Tag Archives: practicality

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.

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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.

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Tragedy and the Second Amendment

I’d like to share our heartfelt sadness for the lives lost and the people touched by the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. I will honor the memory of those lost by never mentioning that fucktarded madman’s name aloud or in print. That useless piece of shit deserves to be banished from humanity, by whatever means necessary.

We don’t dial 911.

That said, I’m going to share that here on the farm, we are gun friendly. I won’t share what we own or what we wish we had (oh, chef has a looong list). Guns for us out in the rural Texas countryside mean safety from predators, both human and non-human. They mean food if the system breaks down. They mean a sense of security for me, when I’m home alone during the day while the chef’s at work. Security for myself and security for our animals and belongings. In America, (and especially in Texas) they mean I might not even need a gun to be safe from human predators, because the chances of you breaking into a house in rural Texas and finding an unarmed home-owner are probably 100 to 1. Go ahead, asshole, try to rape me or steal my TV.

Here in the United States, the right to own guns is VERY polarizing.  One could spend days arguing for or against. It’s as divisive as the arguments regarding capital punishment.

To me, it is another instance in which one crazy fuckhole can ruin everything for everybody. That this tragedy has turned into another excuse for the powers that be to try to take away American citizens’ Constitutional rights to own guns angers me. Hugely. Like a sun-sized fireball of anger.

This is not about our right to bear arms, American politicians. United Nations? This is not about your wishes to take away our Constitutionally-mandated right to own firearms. This is about one piece of batshit crazy TURD who felt the need to smear his brand of shit stain over the populace. This is about one person’s actions, not the entire population’s.

What I know is that folks who take the CHL classes, take the certification exam, get their guns and their license to carry concealed are not crazy fuckers intent on harming anyone. They’re generally gun nerds who pour over websites drooling over stock finishes and caliber sizes. Even the gun nerds who DON’T have a CHL are generally just safety- and security-conscious and watch a lot of Military Channel. They like Chuck Norris movies, chicks with big tits, and shooting at targets with Osama Bin Laden’s face on them. BIG FUCKING DEAL.

In many parts of this country, gun ownership is generational. I grew up shooting handguns and shotguns with my Dad and my brothers. We didn’t hunt; my Dad just had guns. Big fucking deal.

Gun nerds have ranges, both outdoor and indoor, that they frequent to get hours and hours of practice in towards the goal of being expert marksmen/women. If they live in the country, they might even have an amateur range in their own backyard (I hear gunshots all the time out here in the country, btw. Too many to be considered just driving away a coyote…These dudes are practicing with their semi-autos). They are sometimes NRA members. They probably vote for whomever is going to support the Constitution (which is neither current candidate, in my opinion). They congregate with other gun nerds either online or in person and talk about wind drift and twist and Picatinny rails. Or if they’re like me (not a gun nerd), they occasionally practice at home, sometimes buy ammo at WalMart, and rarely even think about guns, even though they’re in the house. Safeties are on, plenty of ammo, we sleep better at night. Period. Personal choice. Totally legal.

Know who DOESN’T get training or legally license their weapons? That’s right: criminals.

Fact: The murder rate is in Houston since private gun ownership rates have gone up is down by 37% from 2010.

Coincidence? Who the hell knows.

What I DO KNOW is that an asshole fired those weapons. A misanthropic, stinky piece of dogshit killed those innocent people. Society didn’t do it. Satan didn’t do it. Inadequate security didn’t do it. Batman didn’t do it. A lone fuckwit did it.

Keep your fucking reactionary laws off our farm, thanks.

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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.

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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.
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Wherein I Whine…

So last night I’m all braggin’ on how I’m a badass because [from Facebook]: “I’ve discovered that I’ve got actually THREE scorpion stings in the same area (think *BAP*BAP*BAP*), because they’ve turned kind of hard, itchy, and (maybe) necrotic. So I’m not only a badass, I might be dying. Good-bye, non-scorpion-bitten friends.” and how I’m like TRIPLE THE BADASS because I got three stings instead of just one.

I’m a great big baby.  I had a grasshopper-related meltdown on my way to the big garden today, that had it been witnessed, would have resulted in my immediate hospitalization.

Only slightly worse than the farm…Also, these are locusts. Like I give a shit.

The grasshoppers have been bad here, but never, ever this bad. They.are.everywhere. They drown in the pool and clog the filter. They’re losing their fear of people. The dog brings them in and eats their legs off, leaving me to step on squirming grasshopper torsos. I go outside to get the old Siamese out of the grass (he likes to sleep in the sun), and he’s covered in grasshoppers. One was on my shirt, sitting right on my boobs last night when I came inside and I had a baby spaz attack to the point where Allan grabbed my arm and tried to pull me away from myself. I think he thought I was being attacked by a cobra.

THEY FREAK ME OUT.

*Scene: Me walking along in the grass this morning around 7:00 a.m., surrounded by a veritable cloud of grasshoppers, more than I’ve ever seen or been around, EVER. Kind of like the picture, but WORSE, because it was happening to ME.

*Me* Getting more and more freaked out as I walk along, I start to wave my picking bag around in front of me, and start to yell, “Fuck OFF! I fucking HATE YOU! Just DIE!” And then one got down my boot (certainly not the first time) and I finally lost my shit. I started crying and yelling, “I fucking HATE IT HERE, ALLAN!* This is the biggest ball-sack of terrible EVER!” and jumped around on one foot shaking out my boot and snot running down my grown-up woman-baby face.

But I pulled up my grown-up lady shorts and went into the back garden anyway, and picked about a ton of tomatoes, the tears subsiding a little as I picked and sweated. Then I fed and watered the geese and chickens, and at least there are no grasshoppers there. They eat the SHIT out of those things.

And I’ll have to suck it up here in a little bit and go out and do my evening watering, and put the ladies up for the night, and deal with those assholes again. Because that’s what needs to be done.

It has come to this: I no longer hate poison.

NOTE TO HUSBAND: BUY 600 GALLONS OF THIS STUFF OR SIMILAR, OR I’M MOVING TO SASKATCHEWAN.

*He was at work while I was yelling at him here.

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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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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.

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EEeeee(p)!!

Lovelace, FTW!

Remember the awful things I said about my chickens in this post? Well, I take some of it back, because look what I found today in our overgrown chicken yard!

Thanks, sister!

Now if dummy-head would just discover the awesome nesting boxes that are in the much cooler, safer chicken coop, this would be much easier. Does a single hen roost in more than one spot? I have ten eggs here; have to test them to see if the eight I took are any good. Then perhaps wander around the yard tomorrow and see if there are any more surprises…

So excited! Ten eggs! That means she a) can lay in the heat and b) wasn’t just being obstinate! Heh…

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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.

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Follow-up: Organic Nightmare

Healthy Mammoth sunflower

Regarding my post yesterday, 2,4-D: Organic Nightmare, there has been some movement. And wow, I never ever thought I’d say this, but I think these sprayers did the right thing.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a return phone call from M*********, the leaseholder. He explained that he’d been out of town, and returned my call as soon as he got the message (which may or may not be true*), and asked what he could do for me.  I stated to him, “We have a problem,” and went on to explain how we have an organic garden here, and how 2,4-D may have contaminated our gardens. He listened to me very patiently while I ranted a little, and then said, “Well, I’ve been using the same sprayers for a long time, and I’m going to contact them right this minute and find out what happened. 2,4-D shouldn’t have been used near your property, for sure, and I’m going to find out what is going on. Is it okay if they contact you at this number?” And I said “yes.”

Not more than a half hour later I got a call from a guy at an ag supply place in town with whom we’re fairly familiar. He asked if there were any questions he could answer about the spraying that occurred, and asked if he could come out and survey the property. He listened to me rail on as well, very patiently, and expressed his regret that 2,4-D was used anywhere near a working farm, especially an organic one. He shared that he has a home garden as well, and would not have been happy to have 2,4-D sprayed close to what his family eats. We set up a time this morning for him to come out.

He showed up this morning a little after 9:00 a.m. with the tractor operator, which, transparency-wise, impressed me. He shook my hand and thanked me for allowing him to come out. I showed him the gardens, and told him which way the wind had been blowing, how the gusts had been working, and how the tractor operator had been spraying. He told me about his company, how they do everything they can to be good neighbors, and how they consider themselves stewards of the land in this valley, even if they do use conventional agriculture methods. He told me about the organic options available at his company. He explained that the preparation of 2,4-D is the amine and not the ester, which greatly reduces wind drift. He explained how high the spray nozzles are, and how the ideal particulate (400 microns) disperses across a leaf, not bouncing off and not blowing away. He described how the tractor operator measures his boundaries (with foam), and how he ensures his own safety in the HEPA filtered cab.

I explained our stance on 2,4-D, on GMOs, and on anything non-organic. I told him I’m in contact with Texas A&M Ag Sciences, and how I’m a blogger who advocates organics. I showed him how much work we’ve done, and told him how heart-breaking it was that it might have all been undone by carelessness. I told him that we didn’t necessarily feel like there had been any malicious intent, but carelessness can have the same damaging effects.

Here’s the thing: I think we might be okay. We talked for a long time about how the effects would have manifested themselves if there had been significant spray drift. He showed me right across the fence similar weeds which were clearly toppled over or showing signs of distress, and feet away on my side, the same weed looking healthy as ever. I don’t know if we’re okay yet, because 2,4-D drift can take up to 14 days to show itself. I don’t know yet if our plants are going to show signs of damage or not, or if they do if the yields will be affected. I do know that I don’t feel like crying or throwing up anymore, and that my stomach has eased up on the knots.

Four days from now, he’ll be back out and we’ll look for signs of damage on the tomatoes and sunflowers (the two most sensitive barometers of damage). Then, a week after that, he’ll be back out. We’re not looking for a pay-day here. We’re not looking for a get-rich scheme. We’re only looking to be made whole if something is indeed wrong with our gardens.

Thanks for everybody’s kind words yesterday. It really helped, knowing that so many people understand how distressing this was, in our tiny little part of the organic world.

*If he’d called me back right away, I might not have contacted the Texas Department of Agriculture. I’m not out to get anybody into undue trouble here, but not calling me back asap was not a great move. Even if I think the “See Something, Say Something” campaign from the DHS is a bunch of alarmist, big-government, controlling bullshit, I DO believe in it in the garden.

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Farm Wedding

Well, we did it. Got hitched at the farm. It was a small but fierce gathering, and everything I’d hoped for was included: Family, friends, reunions, good food, good music, marrying my best friend. The groom gave farm tours, we had a taco truck, and the bride was a little flibbertyjibbet, but it was a beautiful day and I’m grateful to everyone who helped share the love.

Pictures!!

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Chicken Lies

Assholes.

I’m blogging angry: You’ve been warned.

I’m going to share what from what I can tell no one else will: Chickens suck. I don’t mean, “Oh, they really get on my nerves and I wish they were sweeter!” No, I mean, they suck and I sometimes wish they’d spontaneously combust into a fine blood mist punctuated with feathers.

“Oh, get chickens! They’re so sweet! They bond with the first human they see! They’ll eat out of your hand and scamper about your feet and play cards with you and be your best buds and give you eggs and when it comes time to decide if you’re going to eat them, you’ll think, ‘I couldn’t POSSIBLY eat my best friend!'”

Bullshit. Vile lies and terrible deception.

Here’s a picture of them from a few months ago. They’re not even worth busting the camera out to take a more recent shot, one that would show they’re much bigger and more slathered in evil than before. They don’t have names anymore. They are Bitchface 1 and Bitchface 2; don’t care which is which.

See, a few months ago, we bought six pullets. We raised them inside for a month or so, then divided the chicken coop into two areas, one for the grown ladies, and one for the pullets (as advised by all the forums and books). We’ve had about a months’-worth of get-to-know-you time, and I’ve been letting everybody out together for supervised yard time and while there’s some pecking, mostly they just run around and ignore each other. Then we got six goslings. We raised them inside for a few weeks, and they just got so big so fast (and are SHIT MACHINES) that it was time for them to go outside into the pullet pen (like they suggest in all the lying forums and bullshit books). They got along great! The geese are actually already bigger than the pullets, run around like happy little idiots, eating bugs and grass and playing in their water pool. The pullets ignore them, and the big ladies couldn’t get to them, one way or another.

Keep in mind we spent three weekends building these birds a secure, deluxe coop with a great big yard. I feed and water them twice a day. I talk to them and try to pet them all and give them treats and scraps. They get let out of their coop first thing in the morning, checked on several times a day, then secured in their coop at night. It’s not as if I threw a bunch of day-old chicks into a thistle yard and yelled, “Good luck, bitches! I’d better find some eggs tomorrow!”

Then about a week ago, I found one of the adult ladies in with the geese; she had flown over the barrier. They all seemed to be doing fine, so I started letting the geese hang with everybody else. Two nights ago, I decided to let them all sleep in the coop as a group. BIG MISTAKE. I got up in the morning yesterday, and there were two dead goslings, their throats pecked out.  I cried and cried and put them in a garbage bag and said things like, “I’m so sorry!” and cried some more. Because I’ve really gotten attached to the geese! The chickens are kind of mechanical, dead-eyed eating and pooping machines. They’d just as soon I was a robot food and water dispenser rather than a human, for all the warmth they’ve shared since day one. The geese, however, are sweet and cuddly and inquisitive and fun-loving.

So last night, we reinforced the gosling/pullet area with chicken wire from top to bottom, and beefed up the joins. This morning, I came in to another dead gosling on the babies’ side, and a dead Cuckoo Maran pullet on the big girl side. The pullets had pecked the gosling to death. The CM had found a break in the fence and got in with the big girls, and got pecked to death.

So the plan now, until we can figure out another solution, is to put the big pecking slut-sacks outside, the murderous asshole pullets on the big girl side (inside the coop), and the geese in their regular spot in the coop. Those jerk-faced grown-up chickens can deal with raccoons or whatever until we can afford to make another run and permanently segregate everybody’s lives into Chicken vs. Goose. Because I am NOT waking up to another dead gosling.

It’s not even like those whores are giving me eggs! Six months old and no eggs. And from what I understand, with the upcoming heat of summer, I can expect few or no eggs until fall. They are looking more and more like dinner, every time I walk out to that yard.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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Pesticides/BPA – Another Rant!

I subscribe to a ton of newsletters and Facebook feeds regarding sustainability and organics and farming, and I just ran across this piece called, “Foods That Contain the Highest Amount of Pesticides.” Which just pisses me off. Not because of the information (I love learning), but it reminds me that my local grocery store only offers a few organic options. We were shocked to learn that they offer any at ALL, to be honest, but it is only potatoes, apples, oranges, and something else I can’t remember. (I’m even starting my potato garden from their organic russets!) We live in a rural part of Texas, where peoples’ idea of “organic” is “that hippie shit that pot smokers eat.”

And wait, holy cow, awesomeness plus. As I was writing this, my FB popped up with THIS:

Thanks, Greenpeace!

Greenpeace Shoppers’ Guide to GMO-Free Food.

How exciting! I’m no fan in general of their shenanigans, but dang, this saves me a lot of work, because frankly, I was setting about making my own list to share with you all. What a ton of work I’ve been spared! Cool. (I know it’s for Canada, but I recognize everything on that list as being available in the United States.)

Anyway, pesticides and herbicides…I’d rather skip the potential cancer (and every other) risk inherent in those chemical controls, but until our garden comes in, all we can do is hope for the best by avoiding what we can,buying organic when we can, and doing diligent washing when it’s questionable.

We’ve stopped buying canned goods because of the BPAs…And Oh My God, I’m getting pissed again, just doing research on the horrors of BPA. Look at this bullshit piece of propaganda, which I’m fixing to refute.

“Myth: BPA causes heart disease.”  Truth: BPA causes heart disease: BPA Chemical May Be Tied to Heart Disease. Chemical BPA Linked to Heart Disease, Study Confirms.

“Myth: BPA causes cancer.” Truth: BPA causes cancer: New Study Links In Utero BPA Exposure to Breast Cancer. Study: BPAs, Parabens Linked to Breast Cancer.

“Myth: A harmful amount of BPA gets into your food from storage in polycarbonate food containers.” Truth: A harmful amount of BPA gets into your food from storage in polycarbonate food containers: The main way that people are exposed is through eating and drinking contaminated food and beverages from containers containing BPA.

“Myth: BPA exposure from sales receipts can pose health risks.” Truth: BPA exposure from sales receipts can pose health risks: Synthetic Estrogen BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts.

Sometimes, there's not enough dynamite.

“Myth: Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to a large number of serious diseases.” Truth: Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to a large number of serious diseases: Google “BPA health studies. Thousands of links to hundreds of studies. (Here’s just ONE from the NIH: Expert Panel on BPAs.)

“Myth: Government agencies rely on industry-funded studies and ignore other science.” Truth: Government agencies rely on industry-funded studies and ignore other science: FDA Draft Decision on BPA Deeply Flawed.

“Myth: Government regulators are heavily influenced by industry lobbyists.” Truth: Government regulators are heavily influenced by industry lobbyists: How Lobbyists are Spinning Weak Science to Defend BPA.  Opening the Industry Playbook: Myths and Truths in the Debate Over BPA Regulation.

Myth: Government regulators routinely defer to industry officials and delay regulatory action to restrict BPA at the request of industry. Truth: See above.

Myth: An increasing number of state lawmakers believe BPA is a risk; the federal government has not been upfront about the dangers. Truth: See above.

Hell, every single link on Wikipedia leads to evil.

Screw those chemical guys AND the FDA. We don’t buy anything with bisphenol A in it, and know this, many canned goods companies (like Campbell’s) are phasing out their use. But until that time, get rid of any plastic containers that have the recycling code “7” on them. Buy “BPA-Free” products. Avoid canned goods for now. Be safe, folks! They don’t care about anything but the almighty dollar.

Okay, enough of this angry-making jazz. I’m off to put sparklies in the garden to scare the birds and rabbits, build a bigger enclosure for the chicks, and write a blog piece that hopefully will win us some stuff!!

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Monsatan Lovers

Delicious glyphosate!

I recently received a comment from a fellow blogger in response to my blog post, “Sustainability vs. Monsatan.” I was going to just delete it because it is unbelievably ROOD and condescending, but I’m feeling righteous this morning and have decided to rebut his unsolicited patronizing blurb of wrongness. Here is his comment, unedited by me or anybody else:

“Submitted on 2012/03/16 at 8:42 pm

Obviously a fear mongering blog post. GMO’s are feared because the average person does not understand them. The GMO’s that once were banned in many parts of the world are now being accepted since the science proved the fears were not real.

There have been long term tests of the effects of GMO’s and they are still going on. I’m not talking about one test, I’m talking about scientifically replicable tests. Testing that takes years to prove one way or the other. So far there is no difference in the effect of GMO’s versus non-GMO’s. The tests that seem to show an adverse effect from GMO’s, show about the same amount of damage as washing your hands with soap and do not have a control to show what a non-GMO does. The word is as stated above, potentially, so far, no difference.

GMO’s do much more than just making a plant resistant to a chemical. Some of the most exciting GMO’s are ones that make plants have better root systems so that they can survive in dryer conditions. There are also some GMO’s that are making plants so that they are more efficient, thus they use less fertilizer, or even survive insect infestations that previously would have killed them. There are so many GMO’s that you should not lump them all into one Monsatan pot. In fact, Monsanto is not the only company that is producing GMO’s, nor were they the first.

By all means keep eating heirloom varieties of plants. We need those varieties for protection from some as yet unknown problem, but please, it does not have to be organic or heirloom to be sustainable. Eat them for the taste or the novelty, not for some potential, but never proven problem.

Beware though, some of the organic practices are just as scary as non-organic ones. I’m thinking of things like organic peanuts that leaves them open to a natural toxin. There are many real natural things out there that WILL kill you or make you sick. There is nothing potential about it.

Sustainability means so many different things to so many different people that it is hard to peg down. Please do not confuse a love of the old ways of doing things with being sustainable.”

I learned your name because your email address is attached to the comment. So I Googled you. Your name is Michael W*****, and you farm 880 acres of corn and soybeans in W*****, MN with your dad. That’s cool. I farm 4 acres of about 40 different things in TX with my fiance. The major difference here (besides size and variety of veg) is that I’m in no way endorsed by any company, nor do I rely upon any corporation’s contracts, money, or largesse to maintain my little grow-op. I am willing to bet one million (hypothetical) dollars that you depend on Monsanto seed for your livelihood, thereby negating any opinion you have on the subject as highly prejudiced and worth a hill of crap (in my opinion). (Actually, that’s doing a disservice to a hill of crap, which I can use in my compost pile.) If I’m wrong about that, then I apologize.

However, I will rebut every daft, subjective idea you have espoused on my blog, and quite easily, because I know how to read, do research, back it up (as I did in the original piece), and contrary to your rude assertion, DO understand GMOs.

For purposes of this discussion, I’m going to stick with Monsanto GEs and Roundup (specifically glyphosate) Ready Seed, although I did mention Dow and BASF in my original piece (again, you misspoke).

First, allow me to address this little nugget of “wisdom”:

“There have been long term tests of the effects of GMO’s and they are still going on. I’m not talking about one test, I’m talking about scientifically replicable tests. Testing that takes years to prove one way or the other. So far there is no difference in the effect of GMO’s versus non-GMO’s. The tests that seem to show an adverse effect from GMO’s, show about the same amount of damage as washing your hands with soap and do not have a control to show what a non-GMO does. The word is as stated above, potentially, so far, no difference.”

I’ve taken the liberty of blending GMO research with research on glyphosate/Roundup and Roundup Ready seed, because that’s what my initial post was about.

So basically, however well-meaning your comment may seem on its face (and I doubt that), you’re simply wrong. If you find studies that find Roundup Ready Seeds/Roundup/Glyphosate/GMOs are harmless, you’ll also find that they’re prepared by the GMO corporations themselves by their paid scientists, with no oversight, no non-funded peer review, no independent analysis. I’d just as soon trust a fox to guard my chickens.

Also, since my original piece was specifically about those topics, I did not address other genetically modified organisms or systems. Of course I know there are other GMO systems and manufacturers; anyone with a sixth grade education knows that. I also believe that there are certainly some cool innovations in the world of GM crops and animals, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean I’d advocate their willy-nilly dissemination across the globe before enough unbiased scientific research and evidence proves them absolutely safe for consumption or proximity to humans or other animals.

Peru, Hungary, France, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, and Portugal all have complete or partial bans of GMOs. Do they just not understand GMOs because they’re “average” people who fear what they are too dumb to comprehend?

With regard to the remainder of your comment, it’s absurd that you’d imply that choosing sustainability is “old-fashioned.” There is not a way to be more forward-thinking than choosing a sustainable approach to farming and life in general.  Or your assertion that, “There are many real natural things out there that WILL kill you or make you sick.” No shit, Sherlock. I guess I already knew that rattlesnakes are poisonous and that’s why we don’t pet them on the head. And yes, there ARE many ways to view sustainability. My entire blog is a testament to the way WE SPECIFICALLY have chosen. I’d no sooner go over to your blog and imply you’re simple-minded than I would back-talk my mama, and it’d be pretty cool if you didn’t drop in on random strangers’ blogs and tell them they’re feeble.

You seem like a very nice person. But please, believe what you want and keep it to yourself and off my blog. I’ll stay here in Texas and mind my own heirloom/organic operation, and only occasionally fret about GMO drift and the fact that Monsatan might sue me for copyright infringement.

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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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Inside: Rain Days

Not my photo...too lazy to grab camera. *sigh* Wish I had Pop-Tarts.

I’ve had to declare “Rain Days” as if they were “Snow Days” and school was cancelled, like when I used to be in junior high/high school in the suburbs of Chicago. While those usually involved hours and hours of MTV, hot chocolate, Pop-Tarts, and gabbing on the (corded) phone, my grown-up Texas rain days are filled with reasons to put things off, a general feeling of malaise, gross chores and not getting my MF’ing gardening done. Some of the babies are in and protected, but the high winds, rain, and cold temperatures for the last three days and the upcoming three means no weeding, no planting, no mulching, no composting, no farm scampering.*

Come on, Texas, give me a break:

Today: Periods of rain and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 49. Northeast wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Tonight: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 46. Northeast wind between 10 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 55. East wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%.
Saturday Night: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Low around 55. Southeast wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Sunday: Showers and thunderstorms. High near 68. South wind between 5 and 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
Sunday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 56.

I finalized my heirloom/organic seed lists, and I’m sharing them with you! (Who doesn’t love a good list?)

Seed Savers Exchange

  • Empress Beans (bush)
  • Burpee’s Golden Beets
  • Copenhagen Market Cabbage
  • Danvers Carrots
  • Golden Bantam Corn
  • Doubled Yield Cucumbers
  • Li Strada de Ganida Eggplant
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Red Romaine Lettuce
  • Sweet Granite Melons
  • Red Wethersfield Onions
  • Green Arrow Peas
  • Thai Hot Chili Peppers
  • Ruby King Sweet Peppers
  • McMahone’s TX Bird Hot Peppers
  • Sunset Runner Beans
  • Bloomsdale Spinach
  • Lady Godiva Squash
  • Black Sea Man Tomatoes
  • Blondkopfchen Tomatoes
  • Halladay’s Mortgage Lifter Tomatoes
  • Purple de Milpa Tomatillos
  • Cherokee Moon & Stars Watermelon (yellow fleshed)
  • Genovese Basil
  • Dark Opal Purple Basil
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Grandma Einck’s Dill
  • Hidcote Blue Lavender
  • Giant Italian Parsley
  • French Fingerling Potatoes

Baker Heirloom Seeds

  • Bleu de Solaise Leeks
  • Lightning Mix Habaneros
  • Thyme
  • Broad Leaf Sage
  • Common Oregano

Annie’s Heirlooms

  • Red Bunching Onion
  • Spearmint
  • Rosemary

I’m giving Seed Savers the bulk of the business because I admire their work, they have flat pricing, and a great selection. The other places are picking up where I couldn’t find heirloom/organics at SS.

So while I wait for seeds to come in, I’ve got seedlings to start in the greenhouse, household chores to do, wedding stuff to take care of.

HOW BORING! I want to play with the chickens and dig in the dirt and run around the yard with my dog like a babbling moron!

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*All this bitching is foreshadowing to the real bitching which shall commence the first day the temperature gets over 92 degrees, and then lasts like that for four months. You’ve been warned.

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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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