Recently in Farming Category

Curious - fractal design

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Top photo - Turkish Black carrot / Bottom photo - Mandelbrot Set

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Looks like nature is reusing the basic design but why - what is the benefit.  Curious indeed...

Wonderful news - Chestnut trees

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From the New York Post:

Scientists hope genetic engineering can revive the American chestnut tree
A day before Earth Day, retired forester Rex Mann watched as scientists signed an agreement with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina to allow for the eventual planting of genetically engineered American chestnut trees on tribal land.

Mann, who has heard countless stories about the American chestnut tree that once dominated the Appalachia region, was emotional as he witnessed the signing.

“My dad loved the tree… and he understood what it meant to the way of life of these people in the mountains,” the 76-year-old from Kentucky said. “That way of life died with the tree.”

In the early 20th century, a blight is believed to have wiped out some four billion chestnut trees that once grew across the eastern United States, from Maine to Georgia. Now, American chestnut advocates, like Mann, and a small network of scientists are hoping to restore the trees by genetically engineering a blight-resistant tree.

Several experiments have been tried over the years, but so far scientists believe the greatest promise comes from a transgenic tree – engineered with a gene from wheat – known as Darling 58. They also hope that this initiative will encourage similar projects for other species

Awesome news if it works out.  A very beautiful tree and excellent wood. A true American classic. Genetic Engineering is not anything to be afraid of - those people that are are just ignorant. Yes, the potential is there for evil (or stupidity - often indistinguishable (ie: Congress)) but there are checks and balances in place.

From the Minneapolis, MN Star Tribune:

For pork farmers, the emergency is now. For bacon lovers, it's coming soon
Nearly every day for two weeks, at least one sizable pork-processing plant shut down after the new coronavirus ripped through its workforce.

By the end of last week, plants that process about 25% of U.S. pork were closed.

Hog farmers raise pigs for nine to 10 months before sending them to market. Most schedule the growth of their hogs so they can send some at least weekly, sometimes more often.

From leaving a farm to arriving at a grocery store, the processing of a pig and distribution of resulting products takes two to three weeks. That means consumers in early May should see effects of the mid-April plant closings. Prices could rise and varieties and quantities of pork products could fall.

Steve Meyer, an economist at Kerns & Associates in Ames, Iowa, and a pork-industry specialist, said farm economics have never been so distorted.

The Chinese owe us so much for this disaster. I already have about 20 pounds of bacon in the freezer - maybe it is time to bump that up a bit.

Just wonderful - invasive insect

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Looks like we are in for some fun - from Washington State University:

WSU scientists enlist citizens in hunt for giant, bee-killing hornet
More than two inches long, the world’s largest hornet carries a painful, sometimes lethal sting and an appetite for honey bees. It is also the newest insect invader of Washington state.

The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, is unmistakable, said Susan Cobey, bee breeder with Washington State University’s Department of Entomology.

“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” she said.

“It’s a shockingly large hornet,” added Todd Murray, WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees.”

Cobey, Murray and other WSU scientists are bracing for the giant hornet’s emergence this spring. Sighted for the first time in Washington last December, the hornet will start to become active in April. WSU researchers are working with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), beekeepers and citizens to find it, study it and help roll back its spread.

And the sightings are local - north-western part of the state

In the first-ever sightings in the U.S., WSDA verified two reports of the Asian giant hornet late last year near Blaine, Wash. and received two probable, but unconfirmed reports, from sites in Custer, Wash.

Just a little bundle of joy - their stingers are long enough to penetrate a standard beekeeper's suit. They predate on honey bees so this is of real concern for food production. No bees? No pollination and no fruit.

Makes a lot of sense - farming

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Found over at Terriorman's Daily Dose:

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Not surprising - soil productivity

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Seems that the less you do to "improve" your cropland, the better the soil gets. From Eureka Alert:

Organic crop practices affect long-term soil health
Prior organic farming practices and plantings can have lasting outcomes for future soil health, weeds and crop yields, according to new Cornell University research.

The study recently published in the journal Agriculture Systems also breaks down how specific components of soil health - such as the abundance and activity of soil animals and soil stability - affect crop productivity.

"With growing interest from farmers in being able to harness and exploit soil health, this research really helps us to get to the point of being more and more prescriptive about it," said Kyle Wickings, associate professor of entomology and co-author of the study.

Looks like a well-run study - they started in 2005 and used four different techniques on four different plots. In 2017, they plowed everything under and planted a standardized sorghum and measured the cropping rates in each plot.

Less tillage (plowing) and less weed "management" (sprays) resulted in better soil health. DUH...

How they were hybridized - Brassica

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Interesting info - I knew they were all related but did not know how:

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Well crap - RIP Larry Korn

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One of the major agronomists promoting no-till farming. He visited the farm I like on Camano for a week last summer and I was looking forward to taking some classes from him next summer. From his Facebook page:

Dear friends, we’ve just learned that Larry Korn our friend, mentor, and “co-conspirator in the One Straw Revolution,” has passed from this life.

Strangely, we heard the news while visiting farmer friends on Japan’s Shikoku Island, the place where Larry spent those critical years with Masanobu Fukuoka. Shocked by the news, Suhee and I both sat for a long while, watching autumn clouds pass through the bright blue sky above the Seto Inland Sea. All we could say was a simple “Thank you, Larry.”

Larry had just visited here in Spring of last year. It was his first time returning to Japan since he left nearly four decades earlier, at the time carrying the manuscript of The One Straw Revolution in his hands. Larry’s work on that manuscript would bring the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka and Natural Farming to millions of people. It is impossible to understate how fundamental Larrys’ work was to the establishment and growth of the worldwide sustainable farming movement.

So too, was his work fundamental to the course of our own lives. Larry’s deep care, humility, wisdom, and love for this earth were the seeds which made our documentary film possible. His work set the scene for a journey that changed the course of our lives in a beautiful way. To this day, we continue to see people whose lives have been positively changed by Larry’s writings, translations, workshops, and his interviews.

In doing so, we are witnessing the ripple effect which is endless — constantly growing, more today than it was yesterday. As time moves on, such beautiful ideas will only continue to blossom.

Thank you, Larry Korn.

If you want to spend time with Larry and some of these pioneering ideas, we’ve made the 20-minute film Food, Earth, Happiness freely available to all, which features interviews with Larry and other current day natural farmers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEC_qqn6epg

In memory of Larry, we are working on releasing the complete interviews which we filmed with him back in 2012 in Ashland, Oregon. We'll post it here, and at our website when it is released freely to the public.

Organic farming - worse for the climate

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From the MIT Technology Review:

Sorry—organic farming is actually worse for climate change
Organic practices can reduce climate pollution produced directly from farming – which would be fantastic if they didn’t also require more land to produce the same amount of food.

Clearing additional grasslands or forests to grow enough food to make up for that difference would release far more greenhouse gas than the practices initially reduce, a new study in Nature Communications finds.

Other recent research has also concluded that organic farming produces more climate pollution than conventional practices when the additional land required is taken into account. In the new paper, researchers at the UK’s Cranfield University took a broad look at the question by analyzing what would happen if all of England and Wales shifted entirely to these practices.

The upshot is that you get a 5% reduction in "greenhouse gasses" with livestock and a 20% reduction with crops but organic farming is less efficient in terms of land use so you need to use 40% more land for the same food. Your gains are wiped out.

Cute

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Country boy at heart so this caught my eye:

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Quite the fire in Australia

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Bad news for beef ranchers down under - from the Australian Broadcasting Commission:

Genetics laboratory fire in Yarram destroys 100 cryogenic cylinders containing cattle semen
An overnight fire has destroyed 100 valuable cryogenic cylinders containing cattle semen at a genetics laboratory and storage facility at Yarram in south-east Victoria.

The fire in Rodgers Street started about 3:00am and took 10 fire crews more than two hours to contain.

More - from the Fire Commander:

"The liquid inside the cylinders was rapidly expanding and essentially the lids of the cryogenic cylinders were just popping off the top and projectiles were being thrown from the building," he said.

These are dewars containing liquid nitrogen. Not flammable but N2 expands 696 times when it moves from liquid state to gaseous. Builds up a lot of pressure.

The value:

"The actual cylinders are worth between $500 and $1,000 per unit but the semen inside them varies in price," he said.

"We're coming into the AI season so there would have been substantial amounts of semen inside the tanks that we've lost, which was owned by our local farmers, and it can range in value from $5 per straw to $95 per straw.

With each dewar holding maybe 100 straws. Value lost plus the farmers are going to be scrambling to get more for this spring's insemination. It is early spring down there.

Got a group meeting at 6:00PM tomorrow. Stuff to do earlier so getting up a bit early. Trip to Bellingham.

Farmer's market was a lot of fun today - the farm I like is having an eight day Natural Farming Retreat with Larry Korn who was a disciple of Masanobu Fukuoka who was one of the first proponents of no-till farming. He was a scientist who carefully documented his techniques and the resulting crop yields (better than with commercial, chemical farming). Korn was at the market today making seed balls for people to take.

About that 'organic' grain

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Glad that they got the guy (and locked him up) but I would not be surprised if there was not a lot more of this going on. From Global/Associated Press

Head of America’s largest organic food fraud scheme sentenced to 10 years
A judge on Friday sentenced the mastermind of the largest known organic food fraud scheme in U.S. history to 10 years in prison, saying he cheated thousands of customers into buying products they didn’t want.

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said Randy Constant orchestrated a massive fraud that did “extreme and incalculable damage” to consumers and shook public confidence in the nation’s organic food industry.

Williams said that, between 2010 and 2017, consumers nationwide were fooled into paying extra to buy products ranging from eggs to steak that they believed were better for the environment and their own health. Instead, they unwittingly purchased food that relied on farming practices, including the use of chemical pesticides to grow crops, that they opposed.

And what happened?

The farmers grew traditional corn and soybeans, mixed them with a small amount of certified organic grains, and falsely marketed them all as certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the grains were sold as animal feed to companies that marketed organic meat and meat products.

The farmers reaped more than $120 million in proceeds from sales of the tainted grain. The scheme may have involved up to 7 per cent of organic corn grown in the U.S. in 2016 and 8 per cent of the organic soybeans, prosecutors said.

There is a certain inherent trust in buying food - this guy violated that trust. Ten years is about right.

Prepping - growing food

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Been starting a decent edible garden here - got some 5-gallon plastic tubs and will be planting them with various veges.

Musings from the Chiefio has posted some excellent YouTube videos on backyard homesteading:

Spuds, Buckets, Ruth Stout, Arbors, & Winter Greens
This is a collection of “How To” videos related to growing common foods, especially potatoes and salad greens, but also beans and garlic, in low work ways. These folks have figured out some simple and effective ways to “Get ‘er Done!” without getting all worked up abou it.

First, a way cool way simple way to grow a bit of salad greens anywhere you have a sunny square meter, even in winter. No dirt access required.

It uses a translucent storage “tub”, upside down, as a cloach, or minature greenhouse, with a bag of potting soil lain on the lid (that is now on the ground). Just one of those “Oh Doh!” head slap moments. I have a sunny patio area that is essentially unused in winter. It has the bean & squash pots on it at the moment. I can add one of these for $20 and have salad greens (and likely my favorite radishes…) even into winter.

I'll be adding these new channels to my evening's YouTube rotation. Great stuff.

Tomorrow's loaf of bread - Nebraska

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Wrote about the flooding yesterday - here is a short video:

Food prices are going to skyrocket very soon - stock up. Tip of the Fedora to Wirecutter.

A bit over the top but then...

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Major disasters usually are. From The Economic Collapse:

Government Warns Of Historic, Widespread Flooding “Through May” – Food Prices To Skyrocket As 1000s Of Farms Are Destroyed
We have never seen catastrophic flooding like this, and the NOAA is now telling us that there will be more major flooding for at least two more months.  On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that “historic, widespread flooding” would “continue through May”.  More than 90 percent of the upper Midwest and Great Plains is currently covered by an average of 10.7 inches of snow, and all of that snow is starting to melt.  That means that we are going to transition from one of the worst winters in modern history to a flood season that has already taken an apocalyptic turn for farmers all across America.  At this moment, millions of acres of farmland are already underwater.  Thousands of farmers are not going to be able to plant crops this year, and thousands of other farmers that have been financially ruined by the floods will never return to farming again.  This is already the worst agricultural disaster in modern American history, and it is going to get a whole lot worse.

I posted an article about this crisis yesterday, and I am troubled by the fact that most Americans don’t seem to understand the gravity of what we are facing.

Millions of bushels of wheat, corn and soybeans have been destroyed by flood 

The writing is a bit hyperbolic but the information is horribly horribly real. We have lost a very large swath of our agricultural production for two years at least. Not only the beans, wheat, corn and soybeans that we consume directly; this also impacts animal feed so beef, pork and chickens will also see their prices skyrocket in the next year or two.

Planning to double my stock of goods - dried beans and grain are very compact. You can fit several months of nutritious food into a surprisingly small area.

A problem pest - Parrots

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An interesting problem with parrots - from New Delhi Television:

"Opium-Addicted" Parrots Affecting Poppy Cultivation In Madhya Pradesh
While scattered rainfall has been affecting poppy cultivation in Madhya Pradesh, the parrots have added to the farmers' woes. The farmers claim they are incurring massive losses due to a group of "opium-addicted" parrots.

Farmers of Neemuch district say that parrot which feed on poppy plants have reduced the final product. Their efforts to reach out to the authorities or use loud speakers have also failed.

Nandkishore, an opium cultivator, has said their multiple requests to the district officials have not been heard.

"One poppy flower gives around 20-25 grams of opium. But a large group of parrots feed on these plants around 30-40 times a day and some even fly away with poppy pods. This affects the produce," he said.

Nandkishore said opium-addicted parrots have turned into a nuisance. "We are already suffering because of uneven rain, and now this. Nobody is listening to our problems. Who will compensate for our losses?" he asked.

No word as to the final destination of the crop - pharmaceuticals or the street and Mr. Nandkishore sounds like a socialist wanting the government to help with the problem (multiple requests to the district officials) and for the government to bail him out financially (Who will compensate for our losses?).

I am assuming that Mr. Nandkishore  got into opium farming voluntarily - he knew the risks going in.

The downside to Organic Farming

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Actually, there are a lot of downsides to Organic Farming. Back 20 years ago when Jen and I were planning our apple cider business (long story), the organic certification allowed for the use of rotenone as an insecticide because it was plant based. Rotenone is a horribly toxic broad spectrum poison which will kill fish if allowed to run off into the streams.

To control coddling moth, the use of rotenone would have also killed off the polinator bees, beneficial orchard floor beetles and earthworms. A simple application of carbaryl or malathion would have targeted the moths and left everything else alone.

Anyway, set rant=off. Here is another inconvenient truth about organic farming from New Atlas:

The inconvenient truth about the environmental impact of organic farming
A new international study into the impact of agricultural land use on climate change has found organic food production is worse for the climate than conventional farming, due to the fact that it needs greater areas of land to grow produce.

The new research developed a novel metric for calculating the carbon footprint of specific land use. Called a "carbon benefits index," this calculation measures the agricultural output of a given hectare of land in terms of volume of product and carbon dioxide emissions. Homing in on the differences between organic food production and conventional food production, the study concludes that due to organic farming's inefficient yields, it generally results in a greater environmental impact than conventional farming methods.

"The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation," explains Stefan Wirsenius, a Swedish researcher working on the study. "Our study shows that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50 percent bigger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas. For some foodstuffs, there is an even bigger difference – for example, with organic Swedish winter wheat the difference is closer to 70 percent," says Wirsenius.

And, lest you think that New Atlas is some fringe, hand-waving, conspiracy theory website, the base data was published in Nature: Assessing the efficiency of changes in land use for mitigating climate change

Abstract
Land-use changes are critical for climate policy because native vegetation and soils store abundant carbon and their losses from agricultural expansion, together with emissions from agricultural production, contribute about 20 to 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Most climate strategies require maintaining or increasing land-based carbon while meeting food demands, which are expected to grow by more than 50 per cent by 2050. A finite global land area implies that fulfilling these strategies requires increasing global land-use efficiency of both storing carbon and producing food....

More at the site.

And now we know - almond milk

A very clever idea - ice stupas

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Stupa? From Infogalactic:

stupa (Sanskrit: m.,stūpa "heap") is a mound-like or hemispherical structure

What they are doing:

The ice stays frozen through late spring and provides water for the trees they are planting. Very simple technology and vvery clever idea.

The use of food to make a problematic "renewable" gasoline substitute is a testimony to the power of a few lobbyists. The use of Ethanol drives up the price of corn as food, it does significant damage to small engines and it raises the cost of gasoline. It is not a renewable fuel as it takes more energy to distill a gallon of Ethanol than you can ever recover from it by combustion or other chemical means. It is an energy rat-hole.

Looks like President Trump is starting to stand up to this stupidity - from The Daily Caller:

Trump’s Struggle With The Ethanol Lobby Is Just Beginning
The ethanol lobby may have won this week’s political battle with President Donald Trump’s administration, but the war over the federal biofuel mandate is far from over.

The White House on Wednesday reportedly told Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to stand down on making small changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) after political backlash from corn states.

Midwestern GOP Senators held up Trump’s nominees for EPA positions until they were reassured no changes would be made to the RFS, that mandates refiners purchase ever-increasing amounts of ethanol.

This policy has always been a scam and it is time for it to be put to rest once and for all.

About that minimum wage - automation

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Going to be expensive but wages are making it affordable although we will suffer for it. From The Seattle Times:

A robot that picks apples? Washington state’s orchards could see a ‘game-changer’
Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States.

That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.

The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day.

“Human pickers are getting scarce,” said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. “Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring.”

Same thing as what happened when Cesar Chavez unionised the grape pickers and the farmers discovered that they could automate the processs for much cheaper. Consumers lost out as the farmers only grew grapes that could physically withstand the picking process. As I wrote:

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.

We already have a visa process for agricultural workers from other nations - we need to use that instead of relying on illegal immigrants.

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

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