Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Silent Spring

Those of you who are above a certain age will certainly know what 'Silent Spring' means; for you, this post is more a refresher, but for the for the younger set it may be educational. Silent Spring should actually be written Silent Spring, because it is a book by author Rachel Carson. I am not old enough to remember the book, but I am old enough to benefit from the consequences of the book. Let me explain.

One of the classes I am taking this term is Pesticides. Pesticides, as defined by the New Illustrated Webster Dictionary*Thesaurus, J.G. Ferguson Publishing, 1992, are: "A chemical or other substance effective in the destruction of such plant and animal pests as fungi, bacteria, insects and the like." That is a very broad definition. I always thought pesticides were products used to kill insects. But pesticides cover: rodenticides, herbicides, fungicides, mitacides AND insecticides. Wow.

I had never heard of Silent Spring before taking this class. Jim, the instructor is very knowledgeable and enhances his student's learning with companion videos. Jim showed the class a video on Rachel Carson and her book. All through history, books have been instrumental in changing societal concerns and consciousness. Just think Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle (still on my read list but a difficult book to find), or Harriet Beecher Stowe's book Uncle Tom's Cabin. The Jungle served to change conditions in stockyards and Uncle Tom's Cabin helped to spur the north to change its attitude toward slavery. Silent Spring changed the country's opinion concerning the use of pesticides. The specific pesticide the book addresses is DDT.

Silent Spring was published in 1962. Jim says you can look at the history of pesticides in two periods, prior to Silent Spring, and after Silent Spring. Indiscriminate use of pesticides prior to 1962 caused major fatalities in the natural world of living things. Not only were insects killed, but the birds and fish which feed upon the insects were also killed. After 1962, the government got involved with regulating the chemical companies; which were making millions of dollars from selling pesticides, including DDT. Ultimately, Silent Spring led to the banning of DDT.

DDT was marketed to target certain insects considered pests. The problem with DDT was it didn't stop at only killing pests. It killed just about every living thing in its path, and had long range consequences by upsetting nature's perfect balance. You see, when you kill everything, both the bad and the good insects are killed. Good insects are the ones which prey on the bad insects. Nature has established a predator and prey system of pest control. The environmentally friendly way of controlling pests (prey) is to encourage the good insects (predator).

When insects were poisoned then eaten by birds and fish, the birds and fish then also became poisoned and perished. Can you imagine a silent spring? One devoid of the singing of the birds or the trilling of the frogs or the chirping of the insects? I can't, and thankfully I don't have to thanks in part to Rachel Carson's book. Her book led to stricter environmental laws regarding the use of pesticides in the environment.

Thanks in part to Rachel Carson's book our country established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA is a governmental agency charged with enacting and enforcing environmental laws. Additionally, states have laws that govern the use of pesticides within their jurisdiction. Today the indiscriminate use of pesticides is highly regulated and controlled. No longer would we as a society or an individual tolerate mass spraying of our homes, parks, gardens, fields and cities with potent chemicals all in the name of killing a bug or a weed. Thank goodness. Countless generations have Rachel Carson, a very brave woman, and her book Silent Spring to thank for the regulation and concern for the natural order of our world.

Rachel Carson was a very courageous woman who was willing to take on the giant chemical companies for one sole purpose, to educate the public about the dangers of pesticides; all while battling breast cancer. Rachel Carson can truly be called a hero. Her life was short, just 56 years but she made a lasting impact on today's society with her book. For more information on Rachel Carson and her books visit

The picture is of Ricinus communis, aka castor beans. I didn't realize how ideal this picture was when I added it to this entry, but the fact castor beans are poisonous ties in with this post. The nerve gas Ricin is derived from castor beans. These castor beans are growing in my very good friend Gerianne's garden. Be careful if you plant these and make sure no living thing (like pets or children) eats the beans or any part of the plant.

in the garden....not using pesticides.


  1. At first glance, I thought the Caster Bean was a Japanese maple!

    I spray the outside perimeter of the house for bugs. We live in the middle of the woods so this is necessary to not become infested. At times I have been known to accidently spray a frog or lizard. We quickly catch them and give them a bath. Hopefully they survive their spray and probably a traumatizing bath too! I dont like to us bug spray in the garden or yard at all and I loose plants at times but I would rather loose a plant then an animal...

  2. good morning skeeter!
    pesticides used correctly do have a place in our society and it is great you care about the living things. rachel carson actually did not want ALL pesticides banned, she just wanted us to be aware of the consequences and alternatives to what chemical companies were advocating in ads and propaganda.

    you know the public can be a little gullible when enough advertising is thrown at us, just think politicians. isn't it mostly the ones with the most money who get the most votes? not always, but usually despite facts.

  3. Well, it's darn near lunch time but I wanted to say hi. The storms hit us pretty good at our house. My trampoline is on my garden shed and my trash can was out in the field close to the farmers. So, this morning I was outside freezing and picking up all the trash. Not sure who will get the trampoline down but two neighbors have offered to help when we need it. Just a matter of when? And, I am so happy my curly willow is still standing after all that wind --so are my newly planted cedars:) Odd, that an item that weighs a few hundred pounds could be swept up and away. Gosh, those roots must be pretty strong:) Have a good day --more work to be done today.

  4. omg. i hope that trampoline is ok and the shed. my mother lost hers last year in a wind storm in maine. mine stayed on the ground.

    i am glad your curly willow stayed on the ground too. had it been an evergreen or with leaves on it, it wouldn't have. my two 8 foot tall evergreens i just moved on monday in the dark were on the ground. lesson learned. i hope you get it all cleaned up! it was a bad wind. worst this year i think.

  5. Sorry about your wind related problems Anonymous but glad your tress are okay. I know how you Tina said I lost my trampoline last fall in the wind. My house is 100 feet long with a big travel trailer sitting behind the house. My daughters house is next door and the trampoline was between the 2 houses with it being closer to her house. It had to fly up over the travel trailer to get to the far end of my house as there is not enough room for it to get get thru on the ground. My bedroom is on the far end and I was sleeping when it landed on my roof. I sure woke up in a hurry. By the time I got outside it was hanging from the roof banging on the house. An hour later the dog house which is 10 feet long and 6 feet deep and made with heavy wood and shingled so is very heavy blew over and was leaning on the fence. I knew the fence would be ruined if left like that so had to call daughter to come help me as I could not budge it alone (I did try).

    Sorry your trees were on the ground Tina. Did you replant them again?

  6. Oh dear I forgot I wanted to say..Nice post on Rachel Carson. She not only wrote Silent Spring but a few other books also. She is credited by many for starting what we now know as the green movement. Back in the early 60's green was just a color but because of her efforts green is more than a color today, even if one does not believe in everything it stands for. Her last book (and the name escapes me now) was about getting children close to nature and was published after she died. One last tidbit about her that I find ironic is that after college for several years she worked for the goverment untill she retired to write full time.

  7. That must have been some wind last night TN folks! My mom took the cats, medicines and valuables to the neighbor’s basement while my silly dad decided to stay home and ride it out alone! The Nutcase, I think he would have made a good ship captain, wanting to go down with his ship! Ha.. Mom called me after the storm to let us know they survived the mess then we lost our connection as she lost power to the house and was on the cordless phone! One more quick call back to me to say she was safe and getting off the phone!

    Wow, I dont recall storms like this when I lived there 20 years ago. Seems since the massive tornado, the storms have been rough since....

    We had the tail end come through here during the night. Rain gauge has 1/4 inch in it today and if we did not have the rain gauge, we would not have known it had rained. Sunny and windy today... Nip still in the air... burrr... Come on Groundhog; Bring on Spring!

  8. Hi Jean --it was so hard to believe that something as big as a trampoline could move so far --I know you understand what I mean --it's like WHOA!!! We managed to get our trampoline down --it is okay except the safety net poles are bent --we are going to try and bend them back and hope for the best. I do feel fortunate that it went down yonder instead of into the house. I would've been terrified if it landed on the house. YIKES and your dog house lifted up too! Tina suggested anchoring it down --and we sure do plan on it. We have our swingset/playset anchored so when the bigger kids swing it won't flip but now we know we need to get the trampoline fastened down too for anymore storms. I would've been joining your mom Skeeter if I knew where that basement was last night, lol. We got near the inside closet and rode out the storm just talking and peeking outside every once in a while. It was pretty quick but the winds stayed steady all night. And, talk about cold --I am SOOOOOO ready for SPRING --you hear me GROUNDHOG --I want some warmer weather -this is the south?? right? hahaha Almost time for two boys to come home --better fix them a snack before they raid the pantry. Hope your pups are calming down some Tina:)

  9. just a short note as i am on my way to school in a few.

    mom, i did pull them back upright. they are 8 feet tall and i had moved them back a little in my hedge. it was sad seeing them lying down but at least it wasn't a big tree. i am fixing up the dog fence on the side of the yard near the adjacent property owners so that is why they were moved.

    did you also know rachel carson lived in maine when she died? the film said her one indulgence when she got rich writing was buying a summer home in maine. she also wrote some books on the ocean and like you said, children with nature. i felt pretty dumb i didn't know who she was or what it was about her book and had never heard of it. i hope jim shows some good videos tonight as well. pesticides can be BORING.

    skeeter, the wind was crazy. i am glad your parents did not suffer any damage like anonymous and some others around town. it was the worst yet. very strong.

    the weatherman said georgia should get some much needed rain tomorrow. i hope so. we got plenty here before the storm.

    anonymous, lucky you the trampoline wasn't damaged more! i am so glad for you and the kiddos.

    my pups are great. spent the day in the garden. i will post about them tomorrow. you all should love it. they are too adoreable. they did not like working in the garden all day and finally gave up and huddled together and went to sleep outside. i thought it was funny. you do what you gotta do sometimes. i hope we have another good night-and not so cold and windy!

  10. Yes it is hard to believe Anonymous....we all still marvel at it and wish we had taken a picture but we just wanted to get it down as we were worried about the house with it banging on it and there was a window right by it if it had moved a little. We were lucky but the trampoline was ruined and my daughter had always turned it upside down when we were susposed to get wind and forgot it that time. As luck had it, she had secured the pool stuff and cleaned everythhing off the pool deck. I am very glad yours is okay and that you got it down.

    Yes Tina I did know Rachel Carson had a place in Maine but it escapes me as to where it was. She gave a lotta money and did a lot in different places in Maine. Another funny thing....You know who Dana is that her parents lived down behind us and I used to work for them? Well, her husband started several years ago and is still the head of Maine Environmental Council that does a lotta fighting all over the state for the environment. And guess what his mother's name is? Yup, Rachel Carson.

    Glad your trees are standing again and the puppies sound like they are doing good.

  11. Hi All,
    Tina I really enjoyed the article on Rachel Carson. I didn't know anything about her or what she did. I hope your trees are ok. Maybe warmer weather & the growing season will help them a lot.

    Jean, I'm sorry about your experience last year with the wind. It can get nasty at times. But, I look at it this, maybe it's nature's way of cleaning up things a bit. Hope all is much better now.

    Anonymous--seems like you got the worst of it. Hope nothing got hurt in that wind. Seems like wind storms are getting worse & more often. I know my brother that lives in Atlanta said they had gotten more snow this yr. than they had in about 6 yrs.

  12. Hi Guys, wrote about a book then it would not blog-lost my story, will try again

  13. Gee whiz, it posted. Anyway I was going to say I'm glad to hear everyone is alright, we haven't gotten News reports about the high winds down south but I,m sure we will tom.
    Tina, I heard about Rachel Carson last year. Nikki's class did a big presentation on history figures, a get together for the parents. One of my dance girls had Rachel, she chose her because R Carson was a BIG horseback rider. Thats when I first heard of her. Nikki had Susan B Anthony. The class wrote, illustated and bound their own books on their person. It was interesting dressing Nikki like Ms Anthony, she really wanted a waist coat. I cheated, I got her a formed shirt, pinned a cameo on it and she was happy. Zack had Booker T Washington but, back then the class only did speeches.
    I think DEP is wonderful, we have to report oil spills over 3 gals. People freek when they know Dep in coming to their house but I reasurre them Jack of all Trade will take care of it. One year he was offered a job with them but, by then, we had too many customers. RATS!!
    How are you dealing with 6 puppies!?! I can hear the crunching of antique table leg now. chew, chew, chew
    BTW, got the boiler going and have made plans to move this weekend!

  14. Lola, I think you and I are posting at the same time, too funny.

  15. Thanks Lola. We usually do not get but a couple of storms with wind like that a year so it could be worse.

    Oh Dawn I am so happy for you guys!Just make sure you save time for the Pats on Sunday. We are going over to Rothwells to watch the game and bend the elbow. Since I don't partake and David will only have a couple we probably will not go for the whole thing. But he always has a big bash on Super Bowl day no matter who plays we will make an apperance. Since we are all such good friends I feel we should go but don't really want to. It would be a good day to go shopping cause everyone will be at home or somewhere watching the game. LOL

  16. You'll have a ok time and when you return you'll be glad you went.
    We are not going to miss sunday, I have money on a pool for the first time in my life! When the last game was going, and so much was made of the other teams injury, I was commenting how Brady has never had one. I heard a rumor he has needed a foot cast, I'm trying not to think about it.
    We will hustle on Sat to get things done, esp the waterbed. Later o:?)

  17. where is nina today? i hope everything is ok.

  18. Isn't the snow beautiful this a.m!

    We spent yesterday in the big city, getting the car serviced, groceries and walked through Home Depot and Lowe's. Skeeter didn't purchase any seeds, but did buy a bag of hosta roots and a bag of caladium tubers.

    Tina, I do remember ddt being discontinued, although I don't remember Rachel Carson. Very good information.

    I remember years back that someone told us to plant a castor bean plant in our yard to get rid of moles. I don't remember if it worked or not! But it was a beautiful plant anyway.

    Here is a deer replellent that was passed on to me and I used it last summer and it did work as long as I kept it sprayed. 2 eggs beaten, 1 cup skim milk(I used powered) 1 cup water and 2 tbs liquid dish detergent. Mix together and spray on plants. Repeat every week or after a rain.
    I have tried the soap, hair, commercial products and also a deer whistle. The people at the farm store told me that anything will work for a short period of time and they get accustomed to the odor.

  19. That makes sense I guess Nina that they would get used to a certian scent but I do know the creosote worked for many years.

  20. Jean, it is my understanding that an individual cannot buy creosote anymore. I would certainly give it a try if I could. I tried several years ago to get some to use as a preservative on a wood fence and was told that I couldn't buy it, an environmental/health issue. It may be different now, I'm gonna check.

  21. I will try that Nina.
    I will see if it works on the bunny too...

  22. Nina I was afraid of that with things the way they are today. That is why I saod in my first comment about it, if you can still buy it. Might be able to get some from someone that works with it, maybe a chimney sweep guy or something cause it does work.

  23. Boy, I tell you I really do look hard to make sure I don't miss anyone's post, so if I do please forgive me.

    Mom, it is a small world. To know Rachel Carson's son! I don't recall Dana though. You can bring me up to date sometime. I hardly knew anyone up there, really. Maine has some really good environmental regulations so he must be doing a good job. A friend of mine from school took a vacation/business trip to Maine last fall. The one thing she commented on when she came back to school was the fact Maine has no billboards anywhere. That is the one most noticeable thing I like too. Makes a world of difference on the streets.

    Hi Lola, I am glad you enjoyed the info on Ms. Carson. I found her fascinating. She had 55 pages of footnotes! That is an awful lot. She did so much research and was really dedicated, all while being sick.

    Dawn with peaches, i hate it when i too write a book then lose it! i feel your pain. sometimes it happens when two people are posting at the same time like you Lola were probably doing. the leaf chronicle is changing formats sometime. the new format may eliminate the duo problem. sandy posted a blip about it, but no info has been put out as yet.

    The kids have some good projects and it is super you are so involved. I never know what the Jimster has going on until it is too late or has already passed.

    No antiques crunching as yet. It is usually the children with wet glasses on furniture that I have to worry about. The pups like clothes and soft things for now. and each other.

    I am so excited for you moving! it has been a long time coming! aren't you happy you only need to walk across the yard to your new home? You better get cracking. it is hard moving. have loads of fun. pun intended.

    i may watch the superbowl. mr. fix it has to work and is disappointed he will miss the commercials. he hates both teams playing since they are both from the north. you'll never guess who is his favorite team. hint, it is not in the south but its biggest rival IS in the south.

    Thank you Nina for the tips on keeping the animals away. Thank you for the tuberoses! I have a post prepared on them but just haven't put it up yet. Mom and Dawn when mine multiply I will send you some! I also loved the pictures. Very, very nice. I like hibiscus ok, (mine died) but I really liked the white tuberose next to the big red flowers the best. the white looked like it was trying to show up the hisbiscus, but the hibiscus was winning hands down, though i am sure not in the fragrance dept. i am looking forward to smelling them and sharing. The hostas look good too.

    Please. Skeeter please let us know if these tips keep those bold critters away from your veggies this year.

    Mom, do they still use creosote in building the docks? Maybe some commercial builders would know where you might still find it. I always thought creosote was like diesel, oily and black and smelly. Maybe there is a replacement.

    I am also looking for a story with some tips for this upcoming Tuesday. If anyone has one email it to me.

    p.s. the snow was beautiful but treacherously dangerous for Tennessean drivers this morning and even this afternoon. It was quite a surprise as well.

  24. Tina, I'm going to move the hisbiscus. It has grown so large and is to close to the sidewalk. I have no idea what to expect, but if I can divide the roots, I'll save you a cutting. It was given to me as a "water hisbiscus"!

    As you can see from the tuberose bulbs I sent, they are very small. I started with three and just stuck them in that location not expecting them to do anything. What a pleasant surprise. I'll have to do something different this spring.

  25. The law banning billboards has been in Maine for years and years.

    I don't know if creosote is still used in building docks or not but my guess would be no. I know the stuff Baba used was greasy and smelly byt I don't know what it is made from except I know it forms in chimneys from burning wood.