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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Please Help Me Fight The Monsanto Profit Protection Act

I don't usually get political, especially here, but something is going on in congress that has me pretty riled up.  I don't know about you, but I really, really want to see our food labeled whether or not it's GMO.  Some folks don't believe that genetically engineered foods are harmful and I can't say for a fact that they are; I just don't think they've been around long enough for us to know  the long term effects and I would like to be able to choose not to eat them because I quite frankly don't want to take the risk.  I don't want to ban them altogether; I just want to be able to make an informed choice.

Yesterday, Monsanto’s favorite congressman, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, introduced H.R. 1599 a.k.a. the DARK Act, a bill that would outlaw any federal or state law to require labels on genetically engineered food. Even states that have already passed labeling laws would be prohibited from enforcing them.

With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and anti-labeling lobbying expenditures at an all-time high, the threat to the GMO labeling movement has never been more serious.

We need phones on Capitol Hill to be ringing off the hook with the message that Americans OPPOSE the DARK Act (H.R. 1599) and SUPPORT the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 913).

HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO: Grab your phone right now and dial 1-877-796-1949. You’ll hear more information about the DARK Act, and then you’ll be automatically connected to your Representative’s office.

This bill may as well be called the Monsanto Profit Protection Act, because it was written for one reason: To protect the corporate profits of big pesticide and junk food companies at the expense of our right to know what’s in our food.

If H.R. 1599 is passed, it could set the GMO labeling movement back decades. There has never been a more important time to stand up to Monsanto and their allies with a call your representative right now:

Dial 1-877-796-1949 right now and you’ll be automatically connected with your Representative in Washington.

Please spread this information to as many people as you think will participate.  

And pray.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Still Learning The Hard Way

Not wasting daylight is one thing, but managing your time so that it's maxed out does not leave wiggle room for when something goes horribly wrong.

Everything I've been planning since January is all coming to a head at the same time, which would be bad enough, but to make matters a little more urgent, last weekend part of our fence blew down, so we are having the fences on the sides of our backyard replaced because they are overdue for it.  The tough part is that while I'm still getting bids (get this- the first one was $7600!), the fence area is right where I was going to put the bee hive!  It will be an interesting and nail-biting race to see what shows up first: the bees or the fence crew.  I really don't have another place to put them which is why I chose that spot. Nuts!

In January I broke down and ordered said bee package, which is due to arrive sometime in April, which means I had to have the new hive finished by the end of March. I got that done and I also built one for my SIL, and have parts cuts for a second of my own in case the girls swarm this summer, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  I still need to make sure they don't swarm immediately and take off three days after installation like the last time.

Also in January I started researching perma-culture, kind of by accident. When I first started the garden I had the opportunity to plan it with permaculture in mind but I didn't because I was impatient to get the garden started.  So now I'm planning around established trees and boxed beds, and it is not easy.  In this drawing, which you can see better if you click on it, the established trees are represented by dashed or dotted lines, and the plants I'm going to put in are represented by solid lines. (I'll write a separate post on what I'm planting and why when I get to them.)

This is a detail of the food forest that I'll be creating from the stone fruits orchard.  It will be pretty crowded in there, but the swales (represented by the blue lines)  and access path (represented by by the solid orange line) will allow decent access into it. Most of the plants going in will be either nitrogen-fixing or biomass-generating, which means they'll be support plants for the trees that are there.  This, by the way, is known as guild planting, but more on that later as well.

I am by no means doing this in the right order; permaculture is all about the planning and designing, because the idea is to mimic nature's systems.  For instance, I haven't completely finished the plan because I still need to size the cistern tanks, which are getting put off again because I have to buy fences this spring. Nuts!)  Thus, the area in front of the pergola hasn't been finalized, however, I do know that the clothesline will be there (because it already is and has been for a couple of years), and I'll also install a keyhole bed for the herbs there as well, rather than the standard permaculture herb spiral, which I do not like.  I don't like herb spirals because they require too much soil to build and way too much bending over to get at the herbs in the middle.  So because the rain catchment system isn't in, I don't have the irrigation planned, which really should go in before the plants.  The plants, by the way, are cooling their jets in the garage in buckets of damp pine shavings because I already ordered them, and I already ordered them because I need to get them in as bare roots.  And I can't get them in until we finish.....

...digging swales. Swales, nitrogen fixing plants, and chop and drop biomass plants are the three keys to permaculture success.  Swales slow the progress of rain draining across your property by collecting it and allowing the water to infiltrate the soil.  They allow trees to water themselves by raising the water table. I am hoping that they will water the trees this summer so that I won't have to, because I'll be concentrating on the new plants.  Swales are dug 'on contour', which means that you pick an elevation and draw a line all along the same elevation, which ensures that your water gathers and infiltrates evenly.  On large properties, swales can culminate in a dammed pond, and if positioned above your crops, well, then you have a gravity-fed irrigation system.   We'll fill our swales with hemlock bark, at which point they'll also become access paths.  The swales themselves are eighteen inches wide and a foot deep, and the hemlock bark will hold a lot of water.  Before the hemlock goes in though, I have to spread agricultural gypsum in them to help open the clay so that the water will move through.   We have two more swales to dig, and then I can order the hemlock, which will also be used to cover the established paths.

Chop and drop biomass plants create soil as they decay where they've been dropped, sometimes where there was no soil before, as in the permaculture experiments in Jordan - search 'greening the desert' and look for Geoff Lawton- his work is amazing. Nitrogen fixing plants fertilize that soil and make nitrogen available to adjacent plants.  If you have really sandy, permeable soil, permaculture is a good way to fix it.

Permaculture is becoming more popular and that's a good thing, because after seeing some of the incredible things it's done, I'm convinced that permaculture is the way to correct hydrocycles across the globe and survive and even thrive during climate change.  It doesn't happen over night, though, so start planning now if you've a mind to try it.

And plan for it to get started in the autumn like sane people do so you're not running around trying to do everything at once.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Source: Home Butchering and Meat Processing Supplies

If you're into home butchering and meat processing, Weston Supply appears to have everything you could want or need for that, plus selected items for other providence-producing pursuits.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Let's Get This Garden Party Started

As it's looking like we'll have an early spring (not counting tonight and tomorrow night which will be in the low thirties), and since I always seem to be behind the eight ball when it comes to getting things started on time in the garden, I started my vegetable seeds today. They went into a new Speedling tray (I bought five total) which I got at Peaceful Valley Seeds, along with the drain trays * (I bought only three of these). The Speedling trays come in different cell sizes; I chose trays with seventy-two each 2x2x3 inch cells.  Each cell is an upside down pyramid with an open bottom so that the roots are air pruned and so that you can get the plant out of the tray easily.  Normally, I would avoid buying anything made out of styrofoam, but these had really great reviews online and seem to last awhile, with good care.  One person said they had theirs ten years already and another person has had hers for twenty years!  That's taking good care of them.

I also want to show you my garden planner that I got from Amazon for around thirteen bucks.  It's actually just a calendar planner made by, appropriately, a company called Bloom, but the reason I chose it is that it's perfect for the purpose for which I need it.

It comes with different covers; I chose this one thinking it would be easier to see if I left it in the grass.
First you have the month-at-a-glance page. In addition to writing down all the good dates for planting and noting things like the last average frost date for my area, and the two best dates to set strawberries, I can also note things like when the girls started laying, and the temperatures in my compost piles for a given day.  That way, I can stay on top of the compost and turn it when it needs doing.  This is also the page where I'll be noting breeding and kindling dates for the rabbits when I finally get them.

 What I also like about this particular month-at-a glance page is the space off to the right for a todo list for the month.
At the top in the todo list, I'm listing all the plants I need to plant that month; I'm noting what to start (in the trays) and what to direct seed.  I also have it split by the crops I'm seeding every two weeks, and the main crops that I have to start that month.
Then at the bottom of the todo list, I've listed all the dates for planting above and underground crops by the moon, and have bolded the most favorable dates of the month for them. This information came out of the Farmer's Almanac, which Steve gets for me every year for my birthday in October.  
Then after the month-at-a-glance page, the next pages are organized by week, with plenty of room to write down what I'll be planting on given date.  On days I'm not planting I can list the other chores I need to get done. 
Then at the front of the planner are several blank pages for notes. Here I've listed all the seed varieties I'll be working with this year, and I've noted how many days to maturity (where it was given) and whether it's a cool or warm season crop.
And then finally, I've also noted for myself how many cells and how many seeds per cell, or feet of row, or flats I want to plant at a time.  I also made a note of the perennial vegetables I'm planting this year, but haven't decided any dates for them yet because I've still to work out where to put them.  Most of them can also be planted either spring or autumn, and the potato onions won't even show up until September anyway.  The perennial vegetables will go into my permaculture area, but I've yet to figure that all out.

I am really liking the planner; hopefully it will keep me on task and on target this year.  It would be really nice to not feel like I'm always behind for a change....

* Twenty bucks seems like a lot for the drain trays but they are actually British boots trays and they are super sturdy. I may keep one of them for boots!

Friday, February 20, 2015

We're Back In Eggs

We're back in eggs again.  Lola laid all winter long (with no encouragement from us); we had two eggs yesterday, because Becky was the first in, and then today everyone except Lola laid.

If she wants to take the week off I can't say I blame her.

Clockwise from the top: Izzie, Becky, Annabelle and Tommie

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Check This Out - Honey on Tap Directly From your Beehive

Too bad I can't get one before the beginning of April when the bees show up.  As it is, I'm going to build a Warre hive fairly shortly here.

But check this out-  I want one!!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Been Learning a Lot Lately, Part 3

Charles Dowding (the British gentleman in the video in Part 1) also has a great website and you can check out more of his videos here, which I think are well worthwhile.

His Harvest video has a lot of good information on varieties as well as when to get them in the ground.  I've learned so much from this guy.

Been Learning a Lot Lately, Part 2

I first heard of the term 'occulation cover' in this video.  He has an interesting way to grow carrots and you owe it to yourself to at least check out all his videos on the subject, but it was 'occulation' cover that grabbed my attention.  An internet search showed results for 
occultation (not occulation) which is when something covers something else; its particular use is in astronomy, when one astral body covers another astral body and keeps it from view.

You can get a really good idea how to accomplish occultation for your beds from this link to Bare Mountain Farm who explain it pretty well.

I've notice on my walks in the neighbor-hood that there is a house whose garden is covered all winter long, and I've wondered and wondered at it.  Now I think I know what's going on.  I still can't figure out what it is they are using for the cover material- at first I thought it was linoleum, but it appears to be some sort of fabric, but not your usual landscape fabric. It almost looks like fire hose material, but I've owned a pair of overalls made of fire hose fabric and they did not wear well at all, so I doubt that's it.  In any case, practicing occultation is a very good idea for my corner of the planet because it suppresses weeds really well which get watered all winter long, and it would keep soil nutrients from leaching in said rain.  It would also provide cover for slugs who'd eventually beat it because there is nothing to eat, or provide a great snack for the chickens and ducks, once you get the cover off.

In any case, I'm going to try it.  Starting tomorrow we're supposed to have clear weather for the next eight days, so I'm going to get started tomorrow with cleaning up the yard and getting the first three beds torn apart.  I'll probably keep the two beds that we built from two by twelves- I need the depth for root vegetables (and I don't dare tear them down yet for fear of the wrath of Steve!) but the beds remaining that were made with the Eon deck product will finally have to make their way to the landfill, unfortunately.  They are pretty useless, otherwise.

That's what I've been learning lately, which I've shared with you.  Got anything for me?

Been Learning a Lot Lately, Part 1

All this time allows me to dig around and find useful bits for you.  

I've determined that I need to turn more space over to food production, particularly if I'm going to try to make some money from it (I'm thinking about it- I don't think the corporate world is good for me) and in that vein, I'm going to pull out some beds that I've been using and turn the whole space over to cropping.  This video showed me how I'm going to do it:

I was a little worried that I'd have to wait to get things going but I think this method witll let me get started and do a section of the garden at a time. Woo hoo!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hungry Month

In the old days, folks used to refer to February as 'hungry month', because stores in the root cellar were dwindling down, and there was mighty little in the garden.  One couldn't just nip on down to the store for fresh groceries. If you hadn't planned well, you might certainly go hungry in February.  

February for me is the beginning of the gardening year; this is the month that I start seeds under grow lights in the garage; this is also the month I start preparing beds for new starts. Yesterday I harvested the overwintered leeks and carrots from the winter bed.

To say the carrots were a disappointment would be an understatement.  I usually like 'Caracas' carrots, but they were for the most part really small. I think that is my fault though; I suspect that I got my winter batch into the ground too late last summer.

The leeks were great, though! You really do have to plant them in a trench and hill up to get the white part of the leek to be longer, but it also really helps to start with the right variety.  It turns out that 'King Richard' is the right variety for long whites.

I've been think about this year's garden since mid-January, which is when I needed to get my seed orders in.  At this point, I have all me seed except for one or two items that won't come until next fall. Last spring the seed starts (and failures) really pointed out that I needed to do something about my soil fertility, which I've been working on.  Part of the problem was adding greensand to the soil in the planter boxes, which I didn't know would cause the soil to bind together. It's not as bad as the native clay outside the boxes, but it's far less than ideal.  I've been adding agricultural gypsum to correct my mistake. Then late this last summer and autumn I planted green manures: fava beans, red clover, cayuse oats, and field peas, all of which are winter cover crops.  We've also been composting in situ, and I made the commitment to scale back the garden so that I could grow soil.

The other thing that changed significantly and will impact the garden is our diet.  My Whole30 month did not fix my asthma or eczema, but I can't fault the diet. Avoiding most grains and dairy was a piece of cake, but keeping corn and sugars at bay was a lot harder because they are in everything. Okay, not literally everything, but in enough stuff that I'd figure out too late that I blew it.  I did lose nine pounds, however, and that is huge for me.  So in February, we are going to go through the groceries in the house that are tripping me up, and then in March I start another Whole30, only this time I'll follow the full blown AIP (Auto Immune Protocol), which in addition to no dairy, sugar, grains, alcohol, and legumes, also includes no nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers), eggs (I love eggs!), seeds (black pepper and mustard, among many others), and nuts.There are so many things that you can't eat they say you're better off concentrating on the stuff you can.  This doesn't mean I'm swearing off everything forever- it's just until I can straighten things out so that I can reintroduce things one at a time to see what it is exactly to which I have a food sensitivity. 

One of the things that the change in what we're eating really pointed out to me is that without having to worry about dairy, grains and sugar, folks could really think about getting most of their food from their backyards. And before you point out the number of paleo diets that include baking, I'm not one of those folks whining about missing waffles and pancakes.  For the last month, Steve and I ate vegetables at every meal, in addition to the animal protein we were supposed to be getting, and it's not as hard as you think it is.  I'm not kidding myself here; growing most of my food would take a lot of work, and well-timed planting, as well as the addition of a couple more animals into the mix (I'm thinking ducks in addition to rabbits), and on the face of it, I realize that I have to turn more of the yard into actual production.  I have a lot of un-used space that is in useless walkways or what's left of the lawn.  

So I'm re-thinking permaculture as well, and to that end, I've ordered a couple of perennial vegetables.  I'll go over all that in a later post, though.