Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Homestead Food Diary

This will be the last one that I'm going to post on a weekly basis because I think I've gotten the idea across. Unlike many commercial style farms, a small homestead like mine produces small amounts of a variety of food stuffs on an ongoing basis. That's not to say that other homesteads operate like this. If I were living in an area with a limited growing season, then you'd see me harvesting a large crop then preserving it in some fashion, for example canning. But where I'm located I can produce something edible year around. 

So here it goes for the final viewing......


Planted

Homestead
     Sweet potatoes
     Potatoes, two varieties
     Onions, two varieties
     Sunflowers
     Beans
     Beets
     Papaya
     Lilokoi
     Coconuts
     Bananas
     Apple trees
     Flax 
     Sesame
     Acquired one rooster (I didn't plant him, nor do I plan to eat him) 

Seed Farm
     Beans
     Taro
     Cotton 

Community Garden
     Potatoes, 3 varieties
     Onions, 2 varieties
     Turnips
     Beets
     Chard
     Radish
     Daikon
     Yacon
     Bok choy

Harvested
 
Homestead
     Eggs
     Chicken
     Chard
     Beets
     Beans, snap
     Peas, snap
     Peas, shell
     Sweet potatoes
     Pipinola
     Lemons
     Guavas
     Various herbs
     Mamaki 
     Taro
     Limes*
     Bananas*
     Jackfruit*
     A Mouflon roast*
     Fresh fish*
     Turkey*
     Jicama*
     Turmeric*
     Lettuce*
     Cherry tomatoes*
     Poi*
     Beef bones*
     Coffee*
     Oranges*
     Lilokoi*
     ( *= traded for) 

Seed Farm
     Beans
     Pumpkin

Community Garden
     Beans, 6 varieties
     Green onions
     Various herbs
     Kale
     Spinach
     Bok choy
     Green shelled beans
     Eggplant
     Sweet potatoes, 2 varieties
     Potatoes, 3 varieties

Monday, March 30, 2015

Transpiration Wilting

Today one of the community garden people wanted to water the spinach bed because it was wilted. She assumed that the wilting meant that the ground was dry. Fair enough assumption, but a wrong one in this case. The soil under the mulch around the spinach was quite moist. What the gardener was seeing was a wilting effect due to transpiration on a hot, sunny day. 

Transpiration is the process where plants move moisture from the ground, up through the plant, then out the leaves. Most of the time the process balances out quite well and everything looks just fine. But on a hot sunny day, sometimes the plant loses moisture out the leaves faster than it can replace it from the soil, even if the soil is wet. Plants with big leaves seem to have the most problem with wilting due to too rapid lose of moisture. 

Above is Chinese cabbage. These plants were getting large and growing rapidly. So they had large leaves. While those pictured above were not mulched to help protect the soil, others that had a deep mulch were also wilting. But once the sun started to set, the plants immediately perked up and looked marvelous again.

Other plants that I routinely see wilting due to rapid transpiration is yacon (above) and sunflowers. They both seem quite susceptible to this effect. The above planted are heavily mulched and kept watered, but they still wilt on sunny afternoons. It doesn't seem to bother them much, though. 

Grabbing a hose and watering the plants doesn't make a difference. They will still be wilted until the sun declines. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Home Hatched Chicks

I've reared plenty of chicks, but till now, I've always purchased day olds. I've never actually had any hatch right on the farm before. So this is a first! 


The first hen to hatch out some eggs is this feral chicken. She has lots of maternal instinct and was the first to become broody. So I slipped 6 eggs under her and let her brood them. Of the 6, 3 hatched. Since I wasn't sure the eggs were fertile, I'm pleased with the 3 chicks I got. She's not the biological mom of these chicks, but she doesn't know that. She's taking wonderful care of them. As you can see, she's eyeing me up. I think if I stepped any closer to those chicks she would have attacked. She's a brave hen. It makes putting out food for the chicks a real challenge. But the chicks come running anytime they hear me calling "chick, chick, chick". That poor hen practically has a stroke when she sees them running towards me, she surely doesn't approve of such behavior. 

I have two more hens sitting on eggs right now. One is a veteran at brooding and will hopefully end up with a dozen or more chicks. The other is a first timer so I only put 6 eggs under her. We shall see what happens in the next week. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Vegetable Flowers

Just about everybody knows that I really enjoy flowers. While I don't waste a lot of precious time on non-edible plants, flowers are the exception. But hey, veggies have flowers too! Ever notice them? 

First of all, some of the veggies I eat are actually immature flowers. Broccoli is the first one that comes to mind. Cauliflower. Chinese kale. Then there are the flowers that I add to salads....nasturtiums, squash, violet, chive. 

(Chinese kale flowers)

Lots of veggies bloom, though I seldom give the much thought. Squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas......

(Pea flowers)

I've noticed that even within the veggie variety, the color of the blossoms can be different. So they could be white, other times pink or purple. I see this commonly with peas, beans, and potatoes. 

Bean flowers. This one starts out white then goes to golden as it matures. 

(Sweet potato flowers)

(Gourd flower) 

(Eggplant flower)

My herbs often go to flower. I've been known to sneak a few of these flowers into our meals. The various basils flower readily. So does dill, cilantro, summer savory, marjoram. 

(Dill flowering)

(Cilantro flowering)

Without flowers my garden wouldn't produce fruit type veggies, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins, squash, beans, peas, corn......well I haven't been to successful with corn yet, but I'm still dreaming. Bumbye. 

Most of the flowers in the gardens don't have much scent. At least I don't notice them. But then I'm not noted to have a fine sense of smell either. But the two that I do notice are roses and macadamia nuts. Both smell wonderful. 
 (Rose flowers. A nice colorful addition to salads.) 

(Macadamia nut flowers)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Hauling In Water

It's been three weeks since the last significant rainfall. The soil is beginning to dry out. So it's time to water the gardens and bring in livestock drinking water. I have a large catchment tank down by the main gardens that I can use to irrigate them with, but the scattered smaller gardens have no convenient water supply. What to do? Haul water in. 

Prior to the early January windstorm, I used a transport tank for hauling. It held 330 gallons. 
(Above- squashed white water transport tank.)

Actually it was way too large for my truck. 330 gallons weighs 2,754 lbs. Although my truck has been beefed up for trailering purposes, that's still over its stated ability. So I had to be real careful and drive slowly. I eventually changed to using a trailer, but that also meant being very careful and slow. Someone once suggested that I only fill the tank half way. Not a good idea. The water would have sloshed back and forth, possibly throwing the truck or trailer out of control. The sloshing actually could have torn the trailer right off its hitch, making for a disaster. There's no way to avoid the sloshing since the road between me and the water source climbs up the mountain via lots of zigzags. 

The windstorm squashed my transport tank. I looked into replacing it with a smaller tank. I was surprised about the cost. Then another local farmer offered me two small transport tanks. I initially was going to use them for hauling, but found a better use for each. The smaller one (25 gallons) now stores livestock water for the chickens and rabbits. The larger one (50 gallons) stores the daily water for the donkeys, horse, sheep, and goats.
 Having those two tanks has made my life far easier and saves me a lot of daily time by eliminating all the running back & forth. So I decided to leave them be as is. (Katie, thanks from my heart for those tanks. I thank you every time I use them.)

So I decided to try something else. Very conveniently our local hardware store had commercial rubbermaid trashcans on sale for $20, with an additional $2 off for senior day (ah-ha, the benefit for being old!) Since they could be multi-use items, I decided to buy 8 .....the number that fit comfortably in the truck bed. Trashcans are also great for hauling grass clippings, storing feed, storing just about anything. Buying 8 was less than half the price of a transport tank that I was eyeing up. Before buying them I did some quick math. Figuring on loading about 25 to 28 gallons of water into each trashcan, that brings the load weight to well under a ton. Good. 

I quickly discovered that loading the trashcan with water and using the lid to hold it in doesn't work. The sloshing pops the lid right off. I tried using bungee cords to hold on the lid, but the sloshing got violent enough to empty most of the cans by up to 1/2 even though the lids couldn't completely fly off. No, those lids just couldn't handle the water action on the curves and hills. Water sloshed out everywhere. I nicely watered the asphalt on my way home. Now that I had invested hard earned cash in those trashcans, I wasn't about to give up in the can idea. But in the back of my mind I knew that at least I'd have other uses for the cans if I failed on this one. That was a bit of a consolation. 

 I knew from experience with my original transport tank that the water couldn't slosh if it was filled to the top. Plus I've seen pictures of collapsible water transport bags that could be used in the truck bed. Hummm. Out of those two juicy thoughts came the idea of containing the water using a trash bag in the can. Grabbing some heavy duty contractor bags, I stuffed one into a trashcan, filled it with water, and tied it shut with a string (I now use a short length of electric fence cord. Strong, easy to tie and untie, reusable.) Bingo! It worked. To further test out the idea I loaded the whole truck with all 8 cans. Success. 



I use a short length of standard garden hose to fill the trashcans. It takes 18 minutes for a fill up. 

Next problem.........how to get the water out of the cans. 

That will be a story for another post. 

All That Food !

One of the blog followers commented about the weekly homestead food diary. I couldn't be eating ALL that stuff each week, right? Well first off, nothing harvested yet here on the farm comes in large quantities. No bushel basketfuls. Often it's just a little of this and that, enough to make a couple meals with. And rather than having to preserve the stuff, I'll only harvest as I need it, like the greens and taro. They hold in the garden for a while until I need them for a meal. For example, this week I harvested 6 oranges from my tree. I ate 3 fresh then juiced the others. I froze the juice for later. I traded a few eggs for 6 bananas, whereupon I ate one each morning with breakfast. I harvested enough chard to use with two meals. Picked fresh kale I wanted for a salad. The one jicama got added to 2 dinners consisting of salad. The shell beans were enough for two lunches. I picked herbs as I needed them.

Some of my excess harvest goes into storage for future meals. Some is frozen, some dried. I don't bother to can. I simply haven't had a need to do that since I try to stagger my plantings. Another portion of my excess is used for trading. That's one of the ways I acquire food stuffs that I don't produce myself. If I happen to have a decent amount of something, perhaps I'll sell it at the farmers market then use the money to buy more seeds. And usually some is given away to friends, seniors, and the needy. Absolutely nothing, nothing gets thrown away. If it isn't destined for human consumption, then it goes to feed my animals. Very little is leftover to go into compost.....just the trashy stuff. 

When I'm planting things, it usually is just a small section or a few plants. For example this week I planted four new banana trees. That's not a lot. If I can plant a few trees each month, then I'll gradually increase my harvests. One apple tree. 4 lilokoi plants. 4 Samoan coconuts (no guarantee that they will sprout.) 10 ittsy-bitty papaya seedlings. The new sweet potato beds totaled 100 square feet. That's not much. I try to plant about that much each week because my livestock eats them in addition to us. I'll sow seeds for a dozen bush beans, a dozen pea plants, a few radishes. Very small plantings. So you can see, it's little plantings each week rather than one giant planting once a year. On the mainland, growing seasons are limited, but here in Hawaii I can grow just about everything year around. 

One of my goals was to learn how to stagger plantings, thus have harvests coming in by dribs & drabs. That way I'm not forced to process excess into storage. Some crops do indeed come in just in a bunch, but generally I'm learning how to stagger everything. This hasn't been easy for me to do. For the longest time I seemed to have either too much or way too little. But I'm getting better...........or until some new pest or disease crops up and fouls me up. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

ATV Repair

Equipment breaks. That's a fact of life. If I'm going to have farm equipment, i just have to accept that. Since my ATV gets used on the farm every day...yes every day.., it was bound to eventually break. But this little Honda Recon is one tough buggah. It's seldom out of action. 

So what happened? I was zipping down to the front field with a load of chicken feed when the gear shift pedal didn't seem to work right. It moved but nothing happened. Didn't change gears. The pedal seemed to be hitching, then it would again move a bit. Next try it completely slipped, then disengaged from the gear shift shaft. Dang. 

Getting off to take a closer look, I saw that I could physically get the shifting pedal back onto the shaft and shift gears as long as I physically held it in place. So the bolt holding it on must be loose, I thought. Getting the right socket wrench, I tried to tighten the bolt, but it didn't seem to want to grip. Possibly something  striped? Fearing that I'd ruin the gear shifter, which I know would be a major repair, I opted to take the ATV to the dealer. 
(Above, the offending gear shift pedal)

I'm usually a DIY kind of gal. But I've learned from the school of "you've really messed it up this time, sister" that when I'm over my head it may be wiser to seek somebody with more expertise. It turned out that I was indeed wise to take my own advice this time. A mechanic's inspection revealed not only a striped bolt but also damage to the teeth on the pedal. Luckily the gear shifting shaft did not also need replacing. 
(Close up shows the teeth inside the pedal connection to be worn away)

All told, it was a trip to Kona. Since it's a long drive, after dropping off the ATV I took the opportunity to stock up on supplies. To my surprise the ATV was fixed within the hour. Wow. That was service! I had planned on leaving it and returning in 2 weeks to retrieve it. But the people there know that I come a long way and were really super considerate, trying to get it done while I shopped. I couldn't be happier with the place. By the way, they deserve a plug......Kaiser Motorcycles, Kona, Hawaii. 

Fixed! New pedal is in place and works smoothly. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Homestead Food Diary

You asked for it, here it is. This is a list of the various foods that the homestead effort produced this past week, or started in the various gardens. 

Planted

Homestead
     Taro
     Sweet potato
     Pumpkin
     Pipinola
     Lilokoi 
     Green beans
     Peas
     Beets
     Potatoes
     
Seed Farm
     Beans, two varieties
     Lima beans, two varieties

Community Garden
     ---Started seeds for....
     Broccoli
     Cabbage
     Basil
     Green onion
     Leeks
     Carrots
     Beets
     Chard
     Spinach
     ---Direct planted....
     Radishes
     Daikon
     Turnips
     Potatoes

Harvested

Homestead
     Oranges
     Lemons
     Tangerines
     Tangelos
     Beets
     Chard
     Taro
     Sweet potatoes
     Pipinola
     Bananas
     Guavas
     Green beans
     Peas, shelling type
     Peas, snaps
     Onions
     Jicama
     Eggs
     Chicken
     Honey
     Various herbs
     Coffee
     Sugar cane
     Mouflon*
     Avocado*
     Goat cheese*
     Fish*
     Squash*
     Bananas*
     Tumeric*
     Cherry tomatoes*
     Papayas*
     Coffee*
     Limes*
     (*= traded for) 

Seed Farm
     Pumpkin
     Lima beans 
     Green beans, two varieties

Community Garden 
     Kale
     Spinach
     Green onion
     Eggplant
     Snow peas 
     Various herbs
     Daikon
     Red skin potatoes
     Green beans, 4 varieties 
     Radishes
     Bok choy
     

Monday, March 23, 2015

How Much is Work?

People have asked about farming, is it a lot of work? What is it like to have the job of a farmer? How many hours of my day is devoted to working? Hummmm, I get the feeling that they are comparing what I do to a typical 9-5 type job. Well maybe farming is exactly just that to some farmers, especially big corporate farms. But what I am doing as a homestead farmer doesn't equate to what most people deem as a job. 

I find it difficult to make a distinction between work, pleasure, and recreation when working on my homestead. Yes, it's physical labor for sure, sometimes hard, sweaty, muscle tiring labor. But it's something that I enjoy doing. 

Can a person get pleasure doing physical labor? Sure! I enjoy digging the gardens, creating compost, planting trees, harvesting, tending livestock. I'll tell you, if I didn't like to do it, it surely wouldn't get done. I left the drudgery of the 9-5 boring job scene far behind me. 

I have fun creating new experiments to try. It's mental exercise. I enjoy working with my livestock. It's play. It's recreation. 

Homestead farming can be serious but it also can be enjoyable. It incorporates the qualities of a hobby, a job, and a lifestyle all into one. It's hard to say where the work part ends and the pleasure begins. The lines are not only blurred but all mixed up. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pass It Along

No, not whispering down the lane. And not gossip either. 

How to grow your own food. 

A funny thing about me is that I've always wanted to grow my own food. Combining that with my innate nature to teach, then it goes hand in hand that I would teach others how to grow food too.  And to tell you, it's been some fun along the way. Not to belittle others, but it's been amusing to see that other gardeners are capable of making not just the same errors I have along the way, but have managed to come up with some more dandies that I never thought of. What's good about that is that I learn from each and every one of those flubs, thus I'm constantly getting better at this "growing food" effort. 

I've never kept records, so I can't say exactly how many people I've taught something about gardening or livestock keeping. But I keep finding more people who want to try this or that, so I give them help, hints, or lessons. Via this blog, I hope that there are people out there who will also give growing food a try. 
Building pallet grow boxes is the most common lesson I give to people around here. Because of the lava, people can't plow, rototill, or even hand dig the soil to build gardens. Often the best approach is to build raised beds of some sort. The pallet boxes are simple, quick and easy to assemble, and cost almost nothing to make. They can then be filled with an assortment of organic debris and soil amendments, again only costing one's time not cash. 
Just about everyone who I've shown these pallet boxes to comes away pleased with the results. And just about all are surprised just how much material it takes to fill one of these boxes. But ultimately, they end up harvesting a crop plus 1/2 yard of soil/compost mix. Not bad. 

The second most common food growing lessons are about chickens. Right now there are dozens and dozens of families around here with two laying hens in a small backyard coop. This is a project that just about everyone can be successful with. I use to build a simple 4x4x6 foot coop and then let the person customize it from there. But now I see that Costco is selling a small backyard coop that is cute and ready to use. So now I recommend that one. It may be pricy for sone people around here, but they can go take a look in order to get ideas. Then they can fashion their own coop. 

The third most common food growing lesson is non-circulating hydroponics for lettuce. I've even gotten the senior center involved and set up numerous seniors with homemade kits. Heck, my own mother was successful in growing lettuce this way, and was pleased and proud to go out into her porch and pluck lettuce leaves for her sandwich. Pretty cool! 

I'm a firm believer in education. Thus I'm a firm believer in passing knowledge along. And for some reason I get satisfaction in doing just that. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Living in Eden?

Hardly! 

My hippie post must have stirred up some brain cells somehow because several people asked me if felt that I considered myself living in Eden/paradise/utopia? Huh? Homesteading not for the lazy. Try thinking-- Labor. Long days. Dirty. Sore. Sweaty. Not an idyllic life in Eden. And not the fantasy dream of hippies, either.

Ok. Now that I've said that, I'm thinking "paradise". Well I am in Hawaii afterall, right? And I am on my own independent homestead, free & clear. I have plenty to eat and drink. I don't freeze. I'm not in debt. The homestead is fairly self supporting. I'm not hiding out from the authorities. Nor am I being dominated by a warlord. I don't fear for my life. So perhaps I am indeed living in paradise. I've worked hard and paid my dues along the way, so this paradise didn't come free and easy. But it's now here. 

Visualize this........beside a small painted barn stands a stocky, aging, rough handed woman concentrating on painting a farm sign. It reads "Paradise Acres" in yellow paint on a fresh green background. .....Naw. Sounds way too corny. 

So what's the name of our house? Hale Oop. (hale in Hawaiian is pronounced like "hal-ee" like in the word alley). I think you have to be in my age group to get the pun. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Something Wicked....Continued

"..., then they came for me."

If you have no interest in this situation, then by all means, stop reading. But be warned, animal rights advocates don't necessarily own animals themselves. Their attacks aren't always driven by love of animals, but rather love of power, of being able to tell someone else what to do. You don't have animals so you don't care? What if they start checking to see that you are practicing religion in the right way, wear your clothes by the right fashions, watch to make sure you don't stay out too late at night. They may check to see if your children go out on dates unescorted, walk to school by themselves, play unsupervised. Crazy? Won't happen? Think again. It's happening in other countries right now. In fact, it starting to happen here. Oh......they came for the carriage horses, they came for the small farmers' animals......unchecked, will they come for you? 

The following is Jon Katz's most recent post on this matter. So if you're already reading his blog, you've already seen this.................

Joshua Rockwood owns a small family farm – West Wind Acres –  with his wife Stefanie and two sons,  in Glenville,  N.Y. He sells meat and other products and is well-liked and respected by his customers and other farmers. Some weeks ago, the heating pads in his water tanks failed in the bitter cold and the water froze. The town police and animal control officers, responding to an anonymous complaint,  raided his farm. Tonight, Joshua Rockwood is going to court.

He has been charged with 12 counts of animal neglect and abuse – some of the charges relating to the frozen water bowls and tanks – and his dogs and horses have been seized and taken away. Animal rights officials and local police accused him of keeping animals in an unheated barn and failing to provide proper shelter.

He is asking for help.

Pictures of his farm and his animals have been on television all over the country and in the newspapers – most repeated the unheated barn accusation – the TV reporters seemed especially outraged –  as proof that his animals were neglected and abused. Rockwood fears that his reputation has been shattered and will be nearly impossible to reclaim. Until March, he loved is life.  He is not certain his farm can survive.

As is often the case, he was portrayed in the media as an abusive monster, his side of the story was neither sought much or told much. Joshua Rockwood is a former construction worker, he dreamed about a different life, he wanted to grow healthier food for himself and his family, according to one friend, and he was determined to create a sustainable farm and way of life. All of his animals are fed on pasture and the manure is converted to fertile soil. He raises chickens, sheep, pigs and cows and all of them are bred to thrive on grass and to endure harsh winters.

His dream may have been taken from him a few weeks ago, and in the most frightening and invasive of ways. This is a movement that has no qualms about destroying ways of life, one after another. Rather than protect the freedom and property of people like Joshua, government seems to have join in the movement to take both away.

In this curious world, there are never two sides to an animal abuse story, only one. There are no grays, only black and white, no middle ground, only a very modern and American kind of Inquisition or Witch Trial. That seems to be the process model for the modern-day animal rights movement. If you are accused, you are guilty.

The charge that his animals were abused because they were in an unheated barn is simply astounding. It tells us again that the people who purport to speak for animals and the people who report on them know nothing about them. My barn would be impossible to heat, even if I wanted to,  and not healthy for the sheep and donkeys if it were. I know of no real farmer who heats his barns or who believes that would be appropriate for animals like cows, donkeys and sheep – they can live in the wild, need fresh and unfiltered air, and always prefer to be outdoors unless it is icing or raining in an extreme way.

Authorities also alleged that some of Rockwood's pigs had frostbitten ears and that the hooves on his horses were overdue for trimming. There was no evidence of any kind suggesting that his animals were legally abused – that is, neglected to the point of grievous injury or death. They were all vet-certified as being healthy, and twice. That should have been the end of the story.

It was not, it was the beginning of a horrific ordeal for this small family farmer and his wife and children. For one of the very few times in my life, I wonder what country I am living in, and am so sorry to see some of our most cherished values and protections tossed aside in the name of loving animals.

Rockwood has launched at $50,000 gofundme campaign to raise money to post bond for his horses – he very much wants them back – and to pay for the disrupted legal fees and lost business he has incurred and will incur due to the publicity and effort involved in defending himself. He means to go to court to try to fight the charges and to win back his reputation, his rescue dog and his horses.

Rockwood has posted copies of all twelve charges against him – there may be more Friday night – on his blog.  He certainly does not act like someone who is ashamed of anything or has anything to hide. You can see the charges here, they range from having frozen drinking water, to a lack of available feed, to a lack of adequate shelter. I should add that a number of cities and towns around Glenville were without fresh water for days, so many pipes underground had frozen or burst.

I have not been to Rockwood's farm and have not seen his animals. I have seen the reports of two different veterinarians who examined the animals shortly before they were seized and who found them to be healthy, well-fed and hydrated, and well cared for. The story is sickeningly familiar to me and to so many other people who live with animals who have watched in growing horror as the idea of animal rights has evolved into an Orwellian distortion of the lives and needs of animals, a wanton and extra-legal expansion of the idea of abuse, and the trampling of individual human rights in the name of protecting animals.

I am seeing and hearing and reading too many stories like this, they seem to mount every day.

Animal rights organizations have spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying local and state politicians to expand the very idea of abuse and leave countless animal lovers, farmers and poor and elderly people vulnerable to the charge that they have mistreated the animals they live with and love, or are not fit to own them.

It's an awful thing to be accused of animal abuse when you love animals. There are certainly people who abuse animals, and plenty of laws available to punish and prosecute them. To me, government and the police have no business destroying Joshua Rockwood's life and livelihood, or to take his animals from him. He is an animal lover, the very kind of person animals need in order to survive.

I will  contribute to his fund, I would urge you to make up your own mind and follow his story in his own words. Another account of someone who knows him here. A local newspaper account here. Rockwood has opened up his farm to anyone who wishes to come and see it, he believes in transparency and allowed police to inspect his home and farm without a warrant.

My heating elements have frozen several times in recent years, we have often had to haul water out or chop the ice. You can only do that once or twice a day, especially when the temperature is -22.  Sometimes the animals have to wait a few hours.  This winter was brutal, I know of many farmers whose animals – and many farmers themselves – have experienced some frostbite in their ears or other extremities, it was one of the coldest winters on record. Out West, thousands of cattle froze to death due to savage cold and storms. Everywhere, barns collapsed, water lines and pipes (including mine) burst and froze. Rockwood got his animals through it.

In a rational world, farmers like Joshua Rockwood would receive the aid and support of government in a winter like this, his animals were all active when the police arrived, and according to two veterinarians, hydrated and healthy. I imagine there are things at West Wind Acres that could have been done differently or improved upon, but all farms are a struggle, very few real farmers have much money. We are setting such unrealistic and myopic standards for animals  (I know of no homes raided by police because the people inside are cold and struggling)  that soon enough, nobody but giant corporations will be able to keep and afford animals at all.

Perhaps that is the idea.

The cows who spent their lives on concrete floors of corporate farming barns will never risk getting frostbite, they will never again see grass or the sun or fresh air either.  Chickens spend their lives in tiny pens on corporate farms, barely able to move. The Glenville animal control officer wants to take Rockwood's pigs away because they do not have adequate shelter. On corporate farms, female pigs never leave their narrow pen, they are fed and bred where they lie and spend their lives in that condition, unable to turn around, giving birth over and over again, slaughtered when they can no longer be bred. That is not illegal, corporate farms do not live in fear of having their pigs seized and taken to rescue farms, they are not invaded by animal police and taken away,  it does not happen.

Any of these pigs would live happily on Joshua Rockwood's farm.

Small family farms, struggle to survive and compete, make much easier targets for the people who say they speak for the rights of animals. I have seen many of these farms first-hand, they do not always have the resources to provide all of the things they might wish for their animals, but they generally are animal lovers and care for them as best they can. If two veterinarians found Rockwood's animals healthy, what business is it of the local police?

Joshua Rockwood is an especially poor choice for the people who claim to speak for animals to single out. He is a  well-known animal lover, his food products are considered of high quality, animals are a central part of his life and farm, and of his family. He was given no chance to explain the circumstances to the police, or to correct any of the mechanical issues the extreme cold caused him.

Barns for livestock are never heated, it is not healthy for grazing animals and they don't need it, and there is far too much danger of fire – barns are full of hay, dust and other flammables.

Animal control officers ought to know that. So should people who claim to be journalists.

This is true: if they can do it to the carriage horses, they can do it to Rockwood, if they can do it to him, they can do it to you. They are getting closer all the time.  Somebody driving by your house or farm in their car can decide they don't like the way you are treating your animals, or the way they look,  and you may  find the police at your door taking your animals away, invading the sacred space that once existed between you and them. And no one will listen to you, or to reason. You will need many thousands of dollars to get them back, if they are not euthanized first or given away.

Orwellian is an adjective that describes a social condition that the author George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes, according to Wickipedia, an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth and manipulation of the past, including secret informers and the branding of the "unperson," a human being who existence is expunged from the public record, memory and good standing by a repressive government or social movement.

It fits. Rockwood is rejecting his casting as an "unperson" unworthy of the moral community, just as the New York Carriage Horses have rejected that labeling. He is fighting to remain a person in  his community, in his world. To live his good and hard life.

The police could have come and asked him about his tough winter, they could even have offered to help him. They could have asked him to show proof that he would fix his water tank – there is absolutely no evidence that he had plans to starve or dehydrate the animals he depends on for his livelihood or his pets that he loves.  There is something frightening about a government that is so manipulable and unknowing that it would invade the most private life of a hard-working farmer and take his animals away from him, then force him to raise many thousands of dollars to post bonds and defend himself from charges that seem absurd at worst, distorted at best.

This is a situation many Americans all over the country now find themselves in – carriage horse drivers, the operators of pony rides, farmers (my neighbor has been reported to the police a dozen times because his cows sit out in the snow), circus operators, poor people with dogs, cats, horses and cows, researchers, agricultural students, sled dog operators and many more. If you cannot give an animal a perfect and fantasized life, better than yours or the vast majority of human beings, then you are guilty of abuse in the new and twisted morality of the animal world.

Rockwood is fighting back and for all of our sakes – anyone reading this who lives with an animal – or loves one, he needs to win. I'm donating to his fund, each of you reading this will and should, of course, make up your own mind.

I wish to do everything I possibly can to help Rockwood keep his farm and get  his animals back. This does not advance the rights of animals, it makes a mockery of the rights of people. it is the opposite of humane and just.  Rockwood is us, and he is fighting for us, as well as his own freedom and life. gofundme.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Something Wicked This Way..........

There's an unexpected danger to farming........

Yes, something wicked is gaining strength. It is the ignorant and self-righteous people who call themselves "animal lovers", "animal welfare people", "animal rights supporters". Many live in your town, and dangerously they are often your own neighbors. Dangerous that is, if you happen to be a farmer. Small livestock keepers are more and more frequently having their small farms searched and raided, and often their animals seized, because of some neighboring animal lover calls the authorities and claims animal abuse. The problem being..there often is no abuse or neglect occurring.

Too many of these self-proclaimed animal advocates know very little about animals and animal husbandry. They hold on to a fantasy ideal about animal welfare. I have personally dealt with these people for years through my work in veterinary medicine. Amazingly they seldom ever let reality get in the way of their beliefs. 

Once again the claim of animal abuse is causing yet another small farmer to run afoul of the authorities. Livestock has been confiscated via flimsy evidence that stretches the term "animal abuse" to the limits of far outer space. And in this case, even an immediate veterinary exam and statement of good health did not stop the seizure. Totally insane Gestapo scenario, as far as I see it. If you're curious about this latest case, you can check the blog post http://fussylittleblog.com/2015/03/17/unexpected-dangers-of-farming/ , check Jon Katz's website at www,bedlamfarm.com , or check what Jenna has posted on her website at www.coldantlerfarm.com. 

Every livestock owner believes it won't happen to them. And I you're influential, you produce for Tyson or Perdue, you're one of the big factory farms, then you're most likely right. But if you're a small farm with an animal advocate near by with a bee up it's butt, then you're in danger. Factory farms can get away with incredible cruelty, with whistleblowers now being prosecuted for bringing this cruelty to light. And while I believe true animal abuse needs to be stopped, the attack of small farmers where no abuse actually exists is escalating and getting out of hand. 

The insanity of the animal rights movement is just that, insanity. Rational, sane thought is thrown out the window. Impassioned response rules, even though based upon illogical, uneducated, outright wrong information. Example.....a small farm was accused of animal neglect. Cited was the fact that numerous chickens in the flock had little to no feathers on their heads and necks. The flock was close to being confiscated and actually euthanized due to theorized disease (there was no facility able to take the flock) until the farmer was able to convince a judge that the hens were a breed called Turkens. They naturally have nude heads and necks.  Luckily the farmer was able to show invoices proving the purchase of the hens. But it cost the farmer hundreds of dollars and days of frustration and worry, all over nothing. So what became of the hens? The farmer slaughtered all the Turkens because he feared future animal rights trouble. I'm sure those hens really appreciated the animal rights movement. Animal lovers directly caused the death of dozens of hens, the very ones they were "saving". 

Insanity. 

Small homesteaders, like me, have to be aware of these animal advocates and take steps to protect their livestock and lifestyle. While I can never condone animal neglect, abuse, or cruelty, I know that I will not be immune if some animal loving wacko drives by and thinks my horse "looks sad". 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Hippie Farm?

I had to laugh. I received a one-sentence email that asked, "Are you a hippie?" Oooooh my. No, I'm not a hippie. I lived right in the midst of the hippie era, but the closest I got to becoming a hippie was wearing bell bottom pants, soft moccasins, a leather fringed vest and matching leather floppy hat. Drove my grandmother nuts!!! My mother wisely ignored it and defended me in a low key, flick of a hand sort of way. But my grandmother never gave up. Her harping led me to purchase an unlined leather jacket, which I stoically wore all winter long. I froze but stubbornly refused to admit it. Hippie? No, not really. 

I'm living a comfortable, subsidized (hubby still works his regular job for now), homestead life. Nothing hippie about it. Although we've given up a lot of things that had been standard in our previous life, I wouldn't say that we've forsaken comfort or material goods. We still use money, though I'm developing quite a nice trading network. The last I checked, Amazon wasn't interested in trading bananas or eggs for electronics. So money is here to stay. 

I don't advocate mind altering drugs. I hate, absolutely hate to lose control of myself and my thinking processes. Thus I never developed a drinking habit either. And I don't believe in sucking off the government tit if I can support myself. I'm not adverse to working and doing hard, sweaty labor. Never got into black lamps and psychedelic colors, nor weird music. Back then I never had issues with the establishment, other than I believed in equality regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, or cultural background. Nor did we paint our VW bus funky colors, though I admit we did install an orange & white shag carpet. 

I have plenty of old hippies for neighbors. Their lifestyle and mine are miles apart. 

I wonder why homesteading has been equated with hippies? This is not the first time I've heard the association. Quite frankly, I don't see most hippies working industrious enough to maintain a true homestead lifestyle. Growing some food in a garden, yes. Farming enough to sustain oneself? I don't see that. Every one of my hippie neighbors (and including my hippie brother) is living off a government subsidy of some sort. They are all signed up for food stamps, every one. They all line up for the free food from the churches, food bank, and other hand outs. They use the free or low cost clinics for dental and medical, qualifying for often free services. They get free eye exams and free glasses. They are the converse of self-sufficient homesteading. Plus they all still use mind altering drugs of one sort or another. 

Now don't misunderstand. I don't mean to criticize their lifestyle choices. It's theirs. So be it. It's just that it's not mine. 

No, I'm not a hippie. I am a stand-on-my-own-two-feet farmer, or at least I'm heading that direction. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Homestead Food Diary

This past week........

Planted

Homestead
     Sweet potatoes
     Taro
     Tumeric
     Green beans
     Beets
     Yacon
     Jerusalem artichokes
Seed Farm
     Taro
     Sweet potatoes
     Peas
Community Garden 
     Beans, 3 varieties
     Peas
     Carrots
     Turnips
     Daikon
     Radish
     Beets
     Chard
     Spinach

Harvested

Homestead
     Taro
     Oranges
     Bananas
     Pipinola
     Green beans
     Green onions
     Chard
     Sweet potatoes
     Beet greens
     Beets
     Various herbs
     Eggs
     Mulberries*
     Limes*
     Lemons*
     Papaya*
     Jackfruit*
     (* = traded for)
Seed Farm
     Nothing
Community Garden
     Eggplant
     Beans, several varieties
     Peas, snow
     Spinach
     Kale
     Daikon
     Radishes
     Herbs
     Chinese kale

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Weeds the complicated answer

Weedless gardening? 

One of the frequent topics people ask me about is weeds. People seem to be manic about eliminating each and every weed from their gardens. When I tell them that some weeds are ok in my gardens, they tend to drift away, thinking that I'm crazy in some way. So I'd like to address some of the weed phobias gardeners have....

... Eliminate all weeds - bare earth syndrome. I've seen plenty of gardens that look so incredibly neat without a weed to be seen. Just veggie plants and plenty of bare earth. I really don't like seeing bare earth exposed to the sun and drying wind. Soil organisms and worms don't like it either, which in turn causes your veggies to be affected. While I wouldn't advocate a dense weed population, low growing weeds are a better option than bare soil. Especially if the weeds are not the type to adversely affect your veggies. Purslane is a good weed. So is plantain, oxalis, dandelion. Most ground hugging weeds don't bother the veggies much, help protect the soil, help with humidity and pests. Problem weeds for me would be vining things, tall growing things, and most grasses. My veggies don't like those. 

... Mulch to eliminate weeds. That's ok in my book. I'm an advocate of mulch, so if it's a way of being  weedless, I have no issue with it. I use mulches for soil health, with weed control being a side benefit. 

... Weeds bring bugs. Gardeners often notice that certain weeds are associated with bugs, so they are quick to eliminate all weeds. The assumption is that no weeds = no bugs. Wrong. Actually I like certain particular weeds around because they can be good bug indicators. Certain bugs tend to show up first on certain weeds. Example, whitefly. They always seem to show up on my nasturtiums first before the veggies. Thus I leave some nasturtium weeds growing near or in the gardens. 
    Some weeds actually attract "good bugs", those that attack or eat the nasty bugs. I don't have a list of those weeds with me, but you could goggle it. I'm aware that there are predatory wasps that are attracted by milkweed. And flowering weeds, especially dandelion, attract bees. Yes, that's good. Bees are pollinators. And just the opposite of attraction, some weeds repel or deter bad bugs. 
    Certain weeds can be used as trap crops. For example, nasturtiums tend to attract black aphids. When there is a breakout of these aphids, I can opt to spray the aphids with soapy solution to kill them. Same for whitefly. Thus I can protect the garden veggies from a major bug attack. 

... Disease spreaders. I haven't found that to be the case, but I do notice that certain weeds are great disease indicators. I'll sometimes spy things like powdery mildew on some weeds before the veggies, thus giving me a heads-up to watch my veggies closely. Same for rust, another fungal disease. Weeds don't cause these diseases. It's just that they succumbed to them first. 

Not all weeds are welcome in my garden that's for sure. Too many weeds can choke out my veggies, leaving them no space to grow. Tall weeds could block out the sun. Aggressive weeds could hog the soil moisture and nutrients. Vining weeds could cover or bind the veggies. Spiny weeds could make working in the garden painful. So not all weeds are good. But a few weeds here and there don't bother me or send me into a nervous tither. As I've said, some I find useful. 

Useful? Oh yes, some are even edible! Purslane is one that I will leave to grow when I come upon it. And all of them are useful when pulled or wacked then added to the mulch or compost.