Merry Christmas from Big Oak Ridge!

White Christmas?

It’s been really gray and wet here this month. The temperatures hovering between mid-30’s and mid-40’s. Not a lot of fun for much of anything except maybe the new row of pampas grass that we planted.
Astonishing as it may seem, the cabbagey plants in the garden ares still alive but they really don’t seem to be doing much of anything but remaining green and alive. I feel bad that we never fashioned covers for them and now the weatherman is predicting a MAJOR winter storm. Poor little guys, they really tried!!
Egg production has picked up a bit with the new hens starting to lay but the eggs are still tiny…good for noodles and baking which works at this time of year.
I managed to get a few Christmas cards and letters out today but the grayness seems to sap me of energy…nap anyone?

Pre-Christmas busyness

The last month has pretty much gone by in a blur…we’ve been trying to get the rental house cleaned, repaired and back on the market…the contractors are hopeful that they will be done this week, the new dishwasher was delivered yesterday and the carpet is coming next week…that leaves us with paint touch up, replacing the hot water tank and getting the downstairs carpets cleaned. I sure hope whoever gets in there next appreciates all of the hard work.
So far, no new baby goats although we have a couple of girls looking pretty round. Their udders are starting to fill out so it shouldn’t be long now.
Yesterday I made noodles and angel food cake…a trick I figured out when I visited my daughter in Ohio. An Amish lady at their farmer’s market was selling noodles and angel food cakes…I thought, “Wow, how does she get all the egg whites to make so many cakes?” Then the light came on…duh, she uses the yolks for noodles! So I have been trying that trick ever since. My husband LOVES angel food cake and mixing the noodle dough is so easy with the new Kitchen Aid mixer that our daughter gave us for our 35th anniversary.

Merry Christmas from our coop to yours

GMO in the food supply… and in the wild…

I posted this as a comment to my “Monsanto Rider” post, but I thought it deserved a post of its own.

I contacted my state senator, Pat Toomey, about the Monsanto Rider. I received a response which read, in part:

As you may know, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the United States Department of Agriculture completed an environmental impact statement regarding the potential effects of genetically modified alfalfa on December 23, 2010. This review concluded that certain herbicide resistant Alfalfa is unlikely to pose a risk to wild or domesticated crops and wildlife. As a result of this conclusion, APHIS announced its decision to grant nonregulated status to this species of alfalfa on January 27, 2011. Currently, no legislation regarding APHIS’s decision on genetically modified alfalfa is pending before Congress.

SO… it is apparent to me that GMO plants are being “released into the wild” with very little fanfare, very little public input, and very LITTLE REGULATION, apparently as a matter of routine. Does anyone else find this strange?

I mean, I can no longer sell fresh eggs directly from my farm without being regulated. I cannot transport a rabbit across state lines without being regulated. But some new and very poorly understood technology with unknown and unintended consquences can be introduced DIRECTLY INTO THE BIOSPHERE, and we’re so cavalier that we grant the Frankenplant “unregulated status.” read that again… UNREGULATED STATUS.

Of all the things that that the USDA SHOULD regulate, I would think that Genetically modified ANYTHING would be at the top of the list. What happens if our beloved spotted owl (remember him?) eats a mouse that ate GMO alfalfa, and we find out it affects the spotted owl? What if the GMO alfalfa cross pollinates with all the other Alfalfa out there, and we find out that now all of our Alfalfa, if consumed by animals or humans, causes infertility? Anemia? Cancer (specifically leukemia)? Auto immune disorders?

If you think this is some type of “hysterical reaction” it only means you don’t understand the processes of genetics, genetic manipulation, protein synthesis, metabolism, carbohydrate absorption, and foreign body reactions very well.

Stop the “Monsanto” Rider!

Action Alert – visit
Tell Congress to Dump the Monsanto Rider

 Congress is back in session, and it has to address how to fund the government in the coming year. The dangerous “Monsanto” rider is still on the table for the 2013 Appropriations bill, and we need to stop it!

Though cloaked in “farmer-friendly” language, this “farmer assurance provision” is simply a biotech industry ploy to continue to plant genetically modified (GMO) crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally. The provision undermines USDA’s oversight of GMO crops and interferes with the U.S. judicial review process. It is also completely unnecessary and offers “assurance” only to biotech companies like Monsanto, not farmers.

We need legislators who are willing to stand up and say no to this dangerous rider!  

Representative Peter DeFazio (D – OR) has authored a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing the biotech rider and is urging his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to join him. Please tell your Representative to support the DeFazio Dear Colleague letter opposing the biotech rider!

In addition, Senator Inouye, as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is in a key position to stop this rider. We need everyone to ask their Senators to urge Senator Inouye to stand firm against the rider.

There is only a short period of time for Congress to resolve the Appropriations Bill before the end of the lame duck session. Please take action today!


1)  Contact your US. Representative and urge him or her to sign on to the DeFazio letter opposing the biotech rider in the 2013 Appropriations bill. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out online at or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Message:  My name is ___, and I am a constituent. I am calling to urge Representative ____ to strongly oppose the “farmer assurance provision,” section 733, currently included in the House Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Congress must protect the few safeguards we have in place for genetically engineered crops, not eliminate them to appease a handful of chemical companies. I urge my Representative to sign on to the letter by Representative DeFazio opposing the biotech rider.

2)  Contact both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to ask Senator Inouye to stand firm and not allow the biotech rider in the Senate version of the 2013 Appropriations bill. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find out online at or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Message:  My name is ___, and I am a constituent. I am calling to ask that Senator ____ to strongly oppose the “farmer assurance provision”, section 733, currently included in the House Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. I ask that my Senator urge Senate Appropriations Chairman Inouye to oppose this dangerous and non-germane rider. Congress must protect the few safeguards we have in place for genetically engineered crops, not eliminate them to appease a handful of chemical companies.

More Information

Though wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the biotech rider (section 733) is simply an industry ploy to continue to plant GMO crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally.

The provision is intended to force USDA to grant temporary permits and deregulations of GMO crops even if a Federal court rules that USDA hadn’t adequately considered the environmental or economic risks to farmers. This would negate any meaningful judicial review of USDA’s decisions to allow commercialization of GMO crops.

If a GMO crop approval was shown to violate the law and require further analysis of its harmful impacts (as several courts have concluded in recent years, for example with GMO alfalfa and GMO sugar beets) this provision would override any court-mandated caution and allow continued planting and commercialization while further review takes place.

The judicial review process is an essential element of U.S. law and serves as a vital check on any federal agency decision that may negatively impact human health, the environment, or livelihoods. Yet this rider seeks an end-run around such judicial review by preemptively deciding that industry can set its own conditions to continue to sell biotech seeds, even if a court may find them to have been wrongfully approved.

Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by creating loophole approvals tailored to counter any “inconvenient” court decisions for the industry. USDA’s duty is to protect the interests of all farmers and the environment, a duty that would be eliminated by this provision.

The provision is also completely unnecessary. No farmer has ever had his or her crops destroyed following such a court ruling. Every court to decide these issues has carefully weighed the interests of farmers, as is already required by law.

You can read the rider here:  

(see section 733 on page 86 of the pdf)

This rider effectively guts the few existing protections against the spread of dangerous GMO crops. Please help us stop it!

For the Love of Animals

I have a confession to make. I’m pretty soft when it comes to animals. This is not always a good trait to have if you’re trying to run a homestead.

I get a little squeamish during violent scenes in movies; I’ve always blamed this on the nurse in me. If someone (or something) is dying, my adrenaline kicks in and I want to stop the bleeding, establish an airway, support respiration – in short, I am “programmed” to support and preserve life. Taking life is something that I know, intellectually, is sometimes appropriate; but emotionally and psychologically I don’t do well with war, murder… or butchering.

Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much problem with chickens in this regard; I’ve always been of the opinion that chickens (and turkeys I suppose) are basically vegetables with heads. When you chop off a chicken’s head, or stick it’s neck, its muscles spasm, but the head kind of gives you this look like “hmm…I think something just happened…did something just happen?”Any higher life form, however (dogs, cats, goats, cows, pigs, and pretty much every other farm animal) are a different story. These animals are able to form relationships, they obviously think, learn, and remember, and I tend to get rather attached to them.

On the other hand, I am pragmatic enough to realize that death is a part of life. Animals die so that I can live; pets age and reach the end of their lives, as will I, and all those I love. I cannot afford the luxury of keeping many animals as a hobby; most of my animals, even my pets, have a purpose. Cats catch mice, dogs warn of intruders, herd the other livestock, and defend property; the barnyard animals provide meat, milk, and eggs. (The Cockatiel and Parakeets serve no purpose other than to look pretty, but that’s another story altogether.) Some of my children, on the other hand, experience animal affection differently than I do.

We experienced this first hand this past week when our daughter visited; our daughter has a dog named Quixote, and therein lies a tale.

My wife and I got Quixote when Y2K was a big buzzword. While I have always had (and loved) dogs, my wife is not as much of a “pet” person. My previous faithful dog, Wolf, had died of a stroke sometime before this, and we had been dog-less for several years. It seemed like the homestead might benefit from having a dog around if Y2K turned out to be any kind of event, and so, being the pragmatic person that she is, my wife acquiesced to the procurement of a new canine. The dog was supposed to be “hers”, but (first big mistake) in a fit of selfishness I, and several of my children, overruled her choice from the litter we visited. My wife selected a bouncy, lively little pup; the rest of us felt sorry for a little fellow who kind of just sat in the corner by himself. And so Quixote came to live with us.

Quixote was “free to a good home.” I loved Quixote, and while he was never as smart, or as obedient, as my former pal Wolf, he did OK. He never lived up to expectations as a watchdog (he wasn’t all that bright, and could not discern friend from foe), defender of the farm (he was pretty much a big chicken), or herd dog (he was the wrong breed) and so he was just a pet – but he was pretty good at that. One thing that my wife and I agree on in regards to animals is that we don’t practice anthropomorphism. People are people and animals are animals. We are not some animal’s mother or father, aunt or uncle. We are people, they are animals. We can love our animals and still keep the relationships clearly in mind. This was true with Quixote as with all our animals.

Well, the years passed, and we noticed that Quixote was slowing down; his hips were getting stiff, he was getting blind, and he was just generally deteriorating. My wife and I, not being ones to invest hundreds of dollars in preserving the life of an aged beast, were inclined to have Quixote put down.

Enter my daughter, who came home for a visit and learned of our plans. She decided to take Quixote to live with her instead, and we agreed. That was over two years ago.

Quixote came home for a visit over thanksgiving. He has had hundreds of dollars worth of very good veterinary care, including the removal of his eyes, drugs to ease his pain, help his digestion, and a host of other things that I probably will not be able to afford, should I need them, for myself when I am aged. Quixote has had a stroke, and one back leg is very stiff and frozen. He cries when he lays down, cries when he gets up, and often cries at night in a way that makes it clear he is in pain. He struggles to walk and stumbles over the smallest obstacles. My daughter (and my son in law) tends to him, gives him his medication, cleans up after him, takes him out in the middle of the night (sometimes several times) and protects him from her two boisterous boys.

We offered to keep Quixote when my daughter left, and pay to have him humanely put to sleep. I think she considered this very seriously, but in the end she chose to take Quixote back home with her. You see, Quixote is a dog to us, but to my daughter he is part of the family; worthy of the same care, attention, and investment as any of her children. My daughter knows that Quixote is nearing the end of his earthly existence, but she cannot (yet) bear the thought that his life would be prematurely terminated by an act of her choosing. And while I do not share my daughter’s perspective on the quality of life issue, I can certainly understand her reticence in making that final choice. And when the time comes, I’ll be finding someone else to “harvest” my meat goats for me.


It’s amazing!! After our first measurable snowstorm and several days of 20 degree weather, our winter garden is still hanging in there. The cabbage is starting to head up and the broccoli has TINY little heads…all without any covering what-so-ever. There are some wee green mixed greens too. The debate still rages over whether we should attempt to cover everything and our days fly by so quickly that there isn’t a spare moment to do that…and yet, the plants survive. We REALLY need a greenhouse!

Proposition 37 and the chemical/industrial agricultural complex

An article in our local newspaper a while back reported that a “renowned Chinese scientist” visited farms in our area in association with Harsco Metals and Minerals to observe the use of one of the company’s silicon-based fertilizers on the farms. The article notes that Harsco, based in eastern Pennsylvania, produces a number of “metallurgical products, electronic components, roofing materials, and agricultural supplements.” I don’t know about you, but something about this combination of products seems just a little bit unnatural to me.

I wish the Chinese scientist had visited Joel Salatin’s farm instead.

The United States continues to pursue a mechanical/chemical agricultural model with proven long term negative effects, and we are exporting our poisons, and our faulty methods of food production, to much of the developing world under the guise of “helping” them.

I wish there was a way to reach countries such as India, China, and some of the other developing nations and teach them and their governments, on a large scale, how to work with nature to improve yields and condition soil without the expense and risk of large quantities of deadly and damaging chemicals. Unfortunately, the “deadly six” (Monsanto, BASF, Dupont, Bayer, Dow, and Syngenta) control the vast majority of the money, seed, and agricultural communication (via advertising, influence peddling with governments, donations, etc.) in the world. To understand how misinformation is spread by these giant corporations, one need look no further than the recent juggernaut launched against proposition 37 in California.  According to California Watch

“Monsanto, a major manufacturer of genetically engineered seeds and the popular Roundup weed killer, is the top donor to the anti-Prop. 37 effort, with $8.1 million. Chemical company DuPont gave $5.4 million, according to MapLight… the campaign took in contributions from food giants like Kraft and PepsiCo, as well as Syngenta, which makes seeds and pesticides. Each has contributed about $2 million so far.

“They’ve been carpet-bombing the state with a million dollars a day in deceptive ads,” said Stacy Malkan, spokeswoman for the Prop. 37 campaign. “We haven’t been able to counter this stuff because they’re on the air every hour, sometimes four times an hour, on every station across the state.”

As we all know, Proposition 37 failed in California, and I think that’s unfortunate – for us, and for the rest of the world.


Scenes from the Homestead: Noodles and Diapers

An unlikely combination, to be sure, but it happened on our homestead. You can’t make this stuff up.