Friday, May 5, 2023

Water: Diving into Fear


Water: Diving into Fear

Most of us love water. We float on it, we swim in it, we cleanse ourselves in it, we make love in it, we fight in it.

We gravitate towards lakes and oceans to relax on vacations, baring our skin in colorful suits of strings covering just the essentials to not embarrass our neighbors. We stand in front of rivers, holding poles with hooks to catch animals with fins for fun just to be near the wet substance. We build floating vehicles to travel on top of water; we build tanks that will take us deep into the dark, past the light, to see the creatures that swim and live beyond our land.

We use it to wash the grime and stink off our bodies, the dirt and smell of everyday living; we scrub the surfaces of our houses and cars with it to rid our belongings of the evidence of time and use and age. We stand under cold sprays to wake us up, our kids run through sprinkles with glee for fun, we sit in it to refresh ourselves after a hard day.

We are made of it. Our brains are 85 percent water, our whole bodies are 55 to 60 percent of the basic liquid that supports this life. We are walking water bags on bones. We need to take in 2 ½ to 3 ½ liters of liquid a day just to stay alive. The planet needs it. We give water to our pets, we water our plants, we wish for rain in the drought so our lawns don’t dry out and our gardens don’t fail. Elephants walk for hundreds of miles in search of it. Deserts dry out because of it; rainforests thrive because of it. Each living thing needs water. It is an essential part of every living being here on earth.

So why would you fear water?

Ever hear that you can have too much of a good thing? Even water can kill.  Even something that is so good for you, can kill you.

Yes, you can drown in a body of water. We humans can’t breathe underwater with our mouths and lungs. But it is possible to drink too much water as well. Heathy kidneys can handle filtering about 20 liters of water a day, but if you have any health problems, or don’t intake enough vitamins or minerals or electrolytes, you can drown your body in the amount of water you drink, because your kidneys won’t be able to keep up, and your body will be holding too much water. You can kill yourself with a life-giving substance.

You can have a fear of water. Why would someone fear such a beautiful thing?  Imagine the ocean waves lapping over the sand, or a lake, the sun glinting off it, or the smell of a swimming pool, ready for your toes dipping in, your arms swimming laps back and forth. Beautiful, right? What if you were a previous drowning victim?  In a wheelchair? What if you had a prosthesis, a limb loss or difference? What if a physical disability didn’t allow you to walk confidently along the shoreline or the slippery tile around the pool?  What if you never learned how to swim? What if you watched your friend drown in front of you, and there was nothing you could do to save them? If your home was lost in a flood? What if you were in a boat that sunk, left you stranded out in the open water, drifting, helpless? I would fear the water as well.

How does one get over the fear of water? Do you throw them into the great wide open ocean, let them figure out how to swim on their own? Seems unkind, scary to me. When something lifegiving turns cruel and foreboding, when life-giver turns into murderer, what do you do? Can you stay away from water forever? I doubt it; it is a part of us; we are literal walking water bags on bones, remember? Are we scared of ourselves, then? In a way, yes, scared of too much of ourselves. Do we start gradually, one glass at a time, one pitcher, one bathtub, one kiddie pool, moving up until we can crouch at the edge of something larger than us? Can we grasp another’s hand along the way? Can we be brave enough to admit our fear to someone else?

Wait, brave enough to fear—does that make sense? How are you brave if you fear? It takes courage to admit you are fearful. It takes courage to stand up and do something about your fear. It takes courage to stand up against what makes you afraid, to change something, anything about yourself that you feel may need changing. It takes courage to stay open to the world around you, open to change. But we can. One drop at a time, we water bags on skeletons, we brainy calcified oceans, we lung-filled air breathing liquid earth walkers can challenge what we fear, can appreciate what we are made of, if we only learn to lean on one another, dip our arms, dip our legs, dip our torsos into the very substance of which we need to cleanse the dirt that clings to us, coming out not necessarily brand new, but refreshed and cleaner, somehow more whole, more ourselves, better for taking the dive into the unknown.

Tansy Julie Soaring Eagle Paschold


Monday, April 17, 2023

Thresholds in Crop Scouting

 We are quickly entering the spring season, when planting is on the mind, and we start thinking about weeds and pests. Our anxiety rises when considering treatment options for the critters out there who want to eat or crowd out what we are trying to grow for our livelihood.  I thought it was a good time to review just why it is a good idea to have a professional out there looking at your fields, and why, sometimes, they don't recommend doing anything, even when you think you see something that worries you.  Read on! 

Thresholds in scouting

Why we don’t always treat when we see a problem

When I scout a field, I look for anything out of the ordinary during the growing season.  Each part of the season brings a new set of challenges.  Early on, there are weeds to consider, emergence problems, and seedling diseases.  Later in the season, I look for nutrient deficiencies, insect feeding, and root and foliar diseases.  I look for damage from wind and drought. 

When I do see something that is out of the ordinary, I don’t always recommend acting on it.  I’m not just looking at insects for the opportunity to spray insecticides, and I’m not going to tell the producer to find a fungicide whenever I see a disease. 

Why is that? 

There are several reasons. 

First, there isn’t always something we can do about the problem.  For example, if there’s a water shortage or a drought in a dryland or rainfed field, I can note the leaves curling and plants wilting, but there’s no pivot to turn on.  All we can do is hope for rain.  In another case, there’s a relatively new pest haunting soybeans in my area called the soybean gall midge.  We have a couple years of research on this the little fly-like creature, but the adults spend their time in the ditches and woods surrounding the fields and only come into the fields to lay their eggs.  Once they hatch, the larvae, which are barely visible to the naked eye, quickly find cracks in the stems to hide away, burrowing into the interior of the plant.  Neither the adults nor the larvae would be affected by an insecticide treatment in the field—the adults aren’t in the field for very long, and the larvae are too well protected by their burrowing habits.  So alternate and preventative treatment considerations are being discussed.  For now, we observe and report. 

Second, it isn’t always the right time of the year to treat the problem.  I recently saw some corn plants with yellow whorls and interveinal chlorosis.  This definitely could be the sulfur we had yet to apply to the field, but more likely it was due to a pH problem.  When the plants are in the field, it isn’t the right time to be applying lime to correct the pH.  So, again, we can apply the sulfur, but have to schedule the lime for after harvest in the fall or next spring before planting.  Alternately, the problem could be larvae that had eaten their way through much of the vegetation, but most of them were already in pupae—they won’t be eating anything as adults, so it doesn’t warrant treating pupae who won’t respond to the insecticide.  Also, just because you see evidence of feeding on plants, doesn’t mean you see the critter that has been feeding on them—you may be treating a critter that isn’t even there anymore. 

Third, the problem isn’t always at the economic threshold to be able to warrant treating the problem.  No field is going to be perfectly pest-free, and no plant is going to be perfectly free of some sort of feeding or disease.  Universities come out with what they call “economic thresholds”, or the point at which a pest is going to create enough harm to the plant that yield will be adversely affected, and the extra expense of treating the field is worth it.  Not only are you paying for the chemical, but there’s the application fee if someone else does the application, and equipment cost, fuel, and time spent driving in the field if you do the application yourself.  The potential income from yield lost has to outweigh the cost to treat the pest.  In the case of insects, it may be number of insects per plant or amount of total feeding on the plant (percent of defoliation), in which every leaf on the plant is considered for total loss.  In the case of diseases, it may be percent of the field affected by the disease or number of lesions on each plant. 

Sometimes, scouting a field is more of an art form than a cut and dry numbers game.  Just because you see the critter out there—or even the evidence of it, doesn’t automatically mean there is something that can or should be done about it.  But that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be out there watching things grow, and keeping an eye on things.  Because the moment that threshold is crossed, and the season is right, timing is of the essence.  It helps to have someone that knows what they are looking for, and knows what they are looking at. 

It helps to have someone outstanding in the field.  [Yup.  I had to throw that pun in there.] 

Who’s looking out for your crops?

Thanks for reading.

Julie S. Paschold

originally written June 16, 2020

repost April 17, 2023

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Danger: Don't Drink This


Danger: Don’t Drink This

or How stupid are we?

Responsibilities in wise chemical use

This is a repost from early 2020, when RoundUp was facing lawsuits.  It is still a good read today, about being smart when using chemicals, or anything that could possibly damage you.  My son and I had a good conversation about pocket knives last night.  A pocket knife can be used as a tool for many reasons (a good agronomist is never found without one), but it could also be used as a weapon, so they are banned from some college campuses and in your carry-on in airports (I found that one out the hard way). It is also a good laugh about the silly warnings companies put on their labels. It will make you go out looking for more.

I was minding my own business, chilling in my living room with the television on.  I frankly don’t pay much attention to the “boob tube”—I’d rather be doing something like reading, sketching, walking, putting together a puzzle, talking to my kids, or making up horrible puns with my dad.  

[Okay, I have to interrupt this blog for a good one: my parents were on vacation, walking along the beach, counting jelly-fish.  Being a midwesterner, I had no idea that they just wash up on the shore and lay there on the sand, so my dad took a photo of one and sent it to me.  His caption:  “A picture of the marmalade-fish”.  Ha.  Here’s the little guy now (the fish, not my dad): 

So I responded—“If you see any with a guitar, I guess it would be a jam-fish, then, wouldn’t it”.  Double Ha!  …Come on, didn’t I at least make you groan?]

Back to our regularly scheduled program.  I’m barely paying attention to the channel, glance up, and there’s this lady with GIGANTIC eyes telling me that I quite likely am on my death bed if I’ve even come near the weed killer RoundUp, and need to call her number immediately to be connected to a lawyer who can include me in a lawsuit for damages, but I need to call NOW because there’s no time to waste!  [Frankly, her scary face is what might lead me to my death bed—there’s so much make-up on there and her eyes are pasted so wide open, I thought the color in my TV screen had gone wacky!]

If any of you have watched or read any news, chances are you have heard about EPA’s recent reexamination of studies related to the active ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, and whether or not it causes long term health problems.  The latest decision from EPA is that, if used as labeled, there is NOT proof that glyphosate causes cancer. 

But people are still scared—and skeptical.  The ad I saw is one example of how lawyers play on that fear, and the line between facts and rumors becomes hazy. 

This got me thinking.  I agree labeling, restrictions, studies, research, guidelines, and regulations are all very helpful and absolutely needed when using any sort of chemical anywhere.  If we didn’t have guidelines on rates, times of day, temperatures, wind speeds, cautions to stay away from wildlife habitats and being aware of those cute little honeybees, we’d be in trouble.  And the definition of chemical can be so loosely and diversely applied, that it’s a subject for another debate altogether.  However, where do we draw the line between putting the responsibility on the chemical manufacturer and using our own common sense when utilizing their product? 

Remember the woman who sued McDonald’s when she burned her skin spilling coffee on herself?  How silly was that—you ordered coffee, coffee is hot, you spill coffee, hot coffee can hurt.  Common sense, right?  Why does there need to be a warning label for a natural consequence that an average person would understand?  Have you ever read the warnings in the fine print on some other products?  For example, on my sleeping medication, it warns me “may cause drowsiness”—well I should hope so!  That’s why I’m taking it!  And on a department store stroller, in order to not forget your child is in there—to place something valuable in the stroller as well, so you don’t forget to remove your child [Um, isn’t your child probably the most valuable asset you have?]  On skin creams, to not ingest.  On carpentry drills, to not use as a dental drill.  Or the advice to not eat those little silica gel packets [but they look so yummy!].  On saws, to not grab the blade when it’s running.  On thermometers, to not use it orally once you’ve used it rectally [ewwww].  Reminders to not operate machinery while unconscious or sleeping [I didn’t even know that was possible].  The fact that the manufacturers had to put these specific warnings on their products is an indication that someone has actually tried it at some point in time.  Blows your mind, doesn’t it. 

Back to our herbicide.  I’m not saying there isn’t proof that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer at all in any circumstance.  But just because using glyphosate as labeled doesn’t cause long term health problems doesn’t mean I’m going to put it in my morning coffee or bathe in it.  Any chemical intended to kill something isn’t meant for us to breathe in or be exposed to in large quantities—isn’t that common sense as well?  Obviously not, because Bayer is still facing lawsuits.  I talked to a gal last night who used to work for a tree nursery.  She told stories about how they would get phone calls about people calling about their sick trees, and come to find out the individuals had sprayed weed killer around their actively growing trees.  [You didn’t think about the fact that a tree is a plant?  And weed killers are designed to kill plants?]   

The public scare is growing to the point that Bayer is considering removing RoundUp as a product available for private users.  So no more spraying your rocks or driveway or garden with glyphosate.  I understand the scare about chemicals causing health concerns, but I also understand the move towards taking the chemical away from the common citizen.  It’s better to be safe than sorry, and prevent more people from ending up like the gal that spills hot coffee on her lap and can’t believe she got hurt. 

I guess sometimes even a warning label can’t fix things. 


Thanks for reading!


February 25, 2020

Julie S. Paschold