This week

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Black Rasperries

These came from some wild canes I have been nurturing in my back lawn. A bit under two years ago my sister asked me if I wanted to dig up some awful thorny berry canes from her back yard where they were growing in deep shade and forest-like conditions. She said she just cut them back every year and hated having to do it and was going to dig them up herself and throw them out if I didn’t. She didn’t want those nasty thorns in her back yard. So I came and dug them up, and planted them along my fence in the perpetual shade line. Last year the canes were pretty useless as well. Birds ate almost every berry before I could get to them, but this year I hung up some netting as the berries started to ripen. Remember how I have been struggling to fill that shade line, since, well, forever ago? Well now I have successfully turned at least part of it into something productive and delicious!

I collected two bowls of these berries this week. And right after I finished picking them I carried one out to my sister to share since she was outside with her kid. She tried some and proceeded to proclaim how great tasting they were. She said they were just like candy and it didn’t take long for us to finish off the whole bowl. The irony of these amazing berries coming from a plant she hated was probably lost on her but I had a good chuckle over it, and I had a whole second bowl of berries waiting for me at home.

I’ve been slowly filling in the shade line with these awesome canes, and I don’t regret it! A small patch appears to be capable of providing me with a fair amount of fruit, which is something our little homestead lacks dramatically. I am expanding the patch with other kinds of berries as well and I’m looking forward to seeing what they look like next year. All around, these berry canes have been a very good experience.

 

We also have some new chicks this morning! Three weeks ago we were nervous – our oldest hen stopped laying suddenly and refused to move from the nest box. I was worried – was she egg bound? Turns out she was just broody. It’s been so long since I’ve had a broody bird that I almost didn’t recognize it!

So we marked some of our eggs, a full dozen, and tucked them under her. There have been some mishaps. An egg getting knocked out of the nest for hours here or there for example, or some of the eggs that were set were a bit older, or unlikely to be fertile on the part of the particular hen that laid them. But so far at least 5 healthy chicks have hatched! Three yellow, one brown and one black.

The garden is starting to fill in as well. We have one wee little evil groundhog left, marauding for kale leaves. Soon it might start targeting other plants and that’s something I will be striving to prevent. Soon we will be harvesting more zucchini than we can eat!

 

Conveniently for my goal of writing less I don’t have many words for my own farming today. My heart is heavy for the families of the hundreds of agricultural workers in my state that have been ripped from their homes and shipped to concentration camps, their children taken with no plan for reunification. The most recent update to this policy is to hold these people in concentration camps indefinitely.
Not only will these people suffer for it, but so will agriculture in the USA as a whole. Our entire food system that feeds america, especially for poor people, relies on imported labor. Half of all seasonal farm jobs, such as picking vegetables, are done by human without a legal status and many aren’t certain if the USA’s agricultural system will hold up to these policies. They even pay taxes without receiving benefits, helping to fund welfare services that help serve senior citizens, our farm bills and even veterans. Without these folks, our nation will not only be literally factually poorer, but have trouble even feeding it’s people.

I think people often forget that the people who supported Japanese internment camps 75 years ago considered themselves to be patriots simply protecting their country from foreigners who threatened it. The children of those families, who grew up seeing the holding of thousands of humans in concentration camps as celebrated patriotism, are very much alive today. They were people with families, who loved each other, who felt proud of their actions, who felt safer for it. But it was terrible and cruel. You don’t have to be a mean person to support horrible things.

We can do better. Much better. And tomorrow I will join thousands of people across the country to ask for the reversal of these inhuman policies that target people based on the color of their skin or the language they speak. There are no white faces in these concentration camps, no blonde haired blue eyed babies are being ripped from their mother’s arms. It’s clear that this has nothing to do with them being foreigners (note that “improper entry” to the USA is a misdemeanor – legally speaking, taking a candy bar from a grocery store is often a more serious offence), especially the raids in my state. We are on the northern border and most of the illegal entry into our state is done by white people from the Canadian border. Yet it’s only people with dark skin being arrested and confined, even in this state. It’s simply racial profiling, an othering tactic of fascism, and my heart aches for the victims of it.

I can only hope that people in the USA can recognize the correlations between these actions and the history of terrible atrocities in the history of the world stand together and unite for these human beings’ rights.

If you’re out there with me tomorrow, good luck and be safe.

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The spirit of Upcycling (And the best seed pots)

Today I have been exploring the various ways I can apply the spirit of upcycling to my life.

Upcycling (from dictonary.com)

verb (used with object)upcycled, upcycling.
1.

to process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original: “I upcycled a stained tablecloth into curtains.”

This week I am sick with a nasty cold. It may be more than that. I went to see a doctor and got some medication that is helping me recover. They actually prescribed me antibiotics for fear that I might be developing pneumonia again. Once you get pneumonia once, it makes the risk for getting future bacterial infections worse.

So lately I have been fairly inactive, relying on my partners to help with most of the critical outdoor chores. But now that I am on the mend I am able to start doing anything again and I am able to upcycle my time stuck semi couch-ridden while also upcycling a pile of newspapers. While I am an getting better I am still a little short of breath when I do simple tasks. So I’m spending my time doing important tasks with my hands instead, upcycling a bad situation into a better and useful one.

Today I am making these seed pots;

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A stack of 40 newspaper seed pots

These are some of the best upcycled seed pots I’ve ever used. They wick water up like a peat pot and are surprisingly sturdy for paper. Unlike a peat pot they actually break down in one season and so don’t restrict root growth as much if you plant the whole pot, plus break apart with some water and a few pokes to free the roots completely for planting. There are some newspaper seed pots that are round and rolled on a can but they come apart easily and the round pots make it harder to conserve space per square foot.

Some time ago I read about someone complaining how millennials don’t listen to people with experience but hypocritically also complained that they refused to do things without trying to research them online first. (The irony of this person demanding millennials learn from their online post was lost on them as well.)
Some places on the internet are garbage, but like all other upcycling, it can be something great instead depending on how you use it! Most millennials (and many others) find the internet to be an incredible resource, and for many of us it’s our only viable resource to learn things. Here’s an idea, upcycle your internet usage. It’s more than OK to learn things online, in fact, it’s awesome! Trade out garbage and depressing websites for productive learning! Not only is it a great resource to learn from people more experienced than you, but it’s also a great resource to learn about how to experiment in ways that more experienced people might not. It’s where I learned to make these, and they are great. You can find the instructions on how to make them here;

 

I get the newspapers from my father, who is in his mid 70’s and appreciates reading the newspaper as a daily lifeline to the world. He often saves them in large quantities for me and brings them to my house in batches of several weeks worth of newspaper at once. Our local newspaper uses soy based inks in their printing so the news pages are safe to use in the garden. (Always check with your newspaper supplier about this, some inks leach toxins into the soil like heavy metals. If you don’t know anyone who has newspapers, consider asking on places like the Craigslist free section or your local freecycle group.)

As I folded up the seed pots I couldn’t help but see the troubles of the world on those pages. Racist rants trying to rephrase a protest of police brutality as disrespect for our military. Sabre rattling between nuclear powers, their egos threatening the lives of millions of people they will never meet. Companies caught in security scandals putting their millions of clients whole financial futures at risk to save a few dollars per person. Painful calls of misogyny from beauty articles demanding women be young, thin and sexy or else they’re worthless. Cries to buy luxury fuel-guzzling vehicles for “low-low prices” of a whole years worth of income that the average person I know can’t possibly afford to give up. Sales of over-priced sick puppy-mill dogs from breeders just looking to make a buck in the classifieds. Countless pages upon pages of obituaries, mostly old but some too-young, each one with a little advertisement at the end that seemed to say: “This dead person’s family used *COMPANY*’s funeral service! If someone you love is dead, you should give them your money while you are grieving too!”.

It gave me plenty of time to notice all this as I folded and folded and folded. I watched TV and chatted with my partners, sometimes playing games or doing other small chores in between folding paper. It was also our weekly cartoon night where we all meet up with some other friends to watch Japanese animation and we all folded papers for a bit. And while I was folding I couldn’t help but reflect on the grander implications of what we were doing.

All that hatred and anger. The egos, the consumption, the greed, the negligence. All the terrible ills and death of the world were getting folded up and put aside. Over the next few months, all of those horrible things will be upcycled and used to grow something beautiful. Something that’s the exact opposite of what’s written on all of those pages. Something that feeds both peoples bodies and souls. Something that brings life and heals the planet.

Those pages will grow food. They will grow peppers and beans. They will grow tomatoes that go into jars and remind us of the rich summer in the middle of a gloomy winter. They will go into gifts for others that bring joy through the year. They will go into growing flowers and feeding bees and rabbits and even grasshoppers and deer. They will break down into the soil and feed the worms and nematodes and grubs in the dirt. They are bits of carbon that will have come out of the air and return to the soil.

No matter how much hatred and anger and pain is printed on them, they can be used to heal.

What a thought provoking day of upcycling.

Ultimately we made 100 seed pots in one day while heavily distracted. Which makes these pots not only great to grow in but fast to produce. If you have some days off that you’re probably just going to be watching TV or something for a good chunk of them anyhow, consider setting yourself down with a flat surface on your lap and folding some seed pots. A 100 pack of 2″ plastic seed cups is nearly $25 on Amazon. I need possibly as many as 400 pots this year, so I will be saving myself $100 by doing this while I’d otherwise just be sick in bed. And in exchange it will nourish my soil, increasing carbon and biomass, and turn something ugly into something wonderful.

Frugal. Ecological. Healing. Nourshing to land, body, soul, and the whole world. Everything gardening, and upcycling, should be. I hope you give these awesome pots a try and do a little upcycling yourself.

My door is open, if you want it to be.

Content warning for conversion therapy, suicide and politics.
Today I read an interesting political article that lifted my spirits a bit. This post has a happy ending if you can make it through, for me at least.

The article talks about a man who is a farmer, protesting a republican political candidate. A good ‘ol boy if I ever saw one. He stood with his preachers, and his community, as they banged on their pulpits, preaching not of love but of how human beings simply existing were perverted and distasteful. They were speaking of gay people in this case, a community I am a part of.

This regular occurrence was common in his home. But one day he found out his daughter, Patti, was gay. A friend of hers told her family, “outing” her. This was a daughter that he loved and cherished. That he’d raised in a church that pounded their pulpit and called his child a pervert. A child who had only ever done good. He devalued her, repeated back what he learned at his church. Hate and anger. He apologized, he regretted what he said, but the damage was done.

Patti came to him crying, asking him to help her get help to stop being gay. Nobody asks to be born a certain way, of course. This was someone in pain, told that who she was was terrible for her difference. She didn’t want to BE different, so she asked her father to get her “help” to fix her. Of course, that’s impossible. It’s like asking for someone to get you help to stop enjoying eating food. Such things can only cause trauma to a person.

The father in question took Patti to see doctors, but these things have been studied again and again. You can never “cure” or even CHANGE being gay, only create trauma around the experience. So they told him what any sane person driven by scientific evidence would do. They told him there was no such thing as a cure, that it was normal, that they couldn’t change who she was. Every medical professional they went to said the same thing. And the reality is, it’s the truth. We have no way to rewire an entire biological system. We have no “cure” for “experiencing the world differently”. Nor do we truly need one. But everyone around her treated people like her as a monster… What other option did she have but to seek a “cure” for being who she was?

Her father found his daughter, Patti, on March 22nd. She had committed suicide. He said that she did it because she was tired of being gay, not because she was tired of loving other girls, but because she was tired of how she was treated. Of being ridiculed and demonized.

When he tried to return to his church, after so much loss and suffering, there was a guest preacher. And after a mere 10 minutes the preacher began to tell the church about how terrible being gay was. There was no sympathy and compassion for his loss, no comfort after the death of his daughter Patti. Only more hatred.

Sometimes, I hear some pretty terrible things from the farming and homesteading communities. I hear questions that stem from ignorance, like “Why do liberals hate farming?” “Why does the left hate Christians or families?” “Why do *insert generalized city/left folks here* hate *insert generalize country/right folks here*?”.
I want you to know that the answer is really simple. We don’t. I know countless city folks who love farming and farms. Many of the people I know have “farmers make food” stickers. They’re interested in how agriculture effects our country. They’re parents with children who love nature. They want to see “flyover” territory be secure and successful. They want to see farmers get fair wages, the want to see red states have wealth. They want people in small towns to have local businesses and for those same people to have equal rights. They care a LOT.

There is an anger there, however. The kind that stems from years of abuse, the kind that admittedly leads to many being abusive right back. The anger isn’t personal towards individual people or specific groups, like farmers or Christians. The anger is towards the anger they’ve experienced from others. They rage at a system that causes a community to demonize differences. They hate teachings that cause other people to live in fear. They hate a hatred that makes a father treat his own daughter with hate. They hate a world that pushes a young girl to commit suicide. They hate the voices that end their lives, and countless others across the world.

This story is tragic. That system, that hatred ingrained in those communities, OUR communities, causes people to die. It causes families to be ripped apart. It caused a father to loose his daughter. I hate that. We hate that. It disgusts us and it should disgust everyone.

This story has a quiet little high note at the end, however.

This father suffered a tremendous loss. But after that day at church he stopped going back to that church. He couldn’t believe that his God would send such a loving child to hell simply for how she was born.

The reason his letter came to my attention was he is now advocating for people like his daughter in his deep-red state. The politician in question referred to members of the queer community as perverts and sinners. The politician in question also has a high profile set of sexual misconduct accusations. And this father sees the hypocrisy in his words. He hopes that people will think twice before voting for a man that calls his daughter a pervert, and emboldens the people that drove her suicide. He regret his past actions deeply and pushes back against anti-gay movements in his own small towns and farming communities. He’s a farmer. He’s one of US, and his suffering deserves to be heard.

Nathan Mathis. You’re a brave soul. There was a point in time when I would have probably been disgusted by who you were. There may be people you’ve hurt who will probably never forgive what you’ve been, a straw on a camels back, a drop in a bucket of anger that can never be forgotten. They’re not obligated to, we’re not obligated to forgive people who have hurt us, and that’s OK. But *I* forgive you. I’ll mourn with you. And I think you’ll find that, in general, we hateful leftist perverts are a pretty forgiving bunch all around. Even the bible says “reform ye, therefore, and turn back, for your sins being blotted out”, by and large, we’ve learned that we live it. We don’t actually WANT to hate anyone, and, indeed, we rarely do wish ill on others. We’re willing to see someone who has changed for the better and care for them again, to embrace them, to love them again. Nathan, you’re welcome in MY house any day, even if your neighbors won’t let me into theirs.

I recently heard somewhere that doing the right thing is a choice, a choice to do the right thing followed by an action doing the right thing. That you can’t do the right thing unless you are consciously trying. People’s mistakes happen in offhand ways, swept up in the moment without consideration or reason, they do bad things. It’s easy to end up on the wrong path, doing things that are wrong, without even realizing it. “Oops! Sorry I hurt you, I didn’t mean to.” By contrast; “I did the right thing without noticing!”, “Why, the next thing I knew, I was doing good things!”, “in a moment of carelessness, I helped someone! Whoops!”. You never hear those things. Goodness cannot exist without the intent to be good. You can’t do good things unless you actively try to.

My door, and countless others, are open to anyone who genuinely wants to be better, to anyone who decides that they want to do good things and who tries to. To anyone who wants to know how they can stop hurting others, to anyone who wants to help others. To anyone who genuinely wants to connect and share compassion. If you want to be good and then you do it, my door is open to you. I believe that Nathan has decided that he wants to do good, and is trying to do it.

And Patti Sue Mathis. I’ll say your name. You’re a victim as much as any other. You didn’t deserve the end you had. I hope your name will be remembered by many people. But I also hope you know that, wherever you are, there’s a little more light in the world because you were in it. Because of your legacy of loss, there’s a few more people who will see love instead of hate. I hope wherever you are, you’re at peace. And I hope you know that you mattered.

Someday, I hope that we have more Nathans. I hope we have more people who decide to do good in the world.

And you don’t have to take my lefty feminist words that it’s a good thing to do. This old man, a farmer, a father, a christian and a republican, is asking you to do good as well. I hope his message spreads, far and wide.

You can read his letter here;
http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/letters_to_editor/letter-soul-baring-thoughts-on-gay-bashing/article_a1a6b423-82df-5bff-92fd-46e1e1a12ece.html

And the article about his protest here;
http://theweek.com/speedreads/742788/alabama-farmer-who-lost-gay-daughter-suicide-speaks-near-roy-moore-rally

Good luck, Nathan. I’m rooting for you.

Hey, Just a heads up, I may not be part of your bubble.

You’ll notice that this post has none of my normal tags. That’s because it’s mostly for some people who have been following this blog for sometime.

I’ve been going through some serious introspection about many things, including this blog, as of late. It’s been a pet project of mine, to help me chronicle my own life and ideas as I grow as a farmer and a person. I’ve learned a lot of things from this blog. I’ve seen how I’ve changed my perspectives over the years on everything from bees to politics. And it’s very interesting and useful to me to have this chronicle of my life. It’s a sort of public diary and also a platform for me to advocate for things I am passionate about. Mostly farming, homesteading, and a search for sustainability within those acts.

Recently I have been speaking about the immediate troubles that plague my life. Some of these problems are from my own mind, some from broader outside forces, some rather directly happen to me. But I have been writing about them. And I’ve had a few people who suddenly said they were strongly disagreeing with me, and wondered why I started writing about such gloomy, harsh, critical things, seemingly so suddenly. It seemed to them that the person who fit into their world wasn’t there anymore. Like I’d changed.

So I went back through my blog. And you know what I found? I have been using this blog like that the whole time, but I was writing about topics those people agreed with me on or otherwise did not care much about. I have written about things like why I oppose veganism, why I don’t support PETA-style animal rights, why I dislike children, why I feel frustration towards my aggressively suburban family, about social problems within the broader homesteading community, about farming myths, about “factory” style farming, about “chemicals” in our foods, about large agribusiness, about my Mom’s cancer battle and death, I have been writing about challenges, negative impacts on my life, and being critical of others for years… Just not very often my fellow farmers (especially small farmers and homesteaders) because frankly, their lives didn’t impact my life dramatically outside of my career. More recently, that’s changed, and I think it’s left some people concerned. The truth is, I might not be the farmer they thought I was.

Now one could be forgiven for thinking that I live within the sphere of a stereotypical viewpoint that people see as being a farmer. For starters, words have a lot of power and I identify myself as a “farmer”. When we think of a “farmer” there’s an image, portrayed to us be media akin to the Paul Harvey speech, “so God made a Farmer”. When asked to think “What is a farmer” we probably think of straw or cowboy hats, overalls, an older white man on a tractor or in a pickup truck. When we think of a community around that person, it focuses on a house wife, family, children playing near the small farmhouse, church on Sundays, horseback riding. When we think deeper about that person we may make certain assumptions about them, like how they are probably conservatives because they are religious or they support gun ownership (which can be essential in the countryside). Our cenus data supports this. Over 70% of farm owner/operators in the US are white Christian men.
(Citations; 123, 4)

You could also be forgiven because I support a large number of conservative policies. I’m passionate about the constitution, from free speech to freedom of/from religion, to gun rights and all the rest of the “no, you can’t house your armies in my homes nor can you enter without a warrant”, etc sort of stuff. I’m really big on states rights. I want to see a smaller, more effective government with more local jurisdiction and less red tape. I want to see businesses, and especially small farmers, supported in the USA. I want to see MUCH less foreign interference coming from the USA. Dear LORD do I want to see the FDA  and USDA dissolved and replaced with a better organization(s)! (They can even keep their old names, just make them work for the people again instead of companies, please!) And I want to see people pay more attention to the huge swaths of (primarily farm) land that are crumbling apart all across the midwest due to hairbrained policies that don’t support them very well. I support hunting and farming animals, and self-sustainability and fishing, hard (dirty) work, self-responsibility, and all those other great things. I love the land, the air, the peace and quiet, the beautiful moments of nature. In an ideal world, you’re right, I would probably vote conservative.

So yes, to some of you, I probably seem to fit inside of what’s being labeled as political bubbles these days. On the surface of this blog, I may strike you as tucked nicely into the typical farmer box (albeit somewhat on the liberal end). So when I blog about how repealing the ACA would ruin my life, how I think climate change is a big problem, or how I struggle with the broad conglomerate called “Christianity” it might seem to come out of nowhere. But I’m a complete person. I have a diverse set of experiences. This isn’t an ideal world, I can’t make the choices I’d like to because if I choose to support some policies I like, I must also choose to support programs that threaten my life. Life is messy. It makes us unique and imperfect and we are all part of that. So here’s some reasons why I probably don’t fit into that box and might make posts that you feel are critical of your own actions.

And hey, just as a heads up; Trigger warning! Liberal ideas from an otherwise conservative source ahead! 😛

  • Climate change, pollution, evolution and science in general are real.
    USDA hardiness zones are consistently moving north, early warming ruins fruit cropseffects bee behavioralternates droughts and floods, and the top 12 warmest years on record have been in the last 20 years. There’s no reasonable way to deny that the climate is changing (are the thermometers at your local weather station rigged or something?) and of COURSE that effects farming. Of course understanding genetics and evolution effects animal/plant breeding. And of COURSE oil spills, disrupted ecology and wildlife cycles, smog, water contamination, algae blooms, wild bee deaths, superweeds and other things that spawn from human intervention effect agriculture on ALL levels. Science matters, it’s desperately important for agriculture, and sticking our heads in the sand about it is SUCH a bad idea! These things punish poor farmers far more than rich city dwellers. Don’t shit where you eat. Farmers need to pay attention to it more than anyone else! Of COURSE it’s gonna get covered in this blog!
  • I’m one of the %14 woman farm owner/operators in the US.

    Unfortunately, being a lady isn’t always easy. Even if we move past the fact that I’ve experienced (sometimes violent) sexism on the streets semi regularly since I was 7, or all the other common lady-problems I face… There’s not very many women farmers, and they can be looked down upon. It’s very common for other people to dismiss my opinion on farming because I am female. In fact, I have had people commit complete 180’s on me, where they thought I was a great resource and a good farmer, right up until they found out I was female. Suddenly, everything I said was second guessed and overall tones went from enthusiastic to just generally rude. Some people have openly stated (only after discovering that I am female) that things I said would have to be confirmed by their male farming buddies before they could believe me. Some people have even told me that I shouldn’t be a farmer because I am a woman. Sexism effects me, it effects my farming and therefore belongs in this blog.

  • I’m polyamorous and bisexual
    Yeah, I have spoken about my partner, Greg, occasionally. He owns and runs a small business in a local neighborhood that he built himself. But I also have a second partner, Dan, who I have just recently started talking about. They’re friends, they know about eachother, and it’s all consensual. I’ve also dated girls before, would again, and have been consistently attracted to them. Not to mention my large number of LQBTQ+ friends. Why does this matter? Because the majority of farmers in the US are conservatives and would like to pass laws against my relationships, my friends, my family, or even me. Some refuse to do business with me. Some people have threatened violence against me. I’m never really comfortable sharing any details of my family life (which is supposed to be valued highly by farmers) with other farmers because of this stigma, and it’s hard to form good, trusting, relationships because of it. Not to even mention the violence and hate I sometimes face just for existing, nor national policies that effect me negatively like marriage equality, adoption rights, inheritance, etc. That’s not OK. It effects my life, it effects my farming, and therefore it belongs in this blog.
  • I’m Pagan
    I know. It shouldn’t be relevant. Neither should who I sleep with, or my gender. But, again, it DOES. There’s a HUGE swath of the population who think I’m so toxic because of it, that I shouldn’t exist. I don’t ask other people to be pagan, I do not try to get laws passed encouraging paganism, I don’t expect a teacher to tell kids that the reason they can write is because of Odin, I don’t expect special treatment on my holidays beyond what I make for myself, and I don’t expect people to like me for it. But the fact that people DO expect those things for THEIR religion (IE, Christianity in the US) is frustrating, and I can’t say I have ever faced it from a non-Christian. Now, we don’t take statistics on religion here in the US, but in Canada (who are generally considered less conservative/religious than us) only 17% of the farming population said they were non-religious, and of the ones that were religious, only 10% made up ALL non-christian religions including Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, ALL forms of Paganism, etc. I can’t imagine that number is any more diverse here in the US. The fact is, the majority of the people I interact with in this lifestyle are Christian. Which would be TOTALLY FINE, if they didn’t passionately believe some aspect of Exodus 22:18 (Thou shall not suffer a witch/sorceress to live, etc. etc.), or worse, try to get people to pass those personal beliefs into law. So when another farmer asks me why I’m not at church on Sunday, I have to weigh my answer carefully. This is a normal interaction in my job, it belongs on this blog.
  • Politics and policies effect me, republican ones usually negatively
    This should also be obvious, but my life is effected by national and local policy. When Lord Dampnut proposes a 20% tax on goods coming from Mexico, it effects farmers nation wide as Mexico is the biggest buyer of food from the USA. When climate change policies get cut and oil/coal/etc gets promoted, farmers suffer. When my healthcare gets cut, suffer. When policies are put into place that restrict marriage, my religion, my gender, my friends, my job, my existence… I suffer from it. So when you vote for those thing, you are literally voting against whether or not I should exist. You might as well be showing up at my door and threatening me with a weapon and telling me I should stay in my house and never come out, because that’s about the effect it’s going to have on me. How could I possibly be accepting of people who do that or treat it as if it doesn’t effect me?
    I could understand wanting that if I was doing something similarly threatening to conservatives, but I’m NOT. Nobody is. I would like to see Christian churches still exist, farmers have solid employment, straight people getting married, men on equal footing (not lesser). I want you to have all of the faith, family, farming, and heck, even guns that you want. I want you to wave the American flag and shoot bottle rockets into the air while screaming “FREEDOM” from the back of your pickup truck while bald eagles pass overhead, heck, NOBODY wants to stop that! (Except for maybe your deeply embarrassed children.) We just want that to not come at the expense of our own joy and freedom. And yes, that, too, effects every aspect of my life, including my job.
  • Racism and other bigotry Exists
    This may strike as a little bit tokenism, since it’s not about my farm much, but… I grew up in a neighborhood that’s 42% black, and those people matter to me. I think it’s important to emphasize that I’m not black, I’m Cis, I’m not a PoC, I can’t represent other minority struggles. But other people definitely have it even worse than me. I know what sort of struggles I go through every day and how infrequently my genuine suffering and needs are addressed by people who don’t experience them, so when I hear that there are even more problems for someone else, I can believe it with ease. For that matter, I’ve seen it often enough with my own eyes, especially now that I’m not a kid in that neighborhood anymore. I don’t think we can correct MY problems without fixing ALL the problems for EVERY group that experiences systemic disenfranchisement. So when I talk about fixing my problems, making life more just and equal for me, I also want to pay heed to other people around me who need those changes even more than I do. Their problems are real, and I’m going to support them in seeking changes.
    And lastly…
  • I have depression, and a body, so I might not post.
    What do farmers, war vets and LGBT people have in common? Abnormally high suicide rates! Average suicide rates in the US is 0.14%, but among vets it’s around 0.3%, 0.7% among LGB youth, 0.86% among farmers and a whopping 40% among transgender individuals. Lowering those numbers matters to me, because I know what it’s like to suffer from depression. Some people also asked why I post so infrequently sometimes, so here’s why; I’ve had depression and some health problems since I was a kid. This leads me to flake out on things that are not required for my well being when my well being is compromised. That includes this blog.

I think that about sums it up.
Are you one of the people who would like to see me post more often about happier subjects? Great! That’s a lot easier to do when my mental and physical health is secure. You can even fix it. Not just for me, but for millions of people across the country. There’s three simple things you can do.
The first is to push for a single-payer medicare-for-all health system that supports good mental health treatment. The same mental healthcare that will go towards lowering suicide rates among trans youths will lower suicide rates among vets and farmers. The healthcare system that will provide free birth control to poor families who can’t afford more children (including farmers) will provide birth control to people like me who take it for severe cycles and uterine fibroids. And the same system that paid for my mother’s cancer treatment may pay for your pastor’s daughter’s cancer treatment someday. Taking care of the sick and hungry is our moral obligation, double especially if you’re Christian. Support it. It helps everyone.
Second, embrace diversity. Make sure that a bisexual pagan girl like me can converse with you without being scared of your reaction to my mere existence. This has an added benefit; farm country is currently associated as hubs of bigotry and extremism. We can bridge the huge gap between city folks thinking that way about farmers if, well, they can interact with farmers that don’t act poorly toward people who are different than them. Until the idea that some people are seen as less human by the typical white Christian male farmer is gone, city people won’t care one whit about farmers needs. The divide deepens, and everyone is unhappy. Just let people be people without trashing them for it. They really don’t hate you for your faith, sexual orientation, gender, race, etc. So don’t make their lives worse for theirs.
Third, don’t just say it, do it. Call your congress critters and your representatives on both the state and national levels. Tell them you want them to support policies like national healthcare, laws that protect minorities, and our first amendment constitutional right to freedom of and FROM religion. Your calls matter. Your votes matter. Even if you vote for a republican because (like me) you support their fiscal/constitutional policies, you should put pressure on them to also support minority rights. They’re not mutually exclusive! We should get the option of having both sides win!

If my physical and mental being is secured, as well as my right to exist in this country I’m going to be able to be much more upbeat, much more capable of focusing on farming, much more productive, and much happier. And the best part? A lot of other people will be too, along with conservative farmers, war vets, and all sorts of minorities.

Be compassionate. Care about people. They’re a lot more likely to care about you.

And maybe you’ll get to see happier blog posts in your future.

And now for a snarky disclaimer.

I’ve rewritten this post several times now to be as unbiased as I can, but at a certain point I have to acknowledge to absurdity and unreasonable reality of my world. I’ve tried to make it non inflammatory thus far, but if I’ve failed and you’re upset, I’m sorry. (Genuinely.) This is my reality and it’s not pretty. But less genuinely; In the meantime, here’s some great advice I hear from conservatives a lot. I’m sure it’ll help you as much as it helps the rest of the people it’s told to;

“Calm down! Sorry, but I support free speech, not political correctness that panders your milk-white identity politics. But hey, I’m sorry that a blog post on the internet triggers you so much. So why don’t you run back to your safe space? Aw, does that upset you? It’s just a joke, snowflake. 😉 Yeesh.”

Victory gardens?

In the 1940s, during the Great depression and WWII, wages were similarly unequal to today’s current wage system. The war ended up reinvigorating our economy with military jobs being converted into infrastructure and manufacturing jobs. And while war is ALWAYS terrible, a scant few good programs come out of that war. The best one (to me) being the victory garden program. It helped stave off hunger and high food prices all across the nation, establishing a groundwork for self-sufficiency within cities and as a nation.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, right before the victory garden program was being pushed in cities and the nation suddenly found itself growing half of it’s food in cities, suburbs and people’s back yards, another problem had been brewing in the countryside for a decade. Farmers were going broke, unable to sell their crops for more than it cost to grow them. Overproduction was the new norm in much of America. Agriculture was crumbling. So bills were put into place to stop farmers from growing so much food and to regulate prices by taxing the food industry to provide money for the US to buy grain during over productive years and distribute it during lean times. The result helped to stifle the economic disaster occurring in the US, but was ultimately found unconstitutional and was replaced by a similar bill in 1938. The 1938 bill became today’s Farm Bill, and was designed to help farmers grow crops that we needed more of during the war. Farmers were suddenly being paid to grow crops that were in under production at the time (cotton, wheat, corn, peanuts, barley, etc.) so that the nation would not run short on these crops. But also came with stipulations that only so much could be grown and distributed, to avoid the over production problems of the 1930’s. When WWII ended, the nation’s agriculture stabilized and the economy improved.

Between 1970 and 2000, the farm bill slowly mutated. Regulations on how much could be grown and sold were cut massively while the people making the most money off of the farm bill (mostly corn growers) lobbied hard to keep their crops that have plenty of production in the US on the list of subsidized crops. The goal of encouraging farmers to grow under-grown crops to stabilize prices of certain good was lost to the æther. Now a days, despite huge gluts in the market driving corn prices ever lower and corn being the most grown crop in the US, nearly a THIRD of all farm subsidies go towards growing corn. Why? Because there’s where the money rolls into our government from.

So I have one tiny, selfish hope for this steaming tire fire of a presidency.

Among the nonsensical and unconstitutional policies Trump is proposing, in order to pay for his 25 billion dollar wall, is a 20% tax on goods from mexico that was originally endorsed as the probable plan to generate the funds. Now I will start by saying that this is actually a tax on the American public. Because what’s going to happen is producers of goods are just going to (very legally, mind you) pass that price down to consumers.
Because Joe who grows avocados must make $5 off of his avocados to break even and pay his bills, he sells his avocados to us for $5. If the US taxes Joe 20% to sell his avocados in the US, Joe will still need to make $5 off of his avocados BEFORE that tax to continue to pay his bills. So Joe will either A. Stop selling in the US, therefore generating no revenue for a wall. Or B. Will add the extra 20% onto his avocado prices and sell them for $6, because he can’t give 20% of his $5 to that tax, he needs it to pay his other bills. If he does the second, and you, a US citizen buy his more-expensive avocados, Joe still makes the $5 he needs to pay his bills. You, the avocado buyer, just paid the tax. Not Joe. Because Joe still has bills to pay, and needs his $5. It just LOOKS like it’s coming from Joe. This is a system of exploitation that’s been going on for a very long time and is inherent in our society.

Now that wouldn’t amount to much if it were, like, Tibet where our imports kind of don’t exist. But the US imports 10% of it’s food from Mexico, a large amount of which is fresh produce. Which means 10% of food imported to places without much fresh food (especially inner cities, suburbs and food deserts) is going to get 20% more expensive should this policy go through. Inner cities already struggle massively with problems relating to food scarcities, specifically good, local, fresh, healthy foods like lean meats, vegetables and fruits. It’s hard to spend $5 on a bag of apples that you may or may not get around to, when $5 will get you 5 sandwiches and feed your whole family something with enough calories to get them through the day. Since many people in our nation’s poor urban centers also don’t know how to cook and handle whole foods, since food prep is a skill that was cut from public schools because of budget cuts, and is only able to be taught at home by people who have generational wealth and knowledge, (something that contributes massively to classism and racism) there’s not many options available to them, and it’s not really a wonder that poor people end up fatter while still being hungry and starving. And it’s about to get 20% worse for those people, leading to even more stigma for being in that situation as options for low-priced high-nutrient value food dwindle away and most of America carries on as usual.

So somewhere buried in that big pile of poo is my desperate little hope. A hope that this will spark some agricultural reform, possibly in the amending of the Farm Bill to suddenly stop producing tons of excess corn (which is bad for the environment as corn is awful on soil to grow) that goes into animal feed and corn-based plastics, fuel, and any other market they can desperately dump our massive corn glut into… And instead, it will subsidize farmers to grow the vegetables we need to support inner cities and food deserts with our own American farms with a lower overall footprint. Or, it may spark the urban agriculture movement to work towards urban centers, Victory-Garden style, because with a little help and rising prices on behalf of tariffs on Mexican imports it makes both urban agriculture and victory gardens that much more feasible and financially viable.

And I would be very excited for one (or both) of those things to happen.

So hey, maybe if we don’t descend into a war because of this massivehorriblesoul-crushingunlawfulfear-mongering political bonfire… Maybe farmers in the US and the state of our nation’s food security will be a little bit better for it.

(Please feel free to generally fact check my post, don’t take anyone’s word for anything. I didn’t bother with citations for most of this, but you can always look it up in your own time. Don’t spread fake news.)

Nature magazine study finds “Roundup-Ready” corn to be substantially different from regular corn

That title sounds so click-bait-y. Normally I don’t like to share other people’s articles… But I think this one is pretty important to read about. Nature magazine published a peer-reviewed study in their magazine that tested a variety of roundup ready corn and found it to contain more toxins than regular corn. They also showed that the proteins within the corn are significantly different, and that toxins in the corn could also trigger a stronger allergic reaction than normal. The corn processes energy differently than regular corn and the corn basically suffers from oxidization damage. Ultimately, rats fed GMO corn for two years compared to the control group fed the nearest-genetically-similar non-gmo corn.

Here’s a link to a study summary.

Here’s a link to the actual article.

Incidentally, according to gmoanswers.com, a generally pro-GMO site, the longest safety tests required for corn like this is 90 days.

Now here’s the run down on some things that I think are important to consider about this study;

  • This is a test done on a single variety of corn. This does not speak for all types of genetically modified crops, nor even all types of modified corn.
  • The toxins produced are naturally formed in nature. This does not make them safe, but they are “naturally occurring”. It’s not like Mad Cow is jumping to corn suddenly because an amino acid from cow genes was added or something like that.
  • This study does not state whether similar toxin levels could result from doing a more natural hybridization of plants or from standard development of vegetable varieties.
  • The reason the FDA would not notice this is simple. The FDA requirements are a 90-day safety trial and a glorified nutritional analysis (pro-GMO source). Basically they say if it looks like a corn, has the nutritional content of corn, and feeds for 90 days like corn, then it’s corn.
  • This study HAS been peer reviewed prior to publishing and (so far) has held up to scrutiny. (This could change, but the study seems legitimate as of writing this article.)
  • The person who preformed the study has been an anti-GMO and anti-pesticide advocate for some years, but holds the appropriate degrees and scientific background to comment on it.
  • One study, alone, does not debunk dozens of other studies that show GMOs to be generally safe. However, if the study is repeated and shows similarly higher levels of kidney/liver damage, then the study must be considered valid. A good scientific study is hallmarked by repeatability. If a study cannot be replicated by someone else and get the same results, it’s just a single study in a sea of studies. (This is a phase of research we often lack in the scientific community. Studies are rarely repeated.)
  • A pro-GMO source claims that findings like this which are “pleiotropic” (or, essentially, are complicated and cause multiple problems) would show some sort of significant plant damage elsewhere and therefore would be noticeable at a glance (ex; the plants would grow poorly, which is bad for business). The study published in Nature found plant damage on a cellular level from significant oxidization. Oxidized tissue looks normal at a glance, but the tissue later dies. Plants may not live long enough to die from oxidization.

(This is just very interesting to me because of it’s links to cancer and so it’s something I know a lot about. For example, oxidization is one of the causes of cancer. It’s also one of the cures of it. To help prevent cancer we’re encouraged to consume “antioxidants” to remove oxidization from our cells, because oxidization can damage them. Damaged cells can mutate into cancer cells. If you have cancer and are receiving chemotherapy or radiation you are NOT permitted to consume anti-oxidant rich foods, because you are trying to kill cells because cancer cells die faster than regular cells. So you just kill all the cells and hope the non-cancer cells survive longer than the cancer cells. This is also why you loose your hair and get sensitive skin and lack immune responses, because those sorts of cells also die very quickly. You kill them, in part, by making them super-oxidized. So consuming anti-oxidants makes chemo and radiation less effective. No citations here other than this wiki link about it, but you can look it up. This is just stuff I learned from the five years of caring for my mom while she had cancer. So the tl;dr is, these plants had invisible cellular damage that, if left long enough, may have killed the plant. But plants don’t live that long.)

So in conclusion, this study alone is inconclusive. But it does draw whether GMOs are safe into further and legitimate consideration. Studies like this address concerns that haven’t been well researched in previous GMO studies. For better or worse, it gives a solid piece of science, a real leg to stand on for anti-GMO groups, if it holds up to scrutiny and replication.

(In case you were wondering, I read through the “methods” and “results” part of the actual study myself to confirm that, in my own opinion, it seems legit and that I’m reporting as accurately as I can. But I’m no PHD in biochemistry.)

For me, it’s one of the concerns I have stated in the past that has led to me to support labeling laws and have been attempting to move away from GMO products myself. For example, a different protein structure as shown in this study may mean that a person can develop an allergy to GMO corn that they would not otherwise have developed (and because of the way allergies work, that reaction may spread to regular corn) and now someone can’t eat corn at all. A different set of toxins may cause an animal that normally feeds on corn or corn pollen to refuse to eat it or experience health problems from it. A different set of nutrients (like sugars, which are processed differently in GMO corn according to this study) may cause an animal that normally avoids corn to try to eat it more often, causing behavior changes in wildlife. Frankly, we don’t know all the multi-faceted and subtle (or “pleiotropic”) ways GMOs could effect our lives.
And perhaps most importantly, they have led to a multi-billion dollar industry that regulates itself, relies on illegal labor under nearly slave-like conditions and holds the keys to our nation’s food security. We are limited lifespan creatures and will die someday whether GMOs are helping us along or not. But the nation’s food security, sustainability, and our compassion for other humans, is a legacy that carries on long beyond our lifespan. I’d like to see the next generation own the keys to those things, not a self-regulated company.

So give the study a gander, take it with a grain of salt, and come to your own conclusions about it. It’s a very interesting read.

Reeling and Seedling

Well, yesterday the hammer dropped and every single republican told 30 million people like me to go and die quietly please so they could save some money for rich folks, OK?

Not farming stuff incoming. Feel free to scroll down to the bottom if you don’t like the uncomfortable reality that at least some of you probably voted in the people that voted to try to kill me today. I’m looking at you rural farming America. Thanks for that. (Or, you know, if you’re too overwhelmed by the awfulness of it to hear about it again or you might go shoot someone. That’s an OK reason to scroll down too.)

It sounds like some sort of bad black humor, or some sort of dramatic hyperbole, but the vote to dismantle the ACA (including popular programs like protection from denying healthcare based on pre-existing conditions, coverage for pregnant women, and allowing young adults to stay on parents insurance for a few extra years) was clear. 51-48, not a single democrat voting to dismantle. In case you’re wondering, the senate is 52% republican and 48% democrat. I’d love to have the ability to vote republican sometimes, I do believe that the democratic party is corrupt, but the concept that republicans care about my human rights or my wellbeing or the wellbeing of anyone but themselves at this point is unfortunately a joke. They would genuinely rather I just die instead of spending money.

I have a family (and personal) history of female reproductive problems. Case in point; my mother who died of uterine cancer. Preventable uterine cancer that she did not have treated until it was about to kill her because she was one of the 30 million people that couldn’t get insurance without the ACA. Preventable uterine cancer that the only reason she was able to receive any treatment at all for (extending her life for 5 years which were happy and filled with life and joy, and having end of like palliative care, IE: letting her have pain killers and a hospital bed) was because of the ACA being passed soon after her diagnosis, protecting my dad’s ability to put her on his insurance after he finally found employment.

My family is what even republicans usually think of as a “good family”. We’re about as far from the ultra-racist “welfare queen/baby daddy” stereotype as you can get.  We’re white. My family came from a southern catholic farming background on my moms side. My dad’s father ran a cardboard box factory that made him significantly wealthy. Mom raised seven kids, cleaned, couponed, cooked, and made sure her kids were well educated and raised with integrity. My dad currently is nearly 80 years old and works for NASA. He designs lithium batteries that can handle outer space and are charged by solar panels. He holds a patent for some of the first neurological interfaces to allow people with paralyzed limbs to move their arms. All of us kids got jobs at 15 years old. We’re not uneducated, unmotivated,  have poor parenting or even just plain stupid. My family is gritty working types. And my mom died because there was no program like ACA when she got sick and my father was unemployed due to the Bush-induced recession. We live in the rust belt. The economy here has been awful for decades.

Now we’re looking at facing that all over again.

My partner owns his own retail store. It’s extremely successful for a retail store, going on their 3rd year anniversary with profits in the black. Over 95% of retail stores close their doors in the first 5 years and almost none make profits. He’s a small business owner. He built that.
He’s about to fall into the medicare gap. And without the ACA, he will not be able to afford health insurance.

I run this tiny urban farm. I work hard at it, I love it, it helps massively with my depression and I think few people this will reach would be able to tell me that farming isn’t a respectable job. But I will laugh in your face if you even consider the possibility that it makes enough money for me to afford insurance outside of the ACA. My healthcare is about to be gone. And best of all, the medication that keeps me able to function and could save my life is probably not going to be covered by most insurance any more. People still think birth control is only so people can have lots of sex that offends their religion. Little do they know that it’s probably slowly saving my life, not just from cripplingly painful cycles that prevent me from working normal jobs… But also from the genetically-inherited uterine fibroids that nearly killed my oldest sister and were probably inherited from my mother. Did you know that, if left untreated, uterine fibroids can develop into uterine cancer? Did you know that birth control prevents uterine fibroids for 1/10th the cost of a single surgery to treat them even before the become cancerous? Two and two fit so nicely together here if you care to look at facts.

So yes, when I say that republicans voted to literally end peoples lives today, I was not being hyperbolic. I was being frank. My mom would be alive today if healthcare reform went through in the 90’s. I or my partner, hardworking Americans, may not be alive someday because of the vote that just took place. Sorry if that’s too much of a burden on your taxes. I’m sure you needed that fat holiday bonus more than I needed my life. It’s cool.

And if you voted republican this past year? Fuck you. If I (or any of the 30 million other people insured the the ACA) die in the next four years, it is probably your fault.

 

Ok, you can pull your head out of the sand now. We’re back to farming.

FARMING AHOY.

So instead I’m trying to immerse myself in the potential spring hold for my homestead… Despite the fear and the potential for my untimely demise, I want to try to look forward to spring. This year we’re placing a new seed order. We grow heirloom organics, which allows us to save seeds from each plant each year. Still, not everything grows correctly and genetic diversity is important in plants AND animals, so we like to bring in new seeds.
We buy from high Mowing Seeds, and we’re not paid to say nice things about them. I just happen to like their seeds, prices, and polite customer service.

Here’s a list of what we’re getting and why.

Thyme
Every year we try to grow a new herb. I used a lot of thyme this year as it’s great on, well, everything? So we thought we’d give it a shot.

Bellstar tomato
This year the tomatoes did great, but they had some problems. We grew amish paste and san marzino. The amish paste did not produce well. The san marzino were nice, but they came in haphazardly, only allowing me to put away several jars of tomato sauce despite huge numbers of tomatoes growing. They just all ripened at different times, so we’d have 10 tomatoes here and 15 there, all year. They were also surprisingly watery for paste tomatoes and the plants were VERY thin and spindly, they needed trellises badly. Hopefully this variety will provide what we need a bit better.

NuMex Joe Anaheim and Early Jalapeno Hot Pepper
We grew an anaheim and a jalapeno from plants we bought at the garden center this year and they did very well. I use a lot of hot peppers and if we get these to grow and the tomatoes, it means jars of salsa!

Purple Beauty Bell Pepper
I have never gotten a bell pepper to live in my lawn. So I am kind of just grasping at straws here and hoping that because this pepper looks so different it might grow. Eh?

Kentucky Wonder (green beans)
These did great for us this year, huge plants, 8′ tall. We’re getting them because we liked them so much we want more of them! We have seeds saved from this year and last, but we’d like to establish a little more diversity in our genetics and we’d also like to grow LOTS of them this year!

Red Russian Kale
This is another favorite. It grows very well in our cold climate and has a nice flavor. But saving seeds is tough and often the plant grows as a biennial. So we haven’t saved seeds from this yet. I still had seeds, but they were a couple years old and I gave them away as part of a Yule gift to a fellow gardener.

Painted Mountain Corn
We’ve tried growing corn for three years now to no success. We’ve been trying to grow Roy Calais flint corn, but since it hasn’t done well, we decided to try a new kind. Fingers crossed this does better. We want a flint corn for cornmeal, grits and animal feed.

Cascadia Peas
We’ve had sub-par results with out peas as well. Often they get really spindly and sometimes they grow too tall for our pea trellises. Cascadia are a dwarf variety where the pods stay big but the plants are small. I hope they do better than our other ones.

Costata Romanesco zucchini
I used the last of these seeds this year, to great success! The biggest of these reached 7lbs 10oz this year and wasn’t fully grown. Wow! But because they never grew all the way, we couldn’t save seeds. Since they did so well… Again! Again!

Table Queen Acorn Squash
Winter squash has consistently done great up here. We’ve had acorn squash seeds volunteer out of our compost in past years and this year we had great success with a desperate last-second planting of Buttercup squash that had germinated in their seed packet mid-summer. This year we’re trying acorn squash deliberately and we’re hoping for equally good results.

De Cicco Broccoli
This is the vegetable that’s new to our garden this year. We’ve had some half-hearted attempts to grow brassicas but never tried very hard and never had them grow more than a few leaves before being mowed down by plants. Every year we try to add a new vegetable to our garden, and this year broccoli is it!

Flowers
We’re gonna try to grow some flowers this year. Echinacea, butterfly mixes, chamomile, sunflowers. Maybe we’ll get some pretty (and useful) flower this year for… Our…

 

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEES

I received a cedar warre bee hive for my birthday this year from my extra-generous MIL! Which means BEEEEEEEEES! I am extremely excited to have bees! We’re looking for our nuc right now and I am just floored and thrilled.

Despite the world being pretty dark for me (and most everyone I love) right now, I’m excited for the weather breaking and it being spring. Lots of exciting things will be happening and I am looking forward to it.

Wish me luck!