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Monday, January 30, 2006

NAIS and the Chinese Chicken

It's a banner day for posting it seems. So much to talk about.

here is another item about NAIS and the USDA. This is truly shocking.

While the USDA foists NAIS on American consumers, farmers and livestock* the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing importing chickens from China. Yes, that’s right. Is that crazy enough? They want to tag and track all animals in the USA to prevent disease’ and then import poultry from China where Avian Bird Flu (H5N1) has been killing millions of birds as well as some people. Wait a minute?!? Wasn’t one of the justifications for NAIS to stop the spread of Avian Bird Flu???

Not only that, but the USDA wants to ship poultry to China, have it slaughtered and canned and then shipped back to the USA for consumption! What!?!

Does this make sense? Wait… sense… cents… Ah, think dollars!...

read the rest at Ag Dept Wants to Import Chickens from China

Our government is insane. First they want to implement the NAIS in part to keep the US from getting avian flu outbreaks and now they want to import chicken from china where there have been numerous avian flu outbreaks. This is nuckin' futz.

Planting Time Nears

I made our first batch of potting soil, or is it soiless mix (the stuff has no soil in it though it is supposed to) for the soil blocks that will be made in which to plant seeds.

The mix is basically 2 parts peat moss, 1 part compost. 1 part perlite and than some wood ash (1 cup) to moderate the pH and some kelp, colloidal phosphate and green sand tossed in (about 2 cups).

In the past we had to do this job either in the basement or outside. It's not a bad outside job as long as the weather is decent (above 45F, calm and not raining/snowing) but considering the bulk of the mix is made and used in March and early April those nice conditions are rare (though not this year). We found we could not do this job in the house (other than the basement) because of the dust factor. peat makes a lot of dust, enough to cover most things in the house with 1/4" layer of peat dust.

You see, in order to make this mix, all ingredients must be screened (sifted) through a 1/8th inch screen so that the mix is fine and free of chunky/lumpy material. and the screening process makes a lot of dust. So much that you cannot do this job without breathing protection, even if you are in a well ventilated area. I tried this once, screening peat in the basement with no mask, and I was coughing up chunks of peat out of my lungs for a couple of weeks. Breathing was tough the first couple of days after that experience. Will not be doing that ever again.

And I don't have to because we now own a big barn that is well ventilated and out of the weather. It's great! it was so easy to screen ingredients and than mix them together. I got dirty as hell except for the white circle around my nose where the mask was. Now just have to find something to plant. I guess onions and leeks will be the first seeds to be planted and we will go from there.

On farm Archaeology

I have been interested in archaeology for about 23 years. It all started in my lost years hanging out with a guy named Geoff Georgiady who introduced me to the wonders of walking around in bare muddy farm fields looking for points while drinking cheap beer.

At the time I was not in school and Geoff encouraged me to enroll at Miami and take a class from Dr Ron Spielbauer and I did and that was my first step towards getting a degree in anthropology at Miami U.

This in turn was the move that later in life (15 years later) would enable me to apply for and get a contract archaeology job where I would meet my future husband and farming partner, Eugene. Much of our Honeymoon consisted of seeing great earthworks of Ohio.

Jump forward from 1983 to 2006 and out new farm that is situated on a really hot area for potential archaeological finds.

Within days of moving both Eugene and I noticed a lot of chert eroding out of a hill side. At first we thought it was all brought in from somewhere else but now we are both thinking we have an honest to goodness outcropping of chert that has obviously been mined for a lot of years. And it is as high quality as the cherts coming from Flint Ridge over by Columbus/Newark.

Than Eugene started finding broken points in the beds he has been digging up. So far he has found 2 one tip and one base. I would go and look for heads but was unsuccessful until yesterday afternoon when I was looking at a freshly dug bed that had been well washed by overnight heavy rains and after walking the beds and looking for a half hour there was a nice point sticking out of the mud. I grabbed it and found myself in the possession of the top 1/3 of a serrated spear point made from the same material that the two Eugene has found. makes me wonder if the same person made all the points. We will never know the answer to that question.

Now it is tempting to forget farming and start putting in some units. There is definitely a site here and it just may be a significant one but the problem is finding someone who is qualified to do a project here. Eugene knows how to do the work, the research and write the papers but he does not have the Ph.D. to qualify his work (not to mention this would be pro bono work and we cannot afford to do that at this point in time-have a mortgage to pay). I am thinking about contacting my alma mater and asking them if they need a place to do their field school and offer up our place for digging for 8 weeks every summer until it is done.

All I know is something should be done about this potential site.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Spanning the Blogosphere

I am a member of Blog Explosion so I can increase traffic to my blog (and BE is a very effective tool to do this. To join click on the icon at the bottom of the sidebar to the right). I surf for credits most days via BE and often I find some really great blogs (in my opinion). And today is just such a day. 10 minutes surfing and I hit pay dirt starting with the Matian Anthropologist which lead me to a blog call Who Would Jesus Hate (if you are religious or still believe GW Bush is a good leader or do not have a sick sense of humor I would suggest NOT looking at this blog).

Another blog I found this morning while using Technorati's search engine is Towards a Bioregional State is all about changing our society from an unsustainable one to a sustainable state. I have only scanned 2 of the articles posted but I like the ideas I have read so far. One of the reasons I do what I do is guide our society in this direction. And for you Monsanto fans out there there is a really good article on the History of Monsanto and how the corp. got to be so evil

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Making a Market Garden

We have been working on opening beds and making a market garden out of the 2.5 acres on the upper field and here is our progress thus far. 18 beds dugs, 6 beds planted with garlic and perennial herbs. A couple of beds are close to being ready for planting (they will likely be planted strawberries or lettuce) and Eugene is opening up more beds as I write this.

The beds looking south. The white things in the upper right of the photo are garlic under row covers

The beds looking north. This time the row covered garlic is on the left

Before and After

Before demolition. Note how the shed is being held up mostly by the tree

After demolition. Still have to remove the cinder block wall and the the tree but the rest is gone.

The demolition on the broken building is completed and it looks like we will put a greenhouse of some sort there where the shed and wall used to be. The question is what kind of greenhouse? There is no concrete pad in this area , just dirt that needs a lot of leveling where there was a wall and a medium sized tree.

We could build our own structure out of the various wood and metal we have lying around. This would be cheap and Eugene loves this sort of challenge but it will take time to amass all the materials from around the farm and the structure will have flaws that will need fixing. Or we could go the expensive way and buy a kit from a place like Ludy Greenhouses. This will be a lot more expensive but we will have a really nice greenhouse that will not have flaws (of if it does it will also have a warranty) and will likely produce better and will be built in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.

Because we have been farming on the cheap for so long this kind of idea, buying a kit, is really alien to us. We tend to buy used equipment at auctions or fabricate it ourselves. This system works and is cheap but is also takes more work and time. And time can be an issue on a farm. If you ar spending time fixing equipment than you are spending time farming. In the winter this is not an issue but the rest of the year it is.

But in the case of the greenhouse we are talking the difference between $500 and $2000. And we know we can build a $500 greenhouse that will last at least 10 years because we already have done it with one on the other farm. And that hoophouse (our first) was out in the open. This one will be built in a very protected area so should not be bearing the brunt of the storms. The old hoophouse often looked as though a giant had sat on it after really heavy winds. But Eugene would go out and spend a few hours fixing the purlins and putting the thing back together and make it all good again.

Ah Decisions, decisions.

We still have not decided what to do with the area of the shed still standing that is on the concrete pad. I think it would be a really nice place to put the forge but it would also make a decent wash rack/packing shed for the produce

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Farm Sex Most Popular

Why is this Big Boy Smiling? Maybe he has discovered farm sex...

Looks like the term "Farm Sex" has been the most popular of the naughty search terms people input to find their way here. Today "Farm Sex" got two hits. For a while Farm Sex was neck and neck with "Sex" and Sex Farm as most popular search term but in the end Farm Sex has won the day with 2 searches and the others with zero.

I'll bet that changes after this post...

Progressive Garlic Powder and Other Stories

Things have been pretty busy around here the past few days, despite the weather being less than wonderful (and the Channel 7 weather prophets said it was going to be sunny and reasonably warm, not snowing and howling winds. Well, global warming does make weather prediction chancy at best).

Eugene has taken down the lean-too shed like thing attached to the back of the barn. The building was a real redneck job I, must say. It had been used as a run-in shed for cattle most recently but before that it was used for storage of stuff (we found doors, furniture, a swing set, shutters, table, patio chairs, etc., etc..). Because cattle were allowed to loaf in the shed while there was still full of items most of the items were turned into firewood and garbage by the cattle. (why don't people think!?). The lean-too shed like thing had a rotten roof that was mostly held up boxwood tree growing up in the doorway, a cinder block wall that was falling and a pile of dirt, cattle shit, glass and the occasional plastic toy. It was considered a hazard by the people who insure this farm. And it was not doing us a bit of good so now the rotten and broken parts are gone and it will become a whole new deal. what it will become I don't know. Probably a greenhouse, though what is left would make a dynamite blacksmith shop as it has a good cement pad.

While all that has been going on these past two afternoons I have been dehydrating things. yesterday I finished up a batch of garlic powder that was already dehydrated (which takes about 5 days to do) but needed cleaning and grinding into powder. While I did that I listened to left wing Progressive radio (Ed Schultz) and got depressed about the state of things. I do not like this Fascist state we seem to be in. And I don't think the democrats are the remedy to the problem (at least they have not been so far). I believe I was lucky that a basketball game pre-empted Randi Rhodes. While I like her rants and views, she can get down right scary and than I have to turn her off.

Okay, so I made progressive garlic powder, which you can buy here, yesterday.

Today I peeled and sliced a lot of apples that were going bad and put them in the dehydrator. It took me about 2 hours to get them all prepared to dry and all I will get out of it is about 1/3 of a pound of dried apples. But the work is well worth it. I like to use the dried apples in granola I make and cooked oatmeal. Dried apples are so danged good in oatmeal.

Now it is almost dinner time and I haven't a clue what to make for dinner. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NAIS Agriculture Facism

NAIS is a system the USDA will be implementing sometime in 2008. Over the past 3 or 4 months I have been reading more and more about this on the web. I have seen a couple of dynamite posts about this issue over on the Cauldron Ridge Blog and the slow food website has a lot of information and good discussion going on in their forum (the two items below are from that website). Personally I am opposed to this idea for many of the reasons stated in the article by Mr Lamb and the response to Mr lamb's article.

Remember eating is indeed a political act.

Henry Lamb is the founding Chairman of Sovereignty International
(1996), and the founding ECO of the Environmental Conservation
Organization (1988). He is publisher of eco-logic Powerhouse, a widely
read on-line, and print magazine. His columns are frequently translated
into Spanish and published throughout Central and South America, Spain,
Portugal, and Italy. He has attended United Nations meetings around the
world, is a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops across the
country, and is a regular guest on dozens of talk radio programs. He
has provided testimony for the U.S. Congress, as well as State
Legislatures, and has served as a consultant to FOX News on U.N.

For eight years, he was CEO of a national trade association for
contractors, headquartered in Chicago, coming to that position from CEO
of a private construction company specializing in erosion control and
water management structures. His background includes teaching at the
secondary school level, and serving four years as a legislative analyst
for a county government in Florida. E-Mail:

The mark on the beast
By Henry Lamb

January 15, 2006

The stated purpose of the program (NAIS) is to enable government to
trace, within 48 hours, the source of a faulty animal food product. The
effect of the program is the transfer of the control of private
property to the government - while forcing the property owner to pay
the cost of the transfer.

Last week's column asked: "What do you call it when government takes
away the use of private property, but leaves the title in the name of
the property owner?" Dozens of letter writers correctly responded:
"Fascism." Last week's column was about government controlling the use
of land; this week, the government is controlling the use of animals.

The program is not limited to commercial producers; it includes the
half-dozen chickens at Grandma's house. Her "premises" and each chicken
must be registered with the government, as the program now stands. In
fact, the pet parakeet in a cage on the 20th floor of a condo in Miami
Beach must also be registered, along with the premises. As the program
now stands, there are no exceptions.

Surely some of the stupidity will be squeezed out of the program as
more people become aware of it, and insist that government has gone too
far. The question, however, is not how far is too far, but whether
government should go there at all.

Nothing among the enumerated powers granted to the federal government
by the U.S. Constitution can be construed to include the power to
control the use of private property. The federal government is
empowered to regulate interstate commerce, but Grandma's chickens and
Aunt Jane's parakeet do not constitute interstate commerce.

Everyone wants a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply, which
America has enjoyed for years - without a National Animal
Identification System. Why is it necessary now? The increased terrorist
threat certainly justifies tightening up security in the food chain.
But, the NAIS does little or nothing to tighten security, while
imposing ridiculous burdens upon the small producer.

The NAIS was initiated by the National Institute of Animal Agriculture,
a non-government organization consisting of the leaders of
agribusiness. The program they designed tends to shift the burden,
cost, and ultimate responsibility for food safety from the agribusiness
giants to the small producer.

Interstate commerce conjures up images of businesses such as Tyson
Foods, which has mastered the art of vertically integrated marketing.
Tyson controls the production of its chickens from birth to market,
using farmers only to provide space and labor to get their product to
slaughter. Here is where government should focus its regulatory concern
- and leave Grandma's chickens alone.

Suppliers of beef, pork, and lamb, often buy their animals from small
producers, who work hard to raise healthy, marketable animals. The
agribusiness suppliers are free to buy, or not buy, from any producer.
Here, at the point where the product enters the food chain, is where
responsibility, security, and regulatory control should be focused -
not on the already overburdened small producer.

But, no. The NAIS requires the small producer to not only bear the cost
of the program, but also to be the ultimate scapegoat in the event that
an agribusiness supplier's product is found to be faulty, for whatever
reason. Should little Johnny get sick after eating a hamburger made
with beef supplied by BigAgri Packing Company, BigAgri simply points
the finger to the producer, or producers, whose cows were in the batch
from which Johnny's hamburger was made. Agribusiness shifts its
responsibility for buying only healthy product to the farmer, who must
guarantee his animals to be healthy.

The NAIS is an industry-designed program, which will drive small
producers out of business, reduce competition, and ultimately put both
supply and price in the hands of industry giants - unless opponents
of this program get organized.

And here's a reader response to Henry's article from a small farmer...

NAIS: Fascism is what we should call it
By Edward H. Ey

January 15, 2006


Congratulations on grabbing the tip of the NAIS iceberg. You clearly
understand the essence of the major issues facing small agricultural
producers, and the general public. But - there is a much broader set
of implications that you might want to look into.

The incestuous relationship between agribusiness and the USDA is well
recognized by many farmers and livestock producers. The USDA is no
longer a useful agency for American agriculture. The USDA has become
the conscript of agribusiness. All key positions at the USDA are now
held by former agribusiness people, or their minions.

The NAIS scheme currently has little or no support, among small and
independent farmers and livestock producers. Few to none of my friends
and neighbors have bought into the NAIS Ponzi scheme. We recognize the
sleaze, the illicit design, the unnecessary cost, and the political
intentions of this latest useless offering from Washington, D.C.

Beyond the overt display of tracking animals, the NAIS plan is to be
used by the IRS to verify farmer and producer incomes, and the system
will also become a tool used by agribusiness. The USDA has backed away
from direct implementation of the system, and will use contractors and
private organizations to do the dirty work of installing the system and
collecting the data. The Secretary of Agricultural knows when to back
away from a smelly pig.

So, why is the collection of agricultural livestock data important
beyond the control of private property? The answer is because the
agribusiness giants will then have access to all of the information on
the database. They will have knowledge about all sources and supplies
of commodity animals. They will use such information to improve their
ongoing practice of captive supply and market price manipulation. The
USDA has promised protection of my private producer information, once
its on the database. Right! If anyone believes that, they can see me
about some swamp land I have for sale in Florida.

To gain a better understanding of this menace, you might be interested
in the actions and writings of Mike Callicrate, the actions of the OCM
outfit in Nebraska, plus some of the issues defined by R-CALF other
than BSE imports, and the increasing national trend of small farmers
and producers to form more independent co-op outfits to counter the
threat of agribusiness.

Agribusiness killed the independent chicken and pork industries, and
they are now attempting to do the same thing to independent cattle
producers. Agribusiness and the USDA are successfully depopulating the
Great Plains, but a national range war has begun in the cattle
business, and it's liable to get very nasty, very soon.

Fascism is what we call it, when private property is controlled by
government. Clearly, there is no issue more important for the Supreme
Court to fix than private property rights.

But, what do you call it when multi-national corporations (e.g.
Monsanto, ADM) control all grain seeds, via patents, GMOs, and chemical
controls? I still haven't figured out how a corporation can be allowed
to patent a life form.

What do you call it when all beef is controlled by the likes of Tyson,
Cargill, et al, and imported meat receives the coveted USDA stamp of
approval? What do you call it when all pork is controlled and imported
from overseas by Smithfield?

What do you call it when imported agricultural products grown with
illegal chemicals in foreign countries (Mexico), and imported beef
products contain life threatening contaminants, packing house residuals
(Brazil), and potential disease (Brazil and Japan's BSE threat), and
the government will not implement Country Of Origin Labeling
legislation? Why doesn't the U.S. government want me to know where this
food comes from?

I do not mean to belabor the obvious, with these ongoing real events
now taking place in our country, but you must agree that if one thinks
oil dependency on the Middle East is a major problem, just wait until
our food supply system is controlled by agribusiness, their USDA
puppets, Wall Street, and foreign governments.

The current lobbyist scandals in Congress pale by comparison to what is
taking place in our national agricultural system. Actions now underway
by agribusiness and the USDA will seal the fate of the American family
farm and the American consumer. The NAIS is but one step in the overall

Henry, you can render a great service to the citizens of this country
by looking into the rest of the USDA/Agribusiness greasy iceberg, and
reporting on it. I promise that you will find the overall strategy of
agribusiness, and its future plans to control your foodstuffs beyond
belief, and very scary.

No plant diversity, no variations, everything monoculture hybrids, and
no controls on quality, origins, or nutrition should raise major
concerns. But, Americans will likely continue to buy from the "Lowest
Prices Always" businesses that feed on the bottom, right next to
agribusiness and the USDA.

Edward H. Ey
East Branch Farm

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Buying Local in Winter

The farmers' market yesterday was great. The weather cooperated, no rain/snow, the winds died down and the sun came out the last hour of the market. We were missing 2 of 3 bakers. Lyman Peck was there with his clay oven baked bread but sold out in the first hour.

I was pleased to see quite a few greens at the market. In a normal year we would have spring mix, kale and chard in hoophouses but not this year due to having to set up new beds before setting up hoophouses over the beds. No one had those particular greens but there was Harv Roehling's lettuce (I bought two kinds, he usually has between 7 and 16 varieties of heirloom lettuces). Harv has become the Lettuce Guy around these parts because he has figured out how to raise lettuce virtually 12 months of the year using a combination of raised beds and greenhouses. The Suzie and Brent Marcum of Salem Road farm had a lot of mustardy things, several choys, baby lettuce and cilantro for sale.

The meat purveyors were there I bought myself a cow share so beginning in Feb. I will be able to buy raw cow's milk. This is a huge step towards my being able to buy 100% of my food locally. I still do not buy grains and flour locally which I could but they are pricey and not the quality of King Arthur Flour.

I also bought 5 dozen eggs from Karen Baldwin of Tapaahsia Farm (Tapaahsia is the Miami word for Canada Geese). Her family raises some darned fine eggs and she makes really wonderful soap and other skin products by hand using pure ingredients.

Along with buying local foods for our own use we sold a lot of local products ourselves. the carrots and beets are done for the year. I think this is the first time we have managed to sell out of the carrots before they started to really lose quality (generally in march or April). We sold all the parsnips we brought to market but still have more in storage. We sold a lot of garlic but came no where close to selling out.

It was good to see people. We get pretty isolated from Oxford in the winter and having social interaction with people we know is always a good thing. Several of our loyal customers brought us their plastic bags so we can reuse them in our sales. It would be nice if everyone brought their own bags and we did not have to even think about using plastic "Thank You Bags" (this is what they are know as in the industry) but the reality is most do not bring their own bags to market. So we must supply bags for our customers and the most painless way we have found to do this is to reuse bags (something we were prohibited from doing when we were certified organic. Certified organic farms must use new bags only. Not a sustainable rule). And this recycling of bags allows our customers to become involved with us on a slightly deeper level (it's not the level that can be achieved by joining our CSA but it is a small step closer).

I love the farmers' market!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Winter Market pt. 3

Tomorrow is the 3rd installment of the Oxford Farmers' Market Uptown's Winter Market. Starting at 9:30 am saturday Jan 21st in the public parking lot at Main and Church Sts. There will be several farmers and bakers selling what they have.

We are planning to go though, the last market we made under $200. I feel if we cannot make at least $300 per market it is really not worth going, but in this case we are fostering a brand new market so I make an exception for this market. And besides, in the past if we made $25 from produce sales in December or January that was considered good. Of course in years past we had nothing to sell by this point in the year. But last year, anticipating a winter market, we grew a lot more storable produce like winter squash, taters, garlic, onions, carrots, parsnips, etc.. so we have things to sell tomorrow.

What will we be bringing?:
Garlic powder
Fingerling and red potatoes
Tomato juice
Apple sauce
Popcorn (this makes the best popcorn!)
Maybe a few winter squash
Red onions
Yellow Onions
Roasted squash seeds (like pumpkin seeds only better)

I don't think we will have much to sell come the Feb. market but I also am predicting we will be getting cold stormy weather by than (or maybe it will be summery by than and 70˚F and sunny-Who knows anymore). From looking at what is left of our stored produce we will not have much in a month. The winter squash is wanting to rot so we have been cleaning, cooking and freezing a lot of questionable squash. Oh, and baking piles of squash seeds. (I have found pumpkin seeds are about the worst tasting of the winter squash seeds. Acorn squash seeds are the best, IMO). I doubt if the remainder will last another 4 weeks. I have noticed even the squashes in Kroger's and Wal-mart are rotting so it must be that time of year already. The potatoes are in short supply as are the carrots and parsnips but we have enough for this market.

My main reason for going to market is to talk to the S***** about joining their cow share program and getting raw milk starting in March or April. It will cost $50 up front plus $4 a gallon for the milk. Raw milk is so much better than the pasteurized pus and drug tainted crap we are offered. Probably will also buy a piece of pastured beef like some sort of steak.

The weather tomorrow is supposed to be rainy but we may luck out and have the rain gone by 9am. At least it will be warm-highs in the low 50's in the morning and than temps dropping through the day. if this were a normal January the temps could have been hovering around 0˚F as the 3rd week of Jan is generally the coldest weekend of the year.

Weather is a huge factor with outdoor markets. If it is rainy, too cold, too warm, too windy than your sales are affected negatively and you could damage product or equipment. I do not like selling outside in bad weather but part of being a business is being there during business hours so it is part of the job to sell in driving rain storms or 105˚F afternoons or, in the case of winter sales, a snowfall.

But in any kind of weather we are darned lucky to have a year round market for our products and the foodies of the greater Oxford, OH area are darned lucky to have a central market to shop for local foods all winter long.

Snow in the Sahara

I heard on the TeeVee newz that it snowed in the Sahara Desert yesterday. First time this has happened in the memory of humankind. Like there are not even any legends that would hint at such an occurrence in the far past.

Climate Change/Global Warming? Yes.

Here at the farm this week we have seen snow, warm sunny days and thunderstorms. If it was March or April I would not be surprised by this kind of weather. We are supposed to have unsettled weather in the spring but not in the depths of winter. in winter we should have lots of high pressure events and lots of cold clear weather. But instead we are about 20 degrees F above average.

This makes me wonder what the spring will be like. If it is this stormy now, we can expect the storms to ramp up much more in the spring. Can you say hail, tornadoes, straight-line winds? Perhaps a late May freeze after several weeks of hot weather.

We will probably be happy that I went nuts and order 3x as much greenhouse plastic as we normally use. Storms with high winds and hail are quite hard on the hoophouse structures. But this kind of weather is even harder on crops and the hoophouses give our crops a lot of protection, even if the hoophouse gets damaged in a storm. and that can mean the difference between success and failure on the farm.

RIP Wilson Pickett

Wilson Pickett died yesterday at the age of 64 of a heart attack. He will be missed by us Boulder Beltians who have an appreciation for good R&B.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why Do They Want to Scare Us?

I don't know why but the locals around here seem to delight in scaring us about this place we call Boulder Belt farm.

Granted, we live on a very busy Federal Highway (approx. 15,000 cars and trucks go by daily) and we are on a bad hill with a nasty curve in it and we knew this when we bought the place. And we could see that deadly accidents are not just possible but probable. but in the act of purchasing this place and moving in we have tried to forget these facts of life.

But the local people we run into find it is their sworn duty to make it clear to us that we live in a really dangerous place. First it was Richard Benge telling us that there are a minimum of two deadly accidents at the 40' pitch each year. than Rick Mowery at the property tax office telling us it is just a matter of time before someone drives through the kitchen (thank gawd the gas line has been disabled as the line goes into the house at the kitchen) and yesterday the UPS guy, who brought us our seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds was telling Eugene how he almost got nailed by a truck hauling a boat the last time he made a delivery out here, to which Eugene told him it was suicidal to make a left hand turn out of the drive. We always go to the right (hear that Rebecca and Dad? TO THE RIGHT) and if we have to go north we go to the right and turn around in the valley on Alexander Road and than head north.

So to those of you who feel it is your duty to point out the dangers of 3257 US Rt 127/living on the 40' pitch-we get it. You do not need to tell us any more horror stories. We ain't moving and we intend to have a successful business out here selling chem. free food and organic farm and garden inputs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

2 Sustainable Ag Confrences

PASA's 15th annual FARMING FOR THE FUTURE Conference

Weaving A Diverse Landscape:

Feb 2,3 & 4 2006
State College, PA

Keynote Speakers include John Ikerd

More information on workshop topics, costs, etc go to PASA CON INFO

The 27th Annual OEFFA Conference

"Health from the Ground Up"

March 4-5, 2006 • Granville, Ohio

  • Nationally recognized keynote speakers Gary Zimmer (soil science) and Jennifer Wilkins (human health)
  • Over 40 individual workshops focused on sustainable agriculture (i.e. market gardening, raising livestock and field crops, soil health, human health, direct marketing, policy issues, specific growing techniques, alternative building strategies, energy, and more)
  • A Friday pre-conference workshop with Gary Zimmer (see below)
  • A kids' conference (ages 6-12) & on-site child care (ages 0-6)
  • Saturday evening readers' theater and contra dance
  • Delicious organic and locally sourced meals
  • An exhibit area full of great resources and networking opportunities
More info at OEFFA.Org

Farm Art Again-3 Photographs

Monday, January 16, 2006

Digging Beds

It's a really nice day today. Sunny temps in the high 40's low 50's. So we spent part of the day opening up garden beds and broad forking one that was opened a couple of months ago but nothing else.

All I can say is my husband is in incredible physical shape. In the time it took me to get 75% of a 50' bed forked he'd opened a whole bed. It is far harder to cut into sod and turn the sod over with a shovel than it is to take a broad fork and loosen the soil in the bed. And yet he managed to open a bed, finish my forking task because I was not in good enough shape to finish the job. And than he went on to open up another bed by hand.

The forking did wipe me out. I have not done anything so physical in about months. It was an hour and a half of hard work jumping on the broad fork to get the tines 12" in the ground and than pulling down on the handle to pop the chunk of soil up. After 10 minutes of that I was sweating good and my heart was pumping hard. By the time I was done I was feeling like I had done some work.

If I can do this a few times a week I oughta be able to broad fork a couple of beds in an hour by the end of February.

By now you must be wondering if we are insane because we are doing a fairly big market garden by hand and we are in our 40's. Probably, but we do this for a reason, Soil is alive and machinery tends to damage the soil. We could buy a tractor or use one of the 2 wheeled BCS tractors we have but frankly the best beds are done by hand, not by machine. Eugene was trying to do this job with the tiller and the tiller did get through the sod but it was also whacking the soil and causing hard pan (a layer of soil that has been packed down so that it does not allow good drainage nor is it easy for roots to penetrate it.) And right now the soil is pretty damp so the machines would either get bogged down in the soil or, far worse, would start destroying the tilth or soil structure.

So we will be spending the next several months picking away at the garden beds and it looks like by spring we should have over 30 ready to go. We have 18 opened as of today

Another GMO article

Rammed Down Our Throats

Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, the best-selling book on genetic engineering, spills the beans to noseweek about the hidden dangers in the foods we eat and the way massive seed and agrichemical corporations such as Monsanto are manipulating governments and science to foist their questionable products on us. South Africa (along with Brazil and India) is one of Monsanto’s key targets.

noseweek: What motivated you to write ‘Seeds of Deception’?
Jeffrey Smith: In addition to having the inside scoop on many of the dangers of GM foods, I was also aware of several scandalous stories about the biotech industry that would make good reading. Scientists were offered bribes or threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted. Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired. Laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the 40 died within two weeks. The crop was approved. When a top scientist tried to alert the public about other alarming discoveries, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit. The warnings of US government scientists were ignored and denied by the Food and Drug Administration, whose policy chief was a former attorney, and later vice president, for Monsanto. A University of California professor claimed he was threatened by a senior Mexican government official who allegedly implied, “We know where your children go to school,” trying to get him to withdraw an incriminating paper from publication. And news reports about GMOs were cancelled due to threats from Monsanto’s attorneys.

I figured that these stories alone would be fascinating to readers. So I weaved the science and facts about the technology into the stories, and the book became the international bestseller on the topic.

What is your interest in Africa?
Many senior African officials I have met at various international conferences have confided that they have been pressurised by the US government and biotech companies, and have little access to the type of information that I have documented. I hope to pierce the biotech myths that advocates propagate, so that the public and Africa’s leaders can make decisions based on facts, not spin.

Scientists representing the biotech industry claim that GM foods have been extensively tested and are safe. They say that anti-GM campaigners like you are unscientific and base their arguments on emotion. Can you comment?A recently published linguistic analysis of biotech advocates concludes what many of us have observed for years. Using unscientific, emotional, and even irrational arguments, GM proponents attack critics as unscientific, emotional and irrational. In reality, critics demand more science, not less. We demand facts, not PR hype.

There are many ways in which a GM food could create toxins, allergens, carcinogens, or nutritional problems. The process of inserting a gene into a DNA can dramatically disrupt the normal genes. One study showed that as many as 5% of the natural genes changed their levels of expression when a single gene was inserted. Genes can get turned off or deleted, switched on permanently, scrambled, duplicated, or relocated. Gene insertion coupled with growing cells from tissue culture, creates hundreds or thousands of mutations throughout the genome. On top of all this, the inserted gene can get mutated, truncated, or blended with the crop’s natural gene code. And it appears that the inserted genes get rearranged over time as well. Any of these changes can create serous problems in themselves, or set in motion a chain of reactions that can lead to problems.

Tragically, the studies conducted on GM crops are not designed to identify the vast majority of possible problems. When scientists understand the dangers involved with GM technology and then discover what studies are actually conducted, they’re shocked. They realize the extent to which consumers are being used as guinea pigs, just so the biotech industry doesn’t have to spend the money doing the proper research. There are fewer than 20 peer-reviewed animal-feeding safety studies. And many of these are industry-funded and clearly rigged to avoid finding problems. No, GM crops are not adequately tested for safety. Part of my work is to bring that to the public’s attention.

In ‘Seeds of Deception’ you cite a study by a leading expert on genetic modification, Dr Arpad Pusztai, which showed that a strain of GM potatoes retarded the growth of rats and damaged their immune systems. But is there any evidence of GM foods harming humans?
First of all, let’s summarize the evidence collected from animals. Pusztai’s government-funded study demonstrated that rats fed a GM potato developed potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, partial atrophy of the liver, and inhibited development of their brains, livers and testicles. Rats fed a GM tomato developed stomach lesions, and seven of 40 died within two weeks. Mice fed GM maize had problems with blood cell formation as well as kidney and liver lesions. Those fed GM soy had problems with liver cell formation, and the livers of rats fed GM canola were heavier. Pigs fed GM maize on several Midwest farms developed false pregnancies, sterility, or gave birth to bags of water. Twelve cows fed GM maize in Germany died mysteriously. And twice the number of chickens died when fed GM maize compared to those fed natural maize.

Remarkably, there have been no human clinical feeding trials, and no post market surveillance of possible health effects in humans. The UK’s Food Standards Agency had asked supermarket executives for the purchasing data from the 20 million consumers using loyalty cards, so they could see if those eating GM had higher rates of cancer, birth defects, or childhood allergies. When the study was made public, the embarrassed government cancelled their plans.

Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50%. Without follow-up tests, we can’t be sure if genetic engineering was the cause, but there are plenty of ways in which genetic manipulation can boost allergies. For example, the most common allergen in soy is called trypsin inhibitor. GM soy contains significantly more of this compared with natural soy.

I have also documented how one epidemic in the 1980s was caused by a brand of the food supplement L-tryptophan, which had been created through genetic modification. The disease killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness or disability in about 5,000–10,000 others. The Food and Drug Administration withheld information from Congress and the public, in an apparent attempt to protect the biotech industry.

If GM foods do affect the human immune system, what are their potential risks in South Africa where we have a high incidence of HIV/AIDS?
If the foods were creating health problems in the population, it might take years or decades before we identified the cause. The L-tryptophan epidemic provides a chilling example. The only reason that doctors were able to identify that an epidemic was occurring, was because the new disease had three simultaneous characteristics: it was rare, acute, and fast acting. Even then it took years to discover and was nearly missed entirely.

If GM foods affect the immune system, which has been shown in animal models, there are numerous ways that could manifest in humans, from mild symptoms to serious diseases. Certainly it could worsen existing diseases or create complications. Since no human studies are conducted, however, we don’t know. It’s best just to avoid eating GM products.

Critics of Monsanto demonise the company, but it has publicly pledged itself to the principles of ‘dialogue, transparency, sharing, sharing in benefits, and respect’. Doesn’t this indicate that their heart is in the right place?
Actions speak louder than words. Consider just a few of the facts about this company:

In 2005, Monsanto paid a $1.5 million fine to the US justice department for giving bribes and questionable payments to at least 140 Indonesian officials, trying to get their cotton approved without an environmental impact study.

Six government scientists testified before the Canadian Senate that a Monsanto official offered them a bribe of $1-2 million, if they approved the company’s GM bovine growth hormone (rbGH) without further study.

Legal threats from Monsanto resulted in the cancellation of a TV news series about rbGH, the cancellation of a book critical of Monsanto, and the shredding of 14,000 issues of a magazine dedicated to exposing Monsanto.

Monsanto’s PR firm created the so-called “Dairy Coalition” in order to pressure major US newspapers to withdraw stories critical of rbGH.

Documents that were stolen from the FDA showed that when Monsanto researchers wanted to show that rbGH didn’t interfere with fertility, they allegedly added cows to the study that were pregnant, prior to injection.

Other researchers supporting rbGH had pasteurized milk 120 times longer than normal and even spiked the milk with huge amounts of powdered hormone, to try to claim that pasteurization destroyed the hormone.

Monsanto omitted incriminating data altogether from their 1996 published study on GM soybeans. When it was later recovered by an investigator, it showed that GM soy contained significantly lower levels of protein and other nutrients, and toasted GM soy meal contained nearly twice the amount of a lectin that may block the body’s ability to assimilate other nutrients. Furthermore, the toasted GM soy contained as much as seven times the amount of trypsin inhibitor, a major soy allergen. Monsanto named their study, “The composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans.”

In the feeding portion of the same study, they fed mature animals instead of the more sensitive young ones, diluted their GM soy with non-GM protein 10- or 12–fold, used too much protein, and never weighed the organs or examined them under a microscope. These and other flaws have made it the subject of peer-reviewed critiques, which exposed how GM food studies are designed in such a way as to overlook detection of even significant problems.

In July 1999, independent researchers published a study showing that GM soy contains 12-14% less cancer-fighting phytoestrogens. Monsanto responded with its own study, concluding that soy’s phytoestrogen levels vary too much to even carry out a statistical analysis. Researchers failed to disclose, however, that they had instructed the laboratory to use an obsolete method of detection – one that had been prone to highly variable results.

Documents made public from a lawsuit revealed that FDA policy on GM foods was deceitful. The policy claimed that the agency was not aware of any meaningful or uniform differences between GM and non-GM foods, and therefore did not require any safety studies. The disclosed memos showed, however, that the overwhelming consensus among the FDA’s own scientists was that GM crops were significantly different, and that they urged their superiors to require long term safety testing due to the possible presence of unpredictable toxins, allergens and new diseases. The person in charge of policy at the FDA who apparently ignored the scientists was Monsanto’s former attorney. He later became Monsanto’s vice president.

One FDA scientist arbitrarily increased the allowable levels of antibiotics in milk 100-fold, in order to facilitate the approval of Monsanto’s rbGH. She had just arrived at the FDA from Monsanto.

Monsanto consistently reported increased yields on GM soy, canola and cotton, whereas independent studies show decreases. For example, scientists published a study demonstrating a nearly 80% increase in Indian cotton yields based only on test plot data supplied to them by Monsanto. In May, 2005, however, a study by the government of Andrah Pradesh found a decrease of about 18%. When they told Monsanto to pay about US$10 million compensation to the farmers, the corporation refused and was kicked out of the state altogether.

Monsanto has a long history of wrongdoings. They had claimed PCBs were safe, DDT was safe, Agent Orange was safe. They were wrong. In fact, court documents revealed that the company withheld evidence about the safety of their PCBs to the residents of the town that was being poisoned by their factory. On February 22, 2002, a court found Monsanto guilty of negligence, wantonness, suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass, and outrage. Outrage, according to Alabama law, usually requires conduct “so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society.”

Monsanto’s detractors criticize the fact that the company has patented seeds and other genetic material. Surely they are entitled to protect their intellectual property, just like any other inventor?
There is enormous controversy about patents on life. Further, many believe that patenting genes is more about discovery than invention, and is therefore privatizing what should remain in the public commons. It’s also interesting how Monsanto chooses to enforce its patents. They have sued 150 farmers in North America and received more than $15 million in judgments. In one case, they sued a farmer who had the company’s seeds blow onto his land from a nearby farm and by passing trucks.

Have Monsanto ever tried to silence you?
Because my book is now influencing policy in many regions, I occasionally hear criticism from biotech advocates who try to dismiss the book as a whole. They don’t challenge specific details, however, since the book is carefully documented and has been through a thorough review by many senior scientists.

The website says that ‘there are exhaustive tests to ensure that any genetic change in a foodstuff does not increase the allergenicity of the food.’ If GM food is as questionable as you say, why have US regulatory authorities allowed products that contain GM material onto supermarket shelves?
The FDA’s own scientist Carl Johnson wrote in a memo, “Are we asking the crop developer to prove that food from his crop is non-allergenic? This seems like an impossible task.” It is impossible to guarantee that a GM crop isn’t an allergen. People tend to develop allergies after being exposed to a substance over time. But the proteins newly introduced into GM crops typically come from bacteria and have never before existed in the human diet.

The World Health Organization developed a list of criteria designed to minimize the likelihood that a foreign protein from a GM crop will be allergenic. Unfortunately, the GM soy, maize, and papaya already on the market fail those criteria.

In addition, the process of gene insertion can disrupt the DNA and increase a known allergen or create a new unknown allergen.

Not only is there no comprehensive allergy testing before GM foods are released, remarkably there is no post market surveillance. When it was revealed that soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% after GM soy was introduced into the UK, it’s simply amazing that no follow up studies were conducted to see if GM soy was more allergenic.

You are clearly concerned about the way GM foods are being developed and marketed, but do you think the technology has any potential benefits?
The current technology used in GM crops on the market is based on science that is 40 years old. Many of the key assumptions used as the basis for safety claims have been overturned. We know very little about how the DNA functions, and our paradigms are being shifted every few months with new discoveries. I am not against DNA research. And perhaps in the future we can safely manipulate genes for crops or food. But at this stage, it is irresponsible to feed the products of this infant science to millions of people or release them into the environment where they can never be recalled.

My focus, by the way, is not on medical uses of biotechnology, which has an entirely different equation of risk versus benefit.

South Africa has authorized the growing of GM maize for human consumption. Do you know the nature of this modification? What is its intended outcome? The primary trait added to GM corn is the insertion of a gene that creates the Bt-toxin, which is a pesticide. The industry claims that Bt is safe, since it has been used in an organic pesticide for years. This is utter nonsense.

The GM Bt-toxin is engineered to be far more toxic than the natural spray

We are the only country in the world where a GM staple food has been authorized. How will this affect people where 80-90% of their diet consists of maize meal and fresh maize on the cob?
The GM Bt-toxin in maize is hundreds or even a thousand times more concentrated than the spray

The spray degrades in the sunlight in a few days, but the GM variety is produced by every cell of the maize, around the clock, and eaten by the consumer.

Mice exposed to Bt-toxin developed an immune response equal to that of cholera toxin, developed a greater susceptibility to allergies, and developed abnormal and excessive cell growth in their small intestines. Farm workers exposed to even the low dose Bt spray showed evidence of allergic sensitivity, and blood tests showed an immune response. Preliminary evidence found that thirty-nine Philippinos living next to a Bt maize field developed skin, intestinal, and respiratory reactions while the maize was pollinating. Tests of their blood also showed an immune response to the Bt. The only human feeding study ever conducted showed that genes inserted into GM soy actually transferred into gut bacteria. Imagine if the gene that produces the Bt-toxin were to transfer from the maize we eat into our gut bacteria. It could theoretically transform our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories.

In the US, we eat only 3-5% of our caloric intake as maize. I dread to think what might happen to those eating GM maize as the majority of their diet. Some farmers who fed 100% GM corn to their livestock had catastrophes. Twelve cows died on a German farm. And about 25 farmers in North America say their pigs became sterile or had false pregnancies, or gave birth to bags of water.

In the US, GM potatoes were withdrawn from the market due to consumer pressure, but in South Africathe Agricultural Research Council with additional funding from USAID are fast-tracking GM potatoes, ostensibly to benefit resource-poor small farmers. Will GM crops benefit Africa’s poor and starving?
The US decided to fast track GM food in 1992, because the Council on Competitiveness identified it as a promising area for increasing US exports and gaining control over the lucrative food supply. USAID has been trying to implement the US agenda in Africa, and many believe that they consciously use contamination as a means to promote acceptance of GM. In fact, University of Washington professor Phil Bereano reported in the Seattle Times in 2002 that Emmy Simmons, assistant administrator of USAID, “said to me after the cameras stopped rolling on a vigorous debate we had on South African TV, ‘In four years, enough GE [genetically engineered] crops will have been planted in South Africa that the pollen will have contaminated the entire continent.’”

There are many safe, sustainable, and life-supporting technologies that can benefit Africa’s poor and starving. Perhaps genetic engineering technology will progress to the point someday that it can also be a worthy candidate. But in its current version, I say, “Run away.”

There is an interesting feature about GM potatoes that makes them potentially more dangerous than most other GM crops. We know that the process of gene insertion combined with tissue culture typically results in hundreds or thousands of mutations throughout the genome. Many of these mutations can be corrected through the process of outcrossing – mating the GM crop with non-GM crops. Potatoes are not propagated through outcrossing, and the massive number of mutations created from the transformation process may theoretically remain intact in the GM potatoes on the market. Scientists typically don’t identify the genome-wide mutations before putting GM crops onto the market. It’s a form of gambling with every bite.

South Africa, along with the US, is one of the very few countries in the world that allow the use of genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) on its dairy cows. Is drinking milk from cows injected with rBGH safe?
There are a few known differences between milk from cows injected with rbGH and natural milk. Typically, rbGH milk has more pus, due to increased infections, more antibiotics, used to treat the infections, and more bovine growth hormone.

The hormone level that most critics are concerned about, however, is insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). Natural milk contains IGF-1. Milk drinkers increase their levels of IGF-1. Studies suggest that pre-menopausal women under 50 with high levels of IGF-1 are seven times more likely to develop breast cancer. Men are four times more likely to develop prostate cancer. IGF-1 is also implicated in lung and colon cancer. Milk from cows treated with rbGH has significantly higher levels of IGF-1. (No comprehensive study has yet evaluated a direct link between rbGH and human cancer.)

Up to 30% of the soya grown in SA is GM. Soya is used as a protein source by many poor people and in infant formulas. It is also routinely fed to prisoners and mineworkers. What are the implications?
In addition to all that was said above, we know that:

GM soy has sections of its DNA that were scrambled during the gene insertion process. These might result in the creation of toxins, allergens, anti-nutrients, etc.

We know that the inserted gene appears to be unstable and can rearrange over time. This means that it will create a protein that was never intended or tested, and may be a toxin, etc.

The protein it was designed to create has two sections that are identical to known allergens, and therefore might cause dangerous allergic reactions.

Since the inserted gene transfers to gut bacteria, even if you stop eating GM soy for the rest of your life, you still might have this foreign protein being created inside of your intestines.

The promoter, which is inserted into soy to activate the foreign gene, also transfers to gut bacteria, and may switch on one of the bacterium’s genes at random. And this could create a problem.

These are only a few of the reasons why people should just say no to GM soy.

Science is supposedly objective, yet many university academics defend the use of GM crops while others condemn their introduction vigorously. Why?
What may come as a shock to people is the extent to which science is no longer independent and objective. Studies show that the source of funds has a lot to do with the research outcome. Industry-funded studies favour industry’s products. Many scientists admit to making changes in their findings to suit funders. In the field of plant biotech, practically all jobs are funded directly or indirectly by industry. We know of many examples of scientist who lost their jobs, or were threatened or penalized, after expressing concerns about GM products. Attacks on scientists can get quite vicious. As a result, those scientists who still dare to challenge biotechnology are often of retirement age and feel less vulnerable.

So-called independent panels and committees are often stacked with industry representatives. This is part of the industry’s plan, as revealed in leaked documents. They have been remarkably successful at this.

As the technology flounders, revealing how unsafe and unpredictable it is, the industry promotes their biotech myths more vigorously. It appears that they are trying to prop up the image of the technology so they can recoup their investment before the public and the regulators figure out what’s really going on.

Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods by Jeffrey Smith is published by Yes! Books. His website is at


Jeffrey Smith has studied the issues around genetic modification for nearly 10 years. He has lectured on the subject, consulted with a nonprofit group trying to get GM foods labelled, run for US Congress to raise the public awareness about the issues, worked as the vice president for marketing communications at a genetically modified organism (GMO) detection laboratory, and has extensively interviewed scientists and experts worldwide. Over the past two years, he has toured more than 150 cities on five continents, debated with scientists, testified before various government committees, and interviewed activists, scientists, politicians, and farmers. He collaborates with numerous scientists on a monthly syndicated column and is preparing material for two more books on GMOs.


On May 23, 2003, President Bush proposed an Initiative to End Hunger in Africa using genetically modified (GM) foods. He also blamed Europe’s “unfounded, unscientific fears” of these foods for hindering efforts to end hunger. Bush was convinced that GM foods held the key to greater yields, expanded US exports, and a better world. His rhetoric was not new. It had been passed on from president to president, and delivered to the American people through regular news reports and industry advertisement.

The message was part of a master plan that had been crafted by corporations determined to control the world’s food supply. This was made clear at a biotech industry conference in January 1999, where a representative from Arthur Andersen Consulting Group explained how his company had helped Monsanto create that plan. First, they asked Monsanto what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. Monsanto executives described a world with 100% of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Andersen Consulting then worked backward from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.

Integral to the plan was Monsanto’s influence in government, whose role was to promote the technology worldwide and to help get the foods into the marketplace quickly, before resistance could get in the way. A biotech consultant later said, ‘The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender’.

From: Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith

Spilling the Beans is a monthly column available at Publishers and webmasters may offer this article or monthly series to your readers at no charge, by emailing Individuals may read the column each month by subscribing to a free newsletter at

© Copyright 2005 by Jeffrey M. Smith. noseweek has granted permission to reproduce this in whole or in part, by acknowledging them as the source. For commercial use in South Africa, please check with us first.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

It Is Not Winter

I don't care that it says January 16th on the calender it is not winter!
We have had 2 thunderstorms this month and zero snow. The temps have been about 20˚F to 30˚F above normal most of the month. More like march than January.

And this means that it is easier to get the winter projects done. We have 235 beds planned for the top field and now have 15 opened up (and 5 planted).

This shed like structure tacked on to the back of the barn (the building in the middle directly behind the canoe) that needs to come down. Eugene is planning on turning that into a greenhouse using windows he has collected over the past 10 years and lumber he has found around the farm.

We have a store front to get into shape before mid April. Right now a wall is being built of found objects which turning into a nice project. I decided we needed to break up the space and have some sort of storage/packing area so this is why a wall is being built. The place also needs some serious drywall repair, molding replaced and painting.

We need chicken housing if we are to have layers. Chicken tractors are fine for the meat birds but hens have special needs such as nesting boxes and a year round home that is tight and dry and predator proof. Chicken tractors cannot do these things but a permanent coop can. So a chicken coop is on the list of projects. We are fortunate to have some sort of feed bin to cannibilize sitting in the area we have already named "The Chicken Area". May have to have another chicken coop raising party in the very near future. We had a coop raising about 8 years ago at the old farm and it went extremely well. The coop is still there and in very good condition, though I suppose that will change if no one uses and maintains the structure. Or uses it hard and puts it away wet, if you will.

We have seeds ordered and on the way and that means we will soon be starting seeds for the market garden. I do most of the seed starting and care of the seedlings. I expect the unexpected this year as the set up is brand new and untested. The plan is to grow the seedlings in the barn in the room off the south end of the barn. It has heat and good southern light to supplement the artificial light. The only problem is we are using the place now as a root cellar. The squash, carrots, onions, etc., will not tolerate the temps this room will need to be so they will have to be moved somewhere else and where that is has not been discovered yet.

And that leads to the root cellar we need to build before next winter so we do not have this conflict again. Right now the plan is to build one into the side of the hill.

More proof it is not January, the perennial flowers are poking out of the ground. I have seen peonies, daffodils, lilies and thistle coming already. I do not worry about these things breaking dormancy too early as they generally survive easily any cold weather that comes after beaking dormancy. I assume the garlic is pushing up greens too but I have not looked under a row cover to check.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

There's a magazine for everything

Yesterday we went into town to pick up the mail at the post office and among other things there was Spudman: The Voice of the Potato Industry, vol. 44 issue 1. A magazine devoted to the potato. And it's been around for a while, this is not their first year, no it is the 44th year. Older than me.

This issue covers potatoes in Alaska (Long days make up for short seasons), an article on the Idaho Potato Conference, articles on marketing, farm profiles, etc.. Lots to talk about in the tater world. Oh, and the potato council is attempting to make the lowly spud fun by using a Mr Potato Head™ theme for their marketing this year.

While we do grow potatoes, it is on a small scale, maybe 1000 pounds a year. This publication is geared towards farms that produce thousands ofd tons per year and grow on hundreds to thousands of acres. So I don't think I will take them up on the free subscription offer.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

WTF? Cook's Illustrated Recycles Old Articles Now?

My father got me a subscription to Cook's Illustrated, a nice magazine full of recipes, hints, equipment and food recomendations and no ads. It is a well done periodical that I used to have a subscription to about 3 years ago. I think I subscribed for about 7 years and I have not thrown away any issues because they are full of recipes I may use some time in life.

Okay. So my dad gets me a subscription for christmas and I get the first issue this week. At first I did not notice anything awry with the magazine until I got out several old issues to find a couple of recipes for dinner last night (ended up using a recipe for chocolate pudding cake YUM!)and noticed one of the old issues not only had the same cover but also the exact same review about bittersweet chocolate.


So the next thing I do is get out more old copies of Cook's and find a Creme Brulee recipe in one of the old issues that is in this current issue (but with different titles). I did not get into my main stash of Cook's Illustrated to see if all the articles and reviews in this newest issue are from the past but it would not surprise me at all.

I also noticed that this new issue did not have any date on the cover nor the inside page so maybe this is a "best of" promo issue. though why would I be getting a promo issue when I have a paid subscription.

I guess it is time to contact Cook's Illustrated and find out what is going on. I really don't need the magazine at all, if all it is doing now is recycling from old issues which I already possess

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Funny Pics

Navin up close and personal, but you can't google him or find him on Yahoo. He sometimes acts like a yahoo, though

Nate in his fave position. Lying on his back open for business hoping for a belly rub but not amoxil (which I am very allergic to BTW)

Actual and Virtual Farmwork

because the weather is so unseasonbly mild I have been doing farmwork today, both actual and virtual. The morning was spent doing actual work. Picked up fluff from some sort of camping gear (a sleeping bag probably) that was becoming a part of the soil. It was a muddy and somewhat unpleasent job and it is only partly done as the fluff ran under a pile of lumber that is partly under a pile of dirt so some serious excavation must be done before that job can be completed. I also got rid of a cattle rub the dog, Nate, had chewed through a couple of months ago causing a lot of chemical soaked yarn stuff to spill out of the rub tube. Eugene put the remains in a small ditch and today I put it all in a trash bag and got it off the ground. I just hope I did not get a good dose of organophosphates from cleaning the stuff up.

We moved one of the cold frames up behind the store front under the apple trees on some nice black soil with the intentions of planting onion seed in the ground there for spring transplanting. Onions are one of the few seeds that will germinate in cold soils but even so we have to wait a week or so before planting in order to give the ground within the cold frame a chance to warm up a few degrees.

Before moving the cold frame I helped Eugene move a pile of lumber from behind the store front to in front of the barn. A lot of wood was left here and we are in the process of seeing what is useful, what is suited only for burning. I'd say after several months of steady work on this project it is about 2/3 done.

After the actual farm work was done I realized it is high time to start marketing the CSA for this year and that meant composing an email (which is about 3/4 of the way done) and because of the email I realised the CSA webpage needed updating to include a membership fee for joining the CSA, a listing of days of operation, when we will be starting (mid May)and the weeks we will be running (through November at least, maybe longer. Really depends on the weather).

So I spent several hours this afternoon modifying the CSA webpage's content and layout. I think I did an okay job but if you find mistakes or anything that is unclear let me know in the comments. Now I am off to update my Local Harvest CSA listing. Again take a look and tell me what you think.

Monday, January 09, 2006

GMO issues

here are two items that have come my way the past two days about Genetically modified Crops. Both items are pretty scary and I hope you will learn a thing or two as to why GMO crops are a very very bad idea. one other thing, both articles imply that ALL crops have a GMO counterpart, not true. Most fruits and vegetables do not have a GMO counter part but with Monsanto's recent acquisition of Semenis seeds (formerly the 3rd largest seed comany in the world) this will likely change as the biggest manufacturer of GMO crops and seeds now has an addition 10,000 or so seed varieties to monkey around with.

January 7 / 8, 2006

The Global Spread of GMO Crops
Inherit the Wind

Felix Ballarin spent 15 years of his life developing a special
organically-grown variety of red corn. It would bring a high price
on the market because local chicken farmers said the red color lent
a rosy hue to the meat and eggs from their corn-fed chickens. But
when the corn emerged from the ground last year, yellow kernels were
mixed with the red. Government officials later confirmed with DNA
tests that Mr. Ballarin's crop had become contaminated with a
genetically modified (GMO) strain of corn.

Because Mr. Ballarin's crop was genetically contaminated, it no
longer qualified as "organically grown," so it no longer brought a
premium price. Mr. Ballarin's 15-year investment was destroyed
overnight by what is now commonly known as "genetic contamination."
This is a new phenomenon, less then 10 years old -- but destined to
be a permanent part of the brave new world that is being cobbled
together as we speak by a handful of corporations whose goal is
global domination of food.

Mr. Ballarin lives in Spain, but the story is the same all over the
world: genetically modified crops are invading fields close by (and
some that are not so close by), contaminating both the organic food
industry and the "conventional" (non-GMO and non-organic) food

As a result of genetically contamination of non-GMO crops in Europe,
the U.S., Mexico, Australia and South America, the biotech food
industry had an upbeat year in 2005 and things are definitely
looking good for the future. As genetically modified pollen from
their crops blows around, contaminating nearby fields, objections to
genetically modified crops diminish because non-GMO alternatives
become harder and harder to find. A few more years of this and there
may not be many (if any) truly non-GMO crops left anywhere. At that
point there won't be any debate about whether to allow GMO-crops to
be grown here or there -- no one will have any choice. All the crops
in the world will be genetically modified (except perhaps for a few
grown in greenhouses on a tiny scale). At that point, GMO will have
contaminated essentially the entire planet, and the companies that
own the patents on the GMO seeds will be sitting in the catbird seat.

It is now widely acknowledged that GMO crops are a "leaky
technology" -- that it to say, genetically modified pollen is spread
naturally on the wind, by insects, and by humans. No one except
perhaps some officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were
actually surprised to learn this. GMO proponents have insisted for a
decade that genetic contamination could never happen (wink, wink)
and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials want along with the
gag. And so of course GMO crops are now spreading everywhere by
natural means, just as you would expect.

It couldn't have turned out better for the GMO crop companies if
they had planned it this way.

Growers of organically-grown and conventional crops are naturally
concerned that genetic contamination is hurting acceptance of their
products. Three California counties have banned GM crops. Anheuser-
Busch Co., the beer giant, has demanded that its home state
(Missouri) keep GMO rice fields 120 miles away from rice it buys to
make beer. The European Union is now trying to establish buffer
zones meant to halt the unwanted spread of GM crops. However, the
Wall Street Journal reported November 8 that, "Such moves to
restrict the spread of GM crops often are ineffective. Last month in
Australia, government experts discovered biotech canola genes in two
non-GM varieties despite a ban covering half the
country. 'Regretfully, the GM companies appear unable to contain
their product," said Kim Chance, agriculture minister for the state
of Western Australia, on the agency's Web site.

For some, this seems to come as a shocking revelation -- genetically
modified pollen released into the natural environment spreads long
distances on the wind. Who would have thought? Actually, almost
anyone could have figured this out. Dust from wind storms in China
contaminates the air in the U.S. Smoke from fires in Indonesia can
be measured in the air half-way around the world. Pollen is
measurable in the deep ice of antarctica. No one should ever have
harbored any doubt that genetically modified pollen would spread
everywhere on the Earth sooner or later. (We are now exactly 10
years into the global experiment with GMO seeds. The first crops
were planted in open fields in the U.S. in 1995. From this meager
beginning, global genetic contamination is now well along.)

Who benefits from all this? Think of it this way: when all crops on
earth are genetically contaminated, then the seed companies that own
the patented seeds will be in a good position to begin enforcing
their patent rights. They have already taken a test case to court
and won. In 2004, Monsanto (the St. Louis, Mo. chemical giant) won a
seven-year court battle against a 73-year-old Saskatchewan farmer
whose fields had been contaminated by Monsanto's genetically
modified plants. The Supreme Court of Canada court ruled that the
farmer -- a fellow named Percy Schmeiser -- owed Monsanto damages
for having Monsanto's patented crops growing illegally in his field.

Armed with this legal precedent, after genetically modified crops
have drifted far and wide, Monsanto, Dow and the other GMO seed
producers will be in a position to muscle most of the world's
farmers. It is for cases exactly like this that the U.S. has spent
30 years creating the WTO (world trade organization) -- to settle
disputes over "intellectual property rights" (such as patents) in
secret tribunals held in Geneva, Switzerland behind closed doors
without any impartial observers allowed to attend. Even the results
of WTO tribunals are secret, unless the parties involved choose to
reveal them. Let me see -- a dirt farmer from India versus Monsanto
and Dow backed by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Treasury.
I'm struggling to predict who might win such a politico- legal
dispute conducted by a secret tribunal in Geneva, Switzerland.

During 2005, it was discovered that GMO crops have not lived up to
their initial promise of huge profits for farmers and huge benefits
for consumers. It was also discovered that the U.S. Department of
Agriculture has not enforced its own strict regulations that were
intended to prevent experimental GMO seeds to accidentally
contaminating nearby fields. GMO crops were supposed to produce
important human health benefits - and the be developed under super-
strict government control - but all these promises have turned out
to be just so much eye wash.. GMOs were supposed to reduce reliance
on dangerous pesticides -- but in fact they have had the opposite
effect. Monsanto's first GMO crops were designed to withstand
drenching in Monsanto's most profitable product, the weed killer
Round-Up -- so farmers who buy Monsanto's patented "Round- up ready"
seeds apply more, not less, weed killer.

But so what? Who cares if GMO seeds don't provide any of the
benefits that were promised? Certainly not the seed companies.
Perhaps benefits to the people of the world were never the point.
Perhaps the point was to get those first GMO crops in the ground --
promise them the moon! -- and then allow nature to take its course
and contaminate the rest of the planet with patented pollen. The
intellectual property lawsuits will come along in good time.
Patience, dear reader, patience. Unlike people, corporations cannot
die, so our children or our grandchildren may find themselves held
in thrall by two or three corporations that have seized legal
control of much of the world's food supply by getting courts (backed
by the threat of force, as all courts ultimately are) to enforce
their intellectual property rights.

The Danish government has passed a law intended to slow the pace of
genetic contamination. The Danes will compensate farmers whose
fields have become contaminated, then the Danish government will
seek recompense from the farmer whose field originated the genetic
contamination, assuming the culprit can be pinpointed. This may slow
the spread of genetic contamination, but the law is clearly not
designed to end the problem.

Yes, it has been a good year for the GMO industry. None of the
stated benefits of their products have materialized -- and the U.S.
government regulatory system has been revealed as a sham -- but
enormous benefits to the few GMO corporations are right on track to
begin blossoming. For Monsanto, Dow and Novartis, a decent shot at
gaining control over much of the world's food supply is now blowing
on the wind and there's no turning back. As the Vice-President of
plant genetics for Dow Agrosciences said recently, "There will be
come continuing bumps in the road, but we are starting to see a
balance of very good news and growth. The genie is way out of the

Peter Montague is editor of the indispensable Rachel's Health and
Democracy, where this essay originally appeared. He can be reached

And here is another story about how GMO may well be poisonous to mammals (sweet!, yet another reason to find non contaminated sources of food. Boulder belt grows and sells such)

The Independent 8 Jan 2005
GM: New study shows unborn babies could be
harmed Mortality rate for new-born rats six times higher when mother was fed on a diet of modified soya
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 08 January 2006

Women who eat GM foods while pregnant risk endangering their unborn
babies, startling new research suggests.
The study - carried out by a leading scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences - found that more than half of the offspring of rats fed on modified soya died in the first three weeks of life, six times as many as those born to mothers with normal diets. Six times as many were also severely underweight. The research - which is being prepared for publication - is just one of a clutch
of recent studies that are reviving fears that GM food damages human health.

Italian research has found that modified soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice. Australia had to abandon a decade-long attempt to develop modified peas when an official study found they caused lung damage. And last May this newspaper revealed a secret report by the biotech giant Monsanto, which showed that rats fed a diet rich in GM corn had smaller kidneys and higher blood cell counts, suggesting possible damage to their immune systems, than those that ate a similar conventional one.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation held a workshop on the safety of genetically modified foods at its Rome headquarters late last year. The workshop was addressed by scientists whose research had raised concerns about health dangers. But the World Trade Organisation is expected next month to support a bid by the Bush administration to force European countries to accept GM foods. The Russian research threatens to have an explosive effect on already hostile public opinion. Carried out by Dr Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is believed to be the first to look at the effects of GM food on the unborn. The scientist added flour from a GM soya bean - produced by Monsanto to be
resistant to its pesticide, Roundup - to the food of female rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soyaand a third group was given no soya at all.

She found that 36 per cent of the young of the rats fed the modified soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 per cent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 per cent of those born to mothers on the GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 per cent of the young of those
given no soya at all.