Tuesday, July 26, 2011

hydrofracking.. oil or water? ... the crude poop

 The US has oil deposits and relatively good sized ones at that. However.. the shale some of these deposits reside in are difficult to get at. One mean to get the oil from the rock is a method called hydrofracking.

 Great, right? I mean.. we now have the technology to tap reserves previously beyond our grasp..

 Sure it is lovely.. if you like being able to light your tap water on fire. They are tapping in very rural areas, and while the "land owners" may not want these companies doing this.. on their land.. they do not own the mineral rights. So they own the surface of the land, but what's underneath is fair game.

 When you mess around like this.. a rural area is the ideal playground. If you are going to completely destroy the ground water in an area.. it is better to pay off a few families than a city of lawsuits. Who listens to or cares about the farmer on a couple thousand acres of scrub in Montana anyways?

 When they talk about peak oil, they are talking about the "easy to get" deposits. After that it moves into more complicated means to be able to tap it.. as in bigger bucks, bigger risks. 

 You can't strip mine that much of anything and not cause massive ecological damage. 

 Meanwhile in band camp.. or rather at the U of I... they are figuring out means to be able to derive crude oil from crap. Yep.. your poop today will be someone's petrol tomorrow. 

At least that has some potential.. how much depends on how efficiently they can accomplish this feat. It would be a means of tackling the CAFO outputs, municipal additions, etc. with a hefty left over of nutrient laden material that is able to be used as plant fertilizer. 

And... here's one for the good guys... Go Hungary!!! They discovered and destroyed fields of GMO crops.



Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of Beaks and Beans

 We had to seek refuge from the heat. In the high 90's, pushing 100 with air so humid it was smothering even before the sun rose. The dog was in utter misery and I was worried like crazy about the young chickens, so we went to the farm and turned on the AC. My husband packed some things from our house and spent the night there. He got heat stroke... in the house. I'll be surprised if any of my seeds in this house are viable.

 We've been pulling bowl after bowl of beans and a few tomatoes every day. A lot of tomatoes are still very green, and I am awaiting to see what some of my mystery tomato crosses will be. So far.. quite a mix. Seems the yellow pear has crossed with ???  The plants are covered in light bulb shaped tomatoes, but much bigger than the standard yellow pear parent, and they are still very green. I have to say... I am excited about the Goldman's Italian American tomatoes. Massive rippled tomatoes.. RIPEN ALREADY!!! Seriously not getting any younger here.

   Now.. July and August are when the tomato horn worms come out. To be quite frank, I totally wasn't even thinking about them. I wasn't even thinking to look for them until about a half dozen tomato plants totally disappeared to nothing but a stem. I'm still training the chickens.. (yes.. training them).. and so far behind on weeding, laundry and basic functions that checking on the tomatoes was pretty far down the list.
 The Japanese beetles are fabulous for chicken training treats. "Izzy" knows her name, so does "Karen" and "Kate" and "Roy".  The beetles appeal to the chicken's 5 senses.. crunchy and shiny. After shiny, not much else matters.

  I... armed to the teeth with my trusty never-to-be-used-again-for-people salad fork.. went to wage war in the pathetic tomato patch. You can sorta pop horn worms off if you *use the fooooork Luke... use the fooooork!* place the tines to get the last 2 sets of legs off the plant. These wriggling juice bags went right into a container to be fed to the chickens.

 These are the 3 amigos..
 Horrible picture of them, I know... but my husband had the camera. The crocs are worn strictly to torment the fashionista poultry. These 3 follow me everywhere. The brave, the daring.. they are the few that will go into the garden. So I didn't think much about these boogers when I was picking beans.. until I heard the squeals of excitement by the 3 little dorks as they went tearing back to the house. You could just hear what they were thinking.. "Omgomgomgomgomgomg lookit what I have!!!"

 When one of my chickens has something new.. it must show whatever it is off to the other birds. Their reaction determines if what they have is any good.. desirable... so the initial "run" plays out like the OJ car chase. Really slow, with everyone watching.. still processing what is going on.  If they know they have the goods.. break-neck speed right to the cop.. through the masses.. 

 They thought they had horn worms, until they got to the coop and paid attention to what they snapped up. Several minutes later they are back in the garden.. then sqeals as they zoom back to the house. It takes a chicken quite a few times to figure something out. About 1/2 a bowl full of beans before mine figured it out.

 If you like silence.. listen to Pioneer Preppy and do not get a guinea fowl. When they are content, it is like a bunch of 6 year olds with kazoos saying "Doot-dah-doo" over and over. When they are not making that sound.. they are screaming repeatedly. When you go inside to hide from their commotion, they seek you out and express their dislike of your relocation.. right after they crap on the patio.
  At first, a loud sound of any sort would surprise them into silence. Then they caught on and it would force me to reach for desperate measures... old songs.


Then came disco...  oooowwp   ooowwp!  and imitations porn...  bow-chica-wow   No pride left.. I just wanted a few minutes of blessed silence. Nothing was safe, nothing was sacred.. songs learned in CCD to pop songs.. a nursery school song in German, advertising for dog food, theme songs to TV shows.. all fair game.

 No pride left I tell you. A fact I completely realize when I have to get them back into the temporary coop at night. When I hear myself mutter things like "please get in.. sleepytime.. please don't make me use the jazz hands..."

 The chickens meanwhile.. just hop right in.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wild Bergamot ..Bee Balm.. easy natives

 The north side of the fields we have a meadow of  bee balm (Monarda fistulosa). 

  These happily are also dwelling in the forest understory and highlight the way to my wild black raspberry patch. It is hard to explain the scent these give off when we walk through them, kind of lemony with spice notes. 

 This plant is a native and is also found pretty much across the US. It is also considered a "honey plant" as it puts out decent amounts of pollen and nectar. The humming birds and bees are constantly all over them making the forest hum.

 Monarda fistulosa is the species we have and it is in peak bloom right now. It is a perennial and although it spreads more often by way of rhizome, it does also offer viable seeds. The seeds from this species needs cold stratification. I'll be collecting seeds from these to start patches closer to the farmhouses.

 The flowers and the leaves can be used fresh or dried to make tea. The best time to pick any herb is very early in the morning when it has the highest levels of essential oils. Essential oils are very volatile and exposure to heat and light will cause them to dissipate. This also would be why you want to dry herbs in an area that has good air flow, is cool, and out of light.. so you retain the flavor.

 While some opt to use this plant as just a decorative addition to landscape, it can offer more than just eye candy. The tea made from this is rather refreshing and it can help if you have issues with heartburn or gas. There are other "issues" it is said to help.. but I have yet to try using it to relieve headaches , stomach aches or acne. Frankly.. I just find the tea lovely.

 This plant is in the mint family... and like it's cousin.. it can sometimes spread. Once established, it requires almost no care. Along the edge of a forested area, or where there is an opening in the canopy these plants take off. They can handle partial shade and seem to thrive when getting a break from the scorching summer sun. 

 I guess if you were to do a native planting.. they get along with sumac, black caps, gooseberry and black walnut.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Japanese Beetles and building the coop

  I've been swamped and hit a few times by heat troubles. Wild black raspberries are in full swing and I'm determined to grab up as much as I can! (Even though I will never ever be able to make a dent even if there were 20 of me picking around the clock.)  My overzealous picking has landed me in hot water twice now where I collapsed in the lawn on the way back to the house. Hot and humidity in the 90's really can hit you like a ton of bricks. Heat exhaustion happens easily, but trying to track back through a forest to get to someplace cool was the only option. Humidity that high and evaporation does not happen. I take emergency ice packs with me just in case now.

 What also is in full swing are Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica).
  These bugs will "fall" when disturbed. So I grab a large mouthed container, throw in a bunch of ice and some water.. and let them drop in. The wild grape vines and wild roses all around the garden are essentially acting like a trap crop.  They drop into the ice water and are too cold to fly away.

 These beetles will skeletonize a long list of plants. It is like a biblical plague. Several trees are so covered that you barely can see the leaves. While you can use a lure trap, it will essentially attract the fiends in greater numbers than what the traps can catch... As in.. if you use traps, put them up at someone else's place far away!

 Once I have my finely honed attack chickens ready (read.. brave enough to leave a 20 foot radius of their coop).. I dream of opening the door and yelling "RELEASE THE FOWL!" The beetles will tremble and go elsewhere. I did mention I was dreaming..

 At 8 weeks old, I am bringing the beetles to them. I collect up what I can, pour it into an old flower pot and let them devour the semi-frozen fiends.
  I should have had my husband ready with the camera. That red headed chicken is "Karen".. and a force to be reckoned with. She is brave (within sight of the coop), independent (as long as she sees you are around), a natural laid back little leader. The "Karen technique" essentially means we may never ever need to use the weed whacker ever again. She has taught the others the scratch and sit method that has cleared the grass and weeds around the 20 foot distance of the coop to the house.

 This is the coop so far. Keep in mind most all of this is from wood my husband is scavenging from the ancient barn. The bottom was excavated a bit. It should be deep enough that they should be able to wander around under there. Wiring has been sunk into the ground and then rocks which are mud packed as well as concreted into place hopefully will deter any predators.

 Floor boards are from the old barn, as are the posts. You have no idea the string of adjectives my husband was able to fluently string together. Everything is warped, twisted due to time and exposure. Not an attribute my perfectionist husband particularly cares for.
  The coop will be 8' by 12' and have 4 windows that are also reclaimed. When you are working with reclaimed materials, it takes a lot more time. We are insane for doing this. Trying to build a coop this large for under $1,000 is interesting. 

 Here's what my incredibly amazing husband is rummaging to get much of the lumber..

So the cavernous old barn will get a new life as a little chicken cottage, with any luck. When the coop is done, then construction on making some compost bins to organize my piles, and cold frames.. ugh cold frames. Endless list.

 Focus Danielson! I suck at completing projects by the way. I am great at starting a million of them, but notorious for flaking out and biting off more than I can chew. Kinda like the multiple stock pots of berries that I must freeze or jam.. 

 I need a jammer! As in.. here.. you make the jam while I pick the berries. As having a big family is not in my cards to create, maybe I should create a commune. Which I totally would do.. you know.. if I actually owned the land. Maybe start some sort of rent-a-jam-granny business. 

 Time to run over some produce from the garden and get back to work. Take care and stay cool!