Whoops, more garden space!

I was coming back in from weeding, feeding (with compost) and pinching suckers in my garden. Dan was sitting on the old wicker couch that is slowly crumbling outdoors and when I offered him a hand up my eyes settled on a forgotten home depot bag on the bench. A slight breeze came through at that moment, blowing it open a bit. Inside were several heirloom variety seed packets… Eggplants, cucumbers, cantaloupe, winter squash, etc. The cucumber packet was puffed up like a jiffy popper, puffed out in all directions.

Oh no.

They’d been outside for WEEKS.

I tore into the bag, only to find some DOZEN of perfectly sprouted, healthy, green cucumber plants. Every Single Seed had sprouted. The winter squash was also starting to sprout and all the seeds had been wet and warm for daaaays.

Well, there’s no stopping it now. Either they germinate and grow right now, this year, or they don’t grow at all ever. But my garden bed is literally FULL!

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The plants in my garden bed have grown, pretty much doubled in size, since this photo was taken, and this was just about a week ago. There’s literally no space left.

Which means digging a new patch of garden and hoping for the best. We have PLENTY of compost still, so in it went. Dan bought me a bag of sand to help break up the blue glacier bed clay that makes up most of our soil. Tomorrow we go out and finish double digging with that sand and some more compost. Then we mulch and plant every seed we can.

Whoops.

It’s SO late in the season. It makes me so sad, even though it’s only a loss of about $10 in total. I sure hope we get at least SOME delicious food out of this effort.

Humanely Euthanizing a Chicken

I was floored yesterday to see an article featured on one of the largest chicken keeping websites in the world that endorsed suffocating a chicken as a humane way to euthanize a sick or injured bird. I can still hardly wrap my mind around it. I reported it explaining the problem but it still remains public on the front page.

As a heads up, never euthanize a chicken by suffocation. If you think suffocating a chicken is humane but throwing a bag of kittens in the river to drown is not, then your perspective on what is humane is skewed by how you value different animals. The physical sensation each animal experiences is identical, and it’s wrong in both cases. It could even wind up with you facing felony level animal cruelty charges.

I am just floored that someone though that was OK.

So here’s some REAL information on how to safely euthanize a chicken. This is an article geared mostly towards people with pet chickens, which is something I don’t do very often… But most farmers know that they will just kill and either eat or compost a bird that isn’t in good shape. We do this regularly and some people think of us as monsters for it, which confuses me. We work very hard to make sure that our animals do not suffer and have clean, fast ends to their lives. It’s very respectful even if it isn’t as soothing to the owner as just shutting your chicken in an airtight box and going out to dinner, then coming back to find your bird is dead. And it’s much more humane than leaving them to suffer and die “naturally”. We care about our birds, and unnecessary stress or pain is the last thing we want to see happen to them

So a few quick notes on euthanasia. Euthanasia is a word coming from the Greek words for “good death”. The goal is always to reduce suffering and end the life quickly and without undue stress to the animal. What’s good for reducing their physical stress might be quite stressful indeed for the owner. If you don’t feel like you can preform the actions listed here, find someone else who will or don’t keep animals. It’s not fair to the animal to suffer because you can’t deal with ending their suffering. It’s quite selfish, in fact, to let them suffer because it’s too gross, violent or sad for you to think about. I suggest reaching out to other chicken keepers or local farmers to find someone to do the deed, even if you can’t. You’re not required to kill your animals in order to keep them, but it’s our responsibility as their keepers to find them a humane ending even if we can’t provide it.

Euthenizing a chicken may become a requirement for you if you have birds, even just as pets. Chickens are prone to many fatal but slow illnesses (mareks, newcastle, avian flu), physical conditions (egg bound, prolapse, etc.) and predator attacks that might only injure a chicken beyond healing. It’s rare that a chicken manages to live so long that it dies of old age, which means most chicken owners will face a moment when a chicken they own will not recover, even with much care and medications.

So now to get into the nitty gritty on it. Here are several safe and humane ways to euthanize a chicken.

Go to A Vet

This is the obvious one, right? If you have a vet in the area, call them and ask them if they will put your chicken down. Many emergency vets will do this too, which means if you live near one they may have a 24/7 service available. But not all vets or clinics will do this, as dealing with a chicken is much more specialized than mammals and the drugs will react differently. An exotic animal vet may be your best option.

Some things to consider; Not everyone can find a vet that will do ANYTHING with chickens which often means medical care of any sort (palliative and euthanasia included) is hard to find sometimes. Not everyone has an emergency vet which may mean waiting until a “real” vet is open, which could be a long time. Some injuries will not even survive a 20 minute car ride to the vet, and moving a badly injured bird could be quite painful for them. Lastly, the drugs that the vet uses in the chicken render it severely toxic to any wildlife or domestic animals that may try to consume it. The drugs may also enter groundwater systems if buried. Composting remains may reduce the amount of drugs that leech into the soil.

Cervical Dislocation

This is, by FAR, the most humane method to put a chicken down that can be done at home. The process is cervical (or neck) dislocation (or severing the connection between two bones at a joint). In common terms, this would be breaking it’s neck. This can be accomplished through a lot of methods.

Method 1; Broomsticking

Broomsticking is how many homesteaders process animals for slaughter. It’s fast, simple, calm, and efficient.
This is really easy to do. The bird is simply layed on the ground with it’s neck outstretched and a long, smooth stick (like a broomstick) is placed across it’s neck. Them in one motion, the stick is stepped on on both sides and the chicken is lifted in the air, snapping the neck at the point where the stick is.
Some people choose to restrain the bird before doing this by wrapping the chicken in fabric to hold it’s wings down.

Method 2; Snapping the neck

You can accomplish a similar result but holding the chicken firmly, like a football, in one arm and grasping the chicken’s head in your other (dominant) hand. Then simply pull away hard while twisting the head.

Method 3; Cutting off the head

This is common if you’re planning on eating the bird, but it is still fast and humane if you are not. Typically the bird is restrained in a “killing cone” or a burlap sack with a hole cut out for the head to go through. The chicken is placed upside-down in one of these restraints, with it’s head hanging down, which makes the bird dizzy and woozy. A large pair of shears, scissors, or a very sharp knife is used to cut off the chickens entire head, including severing the spine just below the head.

A quick note on cervical dislocation of ANY sort. Severing the spinal cord results in a LOT of movement from the body of the bird afterwards, and occasionally even the most well preformed cervical dislocation can remove the entire head. It’s strongly suggested that you restrain the birds for this reason. Rest assured that the bird is completely and fully dead within seconds, but may continue to move aggressively for several minutes afterwards. This is a normal function of the body as it releases the energy stored within the muscles, but it can be quite a shock for someone unused to it and can lead to people thinking that the animal is still alive. The bird is dead the moment the spinal cord is severed. This might be hard to watch but it is quite humane and instantaneous.

Bleeding Out

I like this method less than removing the entire head, as it’s slower, but it does result in less sudden, violent, motion on the part of the bird. Nearly identical to removing the head, one simply suspends the bird restrained, upside down, and the slits across the front throat. The bird is usually quite out of it from being upside down and not much of a reaction is witnessed. The bird drains of blood in a minute or two and is dead.

Shoot It

Now, this is illegal where I live, but it’s a seriously viable option. I don’t know much about the “proper” way to shoot a chicken, but through the head or chest would strike me as the most appropriate. A shotgun would produce a scatter shot that would put it out of it’s misery quite quickly. If guns are illegal where you live and you want to employ this, I suggest talking to local farmers and hunters in the near-by countryside.

CO2 Chamber

This method is tricky. The American Veterinary Medical Association suggests using a CO2 chamber is humane only for animals only under 2lbs. While some chickens fall into this category, especially bantams or young birds, MANY do not. A larger chicken may go peacefully, but it may not pass out before the CO2 poisoning starts to cause it to suffer. A larger chicken may injure itself or knock over it’s container during the process. Use this with care.
Producing CO2 is a simple science experiment, by mixing baking soda and white vinegar. About 1.5 tbs of baking soda to 1 cup of vinegar will produce a bit over a gallon of CO2. To fill a chamber large enough for a chicken, you will want to use multiple cups of vinegar and tablespoons of baking soda. Both of these are inexpensive, so shouldn’t be a serious burden, and you can always use a lot more than you need. If you’re having trouble imagining how much gas you are creating, think of a milk jug for every cup of vinegar you use.
Place the chicken in a container large enough to hold it comfortably. A dark room may reduce the activity of the chicken. The container must also be able to be sealed to nearly air tight. Then simply add the vinegar and baking soda and seal the container. The chicken will pass out and then die within 30 minutes. Larger chickens may need more time. Use this method with caution, and remember that CO2 can also poison you, so take care.

For Chicks Only!

Two common methods for euthanizing baby rodents may also work well for chicks, but please do NOT attempt these on birds older than about one week. That would be cruel and inhumane, not to mention ineffective.

Method one; Freezing

A small animal that can’t retain it’s own body heat well will die very quickly (within a few minutes) in a very cold environment. A metal cookie sheet in the freezer is a good way to simulate this safely and encourage the transfer of cold into their bodies. This takes multiple minutes, and so isn’t ideal, but is more humane than allowing a chick to suffer long term.

Method two; Whacking it

Placing a chick in the bottom corner of a plastic bag and then hitting that bag VERY firmly (with NO hesitation!) on a table, wall, or other hard surface will kill the chick instantly in several different ways. This comes across as very violent, but it’s very humane for the chick, resulting in an instant death with no suffering. Following through is important, since a hit that is not hard enough will not kill the chick. Many people do this to euthanize mice or rats before feeding them to reptiles by swinging them by their tails.

 

So that’s it. That’s my list of humane ways to euthanize a chicken.The name of the game in humane euthanasia at home tends to be speed, since we do not have large numbers of chicken-appropriate opiates to fill them with before giving them a lethal injection the way a vet does. A few seconds of suffering is a humane end for a bird that may otherwise die slowly over minutes, hours or even days.

Please be responsible and use a humane method to euthanize your chickens. And remember that if you cannot bring yourself to do one of these things, someone else in your community may be willing to help you out. Best of luck!

PS; Here is a great PDF by the AMVA about the actual national standards for euthanasia!
https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Documents/euthanasia.pdf

 

We’re selling stuff!

Since we recently renewed our NPIP certificate, that means it’s time to start selling stuff. We’re currently taking orders for hatching eggs! Our hatching eggs are $12 for 10 eggs and we ship all across the USA! Shipping is $13 USPS priority flat rate. We take paypal as our main form of payment.

People who read this blog know that we keep a robust mixed flock that lays a variety of egg colors. Our rooster is a blue egg laying breed which means the offspring of my chickens are Easter Eggers! All the offspring will lay a variety of shades of blue eggs and will come in a large number of colors. Here are some photos of eggs and chicks from this flock, including some of previous years adults! The eggs will be blue, white and brown but will all hatch into shades of blue or tinted eggs layers.

 

 

We’re also taking orders for a batch of meat chickens this year.

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Our meat chickens are robust, pasture-raised birds with a great taste. Because we feed a wet feed, they do not suffer from the extreme growth rates and chronic dehydration that many commercially farmed chickens do. Our chickens are raised out to be slightly older than grocery store chickens giving the meat a slightly firmer texture and a stronger flavor. They also come out to be very large birds, becoming a 5-8lb whole bird. A single breast could easily feed three! The birds are $25 for one or $20 each for 2 or more.

We are happy to piece out a bird for you into traditional cuts, including boneless breasts or skinless anything. If you ask for us to not include anything (such as the rib cage bones for soup, giblets, etc.) you do so with the understanding that it will reduce your overall product weight.

So where is your food coming from this year? Are you ordering your hatching eggs from a large hatchery-style facility with chickens in cages? Please consider supporting small farmers instead by placing an order with us or one of the many other fantastic small farms out there!

If you’d like to contact us about purchasing hatching eggs or meat chickens, please see our Contact us page! Thanks!

A proper update

I’ve been stuck indoors for the past few days with a second degree sunburn plaguing my shoulders. It started as just a normal sunburn. We went to observe some potential lands for the ecovillage, and the cloudy day when it was supposed to rain turned out to be sunny. So my pale skin turned into red skin. Then, the day after that I helped my sister with some minor home repairs and property cleanup. That day I wore sunblock… To no avail. The next day I woke up with shoulders covered in blisters so hot and angry that I could not dress. The pain is still there as the skin started peeling off before the skin underneath was ready, and now it’s like my whole shoulders are covered in a thin scab from being rug burned. It hurts.

This really set me off as we had a village meeting that evening. It really highlighted my frustration with a certain point of sexism in our society, the free the nipple movement. It’s not that I’m immodest and wanna shake my titties in front of guys, it’s a matter of comfort. If it’s extremely hot out or I have something like a second degree burn across my shoulders I shouldn’t have to strap something across my boobs (and sub sequentially, my shoulders lest it fall down) just to make a bunch of guys feel better about their lack of self control. Heat is hot. Burns hurt. These are practical, physical realities for men and women. But women are required to toss some fabric on under these conditions anyhow, and that bugs me in a big way. And while the group I was part of probably wouldn’t have cared much if I went topless, I felt uncomfortable about it anyhow. I ended up just tying some fabric around my chest in a band so it didn’t touch my shoulders… But the whole thing felt dumb.
(Fun fact, men weren’t allowed to show their nips either until the 1930’s. Prior to that, men were required to wear swimsuits that covered their chest for modesty reasons. In fact, in the 1910’s men were required to wear swimsuits that didn’t cling too tightly and may have even been required to wear skirts over their boxers so they weren’t so indecent!)

Because of the burn, I was forbidden the outdoors until I could wear a shirt without flinching again, which was about 3 days. When I came out, I found my garden beds were starting to grow with a gusto…. And so were the weeds. The birds had gotten big seemingly overnight and so had the rabbits. Turns out that being absent from your farm for half a week has big impacts!

So I finally got to go weed my garden and take some photos (my camera is still broken so I borrowed a smart phone) this week. There are some exciting updates on the farmstead itself!

Remember the sad, sad tomatoes?

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Surprisingly, they all made it! Some of them are still a little on the smaller side, and some are still recovering. But there’s a huge patch of tomatoes getting bigger by the day growing in my back yard! I have started pinching suckers and blossoms from them. I’m looking to get a crop that I can harvest for canning instead of having them to eat fresh, so I’d like the plants to get extra big before they start fruiting. (I did leave a few blossoms on one plant so we could have a few to eat.)

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I have some onions that got planted very late, but are starting to grow energetically. The patch looks bare from about 10′ away, but if you get close you can see literally dozens of onion sprouts peeking through! I’ve had to remind my helpers that these are onions, not weeds.

corn

Somehow the corn made it. But with only two stalks, I’m not sure that they’ll actually pollinate and produce. They were pretty weedy. This whole bed has since been weeded.

beans

The beans and peas are on the northmost wall of my garden bed, but because my lawn ins’t on a true North South line, they are shaded for a few hours in the morning. They’re still growing robustly despite that are are very thick. They’re starting to shade out weeds growing near by.

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And speaking of shading out weeds…. The kale! The kale is growing so thickly and is producing some strong, healthy leaves! We’ve started to eat the occasional leaf on a sandwich. The weeds are struggling to grow under these crowns!

We have a few other plants not shown. The watermelons are starting to recover and spring back with lots of new growth and the strawberries are flowering again. The zucchini is flowering as well, which means delicious vegetables are right around the corner! We’ve had some very serious issues with blossom end rot in previous years… This year we planted the zucchini with a handful of crushed egg shells in the hole. Hopefully we won’t see those problems again this year. And the more wild plants like the shiso leaf, the mint, the lemon balm, the plantago and the dandelions are doing well… But they are struggling against the other, less beneficial weeds in the lawn like the cats foot. I hate that stuff.

We also have a few new faces on the farm!

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Two leghorns and two australorps came to us from another farm recently. It’s been about a monthand they have finished their quarantine period.  We waved goodbye to the old leghorn (who wasn’t laying), our newest chick and our chick from last year to make room for these new birds. They’re all pullets still, under 24 weeks, but the leghorns are already laying strong and their eggs are starting to normalize in size. Soon they will be in the pen with all the other birds.

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We also have seven little chicks from some eggs we stuck under our broody. We set a dozen eggs, but like every hatch, there were some problem chicks that didn’t make it. We may even loose one of the ones we have now. It appears to have some unabsorbed yolk, or a small hernia. We brought it indoors to try to recover. Only time will tell. But six chicks is a nice number to have. And our broody hen, a blue Ameraucana, could not be prouder!

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We had our NPIP certificate renewed last month. NPIP is the National Poultry Improvement Plan. If you read my post about vaccines, you’d know that flock health is a pretty important topic to me. NPIP is a simple test provided at a low cost to check for avian influenza and pullorum typhoid. These are both very serious conditions that threaten flocks nation wide. NPIP certification is easy… A tester comes out to test your flock. You get the pullorum result immediately with a simple blood prick test, and a throat swab goes to a lab to check for bird flu. The tester does all the work, you just hand him your chickens. In a flock of a dozen birds they may test 4 or 5 birds. Then you get a certificate.

If a test comes back positive your flock may get destroyed or permanently quarantined to keep these serious diseases from spreading.

Aside from having an official lab test and government agency reassuring buyers that you have a healthy flock (and are willing to risk the entire flock on that fact), NPIP certification is required to ship birds or hatching eggs to most states. The regulations vary a little, but if you don’t have NPIP it’s illegal to take your bird across state lines or to most poultry shows.

Our tests came back clean which means we’ll be able to offer hatching eggs for sale again! Hooray!

So, a lot of exciting and positive things are happening on the homestead this week, despite my arms screaming in pain whenever I lift them above chest level.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go strap some fabric that will assuredly catch on the dry, painful, cracking skin all across these burns to appease the masses while I travel to get some chick feed.

The Raw Milk Debate and Why It’s Dumb

Recently I’ve been chatting in a thread online about raw milk that sprung up after some people got sick in WV after drinking raw milk. Of course, correlation does not equal causation and a lot of people (including reporters and people who were there) are saying there was a stomach flu (a virus, not bacteria) going around and that they got sick from that. It was just very bad timing.

This led to a huge debate I’ve seen over and over again; is raw milk Good for you or Bad for you. Is it a horrible disease causing monster like the FDA claims, or is it some cancer curing miracle drug the way pro-raw-milk people claim?

This is a fun, hot-topic political debate. And really, it has nothing to do with should raw milk be legal or not. It’s exclusively about stupid labeling for petty people. Because, you see, if raw milk is GOOD for you, then all the pro-raw-milk people can claim superiority over the anti-raw-milk people and say “Raw milk is good for you! We support raw milk so we are Good People! And you are anti-raw-milk so you are Bad People.”. The same is true for the other side as well of course. Anti-raw-milkers are just as much on a political superiority feel-good power trip as pro raw milkers.

How often have you witnessed raw milk debates? I find that most raw milk debates follow this sort of a format;

A:”Raw milk is bad for you. Here is a reasonable, intelligent, well-done study that I am going to cite that shows raw milk is many times more likely to make you sick.”

B:”Raw milk is good for you. Here is a reasonable, intelligent, well-done study that I am going to cite that shows raw milk is good for you and more likely to improve *insert health issue here*.”

A:”Your study is biased, and inconclusive. My study is the better one! But you’re too dumb to see it! That means I’m smarter than you!”

B:”No, it’s YOUR study that is biased! Raw milk is good so you are dumb because you are anti-raw-milk and that is bad and being dumb is bad! I’m smarter!”

Etc. Etc.

And it doesn’t matter how well-thought-out the arguments are, because this is the shocking conclusion I’ve come to. BOTH sides are dumb. Because they’re debating the WRONG THING. You see, raw milk, like many things in this world, probably has the potential to be both Good and Bad AT THE SAME TIME. (!!!) Shocking, I know.

You see, the Good Vs Bad argument can be made about many, MANY things. I have taken to using Motorcycles as a great example. Motorcycles are twenty six times more likely to kill you than cars. In fact, one in ten people who rides a motorcycle will sustain a serious injury from it. Nearly half a million people a year buy motorcycles which means nearly 50,000 of those people will sustain serious injuries and of those around 4500 people will DIE from it. Those are pretty scary statistics. And best of all, just like raw milk there’s a far-safer alternative to motorcycles. Cars.

(To put this in perspective, US has a population of around 320 million people. The CDC says that 3% of the population drinks raw milk, so about nine MILLION people.  Also according to the CDC an average of around 200 of those people get sick each year, 15 of those people are hospitalized, and perhaps one person dies every year or three.)

So the debate could easily look something like this. This might ring some bells if you’ve ever read anything about raw milk from either side of the debate;

A: “Motorcycles kill one person for every 100,000 that are sold. That is an indisputable fact. We should not allow companies to sell motorcycles. It could risk all motorists.”

B: “Motorcycles are great for transportation. We should keep motorcycles legal. If all motorists followed better safety laws it would reduce the risks to all motor vehicles.”

A: “You can get the same transportation from a car, which is twenty six times safer. Why put that burden on car motorists? Just ban motorcycles. They’re inherently unsafe.”

B: “Cars don’t give the exercise, reduced stress, fresh air, etc. that motorcycles do! In fact here’s a great article on how stress can help cancer grow, here is one linking stress to autism, and here is one about fresh air. I even have this article that cites a study done in Tokyo and talks about how it improves physical strength and brain cognition, meaning it could help prevent joint damage or Alzheimer and diabetes!”

A: “That’s nonsense. Look at how many people it kills! You can obviously get the same benefits from riding a motorcycle through safer activities. Just go for a walk or something! Besides, that study is biased and done just to try to promote motorcycles. Motorcycles are dangerous and have NO health benefits that can’t be gotten with a safer alternative!”

B: “Are you kidding me? The place that produced those accident numbers is an insurance website! Of course they want people to not ride motorcycles. They don’t want to pay out the fees! And everyone knows that insurance companies are in cahoots with big pharma to drain taxpayers dry! Of course they want to spend less on us and take our money with diabetes drugs! How dumb can you get!?”

A: “The place that produced those numbers is a national information institute that only provides factual numbers and averages to the public and doesn’t do anything else. They have no reason to lie. All of this is just a conspiracy theory! You are so dumb for believing it!”

B: “I’m not dumb, you won’t even look at a university study! You probably wouldn’t even understand it if I posted some more in depth studies! You’re dumb! You must want people to get diabetes or something then! You’re a horrible person!”

A: “You want people to die in car accidents from your ignorance! You’re awful!”

Etc. Etc.

Replace all the info relevant to motorcycles with info relevant to raw milk and you have the EXACT same debate I’ve seen a dozen times now. And the fact that something can cause illness or injury is NOT mutually exclusive to it giving health benefits or helping disease. Because you most certainly can benefit from increased cognitive function from riding a motorcycle, and you most assuredly do move your body more from riding a motorcycle and that doesn’t change that it’s riskier to ride a motorcycle than to drive a car because the benefits of riding a motorcycle actually directly correlate to the fact that it’s riskier for you.

And you can literally make the argument about anything. I could cite the health benefits and risk on injury of owning a BATHTUB to the same effect! Or of owning exotic animals, or large dogs, or working on a farm or drinking alcohol, or eating chocolate, or raw eggs, or living off-grid, or being vegan, or walking down the street, or, or, or…

Life has risks. Life is full of them. Some (like motorcycles) are extremely risky (1 in 10 chance of having a bad time, 1 in 110 of dying). Some (like raw milk) are less risky than that (1 in 45,000 chance of having a bit of a bad time, 1 in 600,000 of having a very bad time). Some are even less risky than that (About 1 in 1,000,000 chance of being bitten by a shark while surfing in the USA).

In fact you have about a 1 in 11,000 chance of dying from falling down. Which is higher than your chances of dying from motorcycles, surfing shark attacks and raw milk combined. Should shoes should come with giant warning labels reminding us to always tie our laces? Should we ban shoes? Could wearing shoes possibly reduce fall deaths?

And the real question is not “Should we ban shoes?” or “Should we ban bare feet” because one might contribute to fall deaths, because that’s a Really Dumb Argument. The raw milk debate is Dumb.

The question is really, should we ban ANYTHING that has a certain threshold of risk? What is the appropriate conditions for a governmental agency to BAN something? Is is a safety threshold? Is it when it becomes dangerous to people other than the direct consumer (like a gun or a car or an airplane)?

What are the parameters where it’s OK for the government to prohibit a product or activity?

In my opinion, you can require labels on things, you can require basic safety testing standards, you can even require hefty sin taxes on things that are particularly risky. I don’t care. But frankly, as long as you can risk a 1 in 110 chance of dying on a motorcycle, or a 1 in 18 chance of dying from lung cancer from smoking tobacco, we should be allowed to take the 1 in 9,000,000 chance of dying from raw milk if we want to.

If you’re arguing that we should ban things based on health risks there are FAR riskier things to advocate against then raw milk.

And if you’re still trying to prove that it’s Good or Bad, that’s dumb.

Raw milk is not a debate about health benefits or risks.

Because the question is much simpler.

What right does the government have to say what is an acceptable risk for me to take?

And what will I lose the right to do if they are allowed to decide what is OK or not.

The Tomato Saga

Today I shall tell you a tale of tomatoes. An epic saga of the last month as it unfolded.

This year I had some solid gardening plans that included growing a large number of tomatoes. I wanted to learn to grow something well and I chose tomatoes.

Greg asked me “But why? We almost never eat tomatoes!” My other partner, Dan, said “Blech, I won’t even eat them. They are gross.” And it’s true. When you think of how many fresh lumpy chunks of tomatoes we eat in a year, the number is quite small. Perhaps 5-6 tomatoes a YEAR grace my table.

Then I asked a simple question; “When was the last time we ate something with tomatoes?” Of course they struggled to recall, so I suggested the previous Monday evening. It finally hit them. We had pizza. Tomatoes are in pizza. And BBQ sauce, and ketchup and salsa and pasta and curry… Tomatoes are EVERYWHERE in our diet! And I wanted to stick those squishy, awful vegetables into a blender and put them in jars and eat them throughout the year, served up with sausages and grains and potatoes and garam masala.

So they understood, I wanted a LOT of tomatoes. And I wound up with around 30 seedlings. Seedlings that grew well under some lamps in my living room. The weather got warm. It was well above freezing. We were getting lots of alternating rain in the 50’s and blazing sun in the mid 60’s. It was perfect growing weather for most plants. I took my strong started seeds and started hardening them off by setting them outside the windows for the sunny hours of the day.

Finally our last average frost date hit, and I set them outside in the garden bed to stay there overnight. the weather was still perfect and had gotten just a bit warmer on average. We were hitting the occasional day in the upper 60’s. We started having cookouts. I woke up to discover nothing but stems the next day. Greg had not properly checked the chicken pen door, and my tomatoes had been demolished and the peas and beans I’d planted a week before were dug up. I had pots upon pots filled with 30 stems of former tomato plants.

I rushed the plants back indoors, under my lamps and where they could be well nourished and amazingly most of them survived! They grew new leaves and were flourishing. We had even purchased a few small back up Roma tomato plants from the hardware store, and they were gaining real ground on these completely uneaten plants.

Two weeks after our last average frost date. The majority of the plants move outside and go into the ground. A few stay indoors to continue to recover. It’s been a bit cooler, but not significantly so. The weather looks cooler, but safe still for the week with lots of rain, and is predicted to get hotter the next week. So into the ground they went!

The cold seemed to cling a bit, but it was raining steadily. And then I woke up to an absolutely frigid morning.

I rubbed my eyes. I peered out my window and wondered when my neighbors re-did their roof in such light colored roofing tiles. It had been a while since I slept in that room (as I have two bedrooms). Then I wondered when the neighbors painted their AC unit white on top. And if they had power-washed their driveway so it was so white…

Snow. Two and a half weeks after our last average frost date.

I jumped up and collected Dan, and we went outside with jugs of steaming water. At this point I realized it wasn’t snow at all, it was 1-2 inches of small hail. It was warm enough to slowly melt the hail, but not nearly fast enough. We poured the water around and on the plants to melt the hail and heat the ground and thaw the plant’s frozen leaves. The mulch was dark and would absorb some sun. As we finished watering down the plants, the ground around them was steaming between the hail and the hot water that was soaked in the ground. It took something like an hour to melt the hail and create a warmer microclimate for the tomatoes with hot water… All the while my back yard was flooded something awful and our shoes and sock became soaked with ice-melt from the hail.

It worked… Mostly. Nearly every plant has survived the debacle and is starting to really come back! It’s impressive. And I have the few plants that were struggling to recover that have no gained massive growth on their outdoor counterparts to plant in the spots where the other plants have failed.

And so the tomato saga continues. They are finally starting to set green, undamaged leaves on their crowns. The weather has been feeling like it’s blazingly hot, but I know it’s just warm, being in the low 80’s on some days. It’s really the perfect weather for the tomatoes to grow and they are doing so energetically despite their setbacks.

The peas and beans we planted after the chicken debacle are now sprouting and growing fast. A sole, lonely cucumber is attempting to sprout and grow. My two corn plants continue to truck along as well. The spicy peppers are outdoors as well; they, too, suffered from the frost.  The bell peppers are still indoors under lamps. The leftover tomatoes are starting to move outdoors. One zucchini died, the other one lives, and the watermelon plants appear to be starting to recover as well. The kale is growing very strong and we’re looking forward to salads and leafy greens! We filled the space that would have been zucchini with onion sets. The strawberries are well established now, but just aren’t doing much. Their bed is new, and still very rough and struggling to become healthy soil.

My camera continues to be out of commission. I shall try to get some photos tomorrow for my next update. Perhaps I shall simply have photo days on the blog.

Lines in the sand

This is a very different post for me. I don’t normally like to talk about this stuff, but it’s just everywhere right now. A lot of people I know have been drawing lines in the sand lately.

“If you vote a certain way we can’t be friends”
“If you don’t vote, my opinion is you’re voting for a certain person, we can’t be friends”
“If you don’t decry a candidate’s actions then you’re a bad person”
“If you associate with a certain group of people, we can’t be friends”
“If you don’t associate with a certain group of people we can’t be friends”
“If you accept certain behaviors we can’t be friends”
“If you don’t accept certain behaviors we can’t be friends”
“If you’re a certain religion we can’t be friends”
“If you are a certain race/ethnicity we can’t be friends”

Or, in general;

“If you don’t formulate an opinion on a subject that matches my own, we can’t be friends”

I recently read a comic I have since been unable to relocate. It essentially pointed out that people are not “bad” or “good” based off of just one trait. People are an amalgamation of experiences that shape their world and that even people who behave poorly in some situations are good people in others.

A common rhetoric I keep hearing is “If you vote for Trump you’re a bad person because he’s racist/sexist/xenophobic etc., therefore you are those things too.”
I know a guy who lives in Texas and supports Trump. He took my aging, cancer ridden mother to a shooting range for her birthday at my request. To her dying days she said it one of the best days of her life and when the fee came out higher than he said it would he paid the difference. He worked really hard at an anime club in college and poured his soul into making every event amazing for all these weird, mostly liberal people with green hair and costumes who believed strongly in LGBTQ rights, etc the believed differently than him. He supports endangered animal conservation and science. He supports women’s rights. He works as an EMT, saving people’s lives literally every day because helping people was what he wanted to do with his life. If you’re his friend, he is there for you. He is not a bad person.

Some people say that if you support Bernie Sanders, you are supporting fascism and corruption and communism and are therefore an idiot and a bad person.
I have a friend who supports Bernie Sanders. She rescues feral cats and kittens. She cares for her aging, dementia ridden grandmother. She studies plants and wants to conserve clean waterways. She supports exotic animal rescues and believes in ending trade in exotic animal parts for medicine. If you need her help she is a good friend, she is always there for you. She even helps her drug addicted sister with multiple arrests because she loves her anyhow. She’s very forgiving. She’s not a bad person either.

Some people say if you support Hillary that you are just voting for an oligarchy, that you are supporting a corrupt system, that she is pro-war and pro-tax evasion and therefore you are a bad person.
I know a person who supports Hillary. He works in a lab studying cures and treatments for diabetes and cancer. He cared for his two sons as a single dad when his wife left them without warning and they were very young. He still loves them, even though one is into drugs and unsafe sex as his main pastimes and does not offer him that respect back. The other he worked hard so he could send him to college when he got accepted. He loves his kids. He supports personal freedoms. He rescues retired racing greyhounds and loves dogs. He fixes up old houses in the ghetto in his spare time. He is not a bad person.

I think when we start drawing lines in the sand, we stop seeing the world for what it is. The world is PEOPLE. I think having boundaries is OK. If there’s someone who you just consistently disagree with on lots of things that are important to you, you don’t have to like them or keep them in your life or even interact with them. But you SHOULD remember that they are a human being and they do some good things too. Nobody is pure evil. The most hateful, racist, sexist, die-hard conservative, Westboro Baptist style christian may still go volunteer to do toy drives for kids in the hospital with the fire department each year, donates to cancer funds, and loves their family. And while you probably shouldn’t invite them over for dinner (or try to have any significant conversation, really) if you are an LGBTQ black pagan lady who votes democrat… You may want to remember that they are a human being capable of experiencing pain, fear and suffering before you send that death threat to them or rub your hands with glee when they get DOXXed or DDOSed.

When you draw a line in the sand, you forget about the human being that is on the other side of that line. It’s really easy to say “Racism is wrong” and draw a line in the sand against racism. But racism isn’t a person. Racism didn’t stop on the side of the road to help that dog and her litter of puppies in a ditch. Racism didn’t give that homeless guy $20 last week. Racism didn’t hug you when your sister was in the hospital. Racism didn’t donate a dozen backpacks so your (and several other) kids could go to school with a new bag this year. Racism didn’t call 911 when your house was on fire last month. When you say “Anyone who has ever associated with racism should never interact with me again” the person who did all those amazing things, the person who is otherwise a GOOD PERSON, who would otherwise have your back every time, has suddenly had their whole being regulated to “That one racist thing makes you a bad person”.

How many good things and good people do we cut out by reducing someone to a single trait like we do in politics? Red Vs Blue, candidate vs candidate, nothing else matters, just go talk smack about the other people because they’re NOT people, they are nothing but representatives of a symbol and can’t possibly be good people… Why? Did you forget that they have an existence outside of that one thing you’re drawing a line in the sand for? Are you so different that you can’t find a single redeeming quality in them that you don’t want to wipe off the face of the earth? Not even one?

Sometimes it all gets a bit overwhelming. It’s sad. It’s really not how humans were supposed to interact. We’re not bees, with millions of us working in sync towards one, greater goal. We were never supposed to live this way. Small communities of people, people who interact with one-another and who get to know one another, do not act this way. We are a tribal species. We are designed to draw lines and coalesce into groups. We’re quite good at it. If those groups could then only learn to understand that they, too, are the same… That groups are not an idea, but they are made up of individual people… That they share many, universal traits… Maybe the world could be at peace.

As long as we see the fight as a fight against a concept, not people with dreams, hopes, love, sadness, and pain, we will never find peace. And so instead of fostering ideals, of shoehorning people into a single trait that we want to abolish… Perhaps we could try to foster a mentality to seek out our common ground instead. Instead of telling people to not think certain things (which has changed nobody’s mind ever in the history of mind changing), perhaps we should encourage people to try thinking a different WAY. Perhaps we should be encouraging compassion and empathy instead of opinions and politics.

I’m going to keep trying to pursue my own little community. Someday our Ecovillage will be real. And it’s tough, but I am going to try to start focusing less on “this person should stop thinking this bad thing” and more on “What does this person do that’s good in the world?”. And just maybe our community will find a way to find peace and love.

In the meantime? I’ll plant some onions.

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