Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Cuckoo's Nest

 At some point in time many stop denying the insanity and just own it. In the case of my Mom.. she digs deep and gets in tune with her inner raging German and proclaims everyone else is out of their gourd.

 Hast du einen vogel?!?
 translation: Do you have a bird?
 meaning: Are you nucking futz?

 It asks if you have a bird (in your head).. the phrase is accompanied by a gesture pointing to the head.  The American equivelent is asking one if they have a screw loose.

 I am a master of miscommunication. Without the use of an outline, puppets, a cinematic trailer, and an interpreter.. conversations are dangerous with those to which they claim I am genetically linked. There is no room for forgiveness even with a language barrier. The language barrier.. oh the joy. Finding yourself so far up a creek without a paddle, that soon you discover you also have no floatation device to pilot in any case.

 A prime example is this..  many years ago my Grandmother came for a visit. After several months of expected kowtowing from the younger generation, one snowy afternoon I made a catastrophic error. My lackluster grip of the German language sent me hurdling to the lowest peg of the family pecking order.
 I had the heat cranked in the car and in 3 little words I managed to cement my familial ranking not just at the bottom of the barrel.. but under it.
  I asked...

 "Bist du warm?"

 The simplistic translation in my mind I was asking "Are you warm?" As in.. the inside of the car is hotter than Vegas in July can I shut the farking heat off yet? But oh no... that was not what I had asked. It seems certain key slang phrases take many many many many years until they make they way to the Chicago suburban German weekender speaking handbook.

 I had just asked the UMU (Uber Maternal Unit) if she was gay. (Takes a bow.)

 Truly it is a gift. It's like the compulsion I develop in other countries to ressurect hand gestures I felt no need to do after 3rd grade.. only to my sisters' horror as it turns out I am giving the masses the bird.
 Timing is everything. Leave it to me to have a moment of inspiration at the most inopportune time and announce my amusement without the tact of a verbal filter.

 With the arrival of the Maternal Unit back to "home" came yet another flurry of work. A lot to do, little time to do it, none of it makes sense... and almost none of it is in any way productive. I mean we are getting a lot of things done, just almost nothing is being tackled on our "To Do" list.

 When one door closes, sometimes it automatically locks. Her current battle is with doors. Frankly.. they are winning. No less than a half dozen times a week she is locked out, or locked in somewhere. Anyone and anything is also subject to finding themselves unwittingly imprisoned. I can now say my Mother has locked me in the basement for hours. She's also locked herself in the basement for hours. Did I mention there is no way out/in the basement except for the door? No phone either.
  The furniture apparently is on a pilgrimage to destinations yet to be determined. I know I can't be the only person who is related to a chronic redecorator. Not long after her return, 9 very large solid wood bookcases were compelled to take residence in her living room. A flight of fancy as not long after they whispered to her their need to be moved yet again... and then again.. and then again. The only thing worse than indecisive bookcases may be the wanderlust found in couches, desks, buffet tables, etc.

 The window to ideally work the soil has long passed, but the prospect of quickly turning in some compost into the heavy clay soil so it can breakdown over winter was so tempting. Double digging clay is back breaking work. My husband and his mechanical brilliance revived the old beast and got it roaring once more. Flea beetles and several other pests will overwinter in the debris, so getting the garden turned is a serious need just to help control their population next year. 
 The plan was to till the next day. The beast not only tills the soil, but as well puts you through the wringer as you try to control it. You essentially get twice the amount of work done for the same amount of physical discomfort. Compost in various stages was unloaded onto the garden and sorted. (My Mom tosses her compostable materials onto the pile.. still in whatever container it was collected.) Any movement near the compost pile instantly triggers a poultry party. The scramble is on to beat the birds to tidbits that should have never been in the pile.. like milk jug rings, rubber bands, twist ties. The inevitable chase as one snags such a treasure and runs off with the prize... and me right behind them attempting to reclaim the loot.
  As if I didn't have enough action going on while chasing chickens all over the yard.. my Mom decides while someone is outside, it is a good time to let her dog run free for some fresh air and exercise. 

 Her dog is young, tall, untrained, able to CLIMB fences, and loves to chase anything. All hell broke loose. Now my husband and I are both running like a-holes saving chickens while trying to catch the dog. McGinty the Rhode Island Red rooster hopped the fence to hang in the backyard patio now that it was dog free. He pecked my Mom who was hanging ever menacing laundry on the line while wearing offending footwear. She promptly went inside and called a neighbor.
 We caught the dog (he had roughed up a few chickens, but none were hurt.. just terrified), brought him back inside, got McGinty back to the coop, dealt with the compost, got the birds tucked in for the night... and then put the tiller away in the garage it was already dark.
 The next day a panicked call from my Mom at 9am. Something about the dishwasher.. yelling... yelling... come quick.. then a click. Her kitchen was a bubbling mess. Seems she accidently put Palmolive dish soap in where the Jet Dry was supposed to go. Back to the house, get the shop vac and tools... back to the farm.. mop the mess. Mom decided now was a good time to go to the store.. on her way down the street she sees her dog tied up to a tree in the front yard of a farm several doors down. As she is getting him, animal control comes up. Fiasco follows. We still are working in the kitchen tackling the bubble trouble. When she finally returns she informs us..

 "Oh the neighbor will be here in an hour to take the roosters."

 Wait.. What?!?!? One of the larger farms was processing their birds as well as others that day. We already had arrangements set in place. I'll spare you that drama. My husband managed to fix her dishwasher the next day.

 The garden is still untilled. Oh.. maybe now I should mention that she broke the tiller the same evening my husband finally got it working.

 With our freezer now currently holding roosters, she kindly offered to hold the organically raised turkey in hers. She pulled it out yesterday to start thawing. Her dog got at the turkey.
  So today I have to see about getting another turkey. I went over to the farm this morning to let out the birds, feed and water them. I brought in some eggs as the girls are offering 6+ now every day. My Mom was on the phone with my younger sister and said..

 "Can you believe that they still don't have the garden tilled? They still haven't put in any garlic. I don't know what they do with their time." 

 I can still get a frozen turkey ready in time for tomorrow. I don't know why I am rather unphased by any of this right now. It does get to me sometimes...  then my daughter asks me how our day was with unabashed glee. The worse it is the funnier she finds it.

 Some families occasionally fly over the cuckoo's nest. My family owns it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Big Agri-quagmire

 Russell at his blog reflexiones finales posted an interesting video. It is regarding the farmer's perspective of what some are seeing in their fields and a little of the dilemma they face with the current availability and methods. The last farmer interviewed quickly gives a simplified insight as to how the markets were manipulated. That tactic is just one of the arsenal being employed globally.  

 The timing of it rather made me smile as yesterday my daughter got into a slightly heated debate with a small group of friends and the librarian about GMO crops and how safe are the chemicals. The librarian's main job is farming.. conventionally.

  Frankly, I doubt much of this will even be glanced at by the general public until their plates are empty and are forced to look around. Hunger has a way to motivate people into making change, but frighteningly the opposite is true as well.  

 Big Pharma is Big Ag. The lovely way these corporations are subdivided is in such a way that one may think there is several Goliaths. Take DuPont as an example..
 E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont), incorporated in 1915, offers a range of products and services for markets, including agriculture and food, building and construction, electronics and communications, general industrial and transportation. The Company consists of 13 businesses, which consists of its segments. DuPont operates in seven segments: Agriculture & Nutrition, Electronics & Communications, Performance Chemicals, Performance Coatings, Performance Materials, Safety & Protection, and Pharmaceuticals. The Company includes certain embryonic businesses, such as Applied BioSciences and non-aligned businesses in Other. As of December 31, 2010, DuPont had operations in more than 90 countries worldwide and about 65% of net sales were made to customers outside the United States. In January 2011, DuPont and its wholly owned subsidiary, DuPont Denmark Holding ApS, entered into an agreement for the acquisition of Danisco A/S (Danisco). In 2010, the Company’s Safety & Protection's business completed the acquisition of MECS, Inc. In July 2011, the Company acquired Innovalight, Inc.
  They are Pioneer brand seeds.. do you see the range that they cover? Like Corporate bindweed, you see 1 plant and don't realize the network unless you dig further. How often do they make the news? Well, when is the last time you realized the same company that creates your fire extinguisher and carpeting also makes the corn in your soda, cereal and ethanol enhanced gas in your tank?
 You'd think they would be rivals with the other companies. Competition is not as profitable as cooperation. The push for yields, the myopic vision of agriculture being run like a factory withhout the realization that it is in essence an ecosystem. The funding of the wave of the future by those with little practice in the field... ahem... Bill Gates. Irony in that often those on the board of directors for agriculture colleges...... are not farmers or even gardeners.
 If you listened.. you heard them say they patented the process of mixing in the tanks. The current approach is modifying genetics to resist more than 1 herbicide. Farmers now are under the gun of overwhelming overhead just to work. 
 There again is the lure, the siren call that is the normal mode of operation for most.. the cheap way out, the easy road, the shortcut. Farmers are in an occupation that is always a gamble. Weather, insects, disease, weeds... and the most fickle beast of them all... the market. The market pricing fluctuations can determine if you keep the farm or are forced to sell. The market prices determine how much or what crop is planted each year. 
 Yet another farmer rolling his eyes at the "buffer" zone. He's referring to cross pollination but it as well applies to the bugs. It is like releasing the helium from a balloon into a room. Contained in theory but not in reality with no way to be sure where or how much escaped.
 In a short amount of time, crop diversity suffered. Control over what selections are available was quickly and expertly taken from our grasp. 
 It is unfolding in front of us, a scenario much like the Irish potato famine. Diversity was the old school crop insurance policy.  

 The rat race in food production has more than one motivator beyond feeding the population.. the weather and the effects of industry. Weather predictions for the future show many variations and until it happens all of it is theory, but a major concern is drought occurring globally on a much more frequent basis.  Increase in the intensity of storms are expected.

 The GMO focus on the future is aimed at mitigating drought situations. I think we have all seen how the effect of a bad wheat harvest in Russia impacts us just at the change in the grocery store prices. How much water is used for producing crops is often overlooked.

 In general, about 70% of the water withdrawn from freshwater sources globally supports agriculture, while about 20% supports industrial activities and 10% is used for municipal supplies. Water withdrawal and consumption are not the same metric and a much greater percentage of the water withdrawn for agriculture is actually consumed as irrigation water while a much smaller percentage of water withdrawn to support industrial and municipal supply is actually consumed and rendered unavailable for other uses. Worldwide, about 93% of the water consumed by humans goes to irrigated agriculture, while about 4% and 3%, respectively, are consumed by industry and municipal uses.

 Change is inevitable. The natural state is one of fluctuation. That which fails to adapt fails to survive. Diversity is the means by which nature ensures survival. Even if the human element was completely removed from the equation... the climate, the environment, the ecology would still continue to change. We are just speeding it up but not wanting it to be changing this rapidly as currently this environment is more suitable for our exisitance. 

 The flaw I see in banking on GMO crops is beyond just the unkown potential health impacts. You can not sustain something indefinately that relies entirely on applications based from limited resources. For as advanced as science may be, it is child's play compared to the scope in which nature typically operates. Corporate ethics is one that wants you to have to need them.... always. The less options you have, the more it benefits them. Cleverly what looks like many different seed companies are actually the same entity or from the same source.

 Like the meat in the store, where our seeds for our gardens come from is just as much of a mystery... even to many conventional farmers. Who grew them? When were they harvested? Were they treated? If you are intending to store the seeds for later use, these are crucial questions.     

 The disconnect is that we don't know anything more about what we grow, how long that strain is offered for sale and it's quality than what is printed on the package.  Unless we save our own seeds and make the effort to support the ethical seed vendors.. the option of choice is nothing more than an advertising illusion.  




Sunday, November 6, 2011

waiting as I put the pig before the cart

  A pig? 

 Someone in town needs help putting a dome on a greenhouse and is paying with a live, young, being naturally raised, pastured porcine.  They need 2 or 3 guys.. and I am pretty sure we know 2 other great guys who probably can help.

 Oh the temptation. The thing is.. we have no shelter to keep the little darling. Processing runs about $200 (roughly 250+ pound pig = approx. 130+ pounds of meat.) We sent them an email. If it is the farm I think it is... and I am hoping it is... I really, really, really hope it is...    I wonder if they take interns? Adult adoptions? Human powered greenhouse heat generators? All terrain drink holder/ palm frond waiver?  

 Let me explain this farm.. they naturally pasture raise a rather large assortment of animals (turkey, chicken, pigs, beef, sheep...) No antibiotics, no hormones, no GMO, etc. They even grow ALL the animal feed. They are established and already have it set where they market their meats to key restaurants.

 I dread winter. I'm one of those people that needs green all year round, and I need to keep busy. The thought of cleaning out barns in the winter... is overwhelmingly appealing to me. Something to do while being surrounded by critters.

 Oh.. there I go again. Always putting the cart before the horse..   I can't help but wonder if the sell compost or manure... or would ...   Wow that was all of 2 seconds before I was day dreaming again.

 Time to go completely clean out and scrub down all of the kitchen cabinets. Staring at the phone pleading for it to ring doesn't seem to be working.. 





Thursday, November 3, 2011

First eggs we found

 Wooden eggs at hobby lobby... $1 each

No longer needing to crawl through the hedges looking... priceless.

The chickens have been hanging out in the coop during these chilly days. It is so well insulated that just a few of the birds can make it nice and toasty inside.

 On Halloween we got our first treat!
One egg from each breed!
  The brown egg on top is the first one we found and the coloring suggests Zippy (the lone Rhode Island Red hen.) Barred Rock eggs, according to a family friend who is a chicken enthusiast, have more of a pinkish coloring. The faded sage colored egg is from one of the Americaunas (Easter egger).

 The eggs are a good size, and I just LOVE the colors!
  I honestly didn't think they would lay anything until January. My Mom's coon hound  keeps sneaking out and terrifying the birds. Thankfully he hasn't caught any yet. Her dog is going to take a LOT of training. My Mom is not adept at training dogs. Her dog, like every other creature my husband has encountered, is smitten with my husband.  

 With everything going on, we haven't gotten to planting the garlic. Still hunting for more employment, still trying to do what we can with what we have. 

 As the weather is too cold for crocs and clogs... my next younger sister sent me something fun... obnoxious converse! The Dr. Suess ones in particular seem to offend McGinty to no end. 

 We haven't gotten to the roosters yet. My husband will be making killing cones soon. For now they are ever excitedly devouring pumpkins donated by quite a few neighbors. They had the first one raw (and just LOVED the seeds).. the second one I may bake 1/2 of it so it is nice and soft.

 A few roosters figured out how to crack open dried radish pods and eat the seeds. I didn't even think about them getting into that when I pulled them down from where they hung to dry in the polebarn. It keeps them busy!

 Keeping an eye out for guinea eggs, and should we have any luck next spring we'll be potentially hatching some keets. We have someone who is interested in a few for their table. That would work out well for us even if we buy more keets. I seem to have the knack for selecting mostly male birds!

 Off I go... I am currently trying to keep busy twisting 14 gauge wire by hand to make a curtain panel for the front door. 

 Wishing you all the best.


(Un)natural food

 I found this blog and it was too interesting not to share. It is regarding "natural" foods and it seems to be a young blog.  

 My ex-brother-in-law was in advertising with a company that coined phrases many still use (come fly the friendly skies...) and struck up iconic images (Marlboro man). I had gotten a rather unique glimpse at how far the truth could be stretched.. or how precisely orchestrated it is to deliberately mislead. The impact of color choices, locations, smells, emotions deliberately invoked..  Advertising is essentially the art of psychologically preying on the populace in the attempt to fill the corporate wallet.