Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective
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Thursday, during the day, we lost fifteen layers to predators. We have six left now. We were selling four to five dozen eggs a week. Four weeks ago, our high tunnel collapsed under snow. Last season we had a loss of over 90 percent of our cash crops. We closed our books in January. Because our cash crops (corn and tomatoes) were destroyed by stinkbugs, our profit/loss ratio is strongly entrenched in the red.
The great news from all of this time is that we just got off the phone with our nephew who arrived home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. We were talking and as is his way, he asked how things on the farm were. Both my wife and I were on the phone. So I launched into our tails of woe, outlining the disasters.
As I was talking, I realized what Chris had gone through in this same period made what we went through seem like nothing. Then everything clicked. I joked about being self-indulged (a saying, truth in jest comes to mind) but I quickly turned the topic back to Chris and his transition into civilian life and future plans.
He and his brothers are great kids, the two eldest have served their country proudly and with distinction in the Marines. These are the babies I have seen grow up and take on responsibilities I cannot begin to fathom let alone understand.
They are a product of patriotism and a call to duty much like all civil servants that work in local, state and federal governments. They are truly the epitome of what John F. Kennedy meant when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country". These brave young men have put what I do and what I stand for in a realm that will never be anywhere near their true measurement of human beings and United States citizens.
Then if you look at what is happening all around the globe, and compare it to what we have survived, the pity parties, the boo who meetings, all of those woe is me feelings, I cannot help but feel ashamed of my self yet blessed. Sometimes, a simple phone call can put all your fears, anxieties, depression, failures and other negative feelings and emotions in the clearest of perspectives.
God bless all the men and women, friends and families of those serving overseas. More importantly, God bless all that are still in harms way because they too headed the call.
Posted by Brian
@ 04:47 PM EDT
To all organic farmers Michigan State Univeristy has set up a BMSB web site to track testing that is being done at both the farm and scientific levels.
The web site is meant to inform as well as encourage farmers to participate in structured testing. Your help is urgently needed. Please take time to signup and provide input. The address is:
Thanks to all.
Posted by Brian
@ 02:28 PM EDT
I watched "GASLAND," on Showtime recently. It is a documentary made by Josh Fox that explores the process of Hydraulic Fracturing. Go to Waterunderattack.com. Once there you will see the effects that fracture drilling has on the water table. If you get to see "GASLAND" you will be affected and hopefully in a way that motivates you to contact your representative. .
It is unbelievable, I thought the Industrial Food Complex (IFC) was bad but natural gas drillers using the fracture method, developed by Halliburton, make them look like saints when it comes to health and social and environmental preservation. I do not have the vocabulary to describe the utter disdain for the environment and people with the use of this method. When you can light the water in your house on fire there is something drastically wrong with the way government is protecting our drinking water. When the secret chemicals that drillers use start showing up in the tap water, would not one naturally see a direct cause and affect relationship?
The following scenario happens hundreds of thousands of times: Water table is fine, community is not sick, air does not smell and water does not catch fire. Natural gas drillers come in; drill down to the gas using a process called hydraulic fracturing and put in a well. The elements that leach into the air and into the water table from this process are a toxic mix of carcinogenic chemicals. Chemicals by the way those natural gas drillers do not have to disclose.
Not only do they get away with not reporting what they use, but how much they use, and what gets collected back after use. It is known as the Halliburton loophole to the Clean Air and Water act. Why, you ask are they allowed to do this? It is because the Energy Bill of 2005 specifically exempts hydrofracking from the Clean Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Citizens Right-To-Know Act (Freedom of Information) and even EPA regulation. The EPA cannot regulate them. The Environmental Protection Agency is prohibited from regulating an industry that is ruining the very environment the Agency was setup to protect. Why do you think those provisions were specifically added to the bill?
You have to ask yourself, why do corporate citizens get this kind of treatment? Do not expect anything to change, with the Supreme Courts ruling on corporate campaign donations, the ability for the common citizen to protect themselves and their environment through their representative has been made moot because of that decision. We are all naïve if we believe that special interest groups will not move to the head of the line when it comes to getting favorable legislation passed.
It has been proven that the human body can go weeks without food. Water on the other hand is something that you cannot do without for less than half as long. Once again, the profit motive outweighs environmental impacts and personal health. It is alleged that because of the Halliburton loophole more people are lighting their water on fire, getting sick and dying from the type of cancers that coincide with the chemicals used in the drilling process. Because of independent water analysis, scientist and environmental advocates are starting to uncover just what secret chemicals are being used. Nevertheless, does the fact that you can set tap water on fire prove, in and of itself, that there is something drastically wrong? When people who have lived on their land for generations can point out the difference and still be ignored by the very government that is suppose to protect them is appalling.
People complain how our current President is ruining the Nation. What did Halliburton and the previous administration accomplish? Chaney formed the energy commission and met more than forty times with gas executives. To their credit, the commission met with environmental advocates one time. What came out of Chaney’s Energy Commission was the Energy Bill of 2005. I am not making a political statement. I am merely pointing out the impact the loophole has had on the environment and people’s health because it came to fruition from the previous administration. It lets natural gas driller’s have unfettered access to public land and the ability to use carcinogenic chemicals without having to clean them up, report what and how much they use and allows them to operate with no government or independent oversight. .
Stop fracture drilling before the chemicals they use get into water tables near you. Of course, unless you want to be able to light your drinking water on fire, fight against the drilling of the Marcellus Shale site.
Posted by Brian
@ 08:14 AM EDT
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I saw my obituary the other day on-line. The obituary was for a person with the exact same name, born 4 days before me but lived in a different state. I thought it was par for the course given what we have gone through this past season. What a difference a year makes. I look at what I wrote last year at this time and it could not be polar opposites.
I face this spring with the lowest energy level I have ever had. I know in part because of how bad things were last year with the stinkbug. However, that was just the start, the list continues from there. The grass mower will not start, we have lost four more layers bringing the total since December to ten, the wood splitter engine gave up, the snow thrower picked up a large rock and bent the fly wheel, oh yeah, and a week before we were to plant in the high tunnel it collapsed into itself. Those were just the most costly of things to go wrong.
I am trying to pull myself out and get that sparkle back. I know I am supposed to take the hits and keep going. That is the thought I cling to as I face the coming spring. It just bothers me though. My instinct is to get right back up when knocked down. I do that, but it seems that it is taking me longer and that I am slower when doing so.
In the past, I could tell you what we grew good versus what did not grow so well. I could take orders and know in spring that we would be able to fill those orders; it is the same with the summer months. Before last year, we were known for Roma tomatoes. We would sell over a thousand pounds a year. I know it is not much but we expand the amount we grow every year. We lost ninety percent of our tomatoes.
I had just gotten growing organic sweet corn down when our entire crop fell to the BMSB. The year before (read Corn Battles), we celebrated the fact that I had finally been successful. With perseverance, everything fell into place and we produced the sweetest corn we had ever had.
So, I soldier on, I hold my little pity parties and boo-who meetings then I go do something and try to make sure I do not break anything. Everything I have touched over this past winter has broken. I am not exaggerating. You read the list and it was not even complete.
I know I will come out of this. The minute I start turning the earth and planting cover crops the sooner I will get back into the rhythm of nature, growing food and providing my community the best I can. James Carvel once said, “Next to love the greatest gift someone can give is their labor” and I truly believe that.
This is a low point but that is how growing and farming is. You have ups and downs, but you try to even things out. Besides, “nothing in this world is impossible to a willing heart”. I tell myself this is just a low point and to even it out and keep going. We are making changes due to the BMSB to counter-act their damage. Hard choices and decisions are required in order to turn that corner. We have plans to change our business model. Plans that should help us turn the corner and avoid the cliff. Time will tell. In the mean time,
Buy Local: Do not under-estimate the difference you can make.
Posted by Brian
@ 04:21 PM EST