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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Rainy Sunday

Its' been a rainy lazy Sunday. Watched the Bengals beat the Ravens. Watching football on any level is not something I do often (I go to a superbowl party every year and that is usually the extent of my football watching. Eugene will watch even less than I do). But hey, it is not every year the Bengals do well. And there wasn't much else on TeeVee (we get 6 channels here at Boulder Belt Farm and have no interest in satellite/cable). About half time Eugene got bored and went out in the drizzle to plant day lilies on the eroding banks around the pond. He dug up many buckets of them about 5 days ago at the old place.

This work in November will make for a pretty display in May, June and July. And it will keep the bank from slumping any worse than it already has. That is if Nate, the large, possibly German short haired pointer puppy, will let these plantings be. He tends to dig up anything can get at. He took out a rather big clump of pampas grass. Eugene replanted elsewhere, where nate cannot get to it until it roots (than I want to see the dog try and drag the grass out of the ground. Sure its' easy when the grass has been in the ground less than 72 hours ). He got out into the front yard overnight a few weeks ago and pulled out several irises I had just planted. He's a rascal.

So while Eugene is getting muddy I am blogging and making a pizza dough for tonight. it will have onions, cheese, locally made organic Italian sausage, sweet peppers from the freezer and perhaps some zucchini from the freezer.

Might make some winter squash to go along with though we did have winter squash last night.

Oh and I have some hot chocolate warming on the stove that will get a shot of kaluah or rum (or both!) when it is served.

Bird Flu vs Pastured Poultry

A picture of our pastured hens about 4 years ago hanging out in the doorway of their coop

An article from AP (This reported contacted me to interview me for this story but since I do not have any birds currently I did not respond)

Free-range Farmers Dispute Whether Flocks At Risk For Bird Flu

by Carrie Spencer Ghose - Associated Press

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio - State officials and poultry
researchers say there's little risk of bird flu coming to
Ohio, but if it does, the flocks most at risk are the ones
being raised in outdoor pastures to meet growing
consumer demand.

Farmers who specialize in free-range poultry downplay
the concerns, saying their birds are protected and their
farming methods inherently healthier.

A new strain of avian influenza that infected geese
appeared in July in Asia, and the worry is that the disease
could spread to wild birds that migrate to North America,
said Theresa Morishita, an Ohio State University
veterinarian. The disease also could be imported through
smuggling of parrots, songbirds or fighting chickens.

About 90 percent of Ohio poultry are raised in cages in
enclosed barns, according to OSU. Strict measures to
prevent germ transmission should protect them, state
Agriculture Director Fred Dailey said.

About 5 percent of Ohio's wild ducks, geese and other
waterfowl carry bird flu, but it's a weak type that doesn't
make the birds sick and does not transmit to humans. At
worst, if it infects domestic poultry, they lay fewer eggs -
but that means money to farmers.

If wild birds do bring the more virulent form of the
disease to this country, they could mix with the small
number of outdoor flocks, said Y.M. Saif, head of the
food animal health program at the OSU agriculture
research center in Wooster.

"It could be then a danger to commercial birds," Saif said.

The virus rarely transmits to humans, so the risk of that
here is extremely low. Free-range farmers said wild birds
generally don't mingle with their flocks. They said they
watch their birds constantly for health concerns, such as
not eating or drinking.

"I want to follow good science, not just emotionalism
about what's better," said Carl Bowman, co-owner of
Bowman & Landes. The 140-acre farm in western Ohio
has one of the state's largest open-pasture turkey
operations in the state, with 60,000 turkeys. The company
raises another 13,000 at a farm in north central Ohio.

Bowman & Landes raises some turkeys for a different
purpose in barns. "By far our healthiest birds have been
the ones on range," he said.

The only wild geese he's seen mingling with his birds are
so-called resident Canada geese, which don't migrate.

Still, Bowman said he might be more concerned about
bird flu next year if the disease spreads beyond Asia. All
the chicks the company hatches are tested.

Eventually, the Ohio Poultry Association would like all
commercial producers to test their birds, said Jim
Chakeres, executive vice president. The U.S. Agriculture
Department has biosecurity recommendations for smaller

Safety starts off the farm for a larger scale indoor
operation, said Terry Wehrkamp, production manager of
Cooper Farms in Oakwood in northwest Ohio. The
company has divisions that raise feed, raise poultry and
even cook the birds for deli and grocery products.

Employees are screened for exposure to other birds, even
pet birds, and pigs. If they break biosecurity rules, such as
not showering and changing into work clothes kept only
in the barns, they're fired.

Indoor poultry growers are prepared if an outbreak were
to occur, Wehrkamp said.

"I would be very nervous if my livelihood depended on
free-range products right now," he said.

Chickens at Brunty Farms outside Akron are protected
from wild birds in 12-by-12-foot pens covered with a net
about 3 feet high, owner Ron Brunty said. The pens,
which house about 1,000 free-range chickens on two
sites, are moved through the pasture throughout the day to
give the chickens fresh grass to feed on.

"I'm not concerned about our birds catching it," Brunty
said. "I'm concerned about people flipping out about it to
the point where they don't buy."

AP International

I do not currently raise poultry but I was planning to get 50 or so pullets this coming spring and perhaps a few adult hens as well. but now I don't know. I am not so much afraid of the actual strain of avian flu taking out a flock of birds but rather what the reaction of the ODA or USDA to a positive bird in a pastured flock will be. I figure the government will over react by a factor of 10x and will try to kill off every pastured fowl in the USA or at the very least will come up with some horribly complex system of monitoring the birds that will take several hours every day for a small flock and most of the day for large flocks. This will ensure the small farmer either has to give up on pastured poultry or give up on other aspects of farming.

I really hope this is all bad paranoia on my part and this does not happen and we small farmers can go about our business unimpeded by bad logic.

As one person wrote on SANET saturday:

"The problem of Avian Flu is an opportunity for us to stop and ask some very basic questions. Firstly, why does the pathogenic virus manifest in the first place? Little importance is given to the conditions that result in the creation of the virus. A lot of attention is given to exposure avoidance and eradication once the virus manifests. As many have stated throughout history, it is not the virus that we should focus on, but rather, the condition of the birds or people that manifest the virus. What is it about these birds or humans that created a fertile environment for the virus? This question must be explored not just from an exposure avoidance perspective but from a health building perspective."
Alan Ismond, P.Eng.
Aqua-Terra Consultants

I can only hope some of these questions will be asked before any flu eradication program goes any further. But I doubt it because if such questions are asked than the way corporations raise animals for consumption will be called into question. And since these are the folks who hold the purse strings I think the conventional wisdom will be:

Pastured Poultry bad; Caged/Confined poultry good

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

First Snow

A pile of gourds drying

This week we were able to get pretty much the last of the crap from the old farm. Eugene seems to think there is more stuff to get but I say that is just the pack rat coming out in him. From what I can see all that is left is trash. Ah he can deal with that sort of thing-if he wants to take a day and load trash into the van and move it somewhere let him.

Monday he got the perennial herbs, the rest of the peonies, the rest of the parsnips (which, I believe, means the garden is empty of food except for a few kale plants that are on their own) and a pine tree Doug Ross gave me two years ago for my 40th birthday (which is now in front of the house, where it should grow into a majestic tree). he also dug up many buckets of day lilies in all sorts of colors. I have been propagating day lilies for about 5 years now and had a pretty good sized bed (maybe 15' x 15') going at the old farm. Now it looks like I have enough to do a 30' x 30' bed

Yesterday Eugene planted the perennial herbs-thyme, oregano, tarragon, lovage and some chives (chives are a poor seller for us but a garden just ain't complete without them and the are sooo easy to grow). This morning he planned on mowing the field where the garden beds are going but an early snow dissolved those plans quickly. By early I mean in the day-snow was predicted by the prognosticators we call the weather people. they had predicted a dusting of snow to fall sometime this afternoon but the snow decided to come early and drop a couple of inches. Makes it pretty outside.

So instead of farming we are cooking. I am doing the stuffing/dressing today and if I get motivated will also do the rolls today (at least get them proofed and par baked). Eugene is making an apple pie that smells Fantastic. he is a very good pie maker. he is not much of a cook otherwise, serviceable but not great. But his pies are to die for, he could make a living selling these things, I think. But pie making would bore him and farming fascinates him so I don't see the pie sales happening.

Friday is Buy Nothing Day
and buying nothing is my plan on Friday

Monday, November 21, 2005

Almost Turkey Day

The plan for this morning is to go to a nearby organic farm and buy a turkey for the Thanksgiving feast I am hosting this year. It will be a small affair of 6 people-Eugene's Mom, Fran, his sister, Doreen, his brother , Dave and Doreen's son, Chris (if he doesn't have to work). This will be the first time any of these folks, except Dave (who helped us move), have seen the place.

So I am planning on a feast of mainly locally raised foods. Turkey, Potatoes, salad will all be local and organic. I noticed I can get organic cranberries at the local Kroger's (organics in Eaton, OH who would've thunk?). I will bake bread for the stuffing/dressing and I believe all the other ingredients except butter are either raised by us or locally. I wish I could find a reliable local butter/dairy source. But I digress. the stuffing will have onions, garlic, carrots, pears, celery, sage, rosemary, parsley salt and pepper . Oh and maybe some walnuts.

I plan on baking rolls since I have found that yeast rolls are nearly as easy to make as biscuits and I can proof and par bake these a day ahead.

I might do pearl onions since we have several pounds of onions the right size. But I may not as I don't particularly enjoy peeling tiny onions. But they are good and quite traditional.

Eugene plans on making an apple pie (he makes the best pie) using apples we grew at the old farm. Doreen always brings a sweet yam dish and macaroni and cheese and Fran will be bringing some pies she buys at Young's Jersey Dairy. We will probably have way too much food.

We get to put leaves into the dining room table which I don't believe I have gotten to do since I got ownership of the piece. And I get to figure out where the table cloths are for the table. there are some really swank linen coverings for the table that will be fun to use. Shame I don't have a silver candelabra. But I do have some silver table items I recently got at an auction for almost nothing and some nice formal silver flat ware. I have a really nice set of china but it seems to be at my Dad's so that will have to wait. may have to us paper plates since I don't believe I have enough regular plates for 8 people. I may, though there will be nothing resembling a matching set. Call it Holiday Feast Eclectic.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Winter Markets, Perennials and Garlic

We had our first winter market today and it was a great success. We sold a lot of parsnips, carrots, potatoes and garlic. The crowd was good and the weather nice, cool but sunny (and after the past two days of lows in the teens and highs in the mid thirties it seemed almost balmy).

After market we went to TSC to buy dog food and I got myself some winter boots that are rated down to -40˚F. I really hope I do not find out if this is true or not this winter. I have not had great winter footwear in a few years. Trying to do farm work outside in sub par footwear is miserable. Getting wet feet is the worse. So I now have these thick waterproof rubber and leather made in China (sigh, it is getting almost impossible to find American made items any more) boots that should get me through a couple of winter seasons.

After the buying spree we went home and ate lunch than started planting all the perennials we dug up yesterday at the old farm. thus far we have planted Japanese iris, some day lilies Eugene bought special from a local Day lily concern, Top O' The Hill Farm, that did not do too well last year because they got too overgrown to flower (but the corms looks good and healthy). We also planted some hostas we broke into several pieces, some bearded irises of unknown color (and we still have about 50 more roots to plant), a rose bush, liatris (also broken into several pieces) and some Lilac trees. We were going to plant peonies but a gardening book said they should not be planted in fall, wait for spring and so we shall.

Tomorrow we should be putting the garlic in. We have 4 beds ready to go and 2/3 of the cloves separated and ready to go. The plan is to put in 600 cloves each of German White, Chesnok Red and Persian Star. This is what we have been planting the past 3 or so years and it works for us. We plant from our own stock that we have been growing out. 6 years for the Persian Star and Chesnok Red and 8 years for the German White. In the future I would like to add a few other kinds of garlic. When we do, it will be a slow process. We will likely start with 4 or 5 cloves of garlic and will grow them out over 3 years to the point where we have enough to sell, eat and grow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Purging the Evil

A few entries ago I wrote about going to evil Mal-Mart and buying things we did not need and coming back home to a dead cat, than having problems getting a bed in the house and other such bad karma.

So we returned the tainted items, got our money back and life got better. The day after returning the tainted items Eugene and I decided to go to an auction to maybe buy a couch and chair for the living room. That, and we were meeting a friend at the auction. Drove to the auction and beat a train into the fairgrounds and felt that was a good sign.

Long story short, did not buy a couch (it was way too white and nice for our lifestyle) but did get a $15 box lot of sterling silver items, a nice ivory Buddha and an even nicer carved elephant tusk (about 36" long, carved on both sides) for under $100. It's a beautiful specimen and apparently few people want ivory pieces in Preble county.

Now I must decide if I put these pieces up on E-bay. I feel no one can have too many Buddhas around (and it's happy Ho Toi with some really great man boobs), the tusk is way cool and I can use most of the silver pieces. Ah decisions.

I am hoping the purging of evil will continue as we have a tornado watch over us right now. The weather is warm humid and touchy so the possibility we will have a rodeo this evening is high. I doubt a tornado can touch this farm as we are on some funky geography and 'nados like flat lands but straight line winds can certainly do a lot of destruction.

Been battening down the hatches for the storms-brought in all light weight furniture from the porch and deck and other such things and now we just wait it out.

This is not the weather we should be having in November-tornados. But this seems to be the norm the past 8 years or so.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Weekend

It's been a nice weekend, weather-wise and that means things have been progressing smoothly here. Eugene, after what seems like years (but has really just been 4 or 5 weeks) has finished painting the upper roof. It is now a brilliant red and looks quite fetching. As I write, he is finishing the lower roof (see picture).

Eugene also got 5 of the garden beds tilled for (hopefully) a final time before we plant the garlic which needs to go in in the next 2 weeks or so-at least before the ground freezes for the winter. I started cleaning the grass out of the beds. Rake an area than squat down and start fishing for grass roots and shoots and toss them out of the bed and rake another area. At this point this work seems meaningless but if we keep on doing this over the next few years we will have beautiful weed free beds for the long term. this is something no herbicide in a bottle will ever do, get a garden free of weeds for the long term. the best a chemical herbicide can do is get rid of the weeds short term (and do some good damage to the flora and fauna in the soil to boot).

I got a bunch of bare wood on the porch primed and ready for painting and if the wood does not get painted this fall it will be covered for winter weather. A lot of the porch still needs scraping and a good cleaning-it is dirty up in those rafters.

Today we did education. A small group of Earlham students came out to interview us and see the new farm and ask us questions about what we do and why. They had all come out to the old farm last year on a field trip to learn about sustainable agriculture.

They asked us questions like why do you farm (and other small topics) and we answered their questions and took them on a short walk around the place and told them a bit about what we wanted to do with the place.

Hopefully this will be the first in a long line of such tours. We here at Boulder Belt feel education is key to getting this idea of sustainable and local agriculture off of the ground.

Sprint Telecom rant

I have been having phone line problems the past week so getting online has been a tricky proposition at best. This would not bother me much if this were not the 3rd time this has happened since we got phone service here in mid September. Sprint has really sucked with our phone service and now they want me to get DSL through them. Right...

if Sprint cannot keep my regular lines free of static and ticking lord knows what DSL would be like-expensive and unreliable is what I think.

And now Sprint will be taking over NASCAR Nextel Cup (Should be Winston Cup) since they bought out Nextel Communications. I can only hope they do a better job with stock car racing than they do with my phone line.

Ah the phone has kicked me off line. If I am lucky I will be reconnected-Yes!!! I am connected! But for how long?

Okay back to the rant-So I call the Sprint number in the phone book and find the number in the book is for long distance accounts only so I must sit through the various menus and finally the hook me up with a human being who gives me the correct number. I call and get put on hold for 12 minutes (so I watched Blind date while waiting). Finally get someone and they assure me the problem will be fixed by 7pm Monday.


This is Friday morning why the 72 hour wait?

Saturday it was impossible to connect with the internet because of the phone noise so I got housework done along with some porch painting (perhaps this is really a positive thing-the bad phone lines). While doing some baking I get a call from Sprint telling me a person will be out to fix the phone lines sometime on Monday.

Now, I do not have a cellphone nor am I likely to get one. To me they seem expensive and the quality sucks. I hate talking to people when they call me on cell phones-can't understand much of what they say. My brother was visiting and he called his girlfriend on his cell several times a day and it seemed to me he spend at least 50% of the call saying "What?" "Can you repeat that?". yes cell phones are cool technology-hell they are Star trek Communicators come to life. But get away from the surface coolness and the suck.

Just like Sprint.

And I am beginning to suspect the poor quality that is cell phone communications is now becoming the norm with land line communications, at least my Sprint landline.

Hey! I was able to complete this Blog entry!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

My Weekend: The good, The Bad, The Indifferent

Shiva helping on the farm

Boy, it has been an eventful past couple of days.

Some bad things have happened and some good things have happened in the past 48 hours.

The worst thing to happen was losing Shiva the cat on the highway last night while we were out eating with my brother, Scott, who is visiting from Brooklyn, NY. Shiva had been with us around 8 years. he was our gardening cat. He loved to follow us out to the gardens and hang out with us while we worked. if we worked too long or too hard he would distract us away from work and get us to play with him. He was unique and will be sorely missed. So the three of us spent the late evening in shock and toasting the cat. He was buried this morning and a sugar maple sapling was planted on top of his corpse.

Better is the fact we bought a new bed and box spring today. we have been sleeping on a futon on a board for our entire relationship (and I was sleeping on it for about 10 years before that). But of course we could not have the bed event go smoothly. The first trouble started at the mattress store when we could barely get the mattress in the van and had to tie the box spring to the top of the van. we got about 2 miles down the road and one of the ropes came loose. So stopped at the Lutheran Church on US 40 in Richmond, In and tied the thing back down and went on our way to Radio shack to buy an adaptor for a new DVD player (more on this in a sec). Got the adaptor and got home with no problems but a bit of stress.

Got the box spring in the house and wouldn't you know it, it would not fit up the stairwell. So as I write this Eugene and my brother are working on taking the lintel (plus a lot of plaster and most of the door frame) off of the door in hopes that this will give us enough room to get the box spring up the stairs.

Now the destruction is over and the BS is halfway up the stairs (yay!!!).

In better moments this weekend we went to our last regular farmers' market and did alright. It was a busy market traffic-wise but not a lot of buying going on. It seems it was Miami University's Parents weekend so we got a lot of parents coming to the market with their college aged kids. Hopefully this means we get more student customers next season now that they know there is a Saturday market.

The best thing to happen this weekend has been my brother visiting and seeing the new farm for the first time and plastering two walls that had gotten water damage this past spring. now we have some fine looking plastered walls with no mold or paint peeling off of them.

Finally, we bought a DVD player at the evil Wal-Mart Sooper Center and now find it will not work with our antiquated (read 6 year old) TeeVee. We can buy a $50 adaptor at Radio Shack but that is nearly twice what the DVD cost and it may be better to buy a new TeeVee (though the one we have works fine and does not need replacing) or may have to return the item to Wal-Mart and get our money back and remain a VHS family for awhile longer.

While were doing this the cat was being killed, yet another bad Wal-Mart memory. A favorite cat killed and a useless DVD player-Great...

The bed has made it upstairs, the house is full of dust and plaster, the lintel over the stair doorway looks like hell but, by Gawd, the deed is done and we will have a real bed to sleep upon for the first time in our marriage. It will be nice to wake up not stiff and in some pain and well rested.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Organic Standards Weakend by Congress

Okay it's official, the organic standards are meaningless. But we can still buy from local and sustainable farms that do this for more than $$$


From the SANET listserv:

Despite receiving over 350,000 letters and phone calls from OCA members and the organic community, Republican leaders in Congress October 27 attached a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to weaken the nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale food manufacturers. "Congress voted last night to weaken the national organic standards that consumers count on to preserve the integrity of the organic label," said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association. "The process was profoundly undemocratic and the end result is a serious setback for the multi billion dollar alternative food and farming system that the organic community has so painstakingly built up over the past 35 years. As passed, the amendment sponsored by the Organic Trade Association allows: Numerous synthetic food additives and processing aids, including over 500 food contact substances, to be used in organic foods without public review. Young dairy cows to continue to be treated with antibiotics and fed genetically engineered feed prior to being converted to organic production. Loopholes under which non-organic ingredients could be substituted for organic ingredients without any notification of the public based on "emergency decrees."

Under pressure from big agribusiness, the USDA is deliberately refusing to take action against factory farm dairy feedlots who are unethically selling their products as "organic." This blatant labeling fraud is compounded by a loophole in federal organic regulations that is allowing unscrupulous organic dairy farms to import young calves from non-organic conventional farms (where the animals have been weaned on cow blood, injected or medicated with antibiotics, and fed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton seeds, laced with slaughterhouse waste and tainted animal fats). These confinement and feeding practices are inhumane, unhealthy, environmentally unsustainable, and unfair to the majority of organic dairy farmers, who follow strict organic principles on pasture access and animal feed, and do not import animals into their herds from conventional farms.

See from OCA these related stories;

Organic Farmers & Consumers Protest Sneak Attack on Organic Standards by Congress

Exposing the Organic Trade Association's Fallacies and Deception on the Sneak Attack on Organic Standards