How’s Your Microbiome These Days?

I recently read an article suggesting that it’s harder to lose weight today than it was in the 1980s. Yeah. Made me do a double take, too. Here’s the sub-headline: “A new study finds that people today who eat and exercise the same amount as people 20 years ago are still fatter.” What?? I read on. The gist of the article is that our microbiomes have changed over the past couple of decades. Like me, you may be wondering what a microbiome is. To oversimplify, it’s the bacteria living in your gut. The bacteria that should be living in your gut. Turns out we NEED bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses living in harmony with our innards. And, it would seem, our diets are changing our microbiomes for the worse. Chemicals and prescription drugs along with the hormones and antibiotics that have been rampant in our food for so long are changing or outright killing off our microbiomes. And scientists now hypothesize that as a result we simply can’t process food as efficiently. And it’s making us fat. I was following right along with the article, grateful to have been raised on homegrown farm food and glad I live in an area where people pay attention to such things. Then I came to this statement by Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto‚Äôs York University: “The fact that the body weights of Americans today are influenced by […]

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Unexpected Autumn

This past weekend was GORGEOUS. Okay, it was a little damp and overcast, but after lots of typical August heat and humidity it was a refreshing change. On Saturday the temperature really didn’t rise much and the humidity disappeared as the day wore on. Some friends and I planned to pick apples and pears from a neighbor’s trees and it was as if the climate agreed to cooperate with our notion of apple-picking weather. It was a gift. And an unexpected one. One of my friends commented on how fall feels like such a revelation each year. We know it’s coming, we’ve experienced it before, and yet the first crisp day feels like a gift we didn’t really think we’d get. Summer and winter seem to arrive when I’m not really paying attention. I’ll be enjoying warmer or cooler days and then suddenly it will be full-on summer or winter. At that point I heave a sigh and resign myself to needing a shower every day or suffering with perpetually cold feet. And I’m usually looking so hard for spring that I celebrate each tiny, incremental change. But the first day that truly feels like autumn is as if a curtain has been whisked back on a stage. One moment you’re dreaming of cool, crisp mornings and the next they’re here making you want to snuggle under the covers with the windows wide open. I know some of you love […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Bee Hunting

Honeybees aren’t native to WV, but they came to the state with European settlers and, escaping their hives, decided to settle in themselves. Locals soon discovered the sweet treat inside the wild hives and began developing techniques for discovering bee trees. Of course, bees aren’t what you’d call sneaky and when traveling home to their hives they travel in a […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Dog Days

You’ve almost certainly heard this time of year referred to as the “dog days” of summer. But do you know WHY it’s called that? I always thought it’s because this hot, muggy time of year isn’t hardly fit for a dog. And I had a professor in college who talked about the humidity of late summer making stepping outside feel like stepping into a dog’s mouth. An apt metaphor. But turns out there’s more to it than that. Turns out it’s because this is the time of year when the sun is in the same part of the sky as Sirius – the Dog Star – part of the constellation Canis Major. In late July Sirius actually rises and sets with the sun. And way back in the day, folks thought the star actually added to the heat of the sun. So the dog days are the 20 days before and after Sirius and the sun line up–July 3 through August 11. Which, ironically, is often the hottest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, a scientific explanation should never prevent us from embracing some good old-fashioned superstitions. So here are a few related to the dog days of summer: During this time snakes are blind and will strike at anything. If it rains on the first dog day, it will rain every day afterward. Dogs are more likely to go mad during these days. Sores and wounds […]

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Appalachian Thursday – Brown Mountain Lights

I love mysteries and unexplained phenomenon. Miracles even. Lately I’ve been reading about the Brown Mountain Lights–a mysterious occurrence people sometimes see on a mountain about an hour east of where I live in NC. Brown Mountain is in the Linville Gorge near Morganton, NC, and there are two popular overlooks for folks wanting to see the ghostly lights–the Brown Mountain Overlook and Wiseman’s View. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll see them if you go, but October and November are said to be the best months during clear, moonless nights. The lights seem to appear both in the sky above the mountain and among the trees. Sometimes they’re brief and other times they dance and linger. Theories/stories include: Swamp gas (of course, there aren’t any swamps around there) Headlights from the valley (except people saw them before cars were around) Foxfire (phosphorescent light from decaying wood–my favorite theory!) Moon dogs (moonlight shining on haze–oh wait, they show up on moonless nights) Lanterns being carried by ghostly Indian maidens looking for braves killed in battle A slave looking for his master who disappeared while hunting (there’s a song for that one) The souls of a woman and her child murdered by her philandering husband A revolutionary war hero searching fruitlessly for his family Scientists from Appalachian State University have even studied the lights and, yes, have recorded them. And yet we’re no closer to knowing what they are. Which I […]

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