Recently in Farming Category

The Grape that roared

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The Chiefio reminds us about today:

Mechanical Grape Harvester Day!
Today we are celebrating National Mechanical Grape Harvester Day! (AKA Cesar Chavez Day).

For anyone who might not know, especially those living in other countries where our peculiar political holidays might not have currency, Cesar Chavez is that brave soul who through petty bickering, targeted destruction of individual farmers, and great political theatre ( mostly in the form of posed for TV “marches” and a “grape boycott”) single handedly brought about the invention of the Mechanical Grape Harvester and the destruction of jobs for hundreds of thousands of Hispanic farm workers.

Obama recognized this great contribution in 2014 when he declared the Politically Correct Token Hispanic Holiday in the name of Cesar Chavez.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Chavez_Day

Cesar Chavez Day is a federal commemorative holiday in the U.S. by proclamation of President Obama in 2014. On March 31 of each year, it celebrates the birth and legacy of the civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez.

Yes, we owe this great day to Our Dear Leader Obama’s great sensibility to all things exploitable for “the cause”.

Cesar Chavez lead a great movement to abuse farmers, cause a ruckus, and generally attempt to repeal the law of supply and demand in Farm Labor. He succeeded at the first two, but nobody bats 1000 and “2 out of 3 ain’t bad”… Forming and organizing the United Farm Workers Union that at the peak had a membership of about 80,000.

http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jun/10/local/me-laufw10

UFW Member Total Is Questioned
Labor: The union says its accuser is basing the accusation on incorrect set of numbers.
June 10, 2002|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER
[…]
Rob Roy, general counsel for the Ventura County Agricultural Assn., has long accused the union of inflating its numbers, but he now believes he has proof in the form of an amended federal document in which the UFW lowers its membership estimates by nearly 80%.

From 1995 to 1999, the UFW claimed membership of 26,000 on reports filed annually with the U.S. Department of Labor. The union upped that figure to 27,000 in 2000. But last month, in response to an inquiry by the Labor Department, the union revised its membership to 5,945, according to the amended report.

“Here they are portraying themselves as the voice of California farm workers, and yet they represent less than 1%,” said Roy, who fired off a letter in February prompting the Labor Department probe.

A lot more at the site - my ex's family grows grapes in the California Central Valley and I was talking with her Dad about Mr. Chavez. His complaint that although it was all well and good that they were Unionized, they failed to uphold their end of the bargain. The Union is supposed to train their workers - after all, those workers are paying dues to the Union for this. Pete was expecting to go to the Union Hall, ask for 120 experienced grape pickers and have them arrive at his fields. They were not trained and damaged the vines limiting next years crop.

There is a lot more at the site - this basically put a whole bunch of pickers out of business, changed the way that grapes are grown, forced us to adopt a mono-culture and prevented us from commercialy harvesting heirloom grapes (the ones with real flavor) and made a couple of people (the inventors of the grape picking machines) very rich.  A perfect case of unintended consequences - what Chavez was saying sounded good to the progressives in New York, Boston, San Francisco, etc... but it did not work in actuality and wreaked havoc with the system.

Sharing some love on the farm

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Cute:

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Harbingers of spring

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Been noticing more and more of them - skunk cabbage is coming up in the marshes, the frogs are peeping at dusk, the trees are starting to bud, bulbs poking their heads above ground.

Driving back from shooting today, i saw a couple barn swallows orbiting around the critter barn. Very cool - another year is starting.

If Millennials Were Lumberjacks

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This is just too funny and so spot on:

Some great news - Ammon Bundy

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It seems the government is having its ass handed to it by We The People - from Associated Press:

Jury acquits leaders of Oregon standoff of federal charges
A jury delivered an extraordinary blow to the government Thursday in a long-running battle over the use of public lands when it acquitted all seven defendants involved in the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon.

Tumult erupted in the courtroom after the verdicts were read when an attorney for group leader Ammon Bundy demanded his client be immediately released, repeatedly yelling at the judge. U.S. marshals tackled attorney Marcus Mumford to the ground, used a stun gun on him several times and arrested him.

Emphasis mine - always classy. It will be interesting to see if a video surfaces - see what the provocation was. A bit more:

Said defendant Neil Wampler: "This is a tremendous victory for rural America and it is a well-deserved, overwhelming defeat for a corrupt and predatory federal government."

The U.S Attorney in Oregon, Billy J. Williams, issued a statement defending the decision to bring charges against the seven defendants: "We strongly believe that this case needed to be brought before a Court, publicly tried, and decided by a jury.

I find it curious that Associated Press would run this story as it is counter to their progressive bias - using this photograph is unusual as well:

20161027-Ehmer.jpgDuane Ehmer rides his horse Hellboy at the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge
on the sixth day of the occupation of the federal building in Burns,
Oregon on January 7, 2016. Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images

I have been covering this story for a couple of years - the Bundy family have been paying the Federal Government for grazing rights since the 1890's

Fascinating news - soybeans

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From Washington State University:

Soybean nitrogen breakthrough could help feed the world
Washington State University biologist Mechthild Tegeder has developed a way to dramatically increase the yield and quality of soybeans.

Her greenhouse-grown soybean plants fix twice as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as their natural counterparts, grow larger and produce up to 36 percent more seeds.

Tegeder designed a novel way to increase the flow of nitrogen, an essential nutrient, from specialized bacteria in soybean root nodules to the seed-producing organs. She and Amanda Carter, a biological sciences graduate student, found the increased rate of nitrogen transport kicked the plants into overdrive.

Their work, published recently in Current Biology, is a major breakthrough in the science of improving crop yields. It could eventually help address society’s critical challenge of feeding a growing human population while protecting the environment. See the paper at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216306157.

“The biggest implication of our research is that by ramping up the natural nitrogen allocation process we can increase the amount of food we produce without contributing to further agricultural pollution,” Tegeder said. “Eventually we would like to transfer what we have learned to other legumes and plants that humans grow for food.”

Shades of Norman Borlaug - very wonderful work.

Growing tomatoes down under

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An interesting idea - from Farmer's Weekly:

£120m state-of-the-art-tomato farm opens in Australia
A high-tech sustainable tomato farm with its own desalination plant and 23,000 mirrors to harness the sun’s energy, has opened in South Australia.

The AUS$200m (£120m) investment by Sundrop Farms is reported by Australian news service The Lead to be the first of its kind in the world. It will produce 15,000t of tomatoes a year for the Australian domestic market.

The farm, near Port Augusta – a seaport on the Spencer Gulf – has 20ha of climate-controlled greenhouses made using 20,000 glass panels.

The solar power system concentrates the sun’s energy using a 127m-high tower weighing 400t and more the 23,000 mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays.

This produces steam that drives onsite processes and heat to run the desalination unit, which churns out 1m litres of fresh water a day.

Eight trucks a day are currently leaving the farm to freight tomatoes to supermarkets across the country and Sundrop Farms has a 10-year contract with Australian retailer Coles.

Very clever idea - there is no fresh water in the desert to use the heat of the sun to desalinate the ocean water. Perfect climate for 'maters - bright and hot.

Here is the companies website: Sundrop Farms They just completed a farm in Portugal and are breaking ground for one in Tennesee. Here is a link to their technologies - very nicely integrated.

Clever engineering

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With fall coming around, it is time to start thinking about next year's garden. This year was a bit of a bust as the spring weather really promoted weed growth.

Just ran into this device for harvesting baby salad greens - very clever:

Sold by these folks: Farmer's Friend - a bit pricey but if you are doing this commercially, worth every penny.

The state of mind Oregon

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From The Oregonian and yes, they are that strange and quirky:

In a first, Oregon State Fair to feature marijuana plants
The Oregon State Fair celebrates oddities like the "curviest vegetable" and the "most misshapen fruit." Fairgoers can marvel over award-winning onions and pumpkins and snap photos of the top pig and llama.

This year, the state fair is adding a new attraction: prize-winning marijuana plants. For the first time, Oregon's marijuana crop will be on display at the annual event, which runs Aug. 26 through Sept. 5.

Don Morse, chairman of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, the sponsor of the marijuana exhibit, said nine plants will be displayed in a greenhouse that will have its own entrance and exit. The area will be monitored by a security guard. Only people 21 and older will be allowed in.

It is a cash crop and now a legal cash crop.

Farming and cooperative sales

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Great news for independent farmers from the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund:

Courts Vindicate Amish Farmer for Fourth Time
If at first you don’t succeed at harassing a farmer out of business, try again…and again…and again. That has been the tack the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Hopewell Township have taken since 2012 against Amish farmer and FTCLDF member Chris Zook. Four times either the Commonwealth or the Township have brought a court action for alleged violations of either the local zoning code or the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code against Zook; each time the farmer has emerged victorious, FTCLDF General Counsel Gary Cox has represented Zook.

All four actions against the farmer have stemmed from Zook’s building of a new barn on his farm to replace the original one that had been destroyed in a 2011 fire. Hopewell Township issued Zook a permit to rebuild his barn, but both the Township and the Commonwealth objected to Zook using part of the barn as a retail store. Zook is a farmer member of Community Alliance for Responsible Eco-farming (CARE), a private food buyers club, and only sells products to CARE consumer members at his store.

Barns are exempt as agricultural buildings from the Pennsylvania construction code, but both the Township and the Commonwealth have contended that since there is a retail store in the barn, it is actually a commercial building subject to local zoning requirements and the Commonwealth Uniform Construction Code (having to comply with the construction code would cost Zook thousands). The courts have rejected this argument in each of the four actions.

Good - overbearing regulation is the bane of our civilization. Didn't used to be this way and doesn't have to continue - all it does is entrench unelected officials in power. The regulatory fees they charge allow them to build an empire. This was not a retail store, this was a buyers club and should be left alone.

More coyotes

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Just had four in the field. They were very much playing with Grace but showing a little bit of ganging up behaviour. Will have to keep a close eye and maybe thin the heard a little bit. I don't mind having them (or any other critters) in proximity but Grace and my other critters come first dammit!

Gardening

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From an email - I love it:

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What people do up here - logging

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Logging is just another kind of farming except it takes 40 years for your next harvest. Here is a fun newsreel about logging in Oregon back in the 1950's:

As for riding the flume, I am reminded of that wonderful National Film Board of Canada animation of The Log Driver's Waltz

Song: The Log Driver's Waltz by Wade Hemsworth, performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. National Film Board of Canada. Animation by John Weldon.

It has been a bumper year for coyotes. There are a couple families within a half-mile of the farm - tonight with slightly cloudy skies and a full moon, they are yipping up a storm. There is one mom and two kits that have been assuming the run of the farm - none of the other critters give them a second look anymore.

Things would be different if I had some tasty hens strolling around - I think I will keep buying my neighbor's eggs from my store this time around.

Quote of the week - on prepping

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From a good article at All Outdoor:

In a collapse, food is scarce and people are hungry. Nobody is going to trade you a box of .357 or a Gold Eagle for a chicken, because unlike the latter two things chickens are edible, and the edible stuff takes priority.

Some sage advice - read the rest at the link. A can of tuna fish or garbanzo beans will have great value. A fresh roll of toilet paper? You can set your price...

There is a tendency for people to act as though a collapse will never happen to them. They are scared by the prospect and of their inability to cope so they compartmentalize the idea in their brain right next to unicorns, time travel and alt.energy. The problem is that it this not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN

A very good definition of the word disaster was given by the retired director of our local CERT program.

A disaster is when an event outstrips your ability to cope.

Take stock of your surroundings and ask yourself. Do I have three weeks of food and water? What if the power goes out for more than a few days - will I have heat? Do I have a radio to get news reports? How about sanitation? Cooking? Games and books to keep people occupied? An honest answer to questions like this will save the lives of you and your family.

Glyphosate in the news

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Feelings run strong out here when it comes to gardening. I am a big fan of Phosphorus Soap (ie: glyphosate or Roundup) for weed control. Other people think that it oozes from Satan's pustules.

Matt Ridley has a great post on the subject - he owns and manages a large estate in England and knows what he is talking about:

GLYPHOSATE, THE MMR VACCINE AND PSEUDOSCIENCE
Uncovering the subversion of scientific methods in pursuit of politics
Science, humanity’s greatest intellectual achievement, has always been vulnerable to infection by pseudoscience, which pretends to use the methods of science, but actually subverts them in pursuit of an obsession. Instead of evidence-based policymaking, pseudoscience specialises in policy-based evidence making. Today, this infection is spreading.

Two egregious examples show just how easy it is to subvert the scientific process. The campaign by Andrew Wakefield against the MMR vaccine, recently boosted by Robert De Niro’s support, is pseudoscience.

So is the campaign against glyphosate (“Roundup”) weedkiller, which has now resulted in the European parliament recommending a ban on its use by gardeners.

A large dossier claiming to find evidence that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” was published last year by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation. What could be more scientifically respectable?

Yet the document depends heavily on the work of an activist employed by a pressure group called the Environmental Defense Fund: Christopher Portier, whose conflict of interest the IARC twice omitted to disclose. Portier chaired the committee that proposed a study on glyphosate and then served as technical adviser to the IARC’s glyphosate report team, even though he is not a toxicologist. He has since been campaigning against glyphosate.

The IARC study is surely pseudoscience. It relies on a tiny number of cherry-picked studies, and even these don’t support its conclusion. The evidence that it causes cancer in humans is especially tenuous, based on three epidemiological studies with confounding factors and small sample sizes “linking” it to Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The study ignored the US Agricultural Health Study, which has been tracking some 89,000 farmers and their spouses for 23 years.

The study found “no association between glyphosate exposure and all cancer incidence or most of the specific cancer subtypes we evaluated, including NHL . . .”

A bit more about glyphosate and its actual toxicity:

Dose for dose, glyphosate is half as toxic as vinegar, and one tenth as carcinogenic as caffeine. Not that coffee’s dangerous — but the chemicals in it, like those in virtually any vegetable, are dangerous in lab tests at absurdly high concentrations. So is dihydrogen monoxide, for that matter, if you inhale it, drink it to excess or let its gaseous form burn your skin (that’s H2O, by the way).

Besides, risk is hazard plus exposure, a point ignored by the IARC. If you routinely put coffee down your throat, you are exposing yourself to the infinitesimal hazard caffeine represents. If you spray a little Roundup on your garden path, you are not even exposing yourself to the more infinitesimal hazard of glyphosate.

Roundup is probably the safest herbicide ever, with no persistence in the environment. But the Green Blob hates it for three reasons. It’s off-patent and therefore cheap. It was invented by Monsanto, a company that had the temerity to make a contribution to reducing famine and lowering food prices through innovation in agriculture. And some genetically modified crops have been made resistant to it, so that they can be weeded after planting by spraying, rather than tilling the ground: this no-till farming is demonstrably better for the environment, by the way.

Tempest in a teapot - I use the stuff for prepping the garden beds on spring - wait for a couple of nice days and go through with a power sprayer. Knocks the beds down so I don't have to dig as much and I use mulch through the growing season for crop health and weed supression. The combination works great.

It is a pity that some people are so suceptible to a narrative without doing even the most minor fact checking.

Not legal at all - from Whatcom County's Liberty Road:

Whatcom County Blows the Whistle on the EPA’s Illegal Funding for Lobbyist’s Lies
A few weeks ago, local radio host Dillon Honcoop, assisted in posing the question, Why does our local Whatcom Transit Authority (WTA) have billboard advertising on them that falsely accuses farmers and farming, for polluting the land? By exposing the actions of the WTA, local people and a local farming organization, Save Family Farming, dug deeper into the issue and discovered that our tax dollars were being granted to an organization named What’s Upstream.

The actions of the EPA, the lies spread by the non-profit organizations who comprise What’s Upstream, who falsely claim that farmers and farming have not been regulated enough and are currently polluting our waters, has caught the attention of numerous federal congressional representatives. The Federal Government frowns upon any agency, like the EPA, to grant tax payer dollars that will then be used for political lobbying purposes. The What’s Upstream propaganda not only lied about farmers and farmers, but asked people to pressure their federal congress people to support farm killing legislation. The EPA has publicly announced that they should not have granted funds for this purpose..

The Environmental Protection Agency today reversed course and said EPA funds should not have been used to finance What’s Upstream, a media campaign to arouse public support in Washington state for stricter regulations on agriculture.

The campaign, a collaboration between a tribe and environmental groups, raised the ire of farm groups and drew a rebuke Monday from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

A day after Roberts criticized EPA’s involvement, the agency, which had not previously commented on the campaign’s substance, condemned the use of federal funds.

“The tone and content of this outside campaign does not represent the views of the EPA,” an agency spokesman said in a written statement.

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Fortunately, there has been some pushback from Congress - from the Capital Press:

145 House members sign letter criticizing EPA over What’s Upstream
One-third of the U.S. House on Wednesday accused the Environmental Protection Agency of breaking federal prohibitions against political advocacy by funding What’s Upstream.

Three Democrats and 142 Republicans signed a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, stating that EPA’s support for the campaign maligns farmers, violates limits on the agency’s spending authority and exhibits a pattern of misconduct.

Crap like this needs to be slapped down fast and hard so people will be hesitant to try it again in the future. The EPA did good work when it was initially created but it is now just another large federal bureaucracy. It needs to have 80% of its funding cut so it can get back to just its core task.

Planning the garden

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I didn't know you could grow bacon from seed - going to have to look for them.

One of our county fire departments:

20160302-fire.jpg

No known cure - from Yahoo/Agence France-Presse:

Growers despair as disease ravages timeless olive groves of Italy
Italian olive grower Federico Manni is at the end of his tether.

"You see this one," he says, waving in the direction of a majestic but diseased olive tree on his property near Gallipoli on the Salento peninsula on Italy's heel.

"It is over one thousand years old. Fires and wars failed to kill it, but that's what xylella is doing."

Manni's wedding pictures were taken underneath this particular tree. And he is filled with dread at the prospect of its imminent demise at the hands of a bacterial infection thought to be behind an outbreak of dessication ravaging the olive groves of this fertile corner of southern Italy.

The extent of the problem:

The reason for Manni's despair is xylella fastidiosa, a deadly bacterial pathogen that has no known cure and, for reasons experts have so far been unable to explain, began infesting olive trees in Salento at the end of 2013.

More than a million trees, 10 percent of Salento's total, are estimated to have been infected in a region where abundant olive groves are synonomous with the timeless landscape.

And it gets worse:

What is clear is that the potential damage is huge: xylella does not harm humans but can kill over 200 types of plant, including fruit trees and grape vines. "It is an environmental disaster," says Manni.

Emphasis mine - its vector are various insects so hard to stop. It is found in the USA where it affects peaches. First spotted in Italy in 2013; arrived in France in 2015. More here and here.

A nasty bit of chemistry - Picloram

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Just ran into this cheery bit of news. Some of the herbicides that ranchers spray on their grazing fields are very long lived.

Here is just one story from Canadian magazine Northword:

Mean Manure & Killer Compost: Grazon after-effects in the Bulkley Valley
Cheryl and Les Harmati had been successfully gardening on their property outside Smithers for 25 years. But last year something strange was happening: plants in the garden and greenhouse were curling and wilting. The deformed growth was alarming—and mysterious. What had they done that was different from other years?

The previous summer, their neighbour had his hayfields sprayed with Grazon, a herbicide that selectively kills broadleaf plants without harming grasses. His cows grazed the treated hay later in the summer. That fall, in a gesture of neighbourly generosity, he dumped a couple tractor-loads of manure into their garden. In the spring, the Harmatis spread some on the garden and into the greenhouse soil.

It wasn’t long before their troubles began. “We didn’t know what was going on,” Cheryl recalls. “We finally figured it out by talking with others who had similar experiences and by researching online.” The manure—and now their garden and greenhouse soil—was apparently contaminated with herbicide.

Picloram is the active ingredient in the herbicide Grazon. Because of picloram’s persistence in soil—it breaks down very slowly and continues to prevent weed growth in subsequent years—it is favoured by many in the weed-control business. Here in northwest BC its main use of late has been in hayfields and pasture, prompted most recently by widespread infestations of the non-native and very invasive yellow hawkweed.

Although quite toxic to certain plants, picloram has very low toxicity to mammals, so cows and horses that consume sprayed hay appear to be unharmed. However, picloram is not broken down during digestion, and is excreted unchanged in urine and manure. Even composting does not break down the chemical, and in fact may concentrate it. Picloram is very potent: sensitive plants like potatoes, tomatoes and peppers are affected by concentrations of less than 10 parts per billion.

Emphasis mine. Yikes - I am going to have to test the hay I bought last summer. The article outlines how to run the test.

There is a lot more online including this PDF report from manufacturer Dow Chemical. None of it good.

Garden pron

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Seed catalogs are starting to come in the mail.

Some of my favorites: Kitazawa, Baker Creek and Territorial

Also good for herbs, teas, butters, and oils - Mountain Rose

Spring is in the air...

So true

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Swiped off Facebook:

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The Montreal Melon

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Fascinating story from Tori Marlan writing at Buzz Feed:

The Rise, Fall, and Almost Rise of The Caviar of Cantaloupe
During the early 20th century, the Montreal melon was a culinary delicacy and an agricultural moneymaker. But as industrial farming took hold, the hard-to-grow fruit went the way of the dodo bird. What one farmer’s attempt to revive it says about taste and technology.
It’s been a lousy growing season for Ken Taylor’s cantaloupes. The weather has been terrible — cool and wet, when it should have been hot and dry — and the leaves on the vines are browning and riddled with small holes from fungal disease.

Standing on his 70-acre organic farm on Île Perrot, about 30 miles west of Montreal, Taylor surveys the damage through a pair of thick-framed glasses. It’s late July, and there’s not much to see. Finally he spots a tiny cantaloupe. “This is basically what it looks like, off and on, all the way down: one fruit here and there.”

Those aren’t just any fruit. They’re specimens of the Montreal melon — a large and particularly hard-to-grow cantaloupe that Taylor saved from extinction. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Montreal melon was considered a delicacy. Sweet and juicy with hints of nutmeg, it has green flesh like a honeydew, but its exterior is netted, rather than smooth. According to Taylor, it’s probably Canada’s most famous heritage food.

“There wasn’t a Vancouver kiwi or a Halifax oyster,” he later said. “It was the Montreal melon!” While he acknowledges that other foods originated in Canada — the Laurentian turnip, for example — Taylor says nothing else had the melon’s renown.

“Russian caviar; champagne from Reims, France; and the Montreal melon — those were the three snob foods in the early 1900s,” Taylor says.

A fun read - Taylor seems like an interesting character and now I want to try growing some of these here. A lot of the really delicious foods do not stand up to commercial processing. There are several incredibly delicious apples that do not last in shipping - Ashmead's Kernal for one.

Seed pron

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Spelling it 'pron' to bypass any web filters.

In the cold still heart of winter, our thoughts turn to gardening. Seed catalogs are starting to trickle in.

Just ran into this place - Wild Garden Seed

The specialty here is lettuce - 100 varieties of it. They also have a scattering of other seeds - greens, mustards, peppers, etc... Check out their website - it is an education.

Brilliant idea - Honey fences

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From Edible Geography:

Honey Fences
Edible Geography readers have perhaps heard of “pollinator pathways,” an initiative to thread together isolated pockets of green space into nectar-filled corridors, in order to give butterflies and bees easier passage across otherwise unfriendly urban expanses of concrete and asphalt. A recent article in British Airways’ High Life magazine about efforts to save Kenya’s last remaining elephants introduced me to an interesting twist on the concept of bee-based landscape design: “honey fences.”

Although the main threat to the elephants’ survival is ivory-market driven poaching, a significant number are also killed each year following altercations with local villagers. As Angela Carr-Hartley, director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, politely put it, “These communities have mixed feelings about an elephant coming into their smallholdings overnight, as they can wreak havoc eating the crops.”

Zoologist Lucy King came up with the honey fence solution, which takes advantage of the fact that elephants are terrified by the sound of bees. (The delicate skin inside their trunks is apparently particularly vulnerable to being stung.) King had read that elephants tend to avoid acacia trees, usually a favorite food, if bees have built a hive in the branches. Based on that initial insight, and after several years of behavioral experiments, including playing elephants the sound of disturbed bees from a hidden loudspeaker and filming their reaction, King developed the honey fence system: a series of hives, suspended at ten-metre intervals from a single wire threaded around wooden fence posts. If an elephant touches either a hive or the wire, all the bees along the fence line feel the disturbance and swarm out of their hives in an angry, buzzing cloud.

A pilot honey fence in 2009 proved successful, deterring all but one bull elephant, and The Elephants and Bees Project has since spread to sites across Africa. Neville Sheldrick of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust told Africa Geographic that nearby farmers are sure the fence is working: “When I visit they proudly walk me around showing me the footprints of elephants that have walked up to and along the fence in several locations before turning back towards the park.”

Very clever and major kudos to Dr. King for observing the interaction and coming up with a perfect solution. Talk about win / win...

First frost of the season?

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Checking the temps before I head upstairs. 33°F

Looks like we will be getting our first frost of the season tonight...

I love this time of year - a bit melancholy to see the end of Summer but Fall and Winter are great seasons too.

Spring is just cold wet mud until it gets dry enough to plant...

Six months of his time spent making a sandwich. From his YouTube channel:

I spent 6 months and $1500 to completely make a sandwich from scratch. Including growing my own vegetables, making my own salt from ocean water, milking a cow to make cheese, grinding my own flour from wheat, collecting my own honey, and killing a chicken myself.

My quest does not just cover food. In my new video series, I set out to challenge myself to make many every day items we take for granted from scratch. Subscribe to my channel and watch the full episode...and catch my next episode, where I make a suit from scratch, which after factoring in production costs and labor totals to around $4,000!

Release the minions!

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Took some time to release my 10,000 minions. Little wasps that predate on the common housefly. They don't attack the adults so we have about 20-30 days of dealing with those but it will be great to be finally done with them. It has been a bad summer. Spent 20 minutes walking around the property shaking the cocoons onto the ground near manure piles. Now we just let nature take its course.

I have another 5,000 arriving in September to catch the overwintering fly larvae.

All from Spalding Labs in Reno Nevada. So far, very happy working with them.

Ten thousand minions

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I received ten thousand little helpers this morning.

The company doesn't say what the actual critter is but this is an insect that predates on housefly larvae. What with the horse and mule and llamas, the flies have been really bad this summer.

The critters do nothing to adult flies so there is still about 30 days of dealing with them but we should be enjoying a relatively fly-free autumn.

Got them from Spalding Laboratories in Reno, NV - I will update when I see results. The 10,000 minions cost me $34 plus shipping - reasonable for an experiment in bio-control.

Our vanishing honeybee population

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Everyone is crying about Colony Collapse Disorder and how the honey bees are going the way of the Dodo Bird (eg. extinct)

Not so fast - some numbers from the United States Department of Agriculture; Economics, Statistics and Market Information System (link to PDF file - looking at data from 2014):

United States Honey Production Up 19 Percent
Honey production in 2014 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 178 million pounds, up 19 percent from 2013. There were 2.74 million colonies producing honey in 2014, up 4 percent from 2013. Yield per colony averaged 65.1 pounds, up 15 percent from the 56.6 pounds in 2013.

Colony Collapse Disorder started to be reported in 2006 - here is the report from 2010 (link to PDF file - looking at data from 2009):

United States Honey Production Down 12 Percent
Honey production in 2009 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 144 million pounds, down 12 percent from 2008. There were 2.46 million colonies producing honey in 2009, up 5 percent from 2008. Yield per colony averaged 58.5 pounds, down 16 percent from the 69.9 pounds in 2008, and is the lowest yield since 1989.

So yes, something did happen but it has been fixed and production is now greater than it ever was. End of story...

A bit of a sad note at the farm

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My beloved old Brittany Spaniel Finnegan wandered off last Thursday afternoon and may not be with us any more.

I do not know how old he was - I got him full-grown from the shelter. He was an excellent dog - great in the field and loved to go riding in the truck with me - always curled up on the passenger seat.

In the last four years, he had gone completely blind and deaf - his eyes were milky from the cataracts. We started calling him pinball and he adapted very well - he already knew the layout of the farm and would go from building to building without problem. His nose still worked great and he would be a pest at dinner always snuffling up for treats - our other dogs would have the grace to wait patiently for their table scraps.

Lulu and I looked pretty thoroughly yesterday and Thursday and there was no sign of him at the farm, he was not lying in a ditch after being struck by a car and there is no word from our neighbors.

There is a cougar active in the area and some recent logging efforts have dislodged at least one bear.

My only hope is that if the lil' bastard is really gone that it was swift and painless.

WTF? Now I really do not like John Deere

When I bought Buttercup the Tractor, I liked that it was a pure diesel machine - no electronics. I had heard too many stories of tractors with electronics getting bricked because a chip burned out.

I did not want to pay a couple hundred bucks to replace some hermetically sealed module when it was a 25¢ Integrated Circuit that was at fault.

Now, it seems that we do not even own the modules - from Consumerist:

John Deere Wants To Be Able To File Copyright Claims Against The Way You Use Your Tractor
In the modern, digital economy, there are a whole lot of things you buy but still technically don’t own. Nearly all entertainment, for example: digital books, video games, music, and so on. Other software, too. But as basically everything continues to become some kind of computer in a specialized body, plenty of other goods are starting to be subject to licensing, copyright law, and non-ownership problems, too. Like tractors.

Famous farming machinery company John Deere is making the case that you don’t own your vehicles, Wired reports this week. In filings with the copyright office (PDF), the maker of the ubiquitous green and yellow tractor argues that because your tractor has a chip and some code in it, you don’t actually own it. You’ve just got an “implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

I am sorry but this is FUBAR - F**ked Up Beyond All Recognition. I will never buy a new John Deere product and am a very happy Kubota owner (two large pieces of equipment and a generator).

Scythe v/s String Trimmer

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From a 2010 contest in England.

Humming birds have arrived

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They have been occasional visitors since I put the feeder out almost two weeks ago 

Someone must have spread the word because almost every time I look, there are one or more at the feeder.

Wonder how many 25 pound bags of sugar we will go through this summer - last year it was two.

Plow update #3

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The guy told me it was a John Deere - painted Deere green but the nameplate says Ferguson.

Googled around and this puppy pre-dates the 1953 Massey-Ferguson merger. Looks a little bit like this except it only has one plow - this is a two-bottom:

20150322-plow.jpg


So there is my first winter's project - take this apart and restore it. Get the right color paint on it. Like I said, everything is there and it works so this project should be a fun one!

A bit of interesting history is that it was Ferguson who invented the thee-point hitch (as well as the Power Take-off) back in 1938. Everyone else started making implements to fit so it became the industry norm.

Another hummingbird sighting

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We were both working outside and Lulu heard another hummingbird buzz by.

I set out another feeder and made some nectar so we are ready for them.

People are sometimes concerned that we feed just sugar water - they actually eat a lot of insects so they have a plentiful source of protein. Because of their high metabolism, they really need the pure carbohydrates.

Four cups water, one cup white cane sugar, bring to a boil and let cool overnight. No red coloring - don't need it and some dyes can be harmful.

First hummingbird of the season

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I was out running errands (picking up some equipment for Buttercup the tractor, the truant raspberry canes and feed for Horse and Mule). Lulu was working on the garden. She heard the hum and then saw one at the feeder.

I will set out a couple more feeders tomorrow...

Back in the saddle again

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Bill and Michelle just left - Lulu, Jimmy and I all took turns riding Sam and Rocky. Lulu's first time in the saddle and she did just fine.

When I was a teenager, my parents used to spend every other summer in Colorado and we did a lot of horseback riding. It was fun in that my 50 year old muscle memory came right back. Felt very comfortable to be in the saddle and we walked and trotted with zero problem. Sam stumbled at one point and went down to his knees and I had no problem staying in the saddle and not panicking.

There are a number of logging roads within a close distance to our house so we will have plenty of opportunities for picnics.

20150308-horse01.jpg

Lulu is on Rocky, I am on Sam - Bill is leading Rocky as this is Lulu's first time on a horse.

20150308-horse02.jpg

Out standing in our field - the Llamas were like WTF? Are they going to do this to us too?¿?¿

20150308-horse03.jpg

Jimmy riding Rocky - I stayed on Sam all the time. Have a thing for mules and we got along just fine.

20150308-horse04.jpg

Heading home. The end of the trail for both of us - for today...

A quiet day at the farm

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Went out for coffee and then did some photocopying for tomorrow's Annual General Meeting of our Water Cooperative. I have been president for the last five years - fun and we have excellent water! Coliform? What's that?

Lulu is in town but coming out to the farm in an hour or two - it's her birthday today so we are doing fresh Ahi Hawai'ian style (lightly seared, served with rice and bok choy sautéed in sesame oil and oyster sauce) I'm baking her a lemon meringue pie for desert.

Woke up and found Rocky (horse) pacing in the paddock with Sam (mule) outside blithely munching on the fresh grass shoots. Fixed the hole in the fence and got him back inside. I had gotten a price quote for a fence around the entire property but it was double what I was expecting to pay (I was estimating $10-12K - the bid was $21K) - on to plan B...

More later

Fence update

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Got replies from three fence companies - first one is out here tomorrow afternoon. Collect bids and take it from there.

Horse and mule are still in their paddock - was just out on the back porch putting part of dinner on the grill and they gave me stink eye again. Are they in for a surprise...

Dinner? Soy and ginger marinated flank steak with grilled onion rings and asparagus. The grill is a Traeger and I am running it with apple wood.

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