Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EntropyPawsed on Health & Dis-ease

By Bonnie D. Gifford, M.D.

I am a physician, thoroughly trained in science and Western medicine. I am a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, board certified in Internal Medicine, with over 25 years of practice experience. The experience has been varied (and sometimes overlapping): 5 years caring for patients on an alcohol and drug dependency unit, 7 years of occupational medicine, 15 years in various urgent care and primary care settings. I am currently the medical director at a minimum security prison for youthful (18-25 year old) offenders who are participating in educational and vocational programs.

I think my career journey as been so peripatetic because I have been so dis-satisfied with the health care system in this country. It is a system based on a business model, focused on technology and drugs, a system that promotes patient powerlessness and provider greed.

Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines “health” as “physical and mental well-being; soundness; freedom from defect, pain or disease.” Although cited as “obscure,” in the same dictionary the first definition of dis-ease is “uneasiness; distress.”

I have seen much dis-ease over the years that, in my view, is directly related to dis-connection from a sense of place, from Mother Earth, from each other, and from our inner emotional and spiritual selves.

Most Americans are dis-connected from everything essential for survival. We have lost meaningful connections with the sources of our water, food, shelter, clothing, with our fellow humans in community, with those we love, with The Mystery of Life. No wonder we feel dis-eased!

M. Scott Peck, M.D. (, author of the best seller, “The Road Less Traveled,” describes psychological distress, including depression, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc.... as “a descent of grace”. The message of the distress is that something in our life is untenable, and we need to make significant changes.

However, most humans living in modern cultures are so dis-connected and so blinkered in world view that the grace and need are not perceived. Instead, either licit or illicit drugs/substances are sought to numb the dis-ease, and no real change is accomplished.

According to a 2004 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, at that time almost half of Americans used at least one prescription drug (a 13% increase from 1988-1994), with one in six taking three or more (a 40% increase). Use of antidepressant medication tripled during the same period.

A 2007 Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration ( report said that “24.3 million Americans aged 18 or older experienced significant psychological distress” during that year and “16.5 million Americans suffered at least one major depressive episode during this period.”

In his book “Care of the Soul”, Thomas Moore interprets Robert Sardello's work as follows: “In Sardello's description of disease, our bodies reflect or participate in the world's body, so that if we harm that outer body, our own bodies will feel the effects. Essentially there is no distinction between the world's body and the human body.”

So if health is freedom from dis-ease and dis-ease is the result of dis-connection, how, and to what, do we re-connect so we can find health?

I think considering and answering the following questions could be therapeutic:

  1. From where does your drinking water come? A lake or reservoir? A river or deep well? Who or what is upstream? How is the water treated prior to entry into the delivery infrastructure? Where does it go after you use it?

  2. Where does your food originate? No, I don't mean what grocery store. Where and under what conditions was that apple or cow grown or raised? You don't care? Now, there's an example of dis-connection from your body.

  3. Of what is your residence built? Did components come from old growth forests? Do any of the building materials off-gas?

  4. Are your clothes made of natural materials (cotton, wool, linen) or synthetics? Where were the garments sewn, and were the workers paid a living wage?

  5. Who do you love? Where are they now? How do you connect with them?

  6. In what “community” do you participate? How does your personal ethic direct your interactions with that community?

  7. What happens after death? How does your view of this effect the way you live?

In future blog entries and videos we will explore each of these questions and share our perspectives.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Sprouting is a great way to produce some of your own food. If you have access to some clean jars, lids with screens, clean water, and appropriate seeds, you can raise your own sprouts.

Most sprouting seeds will be ready to eat within 3 to 5 days from beginning. They are highly nutritious, tasty, and provide a source of satisfaction for me at having produced some of my own food, even in the dead of winter.

Alfalfa seeds are my favorite. Brocoli, radish, mung bean, and lintel are other common sprouts. Make sure the variety you decide to sprout are edible. If you want a suggestion, try alfalfa first. They are great on sandwiches and salads! Make sure your sprouting seeds are viable and organic.

If you do not live near an organic food store or health food store, you can google “sprouting seeds”. There are many on line sources of sprouting seeds. Do not use just any seeds you can get your hands on, as some seeds may have been sprayed with undesirable compounds to prevent premature sprouting.

I do my sprouts in wide mouth quart canning jars with special made sprouting lids. However, it is easy to adapt the canning jar rings to take a home cut piece of nylon or brass screen. The lids need screens in order to keep the seeds inside the jar during repeated rinses. After you develop the “rinse touch”, you might be able to finesse the seeds to stay in the jar without the lid!

To get started, select the seeds you wish to sprout. In the video, I am sprouting a mixture from Edith's Health & Specialty Store in Lewisburg, WV. Make sure you have a totally clean jar and lid. It probably does not have to be sterile to start, but there have been some isolated reports of bacterial contamination of sprouts producing food borne illness.

Put three teaspoons of seeds into the jar and then fill the jar with water. Leave the seeds to soak all day or overnight. For me, the key to being able to successfully sprout was to put the jars in plain sight near the sink, so that each time I saw them, I could attend to them as necessary. The total investment of time is minimal, but the seeds do need attention at least a couple of times per day most days.

From my personal experience, it is possible to find many sources of complex or arcane directions on sprouting. If the seeds are in a dark closet, I will forget them. Temperature control may be nice, but the marginal returns of that effort are minimal at best. Precise rinse intervals have proven to not be necessary. Life on Earth appears to be robust, and in my experience it only takes a slight human nudge to get the seeds to fulfill their destiny.

Just do not forget them for extended periods. Give them some attention at least two times per day most days, and the seeds will sprout.

When rinsing, especially at the beginning, you will notice a bit of foaminess to the water as it is poured onto the seeds. This is to be expected. I think it is the rinsing away of the substances that keep the seeds from sprouting until conditions are right. To rinse, fill the jar with water, and then pour it away. Try to make the seeds distribute evenly along the side of the jar.

I use a soup bowl to prop up the bottom of the jar. I lay the jar on its side, with the opening at the bottom of the bowl and the side of the jar resting on the edge. The angle of the jar is something less than 45 degrees from the counter surface, with the top of the jar lower, so residual water can continue to drain from the jar between rinses.

After 48 hours, you should notice the sprouts beginning to emerge from the seeds. You will probably notice continued growth with each rinse. Depending upon the type of seeds, you should see the cotelydons appear in three to five days. This is when they are ready to eat.

I have found that storing the seeds in the jar in the same position as between rinses keeps the sprouts crisp and fresh. Sunlight on the green sprouts will help them produce more of the enzymes and other nutrients to help you stay healthy. Get them eaten within four or five days. If you want a continuous supply, start your next batch as soon as the current one is ready. Bon Apetit!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Eating Locally – March Soup

One of the goals of our Entropy Pawsed project is to produce or procure all of our food locally.

We want to know where our food comes from. The widely publicized outbreaks of food borne illness from products distributed not just nationwide but worldwide speak to the wisdom of knowing the origin of our food.

Our preferred food source is our own land. We know what goes into, and what comes out of, our little garden plot, and we know how it is handled, processed and stored. We now how to locate and identify wild edible plants – greens, mushrooms, nuts, berries and other fruit.

Our chickens roam freely (except when our German Shepherd Dog attempts to herd them) and supply us with eggs without hormones or antibiotics.

We tap our sugar maple trees in the spring. A few weeks of boiling down sap results in enough syrup (last year we made 36 pints) to last us a year.

Neighbors with fruit trees and larger gardens share their bounty. We share our eggs and maple syrup. Everyone shares their accumulated gardening and preserving wisdom.

We participate in a food co-op with neighbors. Co-op members buy local meat in bulk, and store it in one member's centrally located freezer. We have seen our local Mennonite butcher's immaculate meat processing facility that sits behind his house on his farm.

There are several local bakers who produce whole grain breads, bagels, and granola along with the occasional decadent sweet treat. We enjoy the aromas from the ovens when we stop in the bakeries.

A nearby farmer brings his dairy products to the local library. We have watched his cow basking in the sun, contentedly chewing the bright green grass in her pasture. Since health department regulations prohibit the direct sale of milk products to the public, we buy a “cow share” from the farmer. This “cow share” enables us to receive fresh milk, butter and yogurt, and supports the cow's pasture-al lifestyle.

Yes, these local products are usually more expensive than the mass-produced, high food mileage, high fructose corn syrup and preservative laden varieties available at big box grocery stores. And they are vastly superior in quality, taste and nutrition. And our food dollars support the local economy.

Eating locally contributes to our sense of place. We know our neighbors, the farmer, the butcher, the bakers, the chickens and the cow. We know what the land produces in what season. We know that what we put into our bodies comes from the local soil, water, air and efforts of local producers.

Here is our recipe for “March Soup” made (except for the optional salt and pepper) entirely from local foods:

½ pound each ground sausage and beef

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 quart canned tomatoes

1 quart canned green beans

1 tsp each dried parsley, sage and basil

1-3 Tbs maple syrup (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Throughly brown the ground meat. Add remaining ingredients plus enough water for desired consistency. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes and squash are soft, usually 20-30 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to stand to 1-2 hours (or store overnight in the refrigerator) for flavors to blend. Bring to a boil again for 10 minutes. Served garnished with fresh chopped chives or other green. Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

EntropyPawsed:Sense of Place

Development of a sense of place is integral to leading a fulfilled low energy lifestyle. One might even say a nature linked low energy lifestyle requires an expanded sense of place. Developing this sense may require us to suspend some of our beliefs as to the nature of world we inhabit. The development of an expanded sense of place may subsequently cause us to modify our belief set as to the nature of our world.

Part of the human condition means that each of us takes our growing up experience and extrapolates it to arrive at assumptions about the basic nature of life. For example, as a 10 year old Cub Scout in 1963, I watched films about a future USA where energy would be so plentiful that it would be free to all! Harnessing the process that powered the sun (nuclear fusion energy) was claimed to be 30 years from widespread deployment. My belief set caused me to accept this thesis, and I still believe in free energy to all! (Not really, but this fits better with my example:)

We are most likely helped along in this process by the unintended but pervasive conditioning happening to us while we grow up. Home, school, peers, church, teams, media are all sources of conditioning. What we are left with is a set of beliefs as to the fundamental nature of the world. We project those beliefs forward to give ourselves a set of expectations as to the nature of the world we now inhabit and will inhabit in the future.

However, many of us then immerse ourselves in various programs that modify the shape of this belief set. We may do this in professional training post graduate from university, and/or by various religious or personal development paths like Christianity, EST, mountaineering, psychotherapy, race car driving, Buddhism, ....

Development of an expanded sense of place may seem trivial, but it can provide a fundamental catalyst to help us develop a more realistic belief set as to the nature of the world.

It is significantly easier to develop a sense of place living in a rural setting. Small towns offer slightly more challenges. Cities are yet more challenging. If you live in a city, you might have to get really creative to find some bits of nature poking through the constructs of Homo sapiens sapiens.

There are many exercises that can help us develop a sense of place. Below are just a few. Check out the Wilderness Awareness School if you find a desire to thoroughly immerse yourself.

Walking each day along a similar path can help you get acquainted with your area in each of the seasons. Name some of the places where you walk. Study the characteristics of each place. Is it warm or cool? Flat or sloped? What kinds of plants growth there? How do you feel when you come to this place? Find more of your own questions to ask. Make the name memorable. Begin to refer to this place by name.

Take time to get to know some of the trees. Make sure you do not fall into the trap of learning its name and then thinking you know all there is to know.

Look closely at its bark on the trunk. Notice the patterns and colors. Is it patchy or scaly? Deeply fissured? Gray or brown? Reddish? Does the bark look the same or different higher up the tree? How about out on the branches? What is the branching pattern? Opposite or alternate? What color are the flowers? When does it flower? What tones of green are the leaves? What colors do they turn in the fall?

If you do not know the name, learn it. Learn the Latin name. What does it mean? What kind of fruit does it produce? Are there parts of the tree that are edible? Medicinal? What is the nature of its wood? Is it straight grained or interwoven? Hard of soft?

Find other questions. Maybe you will find you like a particular tree. No need to understand why. You can just befriend it. Give it a name perhaps. Visit it often.

Find a three foot by three foot patch of ground. Study it closely in all the seasons. Study the characteristics of the plants that grow there. Perhaps you can sketch some of them. Ask the relevant questions above of each plant. Here is an amazing resource about plants: Plants for a Future. Find some insects, worms, other beings in the web of life. Learn what you can.

Learn about the native soils and rocks of your area. Find examples.

Find a secret sit spot. Go sit there every day if you can. If not everyday, then sit there when you can. Be like an owl. Engage all of your senses. Feel the air against the skin of your cheek. Smell and taste the air. Listen to the sounds. Hear all the sounds in the range of your hearing. Unfocus your eyes. See the whole field of your vision without focusing in any one spot.

You will become hyper aware of movement by seeing your whole field of vision simultaneously. Perhaps the movement of a small insect will find your attention. If you focus on it, do so only momentarily, then go back to defocusing, and seeing your whole field of vision. Try to expand your awareness out to the entire area where you have been walking.

Learn some wild plants that are edible. Make sure of your identification before your eat them. But give them a try. What animals lived in your area historically? What humans lived there before us? (before civilization arrived). Put out some bird feed at your home or apartment. Watch the birds. Learn about them.

According to Jon Young of Wilderness Awareness School, who studied indigenous cultures worldwide as his post graduate university work, all cultures share some common traits. One of these traits is for the people to be able to travel the area they inhabit (within a several hour walk) mentally. This may not be as airy fairy as it first seems. If you are blessed with the time to develop your own sense of place, you may find that merely by quieting your mind, you will develop an awareness of what is happening in “your” place at any given time.

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