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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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When the United States was founded, the only people who were assured the right to vote were men of at least 21 years of age who owned sufficient property that they depended on no one else for their income.  A tiny number of New Jersey women had the vote under the same terms until 1807, and some free African-Americans who fit the property and age restrictions got to vote.  Even white male laborers couldn’t vote when this country was founded.  How everyone else got the right to vote is a long story that I’ll cut short here; suffice it to say that people fought and died to be able to vote, with the last big changes not coming about until the 1960s and early 1970s.

Why then do only 40% of voters show up for midterm elections?  I don’t have a good answer, but I do know that not voting is dangerous to the future of our country.  If you aren’t registered to vote, honor the election tomorrow by getting registered.  If you are registered, show up at the polls.  Take a neighbor or friend who might otherwise not vote.  I voted early because I can’t be at the polls tomorrow.  This year of all years I personally felt what so many pundits are calling an “enthusiasm gap,” but I did my civic duty.  I hope you do too.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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Hot:  the three letters should speak for themselves. Our thermometer was registering 103 degrees F in the shade by noon.  It showed 108 degrees F (again, in the shade) before the day was over.  I think it could be off a few degrees, but even if it is, temperatures have been running ten degrees F  or more over normal for days, with little relief in site.  We’ve had one measurable rain since mid June.  It’s miserable.  We’re losing trees.  We’re losing plants that are supposed to be able to take the heat.

I remember back in the 1970s when scientists said we were heading into a mini ice age.  Then came the acceleration of global warming, to nullify the effects of other cyclical climate change.  Does anyone else remember the summer of 1988?  I was in Boston, where we had week after week in the high 90s with no air conditioning for relief.  We ran from sprinkler to sprinkler, sought out fountains, and even, um, “borrowed” a crew van and skinny dipped in Walden Pond, all to try to cool down.  That year was one of more than a dozen record breakers since then, with each one signaling scientists to look more closely at climate data.  And despite a few bad apples among global warming scientists who complained about critics and tried to figure out over now-public email how to discredit them, the science that indicates global warming is real is now overwhelming.  It’s warming, and some of the blame can be found in our lifestyles.

Have you noticed higher temperatures, earlier springs, later falls, or other possible signs of climate change at your homes?  How are these changes impacting your family? your garden?  your animals?  your budget?  Do you see signs that seem to discredit global warming?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Last summer, a major supplier of nursery plants, Bonnie’s, sent tomato plants infected with late blight to nurseries across the southern and eastern United States.  We only had two Bonnie plants, but with our unusually wet summer, those two plants infected all of our other plants, seriously reducing our tomato yield and encouraging me to start all of our plants from seeds this year.  The Bonnie’s blight didn’t just hurt our little homestead’s tomato harvest; it ruined the tomato season for eastern growers everywhere.  Like with recent food scares (for example, the peanut- related salmonella outbreak in 2009 and the more recent HVP recall), the Bonnie’s disaster demonstrated the problem of a few companies’ domination of anything that has to do with our food supply.

Over the past year or so, there has been a rising tide of discontent with another root supplier of our chain of food and clothing, Monsanto.  Monsanto now controls, directly or indirectly via patented technology, more than 90 percent of the soybean crop and about two thirds of the corn and cotton crop in the US.  Monsanto dodged questions about anti-trust violations in the past, but this year the Justice Department expanded its investigation of Monsanto for a rapid increase in prices that farmers pay for seeds.  As the New York Times explained, “Including the sharp increases last year, Agriculture Department figures show that corn seed prices have risen 135 percent since 2001. Soybean prices went up 108 percent over that period. By contrast, the Consumer Price Index rose only 20 percent in that period.”  In other words, farmers are imperiled by an increase in seed prices of 5 to almost 7 times higher than the rate of inflation over an eight-year period.  American agri-business already requires tremendous price supports from the federal government to make a profit or even just break even.  It now appears that a significant portion of the subsidies are going into the pockets of Monsanto.

Whether it is a single nursery grower like Bonnie’s that spread blight to the entire eastern half of the US, or a supplier like Monsanto that controls an obscenely large percentage of the seed in this country, concentration of our food and  clothing in a few companies is bad for the future of the US.  You can do your part to combat agricultural concentration by buying your plants and seeds from smaller suppliers and by purchasing your food from farmers that do not use genetically modified feed, into which most of Monsanto’s seeds grow.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Over the holidays, I visited a relative who made fun of recycling.  I was shocked, to say the least.  Really, how can anyone doubt recycling today?  Places like Madison, Wisconsin, have had mandatory curb side recycling since the 1980s.  We simply don’t have enough room in landfills to store our trash, and while it’s relatively inexpensive today to buy new water bottles and aluminum cans, producing those products from scratch results in subtle increases in our expenses for necessities like gasoline.

We have three small, square recycling bins in our house.  They fit neatly under an overhang on the kitchen counter, almost like they were made to be there.  They are each small step-cans made out of chrome on the outside with plastic buckets inside.  We have them in alphabetical order.

Aluminum is where the aluminum cans go.  Our local humane society gets cash for recycling them, so we accumulate a big bag worth in the shed, and then my husband drops them off periodically.  (I think he takes them so that I won’t be tempted to bring home a pet.)  Next is paper.  It should be obvious what goes in there.  Last is plastic.  We now have found a place that recycles steel cans too, so we’re collecting them also, even though they don’t fit in our neat little bins.  We’re still trying to find somewhere near here that will take glass.

Because we recycle so much and compost our non-meat food waste (more on that later this week), we don’t have to pay the exorbitant rates for rural trash pickup.  We generate very little trash, and we can dispose of it easily ourselves.

Does your community have curbside recycling?  Do you, like us, come up with easy ways to recycle without curbside pickup?

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Today I learned about a new phenomenon in rural North Carolina:  crop mobs.  Using “word of mouth” and the internet, a mob of  “landless farmers and the agricurious,” as Christine Muhlke puts it, meet at a small-scale, sustainable farm to help lend a hand.  The farmer provides lunch.  During the day, volunteers may help bring in a hand-dug potato harvest, or they may clear a field of rocks.  If they have carpentry skills, they may work on a greenhouse.  Most importantly, they may be enabling a farmer who’s trying to do things environmentally right to preserve his or her farm along the way.  Sustainable farming is labor intensive.  These extra hands get a chance to see farming up close and learn about it, to get together with old and new friends, and to contribute to the locavore movement.  Read more about it here.  Now that I know about the concept, I hope to help start an Arkansas crop mob–but I think it’ll have a different name.  Arkanfarmers?  Arkanhands?  If I can get something similar established here, I’ll let you know.

Do you know of other programs in your community?  Do share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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For the past month, I’ve been in and out of health care facilities with a dear relative.  Today he told me that he called in the nutritionist after he got his lunch.  It was fried chicken, with so much oil that it squirted out when he tried to remove the skin.  Last night’s supper?  a pimento cheese sandwich on white bread.  Whether he’s been in the hospital, an acute care rehabilitation center, or a skilled nursing facility, the only fresh fruit he’s been offered has been bananas.  He’s had one vegetable per meal.  He has had an endless parade of white bread.  When he’s asked, he’s gotten “wheat bread”–in other words, bread made from mostly white flour with a tiny bit of whole grain flour added in.  He’s gotten white rice, white rice, and white rice, never brown.  Truth is, on his own he doesn’t eat enough and his choices aren’t well balanced, but he still recognizes that the food he’s been served is a heart attack, colon cancer, and a stroke, all on one plate.  Please excuse me if I come off as ranting, but I can’t help but wonder if the health care facilities are trying to make sure they have an endless supply of patients.  If we are going to fix health care in this country, we need to start with the food on our plates.  And what better place to introduce healthy choices to the people who need them most than a health care facility?

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