Category Archives: Soilent Greens

Transitioning

After my last post about the horrifying rate of chicken attrition (Note to self, new band name: Chicken Attrition), we lost two more, bringing our total number of hens down to two. (One had her neck broken by the geese; one died of general failure to thrive…Chickens now have their own separate sleeping area, because geese are assholes and their time is limited*.) We’re getting more hens in a couple of days. Makes me happy!!! My little Rhodie and her buddy CM are doing their job, but two eggs a day just ain’t cuttin’ it.

Up yours, Bitch Grass.

Future home of raised beds

Garden transition from summer to fall has been slightly painful. See all that grass? That’s my garden, overtaken by Bermuda grass, or as we call it, Bitch grass. It started to seriously make a move about two months ago, I didn’t get on it fast enough and now I have watermelons, winter squash, bush beans, and carrots all competing for life. I have weeded around them, but I just don’t care anymore because they’re thriving anyway AND! Transitions. We’re moving to a raised bed system**, and giving that yard over to ducks.

Seriously. *Ducks in the big garden area, geese in the back two acres, because DUNH DUNH DUNNNNH…We’re starting an ethical foie gras business. I’m not jinxing it by giving it a name yet (I have several AWESOME candidates in a spreadsheet, awaiting availability checks and a Facebook popularity poll) or describing all of our proposed production methods. But I will say that we’d be the only ones doing it in this country (based on a model by this badass, Eduardo Sousa of La Pateria de Sousa), we’ll have around 100 birds, and the Texas A&M Poultry Sciences Department has expressed an interest in helping us develop the concept. So booyah! Come on, grant money!! (Maybe. Hopefully.) No gavage, no cruelty. Just a bunch of chattering, happy buttheads eating whatever they want for 18 weeks, then eating as much corn and yellow lupine that their little faces can gorge on for four weeks in the fall. Then, a truck ride to their final reward and the Brazos Valley and Houston suddenly become a lot more delicious!

Come spring, this is going to be one noisy joint. This winter: planning, cross fencing, building of shelters, repair of existing outbuildings, installation of Nite Guards, and dreaming of creamy foie gras on toast and duck confit next fall.

Diaper of Shame

In other news, Ursa the puppy has attained her majority. So to speak. Two weeks shy of her big operation, she jumped the shark. Again, so to speak. Anyway, lots of cleaning, lots of Doggy Depends, lots of worrying about coyotes trying to break through our windows to get at the lovely Miss Ursa. (Not really, but that’s where my brain goes when I hear them in the surrounding fields.) We have three weeks to wait until she gets to see the vet again. Yay. *sigh*

Scorpions are back with a vengeance. We’re hitting the perimeter with spray and a borax/DE mixture because it’s gotten so bad that the husband literally hallucinated one in our bed last night. He screamed, “Holy shit! Look at that!” and I was looking and looking and said, “I don’t see anything!” and he started flipping the blanket around and there was nothing there. Well played, scorpions.

**Raised beds, YES PLEASE! I just can’t keep on top of the weeding and mulching required to beat back Texas Bermuda grass. We had originally chosen that

Mulberry thinks it’s spring. What up, nature?

yard because it has 7′ deer fencing and we wanted the protection. Lessons learned? NO DEER IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD. The farmers shoot them, they got the memo…Whatever. They’re not here. I’ve seen two in a year. Also, Bitch grass will always win. Always.

So, eight 4×8′ cedar raised bed boxes will be built this winter, lasagna layering installed in each, and come spring? Let’s just say I’m really excited about not weeding, having the gardens closer to the house and the water supply, and the boom that is going to be our production. We’ll also have a large in-ground bed for the spreaders (melons, winter squash, etc.), but I at least can handle weeding one 4×12′ bed.

Jesus Christ, I just realized: That’s a busy fucking winter. What have I done?

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Open Letter to Roger Cohen, NYT Moron

I’m pissed. I was pissed when I read this bullshit piece from Stanford, then got even MORE pissed when this jackass, Roger Cohen from the New York Times came along and insulted organics, the people who grow them, the people who eat them, the people who sell them.  Fuck you, man.

OPEN LETTER TO AN ELITIST HALF-WIT

Mr. Cohen:

Regarding your piece, “The Organic Fable,” of September 6, 2012, you were so busy patting yourself on the back for being a “trend”-bucker that you forgot to do any research.  Your cynical statement that, “… the organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype” speaks volumes about the path used to come to the self-serving, dubious conclusions you reach in this hit piece.  Namely a path which was not sullied by science or peer-reviewed studies which very clearly demonstrate the hazards of GMOs and the chemicals that love them.

You relied upon the Times’ rehash of a Stanford Systemic Review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Perhaps you thought, “Hey, my employer published it…It must be close enough to true for me.” Little heads-up; it’s not.

“… the study completely fails to account for key factors such as the presence of GMOs, artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose, mercury (such as that admittedly contained in high-fructose corn syrup), BPA, and much more. It also does not even properly address the two topics it seeks to address concerning the presence [sic] antibiotics and chemical residue. The researchers fail first of all to reveal the difference between the organic food and conventional food pesticides, and then go on to state that organic food actually does have lower pesticide levels.”

Here too is another excellent piece about the junk science used to come to those erroneous conclusions. This is yet another piece blasting the associations between Stanford and BigAgra, namely Cargill.

Your ignorance on this topic is astounding, but I’m going to help you. Here’s the skinny on GMOs:

-Start with this video called “The World According to Monsanto.” It’s two hours long, so you might want to cozy up with some GMO popcorn that you microwave-irradiated in a BPA-laden bag. Bon appétit!

-Perhaps follow that up with reading about the work of Dr. Vandana Shiva, who is trying desperately to save India’s seeds from total obliteration at the hands of Monsanto.

-Maybe then engage in a little light reading about the plight of the Indian farmer, where extraordinarily high suicide rates are being blamed on Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant GMO cotton.

-Here’s a piece regarding how and why Monsanto was named the Worst Company of the Year for 2011. In part, it states:

  • An analysis of 19 animal studies revealed that nearly 10 percent of blood, urine, organ and other parameters tested were significantly influenced by GMOs, with the livers and kidneys faring the worst.
  • A 2009 Brazilian study discovered that female rats fed GM soy for 15 months showed significant changes in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
  • A study performed by Irina Ermakova with the Russian National Academy of Sciences reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, while the death rate in the non-GM soy group was only 10 percent. Additionally, the babies in the GM group were smaller, and, worst of all, could not reproduce. In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova’s feeding trials were completed, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55 percent.
  • Milk treated with the Monsanto-developed genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) contains higher levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), a hormone linked to breast, prostate and colon cancers in humans.

A study that finds glyphosate-based herbicide induces necrosis and apoptosis in mature rat testicular cells in vitro, and testosterone decrease at lower levels. (Maybe you can ignore this too. It’s from the NIH…those dummies.)

-A whole mess of peer-reviewed links and studies about the grand genocidal failure that is glyphosate (the key ingredient in Roundup, which is sucked up by your GMO corn, soybeans, cotton, etcetera and then ingested by you. Lucky you!)

You even manage to get it wrong about organic yields versus conventional (ouch). “Yield is not the same as efficiency” and “Producing more grain is not the same as feeding the world.”

To speak to your assertion that (I’m paraphrasing) we’re “affluent narcissists,” know this:  Organic farmers like me gladly sell our products to restaurants and grocery stores. We have to make a living, too. The slightly higher prices offset the admittedly higher labor hours needed to not poison ourselves, our customers, and the planet. Spraying Roundup is easy. Mulching and hoeing in the hot Texas sun on this little patch of organic acreage is way freaking harder. But we find it worth the extra work to not develop tumors, disease, genetic defects, or the sense that we’re above it all, out here in the actual dirt…You know, where food comes from.

Here’s something you probably didn’t know either (maybe because to know would have required you read or do research, or even listen to someone who isn’t just hanging out with you at expensive restaurants where you all laugh about the “little people” and how we’re better off eating chemicals and mutated genetic calories):

There’s an important piece of legislation on the table in California called Proposition 37. It’s an initiative that would mandate the labeling of GMOs in food. Information that we “pampered parts of the planet” want, I guess because we’re elitists. If BigFarm, BigAgra, and the chemical consortiums are so proud of their products, it follows that they should slather their names on the grocery store packaging. Yes, please!

Know what the rest of the world does with GMOs? THEY LABEL THEM or ban them outright. Do you even know who the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods is? It’s Michael Taylor, former lobbyist and executive at Monsanto.

Perhaps you can understand my frustration now. Maybe you can comprehend now how maddening it is to back an underdog like the “Just Label It” initiative, who has a relatively tiny budget to pit against $40 million dollars from Big Agra. Know where they could have put that money, while they’re crying, “It would just be too expensive to label!” That’s right: Labeling.

A hit piece like yours based on nothing but your personal bias against something a whole bunch of us are well-educated about and fighting for just makes you look and sound stupid. Please either shut up or wake up.

You’re cordially invited to come down to Texas and meet a real farmer, who can teach you a thing or two thousand about what GMO really means. To you, me, and the planet.

Donna DeViney
Soilent Greens

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Fancy

So, faced with the awful prospect of any amount of our prodigious harvest going to waste (see Exhibit A), we sold some via Craigslist customers, canned and/or froze part of the first-of-June harvest, and gave the rest away to family and friends in Houston. We won’t be back to Houston for a little while, so now WHAT TO DO WITH HARVEST 2?

I’m going for the über fancy tomato concassé (which really just means peeled, seeded, and chopped). We go ahead and call it tomato concassé however, because the husband is a super snooty (about his food anyway) French chef, and that’s how we roll in the country.

Then, I’m making this recipe for salsa, and performing my first solo canning event! I’m excited and nervous, because who wants six quart jars of shit salsa? NOBODY. I do get to use the Cuisinart that my family drove down all the way from Missouri, so that’s cool.

Exhibit A: There are only two of us!

STOP IT ALREADY

 

Also today, I will attempt to freeze the summer squash, except for crap’s sake, not with this recipe! THAT’S HOW MUCH I HATE COMIC SANS. Phew, this lady makes me slightly less stabby.

To wrap this up, I’ll share that I’m feeling especially virtuous because I’ve already weeded the potager, planted an olive tree, built a shade shelter for the Purple Cherokee tomatoes, and have done two loads of laundry. I’m like a farm Marine. Without the overseas combat experience.

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2,4-D Drift: Organic Nightmare

Tractor of death. The tree in the foreground is on our side of the property line.

Yesterday morning, I was all doodly-do, doing my morning stuffs, when I heard big machinery noise, closer than normal (they’re working on the county roads around us right now). I went outside and couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden there was a crop-spraying tractor, complete with two big white chemical tanks and two giant boom arms, spraying the shit out of our neighbor’s acreage. I called the husband and said, “Holy shit, they’re spraying chemicals on the front acreage” and he suggested I stop the guy and talk to him, so I did.  What follows made me later throw up my lunch.

Me: *Hailing tractor guy*
TG: *Stops tractor and comes over*
Me: Hi, are we neighbors?
Him: Nope, I'm working for the guy who leases this parcel, M*******.
Me: Whatcha sprayin'?
Him: 2,4-D, for goat weed.
Me: Oh. Um, we have an organic farm over here and it's drifting onto my 
property...
Him: Welllll, the wind's mostly blowing my way and it's a real light spray, 
so you oughtta be all right.
Me: You're kidding, right?
Him: *Goes right on spraying*

2,4-D. Mother-humping goat fuckers. This devil juice makes (and I’m not exaggerating in the least) RoundUp look like harmless chemical Kool-Aid. Dow AgroSciences’ contribution to the weed-killing business is the main defoliant contained in Agent Orange. It’s been around since 1946.  It is under attack again (thank God) because Dow is trying to get approval for its 2,4-D Resistant Corn, to take the place of Monsanto’s failed RoundUp Resistant Corn, which created super bugs and super weeds, and is no longer able to withstand RoundUp bombardment because of genetic mutations. Genius! (It’s in the EPA’s lap right now; let’s all count on them to do the right thing, right?) It’s a DEFOLIANT, which means it kills plants dead. What it doesn’t kill, it mutates. It’s suspected as a cause of “…major health problems such as cancer, lowered sperm counts, liver toxicity and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, and immunosuppression.”

If you’ve followed my blog for even a short amount of time, you know how I feel about chemicals in our farms, ranches, food supply. Here, about Colony Collapse Disorder; here about pesticides and BPA; here about Monsatan, again, and again, and again.

We’re out here in a tiny patch of Texas, practicing only organic gardening, using compost, organic fertilizers, organic topsoil and mulch, Neem oil, blood, sweat, tears, dreams, and hand-weeding. Do y’all know how much EASIER it is to be conventional in a garden? Of course we could use RoundUp for the weeds; it’s an extremely effective, efficient killer! Of COURSE we could use Sevin insecticide! It’d be way easier than having to get up extra-early to apply Neem oil, or smooshing cabbage rollers by hand. We did ALL OF THIS SPECIFICALLY  TO KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF OUR FOOD.

“Before” picture of the big garden.

Just writing this post is making me cry. I cried yesterday when I fully realized what had just happened to us. I pulled up my research on 2,4-D and found lots of new stuff, all horrifying. I learned about ground permeation, wind drift patterns, plant aspiration, and the life of 2,4-D. I contacted a professor/friend at Texas A&M’s Ag Sciences Department. He shared with me that tomatoes are especially sensitive to 2,4-D, and to keep an eye on them first. He told me to keep photo documentation of the plants in case the rancher might not do the right thing by us.

And of COURSE tomatoes are affected first and worst. They’re the crop we’ve most heavily planted, in the greatest variety. We were looking forward to canning, sharing, and perhaps selling a few to our chef friends.

I’m upset still, even after I learned the leaseholder’s name (who’s responsible for the spraying), contacted him (no response), found out the regulations he violated*, and reported him to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Tomatoes galore.

I’m upset for several reasons. We started this entire farm endeavor with one goal in mind: organic sustainability. That has been ruined. I can no longer bill these vegetables as organic, and we now have to decide if we even want to eat them ourselves. I’m upset because to get rid of this poison (assuming it doesn’t kill the crops outright), I’ll have to pay to have the site dozed, replace the topsoil and amendments, and start all over. All the little baby plants we started from organic seeds in our little greenhouse, misting and lighting and thinning for MONTHS, then lovingly potted to harden off, then transplanted and agonized over for months while they struggled to grow, all fucking ruined. A’s first gardens EVER, all ruined. Every hour we spent digging, weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning, caging, and loving these gardens have been fucking RUINED by this dude’s careless disregard for anybody but himself.

*Prior Notification: Nope. None given.

Proper notification for use of methyl, ethyl, butyl, isopropyl, octylamyl and pentyl esters. Nope.

No use in winds higher than 10 mph? Fucked that up, too.

Amine-only 2,4-D? Don’t know. I doubt he even obtained a permit to do the spraying.

I’m going to use this blog as I do regularly, but now with the added feature of keeping record of what’s happening to our plants, and what’s happening about enforcing the regulations. If I didn’t have a place to vent, I might possibly go mad.

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Staying Ready

We got this farm for several reasons. One of those, that I’ll speak to today, is preparedness. We’re not avid “preppers,” nor are we over-the-top “survivalists,” but we do think things are getting worse before they get better (tanking economy, civil unrest, new wars), and feel like it’s smarter to be prepared than caught flat-footed. What it took was a tiny shift in paradigm, embracing a larger worldview while simultaneously focusing on our own backyard. I don’t even think of it as as “survivalism” so much as homesteading.

This farmhouse is over 80 years old. It was last remodeled in the late 80’s or early 90’s. The outbuildings are in disrepair and in need of some serious love. It’s kind of the perfect spot in which to learn how to REALLY reuse/reduce/recycle. That and the fact that we’re on an extremely regimented budget makes this way of life essential, rather than merely interesting and practical. And it IS interesting! Go look at any article on sites such as:

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me (and others who were fans of the book series, Little House on the Prairie as kids). I love the idea of making my own soap and candles, of canning and preserving, of someday having a root cellar.  Hell, I wish I had a reason to want muslin, or actually like saltwater taffy (for a penny). I’ve gone in for gardening and truly appreciating the earth and what it can provide for so long that if I didn’t get this farm, and soon, things were fixin’ to get really stabby in our previous urban loft. But that isn’t all this farm is intended to provide for us. It is intended to provide a sense of safety and security. That’s why we chose a relatively remote location. It’s intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, which is why we chose a place with a good well. It is intended to house animals, which will provide us with milk, meat, or eggs, which is why we went for as much acreage as we could afford. It is intended to go off the “grid” enough so that we can sever ties with the electric company, by eventually having solar and wind powered batteries and a generator.

All that takes money, to be sure. So for now, we’ve laid in our gardens, which was pretty expensive, but necessary ($100 to have tilled; seeds, $90; organic fertilizer, $25; compost tumbler, $300; assorted tools, $100; greenhouse, $800) to be at least off needing fruit and vegetables from the grocery store by the end of summer.  Not 100%, but close enough so we can feel like we’ve made progress and have enough to donate to the food bank, and still enough left over to put up some stewed tomatoes (or something). We have two mature laying hens and a mixed run of six chicks (who have gotten big enough that I had to build them a new “condo” out of large moving boxes and duct tape yesterday). We have a dog who is getting so big that we’re going to have to buy her a large crate sooner rather than later. Her job is to be my farm buddy, and protect me from predators, animal or human.

Alternative F: Sometimes for cooking.

The partner (who is a working chef) has this insane dream of replacing our propane stove with a wood-burning stove. A wood-burning stove. I told him I refuse to light a pile of logs to fry a couple of eggs, and if he’s hell-bent on cooking on a wood stove, he can get one of those stoves with a cooking surface, and it’s going in the living room because its primary duty will be to heat the house. Dude’s nuts. We NEED a stove to stay warm next winter; I don’t NEED to light one in the summer to cook a pork chop.

Every day is hands-on learning, learning, learning. Way different than theorizing in my head and education from my books. I wrote on Facebook yesterday, “I just accidentally punched my ear really hard, freaking out when what felt like a Pterodactyl flew into my head. It was a butterfly. I think I’m going to have kind of a difficult first spring/summer out here in the country.” And it’s true: The next six to eight months are going to be a trial. Will I survive the bugs? Will I survive the heat? Will I strangle the first rabbit I find in my cabbage patch? Will a hornet sting me in the eye? Will I shoot my first diamondback with the .410? Who knows.

There are a few blog sites I follow that are pretty hardcore from a prepper standpoint, but I really enjoy the posts. Two of them have semi-annual writing competitions, this one at survivalblog.com and one at thesurvivalistblog.net, both of which I had considered entering. (If one of y’all wants to enter, the prizes are freaking COOL.) But I’m going to hold off until I actually know what I’m taking about. I want to write about organic gardening and sustainability, but until I’ve actually weathered a couple more seasons with regard to both of those topics, I’d feel like a poseur.

So I’ll just keep pushing through, learning something new every day, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

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If you’ve not seen it before, we have a Soilent Greens fundraiser going on here, Organic Farm Business. As always, we hoping for either an “angel investor” or as little as a dollar, all towards the goal of self-sufficiency, making a little money, and helping to feed the Brazos Valley. (Our story is at the bottom of the page.)

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REALLY? Really.

I had intended to post this morning with some photos from the farm, depicting the bounty that spring is bestowing upon our valley and sharing how lucky I am to be given this opportunity to live where I do, and how cool my friends and partner are. I was going to post a thank you for being nominated for a blogging award.

Instead, I started reading (again) about Indian farmer suicides (one of my Facebook “Likes” linked to a 2008 article which halfway through, I realized I’ve already read), which lead to a Google search for “Past month” and “Indian farmer suicides.” Go ahead and Google it yourself. It’s mind-blowing. Pages and pages and pages of recent and old articles related to the subject. (I also got sidelined by a piece on Neotame, NutraSweet’s “answer to sugar” which is 13,000 times stronger than table sugar, is made up of “aspartame plus 3-di-methylbutyl, which can be found on the EPA’s list of most hazardous chemicals,” and doesn’t require labeling.) (p.s.: NutraSweet was formerly owned by Monsanto.)

Here’s how it works, for those of you who haven’t watched The World According to Monsanto.  Poverty in India (a largely agricultural society) is staggering, accounting for one-third of the world’s poor. Think about that number. Poor farmers, formerly growing “traditional” or non-GMO seed, have been led down the garden path repeatedly by Monsanto, sold the idea that signing a contract with them to use their proprietary (“Bollgard”) Bt Cotton seed, which promises higher yields, greatly reduced need for expensive pesticides, and lowered water consumption, will greatly improve their profits.

THE EXACT OPPOSITE IS TRUE. It requires up to four times more water to grow, which in India’s drought-stricken environment, means a devastating loss of crops. It no longer resists the insects it was genetically modified to resist, and in fact has created “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which have adapted to get around Monsanto’s biological controls and are far more destructive than the original bolls it was meant to thwart (and clears the path for further infestation by formerly non-threatening insects and weeds, because the plant is weakened). Further devastation to crops. Facing financial ruin, many Indian farmers turn to high-interest money-lenders, and then have another crop failure and can’t pay Monsanto for new seed, can’t afford pesticides to kill the super bugs, can’t afford to pay back the money-lenders, can’t afford to feed their kids, can’t afford to school their kids. On top of that, Monsanto says it’s because farmers don’t grow their crops correctly; it’s their fault. THEN, they prosecute any farmer who attempts to save seed, because their seeds are copyright-protected.

Sometimes, increasingly, Indian farmers see the only way out as suicide.

 

Winning!! (Except, not at all.)

Some Indian provinces are fighting back. The Punjab government has “refused to agree to US agrichemical giant Monsanto’s demands for intellectual property rights protection for its BT cotton seeds and has accused the company of a “monopolistic” plan to take over agriculture in Punjab.”

India is of course not the only country to come under attack by Monsanto. And make no mistake about it, IT IS AN ATTACK. Look at how heavily-planted those awesome crops are, here in America. The Indian plight strikes me personally because of the cultural reaction of suicides, but lives are being devastated all over the planet.

Despite the fact that the United States is leading the charge to push GMOs worldwide, the world (and yes, the US) is resisting. Check out the Community Alliance for Social Justice.

Spread the word; sign the petitions. Help stop the propaganda being spread by the GMO companies by seeding truth among your friends and families.

Just Label It (petition). Here’s the biggie. Almost one million signatures and comments…

This is exhausting. But! Gotta go feed the chickens, spray pepper spray on whatever is eating my cabbages, check the chicks, take some more photos, and perhaps blog happier thoughts later in the day.

 

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Oh, GMO…

I cruise around the Internet all the time, as I’m sure you all do. Sometimes my occasional sidetracks take me to “alternative media” sources which y’all might not have seen yet, including a few I’ll focus on today while discussing another disgusting facet of the GMO industry: The incestuous relationship between GMO manufacturers and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Why you should care: Watch this video where another little kid explains the dangers of GMOs.

(I found this video a few months ago, and I can’t stop watching. If I wasn’t already certain he has AWESOME parents, I’d adopt him myself. He’s dreamy.) Maybe go check out Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, who is referenced in the video. He and Dr. Vandana Shiva are vocal proponents of sustainable agriculture, and big heroes of mine.

Watch The World According to Monsanto, if you’ve not already seen it. Tell your friends. It’s free. It’s important.

In my blog pieces, “Sustainability vs. Monsatan” and “Monsatan Lovers,” with videos and links to information about the scientifically-proven dangers of genetically modified organisms and their adjunct products, and the wholly evil business practices of their manufacturers*, I attempt to give a glimpse of the reality of GMOs in our food and agriculture systems. On sites like Seeds of Deception, they’re doing much more comprehensive work than I could ever attempt, and there’s a “Summary and Debate” page with 65 Health Risks of GM Foods. I already know a lot about this topic, but lately it’s like falling down a rabbit hole of more and more horrifying information.

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You might ask, “Who regulates GMOs in the United States? The answer is “nobody.” Click the link to read an awesome article that articulates the problem of GMOs running amok in America. If you don’t believe her, Google “how are gmos regulated in the usa?” And click any link.

Monsanto promises they’ll do research on their products and present the US governmental agencies with the results. The US government then says “Yea” or “Nay” based upon their “unbiased scientific review.” It’s essentially a system of mutual trust. Which is hilarious (if it weren’t so sickening).

“…Monsanto claims that its injection of foreign DNA into its GM crops is also automatically safe because, get this, DNA is present in natural crops as well. Never mind that the injected DNA is foreign and unnatural, and is used to alter the entire genetic structure of GM crops — according to Monsanto, its unnatural DNA is automatically non-toxic because every other plant also has DNA. Case closed.” Which is patently absurd to a normal, thinking human being. But apparently our government agencies are not manned by those types.

The Senate’s Agriculture and Water & Rural Economic Development committee chair, Democratic Sen. Brian Hatfield, and two Republicans, Sens. Jim Honeyford and Mark Schoesler, have all taken money from Monsanto, reports the Organic Consumers Assn.”

“Committee Chair Hatfield denies taking campaign cash from Monsanto, saying the Organic Consumers Fund is making ‘wild claims,’ even though anyone can see the public record of these contributions by entering ‘Monsanto’” at this search link in the Contributor Name box.

“…why do the GMO giants seem to be ever-growing and encroaching on more and more farms and foods?  Through bullying, lobbying, and putting key figures into key positions of government. That’s how.”

Know who’s guarding the hen house? Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for the FDA. Why does that matter? He’s also a former lobbyist and vice president for Public Policy at Monsanto. This year alone, Monsanto spent over $6 million in lobbying dollars to keep their GMO madness safe from testing, regulation, and labeling by the US. Think that money’s going to orphans for kittens at Christmas time? Me either.

HOW DO WE FIGHT THIS BULLSHIT???

Sign Petitions:

Eat local and organic meat and produce. Buy from your local farmers’ markets. Buy heirloom and/or organic seeds and grow your own. Write your congressmen and women and demand GMO labeling, like every other major country already has. Join the sites above and get updated information through Twitter or Facebook. Watch the movie linked above.

I’m not exaggerating when I say these people are monsters.

*Topic for a whoooole other rant.

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In Between…

I never intended for this blog to be about the evils of GMOs, but more and more I’m inclined to devote at least a portion of my time (for now) to the subject. However, this post is about the farm and animals and gardens; GMOs will come later today.

Southern carnage ensues

This past weekend we made a road trip to Houston for a nephew’s first birthday party, where the fiance was the chef d’jour. He made vegetarian biryani, jambalaya, and laid out six or seven big batches of a crawdad boil. If you’re not from the southern United States, you might not know about this practice. It’s a Louisiana-based traditional meal, where crawdads (i.e., crayfish, crawfish, mudbugs) are thrown live into a gigantic pot of boiling water that contains super-hot spices, potatoes, corn, onions, garlic, and any host of other vegetables. The resultant soup is then strewn over a paper-covered table, and otherwise civilized people fall on it like it’s made of cocaine and birthday wishes. It’s full on carnage, elbowing your way to the next bit of crawdad or tidbit of artichoke. No plates, no forks, few napkins. Sucking the head of the crawdad is the favorite part of the feast. People put extra Zatarains on their food and walk away from the table saying things like, “I can’t feel my mouth.” (No, I don’t eat crawdads. That shit’s nasty. Heh.)

The part that’s farm-/animal-related is that Ursa the Puppy got her first pickup truck ride, got her first time in a city, got her first time meeting a big group of people, and got her first time hanging with another dog. She was a rock star! She dug being in the breeze; she was great getting in and out for potty breaks; she drank water from a cup; she charmed strangers. She still jumps up on people when she’s excited, and with her little razor-like baby claws, it’s a problem. But I’m still working with her and she’s getting better on the leash every day. Thank God, because before this weekend, when she seemed to have matured a little bit, every day was potentially a fresh new hell of scratches on my arms from the errant jump or three.

*sigh*

I’ll have time to blog twice today because the farm is under water again. Last Friday we were SUPER INDUSTRIOUS (chef was on spring break) and we got in all the seedlings and the majority of direct-sow seeds into the big garden and potager. I figure between the two, we’ve got a third of an acre planted, which is awesome. But not so awesome is the torrential downpour that happened last night and this morning, which considering how high the water table is already, might just drown the entire lot. We’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m a little scared about losing the crops. (Okay, a lot scared.) The high winds compromised the greenhouse structure again, and we’re going to have to get more tie-downs on that thing and multiply zip-tie it to the fence if we have any chance of saving it.

On a happier note, the animals are all doing great, we’re doing great, and we’re well underway with the wedding plans. I can’t wait to see our family and friends. It’s been way too long.

Here’s a bonus shot I like to call “Porch Hobos.”

Nice sack, Ranger. Next month, Mr. Snip-Snip!

If you haven’t seen this before, please allow me to share the text of a fundraising drive we’re having via a site called “GoFundMe.” Here is the text of our “About” page. If you can donate $ or a link, we could sure use the help. Maybe someone you forward it to or share with would like to be an angel investor in our goal to donate food this summer. Any little bit helps, and thank you for reading.

We bought an old farmhouse and four acres in Caldwell, TX in February of 2012, with dreams of starting an organic farm and microgreens/exotic vegetables business called Soilent Greens. We had moved into the house in November of 2011 as renters, and realized that 80 year old farmhouses need some love. That “love” turned out to be a) fixing a leaky roof; b) heating it through the winter (one only, until we get a wood-burning stove); and, c) repairing several plumbing and electrical issues. All of these issues of course came about after we closed on the house, as-is.

We used all of our Soilent Greens start-up money and most of the garden money to fix/maintain the house, all right before spring planting time. We can’t move forward until we somehow get funding. The following plan gives us six months-worth of operating expenses; we hope to be self-sufficient well before that.

  •  Seeds: 450
  • Trays: 100
  • Grow medium: 300
  • Nutrients: 200
  • Misting system: 200
  • Clamshell shipping containers: 150
  • Labels: 100
  • Boxes: 200
  • Blue Ice: 200
  • Licensing: 300

The dream here isn’t all that spendy, but it’s grand. We want to sell what we can, use what we can, and donate the remainder to Brazos Valley Food Bank. We want to work with the community and teach school kids how easy it is to grow your own food. We plan to work with our local CSA to sell our goods and spread the sustainability word. We have restaurant contacts to make a little return on the Soilent Greens concept.

The 7500 sf garden has been tilled and there’s an 11×22′ kitchen garden for us by the house. That’s a LOT of growing room. Plus, we have a greenhouse in place, awaiting Soilent Greens “seed” money.

If you can find it in your heart to help us with our dream, we’d be eternally grateful, including sending you greens and vegetables, and inviting you to come stay at the farm for a weekend, helping us feed the chickens and geese, and maybe wrangling a goat or three.

Even if you can’t send money, good vibes are sincerely welcome as well. Thank you!

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Heirloom Sourcing/Monsatan Follow-up

A fellow blogger asked about heirloom/non-GMO seed sources in the UK . So I applied my deft Google-fu to the problem and here are some lists for several countries:

UK:

And now wait a second, this is pissing me off. I clicked on Heirloom Vegetable Seed Catalogs (William Rubel dot Com, whoever he is), and I noticed that Burpee is on that list, a company I KNOW buys seeds from Seminis (Monsanto-owned). So I dug a little deeper. Here’s a post from the owner of Burpee, supposedly debunking the rumor that Burpee is affiliated with Monsanto. Personally, I think that if they buy seeds from a company that is owned by Monsanto, then they are affiliated with Monsanto. But if you want to use them, carry on. Back to the list.

  • WilliamRubel.com (Very comprehensive list of heirloom seed catalogs, despite the Burpee thing. Read each blurb carefully; some are organic-only, not heirloom)

Canada:

South Africa:

This is not an endorsement for any particular seed company or source, just a list for you to start your own research.

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That said, relating to my earlier post, here is some more information about GMOs, specifically Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed (text copied from their website):

“Developed in 1974, Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides continue to be a perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection. In fact, their use on Roundup Ready® crops has allowed farmers to conserve fuel and decrease the overall amount of agricultural herbicides used.

Roundup Ready® Soybeans were commercialized in 1996, followed by alfalfa, corn, cotton, spring canola, sugarbeets and winter canola, which contain in-plant tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides. This means you can spray Roundup agricultural herbicides in-crop from emergence through flowering for unsurpassed weed control, proven crop safety and maximum yield potential.” [emphasis mine.]

Fantastico!

Except they fail to tell you of ongoing and recent studies showing that weeds and insects that were formally resistant to Roundup are now genetically capable of defeating the seeds’ resistance. In other words, generations of mutated pests and weeds that were formally resistant have developed ways around the Monsanto Über seeds that were supposed to stop them. Nature.Will.Out.

Google the phrase “resistance to Roundup.” Thousands and thousands of research articles, empirical evidence, scientific proof that these seeds are creating genetic monster super weeds and super bugs.

That means that the contractually-obligated farmers, all over the world, who HAVE to buy Monsanto Roundup Ready seed year after year, are seeing their crops wiped out by the very weeds and pests Monsanto promises to protect against. And you know how Monsanto deals with the problem? They tell farmers that farmers screwed up.

These horrors are of course only tangential when compared with the fact that Monsanto has known that glyphosates cause birth defects and cancerous tumors.

Six EU countries have banned GMOs. Peru just did. South Africa already has. WHEN IS THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT GOING TO STOP ACCEPTING HAND-OUTS FROM MONSANTO, BASF and DOW?

Probably not any time soon. Know who’s the “food safety czar” for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration? Michael Taylor, formerly a lobbyist for Monsanto.

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Sustainability vs. Monsatan

A fellow blogger asked me to expound on the topic of heirloom/organic vs. hybrid/organic seeds. I’ve been putting it off because the subject is bigger than just seeds and begs a much more detailed account of what “sustainability” means to me and my partner. To answer the question simply though, Heirloom/organic = sustainable/healthy; Non-heirloom/non-organic = non-sustainable/potentially unhealthy. Heirloom seeds produce fruits and vegetables that in turn produce seeds that will make the same fruit and vegetable, over and over again, year after year. Non-heirloom, or hybrid or GMO seeds, do not. (That is not to say that all hybridized seeds are genetically modified. It is just a line that we’ve drawn in our personal sand about our purchases.)

First up, for those who are curious about the various types of seeds available out there, you have a ton of choices, and not all are created equal. They might each come packaged in a lovely catalog, or be alluringly displayed at your big box store checkout aisle. They are not.created.equal. It comes down to GMOs, or genetically modified organisms and the Great Monsatan.  If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly urge you to do so immediately: The World According to Monsanto. (It’s free to watch and disseminating it is encouraged by the film’s producers.) It describes in vivid detail how genetically modified foods are ruining lives and our planet.

It’s touted as a way to “feed the world,” when what it actually is is a genius way to make money off a circular reasoning, self-fulfilling line of products. They create genetically modified seed that resists say, Round-Up. Then the farmer is able is able to plant the resistant seed and use Round-Up to control weeds and not kill the plant. Sounds super-smart, correct? Except that Round-Up has been proven to cause DNA damage, birth defects, liver dysfunction, and cancer, is decimating bee and butterfly populations all over the word, and remains in the plant’s tissues through the life of the plant, meaning when we eat the plant, we eat the Round-Up.

Speaking only for myself and my partner, I can emphatically state that we do not want these products in our bodies, near our home, in the US or on the planet, period. They can fuck you up, they can fuck up the planet. Whoever Controls the Food Controls the World, and I don’t want these assholes in my yard.

Here’s a link to a site that gives a wealth of information, other links and studies, and videos. Google “GMO” and you’ll come up with thousands of hits, scientific studies, research papers (and even a few propaganda nuggets from Monsanto, BASF and Dow). (Yes! Chemical companies are in the food business and buying up seed companies faster than we can even blink. Monsanto, thanks for Agent Orange!) GMO foods are not required to be labeled as such in the United States, and to date, we are the largest country using GMOs to not require labels. No informed decision making for us, thanks to the gigantic GMO food lobby that owns our politicians.

Devil Corn

In 2005, Monsanto purchased Seminis, the largest “developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world” (from their website). Here’s what that means to the average home gardener (each of these widely available seeds is owned by Monsanto and has already or is undergoing some sort of genetic modification…DON’T BUY THESE SEEDS):

  • Beans: Aliconte, Brio, Bronco, Cadillac, Ebro, Etna, Eureka, Festina, Gina, Goldmine, Goldenchild, Labrador, Lynx, Magnum, Matador, Spartacus, Storm, Strike, Stringless Blue Lake 7, Tapia, Tema
  • Broccoli: Coronado Crown, Major, Packman
  • Cabbage: Atlantis, Golden Acre, Headstart, Platinum Dynasty, Red Dynasty
  • Carrot: Bilbo, Envy, Forto, Juliana, Karina, Koroda PS, Royal Chantenay, Sweetness III
  • Cauliflower: Cheddar, Minuteman
  • Cucumber: Babylon, Cool Breeze Imp., Dasher II, Emporator, Eureka, Fanfare HG, Marketmore 76*, Mathilde, Moctezuma, Orient Express II, Peal, Poinsett 76, Salad Bush, Sweet Slice, Sweet Success PS, Talladega
  • Eggplant: Black Beauty, Fairytale, Gretel, Hansel, Lavender Touch, Twinkle, White Lightening
  • Hot Pepper: Anaheim TMR 23, Ancho Saint Martin, Big Bomb, Big Chile brand of Sahuaro, Caribbean Red, Cayenne Large Red Thick, Chichen Itza, Chichimeca, Corcel, Garden Salsa SG, Habanero, Holy Mole brand of Salvatierro, Hungarian Yellow Wax Hot, Ixtapa X3R, Lapid, Mariachi brand of Rio de Oro, Mesilla, Milta, Mucho Nacho brand of Grande, Nainari, Serrano del Sol brand of Tuxtlas, Super Chile, Tam Vera Cruz
  • Lettuce: Braveheart, Conquistador
  • Melon: Early Dew, Sante Fe, Saturno
  • Onion: Candy, Cannonball, Century, Red Zeppelin, Savannah Sweet, Sierra Blanca, Sterling, Vision
  • Pumpkin: Applachian, Harvest Moon, Jamboree HG, Orange Smoothie, Phantom, Prize Winner, Rumbo, Snackface, Spirit, Spooktacular, Trickster
  • Spinach: Hellcat
  • Squash: Ambassador, Canesi, Clarita, Commander, Dixie, Early Butternut, Gold Rush, Grey Zucchini, Greyzini, Lolita, Papaya Pear, Peter Pan, Portofino, President, Richgreen Hybrid Zucchini, Storr’s Green, Sungreen, Sunny Delight, Taybelle PM
  • Sweet Corn: Devotion, Fantasia, Merit, Obession, Passion, Temptation
  • Sweet Pepper: Baron, Bell Boy, Big Bertha PS, Biscayne, Blushing Beauty, Bounty, California Wonder 300, Camelot, Capistrano, Cherry Pick, Chocolate Beauty, Corno Verde, Cubanelle W, Dumpling brand of Pritavit, Early Sunsation, Flexum, Fooled You brand of Dulce, Giant Marconi, Gypsy, Jumper, Key West, King Arthur, North Star, Orange Blaze, Pimiento Elite, Red Knight, Satsuma, Socrates, Super Heavyweight, Sweet Spot
  • Tomato: Amsterdam, Beefmaster, Betterboy, Big Beef, Burpee’s Big Boy, Caramba, Celebrity, Cupid, Early Girl, Granny Smith, Health Kick, Husky Cherry Red, Jetsetter brand of Jack, Lemon Boy, Margharita, Margo, Marmande VF PS, Marmara, Patio, Phoenix, Poseidon 43, Roma VF, Royesta, Sun Sugar, Super Marzano, Sweet Baby Girl, Tiffany, Tye-Dye, Viva Italia, Yaqui
  • Watermelon: Apollo, Charleston Grey, Crimson Glory, Crimson Sweet, Eureka, Jade Star, Mickylee, Olympia

* Marketmore 76 is a very old cucumber-variety.  If you are ordering it from a seller of heirloom veggies,  check with the dealer to make sure the seeds were not purchased from  Seminis/Monsanto. If you buy the seeds from a big-box garden center, odds are they were purchased from the evil empire.

The bitch of it is, I’ve GROWN some of these in the past, not knowing what was in them or had been done to them. I still don’t know what’s in them, but I know not to grow them now.

Some seed companies that offer heirloom/non-GMO varieties:

  • Sustainable Seeds
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
  • Annie’s Heirlooms
  • Johnny’s Seeds (check for heirloom varieties)
  • High Mowing Seeds

So regarding the heirloom/organic vs. hybrid seed question, we view non-organic options as unhealthy, and we KNOW that non-heirloom means no sustainability. We’re on this farm for several reasons: Grow our own healthy food, sell some of that healthy food, donate healthy food.

Monsanto, Dow and BASF (among others) would have us unhealthy and dependent on them and upon the pharmaceutical industry for the rest of our (shortened) lives. To that I say: Hell No.

EDIT: 3/26/12: “Agent Orange” comes from Dow Chemical, not Monsanto.

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Suck it, Nettle.

So.Much.Hate #1

Bana, this is the scope of the problem. It has taken over the chicken yard, the big garden area (except where it was tilled under), and the large open area where the geese are meant to hang.  These pictures are ALL NETTLE, except for the occasional thistle.  No grass here, no clover, no anything but nettle. I’m so freaking sick of it, and I don’t care if it’s the cure for menopause or brain scabies or is delightful in tea, I want every single bit of it dead. I’m SO TIRED of being stung, even with high boots and gloves on. Patches of it are over two feet high, like right against the chicken coop. I’ll cut that part down and put it in my composter. The rest is getting eradicated as organically as possible.

So.Much.Hate #2

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I Heart Chickens

What a fantastic weekend at El Rancho Loco. Chef had to work on Saturday till about 3:00, and I managed to get some house stuff done in that time, but after that, it was all hanging out and FARM.

Yesterday, we installed pampas grass out by the pool, and put in a grape vine and golden raspberry bush on the back fence.  We started gardening with the remaining Three Sisters beds, and installed tomato (three varieties), cucumber, and cabbage seedlings in the Big Garden and in the potager. He’s never ever planted even a seed. I am not exaggerating to share that my heart sang when he pushed his first seed into the dirt, covered it up, and moved on to the next little hole.  I showed him how to make rows with a 1×1″, and he put scallion and onion seeds in himself. He wanted to get the entire garden planted yesterday, even though it was too windy for some of the smaller seeds, and I needed a little time to plan for an unexpected surplus of corn and bean seeds. How awesome is that? That took up the bulk of our Sunday. Then he got to mess around with the air compressor, and figure out how to fill the Duraworx cart wheels, which were pretty spongy.Total guy activities…air compressor, a little time with the 12 gauge.  We talked to our neighbors’ cows, who were awesomely close to the fence. So many calves!!

We were due to meet friends in Brenham yesterday afternoon, which is very close to the (self-proclaimed) Crazy Chicken Lady, with whom I’ve been speaking for a couple of months. Plans kept changing and we could never seem to get out there to pick up our first hens, which has been pull-my-hair-out frustrating. Finally, we got to see her place!!!  It’s called Blue Star Ranch, and it was a booger to find, but oh man, was it worth it. She’s got over 2,000 birds!! She took us on a tour of the facility and I could not stop giggling after I saw about 200 chicks under lights in this little room. The cuteness. I could have died from the cuteness. She was describing the virtues of different breeds and ages and I was kind of turning around and around going (in my head), “Oh, the crack.” She advised us not to get two hens and a roo, which was the original plan. She said that a rooster with anything less than 10-12 hens would “rape them to death” and I believe her. I mean, dude, she’s been raising birds for 20 years and this operation was CRAZY cool. All the birds were healthy and inoculated and being kept in fresh bedding that didn’t smell at all.  She had this giant fishing net and when we decided on our hens, SHA-BAPPP, she’d nail them with the net and pick them out and hold them. It was vaguely ninja-like.

Seka and Lovelace. *sigh* Where are you, John Holmes?

We got two ladies (to start)!! They are Seka (Plymouth Barred Rock) and Lovelace (Golden Laced Wyandotte). We got them safely tucked into their coop last night, and so far this morning, they’re not availing themselves of the very large yard. I’ve been out to visit half a dozen times, and Seka is much more curious and while smaller, she’s the leader. They seem pretty happy with their food and water situation in the coop, and have plenty of shade and grass and weeds and bugs. I’d totally want to be a chicken here (until, um, they stop laying and just turn delicious). Yes, the first rooster will be named John Holmes. No, we won’t name all the chickens after 70’s porn stars.

Next payday the plan is two more, and so on and so on until we get a rooster. Then it’s hatching and baby chicks! Unless I can’t stand the wait and just order a mess of them online.

I ate some of the dozen eggs we bought from Crazy Chicken Lady this morning, and oh my shit, SO FREAKING GOOD. I keep asking the ladies, “Ready to make with the eggs? You look ready to make with the eggs. How come you’re not making with the eggs?”

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Real Farmer!!

Yesterday was the day I finally got to feel like a “farmer.” And frankly, it wasn’t even the “farming” that did it. I think I was part of the mainstream population who aren’t farmers, when I formerly pictured in my head what “farming” is. Some middle-aged dude on a huge John Deere combine tooling through a cornfield with a cuppa Joe in hand, looking a bit haggard and windblown, but relatively happy. Um, that’s not at ALL what it’s like, at least for me.

Native American genius at work

Yesterday morning I didn’t even bother changing out of my PJ’s until around 1:00 p.m., and that’s only because I got too hot. I figured yoga pants and a T-shirt were fine for gardening, so I just threw on my rubber boots, tucked in my pants, leashed up the puppy and headed out to the big garden to start planting. I started by defining the beds with my feet, turning the 20×26′ portion of the 75×100′ garden into 3×4′ beds. In addition to everything else, we’re doing Three Sisters planting this year, the most awesome system of growing ever. Corn, beans, squash. The beans climb the corn, the big squash leaves help with weed suppression, the corn shades the beans and squash so they don’t get sun-burned. I composted and planted the seeds and banned the puppy from the garden, because she thinks it’s a gigantic dig site and was in danger of receiving a boot to the head.

Then I started multitasking, like what “real” farmers do. I put the puppy in her crate and turned a fan on over her. I got a jug of water because it was starting to get hot, and I threw that, stakes, spray paint, wire, hardware cloth, wire cutters, a new hose, my cell phone and an ECigarette into my cart (we quit smoking two months ago!!), and headed for the potager area. I fenced the potager with cinder blocks and hardware cloth to keep the puppy out. As I was moving cinder blocks, I noticed scorpions were STILL hiding under them, so I shifted gears, turning into a murderous pile of rage, smashing them with a trowel, smooshing them with my boots, yelling at them, “Just DIE, asshole fucks!” and then masked up and sprayed the entire perimeter of the house with Demon WP. CHRIST, I hate them. (As I was moving a pile of stakes, I noticed a little smear of something on one of them. It was the tiniest baby scorpion I’ve seen yet, with its body smooshed and its tail sticking up in the air…It was adorable, all dead like that.)

We're fancy!

Potager (French for kitchen garden)

Also, I noticed a gigantic fire ant mound in the freshly tilled potager, so I had to take some time out to douse the area with poison and water it in. Then I walked the grounds and poisoned about another dozen ant mounds and watered the poison in.  I dosed the pool with these little chlorine tablets, because while I was over there killing ants, I noticed the algae’s getting out of hand.

Then I spray painted some stakes silver to mark my Three Sisters beds. I staked and chicken-wired a secondary compost area next to the compost tumbler (after learning the night before that I’m composting wrong).  I installed four tomato plants in the potager, and got bottom-less containers around them to protect them from the 20 mph gusts that are headed our way right now*. I got my new hose hooked up at the back garden and sprayed in my seeds and then got the tomatoes watered in.

During this farmer-y day, I took several a/c breaks in my office, because I’m a heat-fainter from way back. While inside, I Sharpied “3 Sisters” on the painted stakes, then cleaned the kitchen and threw in a load of laundry.

Going back outside to admire my handiwork, I noticed that the ornamental pears are starting to bloom, as are all the trees that made it through the drought last year. My potted cucumbers have their first flower, and my strawberry plants have actual strawberries already. As I was watering Brad, the pear tree, I noticed new buds. The mower dude was out here and worked his magic and the property is looking tight.

Today, I’m putting in three more Three Sisters beds, and seeding in onions, scallions, beets, cilantro, chives, basil and purple snap beans. The fiance’s working till 2:30 today at his chef gig at A&M. Then we’ll go to Tractor Supply for more hardware cloth and chicken feed, because the ladies are coming tomorrow!!! I’ve got to finish laundry, and finish getting the wedding invitations addressed, go buy stamps, and finish a letter for Allan’s nephew. Still have to get the seedlings in the ground, and finalize the garden plan.

*A got off work early yesterday to help me stake down the greenhouse with proper ground ties.

The work here never ends, and I’ve figured out that’s what “farming” means. I could not be happier.

p.s.:  OOOOO, I saw my first snake the other day! A little brown guy who slithered away under some weeds when I tried to say, “Howdy.”

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If you’d like to help us with our Soilent Greens goal, would you consider either a $ donation or pimping this site out on either your blog or Facebook page? We’d sure appreciate it, and will pay it forward however we can. Organic Farm Business. Thank you!!

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Best Laid Plans…

So here’s the part where I admit that we might have bitten off more than we can chew, financially. We started trying for this house all the way back in June. We planned the gardens and dreamed of sustainability and looked at endless pictures of goats, chickens, horses, dogs, geese, and farmhouses. We looked at root cellar plans, and bought seeds and books on construction, plumbing, and electrical, before we even had a closing date.  We got practical and made a business plan and did some marketing research and budgets for the business and our home. Several appraisals and a whole lot of mortgage company shenanigans later (seven months later), we finally closed on the farm.  We had saved money and borrowed money and lived frugally and missed the holidays to keep expenses down. We thought we had done everything right, with an eye towards bringing in some profits as soon as the greens started coming in.

We found out there was a leak in the roof right before closing. We thought it would be simple enough to fix, so we closed anyway. Then the rains came, hard. The leak turned into a much bigger deal than we had anticipated, and while still all fixable by us alone, it ate into our Soilent Greens and family gardens money. Then we encountered electrical and plumbing issues, and found out what a black hole it is financially to keep this place warm in the winter.  Everything conspired to cost us more than we had anticipated.

Not nearly as fun as putting it up...watching it crash down.

Big weeds, goin' down

Behold the greenhouse disaster. While not super expensive to fix (it requires a “Tie Down Engineering High-Wind Load Kit” which we wished we had known about…but somehow we missed that part before 20 mph winds whipped through the field two days after the build) it still eats into our Soilent Greens money. (We DID tie it down with long lengths of rebar, but apparently that was not enough…duh.) To add to our money freakout is the fact that not only did Ranger (Walker, Texas) find us, but after I made the mistake of saying, “All we need is an orange one to complete the menagerie” it came true. What appears to be Ranger’s un-neutered brother is an orange tabby A named Jujube.  They love on each other, then tear each other up. We’re looking at some patching and vet bills until we can get them fixed.

So far we have the land tilled for the Soilent Greens vegetables and our personal gardens, 7500 sf plus our 11×22′ kitchen garden. We have some seeds started, and have one greenhouse, tables, tools, and willpower. What we’re lacking is everything else.

We are AGONIZINGLY close to our dream. Please consider helping us realize it? Further explanation is available at the site, Organic Farm Business.

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Big Doin’s

This was a super-big weekend for El Rancho Loco, when the partner had a rare two-day weekend off. Many lessons were learned. The biggest, most profound message  was that (1) some shit won’t go right, and (1a) unexpected shit will. (1b) Have alternate plans in place at all times. (1c) Prepare for disappointment and move on. (2) Old farms are weird. (3) Cats like Italian sausage.

It started with Friday late afternoon, when the fiancé went to town to the Post Office to pick up a box filled with wedding preparation goodness. That part went great. The part where he picked up the rented Rototiller went great, too. The part where we actually went to use the Rototiller at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, not so much. The belt kept falling off the spinny thingie and we got about one square yard out of the 75×100′ garden tilled before the rental dudes had to come out and pick this thing up. We had a five hour window on Saturday to get this thing done, since they close at noon on Saturday and are closed on Sunday, so no tilling.  DISAPPOINTING.

But, the fiancé says, “Well, let’s go get your chickens!” And my heart sang. For about five minutes. Because we realized if we wanted to eat actual food or drive the truck with enough gas in it, our budget says “No” to chickens until next weekend. So! I whimpered for a few minutes, then we decided to move all the compost (30 bags) over to the big garden, in preparation for tilling next weekend. And by “we” I mean the partner and the truck moved it all over and I unloaded a few bags, because I’m awesome. Oh, and we did have enough cash to buy our first fruit tree, a pear that I’ve named Brad. Yay! We got a few strawberry plants too, and I spray-painted a cinder block bright red in preparation for planting them in it. So crafty!! A said, “Wow, that’s a really red cinder block!” so I consider it an endorsement.

Then we decided to chainsaw the dead pecan trees into little pieces, with our brand new Husqvarna gas-powered chainsaw! With such a fancy name, it must rock. Would.not.start. A frustrated fiancé messed with that thing for an hour until his arm almost fell off. So! We decided to clean the pool, because the previous owner left us all the cleaning equipment and the water’s looking a little heinous. We turned on the pumps and filters and geegaws and dealie-jobs and I got out the brand new sweeper brush, and the Bill-engineered hose attachment doesn’t fit. Nothing in the world was going to make it fit.  Since our budget isn’t allowing pool parts this weekend, we moved on to Plan X. We have this Mule driveway alarm that we got on clearance at Lowes, It’s missing this attachment for the pole that brings it up to car height, so we had to rig some PVC piping to hold the sensor. We decided to use Great Stuff foam and Gorilla glue, which worked out great after we realized that all but one of our previously-used cans of Great Stuff were fused shut or foamed up solid. Ever actually read the back of one of those things? “Great Stuff can seal itself shut. One time use of can should be anticipated.” What a load of turds.

Burny Joe's pile of win

I think that’s the point where we decided, “Let’s just go burn stuff.” See, we had a gigantic pile of the previous owners’ detritus (mostly wood) on the back part of the acreage, just dying for the right conditions to be burned to the ground. And what a great use of the gasoline we were going to use in the tiller and chainsaw! We moved a few stacks of golf cart body parts (another story) and unearthed a complicated nest of fire ants. There was a short pause while I ran around the yard brushing ants off my neck and hair and freaking out and disrobing while running, but I digress. We used a lot of gasoline on that pile, and by “we,” I mean Burny Joe, the partner in crime. He poured that whole can around the pile, we stood fairly close while he lit it, and moved away über extra fast when the entire thing went up in a whoosh that probably could be seen from space. It was still burning right up through Sunday, the day when we actually achieved some goals.

Success! Huzzahs and glitter bombs!!

We got the greenhouse up! It’s a 10×20′ “commercial grade” greenhouse with windows and doors and we got that sucker up in record time!

Suck it, you nasty POS

Other Sunday successes include a stray tomcat adopting us. It’s not a “success” per se, but I’m putting it in the win column because he’s really sweet and has a bad-ass name. It’s Ranger (as in Walker, Texas). He’s un-neutered and harasses our four indoor cats mercilessly, so a snip is in his very near future. Also in the win column is the fact that we tore out the Worst Toilet in the History of Toilets, and will be replacing it sometime this week (we already have a cool-as-hell Jacuzzi toilet waiting in the wings…just need some parts).

We laughed a lot and there was dancing and singing, both nights. We figured out that power is not getting to the one barn that was supposed to have power, so we couldn’t plug in our super-cool shop radio, but we didn’t care; we’ll figure that out later. The grass and weeds are overgrown after only two weeks since mowing, and we’re okay with that, even though we don’t have a lawn mower and have to hire that service out for now. Not a huge deal. We got repeatedly mauled by stinging nettle, and we uncovered a whole new scorpion area that A quickly poisoned (as well as the entire house).

We mostly just kept wandering off and coming back to each other and going, “Holy shit! We OWN this!” A got to drive around the back 40 in his pick-up truck and lean out the window and yell, “I’m driving around my own land! That feels so cool!” Our puppy ran around with us and was super-unhelpful with the greenhouse build, running off with attachment cords and A’s gloves, but we were okay with it, because that’s what they do. We ate carnitas and mega hot pico de gallo, loved all over our wedding invitations and my wedding boots, A got to watch his Tank Battles shows last night for a few hours while I played Zynga games online.

Except for a stray million dollars to find us, I could not ask the universe for more.

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The Thorn in My Side…

Musk thistle, Sow thistle, Bull thistle, Variegated thistle, Prickly lettuce. They are the bane of my garden/yard existence. Remember my post where I referred to these offenders as the bristles in Satan’s asshole? I’m still going to call all of them that as a whole, but since I went and dug about a hundred of them out of our new big garden (pre-tiller) yesterday, I discovered that there is a FASCINATING ARRAY of them. (/end sarcasm font.) Behold the splendor of everything spiny:

Musk thistle a/k/a Musky asshole

Sow thistle a/k/a Bitchface

Bull thistle a/k/a Douche thistle

Variegated thistle a/k/a Ed

Here's a random Google image showing a dude growing thistle on purpose. I call him, "Variegated Dummy."

They are extremely invasive. They are hurty to step on or touch. They want to eat my puppy. They yearn to own my gardens.  They blow up to 10,000 seeds if left unchecked. We even mowed the lawn, and guess what popped back up and flipped us the thistly bird, all over the yard?

Tomorrow, they’re headed for the burn pile, every single spiny jerkface thistle I can lay my gloved hands on.

Speaking of burning, here’s a Facebook entry from yesterday: “I just accidentally/on purpose nuked a scorpion in the microwave. See, I smooshed a little one with a paper towel, went to throw it away, it tried to strike at me, so I flung it in the open microwave. While it was in there, I hit *Start*. For one minute. It burst into flames at about the 43 second mark. And I laughed. Don’t worry, A! I cleaned it up!!”

That was glorious.

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USDA: Great Balls of…Balls

Watch this AWESOME video where the cutest little girl explains the difference between a real potato (organic) and a Franken-potato (Satanic). Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’ll start with why the USDA Organics Program is not a bad thing (sometimes).  It gives us a system by which we consumers may recognize products that are raised within strict organic guidelines. It allows us to make informed decisions when we’re at the grocery store and sometimes the farmers’ markets, being able to readily see the familiar green and white logo. In a nutshell, it guarantees that producers follow strict guidelines regarding production that uses neither chemical fertilizers or herbicides. In fact, I’m quite familiar with ALL the regulations and requirements to receive this vaunted seal of approval, and one of the coolest ones is that if you start an organic concern, you have to wait for three years for the USDA to even consider your land as free from chemical amendments.  You have to prove that no adjacent land has chemicals or GMOs drifting over to sully your crops; you have to prove that your seed and amendments are organically-sourced; you have to prove that your water supply is clean and that there is a sufficient barrier between your home (where you might use chemicals) and your grow-op.  All of this makes sense to me, even the reams of paperwork and visits from the USDA.  If you want the government’s seal of approval.

I thought I did. In fact, all of our farming plans and efforts to date have been strictly adherent to their guidelines, even before we applied. It’s a VERY cool thing to have on your product if you plan on selling, which we do.  Here’s the rub: The USDA overall is balls. It is an invasive, big brother, bloated governmental clown circus which is only out for the dollar and is used as yet another yoke around the neck of the small farmer. It is used to bully the consumer, whether child or adult. It is another instance of the government being too big, too invasive, too invested in stealing Constitutionally-granted freedoms rather than servicing the public, for which is was originally intended.

I’m going to give you a few salient examples of the Gestapo-like powers that the USDA has been given, and gleefully exercises.

2010-2012: There is a war on raw milk producers, farmers, and holistic medicine manufacturers. It doesn’t matter that the producers adhere to the letter of the law and FDA/USDA regulations regarding food safety. Here’s a breakdown from the fine folks at NaturalNews (I heart Health Ranger Mike):

“(NaturalNews) The US Food and Drug Administration has a long history of conducting armed, SWAT-style raids on farmers, cancer treatment pioneers and dietary supplement manufacturers. This list, compiled by the editors of NaturalNews, reveals only some of the hundreds of armed FDA raids that have been conducted in the last twenty-five years. (Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/033280_FDA_raids_timeline.html#ixzz1mecpUky9“) (He doesn’t mention the USDA in that blurb, but they’re in the piece.)

Some more of my recent favorites:

10/12/11: State health officials in Utah shut down a private farm-to-table event for allegedly violating USDA regulations. The event was licensed, and the chef adhered to every food safety protocol. The farm owners were forced to pour bleach over the offending meat and produce, in front of one weasly little piece of shit assistant to the inspector. In front of guests, friends and family.

2/2/12: A four year-old preschooler had her home-made lunch taken away and replaced with chicken nuggets that the parent had to pay for. The offending items? A turkey and cheese sandwich and a banana.

I can’t make this shit up.

Given the fact that we’re very much trying to live our lives and grow our crops and raise our animals in an organic, sustainable fashion, and we’re endeavoring to every day get a little further “off the grid,” why on EARTH would we subject ourselves to the power-junkie Nazis of the US government? I am not willing to surrender the sanctity of our private property to any branch of the government, especially one that has shown so little restraint, so little adherence to common sense and decency, and so much willingness to trample our rights and take our money.

I’ll pay the federal and state and local taxes. I’ll pay the licensing fees, where required. I’ll take the food safety courses, if mandated. I’ll adhere to organic practices and perform strict sanitation maintenance. I’ll package our goods with “Organically Grown and Harvested” labeling and provide print-outs of detailed information on our farm practices and sourcing to anyone who wants them. I’ll explain in person at farmers’ markets and CSAs and to our restaurant customers how we come by these organic offerings. I’ll offer tours of our facilities by our customers and potential customers, if asked.

But I won’t give these irresponsible douchepoodles one iota of permission to step on to my property. If they do, it’s “Welcome to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.”

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Seed Time and Anal Retention

I just happened to glance over at my work table (kitty-corner from the computer desk) and noticed this lovely vignette.  It’s a snapshot of part of my life here during the winter build-up to planting and greenhouse production. (If you look too closely, you’ll see some things that might offend you if you have delicate sensibilities. Tough potatoes.)

The process is this (these are not my first gardens, btw): In October and November, you start losing your mind and thinking that spring will never come. To console yourself, you make sure all your seed catalog subscriptions are up to date and add half a dozen more because you can (dreaming is free).  Then they start coming in.  You get them into a a stack in a quiet place where you have lots of room to spread out (floor works best). You grab a notebook and pen, but that’s for later, because you’ve already become entranced by say, “Moon and Stars” watermelons on several catalog covers and you HAVE TO SEE what else is inside like three representative catalogs.  Then, you start circling items, turning down page corners, and yelling out to your partner, “Are six varieties of radish too many?”  Then, when you’ve culled through each catalog, you start your lists (in my case this year: one for Soilent Greens outdoor production and one for greenhouse microgreens; one for personal use, outdoor gardens).

This year I’m working from a graph paper design because my layout is new. And I’m making several lists, because I’m working with three grow-ops and several vendors.  But it didn’t start off this organized, oh no! Because my initial circling, page turn-downs, wish lists, and doodlefests put the price tag at over $3000.  That’s three zeros.  Not including ornamentals, fruit trees, berry bushes, or amendments. Did I mention we just bought an 80 year-old farmhouse? Turns out, it’s kind of a pricey proposition and we’re not exactly the Rothschilds. So I had to whittle my choices down to common sense proportions, meaning sure-fire organic seeds on varieties that we love, and the least expensive organic options on the Soilent Greens purchases.

That part is painful to my soul. (It’s almost as hard as culling seedlings, where you thin out the weak ones to give the strong ones a better chance.)  The part of myself that reveled in the Sears Toy Catalog every year as a child (turning down every page corner and making elaborate demands of Santa Claus), the part that wants everything right now, with icing, gets a little chapped that she can’t buy every item in every catalog.

So now the anal-retentive grownup sits at a lovely table with a view of the neighbors’ cows, and makes very sensible choices from a plethora of seed catalogs and sites.  I mean come on, I’m using a calculator, ruler, dedicated notebook, graphed garden plots, and the Farmers’ Almanac. I should get a grown-up discount from…life.

By the way, this seed catalog madness process from beginning to end takes about three months. Three months of revisiting the pile,  finding new items (how is that POSSIBLE) where you say, “Holy crapple, how did I miss *this* little gem?  This is definitely going on the list!!” and driving your partner batshit.

The seed deliveries and in-store purchases starts a whole new level of crazy. And I haven’t started with the Farmtek catalog. A’s going to need cocktails.

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Getting Situated

We moved into this farmhouse the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s been about what, almost ten weeks? We got the kitchen unpacked the first night, and being an experienced packer and mover and unpacker, I had the important bathroom stuff ready within an hour.  Soon after, I tackled the living room, and most of our bedroom. I set up the second bedroom as a “staging area,” intending for it to be where boxes sit as I tackle them one at a time. Haahahaaa!!!! That last part is rich! It’s actually where (I wish) boxes go to die, because they’ve only been pawed through/torn into since, when we absolutely HAVE TO get something out, like printer paper. (I swear, that was one of the panics.)

My bestie and her husband came about a month after we moved, when it was still (kind of) acceptable that I wasn’t more organized. Now we have other besties coming for the weekend, and they’re going to want to have a place to sleep, turns out.  So I’m getting it done, bitches!  Can’t have my buds thinking (knowing) I’m a hobo.

The mule I don't have to feed.

They are going to help us tackle part of our prodigious To-Do list, because they’re handy, and they volunteered. (*) are offered up to them as awesome helper monkeys (this is all stuff I want to accomplish before we have the wedding here on May 12):

  • Repair holes in chicken house roof*
  • Work on watering system*
  • Repair brooder box*
  • Get chickens(!)*
  • Build Duraworx cart*
  • Poison ant mounds*
  • Install garbage disposal
  • Install new toilet
  • Install new vanity
  • Replace a run of fencing
  • Repair old chicken house (repurposing for geese)*
  • Build 3-sided shelter for geese (by March 19)
  • Paint every single surface in this God-forsaken bastion to the glories of cheap wood paneling
  • Get tool shed set up and squared away
  • Move all compost to big garden/Roto-till that bitch
  • Roto-till potager
  • Set up greenhouse/irrigation system (after February 13)
  • Burn piles in back 40
  • Find roof leak/fix
  • Repair ceiling in living room

Even if we only get to one thing on the list we’ll have a blast, because they’re super fun to work with and will keep my spirits high. This list is gross, so I might kidnap one of them to helper-monkey me for the next month.

Puppy update: As of just last evening, she has stopped being a crate spastic. It’s been a rough transition for all of us, but she gets out to pee and poop and eat about every two hours, and sleeps through the night without crying. She’s figuring out that “Go outside” means “Pee and/or poop outside” and has learned the leash and collar really well! We’re giving her more time on-leash now indoors, and she’s learned that the cat box is off-limits.  While I’ll never get another puppy, I know how lucky I am that this one (while a gigantic pain in the ass) is super smart and anxious to please. She’s happier, the cats are happier, the humans are happier. Everybody wins!  She’s gonna lose her shit with two new people for the weekend…

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Happier

Well, the BFF and husband didn’t make it out because of screw-ups on my end and that makes me über sad.  But it’s at least a little okay, because it turns out my chicken lady is closed this weekend because of torrential rains yesterday and last night and she’s dealing with a shit-ton of mud issues. So we wouldn’t have gotten chickens anyway.  Next weekend though, for sure (although the bestie won’t be here and I’ll have to put off buying her chickens until her next visit).

I hate you so much!...ZZZZZZZZZ

The other thing that’s helping ease the sting of not seeing her is that we FINALLY got a crate for the puppy.  Thank you, Universe.  Because lovely little Ursa-boots was getting on my last freaking nerve and if I found just one more thing with puppy holes in it, she was going to be in danger of well…Nobody wants to go there, even mentally.  She spent a few minutes whining, then kept falling asleep. I’m pretty sure it’s not from trauma.  As you can see it’s got a divider, so she’ll be able to grow into this thing and most importantly, STOP SHITTING IN MY HOUSE.  We got her some worming stuff from Tractor Supply, because she’s had some suspicious-looking stuff in her poop and that’s disgusting and not good.

The cats are seriously happier now.  They’ve finally gotten back to being able to eat food because it’s still in the bowls and not puppy-purloined.  They’ve all kind of walked by the crate and gone, “HaaHAAAA, asshole! Look at you all upons with the crate-iness, stupid!”

Yesterday was emotionally draining, but in the “Win” category we got shipment of organic mulch and compost, enough to do the big garden. We need to rent a rototiller and dig that bad boy in, because it’s time for potatoes, corn, onions, garlic, and a host of other direct-to-ground seeds/starts.  The greenhouse will be here the 13th, and I’ve already got most of what I need to start on the 14th (except for um…seeds. Note to self: Buy seeds).

Also in the order were a new vanity and toilet for the Heinous Bathroom From Hell.  So excited to get a toilet that flushes!  I’ll feel so glamorous!

In the further theme of making lemonade from lemons this weekend, chef’s making hamburgers and pomme frites today, and pizzas tomorrow (walnut/apple/Gorgonzola, sausage/cheese, and mushroom/tomato/cheese).

Tomorrow, I will talk to my bestie and reassure her I’ve stepped away from the edge, call my Mom to tell her I love her, and hang out with the chef, giggling at stupid people (so easy!) and being domestic.  Also, we’re building a Duramax cart to haul all the compost and mulch over to the big garden and watching the SuperBowl (for commercials only…Couldn’t care less about the game).

OH! And I have a lead on two free donkeys, a mama and son.  The owner’s offered to even trailer them over here!  I’ve asked to meet them first and if all goes well, we could have donkeys BY TOMORROW!  Hee!!!

(And plus too, today I got in the mail the funniest Valentine card from my friend Kat, and Sandy sent me a beautiful card with a house-warming gift and lovely, lovely words.  I have the best friends ever, y’all.  For serious.)

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