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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chickens Wearing Sweaters

My Sister in Law Tasha posted about a chicken rescue group on her Facebook page. They are named Little Hen Rescue and according to their website, they run a not-for-profit organization that rescues battery, barn, free range hens and sometimes other poultry. It sounds like most of the chickens are rescued from farmers after they have lost there use. 

The coolest part of the website is a section that teaches you how to knit sweaters for these poor chickens. the pictures are awesome and now I want my chickens to start wearing clothes. Check out some of the pictures.

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

"Does this dress cover my legs enough? I want to show them, but not all of them."

You can donate to this organization, or make sweaters for them. To find out how to help, click here.

These sweaters got me wondering about dressing up my chickens. I would like to dress one up as Sherlock Holmes, but only if I can teach her to hold a pipe. I know, it's pretty geeky to think about, but admit it, it is entertaining. What other good chicken costumes/outfits can you think of?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby Buttercup

Our sweet neighbor, Jane,  knows that we want to get some goats. She bought a little baby goat this week and invited us to come over and play with her. We had so much fun, and we just can't wait to get our own goats!

Her goat house is immaculate, and Jane is organized and efficient. I know when the time comes, I will have  a lot to learn from her. 

She has two baby goats, so the milk is all going to them. She put the milk right into the bottles she was going to feed them with. 

And Cosmo, licking his lips, anxiously awaits. 

And then guzzles two bottles down in less than a minute.

Then it was the baby's turn to feed the baby.
Madelyn just couldn't get enough of Buttercup.

Isn't she just the cutest little thing?

Thank you Jane!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homestead Makeover Contest

As more American families embrace the values of simple living, the homesteading movement has moved into many suburban and urban areas. To address the need for products and information that supports the homesteading lifestyle, Manna Pro has launched a new web site at www.thehappyhomesteader.com. The web site offers information about raising backyard chickens, rabbits and goats; gardening in small spaces; and composting in a responsible and sustainable manner.

In support of this increasing popular movement, Manna Pro is holding a Homestead Makeover Contest for people who would like to improve their homestead or get a new homestead off to a great start. To enter, consumers need to record a video between two minutes and ten minutes in length detailing why they deserve to win a homestead makeover. They are encouraged to submit footage of their property showing what they would change or enhance to create a perfect homestead. “We want to know what motivates these consumers, and what inspires them to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” says Jennifer Hojnacki, Director of Marketing at Manna Pro. “Whether you envision a vegetable garden and chicken coop, or a dairy goat station and apple orchard, we want to know how having a dream homestead would change your life.” The winner of the contest will receive a homestead makeover consisting of up to $5,000 in products and services during the spring of 2012.

To enter the contest, consumers should fill out the online entry form (available at www.thehappyhomesteader.com) and email their video submissions to Manna Pro. The videos will be posted to the Happy Homesteader YouTube channel, and one winner will be selected in November 2011. Official entry rules are listed online.

There is also an opportunity for experienced homesteaders to participate in the contest. People who are already very active in homesteading activities and feel confident in their knowledge can submit a video showing their unique approach to creating a successful and sustainable environment. The entrant who illustrates the most expertise and originality in modern homesteading will receive the opportunity to be Manna Pro’s “Happy Homesteader Expert” throughout the makeover project. The winner of this category will also receive Manna Pro products and merchandise valued at $500.

Also in conjunction with the promotion, Manna Pro is launching two new poultry products: Wipe ‘N WashTM Egg Cleansing Towelettes and Coop ‘N CompostTM Coop Odor Neutralizer. Wipe ‘N Wash is a 25 count, pop-top container of recyclable, biodegradable wipes that can be used to quickly and easily clean eggs. Because the wipes are biodegradable, they can be safely placed in the compost after using them. Each wipe can clean up to 2 dozen eggs depending on how soiled they are. Coop ‘N Compost is a natural product used to neutralize odors and moisture in coops, which extends the life of bedding and enhances living conditions for the flock. As an added benefit, when mixed with manure and compost, Coop ‘N Compost makes the natural nutrients more plant-accessible, which is good for the garden.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ag Stats

I was trained as an agricultural economist at Cornell, where George F. Warren birthed the discipline of agricultural economics (The University of Wisconsin and Henry C. Taylor would take issue with that statement). As such I love to ruminate on tables like the following. Understandably, you may not be so engrossed with it so let me summarize some interesting points.

1.   Americans spent 1.1 trillion dollars on food in 2010. Wow!
    2.   In 1930, the average American spent 24.2% if their take home pay on food. By 2010 this was reduced to 9.4%. That is amazing! Particularly since through the history of mankind, most people spent most of their time trying to get food. But our agricultural systems have freed up over 90% of our income to use for other things, like big screen TVs. Some would argue that there are other costs to our agricultural systems such as environmental and societal costs. I would not disagree but our agricultural systems are trying to feed almost 7 billion people.

    3.  In 1930 the average American ate 12.7% of the value of their food outside the home – restaurants, etc.
      That number grew to 41.3% in 2010. And a large part of that is eaten in fast food restaurants.
    4.  Assuming that food prepared in the home is cheaper that restaurants, and it certainly is for us, the average person could reduce their food bill much lower than even 9.4% of their take home pay if they ate out less often. I know this is true because for years we fed a family of 8 on about 10% of my income. However, right now I have a 6’4” sixteen year old who is eating me out of house and home. 

    Click to Enlarge Table
    So what conclusions can you draw from this table?

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Do a Good Turn

    Its that time of year when your garden is thriving, ripe tomatoes on every vine, summer squash literally doubling in size daily and fresh backyard food for every meal.  Do you find that after eating all you could possibly want and preserving your favorites that you still have a lot left over?

    So far this week I've picked over 20 cucumbers. After squash bores destroyed our plants last year we decided to grow a lot more cucumbers in hopes of more survivors.  Only problem is we are now getting 10-15 lbs of cucumbers a week and we don't like pickles. My personal limit for cucumber consumption is one or maybe two a day if I eat only salad with lunch and dinner.  

    In January I heard on All Things Considered about a major problem with food banks, getting nutritious quality food http://www.npr.org/2011/01/13/132864584/high-demand-nutritional-dilemma-vex-food-banks.  With unemployment still high nation wide there is a lot of need.  Food banks get lots of non-perishable canned and refined foods but frequently lack a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit due to high cost and short shelf life.   

    Rather than unloading your extra on neighbors and friends please make a regular commitment to deliver your plenty to your local food bank that others might also be blessed by your farm.
    ~Allen Johnson

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    The New Guy in Town

    Michael and I had some good laughs picking out the Barry White song. Once the video all came together, it was pretty funny to listen to the words because they seemed to fit......I love you baby, let me run my fingers through your hair feathers.


    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Feed the Birds!

    This year, the weather patterns across many parts of the country have been abnormal.  Here in Texas we are experiencing the worst drought in our history.  So far, here in Houston where I live, we are over 18” behind regular rainfall amounts for the year.

    This is having a big effect on all trees and plants and the animals are going to suffer because of it!
    Natural sources of nectar are being minimized and this is a concentrated area for migrating birds.  For any readers who want to contribute… help the Hummingbirds gain the weight they need! Their migration is happening or will soon be happening (late August through September) when they will need to increase their weight by +/- 40%.

    4: 1 water: sugar (dissolve with hot water)
    No red dyes in the water
    Change out the water every 2-3 days to prevent spoilage
    Preferably place it in a shaded location
    Keep multiple feeders far apart and in various locations to prevent fighting


    Did your Farmers Market make this list?  
    (Image Credit)

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Grandparents in my garden

    By Jennifer

    When my columbines burst open this summer I was transported to my Grandpa Earl's front steps. A columbine is a rather unique looking flower, with star-shaped blooms atop long, trailing pointy petals. The flower beds flanking Grandpa's front door were full of 'em, presenting a vivid white, yellow and blue welcome mat. Even though I never asked him, I figured columbines must be my grandpa's absolute favorite flower, to have them in such profusion. It was like our shared contempt of cucumbers (among a teasing family that loves them) -- another funny little tidbit to bond the two of us together.

    Jennifer's grandfather, age 82, and her children, ages 3 and 11 months. June 1999.

    This month marks Grandpa Earl's birthday. He would have been 95. There seems such a huge distance between that number and 88, the age when he died. I wish I could still visit him. I wish my children could play in his sandbox, then saunter inside to open his treat/cookie drawer and hear him call out, "What's a seven-letter word for keepsake?" * while he did the crossword. I miss him.

    I miss my other three grandparents, too. All four are gone.

    I was mulling my status as a "grandparent orphan" one day as I worked in my garden. The columbines, naturally, made me think of Grandpa Earl. Then, as I started weeding, I heard the words Uncle Willis gave in a funeral tribute to his mother, my Grandma Orton. Sitting is not the proper posture for working, she had taught him as a young boy. When a task requires us to be close to the ground, we summon more strength by kneeling.

    I began to think of all the other ways my garden brings my grandparents near:

    The mingling scents of flowers remind me of how Grandpa Orton humored fussy Grandma, as shown the time I was 13, visiting from another state. They took me to the mall. Grandma flitted from perfume counter to perfume counter, each time waiting for Grandpa to sniff his approval. "Mmm," he said with the air of a practiced connoisseur. "That stinks pretty good."

    I think of GranMarie, Grandpa Earl's wife, every time I brush past a tomato plant and release the aroma of her minestrone recipe. Come winter I make about a batch a week. I look at my apple tree and remember her pushing me high enough on the swing in her yard that I feared hitting fruit.

    I have just one zucchini plant this season (one is enough!), but even with such a small quarry there's sure to be one squash that will escape notice -- you know, the kind you never, ever see forming until it's the size of a man's leg. And I'll laugh to remember the time my dad, brothers and I slipped such a specimen beneath the disproportionately puny leaves of Grandpa Earl's squash plant. He was too shocked to notice the curious lack of stem/plant attachment.

    I hunted for worms by flashlight in my grandparents' carrot rows, felt my grandmother's patience when I pretended to understand my her grape vine pruning lesson, expectantly planted vegetable seeds with my grandparents, harvested alongside them. That all these memories can take form in my own garden today makes me very grateful indeed.

    crossword answer:

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Your Backyard Farm

    Madeline from  http://madelinekelly.umwblogs.org says: 
     I have a 3.5 x 8 foot balcony to work with, not to mention the lovely New England climate, so I'm proud to report I have:

    2 cucumber plants
    2 cayenne pepper plants (loaded with green fruits)
    3 beefsteak tomato plants (more than a dozen green whoppers so far...)
    7 or so basil plants
    8 or so green bean plants
    about two dozen carrots (little though they may be)
    about a dozen beets
    3 baby catnip plants
    1 mint plant
    1 oregano plant
    a small patch of kale
    a smattering of lettuce plants
    2 marigolds
    2 nasturtiums
    2 flat-leaf parsley plants

    A few of the main challenges I face are (a) watering (because it's hard to reach some of them, and they dry out so fast), (b) pollination (the tomatoes, peppers, and beans are fine, but the cucumbers have been a real challenge -- I pollinate them myself with a small paintbrush) and (c) support for the more gangly plants -- I don't have any cages, so mostly I support the tomatoes and peppers with chopsticks and twine. The balcony railings help, too.

    I've attached a few photos of the "farm." The photo that is landscape was taken out our bathroom window and shows our kitchen window on the right. That's where I do all my gardening. The other two photos (one of tomatoes, one of cukes/pepper/catnip/basil/beans) were taken from the kitchen. It's pretty handy to have the garden right next to the cooking room! Oh -- and I attached one last-minute picture of our cat, Akimbo, watching me garden. It's nice to have a garden for her to look at out the windows. (And us, too.) :)

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Your Backyard Farm

    Check out Allison's blog:  www.novicelife.blogspot.com - The Life of a Novice - she is talking lots about gardening failures and wins ;)

    Tomato Garden: This photo was taken in June shortly after we were finally able to get in all the tomato plants. Also included in the garden is Basil and some Squash plants in the corner! My 'mater plants are doing to hot this year - next year we'll plant all corn in this garden!

    Beans: I have KY Wonder [Pole] Beans growing up a light post in the back yard. Some volunteer squash plant popped up there too!

    CR hen house: this is a view down one of our apple orchard aisles that shows our 'soon to be' hen house/chicken coop in the distance!

    Herb Garden: this is my herb garden which sits outside my back door. It contains Dill, Lemon Balm, Tarragon, Sage, Chives, Cilantro, Oregano, Thyme and Parsley

    Left Orchard: This is a view of the left side of our orchard on an early summer evening. We have 120 trees, 8 which are Pear, 6 which are Quince and the rest, apples!

    Main Garden: this is a photo of our main garden which consists of carrots, all kinds of peppers, cabbage, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet corn, yellow beans, and 3 varieties of pickling cucs -- most plants are of heirloom varities!

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Your Backyard Farm

    I thought I'd share some photos of my backyard garden.  I live in Arlington, VA, which is a close-in suburb of Washington DC.  Most of the lot sizes are very small, but I've been blessed with 3 lots in the middle of town, so I put them to good use.  I follow the square-foot gardening method (for the most part) and currently  have 8 boxes, with some extra items along the fence. These photos are a mix from various days this past spring and summer.  I hope you like them!  If you'd like to see the entire garden, I've got them in two facebook albums:
    2011 Garden and Yard:
    2011 Garden Part II

    Seedlings that I started indoors and later set out into the garden
    Asparagus emerging in early spring.
    A view of the garden looking S - this is the most recent photo
    A view of the garden looking NW
    Sugar Snap Peas!
    My son watering the blueberry bushes.
     Thornless blackberries.
     Tomatoes in self-watering containers on the front walk. This was an experiment that worked extremely well.  
    My daughter grazing in the garden.

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    IKEA Hackers: Bee Suit

     Have you ever checked out the blog IKEA Hackers? It is pretty funny, inspiring, beautiful, but this post was just funny! It is a wasp suit, but for our purposes, we are going to call it a bee suit.

    Materials: FYLLEN Laundry Basket, Duct Tape and Courage

    Description: Pretty self explanatory! suit up and you will ready to tackle Bees, Wasps and anything that has the capacity to sting and fly. This was not my idea and was found somewhere in the matrix.

    The "Real Food" Evangelist

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Your Backyard Farm

    My garden is in the south central San Joaquin Valley of California (Sunset zone 8-9) - Oildale to be exact.
    I garden for pleasure and consumption.  In fact, loads of produce is consumed before it even has a chance to leave my garden gate.  Enjoying the garden is key.
    You can find me out in the garden working or dancing around listening to some great local country music.  Occasionally, I'll simply put my feet up and enjoy the view.
    Here's the link to my blog if you want to peek. 

    We here at backyard farming just love Maybelline, she always has the funniest comments, her blog is great too.  Next time I'm out in Cali, I'm going to look you up and come visit your backyard farm!

    Raw Milk -West Jordan, Utah

    Good news to you Utah-ites on the West Side. Utah Natural Meat will soon be selling Huckleberry Dairy raw milk.  When we lived out there, we had to drive about 40 minutes to get raw milk, and because of the drive, we weren't able to buy raw milk as often as we would have liked. 

    If you are interested in buying raw milk from them,  send an e-mail to sales@utahnaturalmeat.com.  Put "milk" in the subject line, they are trying to calculate numbers and are trying to find where their interest is.

    On a side note, over a year ago we bought about 1/3 of a cow from Utah Natural Meat, they hold a very high standard with their beef, no hormones, no antibiotics, grass fed etc. We are just finishing up the last of our meat, and we have been nothing but pleased with them and their meat. 


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Goat Shareholders Seek Court Recognition of Civil Liberties

    Falls Church, Virginia (August 9, 2011)--The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund on behalf of its California members, San Jose goat farmers Mike and Jane Hulme and San Jose goat owners Ian Gerbode, Sara-Jane Skiwski and Sarah Sullivan, has filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the County of Santa Clara. The suit, filed July 22 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, asks for a declaration by the court that Gerbode, Skiwski and Sullivan have the inalienable right to purchase, own, possess and use a goat, that they have the inalienable right to consume the raw milk produced by their goat and a declaration that they have the inalienable right to contract with the Hulmes to board, care for and milk their goats. The suit asks for a permanent injunction against the State of California and Santa Clara County preventing Defendants from commencing or continuing any enforcement action against Plaintiffs “or against anyone else in California who wishes to engage in the conduct engaged in by Plaintiffs.”

    On May 18 the District Attorney’s Office of Santa Clara County sent a letter to the Hulmes accusing the farmers of illegally manufacturing and selling dairy products at Evergreen Acres. The letter informed the Hulmes that “the unlicensed manufacturing or processing for resale of any milk or milk product is a crime, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year in the county jail.”

    In a subsequent meeting at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, an official from CDFA informed the Hulmes that while it was legal for goat owners to board their goats at the farm and to have the Hulmes milk the goats, the owners could only drink the milk from their goats at the Hulmes’ farm; once they left the farm with the milk, Evergreen Acres had become a dairy processing plant and was violating the law since it did not have a license. The official did not explain to the Hulmes the public health reason for this distinction.

    In commenting on the action threatened by the District Attorney’s Office, Milk Hulme said, “It is still incomprehensible to me that a District Attorney would ‘overlook’ the rights of citizens in the pursuit of regulation of a private farm over milk from a goat that was clearly for private consumption by the goat owner only and not for resale. It is a sign that clearly says there is no recognition for privacy, contract law or the vast evidence that raw milk is by its nature a safer product than pasteurized milk.” As for evidence of the safety of the milk produced at Evergreen Acres, a recent standard plate count test of Evergreen Acres’ milk [a test to determine viable bacteria in dairy products] was below 50—California law allows a standard plate count of up to 15,000 for raw milk sold at retail.

    Hulme pointed out, “There is no injury here; no one has become sick from milk produced at the farm. There have been no complaints from either the goat owners or officials in the City of San Jose. The only conclusion I can draw is that this is a politically motivated action by the district attorney and CDFA to effectively put a small family farm out of business.”

    With the August 3 raid against the Rawesome Food Club in Venice, California by federal, state and local government agents, the lawsuit takes on greater importance. The police state tactics used in the raid should not stand nor should government interference with the rights of individuals to obtain the foods of their choice through private contracts and associations. This is particularly so when the individual has ownership in the animal from which the food is produced.

    CDFA and Santa Clara County have until August 29 to respond to the complaint. For more information on the lawsuit, contact the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

    The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of
    family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Concerned
    citizens can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating
    online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).

    Your Backyard Farm

    Check out the backyard farm of Candace from  http://thecoeurdalenecoop.blogspot.com  

     Here are couple images of our backyard farm – The 2nd Street Chicken Ranch in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  We are truly “urban” on a .16 lot in downtown Coeur d’Alene. 

    The garden image was a couple of weeks ago – it’s been a really wet and chilly summer here – most plants are a good 3 weeks behind normal (but great for peas and lettuce!).  

    The chicken photos are from when we introduced our 4 new chicks to our 2 older hens for the first time.  I’m happy to report that everyone now lives together, happily, in one coop.

     Happy Backyard Farming!

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Your Backyard Farm

     Take a look at the backyard farm of Kara from www.welloneofmyblogs.com  

    She says: 

    I've been in my little house for just over a year now-- first came the garden and chickens, and then bees this spring!

    The "before" of my barren yard (which is actually kind of an "after" after taking down two shanties, a pigeon coop, old busted chicken run, millions of blackberry vines, and waist-high weeds)

    Here's a couple of recent photos of the bigger food-producing parts of my garden.

    My three fabulous chicken-ladies.

     I have a top bar hive, so things are a bit nontraditional.

    Pretty much everything you can see in that last photo is food producing--  a variety of squash, amaranth, and quinoa, a fig tree in the back left, a persimmon tree dangling in the foreground (surrounded by thyme), and in the far background, a tower of beans, more amaranth, a couple of tomatoes, and a few artichokes.. even the apple tree hanging over the fence from the neighbor's yard!  Parts of the garden (seen in the other photo) are set up for modified square foot gardening, but I love the random areas that feel more decorative and still are solely food-producers.