August 2015
Howle's Hints

Capture the Creative Within

George Washington Carver worked in his laboratory with products made from peanuts.  

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." – George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver arguably possessed one of the most creative minds of his generation until his death in 1943. He was a prominent American scientist, inventor, pianist and painter. His detailed drawings of plants ultimately led to his being accepted into Iowa State Agricultural College where he studied agriculture. He stressed crop rotation, agricultural education and developed over 300 uses for peanuts including shampoo, shaving cream, rubber, axle grease, hand lotion and insecticides.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington invited Carver to become Director of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School. In 1916, Carver published, "How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption."

The boll weevil had ruined much of Alabama’s cotton crop and many farmers began turning to peanuts. Cotton oil mills were converted to produce peanut oil. Livestock could eat the peanut plant and sharecroppers could feed their families on the peanut crops that weren’t sold. Most historians agree that Carver and the peanut helped save the economy of the South during the early 1900s.

Are there other modern day creative thinkers among us today? According to recent research, the amount of creative thinkers is declining because of cell phone usage. According to Genevieve Bell, Ph.D., director of interaction and experience research at Intel, quiet times of musing are linked to creativity. Some of your most creative thoughts come when your mind is disengaged and not receiving information. Bell said examples of these creative times are when you go for a walk or run without an iPod blaring, or when you are gardening or painting a fence.

Bell said that, with smart phones, people’s minds are continually occupied doing things like checking e-mails, texting, Facebook or playing Angry Birds instead of giving the brain downtime to regroup. I bet there’s not a farmer out there who has not, in quiet moments of musing, figured out how to design an unusual gate for a catch pen, come up with a way to install fencing across a creek or developed a creative way to make green bean runners. Just remember when you were a kid in the days before home computers and cell phones, how creative you were in building forts, tree houses, dams in the creek or making huts out of discarded lumber.

The researchers in this study are now saying that time tends to slow down when we are quiet and musing (they call it being bored) that can create a discomfort or tension, but that is when your brain kicks in to entertain itself, come up with solutions to problems or develop goals and plans.

So what’s the takeaway? If we want our younger generation to grow up and demonstrate the same kind of creative genius as George Washington Carver, then we should make more time for musing and praying, and less for computers and cell phones.

  Black, plastic bags tied around a piece of Styrofoam egg carton attached to a post or string will often fool crows into thinking you have a dead crow as a warning in your garden.

Fake Out the Crows

With a Styrofoam egg carton, black plastic and some old, hay baling twine, you can help keep crows out of your garden for that late planting of peas or corn. Cut a single egg compartment out of the carton, wrap black plastic around the piece representing the dead crow’s head, twist it and tie the neck portion to your post or string going across the garden.

Egg carton Styrofoam is light material in addition to the plastic, and the simulated dead crow will flap around in the wind easier. Using black plastic and egg cartons this year has kept crows out of my garden as well as genuine dead crows would have. Remember, crows can live to be up to 35 years old, so it’s hard to fool them unless the decoy looks real. Use scissors to trim up the black plastic to look like wings and a tail for more realism.

Calm Calves

When it comes time to convert your calves into replacement heifers, some quality sweet feed from your local Co-op will help the transition. Separate the calves from their mothers at weaning time in a different facility such as a catch pen. Use this time to document the calf, put in ear tags and address any health concerns.

An ideal time to train the calf for eating out of a bucket and becoming gentle is while she is in the holding pen. After about a week of isolation, the calf can be moved to a different pasture. Most times, the calf will continue to walk right up and expect to eat out of the bucket even in the open pasture. Once you have a few gentle heifers in the herd that are willing to eat out of a bucket, this makes it easier to round up the cattle and makes for a gentler, safer herd with which to work.

Stop and Smell the Roses

With hay hauling, garden tending, canning vegetables, and working around the weather and busy schedules, sometimes it’s good to literally stop and smell the roses. There’s a strong connection between your sense of smell and the limbic system of the brain that controls emotions and long-term memories. Aromatherapy makes use of this connection. Much of this research links smelling sweet flowers to uplifting mood, soothing anxiety, lowering blood pressure and even relieving headaches.

More important, stopping to smell the roses can allow us to pause and recognize the beautiful things in God’s nature that are often overlooked and give us opportunities to talk to him more. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

This August, spend some time off the digital grid and spend more time musing, being creative and praying. You’ll be amazed at some of the great ideas you can come up with.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.