At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Le Menu (what's cookin'?)


This week, the pines put out new buds and the cool weather has made them extra sweet this year.  The willow, aspen and poplars are also enjoying the weather, and are very strong medicines! On the farm, potato leaves are just popping up out of the ground, and if we get a week or two of good hot weather, we should be enjoying lettuces, pea greens and other delicious treats...

But La Nina is furious this year, with temperatures still nearly freezing at night and a delayed summertime.  The ground is wet enough that there has been an inch of water standing on the ground twice this last week, and while our crops are not damaged because our aisles act to regulate the moisture in the field and our animals are warm and dry in their pens, it is disappointing to have to wait so long for our summer favorites.

Rat update: for those coming into the middle of the story, we adopted 3 baby field mice who were abandoned by their mother.  This week, one of the rats released themselves while we accustomed them to cool temperatures.  Guess that one was ready to go!  The remaining mice will be released within a few days, once they stop shivering when the temperature gets below 60: we want them ready for the big world.  Rats are important to any ecology, and especially to agroecologies.  We treat all our animals - wild and domestic - with a high degree of compassion.


>>>> New items

> Old items 



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




> Olive Oil (imported from California - olives don't grow in Colorado, silly! We make sure there is no chemicals used, just like on our farm. It is very buttery oil, very sweet)

> Sprouts - due to frost, unusual limited availability



> Dandelion (also a blood cleanser herb)

> Fava greens (eat like chard, beet greens or pea greens)

> Lambsquarter

> Linden (leaves) (very sweet, sugar substitute)

>>>> Pine buds

> Thistle (also a liver support herb)


-- 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)



  > Aspen (LEAVES, BARK) (antiinflamatory, pain relief, fever treatment)

  > Birch (TWIGS) (sweetener, also good for throat)

  > Cherry Blossoms

 > Lilac Blossoms

  > Plum Blossoms

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

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

  > Yucca (ROOT)



  > Two legs 

  > Four legs

  > Six legs

  > Eight legs (?!)  :::: )


Last stand of the unmechanized American small farm

At our farm stand it occured to us that the american small farm is a dying breed, and the USDA agreed.  Very small vegetable and fruit farms focus on the labor-intensive non-mechanized crops while larger farms undertake mechanized agriculture, encouraging US farms to both get larger and smaller in the future.  Currently, 8% of all farms produce 87% of all the fruits and vegetables on very large acres, and 68% of farms produce 1% of all produce on less than 4 acres. 

Mir Ali and Gary Lucier of the USDA ERS will report in their study, Vegetable Production Concentrated on Very Large Farms (Amber Waves , June 2011) that because an increase in the size of a vegetable and fruit farm of about 3 acres corresponds with an increase in production of nearly $250,000, vegetable and fruit production is encouraged to be on as many acres as possible. 

Surprisingly, the improved economy of scale has less to do with the expanded land size than the very large value of the crops and their relative high profit margins.  “For example, during 2007-09, the average per acre farm value of U.S. fresh-market field tomato production was $12,238, meaning that a farm with just 82 acres of fresh tomatoes could have farm sales in excess of $1 million. In contrast, about 1,500 acres of sweet corn for processing would be required to reach $1 million in sales,” say the doctors in their study.  This means that commodity crops are encouraged to large acreages by economy of scale, but fruit and vegetable production is encouraged by different pressures to become larger.

Which explains why there is also downward pressure towards smaller farms too: there is an economy of decreasing and also increasing scale.  There is a very large number (68% of the entire farmer population) of small farms (less than 4 acres) which are satisfied by average incomes of less than $40,000 because they have fewer costs of machinery, labor and other expenses: very small farms can undertake the labor by hand because those productions have not yet been mechanized and large farms have to also undertake the labor by hand.


Archeology of the chicken

Archeology is lending its support to understanding the domestication of the chicken, science which may improve the continued development of the important species in the future by farmers worldwide.  In their new study, La domestication du poulet : de l’archéologie à la génomique (Comptes Rendus Biologies, Volume 334, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 197-204) Drs. Michèle Tixier-Boicharda, Bertrand Bed’homa and Xavier Rognona of France have found a history of the domestication of the chicken written in its genome. 


La connaissance de la domestication du poulet s’appuie sur des données archéologiques, historiques et moléculaires. L’existence de plusieurs foyers de domestication en Asie du Sud et du Sud-Est, et la contribution de Gallus sonneratii à la domestication du poulet en complément de l’espèce ancêtre majeur Gallu gallus sont maintenant bien démontrées. La diversité génétique du poulet domestique est actuellement distribuée entre populations traditionnelles, races standardisées et lignées sélectionnées. L’accès à la séquence du génome a accéléré l’identification des mutations causales de différences morphologiques majeures entre poulets domestiques et Gallus sauvages. Un reséquençage du génome comparant poulets domestiques et Gallus sauvages a permis d’identifier 21 signatures de domestication. L’une présente une mutation non-synonyme du gène TSHR dont les conséquences fonctionnelles restent à explorer. Cette approche peut aussi identifier des gènes candidats correspondant à des locus à effets quantitatifs (quantitative traits loci [QTL]) déjà détectés. La génomique ouvre de nouvelles voies pour comprendre les changements majeurs induits par la domestication et la sélection.


Which translates to


Current knowledge on chicken domestication is reviewed on the basis of archaeological, historical and molecular data. Several domestication centres have been identified in South and South-East Asia. Gallus gallus is the major ancestor species, but Gallus sonneratii has also contributed to the genetic make-up of the domestic chicken. Genetic diversity is now distributed among traditional populations, standardized breeds and highly selected lines. Knowing the genome sequence has accelerated the identification of causal mutations determining major morphological differences between wild Gallus and domestic breeds. Comparative genome resequencing between Gallus and domestic chickens has identified 21 selective sweeps, one involving a non-synonymous mutation in the TSHR gene, which functional consequences remain to be explored. The resequencing approach could also identify candidate genes responsible of quantitative traits loci (QTL) effects in selected lines. Genomics is opening new ways to understand major switches that took place during domestication and subsequent selection.


Though far from complete, their line of inquiry will shed light on the characteristics that the first chicken farmers sought to improve in the chicken, and lend insight on how they limited chicken development today.  With advances in breeding, not to mention genetic engineering, we may be able to reclaim a now extinct ancestor of the chicken and begin domestication anew with the skills and understanding unavailable to our worthy ancestors so many thousands of years ago.

It is regrettable that no written records could have been kept by our ancestors, but it is fortunate that modern archeology can still tell their story because their choices, made so many thousands of years ago, still impact us today.  We may look forward to understanding better not only about the chicken, but about our own ancestors, as we examine the relationship between them.

Counting sheep not just for dreamers

Denver is on the verge of allowing you to raise a four legged friend not named fido. 

Raising sheep can be very profitable, whether you are raising them for wool, meat, milk, or to sell lambs.  The best way to maximize profits is to keep your flock healthy from day one.  When you buy your sheep, no matter the age, make sure that they have been ear-tagged with scrapie tags.  Scrapies is a serious infectious disease and you should never buy a sheep that does not come proven to be from a scrapie-free herd.  Also make sure that you are buying sheep that are current on vaccinations.

If you are buying young lambs or have pregnant ewes, young lambs require special care.    If your lamb is not nursing and needs hand-fed, make sure to feed it several times daily.  It should also receive colostrum at first, whether from its mother or from a bottle.  By the time the lamb is one or two months old, it should be eating grass or hay in sufficient quantities to wean it from its mother or the bottle.   Lambs over a week old should be given access to hay and grain so that they can start learning how to eat more than milk. 

With all age sheep, make sure to feed grains that are formulated for sheep: sheep are very sensitive to copper, and feeds not designed for sheep (such as cattle feed) are too high in copper.  Sheep that have too much copper in their diet will become lethargic and anemic, and typically die 1 to 2 days later.  Copper toxicity may take years to show symptoms as the copper builds up in the liver, so don’t assume that your feed is okay just because your sheep appear healthy.

        Sheep are prone to fly infections under their tail, which results in a painful and potentially fatal disease.  To prevent this, all lambs should have their tails docked (removed) when they are less than one week old.  It is difficult and dangerous to remove the tails of older lambs.  This is typically done by banding, wherein an elastic band is tied around the tail to cut off the blood flow, and the tail will fall off after the tissues die.  You may also want to vaccinate for tetanus at this time.

        Male lambs should also be castrated by banding before they are a week old.  When your lambs are 6 to 8 weeks old, they should be vaccinated with a CD-T vaccine.  They should be given a booster shot 2 weeks later.  Most sheep do not require any other vaccines than this during their life.

        Watch out for worms!  A worm infection in your sheep’s gut can make it very sick or kill it.  You can tell if a sheep needs dewormed by looking at the color of the membranes of its lower eyelids. A pale color (white or pinkish white) is a sign of anemia (low red blood cells) which is the primary symptom of barber pole worm infection. The barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) is the primary worm affecting lambs. It is a blood sucking worm that causes blood and protein loss, not diarrhea.  A lamb with scours (diarrhea) should be treated promptly.  It is not usually contagious, but it can be, depending on the cause.  Many things can cause scours, but it is usually caused by a type of bacteria called coccidia.  This can be treated with several different medicines.   Lambs with scours should also be given electrolytes in their water.

        Coughing sometimes occurs in sheep, typically from dusty feed.  If your feed is not dusty, or if your sheep are coughing even when no food is present, they may have allergies, or they may have a respiratory infection.  Take their rectal temperature: if it is more than 103F, they have an infection and should be given antibiotics.  Other diseases such as soremouth and footrot should also be watched for.  With regular care and fast response when you see a problem, your sheep can live long and productive lives. 

Wild brassicas blooming on the palmer divide

The wild brassicas are flowering on the Palmer divide, which indicates with extreme certainty one of the two following possibilities: either the last frost has happened, or the plants are senseless.  Certainly this has been something of a crazy year throughout the United States, but, hard won as it may be, the wild throws of temperature are now at least hovering something above freezing.

Brassicas are generally edible, and more often than not, delicious.  When harvesting wild brassicas, however, be careful to achieve positive identification.  They know they are delicious and will pretend to be other plants.  They are such good mimics that even expert hunters may mistake a poisonous or nasty tasting plant for a brassica. 

Brassicas are also known as “mustards,” “radishes,” “cabbages,” or other familiar names.  They are identified by having no coloration of the sap, may or may not have hairs on the stem, may or may not have a waxy coat.  Their leaves are serrated and pinnatifid, with lobe tips pointing towards the leaf tip.  The sprout seeds are usually cordate.  Flowers are what give the plant away best: they cluster at the tops of stems, have four petals cruciform, usually four long and two short stamen, often are yellow, but can be of other colors.  Their fruits are delicacies: they are capsules, with round seeds and usually spicy!

Romans were probably the first to experiment with the preparation of mustard as a condiment.  They also discovered how to use the thistle to make cheese. They mixed unfermented grape juice, known as “must,” with ground mustard seeds to make “burning must,” mustum ardens — hence “must ard.”  The only surviving recipe from the later Roman period (late 4th Century) includes a mixture of ground mustard, pepper, caraway, lovage, grilled coriander seeds, dill, celery, thyme, oregano, onion, honey, vinegar, fish stock, and oil. 

Though the French had been making mustard since the 10th century, the first appearance of mustard makers on the royal registers in Paris dates back to 1292. Dijon, France, became a recognized center for mustard making by the 13th Century. The popularity of mustard in Dijon is evidenced by written accounts of guests consuming 70 gallons of mustard creme in a single sitting at a gala held by the Duke of Burgundy in 1336.  Due to its long tradition of mustard making, Dijon is regarded as the mustard capital of the world. 

An early use of mustard as a condiment in England was in the form of mustard balls – coarse ground mustard seed combined with flour and cinnamon, moistened, rolled into balls, and dried – which were easily stored and combined with vinegar or wine to make mustard paste as needed. The town of Tewkesbury was well known for its high-quality mustard balls, which were exported to London and other parts of the country, and are even mentioned in William Shakespeare's play King Henry the Fourth, Part II.

There are many varieties of mustard which come in a wide range of strengths and flavors. The basic taste and "heat" of the mustard is largely determined by seed type, preparation and ingredients. Black seeded mustard is generally regarded as the hottest type. Preparation also plays a key role in the final outcome of the mustard. Mustard, in its powdered form, lacks any potency and needs to be fixed by soaking. One of the factors that determines the strength of a prepared mustard is the temperature of the water, vinegar, or other liquid mixed with the ground seeds: hotter liquids are more hostile to the strength-producing compounds. Thus, hot mustard is made with cold water, while using hot water results in milder mustard.  The pungency of mustard is always reduced by heating, not just at the time of preparation; if added to a dish during cooking much of the effect of the mustard is lost. 

When hunting mustards, it is difficult to decide whether to enjoy them as a vegetable, flower or fruit!

Difference between climate change and global warming

Ana Villar and Jon A. Krosnick in their recent publication, Global warming vs. climate change, taxes vs. prices: Does word choice matter? (Climatic Change (2011) 105:1–12) found that how we describe things does matter.  Their excellently worded abstract puts the situation succinctly, or should I say precisely? 


Does “climate change” seem like a less serious problem than “global warming” to Americans and Europeans? Does describing the costs of climate change mitigation in terms of “higher taxes” instead of “higher prices” reduce public support for such efforts? In an experiment embedded in an American national survey, respondents were randomly assigned to rate the seriousness of “global warming,” “climate change,” or “global climate change.” Contrary to predictions made by a leading political strategist, the full sample and political Independents perceived “climate change” and “global warming” to be equally serious. Among Republicans, “climate change” was perceived to be more serious than “global warming,” whereas the reverse was true among Democrats. A similar experiment embedded in a survey of residents of 31 European countries showed that “global warming” and “climate change” were perceived to be equally serious problems. And an experiment embedded in an American survey showed that describing the increased costs of climate change mitigation legislation via “higher taxes” instead of via “higher prices” did not reduce popular support for such legislation, also contradicting a political strategy memo. Thus, word choice may sometimes affect public perceptions of the climate change seriousness or support for mitigation policies, but a single choice of terminology may not influence all people the same way, making strategic language choices difficult to implement.


Yet words mean more to those who are more educated, especially in the phrasing of questions.  The doctors found that people with less education look to questioners and other people to form an ideology about a word: “among respondents with some college or less education, the primacy effect was sizable. The proportion of people who rated the problem as extremely serious or very serious when those options were presented first was 62.49%, compared to 55.89% when those options were last, a difference of 6.60% (?2 (1) = 9.04, p = 0.003, N = 2,005). Among respondents with a college degree or more education, the primacy effect was non-significant. The proportion of people who rated the problem as extremely serious or very serious when those options were presented first was 59.40%, compared to 58.14% when those options were last, a difference of 1.26% (?2 (1) = 0.14, p = 0.71, N = 861). Consistent with past research (e.g., Krosnick and Schuman 1988), education was a marginally significant moderator of the relation between response choice order and seriousness ratings (Wald (1) = 13.36, p = 0.09,one-tailed)… The primacy effect that appeared here was the same effect documented in many other past studies of rating scales and appeared here, as in past research, to be most common among people most likely to satisfice when answering survey questions: respondents low in education. It is therefore important to counter-balance rating scale point order in surveys in order to avoid bias.” 

Educated people have already formed opinions and ideology, which impacts the way that we interpret words: “Among Europeans in the “center,” people were equally likely to mention global warming as the most serious problem as they were to mention climate change (63.30% vs. 64.88%; ?2 (1) = 2.47, p = 0.12.)” 

Word choice matters, but no less so to those who are undeducated about a subject.  When using words, it is important to choose the most objective word, and to fully understand the word’s ideological associations with the audience at hand.

Have you camped in your backyard?

A fun adventure for children is camping in the woods, but the next best thing is camping out in the backyard.  While a safe place for the family to explore the basics of camping and do a “dry run” of a real camping adventure with children, it provides enough excitement and interest for the children to keen their interest in the adventure of wilderness camping while sharpening their minds to the skills they will require later.

Stay up late and watch the stars and the moon, listen to the night animals.  Did they know they had so many nighttime neighbors?  Give a thought to the poor who are forced to camp in the city with or without a tent.  There are so many big thoughts for a small night out.  Such thoughts give confidence in school.

Later, when the kids grow up they will think back on the occasional nights out and remember the lessons you taught them, and begin to think of the entire world as their backyard.

Providing for the needs of wildlife begins at home

When planning landscaping or your garden, remember the wild creatures – especially those that migrate.   By planting native species, you are likely providing necessary food and or shelter to these animals.  You can also then better enjoy the show this year as butterflies, bumblebees, birds and other interesting creatures come to your garden for food and shelter.

A sure bet for good wildlife watching is thistle, but you also can’t go wrong with milkweed.  Both of these produce good things for you as well: the thistles are good in your cooking pot, in your cheeses, and even in vases with your ornamental flowers, and the milkweeds are edible, very sweet smelling and soothing to the eye.  Don’t forget to save some of the blossoms and seeds for the critters out back!

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