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Friday, June 29, 2007

Keep NAIS Out of he 2007 Farm Bill

Tell Congress To Keep National Animal Identification Out of Farm Bill

The industrial agriculture companies have been pushing for a National Animal Identification System (NAIS) for several years. The proposed NAIS program would require every person who owns even one livestock animal, right down to a single chicken or a pet horse, to register their property with the federal government, identify each animal (in most cases with microchips or other electronic identification), and report their movements to a database. This program would impose particularly heavy burdens on sustainable farmers raising animals on pasture because of the labor and costs. As a result, it would reduce the availability of organic and grass-fed products, and raise prices.

Because of the grassroots opposition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has limited NAIS to a voluntary program at the federal level (although some states have been more aggressive). But now the House Committee on Agriculture is considering a provision in the massive 2007 Farm Bill that would implement NAIS as part of the Country of Origin Labeling. The House Committee on Agriculture will vote on the bill July 12, so time is of the essence. Please contact them immediately, and tell them you want them to strip Section 121 from the Farm Bill and NOT to include NAIS! The Senate Committee on Agriculture will start working on its version of Farm Bill shortly as well, so we need to send them the same message.

(Scroll to bottom of this page to send letter to Congress)

Please also leave a short message for the following lawmakers if you are from their state. Your message can be as simple as "Say 'No' to NAIS and 'Yes' to COOL".

Blanche Lincoln (AR), (p) 202-224-4843, (f) 202-228-1371 Ken Salazar (CO), (p) 202-224-5852, (f) 202-228-5036 Saxby Chambliss (GA), (p) 202-224-3521, (f) 202-224-0103 Mike Crapo (ID), (p) 202-224-6142, (f) 202-228-1375 Tom Harkin (IA), (p) 202-224-3254, (f) 202-224-9369 Charles Grassley (IA), (p) 202-224-3744, (f) 515-288-5097 Richard Lugar (IN), (p) 202-224-4814, (f) 202-228-0360 Pat Roberts (KS), (p) 202-224-4774, (f) 202-224-3514 Mitch McConnell (KY), (p) 202-224-2541, (f) 202-224-2499 Debbie Stabenow (MI), (p) 202-224-4822 Norm Coleman (MN), (p) 202-224-5641, (f) 202-224-1152 Amy Klobuchar (MN), (p) 202-224-3244 Thad Cochran (MS), (p) 202-224-5054 Max Baucus (MT), (p) 202-224-2651, (f) 202-224-0515 E. Banjamin Nelson (NE), (p) 202-224-6551, (f) 202-228-0012 Kent Conrad (ND), (p) 202-224-2043, (f) 202-224-7776 Sherrod Brown (OH), (p): 202-224-2315, (f) 202-228-6321 Robert Casey, Jr. (PA), (p): 202-224-6324, (f) 202-228-0604 Lindsey Graham (SC), (p) 202-224-5972 John Thune (SD), (p) 202-224-2321, (f) 202-228-5429 Patrick Leahy (VT), (p) 202-224-4242

Ding Dong The Fridge is Dead

Eugene found the 30 year old fridge in the house (NOT to be confused with the 3 door commercial fridge) DOA yesterday at lunch. It had been acting funky for about 2 months. Doing things like flooding the bottom shelf with water, cutting off in the night and souring the milk, etc.. So we have known for a while that sooner than later it was gonna die. We even tried to get the fridge sitting in Eugene's mother's house which is for sale but apparently it is written into the selling contract that the fridge stays with the house.

So at lunch the unit finally gives up the ghost. Okay it was several hours before lunch possibly 12 hours before lunch as all the items in the freezer were pretty much thawed. So I tossed all the half thawed freezer items into one of our chest freezers and grabbed a cooler and an ice pack from the store and put all the highly perishables like milk, cream, etc., in that, ate lunch than took the stuff in the cooler out to the 3 door commercial fridge. Lucky we have such a nice fridge that really should not have household items in it but I would consider this a bit of an emergency so for the next 48 hours or so it will be cooling our food and produce for market.

After I closed the farm sore up for the evening at 7pm (really 6:30 because it was raining and I figured we were not going to get anyone else coming in to buy produce or pastured poultry) we drove into Richmond to HH Gregg's and bought a new fridge. For years I have wanted a home fridge that had no freezer box with it. I have 2 chest freezers and do not need the small freezer unit. I have long thought the tiny freezers associated with most home fridge units were stupid-too small for much of anything but ice and the freezer is often the cause of a home fridge breaking down. Working in a lot of commercial kitchens over the years I have noted that commercial fridges never have freezers tacked on to them. Freezers are always separate units and I have wondered for years why they do not make a home fridge that has no freezer.

Guess what, Frigidaire does. While discussing our refrigeration options with Jeff at HH Gregg's-we wanted something fairly cheap, under $500, but nothing less than 18.2 cubic feet of space (this includes freezer space) we noticed a fridge that did not have a freezer door. It also did not have a price so we asked Jeff to find out what it cost ($549). Jeff said since everything was on sale this week it was marked down to $469 and change. Eugene asked if he could give us a beer deal on he uni and we got he price down to $439 and I now own a fridge with no freezer-Woo Hoo!

We can pick it up today if we have time. Since tomorrow is a market day we will likely be busy harvesting most of the day. Than again, there really isn't all that much to harvest as we are in our early summer lull. We are done with most of the spring crops like lettuce and the labor intensive beans, tomatoes, peppers, melons, onions, garlic, etc., have not started to come in yet. And it's raining.

At any rate, sometime before Sunday we will have a brand new freezerless fridge in the house and I am quite excited!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Strawberries, irrigation, dogs and rain

We got some rain this evening.

Saw on the TeeVee weather radar at 6pm a storm was headed our way. So around 6:30pm I went out to the garden to pick strawberries so we would have some tomorrow for the farm store. My friend Marge stopped by the farmers market Tuesday evening to ask if we would have any Wednesday or Thursday. I told her I would have some Thursday and to drop by. So I had to have something picked before the rain set in. I hate reneging on an order

I got 10 pints so all is good. It is funny how darkening skies and rising winds really speed up one's picking time. I think I took me about 20 minutes or so to do the first two rows (7 pints) and about 5 minutes to get the 3rd row picked (3 pints) as the rain was bearing down on me. But I got the berries picked and inside and almost got the laundry off the line before the first drops hit the dirt.

As I write I hear Nate running around the back yard barking at distant thunder. He is so weird about storms. He is very much bothered by them but instead of cowering he wants to fight them and run them off (and in the end always succeeds in chasing the things away) . It gives him something to do. The other two dogs, Arlo and Danny, are lying beside me happy to be in out of the rain but not at all bothered by it.

I am happy to say this is not the first rain we have had in the past week. Last Friday we got .4 inches and Saturday and Sunday we got another couple of 10ths. Tomorrow we are supposed to get around an inch. I believe this is because Eugene has finally gotten the irrigation system 100% complete as of yesterday afternoon. In the past when we have had dreadfully dry weather, within 24 hours of getting the irrigation system set up, the rains always come. And this year seems to be no exception.

Monday, June 25, 2007

On Onions

I realize I have not written much of anything about the farm in quite a while-poor form for a farm blog.

Well, okay than.

We have reached he longest day of the year and that means our onions are growing as fast as they can. I find onions to be one of the most amazing plants we grow. For months they just sit around looking much like well spaced blades of grass. Than suddenly when the days reach around 14 hours of daylight they suddenly start growing. First it is the greens that one day resemble blades of grass and the next look like diminutive onions and within a week are robust onion greens. When the days reach 14.5 hours of day light the onions start to make onion bulbs and when we hit the summer solstice the bulb growth goes into overdrive for about 3 to 4 weeks. Finally, the greens fall over signalling the end of the bulb's growth and they are ready for harvest in mid July to early August.

We have some heirlooms called Ailsa Craig Exhibition onions that are growing the fastest of all 9 or 10 varieties we are growing this year. These onions, if given enough room and time, can grow to over 3 pounds in size. They were developed for produce showing. When showing onions size does indeed matter, a lot. Mos of he Ailsa Craigs we planted back in April are spaced for eating/selling (they won't get to be more than a pound) as they are a wonderful sweet onion. But I have a few of these onions that have been given a lot of room to see if I can get a couple of 2+ pounders. So far they are 3x bigger than any other onion on the farm. Shame I did not enter them in the county fair this year

I have been tempted to pull them as they are already eating size but that would defeat their purpose as being grown for size. They are probably only a 1/2 pound each at this point. I just have to be patient no matter how badly I want to eat a fresh sweet onion from our farm. For now, I will have to make do with onions from Harv Roehling's farm south of Oxford. They are local and organic and quite good. Still, they are not grown by us Boldarians (as our friend Rockhead likes to call us). We do have scallions coming in. Not good for cooking but great in salads of all stripes.

In a couple of weeks (or less) we should have some onions big enough to pull

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Boulder Belt is in Ohio Dammit

I was googling myself, really Boulder Belt Eco-Farm, and found BBEF is listed on a Boulder Colorado site as a local farm. They had a link to my Local Harvest store but not this blog or my farm website. This explains why, in the past several months, I have gotten the occasional call from Boulder, CO wanting local food or, in one case, a guy wanting to sell me plastic to package chickens in.

In the past, many people have assumed Eugene and I are from Boulder because of our farm's name, we are not. Neither of us has even visited the state of Colorado. I do not know why it is so difficult for some people to realize that Boulder, CO does not have a monopoly on boulders, that they do exist right here in SW Ohio. On our farm even, hence the name Boulder Belt, named for the Bloomington Boulder Belt that cuts a NW to SE swath through Preble county.

Boulder Belt is in Ohio, Dammit!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Implant Update

It's been a while since I have posted anything here, it's a busy time of year and that is why.

Today I got a titanium screw in my lower jaw and the okay to get a fake tooth screwed on the said titanium screw. I also am allowed to chew on my left side. I will be nice to have a tooth again, it's been about a year since the tooth was pulled and about 3 years since I could chew on the left side of my mouth comfortably.

I am also really glad I opted for a tooth implant instead of a bridge. They cost about he same initially but a bridge can break (my mother broke several) and even if it does not break it has to be replaced every 7 to 15 years. A bridge is also pretty invasive in that the teeth on either side have to be ground down to take the bridge. So you end up with a missing tooth and 2 compromised teeth. And I hear the procedure is pretty painful.

An implant is not nearly as invasive. You get a hole drilled in your jawbone and a screw put into the hole and after 3 to 12 months of healing (I healed up in under 2 months) a veneer (aka fake tooth) is screwed in place and should last a lifetime. And having an implant keeps the jaw bone from deteriorating which it will do with a bridge or dentures. And the procedure is not very painful. I had some pain the first couple of days which ibuprofen took care of and after that hardly any pain at all. Granted, you do have to have fairly dense bone in your jaw for this to work. I happen to have bone about as dense as oak so I was a very, very good candidate.

Yay, no osteoporosis.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Organic Loopholes

More efforts to weaken organic standards to the low corporate levels. This is yet another sterling example of why we at Boulder Belt opted out of the USDA NOP. To us organics is a way one farms, not a markeing gimmick. We would like to see higher standards, not lower. Buy local folks, buy local.

"Organic" food rule could have up to 38 loopholes
By Scott J. Wilson
Los Angeles Times

With the "USDA Organic" seal stamped on its label, Anheuser-Busch calls its

Wild Hop Lager "the perfect organic experience."

But many beer drinkers may not know Anheuser-Busch got the organic blessing

from federal regulators even though Wild Hop Lager uses hops grown with
chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides.

A deadline of midnight Friday to come up with a new list of nonorganic
ingredients allowed in USDA-certified organic products passed without
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), leaving uncertain whether
some foods currently labeled "USDA organic" would continue to be produced.

The agency is considering a proposal to allow 38 nonorganic ingredients to
be used in organic foods. Because of the broad uses of these ingredients -
as spices, colorings, and flavorings for example - almost any type of
manufactured organic food could be affected, including organic milk,
sausages, bread and beer.

Organic-food advocates have fought to block all or parts of the proposal,
saying it would allow food makers to mislead consumers.

"This proposal is blatant catering to powerful industry players who want
benefits of labeling their products 'USDA organic' without doing the work
source organic materials," said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the
Organic Consumers Association of Finland, Minn., a nonprofit group with
850,000 members.

USDA spokeswoman Joan Shaffer declined comment.

Food manufacturers said last week that they were hoping the agency would
by Friday to allow labeling of organic products to continue.

A federal judge had given the USDA until midnight Friday to name the
nonorganic ingredients it would allow in organic foods, but the agency did
not release a list.

"They probably don't know what to do" Cummins said. "On the other hand,
hard to believe they're going to make people change their labels, although
that's what they should do."

Demand for organic food in the United States is booming, as consumers seek
products that are more healthful and friendlier to the environment. Sales
have more than doubled in the past five years, reaching $16.9 billion last
year, according to the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield, Mass.,
represents small and large food producers.

But with big companies entering what was formerly a mom-and-pop industry,
new questions have been raised about what goes into organic food.

Supporters dismayed

For food to be called organic, it must be grown without chemical
and pesticides. Animals must be raised without antibiotics and growth
hormones and given some access to the outdoors.

Many nonorganic ingredients, including hops, are already being used in
organic products, thanks to a USDA interpretation of the Organic Foods
Protection Act of 1990. In 2005, a federal judge disagreed with how the
was applying the law and gave the agency two years to fix it.

Organic-food supporters had hoped the USDA would allow only a small number
of substances but were dismayed last month when the agency released the
proposed list of 38 ingredients.

"Adding 38 new ingredients is not just a concession by the USDA, it is a
major blow to the organic movement in the U.S. because it would erode
consumer confidence in organic standards," said Carl Chamberlain, a
assistant with the Pesticide Education Project in Raleigh, N.C.

In addition to hops, the list includes 19 food colorings, two starches,
sausage and hot-dog casings, fish oil, chipotle chili pepper, gelatin and a

variety of obscure ingredients (one, for instance, is a "bulking agent" and

sweetener with the tongue-twisting name of fructooligosaccharides).

The proposed rule would allow up to 5 percent of a food product to be made
with these ingredients and still get the "USDA Organic" seal. Even hops,
though a major component of beer's flavor, are less than 5 percent of the
final product, because the beverage is mostly water.

Organic beer, though still a small portion of total beer sales, has been
growing even faster than overall organic-food sales, reaching $19 million
2005, a 40 percent increase over the previous year (2006 figures were not

In addition to hops, two other items on the USDA list have attracted
particular attention: casings for sausages and hot dogs, and fish oil.

Casings are intestines from cows, pigs or sheep, and have been used for
centuries to wrap meat into sausages and frankfurters.

While the casings are a tiny portion of the overall sausage, organic
object to eating anything from animals raised on conventional farms, where
animals may be housed in tight quarters and given antibiotics and growth
hormones. Further, they note that the USDA's food-safety division has
identified cow intestines as a possible source of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease.

Fish oil's presence on the USDA list has drawn objections because it could
carry high levels of heavy metals and other contaminants, said Jim Riddle,
former member of the National Organic Standards Board. But fish-oil
producers said such contaminants can be screened out.

USDA doesn't enforce

The USDA rules come with what appears to be an important consumer
protection: Manufacturers can use nonorganic ingredients only if organic
versions are not "commercially available."

But food makers have found their way around this barrier, in part because
the USDA doesn't enforce the rule directly. Instead, it depends on its
certifying agents, 96 licensed organizations in the United States and
overseas, to decide what it means for a product to be unavailable in

Despite years of discussions, the USDA has yet to provide certifiers
standardized guidelines for enforcing this rule.

"There is no effective mechanism for identifying a lack of organic
ingredients," complained executives of Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a
nonprofit certifying agent, in a letter to the USDA. "It is a very
challenging task to 'prove a negative' regarding the organic supply."

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tempting Rain

Another weather post.

The last decent rain we received was May 16th.

Late last week we were supposed to get big storms. We were even under a severe Thunderstorm watch most of the day Friday but got nothing more than a trace of rain around 1pm.

My theory is, because we keep getting too prepared for the rain by removing all 40 or so row covers, rolling up car windows, bringing things in that should not get wet like full chicken feeders, tools, water soluble amendments, etc., the rain purposefully misses us.

Instead of bringing in things and removing row covers we need to be putting out laundry, washing cars, running irrigation-basically scoffing at Ma Nature and her withholding of the rain.

In past dry years we have noted often, within 24 hours of getting the irrigation system totally set up and functional it starts raining and keeps on doing so. The more difficult the job the better the long term rain chances.

This year the job is difficult because we are trying to use the system from the other farm and it is not the same size. It's maddeningly close to fitting in but not quite there. So new feeder lines have been needed to be cut to get the drip tapes where they need to be and a lot of new drip tape has been cut to accommodate all the additional beds we now have. Sometime today or tomorrow the system ought to be completed. So we should be getting good rains by mid week.

If not, we have a good well and a lot of irrigation to keep the crops growing

Monday, June 04, 2007

Oh That Weather!

The weather has been a bit cruel. For the pas 3 days rain has been predicted and, other than .25 inches on Saturday afternoon, we have gotten squat while all around us copious amounts of rain have fallen.

We do run drip irrigation and keep most crops under cover when it gets hot and dry and this does keep a lot of moisture in the ground but there is no replacement for a good rain.

Now, that said, if I have to choose between flooding rain or drought conditions I will take drought over too much rain anytime. When it rains too much there is not much that can be done. We can't plant, we can weed and in many cases harvesting is out. If the rains are so heavy and persistent that flooding occurs that will pretty much destroy a crop for he season and possibly a field for years.

With drought as long as you have a good amount of organic matter in your soil and a water source such as a well for irrigation and watering animals you will be alright. As I said, irrigation is no substitute for regular rains but it does keep crops growing. We use a drip system developed in Israel for desert farming. This system uses about 98% less water than overhead sprinkler systems and puts the water exactly where you want it. And this is the only system that can be used with synthetic mulches.

Because it did not rain yesterday we were able to get in about 3/4 of the nightshades (maters, peppers and eggplant). This is one of our bigger jobs. I believe we had around 1000 plants to get in the ground (now about 250) and there is a lot of prep as all of these crops have to have mulch and irrigation put down before anything can be planted. So for the past week we have been prepping beds in the early mornings and evenings (it's been too hot to do such work mid day).

To add to our weather problems we are getting cold conditions that could negatively effect the peppers and tomatoes. We have pushed back our planting of these crops into June to avoid exposing them to temps in the 40's and this year we are getting such temps the first week of June. Oh well, what can you do?