Saturday, January 23, 2010


COMMENTARY FROM THE FARM MOM: It came as no surprise to those of us at The Farm to see the following article posted in Thursday's USA TODAY. This past summer, I participated in a study done by Dr. Rosemary Bowler from California that was an attempt to identify what the physical effects living in such a toxic environment might be. The results are not yet in. Please read further.

(Source: USA TODAY -

By Blake Morrison and Brad Heath, USA TODAY

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pledged Thursday to "use all the tools at our disposal" to reduce high levels of a toxic chemical that continues to permeate the air outside an elementary school in Marietta, Ohio.

The chemical, manganese, can affect children in much the same way as lead. Government scientists have concluded that long-term exposure can cause mental disabilities and emotional problems.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Toxic Air and America's Schools

The EPA plans to release data today that show high levels of manganese outside a cluster of schools in and near Marietta. One air sample — taken Oct. 22, 2009, outside Warren Elementary — shows manganese levels that were 23 times above what the EPA considers safe for long-term exposure.

"That is pretty remarkable," said Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, a Virginia-based advocacy group that focuses on children and schools.Two other schools, including Neale Elementary in Vienna, W.Va., just across the Ohio River from Marietta, also appear affected. One reading at Neale was five times higher than what is considered safe for long-term exposure.

Breathing high levels of manganese for extended periods can cause "irreversible damage," Lester said. He worried that the readings might represent "just the tip of the iceberg. How many other chemicals are these kids exposed to?" he asked. "It's not just manganese alone that you worry about. It's the combined effect of all these chemicals on the central nervous system.

"EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said the agency plans to investigate the source of the manganese in Marietta. According to data collected by the EPA, several companies in Marietta reported releasing manganese into the air in 2008, the most recent year for which complete records were available. One, Eramet Marietta, reported releasing 240,000 pounds of manganese into the air that year. The company could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Marietta has been the subject of air quality studies since 2000. In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one of its studies had found elevated levels of manganese and other toxic chemicals in the air at several locations.

The EPA renewed its interest in the area last year, when it launched a $2.25 million program to monitor the air outside 63 schools in 22 states. It included among the 63 schools two in Marietta — Warren Elementary and the Ohio Valley Education Service Center.

The EPA's air monitoring program came in response to a USA TODAY investigation that identified hundreds of schools where chemicals appear to saturate the air. Gilfillan said the agency has finished testing the air outside 54 of the 63 schools and expects to issue reports on each school by this fall.

Other articles of interest:
Chemical found in air outside 15 schools ( in News)
EPA to review health risk from popular weed killer ( in News)
Farmers growing genetically engineereed corn break rules ( in Tech)
EPA wants to limit runoff of plane deicing chemicals ( in Travel)

Monday, January 18, 2010


The holidays are now stored in our memory bank, and the New Year has brought about ice and snow and cold temperatures. The sun drops by for a visit on occasion, but most days we are covered from above by a blanket of grey skies, the kind that remind me I should be hibernating like the mother bear with her cubs-- moving into the silence, that is, rather than making an attempt to bumble awkwardly about through the days as we humans do at this time of year. The Farm supplies me with large doses solitude, necessary to keep me as centered as this time of year allows, for here I can watch the squirrels and birds, measure the growth of the amaryllises daily in anticipation of their awakening, and knit. Simple pleasures. Peaceful pleasures.
Samuel's returned to DC and seems to be in a more grounded space after his initial semester in graduate school. I'll hand it to that guy...mugged twice, ill four times, full-time employment, and graduate school full-time last semester damn near did him in. Two workshop classes (one in poetry, the other in fiction) will allow him writing time this term - time which he craves and time that provides him a chance to learn more about his art and about himself as the artist.
Eliza's completed her applications to Miami of Ohio and the University of Cincinnati. If she can gracefully balance school, winter guard, and her social life, the remaining few months of her senior year should be rewarding and memorable. As her mom, I'm ready for her to move beyond the small rural high school environment and drama that defines her life at the moment, yet I realize how important this time is for her. I wait patiently and eagerly to watch this amazing, beautiful young woman come into herself and realize just what all she can become. I anticipate the transformation to be as beautiful as watching an orchid open and blossom.
The artist in Joe screams for attention. Potter Joe has spent the last six months revamping the ceramics studio at Marietta College. Hopefully he's approaching a place where he can dedicate a sizeable portion of his time to his art. The guy possesses such skill and vision; one of these days, his creations are going to occupy a hefty portion on the shelf of distinguished potters in this country. I know that in my heart...I hope the time arrives soon.
Annie, the sole farm dog, enjoys an easy life here... The benefits of being an only dog suit her well...two treats a day, organic dog food, lots of loving, and no competition for the doggie beds. Her regimen of ibuprophen relieves her arthritis, and as I'm writing this, I can hear her outside, barking at the cows as they lumber across the upper field. Gone are the days when she attempts to herd them, but man oh man, she doesn't let them go by without reminding them she's still around.
In other Farm news:
1) Chintu accepted an offer from The Cleveland Clinic to begin a post-doc in June. That means he and Tom will once again move, this time three hours away. The Farm celebrates for him in a big way!! What an honor!!
2) Lori, recently described as "fancy" by a man on Maui, returned to the island after holiday break. She seems ready to head state-side, and we'd all love to have her closer.
3) Brett and Betsy will return from teaching for two years in Bulgaria this summer. Oscar and Felix will move back with them, and barring strays, The Farm cat count will then decrease to five....No more cats...Five's enough...I pronounce that now. Hee, hee...
4) Dana, James, and Wendy will be home again in the summer. Grandma T. is already ready for another dose of sweet Wendy!
5) Isabella has joined a children's circus group at her school. Bobbi's opened a new, flourishing, prospering yoga studio in Philadelphia.
6) I'm pondering the "what if's"....What would I do if my job situation were to take a different course? How do I want to define the next portion of my life? What can I create for myself that is gratifying, fun, and meaningful? I'm making mental lists....more to come.
It's Martin Luther King Day --a day in which I reflect upon non-violence, upon those, like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet Gonzalez, who receive power and strength from Dr. King's example. I can't escape thoughts and images of the devastation in Haiti. It seems like the world's pretty messed up, torn up, and in shambles at times. I look outside and breathe in the peace of this winter day and realize the best I can do is try to project it forward in my own way......If I could, I'd bring all humans and critters who suffer to The Farm for a dose of love and some moments of laughter....Not possible, but a soothing thought....
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Saturday, January 09, 2010


The Farm Buddhas have no aversion to snow or cold temps. Take for example, this lovely Lowe's Garden Department Buddha, donning a snuggie of January snow and her snow ball top knot.

The sheepish grin on the TJ Maxx Buddha indicates he's aware he wins The Farm prize for best snow head gear.

Silhouetted in the snow, Lowe's Garden Shop Buddha #2 has gone for the "off the shoulder" look for this snowstorm.

And Cincinnati thrift shop Buddha who peacefully rests on Molly's place in the Earth is modeling the single icicle look until the temps rise.
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Saturday, January 02, 2010


She's a senior in high school and headed for the University of Cincinnati next year. Radiant... beautiful... graceful... bright...creative. Planning on majoring in cosmetic science and French....Hopes to live in Paris and work in the cosmetic industry.
He's a first year grad student at American University... Driven to write...creative...cerebral...witty...Living in DC and learning about life, both the fascinating and sobering aspects of residing in urban America...
So good to have them home together, if only for a bit more than a week....Wishing they were here at the farm every day.....