You And Your Land: A Reunion

cookforestwinter2wildfoodismPennsylvania was once covered in land that looked like this, as recent as only a few centuries ago.

How could it last, though?  Surely, this land was much better suited for development.  For progress!  Lots of roads and cities, houses and apartments, high-rises and strip malls… lots and lots of strip malls – replete with a Big Lots and LA Nails in every single one.

Much of this is gone.  Are you sad?  Why lament, though?  We have stadiums and office buildings, sidewalks, movie theaters, pipelines, and Thai food on every corner.  And don’t forget, we do have suburban and city parks, sprinkled with soccer fields, ice rinks, and tennis courts.

That stuff is… well, it’s okay… but it’s not real.

In those rare moments when you’re not being sold deodorant in a magazine, sold reality in a newspaper, sold financial planning on a billboard…. do you ever stop and think “There’s got to be more to life than this…”?  Ever get the feeling that something is missing?  That something was taken away from you? Hm… you want it back, don’t you?

Well, it’s here.  Yep, it never left.  That thing you crave… it’s in these pockets of undisturbed reality, where the towering hemlocks, pines, beeches, and birches live.  And you know what, you had it not too long ago, and you can experience it once again.

The therapist, politician, and 5 o’clock news reporter will never tell you that your heart longs for the reunion between you and land that looks like this.  Because well, that’s not good for the economy.

You won’t be able to buy anything in land that looks like this.  There’s no shopping to be done.  What could an old growth hemlock $ell you anyway?  Oxygen?  Beauty?  Love?

Well, I must tell you that, should you reacquaint yourself with land that looks like this, you may end up leaving with an empty bag.  Pockets full of pine cones and no cash.  No plastic to unwrap and throw away.  A blank receipt all along…

Kinda like how you came into this world.  And kinda like how you’ll exit:  nothing to own, not even your self.

But I’ll tell ya this.  You’ll leave with a heart full of meaning… of ultimate fulfillment.  You’ll get that feeling of reuniting with the childhood friend you’d sip root beer with on your parents’ porch decades ago as 5 year old initiates to this life… no news to discuss except whether or not the salamander will come out from under his rock today… that kinda feeling. 😉

Allow this to become your reality as much as you possibly can, and see if it doesn’t become the best life you’ve ever lived…

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Thank you!
Adam Haritan




Everyday Is A Day To Vote “Yes”

rickettsglenwildfoodismWell, today is the “day” to vote. Apparently today only, though. Yesterday was too early, tomorrow is too late.

The way I see it is this: every action we take … on a daily basis … casts a vote on our behalf. For example, every time we buy and eat organic, we are voting “Yes” to a world that values healthy humans, organisms, and ecosystems over a society that literally (yes, literally) poisons its food supply, poisons its soil, and ultimately creates the diseases it works so hard to cure (we’ll keep racing). Is it any surprise that a large body of evidence supports the causation of various diseases (e.g. birth defects, cancers) and other health effects (e.g. neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage) by exposure to pesticides (1)?

Who would willingly vote for that?

Every time we engage with the natural world, acknowledge its myriad roles, and appreciate its gifts, we are voting “Yes” to nature’s existence, its longevity, and its health, and we are voting “No” to the allowance of myopically-dazed industries to force their way in, disfigure the land, make a quick buck, and deem it all “progress.” According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80% of the Earth’s forests already have been destroyed.


Who would willingly vote for that?

Why reserve your vote for only one day out of the year? Voting can be an admirable act, for sure, and instead of proclaiming to everyone that you voted only today, let others know through your actions that your whole life is a constant, consistent, and never-ending vote for all things life-promoting and sustainable.

First week of November or not, I’ll be voting for that!

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Thank you!
Adam Haritan



7 Natural Tick Repellents From The Plant Kingdom

deertickwildfoodismForaging for food in the supermarket is just a bit different from foraging for food in the wild, wouldn’t you say?

While both scenarios present a set of challenges (in the supermarket:  beating the weekend rush, using coupons before their expiration dates, enduring the dreadful parking lots, etc.), wild food foraging may be known to pose the more immediate threats (misidentification, embracing the elements of nature, etc.).

One of the challenges of being a wild food enthusiast in Pennsylvania is exposure to ticks.  These small arachnids, particularly the deer ticks (i.e. blacklegged ticks), are no small threats, as they are vectors for illnesses including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis.

Typical precautionary measures include wearing long sleeved pants and shirts, wearing light colored clothing to easily spot the presence of ticks, and using repellents.

But which repellents are effective and safe?

DEET is one of the most popular tick repellents, yet researchers question its safety not only on human health, but on the health of the environment as well (1).  Permethrin is another synthetic repellent recommended for protection against ticks, and even though it is indicated for topical application, the EPA classifies this insecticide as a weak carcinogen with toxic effects on fish and aquatic invertebrates (2).

Fortunately, researchers have analyzed alternative (i.e. more natural) ways to protect oneself against deer ticks.  Let’s take a look at some of them:

An extract of Alaska cypress (Cupressus nootkatensis) has been shown to be effective at killing nymphal ticks, with effects lasting up to 21 days after treatment (3).  This is important, for the reason that most humans are infected through the bites of these small and barely detectable nymphs. Chinese weeping cypress (Cupressus funebris) has also been shown to effectively repel deer tick nymphs.

Junipers are coniferous plants in the cypress family (Cupressaceae).  The same study that analyzed the repellent activity of Alaska cypress found that an extract of Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) was effective at repelling larval ticks.

Additionally, the oils of common juniper leaves (Juniperus communis) and Chinese juniper wood (Juniperus chinensis) are effective repellents against deer tick nymphs. In one particular study, common juniper leaf oil was just as effective as DEET (4).

Balsam torchwood
Balsam torchwood (Amyris balsamifera) is an aromatic bush whose oil has been used traditionally as an antiseptic.  An essential oil from the plant has been researched and shown to be an effective deer tick repellent (5).

Osage orange
Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is a small tree in the mulberry family known for its “monkey ball” fruits.  In the same study that analyzed balsam torchwood’s activity against ticks, researchers found that a primary constituent of the essential oil of Osage orange, known as elemol, effectively repelled deer ticks.

Tauroniro tree
The compound isolongifolenone, derived from this Neotropical tree (Humiria balsamifera), has been shown to be an effective insect repellent.  In one study, isolongifolenone repelled deer ticks as effectively as DEET (6).

Geraniol is the main compound found in the oils of rose, palmarosa, and citronella.  It is also a component of geranium oil and lemon oil.  As part of a plant based repellent, geraniol has been shown to be effective against deer ticks (7).

Lemon eucalyptus
Lemon eucalyptus (Corymbia citriodora) is an Australian tree whose oil contains a compound known as menthoglycol.  While no research has looked at its effect on deer ticks, a prospective cross-over field trial showed that application of the oil reduced the number of castor bean ticks attached to human participants by about 63% (8).  The castor bean tick is a European hard-bodied tick that, like the deer tick, can transmit the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

And there we have it … seven natural tick repellents that have been scientifically researched for their effectiveness.  Many products derived from the aforementioned plants can be found commercially (i.e. sprays, creams, essential oils).

If you live in an area known to be at high risk of harboring Lyme disease (check out this U.S. map to see if you are), consider implementing safe, yet effective strategies to protect yourself during your time spent in the wild.

Of course, there are many more plants that have the ability to repel ticks; if you have a particular strategy that works well for you, please share with us!

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Want to connect with naturalists in your area?  Some of them may even be tick-fighting experts!  Check out Learn Your Land to learn more!

Thank you!
Adam Haritan