Tuesday, January 30, 2007

By the Way

Before everyone gripes at me about difficulty let me just say this: yes, I have made them and no I don't think their easy. They are the sort of thing you have to "relearn" every year. Think of it this way: After you do 50 or so you should be a pro for the current year :-D

Newspaper pots

Ever thought about buying one of those wood "things" that make newspaper pots? Well, except for the fact that they look nice they are totally irrelevant. There are lots and lots of links on line for many different styles of newspaper pots. Part of my issue with the purchased wood pot maker is that it is only one size. So here are some links for different ideas that I stumbled on while looking for refresher ideas. You can use them to make many many recyclable pots of different sizes. By the way---if your community like mine does not recycle newspaper (I know some of you are astounded by that) then another really good place to get large volumes of newspaper for pots or mulch is your local school. We don't take the paper nor do any of our neighbors so that is where we go when we need large amounts. I try and start at this time of year collecting since the school is out in the summer and I will have more trouble finding them then. Usually one of the teachers will use them for the current events so it's a great place to start with anyways.

Here is the "best" most easily understood directions I found: (Oops I had to remove this --thanks anonymous for the heads up) but I am replacing it with this link: http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/polachic49.html
from that same link is an origami seed envelope which I have never tried:(also had to remove this one as of 1/05/09) I am replacing it with this instead: Seed envelopes.
Here is another: Newspaper pot 2
Here's another: Newspaper pot 3
More pictures here: Newspaper pot 4

Now I know that you can also use things like toilet paper rolls but I have two problems with those: 1---they aren't big enough when you need to grow out things like tomato seedlings that need to be repotted and repotted. 2--I buy the "triple" roll size rolls. So I would have to save those all year just to get barely enough rolls :-) And when storage is an issue---who wants to. I'd rather just toss them in the compost pile.

By the way---I do own a "soil blocker" as seen here: Peaceful Valley farm and garden
I own the smallest and the medium size. I love them for seed starting when I have the room to set up all my seedling "stuff" (This year my garage is chock full of hay because of our unusual drought and hay issue so all seed starting is in my bed room which has me somewhat limited) I also use them to start things like sweet peas or other seeds that don't "really" need to be sprouted inside but maybe I just want to. I have not invested in the big one yet since except for a few plants I found I just didn't always need that size hence my interest in newspaper pots. I know others swear by it though so maybe someday I will buy one. Unfortunately those are not the things of garage sales---at least not that I have ever seen yet---so new seems the only way to get one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Watcha duin?

Not a lot here that's for sure. Well, just lots of little things so I didn't realize it had been 5 (yes, 5 ) whole days since I last posted.
We have been trying to catch up and finish some projects that we have started. We are the all time best about starting projects--how long it takes to finish is another thing. As usual we are making progress and just so you know---I like being busy with all these "things". Yes, sometimes I need a breather but I couldn't imagine what I would do if all I had to do was make dinner and tidy the house. I think I might be bored. Well, let me rephrase: I would be bored.
Anyways the number one thing that has caught my attention right now is marking out/planning my garden beds. Now there is something I hate. You know---when it's new you never know things like: will I like the corn over here or will it be better here. Should I plant one long row of tomatoes, two medium or a couple blocks in different areas?
Then there's also the rotation effect. O.k---if I put the corn here this year next year I will move it to ........ Because of course the amount of corn you plant is definitely more than say the amount of pepper plants--so the corn won't rotate into the same "space" the peppers occupied the year before. That begs the next question of which other plants to put in with the peppers and will they mess up the rotation next year. I know---I am making it sound harder than it is but as will all things until you can just get in there are start doing it (or in this case planting) it is just one big blank thing. A great unknown. A huge white canvas waiting for the first brush stroke---but not the whole can of paint just thrown on it all at once.
So gardeners, can you hear the engines revving?? It seems to get louder and louder with each passing day. No matter that it is bitterly cold this morning. The farther along the garden comes the more I want to be out there PLANTING. Not just looking and moving mulch. Not just staking out corners of new beds. Not drawing plots on paper and planning where I might like my vermi-composting bed or my new bed of raspberries. I want to be DOING.
So now we have exactly 51days until the spring equinox---Yeah!!!!! When that gets here you know that you are either gardening (in my case in the south) or pretty darn close to it. Even if you are not gardening at that point the sun is getting closer and the earth moving day by day to warmer days.
In my minds eye I see all the other gardeners, including myself, looking longingly out the window towards their gardens. Then walking across the room to pick up the seed catalog one more time---just to look. Because of course, by now, most of us have ordered all the seeds (plus more) than we could possibly ever fit in our gardens in a couple of years. Looking though gives the perception of doing. Doing something other than just waiting.

Here are a few things to leave you with that have to do with plant rotations just in case you have never read Elliot Coleman's book "Four Season Harvest". His book is not the only one with this information but I always remember it is there. Members of the same family are better off not following each other for a couple of years in a crop rotation so that pests/disease won't build up and so they don't deplete the soil of the same nutrient over and over, year after year. Longer is better between rotations. If you have a small garden and can't rotate on a long schedule---remember plenty of organic matter and compost helps, helps, helps.

Related Crop Families:

Amaryillidaceae: garlic, leek, onion

Cruciferae: arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chinese cabbage, cress, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, radish, rutabaga

Chenopodiaceae: beet, orach, spinach, swiss chard

Compositae: artichoke, chicory, dandelion, endive, escarole, lettuce, radicchio

Cucurbitaceae: cucumber, melon, pumpkin, summer and winter squashes

Gramineae: corn

Leguminosae: bean and pea

Liliaceae: asparagus

Polygonaceae: sorrel

Portulacaceae: claytonia, purslane

Solanaceae: eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato

Tetragoniaceae: new zealand spinach

Umbelliferae: carrot, celery, celeriac, parsley, parsley root, parsnip

Also here is a good cover crop chart to help remember which time of year is best to plant certain things: I always remember that buckwheat is tender but have trouble remembering when it's best to plant hairy vetch for some reason. Maybe it's a bit easier for those in the North since they get a cold winter. Some cover crops/forage crops can be planted either early/mid fall OR early spring here. So most often I have to re look them up to check and see if they are planted spring, fall, winter or any of the above.

Hardy green manures
Legumes: hairy vetch, red clover, sweet clover, white dutch clover
Non Legumes: rye, wheat

Half-Hardy green manures
Legumes: austrian winter pea, berseem clover, black medic, crimsom clover, lupine, purple vetch, rose clover
Non Legumes: barley, mustard, oats,oil radish and phacelia

Tender green manures
Legumes: cowpeas, crotolaria, guar, sesbania
Non Legumes: buckwheat

Good planning everyone!!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Would you like to follow along?

Liberty Farm has linked in a great web site on a recent posting. Small is still beautiful: Economics as if Families Mattered is a new book out by by Joseph Pierce. He based it on the book Small is beautiful by E.F Schumacher. He is posting daily and having on line discussions about globalization etc etc. He just started so there is not much missed yet and each posting is not really long but is thought provoking. Whether your conservative or liberal--check it out since the author is trying to engage both sides of the coin so to speak.

Soil Health-- part 2

Now as I get ready to sow my seeds and plant my vegetables, I first need to do a soil test. I actually have a previous idea as to the general health of the soil in my garden but with in the month a sample will be taken, along with those of all our pastures, and sent off to be tested by and organic soil testing company. We will plant in our garden (the best soil on our property) but will wait to do our test at the end of Feb. We added amendments to our pastures last fall and need to wait at least 6 months before re testing. No sense in sending two packages. And just so you know---there is a difference in soil testing companies. If you send your soil samples to say.....your local ag guy to have them tested, more than likely you will get back a sample that is based on inorganic inputs--- NPK inputs. "Modern" agriculture has a tendency to think in NPK instead of micro and macro nutrients, biomass and soil health in general. Here is a link to companies that do soil testing based on organic inputs: Attra soil testing list
Also you can contact Countryside Naturals. They work with a testing company that is very nice--they can send you a form to fill out for that company and tell you all about it. They can also supply you with organic inputs for your soil and animal health. We have done business with Countryside Naturals and really like them.
Now disregarding the fact that I have been a long time organic fanatic when it comes to my property there are now studies coming out that show that inorganic, high nitrogen fertilizers are damaging our soils and tying up our nutrients.
I now understand not all soil is created equal but not that many years ago I would have said something like "yes, I know, there's clay and loam and sand and .....they all need compost to keep them healthy and get nice tilth" But that's not exactly what I mean. I am speaking of soil that is full of abundant health. Teaming with worms and microbes and the organic good health of minerals. Calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and all the trace nutrients that we need in our food are in there-- and hopefully working in balance. Because believe it or not---grass can grow even if the soil is low or lacking in some elements. Legumes can grow if the soil is lacking in some elements. Weeds (not the proverbial enemy we think of them as) will grow when elements are lacking.
The best way to "add" trace minerals and overall good health back to your soil is through rebuilding and organic inputs. Manure is an input that everyone thinks of but studies are showing that cover crops are actually as good and in some cases better than manure. Cover crops can do a lot of different things for you. They can break up tough hard soil with their roots (studies put alfalfa anywhere from 4 feet to almost 50 feet deep), they can add nitrogen in the case of legumes, and they can add much needed organic matter. Cover crops aren't just for garden areas either, they are for pastures too. We have hard compacted soil in about half our pastures so we are trying to get deep rooted plants going to help us out. It can take a while, especially when you work out of pocket and without tractors like we do---but we can see improvement every year. When you plant a crop that sends deep roots down to open the soil for rain and oxygen to get in there, then you plant a crop like buckwheat or rye to turn over (or let your animals eat it down) it adds organic matter. With that cycle you are creating the perfect environment for worms. Worms are THE BEST thing you can ever do for you soil. The clincher is though, you can't just add worms----you have to create nice conditions for them to come to you. Kind of like the old Kevin Costner movie about the baseball stadium "build it and they will come". When they do come--watch out! That's when the soil building really begins. Worms take something we consider great---like manure. Eat it (yes, that is what they do) and turn it into something that is 100's of times better than it was before they got to it. God's little soil factory in one small slippery package :-) The number one thing to remember about worms: they HATE low ph soil (acid soil like we have) and they hate high nitrogen (think inorganic here) fertilizers---it burns their skin.

As I stated in my first soil health post---I know my soil lacks selenium (using that as an example). Selenium is needed in very very small amounts and you do not run down to the local store and get a bag of selenium to throw on your property like you can lime. Selenium, when added in "chemical" form is added in barely ounces per acre---very very low amounts since it is easy to get to much and cause a deadly problem. We will add ours in the form of Kelp (Thorvin, Fertrell, Sea Life etc) You can buy a bagged dried form (which is what we feed our animals) or if you look around you can find a source that offers liquid for spraying. We will use bagged in the garden area but for larger applications to our pastures we will use the liquid since it is cheaper that way. Kelp has just about every micro and macro nutrient you could ever need or think you want in it. Also, since it is a natural form---my animals can eat as much as they want (within reason of course) and any "excess" for that day is excreted by them to help my soil. So referencing back to yesterdays post, my animals will slowly build the selenium up in the soil for me (and them) and over time they shouldn't need supplementary shots.
Over time the micro and macro nutrients will come up in my soils and be in the carrots that I eat which is my main concern. If you are aspiring to eat local then this is something that concerns you greatly. Our modern diet with food from across the country and across the world---evens out the "bumps" of our nutrition. BUT if you do actually become successful at eating local and growing most of your food----you are only going to get the nutrients that are in your local soil. So, using my original selenium example: if your area has no or is low in selenium---you might not get the amount you need to stay healthy. Selenium is a huge part of our immune system--proven over and over by studies. And that is just one of the many many nutrients in our soil---imagine.

Here are a few things I would like to link for your interest. Most have something to do with soil, animal, human health or how they all work together. One I can't link is the book Better Soil by Gene Logsdon. If you can a hold of it --it is very good. A compost book like the one by the Rodale institute is also a benefit. I know everyone "knows" how to make compost---but sometimes having the general information on carbon ratios etc is useful. These are just starting points there are many many places and books to find information about these topics.

Benefits of Biodiverse Pasture Forage
Some compost crops --- there are many more on line and in books.
Diverse information on soils, plants etc
And some worm information : Here and Here

Oh yes, one added thing: A new study shows that planting buckwheat twice in the summer (cut at about 5 weeks to kill it before it self seeds, then reseed) then fall oats or rye (tilled under the next spring) suppresses almost all weed growth and creates wonderful tilth. This would be great for raised beds or small garden rows or blocks that you are trying to build up.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007




Soil Health--part 1

Yesterday I finally moved the cows and rams out of my garden area. With a bit over 2 weeks of "manuring" in there amongst the leaves I think my garden will have a pretty good start. Cows create a LOT of manure and though the leaves seem to have been like quick sand in swallowing up all signs--I know its there. Actually, I have been able to start seeing piles these last few days which confirms my theory that it was building up by quite a bit. So they moved running, jumping and kicking (with the Jack Russell we own barking and racing behind them in fun) on to the next fenced area.
Now that they are gone I can go again and work inside the garden area. I have already moved leaves and prepped some beds but needed to wait for the animals to leave before planting anything since it would just have gotten tromped. This brings me to the point of my post---soil health.
Obviously I received the benefit of many many tons of leaves this year that not all people have access too. And in the scheme of things: they aren't enough to spread on all the soil that I currently "farm". When we purchased this acreage we knew that the soil was in bad shape and needed help. It had previously been a pine tree "stand" that had been cut down. They then scraped all the soil around to form a dam and pond and to terrace the remaining area (they didn't do a very good job of it though).
So when we purchased the property what we actually acquired was: rocky, terraced, compacted soil with mostly wild blackberry canes (and don't say yum---some wild black berries taste about like ear wax)
We are organic so we subscribed to the notion that if we added animals, brought in hay from other farms and rotated our animals around ---over time we would get healthy worm teeming soil. Seems logical right? Oh we knew we might need to put some lime on the pastures---I mean it had been a pine "forest" previously which screams low ph/acid soil. What we never connected with at first is how minerals and vitamins play a role in the soils health and in turn the animals and ours too. Now there are many theories as to how to handle this as with anything else: you have the "keep running the animals and let them poop theory" (which I mentioned above), add all inorganic fertilizers and lime theory (that's a no for us), don't add lime--just apply compost or worm castings etc to the whole of the property which will balance out the ph and help with minerals (exorbitantly expensive option if you don't have a worm farm or enough manure to compost) and on and on and on.
Now I will digress and tell you why these things are important---more than we think they are.
When we bought our first cow she came home and was a healthy running, jumping cow. Then about 3 months later we were able to bring home the other female. Well low and behold Rose (cow #1) was not as black as Caragh (cow #2). O.k. no big deal. Over time though Rose became redder and redder--like a black headed woman with a bad bleach job. Research via the internet said not enough copper was in her diet. O.K. ---we could understand that. So we would just up her copper by feeding her a grain mix with some in it to supplement her minerals.
Well, by that time we had sheep. So we split the cows into one pasture and the sheep into another since sheep can't have ANY copper as cows can. Sheep are greedy little animals---and quick as lightening, so keeping them from getting some of the cow food was next to impossible. Also, our cows were short so the sheep could jump up and eat out of anything the cow could, hence the problem. Over time Rose gained back some of her black color but not as much as Caragh did. We worried, but we were about to find that was the least of our worries.
Our sheep started struggling with worms that summer. Oh the summer was horrible for parasites. If you don't know about sheep and worms let me say this: a lamb can die within ten days by extreme loss of blood (being sucked out by the worms in their stomachs) and it is not a pretty site. Very sad. Anyways, we were trying to rotationally graze them but couldn't seem to get the groove correct no matter what we did. We wormed and wormed with chemical wormers , which I totally hate, but it was the only way to save them. So I started researching organic techniques--garlic, chicory, wormwood, other herbs , and other things in general. I figured that since chemical wormers weren't always available some where there had to be info on what they did in the "old days". As it turns out we stumbled on some new information out of Australia about using copper to help sheep battle internal worms. Supposedly the copper creates an environment in the sheep's blood that doesn't let the worms propagate nor live a healthy life. Some will make it but most will die.
Ask any shepherd or vet about copper and sheep and you will get some of the most horrified looks you ever saw in your life and a "sheep CAN'T have copper--it will kill them almost immediately". I was desperate though and felt there was no other way (besides I don't always believe everything I hear) though we did wonder if we would wake the next morning to a flock of dead sheep.
I am going to shorten this since it is an extremely long journey on my part. What we found over time was that our land was so depleted and exhausted with such low (acidic) ph that really no minerals were making their way up into our animals. Many of the minerals needed by my animals where either lacking (selenium), low (calcium) or "locked" in the soil because of the soil conditions (copper--just to name one). The soils lack of health was requiring our animals to regularly need "modern" intervention to keep them in good health. Even with that they weren't in "tip-top" health. Our first saving grace came when we added Kelp to their diets instead of the salt mineral we were purchasing from the feed store. What an amazing product. Within a month--Rose was almost black and my sheep looked a lot better. We still felt they weren't getting enough copper and selenium though and tests showed they weren't.
My long drawn out point is this: The soil absolutely, completely has everything to do with your health. Whether you eat meat or eat only vegetables---what soil they were grown in has everything to do with your overall well being. If the soil has low or no selenium (most of the U.S now) then so will your veggies. My sheep get "doses" of selenium that many vets (I speak to a lot of them about what they think and what I notice) swear should have killed them. It doesn't though-- BUT I will have to test my soil every year so that I don't give them to much over time as soil conditions improve on my property. Which it will with time. Also as we have an animal to butcher we will send portions of a liver to a lab to test. Testing liver tissue is the best way to see what type of nutrition animals are getting from a property (which is especially important if you are trying to be mostly grass base and have not much acreage) It only gives you the nutrition of the tested subject which should be considered the "average" though-- as with humans everyone is different and observations are required to accommodate those differences. Some animals may need a supplement, some may not---and each farm must choose how they will handle those things.
Obviously based on what we have learned---I will need to add selenium to my garden (remember this is my original reason for posting) so that we in turn receive some. I will need to take soil samples first since some things you don't want to over do. My animals and cows have never been healthier since adding extra of two deadly minerals--- BUT those and others are absolutely needed by all bodies. Needed only in small amounts as a whole, but needed none the less. Some areas naturally lack some nutrients and always have but modern farming is partly to blame behind this lack of nutrition in our soils with its continual applications of nitrogen rich in organic fertilizers. Another thing that can cause soil nutrient problems on your property is pollution. One example is sulfur from factories falling on soils downwind and tying up nutrients. In this case sulfur is considered an "antagonist" and there are a variety of minerals that, when out of balance, can antagonize other minerals in the soil. On our property we lack selenium and our copper is antagonized by other conditions.
After the improved overall health of our animals, their greater resistance to disease, super improved hair coats and on and on----I am completely sold on the fact that all health starts at ground level---not with the carrot you pull from it.
My next post will be about plants that can help your soil which in turn can help your animals and the microorganisms that live in your soil. One big circle of life---but when part of it is out of balance the wheel doesn't roll very well.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My first Freecycle

Well, after listening to Cheryl go on and on :-) about all her great freecycle "things" --I looked and found a Chattanooga freecycle. I just knew with the great items Cheryl was picking up that I must be missing some really good stuff. So, I joined a while back --but hadn't really needed anything that was offered (or was to late seeing it to get it). As of today though, I have finally gotten my first item--I am an almost official freecycler (official will be when I have something to offer I believe). Actually it is more than one thing--it is 80 things. Since posting about the canning I decided that with as big as a garden as I was aspiring to----I would probably need more canning jars than I currently own. So I put a "wanted" ad on freecycle. Well my first reply (only one so far) netted me 76 canning jars and 4 fig tree cuttings. Yes, the man was very nice---and with my interest in his figs, gave me four cuttings. So, since figs do generally root fairly easily---hopefully this next year will see me with 4 new trees. I love figs! My favorite way is with homemade focaccia with marscapone/mascarpone cheese and dried figs stuck down in the cheese and cooked. Yum.
AND lucky me I had a bed area all prepped for them. It was where I thought I wanted my asparagus to go this next year so I had dumped manure on it earlier this fall. Then put leaves on it when I received so many from the city drop off. Now those figs have a lovely lovely spot to reside in (and the asparagus has a new different lovely spot) and I have my fingers crossed they will like it A LOT.
Figs are suppose to grow here in my area, but the two small rooted cuttings I brought from my last house barely did anything and ended up dying on me. I have to admit----I didn't plant them in the best soil. Of course I didn't know it was some of the worst soil we have when we moved here. It is only after most everything planted in that area struggled to die (yes---struggled to die) that we realized it was. We are working on that problem but I felt the figs would be better in the prepped area than in the "other, less nice" area even if the "other, less nice area" gets more heat and sun (exactly what figs like--heat and sun).
I don't know what variety these figs are but I will hedge a guess that they are probably brown turkey. A very cold hardy and proliferate fig that is commonly grown in this area---and a lot of other areas around the country.
The original owner of this house had a fig right off our back porch to shade the sliding doors during the summer. With the south face and brick wall supposedly it was almost as tall as our two story house! And almost as wide. Now I would have loved to see that BUT the summer before we bought the house it was ripped out since it had been planted on top of the septic leach field and it plugged up the lines. No wonder it grew so big!! I did see the massive amounts of canned figs they had when we were looking at the house so obviously they were using it to it's fullest extent.
Well, in regards to my original freecycle quest: hopefully I will get more canning jars. And every so often I think I will re ask. Better to do it now than this summer when everyone else will want them too. The early bird gets the worm they always say. Now I just have to figure out where to store all of these new jars.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Canning update--an answer to some of your questions

Since so many comments on line and off about bail wire jars (for and against) here are some other things I have found for your reading pleasure. Also---I added a small update at the bottom of my original post. As always--this is my research and any choice to use them is based only on my opinion. This is not written to encouragement or induce usage of bail wire canning jars.

comment from on line canning forum dated from 2003:

There are a couple of 'bail' type jars...The oldest kind had the bails held on with a wire harness that goes all the way round the top of the jar...The wires rust quickly and the bails become loose and will not hold the lid tightly compressed against the rubber seal...This kind may or may not seal well depending on the small wire condition...

The Later version of the bail jar has only the thicker metal bails and the ends of the bail sits in a moulded depression under the rim of the jar itself...These are 'newer' and usually will hold the lid securely with new rubbers...

When you go to use the jars, boil the rubbers for 15 minutes before using and put them on hot...

If you are water-bath canning, then you need to apply the rubbers and lid, swing the bail up and over the lid, but do NOT snap down the bail till after they have been removed from the water while still as hot as possible...Can't remember about pressure canning, but I know it can be done...

After your 'canned' goods have completely cooled, and with the bails snapped down, turn the jar over so some of the liquid is up in the rim...Then with the jar back upright, grab the rubber tab that sticks out and give a gentle tug...if There are no small bubbles forming inside the glass lid above the rubber, chances are that the jar is sealed and will stay sealed for years...

I just canned near 20 gallons (in pints) of my syrup in old bail jars with only a few failures...That's around 160 jars from my attic with only 3-4 jars that did not seal...

Hot pack above 180 degrees F, and after you snap the bail, SLOWLY invert the jar and it will sterilize the insides of the lids...

From May 26, 2006 Backwoods Home Magazine:

Old canning jars

I am a new subscriber and look forward to reading you every month.

We have hundreds of old style canning jars. (The kind with glass lids and metal wire fasteners to hold the lids down)

I found them in the basement when I married my husband and moved into his country house.

Are these safe to use? My local hardware store carries the rubber seals and can order as many as I need. If they are fine to use, why were they replaced by the newer screw top jars? Also would they be ok in a pressure canner?

I have canned jam and other water bath foods for years but want to buy a pressure canner for my veggies instead of freezing everything. Thanks!


Lucky you! You might not realize it, but you have a small fortune down in your basement, in your glass topped canning jars with the wire bail. You can water bath can in these jars safely, but you should not use them to pressure can. So you can put up pickles, fruit, jams, jellies, preserves in them, as well as using them to store such things as dehydrated foods, spices, baking supplies, etc. They ARE gorgeous on a shelf!

But these jars should not be used in a pressure canner as you will be unable to tell if they are safely sealed. High acid foods may mold or ferment if they don’t seal but low acid foods such as green beans, meat, corn, etc. could possibly have botulism toxins in them and not show signs of spoilage, should the jars not seal.

If you have more jars than you can use, why don’t you sell off the extras and buy something you need for your family or home preservation endeavors…..perhaps that new pressure canner and several cases of jars to start with? You can always find more Mason jars at rummage sales, auctions, the Goodwill or thrift stores in the area. Also ask around; you’ll be amazed at how many neighbors have cases of jars lying about unused and just begging for a new home.


Another opinion found:

 To insure a
quality product and prevent loss from spoilage
(like molds on jelly and
softening in pickles) I like to go by the book.
The only exception I make to
this is using the old wire bail jars for sweet pickles with a
hot water bath
and inverting jars to be sure seals are complete.
With good jars and lids, no
chips anywhere, a good safe seal can be had if
you pay attention.

Last but not least

The jars with wire bails and glass lids are still in use, although they haven't been manufactured for many years. A wet rubber ring is fitted over the neck so that it rests on the glass ledge of the jar. The glass lid is placed so that it rests on the ring. The long wire bail is set in place in the groove on the top of the lid, and the second bail is left in the up position. After processing, and while the jar is still hot, you should push the second bail down against the side of the jar. When the jars are cool, test the seal by tilting each jar.

When using any of these jars, do not attempt to open them to replace any liquid lost during processing.

Addition Jan. 22 here's one for weck brand canning jars MaryJanesFarm canning chat room---posted by Klara from Texas

When I grew up in Germany, there was just no other system but Weck. Actually, the very common German expression for "putting up" food by water canning was "Einwecken". That's like if you would say "Balling up" or "Kerring up"
The rubber ring is not really very different from the method used in the USA: it is the same as the rubber seal on the metal lids, except it is much thicker (and should, just like the Ball or Kerr lids, not be reused). And you used a metal clap to hold the glass lid to the ring and the jar until the vacuum was complete (I don't know if they still do that but I assume they do.)
I can not replace research, but let me tell you that my whole family has always used the Weck system for decades. My mom has photographs of great-grandmothers standing proudly infront of basement walls covered with shelves full of canned food, before and through WW II. That way of food preservation saved quite a few people's lives. And I don't recall anyone even knowing what botulism was. When they took a jar of the shelf to use it, they would simly pull at the little tab that is part of the rubber ring and when it slipped out easily, they would discard the contents of the jar. I have watched all the women in my family do this little "ritual" for more that 20 years and I remember it was a real exciting event when one jar actually had to be thrown out! It practically never happened.
But, like I said, I'm not the resaerch.

Nais for non farmers

Someone sent this to me. Read this even if you think you aren't a farmer and don't have animals. You will be surprised. The government is taking public comment on nais until Monday Jan. 22nd. PLEASE comment. The contact info is at the bottom of this post.

Copyright 2007 by Mary Zanoni. The following article may be distributed solely for personal and non-commercial use without prior permission from the author. Non-commercial distribution and posting to assist in disseminating information about NAIS is, in fact, encouraged, so long as proper credit is given and the article is reproduced without changes or deletions. Any other distribution or republication requires the author’s permission in writing and requests for such permission should be directed to the author at the address/phone/e-mail address below.

The 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey and the NASS/NAIS Identity


Mary Zanoni, Ph.D., J.D.



Like many small-farm advocates, I have been fielding questions over the past few weeks about the above survey being sent out by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Many people ask if there is any relationship between the survey and the data being collected (often without the knowledge or consent of farmers) for the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As we shall see, although USDA personnel won’t admit it, NASS data is the foundation of the USDA’s aggressive pursuit of NAIS.

To my great surprise, in this morning's mail I myself received a 2006 Agricultural Identification Survey (2006 AIS). I say "to my great surprise," because I am not and never have been engaged in any type of commercial agriculture whatsoever. I have never before received any type of communication from NASS.

The envelope states in very large letters, "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW." The envelope further states that the due date is . As explained below, it is clear that many people receiving this form are not in fact "REQUIRED BY LAW" to answer it. Further, a recipient has only a couple of weeks between the receipt of the form and the purported deadline, and it would be impossible for the average non-lawyer to do enough research within that time to figure out whether he/she is or isn't actually required to respond.

The form itself begins with several general questions, such as “Do you own or rent any land?” “Do you grow vegetables, hay or nursery stock?” “Do you receive government payments?” The questions appear deliberately designed to imply that anyone who would answer “yes” is among those “REQUIRED BY LAW” to fill out this form. The USDA is thus casting a very wide net in this particular intrusion into the lives of American citizens, because, frankly, just about everyone who is not homeless “owns or rents” real estate; some 75 million people in the “grow vegetables;” and some 60 million people receive “government payments.” (See 2007 Statistical Abstract of the , Table 1226 (vegetable gardening); Table 528 (government transfer payments).)

Now, perhaps it is possible that this “wide net” might not be as intrusive as it appears. After all, maybe NASS has only sent this form to people reasonably assumed to be farmers. But in fact it was distressingly easy to confirm that intrusiveness and deliberate over-inclusiveness are the hallmarks of the NASS approach. This morning, I called the information number listed on the form and spoke to a woman at the USDA’s call center. According to her, the call center is being swamped with calls from people who live in cities and have nothing to do with agriculture. She stated that the call center employees really have no idea of why or how all these people have been sent the 2006 AIS. When asked for some conjecture as to how so many unnecessary people could have been included in the mailings, the woman explained that, for example, anyone who had ever subscribed to a “horse magazine” might have been included in the database.

Now, that raises interesting questions. How is the USDA/NASS getting the subscription lists of “horse magazines”? Why and how are “horse magazines,” or, for that matter, any rural-life publication, any breed association, feed store, or private or public livestock or horticultural enterprise whatsoever, giving their member/subscriber/customer lists to the government without telling their members, subscribers, or customers?

Or, worse yet, how is the government accessing such lists or databases without the awareness of the businesses or organizations in question? During times when the Executive Branch of the United States Government has secretly gathered the records of most people’s incoming and outgoing phone calls, and the President asserts a right to open your mail and my mail without a warrant, this is not a trivial question.

Returning to the first page of the form, we see the wide net growing ever wider. The form states: “Many people who don’t consider themselves farmers or ranchers actually meet the definition of a farm or ranch and are important to agriculture.” “We need your completed form even though you may not be actively farming, ranching, or conducting any other type of agricultural activity.” Finally, the first page of the form reinforces the threat of the “REQUIRED BY LAW” language of the envelope:

“ ‘Response to this survey is legally required by Title 7, U.S. Code.’ ” (Emphasis in original.) (Note the single-double quotation marks – the threat actually is in quotation marks, employing that common tenth-grade stylistic conceit of “quoting” something to make it appear extra-important.) One senses evasions aplenty here -- the form has referred to the “definition of a farm or ranch” but nowhere tells us that definition. It suggests that anyone receiving a form has a legal obligation to answer it, even though their enterprise may not meet the definition of a “farm.”

Given the foregoing ambiguities, I had further questions about the definition of a “farm” and the possible legal penalties for not responding to the 2006 AIS. Specifically, I asked if my understanding of the definition of “farm” as an operation with at least $1000 in sales from agriculture was correct. (See 2002 Census of Agriculture, FAQs, www.nass.usda.gov/census_of_agriculture/frequently_asked_questions/index.asp#1.) Further, having found the penalty listed in 7 USC § 2204g (d) (2), namely, that a “person . . . who refuses or willfully neglects to answer a question . . . . shall be fined not more than $100,” I noted that, insofar as the 2006 AIS actually contains 42 separate questions, it could be important to know whether there was a separate $100 fine for each unanswered question, or just a single $100 fine for not answering the entire 2006 AIS. These questions were beyond the purview of the call-center woman, so she made a note of the questions, referred them to a member of the NASS professional staff, and promised that the NASS staff member would call me with the answers.

The next day, , I received a call from Jody Sprague, a NASS statistician. First we addressed the question of the “farm” definition. Ms. Sprague conceded that someone whose property or operation did not meet the “farm” definition would have no obligation to answer the 2006 AIS. She also conceded that the basic definition of a “farm” as an operation with at least $1000 in agricultural sales was correct, but explained that in addition to the gross sales figures, NASS also assigns certain “point values” for particular agricultural activities. If the points add up to 1000, your operation would meet the definition of a “farm.” When asked for an example of how the point values work, Ms. Sprague explained that 5 equines would equal a farm but 4 would not. (Subsequently, she explained that each equine equals 200 points.) When asked how many cattle equal a “farm,” Ms. Sprague said she did not know. At one point Ms. Sprague said that NASS wanted, through the 2006 AIS, to determine if they could delete people who should not be on their mailing list. But for the most part she contended the opposite, e.g., that she would “advise” anyone who had received the form to fill it out; and that even a person with one horse should complete the questionnaire, although she previously had conceded that someone with fewer than 5 horses would not meet the definition of a “farm” and therefore would not be required to fill out the survey.

We next turned to the issue of how NASS may have compiled its mailing list for the 2006 AIS. First Ms. Sprague maintained that the sources of the NASS mailing list are “confidential.” I noted the call-center woman’s reference to a subscription to a “horse magazine” as a source of names, and asked for some other possible sources. Ms. Sprague said that growers’ associations, such as the Wheat Growers’ Association and Barley Growers’ Association, were examples of sources. I asked for more examples but she was reluctant to give any, claiming that some are “confidential” and some are “not confidential.” She explained the overall process of list building thus: as NASS comes across lists where there are “possibilities of agricultural activity,” NASS incorporates those names into its mailing list.

We returned to the subject of “point values” for different livestock. Explaining that many people were likely to have questions about this, I asked if Ms. Sprague could find out for me the point values of cattle or other non-equine livestock. She put me on hold for a long while. Subsequently, she gave me the following point values: beef cattle, 310 points per head; dairy cattle, 2000 points per head; goats and sheep, 50 points per head. (I wanted to ask about chickens, but I was getting the distinct sense that I might be pushing my luck.)

Ms. Sprague stressed that she did not want people to be concentrating on the point values. For example, she noted that people should not say they have 4 horses if they really have 5 horses, “because it wouldn’t be ethical.” (But apparently under the NASS moral code, rummaging through some of those Choicepoint-type consumer profiles to track your reading habits is perfectly “ethical.” And, as we shall see, the NASS moral code also permits forking over your data to states that are in hot pursuit of the NAIS premises-registration quotas imposed as a condition for the states’ continued receipt of federal NAIS grant money.)

We went on to the question of the $100 non-compliance fine. Ms. Sprague assured me that a farmer’s failure to answer any or all of the 42 total questions on the 2006 AIS would only result in a single $100 fine. She also said that the fine is “rarely enforced” and that if any “producer” “chooses” not to report, no one from NASS would seek them out.

Finally, I asked Ms. Sprague if there were any relationships between NASS and the APHIS NAIS program, and she said, “Absolutely none.” I asked her if any other agency, state or federal, would ever be allowed to use NASS’s database to solicit premises IDs for NAIS, and she said, “Absolutely not.” And indeed, pursuant to 7 U.S.C. § 2204g (f) (3), “Information obtained [for NASS surveys] may not be used for any purpose other than the statistical purposes for which the information is supplied.”

Several weeks ago, antiNAIS activist Doreen Hannes sent a series of questions about ’s solicitation of NAIS premises IDs to Steve Goff, DVM, the Animal ID Administrator of the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA). Dr. Goff provided written answers on . When asked where the MDA had obtained addresses for its solicitation of NAIS premises IDs, Dr. Goff stated: “the mailing was done through a contract with the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.”

I won’t answer my 2006 Agricultural Information Survey. Instead, I will send a copy of this article to my Congressman and my two Senators. I will ask them to have the House and Senate Agriculture Committees investigate the rampant and shameful abuses of federal law and common morality inherent in NASS’s compilation of its mailing lists and use of those lists to promote the APHIS National Animal Identification System. Why will I do this? Because I don’t live by the USDA’s false code of ethics; I answer to a higher authority.

Email your comments and/or concerns (again if need be) to:

mailto:animalidcomments@aphis.usda.gov Please put "nais draft user guide" in the subject line.

Here is a very un eloquent comment I sent to them yesterday. You don't have to send anything "great" and "wonderful" just something. Here it is as I sent it:

I am writing to comment on nais.

I would just like you to know that nais will create a hardship for my family in the raising of our own food. We do not generally sell food animals to outside people. The few times we have it has been to our neighbors. As a country we can't get any safer than that in disease control as it applies to human health. Knowing the local farmer that raised your food is the best way to control problems. The government should be helping small individual farmers like me and others--- not trying to put us out of business so that large corporations and feed lots can reap even more government sponsored rewards.

Based on the "tentative" costs that different groups have said it will cost for each animal (on average $35 per animal) PLUS the rfd chip reader PLUS any documentation that we have to do for deaths, births, sales of breeding stock etc EVERY YEAR---we will have to double our flock of sheep to accommodate the costs. We don't have the land to do that so in other words: We will have to get rid of all of them. That doesn't seem very Democratic to me. Force me out of business and force me to purchase from the larger guys who get to have different rules under the nais proposal so their per animal cost is automatically lower than mine.

Food security in this day and age comes from LOCAL agriculture---not importation or transporting it from far across the country.
To sum it up: I say NO to nais. I feel I have a constitutional right to raise my food without the government monitoring me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I believe

I believe in GOD and I believe he has held my hand many times.

Recently I read this in a comment to Burdockboy's post from January 16th.

I like your Christ
I do not like your christians,
they are so unlike your Christ.


Now THAT I think sums it all up---definitely with myself included in that at times.


So the other day I came across a great deal for some old bail wire canning jars. I actually bought more than these but the big one in the picture (I never remember sizes of canning jars) is the only one of that size that I bought. I have drooled over these for years now--- so I know what prices they run both used and new. I had never purchased any before---I think as much for the reason that I wasn't really serious about them. When I saw them for a super low price---I snapped them up. I bought 8 altogether. There were 11 being sold but one had a broken lid, one had a rim "chip/blemish" and the last had a very very rusty wire (evidence of high usage or something).
I will use these for jellies/jams, salsas and possibly vanilla pear chunk. We will more than likely give them as gifts. See---I am already planning for xmas this year :-) Maybe I won't though since I like them so much hehehe.
You can also by the newer bail type snap jars and bottles in the store when you buy specialty foods. We drink an "adult" soda pop---real sugar only thank you---that comes with that type of lid. I keep all of them to store my vinegars in. I still need a few more---I don't drink it very often so it is taking a while. We make our own salad dressings so we use many many types of vinegar. The gaskets don't seem to really wear out so they are re usable for a long time to store in. That observation brings me to the next part of my post: RUBBERS or in the case of the canning jars-- rubber gaskets aka---gaskets.
No matter by which name you call them if you want to buy/use/reuse any type of bailing wire jar, especially for canning, you will eventually need gaskets. Now I don't know how many times a gasket can be canned with before it's deemed bad. I would imagine in the frugal older days it was more than once. Now you will find many web sites stating that you should never ever use that style of jar---only the USDA recommended screw lid jars. Now I ask you---do you trust completely and 100% the USDA's advice? Feel that they are working with your best interest at heart? I didn't think so-- besides if that were the case why would they allow food to be sold in stores in those type of jars?? A lot of the food found in the stores in those type jars is imported from Europe where the gasket canning jar is still very popular and well used. An observation that leads me to believe my leg might be getting pulled just a little bit.
Lehmans has replacement gaskets and some types of bail wire jars (new) to purchase and overall they are a good price. Weck canning actually sells direct so their prices are pretty good too, actually better than Lehmans since you are buying direct. They are pricey though---more so than if you buy regular screw lid canning jars. If you are really going for a certain look to your gift or want to use them to display with though well....I guess if your going to buy new at least it's a canning jar that can be used over and over for a good purpose and not a plastic toy. I know that I will eventually end up purchasing some depending on what I decide for specific gifts. All in all they make a homemade gift look "more expensive" than a regular jar does---and unfortunately when giving to some people that DOES matter.

As an end note: Besides knowing that people use them to store dried and other foods in I also found that some people score the used gaskets to allow a small amount of air out and ferment Kimichi in the jars--intriguing use for the bail jars.

Here are some other places that sell bail wire jars and some other styles---there are a number of different brands. Not all sites have the best prices so search a bit if you are interested in some of them. Search words include European style, French style, bail wire, gasket etc.
Village Kitchen -- click canning jars in the glass index section to the right of the home page. They also carry La Parfait which is a bail wire jar that we purchase a product (infrequently) in. It has a nice bail to it---not flimsy feeling.
Sur La Table -- Leifheit canning jars
And a nice little article: here

Update 1/19/07 Actually I have made a number of calls about these jars and all say that as long as they seal--they are fine. Sealing is noticed by the top staying on when the bail is released and a "tug" is needed to pull it off the gasket also no fluid should leak out when it is tipped. All of the people questioned (a person from Lehmans, and ag person that handles canning questions and another older ag type person) said that though the ring type were now most common that these are perfectly safe as long as: no chips in rim or lids, no cracks (obviously), and that the bail is not so loose and floppy that it doesn't really hold down the lid to the gasket. In that case the lid might not be pulled down enough to start the sealing process. I don't think I will can soup with them but high sugar (jams/jellies) and high acid (pickles) won't make me nervous at all. Both high sugar and high acid don't really HAVE to have a sealed environment in the sense that soup, meat or some other foods do.
So now everyone can make their own choice. Here is the following advice on how to can with a bail wire jar:
The jars with wire bails and glass lids are still in use, although they haven't been manufactured for many years. A wet rubber ring is fitted over the neck so that it rests on the glass ledge of the jar. The glass lid is placed so that it rests on the ring. The long wire bail is set in place in the groove on the top of the lid, and the second bail is left in the up position. After processing, and while the jar is still hot, you should push the second bail down against the side of the jar. When the jars are cool, test the seal by tilting each jar.

When using any of these jars, do not attempt to open them to replace any liquid lost during processing.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Almost a baby's butt

So---we have worked on our water problem previously spoken of in regards to our concrete counter top and now have one cabinet with a sanded smooth top on it. It looks really good if I do say so myself---and REALLY the picture doesn't even do it justice. We can see much more glass than before. Everyone who sees it "pets" it for a while---it's really really neat. We still have to fill some voids (common issue) and seal it but I am so glad we did it. We have much more to do---and I think I need to order some more of the glass we are using.
We ended up using a lot of water---a lot a lot.
We now realize that we will have to get pretty creative to keep the flying h2o in place while doing the cabinets that can't be removed from the house. At least we have a wet dry vac which will be a great help in keeping the water contained. Unfortunately we will also have to use plastic sheeting. We have an extra heavy duty piece of a very large size that came tarped over our windows this summer when they were delivered. We have already gotten many uses out of it and it will come in handy again with this project. I won't feel so bad when we throw it away eventually because we have used and reused it BUT I will have to buy a few more. I doubt I will find plastic sheeting used---most people just throw it away after one use. To bad isn't it. We generally invest in drop clothes for painting and other projects to avoid plastic, but they won't work in this situation. We'd have water dripping everywhere.
Well, I'll keep this updated so anyone potentially interested in it can do it their selves too. We procrastinated a bunch on this project because even though all the books/magazines said it was easy---we never could find a blog or anything that a "regular" person did it and said it was easy. So now we know it's easy (as long as we don't have to carry them on our back!)

Here is a good link for more information:
Cheng Concrete Exchange----the original architect that made concrete counters/kitchens famous (not saying he was the first---just the first widely recognized concrete person)

And a picture forum for ideas: Decorative Concrete Photos

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Interesting Issues

And a few quick thoughts this evening.


Does make one wonder doesn't it?

And in an unrelated issue regarding our food check out these charts here:

Who owns organic ?

Friday, January 12, 2007

And you MUST read this and pass it on!

We may not live there but surely we can help. Pass this on. This could as easily happen to you or someone you know. We also need to let our elected officials know that we are tired of the same ole' same ole'. If we can lend our voice---let it be heard

See the article Fighting for the Future of our Farm and then go to their web site if you like--- but if nothing else pass it on to another person.

Another view

Yesterday I posted (titled Can we think for ourselves?) about an annoying article I read in the British "Economist". Here is another rebuttal that came through my email today from The New Farm. By the way--you can sign up to have them email you when they post their newest "magazine" each month which is how I found this today.
Oh yes--I noticed that I forgot to mention yesterday that the original article blurp I posted was from the "Economist" . So now you know and feel free to write the editor with your opinion if you like.

My take on the situation

I recently posted about our concrete counter tops and would like to update slightly about that situation. The last we posted was that we had poured two small section but had to wait until after the holidays to sand/polish them. Well, I also didn't tell you we had to order the sanding disks (which look nothing like wood sanding disks I found out). We finally received the disks (which is a completely different fiasco that I won't blog about) and decided to give them a "spin" the other night.
Since we will not be able to carry the peninsula outside to sand we decided to leave the small cabinet in the kitchen to get a feel for how it will be when doing the bigger/longer sections. I said " don't forget to tarp the cabinet so that it doesn't get damaged" to my wonderful spouse. Which he did do. Then---while I was engaged doing something else --he preceded to start sanding. Which was fine. Until he added a very small amount of water to the process as you are suppose to do to keep the little bits of rock from gouging the much softer cement (yes, in the scheme of things cement is very soft. Much much softer than granite and marble to give you an example). At this point let me add that he forgot to tarp ALL the cabinets and only did the one he was working on AND in all fairness neither of us really thought it would be that big of a deal. Irregardless what we thought--- when you add water to a situation that has a disk spinning at about 2000 revolutions per minute---it splashes just a bit. Just a little bit---really.
He said he sanded with the water for a couple of seconds and checked to see if it was splashing--because he DID realized that it could happen. The problem was that he checked by looking down at the front of himself which was basically not splashed except for a very very small bit and in doing so he forgot to look sideways.
Well, when I came in the kitchen I had an entirely different vantage point which included the fronts of all the surrounding cabinets. Think one of those "exploding soda pop bottle" type situations. All of them had cement "juice" slung across them from top to bottom, and it was across the floor and the dishwasher and the living room floor---almost to the living room chair (which luckily has a slip cover so it would have been washable). To end this story---we cleaned it all up and now have a completely different perspective on what it will take to tarp the kitchen in preperation for this job. As I am sure you can imagine.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Can we think for ourselves?

Here is a comment from an article that I would like all of you to read:

The term “food mile” is itself misleading, as a report published by DEFRA, Britain's environment and farming ministry, pointed out last year. A mile travelled by a large truck full of groceries is not the same as a mile travelled by a sport-utility vehicle carrying a bag of salad. Instead, says Paul Watkiss, one of the authors of the DEFRA report, it is more helpful to think about food-vehicle miles (ie, the number of miles travelled by vehicles carrying food) and food-tonne miles (which take the tonnage being carried into account).

The DEFRA report, which analysed the supply of food in Britain, contained several counter intuitive findings. It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain. And it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.

Research carried out at Lincoln University in New Zealand found that producing dairy products, lamb, apples and onions in that country and shipping them to Britain used less energy overall than producing them in Britain. (Farming and processing in New Zealand is much less energy intensive.) And even if flying food in from the developing world produces more emissions, that needs to be weighed against the boost to trade and development.

This is excerpted from: The Economist and originally linked from Pocket Farm

Now I just have a couple of comments.

1: why the he?? do people need to eat tomatoes in the dead of winter? I think that goes back to the whole sacrifice area that is starting to show up in articles. We want to whine about global warming but we still want to heat greenhouses to grow tomatoes in the winter time.?!?! Add zucchinis to that too. I love squash casserole but I don't eat it in the winter unless it came out of my fridge frozen as a leftover from summer (and then it's a bit watery) and we don't eat fresh tomatoes in the winter (as much because they just don't taste as good as summer grown tomatoes from yours or your neighbors/local farmers garden)

2: In regards to the comment about driving miles: It seems to me that if you buy from a local farmer you may be buying more in bulk. A whole or half a cow, a weeks worth of veggies at one time etc etc. This to me goes to the "sacrifice" of having a more city type environment also. Why do people in subdivisions have to drive 15 miles one way to the grocery? And if there were more local farmers markets that would help. Our only market is pretty far away AND only open from May until September. It misses part of the season.
Lastly I always thought food miles were the miles from farm to MARKET not store to home. I understand the issue of many many people driving a low number of miles but that still doesn't take into account things like wasted food (not sold/rotted/ruined in transport) and food brought in to compete with the same local grown food.

3: It's cheaper to ship apples in than to buy them local. Bologna! When we lived in another part of Georgia KNOWN for it's apple climate, apple festivals and apples---they shipped the majority of their apples to Washington state. Either for consumption there OR some of the apples were re labeled/bagged and sent else where as a product of Washington. I know you read that and think "she's mistaken that couldn't happen" but that is no exaggeration: We lived there and it is common common knowledge. Nobody thinks about it though. No big deal---I mean we have all the energy we could ever want to waste and waste right? I am not totally against food from other climates---I'll be the first to admit that some of the fruit I love is from somewhere other than local, but do we have to do what I described above? O.K---maybe I shouldn't eat the exotic fruit anymore yet on the other hand if we have to sacrifice can I at least ask that STUPIDITY be canceled out first???

I am starting to realize that even though I have talked and to a certain extent walked organic and environmental for almost 2 decades that I am not sacrificing enough. I will have to work on that quite a bit more. But as I stated above---as I sacrifice can I also hope/expect/ask/anticipate that stupid actions will also be stopped???

How many colors.....let me count.....

Aren't they pretty? These are 3 irises I would like to acquire (plus possibly a few more :-) --and may this coming fall if I am lucky enough to have a bit of money to buy irises with. These irises are pictures from Mid-American Garden and Iris Sisters Farm.
The Latin meaning for iris is "rainbow" and it is no wonder with all the colors they come in though red is still the all allusive color all breeders aspire too. The picture on the bottom is one of the varieties "closest" to red. It is called Wearing Rubies. I am sure there are at least a few others that are close but the true red they are looking for has not yet shown up. It is the same as the aspirations of some breeders to attain true blue in some other flowers. (If you didn't know there are only a couple of flowers in the world considered to be close to true blue in color--most have some shade of purple/lavender in them).

I knew that iris roots where used for orris powder (used to fix the scent of potpourries) but I did not know this taken from wikpedia *Iris roots are harvested, dried, and aged for up to 5 years. In this time, the fats and oils inside the roots undergo degradation and oxidation which produces many fragrant compounds that are invaluable in perfumery. The aged roots are steam distilled which produces a thick oily compound, known in the perfume industry as iris butter.*

The reason for this post is that I have been out planting the irises I spoke of recently. Having dug them up I now have to find them a new home. One bucket of my irises is now planted but I am waiting for the weather to warm a bit this morning so that I can go decide where to put the rest. These are irises that came with me from my last house---they were purchased the month before we bought this house unexpectedly. I couldn't leave them or a lot of the other plants there. When we sold our house we wrote the contract to include us taking quite a few of the plants with us---many days labor prepping them. The people didn't mind---they just wanted a yard for their dog.
When we moved here I dug up and gave away HUGE amounts of the "regular" purple and lavender irises the original owner planted. I am into flashy plants and like double color irises and those with speckles and spots too so the others were a bit staid for my taste and besides they were overgrown with poison ivy---definitely a need to dig all of them up.
The best thing about irises to me is that they are very very hardy plants and will grow pretty much where ever you put them as long as you choose the correct variety. Bearded are my personal favorite for the color varieties, size of flower and scent even though the flower is short lived. And that does not mean that I don't like the others--we have had or do have a number of other varieties, but as I said bearded are my favorite.
Irises if you didn't know grow in the polar tundra, temperate forests, grasslands, swamps, deserts, mountains, coasts and rain forests. They are grown and flourish on just about every continent and many of the islands around the world.

And will they multiply! They don't just sit there and grow a small amount each year. By year 3--irises can and probably should be dug up and divided for best foliage and flower. Another nice thing is that , except for the really small pieces, they will all still bloom the same year you divide them so you don't loose a year like you can with some plants--just not as much as they will the next year. When transplanting irises make sure you check each part and cut out any disease or squooshy looking parts while you are planting. And according to most sites you should trim the fans to 1/3 ---I have planted rhizomes that the fans got knocked off and I know many people that don't trim the fans when planting. As I said---they are pretty hardy.
In the south you generally need to lightly mulch them to keep out weeds and conserve moisture. If they dry out they will usually go dormant and come up later in the summer /early fall. Too many years like that and some of the less hardy ones can die out though. In the north , from what I understand you need to mulch the first year to make sure they don't frost heave while they become established enough to hold their selves in the ground pulling the straw back in the spring to allow them to warm up .
Irises are also a great flower to "play" with if you would like to try crossing. Using just the bearded group to play with who knows what amazing colors of uprights, falls and beards you could get and that not even considering crossing them with some other types of irises. That is something that is not my cup of tea but I would enjoy watching a friend do it.

If you are wondering why I have all these flowers of different types that I blog about periodically, it is because at one point we thought about supplying cut flowers as a small side line business. A project that was put on hold when we moved to this property and started on the house, but may eventually be a small part of our income down the road. We wanted to specialize in perennial seasonal cut flowers and branches---clematis, peonies, irises, hydrangeas, forsythia, curly and fantail willows etc etc.
Maybe with the advent of spring/summer and a new camera I can show some of the beautiful flowers we are lucky enough to grow here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What a Bummer!

Recently I posted that I was moving into the last stages of the shawl I was knitting from some of my yarn. The yarn Greta was so nice to supply me with-- she said it wasn't a problem she would just grow some more :-)
Well, last night I had done a couple rows of the lace edging that the pattern had moved into. The stitch count is different, and since it is at the first few rows there are no visual cues. Believing that I had messed up I capped my needle and pulled the stitches back to view and count. Just as I pulled again (the needle is very stuffed at this point with 379 stitches) what should happen but I accidentally push off the cap and about 60 stitches fell off!! Bummer!! Just call me Mrs. Disappointment.
Now most people would unravel and just go back a few rows but I have a some problems with that: 1. I did not leave in a "life line" in any recent rows. 2. The previous rows are full of yarn overs and stitch together and I am not sure it would be any more correct than it is now and 3. the yarn is black, fuzzy and thin---not the best for seeing where a stitch is (this is actually the biggest problem)
I believe I have picked back up all dropped stitches (I have the correct number) but I think two are in the wrong spot some how. Hmmm....what to do. So I will procrastinate for a while, looking at it occasionally and either: 1. leave it and work with it since it is early in the pattern and it may not really show 2. pull out a number of rows and try and fix the problem without creating another problem or 3. slightly change the pattern to accommodate the issue as it is now.
Eventually I will decide and I will finish the shawl---at that time all will learn which I choice I make. These are the things that help you become a better knitter so I am only a bit disappointed that it happened. AND however it works out---most people will probably never notice and it will still be a functional piece of work--make that a functional piece of artwork. I have to admit I have learned a lot doing this particular pattern so I will always regard it as a good experience. I believe it will make me a better knitter overall.
But it is a bummer when things like that happen! DARN!
Hope everyone has a great day :-)

Sunday, January 7, 2007


While browsing in Barnes and Noble yesterday I happened to read a couple of the articles in Permaculture Magazine. This is a magazine that I do enjoy but not always all of it---in other words not always cover to cover. I would buy it but since it comes over seas it has a larger price tag than normal so there for I buy only those that I feel I need to keep for reference.

I do how ever cheat and copy down web page references from articles if I think I might be interested in learning/seeing/studying more about the subject.
Here is a web blog that was mentioned in one of the articles and I wrote it down. The blogger is very good in the telling of a story and I found it interesting just in the few postings I have read. Maybe you will find it enjoyable also: www.permacultureinbrittany.blogspot.com

Here is a site for a lady raising sheep in England-- Woolly Shepherd. From what I gather they have a heck of a time selling their wool if they don't sell it through the government wool pools. She and the site above were in the same article which spoke of "home grown" woolen goods and the making of organic wool duvets. She also felts leftover bits of wool to make into hanging baskets liners to keep in the soil---instead of coir liners. I might try that myself since I always have wool bits left over. She also has natural/plant (and chemical) dyed yarns, bamboo needles (one of my favorite) and stitch markers for sale. Her links page has her web blog site if it interests you.

An Update

Well, I haven't posted in a number of days so since it is raining (hard) here this morning I thought I would play a quick game of catch up. So here is a fast run down of what has been occurring since the first weekend of the new year.

1. Our digital camera got thrown away--on purpose. We have had so many problems with it that I just couldn't stand it any more. So until I get a new one within the next month there will be no pictures :-( sorry about that.

2. We have fenced our garden area of about 3/4 of an acre. That took 2 days of my husband, my son AND me to put in the corner posts and 7 foot T posts. Then another two days for my son and me to finish the corner bracing and pull the livestock fence. We wasted some fence and just pulled straight across where the gate will go. I would like my husband to make me a gate for my garden out of metal, something that looks like branches or vines have gone crazy on it. I know exactly how I want it to look but we need time and we have to order the metal from the metal yard. So for a while we will have to go in through the orchard pasture gate---trudge through that pasture--- and then go through another gate into the garden area.
Generally that wouldn't be bad except I have put the cows and the rams in there to "poop" in all the leaves that were dumped--instant compost (almost). So I have to go in everyday to feed and water them.
They are really really enjoying being there too-- the first day the cows ran around jumping (yes, jumping), bucking and kicking in the leaves and bellowing (deep and low and dangerous sounding) and throwing the leaves up with their heads and horns. Hilarious! You could really tell they were having fun. (And people wonder about confinement cattle HUMPH!)

3. I moved 25 peonies bushes from inside the garden to outside the garden fence and dug up two 5 gallon buckets of iris rhizomes also. Each of my peonies is a different variety and 10 of them had rusted tags that I could not read the name on it anymore so this spring I will have to try and figure out who is who---which will probably fail.
I haven't decided where to plant the iris' yet---but it is irrelevant since we have had rain since the day I lifted them up. Which by the way is not a complaint----we had so little rain last year that I swore I wouldn't say one thing even if I had to trudge through it all winter. Anyways I will get the iris' planted some time soon and when they bloom this summer I will take a picture (with my new camera). They are all different colors and they look very pretty when they bloom. I caught a picture of some of my lambs last year in front of them though you can't see them really well---since of course the picture was of the sheep not the flowers. It's the pic at the top.

4. My son and I have mulched just about every plant and bed on my property with the leaves the city dumped here for us (click the label "mulch/compost" on the side bar if you don't know about this subject)

5. I am almost finished with the lace shawl knitting project I started. With the advent of Christmas and relatives, New Years and then fencing it has had a bit of a crimp in how quickly it has progressed but I am nearing the end.

6. Last but not least I have most of my seeds ordered (any that need starting in the next month or two---which is most) and have transplanted my asparagus starts to a larger pot where they are now putting up multiple stems. I could have a mini dinner with them right now :-)
Out of the original 25 seeds potted up---I have had 23 that actually sprouted. Not to bad. I have more seeds but started with just those as I wasn't sure how well they would do---not having grown asparagus from seed before. It was easy though and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. Which I will since I have most of a package left still.

That's all folks---hope things are going well for every one else too.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

How about this link?

Groovy Green makes a really good point Here

And find the entire article on the John Edwards interview here at Hardball with Chris Matthews
Read down in this article and see what Edwards says about what Americans can do. There is more than just the quote from groovy green.

And here's another interesting article about the war in Iraq and the troops we might/will soon be sending
from the Left Coasters blog

Sorry---I seem to be in a very political mood today :-)

Food for Thought

Sometimes as I sit and mull over the things I read--- I get a bit worried. Worried for my children's future and other families futures. Now I am sure that I probably sound like a conspiracy theorist sometimes and yes, I hate that I do sound that way. On the other hand with the advent of the national animal identification system, the "e-coli" cases (which I personally think are "helped" along to scare people, if only by the media) and other things I read: I don't think the America I was born into, and especially the America my grandparents were born into, will be Free and Democratic when I am near my dying time. The one thing that worries me more than erosions of free speech, lack of responsibility on the part of representatives, and human rights problems (and I am not even talking about other countries or whether I agree with how prisoners of "war" are being treated) is the problems with our food supplies. Remember what they taught us in school during social studies? That until a society has a decent water supply (first), a good food supply (second) and shelter (third)----no other things can be accomplished. Where do we think we are headed as a society?? We have a growing homeless population that people don't want to see---and contrary to what people think: the majority of homeless are single woman and their children (and you have to wonder where is the father????) We have eroding water supplies because of agriculture that will not change and a government that will not change. Why are there still so many laws against grey water and composting toilets when the are PROVEN ??? And don't even think about the golf courses in the desert. I mean really---of all the stupid laws we felt we needed we can't make one against golf courses in the desert?
We can agree that chemicals are bad for us but we can't get it together enough to stop the use of them in agriculture. Are we really that dumb that we can't believe that organics CAN work on a large scale?? We'd rather drink the chemicals----is that a see no evil mindset? And do we realize as a country that we import more food than we export? I assure you that there are still plenty of places to grow food to supply America if we would get off of our duffs and make laws about urban sprawl, roar out loud about public transit which we desperately need and break the large agricultural companies hold on law creation in our government that make laws about what a small farmer can and can't do. What about these stupid McMansion communities that make laws saying a grocery store and any business can't be near them? Why? So one individual can drive one car that gets about 17 miles to the gallon, 6 or more miles away to get groceries? And if you live in rural areas you have to go further because there are so many laws about selling food products off your farm---nobody can do it (legally anyways). And personally I wouldn't "sneak" raw milk to just anyone---I'd be worried they would get sick with something else, then the government would find out they drank raw milk from me and of course: who would get blamed??? Not the local burger joint where it probably came from OR maybe the salad buffet they ate off of.
Don't you even believe that if you are a vegetarian that you are o.k. With all the E-coli cases that have happened this year that are related to produce (even if it started with confinement operations) I am starting to wonder what law will come up within the next decade (at most) that will put some sort of restriction on green produce.
Think about it: There is only so much money a person needs to have "all" they want in life. After that it is human nature to get bored. What's the next and ultimate goal? Control. Power. Who better to control than the population. Look around the world. There are plenty of examples and what better way to do it than with food?
I just happened to turn on the t.v last night and flicked through and came upon the end of Lou Dobbs. He had just started to "interview" 3 public radio/talk show hosts from across the country. One from DC, one from the north and one from somewhere in the southwest I think. ALL 3 ended with this: That the Congress and Senate are NOT LISTENING to the people. They and their radio callers all agreed on that and also this : The new Congress/Senate will be no different because they WON'T listen to us. They are listening only to the companies with money. And there are fewer and fewer of them with more and more money. What has happened to monopoly legislation? It's out the window people.
People----if they get enough letters eventually they will get it or the will get voted out. Don't forget the heads of the Congress and Senate when you write. Let them know what you are upset about to. Spread your annoyance around.
If you don't ever write your representatives in Congress or the Senate: Now is the time. Write mine if you want to because you didn't like what they did or voted on. We MUST gain control of our government. We can not hide in the sand any longer thinking someone else will do it for us. To many people do that. They complain to their friends but it goes no further.
Here is a nice little piece from the Washington Post to read that has those Demies and Repubs working together to screw us all over. Here

And don't forget if you live in another country: Their doing the same things there just with different names. So Americans and others please if you do nothing else in the next month: