Thursday, October 14, 2010

Low Maintenance Gardening: How To Naturally Keep Weeds Down & Water Less

Often the bane of the gardener's life is weeding. Herbicides are harmful to you and the environment, so most organic gardeners pull weeds by hand. But there is a better way to control weeds.


Except for deserts, healthy eco-systems have a heavy layer of ground cover otherwise known as mulch. In Permaculture, we want to utilize the patterns found in nature for use in food production, so we use mulch.

You should pull most weeds before you cover with mulch because existing weeds might have the energy to "pop" through. Mulch is cheap and easy to find. In fall, people throw away tons of leaves; these leaves are excellent mulch (avoid oak and walnut leaves because they suppress growth). Ask people if you can take their leaves; most would welcome it greatly. Straw bales are used as Fall/Halloween displays and are usually thrown out or given away, ask for these at the end of the season as well. Black and white newspaper can also be used. Avoid bales of hay since they have many seeds.

Most "weeds" only have enough energy to grow a couple inches, if they cannot find light fairly quickly they will die. To plant things that you want, just make a hole through the mulch to the ground.

Mulch has other important benefits in nature as well as your garden. It absorbs moisture and prevents evaporation at the ground level. I was able to not water my garden for a week at a time. After a week the ground was still very wet. This was in the 100 degree heat of desert summer.

Eventually mulch decomposes and turns into humus (essentially compost). Humus is a nutrient dense, extremely absorbent material, that has reached maximum decay. Humus is one of the best amendments to the soil, and is the major ingredient in the most healthy and fertile of soil.

Mulch not only adds to the quality of soil but also maintains the quality by preventing wind and water erosion of top soil. In some areas it can take a thousand years to create one inch of topsoil.

Rocks can also be used as mulch. In extremely hot regions, white rock is used to reflect the sun's heat and prevent water evaporation. In cold regions, black rock is used to absorb heat and warm the otherwise cold soil.

Happy Mulching!

Growing your own food is an important part of Thrivalism.

Image Source:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Electrical Storage in Hydrogen

Windmills and other alternative sources of electricity, produce a surplus of electricity when there is low demand. When we think of storing electricity, batteries come to mind; the problem with batteries is that they are expensive, slowly lose charge, and have a gradual decline of efficiency. Our alternative is hydrogen storage.

When water (with an electrolyte like baking soda) is electrolyzed, hydrogen and oxygen are produced. Hydrogen can be burned; through burning, it turns back into pure H2O. Hydrogen is clean energy.

Hydrogen can be stored in three ways:
  1. Liquid-Hydrogen can be cooled down to -423 °F, where it reached it's liquid state. It takes a significant amount of energy to achieve this, thus is inefficient to store energy. 
  2. Gas-Hydrogen can be pressurized to a couple thousand PSI. Though it takes energy to pressurize H2, large amounts can be stored without further inputs. High pressure storage is ideal for stationary situations.
  3. Solid-Hydrogen can be absorbed into solid materials called hydrides. Some of these hydrides can be warmed a small amount to release hydrogen. Hydrides are ideal for mobile storage, as in H2 powered vehicles. Unfortunately, a hydride that has a high rate of release at low temperatures (80-150 °F) has not yet been made, though there are hydrides that have a low rate of release at low temperatures.
Efficient storage of energy is important to Thrivalism. 
Image Source:
Image Source:

Body Language: Mirroring

We sub-consciously mimic (mirror) people whom we like and respect. If you see a person mirroring certain things you do, such as holding the head the same way, crossing the legs the same way, doing the same thing with their hands, having the same body position, etc., they most likely respect/like you (sub-consciously you would already know that). If you mirror people as well, they will also like you better. But certainly do not over do it by mirroring everything they do.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.

Body Language: Freeze, Fight, or Flight

According to "What Every Body is Saying" by Joe Navarro, the "Fight or Flight" syndrome is not complete because it also includes Freezing (staying in place and not moving). In nature, sometimes Freezing is safest option when running or fighting simply would get you killed. It is commonly referred to as "deer in the head lights". While this freezing effect is obvious when someone seems too stunned to move away from danger, it is often seen in subtle ways when a person suddenly quiets down or speaks less and limits movement. Sometimes this is seen if another person comes into the room. This should make you wonder if there is fear or a feeling of sub-ordinance in the person who freezed.

Body Language: Pacifying Behaviors

A pacifying behavior calms a person down. Briefly touching the head in any way is often a pacifying behavior. Most often people will touch their nose, mouth, ears, or back of neck. If a person is not comfortable, is lying, or disagrees they sometimes exhibit these behaviors.

I was at a dock and saw another person come up to a man sitting down. The person said that their "boat stalled and needed to be towed, could you give me tow?", the man said in friendly way "sure, not a problem", but as the person left, the man rubbed the back of his neck, which is a pacifying behavior and shows he was not very happy he had to leave his steamed clams and go tow someone.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.

Body Language: Leaning

In a conversation, if a person is leaning towards the other person, it is often a sign of interested and agreement.

Conversely, if a person is leaning away from the other person, it is often a sign of disinterest and disagreement.

Body Language: Barriers

People will put up barriers if they feel threatened. If some people sub-consciously feel threatened by another person they will put things between themselves and that person. A person can threaten another person by simply being overly dominant and authoritarian.

We will say than "Fifi" is the one to be potentially threatened, and "Fido" is the one to potentially be threatening.
If an object was between Fifi and Fido before the conversation then you can assume that Fifi was not threatened.
But, if by the end of a conversation an object such as a glass, a book, a purse/backpack, etc. comes between the two (and Fifi put it there) you can assume (after cross linking with other signs) that Fifi felt threatened.

In one of my classes back in high school, I saw a teacher talking to a student that was sitting down. While the conversation was not threatening at all, the teacher was 6' 6", standing close, giving direct eye contact, and had a reputation of being surly. Fairly quickly, the student took her backpack from the ground and put it on the desk between her and the teacher, and peered over it as the teacher continued speaking to her.
This was an obvious barrier to a sub-conscious threat.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.

Body Language: Space (Proxemics)

How much space a person takes up generally illustrates their level of dominance/aggression. There are many ways people take up space.
  • Leg Splay: Legs wide apart while sitting down shows dominance and subtle aggression.
  • Arm Splay: Arms wide apart such on a couch or table shows dominance and sometimes subtle aggression.
  • Wide Stance: Some police personnel are told to stand with their feet together when talking with people so that they will not be perceived as authoritarian. Indeed, a wide stance with feet apart is a sign of dominance, sometimes aggression, and authoritarianism.
  • Hooding: With arms up, the fingers are interlaced behind the head, and elbows pointed out, this is another sign of dominance.
  • Personal Belongings: When personal belongings are spread out, they are claiming more property and are exhibiting dominance.
On the contrary, people who take up less space are often less dominant.
One should avoid taking a lot of space using the above tactics when in the presence of "superiors" like bosses and teachers. These people do not like when their supposed "sub-ordinates" seem more dominant and will develop an unfriendly bias towards the dominant people.

Knowing body language is an important part Thrivalism.

Body Language: Foot Direction

When talking to another person, the direction that one or both of their feet is pointing indicates where they really want to go. When one foot is pointed to another person or the exit, chances are, they have little interest in the current conversation and and want to leave; this is especially true if both feet are pointed away from the person speaking.

As with all interpretation of body language, avoid conclusions with only one sign, cross link it with other signs.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Body Language: Crossed Arms

While crossing the arms can be a sign a cold person, it is more often a sign of emotion and thought.
A study was done where one group of students were asked to cross their arms during a lecture and another group of students were asked not to cross their arms during the same lecture. The results found that students that crossed their arms retained less information than those who did not.

Crossing the arms can mean one of a couple things:
  • Disagreement
  • Cold
  • Doubt
  • Disinterest
  • Subconscious fear of the other person (as shown by protecting your ventral [front] side)
Do not jump to conclusions if you see crossed arms. Look for other body language signs and the context of the conversation to support one of the above meanings.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.
Image Source:

Body Language: Pupil Dilation

Knowing body language is an empowering thing to know. It allows you to read people better and establish better rapport.

Pupil dilation is one of the few things we cannot control, thus it is one of the most truthful expression of the body.

Our pupils dilate (get bigger) when we are looking at something we like, something pleasant. Conversely, our pupils contract when we are looking at something we do not like, something unpleasant. In a way, the body wants to let in more of what is good and less of what is bad.

Savvy advertisers realize that subconsciously we are more attracted to a person with dilated pupils than with contracted pupils. These advertisers Photoshop larger pupils on people in their ads.

If I remember correctly from my research, some ancient Egyptian women would put a pupil dilating herb in their eyes to make themselves look more attractive.

There is good reason why a classic date is in a darkly lit setting. It dilates pupils, therefore making the couple more attractive.

As with all body language signs, the observer must establish a baseline for those signs. You must know what the average pupil size is for the subject you are reading. Once you know that, anything outside of the norm can be read in combination with other body language signals.

Knowing body language is an important part of Thrivalism.

Indian Fry Bread Recipe

Indian fry bread otherwise known as "Naan" is an easy, cheap, filling, delicious, minimal ingredient, easily amendable, multi-use food.

It can be used in addition with Indian food or soup. You can make sandwiches with them. You can make personal pizzas with them. You can put cinnamon sugar on them for elephant ears. And adding jelly, honey, and/or a nut butter makes for a delicious dessert.

You can make the dry mix ahead of time and just add water, which makes it a great backpacking food.

It easy to amend it with things like cattail pollen, nutrient yeast, chlorophyll powder, protein powder, flax seeds, etc. You can add spices like rosemary for a savory taste.

I have searched the internet for other recipes, but no other Indian fry bread recipe is as easy and simple as the one in my recipe box. Here is the recipe:

Indian Fry Bread
1 1/2 C Flour
1 1/2 t Baking Powder
1/4 t Salt
1/2 C Warm Water

Combine dry ingredients.
Add warm water, knead until soft-not sticky.
Add more flour or water as needed.
Put in bowl, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.
Pull off "egg size" pieces of dough and flaten.
Fry in oil (medium heat)-turn over.
Fry till golden brown.
I personally add a bit more salt while frying.

 Cooking is an important part of Thrivalism.

Are We Burning Our Teeth?

Our teeth are the hardest part of our body. Most people rarely consider the fact that teeth are living and can repair themselves to a certain extent.

The cause of tooth decay is multifaceted:
  • A high sugar diet feed bacteria, which create plaque which cause cavities.
  • Drinking carbonated sodas leeches minerals out of bones and teeth causing them to weaken.
  • Excessively acidic body PH (caused by eating acidic foods as opposed to alkaline foods)
  • Dehydration, which increases acidic levels. 
But in addition, I believe that we have impaired our teeth ability to repair themselves.
We regularly eat foods beyond 130 degrees F. 130 degrees is when our tissue starts burning. If your keep your hand under hot water from your faucet you will get burns in a couple minutes, the temperature of that water is usually 135 degrees, and we eat food well beyond that. Tea and coffee is often 160-180 degrees which certainly is enough to cause quick burns. If you have ever burned your tongue you probably have burned your teeth roots.

When tissue is burned it develops scar tissue. Scar tissue does not transmit blood and lymph as well as healthy tissue, thus repair is impaired. Minerals necessary for tooth repair have a more difficult time reaching the teeth through scar tissue than through normal tissue.

I am not suggesting we should all become raw foodists (though that may be good thing), but simply to avoid excessively hot foods.

Picture Source:
Staying healthy is an important part of Thrivalism.

The Environmental Scam Of Flourescent Lightbulbs

Fluorescent lights are hyped as an easy way to do the environment a favor. After all, they use less energy than incandescent and do not have to be replaced as often. So what's wrong with fluorescent lights?

They contain mercury.

The problem with mercury is that it bio-accumulates. Most toxins (like pesticides) that bio-accumulate are stored in fat cells. But mercury (and other heavy metals) are stored in muscle tissue and cannot be removed as easily by fasting. Mercury destroys the brain, and therefore causes a vast array of mental problems. It also harms the environment.

Pro-Fluorescent people argue that the pollution saved from running less coal power plants by using fluorescent lights, out weighs the small amount of mercury that may be released if a bulb is broken.

However, I am of the philosophy that it is better to clean one large polluter than trying to clean many small polluters. This is the same philosophy of electric car supporters; using electric cars means heavier reliance on the power grid, but it is easier to clean one large tail pipe of a coal powered plant (you have alternative energy options) than thousands of small tail pipes of petrol powered vehicles.

A compact fluorescent light broke in one of my relatives dining room and shattered on the carpeted floor. Precautions say to leave the premises for half an hour and pick up the pieces. The fact is that mercury is never going to leave that carpet and going to affect the most susceptible part of society, being any infant that may crawl on the ground.

Grocery stores have dozens if not hundreds of fluorescent lights. Inevitably, some of these delicate glass tubes break when being replaced and fall on food. The unknowing or irresponsible maintenance person will most likely clean up the pieces and take no further precaution, leaving food with small amounts of mercury contamination.

So what's the alternative?
LED light bulbs. They last almost indefinitely, consume even less energy than fluorescents, run cool, are rugged, and are non-toxic. While they cost more, you will probably never have to replace them and will never be exposed to mercury if you break one.

Living a Non-Toxic lifestyle is important part of Thrivalism.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Identifying Plants Around Your Area

Knowing the plants around your area is an important part of knowledge that surprisingly few people know. In a study, children could identify more brand logos than plants, let alone the uses of those plants. An unfortunate predicament. Knowing the uses of plants around your area is an insurance that you can at least somewhat life off the land. It is also a useful and free resource. Here is how I learned about my local flora:
  1. I go for hikes in natural areas and take descriptive pictures of every plant I find.
  2. I either use a plant identification key or I post pictures on UBC Botanical Garden Forum under the plant identification category.
  3. Once I know the name of the plant, I search for it in Plants For A Future and in one of my many plant uses books.
  4. Then I teach people about the uses of local plants, not only so that I will retain the information better but so that other people have that essential knowledge.
Knowing the uses of plants in your area is an important part of Thrivalism. 

How To Grow Cattail For Food

Cattail has been called the grocery store of the wild. At least one part of it is edible throughout the year.

Edible Uses By Season:
~Early Spring-The young shoots can be cut, boiled, salted, and eaten. It is slimy and as a taste similar to cucumber, which I am not particularly fond of.
~Late Spring-The immature green male (top) flower spike can be eaten like corn. This is my favorite part of the cattail. I boil it for about 10 minutes (though it can easily be eaten raw), add a bit of salt, and eat it like corn. It is very filling and has a taste similar to corn. I imagine it is nutrient rich.
~Early Summer-Not long after the male flower spikes mature, they release profuse amounts of pollen and appear yellow. I put a bag over them, tilt the stalk down, and flick the spike with my finger letting the yellow pollen fall into the bag. I put this in Indian fry bread and regular bread in addition to the flour.
~Mid Summer-The inner basal part of stalk is also edible after the outer leaves are removed, and is similar to the young shoots.
~Late Summer through Winter-The flower spikes should be brown by now. The brown color is the color of the thousands of tiny seeds on the exterior, each attached to a couple threads of "fluff". These small seeds can be parched over fire to remove the fluff and ground down to be used in a variety of ways. Since it is exceedingly difficult to parch such small seeds, it is often not worth the effort.
~Winter-The roots can be dug up, washed, and smashed in water. The smashed roots are removed and the starchy water is left to settle. Once the starch has settled to the bottom, the top water is poured off. The remaining mixture of concentrated starch is left to dry, so that only pure starch remains. This can be added to recipes.

I believe for the average person not in a survival situation, the immature male flower spikes and pollen are the most useful and easy products of the Cattail (Typha latifolia). To avoid pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxins it is best to grow your own cattail.

How To Grow Cattail To Eat:
  1. Find cattails in a natural area.
  2. Dig three or four up making sure to keep roots intact and put them in a bucket.
  3. Find a low spot or a waterlogged area on your land. If it is not naturally wet, trickle irrigation to where you want to grow cattails. 
  4. Plant the cattails in the wet area (try to keep stalks upright and protected from the wind).
  5. Keep wet constantly (not necessary after they become dormant for winter).
  6. Harvest next year's crop.
I planted three cattail plants, the next year the cattail grove expanded to 100, and the next year it increased to 300. Cattails are vigorous and reproduce well through their root system.

Bon Appetite!

Image Source:

Growing your own food is an important part of Thrivalism.

Picking The Best Boots

The quality of footwear has decreased greatly over the years as companies are trying to find ways to lessen cost. Most of us wear what are essentially disposable shoes that cannot and should not be repaired. Footwear is the most important article of clothing. While we should go barefoot as often as possible, since it is natural and strengthens the feet, harsh environments often require the protection of footwear. Boots are ideal over shoes since they provide ankle support when needed, prevent stickers from attaching to socks, and stop snake bites if necessary.

What to look for when buying boots:
  • All leather (durable and breathable)
  • Triple stitched on the main pieces of leather
  • Deep tread (for traction)
  • Polyester or nylon thread (does not fray or rot like linen thread)*
  • Small number of leather pieces (the more pieces to a boot the more chances for a seam failure)**
  • Rebuildable welt construction (where the upper leather is stitched to the sole; makes rebuilding easier)
  • No Gor-Tex (prevents full breathability and the pores get clogged up)***
*If there is a stray piece of thread on the boot, take a lighter and see if it melts; if it does, it is synthetic and ideal.
**Some high quality boots are made from a single piece of leather. These are expensive and unusual. So normally look for 3 to 4 pieces of leather in a boot.
***Just use a product like Sno-Seal to make boots waterproof, by the end of the wet season it should wear off and you have a breathable pair of boots again.

Some brands that are fit most of these criteria:
  • Redwings (Specifically model 608 [scuffs pretty bad though])
  • Whites Boots
  • Doc Martins (They are often build more for style than practicality)
  • Altama (Specifically model 4157)
  • Carolina
  • Hand Made Boots
  • Double H
  • And others
Some types of boots that commonly fit most of these criteria:
  • Logger (Have an exceedingly high heel and are heavy)
  • Western aka. Coyboy (Comfortable but lack traction [so you can get out of the stirrups easily])
  • Moccasins
And when possible (for the health of your feet):
  • Vibram Fivefingers
  • Huraches
  • Sandals
Picking long lasting footwear is an important part of Thrivalism.

Carhartt vs. Propper vs. 5.11 vs. Other Pants

If you are an active person and are rough on clothes in either work or play, you need pants that are useful and durable. I have searched for the best and most durable pair of pants. Here are the specs I look for:

For Industrial Work:
  • Heavy Natural Fiber Fabric. (for durability, and natural fibers do not melt like synthetics)
  • Bar Tacks or Rivets
  • Triple Stitched in Key Areas, and At Least Double Stitched Elsewhere
  • Deep Pockets
  • Double Front
  • Lots of Closable Pockets
For Outdoor Play:
  • Same As Above, With The Only Difference Being The Fabric. Cotton/Synthetic Mix Fabric. With Synthetic Being At Least 50% (Synthetic helps the fabric dry quicker, while cotton reduces noise and does not melt).
Carhartt beats military style pants for work. Carhartt double front dungarees have the thickest and most durable fabric of 12 oz. cotton duck. If a welding spark (or camp fire spark) goes through it, the fabric will not melt to skin. Triple stitched where it counts and double stitched else where. The side pockets are small but useful for tools; unfortunately they have no way to close. I add snaps to the side pockets so things don't fall out. Carhartts do not have a double seat like military pants and develop holes beneath the rear pockets.

For military BDU, ACU, and Improved pants I found that their fabrics do not hold up to industrial work. They get holes and rips much quicker than the Carhartts. Furthermore, the side pockets are usually only single stitched and I have had these stitches fail and everything fall out.

For outdoor play like backpacking, hiking, and potential survival situations. I have found that Airman Combat Uniforms (ACUs) are best. The large side pockets with interior pockets and the lower calve pockets give plenty of storage, and things do not fall out of them like the Carhartts. They have much more storage than Carhartt as well. They have double front and seat which aids in their longevity. They are made from 50/50 cotton/poly which gives the best of both worlds with the quick-drying anti-fading synthetic and the durable quiet cotton.

Carhartt for industrial work.
Military (ACU from Propper or equivalent) for outdoors and wilderness.

Using long lasting & practical clothing is an important part of Trivalism.

How To Naturally Stop The Common Cold, Flu, and Seasonal Allergy

The cold, the flu, and seasonal allergies usually enter the body through the sinuses as airborne particulates. Thus, the first thing you should do at the primary signs of illness (congestion and throat irritation) is use a "Netti" pot, otherwise known as a nasal irrigator. At any Walgreens, Rite-Aid, or Health Food Store, buy a high quality ceramic "Netti" pot, as the cheap plastic ones hold little water and are uncomfortable. Put in about a teaspoon of sea salt or non-iodized salt, and fill with luke warm water, stir with your finger so that you can feel the salt dissolve. Tilt your head horizontal and tilt the "Netti" pot into your top nostril. Letting the water drain through the bottom nostril, then repeat with the other side once the irrigator is empty. The key to success is to breathe through your mouth while you do this. Once you get used to it, it becomes easy.
The next important thing to do with colds, the flu, and allergies is to take frequent high doses of vitamin C. Chewable tablets are easy, but I also take Pine Needle Tea. I make pine needle tea by pulling or cutting off a 1 inch diameter bundle of pine needles. I then cut this bundle into 3/8" to 1/2" pieces with scissors into a cup and pour boiling water over them. I let this steep for 15 to 20 minutes and drink, making sure to not drink the pine needles. I also chew on one or two pine needles on and off throughout the day.

Water is the best medicine and most of us live in a state of  mild dehydration. Drinking alot of water is important in life and particularly during colds, flu, allergies, or any other ailment because it aids in the removal of toxins. Avoid cold water since the body must use energy to warm it up. Drinking herbal tea warms and hydrates the body, and a hotter than usual body kills many bacteria and viruses which cannot tolerate 2-3 degrees above normal body temperature (which is why the body develops a fever). Likewise, taking a hot bath helps with cold and influenza by warming the body above normal temperature. (Note: However, taking cold showers while the body is in a state of homeostasis (health) toughens and invigorates the body making us more resistant).

Echinacea is a common plant found throughout North America. It has long been noted as an important immuno-defense herb. Take echinacea tea or pills. Echinacea is most useful in the primary stages of colds, flues, or allergies but has limited effect if the ailment is in full force. In the later stages of colds and flu a lesser known herb should be taken with Echinacea...

And that herb is Goldenseal. Goldenseal helps shorten the duration of colds and flu after they already have a "foothold". I put a full dropper of Goldenseal tincture (found at your local Health Food Store) into an Echinacea tea and take three times a day.

But when rest is not an option and/or the above methods do not work I take "Old Indian Wild Cherry Bark Syrup" from Plantary Herbals. It is mixture of herbs, which tastes absolutely horrible, but works well.

Of course, preventing ailments by maintaining a healthy body is best. Eating healthy, getting outside, breathing deeply, meditating, taking cold showers, and living an active lifestyle are collective ways of having a resistant body.

Staying healthy is an important part of Thrivalism.