Thursday, November 29, 2018

5 Fun Things You Can Do Besides Holiday Shopping And Still Pick Up A Gift

Want to opt out of the whole darn shopping thing this holiday season? I highly recommend taking that stand and would like to suggest a little less time spent shopping for someone and little more time spent with them. All of the activities below are excellent opportunities to put down your electronics and look someone you love in the eye. If, however, you would like some time to yourself away from your people, all these things can be enjoyed solo.These activities can also produce gifts so you don’t have to take another step to shop.

1) Go to the zoo
People in silhouette admiring Christmas lights in the shape of animals at the Denver Zoo
This time of year is an exceptional time to visit your local zoo. There may be fewer animals on exhibit, but you won’t have the high-summer crowds. After all, you’d like to see the animals and not someone’s back as you stand three deep at an enclosure. Many zoos across the country (and the world) have embraced zoo lights as a way to bring in much-needed winter revenue. Most children will be entranced by the combination of animals and lights and you can get a break from the “buy me that” commercialization of the season. Of course, always make sure that you are patronizing a zoo that is actively working in conservation (see a list here).
Gift idea: Zoo tickets or memberships and/or any number of cool items in the gift shop.

Three men sitting in chairs making funny faces and gestures
2) Go to an improv show
Holidays are nothing if not stressful and laughter is a stellar way to reduce stress. Make some time for silliness (it’s good for the soul), support local performers and engage with others in your community. Very little brings people together like a good laugh. To find a theater near you, check out this list. Many theaters are surprisingly affordable and offer family-friendly shows; my family loves the one they do at our local improv (Unscrewed Theater).
Gift idea: Take someone out for a nice evening as a gift and make the show a part of it. Or buy tickets to an upcoming show, CD’s, T-shirts or other bits of swag.

3) Have some kitchen fun
A man and two women laughing together while making food in the kitchen
Okay, you may have to do a little shopping for this one; but, it is grocery store shopping, which you have to do anyway. This is the perfect time to experiment with new foods or to fine-tune your holiday menu. Get a bottle of wine (or warm up that blender) and a cohort or two (optional, but highly recommended) and dig into your kitchen. You can go old school, with a Betty Crocker cookbook propped up on the counter (those recipes speak to many childhood memories) or find the just-right YouTube tutorial. This is also the perfect time to clean out your refrigerator by making a soup - it will free up space for all the incoming holiday goodies.Try this recipe or make one up as you go along.
Gift idea: There are a great many easy food gifts you can make and nearly everyone responds to food. But there is also a hidden gift in this activity – the gift of an aromatic house on a crisp winter day. So cozy!

A closeup of a rack of pool balls and a man getting ready to break them
4) Go play some pool
Grab some friends and find a place to play pool. Or find a place to play pool and make some new friends (just challenge a table). It’s virtually impossible to play pool without witty repartee and other fun types of human interaction. Hit up a sports bar and you will also be able catch some late-season football while you play and have a room full of like-minded sports fans to enjoy it with. Don’t like pool? The idea is to get out and play, what game you choose is up to you. Places like Dave and Buster’s and Culinary Dropout, here in Tucson, offer many game choices. There are also places where you can play more cerebral games such as chess. Learn where to find a chess game here. Just go and relax and enjoy the company of others, that’s the key to this activity.
Gift idea: Gift certificates, of course. But, also use the chance to get to know your companion/s a little better and try to ferret out things they really like (such as a team preference or something they wish they had, like new darts). Some of these things you may be able to get right where you are.

5) Get out in Nature
Two bundled up children playing on a wintery beach
Weather permitting, of course, get out and just enjoy the season around you. Take a companion or two on a drive and have an old-fashioned picnic or eat at a quaint restaurant. If you live near an ocean, put some layers on and walk on the beach. There is a unique beauty to the beach in winter. Can’t get that far away? Get those kids bundled into the car and drive them around the neighborhood to check out people’s decorations.
Gift idea: This activity is really just about the time spent in the season; but, keep an open mind and gift ideas could pop up anytime during your excursion.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Global Seed Vault – Securing A Better Future

Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway
Built in a vacant coal mine deep within arctic permafrost, the Global Seed Vault contains the most diverse collection of food crops on the planet. The vast collection, amounting to a whopping 864,000 samples, houses close to 4.5 million seeds. Among the cataloged seeds are 159,000 varieties of wheat and 146,000 types of rice. These seeds have been kept for reasons varying from ensuring genetic diversity to expressing individual, commercially valuable traits.

The bank itself was conceived as a fail-safe in the event of global catastrophe with an emphasis on maintaining food security in less developed countries. This focus cast a gazing eye on the future when it was built in 2008 with the Crop Trust, its operating body, calling it “the final backup.” In the case of nuclear war or the rampant population growth expected over the next 100 years, these seeds will be there for emergency use – viable and ready to plant.

That viability was threatened in 2017 when the changing climate reared its head. Up until then, the Global Seed Vault had proven to be the perfect place for storing its grand collection. Located 800 miles within the Arctic Circle in Svalbard, Norway, one would think that melting ice would be low on the list of worries – and it was. Unfortunately, the permafrost that had previously encapsulated the vault began to melt and left thousands of years of agriculture in limbo. Thankfully for the vault and any future generations who may need its services, the water did not reach any of the seed collection. It did, however, serve as a fair warning.

Heeding the warning, the Norwegian government has allocated $10 million to buffer the vault’s defenses against mounting challenges, climate-driven or otherwise. With new emergency power units, refrigeration systems and a brand new concrete access tunnel, scientists hope to avoid any further scares. Agriculture is expected to be hit increasingly hard by the stressors caused by climatic changes and food security will play an important role in maintaining the safety, health and cohesion of billions of people worldwide.

It is time to be thankful for the people keeping their eyes on future generations. Without them we would not have some of the things we take for granted. For better or for worse, a few seeds may be all it takes to make or break our species and, like other vaults around the world, the Global Seed Vault is securing a better future for all of us.

Click Here To Browse Our Organic & Heirloom Seed Catalog To Start Your Winter Garden Today!

- Contributed by Sterling N.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

An ARBICO Thanksgiving

A drawing of an orange pumpkin with twigs and leaves around it in green and orange and the words, "Happy Thanksgiving"Earlier this month, we had our annual ARBICO Thanksgiving potluck in spectacular Catalina State Park near our office here in Oro Valley, Arizona. The weather was absolutely beautiful and we feasted on a medley of delicious dishes. There was also horseshoes and music – pretty much all the necessary ingredients for a successful picnic.

I went around and asked some of my co-workers, “What is your favorite thing about Thanksgiving?” Their answers are below (you’re going to see a pattern):
A blonde lady in a red shirt and blue jeans leaning over a table - Kim
Kim - Office
A lady with glasses and short grey hair wearing a purple shirt - Theresa from H.R.
Theresa - H.R
Kim: “Family and food”

A lady with long brown hair wearing sunglasses and a black shirt. Andrea from Purchasing.  
Andrea - Purchasing
 Theresa: “Getting together with my family; we don’t get to do it enough”

 Andrea: “Being with friends and family”

Elliott: “It’s super stereotypical but I just love being around family and friends and the fellowship of food”
A man with glasses and red hair and a red beard wearing a black shirt - Elliott from Shipping.  
Elliott - Shipping

A man wearing a tan cap and a blue shirt holding a large sledge hammer - Chris from the Insectary.
Chris - Insectary
              Chris: “Family and friends”

Becky: "Mashed potatoes and gravy"
(Full disclosure: Becky originally said
A lady wearing a white cap and a purple shirt - Becky from Sales.
Becky - Sales
"family and  friends". I prodded her
to change her answer in the interest of variety, which she cheerfully did because she's just that nice.)

It is abundantly clear from these answers that the true spirit of Thanksgiving is alive and
well amongst us ARBICO

Here’s wishing you memorable food and all the family and friends you can handle.

 Submitted by Pam

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hemp - From Favored Flora to Fake News and Fabricated Hate

A modern-day recreation of the colonial ship The Mayflower
The Mayflower
Hemp arrived on this continent with the first ships to troll its shores. When Columbus and his crew set sail in 1492, it was in ships fitted with sails and ropes made from hemp. If you are one of the many people that believe the Vikings got here first, there is evidence that they also used hemp for cloth and cordage. The plant was introduced into Mexico by Pedro Cuadrado, a Spanish Conquistador shortly after the conquest in the early 1500s. He brought the seeds to begin a business venture that was relatively short-lived, but more on that later.

Hemp is considered to be one of the oldest domesticated crop in the world. There is evidence that it has been used since 8,000 BCE. By the time the pilgrims arrived on their hemp-outfitted Mayflower in 1620 (see a fun video here), the plant was an unquestioned and important staple in their world. From the beginning of the colonies, the English decreed that the colonists grow hemp. The reason was simple: the British Navy was busy empire-building and there was a constant need for rigging and sails, a need that they were having a hard time keeping up with. The colonists never quite managed to supply the hoped-for hemp bounty, however, as they soon found that they needed all they could grow. They not only made cloth and ropes, they extracted the oil from seeds and burned it in lamps and bartered with all parts of the plant.

Black and white etching of early American colonists harvesting hemp
Early colonists harvesting hemp

Meanwhile, in Jamestown, Virginia, colonists had been struggling to survive since 1607. By 1619, they felt established enough to set down some laws. Included in these was the mandate that all settlers grow hemp, “For hemp also, both English and Indian, and for English flax and aniseeds, we do require and enjoin all householders of this colony, that have any of those seeds, to make trial thereof the next season.” This was America’s first, but by no means last, cannabis-related legislation.

Modern black and white drawing of Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross
Throughout most of the next 300 years, hemp maintained its position as a widely-used and valuable commodity. It was legal tender in the colonies of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland and, for more than 150 years, taxes could be paid in hemp. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams all grew industrial hemp. It is believed that Betsy Ross made the first U.S. flag with hemp cloth and scholars know that Benjamin Franklin used hemp string when he did his famous lightning experiment.

Hemp was held in high esteem in our country until the beginning of the 20th century, when a whispering campaign was begun against it. To explain, let’s go back to Pedro Cuadrado: his hemp seeds had created a lucrative business growing industrial hemp, but by 1550 the Spanish government restricted his endeavor. Apparently, the native people of the region had discovered a more eye-opening use for it than making rope and this disturbed the authorities (a theme that continues to plague the hemp plant). Despite the restrictions, cannabis from the hemp plant maintained its following in Mexico. When refugees began arriving as a result of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20), they brought their herb with them and introduced it into the American zeitgeist.

Black and white photo of a grim-faced William Randolph Hearst with his arms crossed in front of him
William Randolph Hearst
With the onset of the Great Depression and its massive job losses, resentment towards Mexican migrant workers grew in many areas. They were seen as taking jobs that American workers badly needed (sound familiar?). This is when the incredibly rich and powerful William Randolph Hearst entered the picture. He was unabashed in his disdain for Mexicans, once saying, “I really don’t see what is to prevent us from owning all Mexico and running it to suit ourselves.” Hearst used his papers to stoke the anti-Mexican fervor and to connect it to hemp by portraying them as drug-crazed from cannabis. Despite being a complete racist, his motivation for targeting hemp was probably to protect his timber holdings and eliminate hemp paper, which he was successful at doing.

The final nail in the hemp coffin was the appointment of Harry Anslinger in 1930 as the nation’s first Drug Czar. By most accounts, he was as reprehensible a racist as Hearst and a rabid evangelical to boot. He was all in on Prohibition and, when that was repealed he turned his to attention to other stimulants. His rhetoric was all about the dangers of minorities on drugs and it played well into the Depression narrative. Unfortunately, Anslinger stayed in the U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics into the 1960’s and was able to firmly nail down anti-cannabis/hemp laws.

The pendulum is definitely swinging back in hemp’s favor these days. In time, the criminalization of this useful plant will undoubtedly be seen as what it was: fear-mongering in order to satisfy special interests. If we could only get rid of all the sensationalized reporting and fabricated hate we would all be better off.

Submitted by Pam

Thursday, November 8, 2018

How To Control Fungus Gnats Indoors

Fungus Gnats are a common pest to the indoor grower or potted plant lover. With the expansion of indoor growing and the boom in both cannabis and hemp cultivation over the past few years, demand for effective, affordable control solutions is at an all time high. Watch the video below for some insights into quick and easy ways to get rid of fungus gnats in your growing environment.

As you can see, controlling fungus gnats doesn't have to be a chore. If you treat with nematodes early in the growing season, monitor effectively and manage populations with predators when necessary you will be fungus gnat free in no time. Try our Fungus Gnat Control Bundle to get what you need in one without the shipping costs!

Want more information about how to keep fungus gnats away from your grow? Click Here

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What Else Was Happening in 1621?

Although Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, most Americans are deep in their travel/food/football planning. As I was firming up my plans, I had a thought: We know the story of the first Thanksgiving
A painting of Pilgrim settlers gathering around a table with Native Americans
The First Thanksgiving by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
(or at least one of the versions), but what were people doing in other places in the world that year? Here’s a quick tour of the world in 1621:
Portrait of the 17th century Japanese Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. He is wearing a black coat with a red lining and a small black hat.
Tokugawa Hidetada

JAPAN– Japan was under the rule of a Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. Hidetada was the son of the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan for 265 years (1603-1868). Tokugawa’s rule was notable for the extreme measures he took to control outside influences in Japan. Although Christianity had been banned under his father's rule in 1617, there were still Spanish and Portuguese missionaries in Japan openly converting individuals and building communities. Unhappy with this meddling in Japanese culture, Hidetada began executing missionaries and martyring believers. In 1622 alone he put 120 people to death for their religious practices. To further break away from outside influences, Hidetata took steps to severely limit the number of foreign vessels allowed to enter Japan.This time in Japan was depicted in the 2016 movie Silence from the novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo.  Draconian repression and isolationist acts aside, the Tokugawa shogunate was a time for peace and prosperity for many Japanese.

Portrait of the 17th century King Philip III of Spain and Portugal. He is wearing a  black suit with large white frills at the neck and wrist.  
King Philip III

BRAZIL – Portugal rules over Brazil, with King Philip III of Spain and Portugal as its absolute monarch in 1621. Throughout its long colonization of Brazil (1500-1815), the mechanics of administration were always difficult. The country was just so big and its rulers so far away. In 1621, in an effort to get better control, King Philip changed it from the Governate General of Brazil into two states: State of Brazil and State of Maranhão. Presumably this helped, as Portugal maintained control for another 194 years.

PHILIPPINES – The Spanish ruled over the Philippines for 333 years (1521-1898). In 1621, there was a religious revolt known as the Bankaw (or Bancao) Revolt. The agitators were tired of the religious dominance of the Roman Catholic Church and wanted a return to traditional beliefs. The battles went on for two years, but the revolt was ultimately squelched and the leaders executed.

NORWAY – In 1621, Norway was in the thick of a long and virulent witch-hunting phase. In the years between 1593 and 1692, there were at least 140 witch trials in the small village of Vardø. These trials resulted in 91 found guilty and either tortured to death or burned at the stake. This is an extremely high number when the population of the entire county would have been about 3,000 people. The Vardø witch trial of 1621 was the largest trial of this period, with many people losing their lives. The last to burn was Kristi Sørensdatter, on April 28, 1621. In June 2011, the Norwegian government dedicated the Steilneset Witch Trial Memorial as an apology to those lost lives.

Tianqi Emperor (Zhu Youjiao)
CHINA – In 1621, China was living in the waning years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The end of this dynasty was the result of a combination of things that went unchecked and untreated over a long period of time: infighting and power-grabbing by civic officials, intrigues and interference by palace eunuchs, a growing and unsettled populace and a succession of inattentive and ineffectual emperors. The emperor in 1621, the Tianqi Emperor (Zhu Youjiao) was one of these inept rulers. He was just 15 years old when he took the throne (following his father's mysterious death after ruling for less than a month). He was illiterate and uninterested in state affairs; he preferred to do carpentry. Before long, the scheming eunuch Wei Zhnogxian and the emperor's wet nurse,
Wei Zhnogxian
Madame Ke, had made themselves de facto rulers. Wei raised up his allies and destroyed his enemies. Meanwhile, Ke went to extremes to keep him away from any other female influences – she imprisoned and starved to death his concubines. Unfortunately for this ambitious duo, the emperor died young in 1627. By 1628 they were both dead; Madame Ke was beaten to death in an interrogation in 1627 and Wei hung himself in 1628.

Richard Jobson
AFRICA – Africa in 1621 was a hodge-podge of kingdoms, empires, sultanates and colonials. There was also any number of Europeans traipsing around the continent looking for adventure, riches and fame. One such explorer was Richard Jobson, who traveled 400 miles up the Gambia River in 1621 and 1622. He was seeking gold (which he did not find), but what he brought back was a unique chronicle of the then-unknown African interior. He was also an early voice against slavery. On his return, he wrote The Golden Trade Or A Discovery Of The River Gambia And The Golden Trade of The Aethiopian (1623), which can be read in its entirety here.

In 1621, many parts of Europe were fighting over religion, people in colonized areas were either trying to keep control or get out from under it and others were deeply entrenched in traditional ways. And then there are the areas where little is known about what people were doing. Those people may have been the lucky ones, no outsiders had gotten to them yet.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, November 2, 2018

Day of the Dead: So Much More Than Cool Makeup

Man dancing in elaborate feathered headdress and costume, holding large rattles
Aztec Dancer - Day of the Dead in Los Angeles
Modern Americans have adopted the Mexican tradition of the Dia del los Muertos (Day of the Dead) into mainstream culture. Not too many years ago, it would have been difficult to find skulls and skeleton-embellished clothing readily available beyond Halloween. Today, commercially made items can be found everywhere from a nationwide chain like Party City to designers like Alexander McQueen. There is even a website that features everything skull and skeleton related for your accessorizing, décor and clothing needs.

A sure sign that the Day of the Dead is been taken over is that Disney made a movie about it – Coco. Fortunately, the creative forces behind Coco took great care to appropriately depict the cultural and spiritual event that is Dia de los Muertos. For its first movie to depict a minority character in the lead, they consulted extensively with the people whose traditions they were depicting. The result was a beautiful movie filled with heart and music that deserves the recognition it receives.

Mictecacihuatl - The Lady of the Dead
Celebrating death as a continuous part of human existence and remembering those that have passed on has extremely deep roots in Mexico. These traditions date as far back as 1800 BC and were practiced by indigenous people throughout Mesoamerica. The origins of contemporary Day of the Dead celebrations lie with the Aztecs, who believed in a complex and vibrant afterlife (for a fun few minutes in their underworld, click here). They had been celebrating death and harvest rituals for more than 500 years before the Spanish arrived in 1519. The Spanish quickly and aggressively converted indigenous people to  Catholicism, but many ancient traditions were tightly held and the Spanish wisely allowed the native people to meld the two belief systems. The result is a form of Catholicism that is unique to our continent. Modern Mayan and other native peoples continue their singular celebrations to this day. This includes the Pascua Yaqui tribe here in Tucson, whose observances last two days (Nov. 1-2) and are tied to All Soul's and All Saint's days.
La Calavera Garbancera (Catrina)
One of the most iconic symbols of the Day of the Dead is that of La Calavera Catrina (or just Catrina). This image was the creation of Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910. Inspired by the Aztec Queen of the Underworld, Mictecacihuatl (The Lady of the Dead), Posada’s skeletal beauty was new and yet familiar to the Mexican people. Catrina was born the same year that the Mexican Revolution broke out in response to the long and corrupt dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. The Diaz regime was characterized by a push to modernize Mexico by embracing all things European, further enriching the elite on the backs of the poor. Posada was a lithographer and his work was distributed widely among the huge numbers of illiterate workers. He named his creation “La Calavera Garbancera”, “Garbancera” being a derogatory phrase used at that time for native Mexicans who tried to pass as Europeans. When asked about Catrina, he is said to have replied, “We are all skeletons”. Their fight for a new Mexico was long and bloody but ultimately successful and Diaz was overthrown, in large part because the poor and disenfranchised were able to rally under symbols like Catrina.

Image of a mural with many people in it depicting 400 years of Mexican history, titled Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park by Diego Rivera
Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park by Diego Rivera
Catrina was further entrenched in Mexican culture when the painter DiegoRivera painted the dandified skeleton into his masterpiece “Dream of a SundayAfternoon in Alameda Park” (1946-47). In the massive mural depicting 400 years of Mexican history, Diego placed Catrina front and center, with Posada on one side of her and himself and his wife, Frida Kahlo, on the other. Diego was a firebrand with strong Communist ties and he greatly admired Posada and looked up to him as a mentor. Even 35 years after she was created, the symbolism of Catrina was important enough to Rivera to make her a focal point in what was arguably his most important work.

In this time of picking sides and divisive politics in our own country, it seems important that we take a moment to look around and recognize what has come before us to get us to where we are now. Struggles for a better life and to work with dignity have taken place over and over again since mankind started creating societies. The crass commercialism of many American Day of the Dead events ignores the depth of culture and belief that these celebrations were founded on. I, for one, enjoy the day much more knowing the history behind it.

Submitted by Pam

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