Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amquel kool-aid

  You know what they say when you assume..

 More than a few times I encounter situations, posts, concepts where the misguided thought seems to be that products produced for animals and pets are also automatically safe for people.

 It's not.

 They are not tested the same, there is less regard to quality, safety, allergic reaction, etc. An example is dog food, where cancerous and diseased meat not fit for human consumption is deemed just fine for Rover's dinner.

 If the FDA declares something as "non-toxic" to people and as well says it is "not under their jurisdiction" when it comes to that compound's use on animals meant for consumption, that's not a declaration of support. That's saying a bit won't kill you, but no info on additional effects when misused.

 The less subtle translation: Put down the farking water conditioner meant for use on fish.

 It seems ridiculous to be all worried about chlorine and chloramine in your water.. and then add drops of Amquel into your soon to be fermenting batch of homemade fizzy fruit soda while touting how healthy it is.

 Boil the water.. surprise, that will also get rid of chloramine. Vitamin C will also do the same trick. Option 3 is use distilled water. Need a multi-tasker just in case you also have to deal with a tear gas assault while you try to control quality of your brew? Grab some Campden tablets. (Why.. with all of those options.. would someone look for a solution in the pet aisle?)

 Products on the market that are sold for use on non-humans are tested differently. Species react differently to the same substance. So while 1 product may not cause issues for Fido, it may be toxic to fish, amphibians, birds. Many companies may hide their formulas under proprietary laws. So while some ingredients are listed, rarely are all ingredients declared. Artistic licence in animal goods goes as far as announcing that cancerous mass derived from Bessie to be listed as a beef product.

 If a product is not marketed for human use, and one uses/ consumes it with ill effects, the company producing this item is not liable. The FDA does not have your back as it is "out of their jurisdiction."  The FDA can't keep up with lofty goals of inspecting major processing plants ONCE every FIVE years just for food intended for human consumption.

 Roughly 2 months ago.. representatives for the EPA and the Army Corp of Engineers recently spoke at a local meeting on water quality... and they declared the Atrazine in the underground water to be at safe levels. Less than 1/2 of "safe" dosages of Atrazine have been known to cause birth defects and act as endocrine disruptors. Yay. Although this kool-aid is within "safe" Atrazine range, please limit yourself to 1 as higher doses are linked to prostate and breast cancer. By the way.. if you live in a location where they send you annual water quality reports..... Atrazine, among several other contaminants, is something they don't even check to see if it is present. Our water, deemed "safe" for for drinking.. yet Europe's standards forced Atrazine to be banned from use and considered the water as contaminated several years ago.

 Still think the regulations are the same? Only a week ago Maryland became the first state to ban arsenic in chicken feed. It is marketed as 3-Nitro (Roxarsone) and one of the first FDA approved arsenic based animal feeds (aka.. medicated feed. The arsenic is to help prevent coccidiosis, improve weight gain, feed efficiency, etc. Except this is the INorganic arsenic.. which IS the carcinogenic and more toxic form of arsenic.)


"How does FDA regulate carcinogenic compounds used in food-producing animals?

Under the Delaney Clause for new animal drugs of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, FDA cannot approve any compound for use in food-producing animals where the drug or its metabolites has been found to induce cancer. There is an exception, commonly referred to as the DES proviso. The DES proviso carves out an exception to the Delaney Clause allowing cancer-causing compounds (or compounds with cancer-causing metabolites) to be used in food-producing animals if 1) the drug does not harm the animal and 2) tests approved by FDA do not detect residues of the drug in any food from the animal. The Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act governs the withdrawal of approval of a new animal drug application, after due notice and an opportunity for hearing, where new evidence shows that the Delaney Clause applies."
 Whew! Well thank the lucky stars that the FDA finally completed testing in Dec. 2010 of something they have allowed to be used routinely since 1940, on an animal the average American consumes almost 60 pounds worth annually! The FDA has our back (sarcasm).. which is why they allowed the maker, AlPharma (subsidiary of Pfizer), to volunteer their assistance on hammering out a compromise. A reward for big AlPharma came not only in FDA praise, but as they opted to suspended sales of 3-Nitro all by themselves, the FDA let them continue selling other arsenic based medications meant for animals to be consumed by people. (feel free to wander the FDA site.)

 Blind faith in an under-funded agency that panders to the mega-buck companies might not be the best idea (especially since they somehow find the funding to launch what amounts to repeated swat team style assaults on super small scale operations. I mean really.. I wonder what the price comparison is to set up safety protocol and means of pathogen testing raw milk vs the cost of these over the top raids.)

 I don't think an individual has the time to research and vet out all the sources of health hazards we are now commonly exposed to even if they dedicate their entire life to it, but still, a bit of caution can go a long way.

If Pfizer seems a bit shady to you... it may just be because you know it's agricultural division.. Monsanto.

Caped crusaders

My birds are nekked. I had to sew them some clothes. I'm not kidding. I can honestly say that my hens are equipped with a cloaking device (aka.. chicken saddles/ aprons.)

Too many boys makes for so much trouble and the last straw was when one of the little Ava's (the smallest Barred Rock hen... that's kinda like saying "the slender hippo") had her side completely ripped open by Dave (aka Tank.) With a lot of care, Ava amazingly healed up completely. It was a bad gash and there was not much hope she would survive at first.

We tried finding the boys homes, but had no luck. So, 4 more roosters were sent to freezer camp. It is a horrible thing, but we are not vegetarians. The process from start to finish, went as I wished it would go for the animals that are raised for meat.

Right now, we only have 2 guineas. We had sent 2 guinea cocks to freezer camp last fall. Earl Gray passed a few weeks ago. Frankly not something I can relay at the moment. Keep in mind my Mom is in her mid 70's and it was an accident.

Josette (guinea hen)... she got broody. The first night she was gone it was raining and we tromped through the fields and the woods for hours looking. She showed up in the morning to our relief. Dine and dash, she would eat really fast and disappear. I marked it on the calendar. It took almost 3 weeks of trying to follow them to see where she was hidden.. along a barbedwire fence in the neighbor's field. We set up the brooder for her, ran out and bought a cat carrier, grabbed egg cartons (hot water bottle in a cooler for the move).. and raced to the nest. We found Grace on the nest. Josette was nowhere to be found. The area was untrampled save for the little path the birds had carved to the nest (with the grass being so tall.. it was more of a tunnel.) Grace rejected the new nest that night. 40 eggs lost. They were so close. (The neighbor had adopted several new barn cats. His old one stayed close to home but these new ones wander over.. right up to the house! It is possible one of them may have gotten Josette. It is hard to tell as there was no mess at all.)

Zippy, the Rhode Island Red hen, thought the nest was amazing. She wants to be broody.. but then promptly forgets the moment she hears one of the roosters announce he has found a treat. All gluttony and no glory. She moves the eggs constantly. The clutch migrates around the brooder like little nomads. We just removed most of the guinea eggs a few days ago. Most.. as some seem to have rolled off into the sunset.

With the brooder open the girls have ditched the nestboxes completely. 5 of them at a time will occupy the brooder and have a laying party. I suppose this could be a good thing should any of them want to give Mommy-hood a go. Collecting the eggs is a little more difficult, but they are really enjoying the brooder.

To some this endeavor may seem silly, but even my birds' worst day is better than a typical broiler's best day. (Except maybe for Roy.. who still keeps trying to shag Keet. Keet liberated Roy of his tail as a result.)

So as I make my way out to the coop on sunny mornings.. and slather bullfrog sunblock on my rooster's butt so it doesn't get sunburned.. I am in awe at just how ridiculous life got while trying to regain control of what we eat.
Do the guineas help with ticks? Well, so far I have had only 1 tick this year. While mine are constantly bickering with the chickens, another farm (mainly raising grass fed beef) closer to our house in town has dozens of them that live peacefully with chickens, ducks, and turkey. It is mostly just Roy causing instigating trouble. (Hoping he figures this out at some point. More hens would keep him busy enough to leave the guineas alone.)

There is always feed available to them, which they nibble on, but all of the birds prefer to forage. Plain yogurt is one of their favorite treats. It is the one treat at the moment that the guineas go nuts about. We get little bowls.. my husband holds 2 and my daughter holds 2. I dispense the yogurt as the birds start literally jump at the bowls and loudly make their demand that we hurry. Stop.. drop.. and run. Delay for just a second and you'll be covered in yogurt. Hold the bowls too long... Izzy will hop on to your arm to help herself while unabashedly using you as a napkin to wipe off her beak.

I like their quirks. I like that my daughter has goofy childhood memories because of it. (While running away from a wasp.. the birds thought she had to have hit the big bug score. I looked up from my weeding and smiled.. at my daughter running around like a lunatic waving her arms and yelling.. a dozen birds chasing her in curiosity.)

Rain has thwarted by plans of planting today. So I'm digging around for light colored fabric to sew summer frocks for my hens. I really will be happy when they molt and get their feathers back.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm not Martha

Sorry for the silence! With a loud *POP* my computer declared it's decision to move on to the land of giant paperweights.

We've kept busy and there never seems to be enough time, but there always seems to be just 1 more thing to add to the list. I'm STILL potting up tomatoes for transplanting. Clearly there is such a thing as "too many", but not a concept I was embracing a few months ago as I was starting seeds in March. I have a lovely large addition of mystery tomatoes & peppers this year as our crazed canine tested the aerodynamics of tomato seeds. I was attempting to channel Martha Stewart's organizational prowess while watching TV. Last year's crazy weather weighing heavily on my mind, it seemed only logical to plant just a few extra of each.. just in case. I set out a cookie sheet with little ramikins that held the labels for the pots and the seeds ready to be dispensed. I remember looking at the tray and thinking "Finally! A use for these ramikins!" So orderly, so neat, so precise and measured! My folly to be realized minutes later..

Martha does not watch tv while planting.
Martha would never consider the coffee table in the living room a good stand-in for a potting shed.
Martha... is not a moron.

Our dog has been getting a lot of eggs in his diet, the result is this old man is acting like he's 2 years old again. (The membrane in eggs is a source of glucosamine, which seems to have helped his hips A LOT.) Across the street lives the most recent object of his adoration, a 3 year old girl ( I'll call her Pip) who loves to throw things. She calls for him, he lets out a loud AAAAAARRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOO, and then madly bounces around to be let out. The glorious tray didn't stand a chance.

2 hours of tweezing seeds out of the carpet, my daughter casually commented "Too bad they aren't different colors so you could tell the difference." *Blink Dye the seeds!!!!!! That's brilliant!! It would be only 1 additional step when I process seeds! After fermenting and rinsing the seeds, a quick dip in food coloring before setting out to dry would put a potential end to my disorganizational gardening Anne-tics! 2013 already is looking even better!

We've planted some tomatoes and peppers, but not enough to make decent dent in my transplant stock. 36 eggplants that looked absolutely amazing this year. Seriously, the best I have ever grown, so robust and beautiful! They are currently lacy skeletons of what could have been. Flea beetles suck. Without floating row covers, this is one crop I have to give up. I gave half of them away and everyone is having the same troubles. Coffee grounds, diatomaceous earth, hot pepper wax, mild soapy spray.. nothing has stopped them or even slowed them down. I may just use eggplant as a trap crop.

Currently what is flowering and setting seed is parsley, kohlrabi, and turnips. Winter was very mild. These are biennial crops, so they flower and go to seed the second year. We didn't dig them up, but over-wintered them by mulching them heavily with shredded leaves. The trick is you have to get the leaves off as soon as possible in the spring and hope moles aren't an issue.

Pip's dad (I'll call him Buddy) and DV (small farm neighbor with the underground house) have doubled their garden size this year! Fantastic timing as we happily have been helping to fill them, the crop swapping continues! It was a bad year for morels, but we got a pound from DV. Our hens have been laying a lot more than we can ever consume. So far they are supplying not just us but DV and 4 other families. We've also been sharing bags of our lettuce, scallions, spinach, snow peas, and herbs (chives, oregano, basil, parsley.) We'll be picking shelling peas this week. Pip, much to her parents' joy, discovered that while she hates cooked peas, she loves them raw. Mulberries are almost ready!

Strawberries are doing great.... as chicken treats. We expanded the patch last fall into an area we amended well with compost made from weeds and coop contributions (the plants are huge and lush.. obviously appreciating the new area.) 4 of the girls will go into the garden with us.. braving my Mom's 2 wack-a-doodle dogs' terrifying excitement through the fence. They make working in the garden challenging. Bug crazy grub gluttons.. grabbing the tools creates an instant parade as they follow us. We spent loooooong days turning the soil by hand mixing in compost and pulling weeds. The girls constantly inspecting disturbed soil for treats. Planting the transplants took ages. Dig a hole and 4 hens are trying to get into it, dirt starts flying. Often they can refill the hole faster than you can dig it with a trowel. I put down newspaper weighed down with clumps of clay as a weed barrier. My husband.. bless that man... wanted to make it look nicer and put down mulch. I have no doubt it looked lovely, just he used straw and essentially created a chicken Disneyland. The big "ta-da" reveal looked less like garden paradise and a lot more like the crater pocked moon. That's when the strawberries, or rather the enjoyment of eating strawberries, was discovered by the girls. It is impossible to get mad about it.. even when they are doing their Godzilla impression while stomping through the snow peas. The transplants (so far) are unharmed, just the garden bears a similar post-apocalyptic flare as my daughter's room.

I'm a lot less stressed about the gardens this year. We've tabled the farmer's market idea for now which lets me focus more on building the soil. Some locals are in the process of trying to get a co-op going!

Many around here have gardens and it is for a reason.. Even though this is an agricultural driven location, we have quite possibly the worst quality produce ever offered in the grocery stores. The farmer's market and your own garden is really the only good sources of produce around. Out of need, pride, stubbornness we grew or traded for most of what we ate last summer and fall. My husband found work, so now we can continue because we WANT to and that change in perspective is a relief. This year is shaping up so far to be quite a bit more productive than last. Friends help lighten the load. DV declared he needs to can "more tomatoes than you can shake a stick at".. I'll be there to help! (Especially as I'm planting cukes, beans, squashes, 4 dozen tomatoes and 2 dozen peppers at his place tomorrow for the first of a couple planting sessions!)

Back to work. I need to get these plants separated and out of my light unit. I'm hoping I have enough planted to make regular contributions to the local food pantry this year. I hope everyone else has a good bounty as well!