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

www.truefoodnow.org

LinkedIn Account:
www.linkedin.com/pub//chris-vogliano/41/806/370

WordPress account

http://chrisvogliano.wordpress.com/

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"


Bawling Calves….

Did you know cows have families? I mean, like real family structure. They really do form family groups and an outsider is definitely odd man out. Anybody new is suspect… even if they “used” to be part of the social group but have been gone for a while.  At least for a time, while  the pecking order is re-established.

several members of the "family" watch carefully as Jim checks out the new calf!

Mom cow, and her “sister’s”, aunts, uncles, &  their babies can make up a group.  It appears to be a matriarchal grouping.

The bull is there but not really the dominate member.  Besides, he may be “covering” 30+ females (well, not in our herd… but in some of the big ranch operations).

We don’t keep our herd bull separate.  It’s good for the young bulls to have a role model, and to be part of a hierarchy as they get older. They learn manners, work out their pecking order among the other young bulls before they can hurt each other, and respect for the “head” guy.

Courting the Ladies 

Our “herd” bull is quite a gentleman.  He courts the females… nuzzles them, sniffs, and will keep them company.  He can tell by sniffing when she is coming “into heat” (i.e. going to ovulate).  If you watch closely they do this really weird funny thing with their nose & upper lip.  They breath in the females smell while curling up their upper lip… he is breathing her pheromones (chemical odors) across special sensors in his nasal cavity that tell him if she is getting ready to ovulate.

PMS is not JUST a human behavior!

The females go through very specific phases as well.  We call them 1) PMSing (pre-menstrual syndrome – irritable), and 2) Lovey-dovey. A cow does NOT have a “human cycle” although she will produce a thick mucus when she is ovulating.  But first she gets very irritable… butting others around her, bawling, and maybe “off” her feed.  If she is milking, her milk production may drop a bit.  Then she does a complete turnout about; she changes into a NEW woman… nuzzling other cows, rubbing, and nurturing behaviors.

If you are driving by herds of cows out to pasture, and watch carefully, you can see some of that behavior.  It’s not all just eating, and chewing their cud.

Special Breeding program

The assigned babysitter, for the calves, while the mom's go eat!

Any females we do not want bred by our herd bull, we will pull out and separate her. We do make sure she has company, as cows are by nature, herd animals and are very stressed when alone. We try not to separate for to long, or else she will be an “outsider” when she returns to her herd.  Everyone will try to “kick her a_s” and try to push her around to see who will be at the BOTTOM of the pecking order.

The adult female who is at the bottom of the pecking order will have to do “guard duty”, i.e. watch out for predators, baby sit the youngest calves, eat last, etc.  Sometimes a “teenager” cow will be assigned to baby sit the calves while the mom’s go off to eat.

Panic

Remember, the young calves are just practicing to eat, for the first couple of months, and they take LOTS of naps.  And when they fall asleep they can be almost impossible to wake up.  The first time I tried to wake a calf up, it scared me to death. I thought it was dying… it would not budge . When I tried to pick up the calf (gal durn it, even the babies are heavy), it’s head just rolled around.  I was sure he was deathly ill and that somehow, I had missed the signs.

Collapsed on the ground, unable to wake up!

An hour later, he “woke-up” and raced off to play with the other calves.  I felt pretty stupid… I had called Jim at work, panicky, and wondering if I  should call the vet out. Thank heavens we decided to give it a few hours.  Besides, our general policy was to let nature take it’s course.  If a calf was not meant to survive, there is probably a good reason for it.  And we are in the mode of raising livestock that DON’T require coddling (frequent vet visits, medications, etc).  Mother nature produced livestock that could survive without human intervention.  It’s often our human  interactions that cause the problems.

 How BIG is YOUR barn?

People ask about “the barn”. We don’t have a barn for the cows or horses.  They are very stressful environments for them (and un-natural).  They build up accumulations of urine/manure that is not weathered away back to fertilizer.  The ammonia (from the urine)  and dust (from the hay) that accumulates can cause respiratory problems for them.  In nature, cows and horses will seek out trees/brush for wind & shade protection. If a lean-to is available they often choose NOT to use it… even when we have heavy rains.  Of course, we don’t get snow where we live, so we need less infra-structure for the livestock.

Where there is heavy snow (as in several feet of snow) & the water is frozen, barns are utilized.  For some, a deep bedding method is used, where straw is put down, and added to on a regular basis.  It absorbs the “outputs” of the livestock.  Some folks throw some corn/other grains in when the different layers are added.

At the start of spring, when the livestock are back out in the pasture, pigs are attracted to the germinating grains and used to “work-up & compost” the material in the barns as they “hunt” for the treats. Then it’s put back into the soil to return the nutrients and fertilizer.  I think I heard that Joel Salatin uses something like this technique.

Our BAWLING Calves… and their worried moms!

But I was going to tell you about our calves.  They are 4-8 wks old and it was time to tag and band them.  AND to pull tail hairs (but I forgot 😦    , for genetic testing).  Luckly,  their genetics don’t actually change… and it’s not to hard to pull tail hairs.  The trick is just to make sure you get the “roots” where the DNA is accessible for testing.  Much, much easier than drawling blood for testing. We DO NOT BRAND our cows.  Lowline Angus are fairly valuable, so we do DNA testing.  If one were “stolen” it is easily identified through their genetic code.  It also confirms who the dam & sire are, for legal purposes.

We do TAG them to make it easy to identify who is who.  My system: green tags are fullblood lowline angus.  Blue tags are percentage lowline angus. Yellow tags are Old World Jersey Heritage blood lines.  Because we have a small herd, we number by the birth year (’12) and the order of the birth (i.e. 1,2,3).  We have 121, 122, 123, 124, and 125 is due any day.  Hopefully, an A2/A2 heifer (Jersey milk cow).

We had to “band” one calf (yep, thick rubber band) to convert from a bull calf to a steer.  We do this rather than castrate by cutting.  I think it’s less stressful on US… not sure about the calf.  But he just races back to mom and nurses.  Does not even bawl, so I think it’s just being restrained that they don’t like.  Scary, I’m sure.

Tagging takes about 2 seconds, and again, they don’t really seem to mind it.  I think at this young age, it’s like getting your ears pierced as an infant. The nerve endings don’t seem to be “active”.  They never seem to actually mind it.  It’s just being forcibly separated from mom (all the moms) & being restrained, that they get shook about.

Mom calling to her calf....

The mom’s are worried about EACH baby. They race around, kicking up their heels (literally), and search to find a way to the calf.  Not just their own… but all the calves in their family unit.  If a calf starts bawling, each mom tries to locate it, and when they do, they come over and sniff & nuzzle the calf.  When the calf is finally released, each cow must reassure herself that the calf is actually OK by physically interacting with it. Their own calf will nurse… comfort food and some TLC (tender loving care).

Positive Management

It’s been absolutely fascinating to watch and learn about this whole process.  If we have to do something stressful, we try to group it all at one time. Only ‘one” event and not several spaced out over weeks. We don’t want them to become apprehensive at our  approach.

We are learning to live in synch with our livestock, and to try to respect their systems.  Some people might scoff but I think happy, unstressed animals make healthy animals.   Dollars NOT spent on a vet, equates to more dollars in MY pocket… so it’s in my best interest to take care of their best interests!

 

Three things to do, which will MAKE you $’s

OK, OK. I’m sure you’ve heard the “scams” over the years…. follow MY advice and earn “millions” with very little effort! Of course, most of those guys… want a small “fee” to tell you what you need to do. If you operate on the theory that “you get what you pay for”, it does make sense in a way… to charge. I’ve paid some of those guys, and I did learn.  I didn’t learn about millions, that’s for sure, though.  But it did help me learn to think outside the “box”.

On a farm, in suburbia, in an apartment…. there are at LEAST three things you can do that will make you dollars. Most of us think in terms of “bringing MORE dollars home”, but just as useful is to think of it from a different angle.  Less dollars going out.

Cost of  Making Dollars vrs Keeping your Dollars

Usable Dollars

If you MAKE dollars, via wages, you must pay approx 1/3 or more, to the government.  Often, if those are the “last dollars” you make (i.e. on top of your regular salary), it may be taxed at an even higher rate.  If you factor in: taxes, social security, sales tax when you spend the money, and the higher tax bracket you’re  forced into…

I would guess you can only count on 50% of each additional dollar that you EARN as being actually in your hot little hand! (If you had to pay child care while you made those dollars, then you are probably in negative territory).

That was the cool thing about the stock market… you could let your money do the work while you stayed home.

Uhhh, except for a few details there… that again you can be taxed through the roof, if you do buying and selling within a year of purchase… in addition to the fee to actually buy and then sell and then buy. Hmmm, and if you did actually “make $’s” there is again that problem of being forced up into a high tax bracket.  When you went to use those dollars, dang it… there you are again, usually paying some kind of sales tax on it. How much of your dollar do you actually get to use?

So yes, I can double your useful money value. Maybe even triple it!  Well… some of your dollars. But it won’t be glamorous, or yuppy. You can’t whisper into someone’s ear how you made out big on “……” (fill in the blank).

Here goes:

Bag of Pinto Beans!

I went down and bought a bag of pinto beans… 99 cents.  Boiled ’em up (yep, it’s actually quite easy to do)… google it!

For that one dollar spent, plus the energy to cook them (let’s call it 10 cents), and then to store them in the fridge/freezer (which is already being used but let’s call that another 10 cents).  We’ll call it $1.20 total (and you’ll reuse containers so we won’t factor in container costs).

One lb of beans = at least 6-7 cups of cooked beans = 3-4 cans of purchased beans.

$1.20 vrs  $7.20 to $6.00  (4 cans/$1.80 each) or maybe you get them on sale @$1.50 = $6.00

Well, I knew you would NOT believe quadruple your money! but hey, that $6.00 you just saved… is a REAL Six Dollars… you don’t have to pay any more taxes, social security, child care, etc., costs on it.You would have had to “earned” $12.00 to have the same value that you just saved, if you “bought” those groceries at the supermarket .

You know, a knowledgable, skilled homemaker (cook, etc) is worth HIS/HER weight in gold at home!

The other pluses you get with this deal: less processed food, long-term storage, no exposure to cans lined with BPA, you know exactly what went into the making of the food, no preservatives.   Did I mention, you saved your dollars for things that you MUST pay with dollar bills… doctor bills, fuel, IRS.

Three Ways

ONE) make food from scratch… it’s much cheaper, you have control over what goes into it, less exposure to additives, customize to your taste!

TWO) what you must purchase, purchase now (prices on staples are skyrocketing and will continue to do so) in larger numbers and store. I used to get tomato sauce for 20 cents a can a few years back.  I now make most of my own but when I get it at the store, it’s up to $0.79 or more.  For now, I would buy on sale, and in bulk amounts.  Take $20/paycheck and allot it to your “investment account”. Track it, bet you’ll be surprised at your “annual rate of return”. Not quite as big a money investment but buying at today’s prices will buffer the sticker shock, as prices increase.

THREE) grow some things, on your own.  I was amazed at the production I got out of just a few plants.  I planted a 10 ft row of beans… and could NOT keep ahead of them. They just kept producing!  I finally decided I’d try NOT picking them.  I ended up with “dry beans” that I then picked and stored away to make winter soups!  That 10 ft row probably cost me $2/seed package for a bushel of beans. ($4 if I bought 2 cell packs of “starts” ready to put in the ground).

During a month of production I  got at least $4/worth of beans A DAY. Green beans… and then at the end of the season, another $5/dry beans. $4×30=$120 green beans, 5# dry bean x $6= $30.   $150 from a $2 pkg of seeds… well, you do have to account for some water, trellis, and your time.  But that is a heck of a deal… just not exactly glamorous!

Dried vs. Canned Beans
Canned beans are fast and easy to use. Or you can prepare dried beans from scratch. Here are some equivalents:1 lb dry beans = 2 1/2 cups dry beans = about 7 1/2 cups cooked beans
1 cup dry beans = about 3 cups cooked beans
14 oz/398 ml can beans = about 1 1/2 cups drained beans
19 oz/540 ml can beans = about 2 cups drained beans

Homemade lettuce box

You don’t need a 10 ft row of beans….

but try three different plants, a cherry tomato & a regular size tomato plant, green beans or peas or lettuce or onions or potatoes or cucumbers Things that you will actually eat, plus try one new thing. Plant a Salsa Garden… tomato, tomatillo, chili peppers, onions, cilantro!  DON’T plant what you DON’T LIKE!

Tomato Container Garden should be much larger!

Just don’t kill yourself trying to do too much… start small. It is truly amazing how little you need to grow to get a very productive output.  You will be absolutely impressed by how good your homegrown food can taste… amazing difference from store-bought!

Self-Watering Container (aka Earth Box)… I’ve included a unit you can put together!

  • that reduces the water chores, with its water reservoir,
  • it reduces weeding issues,
  • it reduces bending issues (for seniors who gotta watch out for the back!),
  • it doesn’t even need land; it’s great if you have a sunny patio, even in an apartment complex,
  • there is even a Yahoo group, ContainerGardening, that you can join… great at answering questions.
ediblecontainergardens@yahoogroups.com

You need roughly 6 hrs of sunlight for fruiting plants. Shade plants (lettuce, radishes, onions, beets) can tolerate much less sunlight.

Homemade self-watering Container

Basically, a big tub with a false bottom.  The false bottom has a wick down into the water stored in the base, to pull up the water it needs, when it needs it.  You use a potting soil(not garden soil… too heavy, thick, clayish) to fill the top-level, and then plant.  You do need to be aware of how big the plants will get, that you want to grow, and factor that in to the size of the container. You can get a small cherry tomato plant, that will stay small or one that will grow 4 ft tall by 4 ft wide. Do your research!  There is a refill spout to replenish the water drawn up by the plants.

NCAT SIFT Program sift@ncat.org

SIFT (Sustainable Intensive Farming Techniques) directions:

It doesn’t take a field, or even a greenhouse, to enjoy your own sustainably grown produce.

A sustainable “micro-farm” is a good choice for those who may have limited space or who might want to experiment with small amounts of different kinds of crops.

Choose corner containers that are the same heighth as the wicking cup.
Choose corner containers that are the same height
as the wicking cup.

And a microfarm is a great project for parents, teachers, and anyone else with kids looking for fun and educational things to do. It’s easy to design them with an efficient watering system, drawing moisture from the bottom instead of relying on watering from the top. That makes it a good first introduction to sustainable-agriculture practices.

Here are the materials you need and step-by-step directions to assemble a water-friendly microfarm of the type the SIFT project has used to introduce local 4-H members to sustainable agriculture. Have fun!

List of materials
• 18-gallon plastic storage tub and lid

• A 3.75–inch “wicking” pot, also known as a net cup, or a sturdy cup you have poked MANY holes in it, so water can move through it freely

• Four plastic individual-serving yogurt containers, plastic cups, or sturdy, similar-sized items to use as braces. They should be the same height as the wicking pot.

• Four locking plastic ties

• A 20-inch-long PVC pipe with one end cut at an angle. The pipe should have a large enough diameter to make it easy to use a hose to run water into it.

Attach the wicking cup to the lid with locking ties.
Attach the wicking cup to the lid with locking ties.

• 40 pounds of soil

• Compost or organic fertilizer

Process
• Punch a hole in the tub approximately 2.5 inches from the bottom. This is to allow any excess water to drain from the tub.

• The lid has a rim of thicker plastic. The following cuts will be made inside that rim:
–Cut a hole in the center of the lid that is the same diameter as the wicking pot.
–Cut a hole at the inside edge of the lid’s rim that is the same diameter as the PVC pipe
–Punch rows of small holes in the lid
–Cut out the area of the lid that is inside the rim of thicker plastic in one piece

• Make sure that the yogurt containers, plastic cups, or other items you use as a brace are the same height as the wicking cup

• Place the wicking cup in the hole at the center of the lid and attach it to the smaller holes in the lid with the locking ties. Punch new holes for the ties if necessary.

A completed microfarm.
A completed microfarm.

• Place the braces inside the tub at the corners

• Place the cut-out piece of the lid on the braces with the wicking basket on the bottom

• Insert the PVC pipe into its hole, with the end cut at an angle at the bottom to make it easier for water to flow into the tub

• Fill the tub with soil and soil amendments

• Use the PVC pipe to add water to the bottom of the tub once you have planted your crop. Be careful not to waste any water. You can make a “dipstick” with such items as a dowel or yardstick, or to check the water level in the tub through the pipe.

Posted on: April 5th, 2012  Make Your Own Sustainable “Farm”

How do I find that darn thing! i.e. Blog workings

If you are like many people (who did not actually grow up with a silver computer in your hand) and have to actually figure how things work,  I have a few minute things that can get you where you want to go.  Me, if I have to hit keys more there three times, I’m DONE! I’m part of the KISS generation (Keep it Simple, Stupid!).

A BLOG is just a running “diary” of whatever one chooses to write about.

While I would like to add some “bells & whistles” to my blog you run the danger of getting way too complicated for people who don’t actually LIVE in the blogosphere!

I discovered that the column on the left side has several really cool features so thought I’d run through them, for the novice “bloggie”… 🙂

  • It has a place to enter your email address, and then you are sure to get each post!
  • Tips on how to USE a Blog Page!

  • Next you see a calendar with dates highlighted.  You can put your cursor over  a highlighted date  for a second or two, and it will give you the name of the blog post of that day! Click on that date and it will bring up that post.
  • Under the heading Archives, the months are listed with a number… the number of blog postings written that month.  If you click on the month, the calendar will show that month and you can, again, put the cursor on the date and after a few seconds, the title of the blog post will show up.
  • Recent Posts heading is pretty obvious… just a listing of the last ten!
  • Education has some links to things I think are important and I want a “HOME” for them so I can get to them quickly and refer others to them. Well worth your time to go through them.

  • Tags is an interesting approach to finding info.  I’m suppose to tag my posts with a words that reflect what is discussed in that post.  You can actually click on one of those words and all the posts that related to it, will come up.  The LARGER the word, the more often it is mentioned.  It’s called a “word cloud”.  You can see that  “family” appears very small & “calf” is huge.  You know that I have mentioned “calf” a heck of a lot!
  • If you move to the main column, the actual post title... you’ll see some words under the title that relate to the blog… another way to track down info.  If you click on the word “economics” you’ll get all the blog posts that have that category listed.  The Tag words are a little more specific in topic: birth, dairy cow, milk. Sometimes the word will be in both groups.
  • PICTURES:  if you click on a picture it should show up on another screen, only much larger (you know, so you can actually SEE the picture)!

Hope this brief review makes it easier for you to use ANY blog site!  Lots of interesting info out there… and you don’t even have to leave home to get it. Whoops… that can be a problem though.

Take care, Get outside, Grow something… get into touch with the “real” world!

Too much time on the computer/video/tv/books trigger depression!!! A simple solution… re-engage.

(Hey, chickens and a container garden are good beginning places for almost everyone!)

Pied Piper of Pigs…

One of the barriers for small farm folks is a place where you can process your livestock humanely, as almost all of those facilities have closed down due to regulation barriers. In order for me to sell, by the piece, products have to be done in a USDA certified facility where a regulator can certify that the animal walked… often 100’s of miles away.

For example, in southern california they have NONE, nada, as in “zero”…. livestock have to be sent out-of-state or to the north, to be processed. In northern california, fairly local, we do have one that will do beef… and none that will do pork. I have to go a 100 miles (each way) to get pork processed. Most of our pork products have to be sold as “pet food”.

A farm in Vermont, Sugar Mountain Farm, has taken the project on, to solve the problem for their area… and are requesting Kickstarter funding.  What is special about this farm, is that they are re-introducing the old pasturing methods and sharing that information on-line. Walter has a blog and moderates a group that helps farmers with a multitude of questions. He gives freely of his time, energy, and experience!

We are supporting their project, and I’m passing the word on.

But maybe there is something in YOUR local area you would like to support.  You can check out the Kickstarter site, and find a way (from as little as a single $, to more) to support building our local resilience (i.e. decrease our reliance on industrial foods/services). It’s another way YOU can make a difference.

Cheers!

 

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm/widget/video.html

Pink Slime Satire… the Colbert Report

You CAN effect changes… with your dollars and your feedback to people who WANT your dollars. I don’t think ethics or health matter much to the bean counters. Last summer when we went to “farmer’s market” I took along a laminated info sheet about “pink slime”. It was quite an eye-opener to many people. You know the left-overs that are scrapped up, chopped up, and extruded into pellets that look like ground beef?…. and then hit with ammonia to kill any nasties it has embedded in it.

We sell our own home-grown grass-fed beef because of the stuff that goes on in the industrial food system. I want the choice… and better yet, I want the taste and the quality of my own meat. So we are blessed at having that choice to grow our own… and to offer it to others who want that same choice.

Here is a hilarious satire I wanted to share.  It’s your smile for the day. (I think there is a brief commercial 😦  )

(looks like link does not return you to the rest of the blog post..working on it.)

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Field Trips to The Heritage Farm

On a side note, we’ve been quite busy on the farm.  We did a couple of school field trips (3rd graders to the farm)… roughly 75 people in all.

It’s awesome to watch the kids get to scratch a pig, see a cow being milked (up close), and watch a mini-horse get trained to trust a human. To feel how warm a pristine egg is, just after it’s been laid by a hen.  To notice what wonderful smells and warmth comes from a small home built greenhouse.  I also appreciate how much the adults value the visit as well!

When I get the pictures, I’ll have to post more.

Another event where school kids got to see calves & mini horses, on the school campus

Eggs, Eggs, and More Eggs…

Who would have thought that I would be awash in eggs.  Just a few short months ago, people were calling for our farm fresh eggs, and I had to tell them that our hens were in a “drought” situation.  We hoarded each egg they produced and kept only the very smallest eggs (virgin eggs we call them) for ourselves. It was the holiday months and everyone had guests and wanted to serve up some truly free-range pastured eggs.  My newest hens, mostly, had not kicked into laying yet… a few were starting to lay but not reliably.

Large, regular, & "virgin" eggs

The first time I had brand new hens start laying… I thought I had made a mistake and gotten the wrong kind of hens.  I was getting MICRO eggs! I was so relieved when someone told me that they often start out with tiny eggs, but they should get larger. And sure enough, they did! We started calling those eggs, “virgin eggs”.

Laying Hens

A hen starts laying around 5 months old. Daily (or almost daily) egg laying is triggered by the amount of daylight hours… so in the winter months hens typically stop laying, or greatly reduce their production.  On top of that, they are using their food energy for staying warm with the colder, wetter weather.  We do provide a balanced layer feed because if a hen’s on forage & don’t get enough of the essentials, they stop laying.  But besides access to extra food, to keep our hens laying, we have a light and timer in the barn that serves two functions.

One, it provides a light that the hens are attracted to, so that at night they head to the barn where their protected coop is located.  We have had predators come through an avail themselves of the “Heritage Farm” buffet. UGGGH. We got away with letting them roam completely free and then nest in the rafters of the barn, for quite a while, but then paid the price.  I lost most of my hens… and had to BUY store-bought eggs.

An Egg SNOB

OMG, that was an education.  Organic ,free-range, cage-free eggs, hmmm. Nada. I was really surprised at what a snob I had become.  First off, all the labels say “vegetarian feed”… sorry, chickens are not, I repeat, NOT, by nature, vegetarians. Eggs from hens fed that kind of diet are, to me, bland & blah.  We were fairly new to the neighborhood, so in desperation, I had to hunt out someone who had real live free-range pastured eggs… and the difference was total. I was back to the rich tasting nutrient dense eggs I was used to. But my hens, now have a light they are attracted to at night, and they go into LOCKDOWN until morning.

Second, the light encourages egg laying during the winter months. Still not as prolific as the rest of the year, as they are using extra energy for their own needs. A hen needs roughly 14 hours of light to produce eggs. She will produce the most eggs her first laying season, molt (shed feathers) & take a break, before picking up again. Each year thereafter she will produce fewer eggs. Most hens are no longer “used” for laying after two years.

Darker yellow legs

Pale leg color

Interestingly you can tell who has laid a lot of eggs by the color of their legs!! Hens, of the same breed, have  legs of a certain color yellow. The hens with the lightest shade of that yellow will have laid the most eggs. The yellow (beta carotene) gets pulled from the chicken to go into her eggs.

EGG Production

All the eggs the hen will lay, are already there at birth. Just not developed but the germ cell is there. A chicken will have several eggs developing at various stages at once, like a production line. We’ve had a couple of new hens who haven’t gotten the process quite worked out… out pops an egg WITHOUT the shell (just the tough membrane encasing the egg), or all white with no yolk, or double yolks inside one shell. From start to finish, 25 1/2 hrs to produce an egg:  It takes about 20 hours for an egg-shell to form around the yolk/membrane, and only 1 minute to actually lay the egg.

I have been told that pastured eggs always have deep, deep orange/yellow yolks.  Since all our hens have the same diet, I know that this is NOT true.  It depends on the breed of the chicken… they will have varying shades of yellow to deep orange.  I do know that veggie fed hens have very pale, tasteless, almost watery egg yolks!

Rhode Island Red hen, laying champ!

Historically hens would lay up to a 100 eggs a year.  Some of the breeds today will lay up to 300-350 eggs; almost an egg a day.  These hens have NOT been genetically modified via some scientific voodoo magic; just simple selection for a specific trait. The best bred to the best producers… some traits are left by the wayside.  Going broody is definitely a trait NOT bred for.

Some hens will “go broody” meaning they will lay a clutch of eggs and after collecting up to a dozen, will then “sit” (i.e. incubate them for 21 days). She’ll hatch out her chicks and then spend the next two months raising them. But for this three-month period, she is not laying any eggs. You can see why in the commercial industry this mothering behavior is not useful. Me, I WANT the mom to do all the work, because she is MUCH better at it.

Most turkeys cannot breed on their own or raise their own chicks, due to the intensive breeding used to  produce big breasted turkeys. They physically cannot do the “deed”.   We raise heritage chickens and heritage turkeys to encourage specific traits; breeding and raising their own chicks.

Another stunning egg producer, A Golden Wyandotte

Heritage chickens are fairly easy to get that will go broody and raise a clutch successfully.  We’ve had a warm winter and I had TWO hens who marched out from the barn with a clutch of chicks… that I did not even know were nesting. We put a green bracelet on a hen that does this, so I know who I want to keep for eggs production.  Some hens will start but not finish, or can’t seem to figure out what to do with the chicks after they are born (sad).  I’ll put a yellow band on her so I know she should be discouraged from going broody, and that I do NOT want to incubate any of her eggs.

Turkeys are a basket case

We raise heritage turkeys so they can at least bred and produce fertile eggs. But those eggs we set aside and incubate.  I have one turkey hen who is interested in setting so we’ll see if she can manage a clutch this spring.

Right now we have three different breeds of heritage turkeys: midget white, heritage bronze, and what looks like to be a variation on the Royal Palm (white, with some black markings). We have them separated so that we can prevent cross-breeding.

I have had one Heritage Bronze, when we were on the ranch with lots of acreage, that went broody, disappeared , and came back with a clutch of turkey chicks.  We were so excited to see this, but the downside of her “disappearing” is that she & her chicks became coyote food. Circle of life, I remind myself! But here on the farm we can have more control.

I’m keeping breeding pairs to encourage egg production… but had to separate the males because they began to fight among themselves.  Only the dominate male will mate… with all the available hens. Whoops, not in my plan…. so we had to separate the breeds. Now I just need to get more females of each breed… but that’s a plan for this spring.  We have a couple of dozen turkey eggs incubating right now, so we’ll see what we come up with.  The extra toms will be on someone’s dinner menu.

Eggs Galore

But now that we’ve past spring equinox… I have eggs galore!  Seems like I somehow (I have no idea how.. well, wait.. there were some broody hens last fall…) ended up with close to 40 hens.  Rhode Island Reds, Golden Wyandottes, and Dark Cornish who are all great layers, it turns out… and mothers, as well!

Eggs, eggs, and more eggs!

It’s time for me to learn how to make mayonnaise! All you need is egg yolks, oil (canola oil, olive oil, etc), and some seasonings (salt, mustard) & a bit of lemon/vinegar with water. And deviled eggs, Quiche’s, egg-cheese casseroles…

Anyone need a few laying hens? I’ve got some to sell!

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