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Sunday, October 30, 2011

What’s for Dinner? Part 2

Last January I wrote an article titled “What’s for Dinner?” about the issue of slaughtering horses for meat.  I’ve had a lot of exposure to this issue - from eating it as a preferred meat in Kazakhstan to the sometimes raucous debates here in the United States about horse slaughter. I have mixed emotions about it. But last Friday night I got a new perspective.
Dale In Kazahstan

LeAnn and I were invited by friends to go to a horse auction so we decided to make a date night of it. While the tack and equipment auction was going on, we walked from stall to stall to look at the horses that were up for sale. Potential buyers could test ride the horses in the outdoor paddock. There were a few good horses but most were mediocre. When the horse auction started, a horse was lead into the ring or sometimes ridden to show their responsiveness. The auctioneer would describe it and then start his chanting. With the bad economy, horse prices are low right now. A nice looking draft horse topped out at only $750 so the owner withdrew the horse from the sale. A well-trained stock horse that might bring $2,000 in a normal economy went for $700. 

It was interesting watching the buyers parlay. I kept my eye on one particular buyer who was bidding on almost every horse. When the price got above $300 he bowed out, but more often than not he got the horse for $100 or $200 after which he would pull a pad and pencil out of his pocket to note the purchase. I kept asking myself, “What is he doing? Why does he want all these horses? Then it occurred to me – horse meat. He is taking them to Canada for slaughter. I turned to our friends, nodded at the buyer and asked “horse meat?” and they confirmed my notion. 
Horse Meat Below the Lamb's head

I have seen horse carcasses in the Kazakh butcher shops, I have eaten horse sausage, and I have argued both side of the issue. But at this auction, it became much more emotional to me. After the auction we saw the buyer load them up on his large trailer and my heart just sank. Why does it bother me more than my chickens that I kill myself or the steer in the field that I am going to buy for my freezer? It just does. 

~Uncle Dale~

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DIY Garden Art: Marbles in the Fence

I saw this over at Garden Drama, and I LOVE this idea! It is such a great way to add a touch of whimsy to your backyard farm. 

How do you add a touch of whimsy to your garden? Maybe a gnome, a fairy garden,  a flamingo anyone?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Are we all a little bit crazy?

 This Mr. Bean video got me thinking about some of the funny, crazy, or maybe some would say creative things Michael and I have tried in our backyard farm.   What is your most creative, bizarre, or crazy backyard farming idea? Feel free to leave a link if you have blogged about it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Undead

For Halloween I thought I'd share a back from the dead, zombie story - at least as close as one can find in the garden! I can't tell you how many times I have "killed" this aloe vera plant. We first got it at a farmer's market from a woman selling lots of odds and ends. She came up to us as we were leaving and offered us a small grocery store bag. Inside was a near dead, smelly, soggy, little aloe vera shoot. She said she couldn't sell it since it was in such bad condition so we could have it. Ever since the hippies living down the street with their cactus collection would share their aloe gel with us I've wanted one. So I took it and wondered if I could get it to grow with my barely green thumb.

But it didn't grow. It just sat in a pot on our porch and gave off the smell of death. So I researched a little and thought that maybe the Texas humidity was too much for it. So I brought it inside and put it in my son's bedroom window since it got the most light. And it started to get strong and turn green again. I thought it must be the warmth and was pleased. I was afraid to water it too much since I had read that it needed drought like conditions with a watering every once in a while. And once it was strong enough again I once again moved it out on the porch only to find it dying again. What I didn't know was that every night when we'd give the boys some water to drink my son would reserve some for the plant and give it the last few drops. He knew how to recreate drought like conditions perfectly!

By the time I realized that my plant had turned completely brown and limp with it's few stalks hanging over the edge of the pot. I had completely given up on it but hadn't gotten around to getting rid of it yet when my son asked if he could water it. I told him it was dead but to go ahead since it couldn't hurt now. He doused it with water - like tons and tons. And to my HUGE surprise - a few days later there started to be some green patches appearing on the seemingly dead plant. And it started to come back! We went through this cycle a few more times but after a move across the country this plant was dead for real. This time it wasn't just droopy - it was shriveled, light brown and kind of crispy. I knew it was dead this time and moved it under a bench in the backyard and forgot about it. Well, a couple weeks later this is what it looked like. And it's been thriving ever since. This plant is one tough survivor - no thanks to me! I guess the conditions out west was just what it was looking for!

So now, I don't touch it - I don't even water it. Though I am wondering if it's time to bring it in since the nights are starting to dip below freezing. I am sure some of you wiser gardeners can tell me what my next move should be and how to better care for my little zombie.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eat the Seasons - Rustic Potato-Leek Soup

With the changes in the air, nothing - and I mean NOTHING sounds better than a good hearty bowl of soup. So, this past week I made a healthy, simple, and yummy Potato & Leek soup. And here's the recipe(taken from The New Best Recipe):

Serves 6-8

4-5 pounds leeks(clean them well!)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
5 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 pounds red potatoes(about 5 medium) - peeled and cut into 3/4 inch dice
salt & ground pepper

1. Cut off the roots and tough dark green portions of the leeks, leaving the white portions and about 3 inches of the light green portion. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and chop into 1-inch pieces.
2. Heat the butter in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium low heat until foaming. Stir in the leeks, increase the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender but not mushy, 15-20 minutes; do not brown the leeks. Sprinkle the flour over the leeks and stir to coat evenly. Cook until the flour dissolves, about 2 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to high; whisking constantly, gradually add the broth. Add the bay leaf and potatoes, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender and the flavors meld, 10-15 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. (The soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a day or two. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.)

This made a good amount of soup so it was able to warm us up for a few days. I also added a sprinkle of cheese on top.

What's in season? Potatoes & Leeks

(Originally posted October 2009)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Michael Schmidt on Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom

 Across Canada and U.S. Supporters Have Joined Michael On This Strike

(Toronto – October 10, 2011) Michael Schmidt has been fighting since 1994 for the right of men, women and children in Ontario to drink raw milk. He is the founder of Cow Share Canada, which provides health standards for raw milk production, and which lays down some of the most stringent hygiene standards.    

Over the last 17 years he has made every effort to co-operate with the authorities to find a solution for the legalization of raw milk in Ontario and Canada. Yet, despite this, his farm was raided in 1994 and again in 2006 (25 armed officers stormed in and terrorized the entire farm family.)

Acquitted on all charges by Justice Kowarsky in 2010, the Province of Ontario subsequently decided to appeal the acquittal and Justice Tetley found Michael guilty September 28 2011 on 15 of the 19 charges.

In addition, Fraser Health in British Columbia has filed to find Michael in contempt of court and impose a $55,000 fine (case to be heard November 2nd 2011).

On September 29, in the face of continued persecution by the Provincial governments for his "crime" of believing that informed consumers should be able to choose what they eat and drink, Michael Schmidt started the Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom.

Michael Schmidt has stopped consuming any food and now only drinks water. His demands are simple.

"I respectfully ask that the Ontario and BC governments agree to a constructive dialogue on how we can provide a framework to enable people to make real choices about their food and what they eat, beginning with raw milk and the implementation of a framework that grants legal standing for cow share operations in Ontario and BC. This objective also includes the end of the current prosecutions of cow shares which meet proper production standards."

Farmers around the country who believe, as Michael does, that people and not governments, should choose the food they consume, have joined the raw milk fight over the years. These farmers are in real danger today and many of them risk losing everything.

Currently eight people have joined Michael on this Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom:

-Max Kane, Wisconsin (in court many times for his work supporting raw milk farmers)
-Vernon Hershberger, Wisconsin (raw milk farmer also a victim of several Government raids)
-Bernie Cosgrove, Alberta (farmer)
-And five others who do not want to be named are participating in this Hunger Strike for Responsible Food Freedom.

There is also a large group in Toronto who are on a rotational fasting in support and respect to Michael Schmidt and others on this Hunger Strike For Responsible Food Freedom.

The movement is growing. More people in Canada and the US are joining every day. And they are determined that the government will not tell them what they can eat.

For up to the minute info and posts from Michael Schmidt and supporters visit:

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Farming Companion

Thirty years ago and a continent away we had a real farm. My heart would jump as that beautiful young girl pulled up to my combine during grain harvest to bring me sandwiches and lemonade for lunch. She would pay the price with hay fever all night long. During potato harvest, I could watch her all day long as she picked the clods and vines out of the potatoes on the harvester I pulled with my tractor. When the machine was clogged with a lava rock, she was down there with me trying to free it. A sharp corner piece of metal tore a nasty gash in the flesh of her back. She cried but she didn’t quit. She encouraged and comforted me through many sleepless nights after the farm failed.
In Ithaca and College Park our farms were sparse – a couple of tomato and squash plants. We hadn’t caught the vision of backyard farming. For 12 years we hoped and prayed for a real hobby farm. She wanted horses and I wanted chickens. We both wanted to raise our six children in a big garden. The Lord heard our prayers and we have been living our dream for 14 years. The “children in the garden” part didn’t quite work out. They don’t catch the vision of backyard farming until they are adults with their own families but it’s happening now.

At Antietam Glen, my farming companion has never baulked at anything. We fenced the farm and raised a barn. She can drive nails and build rock walls. I split the firewood and she stacks it. She works a shovel better than I do. (I have an aversion to shovels from my early days of setting canvas dams that always washed out and the associated humiliation from a father and brother)  She hands me the tools as I repair the tractor or mower. I have seen her late at night with her up arm up the birth canal of a bleating goat, trying to pull a dead kid out. It was as ugly as it sounds and she never flinched at the task. She was at the side of our dog Cinder and our pony Peaches when the vet put them down. I couldn’t bear it. But I can kill a chicken and dress it. I clean the chicken manure out of the coop but she has done her share. We both love picking strawberries and raspberries. She looks beautiful as she works the horses or on her knees as she plants lettuce seeds. She never paints her fingernails. I much prefer dirt under them. Her hair turns frizzy from the steam of canning tomatoes. We have both gained weight from our bountiful harvests but I love trying to walk it off with her on our strolls through the Antietam battlefield which is near our farm.

I look forward to growing old together on our farm. I want to watch her coach our granddaughters as they begin to canter and jump the horses. I want to teach our grandsons to drive the riding lawnmower which we will get some day after the last of our children have left home. I hope for a retirement where I can take a breakfast omelet (courtesy of our layers) with her on the terrace we built overlooking the farm before we begin the day’s work. I imagine resting at lunch to eat a garden salad and lemonade with her in the shade of our wisteria ladened arbor that we built. After a long day of work, we will grill one of our chickens for dinner on the back portico (no, we did not build it). In the cool of the evening, we will eat a piece of her strawberry rhubarb pie and homemade ice cream as we rock in the porch swing of the veranda which we built on the front of our house. At dusk we will read books by lantern light (her novels and my biographies) in the rocking chairs on the porch of the cabin that we built overlooking the Antietam Creek. The cicadas and pond frogs will serenade us as we bed down in the cabin bunks for the night. The dance of the fireflies above the cabin skylight will mesmerize us as we drift off to sleep. 

Is our backyard farm as bucolic an idyllic as it sounds? Pretty much so. Will she continue the farm when I am gone or will I continue if she passes first? I pray we have many more years of backyard farming together before one of us has to make that decision.  But for now, I will not hesitate like Tevye and Golde in proclaiming my love for my farming companion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Film Review: Ingredients

Are we seeing positive changes in our food supply and will we continue to see those benefits in the near future? Ingredients is an interesting 67 minute documentary that attempts to answer these questions as it focuses on food practices in the United States right now. 

This movie did not bring a lot of new information to the table. Most of the readers of our blog are already familiar with the importance of eating local, supporting CSA’s, and the evil’s of mega corporations that control what is what available in the food supply. While there were a few stats thrown out, I think this movie bases its arguments more on feel good interviews and anecdotal experiences and less on fact. If you are looking to “convert” someone to eating local this movie will probably not be the best choice. If you are already a member of the local food movement, you will enjoy this movie as an entertaining opportunity to hear from people that have the same ideas as you.

Ingredients admits that local foods are a lot of time more expensive and harder for poor people to eat. It truthfully states that there are hidden costs to cheap, government subsidized food. Some of those costs include; increased medical expenses from obesity problems and diabetes, and increased costs to our environment from the increased use of fossil fuels and other energy sources. The film reveals that one in three children born in 200 will have diabetes and the new generation will be the first in US history to have a shorter life span than their parents.  

I agree with the dangers of these hidden costs but I think that there needs to be other choices available for lower income people. I don’t think that someone who has an extremely small budget for food cares about hidden costs. They care about what puts food on their table, which is often the less healthy subsidized, processed foods. 

I would like to see more emphasis on backyard farms, growing your own food, and community gardens. We need ideas that will bring food back to lower income areas. Local farmers can help with this, but I think that the best way to improve food choices for lower income families is for the lower income households to learn how to grow their own foods even if it is to a limited degree. 

What are some of the methods that you think can be used to provide healthier food choices for lower income families?