Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use

Cast iron is often lauded as the kingpin of a homestead kitchen – and for good reason. Cast iron is awesome. Welcome to a 3-Part Series on Cast Iron! We are going to start by explaining USING your cast iron, on a daily basis, as well as how to clean you pan (it’s easier than you think!).

A lovely 10″ skillet, moments after frying my morning eggs

My Introduction to Cast Iron

I received my first cast iron pan – a 12″ Lodge – as a Christmas gift when I was a senior in college, and honestly…I had no idea how to take care of it. The person who gave it to me claimed that you just washed and dried the pan like normal; no special care required because it came pre-seasoned from the store. You just couldn’t put it in the dishwasher. So I washed the pan with soap and water, and left it to dry in the drying rack with my other pans.

Ha. Ha.

Yeah, it rusted terribly, overnight. Horrified, I googled cast iron pans and found that you never, ever should leave them to air dry. I also found conflicting advice on what oil to use to re-season it, how to clean it, what to cook in it, and just about everything else. I scrubbed of the rust (since it had only been 1 day, it wasn’t hard to get it off), oiled it, and baked it in the oven, per the Internet’s instructions. Then I put the pan away and didn’t use it because all the conflicting advice was overwhelming and I didn’t want it to get rusty again. Continue reading “Cast Iron Cookware – Care & Use”

Glyphosate Part 3 – Agricultural Concerns

[EDITORS NOTE: This post did not publish when it was supposed to due to user error – by which I mean I accidentally told it to publish in August of 2020 instead of August of 2019. So Part 4 (click here) came out first. I apologize for any confusion; the mistake has now been rectified!}

This is Part 3 of a four-part series on glyphosate. Read Part 1 here, for the history of herbicide, and Part 2 here, for the reasons why glyphosate is bad for health and for the environment.

Boy, you think, after reading my assessment of why glyphosate sucks. We should ban that! France did it! We should do that! Why aren’t we doing that?! 

The simple answer is that our modern system of agriculture is heavily reliant on glyphosate. Without it, bad things happen…unless, of course, we change how we do agriculture in this country. Let’s take a look at what would happen if we banned glyphosate, without making any other changes:

Agriculture Without Glyphosate – Problems

Lower Yields

Factually, GMO crops result in higher yields than non-GMO crops under certain conditions. Being able to spray – and kill – all the weeds, maximizes the nutrients in the soil for the crops, and results in more food being produced. In theory. Now let’s be honest: there are a lot of factors at play, and in the right environment, farmers can produce as much or more food without glyphosate. But in most modern farms, GMO crops have higher yields.

An Increase in More Toxic Herbicides

When the “Genetic Literacy Project,” a group that supports GMO crops, asked conventional farmers what they would do without glyphosate, they began listing other herbicides, all of which are significantly more toxic. Paraquat, atrazine, and 2,4D are only the tip of the iceberg of herbicides that farmers may turn to to replace glyphosate if we ban it. As you may remember from my post about herbicide history, this would be very, very bad. Glyphosate – although bad – is far better than may of the herbicides that came before it, and the last thing we need is to go backwards.

Transition Away From no-Till Agriculture

In recent years, no-till agriculture has become increasingly popular among conventional farmers – and for good reason. With this method, farmers don’t actually plow their fields the way that you might imagine. Instead, there is an emphasis on NOT disturbing the soil. This has several benefits. First, it prevents erosion. Second, it increases water retention, which can be helpful in areas prone to droughts (such as California). The higher water retention also minimizes runoff, which prevents ag fields from polluting lakes and streams with fertilizers and pesticides (for science comparing no-till and till values, click here). Third, because the soil structure is being retained, more microorganisms can flourish, increasing biodiversity and general soil health. And then, of course, there’s also the simple benefit of not having to plow. In theory, this saves the farmer in time and fuel costs, decreases the greenhouse gases produced by running farm equipment, etc. I say in theory, because the farmer will probably be using time and equipment to spray herbicides because…

(Conventional) no-till relies on herbicides. And remember, herbicides (like glyphosate) damage soil health. Think about it: if you don’t plow a field, how do you clear the land so you can plant seeds? You have to kill all the weeds somehow, and if you don’t mechanically remove them, then you have to make them die. Enter glyphosate, our friendly non-selective herbicide that kills pretty much everything. Proponents of GMOs (and subsequently, herbicides) say that no-till farming isn’t possible without glyphosate and to be fair – many no-till farmers would probably stop being no-till farmers if the government suddenly banned Round-Up from the shelves.

Higher Costs (potentially)

Glyphosate is relatively inexpensive, so there is concern that banning it would result in higher costs for farmers, as they turned to other, more expensive methods of weed control…and therefore, higher prices for consumers.

You guys have noticed that organic food is more expensive than regular food, right? Part of that is because of the crazy high administrative costs associated with organic certification…but only part of it.

There is also some concern that these higher costs would put American farmers at a disadvantage compared to farmers in other countries. South America and Africa are using crazy-high amounts of herbicides – far over the limits regulated in the USA and Europe – which often results in cheaper products (and health problems, but y’know. Details). Banning glyphosate would further widen that competitive gap.

Future of Agriculture: Problems with Keeping Glyphosate

have already addressed the environmental and public health impacts of glyphosate. I would consider these impacts to be the primary issue with long-term future glyphosate use.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t include something, somewhere, about glyphosate resistance…which I consider another significant factor in why we need to phase out glyphosate use in agriculture.

Glyphosate Resistance

Just like bacteria can get resistant to antibiotics, mosquitoes can become resistant to DEET, and people can become resistant to eating overly spicy food…so too, can weeds become resistant to glyphosate. In fact, glyphosate resistance is considered a major problem in the agricultural world. As of 2015, 14 weed species in the United States, and 32 species worldwide are resistant to glyphosate. Glyphosate-resistant weeds are very costly for farmers, since the problem often isn’t caught until after the crops are planted and it is too late to spray alternative herbicides. It’s widely acknowledged among scientists in conventional agriculture that the costs of this problems are likely to increase over time. This tells me that the cost advantage of conventional agriculture over “organic” agriculture will decrease over time, without a new herbicide being developed. In fact, researchers are pushing conventional farmers to use more non-herbicide weed-prevention techniques, specifically to decrease the issue of glyphosate-resistant weeds!

The threat of these weeds also encourages many farmers to spray their fields with combinations of herbicides. Instead of simply using the less-toxic glyphosate, they may use a mixture of glyphosate and the more-toxic 2,4-D, for example. This minimizes the advantage that glyphosate has over other herbicides, and increases the problems of relying on herbicides in general.

Supply & Demand – People Want Organic

I use the term “organic” loosely. I don’t mean “certified organic”. That is a complex labeling process that I’m not even going to begin to address in this post. I just mean pesticide-free.

Like it or not, there is an increasing demand for organic food, and more consumers are questioning where their food comes from. This is a good/bad thing. On one hand, it’s good that people are demanding healthy choices. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t do adequate research and spread misinformation on the Internet. However, good or bad, it’s happening, so it may be worthwhile for farmers to move away from herbicides anyway, simply as a response to customer demand.

My point overall? Although glyphosate is better than other herbicides on the market, that doesn’t make it good. And more importantly, whether you like it or not…it’s long term use is probably limited.

Let’s move on to what we can do about it.

Agriculture Without Glyphosate: Possible Solutions

Weed Prevention.

There are a number of ways that weeds can be minimized before they even sprout. Mulch – whether it’s woodchips, straw, hay, or something else – goes a long way toward preventing weeds. Farmers can also treat the soil thermally, either with fire (Yes. Fire.) or steam. Some farmers also have gone back to diversified plots, where they plant multiple crops at the same time. One of the crops is their “cash crop” (like corn), while the other growns up and covers the soil around the corn, preventing weeds from sprouting. The Native American “Three Sisters” method is a great example of this: The corn gets planted first, and after it sprouts, beans get planted. The bean vines climb the corn stalks, needing no other trellising. Then squash is planted, with the large leaves covering the soil around the corn, preventing weeds and deterring rodents, who generally don’t like stepping on the spiky squash leaves. Some permacultures farmers have also turned to animals to help with weed control, allowing certain animals – such as sheep or pigs – to graze and forage on empty fields. Depending on the animals in question and the type of weeds, this can potentially prevent weeds from going to seed or kill weeds all together. A famous example of this is the rice farmers in Asia who utilize ducks to prevent weeds on their rice paddies.


Although there is no question that no-till is better than till agriculture, there are quite a few ways to till a field and minimize weeds. This is generally what farmers did before the invention of herbicides, and although the yield isn’t quite as high (in the absence of other changes), it is reasonably effective. For more information about types of organic weed prevention, click here.

No-till organic farming

Remember how no-till farming is great for the environment, but impossible without herbicides….which are bad for the environment? Well, some lovely and innovative farmers came up with no-till organic farming, which is a nice meeting of two worlds.

Seeing that no-till agriculture is awesome, some scientists at the Rodale Institute developed the roller-crimper, a machine that allows organic farmers to practice no-till without herbicides. It works like this: the farmer plants an annual cover crop. Just before the cover crop goes to seed, the farmer uses the machine to cut down the vegetation, leaving a thick mat of cut plants. Then, an apparatus on the back of the roller-crimper parts the mat and drops seeds into the ground at regular intervals. The dead mat of cover crops acts a thick mulch, preventing weeds, as well as nourishing the soil. Viola. Watch a cool video of this process here.

No till + no chemical = good.

Note: moving away from chemical agriculture shouldn’t be seen as moving backwards to plowing fields with horses and hand-rakes. Instead, it should be seen as moving forwards to new innovation that is better for health and the environment.

Agriculture Without Glyphosate: The Real Problem

The REAL problem with banning glyphosate is that most farmers do not know how to farm (effectively) without it, and do not currently have the necessary infrastructure to do so. We’ve been using herbicides for almost 100 years. All those guys who used to farm effectively without them? Yeah, those guys are dead now.

Not only that, but farming is a very different enterprise today than it was in the 1800s. Most folks are growing vast fields of corn and soybeans, because people are demanding lots, and lots, and lots of corn and soy products (read: processed foods) and corn/soy fed animals (read: almost all the meat you buy in the grocery store). Growing vast fields of corn and soy is different from growing a diversified plot of corn, soy, squash, pumpkins, wheat, cows, chickens, and whatever else one farmer might grow in the 1800s.

We can’t just ban glyphosate and expect farmers to cheerfully go back to the methods of the 1800s, while also expecting them to produce the same types of crops in the same quantities that they are produced WITH glyphosate. That’s not realistic. Nor can we expect them to magically have the cash to buy fancy new equipment, like the roller-crimper, without economic impacts.

Thankfully, glyphosate isn’t going to insta-kill anybody, so we don’t need to ban it.

Dont get me wrong. I’m not a glyphosate supporter. But I’m also not a supporter of banning it and pushing farmers into using worse chemicals or going bankrupt, and/or leaving people starving because they don’t know what to eat without their high-fructose corn syrup and corn-fed hamburgers and we simply can’t grow that much corn without herbicides.

So what can we do? What should we do? Well, stay tuned, because I’ll be tackling THAT concept tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. Because this will be a much more fun, much more opinionated, much less science-y post.

I like action, y’all. Tomorrow, I’m gonna get you some actions you can take to solve this glyphosate problem.

Glyphosate Part 4: Moving Forward

This is the FINAL post on glyphosate (Psst: read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 first). Whew! Making this series was definitely a challenge – there was a lot of scientific research to pour through, and a lot of really good arguments on both sides to consider.

My opinion – as you have probably gathered by now – is that glyphosate is bad, and we, as a society, should definitely phase it out. But we shouldn’t just ban it and pat ourselves on the backs, because there are chemicals in use in agriculture that are far more harmful, both to the environment and public health. Instead, we need a new way of doing things. We need to maintain crop yields – there are a lot of people to feed. We need to practice environmental stewardship – wrecking our ecosystems is terrible for about a million reasons. And of course, we need to protect peoples’ health – live expectancy is currently decreasing in America, and given our medical technology…well, that’s ridiculous.

So what do we do?

More specifically, what can you do, besides hope the government magically comes up with a solution? (I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you…)?

What Can You Do, As a Consumer?

Don’t buy glyphosate, 2,4-D, or other weed suppressors for your lawN, driveway, Or backyard garden.

These chemicals need to be RESTRICTED (not banned…) for our health and the health of the planet. Don’t contribute to this pollution – and to the profits of the chemical companies – just for your lawn. Leave that to the folks who really NEED to use these chemicals. Worried about weeds? Here are few options:

  1. Salt your driveway cracks: Remember how in old books they describe enemies “salting” the earth during raids and pillages? This is because excess salt prevents growth. Hot (read: boiling) vinegar, borax, and other (harmless) household items can also destroy vegetation in a driveway or sidewalk. [Fun Fact: Borax also deters ants from building ant hills in your driveway]. Just be aware that these things will also destroy your grass if you put them in your lawn (just like Round-Up!). Also, I’m pretty sure salt is cheaper than Round-Up. Double win.
  2. Hand-Pull. If you have a LOT of weeds in your yard, this may be a challenge, but if you only have a a few, this could make a lot of sense. Many weeds are also edible, so go ahead and eat them while you’re at it (if you know what they are and can verify that they’re not toxic).
  3. Lay Down Weed Barriers. You can put cardboard or plastic weed barriers in your garden to prevent weeds. Personally, I prefer to use cardboard. It will eventually degrade and need to be replaced, but the degradation is very slow. Additionally, when it breaks down, it provides needed nutrients to the soil. Double win.
  4. Cover Bare Dirt. Mother Nature does not like to see bare dirt, and if she does…she’ll fill it with weeds. Simply PLANTING on bare dirt can really help cut down on weeds. Not into wild looking forest-gardens? Try mulching or putting in rocks.
  5. Foster Lawn Health. The MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to prevent weeds in your lawn is to make your lawn healthy. Grass is great at choking out other plants, even weeds…but it has to be healthy. Many common lawn weeds, like dandelions and plantain, actually don’t thrive when the soil is rich. You can create good lawn health by getting your lawn aerated regularly, and fertilizing. I DO NOT recommend all chemical fertilizers, but amending with some good compost should be all you need to do to bring your lawn up to snuff. If your soil is poor, this could take some time, but it’s absolutely worth it.
  6. Get Rid of Your Lawn. There are some climates where a green lawn just doesn’t make sense. Many people in the American Southwest are embracing rock gardens with little or no actual lawn. If you hate mowing the grass and don’t have a climate that is conducive to a green lawn, this may be a good option for you.
  7. Embrace the Weeds. Personally, I don’t care if my lawn has weeds in it. I love clover and violets, and I think that ivy is much softer and nicer on my bare feet than grass. I selectively pull weeds that I think are ugly or unpleasant – thistle for example, is a no-no in my yard. But letting some of them stay can actually make your lawn prettier, and healthier. Clover, for example, is a nitrogen fixer. This means that it actually adds nitrogen to the soil, and is EXTREMELY beneficial to lawn health (your grass needs nitrogen to flourish), if you’re willing to leave it alone.
Petition your city to stop using chemicals in public areas

If you and other well-meaning citizens can convince your city council to ban spraying of pesticides (even just certain, more harmful pesticides) in public areas, it’ll be a big help. Many cities currently spray schoolyards, boulevards, city lawns, churches, sidewalks, and more. The city I work in actually sprayed the areas around the trees and fire hydrants with Round-Up because they thought it’d be easier than trimming around those objects! If this ends, it can create a greener, safer cities.

In fact, I would argue that limiting – or eliminating – pesticides in your area is MORE IMPORTANT than eliminating them in agriculture. Your exposure from residues in food is much lower than your exposure from city spray programs. Ending chemical use here wouldn’t impact the livelihood of farmers, but it would lower the public health and environmental health risks of pesticides.

Don’t Buy processed food with monocrop fillers

The BIGGEST barrier to moving away from herbicides in agriculture, is the demand for the biggest monocrops – corn, soybeans, and canola. It is very, very difficult to grow these crops in large quantities without chemicals – which is partially why organic processed food is so much more expensive than conventional processed food.

If consumers demanded a wider variety of fruits,  vegetables, beans, nuts, dairy, and meats instead of processed mixtures of sugar, wheat, vegetable oil (which I call “death oil” for these reasons), corn, and soy…well, then there will be more demand for diversified farm plots. This would not only decrease the need for herbicides, but it will would also allow farmers to diversify, minimizing impacts if a particular crop has a bad year.

Buy Local, from farmers with good practices

Most farmers care about their crops, animals, and the people who buy them, whether they use conventional methods or not. Many small farmers are starting to try no-spray or permaculture methods, but can’t afford an organic certification – that piece of paper is super expensive and eats tons of man-hours in paperwork time. Talk to your farmer, and buy from farmers who have good growing practices. Buy from farmers who don’t use pesticides. Buy from farmers who do use pesticides, but are willing to explain why and how often…and maybe even listen to your concerns about them.

What Can Farmers Do?

Small-scale crop Farmers – Explore your options

Moving away from herbicides doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to give up your livelihood or obtain an (expensive) organic certification. It also doesn’t have to mean that you suddenly stop using glyphosate and flounder for a new method that will provide you with high enough crop yields to survive. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Permaculture. Permaculture is a technique that minimizes pests, diseases, and weeds by fostering biodiversity. By planting a variety of things together and practicing companion planting, you can save yourself a lot of work and minimize the need for chemicals. With this technique, yields of any specific type of crop are definitely more limited, but it may be a good option for small-scale farmers who aren’t growing large monocrops of corn/soybeans.
  2. Use Animal Labor. There are other ways to minimize weeds besides herbicides. Justin Rhodes, who blogs here, has developed a method where he runs chickens through his garden plot to till his soil and eliminate all weeds before planting. Other farmers use pigs to similar effect.
  3. Cover Crops. The Penn State Extension office recommends cover crops for weed control – and bonus, growing useful cover crops may provide additional income. I know a farmer, who I buy beef from, who plants cover crops that he can use as feed for his cattle. On off-years, he plants his family garden which provides produce for him and his family. His farm focuses on raising beef, so he does not try to sell produce, but the principal is the same.

Basically, if you designate a small portion of your plot to experimenting with other options, you may find things that work very well for you.

Some organic farmers claim that they actually have less problems with weeds and pests than they did when they used conventional methods. If you can get some of these practices to work for you on a small scale, then you can start implementing them across a larger operation.

Small scale crop farmers – Use sprays as a last resort.

One of the farmers I buy from at my local farmer’s market advertises most of his crops as “no-spray” at his farm stand. However, in the event of an unforeseen problem (such as a disease or bug infestation), he will use sprays as a last resort. Then, he advertises these crops as “conventionally grown,” and is happy to let you know what sprays he used and why. I’ve bought both types of produce from him, and I really respect the moderation of this method. He tries to avoid using chemicals, but acknowledges that sometimes there is no other way to save a crop.

Can we get a big round of applause for moderation?

Large scale farmers – consider Organic

Unfortunately, in order to make a transition away from pesticides on a large scale, most farmers need the organic certification. This is because organic products sell for a higher price, which is necessary to make up for the lower yields. The good news is that in the Midwest, studies do show that organic farming can be just as profitable as conventional, and possibly more so. The bad news, is the startup costs are difficult to swallow. I’m not a big fan of the organic certification, but I do think it is worth considering.

Farmers could also consider making part of their fields organic, to try it out, without losing too much profit in the meantime.

All Farmers – consider diversification

Obviously, as long as the demand for processed food remains high, we will “need” tons of corn, soy, and canola. But this agricultural trend has a lot of problems associated with it. From a health standpoint, it necessitates lots of chemicals that can be hazardous. From an environmental standpoint, a lack of biodiversity is generally bad.

But from an economic standpoint, monocrops are also an issue for the farmers. If you only grow corn, what happens if the corn crop gets destroyed for some reason?

Answer: Bad things. Government subsidies. Debt.

Unfortunately, there are a LOT of barriers to diversification, from start-up costs to infrastructure problems to government interference. Ultimately, consumers need to demand a wider variety of produce and animal products in order for this to be viable on a large scale.


Glyphosate is not good for public health or for the environment, but minimizing it’s use goes far beyond banning it. Round-Up is BETTER for health and the environment than many other pesticides; vilifying it beyond other chemicals is just an invitation to greater impacts on health and the environment from it’s outdated replacements!

Glyphosate is also far more dangerous to the people applying it than to the people eating food contaminated with it.  What good is buying organic apples if you spray your own lawn?

My advice is to focus on minimizing/eliminating glyphosate (AND OTHER PESTICIDES) in areas outside of agriculture first. This is the logical place to start, because it is easy to do, and it doesn’t impact the livelihoods of farmers or the food supply of the nation.

Next, is to investigate alternative methods in agriculture. Buying local is a key way to support these practices as a consumer, as is learning to avoid processed foods that raise the demand for corn/soy/canola.

For farmers, being open-minded and willing to experiment with new methods is critical. Just because we have been doing something a certain way for 50 years does not mean that is necessarily the best way to do it. We, as humans, can innovate and improve. In fact, it’s something we have historically been rather good at.

Thoughts on glyphosate? Are you for or against it? Do you agree with my moderate take on the issue? Let me know if an email, or in the comments!