My new gardening motto — follow the poop!

Woody and I resisted growing food crops for years because we could get great local, organic product at our Farmer’s Market and at local farms and specialty stores. We didn’t think we had time to be “farmers.”

We decided to venture into raised bed gardening last year with two beds and added two more this year. The original purpose was to grow enough basil to make the pounds of pesto that I make each holiday for our use and to give some as gifts. And, what the heck, throw in some tomatoes, oh, and some other herbs. Last year’s tomatoes were scrumptious and prolific, two plants, so this year we planted three. We also added zucchini, a pepper, eggplants, and Swiss chard. The Swiss chard was the first crop available for harvest and was awesome until about two weeks ago as it is waning now. We’ve been enjoying grilled zucchini, I made a few zucchini breads, and I made a batch of fritters for the first time, not bad. I grated a bunch more and froze it.

Being amongst the garden plants is therapeutic–nurturing them, arranging supports, pruning, deadheading. It does take time. And the yield is best when good attention is paid to watering.

You might now be asking “what does all this have to do with the title of this blog post?”

Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on parsley stem

Knock on wood, we have been lucky that our crops have not been devoured by neighbors of the non-human kind considering that there is no fencing–but times they may be a-changin’. A week or two ago I saw little round poops on my nasturtium leaves. I remember having this happen on a potted indoor plant, so I looked around and above and found the culprit. I immediately thought tomato hornworn, but my friend Wendy said look it up, make sure, it could be a Monarch. After a bunch of research I determined it was a Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, so then I spent a little more time putting it back. One of its three favorite garden plants is parsley and I was willing to sacrifice it. He high-tailed it across the lawn and into the strawberry leaves under the lilac. The next day, though, I found him in the parsley, changed my mind about sacrificing it, and put him back in the strawberries.

Tobacco hornworms in a pint-sized container

Now … the reason I’m writing is because yesterday, after returning from tennis and wanting a short visit to my garden, I saw more poops on my tomato leaves, then a green tomato with a hole in the side. It took me about ten minutes to find the assailant, and this time it was indeed the hornworm. It was huge! Amazing how they blend in and then when you find it you wonder how you could have missed it for so long. I didn’t want to touch it lest it squish all over me, and I did not learn in my previous research whether they bite or if the horn can cause pain. Further research alleviated that concern. This is a good resource: It takes a pretty good squeeze and pull to get it off the plant. I used a nasturtium leaf as my “glove.”

I checked the next plant–nothing. The third plant had poops, as did the sage below it, and a few on the adjacent basil. Once you follow the poop, look up higher. There were probably a dozen damaged tomatoes and I ended up finding two more hornworm. I thought it would be prudent to pick all of the damaged fruit and clean up all of the debris so I could continue to monitor without old evidence.

So much for an hour out of my workday. I did the same today and found one more. I learned from the above resource that it is actually a tobacco hornworm because it has seven white stripes (instead of eight) and a red horn.

There’s some backstory that goes along with this topic. My grandmother was quite the gardener, growing all kinds of crops, feeding the family fresh foods, and canning some of the excess. I was in her garden one day–can’t remember the reason. I came across a caterpillar on the tomato plant, brought it to her, and she said “yup, that’s them” like it was an alien.

We will continue to be “farmers.” It is rewarding although hardly cost-saving. Hundreds of dollars of wood and soil, fertilizer, plants. But, oh, the fruits of our labor!

Update 8/29/22: Woody coached me on actual cost savings. Thirty to fifty zucchinis, hundreds of tomatoes, a dozen Swiss chard meals saves us a lot of grocery money.

COVID Resources

NY Times Case Count Map,

Vermont Interactive

See a whole section on Omicron and J&J below.

I found this great blog for following Covid: Your Local Epidemiologist. Her main goal is: “… to “translate” the ever-evolving public health science so that people will be well-equipped to make evidence-based decisions, rather than decisions based in fear.”

I began reading it primarily to learn about Omicron, starting on Nov. 26, but some older posts also stood out as quite helpful.

This pandemic is getting old, but the current Omicron variant suggests a return to the level of care that we took in the early days of the pandemic. Remember gathering outdoors, walking, biking, or skiing, staying six feet apart and making sure no-one was down wind? It is far more contagious, the incubation period is only a few days, and even with an mRNA series and booster, the efficacy is only 70% vs. 94%+ against other variants.

In her Jan. 6, 2022 post she reminds that a “layered approach [to prevention] (vaccine, mask, ventilation, testing) is crucial” and references a great chart on mask effectiveness. The surgical mask is not nearly as protective as I had thought/hoped. Go N95 if possible.

We may be feeling we will all eventually become infected, but there are many reasons to still strive to avoid exposure, namely organ damage and long Covid. Guidance from the state and national governments is not always sufficient. Your own research as it applies to your situation is important.

For example, the CDC reduced isolation and quarantine periods to too short a timeframe, especially for the unvaccinated: They took a lot of flack for this and have modified.

This page explains a sensible antigen testing approach before a gathering:
Adapt the dates. Notice that part of the preparation is taking less risk during the few days or weeks before the gathering.

“There’s now enough data to estimate the reproductive number (i.e. contagiousness) in the United States. And it’s not looking good: R(t)=3. With this high level of transmissibility, cases are doubling every ~3-4 days, so Omicron will easily be the dominant variant in coming weeks. … Even though the number of infections will substantially increase, we will largely stay out of the hospital.”

Omicron Update Dec. 22: “JJ people need 2 mRNA shots for full neutralizing antibody protection instead of just one.”

This page notes antigen tests remain valid for Omicron: However, in her Jan. 5 post, Antigen Tests and Omicron, throat swabbing as is done in the UK is highlighted as important to detecting Omicron during the infectious period because it inhabits the bronchial area more so than the nose. See the Jan. 19 post also.

Go get your vaccine, especially with Omicron: “… while antibodies that are generated are highly specific, B-cells can adapt to any variant and create new specific antibodies.” Boosters are important.

How vaccines reduce long COVID: In a small study, the rate of long COVID19 among vaccinated was 0.5%. “Vaccines minimize the time the virus is in the body and reduce the number of infectious particles. So, the less virus, the less likelihood of damaging organs, and the less likelihood of long COVID.”

While the above argument is sensible, here is a counter argument. “… vaccination does not protect against Long Covid, … Long Covid symptoms become more likely over time:”

COVID19’s impact on the brain: “Those with COVID19 had significant loss of gray matter, … regardless of disease severity.”

“The decisions we make (like not wearing a mask or not getting a vaccine) directly impact those around us. And not just those around at the time. SARS-CoV-2 can linger in the room for more than 16 hours. … We have to stop transmission until we can build our immunity wall. Masks reduce transmission. Vaccines reduce transmission. And we have the tool, in ample supply, to build a protective wall for our most vulnerable. … The vaccine couldn’t save Colin Powell, but we could have. His death is a reminder of how serious this pandemic is and that we need to [do] everything in our power to protect the 5.5 million immunocompromised around us.”

We came together as a country to eliminate Rubella through 1) community vaccination instead of 2) just vaccinating women and girls in their child-bearing years. Option 2 did not work sufficiently in other countries.

How many breakthrough cases are there? July 16, 2021

Long COVID among breakthrough cases?: In one study on the Alpha variant “… 1 in 5 breakthrough cases reported long COVID19, regardless of severity of disease.”

More detail about Long Covid (same link as counter-argument above).

From Kaiser Health News 3/4/21: Coronavirus Deranges the Immune System in Complex and Deadly Ways. Rather old now; there may be some updates in other research. Makes the case for not getting infected. Even a mild Covid infection can have long-term ramifications.

Even before Omicron, Sep 19, 2021, it was being suggested that J&J shots get mRNA boosters.

Off topic, with the prominence of abortion in the news this year, this epidemiologist weighs in with some good data highlighting that most abortions are being performed early, and changes in laws will not reduce the number substantially.

A friend  led me to this essay by an unvaccinated American living in South Africa who has done MUCH research, questions policy and logic, and makes good arguments on many Covid topics. A long read but provides for good contemplation.

SARS-CoV-2 vaccine protection and deaths among US veterans during 2021 highlights the topic of waning effectiveness in a large sample.


I found bulk packages of rapid (antigen) tests at a company that supplies offices. Rapid tests in bulk quantity:

Good write-up about each type of test:

Care sheet:

Testing at home is now reimbursable. Find similar info for your state.

Antigen test method adjustment during Omicron: Take a throat swab as well as nasal. There is a link to a British video showing how to do the throat and nasal swab, from 2:10 – 3:00, you can ignore the rest. This is standard in the UK but the US has not adopted.

Another resource saying to do a throat swab: “drink a glass of water, not eat or drink for 30 minutes, swab your throat, and then swab your nose with the same test stick.”

Here are a couple articles rejecting the idea of throat swabbing until approved:

My own opinion, if Omicron replicates in the throat, shouldn’t our guidance be updated? Or at least tell people that rapid testing is not a good precaution against Omicron?

Another post from Jan. 19, Antigen Tests: Real World Data, discusses rapid tests as a way of determining when it’s safe to go back into society, but doesn’t sufficiently address using it as a preventive tool, nor does it back up her Jan. 5 posts about throat swabbing.

I am personally disappointed that more attention hasn’t been given to how to prevent spread. Now in April 2022, all the attention is on getting back to life. I think there is some hope that the immunity developed from infection will make up for the lack of community immunity due to insufficient vaccination numbers.


The Dec. 30, 2021 NY Times reports J&J shot with J&J booster provides great protection against severe illness once infected with Omicron.

For those striving to prevent becoming infected: The following excerpts that I hastily copied from Twitter note that some studies have shown that J&J alone is not sufficient protection against infection by Omicron.

See CDC links below for updates on boosters.

See discussion and links above for test swabbing for Omicron.
Findings are good for Pfizerites and Modernans but sobering for JnJers, even after boosting have lower neutralizing antibodies against Delta and Omicron vs 3x Pfizer
Make sure you get 3 shots, at most 1 J&J, and space them 2-6 months apart”

One issue is that rules don’t allow for that 3rd dose, officially. But seems people are finding a way, as there’s broad acceptance that rules limiting vaccines do not account for all need cases.

2x JJ has low protection from infection, and once infected, vaccinated are as contagious as nonvaccinated. 2mo after the second shot would be a safe time to get a RNA boost. Not medical advice, just conveying study results.

Another clear result is that J&J is inferior in all states.

“But the most concerning thing is this: J&J+booster doesn’t work as well against new variants compared to Moderna+booster or Pfizer+booster.

“JnJers need a RNA vax dose at some point to prime a wide memory B cell (antibody factories) population, and then need to be boosted to get the broad antibody response to protect against Delta and Omicron.
JnJers who got boosted by Moderna or Pfizer have that RNA dose already. They would benefit greatly from another shot any time after 1 month (based on other studies, 3 months is probably ideal for max response). This “another” shot can be RNA (guaranteed) or could be J&J (below)
Essentially J&J is not a good way to start a vaccine series when we are faced with variants against which a broad antibody response is useful. Instead a J&J primary vaccine should be considered similar to a natural infection: not enough vs variants.
“JnJers who haven’t gotten a RNA booster should be told to get one 2 months after their last J&J, and then another booster 6 months later. They can benefit from the wider B cell repertoire. If they are in a vulnerable population, they absolutely will need it.

“Basically you need a RNA vaccine at some time to prime a wide B cell population for antibodies against variants. J&J does not substitute. If you don’t do it earlier, you’ll just have to do it later. I hope for the health of JnJers that @CDCgov and @CDCDirector will consider it.
So in a sense JJ+RNA booster gets to where 2xRNA was to begin with (pic1 below). But it is worse than 3xRNA for variants, esp Omicron (pic2 below). And with decay we expect some loss of protection to Delta in the upcoming months.
Another way to explain the data is that 3 immunizations are needed for broad nAbs.
Since 1xJJ is similar to infection by WT strain (ref below), then we expect that after a second RNA boost (i.e. JJ+RNA+RNA) then nAb levels may be like 3xRNA. So this is even more reason to advocate for a 2nd boost.

From Balazs Lab
“I want to stress that all of this work has been done with pseudovirus which is a model of coronavirus, but there are plenty of caveats in measurements like ours. Keep in mind that the virus has plenty of other immune responses to contend with (like T cells or NK cells).


12/17/21: J&J, Sinopharm, Sputnik V COVID-19 shots less effective against Omicron -study | Reuters

Another really good blog: The Omicron situation – by Noah Smith – Noahpinion. Look for the Omicron posts among his many topics.

An article highlighting the difficulties of making and enforcing policy among groups with varying beliefs: Students Are Walking Out Over COVID


It’s a Terrible Idea to Deny Medical Care to Unvaccinated People,” The Atlantic, 1/20/22. Although I would not suggest denying medical care to the unvaccinated, I do find it appalling that partisanship has not only caused us to lose possible control of the pandemic, but also to drive up the human costs and medical costs. We could possibly have reached herd immunity on Biden’s original timeline. That could have resulted in a more normal 2021-2022 winter. Think of the toll on our taxes and health insurance.


Update related to getting a booster with J&J primary/booster:

Appendix A with Feb. 2022 updates explained:

Women’s Issues, Civil Rights

Most of the content and links on this page are from a feminist blog, All In Her Head, but she does branch out into wider topics because injustices, especially today, are coming from persons and organizations with power against any target groups that seek to be heard and treated fairly.

It has taken me some time to understand what is meant by “cancel culture” and “wokeness.” This blog post explains some:

“When the powerful lose out on privileges, it’s cancel culture—but when anyone is deprived of their rights, it’s just politics.who gets called ‘canceled’ has become shorthand for whose lives and happiness matters.”

“That’s what makes cancel culture so dangerous—it’s about the narrowing of who we believe is deserving of empathy and who is worth fighting for. Most of all, though, it’s a conservative tool meant to make accountability seem like an injustice and injustice seem unremarkable.”

The ‘Objective’ Truth: In a racist & sexist world, only white men are seen as impartial.

“Conservatives cheer on the harassment of everyday Americans but are horrified by a wealthy ‘public figure’ being bothered on his day off—almost as if they only care about powerful people being allowed to do and say whatever they want free from consequence.”

“How do I know that parents can ‘have it all’? That it’s actually completely feasible to work and take care of children without giving up your career goals or life ambitions? Because men do it all the time.”

From another blog of this same author: “While men may not necessarily say ‘a woman’s place is in the home,” they will say ‘she’s better at it,” or “she cares more about cleanliness.

Men’s entitlement and privilege shows up in the way they treat women and girls:

What’s In A Hug (Cuomo): “So please, do women the favor of not treating us like we haven’t spent the better part of our lives honing our perceptiveness and strengthening our intuition. We know exactly what you mean.”

“… while it’s seductive to believe that we have some measure of control over whether or not we’re attacked, the truth is that it’s only men who can stop rape.”

“So long as men enable misogyny—be it actively or passively—progress for women is doomed.”

Republicans’ Daddy Issues: Conservatives hate ‘fatherlessness’, but not enough to take care of their own kids. “… if you’ve never given your kid a bath, picked them up for school, or taken them to the dentist—it sure sounds like you’re as absent as the next guy.”

I am still careful about who I invite to my office and when. Women wear certain footwear at times in case we have to run. We watch our drinks carefully in public places. We avoid public places and crowded transit that may be risky.

“A Florida school is under fire this week for altering at least 80 female students’ yearbook photos to appear more ‘modest’. … if you’re worried that someone will get the wrong idea by their outfit—change the world, not their shirt.”

“… his inability to focus on anything else at the beach besides those girls’ bodies is actually his issue, not theirs.”

As if protecting men’s feelings is more important than speaking the truth about our lives.

My paragraph above centers on safety. Reading this piece, Against Forgiveness, reminded me of some of the injustices I have experienced, and the anger and pain I have held onto.

I found this blog from the lone post about abortion on an epidemiologist’s blog, leading me here: “Anti-choicers like to pose hypotheticals about the remarkable baby a woman could have if she just didn’t get an abortion: … None ask if that woman herself might change the world. They never consider that we could be the remarkable ones, if only given the chance.”

The Dec. 7, 2021 post is about the Supreme Court review of the abortion case(s). “Right now, the conservative agenda is almost entirely about re-establishing that hierarchy of who gets to be a person. … this has never been just about rolling back rights. It’s about codifying who counts and who doesn’t.

I listened to 1.5 of the two hours of the Supreme Court testimony on the Mississippi case. I thought the lawyers against Mississippi (to uphold Roe) did a fantastic job. There weren’t ANY holes in their arguments that a woman’s liberty is what is at stake, and the pursuit of liberty is enshrined in the Constitution. They continued to defend that viability should remain as the appropriate time through which Roe has been solidified. Although Mississippi’s 15 weeks may seem like a generous amount of time for a woman to make a choice to give birth or abort, it is arbitrary and opens the door for any other arbitrary lengths of time to be implemented in other states. Why 15 weeks and not 14 or 16? I was disheartened to hear the tone of the media afterward, as if it was a lost cause. Maybe that’s because it is and I am being naive that the arguments will hold any weight.

White privilege: “Whiteness & the Bare Minimum, Instead of asking why white people shouldn’t say the n-word, ask why they want to use it at all”

The last two articles are related to the first topic on this page, cancel culture, but I like the writing of the author above better and wanted you to read those first in case you didn’t make it to the end of this post.

Critique of Anne Applebaum’s article in the Atlantic: “…the vast majority of conversations about cancel culture, are … about maintaining power and privilege.

And another Atlantic article: How Capitalism Drives Cancel Culture: Beware splashy corporate gestures when they leave existing power structures intact. “the iron law of woke institutions: For those looking to preserve their power, it makes sense to do the minimum amount of social radicalism necessary to survive … and no economic radicalism at all. The latter is where activists need to apply their pressure.”

Edited 12/20/21

Comment on HCR Post

I felt compelled to write a response to

In this clip shared also by Joyce White Vance, congressman Matt Gaetz finishes at 1:30 with a statement that really caught my attention: “The truth is that the establishment in both political parties have teamed up to screw our fellow Americans for generations.” I am a Democrat who agrees whole-heartedly with that statement. The actions of our leadership over the last 40 years, and those coaxing the shift for 20 years prior, have led to the situation we are in. I am of the belief that something significant and speedy needs to be done to give the bottom 90% more hope and comfort. The most meaningful articles I read keep circling back to wealth and power inequality, for example, The feeling of injustice is what propelled both Bernie Sanders and Trump to the forefront in 2016 and Elizabeth Warren in 2020. Warren and Sanders had plans on how to transfer wealth downward based on assets instead of tax structure with a result that would still allow the rich’s wealth to continue to grow, The Dems managed to squelch those candidates early enough in the primaries, somehow miraculously this cycle to propel Biden back into the forefront. The Republicans failed to squelch Trump early enough and had to live with him. Although he ran on draining the swamp, that was a big lie and he further empowered even the good people in his party. In “Betraying Your Church—And Your Party,”, Adam Kinzinger, one of the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment, cites “a desire to build on the administration’s policy successes.” He is taking a position for good reason, but I can’t imagine what policies anyone left-leaning would consider successes in the last administration, all continuing to bolster the wealthy and big business.

Fig Bars — Modified

I became aware of Shalane Flanagan and her cookbook “Run Fast. Eat Slow.” on a Thom Hartman interview on NPR in November 2017 just after Shalane won the New York City marathon. After a fascinating recap of her strategy in a field of accomplished international competitors, they shifted to the dietary aspects of her training. She noted how many professional athletes rely on fast-acting sugared products for that burst of energy. The lack of really satisfying meals and treats with long-lasting calories prompted her and a nutritionist friend to create their own recipes.

Continue reading “Fig Bars — Modified”

Bridging Wealth Inequality

GREAT article in The New Yorker about how we got where we are and real solutions. Simple concept: anyone with a home already pays a wealth tax, otherwise known as property tax. Warren’s tax plan proposes taxing all wealth and these economists show how it can effectively be done. It will recoup some of the wealth the middle class has lost to the ultra-wealthy since the Reagan years, yet it will not stop their wealth from continuing to grow. There is room to be even more progressive after evaluating effectiveness. Income tax is only a drop in the bucket for bridging the gap and continues to hurt lower earners.

Read my other referenced articles on ways that the wealthy have unfairly extracted wealth from the middle class (including homes) and you might agree that bridging the gap is warranted, or at least that returning some wealth to the working class is justified.

Unfettered Capitalism

In the 10/15/17 Dem debate, Bernie Sanders commented on unfettered capitalism. Arguments can be made against socialism, but capitalism has reached a new low. Big business and greed are responsible for hollowing out the American middle class. Our social and tax policies tend to ebb and flow; one can argue that union demands, subsidies to the disadvantaged, and taxes on the wealthy may have been excessive in the 60s and 70s. The pendulum has since swung completely the other way. Not only have we been subsidizing big industry for decades, but we have bailed them out numerous times (savings and loans, auto companies, mortgages), and then they found even more creative ways to funnel the wealth upward, see links below. Mainstream Democrats are just as complicit as Republicans because most of government is bought. Progressives are the only ones speaking up for the working class. If you think too many handouts are now being proposed, consider what we haven’t gained during the decades of stagnation.

You may not be aware that government fines/remedies go into the general fund and never benefit those that are harmed. The only agency that passes reparations back to those harmed is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, defined and implemented by Elizabeth Warren. And then those in power couldn’t stomach allowing her to lead it.

Although these two reports may leave you feeling sick and depressed, I strongly encourage you to read and digest/understand/contemplate.

Eugene Jarecki on Democracy Now!

Eugene Jarecki is a filmmaker from our local area.

“… the real message … look at what we’re facing. Look at the incredible problem we now have as a nation. We got here because this nation puts power and money ahead of democracy. We have been hijacked by capitalism.” At “this horrible moment in history, look at the social movements being born. Look at the poor people’s movement. Look at Time’s Up. Look at Me Too. Look at Parkland. Look at the extraordinary courage of those young people. So, that happened all across the country. We were seeing that as we went, that as this horrible chapter was forming—and, of course, it’s the most wretched thing we could imagine—but the incredible backlash is so inspiring, and we all must be engaged in that.”