February 16th, 2021

A Time of Death and Rebirth

In many of the Native American cultures, winter is considered a time of death and rebirth. This February has proved that out in a literal sense.

We've been processing roosters at the Hidden Springs Farm, and on Monday Nathan took our hogs from their RavenRidge home to the slaughterhouse about forty-five miles to the East. These are always hard days, and sometimes we wonder what makes it worthwhile. We make one attempt at an answer here.

Around this same time, Charles Needham, the previous owner of the land where RavenRidge Family Farm sits,  passed quietly in the hospital. His cantankerous spirit never quit and that stubbornness was an inspiration to those who knew him. He will be particularly missed come hay time in the Spring.

There has been plenty of rebirth, as well. The greenhouse is nearing completion at RavenRidge, and the more refined RavenRidge Family Farm website, blog and product branding will all be done in short order.

This time of physical rest is soon to give way to action as the world wakes up again to a new spring.

So here’s to Tubby and Wubby, those sweet hogs that we loved. Wherever you are, I hope there is someone around to give you a scratch between the ears. You deserve it.

Regenerative Health

Healthy Soil • Healthy Plants • Healthy People • Healthy Planet

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

This is a close-up picture of the trichome structures that house most of the Cannabinoids in hemp flowers.

- Richard, the Farm Doc

Phytocannabinoids:

Many plants produce compounds (phytocannabinoids) that can interact with the endocannabinoid receptor system in humans.  None produce more than the Hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa) which produces over 100 of these phytocannabinoids.  The most abundant, and most studied, are CBD and THC (by definition, Hemp contains <0.3% THC) .1,2  

The hemp plant produces these compounds to protect itself from parasites and herbivores, in structures called trichomes (see image above).   There is also evidence they serve as a sun screen, protecting the plant from harmful UV-B radiation.  Healthy plants grown regeneratively (in healthy, living soil without chemical sprays), and exposed to environmental stressors like heat, low moisture, and exposure to herbivores, produce more of these compounds.1

The Endocannabinoid System:

Animals evolved ingesting plants and being exposed to these compounds, and have evolved a receptor system, the endocannabinoid receptor system, that interacts with these phytocannabinoids. 

This is one of the most extensive receptor systems in humans, found in the brain as well as the peripheral nervous system, organs, glands, connective tissue and the immune system.  It is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (keeping overall functioning of the body in balance), and has been described as a “bridge between body and mind.”3

There are two endogenous (produced by our body) cannabinoids: anandamide; and two-arachidonolyl glycerol (2-AG). They interact with CB1 receptors found primarily in the brain and spinal cord (CNS) and CB2 receptors found outside the CNS.

Mechanism of Action of Cannabinoids:

The primary effect of CB1 and CB2 activation is to modulate excitatory and inhibitory nerve signals, counterbalancing the potential for over or under stimulation in response to environmental triggers.

Since the discovery of the structure and function of THC, and the endocannabinoid system in 1964 by Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam, there has been an increasing interest in not only how THC works, but also the mechanisms and effects of CBD.

The best understood mechanism is how CBD suppresses seizures in certain treatment resistant seizure syndromes in children, with FDA approval of CBD for this indication.

Ongoing Research on CBD:

Additional pre-clinical research using animal models and human tissues (in vitro studies), has shown CBD to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, and multiple other receptors in humans.  Identifying a potential mechanism of action of a compound is an important first step in investigating possible uses for that compound.  

This is an exciting area of research with some early stage clinical studies currently underway, which I will discuss as results become available.


Reference: 

  1. Phytocannabinoids: Origins and Biosynthesis: Trends in Plant Science

  2. Cannabimimetic plants: are they new cannabinoidergic modulators?

  3. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System

  4. Isolation, Structure, and Partial Synthesis of an Active Constituent of Hashish

A Sense of Place

Through our own yards.

Learning to appreciate trees

I know that for most of you it might be hard to imagine how a person wouldn’t appreciate trees. I mean they provide shade and shelter. Color, beauty and various ecological services. Most of us know that forests and trees serve many meaningful purposes for humanity, and for the other life that shares the planet with us. But there is a whole lot more to the story of trees than this.

Here on Hidden Springs farm at the foot of Sauratown mountain, North Carolina, we are fortunate to be surrounded on 3 sides by trees in their native habitat. Forest. This has provided an ideal location to practice a technique that has really helped us to feel appreciation for trees. Learning to identify at least some of them by their bark in the winter.

The many aspects of tree bark

Leaves can be relatively easy tools for identifying trees, as can fruits and nuts, but bark is something altogether different. If you really want to get to appreciating trees, spending time with them, and particularly with their bark, is the way to go. For instance, which of the following is the pine tree, and which the dogwood?

How do they both compare to this white oak?

It doesn’t really matter if you know the answer. The point is to pay attention to the differences. And there are a lot, even though at first you may not see all of them. 

Think about color and texture. Consider patterns and variations in pattern. Do any of these barks look flakey? Is anything other than bark growing on the trunks?

These are all questions one can answer by just looking, but if you’re out there with the trees in person, you can also touch, taste and smell them. You’ll notice differences … I promise.

Our connection to trees

I was doing that very thing one fine fall day in the forest when I had an experience that changed my perspective on forests and trees completely ( read more about it on the blog ). The experience reminded me that humans were once much more closely connected to trees than we are today. This is particularly true in cities and suburban settings where a yard of shorn grass, if you are lucky enough to have even that, is prized above the rightful claim the remaining trees have on their little patches of Earth.

As we hike around our “backyard” here at Hidden Springs it is hard not to appreciate the tenacity of the old growth chestnut oaks and gnarled sourwood. The patches of rhododendron and occasional grizzled pine. We think about the communication systems that still exist here underground, highways of information traveling throughout the relatively undisturbed rock-strewn slopes stretching up behind our home.

Not so in the city where most trees are plopped into place in isolation without neighbors. Impermeable surfaces below their crowns disable even the indirect communication that happens when water dripping off the leaves conveys warning of environmental pollutants in the air. These individual plants have no hope of experiencing the communion that exists when trees are allowed to grow in diverse systems, roots all intermingled, comforted by the information floating between them whether as pheromones on the wind, or carried from oak root to mulberry in the energized matrix of the living soil.

So what can we do? The short answer is, we can engage. We can communicate our appreciation for trees by spending time with them. The same way we show our appreciation for family and friends. And just like with our human relationships, it pays to take some time to really learn what the trees are saying in a forest. You might be surprised what you discover, as you develop a deep appreciation for the trees.

Thanks for reading!

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