multi-generational migrations have always held a special place in most people’s hearts. So news that their numbers are plummeting has received significant attention. In case you haven’t heard, the iconic butterfly is facing a double threat:

  1. Destruction by logging of its traditional overwintering grounds in Mexico
  2. The rapid, near obliteration of its summer breeding grounds in the Midwest by the widespread agricultural use of Roundup. (See abstract of article here)

The devastation has been so swift that butterfly populations plummeted by an estimated 90-percent from 1996 to 2013 (numbers rebounded a bit last year).

As if this were not enough, the butterflies now face a surprising third threat: me—and the thousands of well-meaning people like me across the country, who are trying to help.

The problem is that monarch caterpillars feed only on one type of plant—milkweed—which is what is being killed off by all that Roundup, and what people like me are busy planting in our gardens to replace it. What nobody tells you is that there are more than 140 species of milkweed, and there can be problems associated with planting the wrong type for your region. So when I went to the nursery, I bought the only kind they had—the only kind most nurseries have—a tropical, non-native variety called Asclepiascurassavica. Before I knew it, I had nearly two-dozen monarch caterpillars gobbling it up. So, success, right?

This gets to be a long story, but suffice it to say, before long I was asking questions like: Why is there a puddle of green liquid around that one? Why is that one turning black? Why is that one just hanging like that? And finally, how do I put them out of their misery — which is how a few of them ended up in my freezer (they’re cold-blooded and slowly shut down and die, or so they say). It turns out there are myriad things that can go wrong with monarch caterpillars, and planting the wrong milkweed can exacerbate them.

The issue was, the ones that did survive never seemed to go away. “Aren’t you supposed to be migrating or something?” I’d say to them as October gave way to November and on to December. But there they’d be, flitting about, laying more eggs, begetting more caterpillars, and causing me to seek out more of that tropical milkweed. And as this cycle repeated itself, the caterpillars seemed more prone to illness, were increasingly plagued by predators and parasites, and gave me the distinct sense that I was doing more harm than good.

It was at this point I got wind of the great native vs. exotic milkweed debate that was raging in the butterfly world.  As it turns out, this is an issue of remarkable complexity and nuance. It is also an issue that has people intensely polarized. I was determined to get to the bottom of it.  I wanted to find out more than just what was expedient, and what was ideologically pure.  I wanted to discover what was the best way to raise and care for this poor, beleaguered butterfly. And I’ll tell you what I found out—in next week’s posting…

 

 

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There I was traipsing through the snow the day after I summitted Mt. Baldy in order to procure more wilderness photography, since Los Angeles has an indigence of opportunities to experience “real winter”–as some may deem it. In other words–winter with actual snowfall, hail, sleet, and other “dreadful” elements is rare lest one is willing to seek it out.

Not too many people have a chance to indulge the marvels of nature, so I brought the banquet back for the eyes to relish. Enjoy!

By Cyndi Hubach,   February 20, 2015

Maybe you’ve seen the weather map making the rounds on Facebook that shows most of the country suffering under variations of “Cold as F***,” “F*** You Winter,” etc., while we on the Left Coast look on with a disdainful “LOL.” You could excuse our New England friends for regarding us with a heaping snowshovelfull of loathing curdled with envy, but if you’re anything like me, these scorching winter days don’t inspire gloating so much as a swirling contradictory blend of emotions. Yes, there’s the delight of walking the dog on a warm, sunny day, but there’s also some guilt at our good fortune, a bit of sartorial confusion, and not a small amount of alarm.

crowsFor what are we to make of 85-degree temperatures in mid-February? Have we rotated down to the Southern Hemisphere (we knew California would break loose one day!) without anyone taking notice? Are we parked outside the gates of Hell? Or is this just finally a sure sign that climate change is here? Whatever it is, we humans can dig out our shorts and tank tops and slather on the sunscreen, but what are the local flora and fauna to do? How do they cope, and is there anything we can and should (or shouldn’t) do to help them endure this wholly unholy, unseasonal baking?

It’s extraordinary that anything besides us humans manages to live in our noisy, congested, overheated cities, but there they are, these intrepid beings, finding a bit of shelter and sustenance in our medians, “green spaces,” and mowed and blown backyards. These extreme weather fluctuations, though, make things just that much more challenging for the flying and furry set. They are adapted to a rather narrow range of habitable conditions, and these extremes can wreak havoc on their breeding, eating and migratory behavior.

So here are some tips to help you help them – with a really big one at the end:

Adjust your watering. It’s a bummer to have to water in the winter when we should be relying on natural rainwater, but be aware that the heat pulls water out of your plants and soil at a fast clip. It seems that every drenching rain we’ve had this year has been followed by a heat wave, so artificial irrigation is a necessary evil. Many insects and animals get shade and sustenance from garden plants, so you help them when you help your yard.

  1. Apply generous amounts of mulch. An inch or two of chipped wood over bare earth holds moisture in the soil, protects delicate roots from extremes of heat and cold, and helps keep soil organisms alive and thriving.
  2. Install rain barrels. One way to smooth out our cycles of heat wave-downpour-heat wave is to irrigate with water you’ve collected yourself during those downpours. An inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot roof can yield about 600 gallons of water, enough to get you through to the next big storm.
  3. Provide a water source. Whether it’s your birdbath or just some saucers scattered around the yard, a little pool of water can be a lifesaver for a critter on a hot day. I’ve seen birds and bees lapping up sprinkler runoff in the middle of a street, desperate for a little H2O. Give them a safe spot for a little hydration – and make sure to provide life rafts of rocks or sticks with access to an edge. I’ve found half a dozen bees floating helplessly in a birdbath. Bad news.
  4. But beware of disease! Seems like there’s always a potential downside to our meddling, and this winter, there’s a doozy. The band-tailed pigeon, California’s only native pigeon, is succumbing by the thousands to an infectious disease that interferes with its ability to swallow. People who have yards that are host to these birds are urged not to fill their birdbaths.

And what’s the one big thing? It’s simply this: take out your lawn and all of the plants in your yard, and replace them with landscapes that are suited to our climatic conditions. Michael Pollan has called the modern lawn “nature under totalitarian rule,” and it applies to the camellias, azaleas, roses and hedges that we’ve forced into our yards as well. If you plant natives and other plants suited to your region, you reduce your water needs, and provide a home to your local and migrating bird, bee and butterfly populations. And you will be amazed how quickly your garden comes to life. It’s really true: if you plant it, they will come!

 

How to Make Your Own Toothpaste – Ask Noelle

by Noelle Vincent  February 16, 2015

Someone might ask, “Why would you want to make your own toothpaste when you can just buy a tube of toothpaste in the grocery store?”

Well, there are a few very good reasons.  Many mains brands of toothpaste contain chemicals that are hazardous to your health.  That’s why you should never swallow toothpaste, although many of those chemicals are still absorbed through the gums.  Because of FDA regulations, there is a warning label on the back of the tube.  For more information about the history of toothpaste labeling and regulation, click here

Now why would you want to put something in your mouth that it too toxic to ingest!?

 

Here are a few articles that explain:

The Colgate Triclosan Controversy

Other Articles

Another reason to avoid main brands involves their animals testing.  Many companies still test their products on animals by burning their eyes just so that the company put a warning label on the product stating not to get the product in your eye and avoid lawsuits.  Several nonprofits launched campaigns to put an end to these practices.

 

COST BREAKDOWN

It’s cost effective to make your own toothpaste!  These substances are also edible.

  • Baking Soda – COST 50 Cents – Used up in about 9 months (6 cents/month)
  • Organic Coconut Oil – COST $5.99 – Used up in about 1 year (50 cents/month)
  • Organic Sesame Seed Oil – COST $6.99 – Used up in about 3 years (19 cents/month)

 

Also get a wide-mouth jar with a lid and something to stir with, like a dull, kitchen knife.

Mix equal parts coconut oil and baking soda.

When adding peppermint or sesame seed oil, add the desired amount which could be about 1 teaspoon.  You might have to add a bit more baking soda afterwards to balance out the texture of the concoction so that it remains paste-like.

 

Here are some articles that support brushing your teeth with oils and baking soda:

 

by Cyndi Hubach, February 5, 2015

 

 …but don’t #uck with the animals either.

 

I know this site, this concept, this movement is called “Please Don’t Feed the Animals,” and it’s a great metaphor for just LEAVING NATURE BE. But sometimes we need to do a little more than simply ignore it in order for nature to be able to do its thing.  We humans are so profoundly, permanently and consistently messing with nature that every once in a while—with great care and humility—a little help may be in order, even if that help is simply figuring out what the best way might be to unmess with it. And that’s what this blog is intended to be about: unmessing with nature.

 

This first post is a bit of an overview. And not to pull too far back on the mostly destructive relationship of humanity to, um, virtually everything else, a little context is in order. Yes, we are altering the climate to such a degree that most life on earth will be forced to adjust or expire,and yes we have converted 40-percent of the earth’s land to agriculture, and yes, we have stripped the world’s oceans of vast quantities of sea life, leaving swirling gyres of plastic in its stead. But if it’s any consolation, this unneighborly behavior is not unique to modern man. We’ve been wreaking havoc on our fellow creatures – even driving them to extinction— since we first picked up a spear.

 

In Southern California, for example, where I’ve lived most of my life, woolly mammoths, ground sloths,Mister Barringer and saber-toothed tigers roamed the land. Early humans likely did in the mammoths and sloths, European settlers did in the passenger pigeon and (virtually) the North American bison, and our most recent incursion of housing tracts and “open air malls” has depleted the habitats and stressed the existences of those hardy creatures who have managed to remain. So here we are now with residentpopulations of skunks, raccoons, coyotes, squirrels (and various rodents), the occasional mountain lion and brown bear, and many indigenous and migratory birds. Despite the historic destruction, there is hope for these creatures that are still hanging on. The question for us here in our brief 21st century moment is: can we stop this march of destruction, and maybe, possibly, even walk it back a little?

 

And just a brief word about the way modern civilization fits on the timeline of human history.  Even with our well-documented knowledge of the past, we modern people have trouble objectively assessing our impact on the historical continuum. The city that we encountered when we first arrived may seem tolerable, even while further development seems dangerously destructive. But imagine the view of our current infrastructure from the perspective of our great grandparents.  The city today would be unrecognizable and likely horrifying to them. Great swaths of natural beauty have been paved over, favorite woods cut down, beloved streams filled in. Modern development is accepted as a baseline, since it’s what we we’ve always known or have become accustomed to. This allows us to incrementally—and obliviously—preside over the loss of our natural places.

 

On the other hand, what would we want to go back to? We are not going to reestablish a pristine wilderness, walled off from human impact. There is no Eden to return to.

 

So what can we do going forward? What is the responsible course of action? In my mind, the best we can hope for, and indeed what we must strive for, is a reimagining of the ways in which we interact with the natural world. We must abandon earlier models of destruction and subjugation and develop new ones of cooperation and accommodation. Applying tyranny to the land has inevitably led to calamity not just for nature, but for ourselves—from the Dust Bowl of the 30s to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  Our best course of action, and the one I hope to explore in this blog, is to work with nature in ways that make it possible for us all to live together, in intentional balance and harmony, and thrive.

 

 

Some of us can’t dish out $600 – $900+ for a completely nifty ergonomic chair, like the covetous Aeron chair made by Herman Miller.  Even buying a used Aeron can hit hard in the pocket.  Furthermore, they often require add-ons, like the lumbar support or a headrest.

 

By then, you’re paying for something in the same tier as a mattress.  In the office setting, it certainly makes sense to purchase ergonomic chairs as assets, since the investment has a great return in enhancing productivity, reducing repetitive motion injuries, posture problems, etc.  Many of those chairs are warrantied for twelve years, so the chair can be repaired free of cost if anything breaks or malfunctions.  Furthermore, in a corporate setting, those chairs can have high-traffic, so they may endure more wear and tear than a chair used in one’s home office.

 

When you are working from a home office or fostering a start-up, you still want the same, helpful results–but may not be able to afford a “thing to sit on that costs as much as a plane ticket across the planet.”

Never fear!  There are affordable alternatives.

Here is an example of one route to take, although finding a used chair is a quest in itself, and repairing it does take time.  (Moreover, this particular chair definitely has got “the funk.”  Some folks might prefer something a bit more “mod” or “no-frills.”  It’s alright.  The lesson is the same, with or without the jazzy appearance.)

 

Today, the Make the Streets Safe Campaign goes live on Indiegogo!    Although riding a bicycle, walking, and skating cut down on air pollution, these means of transportation need to become safer in order for more people to participate.

indiegogo

We’ve assembled a full campaign to spread awareness on the issue, engage LA denizens, and effectively compel the citizens of Los Angeles to use best practices while getting around.

 

As a resident of Los Angeles, I hear sirens everyday.  I can’t help but wonder whether another child or adult’s been hit.  Before I moved from West Hollywood to Palms, I had to treat an injured six-year-old who was struck by a VW.  My former colleagues have lost loved ones.  These collisions are avoidable, and we have the power to launch our campaign and target zero collisions, but only with your help. Please support our campaign and help us reach 100% funding.

 

 

We also assembled the raddest video we could manage with our current resources.  Come check our Wishlist so that our next video can rock even more!  Thank you folks for volunteering to help make this video a reality, and thank you for your support!