Tag Archives: seeds

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.

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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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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!©

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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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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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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!

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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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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.

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REALLY? Really.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Winning!! (Except, not at all.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Oh, GMO…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW DO WE FIGHT THIS BULLSHIT???

Sign Petitions:

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

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

*Topic for a whoooole other rant.

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In Between…

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

Southern carnage ensues

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Heirloom Sourcing/Monsatan Follow-up

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

UK:

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

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

Canada:

South Africa:

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

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

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

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

Fantastico!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Never Dull; Sometimes Gloomy

On a much happier subject, here’s a farm update. This weekend the chef had to work on Saturday, and good God, the torrential rains would have kept us from working outside anyway. The Brazos Valley here in Texas received between 4-6″ of rain in a 72-hour period, and yesterday alone added about another inch and a half. Then, it was suddenly gone. We have lakes and streams and impromptu creeks and bogs and swampy marsh all over the property.

But that didn’t stop the fiance from chainsawing down several dead pecans trees (when the sun finally burst through). These were fully mature pecans that had been producing great bushels of nuts before last year’s drought. It made us super-sad to lose them, but we’re honoring them by incorporating them into a big cactus garden we’re starting at the entrance to the property. We cut some of the larger, more interestingly-shaped limbs into what will be our bed borders, to be accented by large rocks, then cacti and yard art in the beds. Part of the yard art is going to be based on our old toilet, and that’s all I’m going to say about that until it’s done.

Besides that, we installed a new toilet this weekend!  Thank you, porcelain Gods.

Before: Potential ass chiggers and listeria

After: The Toilet Angel Choir sings

Since it was a foreshortened weekend, that’s about all we got done. A got new rubber galoshes and we figured out how to finally get our white clothes white. This stuff, Super Iron Out, is a miracle product. All of our whites were yellow and orange from the high iron content in our well water. Until we can afford a whole house filtration system. I thought we were stuck looking like hobos, despite having tried several other products and methods to get the freaking clothes white. I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this stuff before, since it’s been around since the ’50’s. But yay! White clothes!

The hens are cruising along, getting bigger and making a little more noise. They haven’t come out of the coop yet into their yard, nor have they laid any eggs. Is that weird?

More rain today, then four days clear, which hopefully will get the gardens dry enough to work in. I have SO MANY seeds and seedlings yet to get in the ground; it’s maddening to have to skip planting for this long. So today I’ll probably post one more time here, start some herb seedlings, vacuum the house (yay new belt!!), do the rest of the laundry, and finish the wedding invitations.

Oh, speaking of which, for the fellow blogger who asked about my wedding boots, here they are!!

The very best boots ever

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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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Oh, the Dumbness

I’m a pretty smart person but I am the first to point out my limitations, brain-wise. Last night I had a startling realization regarding the gardens, specifically the seeds, that has me kind of bummed. It’s fixable, but I’m kicking myself.

The exact opposite of "heirloom"

See, I thought buying organic seeds was the most awesome thing ever, and in some ways it is. Organic is clean, healthy, and reasonably reliable to not give you eyeball tumors. So we’ve laid in a bunch of organic seeds, germinated them, raised them to young adulthood, planted them in the garden.

However, “organic” is also not a guarantee of “heirloom,” and if you’re concerned about seed saving and sustainability, which I am, you’ll not get reliable results in the second generation of planting. That aspect, which I *know* about, never even factored into my choosing organic-only seeds. It rested in the back of my brain doing me absolutely no good until I’d already made the mistake.

Last night, the fiance brought home some organic seeds from Home Depot, and they’re cool. All of a sudden, my brain goes, “Wait a second. Does ‘organic’ mean they’re also ‘heirloom” or ‘non-hybrid’?” And immediately my brain replied with, “Probably not, or they’d be labeled ‘heirloom’ or ‘non-hybrid.'” Several gardening friends and some panicked Googling confirmed this. By mistake only one of those packets of organic also happens to be heirloom (maybe 30 different plants?).

It’s like one of those fucked up questions from a junior high IQ test: “A train leaves Amsterdam at 6:25 a.m…” only it turns out the answer is: “Donna’s not very bright.”

Shit.

We’ve always looked at this farm from a sustainability viewpoint, with an eye towards learning how to save seeds and exchange them, how to live off the land season after season, eventually coming to rely only upon ourselves. Organic only seeds does nothing to promote that. Trying to germinate and grow reliable varieties from hybrid seeds is a no-go. They can fail to germinate, fail to blossom and fruit, or will almost always return a new variety that is not as hardy as the original, or is mutated in some way that renders it unusable as a seed source in the future. Good for one generation only. Again, I KNEW that. And I’m sure the organic-only vegetables and fruits will be delicious and frankly, it’s not a hugely expensive mistake, except in terms of time. But it makes me want to smack myself.

There’s a solution to this. I’ve only used one-third of the total garden space available and there’s still time to get seeds germinated and into the ground, or even direct sow and have them come up this season. So today I’m cruising Seed Savers Exchange and choosing the basics, organic AND heirloom. Also going to give Baker Creek Heirloom a try, but only if they have organic options.

And know this: If Donna leaves on a train from Amsterdam at 6:25 a.m., she’s not going to fuck this up again (and she’s going to need a shitload of coffee).

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I Heart Chickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Real Farmer!!

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

Native American genius at work

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

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

We're fancy!

Potager (French for kitchen garden)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seed Time and Anal Retention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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