‘Nipped’ Sweet Potato Crop!

Here is an excellent post from another blog: The Dirt Doctor!

Please do share the info.

The Dangers of Bud Nip in a Compact Sweet Potato Project

by Emylisa Warrick 

The dangers of bud nip, a chemical herbicide also known as Chlorpropham, become clear in a simple yet illuminating message from a young lady named Elise. In the video, Elise is nervous and sweet as she tries to remember her lines and looks down at her cue cards to explain her “Potato Project.” 

With the help of her grandma, Elise buys a sweet potato from three different sources: one from the grocery store, one “organically” labeled from the same grocery store, and one from Roots, a certified organic food market. Each sweet potato is placed in a glass of water in order to track its cultivation of vine sprouts and growth.

The first sweet potato, the one from the grocery store, does not sprout any vines after three weeks. The second one sprouts a “wimpy, little vine” after over a month. The third sweet potato, the one bought from Roots, flourishes with cascading, healthy green sweet potato vines after just one week.

What seems like an innocent fourth-grade science project is actually an informative and effective account of the effects of a commonly used chemical herbicide called “bud nip.” The produce man at the grocery store informs Elise that the first potato won’t sprout any sweet potato vines because it has been sprayed with bud nip.

According to the Pesticide Action Network, the dangers of bud nip include toxicity to amphibians and honeybees, important pollinators of crops we eat every day. Bud nip can be found on potatoes, kale, peaches, broccoli and other common fruits and vegetables.

Find out what other foods have chlorpropham here.

Elise’s sweet potato project is a subtle, but insistent reminder that bud nip and other chemical herbicides harm us as well as the world around us. In her words, “Which potato would you rather eat?”

 If you have any questions on this newsletter or any other topic, tune in Sunday 8am -11am CST to the Dirt Doctor Radio Show. The phone number for the show is 1-866-444-3478. Listen on the internet or find a station in your area.

Shop in the Green Living Store for all of the products I recommend in the Organic Program. Products are also available in the Dirt Doctor’s Corner of your favorite Garden Center.

Please share this newsletter with everyone in your address book and all your friends on Facebook and Twitter to help me spread the word on organics.

Naturally yours, Howard Garrett

P.S. Start 2012 with the resolution of healthy eating and living with a membership to the Organic Club of America! Memberships are also great gifts.

Members can log in on Sunday mornings to see the Dirt Doctor’s Live Broadcast.

Playtime, on the farm!

Niki caught this shot of Mick & the calf racing across the field…

Predators have 2 eyes in front!

When people visit the farm one of the first things we talk about, before seeing the livestock, is how to interact with our cows and horses (& mini-horses).  We bred for temperament so we start out with fairly mellow livestock… but it’s important to understand where they, genetically, are coming from to avoid triggering survival instincts.

First Day on the Farm - Lady comes to Jim

These animals have historically been prey, i.e. food. They have developed some pretty strong instincts that allow them to survive in the wild. Animals (predators) that hunt them down have two eyes, that work together in front, that will stare at them!

Prey (future dinner meal) animals have eyes that look to the side and each eye actually works independently. One eye can look behind and the other can look ahead… almost 360 degree vision. AMAZING.  Their brains can make some sense out of this information. Safety & survival.

If your eyes are in front, you can’t see behind you or to the side very well, without turning your head.  But two eyes working together are better at judging distance, when you are in attack mode!

We had a cow who, I swear had surround vision! She could, with one eye, watch her food, and with the other eye, wait until we were in kicking range while milking. Grrr-r-r-r.

Predators also reach out with a stretched out open paw, claws extended, to attack. Guess what people automatically do? Reach up and out with extended fingers, to touch livestock on the head.

Prey animals are very sensitive to certain movements that humans make so we try to decrease their stress by encouraging visitors to do several things. Our goal is to make “socializing” positive for both sides, human and animal.


One, don’t look directly at the animal (with both eyes) until they have been introduced to you. When


looking directly at them (with both eyes) look away occasionally, to take the stress off them. I’ll turn my head slightly, so they can only see one eye.

I still do this with a “new mom” as she may be extra nervous with a newborn calf at her side.

Two, don’t reach up and out with an open hand, to touch the animal.  Put your hand out down low, with the back of your hand showing (fingers tucked away)… and let the animal reach out to you and sniff your hand.  THEN you can turn your hand over, and touch them. They can be incredibly sensitive & gentle with their muzzles.

Three, talk quietly, slowly, and in low tones. High pitched tones come from bobcats, etc!

Four, move slowly, and give them time to adjust to where you are moving to. ALWAYS let them know, quietly, if you are directly behind them to avoid spooking them. (They cannot see directly behind themselves.) FAST movements are perceived as a threat (predator after them).

Using these techniques works well.  The other interesting thing.. you don’t actually have to go directly up to the animal.  If you stand or sit still, they will come to you. They are incredibly curious and as long as they don’t perceive you as a threat… they will want to meet YOU.

Teasing Chocolate… being a bad boy!

Our Cocker Spaniel, Mick, loves to play with the new calf.  He thinks it’s HIS new playmate.  But mom has other ideas.  Because Mick has front eyes, moves quickly, and makes “attack” movements, she see’s him as a threat to her baby (despite knowing him since he was born!).

He’s making a nervous wreak out of our new mom. Poor Mick… he get’s put on a leash so that he will NOT tease Chocolate.  He’s only allowed to go out “under supervision”!

Newborn calf doing well!

Our area got hit with over 6 inches of rain!!! It quickly creates a river that runs between the house and the barn, and pools into a shallow lake in the pasture.  We’re quite lucky that the pasture area drains fairly quickly.  Despite it being winter this was a relatively warm storm.  No freezing temperatures.

Glad that our newborn calf had a few days of warm, dry weather before the start of the rains.  He handled the change in weather without a hitch.  Kicking up his heels and playing…. instead of curled up in a miserable lump as I fantasized.  It’s a pretty human characteristic, to super-impose our reactions onto animals.

Barns are mostly for people… for storing items like tools, hay, feed, etc. We don’t use the barn for our livestock. Overall, it’s not healthy for them.  Cows, horses, etc. prefer the outdoors and tend to choose a tree or windbreaks for their shelter.  Livestock closed up in a barn are at risk for respiratory problems… the build-up of manure and urine produces fumes that are irritating to their lungs. They have survived for tens of thousands of years… outside.

Well, except for our chickens who are closed up inside the barn at night, but only because it was a convenient place to put an enclosed cage to protect them from predators. Not that THEY needed the barn. It could be in a chicken tractor, outside. Now, our weather here in coastal california is rather mild.

We don’t have drifts of snow for livestock to dig through, looking for food and water.  Instead our chickens, turkeys and guinea hens roam freely, except at night, where we have closed down The Heritage Barn Chicken Buffet that a Red Fox, last year, helped himself to.

The calf did not miss a beat… he frolicked and played in the rain. His coat is thick and water-resistant, seemingly untouched by the steady rain.  We had three days, off and on, of rain.

halter, calf, train

Halter Training

Of course, then it came to the time to put a halter on the calf and get him used to being led around.  You can see from the picture how excited he was about this new adventure. He actually acclimated rather quickly and our intern was able to led him around the pasture.

Niki, our intern, also discovered the easiest time to put the halter ON.  When the calf was napping!

They are almost dead to the world.  You can do just about anything to them and they don’t wake up.  And mom has usually parked the calf, for his nap, and she’s gone off to eat so she’s not there to run interference in putting a halter on her baby.

We’ll try to lead him around a short while each day… and spend time with him, socializing.

Then he is let off the lead rope, races over to mom, and get’s a comforting drink of milk!

Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 2

The calf finally balances enough on his little legs, to actually MOVE around!

Newborn calf’s first steps, pt 1


You can hear the pig in the background… he was SO curious about what was going on!

Surrogate mother for my turkey’s eggs

pastued midget white turkeys

Our Midget White Turkeys

Our Midget White Turkey hens have started laying.  Never-mind the fact that this is the middle of winter (well, maybe that is the confusion, this winter has been so warm) and they are confused.  Coming in with the chicken eggs, we’re finding large speckled turkey eggs. Over a few days we’ve collected 4 of these eggs.  In just a few more days we should have at least 6-7.

Midget White Turkey Egg

Turkey egg on the left, Chicken egg on the right

While our midget is laying consistently, it’s unlikely that she will sit on her eggs, especially as this is off-season.

Turkey eggs take 28 days to hatch… and I have a broody hen.  A hen that is insisting on incubating some eggs. So we will play the switcheroo game.  When we have collected enough turkey eggs, I’ll remove the hen’s own eggs and put them in the incubator to complete their 21 day incubation.  I’ll replace her eggs with a new batch of  turkey eggs.

Lucky for me the hen will keep sitting until those eggs hatch, even though turkey eggs take longer.  If we get really fancy, we’ll take some of my prime chicken eggs, and 7 days after the turkey eggs are started, we’ll put the chicken eggs under her, as well. They should all hatch within 48 hrs of each other.

Now why would anyone in their right mind do this dance?

Because turkey chicks are notoriously difficult to raise. AND are VERY expensive to order from the hatchery.  Roughly $10 a chick, and a 50% survival rate is the norm.  That makes it $20 cost base for each surviving turkey. If we can find a way to raise our own chicks, we are way ahead of the game.

While I can incubate the eggs to get them to hatch, it’s raising them up that is the problem… but mother hens do it without missing a beat.  They will raise their chicks, turkey chicks, guinea chicks, just about anybody’s chicks I think, and not lose a one! It’s awesome to watch.  She’ll even raise a combo… chicken & turkey chicks at the same time.

We’ve had a momma hen hatch out 2 little chicks, and I’ll give her another dozen (slip them under at night, just after her chicks have hatched).  She rises up in the morning and the baby chicks just keep streaming out from under her. Good thing for me hen’s can’t count! She does the job without a hitch.  And we have the fun of watching the mom teach the babies to scratch and hunt for food.

Broody hen with new hatch

Broody hen with surrogate chicks

If everything goes according to schedule, my broody hen should hatch out at least 6 turkey chicks… without me having to do too much work,  while letting her do the work she does best. By the time she is ready to leave her little flock, the turkeys will be able to hold their own.

It’s a variation on sustainable but as the “broodiness” has been bred out of turkeys it is difficult to get the to sit on their own eggs, or get them to raise their own chicks. Kinda sad really.   Commercial turkey’s breast are too large to allow mating, so they must be A.I.ed (artificial insemination). But at least OUR turkeys can breed on their own! At least we’re getting a bit back to the historical norms… not all the way, but at least, some of the way.

Hand Milking… the first milk


Niki hand milking

Niki, our current intern, wanted to try milking Chocolate.  I wanted to make sure each quarter of Cho’s udder was functioning properly.  The calf had nursed, but it was important to make sure each teat was open and that each part of the udder could empty. If not, it could be a perfect setup for mastitis, infection of the udder.

An udder is divided into four segments, each with a teat.  The first milk, after delivery, is the colostrum which has many health benefits for the new calf.  But the mom produces much more milk than the calf will be able to drink… so we will take some for possible future use.

We didn’t want to separate mom & calf by taking Cho into the milking trailer so Jim just put a halter on her and tied it to the feed stall.  The problem with that… she had much more room to move around.  Cho had not been milked in a year so was not too pleased with the change.  Jim hobbled her back leg so she could not kick.

unable to kick

Preventing any real kicks@

When a fresh cow is milked initially, it will trigger contractions (painful)… so again, she’s not too happy about being milked BUT, very important to make sure each quarter of the udder is working properly.

It’s a good thing the hobble is in place ’cause she does try to kick! She dances around the stall area and Niki has to be quick and observant on what Chocolate is doing. When you lean up against a cow, to milk, you can actually feel when she is getting ready to kick… you grab the bucket and tilt back… she has a very specific range that she can kick into. Once in the milking stall we will have more control, but we’ll wait a few weeks before we start to take milk.

Hand milking is quite an art… as well as requiring some good hand endurance.  You don’t need a lot of strength, but you do need to be able to keep up the motion for a while.  Our other Jersey, Bessie, does NOT like to be hand milked.  She thinks we take way too long!

milking the front quarter of the udder

Enlarged teat... hand milking

Milking is not just clenching a fist around the teat, but a rolling motion. You actually close off the top of the teat (so the milk will not squirt back up into the udder), and then squeeze down, from top to bottom, to move the milk out.  It’s a rolling motion, top to bottom. Once you have enough hand endurance/strength you can get a nice rhythm going.

Hand milking should be done in 20 minutes at the most. It only takes about 10 min to do the job with a small portable milking machine, but it takes me longer to CLEAN my automatic milker , then hand milking takes!  The challenge is to build up the hand endurance.

We check each quarter of the udder, and get a good flow of milk from each. Collect about a quart of colostrum, for freezing. And then let Chocolate go nuzzle her calf, who has not budged from his napping spot.

calf, mother cow

Checking on her calf

Calf delivery..lots of pics, graphic

We were getting a bit worried that the calf had not been born yet, the weather forecast was calling for rain, in a few days.  All these warm, sunny days had been perfect for a newborn but we were going to lose that window.

But Jim came in from his morning rounds to tell me to get ready…                                camera, coffee, and coat!  Chocolate was pacing around the pasture.

early labor? pacing

Pacing around the pasture

She moved behind the trailer, behind the truck, behind the barn. Never staying long, and not eating… early contractions? She kept lifting her tail head. More mucus discharge.

Bessie watching out for Chocolate

Bessie keeps a close eye on Chocolate

Bessie was following a short distance, keeping her company the whole way.  The neighbors cows came over to stand by the fence, watching her carefully.

If you didn’t know, birthing time is of great interest to all the other livestock!  Often they come peek around the corner to see what is happening.

Chocolate finally chose to go into the barn paddock stall.  Jim closed her in so she would have a protected area to move around in.

Paddock where Chocolate settled

Paddock for the delivery area

Our intern carefully spread fresh straw down so that the calf would have a “soft landing”.  Two interns had just finished mucking the stall area out the day before… . perfect timing.

Our boar hog in the next pen kept watching and pacing, quite curious about what was going on.

Jim made a few phone calls to alert neighbors that the big event would actually be happening!

Early active labor

Jim gives some TLC to Chocolate

This Jersey birth was quite strikingly different from our lowline angus beef cows.  Much longer process, 1 1/2 hr.  But it makes sense.  Beef cows tend to be out on rangeland, or large pastures.  They are at risk for predator attacks.  They don’t have the luxury of a longish labor.  Those livestock would be dead and their genes NOT passed on.

Beef cows do what I call, “The Stop and Drop”!

Milk cows have been domesticated for thousands of years.  In a protected environment those quick genes were not quite as critical.

Chocolate got up & down, moved around between contractions.

laboring & the chickens stop by for a visit!

Chickens drop by, as Chocolate labors

She finally chose to lay down and completed her labor in that position.  She would thrust her upper rear leg out as she had a contraction and slowly began to push. Nothing to see… just a contraction, a push, and then she would stop and chew her cud for a few minutes.

The important thing is to remember to stay out-of-the-way! Let nature take it’s course.

And finally, she began to push and I had the delicate job of explaining why seeing poop was a GOOD sign.  That as the calf moved through the birth canal, the rectum runs above the birth canal.  As the calf move through and out, it was also pushing out any stool left in the rectum… it meant we were getting very, very close.

some of the observers...

Watching the delivery, from the barn

It was an awesome experience (we had from age 6 – 60 watching).  I think birth is one of the most mesmerizing things to watch.  Our barn setup is excellent because one side is open to the lower stalls.  It’s for ease of taking the hay stored in the barn, and being able to toss it into the feeders, just below.  Perfect viewing platform to be OUT of the way and yet see what was going on.

It’s time!

All of a sudden, more mucus, a tinge of blood, and then a bubble emerging… the bag of waters.

white filmy membrane, bag of waters broken

Bag of waters broken, finally

Under the pressure, it suddenly burst. Clear fluid and the path was lubricated for the calf.

Next contraction and we were seeing a tiny hoof peek out and then pull back.

a hoof, at the birth canal

First sight of a hoof

Over the next few contractions, we would see more of the hoof and then finally a 2nd hoof… a good sign.

Calf was in a good position (only one hoof might mean a leg twisted back that would impede the delivery).

two hooves showing

Two hooves showing!

Beautifully, the beginnings of the muzzle appeared. Perfect position for an uncomplicated delivery.

calf's muzzle

The beginning of the calf's muzzle are showing

Another contraction and the head was through.  Amazingly, the calf shook its head… long ears flopping.

Delivery Done!

Birth is complete!

Over the course of a couple of contractions the calf’s body slipped through, and suddenly he was there.

Breath held we waited, waited to see him actively take a real breath.  No active movement, but watching carefully you could see his ribs rise and fall.  But at first, no movement… scary.

Two of us nurses, again, having to fight the impulse to jump in, and stimulate the calf to breath, to rub it dry. Instead, having to just watch.

Laying perfectly still...

Is the calf OK, He's so still?

Amazingly, Chocolate immediately got up and started lick her calf… vigorously.

This flaccid little limp frame of a calf was a little scary.  Was he normal? He looked like skin and bones.  But the more his mother licked him, the more active he became… and the healthier he started looking!

Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief when see him lift his head, a spontaneous movement on his part.  He’ll be fine.

the calf begins to move!

The Calf begins to move!

stimulating by licking

Mom is quite vigorous at the licking!

His soft white hoofs were hardening up now that they were exposed to air.

At birth, they are soft & pliable.  Think of fingernails after washing dishes or taking a bath.  Makes sense, cause a sharp hoof could lacerate the bag of waters or the uterus or the birth canal.  He did not even try to stand for the first 30 minutes, but the hoofs were quickly firming up.

He begins to stand

Attempting to get his balance & stand

His little legs spayed out as he would try to stand… from legs slipping away from him; ok, try the back legs… same thing.  But wait, rest, and try again… all the while mom is licking him so vigorously she knocks him around a bit.  She’s cleaning, drying him off, getting the “birth smell” removed so he will not be a target for predators. Her instinctual behavior is amazing to watch.

almost up on all four feet

Almost Up!

He finally gets a bit more control and is able to stand, taking his first wobbly steps, he actually begins to explore the world around him. Amazing curiosity.

Jim approaches the calf, carefully. The calf IS curious and wobbles over to him.

Calf checking out Jim

Who's that stranger???

Mom isn’t to sure.  She lets out a mooooo-o-o.  Jim stays very still and just holds his hand out for the calf to sniff.  Mom is OK with this.

And then the calf decides to take off and explore the rest of the paddock… our visitors have moved the back area of the ground floor paddock so that they could see what was happening.

A world to explore

The Calf take off to explore!

The calf takes off to check these new creatures.

WHOOOPS, I’m thinking we might be in trouble with mom... but no, as long as we stay still, and the calf does the approach she is OK with this.

We had a great groups of folks who moved slowly and quietly… did not bother mom at all.

 She just follows him, still getting a lick in when she can! He is beginning to dry and fluff up… getting that cute fawn look to him, with those big eyes staring at you.

The next big step… for him is nursing. He needs to get that first milk, the colostrum, in his gut before the first 6 hrs are up.

Calf looking for the teat

Beginnings of the search for the Teat

But he’s got time.  Born at 11:30 and exploring the world by 12. Now that is some action.

It will actually be another hour before he is able to find and latch onto the teat… again, much slower than beef calves.

Dried off and his fur fluffed up, he is so soft to touch. a gentle calm little creature.  He’ll be a great addition to our farm stead. He’s turning a light golden color… Hmm, now a name?

And at the end of his first exploration… he collapses… and takes a nap.


Getting ready to Nap!

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It’s a Boy! An Old World Jersey fullblood…

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I’ll fill you on the story… when we get all the work done, that we put off for “the birth”!

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