Friday, December 29, 2006


Well I ordered my potatoes the other day. Hopefully I have picked the correct time to have them shipped to me. I actually bumped it up by 3 weeks since the weather has been so odd the last couple of years. I don't want to plant them too late and hit the hottest driest spells while they are trying to make the most spuds for me. After much debate on where to order from I finally settled on Milky Ranch since they had a large selection that I could order from one place. They are the new owners of Ronniger's Potatoes.
I think we have decided to plant them in the many many leaves we received this year from the city that I blogged about. We probably received about....75 dump truck loads over all. About. Hard to tell for sure. They just kept on coming and coming so we don't really know. But we have a lot of leaves. I am still trying to decide if I might need to add a little bitty bit of lime to the leaves for the potatoes. I know that potatoes are better off with an acidic environment but they don't want to be super acidic. So how do you test leaves I am wondering? I might just have to play it by ear with that issue. I don't know if I will be neat and tidy and make all the leaves into rows to plant or if we will just go out there and start planting. Probably rows--much easier to keep track of what is where and keep varieties separated.
Anyways I ordered this year the following varieties:
all blue, all red (aka cranberry red), austrian crescent, blossom, caribe, french fingerling, german butterball, huckleberry, ndc4069-4 (only one pound of this one) and purple peruvian. Most of these are older potato varieties. Some of them are newer--does ndc4069-4 give itself away on that account? Some we have grown before and some we have not. Overall I bought 31 pounds of seed potatoes. How much will I get at the end of the season? Good question-- and an answer to it will be supplied at the end of the summer of 2007. When we harvest all of our bounty of potatoes we will store most, some will be canned for addition to quick soups on busy nights AND I also thought about drying some of them this time. Does anyone else dry their potatoes? I didn't know if I would like them that way---not that I have never had a processed meal that had them in it. I might try a small amount if I harvest enough potatoes. You never know if you will have a good harvest or not. We do have voles---so I imagine we will loose a few to them. (The dog and cat seem to keep them down pretty well though which is good.) Then of course you have this screwy weather we have all been having. I hope they do well.
I didn't order any russets, which I do like, because supposedly they don't do well here in Georgia. I don't know why they don't do well but I found that out when I was looking for new data on last frost dates. Most of which need to be updated terribly bad. Our last frost date hasn't been the middle to end of April since I can ever remember.

For an interesting little history on potatoes (and their use in powdered wigs many years ago) go Here.

I got tagged

The Rules: Each player of this game starts with "6 weird things about you". Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "your tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.

Thank you Phelan!

1. I can't stand eating at a buffet. EVER
2. I am an organization freak---practically Martha Stewart in disguise.
3. I would shave my head bald if I were braver so I wouldn't have to do my hair all the time.
4. I like getting up early in the morning instead of sleeping late--even on the weekends.
5. I enjoy talking to strangers
6. I KNOW that I am weird--instead of being in the dark about it you know?

Well, here are the 6 victims (plus an extra thrown in for good luck) that I choose:


Have a good day everyone.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Multi Use Plantings

Since we have a "small" farm of 6.5 acres, we try and cram as much into it as possible---in other words making the best use of each item that comes on the farm. When we are deciding on an animal we try and choose one suited to more than one thing. When we plant something we try and utilize it to its fullest---beans can be both a food for us and the animals AND shade in the summer. So recently when I was trying to decide on some new trees/shrubs for the pasture without shade I had the same multi purpose criteria in the back of my mind. We have struggled getting trees started in our largest, and least shady, pasture. If the animals haven't knocked down the fence and eaten it, then the weather has gotten them. Well, I think I have found what I am looking for: Siberian Pea Shrub. The picture above doesn't do it justice---it has attractive yellow flowers too. For those of you in the Midwest--you might recognize this shrub (caragana aborescens) since it is utilized there for livestock windbreaks, but it is also known for its ability to withstand drought, extreme weather and also bad soil. Our back pasture does not have good soil. We are working on improving it with lime, manure and no till cover crops but it takes time. Meanwhile this shrub might be able to help us out. It is a member of the legume family so it fixes nitrogen in the soil. It's seed also carries a protein ratio of 27 to 36% making it a great food for livestock---especially chickens. It can also be used as a food source for humans in areas with extreme food shortage though the Plants for a Future web site suggests it for development as a staple crop . The leaves are edible for livestock if you need them and they are also used to produce a natural blue dye. (Wonder what that will look like if we get to dye our wool with some of it.)
Needless to say---I think this plant fits the bill. We are going to order 50 seedlings from seedling program and then plant them along the fence edges and try and protect them with electric wire this time. They do have a small amount of thorns which should help them out as they mature. The animals might eat the leaves but they won't strip the bark off of them which is how they generally kill the plants they get a hold of.
If you are interested in mutli purpose plants check out Plants for a Future---I linked it in the side bar also. They rate over 7000 plants for their multi purpose uses. They are really interesting and give a number ranking for the plants based on usefullness.

Oh yes, another plant we tried---and lost most to the drought (they were seedlings and needed a bit more water than they received) and animals this past year was thorn less Honey Locust. Pretty tree when it is grown---maybe the few that made it will turn into nice trees for us eventually.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Not everyone disagrees

If you haven't read Public Citizen ( they have a really good format and keep pretty abreast of a lot of hot button issues. Complete with links for more exploration. I like them so much I am going to put them as a side bar link on this blog.

They do have a really great page on the Estate Tax---the tax which has created much debate since W came into office and got rid of it. Well, was I was surprised to learn is that not all wealthy people want the tax repealed. They actually agree that it is better left in place.
Check it out for yourself since it quotes some of them--you might even be surprised at who doesn't want it repealed.

Getting Ready

Hello again. I hope everyone had a great Christmas. We did---we even received rain. Yeah!
We have less than a week until the new year and the seed catalogs are starting to arrive. Yes, I know a few have come already but now comes the avalanche. With the flood of seed catalogs, projects not normally done in the spring and summer need to be started soon. Garden structures, fencing and fencing repairs, damaged tools replaced or repaired if they haven't already and of course things like bird and bat houses. We have blue bird houses on our property and sometimes we can see 3 hatchings in a house per year. What we never have been successful with are bats. We have bat houses---but no bats. Recently in Organic Gardening Magazine they did a small article on bats and recommended this web site:
The are chock full of bat knowledge and information along with some bat house plans and information on how best to place your bat house. In our case they also recommend that if you haven't had luck by 2 years---move it. So move it we will.
We lived in Texas previously and they are famous for their colony of bats in Austin. We also have a "famous" colony of bats in Tennessee about an hour a way from us. We have visited the bat caves before and if you have never gone to see a colony and watched it leave it's cave, bridge or whatever at dusk-----it is amazing and something you should check out if possible. The flood of bats can be so great that it will be dark before all of them get out of their home. The last time we waited about 40 minutes for them to all get out of their home.
When we lived in the mountains of Georgia we were very far in the woods. Our front porch light would attract large moths, which in turn would attract bats. One particular fun thing we would do was to catch the moths, wait for a bat to fly near, throw up the moth and watch the bat swoop and catch it very near us. (No, we weren't worried about rabies---these were healthy foraging bats) Very interesting way to observe bats.

Even if you aren't lucky enough to have a huge colony near you to visit, bats are probably near you some where---all U.S. states have documented bat sitings including Alaska. Don't forget bats are huge bug eaters beyond the porch light seeking moth and a boon to your organic garden-- so putting up a house or two for them is a really great project. One that even your kids and their friends can help with and they won't even know they are "learning" while doing it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday to our FAVORITE daughter. You are the most wonderful, magnificent, beautiful and amazingly special daughter we could ever have hoped for. The SUPER BEST present ever!
Hope your day is special!!!


Mom and Dad


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Micro Farming Revisited

Last week I "reviewed" a book entitled Micro Farming, which I recommended to read about small farms and success on small acreage. Today while looking for some information (some grain suppliers) I followed my way through to these very interesting places.
First I started at the grain suppliers page: grain suppliers
Which took me to here: Field of Plenty--bioneer web site: . This is small excerpt of a book by the author telling why he wrote his book Field of Plenty (which I have never read) He touches on a number of small "micro farms". I got to this site since I was trying to find Jennifer Green and her heirloom grains.
That article sited in the very first paragraph this small farm as a prime example of success--- Fairview Gardens:

"Fairview Gardens is a twelve acre organic farm near suburban Santa Barbara surrounded by housing developments, urban sprawl and highways. This self sufficient farm which employs 15 people and grosses over 350,000 annually, produces over 100 fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, free range chicken, goats and other animals for over 500 families. In 1994 it was bought by a non profit and put into public trust to remain as a working organic farm and educational center called The Center for Urban Agriculture." (excerpted from a different source than the author of Field of Plenty)

The farm also has a book written about it entitled: On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm by Micheal Ableman. I think I will try and read this.

Now when I see things like that---it makes it easier to believe that at some point I might be able to be somewhat food self sufficient. Obviously I need to put just a bit more time into it than I have previously :-)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Censorship or Safety

Recently I was sent this link from slashdot (please click on the highlighted text within the article too). I was also informed of legislation regarding censorship of blogs by Senator McCain which you can see here: Link
Both of these pieces of information bring up nagging questions about censorship, freedom of speech and constitutional rights erosion. Now I personally agree completely with doing everything we can to stop child porn and so there for Senator McCain's idea doesn't seem to really be a bad idea (originally I was told that McCains's legislation also included censoring blogs in regards to content issues like defamation of character and some other things---but I believe that was incorrect as I currently understand it. I could be wrong though). On the other hand where is it that you start down the slope and it turns into something nobody can stop anymore. I mean---most people would agree that at some time there could be people in "charge" that are less than honest. Or maybe they are just more power hungry, desire more riches or just have an extremely firm viewpoint on an issue that could be the opposite of yours. Now I don't have a problem with people with convictions---I have my own. But when do my convictions possibly conflict with the rights of others if I am the one making laws?? Where and when do you stand up and say "I agree with this issue---but I don't like where this could end up heading so I will vote no" Is that the same thing with National Animal Identification? Or Real ID? They are both for "good" reasons: protecting our food supposedly and protecting our selves supposedly. But will they? And what might happen after we already have those rules and a new elected official comes along and wants more laws or more control? What about laws regarding what you eat? Or drink? Where I live there are rules about drinking. Supposedly to make me a better person. By whose standards? Christian standards? or would that be Baptist standards? Or Seventh Day Adventist standards? Or Catholic standards? All three of those "standards" have differences---regarding something so small of an issue as to whether to have a glass of wine or beer with your steak. And that isn't even moving into the heavy issues. I absolutely detest smoking. And when I lived in Texas years ago and the law was passed to ban it in public places---I was glad! Then I moved to Georgia and they still have smoking in restaurants and other public places and I thought yuk! bummer!.
Now--my Aunt has asthma badly enough that smoking around her will cause problems. So I am for this "censorship". But when I recently read of the Free State Project, I realized that I was doing exactly to others the thing I detested most--censoring their right to choose. O.k. so I still choose not to be subjected to smoking in public---and I think that smokers could be a bit more polite about it, but what if the next thing is the type of clothing we are allowed to wear in public? or the music we can listen to?" or the t.v stations? Does that sound familiar to you? Why are we fighting in the middle east for "freedom"----when we are handing over our own freedoms right here on American soil?
Now if you are interested in seeing more things supposedly censored here is a link to a group that studies it:
Project Censored Media and this is what Wikpedia says about their organization.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Concrete Countertops

We have finally gotten around to starting our counter tops. We decided a long time ago (actually many many houses ago) that we would like concrete counter tops. I am posting a few pics to show what is going on. Excuse the last picture since I was playing with the camera and that was not the picture that was suppose to be there. It is a close up of a protruding green glass piece. After a few failed attempts at getting the correct pictures posted----I am accepting this set. The last set had some Xmas party pictures of my husband and I---definitely not counter tops :-) The set before that wouldn't post so anyways.......
The first picture is the cabinet pre-pore with the screen cut for use in the middle of the cement pour to reduce cracking. (The cabinet was actually moved away from the wall and the drawers taken out before we put in the cement). The cabinets all have stainless steel edging to hold in the cement so that we wouldn't have to mess with all of the form work---we decided we would rather have the steel than mess with building wood forms to make the counter top lip. The stainless steel was purchased from a metal company and my husband bent and welded it up to fit each section. He also brushed it so it will match the front of the stove and fridge.
We mixed the bags of 5000psi cement outside in the wheel barrow, adding acrylic water re placer for some of the water (to further reduce any cracking and shrinking) and then took it to the kitchen in a bucket. We poured the first half, laid the screen, then went for the rest of the cement. Before we took the second half to the kitchen, we mixed in some colored glass and rocks (black, blue and green) of various sizes so when we grind the counter to smooth it the glass will show through. Kind of like terrazzo. We actually had some white quartz that we picked up when we went to Arkansas for Thanksgiving for it too----but forgot to crush it and use it. Oh well. The nervousness of doing this made us forget the white stone which was still sitting in a bucket by the front door. One of those duh moments.
The first counter top we did --we mixed the "mixture" way too dry and think we might have to knock it out of the form and re pore it. It is a bit too "dippity" and when we grind it smooth we could have to many dips and waves and holes from the dryness of the mix. It was very difficult to try and smooth out---even when we resorted to spraying it with water to help the cream come up a bit. With the eventual use of a cement slurry to fill in some problem spots (common to all pours), it may still not look the best. In other wards---we think it might be too problematic. But it is only about 9 to 12 dollars worth of material so not really that big of a deal. (except time wise) The other cabinet on the other side of the stove was poured much wetter---we learned our lesson----and came out much much nicer. When we finally grind it it should look good.
We have to wait at least 4 days before we can sand/grind it to polish it but with Christmas coming it might be a bit longer. We won't pour the long sink counter and peninsula before we sand those two to make sure we are happy with the results. Just in case you know. I would hate to have to remove 6 running feet of 2 1/2 deep cement counter top---or the pennisula.
In the picture below the wheel barrow you can kind of see the colored glass if you get real close to the picture LOL. Don't forget your reading glasses.
After the counters are done I can then tile the walls/back splash in the kitchen with some tiles I have to go with the whole thing. I look forward to doing that since I am sick of looking at primed drywall and open plugs in the walls. Sometimes some things fall to the wayside though as more pressing issues come up. We have had "pressing" issues since about the end of August and this has really been the first time we had the mental oomph to work on the kitchen again. Or the time even.
The next issue to work out----can you really grind counter tops in place without making a huge mess?? The books say you can with proper preparation---but I will wait and make up my own mind. I am the clean up person after all--so I WILL know. My husband is tool picker upper and outside cleaner upper. We seem to make BIG messes most of the time so we have divided clean up chores based on who is best at what. I definitely clean up the inside better :-)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Update on Today Show organic episode

Back on Dec 5th I posted about an organics segment the Today Show did. I thought it was a one sided argument and seemed somewhat "fishy" to me. Obviously I was not the only one since the Rodale Institute has weighed in on the topic. They have invited the host of that segment Janice Lieberman to visit the farm and see the other side of the conventional vs organics topic she has taken on. Seems as if Ms. Lieberman has leaned a bit to the right in her segments instead of being the thorough investigating reporter society expects.
Please see the Rodale Instute's response here: The New Farm

So now we have to wonder---Will Ms. Lieberman actually take them up on their offer??

Friday, December 15, 2006

Go Texas!

Here's a great link for those of you opposed to Nais. AND for the record I would like to say we have family that lives there ---YE HAW!
Bandera Bulletin

Union of Concerned Scientist

Look at this link for the Union of Concerned Scientist. Very interesting and nicely done web site for environmental and political issues. If you notice at the bottom of the first page 52 Nobal Laureates have joined with this organization to petition the U.S government to stop it's scientific abuses. You can look in alphabetical order, time line order or by issue. Colorful web site too!
Remember with all issues that speak to your heart----Don't forget to write your Representatives. If you are out of the U.S----write my President and leading members of the committee chairs. Well, let me rephrase that----write the reps that share borders with you and also heads of committees. Don't bother with my President---he won't listen to you anyways, just like he doesn't listen to us.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Asparagus Update

For the first time ever--I have raised asparagus from seeds. Here is a picture of them under the grow lights. I have long commercial fixtures with a cool bulb on one side and a warm bulb on the other---I rotate the plant boxes everyday so they get equal amounts of both sides. For these seeds I used the little pre done seed blocks. I do have a soil blocker for seeds and love it---well worth the money spent on it if you sprout a lot of seeds.
As you know from a previous post I ordered my seeds back on November 16th from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
If I remember correctly I had them within a week and planted them a week or so later. Here are a few things I learned along the way about asparagus seeds.
1. Soak them for up to two days to soften the seed coat. I didn't do this since I read it after I planted my seeds---but I will try it next time since I still have many left to plant.
2. Make sure you plant the seed about 1/2 inch deep. I know it seems too deep since the seeds aren't that big --but they will "pop" their selves right out of the soil if you don't. I had two I didn't get deep enough and had to gently replant them.
3. It takes from 5 to 14 days average for sprouting and don't forget to use some sort of bottom heat---which will make sprouting quicker. We set ours on the stone over one of the radiators in our living room and it worked well. I have used heating pads before and they work well too--just keep them on low.
4. I also draped a towel over the mini greenhouse to facilitate darkness.
Good luck if you try growing your own!

Chicken Order

Well I finally placed my chicken order yesterday. Unfortunately I waited too long and was only able to order 10 cuckoo Marans (top two pictures) instead of 20 as I would have been able to last week. I also missed the delivery week of Feb 5th and had to take Feb 12th. Oh well, I still have another order to place for later delivery and I will get the rest of my Marans then. Or maybe I will order from someone like Sand Hill Preservation even though they can't delivery until in May. They do have a very large selection of heritage poultry (and sweet potatoes which is what we will be ordering early next year from them)
I placed my order through Murray McMurray. I would have liked to use a smaller individual but I really did want to have my chicks early this year so....
The bottom two pictures are of the Silver Laced Wyandottes that I ordered (not really a rare breed---but I liked their looks) and I also ordered some Delawares.
Marans--if you are unfamiliar with them are absolutely neat birds. They lay (along with Barnvelders and Welsummers---which we had years ago) DARK DARK chocolate colored eggs. Some of the eggs even have chocolate chip spots on them and are very fascinating. Cross breeding will reduce but not always kill the tendency for the dark eggs and from what I understand a more natural diet of grass and bugs keeps the color really dark and rich. That's what our hens always eat so I couldn't confirm that one way or the other.
The Silver Laced Wyandottes lay light brown large eggs and are pretty---so they will at least be productive yard decoration.
The Delawares are a heritage breed (developed rather recently in the forties) that were the precursor to some of the "new" larger broiler chickens. Supposedly they lay really large eggs (jumbos?) and the roosters grow out well for slaughter. Maybe if we caponized them they would turn into nice big tender roasters without the problems of the modern breeds- ( see that link along the side in "random places" entitled The Modern Homestead for info about caponizing roosters)
I almost purchased Salmon Faverolles --which I really really like, but I chose not to this time. These are one of my favorite breeds because they have a very mild personality and they are so pretty. They make absolutely wonderful backyard birds and will come and work with you in the flower/veggie beds if they can. They will even let you just reach down and pick them up---so passive they are. Absolutely perfect for a more urban setting than I have. The problem with them for me here is that they are so mild--the hawks get them. We have watched the hawks strike them and take them out. The Barnvelders, Marans and Welsummers on the other hand (and hopefully the others I ordered this time) will actually turn on the hawk and try and fight it off. And as far as we have ever been able to tell---they are successful. We still have lost them to other animals but at least while they are foraging in the pastures where there are no trees they are safe enough from the hawks.
We don't have an actual chicken coop yet at this house (we did at our other) but we are not sure if we will build one. I think we are going to try a movable tunnel. One that maybe can do double duty with the garden beds in the winter and be used for egg laying and rain shelter by the hens in the summer. We are still testing out theories to find something that actually looks not too bad (remember I live in suburbia on a corner), holds up well to moving around and is not horribly difficult to move. I know, I know---I am almost searching for the impossible. I am determined to succeed. We have tried many things over the years so I am sure we can make something work. One "wrench" in the works in money---I don't want to spend as much on the movable pen as I would if I just built a coop.

Here's another interesting site about Chickens --Henderson's chicken breed chart. It covers most all breeds with the 60 it has listed.
Oh yes, don't forget the American Livestock Breeds Concervancy.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

And a magazine review too

Last night as we watched the Daily Show on Comedy Central, John Stewart did an "interview" of a Senator who has recently written a book. To make a long story short said Senator (missed his name) who happens to also be an ordained minister, said some things concerning separation of Church and State. That brought back to mind a magazine I used to get before we moved to this house. ( This is not one of those magazines that will hound you endlessly to re subscribe so you kind of have to stay on top of it or the subscription will lapse.)

If you are concerned about separation of church and state, don't understand it or would like to better understand it or just want to find out more about happenings around the country pertaining to separation of church and state----read Liberty Magazine. I highly recommend it.

Liberty Magazine is a publication of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. But if you think that just because a church publishes this magazine it will be full of preaching or pushing religion in everything---you are wrong. This is absolutely hands down one of the best sources I have ever found for understanding legal issues pertaining to separation of church and state, religious rights in public and work places etc. They cover many many subjects, generally framed in a very understandable way, and they do not get "wound up" in fervor. In the time that I had a subscription they covered topics having to do with saying prayers in school, burning the flag , topics having to do with covering religious rights of Muslims, Jews and other religions that practice on Saturday instead of Sunday, defense of Amish and Mennonite, work place rights pertaining to both expression of religion and not having to be subject to expression (just depends on the issue). They covered very fully the issue of the Electoral College when Vice President Gore lost to George Bush.

On their declaration page they state:
The God given right of religious liberty is best exercised when church and state are separate.
Government is God's agency to protect individual liberties and to conduct civil affairs.......

You can read more at their web site. For the low low price of only 6.95--- you can get six issues and try it for yourself. Maybe you won't like it---but maybe you will. It surely gives you plenty to think about.

Book Review

Here is a book I would recommend borrowing from you local library--Micro Eco-Farming by Barbara Best Adams. Don't buy it though. It's not chock full of how to information that you will want to hang on to for ever and ever. It does though have some interesting stories about people who started small farms and are earning a living on them. One thing that is nice about this book is that her title of "micro" farm does actually fit. The majority of the farms listed don't even own more than 15 acres total and most of them use only a small portion (under one acre to five acres) to make their living on. About half the farms in the book are under 5 acres total in their owned acreage.
The reason I liked this book is that it shows concrete examples of people who actually do earn their living, or the majority of it, farming from smaller acreage. Everything from growing flowers and produce, heirloom seeds, animals, dairy and wool. Generally most farm organizations ---government, grant or non profit--- consider a "micro farms" to be about 50 to 100 acres (size fluctuates a bit but that is the average). So it is difficult to find information, or in this case success stories, that deal with a farm under say --15 acres. What someone can do with 50 acres is supremely different than making a living on under 5 acres. There is no comparison. I KNOW I could make a living on 50 acres. I just can't afford that much land. But can I make a living on 6? Or what if I still lived in the city? Could I make a living, or a large portion of our yearly income on a suburban lot? Well, this book at least gives you incentive to try since she sites people doing just that. Even if you have no intention of farming in any way--this book still gives hope that there our people out there that are trying to do business with out being an "agribusiness".

Mrs. Adams also sites Gerald Celente and his organization The Trends Research Institute. She credits him with this statement: "By the 21st century, organic micro farms of 10 acres or less will begin to challenge the food giants." I have never really heard about this man or his institute but I have linked it for further "study" ;-)

Also for those of you who have never read "Diet for a small planet" by Frances Moore Lappe---don't forget to check it out and there is also her book "World Hunger--twelve myths" I didn't realize how much I didn't know about world hunger until I read this book years ago.
I also noticed that her daughter Anna Lappe (who co wrote with her mother " Hope's Edge--the next diet for a small planet") has a new book out this year entitled "Grub--Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen"
The two woman advocate a more vegetarian diet ---of which I am not entirely of that persuasion---BUT they are really good books and give you another look at large agribusiness and it's impact on world society and causes of hunger.

Here is another link of interest:

Micro--Farming Information

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Indoctrinating--Oops, I mean TEACHING our children

In a moment of web searching while my husband worked from home on a Saturday morning (work so un excusably interjected itself into our morning tea/coffee time) I stumbled on this article about oil companies giving money to The National Science Teachers Assoc. I actually found it through The Conscious Earth's blog (thank you Odiyya) from the Friday Dec. 9th posting. O.K--I have to admit I was amazed. And even very saddened. I think I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. A comment that Phelan made to me the other day about how she didn't feel we would be able to stop NAIS, but she was going to keep trying as hard as she could and now this, has me feeling a bit down :-( Some days I just feel more empowered than others.
Recently I read somewhere a comment that was made about left (oops that's a right slant ) leaning people and how they are not taken seriously because the majority of people think they are "loopy". What is it with "middle" leaning people hiding their heads in the sand though? Maybe I am a bit loopy but when are people going to wake up and smell the coffee? When they have to register to get it? If you hide it won't effect you? Some people I know are like that ---but look at the head way the right and the extreme religious made in the last four years. (yes, just four years) It's extremely scary sometimes. We can't keep hiding our head in the sand hoping someone else will write our representatives or vote them out.
Unfortunately I have to admit I am as guilty as others in the case of the Science Teachers. Call me an idiot for not seeing it but I just never never thought a government run entity like education would be so "bought". Sounds dumb now that I write it out doesn't it? How about naive? I guess we all have our moments but I have to admit---since school is so "local" I never really saw it. You know it's the whole---I KNOW those people teaching my kids kind of thing. And before we get into the ---"that's why I home school my children" I would like to say that IS part of the reason why we home schooled our two children. I am enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe that schools do actually indoctrinate our children. But I always saw it more of a "Class get in line please" so that it would translate into "Stand in line over here and keep the assembly line moving so the big BOSS can get rich" or "Just do it BECAUSE I know what is right and I said so---don't think for yourself" kind of thing. I never saw the public school system as actually being bought out as is indicated in the article. Yes, I understand the whole religion in school thing seems very similar ---but I always equated that as a different thing than oil vs global warming, I mean it IS religion not weather for goodness sakes. (Just for reference on this subject I am actuality a Christian BUT I completely believe the founding father's didn't want religion in our schools or government or courts. They wrote most succinctly about that subject and I agree wholeheartedly. I think it is up to every individual to teach their child what they believe about religion and for others to allow and respect that. Jesus didn't twist any arms or make laws for them to follow.)
But to have "big business" in our schools!?!? I have to admit I am flabbergasted and will have to make a point of saying more on this subject to people I know. And you know what else---I think I will buy an "Inconvenient Truth" and donate it to my local library. Maybe the school library will even take one---I will ask them next week.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Lace Shawl Project and Icelandic fleeces

Yes, I know---pathetic picture. I held it up, I laid it down, I tried to stretch it with one hand and snap the picture with the other, I even stretched it and held it up in front of the window---but alas all you see is a fuzzy gray thing. Believe it or not, you can actually see the pattern very nicely when you have it in front of you. My camera just didn't want to help me with viewing pleasure. This lace shawl pattern is from Interweave Knits Summer 2006 magazine. It is the Icarus shawl on page 74. My yarn is a bit heavier than the alpaca they use for the magazine shawl but none the less is still knitting up into a nice piece. I believe it is going to have a very very nice drape. Originally I thought I was starting at the bottom of the piece and so I kept getting a bit more confused with each new row. It just didn't look like the picture--finally I re read the side notes again and realized---I started at the top. After that it made perfect sense and I could "see" it. It was an Ah Ha! moment. This is my first time using a lace chart so you can understand how I might not have "gotten" it yet.
The yarn I am using for the shawl is my Icelandic sheep Greta's lamb fleece made into two ply lace weight that I have had laying around for a while. It's a bit heavier of a lace weight than I originally wanted but what can you do after it is spun? Send it back and tell them to re spin it? I didn't have very much of it so I wanted to find something that would be just about the correct amount to finish with. I have another lamb fleece in a dark brown spun into lace weight also. I now know I will do another shawl with it since I already like how this one is coming along. Unfortunately we lost that brown sheep last year so we can't get her extra extra dark brown again. Very unusual brown she was. So sad--but that is life on a farm.
Greta is one of my darkest black sheep--with a few stray gray strands in her fleece. Washed and spun up though-- she makes a very nice charcoal gray. Very soft too. Her lamb has an even blacker softer fleece than Greta --but I sold it to someone else. There comes a point where you have to get rid of some of it since Icelandics are sheared twice a year. You can quickly end up with way way to much fleece and I just don't knit fast enough to keep up with all of it.
This year I finally bought some white Icelandic sheep to have on the farm (see some of the colors in Nov 27th post). Two of them are actually spotted, not white, but have so much "spot" that they look basically white. For a long time I wasn't going to have white sheep---then I saw some hand died angora from a local person and decided "ah ha! that's what I need---white fleeces to dye!" The reason we held out so long on getting white sheep is this: white is the dominate "color" and will cover up the natural browns and blacks and grays that the sheep can be (as you breed them). White is actually not a color so much as a pattern. Icelandics have 3 loci that effect what they look like. First they choose a color: black or brown. Then they choose a pattern: gray, mouflon, badger face, white or a combo of these. The third effects whether they will be spotted or not. Anyways think of white like frosting on a cake. You can have a chocolate cake (or black or brown sheep) and you can cover it with white frosting and then you won't know what flavor it is anymore. White is the frosting for sheep---it covers everything else up so you can't see it--though it is still hiding in there. Natural color fleece was the reason we chose to raise Icelandics. If I had more room I would add a few more different types of sheep (for different wool types) and a few angora goats too---but we don't :-( I would still mainly have Icelandics though just because I like their size, colors, wool style and personalities.

Two weeks ago I finally got the rest of my fleeces from this year boxed up and sent off to a spinning mill in Maine called Hope Spinnery. I like them because they are trying to be environmentally friendly with their mill and hopefully they will do a good job with my fleeces so I can then highly recommend them to others. (They are not the mill that did Greta's fleece for me.) When they get finished with all of it and send it back to me I will receive---about 9 pounds of white in a 70% Icelandic 30% Angora mix spun into a two ply bulky of about 100 yards to the pound (it will be CHUNKY) Some of it I might dye of course.
Also a bit over 4 pounds of brown Icelandic lamb spun two ply into a 160 yards to the pound--already have a sweater planned for some of this.
Two left over winter fleeces made into felting batts and two very special fleeces that hopefully will come back exactly as I requested : washed and very very very lightly carded and left as a cloud to be spun by me. I have two ewes (sisters) that have very similar colors---but one has more gray. Her fleece was equal parts of black, brown, white and medium gray. It was GORGEOUS. The picture I posted on my web page when I had it for sale just didn't show it to it's best. There was no way---you had to see it in person to appreciate the colors. It made me just want to look at it---like you would a good painting. Hopefully if it comes back like I see it in my head then I will be able to spin it into a nice variegated yarn---for what project I have no clue. If it comes back carded too much--well, it will make a great medium gray yarn.
And if you are wondering why I don't just wash and prep it for spinning myself---well, its just easier to have someone else do it. It's just not my favorite part really.

Update 12/8/2006-- Oops! did I say 100 yards per pound? I meant per 100 grams! LOL Most would have been really really chunky wouldn't it have?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

What does the word "meme" mean?

Well Katie from Simple Katie has sent out a "meme" challenge today. Technically I have no idea what a meme is...but I understand the gist of it. She would like people to list 15 favorite books. Now in putting my list together I may actually forget some of my favorite books but here is a good sampling. (These are favorites---not necessarily what I have read recently)

1. The Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais (The Monkey's Raincoat is the first one) genre: murder/mystery
2. 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith---this is the original, no Disney retelling here.
3. The Contrary Farmer--Gene Logsdon---very funny author and good story. genre: organic agriculture
4. Harry Potter Series--J.K. Rowling. I don't care what others say.....I love this series.
5. The Giant Jam Sandwich --John Vernon Lord. This is a classically good little kids book.
6. The Painted House--John Grisham. This is actually the only one of his I really liked
7. The Hobbit--J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the rings series is O.K but this is the best one)
8. Redwall series --Brian Jacques (so many you can get tired of them and have to pause)
9 The Swiss Family Robinson--Johann Wyss
10. The New Organic Gardener --Elliot Coleman
11. Four-Season Harvest--Elliot Coleman
12.Timeline --Micheal Crichton (better than the movie)
13. Cheaper by the Dozen --Frank Gilbreth (much better than the movie)
14. The Green Mile--Stephen King (movie was close but book was better) Only Stephen King I ever made it through
15. Ben and Me--Robert Lawson
extra: Ralph the Mouse series --Beverly Cleary

Yes, some of these are kids books --but I like children's books. They are fun and not to serious. They are absolutely the best when read out loud at bed time for many nights or weeks in a row.

Update on yesterdays post

Boulder Belt farm received some great links to go along with my comments yesterday on the Today Show airing. Please check them out. It's the third section down in the Dec. 6th posting.

Have a great day everyone! Signed: Jailhouse Liver Dupree (Liver!?!?)

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Changing your organic tactics

Well, I have noticed recently that the people that are working "against" organic and natural products are coming up with some very very convincing and confusing arguments. Now, we need to change tactics. No longer can we say organic is better for you because it uses no chemicals --since the anti-organic movement has new reasons why its not. People are becoming confused and we need to be able to tell them why they shouldn't believe big business and lobbyist. Here are just a few of the new arguments coming out:

1. Organics uses pesticides too. LINK This link doesn't list exact pesticides but remember that some of the pesticides used by conventional farmers are organic (ie: not petro based) and can be dangerous and harmful. Organic is anything not petroleum based. Even BT used by many organic growers is considered an "insecticide". To a non gardener---that is the same as a pesticide. Yes, it is word play-- but we need to remind them that most organic gardeners use NO pesticides---organic or petroleum based. They are just using good gardening techniques and other smart practices including kaolin clays, row covers and beneficial insects along with very healthy soil. Symantics is one of the best and oldest ways to confuse people.

2. Organics may have less pesticide residue but their not as healthy for you-- Today Show link. Well, that one surprised me! So now they have come up with something else to go for. Can't get the organic grower for having more pesticide, can't claim that your products have more vitamins/minerals so now we'll scare people with the idea that the food is already half rotten when they are eating/cooking it. Notice in the article that it says " held at 0 degrees (yes, that is zero--as in below freezing) for a week and the organic chickens smell bowled her over". Now how is that? Did no one catch that? The show did say that organic didn't have as good of a distribution network so the food took longer getting to market---but what did they do? Ship it unrefrigerated?? I think not. There was something stinky in that comment and it wasn't the chicken in my opinion.
Besides we need to think LOCAL here people. We need to press the whole issue of local is better. Eat in season. And we need to remind people that OF COURSE conventional last longer---they spray them with chemicals!! They aren't fooling anyone. See HERE and HERE

3. GMO is just doing what people have been doing for millennium---crossing varieties. They are just doing it faster and better: Maybe some of what they come up with is better BUT not a corn or soybean plant that can be sprayed with glyphosate (roundup ready corn and soybeans). The problem I have with this is not the "improvement" of the seed (if you want to call it that) but the ability to spray and spray the plant germinating from the seed with poison. Environmentalist for- saw the problem with that and it has come: resistant plant varieties. That and the fact that Monsanto has every one completely snookered into believing that roundup degrades quickly---even though independent testing shows that it lingers and lingers and is very dangerous to us. Of course "everyone" believes Monsanto because they have a HUGE lobbying group working for them at the government level and lots of money to disseminate false information to their benefit. They are a very very large multinational company after all. Another problem discovered with roundup is its ability to allow fungus' to flourish : SEE HERE
We need to impress upon people that adding genes like that to our food source is not the right way to go. What will happen when the Bacillus thuringiensis ( BT) added to some of Monsanto's plants creates problematic bugs? Will BT mutate fast enough to compensate? BT
When will humans learn??

These are just some of the issues that are now coming out--though clearly not all of them. We need to find a new word to describe what we are offering and growing for ourselves and others. We also need to be able to defend what we know as the truth without the distortions being added by mis informers. "Organic" has been seized by both the large scale industrial grower and the US government itself. It is no longer the "word" of the sustainable, home grown, family farm raised, healthy, freshly picked produce and products that most of us have or offer to others. It is now becoming the word of commercial, possibly sprayed with organic labeled pesticides and fertilized with huge amounts of off farm products (definitely not sustainable in the traditional sense of the word) along with mono cultured varieties of veggies suited to large scale agriculture. It can also mean shipped from thousands of miles away (think Walmart and Chinese organics here ). Again, not in line with the "sustainable" most like to think organic is. Everyday I am having to work harder to arm myself with ways to defend what I have always known was the right and natural way to grow plants and animals and even worse is the fact that I can now be sued by telling someone my products are organic. When the fact is--my products are more organic than most. Even my animals. Above I listed only some of the new things I have heard about growing organic plants/produce. This isn't including the "new improved" language being used to attack animals raised in healthy ways as mentioned in the Grass fed or Grain comments I posted on November 29th. --Of which I barely scratched the surface as I have barely scratched it here.

Even if you never plan to grow products for market---it is up to all of us to defend our rights to healthy foods. We are under attack---by our government, lobbyist and mis informers. We need to make sure that people who never see a farm understand what constitutes "real" organic. We also need to make sure that they hear the flip side of the coin from what they are currently hearing from the "anti- organic" group. And hear it in such a way as to make these mis informers sound as unreliable as they are.

Breastfeeding????? :-O

So as I looked around this morning I stumbled on this article through The Green Mommy blog spot. It is entitled "Because Mother Nature made bottles for a Reason"
Generally I wouldn't blog about something like this since both my children are older and hopefully I am still a bit away from grandchildren. On the other hand---sometimes even those of us not affected need to realize what is happening so we can put in our 2 cents worth--especially if we want to have the opportunity for ourselves or family/friends to do whatever it is in the future. Even the far far future.
Now I would like to say: I breastfed one child but not the other. Reasons? I was not very confident of myself when my daughter was born and HOW embarrassing is seemed to breastfeed in public--not many did it. And yes, people STARED at you. At least it seemed that way. My son is 4 years younger and I still had a problem with it but persevered through it so he could enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding. My opinion now: wish I had stuck it out with my daughter. She is the child that has asthma (she is 19 years old). And my son? well he had food allergies so every time I look back I am always glad I held out. Anyways--read the article it is quite funny and so are some of the links in the article (like the Barbara Walters link)

Monday, December 4, 2006

Another composting update

So now I can officially call myself the liberator of leaves. The city has actually dumped over 20 dump truck loads on my property since first coming on 11/29. On only two days did we not get any leaves---one rain day and of course Sunday. Yes, we are starting to loose sight of the lawn and garden area now BUT I am not going to tell them to stop. For two reasons---one is that I hate to see the leaves go to the dump and two: I will regret not having all I can get once they break down into the much smaller piles of crumbly good stuff they will eventually be. Believe it or not they are hot and steamy out there too. Surprise to us. Which is hard to believe since we have never been good at getting quick hot compost piles. We have always had slow cool ones. One difference I can attribute to it though is that they seem to be the perfect moisture, something I rarely seem able to accomplish in my other piles. Another thing is the shear volume of material. I read somewhere once that to make good compost, good hot compost, good quick hot compost (sorry couldn't help myself) that you needed to have a pile at least 4 feet by 4 feet by 4 or 5 feet tall. That, they said, was one of the biggest problems most people had besides not layering well enough. Well, we haven't layered anything with the leaves yet and they are steaming away out there so maybe that was our problem all along: SIZE. Of course now we need to find a good source of nitrogen to mix in and I read in my Rodale book on compost making that about 6 to 7 pounds of human hair has as much nitrogen as 100 to 200 pounds of manure. Wow! Amazing. And just think how easy it will be to carry comparatively! Of course I have a hair place about a mile and 1/2 from me that I am sure will let me pick up their hair clippings---they will think I am a fruitcake but.....I need nitrogen! I think I will probably wear gloves while spreading the hair though---I have to admit I have a bit of a yuk factor about touching some one's hair (some un known someone I mean). I laugh at that thought too since the beauticians don't have a problem touching the hair. And of course I would imagine that they would have a "yuk" factor in regards to touching sheep or cow poo--- which I have absolutely no problem with at all. LOL funny how we get used to certain things. Now do you suppose a septic guy gets used to his job? Hmmm....
I had some good pics to upload to show our mountains of leaves but.....alas our camera doth not worketh.
The same ole same ole as far as that goes. Someday I will acquire a new camera that maybe will not only take a better picture but will have either a rechargeable battery or will work with the chip reader I have. Or will just work in general sometimes. That subject I am sure is for another day.

For my own personal reminder (and friends and family that read our post) here are some of the things we accomplished this weekend:
1. Shifted 30 bales of hay out of one side of the garage to make way for the 4 (yes, four---lucky us) round bales we have been able to acquire. For those of you not in the know on this subject we had a SERIOUS drought this year across much of the country and hay is a precious commodity right now. VERY difficult to find in our area--most of ours has come in from Kentucky since everyone was sold out back in September (or didn't even sell any this year). Our neighbors have sent over half their herd to the auction and they have 250 acres compared to our 6.5 acres. This particular hay comes from a work friend of my husband's (luckily he has more hay than animals and doesn't usually sell it) I think we now have enough hay to make it until March (maybe). The writer winces thinking of this.
2. dug up the rest of the over grown shrubs and poison ivy from the side of the driveway with the tractor borrowed from husband's work and prepped it for retaining walls. Looks good too except its all dirt right now.
3. dug up and removed those wretched, slanting, cracking, dangerously irregular cement stairs coming off the drive to the front door. Of course for a while it will be easiest for everyone to come in through the garage until the new stairs go in along with the driveway retaining wall and new sidewalk. All visitors and family alike will have to drag by all the hay in the garage---- but at least they won't have to climb the hill of dirt.
4. Smoothed all the dirt that was taken from the driveway transformation and put in another area to level it out---we smoothed it by hand since the tractor couldn't get it all the way.
5. Dug out a couple of overgrown shrubs and wild muscadines from the area mentioned in #4.
6. Finally we did some xmas shopping---and boy were we tired! Almost to tired to enjoy our kung pao chicken and twice cooked pork at our favorite oriental restaurant (family owned).

Things we didn't get finished this weekend: One billion and counting :-)

Friday, December 1, 2006

A Blue (and Green) Xmas with Radiators

Yes, that is my glowingly white xmas tree in my living room. All dressed up (mostly) in blue and green. Obviously you can tell it is FAKE. A big fat fake white tree. For years and years I held out against a "boxed" tree. For one---their fake and they look it. Two: the whole using up of resources for such a silly consumer thing made me feel as if I shouldn't do it---we have a number of times purchased live then planted them after xmas. Finally though when the allergies and asthma became to much we decided we would break down and buy one. Well, I decided if we were going to have fake---we were going to have the fakest of fake trees. How much more un real can you get than white? I mean really.
O.k---I could have gotten one of those blue ones. But I LIKE the white ones.
I will say since we live in a late 60's split level that the tree does sort of "go" with the whole mid century idea though. We have tried to remain somewhat true to the house during renovation and we like mid century modern. I also remember my grandmother having a white tree when I was little and many other people too. So if nothing else we can be "cool" temporarily and make a mid century statement. hehehe Which absolutely doesn't fit the whole farm thing we have going on outside the house.
By the way, since putting up the tree I seem to have that song "I'll have a blue xmas without you" stuck in my head----and it's probably now in yours.
Notice to the side of the tree is our "rad". Yes it sits a bit off the floor (all the better to dust under you dear) but will eventually have a nice rad cover over it---we just haven't decided on a style yet. The mission style that we see so commonly just won't fit a 60's split/ranch. So we will procrastinate for a while longer until some great idea hits us. My husband installed the complete heating system in this house. It is a hydronic system running off an on demand/instantaneous water heater plumbed almost entirely with pex tubing --my husband highly recommends the pex tubing. Eventually the water heater will be hooked into an evacuated tube solar collector , which should about halve our heating of water. We are pretty sunny here in the winter and evacuated tube collectors are very efficient at their job. We hoped to get them this year but it looks like it will be next year since we don't get any solar rebates from the state to help out with cost. It will all be out of pocket for us which means waiting while a few other expensive things get finished first. The man that built our house sited it to the south (with big windows) and so the longest part of the roof will be perfect for water heating when we can purchase it.
We also ran some of the heating pipes under the floors so we have a small amount of radiant floor heating and in the wall next to our garage we put tubing in the wall--which is wonderful when you come in from a very cold outside. When we were trying to decide to do wall tubing/heating we only found one article about radiant wall heating. The article it self was written by a man doing an experiment. Well, since then this is what we have decided: We would absolutely do wall heating again. We highly recommend it to others and as a matter of fact we wish we had done more walls and less radiators. We also think it is as good if not better than floor heating. Of course you have to pick walls were you won't have a lot of pictures--that is one downside (tiled bathroom walls would really work well). We also decided next time we would go ahead and send off to Europe for a really really nice knob to turn the heat up and down with. Of course you can also do thermostats but we just wanted to be able to turn it up down off very un complicatedly right at the location. I am a simple person at heart---hence the sometimes odd selections of thing.