Thursday, October 30, 2014

GMO and What It does to us

I read this article the other day after Ralph found it and I thought I would post it in its entirety. I received permission from The Center Of Food Safety. They have an incredible amount of very good Information for us to apply to our continuing increase of knowledge of food and its safety!

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Debunking Popular Myths about GE Crops Portrayed in the Media
By Debbie Barker, International Programs Director, Center for Food Safety
September 19th, 2014
Response to The New Yorker “Seeds of Doubt” Article, August 25, 2014
Scientific Review & Contributions: Bill Freese; Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D; Martha Crouch, Ph.D
The recent article, “Seeds of Doubt,” in the August 25, 2014 issue of The New Yorker by Michael Specter echoes common myths about genetically engineered (GE) crops and omits legitimate scientific critiques of the technology. The resulting article fails to deliver the high level of integrity and journalism that is expected of The New Yorker.
Biotechnology corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising and marketing each year. Monsanto, one of the leading biotech companies, spends from $87 million to $120 million annually on advertising, much of it focused on GE crop technology. The industry spends millions more on lobbyingopposing ballot initiatives to label GE foods, and further promotional activities. Such massive spending has effectively framed a favorable narrative about GE crops and foods in several major media outlets, including The New Yorker.
The frame of this particular article presents Vandana Shiva, Ph.D., as the leader of an international movement in opposition to GE crops at the expense of science-based solutions to feed the world’s poor. However, it is the failure of this technology— not Luddite fear mongering—that has prompted scientists, academics, policymakers, governments and regular people to question the biotech industry.
Rather than fully examining important scientific literature on genetic engineering, the author reasserts some of the most common—and most debunked—myths about the technology. Here are a few of the myths that The New Yorker perpetuated:
Myth: Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops are a Solution to Hunger and Malnutrition—After spending hundreds of millions of dollars and over 30 years of research, the promises that GE crops would feed the world and provide enhanced nutrition have failed.
Myth: GE Crops Use Fewer and Safer Chemicals—Instead, GE crops have increased overall usage of pesticides by hundreds of millions of pounds, and next generation GE crops will further increase pesticide usage of even stronger, more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba.
Myth: GE Crops Increase Yields—Research has demonstrated that herbicide-resistant corn and soybeans in the U.S. have shown no yield increases. Yield increases seen in Bt crops, including The New Yorker article’s citation of yield increases for Bt cotton in India, are primarily due to conventional breeding or other factors, not genetic engineering.
Major studies affirm that inexpensive agroecological farming methods can increase yields as much or more than industrial agriculture systems while also reducing use of chemicals and water, and improving social and economic well- being.
These myths are debunked in further detail below and some of the great successes of ecological farming are highlighted.
Myth: GE Crops Are a Solution to Hunger and MalnutritionThe New Yorker article cites golden rice as an example of a GE crop that could alleviate malnutrition in poor countries. For at least two decades, biotech proponents have promoted golden rice—engineered to have high levels of carotenoids, which are precursors of vitamin A—as the solution to blindness due to vitamin A deficiency.
However, golden rice is not on the market because a host of intellectual property issues and technical problems have inhibited its development for over a decade. Only a few months ago, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)—charged with research, analysis, and testing of golden rice—released a report revealing that the “average yield [of GE golden rice] was unfortunately lower than that from comparable local varieties already preferred by farmers.” IRRI also stated: “It has not yet been determined whether daily consumption of golden rice does improve the vitamin A status of people who are vitamin A deficient and could therefore reduce related conditions such as night blindness.”
Golden rice is not an anomaly. In early 2000, based on work carried out as a post-doctoral fellow at Monsanto, African plant pathologist Florence Wambugu directed a project to develop a virus- resistant GE sweet potato to be grown in Kenya. New Scientist reported on the project: “In Africa [GE] food could almost literally weed out poverty.” Forbes magazine reported, “While the West debates the ethics of genetically modified food, Florence Wambugu is using it to feed her country.” However, these articles were published a few years before field trials were even completed. The results of the failed field trials were quietly published in 2004. Kenya’s Daily Nation reported: “Trials to develop a virus resistant sweet potato through biotechnology have failed.”
Around the same time, breeders in Uganda and Mozambique successfully developed disease-resistant sweet potatoes with high beta-carotene content using conventional breeding, and which also had much higher productivity.
Similarly, the biotech industry touted that cassava, one of the most important starch crops in Africa, was enriched with greatly increased protein content using genetic engineering. However, the research article claiming the elevated protein was later retracted when it was found that the purported increased protein did not exist.
But, as with sweet potato and many other crops, non- GE breeding is making progress toward improving cassava for many traits, from yield and nutritional enhancement to drought tolerance. Several of these improved varieties are already being grown by farmers in Africa. Yet these successes are not often reported.
Myth: GE Crops Use Fewer and Safer Chemicals— Over 99 percent of GE crop acres are either: 1) herbicide-resistant (HR) crops that withstand repeated broad spectrum dousing of one or more herbicides to kill weeds without harming the crop; and/or 2) insect-resistant, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops that produce toxins in their tissues that kill target pests.
Over five of every six acres of GE crops planted in the world today (85 percent) are herbicide-resistant; nearly all of them are Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, canola and sugar beets. The active ingredient in Roundup, the company’s flagship herbicide, is glyphosate. Roundup Ready crops have had several negative environmental impacts. A recent, peer-reviewed assessment based on pesticide data from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that Roundup Ready crops have resulted in 527 million pounds more herbicides being sprayed in the U.S. than would likely have been the case without these crops (based on figures from 1996 to 2011).
The enormous use of glyphosate with Roundup Ready crops has also generated an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds, sometimes referred to as “super weeds.” Virtually unknown prior to Roundup Ready crops, these weeds now infest over 60 million acres of cropland in the U.S., an area the size of Wyoming, and represent one of the major challenges facing North (and South) American farmers. The rapid rate of Roundup resistant weeds contradicts the claims of the biotech industry that resistance would not be a problem. In its submission to the USDA for approval of the first GE soy crop, Monsanto stated, “…glyphosate is considered to be an herbicide with low risk for weed resistance.” It also claimed that several university scientists agreed “that it is highly unlikely that weed resistance to glyphosate will become a problem as a result of the commercialization of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans.”19
Next Generation of GE Crops—Stronger Chemicals
The New Yorker article omits that in response to the weed epidemic, biotech companies are now seeking approval for new GE crops that are resistant to older, toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, developed in the 1940s. Dow AgroSciences is seeking USDA approval of corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, which is linked to increased rates of immune system cancerParkinson’s disease and other health problems. Likewise, Monsanto is planning to seek approval for transgenic, dicamba-resistant soybeans, corn, and cotton. Dicamba has been tentatively linked to increased rates of colon and lung cancer in farmers by the National Cancer Institute.
Although advertised as the solution to glyphosate- resistant weeds, USDA projects that 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans will lead to a two- to seven-fold increase, from 26 million pounds per year currently to 176 million pounds per year. In addition to the health concerns raised by next-generation GE crops, USDA and weed scientists agree that weed resistance to 2,4-D would rapidly occur. Further, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk assessment of 2,4-D resistant crops identifies numerous potential risks to the environment as well as economic impacts to farmers from 2,4-D drift, which can damage sensitive crops.
Myth: GE Crops Increase Yields—Biotech corporations claim that GE crops result in higher yields and thus are an important tool for feeding the world and raising farmer incomes. An important precursor to discussing yield data is to note that the majority of today’s GE crops are not grown for humans but are instead cultivated for livestock feed and ethanol for cars.
Regarding yield, a landmark report, Failure to Yield, by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, found that herbicide- resistant (GE) corn and soybeans have shown no yield increase in the U.S.28 This report and a major peer-reviewed research paper also show that since GE corn was introduced in 1996, the majority of increased corn productivity was due to conventional breeding and improved cultivation. Data from Europe suggests that productivity increases of corn have been about as high as in the U.S. without using genetic engineering.
Contrary to The New Yorker article’s claims, most of the increases in cotton yield in India are from sources other than genetic engineering. According to the primary cotton scientist of the Indian Central Institute for Cotton Research, K.R. Kranthi, almost all of the 59 percent yield increase in cotton between 2002 and 2011/12 occurred by 2005, when only about 5.6 percent of cotton acres were Bt varieties. Kranthi attributes most cotton yield increases in India during this period to the introduction of hybrid cotton, increased irrigation and other factors unrelated to Bt. In fact, between 2007/08 and 2011/12, when Bt cotton acreage went from 67 percent to 92 percent of India’s cotton acreage, cotton yields steadily fell. This is a far different scenario than The New Yorker article’s suggestion that Bt cotton was responsible for a 150 percent increase in cotton yield in India.
The Way Forward—Agroecological Farming Successes
The author of The New Yorker article is apparently unfamiliar with, or failed to include, information about the increasing body of research demonstrating that a variety of agroecological methods outperform GE and conventional crops in generating higher yields while reducing chemical and water usage.
GE crops require costly seeds, chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers that farmers in food insecure regions can ill afford, along with significant water resources not available in many developing countries. Further, GE crops perpetuate an industrial agriculture system that is responsible for at least 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The emerging consensus among scientists and international development experts is that solutions to hunger must work with local resources and be viable, inexpensive, low-input, and resilient, especially in times of climate change.
Research coordinated by the Department of Biological Sciences and Centre for the Environment and Society at the University of Essex has shown thatagroecological methods on 286 farms in 57 poor countries covering 37 million hectares (3 percent of the cultivated are in developing countries) have increased the average crop yield by 79 percent. All crops had water use efficiency gains, carbon sequestration, and reduced pesticide use.
Further, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is an authoritative source for the best way forward to address developing country agricultural issues. Funded by the United Nations and the World Bank, IAASTD was an exhaustive, four-year effort that engaged some 400 experts from multiple disciplines. IAASTD concluded that GE crops have little potential to alleviate hunger and poverty, and instead recommended agro-ecological approaches as the best means to achieve food security. And, in the U.S. corn belt, long-term research has shown that using agro-ecological farming can reduce fertilizer and herbicide use by over 90 percent, while increasing yields and maintaining or increasing profits.
There are several other issues in the article that were incorrectly represented, but these are too numerous to address in a concise response. One can come to different conclusions about proper risk assessment and regulation for genetic engineering, among other topics, but it is not scientifically justified to simply dismiss concerns and legitimate critiques.
If we are serious about feeding the hungry, raising standards of living, and protecting ecosystems for future food security we need honest, robust discussion. Instead of spending the majority of resources on high-cost technologies, we need to redirect substantial means toward food and farm systems that are sensitive to the complexities of local ecosystems, and incorporate broad criteria such as socio-economic policies, cultural histories, resource conservation, and social equity.
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This Article has so much information I am still going through parts of it. There is a battle for GMO labeling going on in the State of Washington right now and Coca Cola is sinking enormous amounts into battling the passage of this bill. I have always been disturbed by GMO's and their overwhelming use in the world of Modern Agriculture. You do have to wonder if they were not an issue why the extreme concern by these giant companies?  The interesting thing is that these companies already produce Non GMO products for sale in Europe where GMO's are banned!

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Crazy....

Has the world gone completely crazy? It is sunny here, I have the blinds opened up to take advantage of the passive solar streaming in the window.
The neighbors are mowing their lawn, a tree trimmer is pruning a tree a cross the street and chipping the limbs. The birds are starting to take advantage of the fresh bird seed.  People are out walking with their small children....all in all a very normal appearing day.


Fall is here and the leaves are turning a wild array of colors.  Gardens are put up for the year and things are winding down from the hectic pace of summer. The "decorating" neighbor has her Halloween stuff up and it is gaily waving in the light breeze. Ghosts, goblins, wild eyed spooky cats and a coachman from hell grace her lawn and bring a smile to passers by.  It all seems so normal. Peaceful and quiet.

Then why do we feel uneasy? There is no dark organ music playing in the background to instill a sense of dread or doom? There is no sign of dark or stormy skies?  There are no sirens howling in the distance and no sounds of shelling and gunfire. No Ebola victims bleeding out on the street...no hordes of crazed zombies lurching around the corner....no just one crazed cattle woman working at her blog on a very normal day.


Then why do we feel uneasy?  I believe people need strong leadership. To know the direction we are heading is the right one. To feel secure in the people they voted into office. The media hype for this election is slowly starting to build but we hear little of real value. The big issues are not the pathetic economy, the lowest worker participation numbers ever, job losses to over seas. The big issues are of course Ebola and the bombing of ISIS. It is almost convenient these things came up right at election time.


I was thinking  'Ebola' although it is serious it is not the issue it is being made out to be. For example:
Worldwide nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day. An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44.
Annual United States Road Crash Statistics
  • Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year
  • An additional 2.35 million are injured or disabled
  • Over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year
  • Nearly 8,000 people are killed in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20
  • Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year, or an average of $820 per person
  • Road crashes are the single greatest annual cause of death of healthy U.S. citizens traveling abroad

 In 2013, about 580,350 Americans are expected to die of cancer, almost 1,600 people per day. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, exceeded only by heart disease, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.


 Sep 16, 2013 - Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

I believe one of the more serious issues is the inability of anyone in the CDC or government to actually tell the truth concerning this potential pandemic.  The continuation of air travel to and from the affected countries baffles me! Now with another confirmed case in New York, of a Dr. who came from the infected region after dealing with patients confirms my complete lack of faith in the handling of the outbreak.Yes he passed the initial screening at the Airport but remember the incubation of this disease can take as long as 21 days, perhaps more.

In my humble opinion...if you are not going to have a travel ban then at least implement a quarantine of people traveling from the region with the disease! They know the incubation period of this virus, they know how it is transmitted. Treat it accordingly! If it is the End of the World Virus it is claimed to be then take the steps to stop any chance of contagion any one of these travelers brings with them from the area. Wouldn't setting up a proper quarantine be cheaper and more efficient that letting people out into the streets and then trying to heal them after they have potentially infected many more?

The people we have elected to represent us in Washington DC need to get a grip on who they are working for and what their responsibility to those people is. All the hype is about how the Republicans are going to win big but my worst fear is not how big they win but how big we loose! In my mind there is a horrible lack of leadership in BOTH parties and it shows up in the handling of this disease. Both Democrats and Republicans should be totally ashamed of the lack of true leadership and decision making they are showing in these times of uncertainty.

Well enough for now...the sun is still shining warmly in the window, Ralph's lunch for work is starting to smell good and is about ready to portion out for his lunch kit. A neighbors dog is barking at a walker who is going by.  The tree trimmer is still chipping branches! Yes it all seems so normal....but for the under currents of dissatisfaction and unease that you get when you go to get groceries or anything else where there are larger groups of people.  Hang in there people...be safe and be prepared.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

To every thing there is a season

To every thing there is a season... This wonderful song [adapted from Ecclesiastes 3. to 3.8] came out in the 60's just suits the garden in so many ways! When I listened to it I found such a message of hope I thought it might cheer everyone up a bit!

Ralph and I finished harvesting our garden this past weekend. We found the last of the beans, some stray peppers and even some tough little green tomato's. There was a lonely little Irish potato we had missed and the herbs. Plus the surprise of two ripe tomatoes hiding  behind a squash plant!

 The last bits from the garden.

As we dug the sweet potatoes and figured out where we would put them to cure we had to marvel at our little experimental farm and how much wonderful bounty it gave us this year. The garden soil was full of big fat earthworms, something that was not in this soil when we got here.The turned earth was rich and dark, bursting with organic matter and it looked more expectant than ready to rest for the winter.

Our mixed picking box of the Sweet Potatoes...in retrospect this looks pathetic...all the big potatoes are on the bottom!

I know there are bigger and better harvests out there but we are pleased with our small plot! We found out too late for this year but Sweet Potato Leaves are edible!

For anyone who has garden you know the feeling of pride and satisfaction when you eat something you have grown. Supper after harvest was made up of an organic pastured chicken we bought at the Farmer's market, roasted with our own herbs. A mixed vegetable medley of immature banana squash which turned out very well, sort of like dense zucchini, a mix of Goose, Dade and Rose Green beans and a tomato salad.

 The  last of the squash..it was amazing how many we didn't know were there!

 The squash have been so much fun. Ralph spread out one vine and it was over 30 feet long. Several had grown up the trellis and that was fun because it gave us a 'straight' Pennsylvania crook neck!  We have 3 we already picked as they were ripe, we have set the two slightly immature ones in a dry but sunny window to ripen. Tonight I cubed one of the immature crook neck and made a stir fry, they are tasty and firm with a sweet nutty squash flavor, I tossed in some basil and a few chopped green tomatoes and had a really nice vegetarian supper.
 One last perfect blossom!

The rest are from the crazy Pink Banana Squash volunteer plant! There are some great things you can do with this squash...thank goodness because we have 7 of them! [7 big ones that is, I don't count the small ones] I am going to make this one tomorrow. I have dehydrated this crazy squash and it handles that very well, I blanched and froze cubes and I have also made and frozen mashed squash.  Our deep freeze is getting full and I feel pleased that this year we have a good supply of so many things we have produced.

Despite the cold weather and the end of the season the Banana Squash is still setting tendrils. I love the way they curve so elegantly.

For me the most exciting thing was our peanut experiment. Hey I was raised in a region where a good year gave us 90 frost free days! Peanuts and sweet potatoes were not even faintly attempted.  We planted three short rows [all we had room for]. We planted Schronce's Black, Carwhile's Virginia and Tennessee Red Valencia.  Now our harvest is curing in the shed and then I get to learn how to roast peanuts!

Our first peanut harvest...its almost as good as Christmas!

So now our garden looks dreadful with dead plants and torn vines, ripped up earth and scattered bits of vine. This week will see the debris get squared away. The three long trellis come down and get rolled up to put away for winter. The trash will be worked in with the tiller and then we will throw a cover crop over it all.
 Battered and torn, the garden has blessed us with lots of wonderful produce and hours of enjoyment!

We have to give a prayer of thanks for our bounty and we look forward to the cycle starting all over. I know with each bite of our own food we feel the wonder of how it all works!  Yes to every purpose there is a season!




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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Selfie Society

When did this happen or should I ask how did this  happen?  This obsession with instant gratification, getting what you want, showing off, showing everything in your world to the world. I guess my age is showing. I grew up when charity was anonymous. We gave things to people in need without needing a tax break, we didn't need everyone to know we gave we just did because it was the right thing to do. We gave what we could.

A photo of family was taken with everyone in their best and we stood as a family. It was considered rude to 'hog' the spotlight. Photo's commemorated important and rare events such as a wedding, funeral or a graduation from high school or university. Special times were just that, something that did not occur often and was earned with hard work and effort.

What instigated this obvious rant you ask? I received a "selfie" in an email from my niece. She was at a Fine Dining Restaurant with her husband and his boss. It horrified me on so  many levels. The email bragged about how expensive everything was, that they ordered the most expensive entree's. I couldn't believe it. I felt like somehow I have failed to teach my niece anything about restraint and good manners.  The "selfie" showed a pretty young woman showing way too much cleavage, hamming it up to her cell phone...I don't know if she noticed the resentful glare from the waiter standing in the background. The email went on about how she got this and had that and it all cost so much and it made her friends die with envy. I wondered if she thanked her husbands boss? If she was gracious with the server, if the dress that showed way too much top covered the bottom?

Then it got me thinking about this new age of people getting what they want right now. The obsession with how they look and how people think they should look. How did this happen?

I know I was raised to believe I was responsible for myself. If I worked hard and was careful with my earnings I could save for what I wanted and live well. Bank debt was not a credit card but a truck loan, on a truck I used to go to work.

I loved my camera but it was not filled with self portraits and as I cruise my photo albums I find very few photos of me but a wonderful photo journey of places I have been and the people that have flowed through my life.

Now however with social media like facebook the obsession with self image seems to be overwhelming. Advertising promotes everything from botox wrinkle removal to teeth whiteners to "improve" your smile.

It confuses me sometime, women do not want to be seen as sex objects but dress in clothes that show everything, skinny jeans, low cut tops and insanely high heels. I remember when 5 or 6 inch high heels were considered.....shoes 'working women' wore [I don't mean Lawyer's either]. How can dressing like this not promote a sexual image of women? When we go to town for supplies and groceries we are continually amazed at how women dress...not just the young women either. Where is simple modesty? Where is the self respect we used to  have for ourselve or perhaps the self editing we used to use when we got clothes?

Now we are blasted with the "selfie", a photo that has only one purpose, to brag to the world your doing this, your seeing this, your shopping here, your going to this fancy place and of course your showing off who your kissing. Maybe the whole world doesn't need to know everything about you!

This may be a rant , in fact it is a rant, but sometimes we need to let our concerns out. Think before you send that next selfie, think before you get yourself that must have pair of spike heels, look at your image before you go out to dine, are you showing the world what they should not see? Are you bragging about what you have that someone else does not? Do you need to practice self control and responsibility? Think of what is truly important in your world, who loves you and why they love you? What you really need to be happy and self fulfilled and I suspect that selfie has not got a lot to do with your real world!

This  leads to one more question...am I blogging to show off to the world? Am I sharing too much of who I am, am I doing this to be cool? I hope not. I hope my words here can encourage and entertain the people who read them. I hope too that there is enough restraint in the photos, photos meant to inform and amuse as much as educate.

Well that is enough from this Crazed Cattlewoman, take care and God Bless you all!



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Friday, October 17, 2014

Homestead: Water


 I am sure you all of you remember your water cycle charts from schools...right? You know the one with evaporation, condensation and precipitation.

The cycle of water is crucial to everything and on a farm or homestead water has the power to make your garden a joy or a dry and whithered disaster. The first homesteaders knew just how important a good water source was and made sure there was one near the home and barns. These sources were the life blood of their survival. Water for their uses and the livestock and to  keep drought at bay.


Farm Water Options:
Springs:
    A spring is a natural water source where conditions allow water from the aquifer to flow from the surface. The Pioneers often built their homes near these fresh cold water sources. They can be developed with holding reservoirs or spring boxes which allows a more ready water source.
  
    Wells are drilled or dug water sources that tap into an aquifer that does not naturally reach the surface. They can be shallow [less than 100 feet] or deep wells that usually run 200 feet deep or better. Wells can last for years and are often not affected by drought. They require special equipment to pump the water. Water from a well can often be hard and leave lime or rust stains on laundry.
A shallow well with a hand pump





A diagram of a pressure pump system into a home. It is using a submersible pump.

Artesian Wells
An artesian well is drilled down into a water bearing strata or aquifer, which is a water-bearing layer of porous rock. The aquifer lies between two impervious layers of rock that  water cannot pass. In an artesian system (the aquifer and the impervious layers) slope then the well is sunk at a point where the aquifer is lower than the place where water enters the system. The weight of the water held in the upper portions of the aquifer results in the pressure that forces water to rise in the well. These wells do not require a pumping system to get the water to the surface but do require water storage ponds be built and surface pumping to be done to get water into buildings or for livestock access.

 The underground structure of an artesian spring or well.

Cased Artesian well [Google Image]

A pond is a traditional water storage method that has been used for centuries to keep runoff water stored and ready for use on the farm. They can be dug or damed as well as being fed by runoff or a spring. A dugout is a pond that has been literally dug out of a flat area of ground then filled with water. There is also and embankment pond which is made when you fill in a draw or run with earthworks to stop the natural water flow.

An embankment pond built at the head of a run to catch water from the fields.

There is a lot of very good information about pond construction available. Ponds are a worthwhile investment both for the water storage and the added benefit of aquaculture.  There is a lot to be said for catching your own supper from dock set out into a well stocked pond. It adds to the biodiversity of your farm and nutrition diversity for your diet. [Plus its just plain fun!]

 Dogs enjoying a lovely farm pond. [Photo Courtesy Paul and Sheri Rowney]

This is just a basic overview of homestead water but in any search you have got to be aware of how important good water and water access is. A well alone is not enough if you have a power failure. Back up power to run a pump system may be an issue when you have livestock to water.  Is there enough water to irrigate your garden if there is drought? 

 The beauty of water.  [Google Image]

Ralph and I have done a lot of research into water. We know we would like a pond or an area on the land where we can build a pond. The option of more than one water source for the house would be an advantage. We are a bit concerned with the chemicals used in treating county water so a potable well would be a bonus. We want to know what is above any of our water sources, a dump or land fill, commercial agriculture barns or any kind of mining can leach pollutants into a water source that can impact your health or your livestocks health. 

Anyone who is looking into a homestead has to look into water in as many ways as they can, understand the needs of your gardens, crops and livestock. Look into the possibility of water loss, drought, a well disruption, or contamination. Take the steps you need to have a secure and safe water source for your homestead and your future. There are a lot of options and lots of information out there so take the time to do your homework and study any property you look at. There are lots of possibilities to water  your world!

A peaceful pond [Google Image]


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Homestead: Cats Please!


  Does every farm have barn cats, I hope so because they are such fun and very hard workers!  A good barn cat is one of the very best ways to keep mice numbers down and just generally make a barn a nice place to be. I have had barn cats around my farm from my earliest memory and they have always brought their character and attitude to my life.

 A barn cat earning his keep  [Google Image]


Now we are in town until we get the new place we just have a very pampered house cat.
 Picassa sleeping by the heater!

Even this sleepy thing can wake up and do what cats love to do, stalk things. When our landlord had to replace some valves in the back of the shower he left the access to the crawlspace open. Picassa was thrilled as in the process some mice got in to the house. It did  not take her long to solve the problem as cats have done for centuries!  Picassa 2- Mice 0!

We know we will  need cats and have been looking for places to get them. There is a wonderful program called Barn Buddies that finds farm homes for Feral and semi feral cats.

Here in town we had a neighbor who fed feral cats, two calico's! It did not take long for them to populate our street with kittens.

 This is Ernest...I can almost pet him, almost. He loves to sit in the sun on the warm
concrete of the front step. Then he can look in the front glass door
and see how the pampered house cat lives.

The families grew to 15 cats of assorted colors and gender! We knew we had to have a talk with the neighbor, for one thing he was on a fixed income and it was costing him a lot to feed them all and secondly they were not all getting enough to eat, some also had ear mites. We called animal rescue and they came and trapped quite a few, some went to the pound and some went to St Francis of Assisi, a group that finds farm homes for feral cats in this part of Virginia. Ernest found a home nearby which was nice as he is a sweet cat. There are two neutered males left and they are workers. Catching mice in the garden and in the shed out back.

In cold weather they live under the shed. One day Ralph picked up a dreadful looking heavy overcoat at Goodwill. I asked him what he wanted it for as he has good coats! He said "Oh just for dirty work in the garden." I caught him stuffing it under the shed in a sheltered corner....yes for a bed for the cats.

  A farm cat watching us when we went to get some apples. He looks ferocious but soon came over to help,
he had a purr like a tank and kept trying to get in the back of the car.
Then he heard a rustle in the grass and went hunting!


We look forward to stocking our farm with assorted barn cats. They are an integral part of any small farm or homestead both for pest control and simple entertainment. There really is nothing like a group of good barn cats!



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Friday, October 10, 2014

Homestead: My Favorite Books

Laura Ingalls Wilder [Google Image]

     When I was a little girl my Mother read to my brother and I as a special treat. We loved it. Of course there was no TV, no video games, no computers and no town close by. Looking back now I realize we were quite poor although I never knew it at the time. We had lots of things like cats and dogs and chickens. My very own pony and lots of books and if I was good I could use my Mothers water colors and paint pictures of our farm. We had land to roam around on and lots of things to discover. We had chores and our own small gardens to look after. We were happy children and saw the world through the wonder around us, from the birth of kittens to a flock of wild geese landing on our pond!

   Books were incredibly important in our home, even after we got television. I have always loved to read and enjoy the feel of a book in hand and the places it can take you. Homesteading books come in a wide variety of types from Historical to Modern from factual to fiction. My very favorite though are the "Little House" books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 Little House In The Big Woods, Written By Laura Ingalls Wilder and Illustrated by Garth Williams.

The first 'Little House' book I was introduced to was Little House in The Big Woods. It was published in 1932 and filled our nights with delight and joy as My mother read it to us. It follows Laura and her Family through a year in their little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin.

The copy my Mother read to us was Illustrated by Garth Williams and the combination of the story and the wonderful drawings kept us spellbound and enthralled.

Laura and Mary pouring Maple syrup on a Sugar snow.  [ Google Image]

Right from the first these stories about a pioneer family tugged at our hearts and imagination. There were many similarities between Laura's family and ours.
They had a woodstove and we did too. They raised most of their own food and we did that as well.  I know "Pa" reminded me very much of my own father. He was a good hunter and I remember the special care he took with his rifle. Some of the fun was when my Mother tried to make recipes from Laura's descriptions of her mother's cooking!

This looked very much like my Father's home made smoker! [Google Image]

We followed Laura and her Pa across the midwest and through good and bad times. Through feast and famine and terrifyingly cold winters. The images of "Half Pint" are with me still and I often find myself reaching for my tattered copies of"Little House in the Big Woods", "The Long Winter", "These Happy Golden Years" or "On The Banks of Plum Creek".

We watched the girls grow and the family grow too as they traveled and followed "Charles" itchy feet. This family shows the courage and faith that is one reason that America grew to greatness. The pioneer will to do things and be the best they can, to help neighbors when they need it and to be better each year. To accept responsibility for ones own actions and to make a good life for one and ones family.


From "The Long Winter"; [Google Image]

I believe that these books are a must for all homes and families, not just homesteads and country families. They are not just for children either and I find they are an inspiration to me and a delight to read. In these uncertain times when honesty and integrity and faith are in such short supply, this families stories give hope to the human condition and what we have in us to give!
Google Image

Lets put our backs into and make these our happy golden years!



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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Homestead: Hamming it Up


 I have to admit I love pork. Ralph does as well, so swine are going to be a fixture on our homestead. I have not raised a lot of pigs in my lifetime but the ones I have had were both very good eating and quite enjoyable creatures to watch and care for. They are smart, social and extremely clean. They graze more than I expected and they cleaned up the left overs from the cattle. I let mine free range in a fairly large field behind the house and just fenced areas I did not want them in, this didn't always work out but for the most part they were no trouble at all. They loved vegetables and assorted table scraps and I often got stale bread locally for them.

Retrieving Peachy, Paddy, Fang and Bonnie from the neighbors yard, 1988.
See post July 11, 2011. 

Ralph's grandparents always had pigs. They were let run in the woods behind their home and rooted the woods for acorns and hickory nuts. I loved the story of the hog butchering in "Little House In The Big Woods" By Laura Ingalls Wilder. Hogs who have a chance to eat windfall  or waste nuts and fruit taste much better than grain fed hogs. And so much of the butcher hog is useful.

We also want to render and use our own lard. This means we want our pigs to graze more and eat as little grain as possible. This will  make a better quality product to render.

We know this low grain high forage diet will mean they are slower to get to market weight but we believe it will be worth the extra time.

When we looked into a specific breed of hog for our farm we had quite a time of it. There are a surprising number of heritage breeds that would fit our requirements.We visited the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy [Pigs] a lot. We liked The Large Black, The Mulefoot and The Hereford Hog.

Mule Foot Hogs
The Mulefoot is an old American Breed noted for having a single hoof instead of the cloven hoof pigs usually have. They are a smaller breed maturing between 400 and 600 pounds.They produce darker colored meat than modern store pork but then the commercially raised pigs do not get out and ramble around a field to get their food. We liked the idea of raising a breed that is listed as critical. They will produce a smaller more useful sized carcass for us to use and they graze and forage well in woods or on pasture.

 Mulefoot hog resting


Single toe of the Mulefoot hog

Mulefoot Chops 


The Large Black also interested us. They are a big long bodied hog that has produced fine quality pork and lard for pioneers and farmers for years. They fell out of favor when the demand for lard dropped and pigs began to be raised in confinement. These big black pigs prefer to roam and do not handle tight confinement well. They are listed as critical with the ALBC. 

 Large Black Boar

Large Black Sow with Piglets, [Photo Courtesy of the LBHA




This is a Heritage breed that shows a bit more of the modern influence for thick lean bacon hogs. The Hereford Hog breed was developed in the USA in the 1930's. They are named for their wonderful coloration of Red and White, very similar to Hereford cattle. Ralph and I were attracted to that very thing at first but when we looked into the breed more we found they are very suited to being a small farm or homestead pig. They mature to butcher weight quickly, in 5 to 6 months, they do well in both confinement and at pasture and they have quiet  gentle dispositions. Mature boars can weigh up to 800 pounds and sows reach 600. This breed is of a slightly more modern structure with piglets being shown successfully in 4-H and the carcass qualities being lean and meaty.


 A top quality Hereford Boar, Southern Chaos.

 Note the wonderful red and white markings.



 Hereford Hog Pork Cutlets
*Special Thanks for the previous photos to Southern Chaos...The Hereford Hog



Then much to our surprise we found one more breed of hog that fascinated us. Mangalitsa. This is a very old breed that was bred in Hungary for Royalty. They are the funniest looking pigs we had ever seen being covered in a very wooley coat. However once we stopped laughing we found out they are  fantastic hogs for the table. They are fatty in the old style but that adds to the extremely flavorful meat. They have been imported to the US and are growing in popularity as a gourmet swine. Their meat has been featured on Iron Chef and graces many tables in fine restaurants.

 A Johnston County Mangalista ham, retailing for $275.00

Better yet Mangalitsa sows will happily rear their piglets outside and on pasture or in woods. They have been bred to forage on lower quality feeds for centuries. These pigs certainly caught  our eye...in more ways than one!

A Mangalitsa sow in winter in the woods.

Our homestead hog search has had some unexpected results that leave us smiling. All the breeds that have made our list will work well for a homesteader. It gets down to trying them and seeing which one you really do like. We hope to try at least two of these breeds right on our farm to see them work up close and personal so to speak. We do want pigs that are low maintenance and require little or no confinement. We believe it is healthier for them and also for us. 

In closing we will need a pig that can look after itself, forage in our woodland, be freindly and quiet to handle, raise and rear its piglets in a more natural way without farrowing crates or expensive housing, they have to have a useful carcass producing top quality meat and lard for our home use  so our pigs have to be a swine of all trades.  We are really looking forward to the Great Pig adventure and Hamming it up!


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A just for fun Post

I am still waiting for photo permissions on the hog Post. I am also canning and busy with the last of the crazy garden and Ralph has dug a row of sweet potatoes and I am pickling peppers, freezing them and dehydrating them. Busy but rewarding!

We went to get eggs on Sunday, a treat as we love to talk chickens with our farmer friend!

So just for fun lets get clucking!

 One of the favorite's from the spring chicks.


These girls are his mature birds, they arrived as downy fluff balls a year ago. They are Wyandottes.



 A pretty hen, she was enjoying weed eating!


A colorful and curious flock, what more could you ask for!


Ed the rooster.



One of Ed's offspring, crossed with a Buff Orpington hen. Eating the bugs in the strawberry bed.



An Easter Egger hen, she wondered what I was doing!

It was a wonderful visit and best of all we got our eggs, a joyful mix of colors!




Have a great week everyone and enjoy the simple things that are out there if we take the time to notice them!