Saturday, March 08, 2008

Springtime in Berkeley: WOW micro-minerals, Annie's Annuals and my purple thumb

(The photos are of the Annie's Annuals catalogue sitting by my computer, my WOW sample bottles and the only flowers I've ever been able to grow -- plastic ones! PS: That's a photo of me in the background, circa 1963. I sure don't look like that no more!)

In the middle of this year's horrendously difficult winter, my friend Melinda, who lives in California's Sierra-Nevada mountains, got snowed in and so when she finally got thawed out enough to get to her phone and give me a call, we started dreaming about the arrival of spring. "Jane," said Melinda, "when the weather warms up and people start growing stuff again, you need to become a distributor for WOW micro-mineral plant nutrients."

Oh, no.

My friend has such misplaced faith in me. It's really touching and sweet but.... "Melinda," I told her firmly, "you are asking the absolute wrong person here. I can write like crazy about how America is being swallowed alive by the boa constrictor of globalization, how to calm colicky babies in 20 seconds and why the Bush-McCain clone is gonna give us more of the same saber-rattling craziness until we all blow ourselves up. But me becoming a plant food distributor? Give me a break!" Not only does my money karma suck eggs but I've got a purple thumb too.

But Melinda for some weird reason was totally convinced that she could change a political commentator -- hopefully the next Molly Ivins -- into the Jolly Green Giant. So she sent me a starter-kit.

"WOW contains 14 micro-minerals that replenish the soil," she said. "You mix one-fourth cup of WOW with a gallon of water, take it to some nurseries and offer them the WOW challenge.

The WOW challenge. Got that.

I have a neighbor who works at a nursery. I could practice on her? So I got out my MapQuest, located Annie's Annuals, only got lost twice driving out there and ended up at a two-and-a-half-acre garden of Eden in the middle of the industrial district of north Richmond, out near the Rosie-the-Riveter National Park where my friend Betty works.

Then I located my neighbor over near the potting shed, all garbed out in her overalls, sun hat and Wellingtons. "Tell me again what this does?" she asked dubiously after I'd thrust a bunch of sample bottles into her hands and mumbled something half-audible about taking a WOW challenge. OMG, I felt like Willie Loman in "Death of a Salesman".

"Ah, er, I'm not really sure. You take it and pour it over some plants?"

"And what are the 14 minerals, what is the price point, how can we stock it and why does it work better than petroleum-based fertilizers?"

I don't know! Melinda! Help! "I think that the micro-minerals restore the soil naturally and you don't need pesticides and it helps nourish the worms?" I handed my neighbor a brochure, grabbed my bottles back and ran out the gate.

Look at me! Now I'm a genuine bona-fide distributor!

Then my neighbor chased me down in the parking lot and asked me if I wanted a tour of the nursery. I'd better not. All I have to do is walk by plants and they die. But even I had to admit that Annie's Annuals nursery was a glorious place, even in the middle of winter -- two-and-a-half-acres of old-fashioned varieties of flowers. "You should see this place in late spring," said my neighbor. "It's a riot of color." Then she gave me a small plastic pot containing a sweet pea. I used to grow sweet peas when I was a kid.

"This is a Lord Nelson heirloom variety which still has retained the delightful old-fashioned fragrance that most sweet peas no longer have. It's navy-blue in color. You will love it." Okay. I now own a plant. I looked at the plant. The plant looked at me. I took it home, put it in my kitchen and doused it with WOW. And then the darn thing started growing like Jack in the beanstalk.

But then I started getting all creative and fancy and decided to put my sweet pea out in the front yard. And somebody stole it.

PS: Here's the brochure for WOW:
What is "WOW!"?

"Wow!" is a new mixture of microminerals that will make plants grow strong, replenish the soil that they grow in and then actually pass the nutrients that the plants absorb on to you, the person eating the food! You can't get much better than that. Wow.

Question: How do we repair our soil?

Answer: Use "WOW!" plant micro-nutrient minerals. The foundation of our soil is microorganisms, on which all land life depends -- just like plankton in the ocean is the foundation on which all ocean life depends. Plants are the bridge between the rocks and animals, both on land and in the sea. Plants depend on the life in the soil; they draw on that richness to grow.

Animals depend on the soil and the plants for life too. Destroying that foundation -- the soil -- is the tragedy of modern life. Our soil ultimately has produced the need for vitamin supplementation and our huge medical and pharmaceutical industry which have grown in direct relationship to the introduction of petrochemical substances to soil over the same period. Our oceans have suffered for the same reason, as these chemicals have drained into our rivers and out to sea.

WOW! plant food can begin to reverse all of the problems. It doesn't take organic certification to grow plants with no petrochemicals. It only requires that you stop using petrochemicals. WOW! rebuilds your soil and controls pests and disease in crops by using simple and inexpensive methods. It begins by strengthening the plants by providing back to soil the essential microminerals needed to feed the micro-organism population which in turn enhance the subsequent crops through these simple and inexpensive methods. The process begins by allowing the plants to grow stronger by revitalizing our soil with the essential micro-minerals needed to feed our micro-organism population -- to the subsequent benefit of strengthened plants that then grow inthe resulting renewed soil.

Question: What has happened to our soil?

Answer: OIL. The three deadly steps to the death of nutrition in our food are directly related to the use of petrochemicals on our farms and in our gardens:

1. The synthesis of ammonium nitrate for weapons from natural gas after World War II found a new market -- by promising to increase food production through the introduction of a high NPK nitrogen application that would grow vast amounts of food crops (mostly corn) -- to the immediate detriment of the life in the soil.

2. As the ammonium nitrate began killing the soil, the crops became more plentiful, allowing the chemical industry to hide its work, but that work weakened the plants as essential nutrients were stripped by the use of only NPK fertilizers while the trace elements were not being replenished. This allowed predators – bugs and bacteria – to target the weakening plants.

Because this fertilization and harvesting practice stripped the soil of the remaining essential micro-nutrients, rock was no longer able to be processed by the dwindling micro-organism population and the stage was set for industrial chemical factory farming.

3. Then petroleum based herbicides, pesticides and fungicides had to be applied to deal with the problem of predatory organisms due to the nutrient-deprived, weakened plants. But the pesticides and fungicides which exterminated the bugs and diseases also exterminated the rest of the micro-organisms, putting everything out of nature's balance, creating stronger predator organisms and addicting agriculture to the oil companies' more and more powerful poisonous products.
For more information, go to

The WOW! Challenge at White Forest, Bakersfield
By Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

Jere White is the savvy owner of White Forest Nursery. I met him there while asking them to participate in our WOW! Challenge. But it was his nursery manager, Joe, who watched as I poured on the WOW! Microminerals for the Wow! Challenge at his nursery in Bakersfield, California. Fifteen days later I returned for the second act of the WOW! Challenge. I had applied a half gallon of mixture to each of 12 plants with 2 plants set aside as a control set aside as controls. All the plants were non producing roses. Now I was back.

I invited Jere out to the stock area to view the results. On all of the treated plants were new shoot starts even in the cold winter weather with nights in the low 40's and one of the plants had two new flower buds about a day away from blossom. On the non-WOW!ed plants, nothing.

Jere remarked, "Now that's impressive! This is the hardest time of the year to show that a new product works. I would imagine that in the spring you would get even better results."

Jere and I chatted about why WOW! works like it does. The results come from the fact that the plants were starving for nutrients. I think of ailing plants as my patients.

"You can't just get them to stick their tongue out to look down their throats, but just like us, if we don't get our essential minerals we get sick, too. These roses were sick, that's all, now they are getting better."

Jere is a bio-chemist with a Masters degree from Stanford University, and a long background with the technical experience to diagnose and solve most disease, insect and growing problems. White Forest has been a landmark in Bakersfield for a long time now. He remarked, "Well, we have been trying to figure out the right amount of micro minerals for some time, but usually to get the plants to respond we end up putting on an amount that produces a toxicity in the soil."

“I knew exactly what he meant; that is one of the barriers I looked at when I determined how to produce WOW! in the first place. That's because the amount normally applied before our product was available was a powder and only a portion is bio-available -- ionic, then over time the massive amount released by the large particles results in toxicity. It's not the amount, its the particle size. You probably notice that there is not much weight by volume in our product, but there are trillions more atoms available because of the particle size." I said.

"Avogadro number..." Jere replied.

I nodded. "Thats right, a mole of any element is 6 X 10 to the 23rd atoms. So by delivering a smaller amount of a mineral nutrient, at the ionic size, the plants can take their medicine, and not get sick from too much."

"Well, it looks like the spring application will work wonders, let's try it on a lot of our starts and seedlings, and if we like it we will be happy to be your advocate for WOW!" I responded. "And that's just in 15 days, let's see what they look like in another 15!" Look for the next report then and remember that NOW is the time to treat your soil to be ready for spring planting.

Getting to know Jere and White Forest has been a real pleasure for me; White Forest Nursery is the kind of place that wants plants, and people, to prosper. A good thing.