At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Beans are fun!

Normally, we don't encourage people to play with their food.  But there are exptions.  When the weather is too bad to go outside, have a fun day of games and crafts inside! 

 

Have you ever made a rainstick?

 

Rainsticks are fun musical instruments, both to play with and also to make.

 

 

·         Get a cardboard tube such as paper towel tube, long mailing tube, two toilet paper tubes (tape them together), wrapping paper tube. 

 

·         Inside, pour some seeds, beans, rice, small stones, etc.

 

·         Also, use 1” nails, wire, plastic or wire netting w/holes large enough for objects to fall through.  To use nails, poke them through the cardboard, pointy end to the inside, in a close spiral around the tube (about 60/paper towel tube).  To  use wire, bend it in a spiral and insert it into the tube so it stretches the whole length.  To use the netting, stuff it inside.

 

·         Seal the ends w/ cardboard or poster board, tissue paper, and masking tape.  If the tube came w/ends, use those instead of board.  Use tissue paper to soften the noise when the objects hit the end.

 

·         Decorate the outside with markers, acrylic paints, etc.

 

 

Then play rain making games!

 

tioWhen the weather is too bad to go outside, have a fun day of games and crafts inside! 

Have you ever made a rainstick?

Rainsticks are fun musical instruments, both to play with and also to make.

 

·         Get a cardboard tube such as paper towel tube, long mailing tube, two toilet paper tubes (tape them together), wrapping paper tube. 

·         Inside, pour some seeds, beans, rice, small stones, etc.

·         Also, use 1” nails, wire, plastic or wire netting w/holes large enough for objects to fall through.  To use nails, poke them through the cardboard, pointy end to the inside, in a close spiral around the tube (about 60/paper towel tube).  To  use wire, bend it in a spiral and insert it into the tube so it stretches the whole length.  To use the netting, stuff it inside.

·         Seal the ends w/ cardboard or poster board, tissue paper, and masking tape.  If the tube came w/ends, use those instead of board.  Use tissue paper to soften the noise when the objects hit the end.

·         Decorate the outside with markers, acrylic paints, etc.

 

Then play rain making games!

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Newspapers are better for the environment!

Did you know: some people object because it is not environmentally friendly to use paper for printing.  Yet reading newspaper print has a lower impact on global warming than reading online, according to one of the world's leading paper-makers, because the impact of powering computers allegedly outweighs the impact of creating newsprint. "Reading a newspaper has a lower impact on global warming than reading the news online for 30 minutes," according to Torraspapel's Paper (http://www.printweek.com/paper/news/1015841/Reading-printed-page-greener-online-browsing-says-papermaker).

 
 

Fly control

House flies are a potent pest.  Keeping garbage pails empty and closed, doors closed or screened, and other debris out of the house is a good start, but you can’t keep the flies away.  While the sport of Kings is to hunt them down with a flyswatter, those of us with somewhat less nobility and time need alternative solutions.  Here are a few to consider as we enter into fly season.

 

1) the Fly Trap

Heat on your stove 2 cups of water, do not boil it.  Stir in 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, and 1/3 cup white vinegar until they are dissolved in the water.  Then, pour into an old mayonnaise jar or other glass jar.  Cover the lid with plastic and make 3-5 holes big enough for the flies to enter.  The flies will go in, but not be able to get back out and drown.  Leave out more jars for more flies, and change them out periodically – they will become quite nasty.

 

2) Spiders and wasps

These helpful critters love to eat flies.  If you find spiders or wasps in your house, keep them!  The wasps don’t eat them directly: they feed them to their young.  Adult wasps eat pollen and other vegetable matter.  I sometimes catch spiders and bring them into my home as pets.  Hunting for pretty looking spiders is fun and watching them work is entertaining.  Last year I found a beautiful spotted one I named Frankie.  Frankie caught three flies, but a little one that I didn’t catch (who invited herself in) caught many more.  Hey, every one caught counts!

 

3) Horse sprays

Horses hate flies as much as you do.  And there are a million or two products out there that are safe to use and effective at deterring flies.  Try spraying these on your windows and doors to retard the flies. 

4) Herbal remedies

For that matter, burn some incense to ward off the flies.  You’ll have to experiment because some flies are attracted to some smells that others are repelled by.  But no matter what kind of smoke works best, keep that incense burning!

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A difference of altitude, change of attitude

Farming in high altitude up on the Palmer Divide at 6000 feet and delivering in low - well, Denver - altitude at 5000 feet requires an understanding of the effects of altitude if you're not going to get a bad attitude.

High altitude is good for crops.  Cool nights and hot days means high sugar for crops, less pests, less disease and clean air.  Not to mention clearer stars, but I am still not sure that affects crops very much.

But high altitude means a later start in the spring and an earlier end in the autumn.  Guess you can’t have it both ways, high quality and long lasting.

We keep fields in Denver also so that we have a very long season.  For example down in Denver right now, the apples are in full blossom, but up here, they are actually just starting to bud.  So, we harvest the apple blossoms down hill and by the time that season is nearly over, we are in season up here!  So, instead of two to three weeks of delicious teas, we can offer three to six weeks!

The tricks of making greenhouses and hoop houses to extend seasons works well, but is expensive.  More expensive than employing an extra 1000 feet of earth’s atmosphere.  Down hill, our greenhouses and hoop houses work two to five weeks later on average than our greenhouses and hoop houses up hill.

With global warming, we are now able to grow bamboo and other delicious, nutritious crops that we couldn’t dream of growing even ten years ago.  But we are also no longer able to get a satisfactory fava crop or other crops that like the cold.  Up hill, these crops are still possible, but it is becoming difficult at best down hill.

Down hill, where we are, also means more pollution.  The city is quite polluted by vehicles, factories and, quite frankly, even medical marijuana facilities.  From the dust made by raking leaves to the children running through dusty baseball diamonds, the human beings down in town make a lot of pollution.  This isn’t to say that the animals and plants don’t also.  Pollen is a big pollutant, but generally affects food less than our human pollution, which goes into the soil and into the plant easier.

The soil is different downhill than uphill, the water tastes different: these affect flavor too.  Some of the best water in the world – by taste tests – can be found in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder.  City water tastes different than natural waters, but while Denver Water can’t compete with the natural waters of Eldorado, it is still renowned for its flavor.  Our well water up on top of the hill imparts a flavor to the food that is different.  Maybe better, maybe worse (depending on your tastes), but different.  Our animals like the well water better than the waters in town, for what it matters.

But before you think we spend too much on gas, I’ll tell you that our downhill crops are on automatic watering systems, and require less attention: we only see them on delivery days.  We plant, and stay out until it’s time to pay the rent.

But we do, much better, enjoy owning land.  Ownership means no landowner to mow your crops on accident or on purpose, no landowner to steal your tools on purpose or… well, she knew they were ours.  It is easier to protect against folks grazing their animals on your land at night.  A thousand horrors await a tenant farmer.  Even with good landowners, we are more inclined to plant trees on our own land.  For that matter, we don’t have to ask permission.

Neither uphill or downhill is better, but having a farm that is both uphill and downhill is better than having only one. 

 

 
 

Le Menu (what's cookin'?)

NEWS FROM THE FARM AND RECIPES

Wow!  It must be springtime!  We’re seeing GREEN things again!  There’s a thousand medicinal uses for your typical salad greens, but they are especially good at taking the sting out of the last bites of winter’s cold.  Try them in soup!  Back hurting from too much gardening?  Get some of our poplar or aspen… 

There is a very friendly pronghorn at the farm this week.  Don’t know why he is so friendly, he comes right up to the edge of the field and watches us work.  There’s also a meadowlark who likes our garden this week too.  And bugs!  We are seeing all our friends wake back up again.  How nice!

 

LOOK FOR:

>>>> New items

> Old items 

 

Give us a call or an email if you want samples!  Let us do the cooking...Prepared meals available.

 

-- VEGETABLES --

> Curly Dock (LEAVES)

>>>> Lambsquarter (limited availability)

> Dandelion

> Thistle

 

-- BEANS --

  > Black

  > Fava

  > Jacob’s Cattle

  > Pinto

  > Trout

 

-- GRAIN --

  > Barley

  > Oats

  > Sanfoin

  > Safflower

  > Sunflower (SEED)

  > Rye

  > Wheat

 

-- HERBS --

 >>>> Catmint

  > Corriander

  > Garlic (BABY)

  > Garlic (GREENS)

  > Juniper (BERRIES)

 

-- MEDICINE AND TEA -- (ALSO SEE HERBS, ABOVE)

> Aspen Catkins (limited availability)

  > Raspberry Leaves

> Plum Blossoms

  > Poplar (BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief)

  > Willow (BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief)

  > Yucca (ROOT)

 

 

-- ANIMAL FEEDS --

  > Two legs 

  > Four legs

  > Six legs

  > Eight legs (?!)  :::: )

 

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Blogging from the road

It is facinating that in this modern age I can post this from our delivery truck as we travel about town!  (of course, I'm in the passenger seat!)  Pretty cool, huh?

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Antelope seen! (Or were they?)

Another exciting day today in Elbert County!  I saw pronghorn today ambling across an open field.  Pronhorn have been clocked traveling as fast as 86 miles per hour, and are the fastest animals in North America (who don’t drive cars) but today, while pausing to sample the local salad bar, they seemed dissatisfied with the greens and continued on their way at  slow walk.

Though not an antelope, it is often known colloquially in North America as the Prong Buck, Pronghorn Antelope, or simply Antelope, as it closely resembles the true antelopes of the Old World and fills a similar ecological niche due to convergent evolution.  It is the only surviving member of the family Antilocapridae: during the Pleistocene period, 12 antilocaprid species existed in North America.  About 5 existed when humans entered North America about 13,000 years ago; all but A. americana are now extinct.  University of Idaho zoologist John Byers has suggested that the Pronghorn evolved its running ability to escape from extinct predators such as the American cheetah, since its speed greatly exceeds that of extant North American predators.

Each horn of the Pronghorn is composed of a slender, laterally flattened blade of bone that grows from the frontal bones of the skull, forming a permanent core. As in the Giraffidae, skin covers the bony cores, but in the Pronghorn it develops into a keratinous sheath which is shed and regrown on an annual basis. Unlike the horns of the family Bovidae, the horn sheaths of the Pronghorn are branched, each sheath possessing a forward-pointing tine (hence the name Pronghorn). The horns of males are well developed.

Males have a prominent pair of horns on the top of the head, which are made up of an outer sheath of hairlike substance that grows around a bony core; the outer sheath is shed annually. Males have a horn sheath about 12.5–43 cm (mean 25 cm) long with a prong. Females have smaller horns, ranging from 2.5–15 cm (average 12 cm), and sometimes barely visible; they are straight and very rarely pronged.

Males are further differentiated from females in that males will have a small patch of black hair at the angle of the mandible. Pronghorns have a distinct, musky odor. Males mark territory with a scent gland located on the sides of the head. They also have very large eyes, with a 320 degree field of vision. Unlike deer, Pronghorns possess a gallbladder

Pronghorns were brought to scientific notice by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which found them in what is now South Dakota, USA. The range extends from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada south through the United States (southwestern Minnesota and central Texas west to coastal southern California and northern Baja California Sur, to Sonora and San Luis Potosí in northern Mexico.

Pronghorns form mixed-sex herds in the winter. In early spring the herds break up with young males forming bachelor groups, females forming their groups and adult males living a solitary life.  There are female bands which share the same summer range and bachelor male bands form between spring and fall. Females form dominance hierarchies with few circular relationships.  Dominant females will aggressively displace other females from feeding sights.

Adult male pronghorns employ two different mating strategies during the breeding season. A pronghorn male will defend a fixed territory that females may enter or it might defend a harem of females. A pronghorn may change mating strategies depending on environmental or demographic conditions. In areas that have high precipitation, adult male pronghorn tend to be territorial and maintain their territories with scent marking, vocalizing and challenging intruders.  In these systems, territorial males have access to better resources than bachelor males. [20] Females also employ different mating strategies. “Sampling” females visit several males, remain with each male a short time, and switch between males at an increased rate as estrus approaches. “Inciting” females behave as samplers until estrus; then they move away from the male, inciting fights and other aggressive competition. Inciting females watch the competition, and they always mate immediately with the winning male. “Quiet” females move to an isolated, peripheral location occupied by a single male, and remain with that male throughout estrus. 

All three female mating behaviors have advantages for the herd, and have helped to make the Pronhorn a strong survivor of the post-ice age thaw.

Pronghorns have a gestation period of 235 days, longer than is typical for North American ungulates. They breed in mid-September, and the doe carries her fawn until late May. This is around six weeks longer than the white-tailed deer. Newborn Pronghorns weigh 2--4 kg, most commonly 3 kg. In their first 21-26 days, a fawn spends time hiding in vegetation.  Fawns interact with their mothers for only 20-25 minutes a day and this continues even when the fawn joins a nursery. The females nurse, groom, distract predators and lead their young to food and water.  Males are weaned 2-3 weeks earlier than females.  Sexual maturity is reached at 15 to 16 months, though males rarely breed until 3 years old. The longevity is typically up to 10 years, rarely 15 years.

Pronghorn were nearly destroyed by humans, who also were partially responsible for the destruction of many other ice-age creatures.  By the 1920s, hunting pressure had reduced the Pronghorn population to about 13,000.  Protection of habitat and hunting restrictions have allowed their numbers to recover to an estimated population of between 500,000 and 1,000,000. There has been some recent decline in a few localized populations, due to blue tongue disease which is spread from sheep; however the overall trend has been positive since conservation measures were put in place.

Pronghorn migration corridors are threatened by habitat fragmentation and the blocking of traditional migration routes. In a migration study conducted by Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society, at one point the migration corridor bottlenecks to an area only 200 yards wide.

Pronghorns are now quite numerous and outnumbered people in Wyoming and parts of northern Colorado until just recently. It is legally hunted in western states for purposes of population control and food, the meat is rich and lean. There are no major range-wide threats, although localized declines are taking place, particularly to the Sonoran Pronghorn, mainly as a result of, among others, livestock grazing, the construction of roads, fences and other barriers that pose barriers to historical habitat, illegal hunting, insufficient forage and water, and lack of recruitment.

Three subspecies are considered endangered in all (A. a. sonoriensis, A. a. peninsularis), or part of their ranges (A. a. mexicana). Populations of the Sonoran Pronghorn in Arizona and Mexico are protected under the US End

angered Species Act (since 1967), and a recovery plan for this subspecies has been prepared by USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1998).  Mexican animals are listed on CITES Appendix I. Pronghorns have game-animal status in all of the western states of the United States, and permits are required to trap or shoot pronghorns

Le Menu (what's cookin'?)

NEWS FROM THE FARM AND RECIPES

The cold weather continues with freezing temperatures at night.  Luckily, the plants popping up are hardy!  Next week or the week after we look forward to sprouts of many kinds, and the first garden greens.  But this week, enjoy some lambsquarter and wild onion - they are fantastic treats from nature, and guarenteed to please!  They are just starting to be available, and never too soon.

LOOK FOR:

>>>> New items

> Old items 

 

Give us a call or an email if you want samples!  Let us do the cooking...Prepared meals available.

 

-- VEGETABLES --

  > Curly Dock (LEAVES)

 > Dandelion

 >>>> Lambsquarter

> Thistle

 

-- BEANS --

  > Black

  > Fava

  > Jacob’s Cattle

  > Pinto

  > Trout

 

-- GRAIN --

  > Barley

  > Oats

  > Sanfoin

  > Safflower

  > Sunflower (SEED)

  > Rye

  > Wheat

 

-- HERBS --

  > Catmint

  > Garlic (BABY)

  > Garlic (GREENS)

>>>> Wild Onion (limited availability)

 

-- MEDICINE AND TEA --

  > Aspen (LEAVES, BARK)

  > Apple Blossoms

  > Plum Blossoms

  > Poplar (BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief)

  > Willow (BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief)

  > Yucca (ROOT)

 

-- ANIMAL FEEDS --

  > Two legs 

  > Four legs

  > Six legs

  > Eight legs (?!)  :::: )

 

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Catch that wheelbarrow!

We had such strong winds out at the farm that our wheelbarrow blew away, 2x4's were flying around, and other such mayhem occued.  In like a lion... out like a lion.  Luckily, we built our hoop houses and greenhouses strong enough to withstand the wind, and all the critters had excellent shelter behind their walls.  We struggled against the wind for a little while, but also decided it was a good day to catch up on paperwork.

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Acid Rain

Acid rain is a reality for farmers, and every human being.

In Colorado, acid rain has been responsible for damage to our lands since before the 1980’s, and Rocky Mountain National Park (among other areas, including the Black Forest and Elbert County) are affected. 

The EPA (http://www.epa.gov/acidrain/what/index.html) describes the horrors of Acid Rain, and its ability to damage forests: “ ‘Acid rain’ is a broad term referring to a mixture of wet and dry deposition (deposited material) from the atmosphere containing higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. The precursors, or chemical forerunners, of acid rain formation result from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man-made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) resulting from fossil fuel combustion. In the United States, roughly 2/3 of all SO2 and 1/4 of all NOx come from electric power generation that relies on burning fossil fuels, like coal.  Acid rain occurs when these gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds. The result is a mild solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. When sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released from power plants and other sources, prevailing winds blow these compounds across state and national borders, sometimes over hundreds of miles.”

The EPA describes two kinds of deposition, wet and dry.  “Wet deposition refers to acidic rain, fog, and snow. If the acid chemicals in the air are blown into areas where the weather is wet, the acids can fall to the ground in the form of rain, snow, fog, or mist. As this acidic water flows over and through the ground, it affects a variety of plants and animals. The strength of the effects depends on several factors, including how acidic the water is; the chemistry and buffering capacity of the soils involved; and the types of fish, trees, and other living things that rely on the water.  In areas where the weather is dry, the acid chemicals may become incorporated into dust or smoke and fall to the ground through dry deposition, sticking to the ground, buildings, homes, cars, and trees. Dry deposited gases and particles can be washed from these surfaces by rainstorms, leading to increased runoff. This runoff water makes the resulting mixture more acidic. About half of the acidity in the atmosphere falls back to earth through dry deposition.”

John T. Turk and Donald H. Campbell of the USGS in 1997 published Fact Sheet 043–97 on the subject and how it affects Colorado lands. 

 

The alpine and subalpine zones of the Rocky Mountains are among the largest undisturbed ecosystems in the United States. The Wilderness and Clean Air Acts give congressionally designated wilderness areas special protection from man-made change. However, many wilderness areas, including the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area, of the Rocky Mountains are located near economic deposits of fossil fuels (including some already developed), such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, and oil shale. To use these fossil fuels without damaging nearby wilderness areas and other Federal lands, the present environmental status of the wilderness areas and the possible risk of air pollution from future energy-resource development need to be understood…

…The Western Lake Survey, conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1985, and numerous smaller surveys indicated that acid neutralizing capacity (ANC) differs greatly among regions in the Rocky Mountains. ANC is a measure of a lake—s ability to neutralize acidity, and lakes having small ANC occur throughout the Rocky Mountains. Because of differences in bedrock geology, soil development, and hydrology, those lakes having smallest ANC tend to be in specific mountain ranges such as the Bitterroot Range in Montana, the Wind River Range in Wyoming, the Uinta Mountains in Utah, the Colorado Front Range (including Rocky Mountain National Park), and the northern Park Range in Colorado (including the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area).

In northern Colorado, downwind of the Yampa River valley, an area of high concentrations of sulfate, nitrate, and acidity in wetfall and snowpack overlaps an area containing lakes having very small ANC. Thus, at present (1997) levels of emissions from all sources, including energy development, the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area contains hydrologic systems that may be the most affected by acid deposition in the Rocky Mountains.

The USGS has examined the release of pollutants from the snowpack in an acid pulse at the USGS Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets (WEBB) site in the Loch Vale watershed in Rocky Mountain National Park. The relative amplification of snowpack acidity in the early stages of snowmelt has been determined at the WEBB site. An amplification factor was applied to the measured acidity in the snowpack at Buffalo Pass, adjacent to the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area. Projections indicate that the early snowmelt that fills temporary ponds used by amphibians for breeding likely is more acidic than the level at which biological damage occurs (fig. 3). In the area around Dumont Lake, just south of the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area, 60 to 100 percent of tiger salamander eggs were dead or unviable in ponds at about pH 5.0 or less, about 40 percent between pH 5.0 and 6.0, and about 20 percent were dead or unviable at about pH 6.0 or greater (Kiesecker, 1991). Laboratory experiments using these eggs indicated that pH lower than about 6.0 also resulted in slower hatching of eggs, slower growth to maturity, and decreased ability to catch and eat tadpoles, which are a common food. At less than about pH 6.0, growth to maturity was so slow that ponds would be likely to dry up, and salamanders would die before they could mature. Smaller size also made them more susceptible to predation. Harte and Hoffman (1989) reported that less than half as many tiger salamander embryos survived at about pH 5.6 or less compared to those surviving at about pH 6.1 or greater. Salamanders that survive toxic conditions, drying up of ponds, and predation as eggs or larvae may have to survive a second acid pulse the following year. Some individual salamanders may be genetically able to mature in two years rather than maturing in their first year. However, they would have to winter over in deeper ponds and would still be in the acid-sensitive larval stage during snowmelt of the following spring.

Although the tiger salamander seems to be the only aquatic species studied in natural habitats adjacent to the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area, other species in the wilderness are also sensitive to acid toxicity. Embryos of other amphibians, such as boreal toads, chorus frogs, northern leopard frogs, and wood frogs have as much as 50 percent mortality at pH 4.3 to 4.8 (Corn and Vertucci, 1992). Embryo and fry of rainbow trout have increased mortality at about pH 5.5 (Baker and Christensen, 1991). Three zooplankton species that are common food for the tiger salamander and for fish had 100 percent mortality within 1-5 days of exposure to a pH of 5.0 (Harte and Hoffman, 1989). Thus, in sensitive ponds, streams, and lakes in and near the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area, a wide range of biological damage may occur.

Between December 1992 and May 1993, the Hayden Power Plant was partially shutdown because of mechanical problems, which resulted in a 58-percent decrease in its sulfur dioxide emissions (Dan Ely, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, written commun., 1997). The USGS sampled snow deposited in and near the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area during normal operation and during the period of partial shutdown. Although the Hayden Power Plant is the largest local source of sulfur dioxide (Watson and others, 1996) and although sulfur dioxide emissions were reduced during shutdown, acidity of the snowpack increased during the partial shutdown and remained at levels determined to be injurious to amphibians. The most likely explanations of the still-toxic snowpack acidities are a combination of: (1) Seasonal differences in snow chemistry, and (2) a likely overload of the ability of the local atmosphere to fully convert all the sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid. At present (1997) emissions rates of sulfur dioxide from all local sources, the natural production rate of oxidants in the atmosphere may control the amount of sulfuric acid produced and deposited to the snowpack.

It is not known how much emissions reduction may be required from all local sources before sulfuric acid production and deposition become controlled by emissions rates and would be reduced. Pollution controls that are planned for the Hayden Power Plant are expected to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions from the plant by about 85 percent (Dan Ely, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, oral commun., 1997). However, no studies have been done to indicate the effectiveness of this level of emissions reduction. Data collected during the partial shutdown of the Hayden Power Plant indicated that a reduction of 58 percent had no measurable effect. Therefore, it is possible that the pollution controls will not fully remedy problems related to the acidity of the snowpack.

Because the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area may be the area most affected by acid deposition in the Rocky Mountains and because reductions in local emissions of acid precursors are planned, an opportunity exists to investigate the causes and effects of acid deposition that could help protect all Rocky Mountain wilderness areas. Little scientific information exists to indicate which aspects of the hydrologic and biologic systems of Rocky Mountain watersheds are most sensitive to acidification. Further, although some damage to aquatic resources likely occurs at present levels of emissions, natural hydrologic and other processes might protect these ecosystems in ways not documented elsewhere. Documentation of the effects of acidification on lakes and aquatic organisms could provide a benchmark for evaluating effects of energy development and associated emissions everywhere in the Rocky Mountains.

 

It is not just power plants, it is every one of us driving our vehicles, burning fossil fuels.  Urban planners design our cities so we cannot live next to where we work, so we must drive.  It is our government policy that is destroying our forests.  It is we, the people, who allow this to happen.

 

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Make your own plow!

Tillage without machine operated or animal-operated tools can be difficult.  These tools can be very expensive, and the machines and draft animals that are used with them can be more so.  Yet with some home-made tools, a farmer or gardener can quickly break ground. 

Checking on craigslist will often yield a surprising amount of raw materials suited for making plows. 

Your home made plow will not be as nice as professionally made ones, but with lowered expectations, you’ll find that it will undertake the job well enough.

While disk plows are very much in vogue – and for good reason too, they perform excellent tillage – they are modifications of a 4 Coulter Plow developed by Jethro Tull, the father of modern agriculture.  Besides inventing the row, the aisle, discovering cures for most plant diseases, developing the first agricultural futures commodity market, domesticating sanfoin and the turnip, inventing the system by which animals may be penned, and other significant achievements, Tull also invented a better plow than the traditional moldboard which he called the 4 Coultered Plow.

Today, two plows have succeeded the 4 Coultered, including the disk plow and also the chisel plow.  Both work on the same principles of slicing the ground and minimizing the downward thrust of the blades by maximizing lateral forces.  The lateralization of downward gravitational thrust is easily accomplished with a disk or a chisel, but is also accomplished by a knife (or “coulter”), mounted at a less than perpendicular angle to the ground.  Curving the knife backwards results in a disk-like shape.

The mounting of the knives onto a frame is one option – this is typical for disk plows – but there is also the option of mounting consecutive knives on a single shaft. 

If you are not fortunate enough to find your materials on craigslist, do consider making your plow out of wood.  Wood had been used for thousands of years with success before metal became available, and long after metal was available, metal was too expensive for most farmers to use.  Wood has disadvantages – it does not last long, it shatters, but it largely gets the job done.

That said, finding blades to attach to a frame is easy enough.  Old pickaxes, hoes, heavy pieces of scrap steel, or other blades that will not bend or snap under the extraordinary pressure of tillage work wonderfully. 

When you attach them to the frame, you will have something that looks somewhat like a harrow, but designed for ground penetration.  Weighting the frame with old tires, cement blocks, or other heavy things will drive your blades into the ground and pierce the turf.  Dragging the implement with a truck or car is possible, if the chasis will hold, until you get used to it, pull gently and see if your beast will take it.

Or, use a real beast.  A cow or horse may be easily brought under the yoke, happy to help your gardening (hey they eat that stuff too!).  Or, a large team of dogs for light work. 

But if this exceeds your technical skill, you may also acquire rusted out farm implements from wealthy professionals who use them as lawn implements.  If you convince one that the rusted look is “out” this year, they might even give it to you for free if you haul it off their lawn. 

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Spring flowers coming soon!

Today I saw some daffodils had finally emerged from their long sleep and were in full bloom.  The tulips and hyacinth, it appears, are not far behind.  Spring flowers are such a wonderful end to a cold winter!  Every year I decide I’ve not planted enough spring flowers the year before and plan for a bigger spring garden.

Spring flowers are usually planted the autumn beforehand, but can be planted in spring and summer as well.  I usually buy discount bulbs in the early winter, after the normal planting season.  However, you can buy some stunning bulbs from mail order catalogs or local nurseries: tulips, especially, come in an amazing variety of colors, patterns (stripes, for example), and other interesting characteristics such as having extra “double” petals or petal edges that look like they’ve been sheared with scissors.  You can even get imported tulips from Holland!

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Raising good father birds

Shelving can be made into a convenient brooder by lining the outside of the shelving with chicken wire, and, using cardboard (which can be replaced periodically in good hygienic practices), lining the bottom of the shelves so that wood chips or shavings may absorb excess moisture.

Excess moisture and drafts are deadly to baby birds, whose feathers are generally ineffective at anything but helping them camouflage into the grasses of their natural home. 

If your birds begin to play in their water instead of drinking it (and they will – they have a self-destructive instinct), it is important to take a towel or papertowel and dry them off, and keep them very warm.  Eventually, they will grow too big to play in the waterer, and they will also grow out better feathers.  It is hard work being a mother bird, especially if you are a human farmer.

Baby birds rely on you to be their mother (or father).  Like human infants, they require you to provide them food, water, medical care, keep them dry and warm.  A brooder should be located in a place where you can absolutely control the environmental temperature, humidity, and other factors, as well as a place that is very easy to keep hygienically clean.

Most baby birds will suffer from pasted anus, a condition which requires you to wash off dried fecal matter from their anus.  This should be done gently and in warm water, allowing the fecal matter to dissolve off: scraping can cause damage to their intestines, bleeding and death. 

Birds are difficult when young because they are very hardy when older: nature’s unbroken rule is that the more indestructible an animal is when an adult, the more fragile it is when it is younger.  This is a “natural check” against overpopulation, and a safety mechanism for the ecology if the predator species suffer  a catastrophe and cannot contain the populations of prey. 

The excessive work that baby birds require may be alleviated by entrusting the work to mother and father birds, especially geese and chickens, who are excellent mothers and fathers – even to baby birds of other species.  Some breeds of birds have been caused to have better mothering and fathering instincts, and any bird with good mothering or fathering instinct should be kept and bred.  It is fairly apparent when the baby birds are young which ones have good instincts – it is a genetic trait, not an acquire d one.  We had an excellent father rooster who, as a baby, defended weak baby birds, and sang to them… and a superior mother chick who would even put her little wing over her weaker companions in a mothering gesture.

Mothers and fathers increase production in numerous ways.  They correct self-destructive and flock-destructive behavior in other birds, prevent and cure cannibalism, help ensure an even distribution of food and other resources, defend their flock against predators (often successfully) and, fathers especially, actually increase food intake by the females in their harem (by constantly encouraging them to eat and finding them more food).  In experiments done on the Coastalfields farm, good fathers increased egg production as much as 15%.

LJ Columella suggests retaining at least 20% fathers in a flock of chickens, and 40% in water fowl.  And this is consistent with economic data collected in modern times, and is close to the economic maximal efficiency.  But economic analysis of managed flocks will indicate in typical situations that even 50% males will result in greater production than the food the males eat.  So, even without using the males for meat production, the dairy farmer will find better profitability with a straight run than with no males at all.

While fathering instincts are largely inherited, there is minimal acquired traits.  For good fathers, play to the birds music constantly to train their songs: they will sing weeks earlier, and this is the largest source of their control over their harem.  Bach, Mozart, Elvis and other melodic classical artists have, in Coastalfields and other trials, have been shown to improve production better than non-melodic music (such as heavy metal or rap).

As the father birds mature, look to good dancers: the dancers are better at exerting control over their harem.  To be a good father, he must be able to sing and dance better than the rest.

Pasture rotation improves production

Pasture rotation is key to the success of your animals.  Animals will selectively graze, eating their favorite foods and leaving what they don’t like.  This is how good pastureland turns into good yucca plantations!  The cattle eat everything but the yucca, and the yucca remains.  Then, all that is left to do is till up the soil and start over. 

However, the rancher may rotate their animals through pastures faster than they destroy the grass.  By allowing the grass time to recover, they may keep their pastures in good condition. 

Another option, which works better on small and micro farms and ranches, is to preventively till up and reseed pasture every year.  By establishing three pastures, the rancher ensures that their animals have plenty of pasture to eat. 

The first pasture is for springtime, and the animals graze on it until midsummer.  Then, the animals are moved to winter pasture, while the spring pasture is tilled and reseeded.  The third pasture, rested for the entire year, becomes next year’s springtime pasture, while the winter pasture is brought to rest… the first year’s spring pasture is next year’s winter pasture. 

The pasture that rests actually can be hayed in the autumn if the rancher uses quick growing grasses, especially rye, or other animal feeds (like sunflowers).  But most ranchers prefer turf, and turf means grass.  Let the rye mature, and harvest both grain and grass for a high energy supplement.  Or, if you don’t like rye, plant crops that overwinter, like wheat.  Wheat needs less water than rye, too.

 
 
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