Knotweed and mules

Editor of the Reformer:

You might have seen Marlin, the Belgian Mule, in the Heifer Stroll any of the past four years, or you might have seen him galloping on the beach in New Hampshire for a Spring adventure, or doing the agility course at the Save Your Ass Rescue benefit Donkey and Mule Show. He is the ambassador for the rescue, having been rescued himself. He worked 20 years, so now he enjoys retirement to the fullest.

Marlin is close to 17 hands tall, but he gets along with even the littlest donkeys and pony mules. One day, during his first summer at SYA in Acworth N.H., he and Frosty, the pony mule, were out wandering the pasture looking for something to eat. The grass was pretty well eaten by then, and even though they get good hay, it’s always nice to do a little browsing to supplement and enrich the every day diet. Browsing is eating leaves, twigs and plants other than grass. So, Marlin spots a plant that he somehow knows is good to eat, but it’s on the other side of the fence. There’s no way Frosty can reach any; she’s only 11 hands tall (44 inches). But Marlin reaches over the fence and grabs a plant and snaps the whole stem off and throws it back into the pasture, clear of the fence. Triumphantly tasting the leaves, he seems happy about his find. There is plenty more growing all along the fenceline and he is tall enough to harvest it. What a hero he is to little Frosty.


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This stuff is so tasty and she is very excited and thankful that Marlin is sharing it with her. And thankful that he has the good instincts to pick a plant like Japanese Knotweed. Although little Frosty doesn’t know the ingredient, resveratrol or the Latin name for the plant, Polygonum Cuspidatum, she knows that they have found something very good to eat.

Ever since then, in the summer and fall, I make a habit of cutting some of these plants, anywhere from one to two foot sprouts to the full eight to 10 foot tall plant for the donkeys, mules and hinnies to enjoy. Goats and pigs like it, too. And when I come into view, dragging a big pile, their eyes light up. It is well worth the effort just to see the joy they have as they devour a feast of Japanese Knotweed.

I need to learn how to cook some for myself, as the capsules cost $20. They had recipes on VPR recently, so I’m not alone in believing this medicinal plant has much to offer.

Annie Kellam,

Putney, April 4

Winning justice

Editor of the Reformer:

There was a rally for peace in Brattleboro on April 15 outside the main post office. The event was sponsored by www.nwtrcc.org.

In Windham county, it’s likely that people are dying because they don’t have health insurance. In 2010, more than 44,000 Americans died because the U.S. does not have universal health care, which Europe and Canada have. A small percentage of the military budget could provide free health care for every American. Almost half (45 percent) of this year’s entire federal budget of $2.9 trillion is being spent on war.

Here are the 2012 voting records of local members of Congress, from Peace Action’s web site (100 is best, zero is worst): Patrick Leahy, 75; Bernie Sanders, 75; Peter Welch, 91; Kelly Ayotte, zero; and Edward Markey, 100.

John Ungerleider is a professor at SIT Graduate Institute. Asked if the U.S. would be more likely to be attacked if the military budget was cut by 50 percent, Ungerleider said, "Of course not." The best way for people to get the government to cut military spending is to donate to, and/or volunteer for, a group like the American Friends Service Committee, www.afsc.org, he said.

Melvin Goodman is a professor at Johns Hopkins University. For a decade he worked at the CIA as a foreign policy analyst. In his 2013 book, National Insecurity, Goodman writes, "The United States has the most secure geopolitical environment of any major nation, but sustains a defense budget that equals the combined budgets of the rest of the world ... We have more than 700 military bases and facilities around the world; few other countries have any ... Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought inconclusive wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan; conducted dubious invasions of Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, and Panama; and mounted counterproductive covert operations around the world, including those in the Congo, Chile (which resulted in the installation of dictator Augusto Pinochet, who tortured and killed thousands of his political opponents), El Salvador, and Guatemala. Only Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991 can be termed a success."

The U.S. has a long history of stealing resources from Africa. This story is told in the books "Bury the Chains," by Adam Hochschild and "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power," by Steve Coll, and in the film "Lumumba, by Raoul Peck. The average life expectancy in the African nation of Swaziland is 32. In the U.S., it’s 77.

While the chances of dramatically cutting U.S. military spending may seem small, in 1989, the chances of Nelson Mandela -- who was then seven years into a life sentence in prison -- becoming president of South Africa were also small. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and one of the world’s most brutal and racist governments was overthrown.

In the United States, 156 years ago, ending slavery and granting women the right to vote both seemed unlikely. Mass movements of ordinary people won justice.

Eesha Williams,

Dummerston, April 7

Support gun control

Editor of the Reformer:

Putney Friends Meeting supports this petition and endorses the position of GunSense Vermont and adds our voice to the call for Governor Shumlin to act on this issue. The governor needs to support sensible gun laws. We can’t afford to wait for the federal government to pass sensible gun laws. We can’t afford to wait for a horrific massacre in Vermont. We need to strengthen Vermont’s weak gun laws to combat our guns-to-drugs trafficking problem, stop our rising suicide rate, and prevent a mass tragedy right here in Vermont. Will you take this on and lead?

Carol Forsythe,

Clerk, Putney Friends Meeting, April 23