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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Almost There!

We are just 1 follower away from having 1000 followers!!! 

I can't even believe it. Who is it going to be???

Leave your ideas in a comment on how we should celebrate!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

City Sprout

A new company called City Sprout is trying to launch. I think it is pretty cool what they are trying to do. Check out the video below, and you can find their website here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Raw Milk, Part 5

In 2010, I did a four part series for this blog titled “Raw Milk, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”. I shared my ambivalence about the topic. I am a lover of raw milk - Part 2 - but I also understand the dangers. Indeed, I have experienced food poisoning from it as I described in Part 3 of that series. I have continued to support raw milk sales from a libertarian standpoint - get the government out of our lives. But recent events may have the pendulum of my emotions and intellect swinging the opposite direction again. A dairy farm that I am familiar with - The Family Cow Farm - just experienced a Campylobacter outbreak which has sickened dozens of people who drink their raw milk. See the following articles - Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4. This is a good farm. They do things right. They are licensed by Pennsylvania to sell raw milk. They practice good sanitation and they regularly test their milk for contamination. But it happened. There was a flaw in their system and people got sick. Some were hospitalized. Fortunately no one died. This is no anti-raw milk conspiracy.

In my job, I frequently visit dairy farms. When I am offered a glass of cold raw milk, I relish it as wine lovers relish fine wine or chocolatiers savor fine dark chocolate. But I know the risks are real and I have experienced coming up on the losing end. Drinking pasteurized milk, which my family nearly always does, is absolutely safer. The person who argues otherwise is uninformed. Yes the pendulum has swung the opposite direction. I discourage people from drinking raw milk. But if you do, make sure you get it from a reputable farm. Please don’t give to the very young, the old, or to those with compromised immune systems. Do not store raw milk for any length of time as bacteria will multiply. And if you do drink it, please savor it like I do.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's Here!

We finally got our Seed Saver Exchange Catalog in the mail. It is that wonderful time of the year where all of your garden dreams are still possible. We always like to go to our old standby seeds that we have harvested and that we know will grow well. In addition, whenever we get the catalog we like to look for 2 or 3 new plants minimum that we haven't tried in the past.

What is the Seed Savers Exchange? According to their website http://www.seedsavers.org they are a non-profit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds or our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

If you are a gardener and you want to be able to reuse the seeds from your harvest from year to year I would strongly recommend that you start planning on planting some heirlooms next year. Go to the Seed Savers Exchange website and order some plants online.

To learn more about the advantages of growing heirlooms check out this article from our blog.

What do you want to try planting this year that you haven't tried in the past?


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

All Purpose Cleaning Spray

Whoa Mama! You should see my windows, we get some crazy wind out here that coats my windows with a nice layer of dirt.  Then, there is my dog that likes to gunk up the window in my door while she is waiting to come in and out. 

I feel like I'm constantly wiping the windows down (along with counters, floors, mirrors...ugh!)  Did you know that there are ingredients that are harmful to the environment as well as your health in a lot of the cleaners you purchase at the store? Yup there are. And you are using them all over your house! Don't worry, you can make your own toxic free cleaners and save a lot of money while doing so. 

In this little bottle is like the superhero of cleaning. I use it for almost everything!

 It really should be pictured like this:
The "G" stands for GREAT! 

The very best part about the recipe is that it is so amazingly simple. 

1 part vinegar
1 part water
10-15 drops of lemon essential oil

Just make sure you give it a good shake before you use it to mix the oil in. I use this mix to wipe down my counters, mirrors, windows, table, walls, and even in the car! 

 Lemon essential oil is: antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral, and its refreshing!

I recommend purchasing doTERRA essential oils because they are the purest, and most potent essential oils out there. Other companies will claim they are the best, but doTERRA is the only company that does the testing to prove it. You can purchase doTERRA essential oils here

If you are interested in learning more about essential oils, look for my upcoming essential oil webinars, or feel free to email me your phone number, I would love to chat with you about oils.  backyardfarmingblog@gmail.com

I work for doTERRA, educating others about essential oils and how to use them. I'm looking for others to be on my team who would like to teach classes in their area. I love working for them, and it is financially rewarding as well. Feel free to email me if you would like to learn more about it! backyardfarmingblog@gmail.com


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Book Out

I'm a sucker for garden books!  I would love for my entire bookshelf to be full of gardening and backyard farming books.  I haven't had a chance to check out this new one, but here is the info on it. If you have it, or have looked through it, let us know what you think of it.

You Bet Your Garden® Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes - the funny book that teaches readers how to grow heirloom beefsteaks, plums, cherries and other backyard beauties

Mike McGrath, Radio Host of You Bet Your Garden
®, shares his wit and gardening expertise in newly revised and expanded edition

(LANCASTER, PA) For anyone who’s ever tried to grow tomatoes in their backyard, and faced the challenges of drought, hungry nighttime animals, insects and disease, comes a new edition of You Bet Your Garden® Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes (Fox Chapel Publishing, April 1, 2012) from author, and nationally-syndicated radio host of You Bet Your Garden®, Mike McGrath. You Bet Your Garden® Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes provides a comical approach to growing beautiful and delicious tomatoes. McGrath explains, with characteristic wit, how to choose, plant, grow and harvest a variety of tomatoes.

The book includes funny illustrations, color photographs, as well as interesting tomato lore and tips. McGrath includes answers and advice based on his radio show listeners’ questions, which highlights:

• Information on container and patio gardening
• An entire section on soil use and manure
• Heirloom tomatoes and more

Readers will learn how to start tomato plants from seed, how much to water your plants, how to stake and cage plants, how to feed tomatoes, how to prevent disease, and when to pick them at their peak. With every page, readers will find McGrath’s writing light, funny, yet rooted in years of experience and practice. Perfect for anyone who’s ever thought about growing their own tomatoes, or wished their crop looked and tasted better.

About the Author:
Mike McGrath is host of the weekly nationally syndicated radio show “You Bet Your Garden” and is a widely published columnist. He has a base of fans who appreciate both his humor and knowledge as an author of books on tomatoes, compost and kitchen gardening. McGrath was editor-in-chief of Organic Gardening magazine from 1991 through 1997, which at the time was the largest circulation gardening magazine in the world. McGrath’s “You Bet Your Garden” airs weekly on National Public Radio. He has made frequent guest appearances on NBC’s Weekend Today and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He has also been a gardening commentator on The Today Show. Mike is the garden editor for WTOP News Radio in Washington, DC., a post he has held for more than a decade.
He has served as contributing editor and columnist for Greenprints magazine.


Friday, February 17, 2012

School Lunch Shenanigans

A coworker of mine sent me this article about a recent school lunch shenanigan.The article tells the sad story of a girl who was sent to school with a sack lunch that consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich, banana, potato chips, and apple juice. The school inspected her lunch and decided that it did not meet USDA nutrition guidelines. Then they fed her chicken nuggets and gave her a bill for the "nutritious" meal.

I know that this sounds insane to most of you but in North Carolina, prekindergarten programs are required to evaluate the lunches parents are providing. I pose two questions.

First, should schools or government program decide what is best for our children instead of parents?

Second, If government programs should decide what is best for children, do we have reason to believe they are able to distinguish what is healthy?

I would argue that we risk losing a lot of freedom if we say yes to the first question. I would also argue that federal food programs have proven that they can't distinguish what is healthy. If you don't believe me, check out this article from chefann.com. It describes a recent USDA sponsored assessment on school lunches/   Here are a few excerpts from Chef Ann's article:

  • Grains: The vast majority of grain products (bread, rolls, bagels, crackers etc.) were made of refined white flour. Only 5 percent of grain offering was whole wheat
  • Fruit: Ninety-four percent of schools offered fruit or fruit juices. Only 50 percent of schools offered fresh fruit. The rest offered canned fruit or fruit juice.
  • Combination entrée: The most commonly offered combination entrée depended on age; in elementary school, 28 percent of combination entrees were peanut butter sandwiches, followed by meat sandwiches; in middle school the most commonly offered combination entree was pizza with meat, followed by cheeseburgers and sandwiches with breaded meat or poultry.
In my opinion, the worst part of this is the control that institutions have over individuals. We have written multitudes of blog posts about farmers getting shut down because they sell raw milk. I have seen articles about people not being allowed to eat their neighbors free range eggs. I am scared that I am going to lose my rights. I think that I should be able to choose what I eat. I think I can make better decisions than a government program or mandate. I think it is much better to make wrong decisions (which I will at times) and be free, than be forced to do what might be better for me (which is unlikely) and lose my freedom.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mid-Atlantic Small Flock Poultry Expo Recap

On Saturday, February 4, over 400 poultry enthusiasts from seven states gathered at the Agriculture Center in Westminster, Maryland to learn more about raising poultry in their back yards. And what a buffet of information they were treated to from the University of Maryland Extension. Twenty-one seminars, presentations, and demonstrations provided over 125 cumulative hours of instruction. A farmer brought in his processing trailer to describe poultry harvesting. At mealtime people watched a 45 minute documentary video on Dale Johnson’s backyard broiler production. 4-H leaders organized 4-H displays and activities. The Fine Feathered Friends 4-H Poultry Club made over $1,700 from catering breakfast and lunch. They will use the money to fund national poultry trips for 4-H Youth. Vendors from three states plied their wares. The Maryland Poultry Fanciers Association signed on many new members. To top off the day, a big Maryland chicken roamed the rooms to keep everyone happy. In all, hundreds of questions were answered and hundreds of publications with useful information were distributed. It was an incredible day!
 Uncle Dale with two coworkers

 Dale discusses a pasture coop design with the vendor who builds and sells them.

 Dale teaches livestock economics at one of the seminars

 4-H poultry exhibit
Vendor building

 Hundreds of poultry enthusiasts attended the concurrent seminars

 Bad hair day

Monday, February 6, 2012

Vanity and legacy

Our culture would not permit, nor would I want to use a human skull for contemplation as Hamlet does with Yorick’s skull. So I use the next best thing, bovine and bison skulls. Some members of my family, particularly my wife, abhor this odd practice, mainly because the bovine skull is mounted next to our front door on the veranda and the bison skull is in our living room. But they put up with my eccentricities. For me, these skulls are not mere conversation pieces but graphic symbols of vanity. I use that word as I believe the preacher of Ecclesiastes uses it - “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” referring to life as fragile and fleeting. 

The bovine skull is from a Scottish Highlander steer. In life, it was magnificent looking animal. In death, all that remains is this skull. “I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits… Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit”

Close observation reveals a small hole between the eye sockets. This is from the .22 bullet that put this steer down. Gun enthusiasts discuss the knock down power of various calibers but must always remember that a lowly .22 will do the job. In our daily lives, death often seems so far away until that unexpected traffic accident or sudden illness fetches death as quickly as a 36 grain bullet to this steer.   

Your browser may not support display of this image.Do I see any positive metaphor in this skull? When this skull was discarded in the grass, one of billions of maple leaves fell between the horns on the right temple and the pigment from the leaf was emblazoned on the skull. Although life is vanity, each one of us can make our mark that will persist through time as that maple leaf has.

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.” My father passed way years ago, my mother last year. I will join them in a few years, if not tomorrow or today. What kind of legacy will I leave? I hope it is positive.