Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
You can find out more at the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) at the Deliberate blog in a post dating from April of this year. This blog has some interesting information. There is apparently $500 grant available to help you implement this system. A company called Global Animal Management which will provide you with a turnkey package in this arena is also apparently linked part and parcel of the pharmaceuticals industry. Hmmmm. I am leary of the connection. Additionally, the existence of a grant implies that there will some cost to implementation. Probably one I really wouldn't want to bear.
For information about feedlots and the agro-industrial methods, I refer to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and a book called The Hundred Year Lie. I cannot recall the author at the moment. Both books are available from Amazon or at your local library. I also recommend reading through Joel Salatin's website http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ for a description of sustainable pasture management.
Also check out http://www.nonais.org/ This website contains articles about a host of applications of a Radio Frequency Identification, called RFID, including human implantation, etc. It is hosted by another small farmer in Vermont. Today's post notes that the 2007 Farm Bill has passed the Senate. On the right-hand side of this site there is an extensive list of links related to this issue.
The final word is, of course, from the USDA at www.usda.gov/nais which states that the purpose of the NAIS as follows:
To protect the health of U.S. livestock and poultry and the economic well-being of those industries, we must be able to quickly and effectively trace an animal disease to its source. When a disease outbreak occurs, animal health officials need to know:
- Which animals are involved in a disease outbreak
- Where the infected animals are currently located
- What other animals might have been exposed to the disease
By choosing to participate in NAIS, you will join a national disease response network built to protect your animals, your neighbors, and your economic livelihood against the devastation of a foreign animal disease outbreak.
The main issue I have with this whole setup is that it is reactive. It does nothing to actually address the problems of which disease outbreaks are a symptom. NAIS will not reward good disease-preventive agricultural management practices which are counter to an agrindustrial approach to food production. All NAIS does is help the industrial food system figure out who is responsible and far the quarantine needs to go. This is not a sustainable approach because it does not prevent disease. It seeks to limit the spread of disease. Do they intend to imply that disease is inevitable and unpreventable?
Reading a bit more at usda.gov on who must participate and who doesn't have to, I learned that the following criteria means you do not have to participate.
- Animals that never leave their premises of birth, even if they move from pasture to pasture within that premises
- Animals that never leave their premises other than when they "get out"
- Animals that are only moved directly from their birth premises to custom slaughter
That is good news for the backyard hobby farmer for now. All small family farms must keep up their best management practices without fail. The minute a disease outbreak is traced to a small farm, NAIS will become mandatory for everyone. NAIS does, however, affect small farmers who like to show their animals because the USDA recommends animal identification in the following situation(s)
- Animals that are moved from their premises to locations where they "commingle", or come into contact with, animals from multiple/other premises (Examples include - livestock auctions, feedlots, or fairs)
I think may also include swapping animals to improve herd genetics. Just a thought.
So there you have it. Right now, animal identification is voluntary.
Now onto the Senate Farm Bill which passed recently. It includes the controversial Crop Insurance component which allows farmers to grow crops which are not sustainable or financially viable. For more information, I refer you to the Senate Agriculture Committee website. When I finsh digesting the main points of the Bill, I will be sure to have something to say about it here.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I have found cabbage to be one of the cheapest fresh vegetables around. It is also very versatile for light fare and winter comfort food. You can use in salads, soups, stir fry, as a side vegetable and so on. Here is a recipe for New England Boiled Dinner that will warm you up on those cold winter days. Cabbage goes uptown in this Simmered Cabbage recipe. And here is a Polish Borscht Soup recipe with cabbage that belongs in the First, You Eat category. I am not a fan of stuffed cabbage, but there are plenty of versions of it around and many people also consider it comfort.
Here's how the nutrients stack up:
Cabbage has a good amount of vitamin C which can help ward off those winter colds. One cup of shredded boiled cabbage contains nearly an entire day's supply of vitamin K. That same cup contains 13% of your daily fiber intake. Mineral-wise it contains large amounts of potassium.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
We currently have seven dogs: Yellow Boy, Daisy, Sarah, Star, Salt, Pepper & Shakers. Yep, seven. Some of them bark more than others. In fact, if we lived in the city, I'm pretty sure some people would find the barking level to be obnoxious at times.
We didn't want our dogs just barking all the time for no apparent reason. We had a challenge with Star because she was from a breeding operation where she was not really socialized. period. When we first got her, she was people shy, terribly aggressive toward other dogs and quite the barker.
She barked if you looked in her direction. She barked when you came out of the house. She barked when someone came up the driveway. She barked at new people, same old people, other dogs, other animals, and at things we didn't see. And sometimes she just barked. As I write this down, I realize that we assumed she was barking for a reason, not just barking. We just didn't always know what the reason was and sometimes she really didn't need to bark. We figured she was not properly socialized.
Once she became pregnant with her first litter, she had less energy for defense. She even let us pet her and rub her belly. And she didn't bark quite as much. We slowly realized that her barking was defensive. She had six puppies in that first litter and we certainly didn't want them to pick up Star's bad barking habits. We began to browse books stores, book racks, the library and to search the Internet for tips on breaking the barking habit. We even watched an Oprah episode on training dogs to behave.
Here is what we came away with. When your dog starts to bark you have about 30 seconds to correct her/him. Go to the dog and tell it No in a firm voice. When she/he stops barking, reward the dog with some loving attention and praise. The trick is to not yell No or say so often that you are "barking."
When we started going out to Star to tell her to stop barking, she would almost immediately calm down and at least look at us. That is all without us saying anything like No. Sometimes we would say, "What is it? Show me." The point is, she immediately relaxed when one of us came to her while she was barking. We also discovered that she barked a whole lot more when she was on a run or loose on the porch than if she were confined to a pen with a doghouse.
It was clear she felt threatened and that she needed to defend her/our territory. On the porch her territory became anything she could see, smell or hear. On a run, her territory was somewhat smaller and there was still a lot of nighttime barking. My husband took her squirrel hunting a few times and determined that she responded more to visual stimuli than scent or sound. It made sense that she barked more at night. She was less likely to clearly see what she smelt or heard.
By changing her territory to something that was more secure and probably more familiar, we enabled Star to feel less threatened by her environemnt. She also had less territory to defend and thus less reason to bark. By establishing a pattern of responding to her barks, we trained her to bark when she saw something out of the ordinary, not all the time.
It seems counter-intuitive to go to your dog when they start barking. But by saying no and responding to the barking, you establish that barking has a purpose and when it should be used. It does take time and patience, but even an improperly trained dog, like Star, can learn new tricks.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Let's say you manage to wheel and deal your way through the equipment and you bought no equipment with a loan. So you have no monthly equipment payment to make. Your total expense would then come to $5082.43. You would net $2730.07.
Here is a key concept for sustainability. Do not take out loans for new and expensive equipment. Buy only what you can pay for immediately. For a small farmer this means making deals with neighbors to borrow attachments and buying a much older tractor. That $2730 could get you an older tractor with attachments and you would break even, the first year.
Next week I'll discuss in detail how a sustainable organic scenario might play out.
The new Tuesday topic will be Plants We Love to See More Of.
So I am asking you, dear readers, Please tell me what plants you would like to see more of.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to make a suggestion.
Your suggestions will be posted here with a suitable photo. If you have any, we'll put them up, too. One per week.
Oh yeah, if you have any growing tips, cuttings or anything else like that, include that too. Send an email to email@example.com to make a suggestion.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Friday, December 7, 2007
The ingredients are deceptively simple: onions, beef stock, butter, old bread and cheese.
Slice 1 or 2 large onions into rings and saute over low heat in a stick of butter.
Then add your beef stock. I use a 3 gallon stockpot and add enough water to make it about two-thirds full of soup.
You can make stock using bouillon and water which is somewhat salty or you can spend an extra dollar and buy a jar of reduced beef stock. The reduced stock makes a huge difference in the more delicious direction.
Bring the soup to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for however long you want or don't simmer at all. Turn your oven to Broil and let it heat up. This is when you can simmer the soup.
Ladle soup into oven safe bowls. place a large slice of brown bread and a slice of cheese. Any cheese from cheddar to provolone to Swiss will do. But you want the stuff that will melt. Not the commodity cheese for this meal.
Place the bowls on a large cookie sheet and carefully slide them into the oven. Check on the bowls every so often to see the status of the melted cheese. If you just want it melted then it's only a minute or so. I like mine with a little brownness on the cheese. Some days that takes 5-7 minutes.
GET THE POTHOLDERS. I have to remind myself. The cookie sheet will be HOT!!!!
Carefully slide the cookie sheet out of the oven and place it on the counter to cool.
Allow the bowls to cool to a temperature you can handle and then serve the soup. It should be very warm but not scalding hot.
This is a soup that you will end up eating with a fork and spoon. And you will be astonished at how filling it really is. Make sure you have plenty of cold water available to drink with this soup.
And now we will have a Martha Stewart moment...
Thursday, December 6, 2007
My friend, who will always remain nameless, may possibly been using the stuff off-label which I know is a huge OSHA no-no. "If it works, use it" is a small farm mantra. No, I'm not turning over a chemical leaf. My friend is not particularly chemical oriented either. She prefers the natural approach. So here's what happened.
She received, in barter, three pygmie goats with livestock lice. The lice were included free of charge. I'm not totally sure if there's a difference between livestock lice and human lice. Not sure I want to find out through unplanned experimentation, either.
Anyway, the Sevin dust treatment sparked a conversation about animal management practices. When my friend's children, asked about how the goats came to have livestock lice, the discussion began. These goats had been raised on a larger farm where livestock was kept close together. Lice will flourish in unclean environments and multiply in close quarters. Worms came up, also. I mentioned that my goats and chickens don't have those problems and my friend observed that hers really didn't either. We decided it came down to animal management practices.
Here's where pasture rotation and pasture size to animal population ratios are important. By rotating grazing animals through your pastures - larger to smaller and ending up with poultry, like chickens, ducks or geese, you control your insect populations. Chickens love to eat ticks, lice, grubs, whatever: grass, fly larvae and other things left in the manure of the larger animals. By rotating pastures between grazing animals, you also strengthen the roots of the grass and make it healthier. Take care to avoid overgrazing and overuse.
Overgrazing occurs when too many animals stay in too small a pasture area for too long. There are three factors at play: number of animals, size of pasture, length of stay. These factors are tied to each other. A larger number of animals means a larger size pasture for the same length of stay. A longer stay can be managed by less animals with more space for each animal. Lower animal density means several things: lower rates of disease and less feed costs. If you do not have enough space for your grazing animals to get enough forage by themselves, then you are supplementing their feed. Period. Buying feed costs money and brings in nutrients from elsewhere. It also uses more energy in the form of transportation gasoline, production and manufacture.
Animal/pasture management can apply to pets, like dogs, too. Dogs generally need quite a bit more space then we allow them. While we probably always buy dog food, we can pay attentiont ot their outdoor spaces. If your dog pen or fenced in dog run becomes muddy quickly, then you know that the space is not big enough for your dog. Enlarge and move the space to allow your lawn to regenerate. This is why invisible fence is important. An invisible fence will give your dog fairly free roaming capabilities without the stagnant views of a fence. Dogs also tend to pace less when they are not fenced in with a visible barrier. That mean less wear and tear on the lawn.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
A little while ago, I posted a bit about trying to figure out whether a farm purchase was sustainable in Money Matters. I promised to continue writing about money needed to run a farm and how it's related to sustainability. So here is the another installment on this topic.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
There is a little, well sometimes little, plant that most homeowners love to hate. And it started out as a garden plant which escaped and naturalized. Every part of this plant is edible. It is used to make salad, wine, coffee and as a salve. Its root can even be dried, powered and used for medicine or chopped and eaten. The flowers can be fried and eaten, too. Here are some more clues. It first came to North America with European settlers, as an early spring green.
Its prolific seed capability, its fast maturation and its amazingly long tap root make it hard to get rid of. It can be virtually indestructible. If you get rid of it on your lawn, your neighbor's lawn or a lawn a couple miles away will happily re-seed your weed-free lawn.
photo by williac
environmental factors here that control their growth over there in Europe. I can say, I
didn't see one dandelion over there. Even in the so called "wild" spaces. Really they were
more "untended" but that's a different story.
So back to how to get rid of them. That's what you came for, isn't it? Well, this is one
plant I've never actually tried to get rid of. Not the answer you expected, is it?
Dandelions have so completely naturalized, that to me they are like dock, mullein or
violets. They're expected in the landscape. I'll warrant though that I don't like them
actually in my garden, even though I don't mind them in my so-called lawn.
When you have dandelions in places you don't want, the trick is to dig them up completely.
You have to get the whole taproot. And you better do it BEFORE they go to seed. Otherwise,
just forget it. Of course, if you're having folks over to tour your garden, you'll want them
out anyway. There is a perfect tool for digging them up. I think it looks like a flattened
forked tongue, but you probably have your own ideas. It's called a dandelion weeder and you can get them just about anywhere. If you don't feel like spending money, a fork works pretty well, too.
If you can't dig them up, then you can slice off the top portion of the dandelion and as much of the taproot as possible up two inches. That'll at least give it a pause before it comes back.
Some people swear by regular severe lawn cutting, but this is not good for the grass and the
dandelion adapts by flowering sooner when the plant is below the cut level. Smart little
weed isn't it?
Of course, you want to take off the flower heads before they go to seed. A bonus there is that you can take them in, wash them off and pan fry them in butter with some diced onion, maybe a little salt and pepper. Yum. You may not care then that you have dandelions. I warn you, though, if you start eating them, they'll be harder to find in your yard.
For further reading on this subject check out these links:
Monday, December 3, 2007
When the Open Air Market opened this April, the first Saturday was not great. In fact, I was the only one there and it was drizzling. It was also a bit airish. I set up and stayed, so that people would know I was planning to be there on a regular basis. I think I even sold something. That day began my unofficial smile and wave campaign here in Ashland City. I felt the compulsion to smile and wave at every car passing my small stand.
I remembered how in Cordele, GA, where I lived in my 'tweens, that everyone was always friendly whether they actually knew your name or not. "Hey, Howya doin'?" was the most common greeting. It was delivered with the air of utmost familiarity and friendship everywhere in that small town. I also remember how different that felt than how it felt where I was born, a big metropolitan area. I became friendlier and in the process relaxed. The relaxation led to an unintentional kindness. I certainly wasn't taught at earlier age to be nice to strangers.
This act became so reflexive that when I went to college in a different large metro area, I was astounded to be approached by the "spices of life" everywhere I went. It wasn't until I realized it was the friendliness I brought with me from Georgia that was attractive, that I stopped. I did not want to be the target of unwelcome attention, so I reacquainted myself with the rules of big city life - don't smile, don't make eye contact, stay in your bubble. The kindness that I habitually exhibited began to disappear. I became bitter, cynical, unfriendly. To my Southern self, I became rude. I was anonymous in the crowd. I considered it necessary survival tactics. What exasperated the situation was that I actually enjoy being friendly. It's easier for one thing and it's less stressful.
I moved to a neighborhood that was close-knit and began to meet my neighbors. Soon I could walk down the street and greet nearly everyone I passed. And we were kind to one another. We collected cans for the man who made his living from them. We looked out for each other's houses and vehicles. We fed each other's animals and we checked on the sick and elderly regularly. One day, I was at Mrs. R's taking coffee with her and Marie, when the subject of tenants came up. Nearly all of us were tenants, but the comment was made that the tenants who were not from the neighborhood did not take care of the property they were renting. I asked if the tenants were known. Had anyone ever visited them? No. They're not from this country. We wouldn't talk to them. Then very logically and naively, I asked (I had to - it's in my nature) Well, then how do you know the place was a mess? It was explained to me that people like that always lived in filth. It was clear to me that the unkindness and prejudice in this situation arose from the relative anonymity of the newcomers. Nobody got to know anyone else and certainly there was no greeting going on between relative strangers.
This story brings me up to Ashland City, another smallish tight knit community. One thing I like about Ashland City is that it is a small town and I could get to know everyone if I wanted to. But something puzzled me about this place in Tennessee. I rather expected it would be somewhat like Georgia where everyone would say Hello to each other and give a friendly nod. Nope. Not really. I used to joke that this was a little bit of New England plopped into the South. Keep to yourself. Really. Please.
This allows all kinds of gossip. I have witnessed first hand, how word spreads around town about this, that and the other. How people bear 20 and 30 year old grudges over high school gossip. What we need is a little more kindness and a little more community. One of the roles of local farmer is to bolster community. It may be unintentional but nonetheless, people meet each other at the market and they begin to talk. More folks will stop in and check out your vegetables if you smile and say, Hello. More than that, I learn what food the community needs and what difficulties some people might be having. All the various kindnesses that were paid to me over the years, can be paid forward to others.
Paying kindness forward is not a new concept to me and it doesn't appear to be exclusive to my upbringing, although that is certainly where I learned it. Check out this Zen Habits post on paying kindness forward. This idea drives the food giveaways and various neighborhood assistances that go between us in a small town. It is the old way of farming. We all help each other, without a ledger to keep track, because we are paying forward. We are not lending a hand, we are giving a hand. And there is a difference. A loan becomes a debt which must be returned to the lender. A gift becomes the property of the recipient who can re-gift it to someone else. And it all starts with a smile and wave. A friendly hello. If we don't know each other, it is hard to be kind. We don't know. We have no information. In the absence of information, the mind fills in the blanks. And the gossip spreads without basis.
The first step is to smile and wave. Ask how the person is doing, and listen to their answer. Take the kindnesses given to you and pay them forward. Mule Shoe Farm will be at the Open Air Market this Saturday (unless there are sick children) and I will be smiling and waving at the passing cars, just like always. Stop in and say Hi. We'll talk and build up our community through mutual kindnesses.
Friday, November 30, 2007
The year the American Indian Museum opened on the Mall in Washington, D.C., I missed the inaugural pow wow because I was teaching. Then I took students to Washington in December for a leadership conference. Again I missed the museum trip because of scheduling issues and because I was the only one really interested in going. A few weeks later, we traveled to the DC area to visit my parents. Then I finally got to go to the museum.
As we wandered through four floors of culturally appropriate architecture, artworks that we had only seen in books and small traveling cart displays that allowed you to hold replicas of our ancestors' material culture, the hunger struck. It was cold outside and we had been travelling, so I was terribly hungry. Typically I pass on museum food, because it is overpriced and not necessarily that good. But my mother was buying. She had heard that they had some interesting dishes there. The theme in this restaurant is foods native to the American continents. The menu featured things as diverse as buffalo and elk burgers to tortillas to local freshwater fish. Then I saw it - turkey with cranberries and squash, I think. I believe there was also corn involved but I don't exactly remember. The cranberries stand out.
I have long been a fan of cranberries. I'm not big on sweet drinks and I find the tartness of the cranberry quite refreshing. When I worked at a bar, I used to mix my own non-alcoholic beverage featuring a glass filled with ice, cranberry juice and a splash of lemix. Better than water on a busy night, though much more expensive.
Potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balances in the body. Diets high in potassium can ward off hypertension. Vitamin C can ward off colds and help maintain energy and overall good health. A lack of vitamin A can lead to a variety of defects in vision, including night blindness and corneal drying. Lutein and zeaxanthum are important for warding off diseases like macular degeneration. Lack of these two nutrients also leads to pale dry skin.
Oh yeah, back to the museum restaurant. Let me say that the turkey dinner was fabulous. The best I've ever had. I talked about how good it was for at least a year. If you ever get to Washington, D.C. visit the Museum of the American Indian and try out the delicious food in their restaurant.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Don't ride the cowboy. Talk to a barefoot farrier.
The following set of tips was developed by Jim Apple, a barefoot hoof care farrier in the Middle Tennessee area. He is today's guest writer. You can post questions to Jim in the comments section below this article.
First and foremost be devoted to helping your horse. Founder is a painful situation for the horse. Conscientious and humane care must be given at all levels. Here are some guidelines to make this easier for the horse, for you and for me..
Dry lot the horse. Use a run in shed or open stall, if you don’t have a area fenced in-DO IT!
Determine the founder trigger. I can guarantee that your horse did not “just founder”.
No green grass, no grain-PERIOD
Feed grass hay 24/7, stay away from hay that is high in sugars, like alfalfa.
Keep the horse moving, once it is comfortable. You might have to walk the horse in the beginning.
Make sure that water is available at all times, Free choice salt and minerals should be in the dry lot.
Place the hay, water, salt and minerals at different spots once the horse can move of its own free will. Set it up with water in one corner, hay in another corner, salt in the third corner and minerals in the fourth corner.
Be prepared mentally to do this. It can and will put a strain on all aspects of your life.
Realize that you can only do so much; the rest is up to your horse.
Provide conscientious and humane trimming. Schedule the next visit.
Measure the horse’s feet and encourage the use of protective hoof boots and soaker boots to help the horse be comfortable during the healing process
Ask questions and provide answers and educational material.
*At some point during the recovery process, most horses have minor setbacks such as abscesses, thrush, white line disease etc. Regular trimming and soaking the horse’s feet once a week in equal parts apple cider vinegar/water for 20 minutes will keep those problems to minimum. In some cases daily soaks will be necessary. Be patient. Your horse can survive founder.*
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Why am I so excited? Because he has some great ways to speed up the compost pile and he explains it so I can understand. The greatest new thing I want to try out is putting a chimney in the compost pile. Yep, that's right - a CHIMNEY.
Here's what I plan to do based on Mr. McGrath's suggestions:
Take some of my friend's wire fence discards and roll them into 6-8" tubes. Set a tube into the ground where I will put a new pile. Then I will take the partially decomposed remains of my two big compost piles and carefully layer them around the tube. I will intersperse the layers with leaves that I've raked up into suitable piles for jumping in. (I have to keep the kids happy somehow and work ain't it). When the pile is approximately 4 foot high and 4 foot wide and 4 foot long, I'll build another pile with another tube. The tube is supposed to act like a chimney and circulate air through the pile speeding up decomposition.
I have to take care that the compost does not fall into the tube when piled up around it. I can't wait to see if the pile puts off steam. Then I know it's really cooking. If the piles start smoking I'll post some pictures here.
If the pile don't produce steam, I'll have to check the moisture and composition to make sure I got that right. The moisture should be like a well-wrung sponge and the composition should be 30 parts brown to 1 part green. This time of year I may need more green, but then again maybe not since I put kitchen garbage in there and I have plenty of that.
I want to have compost ready for the early spring plants which I will be seeding in February. According to the Mike McGrath book and many other oral sources, compost is the best thing for your plants. It's ready-made free natural fertilizer. Compost builds the soil health.
Healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy food = healthy eaters.
And less work for me. Yep - Livin' the Dream
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Did you know they have a fabulous meeting room, you can reserve for your organization's meetings? You can reserve three months at a time. The meeting room has plenty of tables and chairs, a coffee maker and even a ceiling mounted slide projector and screen for PowerPoint presentations.
Is your Internet connection at home slower than Christmas or your computer is down? Do you have a laptop and simply need to get out of the house to get some work down. The library has a great many computers for public use. You can print two pages per day and make 3-5 copies of important papers. Plus there is a 15 minute check you email computer.
There are weekly story time groups for pre-school aged children that feature hands-on activities. In addition to all this, the library will also reserve books for you, renew books and if they don't have the book but it's in the TN library system, they'll order it in for you.
The hardworking librarians are friendly and very helpful. Check them out.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Apples originated in Central Asia where their wild ancestor still can be found in places like Kazakhstan and Tajikistan. Apples are not usually cultivated by seed. A special technique called grafting produces apple trees with a promising root stock and a branch from a mature tree with desirable apples. One reason apple are not often produced from seed, is that the seeds require quite of bit of work to germinate. First they must be scarified which means wearing the hard covering off. Then they have to be babied through the germination process carefully. Once you get a seedling, it will take many years to develop fruit. The fruit may or may not resemble the original apple in any way.
Apples are a late autumn fruit in cooler climes which stores well through the winter without losing too much of its nutritional value. Many foods are not so lucky. They must be eaten as close to harvest to avoid losing their nutritional appeal. My daughter says that apples are juicy, yummy and colorful which makes them interesting. Apple juice is often the juice of choice for babies through adults. And apple cider vinegar has been blamed for longevity for, well, a long time.
Let's look at what an apple has. Vitamin C definitely. That will help ward off colds and combat fatigue. Vitamin C is part of an apple's antioxident package which helps reduce the risk of cancer. Phenolics, a type of antioxident found in apples, can protect nerve cells from neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is involved in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Apples also contain an assortment of B vitamins with their fiber and sugar content. Apples are a far more nutritious and sweet than, say, an apple flavored hard candy. They only have 80 calories on average. Apples also contain pectin which helps gell fruit and supports your digestive tract by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. This miracle fruit is known to promote healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Apples are in season, so they should cost less right now. Many small growers in Washington State and other places, self brand their apples. These may cost a bit more, but the local farmer receives a better price for a superior product. Some examples of small farms who are surviving can be found in films such as My Father's Garden shown on LinkTV, or websites like Bill Pace Fruit & Produce or in places like Whole Foods. There are even a few folks in the local area who grow apples. This year's weather pretty much cancelled out the apple harvest, but next year, I'll be looking for apples at the Ashland City Open Air Market.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
photo by theogeo
Fall is a traditional time of "nesting" for us at the farm. In preparation for winter, we like to get the house in order and take stock of what we have. This helps us plan during the winter. Right now, the clutter is overwhelming. Like most folks, we moved into the house with very little and the collection of stuff just grew.
We have now been in our house for eight years. Despite two yard sales and at least monthly drop offs to the charity trailer, we still have too much junk. How do I know this? Because it's all over the house. Everywhere. Did I mention, we have graduated to paths in certain areas?
I am tackling this cleanup job a little bit at a time. Each morning after everyone is fed and the kids are at school, I pick an area of the house that I can clean in about two hours. That's Tip one: Don't over commit your time. Spend 2-4 hours max per day decluttering.
Tip two: There are three categories: Keep it, ThrowAway, and GiveAway. As I go through each area, I put the GivaAways in a box and the ThrowAways in a trash bag. I am left with a pile of stuff I want to keep.
Tip three: If fills up more than half the space available, cull through it again. It's time for the hard questions. Do I really need the five half full band-aid boxes or can I consolidate the boxes? Do we need twenty plus scented soaps which we haven't ever used? That's a GiveAway definitely.
Tip four: Take care of the GiveAways and ThrowAways immediately. Several decluttering books I've read are not clear on this. I know how I procrastinate. And some of you out there do too. You know who you are. How do you think the house got so cluttered in the first place? As I fill up the GiveAway boxes, I can take them out to the car.
Our local charity drop off takes stuff until 2pm, so I have to leave the house by 1:30pm. This gives me a time limit, so cleaning up is not a never-ending task for that day.
This is really a 10,000 foot view, but these simple guidelines can get it done. If I know I don't have the time to declutter today, I plan for it the next available day. My challenge is sticking with it consistently. I also seem to have unusually generous friends, because no sooner do I clean up one area, then someone drops off a box of stuff they think I can't live without. My challenge is to find a good home for this stuff - which is not my house.
What are some of your challenges keeping your house cleaned up and tidy? Time? Toddlers? Generous Friends? Pack rat spouse? I'm curious to see what challenges you have encountered and how you overcome these challenges.
Friday, November 16, 2007
It's that big orange fall treat some of us long for all year - pumpkin. Of course, like many pumpkin lovers, I am a big fan of pumpkin pie. There is also soup, cookies, cheesecake, casserole and many other pumpkin treats. Best of all, I can indulge my artistic tendencies at Halloween and then compost the shell. I can eat the seeds or plant them for next year. But wait there's more! It's slices; it dices; and IT'S NUTRITIOUS!
Pumpkin is native to the Americas and quickly took over the spooky job of being a Jack O'Latern from beets and turnips. Colonists would cut off the top and scoop out the seeds. Then they would put in milk, spices and honey and cook the pumpkin in hot ashes. Check out more about pumpkins and their history.
Pumpkins belong to the Cucurbita family which includes butternut squash, summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. Check out the Pumpkin Nook for fun activities and other facts about pumpkins, including how to grow prize winning giant pumpkins.
Now back to nutrition. The orange skin of the pumpkin is a clue to its nutrition secrets. Fruits and vegetables with bright orange color are high in beta-carotene which your body uses in creating vitamin A. Beta-carotene has also been linked to cancer prevention and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Pumpkin seeds are reputed to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Pumpkin is also high in potassium - another essential nutrient. And guess what else - no salt or cholesterol. Yep. That's right no salt AND no cholesterol.
Now if I eat it my favorite way in pie, I am sure to have salt and cholesterol. I can reduce those items and the fat from the pie plus make it overall more healthy in the following ways. Substitute low fat condensed milk or low fat vanilla soy milk. Use whole wheat pie crust or low fat pie crust. Cut down on the number of eggs, use egg whites instead of whole eggs or use an appropriate egg substitute. Use Splenda instead of sugar.
You could do all that substitution or you could use all the real stuff and eat less.
Who am I kidding? I'll eat less pumpkin pie when there's less in the refrigerator. Seriously, though. A healthy recipe is out there. I believe if you make pumpkin pie with fresh, organic, local ingredients (except for the spices), you will eat less because the food will be so satisfying, you'll won't be craving more...
Until the morning.
Oh, I do love cold pumpkin pie, too.
No ice cream please.
This is breakfast.
Let's have a moment of silence.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Oh yeah. Feed the animals.
"Hunter, don't forget to feed the dogs. Jewel, feed the kitties." Now, where's my coat?
And I'm out the door still looking back. A flash of white out of my peripheral vision. Did I see that right? I look full on. Yes it's a goat. Which one? Oh, it's Duchess and she's standing in the front yard. No, she's walking toward me.
"Hey Duchess, I call softly and grab the white plastic bucket piled on the desk on top of the iron work. On the porch. The coat is forgotten momentarily. I peer around for Buddy. Oh, he's in the other pen. He can't figure out how to get out. Good. He's set for now.
1-2-3-4 cups of sweet feed in the bucket. Sarah runs up to Duchess' heels. Doesn't nip but makes a perfect herding motion, then continues on. Duchess kicks up her feet and bucks her way toward the road as I come off the porch. The air is chilly and wet as the skin and hair on my arms becomes cold. No time to worry about that, now.
"C'mon, Duchess." I shake the bucket and she follows. I lead her down to the pasture where she'll be staked out today and put the bucket down. The white furry head goes down. The wide inquiring eyes disappear into the feed. She is head shy a bit as I come toward her with the buckle of the lead rope, but she doesn't pause for long in her eating frenzy.
Buddy's trying to climb the fence, but doesn't seem quite like he wants to try too hard. I have to get another container for him. Where's that coffee can from yesterday? The red plastic catches my eye. It's laying on the ground where it was kicked over last night. In the first pen. I grab it and walk to the house. Completely confusing Buddy who is still stuck in the second pen.
Now wearing a heavy jacket, I bring back the coffee can with the right ration. Shaking it gently as I walk, to get the billy's attention. Buddy tries to climb the fence dividing the two pens near the gate. His front legs hook over the wire, but he is reluctant to move quickly and jump over it. He's tangled with the fence before and it's too tall for him. He runs over to the temporary gate between pens and the roll of the wire confuses him. The fence is bent toward him, where Duchess made good her escape. She's the clever one, but she doesn't share her secrets because Buddy will eat her food. He looks at it and then turns around and heads to the opposite corner. I shake the bucket. He ignores me. I bang the bucket against the chicken house. He turns and comes back. My son stands there with the chicken feed. I set the bucket down. and try to help Buddy negotiate the temporary gate.
"Mom, the chicken's are eating the ---!" He shouts in alarms. I shoo the chickens and try to return to Buddy who is starting to wander off again. I move the sweet feed to a rock closer to me.
"Okay, son. You're distracting me. I know the chickens are trying to eat it. I gotta get Buddy. Just be quiet. Alright?"
Buddy has wandered again. This time into the wire roll. He stops and turns around. He acts confused by the metal maze arrangement that is the temporary closure between the two pens. I put the can on top of the fence post away from the chickens and unhook the wire that creates the temporary closure. Buddy comes to the opening and looks at it, but doesn't attempt to step over the gap. He turns around. I have to show him it's okay and he can get in and out.
"Hey, Buddy. Hey, Buddy." I step over the low fence into the second pen. He looks at me. I step over the fence back into the first pen. He follows me. I take the can and he runs to the exit gate, blocking me way.
As we leave, Hunter places the chicken feed in the house and closes the gate to keep the chickens in.
"Get in the car," I call over my shoulder as Buddy and I do our start and stop dance to his stake in the pasture. I put the bucket down. His head goes into and he doesn't even look up when I snap the lead rope on.
So starts the day.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Fridays are all about nutrition. Picture by strawbaleman.Collards are associated with the South, nearly always. But I found some interesting recipes from other places. Check out this soup from Portugal, or this tasty dish from Ethiopia. The truth is that collard greens can be quite nutritious no matter how they are cooked. But too much ham hock = too much fat. The simplest way to make them, by boiling them in water for awhile, is the best way to eat them.
Collards are an excellent autumn food. They can withstand frost. I saw it happen with my own eyes this week. We had heavy frost on the field two mornings in a row and picked well over a bushel of collards today. There's more where that came from, too. Some people say they taste even better after a frost. Even though you can grow them year round, they are best from January to April when other vegetables do not grow.
Some of the nutrients found in collards include vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin E, folate, potassium, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6. 1 cup of collards properly cooked contains less than 50 calories and a little over 20% of recommended daily fiber. It also good for a heart healthy diet because of the B vitamins, folate and riboflavin.
Believe it or not, collards also contain about 22% of the daily requirement for calcium in one cup. I was amazed. If you are lactose intolerant, this is one way for you to get calcium in your diet.
One thing to bear in mind is that collards is part of a group of vegetables that contain oxalates and should not be eaten by people with kidney or gall bladder problems. You can read more on the nutritional details of collards at the World's Healthiest Foods. Even more information about collards can be found at: World Community Cookbook
Thursday, November 8, 2007
As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, my thoughts turn to providing warmth and shelter to the animals. Will their nutrition needs change, now that it's colder. Will the length of the day affect them in any way? Do/can animals get SAD (seasonal affective disorder)? It's sounds kind of silly, but since I want to keep my animals in the best possible health, I must ask.
If you've been checking the egg count periodically, you will notice that it has been dropping steadily since early October. This is because once daylight hours drop below 14, chickens do not lay as many eggs. Why are there still eggs in the grocery store all year round? Are they $2 a dozen because they're flying them in from the tropics? Well, they're not exactly flying them in from the tropics. But, in large scale chicken farming the barns are kept a steady "optimal" temperature and the light is kept on for 14 hours per day. This uses energy that I can't afford. It is not cost-effective to do this for a small flock. Plus, t'ain't nachril.
I view the winter as a time to rest up and prepare for the energy of spring. Chickens that are kept up all hours of the night wear out faster. Winter also means that the chickens need to eat differently. They need to be able to have extra energy for the cold nights, so instead of feeding them only in the morning, I have to make sure they have food in the afternoon. When they eat, their body temperature rises for awhile which will help them on those frosty nights. A chicken house doesn't hurt, either. We converted an old Sears storage shed to a chicken house and they are lovin' it.
I really can't tell whether animals get SAD. I guess that one's for the scientists. My chickens are happy. And warm. And well-fed. And resting up for spring.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The hardest thing about being sick, for me, is the laying around doing nothing. Yeah, I know you're rolling your eyes at me. Who wouldn't want to lay around? It's not that I'm opposed to laying around, it's just that as a wife, mother and farmer I keep thinking of all the things I could be doing. I know I have built and re-built the new chicken house at least five times this week in my sleep. Believe me the coop gets better every time I build it, but the pieces are still sitting in the field waiting on someone to actually put them together. And that someone is me.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
Fridays are devoted to topics about nutrition
The USDA recommends 2.5 cups for women in the 30-51 age range and 3 cups for men per day. So 2.5-3 cups per day of vegetables. And that's for people who exercise less than 30 minutes per day. Most of us, I think. I know when I was working an ofice job, the most exercise I got was walking to my car - maybe 10 minutes per day.
Being super-analytical, I want to know whta they mean by a cup. Straight from the USDA themselves,
In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the vegetable group.
Then there is a handy chart for you to look at that describes what a cup is for various vegetables. You can get there from this link: http://www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/vegetables_counts.html
The interesting thing about the new food pyramid is that it is customizable depending on your activity level, age and weight. Go to www.mypyramid.gov and click on MyPyramid Plan to go through a "wizard" to help you plan out what you as an individual should eat.
You can build a pyramid plan for each family member if you would like. This seems to be a lot of time to me. And it can be, but if you have no idea what you should be eating and how much, it may be well worth your effort to find out.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
- Keep your post hole diggers clean and sharp to cut through the clay-shale mix we call a subsoil.
- It is better to attach your fence on the inside of the pen because when the goats rub against it, it doesn't bow out so bad.
- Check out the lay of the ground under your bottom wire. If there is more than a four inch gap, this will become a chicken escape route.
- Goats can jump anything under four foot tall.
- Goats and chickens can mix, but whatever flimsy thing you built for the chickens will not stand up to play time with a goat.
- Make sure your gates swing into the pen so if you forget to latch them, the goats still can't get out.
- Make sure your gate latch requires motion along several planes to unhook so the goats can't open it.
- A car and a fence stretcher make things a whole lot easier and tighter when putting up a fence.