Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wild Birds Shun Organic Food

TUESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) — You may think organic food is always better for you, but a new British study finds that wild birds beg to differ.

The researchers found that the birds prefer conventional wheat seed, which helps them pack in the protein.

The findings, study author Ailsa McKenzie of Newcastle University said in a news release from the school, were likely to be of “considerable interest to the general public in the debate over the relative merits of consuming organic food.”

“Protein is an essential nutrient in the diet of all birds and mammals, and getting enough of it, especially in winter, can be hard,” McKenzie said. “We showed that when given free choice, wild birds opt for the conventional food over the organic, and the most likely explanation is its higher protein content.”

McKenzie points out, however, that the study doesn’t look at some of the reasons that humans eat organic food: because it could be healthier over the long term, because it’s less exposed to certain fertilizers and pesticides and because non-organic food can be harmful to the environment.

The researchers reached their conclusions after studying feeding stations at more than two dozen gardens in northern England. They twice examined what birds ate — organic or non-organic seed — over six weeks in the winter.

Apparently, the birds like the protein in the non-organic food, which was estimated to be about 10 percent higher.

“Conventionally grown crops tend to contain significantly higher levels of protein than those grown organically due to the application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers in conventional farming systems,” McKenzie said. “This makes our findings potentially applicable across many food types and suggests the issues surrounding organic food are not as cut-and-dried as some might think.”

The study was published online May 18 in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ontario Health Coalition Releases Cross-Province Report Appealing For Equity and Better Access In Rural Ontario

TORONTO, May 17, 2010 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Health Coalition has released a report appealing for equity and improved access to hospital services in rural Ontario. The report, "Toward Access and Equality: Realigning Ontario's Approach to Small and Rural Hospitals to Serve Public Values," is based on input received from more than 1,150 people who attended 12 hearings in regions across Ontario in March 2010.

The coalition organized its own public hearings after the government's own rural and northern health panel - created after hospital closures in small and rural communities - refused to hold any public consultations. In total the coalition received 487 submissions into the state and future of local hospitals.

Today's report has been written and submitted to the Ontario Health Coalition by a non-partisan panel including doctors, nurses, health professionals, representatives of each region of Ontario and representatives active in each political party.

Key recommendations include:

- Create a basket of services, available in every hospital, including the smallest and amalgamated hospitals. These services must include an emergency department, blood, x-ray, ultrasound, inpatient acute and complex continuing care beds, palliative care close to home, rehabilitation and others.

- Ensure that these services are provided, at optimum, 20 minutes in average road conditions and at most 30 minutes in average road conditions, from residents' homes.

- Step up efforts to address shortages of nurses, physicians and health professionals.

- Institute a moratorium on emergency department closures and revision of the closures of ALC/complex continuing care beds across the province.

- Phase out the LHINs within three years and create new local planning organizations with a new mandate that does not include closing rural hospitals.

- Restore democratic hospital boards and curb the powers of government-appointed hospital supervisors.

- Reform hospital performance measures to restore compassion and access to care as primary.

- Impose a hiring freeze on consultants and plan to increase hospital funding to meet the national average.


"We heard stories of poor care practices resulting from hospital bed cuts whereby patients are forced out of hospital too quickly in a bid to empty a hospital bed, then spend most of the rest of their lives in the emergency department with poor quality of life until they die," said Natalie Mehra, director of the Ontario Health Coalition. "In the worst instances, we heard of patients left waiting on stretchers in emergency departments for days without food, without enough nursing care, under bright lights, with no privacy. Whole communities have lost access to vital services and now must travel 100 km or more to access care. The cuts are neither serving small hospitals well, nor are they serving larger and regional hospitals well, as patients are piling into already-overwhelmed hospitals in larger centres when their local services are cut. We have concluded that urgent change is required. We have put together a set of recommendations to restore the principles of access, compassion, equality and democracy in our health system."

"Our panel has heard an overwhelming consensus that the millions of healthcare dollars spent to set up and operate the 14 LHINs could have been better invested in patient care," said Barb Proctor, RN, and one of the panelists who traveled the province. "LHINs have not demonstrated improvements in care, only service cuts that leave huge gaps in service delivery. We heard over and over that individual citizens and municipal leaders trying to contact their LHIN with questions or input have been met with arrogance or received no response at all. The LHINs are viewed by rural and northern communities as a firewall between the government and the people."

"Closing services in small community hospitals downloads travel costs to patients," noted Dr. Claudette Chase, another panelist. "It is my greatest concern that many patients cannot afford access to care when it is moved out of their local community."

"The pride of people in the small communities we visited certainly is an inspiration to us all. We heard that we must not let the provincial government and its creature, the LHINs, destroy healthcare for those of us who do not choose to live in urban centres," added Dr. Tim Macdonald, panelist.

"We heard clearly the great frustration of communities removed from all control of local hospitals," observed the Honourable Roger Gallaway, former MP and a panelist. "The McGuinty government has created a group of elites called CEOs who control hospitals, even to the point of contriving their boards of directors. Communities now have no decision-making function in community hospitals."

"This is a wake-up message that our healthcare system is in an ever-deepening crisis," added Kathleen Tod, RN, another panelist. "Having spent half my nursing career working in a busy emergency department, I thought I had seen it all. After listening to the presentations across Ontario, I realize it was not even close."

"The coalition deserves thanks for its hard work in organizing the panels and for writing such a thorough report," said France Gelinas, MPP and one of the panelists. "I am disappointed that the government's own panel on rural and northern health care failed to consult the public about the future of their local hospitals and health system."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recycled Wine Corks For Eco-friendly Penny Tile Flooring

by Kimberley D. Mok, Montreal, Canada

Cork is pretty versatile, given its credentials as a renewable material (the bark harvested from the cork tree renews itself each season, so the tree itself remains unharmed), so it's no surprise to see it popping up as furniture, fabric, jewelry, ornaments, cutting boards and of course -- as flooring. Cork tiles can lend a warmer feeling to any room. While cork planks and tiles are not bad, these cork penny tiles from Canadian-based Jelinek Cork Group are even better, being both stylish and eco-friendly (ie. made from recycled wine corks). Plus, they do a good job of masquerading as ceramic tile, without the need to fire them at high temperatures.

Through initiatives like the CorkReHarvest drop-off recycling program, Jelinek collects old wine corks to be cut into circular discs of ¼" thick. The tiles are then glued onto a special paper backing to form mosaic patterns, and can also be painted and arranged in different colours as well. The tiles are glued to the subfloor and then grouted like regular ceramic tile and sealed with polyurethane to boost cork's natural water-resistance (best done with a low-VOC polyurethane sealant).

Some advantages to cork flooring: it's an excellent insulator & sound absorber, hygienic, anti-static, anti-allergenic, water resistant, doesn't entrap dirt or fungi, won't chip like ceramic when you drop something on it, plus it is easy to more story at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Transplanting Tips

from The Old Farmer's Almanac

May is a green as no other,
May is much sun through small leaves,
May is soft earth,
And apple-blossoms,
And windows open to a South Wind.

–Amy Lowell (1874–1925)

For many gardeners, May is the biggest transplanting month. A seedling’s move to the outdoors can be traumatic. Here are some tips to minimize transplant shock:

• Be sure that the plants “harden off.” During the plants’ last week indoors, lower temperatures a bit, withhold fertilizer, and water less often.

• For the last 7 to 10 days, bring seedlings outdoors for increasing periods each day, first placing them in dappled shade, protected from winds, and then gradually moving them into full sun and wind.

• Do not leave outside if there is danger of frost. See your frost-free dates.

• When buying transplants at a nursery, choose stocky plants with deep-green foliage. You’ll need to harden off these transplants, too.

• Ideally, the transplants that you grow or buy are in individual containers so that you do not disturb the roots of neighboring seedlings when you remove each plant.

Read more tips on transplanting.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Volunteerism as Backbone of Farming: Return of the Barn Raising

by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA

Conceived originally as a means for landless farmers to get farming, Crop Mob has grown and flourished in little over a year. Volunteers get together once a month and descend on a local farm or garden, and work together to get a big job done. No money exchanges hands. And everyone shares a meal at the end of the day. I may have once worried that volunteerism is the cheap oil of permaculture, but a new video about Crop Mob has sent my thinking on a different path.

Created by UNC TV, and brought to my attention by my friend and colleague TAO, the video explores a February Crop Mob that convened to build rice paddies in North Carolina. Besides the obvious joy and energy in peoples' faces as they get together for collective work—which should be reason enough to dispel any doubts about the utility of such volunteerism—an old farmer in the community provides some perspective on why this phenomenon matters.

Far from being a fun pass-time for volunteers to 'play' at farming, or a new form of 'serfdom' as one cynical commenter once wrote, Crop Mob is really a return to a tradition that has been absolutely central to viable, sustainable farming in regions all across the Globe—and that tradition is community more at