Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Posts Tagged ‘Planet Earth

Are you grounded?

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Or just away with the fairies!

Sorry, just kidding: Couldn’t resist!

I have just finished reading a book with the title of Earthing.


It has been an absolutely fascinating read and one, I’m bound to say, that seems entirely plausible.

That is that our modern lifestyle that has us disconnected from Mother Earth for much of our time is the cause of many ailments. As the associated website explains:


Just as the sun gives us warmth and vitamin D, the Earth underfoot gives us food and water, a surface to walk, sit, stand, play, and build on, and something you never, ever thought about—an eternal, natural, and gentle energy. Think of it perhaps as vitamin G: G for ground. What does that mean to you? Maybe the difference between feeling good and not so good, of having little or a lot of energy, or sleeping well or not so well.

You can’t see the Earth’s energy but some people can feel it as a warm, tingling, and pleasant sensation when they are out walking barefoot along the water’s edge at the beach or on a stretch of dew-moistened grass.

Throughout history humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground. But modern lifestyle, including the widespread use of insulative rubber, or plastic-soled shoes, has disconnected us from the Earth’s energy and, of course, we no longer sleep on the ground. Fascinating new research has raised the possibility that this disconnect may actually contribute to chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that plague so many people.

The remedy for the disconnect is simple. Walk barefoot outdoors whenever possible and/or sleep, work, or relax indoors in contact with conductive sheets or mats that transfer the energy to your body. People who do so on a regular basis say they sleep better, feel better, and have more energy during the day. This simple practice is called Earthing, also known as grounding, and it is both a technology and a movement which is transforming lives across the planet.

Were you aware, for example, that the sole of our foot has more nerve endings per square inch than any other part of our body! And more sweat glands! All from thousands of years of being connected to the Earth.


Then watch Part One of a conference video by Dr. Stephen Sinatra, one of the authors of the book:

(The remaining parts of Dr. Sinatra’s talk will be presented in a post on Monday!)

Jean and I have just ordered the half-sheet and I shall be delighted to write more of our experiences over the coming weeks.

And I don’t need to remind you that dogs have been in bare-foot contact with Planet Earth for some time now!

Stay healthy!


Secesh Reservoir, Oregon.

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A gem in the crown of stunning countryside.

Funny how things happen!

In last Wednesday’s post I included a picture of Jean with Robert who helped us load 60 bales of hay onto our trailer.  This photo:

Jean thanking Robert for his great help in loading 60 bales!

Jean thanking Robert for his great help in loading 60 bales!

Anyway, Tad, who farms the land, mentioned a wonderful place to fish not far from his farm at Wolf Creek.

I’m not a fisherman but Andy, who is staying with us with his wife, Trish, is a keen fisherman.

So last Wednesday we all set off into the high forest lands up above Wolf Creek and after some pretty tough driving up some steep dirt roads found the lake.  Here’s a record of our morning at Secesh.


Wow! First sighting!

As you can see, it was a breath-taking oasis in a sea of tall trees and towering peaks.


Still waters!

With crystal-clear waters that just seemed to be calling out to those that enjoy fly-fishing!

Doesn't get much better than this!

Doesn’t get much better than this!

Meanwhile, yours truly decided to walk the perimeter of the lake that is, apparently, some 3.7 acres of water area.

Towards the farthest point of the shoreline, a beautiful stream was flowing into the lake.

Mountain streams.

Mountain streams.

And not too farther along, a likewise beautiful stream outflowed from the lake.

What flows in ... must eventually flow out.

What flows in … must eventually flow out.

From this vantage point, one could look across the full breadth of the lake.

First sighting of the lake!

Tranquility in spades!

And marvel at the wildlife, from ….


Dragon flies.

… the very small, to ….


An American bald-eagle.

…. the stunning eagles of the land. A veritable icon of this country!

Returning in time to see Andy pulling a (small) fish from the lake.

that was promptly returned ..

that was promptly returned ..

And Jean and Trish catching up on old times.


Pure bliss!

What a fabulous discovery!

Less than 25 miles from home.

Thank you, Tad!

We will return – possibly with a dog or two!

Written by Paul Handover

June 13, 2014 at 00:00

The future of food.

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Eating oil!

Yesterday’s introduction to today’s essay was predominantly the film made by Rebecca Hosking investigating how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low-energy farm for the future.  Rebecca discovering, unsurprisingly, that nature holds the key.

The film highlighted the degree to which our modern system of food production and distribution is dependent on oil.  I am sure that Jean and I were far from alone in not fully appreciating just how much oil is used in agriculture.  Let’s start with the UK.

Following the oil crisis in 1973, a book was published in 1978 by B.M. Green under the title of Eating Oil (1). In 2005, Norman Church wrote an essay over at the website 321energy.com in which he referred to that book.  Here’s some of what he wrote.

The aim of the book [Eating Oil] was to investigate the extent to which food supply in industrialised countries relied on fossil fuels. In the summer of 2000 the degree of dependence on oil in the UK food system was demonstrated once again when protestors blockaded oil refineries and fuel distribution depots. The fuel crises disrupted the distribution of food and industry leaders warned that their stores would be out of food within days. The lessons of 1973 have not been heeded.

Today the food system is even more reliant on cheap crude oil. Virtually all of the processes in the modern food system are now dependent upon this finite resource, which is nearing its depletion phase.


The article is a ‘must-read’ for anyone who wants to understand better the approaching crisis and the madness of present behaviours.  Take this, for example (my emphasis):

One indicator of the unsustainability of the contemporary food system is the ratio of energy outputs – the energy content of a food product (calories) – to the energy inputs.

The latter is all the energy consumed in producing, processing, packaging and distributing that product. The energy ratio (energy out/energy in) in agriculture has decreased from being close to 100 for traditional pre-industrial societies to less than 1 in most cases in the present food system, as energy inputs, mainly in the form of fossil fuels, have gradually increased.

However, transport energy consumption is also significant, and if included in these ratios would mean that the ratio would decrease further. For example, when iceberg lettuce is imported to the UK from the USA by plane, the energy ratio is only 0.00786. In other words 127 calories of energy (aviation fuel) are needed to transport 1 calorie of lettuce across the Atlantic. If the energy consumed during lettuce cultivation, packaging, refrigeration, distribution in the UK and shopping by car was included, the energy needed would be even higher. Similarly, 97 calories of transport energy are needed to import 1 calorie of asparagus by plane from Chile, and 66 units of energy are consumed when flying 1 unit of carrot energy from South Africa.

Just how energy inefficient the food system is can be seen in the crazy case of the Swedish tomato ketchup. Researchers at the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology analysed the production of tomato ketchup (2). The study considered the production of inputs to agriculture, tomato cultivation and conversion to tomato paste (in Italy), the processing and packaging of the paste and other ingredients into tomato ketchup in Sweden and the retail and storage of the final product. All this involved more than 52 transport and process stages.


1: Green, B. M., 1978. Eating Oil – Energy Use in Food Production. Westview Press, Boulder, CO. 1978.
2: Andersson, K. Ohlsson, P and Olsson, P. 1996, Life Cycle Assessment of Tomato Ketchup. The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gothenburg.

But, surprise, surprise, it’s no different here in the USA!

Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Dale Allen Pfeiffer‘s (1) book Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture makes it clear (my emphasis):

The miracle of the Green Revolution was made possible by cheap fossil fuels to supply crops with artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Estimates of the net energy balance of agriculture in the United States show that ten calories of hydrocarbon energy are required to produce one calorie of food. Such an imbalance cannot continue in a world of diminishing hydrocarbon resources.


1: Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a geologist and writer from Michigan, U.S. who has investigated and written about energy depletion and potential future resource wars.

Over at The Wolf at the Door British website (1) author Paul Thompson, another Devonian, offered this article about peak oil and farming (and 1 hectare is 2.47 acres):


When we think of the problems associated with peak oil, our first thoughts may turn to transport, electricity, or plastics. The use that tends not to come to mind, yet could be the most devastating of them all, is agriculture.

The Diesel Farm


Tractor Oil and gas are essential to modern farming. The most obvious use is to run the tractors and machines. Car drivers can switch to public transport, lorries can move their goods (partially, at least) to railways, but the only option for a tractor or combine harvester is a horse or an ox. Clearly modern agriculture could not switch to an animal-power-based system and hope to continue with modern yields. A tractor can plough in an hour an area that a horse would take a day to (0.9–1 hectare). The horse also needs more skill and you have to put aside some of your crop to feed it. Imagine trying to gather the harvests of the vast fields of maize and wheat of the USA using only horse- and human-power.

But diesel is only one of the uses for oil and gas. Another, possibly more important use, is petrochemicals.


Nitrogen is one of the most important elements in fertilisers. In the most common method, the Haber-Bosch process, hydrogen is combined with nitrogen to form ammonia. It requires high temperatures and strong atmospheric pressure, therefore a great deal of energy. The nitrogen is taken from the atmosphere while the hydrogen is obtained from natural gas. The process became economical in the 1920s and since then, fertilisers have become indispensable. Worldwide use of commercial fertiliser more than doubled between the late 1960s and early 1980s.

The use of fertilisers allows farmers to grow the same crops each year, rather than rotating (previously farmers planted fields with legumes that restored nitrogen to the soil.)

Oil and gas are also used in the production of many herbicides and pesticides.


1: There is a note from Paul on the home page, “I created this site several years ago and do not have the time any longer to keep it updated. Therefore you will find that the data is only relevant up to around 2006 and some of the links will no longer be correct. However the principles of peak oil still apply and I have left the site online as a useful introduction to the problem that hasn’t gone away.

Alright! That’s enough to upset anyone!

Thankfully, there are a number of positive moves going on all over the world and tomorrow I will conclude the essay with details of those positive happenings!

In the meantime, think about what you eat!

Lest we forget!

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Today is Memorial Day for all Americans that have died while serving their country.

Just a short preamble.

I was born in London six months to the day before the day on which the second world war ended.  On that day in early May, 1945 my mother breathed a sigh of relief and knew I was going to live!  The fact that I am writing this post does rather confirm that! ;-)

Not only is this the year of my seventieth birthday (but, PLEASE, don’t remind me!) but my mother is also still alive and well and is coming to see Jean and me in our Oregon home in ten weeks time.

I served as a Radio Operator in the Royal Naval Reserve between 1963 and 1968. That is the totality of my military experiences.  Ergo, I have been more than fortunate not to have experienced military conflict at any time in my life.

So today’s post is just something gentle to remind us all of the advantages of freedom for humans and animals alike.

The Bear

An orphan bear cub hooks up with an adult male as they try to dodge human hunters.

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Writers: James Oliver Curwood (novel), Gérard Brach (screenplay)
Stars: Tchéky Karyo, Bart the Bear, Youk the Bear

See full cast and crew details here.

Sometimes less says more: a growl or a snarl can be worth a thousand words. Without any verbal dialogue, the raw emotions of the wilderness are vivid in this segment of The Bear, a film about the actions of animals in relation to humans. In this suspenseful part of the story, a cub is hunted by a mountain lion who shows no mercy. Without any verbal dialogue, the raw emotions of the wilderness shine through.

Film Reviews:

Storytelling doesn’t get much purer than this–a film with virtually no dialogue and not a minute that isn’t fascinating, either for the plot it pursues or the way director Jean-Jacques Annaud gets his ursine stars to do what he wants. The story deals with a young cub who, after his mother is killed in a landslide, bonds to a lumbering male Kodiak. The two of them then must cope with an invasion of hunters into their territory – and Annaud makes it clear whose side he’s on. Aside from stunning scenery, the film offers startlingly close-up looks at bear behavior. They say the best actors are the ones that let you see what they’re thinking, a trick Annaud manages with his big, furry stars. – Marshall Fine

The Bear has all the marks of a classic. Lauded by animal rights groups for its respect for the integrity of all species, it manages to speak out eloquently against the senseless hunting of wildlife without having to depict killing to make its point. Instead, it emphasizes the ties that bind the human and animal worlds together. – Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

May your day wherever you are in the world be a peaceful one.

Not seeing the wood for the trees!

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A postscript to the last two days.

This week is taking on a life of it’s own, so far as Learning from Dogs is concerned!

For when I penned Monday’s post, Running on Empty, I had not yet read George Monbiot’s essay Are We Bothered?. When I did so, it struck me as the perfect sequel to Monday’s post and formed the crux of yesterday’s post The nature of delusions.  That second post also included a personal account of my delusion with regard to ocean sailing and seemed sufficiently wordy not to be extended by my further reflections.

Thus the decision to run over to a third day!

Let me offer, first of all, my own reflections to George Monbiot’s concerns. That I distill, using his words, to: “The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet.” Expanded in his concluding paragraph:

So the perennially low level of concern, which flickers upwards momentarily when disaster strikes, then slumps back into the customary stupor, is an almost inevitable result of a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money. How we break the circle and wake people out of this dreamworld is the question that all those who love the living planet should address. There will be no easy answers.

When I first read Mr. Monbiot’s essay, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yet, upon further reflection, I became less sure that “a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money.” was the core of the issue.  I think it is a symptom.

Stay with me awhile I take a small deviation. To dogs, and other animals.

Many creatures have a powerful and instinctive means of assessing danger.  One only needs to observe the wild black-tailed deer that frequent our property to know that the slightest hint of danger or the unknown has them dashing away to safety.

A young black-tailed deer seen at home last September.

A young black-tailed deer seen at home last September.

Dogs are the same in that they will run early on from a danger.

Humans also have the propensity to be cautious about a clear and present danger.  However, it’s my proposition that when the danger is unclear and when that danger threatens the very essence of who we are and the world that we have constructed around us, we can be blind to the point of madness. I can think of many examples in support of that thesis and I’m sure you can too.

Yes, we have “a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money.” But I contend only because of the power of capitalism, of the power of modern marketing and advertising and the allure of being ‘one of the crowd’.

So back to my proposition.  It is this.

That when our lives are threatened by something unclear, complex and, ultimately, of devastating impact, we are very reluctant to embrace it and even more reluctant to both embrace it and escape to safety; whatever the latter implies.

Mankind’s effect on the environment, the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the increasing acidification of the oceans, the growing concerns about global weather, and on and on, are the most unclear, the most complex and the most devastating of futures to embrace.

(Thanks to Patrice for using this recently.)

(Thanks to Patrice for referring to this recently.)

So it really is no surprise to see mankind in general behaving as though this is a bit of a hangover, and an aspirin and a good night’s sleep will sort it! Especially when there is so much money and control invested in selling the same message; the message that there really is nothing to worry about.

There will be a so-called ‘tipping point’. A point in our awareness where the urgency to prevent the destruction of the biosphere will be paramount. And it will be a miracle if when that point arrives it isn’t far too late to save us.

I truly hope that I am wrong.


Remember what I wrote in yesterday’s post? About experiencing an Atlantic gale?

Fewer than 48-hours before my estimate of coming into Horta Marina on the Azores island of Faial, Songbird of Kent was struck by an early, fierce Winter gale. I seem to recall it was touching Force 10 Beaufort Scale (54 – 63 mph or 48 – 55 knots).

Anyway, it just about finished me off: literally as well as psychologically! I was so frightened, so utterly scared that I could think of nothing else other than getting to Horta and never going sailing again.

It revealed my delusion!

That was my ‘tipping point’ when it came to ocean sailing.

The gale subsided and I motor-sailed the 150-odd miles to Horta without any break for sleep or rest. Came into the harbour early in the morning after the second night since the gale. As soon as I was securely berthed, I closed the boat up and found a local hotel where a hot shower and a clean bed could restore a part of me.

Within a week, I had engaged a crew to sail the boat to Plymouth in South-West England and I flew back to England on a commercial airline.

Once Songbird of Kent arrived at Plymouth, she was put up for sale at a price that wouldn’t delay matters and that was that!

Oh, and I have never read any more books about single-handed ocean sailing. (But see my P.S.!)



In yesterday’s post, I referred to Les Powells. Remember when I was in Larnaca, Cyprus? This is what I wrote:

Living on a boat close to me was Les Powles. Many will not have heard of Les but this quiet, softly-spoken man knows a thing or two about solo ocean sailing. As an article in The Guardian newspaper explained (in part):

In the 1980s and 90s a British man called Les Powles sailed three times round the world – always single-handedly, once non-stop. He couldn’t afford a radio transmitter, and on his greatest adventure he didn’t speak to anyone for 329 days. At 84, his ­circumnavigating days are now behind him, but he still lives on his boat, the Solitaire. What’s the ­appeal of sailing, I asked him. “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not ­responsible to anyone but yourself.”

Three times around the world – solo!

Thus getting to know Les was a great inspiration in getting me over the hurdle of can I really do this! (Les once said to me “the first three days are the worst!”)

Anyway, I have discovered that Les is living happily on his boat in Lymington, England and has written a book about his sailing life.

Les Powells book

It has been ordered and arrives today. This one will be read – from the comfort and safety of our rural home in Oregon!

Picture parade forty-four.

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The final set of Bob’s adorable bird photographs.

(First set here, second set is here; last week’s set here.)

No, the brown part is not me, it is my “floatie cushion”.



What an attractive hors d’oeuvre!


Were you eating blackberries when you sneezed on my wing?

Were you eating blackberries when you sneezed on my wing?


Hey, don't blame me, my mother was a Cardinal and my father was a Magpie.

Hey, don’t blame me, my mother was a Cardinal and my father was a Magpie.


Oh WOW, what a hoot. You really bought the bit about us being wise?

Oh WOW, what a hoot. You really bought the bit about us being wise?


Oh how I hate it when it itches there!

Oh how I hate it when it itches there!


Really? My mother flew south without me?

Really? My mother flew south without me?


You all have a good week!

Written by Paul Handover

May 18, 2014 at 00:00

Picture parade forty-three.

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Yet more of Bob’s fabulous bird photographs.

Carrying on from last week’s Picture parade forty-two.

Yeh, well your eyes would get big too if someone had their fuzzy hands all over your bod!

Yeh, well your eyes would get big too if someone had their fuzzy hands all over your bod!


Which way did you say it was to the Xtreme Games?

Which way did you say it was to the Xtreme Games?


With this disguise, they'll never figure out who robbed their nest!

With this disguise, they’ll never figure out who robbed their nest!


The doctor said it wasn't malignant but I think I'll get a second opinion.

The doctor said it wasn’t malignant but I think I’ll get a second opinion.


So sorry to have to ask all of you to help but I really do need that contact I dropped.

So sorry to have to ask all of you to help but I really do need that contact I dropped.


Don't look at me like that, haven't you ever heard of Santa Bird?

Don’t look at me like that, haven’t you ever heard of Santa Bird?


Oh, how I love government handouts!!

Oh, how I love government handouts!!


The final set of these fabulous photographs next Sunday.


Written by Paul Handover

May 11, 2014 at 00:00


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