J Brooks

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since Dec 29, 2018
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Recent posts by J Brooks

Rufus Laggren wrote: Do we have any substantial records of how past people used it over long periods of time?  

The book Sproutlands (Logan, 2019, https://www.amazon.com/Sprout-Lands-Tending-Endless-Trees-dp-0393609413/dp/0393609413 ) has a chapter, "Making Good Sticks", on the extensive use of fire by native Californians.  Through "fire coppicing", they burned patches every one to five years.  This created fresh green forage, created plenty of straight sucker shoots to harvest and use for baskets and fences and walls, cleared the land for easier movement, and killed oak moth larvae ensconced in felled acorns on the ground.  Presumably also burned ticks and other problems.

Before reading this book, I thought pollarding and coppicing maimed and killed trees.  I still don't like the look, but now I realize these techniques are essential skills, and our world and civilization were created by them.  Coppicing and pollarding were used extensively from neolithic times up until recently.  Actually, the neolithic age, the stone age, is a misnomer: it was the age of wood, but the wood rotted away, leaving the stone tools we found.  Want to have a huge supply of uniformly sized poles and sticks, just right for walls, fences, baskets, kiln fuel, etc.?  Then you want to learn coppicing and pollarding.  These techniques reliably generate mountains of clean, smooth, ready-to-use material.  Longer-term pollarding created building timbers and ship frames.

1 year ago
Here's an interesting story about a very old creosote:


also includes a bit about bioactive effects:
"Up to ten percent of creosote’s dry weight is comprised of a powerful antioxidant, known as NDGA, that is believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Some recent studies have shown creosote’s effectiveness as an antiviral treatment against HIV, herpes simplex, human papilloma virus and possibly cancer and neurogenerative diseases.[9] But, in contrast, other studies confirm reports of liver and kidney toxicity and even death when internal creosote treatments were taken too often or in too high of dosage. Although herbalists market creosote-based alternative remedies as “Chaparral” (a misnomer) and extoll its many healing qualities, the American Cancer Society’s website warns that it is “considered a dangerous herb that can cause irreversible, life-threatening liver damage and kidney damage.”[10]"

And when I think of all the things that we inadvertently wreck in our naivety, it makes me wince:
"just outside the fence line, lays a mining access road that surely swept several ancient clone rings into oblivion when it was initially graded."  

Creosote is so ubiquitous, it can be difficult to appreciate what a cool plant it is.   I've always loved the scent, and admired its ability to thrive where other plants can't.
2 years ago

Victor Skaggs wrote:It seems to be a syndrome, that any herb showing promise of healing with great power, is "found" to be dangerous.... Comfrey, sassafras root and chaparral are all declared as such by the FDA and forbidden for sale for internal use. One can't help but be skeptical

Larrea tridentata causes liver damage when taken internally, hence the warning.

I don't get your skepticism; if a plant is used because it's active biologically (i.e. is an herbal remedy), it makes sense to me that some of the actions may be positive and some negative.  Mercury and arsenic are biologically active, and were used for syphilis treatment for many years.  However, they are also broadly toxic and tended to kill patients, so now we use antibiotics instead because antibiotics are biologically active against a narrower type of cells.

The key is to find a substance with biological actions that fixes just the thing you want, without hurting everything else.  Larrea tridentata is biologically active and may do some good things, but it also causes liver damage if swallowed, so I'd pick something else.

By the way, that creosote bush you are harvesting from is probably older than you, and has to work very hard for each leaf.... I'd only take a little from each plant, and give them some water in exchange for collecting from them.  
2 years ago
Re: fire.... I saw this yesterday, thought others might be interested:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NerIx8tecHw  

To avoid tree loss during burns (recurrent wildfires in this case), the ranch owner removed low tree branches that act as scaffolding for flames.   This might work in drier areas with low, bunching grasses-- probably not for prairies or forests, but they're wetter anyhow and less likely to have tree death from fire.
2 years ago
If it can be done safely, burning periodically is a great tool to knock down tick populations and encourage healthy native-plant growth in wild areas.  Many biomes in the continental US are fire adapted, so native flowers and subterranean critters actually need occasional fires to be healthy.  How often to plan a burn?  Depends on the area, overlying fuel, vegetation type, local climate.... this Wikipedia article has a map showing historical burn frequency in different areas of the US:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_use_of_fire_in_ecosystems .  Also note from the same webpage that fire helps by "Decreasing tick and biting insect populations by destroying overwintering instars and eggs."

I knew of someone in the midwest who burned her pasture every year, but that was really hard on the land and just plain annoying to her neighbors.  For her location, burning every 3-6 years would have been better, or she could have done smaller annual burns and rotated through her acreage.  A managed nature reserve in Missouri does this-- they burn a small section each year, gradually rotating through the whole place.  That burn plan is ideal because it's flexible (some years won't be good burn years and can be skipped), it's consistent, not too draconian, not so smoky, and it's easier to keep fires under control.  

There are businesses who will run managed burns- i.e. pull permits and have safety equipment and insurance-- but i don't know what they charge.

In my experience, ticks travel on deer, so if I'm following a deer trail in the woods I'll swerve to avoid brushing against deer-height (knee to waist high) vegetation.   And I avoid sitting in areas where deer sleep.   Maybe if you could create deer-free zones, that would reduce the ticks in spots?
2 years ago