5 Times MORE Promised, than is There – Water

OK, so drilling a well for water has put water on high alert for me. I see “alerts” everywhere. Of course, it’s in the news because 98% of California is in a “exceptional drought condition” alert.

Endless Supply...NOT

Endless Supply…                      NOT                                               Other states have experienced, and are still struggling, with water issues

But this takes the cake. Really.

It takes some doing…. promising 5 times more water to people, than is even there, in a normal rain year. That’s what the latest California water assessment just published, showed:

“For 100 years, California’s State Water Resources Control Board and its predecessors have been responsible for allocating available water supplies…

Here, we present the first comprehensive evaluation of appropriative water rights to identify where, and to what extent, water has been dedicated to human uses relative to natural supplies.

The results show that water right allocations total… 

-  approximately five times the state’s mean annual runoff.

-  In the state’s major river basins, water rights account for up to 1000% of natural surface water supplies…”

Researchers from UC DAVIS & MERCED, released the results of their in-depth study, and it is truly mind-boggling what the actual details reveal.  These researchers present us with the reality of what the results of past management has been. Read Abstract~whole article

We already know that the allocations were made on unrealistic expectations due to heavier-than-normal rainfall, for the last century (according to tree ring & other research going back hundred/thousands of years).

But still, FIVE TIMES the usual rainfall, in this century? Talk about creating a no-win situation.

TEN TIMES the surface water (rivers, lakes, streams)???

If we don’t get serious now… hey, literally, that bottle of water WILL be the new gold.  You can’t eat or drink gold so it’s value will trade places with how we value water these days.

CADILLAC DESERT: American West & It’s Disappearing Water 1986

Cadillac DesertReminiscent of the classic work, Marc Reisner‘s book, Cadillac Desert (1986), which delved into the history of water use in the American West.

The UC Study illustrates the hard outcomes of past decisions, that we are facing in our current era.

If you haven’t read it, and use water in any form (clean, dirty, ice, irrigation, food, drink), in my opinion you should be required to read it for a better understanding of something, we in the ‘developed world’ take for granted, and should not.

I say that, not because, I want to be judgmental but because you truly do need to know what your future reality is going to be based on. It’s useful to know how we got there. The ‘human factors’ that we need to confront because as human beings we need to recognize our “flaws” and find a work around, or they will become our fatal flaws.

The book is a fascinating read. The promo reads, “It explores the triumph and disaster, heroism and intrigue, and the rivalries and bedfellows that dominate this significant chapter of American history. At the very least, this book should be required reading for every high school student in the Western United States.” and its true.

It is a key to understanding how these states obtained the water that transformed them from deserts to oases and encouraged multitudes to move westward. Even though it was written many years ago, it is a timely reminder that western water resources are not limitless. By reviewing what was done in the past perhaps we can learn how to better utilize this precious resource in the future, especially now as the Western States are experiencing extreme drought. With the forecast reading, “more of the same” don’t you think that would be the smart way to handle it?  

We need to seriously reorder how we use the water we do have. Here are two interesting charts:

(click on any picture to get a larger version, that is more readable)

cropVsWaterValue bottled water vs tap water

If it takes more than double the amount of water to produce grapes, than most of our other fruits, is this a wise use of 98% of our farmland in Sonoma County?

 I think it is time to start making some rational decisions of how we use our resources. Perhaps we need to give tax breaks to those who produce useful lower water consumption crops?

Or look at this chart: To be honest, I had no idea of these numbers, and I hate to look closer. What adaptations do we need to start thinking about?

waterProductsWeBuy

Western WATERSHEDS ~

this is one of the most stunningly beautiful maps I have seen, and the information shared in it is priceless.  I couldn’t believe this was done in the 1880’s. It shows where the water that falls, drains to, naturally.

powell's watershed districts

Perhaps it is time to implement the suggestions made along with this map, after the first assessments were made of the western watersheds (a recommendation sidelined in pursuit of other interests).

California’s use 170 gal/day/per person on average. But that number dramatically varies depending of industry (farming takes more); wealth (large lawns, landscaping, no money worries), and climate (cooler coastal regions don’t use as much water.WATERUSE gallons 020914

Each watershed area should manage water allotments for the water they actually receive (i.e. not amounts but a percentage basis). Instead of 1 million gallons you get 1% of whatever falls, the previous year. Period.  You can choose to store it to even out the years but you can’t be guaranteed more than what is there. Water flows in specific directions; reduce the energy outflow to move it to other areas.

You can’t steal from others (those around you, or the future)! Crying that your ‘need’ is greater than other’s (or will impact more jobs, or the food supply, etc) is just an excuse to try and get someone else to bear the burden.  Have we become a nation of “whiners” always wanting someone else to bail us out? 

San-Diego-County-Water-Supply

It’s an insane system that is doomed to failure, that is built up on unsustainable promises.  We can begin to adjust now, or crash & burn.  It is time to back off our current system and begin to deal with the realities. Our current system has encouraged the development of land, businesses, and population growth that can not be sustained.  San Diego had enough water for 800,000 people; it now has a population of over 3 million. How do we deal with that reality? 

POPULATION OVERSHOOT

It is the “doomed discussion” ~

Population Growth

Population Growth – where are the limits?

not to be talked about!

but it underlies EVERY single problem we face. Population overshoot.  

We love our freedom to have as many children as we wish. We love that freedom so much, that we apparently are willing to condemn our children themselves, to a world of starvation.  

We no longer have ‘new ecological niches’ to move to, in order to handle our expansion (or to kick other people out of).

Carry WaterWant a closer look at that world we are creating? try africa, or rural india, rural china… populations in the billions (or soon to be at the rate we are going).  

Never mind the problem of not enough jobs, their won’t be enough food/water, so that problem will be solved.

Painfully.

My heart weeps.

A PLACE TO START ~ California water fight

It is critically important to educate ourselves as water issues will be a major battle this upcoming year. With a $7.5 Billion Dollar plan on the ballot, we will be hit from all sides, to choose a specific path, from those with vested interests (not necessarily the Main Street Man’s interests). Corporations, who’s only goal is to make money anyway they can, don’t care about the future much, and certainly not about the quality of that future.

A democratic society, i.e. one that makes decisions by vote, need to be educated about what they are doing. Not just swayed by pretty pictures, sad stories, or persuasive rhetoric…. which is in essence, letting someone else do the thinking for us.  

Thus we need to decide: aim toward making an educated realistic decision, or will we let someone else present us with a nice illusion, and in the future, we suffer the real consequences. It’s come down to the wire.

Where to start?  How to educate yourself fairly easily? In this day & age, it is ridiculously easy. In the Information Age it’s more about sifting through it to find unbiased, realistic information rather than pipe dreams.  

I caution you to be aware of “self-delusion bias” or “confirmation bias”:

that tendency we all have to only believe in data or information that supports what we want to believe, and to discard (devalue, explain away) those things we don’t want to believe.

  • Don’t take my word for it; start looking at reports (just look at who writes them and consider what their vested interest is)
  • Take a look at Cadillac Desert; it has stood the test of time, and research is proving out it’s predictions (check the library, or get a used copy)
  • Watch the series on Southwest Water history; Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature is a 1997 American four-part documentary series about water, money, politics, and the transformation of nature, distributed via PBS (unable to locate – see the youtube video clips)CadillacDesertFilm
  • YOUTUBE Cadillac Desert  Click here: Cadillac Desert
    Water and the Transformation of Nature (1997): Part 1:  Dream, Part 2:  An American Nile, Part 3: The Mercy of Nature, Part 4: Last Oasis
  • Take a look at the research report just released: accèss to full article Read the full abstract and look through the whole paper.  

SEND ME links you think are good to share,

via the comments section, so others can benefit!

Looking for the NEW California Gold… part 2

wellDiagramIt was time to start digging. Dig deep.  

We’d talked to neighbors and area well drillers about what they had on their land, and what had been produced, in water wells.  An Indian Casino had gone in less than 10 miles away, that farmer’s were worried would suck all the local wells dry.

Neighbor’s were only getting marginal water (low flow and poor tasting, iron-containing staining water) in the 150 ft range. So some issues to consider.  We didn’t want to tap into water that would draw down our neighbors, draining them dry of the little they had.

 

Ain’t Cheap, That’s for Sure!

At roughly $60 a foot, it would be very expensive to drill.  $6,000 for every 100 ft.  The well driller recommended 200ft. and estimated we would get 35 gallon per minute (GPM). At that flow rate we would not have to put in extra equipment for fire backup. Of course, a total guess based on who knows what, but probably to give us the lowest possible estimate to get a well in. And NO, no guarantees. But, they could get the permit and be ready to drill in less than a month. 

(Our first well drilling venture, in Hopland 2005… it took us three years to get a water well drilled! Need I say that we learned a few lessons along that road!)

This well drilling estimate looked good except that it did NOT include actually getting any water out of the ground… which would require a well pump, power, lines, etc. Whole other issues there.

Great folks to work with, Peterson Drilling (in business for over 50 years).  Showed up on time, knowledgeable and willing to discuss the whole process. If you know me, I was in hog heaven! Someone who would explain their work and the processes involved. 

They brought in close to a million dollars worth of equipment (today’s costs to replace the equipment) to start to

Drill Rig setting up

Drill Rig setting up

drill.  Before they began, raised an American Flag to the top of the drilling rig. American business doing real work producing something.

Over four days, they sunk the drill bit through layers and layers of various soil textures.  Along the way they took samples of the “spoils” coming up, and built a pattern of the different layers underlying the property. Some layers the drill bit moved through quickly, other’s it just crawled.  The operator making notes along the way of each change he observed in the “spoils”.  

Often you could just “hear” the change in the drilling process to know that the underground terrain had changed. Think about it, you are going back hundreds and thousands of years as you move through those layers.

straining the spoils

straining the spoils

Scientists have taken the drill logs of over 8,000 different drillers, through out California, to build a picture of the underground layers and see the story they tell.

Building a Picture of the Underlying Layers

For us, the first 50 ft were sandy loan, perfect for growing crops. Well drained. This area had been an old flood plain so sedimentary soils had build up over time. And then we hit a clay layer, a creamy beige layer followed by a dark blue layer of clay.  The drillers called it “blue clay” and said it came from an ancient swamp land that had decomposed.

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Clay ~ blue, white, beige

Blue clay is a “plastic layer”, a layer that water can barely penetrate. Instead of water moving many feet a day through the soil, this layer effectively blocked movement. Limiting it to 1-3 millimeters over a timeframe of a 100 years.  Water under this layer is basically ancient water that is not being recharged  This was the layer my neighbors had been, and still were, in.

Water “spaces” collapse

The problem with the soils under this layer?  As water was removed, the soil particles compacted in and stuck to each other which prevent water from being reabsorbed into the soils, assuming it could even get there. (Maybe by pumping excess water back into the ground during the rainy season?) 

We kept going deeper.  I did not want to be in a water reservoir that the neighbors were drawing on. We needed to go past another clay layer (i.e. through the bottom layer of that upper water reservoir).   A lower level would be a ‘contained’ reservoir, blocked from moving up by the clay layers above it; we would not be pulling out any of the water in the reservoir they were located in. 

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

Boards stacked with Layers of Spoil Samples

We hit the 200 ft level. No. Not far enough down.  

Good water bearing rock should be gavel-like in texture, some sand is ok, but small rocks are better.  Allows water to collect in the spaces and not as likely to compact down and prevent future water movement. Still no sense of any good layers of water bearing material.  Driller said, “I’m sure there IS water; how much or the quality? I have no idea.”  

Keep going… I named 300 ft as the end point.  Somewhere between 200-300 feet we needed to find the right texture make-up of the layers.  I had to leave… couldn’t take the watching & waiting. I just knew I had committed our limited resources to the edge. We either got a return on it, or not (if we didn’t or if it was just minimal, it would severely limit what we could do with the farm land.)

Besides, I figured it was the ol’ boiling water figure of speech…. watching it wouldn’t make it happen any faster.

It was the middle of the 3rd day.  They would finish drilling and then start pumping water INTO the well to flush it out, and see what we would actually get.

Flushing the Well with Water

I came back. As I drove up, I could see the well head gushing water out.  They had placed a black tub on top to direct the water downward into the mini-drainage canal they had built at the start, to channel all the “spoils”.

Water, water

Water, water

Asking the driller how much longer they had to flush the well before we would know how much water we would get, he laughed, “honey, that’s not water we are flushing the well with, that IS  your water coming out.” I was shocked, stunned… on the verge of tears, actually.

I had prepared my self for a dribble,  3-4 gallons a minute that with a storage tank, you could get by on.

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

confined by upper & lower levels of clay

He was telling me we had a 100 GPM flowing from the well, of good water. No sulfur, no iron, just pristine water.

Ancient water that did not have hormones, antibiotics, industrial chemicals leached into it, protected by the upper layers of clay.

We even had enough water that we would be able to share with our neighbors.

Severe Drought in a Desert State

Why was I so shocked?  Here we are in the middle of the worst drought in California in over a hundred years, and we actually found water.  Turns out in the last 100 feet they drilled, roughly 85 ft of it was water-bearing material.  They hit another thick clay at 307 ft and stopped at that point. 

Management becomes the key issue.  And will be an interesting point for discussion. How should water be managed? and why?

Water management in the past, and the future…

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

Land has dropped 30 ft/50 years

In the Central Valley of California (Sacrament Valley & San Joaquin Valley, 20-70 miles wide by 400 miles long) agriculture there has resorted to pumping from the aquifers to feed the water hungry farms.  Of course that valley production provides a quarter of the food for the entire country.  Move over one valley closer (cooler) to the coast, to Salinas and farmers produce close to 90% of some crops to the entire US. If you eat, a good portion comes from California farms.

Ground water, for years, has not been able to meet the needs of the industrial sized farms, despite building huge canals and moving water directly to the area.

The largest number of well permits ever issues, has occurred in the last two years.  Wells are being drilled to a 1,000 ft or more, as the surface wells (to 300 ft) dry up.

Land subsidence is dramatic; certain areas have dropped some 30 ft in the last 50 years. In the last 3 years of this drought, the land is collapsing in at the rate of a foot a year, as the water is removed, the land subsides.  

collapsing layers as the water is removed

collapsing layers as the water is removed

Because it is becoming compacted it can never again hold water in the volume it has held in the past. This is happening in a relatively progressive state.  

Ogallala Aquifer, largest in the USA, is already being pumped dry…

It has already happened in the mid-west where one of the world’s largest aquifer is located. The Ogallala Aquifer, spanning eight states, has been drawn down to a quarter

Ogallala Aquifer

Ogallala Aquifer – spanning eight states

of it’s initial size, in less that 60 years of intensive farming. Estimates mark 2028 as the expected date for the water to be gone.

Water that took thousands and thousands of years to collect… gone.  It would take a 100,000 years, it is estimated, to replenish the water naturally. It recharges at roughly one inch a year; while being drawn down 5 ft a year, in places.

Contamination ~ no way to undo that damage

The other danger? They want to build the Keystone XL pipeline right through the land the overlies the Ogallala Aquifer.  Don’t worry, “we won’t let it contaminate the water” by leaking into it! Right, as if I believe that one. If it happens, it’s something you can’t take back. Is that a gamble you want to take? Just how much DO you trust cost conscience corporations? 

It is the time for each one of us to begin to say, it’s enough. It’s time to start thinking and acting sanely.  

You say, “It’s the corporation, it’s big business, it’s someone else’s problem.” But if you drive, if you heat or cool your home, if you eat food… you ARE part of the issues.  It is time to start taking responsibility for what needs to happen, on a local level. If you are waiting for big government to make changes, they won’t until you make it happen.

California Gold, in a Desert State, is called WATER

So I look at my “California Gold” and am reminded of my responsibility to the future… it forces me to consider a broader picture than just me and my “tribe”.  The need to chart a path that builds resilience for the future rather than just doing the traditional “taking” today, for me and mine. Actually, it’s what we all need to be doing, and doing it actively before we have no more choices. 

Dang! We found the new “gold”… for California, Part 1

To bring our adventure up-to-date; after we were unable to renew our lease on the hundred year old homestead we were at, we search for another piece of land.

Looking for land

Looking for land, for grass-fed Lowline Angus (miniature beef)

Of course, the challenge in the North Bay Area (north of San Francisco) is buying anything that does not include “an arm & a leg” i.e. lots and lots of dollars.

We watched area sales (2 acres or more) for 3 years (seriously, 3 years) before we came across one possibility that met our criteria. We were looking between Petaluma & Santa Rosa, CA.

Critical criteria for a Land Purchase

  • WATER: It’s not even worth looking at a piece of land if you don’t have good water. Good water meaning, reliable & uncontaminated, and likely to stay that way.
  • CLIMATE: Amenable to growing things, & not likely to suffer too badly with the increasing heat issues.
  • SOIL:  Reasonable fertility without a history of chemical use, heavy traffic exposure (exhaust fumes from vehicles leaving their generous gifts), not downstream from nasty stuff that could come from rain run-off.
  • COMMUTE:  Realistically, we needed to be able to access the “paying job” fairly easy and/or mass transit
  • COMMUNITY:  A farm-friendly area with a community of like-minded folks, would be wonderful.
Morning brings cooling fogs

Morning brings cooling fogs

Our previous venture into farming, by leasing land in Cotati for three years, allowed us get a feel for the area and assess the suitability.  We fell in love with the ‘goldilocks’ climate ONE HOUR north of SF,  (not too hot, not too cold, but just right) with the added feature of minimal humidity. (I’ve lived in the south and dripped through those hot sticky summers already! Been there, done that.)

We learned to use hoophouses/greenhouse setups to extend the season/increase the heat for plants that did need it. Located just 30 min east of the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, provided climate air-conditioning.  (By the way, if you go to San Francisco, don’t leave home without a coat, even in the summer. It’s surrounded by ice-cold water on three sides.)

Seniors don’t tolerate heat well as they age, so we were thinking ahead. Plants need heat, seniors notso much.

COMMUNITY

Sonoma/Marin/Mendocino/Napa counties, in California, are on the forefront of interests in sustainable farming development.  Priceless. Incredibly well educated population with an interest in creating what will be needed for our future. Numerous small startup & ventures into relocalizing our

farm trails
foods with a view to “real” sustainable practices. Working with the soil & it’s microbial life, nurturing it, building it, not stripping it. A community which valued quality, healthy, local foods to support the small farms.

This area has several very active Grange Halls; community groups that work to protect and support the small farmer.

 

OK. we just needed to locate a piece of land, now that we had identified the area/community & climate. With that, we could then look at water & soil quality once we found something.

WOW, was that a challenge.

I scoured the real estate listing. Was on several email boards that would send me a link immediately if something with any land, was up for sale, & I watched Craigslist. Keep my ear to the ground for possible “future sales” coming up.  Those I did see:  98% were not even worth considering. If they passed muster on my criterial list, they were multiples of $100,000’s out of our price range.

Had to think of the future income… being able to live on a pension and make those payments.

EUREKA (california slag for “I found it”!)

Feb/March of 2014 we hit a possible property.  A craigslist post… a foreclosure. Called immediately.

Almost 5 acres, but basically raw land.  No house (or water, or septic/sewer, or power) but had wonderful ol’ oak trees and an old chicken barn that still had a roof and was standing (barely). It had some acres that were perfect for growing hay/forage. Rural, yet 10 min access to freeway.

NO water. When I researched …Hmmm, neighbors on both sides, poor water amount and poor quality (iron).  

We knew the area well enough to realize that this was an old river plain.  Talked with the county geologist/hydrologist who showed us maps of the water basins in the county.  Many areas had virtually no water.  But… the area we were looking at… housed one of the largest & deepest aquifers in the county because it used to be, thousands and thousands of years ago… a flood plain, river basin, swampy area.  We had a good shot at getting, at the least, decent water i.e. 3-5 gal/min for home and 7 gal/min to do some irrigation (crops). It would be uncontaminated water (no hormones, antibiotics, industrial chemicals).

We gritted our teeth and took the plunge.  Pulled together every penny we could, and working with a wonderful seller, made a deal that allowed us to purchase the land.

PRICED TO KILL THE DREAM   Farming ventures in this part of the northern California are

Re-Localizing Quality Foods

Re-Localizing Quality Foods

 

basically priced out of existence, unless you have family land or have hooked in to some special deal. But the average young farmer is significantly challenged if they are trying to start up. Why? If your mortgage is $5000/month that’s a heck of a lot of potatoes to have to sell, and that doesn’t even cover your living expenses.

We learned the hard way that just paying the taxes on land, can be more than you can make by farming. Why are the costs so high? ‘Cause we’re so close to SF & Silicon Valley… where their are still jobs that pay good wages. Those salaries push the prices for land/homes skyward.

Previously, on our first land purchase, a very expensive learning curve, we figured we would have to sell one cow a month just to pay the taxes… but the 65 acres of land that we had, could not support that many cows.

That was JUST to pay the taxes. Rocky hills, minimal pasture (great for a vineyard, not so great for raising crops or livestock). Talk about a conundrum when you are working to “relocalize” your food for community resilience!

We ended up taking a big hit when we sold that piece of land, loosing all of our investment and then some, but we recognized that it was a no-win situation (Crash of 2008-9). We were able to sell the acreage and ended up with a little cash in pocket.

More importantly, we did come out with an awesome education and awareness of things we needed to consider closely, when we did purchase again.

to be continued… “drilling for water” (or sweating bullets)

 

WARNING! Ultra-Pasturized Milk issues

Ever wonder what the difference is in the milk in the store?

 What’s the difference between the brands? and why different prices?

 It is much cheaper to move milk around if you take all the water out!

You take the water out, you take out the water-soluble components in the milk. whole-milk-powder

 

 

Many processors “reconstitute” the milk and then ship it to the store. Except for two producers here in california, all milk is pasteurized. Because the pasteurization process can damage the components of milk, much of that is added back via a chemical additive.  Not always the same thing as the “cow” put out.

Think sweetener: sugar, saccharin, stevia, glucose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)…  all called sweeteners but all very different. So when they “add” Vitamin D to the milk, is it in the same form that the cow produced, that our bodies can absorb?

whey protein chart The “cheaper brands” take the milk apart and then try to reassemble it as inexpensively as possible, to keep that price low.

I know if you make cheese from commercial milk, you have to add calcium back into the milk!  ultra pasteurized milk can NOT even be used to make cheese.

Ultra-Pasteurized WARNING!

 I’m finding that it is almost impossible to find milk that has NOT been ultra pasteurized (even those called organic).

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

Ultra, High Tem, Low Temp Pasteurization

 We have another name for ultra pasteurized milk.

It’s called: 

“white water that lives on the shelf

long time!”

It is “cooked” at very, very high heat which alters the milk, and allows it to not go bad on the shelf, for weeks.

 Think of the difference between a raw egg, and an overcooked scrambled egg. They are NOT the same product, even though they had the same beginning and both can be called ‘an egg’. Heat can dramatically alter the product.

 Organic milk, that is ultra pasteurized, is stripped of the very properties that made it a good buy.  I talked with some dairy farmers who provide this organic milk and asked why this was done. They said that they had NO CONTROL despite being a farmer co-operative. The buyer’s of their milk (processor) did it to make the milk last longer.

 Clove:straussLucky, so far, some local dairy operations, CLOVER & Strauss do NOT ultra pasteurize their milk.  If you want to support local dairy operations here in Northern California, these are two great ones. In fact, Strauss (the glass bottles) does a very low heat, slow process that preserves the components in the milk.

 

Remember the adage, “you get what you pay for!”  Yes, their milk might look pricier but you are actually ending up with “more” for your money.

 (I understand that all Clover milk is organic but they can only “sell” so much at the higher price that they get for it, but much of their “non organic branded” milk can be organic. If you have to choose, this might be a less expensive milk to choose! I have been told this, but can NOT verify that this is true.)

Strauss, also, does NOT homogenized their milk. There is some thought that vigorously mixing the milk and breaking up the fat globules to “homogenize” the milk, actually damages it. Thus you will see a separation level in the milk bottles, without this “forced” mixing. Shake to mix before pouring.  Or, better yet, steal some off that top-level, for cream for your coffee!

Pasture-Butter-325A side note:  If you can buy butter, made May-September, do! 

Several companies are beginning to market it because of the higher vitamin, CLA levels from the fresh pasture. You can freeze butter up to a year. But only butter that is from pastured cows!

Some Economic Beef Background:

I don’t know if you know, but the cost of feed/hay has dramatically increased over the last 5 years.  When we started, hay was $5/bale and now is at $20+/bale.  A lot of this is due to the severe drought conditions in the midwest & south… with everyone trying to “source” hay to feed their cattle.

We’re lucky because our costs are lower since we DO NOT EVER feed grain, and we have access to some awesome pasture on the Mendocino Coast.  We have focused on compact heritage Angus beef that have the genetics to do well on forage only. Our beeves are raised mostly on fresh forage. They are only supplemented occasionally, with hay, to protect from over-grazing.

grass fed lowlines

Ranging the land

 Commercial ranchers in the mid-west and south literally dumped their herds into the slaughter houses last year, because they could not afford to feed them, or even in some cases, have enough water for them.  Herds in 2013 are the lowest size since the 1950’s.

 Initially, prices on commercial beef at the store dropped, but you will start to see a dramatic increase in price (in some places it has already started).

The Heritage Farm – Healthy Food: 

 Again, I will remind you of my “spiel” that grass-fed beef has the Omega3:Omega6 ratio that is healthy for the human body.

Because our beeves are raised on pasture, they will have high levels of CLA’s (associated with cancer fighting properties). See EatWild.com for in-depth information on the positive benefits from eating “pastured products”!

Beef from grasslands is a completely different product than that raised in  a feed lot.  So is the butter, 1/2&1/2, milk.

Anyway guys, hope I didn’t overwhelm you with too MUCH info! But I’ve wanted to share some of this and thought you might find it interesting.

The more I see of the health complications in our world the more important I realize it is to provide quality food. It’s the little things we can do, for our family and friends, to help and to protect them.

Products Available:

100% Grass-fed Angus Beef halves available:  Only have 4 half portions available.  Min  weight: 125# (up to 140#)

USDA processed, cut & wrapped  – Works out to roughly $7-8/lb for 100% grass-fed beef.

Our heritage line of Aberdeen Angus has had no hormones, no antibiotics. They are raised on pristine pasture with their mothers, on the Mendocino Coastline utilizing rotational managed grazing, which increases the health of the soil/forage.

$959/per half, whole $1800. Can be paid in 4 installments.

[Cost by the cut: $7/lb ground meat (NO added fat), stew meat

                        $10/lb roasts, ribs, misc cuts

                        $15/lb steaks        ]

 (Please check Oliver’s or Whole Foods and you will find these are EXTREMELY reasonable prices.)

 But the best deal is to buy a half (join up with a friend and share).

Bulk pricing gets you the best deal, which you already know!

We have already done all the work: birthed, raised up humanely, harvest, & custom cut & wrap.

 All locally done (within a 100 mile radius).

- ready April 8th.

CONTACT:

email me if you are interested in a beef half.

Also, we have just got our order of USDA heritage Berkshire hog pork in.  Again, no antibiotics, no hormones, raised in an outdoor setting.

 If you want: pork chops, ground pork, apple-sausage links, bacon,ham, or back-fat to make lard, let me know. Back-fat lard is awesome for cooking and seasoning beans, stews, etc.

I can send you a price list.

Cheers!

Amy

Holiday Disaster has struck!

‘Tis the Season…      I went to pull out my supplies for making my traditional Christmas gifts.

Time to get ready

Time to get ready

To defuse the Christmas giving extravaganza, several years ago I decided to reframe my approach as things were just getting totally out of hand.  I wanted to reframe my approach to Christmas… back to something that a glimmer of meaning.

1) It needed to be personal (anyone can spend big bucks to buy something and yes, I’d love to do that, but just don’t have enough big bucks in my back pocket these days)! Who needs the stress… who made that rule, anyway. (Oh wait, I remember, the advertising media!)

2) It needed to be useful (something that could actually be used, not just looked at).  People have so many “collectables” that they are falling off the shelves and/or gathering a boat load of dust that cries out “I’m a failure” at keeping my house clean.  No need to add to that scenario. I want MY friends to actually LIKE me, not tolerate me. I’m envying my friends who have mastered the “enough is enough” and de-cluttered their homes!

3) I wanted it to be something that I created.  I have this terrible habit of collecting stuff to make things in the future. Unfortunately it tends to be, the distant future.  I just keep acquiring; but the “doing” is a little behind schedule. Uh, about a hundred years at this point!

Fabric is my downfall (well, … right after books) … the colors, patterns, textures, they all call to me with such appeal.  Then add in threads and fibers and embellishments; my creative brain just goes nuts.   So I MUST have some way to justify buying all this stuff, other than just wanting to be able to touch/look at it, other than to know that it is there if I want/need it. (Some people have comfort food; I think I have comfort books and fabrics!)

Once I master  thinking something into existence i.e. ‘creative brain=finished project’, I’ll be ahead of the game, but until then….

LOVE QUILTING?

25 different fabrics

25 different fabrics

Someone, after looking at one of my homemade quilts said, you must love quilting! “

Actually, NO. I don’t particularly like it, but I DO like the results.  The part I like best is the creation of the design; assembling the fabrics, the colors, the patterns.  The actually “work” is just that, a chore to get done.

Sad to say, I have this awesome box full of completed “tops” that have not actually made into the quilt stage. You know, where you actually assemble the sandwich: the top, the middle, the backing, and then bind it all together.  One of these days I’m hoping to find someone who likes that part (I’ve heard that they are really out there…. somewhere). The only problem would be, WHO would get the finished project???? I don’t know if I could give up my “child”.  Perhaps someone would accept dollars for their labor?

Putting it together

Putting it together

THE PROJECT

BUT, back to my main subject today… the selection of a Christmas project that meets my requirements.

A few years back I decided on pot holders. Who can’t use a potholder. Even those who don’t really cook these days, occasionally need to reheat something, so could use a potholder! And maybe a cup towel if I’m really ambitious (usually planning to do that, but, darn, I always seem to run out of time)!

The other good point about a potholder… I can play with different techniques on a small-scale.  Last year I taught myself how to do

Lattice smocking - not as hard as it looks!

Lattice smocking – not as hard as it looks!

lattice smoking… and turned that into a dozen potholders! Success…. something useful, supplies actually used, and got to ‘design/create’ the item and managed to learn a new technique.  I WIN!

Of course, the last time I went down to visit my daughter she was racing around trying to find the potholder(s) to hang up, that I had given her last Xmas. She found one but couldn’t remember if I had given her two. The trauma… she put them away so they would not get messed up and now she had lost track of them.  Dang it! They are supposed to get used… not stored!

It has been said, the more valuable something is, the less it get’s used.  It’s either that, or it doesn’t quite match with their style! I prefer the first statement, overall.   These days you can buy a potholder from 99 cents to roughly $5, on average.  To make one… well-l-l-l, if you counted labor?  Probably $10 on up.  Like I said, “it’s a labor of love”!  (Love = caring, creative, personal, time, energy.)

Each year I have been able to refine my technique… more heat-resistant, an easier way to hang up (put a magnet in the corner), holds up to washing, and an interesting/different designs  from what you can find in the store.

Fits over the pot handle

Fits over the pot handle

POT HANDLES

This last year I experimented and made myself some pot “handle” holders. They slip over the handle.

Good thing I tried them out on my own cast iron skillets. “what’s that smell?… smoke?”

I discovered that the constant exposure, when they were butted up next to the hot pan, caused them to begin to smolder, and burn!!!!

Oh yeah, a great gift it would make… slow but insidious way to burn your kitchen down! NOT. Well, time to refine that one.

GETTING DOWN TO WORK

A colorful fabric stash!

A colorful fabric stash!

I got my new living space organized; set up a sewing area and pulled out my sewing machine. Dove into my fabric stash, drooling & caressing the fabrics, the colors… Super, I’m set… OMG.

Oh darn, where are those dang cords??? you know, the power cords. The thing you stick into the sewing machine to make it work it’s magic.

Wonderful!!!! have sewing machine on hand, but NO power.

Let me see, three, no, four storage units, where all our “stuff” is stored… and now I need to go hunting for a particular cord, for a 30-year-old sewing machine. Talk about a scavenger hunt… do you know just how much stuff that is to wade through, under, and around???? Bummer…

I have discovered that despite best intentions (and actually getting started during the summer), after our move, that most of this year’s potholder project  is “missing in action”. So much for being organized ahead of time and prepared! yikes…

Hmmm, I think this year, everyone is going to get “stuck” with some homemade blackberry jam. Everybody eats, right!

  Bon Appetite!

yum! blackberry jamhomemade!

Yum! Blackberry jam
homemade!

Aiming for a “real” christmas?

On your mark….

OMG, I walked into a store and was just overwhelmed with the onslaught of possibilities of

Decorate the House!

things I could purchase to create the most wonderful Christmas. My heart sped up!  Decorate the house, the yard, the office…  Buy that perfect, special gift for (fill-in-the-blank) uhhhh, wait… purchase?

The psychology of advertising is incredibly efficient and effective. We have learned the “triggers” that motivate people to do what we want, in the short-term, and have applied that to the science of sales.

Corporations have put in place powerful hooks to sell their “goods” by triggering our psychological buttons.  We want to please, we are good-hearted and like to share, we love to bring something special into someone’s life, we like to make other’s feel good… and the consumer society that we live in, tells us to do this with “things”.

The “REAL” gifts at Christmas

I would contend that the “real” gifts we give at Christmas are about connecting, sharing, laughing, appreciating, working together, creating community. It is about developing a sense of intimacy where people actually care about who you are and who they are.

It is NOT about the “things” at all. They are simply a method that can be used to express something.  It’s when the item/gift becomes a substitute for the real connection that it is actually a detriment. (Did Johnny get more/better gifts??? don’t they love ME as much? kind of thinking).

Purchase…Christmas, hmmm. Every heard of an oxymoron phrase?  Words spoken together that contradict each other. Oxymoron is one of my most favorite terms.

  • Bitter sweet
  • Deafening silence
  • Military Intelligence
  • Living death
  • Irregular pattern

But Practically… How?

We were able to switch, when I was problem solving the gift issue,  to a variation of gift giving. If there were 6 in our xmas group I would buy 6 useful gifts in a specific price range & wrap them. Before I would have spent hours and many miles trying to find “the” perfect gift for “that” person, a near impossible task incurring a significant amount of stress.

Christmas Present – choose one!

When it came time to open presents, each person was able to select one package (unopened). Interesting to see if people were drawn to size? or to fancy wrapping? I got to have fun being creative with the wrapping!  Once everyone had a wrapped package we would open our gift to see what we had.

Starting with the most senior (or most junior) person, we could trade for another gift and continued this until everyone was happy with what they had. (no trading directly back & forth, of course… had to go through a third-party). It’s a variation of the white elephant gift, but it was a LOT of fun. We laughed and shared; discussed possible uses for a gift for a particular person. We INTERACTED with each other. It was a special time that we shared together. Not as in isolation as I opened “my” gift to see what I had scored!

laughter

A huge part of a “successful” Christmas, is the feeling of connection and interaction generated; laughter, talking, sharing, working together on a project. But western culture has evolved to the acquisition of “things” as our focus. Well, selling more things meant work for

I got WHAT?

more people to make things for people to purchase (until those jobs/plants were sent overseas). How to get out of the ” more trap” and yet still have fun?

Some things I purchased: a quality extension cord, flashlight w/solar charger, a tool kit, a book, calendar, a puzzle, etc. iT NEEDED TO BE USEFUL, NOT PLASTIC JUNK, AND good for male or female.

A gift of something real

You could do this several times ($5 limit, $10 limit, $20 limit). We had MORE fun than the traditional open every gift you have in 5 minutes, and then look to see “what else is there” that quickly resolves to “is that all?” Usually opening presents was a rather depressing experience. Too much expectation built up for getting that “perfect gift” which is, in and of itself, a moving target that we often don’t even know the answer to.

We did get each person one “special” gift they had asked for but that was generally the limit.

The challenge is to defuse the “consumerism” overload of the media. DON’T go into the stores and subject yourself to the assault any more than you must. I think it’s challenging enough just to get through the grocery store these days.

Did you say USEFUL?

I know one couple that chose to buy one major thing each year, and then decided to take $25 each (well, that was many years back, try $50) and see how many USEFUL gifts they could come up with, for that Christmas, for each other.  I always waited, with bated breath, to hear who had won that year’s Christmas year challenge: number of useful gifts within the price target! They choose to make the focus on figuring out what would be of use to their partner which meant they really needed to think about what each was doing, working toward, etc.

Each of us will find our own path… to “deal” with the holiday season.  The challenge is to not let consumerism dictate and undercut the values we hold, or desire to hold.

Was there a Void?

When we are brought up in our current culture we start out by not even questioning the norm.  Except, except for that nagging feeling that something is missing.  We’re suppose to feel a “certain” way… but it isn’t there.  Why? what’s wrong with me?

Uh, NO. It’s NOT what’s wrong with you. It’s what is wrong with the way our process has evolved.

Finding what bring satisfaction

Over years, the traditions have evolved subtly,

to becoming more consumerist and it

produces an “empty” feeling, when that is ALL there is to it. That feeling should challenge us to see out what really fills that void.  As we do, we begin to touch on what has value in the long-term.

This season: Figure out your goal, make a list, and stick to it!, is the mantra!!! Become aware of the “media” pressures to push you in a certain direction.

Try this: sit down with someone this holiday season and ask them about their childhood.

Where they grew up? what they did? who had an impact on them? The doors will open up and you will begin to develop a connection to another human being, in a way that matters. And remember, there is no pressure, there is no one  right way… it is simply “being present” that matters.The challenge is to listen and to focus on that person and the world they are from.

Gathering together

*****************                                  *******************                             ********************

The Ugly American:  After looking at the statistics for this blog site I am blown away at the number of different countries it has gone to.  There is a certain amount of humility in that awareness because I am acutely aware of how incredibly selfish and self-centered americans are. We have so much.  We have so much materially.

It sounds rather tacky to be talking about how many gifts, or how to handle gift giving… when so many in the world will have nothing, or simply having enough food on the table, will be a gift.

In the USA it is a curse for many. The “curse” is that stuff substitutes for connection.

IMO, connection IS what is about. We as children grab for the gaudy wrapped junk, instead of honoring the relationships we develop.

Because I struggle with this dichotomy (Americans have much/many have very, very little) in the past we have chosen a charity to support.  In lieu of gifts, we donate to The Heifer Project: Theheiferproject.org. It fits well with our sustainable farming focus.

sample Catalog page

If you look at their gift catalog, you can choose to help support many different projects (water buffalo, chickens, bees, water, biogas stove, etc).  It’s gift that keeps giving, in many cases.  With livestock and education gifted, some of the offspring are passed along eventually, to others.  It increases awareness, health, nutrition, income, resilience among small communities. I would encourage everyone to find some NGO (non-government operation) to support that fits in with your concerns.

Giving to those you know and care about, is in some senses, not really giving. It’s like giving something to goodwill you no longer want… is that really “giving”?  How about I give away something I REALLY want… a whole different matter.

Contributing to the well-being of those you do not know personally, that adds another aspect to sharing. “Go ye into all the world” in a practical sense… giving something meaningful and of value, to those you do not even know. Isn’t that the real meaning of the “season”?

All the world

Back on Board

While I’m no longer working with our Lowline Angus personally (they are all up on the Mendocino coast chowing down on some awesome grass rangeland), I miss them. When we drive by local fields with livestock, my eye immediately starts to check them out. Miss the calves something awful.

I had to take some time off from writing. We ran into a conflict with the farmstead we were leasing.  It was a 100-year-old farm that had been inherited and not utilized as a farm for many, many years.  The landlord decided not to honor the option to renew our lease which triggered some pretty hectic times. We went to court over it.

Working with the grass-fed beef

LowLine Angus – beefy guys!

It pulled an enormous amount of energy from me as we prepared to go to court over the issue, and outside of just dealing with the basics on the farm, we were in limbo.  It is a pretty depressing place to be…

Had to learn a lot about the court system in a short amount of time, file paperwork, find an attorney, gather data, put together exhibits, etc. Time consuming but felt it was worthwhile to fight for the farm.  We were winning the case… right up to the last hour.  A sudden unexpected event occurred, and we were not prepared for a rebuttal, and lost the ruling (i.e. lost the case).

We spent a month having to close the farm down… while we reframe what we were going to do, short-term and long-term.

I see that I have been “pushed” into another direction that will add more of a world view of what is going on. We have to face the reality that we are indeed in our 60’s and must respect that.  We need to be  mentoring, assisting, and supporting financially young farmers through their products.  At some point we plan to reactivate the farm, but for now we are taking at least a year off to sort through things.

We have moved closer to Jim’s work to decrease the commute and living in a small space, and in an urban environment. It is certainly exposing me to a whole new array of problems that people need to deal with. Trying to figure out how to adapt to this new setting and hold true to the things we have learned. I’m certain I’ll be tapping a lot of people for their insights, experience, and methods!

Winning the Darwin Prize!

California 2012 voters raced again to the forefront of winning a Darwin Prize*

gmo

gmo (Photo credit: decorat)

By their actions, again, the majority have chosen denial to deal with real issues.  “I don’t want to know if something is really natural or is GMO (genetically modified); I would rather pretend that everything is OK. And then I can avoid having to face the choice of paying the cost for real food.  If you don’t label it, I don’t have to think about what it might mean.  Never-mind that my neighbor might want to have the choice to know.

Hell yes, it will cost us! But it ALREADY costs us in ways we don’t put on the tab.

It was a bit misleading to say that labeling GMO foods would NOT cost anything (because they change the package labels all the time).  The reality is, OF COURSE it would raise the cost of food.  The industrial folks don’t do it ’cause it IS more expense than their created “knock off version” of food.

Trust me, I know.  We have raised our own beef, pork, chicken, and organic veggies.  Doing it to make money is fighting an uphill battle when you price compare to industrial food.  If the industrial people had to label their GMO food, which meant many would not buy, they would have to shift to foods that would increase their cost of doing business.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the industrial complex is in the business of making food; they are in the business of making money.  If the cost of that production goes up, then it gets passed along.  There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch! That cost will show up in your grocery cart.

Did you hear about the Freebies?

Unfortunately, when buying industrial food you are getting a lot of “free” extras! Because it is not staring you in the face, it can be ignored… for a very, very long time.  But it comes back to bite you.  You know, like when you don’t pay the power bill, eventually the power get’s turned off. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but it will.

So when I see the autism rates are skyrocketing (1 out of 60 births, vrs 1 out of 10,000 historically), when autoimmune disease are epidemic (thyroid, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis), when the onset of diabetes has become the province of staggering numbers of the very young instead of the old, I believe our cultural advances are slowly poisoning us. I wonder just what IS the price we are paying for those freebies.

I know, too many variables to make an absolute correlation.  Well, if I wait to long, I won’t even have to worry about it, will I.  After 30 years in the medical world it did occur to me that the most cost effective patient, after the healthy one, was the dead one. From a strictly monetary assessment of costs. OTOH (On the other hand), a whole new income stream to supply medications to deal with the possible side effects!

Is it the food? The water (with it’s load of residuals of hormones & medications & chemicals) we drink? Or the air? …the neuro-toxic mercury we all breath in and eat (from the residuals of burning coal)? A zillion possibilities… I. Don’t. Know. and I could be wrong.

What is Different?

What I DO know is that there have been some dramatic changes in the last 100 years…  we’ve shifted away 10,000 years ago, from the hunter-gather society that we were bred from. Let’s see: 100,000 years to 10,000 years to 100 years. (And actually, according to the latest research in archeology that 100,000 years is really at least 600,000 years of development).**

We developed over thousands of generations, where survival meant dealing with “upfront & in your face” problems, in your immediate future.  Things like getting away from predators, finding food, staying warm/cool, shelter from the elements, etc. No need to worry about 10 years down the road because immediate survival did not depend on that. Our “stone age brains” are wired for fight or flight, right now.  And maybe, food for the next season.  We survived in a world that utilized what nature provided, for food, in very basic forms.

The Stone-Age Brain: Death by Over-Consumption

We’ve moved into a new realm where, in the Western World, most of us have our basic needs met with highly processed foods & chemicals.  In fact, for many, met to well. Fat, couch-bound, car focused, and entertained until death.

I don’t think our “stone age brains” have had time to evolve to a world of “enough”. We consume as if we can not get enough. (Those details are the meat of another post, though.)

But some will…survive. It’s a brain that has adapted to the new “reality”… that considers cause and effect, actions and consequences on a longer time frame. “Neo-brain”.

Those who think (delayed benefits) about the longer term effects, will be the ones that DO survive as they make the adjustments they see the need for.

Survival battle

darwin

IN or OUT of the genetic pool?

That “stone-age brain” will lose the battle of survival of the fittest because it will kill itself off!  It will be those who consider the long-impact of our actions, that will win that battle, without even having to “fight”. They will simply look for the sustainable practices that will make a difference in long-term survival. And significantly, then take personal action that will make a difference.

The real challenge is to keep the stone-age brains from dragging the survivors down, as the stone-agers grow & harvest the darwin award!

If you kill off that which sustains you… by default you will die.  The problem is that you take a lot of “innocents” along with you. As well, you (the masses) may inflict tremendous damage on the underlying systems. But some will survive. The systems, over time, will re-balance.

Our human nature tells us to reach out to others and alert them to the dangers! One can only reach out to those who are unaware.  Once the “word” is out, if denial is the choice that is made… it is made for not only yourself… but those whom you care for, as well as others who have not made any choice.

Here in California, with the defeat of Prop 37, Label GMO Foods, and the defeat of an added soda tax (to discourage excessive consumption) we are saying that the health of the community cannot be legislated.

And yet, we did pass No Smoking laws, eventually.  So there is hope. Overtime, other parts of the country have made changes as well. With all the issues coming to a head, the question I ask is, “How much TIME do we really have, this time?”

KUDOS to those who spread the word!

They fought a strong battle. 47% of those that voted are now even more aware of the challenges ahead. And many in other states that listened to the battle, learned much as well. Those that could not vote and those that did, can now vote a different way, in the future.

It becomes even more imperative that we vote with our dollars and actions to support those farmers that do see the future, and are helping us to survive this Darwinian hit list!

The quality of our survival will depend on them.

*************************************************************************

* Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.

For example: killing oneself while manufacturing a homemade chimney-cleaning device from a grenade would be eligible;

OR –  John used wood and rope to make a traction device to ease his wife’s neck pain. But applying traction to the neck takes a delicate touch. His DIY (do-it-yourself) medical device turned out to be a gallows, as John found out when he tested it and hanged himself.

** FYI: Atheist, or not?  I personally believe in intelligent guidance, so evolution, for me, is not an anti-bible concept. I find it a matter of “hubris” that man thinks to dictate to “GOD” the details of how things should be done.

GMO’s – the lowdown (guest post)

Occasionally I cross-post something: “60% of our DNA is identical to that of corn and soy, and we have no idea how this transgenic process of altering genes in our food will affect us in the short term or the long term.” 
Congratulations to Baker Seeds, The Seed Bank and all those who worked hard on getting the signatures for the requirement to LABEL GMO products, on the California ballot!  … and this guest post is definitely one on GMO’s that presents a very clear argument for the issues involved.

The Truth About Genetically Modified Organisms – GMO’s

A Guest Blogger ….It’s a fantastic article that could also be titled; Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about GMO’s.

From April 28, 2012 by Soulsby Farm – A Very Small Farm Blog.

My name is Chris Vogliano and I am currently studying nutrition and dietetics at Kent State University in their Master’s Program.  I am conducting my thesis study on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms related to Dietitian’s knowledge and perception of them.  According to previous research, the public trusts dietitian’s to relay current and scientific information on this controversial topic.  However, as I hope to prove in my research, there is a significant knowledge gap in the perception of what dietitian’s know versus the knowledge they actually hold.

I chose this topic because genetically modified foods is personal and strikes an emotional cord.  Ever since discovering the topic, I have unveiled more and more unsettling information about this complicated and controversial process.

Most of American’s have no idea what genetically modified foods are, even though over 80% of our supermarket foods contain them.  Many American’s believe that simple crossbreeding is the same or at least a similar process to that of genetic modification.  Some American’s place trust in the “assumed” strict regulatory processes of the FDAUSDA, and EPA.

Politics plays a much more pertinent role in our lives than anyone wants or cares to believe, and I adamantly feel this with GMO’s…

The patenting of a transgenic soybean in the early 1990’s has had more of an impact than we would have ever imagined. We have seen a revolutionary agricultural shift in the way we grow our produce form even twenty years ago.

Many see this synergy of biotechnology and agriculture as a positive step towards our goal of creating a more economically sound production method for our food.  Big agriculture business has consolidated hands over the years to just a few large corporations, leading with the illusion of solving world hunger and bridging the world’s nutritional deficits.

As a soon to be dietitian who heavily values nutritional philanthropy, I could not have been more eager to learn more about this technology that could potentially curb our world hunger problems.
Let’s take a step back and look at the role of corporations in our society.

While we all vary on our opinions of specific corporations, deeming some as good and some evil, we have to remember one simple fact.  Through all the humanitarian efforts some might drape over their figurative bodies to display a positive PR image, corporations have one goal and one goal only.

The primary goal of a corporation is to increase profits for its shareholders. Plain and simple.

While some corporations may choose donations and community building tactics to seem selfless, at the end of the day it is simply to make you feel better about being a customer of their product.  This is not to demean the great things some corporations have done, but to call it an altruistic act is not so valid (arguably, is anything actually selfless? a question better saved for your philosophy 101 class).

Back to the grit of GMO’s – The basics of genetically modifying organisms is as follows:

A desired gene from a species not related to the host organisms is transferred into the cultivar or desired product (while sounding simple, this is actually quite a complex process).  The interesting part is that we don’t know how this transgenic, or crossing DNA from one foreign species to another affects humans or the environment.  This technology was developed and implemented into our food supply less than 15 years ago.

Monsanto is the largest corporate sponsor of GMO’s, fighting for their governmental acceptance worldwide ever since their creation.  A quick lesson on Monsanto’s history:

One of the first products Monsanto created was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which we now know can cause cancer

The next major products were DDT, Lasso, and Agent Orange, which we now know are highly carcinogenic.

Now they are trying to sell the idea of “genetically modified seeds” to us as being healthy and safe, when in all reality they are a self regulating organization whose primary interest is not the health of the consumers, but the money in their pocket.

European countries have strict regulatory standards and most countries have stopped the production of GMO’s until further testing has taken place.  Those countries who do have GMO corn must blatantly label their products with the phrase “this product contains genetically modified ingredients”, which protects the integrity of the food supply and the safety of the consumers.

GMO seeds have NEVER been tested in human trials to determine the impact they have on our bodies.

60% of our DNA is identical to that of corn and soy, and we have no idea how this transgenic process of altering genes in our food will affect us in the short term or the long term.

The only test currently being done to determine the safety of these products is happening right now, in our grocery stores.

As American’s, we deserve the right to know what is in our food. There is a serious need for us to take action on this issue that will help define the future of the agricultural food chain. We need the health of our food to lean in our favor, and not that of large corporate interest.

While there has been unethical practices that have been slipped passed the American consumers unbeknownst to them in the past decade, there has never been a more opportune moment to express out opinion than now.  More than ever, people are forming organizations and events to express their desire to have genetically modified foods labeled.  It is out food supply and we deserve the right to know what we are consuming.

think. be educated.

For more information or to get involved (highly encouraged!) visit:

www.Saynotogmos.org

www.nongmoproject.org

www.labelgmos.org

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She Delivered! We’re waiting on the last calf…

Bessie, our standard Jersey who gives wonderful milk, is expecting any day now.

Products from Bessie's milk

We’ve been without her milk for several months because we wanted to give her time to build her system up before she delivered.

Bessie was purchased from a local commercial dairy in our area, that had been in the business (family) for over a 100 years.  They were fairly close to organic in the sense that they did NOT use antibiotics, hormones, or and steroids to increase milk production.  They did some pasture grazing besides the grain they fed. Definitely were not certified, which is just about the only way family dairy farms can survive these days.

Organic certified milk brings a premium but the  middle man will only buy so much organic milk.  The rest may still be organic but brings a much lower price because it must be sold as “regular” milk, once the “quota” has been filled. On the other hand, dairymen have found that their VET costs are much less with their pastured dairy cows… so there is a payoff for them.

Cows in a standard commercial dairy are kept on the average, only 2 1/2 years before being sent to the slaughterhouse (for hamburger).  That makes them about 5 years old (2 years before their first calf and then 3 years “on the line”), before the are out the door.  Bessie was almost 5 when we bought her from the family dairy that was closing down after a 100 years.

Hand-milking Bessie, as she patiently waits

Bessie  was perfect for us beginners. Mellow and fairly patient…. except she MUCH preferred being milked by machine (10 min) vrs us hand-milking (45 min). Yep, 45 minutes… you gotta have hand strength, and she has to be happy enough to let down her milk.  After about 20 minutes she would get a bit ansiy… looking back, wanting know what was taking so long.  My 1-2 cups of milk was not enough to get me through the door and face the waiting crowd who wanted to try her milk! We’d keep plugging on… until I could get at least a gallon.

When our “portable milker” arrived, we suddenly

Portable milker, YEAH! says Bessie

jumped to 3-4 gallons of milk.  Amazing! Raw milk, at least Bessie’s milk, has a sweet fresh taste to it.  Very different from commercial milk.

I used to wonder why milk came in different prices.

Now I know (and can taste) that often milk is “made” with powdered milk.  It’s cheaper to transport (and lasts longer) when the liquid is removed… and then added back later.

Sometimes the milk is a blend of powered and whole milk.

Powdered milk + water =

I used to do that myself when we were dirt poor, 40 years ago, and raising a family.  I would mix the milk at home and chill it. It’s now not an uncommon practice in the industry…

A2/A2 Milk

But back to Bessie.  We did some testing on her and found that her milk was A2/A2… just means that one of the amino acids in the milk is slightly different, and people who have trouble digesting milk, can handled A2/A2 milk without any problems. It’s actually the older gene and a mutation, known as A1/A1, occurred about 6,000 yrs ago… which most dairy cows carry.

Portable milker on a cart, to the barn

We’ve had several non-milk drinkers (because they were lactose intolerant) handle our milk just fine.  Glug-glug-glug… a gallon later. Did I mention they have NO problem with the milk, other than keeping some for tomorrow!  Now my daughter, who has a RESPIRATORY allergy, get’s worse. For her there is something else in the milk that she is sensitive to… and  with A2/A2 milk it gets worse.

When it came time to have Bessie bred we opted to A.I. (artificial insemination) with an A2/A2 Jersey Bull so we are very anxious to see if she will have a heifer that will someday give us A2/A2 milk!

Bessie is now 9 years old and has given us good service… but her genetics are telling on her.  For the last two years she has developed weepy areas where her skin is thin.  Never an infection… but I think, just the long time stress… she’s almost twice as old as her sister cows got to be; while my Old World Jerseys should be good for 20 years… I don’t know if it’s because of the actual genetics or because commercial cows are really pushed to produce in those early years.

We take it very easy and only milk once a day… because we would rather have the longevity, than quantity. I also dried her off three months prior to her delivery to give her extra time to build up her reserves.

But to my story…

The calf is checking on Bessie

Bessie is due any minute..

her bag has filled up and it was leaking. We put her in the fresh pasture between the house and the mini horse paddock… to keep an eye on her. Chocolate and her calf are with her to keep her company.  

The next morning, she stopped eating or chewing her cud.

 She laid down and started “laboring”. I raced around and grabbed my camera and cellphone.

I patiently sat quietly for at least an hour. Her companion cow, Chocolate, and her calf, would come over and nuzzled her occasionally, as she labored.  She would pant, and then rest.

And then she started stretching… she began a slight amount of pushing… passed a bit of stool;
I assumed that the calf was moving down the birth canal & called our intern and a neighbor the the imminent birth.
About 30 min later she stood up and did it! She delivered a nice, big, huge… cow pat.
Boy, did I feel dumb.  She stood there for a moment. Looked around.

she delivered a rather large cow pat

She’s so big (not huge, though) and when she lays down there is so much pressure from the calf, on her bottom, that everything swells up. You can see the calf shifting on occasion, and mom shifts around trying to get the calf in a more comfortable position (after having four kids, I remember THAT feeling very well).
Bessie looked around another moment… then she started on lunch….
If she’s feeling good enough to eat, she’s definitely NOT delivering.
Back to the house…. no more excuses not to do MY chores!  I remind myself that a “watched pot” doesn’t boil (or something like that)! I’ll leave her buddies to “labor sit” for now.

He & mom will keep Bessie company, but continue on with their "business"


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