Tag Archives: gardens

Back when…

One upon a time, I had a girl-sack. Last couple of years, I let it be drained…Haven’t talked to my mom or older brother in two and a half years because I divulged a memory and shared that I was suicidal. Somehow, they’ve come to resent and hate me. I know, it sounds like a Springer episode. Nestled within this “drama” is my flailing relationship with my younger brother, who lives in mom’s basement.

I’m all done with menopause symptoms and not-getting-enough sleep and over-sleeping and over-reactiing and hot flashes and night sweats and no one retuning phone calls, feeling useless and despairing of ever having a best friend again and knowing that that was always a baseless construct and getting fat and not wanting to write or create. Fuck them.

We live in a truly amazing place now. We are not physically moving until a medical examiner says OK. Ten acres, 15 minutes from Spokane, raised beds, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 12 chickens. 2/2 with an open concept.

We just accepted an offer on our Texas farm yesterday. We’ve had really good renters there for two years; lucky.

I think that was the log-break, selling Texas. I’m sick of shutting up because of my family. I’m sick of shutting up because I’m a 5 year-old, inside. It’s made me scared, fat, silent, occasionally abusive, and someone I hate.

Those asshats don’t win. I do. From here on out, I speak my mind again.  I have an awesome husband, animals, farm, land, food truck, life. Here’s *FUCK YOU* to all you jealous bitches.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , ,

Year In Review

A year has passed since we got the farm. One whole year. We celebrated by hosting the chef’s parents for Thanksgiving, and eating off some 1930’s English china* we found at our local antique store, while watching the Texans almost lose to the Detroit Lions.

403509_10151479648333368_192777949_n

(*Total freaking score, btw. Alfred Meakin service for six, with six serving pieces for $60.)

One year. I’ve dealt with deaths, large and small. I’ve made some important friendships, and lost a few relationships I thought were important. I’ve learned that I’m tougher than I thought, and to take better care of myself by standing up for myself. I’ve realized that it’s a lot better for me to drop poisonous people than to put up with their bullshit and let it leak onto me.

I’ve learned a LOT about organic gardening and sustainability this year, just by doing. I’ve learned that books are only a pathway to the reality out here, and I’m thankful for our inventiveness and outside-the-box thinking. I’ve learned to can, and how to do household, yard, and pool maintenance. I’ve gotten to be a much better shot.

I’ve learned to not dream so big and to manage my expectations, for myself, my husband, this farm, my friends, my family. For every minus here, there seem to be pluses.

My plans for the big, bad-ass garden were too ambitious, and I could not keep up. My dreams of a huge flock of chickens didn’t work400197_10151483437318368_1546550247_n out, because they just kept dying this summer. One of my geese literally flew away and never came back. But two have stayed, a mated pair that will give us eggs and babies  this spring. We got four more pullets, and we’ll have six layers by spring.

Despite all the set-backs our first spring and summer, we managed to produce so much veg that we have an over-filled freezer and about 40 jars of product.  The greenhouse didn’t happen because the winds blew the covering off and mangled the frame, but we’ll try it again in the spring. We’re doing two beefsteak tomato plants in our indoor greenhouse, so winter tomatoes!!

The pool never seemed to get quite right until the very end of the season, when we finally figured out the necessary chemical brew. We still haven’t had the money to buy a lawn mower, but it’s kind of okay, because we learned that our neighbor is a super-nice guy and brings his tractor over to drag the grass and keep it looking tight. We had two trees felled that didn’t make it through last year’s drought. Pine tree for the burn pile, and pecan tree for the smoker. (Oh yeah, we got a smoker!) I’ve learned to deal with scorpions and coyotes, and last evening while putting up the chickens for the night, a rattlesnake struck my boot. I’ve learned that I can run pretty fucking fast.

We’re installing raised beds in 2013, and that will help with the manageability for me. The beds will be closer to the house, closer to a water source, and we’ll be installing irrigation. I won’t have to deal with constant weeding, and the Bermuda grass can have its way with the big garden area, where we’re getting many ducks and geese to eat it.

IMG_1915We adopted a puppy (Mongo) and found a Siamese kitten (Mr. Peabody). I went through my first-ever dog-in-heat experience (she’s since been fixed). Doggy diapers = nobody wins. Total count: five male cats, two dogs. We’re stopping there.

This is my birthday week, and we’ll be going next weekend to cut down our Christmas tree and put it up in the great room. It looks magical when it’s all lit up, set against the backdrop of this 1930 Texas farmhouse. We’ve fixed up the house so it’s comfortable and nice for us and anyone who visits, and 2013 will see some painting and power-washing, to get it even nicer.

We got married here, and it was a magical day. I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else in the world. We’ve been able to share this place with friends and family, and that’s pretty freaking sweet. A few parties, a pig buried and eaten, our first deep-fried turkey (kick-ass, btw), music, dancing, laughter, tears.

Can’t wait to see what the next year here brings.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Double Down

We’ve had a rough few days at El Rancho Loco. First, on Saturday morning early (like 5:00 a.m.), we both woke up to start the day. Nice start to our weekend, yay! I reached to the floor, in the dark, for my kick-ass Dickie’s camo shorts and SHABBAP, got hit by a scorpion. I screamed on the top of my lungs, “Motherfuckingshitballsfuckingscorpion *breathe* AAAAAHHHHHFUCKYOU!!!!” The only scorpion in the entire house was sitting right where my thumb reached. We know because we spent the next 15 minutes looking around the carpet with a blacklight. What are the fucking odds? Why my bedroom? There’s no water there, there is only certain death. I think my friends and family are safe from scorpions though, because every one of those pieces of shit will come for me while my loved ones run away.

When Lovelace was the biggest lady in the yard.

So I iced my thumb and put NeoSporin with lidocaine on it and went out to let out the chickens/geese. I noticed my favorite (she’s my favorite now, despite this post where I called her Bitchface #2) is looking a little funky. She usually stands in front of the geese right at the door, waiting to be let out (she’s the alpha). That morning, she was on the ground, and when she got up, she was limping. Then I noticed that she had a little eye funk and was wheezing a little. So I did some research in my books and online, and we got some VetRX to help with possible respiratory infection and cider vinegar to add to the water, to help with her overall malaise and possible parasites. I spent Saturday and Sunday cleaning her butt and rubbing her with medicine and watering her. I put her in the jumbo cat carrier to isolate her. She spent the next two days sliding downhill.

Yesterday, I called a chicken pro who told me it might be Marek’s, might be CRD and to get Tylan or LS-50 to inject her with. I spent all day yesterday feeding her little sips of water with apple cider vinegar, and rubbing her head and talking to her. She fell asleep in my arms a few times. We’re a one-car family, so I waited till the chef got home to take me to Tractor Supply. I watched a couple of videos to see how to inject her. I went and checked on her before we went. We got home, I loaded up the syringe, took it out to the coop and she had died. Ants were already covering her face. I started bawling and brushing ants off her face while Allan went and got a garbage bag.

I know it’s stupid and it’s not really my fault, but I feel like a failure. I know it’s stupid to have gotten so attached after I said I wouldn’t, but I did anyway. I know it’s stupid to take this personally, but I am.

Body count since March:

3 dead goslings (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Cuckoo Maran (pecked to death by Seka and Lovelace)
1 dead Plymouth Barred Rock (Seka) decapitated by owl
1 dead sex-link (unknown reasons)
1 dead Gold-Laced Wyandotte (Lovelace) and I don’t know why

We have three geese left, plus one sex-link, a Rhode Island Red, and two Cuckoo Marans, only one of whom is laying because the other one has a failure-to-thrive syndrome where she has not properly developed her comb or wattle, and doesn’t have a proper vent size for laying. So at least we still have three layers.

More proof that I suck.

We talked to some friends and we’re going to keep doing it, even though I feel like the worst Mom ever. (Ursa got bit by what we’re afraid might be a brown recluse or a black widow spider. We have to keep an eye on it for necrosis. Researching how to treat it at home in the meantime. This picture looks like she’s in pain or is lethargic. This is actually her relaxing after tearing around the yard after toads, rabbits, grasshoppers, the wind, like she does every day, rain or shine.)

We’re going to get more chickens and a rooster, so I can start brooding chicks. We decided that the rate of attrition in a free-range Texas chicken yard is always going to be a little high, so let’s double-down on this effort.

I’m going to spend today and maybe part of tomorrow feeling like I’ve let the team down, then snap out of it and start looking at new hens.

They will not get names.

Here are some good things from the past few days…

Mr. Peabody. Scourge of all other animals in this house.

Surprise flowers. Lilies? Ideas? I didn’t plant them.

Seeds up: Broccoli, thyme, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, cilantro, Swiss chard.

Pool looks awesome.

Chef’s awesome.

My mom came through a cataract surgery totally great.

My dad’s still kickin’ it in his La-Z-Boy.

Weather’s getting cooler.

Getting my car fixed next month.

Party on October 6th.

Still breathing.

Big p.s.: Awesome friends and family. Thanks for making me feel a little better, y’all. Big love from me and Allan.

UPDATE: Ursa has histiocytosis, a common benign growth on her nose that is apparently kind of like a wart that will go away on its own. So, Huzzah! to both our vet, who didn’t charge anything, and to life, for not handing us another shit bouquet.

Also, those red flowers are Oxblood Lilies.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Summer Shenanigans

I don’t know what happened to my writing muse but she needs a spanking, and not the fun kind. I think part of it is that I’ve been tits-deep in writing TWO business plans for some projects we’re hoping to get off the ground, and that kind of work is a muse-killer. She started crying about two days into it and just sort of limped off into a closet in my brain that has snacks (fudge Pop-Tarts), and Xanax. I’ll admit it here, too: I got sucked into DVR’d Olympic games for about two weeks (p.s.: Best way EVER to watch the games. Screw you volleyball, marathons, and speed walking. SPEED WALKING??).

Das Ladies.

Farm news: The chickens started laying!! I’ve waited for what seems like forever to have more than my faithful little Golden-laced Wyandotte put out her one egg a day, and BLAMMO. Went out there a few days ago to find four new eggs in one of the boxes. Sad news, however, as we lost one of the sex-links…I’d been coaxing her along to help heal an injured leg by isolating her to the smaller “chick” area of the coop, then came in to find she’d injured a wing overnight. That night, I put her in a huge cat carrier with food and water, and when I came in in the morning, I found she’d either broken her own neck or suffocated somehow. Anyway, I’ve got one lady with a cut on her leg that’s healing up nicely, and a goose that scared the crap out of me by pretending to have a broken leg for a day. Thank you, Trase of Serenity Acres Now for talking me off the ledge on that one!!

We got winter squash, cantaloupes, pumpkins, beans, corn, and carrots installed for the fall. Our peppers are still going monkey-shit from spring planting, so good news there. The tomatoes are all done, which means next year, all the heirlooms are going in the greenhouse. They just can’t take Texas.

We’ve been enjoying the pool, finally, after spending most of the spring and the early part of summer just trying to figure out how to stay on top of the algae situation. Pools are a gigantic pain in the ass, we’ve learned, but also TOTALLY WORTH IT when you’re floating around in a $2 inner-tube, listening to way loud classic rock on the shop radio, baking in the sun, and naming the clouds things like Nelson Rockefeller On a Unicycle.

Those eggs are not for you, Mr. Peabody.

Here is a gratuitous shot of our newest animal addition, Mr. Peabody. He found us outside our local grocery store, by loudly proclaiming his love from behind a row of carts. He has incredibly blue eyes, and is just now finding his Siamese voice, God help us all. The other cats are still pissed, but screw them. Mr. Peabody rules.

Thanks to everybody who emailed or commented looking to make sure I’m still alive. I’M ALIVE! And that was super sweet. I’ve been reading y’all, rest assured…SO MANY FELLOW SHENANIGANISTS!©

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Soul Asylum

Insert melon joke here.

Therapy weeding! Towards my goal of kicking depression in the nads, I’ve spent the past two and a half days out in the gardens TCB. I feel way better.

Today is a half day, because (tip: don’t get old) I’m old. I was all gung-ho the past two days, saying “Fuck you” to the heat, work periods longer than break periods, drinking lots of water, taking my supplements, working seven hour shifts. Today, I’m ass-hammered. I got out to the watermelon patch all set to finish and yeeahhhh, there’s my back, telling me I’m 46, still 30 lbs. overweight (lost some on Atkins already), take an Aleve for your back and go back inside, you dork. So I weeded some, messed with the birds, and came back inside.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my recent gardening experiences:

  • Taking non-specific depression rage out on caterpillars feels nice. Almost as nice as the *pop* they make when I punch them right in the dirt, bright green ooze squishing out of both ends. I used to be squeamish about killing them. Now, I dig it. Eat my cabbages HOW, no face?
  • I’ve developed a peripheral vision superpower because of my hyper-vigilance for spiders. After the black widow scare and given the number of wolf and brown recluse spiders I’ve seen and killed over the past few months, I’m like a side-seeing ninja. I can’t think of all the applications, but I’m sure there are a million. Call me for rates.
  • Notwithstanding the above superpower, I did have a wolf spider jump on my tits while I was weeding by the pool. It sent me into a screaming fit that could probably be heard in town. Way after the spider had been sent sailing far away by my spastic hand movements, I was still screaming.
  • My formerly sweet geese are now kind of jerks. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the big garden lately, adjacent to the poultry yard, and not only do they challenge me in the mornings when I come let them out*, but they bully the chickens a little. Not enough to separate them, but enough for me to understand that my babies have grown up into delinquent jerks, and I’m kind of rethinking my position on having them as foie gras instead of long-time pets.
  • People who read my craigslist ad (invisible subtitle: Check Out My Melons!) are probably too stupid to deserve my melons anyway. That said, what the fuck am I going to do with all these melons?

One of the sex-link chickens (not quite ready for laying pullet) has a bum leg. It’s not bumblefoot and she’s not bleeding, so I’m hoping it’s just a sprain. I’m fortunate in that this is my first animal injury, and it’s a pretty easy one. Diagnosis: bum leg. Treatment: keep away from jerks, and give extra supplements. She seems to be hopping around okay, and two of the other hens are (shockingly) keeping an eye on her and making sure she gets food and water.

*Every morning between 6:15 and 6:30 I go and let the birds out of the coop. Every morning for the past few weeks, the geese kind of hang back and talk to me. *Bapbapbapbap* So I talk back, of course. Then they started flapping their wings, a few days later. Kind of experimental, one, then the other, then the third goose, flapping then settling. Then a few days later, it progressed to big flaps, and talking REALLY LOUDLY to me.

“I will be delicious!”

Then, and this was the last straw, they started spreading their wings, yelling at me, and RUSHING me. Ohhhh, that will not stand. So the first time they did it, I raised my arms like wings and said, “Oh, FUCK no,” and advanced on them and they backed down.

Then, they started the funniest thing ever and I hope I can catch it on video. I start to walk out of the yard, and I hear *flapflapflap* *shuffleshuffle* and turn around really quick, and they drop their wings, and resume scrounging in the grass. “What? Just eating some bugs. What up, mama lady? Doodly do.” Then I turn around to leave and it happens again. At least twice before I get out of the yard. Seriously cracks me up.

A week ago I was heaving tomatoes at their heads in consternation. Now it’s cracking me up. Baby steps.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Good Day

I don’t normally write in the evenings; it’s just not my brain’s creative time. I’m usually tapped, mentally, by 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Anyway, today is different because today was pretty freaking great. And nothing really happened.

Not mine, but close enough. So sad…

The heat has been bumming me out for a few reasons, mostly because it was hastening what I thought was the demise of all the garden vegetable plants. They’ve looked miserable and stopped producing.  I tried watering consistently (even doubled the schedule for about a month), Neem oil/baking soda/vinegar for potential disease and insects, compost side-dressing for nutrients. Then, I tore out a few dead tomatoes and kind of gave up on the rest of the gardens. Brown, sad, non-producing, cat-faced tomatoes, no fertility. I thought it was blight, but nope. It’s just been so fucking hot and dry that they were giving up. The  squash was dying; the green beans gave up weeks ago. Pepper plants looking droopy and sad, with no fruit or flowers. The only thing thriving is the watermelons. Nothing can stop them. They’re aliens.

Well, a few good rains and cloudy days last week changed everything. Real rain is simply unbeatable. The plants perked up and more miraculously, started coming back. The tomatoes and peppers have new blooms on them, they’ve set well, and we’ll be getting new tomatoes in a month. The squash (“”Prolific”…I can’t recommend this squash enough) has gone crazy again, after slowing down for a few weeks.

What happened today is I finally had enough of neglecting the gardens we worked so hard to establish, so I got to work outside. I started weeding at 7:00 a.m. I worked on and off all over our gardens and yard for almost six hours, with frequent breaks. I deadheaded flowers, Neemed everything, composted, hoed the beds, tore out big grass around the pool by hand, blew out the pool filter system, battled wolf spiders, put away tools that had been left out, cut down the spent sunflowers to harvest the seeds tomorrow, found the laying hen’s new hidden nest, stood down the geese when they charged me this morning.

It was a normal day on the farm. One I’ve not experienced in months, and haven’t even really wanted to, because the second effect of the heat for me is that it kind of saps my will to live. I get depressed, and that’s a fact. Lost interest in normal activities, fits of extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, erratic sleep, intermittent bouts of sadness, and even inappropriate anger. Money worries, sick and dying family, frustration over a couple of stalled projects…

This summer has been hard, but for unexpected reasons. I anticipated the bugs and heat and physical exertion to get the better of me, sooner rather than later. What has actually happened is my heart gave out, figuratively speaking. Texas summer tried to suck away my will and spirit. So I’m going to keep an eye on this tendency towards lethargy when faced with Texas douchebaggery. It’s a stupid cycle, and nobody I know or love deserves to be around it, least of all me.

So, suck it summer. You are not the boss of me.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Heat and Funerals

This super-informative piece on Mother Earth News says (page 3), “…remember that it’s unwise to do hard outdoor work when both the temperature and the humidity are high. When the two numbers added together equal more than 160, stay indoors during the middle of the day.”

I would edit that to add, “If you live in south central Texas, however, it is technically ALWAYS the middle of the day. Plan on building robots to do your gardening, because those two numbers will equal greater than 160 for the next four months.”

I just got in from an hour’s-worth of harvesting tomatoes, feeding and watering the chickens and geese, and watering the gardens. After standing in front of the window A/C, I’m at least not dripping sweat from every pore; only my hair is still soaked. The cats lasted about 10 minutes out there, and the dog looks at me like I’m slow in the head whenever I open the door to let her out.

The plants are all suffering. This year’s averages are already 10 degrees above normal and everything is browning. I water in the mornings and we’ll be constructing some shade dealies next week (when the chef’s on vacation…YAY!) to help at least the tomatoes. We’ll also be filling the indoor greenhouse with starts to go in next month. The only thing really thriving outside right now is a super-tall volunteer sunflower in the potager. (Not my garden; it’s too freaking hot and I’m too cooked to go out with a camera right now. Thanks, random blogger, Cheryl.)

While the husband’s home, we have a ton of outdoor chores to attend to for our party July 7th*. It’s going to be a blast! However, pool needs fixing up, gardens need cleaning, pit needs digging, lighting needs putting up, grass needs mowing, food and supplies need getting boughted. (Okay, that last one got away from me.)

Here’s an actual photo from our garden from Tuesday, June 26, 2012, or as I like to call it, “Family Shit Day.” Go ahead, click on the photo. It’s a black widow and her boyfriend, right under one of the tomato plants. I pulled back a big clump of stems to get at some ripe tomatoes underneath and THERE IT WAS. Oh, I ain’t proud to say I Sevin’d the shit out of her, but, I SEVIN’D THE SHIT OUT OF HER. Then that wasn’t enough, so I scootched her and her boyfriend out and smashed them under my rubber boot toe into the dirt until they were a whole mess of splat and legs.

Also on the “getting boughted” list for the party: Outdoor and indoor foggers, tiki torches, personal bodyguards, spider mace**.

*Send me an email if you’re local and come on out! (You’ll be required to answer a series of questions allowing me to judge whether or not you are a dangerous ax murderer, Obama supporter, or Romney supporter.)

**Is there such a thing? Because if there isn’t, I’m going to invent it and be a gajillionaire.

*************************
Friday a.m: Off to Chicago to attend a service for my uncle, and see my large family for the first time in a while. Way too long a while for some of them. Funeral Saturday. I’m looking forward to a lot of laughing and hugs and some cathartic tears. I know Uncle Don would be pissed if we didn’t laugh as much as we can at this thing.
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Grasshopper Ninja

Please work. Please work.

I am sorry to say it, but it’s true. I just went all ninja assassin on the grasshoppers and it felt awesome. I hate giving these jackholes money (Scott’s/Ortho), but I just sprayed the shit out of our lawn with Bug B Gone Max. We got two bottles. I’m going to reward myself for mopping the kitchen floor with a good spraying out by the pool. SUCK POISON, BITCHES! I did NOT spray it near our gardens. I’m going to go in and chase the grasshoppers out with flailing arms and a rake, and hope they get blasted in the poison part of the lawn. I’m also going to walk around my lawn smashing grasshopper corpses with my boots. Because that will make me happy.

In other news, here’s a picture of the latest harvest. The tomatoes are starting to wind down, so it’s time to start more seedlings in the (inside) greenhouse. We’re going to experiment with growing in our little outdoor greenhouse, because the heirloom varieties really struggle in the Texas sun. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Arkansas Traveler and Stupice heirlooms, however. They’ve been thriving out there (the little toms in the picture are Arkansas Traveler) and both are super-sweet and delicious. I will grow them again in a heartbeat. The pears in the picture got blown off our pear tree during the high winds the other day, and as they were our ONLY pears, I’m a little sad.

PS: If you’ve not seen this blog, please go over and show this little Scottish girl some love. (Start at the beginning and read all the entries…It’s only a few pages long.) She does school food reviews, and yesterday, her town council tried to shut her down. The Internet went MONKEY SHIT and the council reversed its decision. HER BLOG IS COVERED IN WIN.

PSS: This bit with Jack McBrayer and Triumph almost made me pee myself laughing. True story.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Texas Summer

Texas on fire: True story.

While it’s not as bad yet as it was last year, this summer has started with a vengeance, with very little rainfall and temps nearing 100 already. Yesterday’s first-of-the-season climb to near 100 had me hiding in the living room where the A/C works the best, and Googling things like, “Is it tacky to leave your new husband to move to Canada, but only for the summer?” Google had a lot of baffling responses, not the least of which involved Mounties and Bullwinkle.

So it looks like I’ll tough it out, because I’m not unlike a rock star who also has super powers (imminent). Because last night I got my first (AND ONLY UNTIL FOREVER) scorpion sting, and IT DIDN’T EVEN HURT THAT BAD. I don’t want another one to prove my point, mostly because I’m not a psychopath, but seriously? Manageable. Threw an ice cube on it, husband applied vinegar, got back into bed and went to sleep.  After cussing a lot and making sure that motherfucker was smashed to shit. Because come on, FUCKING RUDE. In my bed. Near my face. Oh yeah, the husband got stung too, but it was on his ankle so not nearly as terrifying as my near-face experience.

In other news, the grasshoppers have taken over the asylum. When one walks outside, one is surrounded by a cloud of flying grasshoppers, whose main job is (apparently) to try to get down my shirt, inside my boots, and onto my eyeball. I walk out to the gardens flapping my arms and making noises that I can’t properly articulate in print. I think they’re the noises that cause psychiatrists to prescribe lithium, stat.

My new summer missions: Kill all the things*, and save all the plants. Because the plants are really suffering already. I have an extremely frugal rig involving old sheets and bamboo poles, in order to shade some of my more delicate heirloom tomatoes. Because losing those would make me sad. Also getting researched for my database are extremely drought-tolerant varieties of everything else, because it’s Texas, y’all! I’ve got another planting season coming up here in a couple of weeks.

*As for killing all the things, here are some genius suggestions for killing adult grasshoppers (we’re dumb and didn’t take care of this shit in the spring, when they’re WAY easier to kill):

I hate you. In your faces. With a hammer.

  1. Plant flowers. Really, ask.com? REALLY? That’s almost as helpful as the time I looked for “recipes for leftover turkey” and you suggested “Sandwiches.”
  2. Weed control. Seriously. Double Ew Tee Eff. I live surrounded by working cattle fields, some of which contain weeds that could block out the sun. Should I call my ranching neighbors and request they organically spray several thousand acres for grasshopper control, because dinosaur-looking asshole grasshoppers are scaring me and eating my cabbages? That sounds reasonable.
  3. Get chickens! We live on four acres. Maybe 100 chickens per acre should do the trick. Think the husband will notice?
  4. Wait for cold weather. I swear to God, the Internet is just begging for me to come to its house and kick it in the scrote.

In reality, we’re going to have to broadcast EcoBan Semaspore bait and maybe Nosema locustae bait, and play the waiting game.

In other farmhouse news, FRONTLINE SUCKS. You heard me. Useless. It vaguely works on the cats, but the puppy is miserable. I bombed the house, vacuumed everything within an inch of its life, washed everything that is washable, gave her a bath, applied Frontline, and waited for the magic to happen. The fleas laughed at all of us, reattached themselves to my baby puppy’s body, and have never been happier. So now we get to wait for the month to pass before we apply Advantage, which is even MORE expensive. Congratulations, fleas. You win this round.

In awesome news, we’re having a pig bury/pool party on July 7th! The chef/husband is digging a hole, then filling it with lava rocks and a burlap/chicken wire-wrapped 50 lb. pig. We’re expecting around 40 people, debauching the pool and braving the heat. If you’re a vegetarian, I recommend a 20-mile safety buffer. It’s going to be epic. We’ll have misters on the front porch, a party tent on the pool deck, a keg of Lone Star, and rock music as loud as we can stand it.

PS: We’re going to cover all the vegetables and do a yard-wide application of Ortho Home Defense spray a few days before the party. Suck poison, you dinosaur freaks.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Organic Gardening: The Lessons

I’m learning something new every day out in the gardens. Some big lessons, some smaller. All vital to having an even better garden next year.

For example:

  • Insect control: Cabbage loopers DECIMATED our cabbages; they were skeletonized within two days. We Neem-oiled the crap out of everything, but it was too late. There are still viable cabbages in the middles, but I doubt they’ll reach their full potential. NEXT PLANTING: Covers.

    (Borrowed from the IntraWebz.) Ours is even worse. It’s too sad to photograph.

  • Insect control: Flea beetles ate the SHIT out of our Rapini. NEXT PLANTING: No Rapini. Because not only is it susceptible to flea beetles, it doesn’t do well in the heat, it bolts, and is very low-producing.
  • Heat control: Plan for the heat earlier. It’s Texas, Donna the Dummy. Even “heat tolerant” varieties are melting in the sun. And it’s not even really hot for the region yet. NEXT PLANTING: Shade covers, more frequent watering, mulch.
  • Mulch: Put the mulch around the plants, Donna. It’s not doing any good in the bags, except as a perfect home for scorpions.
  • Tomatoes: Learn early on which are determinate (bush type) and which are indeterminate (sprawling monsters). That way, you’ll know which are coming out early and can be replaced (determinate) and which will continue to produce throughout the season (indeterminate), and plan your garden accordingly.  So your garden doesn’t look like ass because of big gaping holes you didn’t plan for.
  • Succession plant: Put beans in planned areas week after week, so you have continuous production. Same with tomatoes: Have seedlings going all the time in the greenhouse so you can replace what needs to come out.
  • Automate: Because standing out there watering in the 6:00 p.m. highs of 96 degrees (soon to be 106) is balls.
  • Packet/product labeling: Remember that labeling is not necessarily accurate for your conditions. We planned 3×6′ beds for our watermelon. The first plant that came up is now easily 15′ around. It is taking over the entire garden and will have to be pruned back (much to the horror of the husband, who is convinced it’s from another planet and wants to see how big it will actually get). Labeling also doesn’t necessarily know that we live in Texas, so “full sun” means plants probably won’t thrive here, which is actually the SURFACE of the sun.
  • Compost: Learn now to make compost tea and get it made, because that Jobe’s organic fertilizer just ain’t makin’ it. I have yellowing leaves (nitrogen deficiency), and a general malaise on some of the plants that just won’t do.

Nice tomato shot…Again, not ours. *sigh*

Some things you just can’t plan for. Like volunteers and what I call “wanderers”.  We have several of both in our gardens. The volunteers just kind of pop up in totally unexpected areas (a tomato in the cucumber patch, a sunflower in the cucumber patch, a bean plant in the tomatoes).  Wanderers happened from our torrential April rains shifting seeds from bed to bed. I refuse to pull either “mistake” up. If they have the temerity to live where they weren’t planned, then good for them, the little rebels.

I CAN, however, plan my garden better next year. We just kind of free-balled the plants this year, with only an eye on height (tall stuff in the backs of the rows). In the winter, my plans on paper were very elaborate and precise. By the time our seedlings were up, all that changed, only I didn’t account for it on paper. See, seedlings don’t all come up, and the ones that do don’t necessarily make it through the hardening-off stage. Plus we went and impulse-bought different seeds (for direct sowing) than what was accounted for, and changes didn’t get incorporated into the on-paper plans.

Which reminds me, NOTE TO SELF: Paper plans are pretty, but impossible to maintain. Find software for garden planning.

I DID make a database last night of our plants, so I can record what’s working and what’s not, planting and picking dates, and which tomatoes are which. Because if we want serious production (and we do), we can’t keep winging it out there.

To-Do List This Week:

  • Find easy compost tea recipe, make and apply
  • Get down mulch (at least on tomatoes)
  • Buy row cover supplies for shade
  • Finish database
  • Start plan for summer planting
  • Weed (always)
  • Take out non-performers
  • New beans, cukes, corn, cilantro
  • Set out basil, yellow peppers
  • Plant olive tree in potager

Who said this was easy on a larger scale? I guess people who have never done it before…

p.s.: SUPER HELPFUL tomato list.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gardening: Crack and You

A friend on Facebook recently mentioned something about getting into gardening. I told him I’d do a Top Five list of what to know from a beginner’s perspective, but as I was just out weeding the watermelon patch (literally…friggin’ weeds took that thing over with a quickness), I realized my first foray into “Gardening Experience” should be about what gardening means to me, and what to expect.  I’m also going to do a post (hopefully) today on what I’ve learned recently about Seminis/Monsanto and their devil merger. Next week, a list of Top Ten Gardening Must-Haves.

The cocaine megastore.

Okay, baby gardener. First and foremost, you’re about to become an addict. Know that going in and everything will go smoother. Don’t fight the crack. Embrace the crack. It’s going to win anyway. It’s a crack habit with tendrils. It’s a gateway drug. It will have you learning words like “monocot” and “cabbage looper” and “vermiculite.” It will make you have Farmtek and Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogs in your bathroom. It will make you curse the fact that you either a) don’t have a big enough yard to dig up, or b) you just dug up way too much yard and what the hell were you thinking? (Hint: You were thinking, “I can’t get enough of this crack!”) Also know that this gardening thing makes you vaguely insane.

If you start with just a tomato seedling, you are done.  You were thinking, “Man, some fresh tomatoes would be awesome this summer. Joe the Slow down the street grows them. How hard can this be?” You will pick up the adorable seedling with its sultry photo tag and realize you need dirt. But what kind of dirt? Topsoil or fill? You’ve heard of compost, but should you make it yourself or buy a bag at the store? This tomato seedling needs a pot; that little one looks pretty (it’s such a small plant, right?). You’re definitely going need a little shovel, because you’re not sure you want to get your hands all dirty. Speaking of which, you’re going to need gloves. Oh, and some fertilizer! But what kind? You’ve been hearing so much about organic, but should you go that route? You decide yes, because all the cool kids are doing it. But wait! Is my little seedling organic? Uh oh, better swap that out. Well, crap, now you’ve got this big bag of organic soil, another bag of organic compost, another bag of organic fertilizer, and it just seems RIDICULOUS to only have one seedling. Which is why you’re going to go back to the tomato seedling area and pick up three more plants, two different varieties. Now you’re going to have to return that pot, because you remember how big your neighbor’s tomatoes got, and realize you need to plan on digging out a section of your lawn. So, that means a big shovel! Pointed nose, right? And hell, a wheelbarrow to carry off all that stuff. Man, that’s some sweaty work. Better get a sun hat and while you’re in that aisle, some rubber clogs so you don’t junk up your tennies.  Okay, now you’re going to need more dirt, to replace what you’ll lose from so much grass going away. Well, shit. Now I need a book on tomatoes because this is getting a little complicated. HOLY CRAP, the book section. You’re going to buy at least two, so make sure one is all-encompassing, because now you’re remembering that you love potatoes, beans, cilantro, and FLOWERS…AW SHIT, FLOWERS. And sweet lord, what if you’re too late to get your babies into the ground and experience the tomato bounty?! That seems akin to setting the world to wobbling off its axis! So you get to the checkout aisle as fast as you can, because you need to get on those books asap. And check online to see when the planting season is in your region. Oh shit, what’s a region? Will your tomato plants live forever, or do they die (because somewhere you’ve heard of perennials and annuals, and know that there’s some kind of difference). MY GOD, I’D BETTER LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!

You haven’t even made it to the checkout lane yet, cracky. Ha!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Colony Collapse: More Awesome Pesticide News

I don’t know how familiar any readers of my blog are with “Colony Collapse Disorder” (or any other topic I write about), so I’ll treat this as a primer, and give y’all some breaking news.

Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) has been coined to describe the relatively recent phenomena where bee colonies are inexplicably dying off or being abandoned. Bees and their habitats have been observed to either disappear altogether, return to hives in drastically reduced numbers, or become sickened and die off.  Theories for CCD include pesticides, parasites, viruses, environmental stress, and even cell phone towers and cell phones.  There was a noticeable drop in feral bee populations between the early 70’s and 2006, but because of increased global domestic beekeeping operations, overall numbers stayed stable. However, beekeepers all over the world started noticing this new, devastating disorder only five or six years ago. “In 2010 the USDA reported that data on overall honey bee losses for 2010 indicated an estimated 34 percent loss, which is statistically similar to losses reported in 2007, 2008, and 2009.” Total losses of bee populations worldwide are estimated to between 30 and 90 percent.

There are a HUGE number of links at this Wikipedia page: Colony Collapse Disorder.

Beeconomics

Why should you care? Besides honey, bees are the pollinators of the world’s crops. It is estimated that bees are responsible for over 70% of all pollination of the world’s food and animal crops. In other words, if you’re fond of eating, you should be fond of bees.  In world GDPs, bees play an important role in nations’ economies, adding $15 billion a year to America’s agricultural markets alone.

BREAKING NEWS (4/5/12): Here’s the part that has me marginally homicidal (the latest thing, anyway): The EPA told us all that Bayer CropScience’s main ingredient, imidacloprid (of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides), used as a pesticide in 90% of all US corn production (to name only one application) is safe. It turns out, it is not. “The likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honeybee colonies since 2006 is imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health(HSPH).”  This chemical is registered for use on over 140 crops in over 120 countries.  It is used in large agricultural applications as well as for homes and small gardens, for control of flies, cockroaches, grubs, borers, termites, ants, and over 40 other pests.

It is INFURIATING to me that the USDA has acknowledged since last year that,”…the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid contribute –at extremely low levels– to bee deaths and possibly colony collapse disorder (CCD), the widespread disappearance of honey bees that has killed off more than a third of commercial honey bees in the U.S.” and has DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT. In fact, look at all these papers and studies from all over the world that show what’s been known and what’s been done by the chemical companies and regulators. The short answer is: nothing. Here’s the EPA knowing what this shit does to bees as long ago as 2009, and again, the response? NOTHING.

Consumer products containing imidacloprid:

  • Merit insecticide
  • Merit 75
  • Invict
  • Dominion
  • GrubZ Out
  • Maxforce
  • Mallett
  • Bonide
  • Temprid
  • Criterion 75
  • Bed Bug Kit
  • Precise Foam
  • Adonis
  • Premise 2
  • CoreTect
  • ImiGold
  • Fertilome
  • Hi-Yield Grub Free Zone
  • Bayer Advanced
  • Bonanza
  • Maxx Pro
  • Pre-Empt
  • Quick Draw
  • Advantage (flea/tick control for cats and dogs…yes, even this)

What to do: First of all, and easy enough, don’t buy or use any of those products. Check any labels for “imidacloprid” and do.not.use.

Secondly, write the EPA and tell them what a bunch of flaming D-bags they are. EPA: Contact links. (Good God, look at all the social media outlets our tax dollars pay for and maintain. Wow, they’re pretty groovy for being a bunch of bureaucratic pukes who are being paid with our tax dollars and bribed by chemical companies to kill us all.)  While you’re at it, feel free to lob a flaming bag of (email) poo at the USDA: Contact links.

Think about starting your own bee colony! We are!  Here’s a link to a relatively inexpensive starter kit that looks super cool: Beekeepers Apiary Kit.

If you don’t want to do beekeeping (and I totally understand that) maybe plant your garden with species that attract bees (from TheDailyGreen):

Annuals: Asters, calliopsis, clover, marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, zinnias

Perennials: Buttercups, clematis, cosmos, crocuses, dahlias, echinacea, English ivy, foxglove, geraniums, germander, globe thistle, hollyhocks, hyacinth, rock cress, roses, sedum, snowdrops, squills, tansy, yellow hyssop (Edited To Add (4/10/12)): From solarbeez.com: Penstemon

Fruits & Veggies: Blackberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, gourds, fruit trees, peppers, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, watermelons

Herbs: Bee balm, borage, catnip, coriander/cilantro, fennel, lavender, mints, rosemary, sage, thyme

Shrubs: Blueberry, butterfly bush, button bush, honeysuckle, indigo, privet

Trees: Alder, American holly, basswood, black gum, black locust, buckeyes, catalpa, eastern redbud, golden rain, hawthorns, hazels, linden, magnolia, maples, mountain ash, poplar, sycamore, tulip, willows

IF YOU HAVE PLANTS OR FLOWERS TO ADD, PLEASE DO SO IN THE COMMENTS! Thank you!

Act local, think global, carry a big stick. That’s my motto.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Larch (But Not Really)

The puppy and I spent the last week at my best friend’s house, hanging with her and her husband, making wedding plans and being lazy. It was a “farm hiatus,” the only one I’ll get for quite a while. So many awesome purchases and plans for our little wedding soirée that I can hardly stand how cool we are.

A week away from the farm with the partner in charge (who works more than full time) went okay. Nobody died. However, SO MANY WEEDS. But honestly, our seeds/seedlings are so new that it’s only been in the past week that we can tell the difference between them and weeds. The YAY thing is that the seeds I thought had failed AGAIN have germinated and are thriving, both in the big garden and the potager. We have:

  • Corn
  • Beans (purple and green pole)
  • Squash
  • Broccoli Raab
  • Carrots
  • Six different types of tomatoes
  • Four different types of hot peppers
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Scallions, chives, onions
  • Cabbage
  • Cilantro, lavender, rosemary, thyme, basil

Still to go in (late): garlic, peas.  We got some weeding done yesterday and installed home-made tomato cages. We also got some herbs and extra tomato and pepper varieties installed. This week, I’m building bean teepees out of saplings and twigs, weeding, mulching, and cleaning out the chicken yard.

THE NETTLE IS DEAD!!! But to be honest, I don’t think me and my vinegar jihad made any difference (I don’t think the vinegar was strong enough). I think nettle is just super stupid and committed suicide. Either way, I’m clearing that crap out of the chickens’ yard this week, because it’s almost time to introduce the new chickens! They’re almost fully feathered out and will have a little get-to-know-you week, segregated behind a defensive line of chicken wire. Then it’s on! Give me some eggs you ingrates!!!

No longer "The Mysterious Larch"...it's actually a Mulberry.

The berries will stain your life purple.

The most exciting news is this: What I though was just a really pretty tree in our yard (of indeterminate lineage) turns out to be a Mulberry! I went out there to hang a birdhouse yesterday, and BLAMMO, 500 kajillion Mulberries!!! So we laid out plastic sheeting, whacked the crap out of that sucker and we now have about two gallons of the things, ready for me to clean this morning and throw into freezer bags.  How cool is that?? I’ve never eaten one, and it turns out they taste just like sweet tea! Weird and fantastic. I’m looking forward to peach/mulberry pie, mulberry ice cream, mulberry preserves. I learned how to make freezer jam, so that’s happening. We ought to have about six gallons before this thing runs its course. Yay team!

Also, I’m going on another full-blown rant later today. Gird your loins.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

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.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gardening Waves

Beautiful SC Texas. I'll come back to this when the grass is dead this summer, and remember...

Behbeh chicks! Someday, they're going to love me. Right now, not so much...

Let’s kick this post off with a view of the farm, so freaking pretty that I had to share. The trees are all coming in, the grass was mowed on Friday, everything’s stowed, and the farm’s looking tight. Springtime in South-central Texas. Can’t beat it.

Plus, chicks!!! Under the red grow light, their eyes look Satanic. They peck at my rings and generally have a shit attack when I try to gently pick them up. I’m wearing them down with food and love, though…

Surprise bulb from the former owner. Thanks, garden present!

So far, the gardening comes in waves. We were *able* to plant three weeks ago, but probably shouldn’t have, because of the two bouts with torrential rainfall that drowned both seeds and seedlings. There was just no way to know that, though.

After the floods, we couldn’t work the gardens for days and days afterwards, which causes downtime even when it’s sunny, to allow the gardens to dry out. Which is super-frustrating.  Then we caught about a weeks’-worth of break with sunny weather, tried all the seeds again, and then got three days of non-stop rain. Gaaahhhh…

And although I’ve been a gardener for about 15 years, I’ve never had anything larger than roughly 40 s.f. to plant in. Now I have almost 2/3 of an acre that we’re devoting solely to crops, and this is the first time I’m going totally organic. In the past, I’ve cheated and relied on Miracle Gro and Sevin, when things just got too hairy. You’ll kind of try anything when your roses have all succumbed to black spot. Now it’s just us vs. nature’s nasties, armed with a garlic/dish soap concoction for the rust, a chili pepper/dish soap concoction for the bugs, and vinegar/hand-pulling for the weeds. The learning curve is pretty steep, but we’re getting there.

First up in the experimentation: Tomato rust vs. garlic stuff.  Garlic stuff wins!  I started with just a blended garlic/water deal, and have graduated to this (plus blended garlic):

2 tbsp. canola oil
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 tsp. Murphy’s Oil Soap
1/2 gallon tap water

Before chili pepper spray. Next week: "After" picture. Stupid bugs.

which super-extra works. I pulled all the blighted leaves off, have been spraying with this stuff for a week, and the tomatoes look awesome. My tomatoes, peppers, cukes, and cabbages have fallen prey to grasshoppers and caterpillars already, so I’m using a chili pepper/garlic water spray, which the jury is still out on. It’s only been two days of application, so we’ll see how we are in a week.

Today is remarkably beautiful. 79 degrees, slight wind, low humidity. I got in beans, corn, squash, and watermelon, replacing what was washed away, drowned, or moved to a new location. I’ve got what looks suspiciously looks like corn growing where we definitely did not put it. When the garden comes up fully, I’m going to tell people we did it that way on purpose because we’re non-conformists and eclectic.

Okay! Off to check the fire ant mounds that I poisoned yesterday morning, and if that poison doesn’t work this time, it’s a boiling water enema first thing tomorrow morning…

Meet your foe: Vinegar, bitches!

Oh, and p.s.!!: Nettle update. I’m trying a full-on vinegar attack out in the chicken yard.  Here’s a “Before” picture. As soon as it starts dying, I’ll throw a party and post pictures of us dancing on nettle dirt.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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!

Tagged , , , , , , ,