Monthly Archives: September 2012

Guest Post by Julia Whitmore

I am so excited to have Julia Whitmore here today. Many of you may remember Julia from last October when we took a blogging class together with Kristen Lamb.

Julia started out as a writer and says she somehow just ended up in law school.

Somehow? How does one just end up in Law school Julia? 🙂

Then afterwards, she married and devoted her time towards motherhood.

Sounds familiar, right?

Yet, it wasn’t until the youngest child headed off to college that Julia decided it was time for her to return to writing fiction. And then somehow she found herself published in the Oregon Quarterly magazine.

Somehow? Whatever you say girl.

Julia lives with her husband in beautiful Eugene, Oregon, where other than writing, she grows apples, pears, blueberries and lots of flowers. It is Julia’s passion for nature and the environment that inspired her to write this post today.

Now before you read on, I must tell you that I had planned on writing about a similar subject, that was until I read this post on Julia’s blog the other day. And wow, was I ever impressed. So impressed that I wanted to share it here with you.

Why? Because it is a very important subject that involves the livelihood of those involved and the future of our wellbeing.

August McLaughlin has touched on this subject, but this post comes from a different side of the issue: The farmer and the worldwide community that consumes their food.

So without further ado, here’s Julia!

Thank you Karen.

Gas vs. Grass: Canola War in the Willamette Valley


In one corner, canola growers.

How lovely and benign-looking. A canola field.

In the other corner, seed producers, opponents of genetically modified crops and fresh vegetable farmers.

In Oregon it’s a long-standing feud.

“Reservoir Dogs” Mexican Standoff

For the last decade or so, Oregon’s Department of Agriculture weighed in by prohibiting canola from being grown without special permission on 3.7 million acres in the Willamette Valley.

Why? Canola likes it here a little too much. It’s a good rotation crop that doesn’t need to be watered, which means it grows like, well, a weed. It takes off quickly, and happily cross pollinates with other members of the brassica family, including grasses, radish, turnip, mustard, rutabaga, cabbage. This is fine for farmers who need to give fields a rest with an alternate crop, or are looking for a quick buck with an off-season crop. It’s not so good for the $32 million a year specialty seed business, which depends on 100% pure and untainted seeds.

Unlike most agricultural states which focus on a crop or two en masse, say corn or soy, Oregon farms produce over 200 crops, many grown for seed, which is internationally famous for high quality and purity. If you’re a fan of saving seed species diversity, this valley is heaven.

Canola is a problem for organic farmers. About 90% of the canola grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides. Canola’s prolific cross-pollination means that unintended crops end up with GM genes, and organic farmers lose their licenses if their produce is crossed with a GM crop. The USDA doesn’t make a distinction between GM and non-GM canola, so Oregon’s Department of Agriculture doesn’t either, and offers no relief.

GM canola’s tendency to spread beyond its fields also causes problems if farmers re-plant tainted seeds, even if they do it unknowingly. See Monsanto v. Schmeiser. Why? Because once a company creates a genetically modified plant, all its offspring are the private property of said company, forever and ever. It sounds a little like me taking credit for my son’s senior college project, but whatever. Farmers have been sued. Courts have ruled in company-creators’ favor.

From the incomparable Willamette Valley Cartoonist J Compere

If all that isn’t enough, canola attracts cabbage maggots, is susceptible to stem cankers and black mold rot and other insidious plant illnesses, which then spread to other crops.

This issue, like all issues, is complicated. There are different kinds of canola, which is actually a variety of rapeseed, used throughout history for lamp oil, but until recent incarnations, too bitter for food. Recently developed strains are now usable for animal and human food, produced from the seeds. The name in fact comes from the abbreviation Can. O. L-A (Canadian Oil Low-Acid).

Anyway, on with the story. Canola’s well-documented problems were taken note of by Oregon’s Department of Agriculture, and a relatively small slice of the state was set aside as canola-free. All is well, right?

Enter biofuels. Rapeseed oil, it turns out, works pretty well as a biofuel, and so the pressure to open up more acreage to GM canola heated up. Permits for test plots in Rickreall and Baker were issued, with 3-mile protection zones set up around them, and all went well, according to the canola growers. Then the Department of Agriculture tried to pull a fast one.

On Friday, Aug. 3, just before 5 p.m. the department sent out a news release announcing that they were going to “refine” (i.e. shrink) the no-canola zone. Temporarily. (Making it temporary allowed the department to sidestep public notice or comments.) Planting to begin immediately.


Oregon, however, is not a state of slackers. Within days, seed growers, farmers and environmentalists filed suit against the temporary ruling. Over 10,000 people signed a petition asking the department to hold its horses. 23,000 people world wide signed the petition, which gives you an idea of how much people care about this, everywhere.

Given the immediacy of the question, the Oregon Court of Appeals granted a stay to the temporary rule (i.e., in favor of the no-canola plaintiffs),

which will be in effect until …

… the newly drafted permanent rule, which makes the temporary “refinement” of the no-canola zone immutable, takes effect. Follow all that? Translation: canola will be allowed into the protected zone unless in the coming month public pressure convinces the Department of Agriculture otherwise.

As with so many of the things we care about these days, the jury is out. Will canola be grown in Oregon’s protected agricultural zone? Does the need for fuel outweigh the need for untainted seeds and crops? Can canola be grown safely in areas where cross-breeding crops are grown? To be continued …

Whoa is right Julia! Thank you so much for bring this to our attention.

No, thank you Karen. And thanks to everyone who came by to read my post today. As you can see, I feel very passionate about this subject, but I feel it’s important for all of us to be aware of this. It doesn’t just affect us locally, but this is somethng that affects the whole world.

I’ll say it does. Thanks again Julia. And please keep us informed as this situation plays out.

To read more great posts by Julia Whitmore, please click here.

So what do you think? Granted, it was a pretty heavy subject today. But how does this affect you? Were you aware of this problem? Are you concerned about how GM foods may affect you and the health of your family? Do you think that GM foods should be labeled? What steps do you and your family take to eat healthy?

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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Maybe You Can Drive My Car

As you can see, today I want to talk about cars.

Wait a minute. Wait just one minute.

Cars Karen? Really? We don’t want to talk about cars. That’s a guy thing. Let’s talk about shopping or something else more exciting.

Hold on, hold on. I see your point.

But what’s not to love about cars?

Did y’all not see that adorable Pixar movie?

Well, who was the star of the show?

That’s right. Cars.

And let’s just say it like it is girls. When you started dating your current boyfriend or husband, what kind of car was he driving?

I rest my case. 🙂

If you think about it, cars can say so much about who we are as a person or we wouldn’t take so much of our time pondering over what kind of car it is that we want to buy. What they look like and how fast they drive does have an influence on us and others whether we like it or not.

So then, what were they thinkin’ when they came out with this baby?


Do you remember this one? It’s an AMC Pacer, voted the ugliest car ever made. If you don’t, not to worry, it’s obvious you didn’t miss much.

Chick magnet?

I think not.

But what about the cars we drove around when we first started driving? What did they look like and what did they say about us? After all, most of us didn’t have much of a choice in the matter as we drove around in the family car.

After seeing that little number, I realized I really didn’t have it quite so bad.

You see, I think my Dad at the time was going through some kind of mid-life crises. He and my Mom had just come back from a trip. They had flown up to the San Francisco bay area and rented a car at the airport. They decided one afternoon to take a drive north across the Golden Gate bridge and cruise around the beautiful Redwoods along the Russian river. Apparently, the car they rented was loaded with plenty of spunk and style, and could really handle the curves. So on their return; they made the decision to purchase that same model at the local dealership.

It was a 1969 Dodge Charger.


Just so you know guys, I didn’t drive the RT model with a 440 magnum under the hood. Yet that 383 sure had plenty of attitude and zip.

But, the family car? Seriously?

Five people scrunched inside a two door? This certainly was not a well thought out idea. More like an emotional decision, which you have to know, was so not like my parents at all.

A mid-life crises? Ya think?

But hey, when it came time for this girl to get her driver’s license, I couldn’t be happier. Most days when I borrowed the car I had a blast. I could meet up with my friends. Drive to see a movie. Take a cruise along the beach. Race against all my guy friends. That’s right. And I had no problem keeping up with them. Ah yes, those were the days. It was awesome.

That was until I was told this…

Maybe you can drive my car…

If you go to the store…

If you take your sister to her violin lesson…

If you’ll pick up the dry cleaning…

If you go to the bank for me.

And this one was a real bummer.

If you take your brother and sister with you…

I know, boohoo. Life’s tough right? Yet, at the time, I would get really tweaked about it as I now became the family errand girl and chauffeur.

Maybe you can drive my car

Yes I’m gonna be a star

Baby you can drive my car

And maybe I’ll love you

Beep beep’m beep beep yeah!

So what do you think? What kind of car did your boyfriend or husband drive? Have any of you ever played that “Maybe You Can Drive My Car” game with your kids? What was the first car you ever drove? What is the name of the ugliest car you’ve ever seen?
Thank you everyone for dropping by and for all your wonderful comments!


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Beyond the Jungle: Suzi Eszterhas

As you can see, I held one out on you!


I know. I know. It couldn’t be helped. I just can’t get enough of those beautiful Lions.

Apparently, I am not alone. Last week’s post “Love Lies Within A Jungle”, received one of the highest number of visitors to this site. It seems that we all love animals!

So I thought, hmm, that’s interesting.

Perhaps I should give you a glance beyond the jungle this week and expose the person who is responsible for those amazing pictures—wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas.

Suzi Eszterhas lives in the San Francisco bay area, but because she spends nine months out the the year away shooting taking photos of a wide variety of animals in the wild, I guess you could say her real home is Africa.

In recent years, she has specialized in documenting family life of endangered species and has become well known for her unprecedented work with newborn animals. Her photographs are published in books, magazines and newspapers all over the world, including the front covers of “Time” and the “Smithsonian”.
As you can imagine, Suzi has won many awards, including those from the National Wildlife Federation, Nature’s Best and Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Although she primarily works in Africa, she has also undertaken commissions and led photography tours and workshops in the Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska and Montana. Well, as you can see, just about everywhere.


In fact today she is headed back to Africa to teach a current workshop and wildlife tour. I could go on and on about her involvement with several International Wildlife Conservation groups, but what I really wanted to point out to you is this:

Suzi Eszterhas is a fellow writer.

Isn’t that cool? Who knew?

But before I get into that, I just had to ask…What attracted Susi to become a wildlife photographer? Was it her love of nature? Her passion for photography? Or was her childhood love of animals?

This was Suzi’s answer. “For me the attraction to wildlife photography has always been more about the animals than the photography. Though I love photography, wildlife has always been my biggest passion. I find animal behavior fascinating and learned very early on that knowing your animal subject is critical in taking good wildlife photographs. You must know where and when to find your subject, how to get close to it, and how to predict what an animal might do next in order to capture that special moment.”


And when we study each picture on this page, we can see Suzi’s passion for that special moment shining right on through.

As I mentioned above, Suzi Eszterhas is also a writer and she has produced a new series of children’s books that follow the lives of baby animals from their birth to adulthood as they grow up in the wild.

I had originally contacted her, after sighting that gorgeous picture of the father lion and his cub on the internet, wanting her permission to publish it on my blog. But after our correspondence by email, Suzi admitted that she had released these fabulous books.

And the name of this series is: “Eye on the Wild”.

Copies are available on Suzi’s website or on

These beautifully photographed books are for young children ages 4-7. They show all aspects of the animal’s life in the wild, with close-up pictures of the family group in its natural habitat. The books also include conservation information and useful websites.

If you have any young children or grandchild, you’ll want to be sure to check them out. They are so adorable. What child or adult for that matter wouldn’t want to read one of these books!

So what do you think? Which one is your favorite among the animal kingdom? Do you have any animals at home? Do you love photography? Have you ever contemplated going on a Wildlife Safari?

Be assured that I am forwarding your many comments to Suzi. But it might take awhile for her to reply do to the distance and her remote circumstances. 🙂

Thanks everyone!

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Love Lies Within A Jungle


Lions are known as some of the most aggressive animals on the planet. So when this amazing photo captured a special moment in time, it created quite a buzz.

Yep, I’m buzzing! Here’s why…

“This picture depicts a cub as he meets his dad for the first time ever,” said the wildlife photographer who captured the meeting, Suzi Eszterhas. “It’s a major part of a lion’s life growing up.”

“When lion cubs are babies, the mom keeps them in a den for the first six to eight weeks of life, and it’s during this time that she keeps them very hidden,” Suzi said. “Afterward, she will bring them out and introduce them to the pride. It’s at that point, they meet dad for the first time.”

Suzi was able to capture this rare intense moment as she lay ensconced within a pride of lions on the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya over a three month period while living in Africa. These photos were captured in 2008/2009.

“That was literally the moment the cub first saw his dad ever,” Suzi said. “He kind of walked up shyly and then the dad immediately tried to play with him as the mom watched the whole time to make sure the dad behaves. The whole moment is really special.”


I’d say it was really special, wouldn’t you?


Because it portrays an intense bond that exists between one another—A connection, an attachment, a fierce breed of magnetism. And the beauty is:

It’s natural.

It has been said that Love is a virtue representing all kindness, compassion, and affection —“the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another”. Love may describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one’s self or even the animals.

Wikipedia brings out that, “Love or (affection) can also act as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Love may be understood as part of the survival instinct, a function to keep human beings together against menaces and to facilitate the continuation of the species.”

That’s very interesting since as you all know; we at times may make a menace of ourselves, though unintentionally. We may roar like a lion, but we don’t really mean to strike out nor do any harm. (See also last weeks post, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Just a Little Bit…)

Yet, it is Love or Affection that drives us to keep the peace and stick together. If you notice the intense gaze as the father meets his son, well, I don’t know about you, but that would not make me feel the least bit comfortable. But if I only depend on what things look like, (as in getting ready to be eaten alive), I would be mistaken. After all, isn’t it the innocent approach of this seven week old cub that promotes this peaceful union?

So even though our love may sometimes lie deep within a jungle of emotion, we can be confident that when on occasion we do roar like a lion, it is most likely an innocent hiss like this remarkable young cub.

What do you think? Are those not some of the most extraordinary moments that you’ve ever seen captured on film? Have you ever made a menace of yourself or roared unintentionally? What approach do you find that helps promote a peaceful union?

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