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October 19, 2017

Go Ahead, Little Goat, Eat Some Poison Ivy. It Won't Hurt A Bit

Oh, those goats? I got them from Amazon!

The online giant is testing out a “Home Services” line. You can get a TV mounted on your wall. You can find a plumber. And you can rent a herd of goats to chomp on unwanted vegetation in your yard.

I typed my Maryland ZIP code into “Hire a Goat Grazer.” Sorry, “no providers available.” It turns out that Amazon is wrangling goats only in the Seattle area right now, although a spokesman promises that more cities will be added.

As a goat admirer and editor of a blog called “Goats and Soda,” I wanted to learn more about the grazing habits of goats — especially their alleged immunity to poison ivy. For enlightenment, I turned to Jean-Marie Luginbuhl, professor of crop science and animal science at North Carolina State University.

Why are goats not allergic to poison ivy?

We don’t really know.

Do you have any theories?

If you look at the world population of goats, which is about 937 million, 95 percent of them are within the tropics, north and south of the equator. So they evolved in very arid areas and basically had to survive on plants that contained noxious compounds. So goats evolved this ability to detoxify noxious compounds much better than cattle or sheep [can]. I think that’s one of the reasons.

If a goat ate poison ivy, could I catch poison ivy from that goat’s milk?

Some people have had concern that whatever compound [a goat ate] would be passed into the milk. But it’s not.

And just to confirm: Cattle and sheep might get sick from a plant that wouldn’t bother a goat.

When you look at books that talk about poisonous plants to livestock, a lot of the data are from cattle or sheep. If you see goats eating pokeweed and say, “Wait a minute this is a poisonous plant [to livestock]” — it doesn’t affect goats.

So bring on the goats!

Here in North Carolina I have done work to clear up pastures and an abandoned orchard. We used goats, and they did a wonderful job getting rid of all the invasive vegetation: broadleaf weeds, woody perennials like greenbrier, honeysuckle, black locust, multiflora rose. We have cleared areas full of kudzu [an incredibly invasive vine native to Asia]. We grazed several plots about six times from early June to early October and basically got rid of the kudzu. Maybe 3 percent of it grew back the next year. But if you want to get rid of plants with goats, you have to start early in the spring and [have the goats] defoliate everything, get rid of all the leaves. So the plant has to use root reserves to make the first leaves. And if you do that over and over, these plants spend all of their root reserves and cannot grow anymore.

But I guess you do have to be careful that goats won’t eat plants you like.

If you leave the goats there all the time maybe they will be a little hungry and if they don’t have any green matter to eat, they will start to debark trees because they know the sap is under the bark. They will kill trees. That’s good or bad, depending on the trees.

Can any plant harm a goat?

A lot of ornamental plants are poisonous to goats. Piedmont azalea are not going to necessarily kill goats unless they eat a lot but would make them really sick and throw up. Once they have that experience they would stay away from these plants.

There are a lot of goats in the developing world. Do people there use goats to clear unwanted vegetation?

In Africa they don’t use goats to clean a pasture. But they do use the boughs of whatever woody shrubs are around to feed their goats.

Do goats eat tin cans?

Naw, it’s just a joke. They are very curious. And so they are going to try to eat a lot of things that we see as crazy. But even when they see a piece of plastic they are not going to eat it. They just take it in their mouth and spit it out.

So no to plastic. What about paper?

We had a student working in one of the pastures at a little station where we used to record temperature, soil moisture, wind speed in a notepad. The student put the notepad down to do something with one goat. When she turned around, one month of data had disappeared! She thought she would be fired on the spot. We laughed so hard.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Go Ahead, Little Goat, Eat Some Poison Ivy. It Won't Hurt A Bit

Climate change to boost health problems

Climate change: Now it’s personal.

There will be more itching, sneezing, swelling and gasping for breath as Pennsylvania’s climate shifts and residents are exposed to more poison ivy, stinging insects, pollen allergies and lyme-disease-bearing ticks, and experience increased asthma, respiratory disease and heat-related deaths.

That was the assessment of scientists and physicians at a one-day climate change conference sponsored by the Allegheny County Health Department and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health last week.

They said a silver lining is that Pennsylvanians won’t see the worst of those negative impacts until after 2050. But the bad news, echoing the findings contained in the third U.S. National Climate Assessment released May 6, is that the changes already have begun.

And, they agreed, the negative consequences of climate change brought on by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases will worsen the longer the world waits to reduce those emissions.

Raymond Najjar, a professor of oceanography in the Meteorology Department at Penn State University and an author of the 2009 Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment, said the most recent assessment released three weeks ago shows “some climate change is unavoidable,” and the state will get warmer and wetter. Heavy downpours will be more intense and more frequent.

He predicted that unless Pennsylvania cuts its emissions of greenhouse gases — including nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds — to 20 percent of what they are now, the state’s summer heat index will become 8 to 10 degrees warmer by the end of this century.

Without that level of emissions cuts, the number of days the temperature tops 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year will increase from 10 to 65 and Pennsylvania’s climate will resemble what is found now in northern Alabama.

“Pennsylvania has not done enough to reduce emissions and support renewable energy sources,” said Mr. Najjar, adding that even if emissions are reduced by 80 percent, Pennsylvania likely will see summer temperatures rise by 5 degrees Fahrenheit, giving it a climate resembling that of southern Kentucky today.

City and county officials must start now to adapt policies and programs to climate-altered and expanding public health needs, said Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department director.

“Infectious diseases, ticks, mosquitoes will all increase as the climate warms, as will severity and incidence of asthma, water problems and severe weather,” Dr. Hacker said. “The increases will likely be incremental, but the impacts will collectively be bigger.”

Leonard Bielory, a professor at Rutgers University where he is studying the impact of a warming climate on allergies, said globally longer pollination seasons are expected to increase the duration of exposure and also the number of individuals who develop sensitivity to it.

“Ragweed is responding to climate change on a continental basis, so we’re seeing earlier and later pollen seasons and it moves northward with warmer climate,” he said. “By 2020, we expect to see pollen increase by 20 percent in Pennsylvania, and by 2050 sensitivity to allergens could double from what it is now.”

Dr. Bielory said research shows climate change is also likely to cause an increase in dust mites, stinging insects and cockroaches. The production of poison ivy oil, which causes the itchy skin rash, will increase as carbon dioxide levels rise, weed growth will be stimulated and peanut allergies, which have doubled in each of the last several decades, will continue to increase.

Lyme disease, the most prevalent vector-borne disease in the U.S. with 30,000 diagnosed and perhaps nine times more undiagnosed cases, also is likely to increase among humans as the geographic range of the tick that causes it continues to expand, according to Dustin Brisson, an associate professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania, whose research involves evolutionary biology, molecular genetics and microbial ecology.

Peter Adams, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said warmer air temperatures combined with expected higher humidity “makes the atmosphere more able to do chemistry and produce compounds that could impact human health.”

One of those compounds likely to increase is ground-level ozone, the primary component of unhealthy smog. Methane emissions from increased shale gas drilling, along with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound emissions from drilling operations and increased truck traffic, also could rise.

“Depending on how tightly those [shale gas drilling] operations are controlled,” Mr. Adams said, “there could be significant health impacts on Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and even more significantly in the center of the state.”

Clifford Mitchell, director of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that mitigation policies are important and the public needs to get involved to force emissions reductions, but health officials need to plan now for how a changing climate will impact local populations and communities.

“We need to help people adapt,” Dr. Mitchell said. “We’re going to be doing damage control and we need to figure out how to do that systematically.”

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

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Climate change to boost health problems

Goats to be free landscape labor

SUNDERLAND, MD. — Have you herd? Goats will soon be making their way through Maryland and Northern Virginia, as property owners trade machinery and labor crews for hungry, four-legged landscapers ready to decimate any vegetation in their way.

Mary Bowen, owner of Sunderland-based Green Goats and Prosperity Acres farm, will be putting her herd of more than 70 goats to work from May to October, using them to clear overgrown vegetation in various private and public areas across the state.

Unlike traditional land-clearing methods such as herbicide treatments and excavation services, which can have adverse effects on the environment, goats offer an environmentally-friendly alternative.

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are some of the goats favorite vegetation choices, making the animals perfect for jobs with highly concentrated areas of poisonous plants humans wouldnt dare tackle themselves.

Green Goats

Bowen founded Green Goats three years ago, with the intention of providing a service that would benefit both the environment and the state.

For years, the Bowen family had been showing goats, along with cattle and horses, at local 4-H shows around the state, including the Anne Arundel County Fair in Crownsville and the Maryland State Fair in Timonium.

I wanted to be able to do something with the goats other than showing them. … I actually wanted to utilize them to do what they naturally do, which is forage, Bowen said.

After linking up with Enrique Escobar, a small ruminant specialist and assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, Bowen was able to make her plan a reality.

During a workshop in which Escobar recounted past experiences with using goats for land clearing projects in Oklahoma, Bowen saw the potential in bringing the practices to Maryland.

I decided I wanted to be able to develop this business, because I had heard in other states, particularly California, where they use the goats to clear out for firebreaks in the park services … and that was what I really wanted to be able to start doing, Bowen said. Something that is good for our community … good for our state.

(Page 2 of 2)

Bowen noted that when using goats, there is no need to dispose of debris, no pollution from machinery, and no need to acquire land clearing permits that might be required for a traditional excavation crew. In addition, the goats provide free fertilizer throughout the course of their stay.

Sometimes you have to use herbicides … theres just no other way to get around it, I understand that, she said, but if we can reduce the amount of herbicides that are used to almost nothing, thats what I prefer and the goats can obliterate any job weve put them on so far.

Brian Knox, owner of Eco-Goats, based in Davidsonville, uses his herd to run a vegetation control and land clearing business much like that of Bowens.

As a natural resource consultant and president of Sustainable Resource Management Inc., Knox first got started with his business after one of his clients mentioned they were looking for a way to put their livestock to use.

Knox said what followed was an experiment that was wildly successful one that would eventually take over his summers as a full-time business, and according to Knox, the popularity of these businesses is on the rise.

Knox said he has consulted goat owners from all over the country, including Indiana, Oregon and Pennsylvania, to aid farmers in their efforts to establish similar businesses.

“Goats are pretty cool”

Goats eat up to 20 percent of their body weight each day, and the length of each project depends on the size of the property and the amount of vegetation both of which also help dictate how many goats Bowen will allot to the job.

Bowen currently runs the business with her two children, Jacqueline, 14, and Jacob, 12, who assist with caring for the goats and setting up each job which is fairly simple, as Bowen only needs to fence in the goats, provide water and leave the animals to take care of the rest.

In the past, the goats have worked on a variety of projects ranging anywhere from historic sites to golf courses, including Mellomar Golf Park in Owings.

In October, nearing the end of last years work season, the Green Goats made news after uncovering what were thought to be eight lost gravesites at St. Ignatius Cemetery in Port Tobacco.

With publicity surrounding goats on the rise, both Bowen and Knox are anticipating a busy summer.

I certainly am seeing a lot of inquires this year from all over the place, Knox said. I usually get some, but right now it seems that there is way more interest than past years.

To most people, goats are pretty cool!

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Goats to be free landscape labor

A murderous itch on campus: Serial killing becomes an elective

A murderous itch on campus: Serial killing becomes an elective

By Jack Shea
May 6, 2013


Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Fresh off the press: the author checks out her new book.

“Poison Ivy” by Cynthia Riggs, paperback, 247 pages, copyright Cynthia Riggs 2013, $16.95 from Cleaveland House Books. Available at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, at Edgartown Books, on Kindle, at Amazon, and at Island libraries.

“Poison Ivy” is the latest in an engaging series of mannerly murder mysteries, 11 in all, by West Tisbury’s Cynthia Riggs.

The novels are set on Martha’s Vineyard and feature Victoria Trumbull, a 92-year old West Tisbury poet, deputy sheriff, and amateur sleuth. How can this be: a 92-year old poet as the super-sleuth? Well, every definition of fiction I’ve seen includes the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief.” And that’s what happens here.

If you’ve read the Victoria Trumbull set, you understand how it happens. Mrs. Trumbull — Mrs. T to her friends — does that for the yarn. She uses the advantages of world wisdom and experience provided by her age to become a quietly powerful central figure in the novel. She operates seamlessly within normal physical limitations that 90 years of living exacts on us. And this being the Island, there is no shortage of strong backs to do the heavy lifting that occurs in a murder mystery.

Ms. Riggs has got that suspension of disbelief thing down. “Poison Ivy” trundles out a fanciful plotline that features just mountains of bodies found at Ivy Green, a three-building local college established 10 years ago somewhere just north of Franklin Street in Vineyard Haven.

Mrs. Trumbull has been brought on as an adjunct professor of poetry by Thackery Wilson, the dean and founder of Ivy Green. Mrs. Trumbull arrives on a late summer day for orientation. Discovery of a decomposing body in a lecture hall, unused during the summer, gives the term “orientation” a whole new meaning. And we’re off on a tale of uncontrolled ego, uncontrollable weather, and a clear view of life on this Island.

Ivy Green is Dean Wilson’s life passion. He’s built it hand over hand and defends it from the disdain of an off-Island oversight board of academics who missed the brass ring of success but perfected the arrogant part. Dean Wilson has a wicked big problem because, quick as you can say “Holmes Hole Road,” we are treated to the discovery of 10 more bodies of tenured professors on the campus grounds. Turns out nobody missed them. Several have been tenured underground long enough to have earned a sabbatical. And we begin a layered story so well done that readers will settle in and integrate comfortably with the cast.

Ms. Riggs has written a central character she believes in because she lived with her. Mrs. Trumbull is drawn from the character and personality of Ms. Riggs’s mother, Island poet Dionis Coffin Riggs, who lived to the age of 98 and was actively participating in her life until the end. Island author Tom Dresser includes Dionis Coffin Riggs’s story in his new book, “Women of Martha’s Vineyard.” In it, he quotes Ms. Riggs’s story of canoeing regularly with her mother on Tisbury Great Pond until six months before her death.

Ms. Riggs’s depiction of wacky, off-beat Island characters and Island venues is spot-on. A sort of Greek chorus of Islanders appears in front of Alley’s General Store from time to time, Red Man in cheek, to pass on the latest gossip on the investigation. As we know, the speed at which gossip travels here is breathtaking.

Ms. Riggs gets this Island. You might expect that, given she’s the 13th generation of her family to live here. But it’s the “mud of the place,” as Islander Susanna Sturgis called it in her debut novel of that name several years ago. Ms. Riggs’s locals convey an understanding that the laws of nature govern islands such as ours, where the citizens fight to protect the land and to protect themselves from the sea.

Her characters often seem bemused as they compare the often harsh reality of their world with the concerns that press off-Islanders. In “Poison Ivy,” academic tenure is the concern that drives the main plot and a significant subplot. Ms. Riggs did the research on real-world tenure practices bizarre enough to make the Mafia look gracious. Good stuff.

I’m thinking that this is a book with hidden threads that Islanders will see, but it also allows non-residents to better insight about two questions all us wash-ashores have asked: Who are these people, and what makes this place tick?

One other question: Why couldn’t there be a college here? We’ve got the firepower to teach — and tenure is no problem.

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A murderous itch on campus: Serial killing becomes an elective

Lethal Lips: Study Highlights Toxic Content Of Lipstick

Lethal Lips: Study Highlights Toxic Content Of Lipstick

May 2, 2013

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Known for her lethal lips, Batman villainess Poison Ivy might appreciate a new study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who found dangerous levels of lead, chromium and other metals in a number of commonly sold lipsticks.

Previous research, including a 2011 FDA study, has found toxic metals in commercial lipsticks, but the UC Berkeley team has specifically studied how long-term exposure to various concentrations of these metals relates to current health guidelines.

“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue; it’s the levels that matter,” said lead author S. Katharine Hammond, a professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley. “Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term.”

The researchers say that the detrimental effects of these cosmetics depend on how often and how much of the product is applied. According to the study, which appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the average user applies lipstick 2.3 times a day and ingests about 24 milligrams of the product. A heavy user goes through as many as 14 applications per day and ingests an average of 83 milligrams, the study said.

Average lipstick users, as determined by this study, already expose themselves to excessive amounts of chromium, which has been linked to stomach cancer. Heavy users of these products may also be overexposed to aluminum, cadmium and manganese, the study warned. Of these metals, manganese has been connected to toxicity in the nervous system.

“Lead is not the metal of most concern,” Hammond told USA Today.

She noted that the heavy metal is found in 24 of the products, but at levels considered to be safe for adults. However, exposing children to any amount of lead is considered unsafe.

“I believe that the FDA should pay attention to this,” said lead author Sa Liu, a UC Berkeley environmental health sciences researcher. “Our study was small, using lip products that had been identified by young Asian women in Oakland, Calif. But, the lipsticks and lip glosses in our study are common brands available in stores everywhere.”

In their conclusion, the authors said that tossing out these products may be premature, but the findings do demonstrate a need for more supervision by health regulators. There are currently no federal standards for metal content in cosmetics. The European Union considers cadmium, chromium and lead to be unacceptable ingredients in cosmetic products.

“Based upon our findings, a larger, more thorough survey of lip products – and cosmetics in general – is warranted,” Liu added.

In response to the study’s findings, Personal Care Products Council spokesperson Linda Loretz said finding trace amounts of metals in cosmetics needs to be put into a larger context.

“Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison,” Loretz said in a statement.

She added that the trace amounts of chromium or cadmium found in the Berkeley study are less than 1 percent of the exposure people get in a typical diet.

Source: Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online


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Lethal Lips: Study Highlights Toxic Content Of Lipstick

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