9 O’clock and alls well

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We manage to enclose the two coops today.  It took a while to get the chickens from the tree.  Head pounding apples and chickens who roost higher and higher are not a good combination.  I’m leaving the coops open so they can work out their new spots themselves.I’m particularly proud that we managed to catch “Satan” the rooster.

Now for a much deserved cider and then on to give the rabbits their treats.

Put the old hens in with this years batch.  That should be interesting in the morning.  Fat Mama is by herself with her eggs in the A-frame chicken tractor.  I put down 6-10 inches of straw in case the bumbles actually hatch and need to bounce.  Tomorrow might be day 20 on an egg or two.  One looked like it would be about day 12.  Don’t know if there will be any success with the hatching but it’s pretty riviting to watch.  I’ve already learned a lot even if no chicks come of it.

Hawk attack!

This morning my neighbours called frantically after scaring a hawk off of their coop.  Apparently it swooped into my yard from there.  I have a pretty awesome rooster, so I have high hours that the girls are ok.  Hawk attacks are my least favourite.  They take the heads and drop the bodies.  Very gruesome.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the blog, because of the heat, I have been letting the chickens stay out at night.  This can be good and bad. Today is an example of potentially bad.  I have provided the chickens with plenty of cover so it’s hard for me to do a hess count when they are freaked out.

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There are some hiding.  What worries me are these pics:

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On the plus side, yesterday I candled the eds under the broody hen and found 50s with babies in them.  I don’t need mitre chickens, but the temptation to see the prices overwhelmed me.  Well she be a good mom, I don’t know.  She is a retired later I picked up last year and was slated for the chopping block at her next molt.  By the end of the day she will have a chicken tractor and fresh straw all of her own.  All the eggs that are fertile come from my one year old turken who bred with a redcap rooster and a lakenvelter rooster.  The candle at around 10 to 18 days development.  Should be interesting.

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My husband is close to completing a new enclosure for the rest.  If it is done by the end of the day, new importation will be starting tonight.  There are two new coops in the enclosure so lots to choose from.  Mama gets to keep the chicken tractor she is in.  lots of straw will be added because even though even though my brother assures me bubbles bounce, I don’t want any little babies falling out of the best, I definitely want to give them something soft to land on.

If she works out, I hope to use her to hatch cochins for the neighbour so they don’t have to buy an incubator. 

Another piece of good news is that I will soon receive some restaurant leftovers to supplement all their diets.  My husband is off on an adventure starting tuesday where he will work outside the country in an effort to get us caught up financially.  6 months of unemployment have taken their toll sadly.  Without him here, I won’t have the kitchen scraps I normally do.  My kids hate food apparently.  If I make something good to easy there just won’t be the normal waste we have when cooking for four.

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Wish us luck!  There was rain last night, I can only take that as a sign of positive things to come.

Turkeys

Here are our new turkeys.  They don’t get to roam free, but the turkens are working hard to dig them out.  Sweet little guys currently. Hope I can fatten them up in time for the holidays.  It will be an interesting experiment to see how they do in this setting.

Notice all the apple carcasses?  We are always overrun with fruit flies in the summer because of all the fruit trees.  This year, the chickens are doing a good job keeping up with the dropped apples.  Boy are the eggs good right now.  As an added bonus, we don’t feel like the fruit flies are going to carry the house away.  This is pretty great in my mind.  I feel bad because we like to take the dropped apples to my brother’s pigs, but their share will definitely be smaller this year.  There are still plenty of bird picked ones on the trees.

World’s Ugliest Bird Competition

I prefer Turkens to any other variety of chicken which I’m sure I’ve stated before in this blog.  Food to egg and meat ratio is excellent, personalities are excellent.  They are just an all around good bird.  EVERYONE who sees them for the first time comments on their looks though.  These are not attractive chickens.  Last week I added four turkeys to the flock.  Just every day run of the mill white turkeys.  They were a month and a half old when I got them and the price was too good to resist.   I was immediately surprised at the adorable noises they make.  Even so young though, they are the same size as the chickens.

We have had a horribly hot and dry summer so far.  Weeks of 110 degrees plus weather have really taken their toll on the yard.  Usually I irrigate about four times a year, but this year I had to break down and put it at about three times per week.  It saddens me to use water like that.  With the new garden ground across the street however, I had no other choice.  There just hasn’t been enough time to condition that soil or get used to it’s needs for me to go on a low water regimen.  Regardless, I have kept everything happy and healthy except for Fred the pigeon.  He succumbed  to the heat about three weeks into the heat wave.  I work really hard to keep them shaded and watered, but there is only so much you can do.  The pigeons are temporarily in the house now, which freaks me out a little.

I decided Gracie needed some more friends so here they are:

I haven’t sexed them yet, I’m afraid they are too young for that.  I may try in a few days when they get used to living here and are more calm.  My intent was to pick up two and hope one turned out to be a boy.

Temptation reared it’s ugly head though and I had to pick up this other one.  I must now have a thing for hideous birds because of my devotion for my turkens.

He’s an english carrier pigeon.  Not at all fitting in with my goal of raising squab, but he/she and Gracie are getting along pretty well so far.  When it is standing up straight the bird is very striking and no more attractive.  One of my gardening friends and I have been discussing breeding carriers for sharing seeds.  Not for the ease of seed sharing, but just for the novelty of it.  Usually these guys seem to go for around $100 each.  I picked this guy up for $6.  He has a crooked foot, but it doesn’t seem to affect him.  For $6 I was willing to take the chance on him for a little neighborhood fun.  Now I guess I need to get serious about the pigeons and get some leg bands and flight cage finished.  Hopefully in a few days I can get some photos and show how to sex them.

I always read about how addicted people get to raising pigeons and never understood it.  They just never appealed to me.  I have to admit now, they are pretty awesome to have around.

How does my garden grow?

Drought be damned, we have been irrigating.

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Broom corn

Broom corn is a lot of fun to grow.somehow, I was not paying attention and missed the whole 14 foot tall memo.

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It gets huge!  I think this would make a wonderful plant for pole beans.  This week we harvested it.

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Perfect for dried floral arrangements.  Maybe one day soon we will get ambitious and make some brooms.

Neighbor problems

Garden D is located in a more suburban part of st louis.  It’s still the city, but the neighborhood lacks the racial and economic diversity that mine does.  At least on the surface.  Here is our garden.

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It’s not a great picture, but you get the idea.  Long and narrow.  Right next door the neighbour has his long back yard set up very similarly.  He has a job that keeps him on the road, but the lot is full if vegetables and flowers all the same.  We have always thought it a blessing.  Hard to isolate veggies for seed saving but at least there was a kindred spirit there.   The last free years when there was no garden on our lot, hes been generous in helping control the johnson grass infestation at the back of the property.  Unfortunately, thats a darn hard weed to kill.  Also unfortunately, we are organic and he is not.

He recently came home and for unknown reasons decided running a mower through our garden was the thing to do.

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Mowing didn’t stop with the weeds sadly and he ran right over our tomatoes.

So here is a picture of his garden.

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Here is ours.

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Where are the weeds coming from?  I know it’s easy to point fingers at the crazy organic people, but I think it’s clear that organic garden is lending itself to better results than round up dependant gardening.

I understand that sometimes we take our frustrations to the garden and come back feeling better, but please try not to take then next door to your neighbours garden.  Not cool.

On the plus side, we have decidedo to risk some short season summer veggies on the newly mowed area.  It will be exciting to see what succeeds.  Here are the new plantings.

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Mowing 10 feet into the yard can be dealt with,  hope karna doesn’t come down on him too hard.

On a passive aggressive note,  I did plant pumpkins in between each crop right on the property edge.  I will try to keep them trained over to our side, but sometimes things get overlooked.

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood

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Pear Tree of Giving

Being involved with the sustainable backyard tour has helped me connect with my community.  Last week I walked my neighbors over to a wonderful gardener who lives nearby to introduce them.   My neighbor is from Mexico and is interested in growing sunflowers.  The gardener has a great collection on his property.  They talked and will be getting some seedsfor some stunning teddy bear sunflowers.

On the way home, we walked the alleys and found a ton of neglected apple trees and a huge mature pear tree.  Earlier today I was talking to a gardening friend and mention this pear tree.  We walked over to see it and decided we were going to pick it, because the property is uninhabited. 

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This thing is huge!  We pulled up and I saw someone sitting in the neighbors yard.  I mentioned to my friend that we should probably ask the guy if he thought it would be ok.  We get out and low and behold its a former coworker of my friend and he’s the caretaker for the property with the pear tree.  After some catching up we got to work.  Soon neighbors from all over the block turned out with bags and we all had a lovely time picking pears together.  We managed to clean out the pears up to 6 feet off the ground and get permission to come back tomorrow and pick the rest.  We didn’t even get the big ones yet! 

In exchange, we are going to prune up the tree and make it easier to deal with.  Some of the pears we were pulling off were easily a pound each.  The maintenance guy tells us that he throws out 50 bushels a year.  We got back home and I think we ended up with 8 bushels.  I took 4 for canning, my friends us going to keep two, and the rest are going to the neighborhood gods pantry. 

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Looking back at the tree, it appears as if we did not even get a quarter of them. 

In my book this is yet another reason to live in the city.  Gardeners have come before us and their legacy can still feed us.

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Sad Conversation

So, I tool around on the internet when I suffer from my insomnia and last night was a big winner in the insomnia department.  I adore Reddit sadly and find it a great way to kill time when I can’t sleep.  Last night this link came up:  Congress Delays Farm Bill as Drought Spreads

I am very fond of politics and sad at the state our nation is in related to politics at the same time.  I know I am terribly, terribly liberal and I feel that the Democratic party is too moderate for my tastes.  I don’t feel like there are real choices in our political system and it’s a choice of voting for who is pandering most effectively.  That is not what this post is about though.  I feel that I need to give fair warning where I stand politically though because these issues have somehow been wrapped up in Republican vs. Democrat debates and good solid science is just left to the winds.  Each person enters into this debate with different emotional afflictions though and I can’t say that I am not.

I’m frustrated at the farm bills.  I’m frustrated because with my limited understanding of them, it seems that they support all the wrong kinds of farming.  We subsidize foods that are not the most nutritious, but are fillers.   There are other problems, but I don’t want to belabor my point.  I have a degree in plant and soil science from SIU-C.  My focus was horticulture and landscape design, I don’t want to misrepresent myself.  Part of my program however was to take courses that covered the scope of American farming.  Crop sciences, Agricultural economics, etc.  I did an externship at a seed supplier who distributed seed to rural farmers in Illinois.  My father worked for my grandfather on the family farm when I was little.  I worshipped the two of them and even at such a young age would love to sit and listen to the men talk about how they were running the farm.  My grandfather always brought people home for meals and distributed Badger equipment and Purina feeds.  I remember sitting at the back of the family room during some kind of meeting about pork production and raising hogs on concrete pads.  I loved the farm and that love of working with food stayed with me.  My brother owns that farm and that family room now and I am constantly amazed at his stamina in working full time, having four kids, and producing some of the most delicious meat I’ve ever tasted.

The above article lead me to respond in a sarcastic manner about our congress and the influence that big farming has over our nations farmers.  I remember watching commercials during the evening news from my grandmothers bed on all sorts of herbicides and other chemicals playing over and over and over again.  I never questioned the necessity of them.  The indoctrination started as far back as I can remember.  I went through my externship never questioning the seed production in our country.  I watched signs go up on test plots in the country and thought those test plots represented real progress in my lifetime.  Then I went to work.  I got my chemical applicators license and sincerely believed that Round Up was so harmless that you could probably drink it.  One of my coworkers accidentally drenched his clothing in it and kept working, by the end of the day he was silly and hallucinating and we all thought it was a funny incident and terribly harmless.  I hate to think of the long term effects of that.  I dutifully went out and sprayed peoples landscaping beds and trees with who knows what.  No mask.  Long sleeves, long pants, but breathing it all in as I sprayed above me.  I thought the chemicals were a god send.  It saved so much on labor.   I could make so many people have pristine yards.  I watched my now husband spray all sorts of crazy chemicals on things.  He is still breathing in who knows what to this day.  He is now an IronWorker and builds things like oil refineries.  Soon, he will be leaving to Canada to work on the pipeline coming through Alberta.  We all get up and go to work and do what we need to do to get by, but sometimes I think it deadens us to what is going on around us.  Should my husband go build a pipeline and support big oil?  Ethically, probably not, but that is a hard decision to make when you have bills to pay and children to feed.

It’s difficult to gain perspective and see what is actually happening around you and try new things.  You want your time to be most effective at meeting your needs and it is easy to walk willingly into bad ideas that are seemingly cost effective at the time.  Take Round Up ready corn for example.  This is the product that started to open my eyes.  One thing I learned in college was that nature constantly changes and adapts.  I’ve used Round Up, I’ve watched certain weeds in certain yards get harder and harder to kill after multiple applications.  I could see that weed seeds that resisted the Round Up survived my applications and inevitably, nature would find a work around if I kept it up.  Then Round Up Ready Corn hit the market and it was a wake up call to me.  I couldn’t understand how that could work.  Nature would adapt.  It seemed entirely obvious.  That was a while back, now we see this from two years agoFarmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds.  Have we done anything with this knowledge?  Why, yes:  Losing the War on Weeds.  We are often choosing to go back to tilling, more chemicals, and other practices that roundup ready was supposed to save us from.  I don’t see how things have really changed, we just keep reinventing a type of farming that isn’t proving to be viable.

Anyway, that brings  us to this:

My sarcastic comment was responded to by and earnest and hard working farmer.  I don’t want to belittle him.  He is doing what he feels is right and trying to do best by his land and his family.  The problem that I see here and was commenting about in my first comment is that sometimes, salespeople and culture get into our heads and undermine what we think we know.  This man would not intentionally harm his land, he wouldn’t hurt his profits, and he wouldn’t try to harm anyone around him.  The frustration for me comes in that we are not speaking the same language.

Part of landscaping and really the majority of my career has been sales.  I’ve been to so much sales training it’s not even funny.  There are so many seminars out there to teach you how to use vocabulary and perks to sell anything.  Part of the main goal of most is to emphasize what the product will do for you.  Save time, save money, increase comfort.  This process of sales develops a vocabulary with your customers.  Your customers learn this vocabulary and use it with each other.  They then become in the know and it increases the difficulty of discussions with folks outside your normal parameters.

This man believes he is farming sustainably.  My sustainably and his sustainably are not the same.  His definition:  “producing profit on a consistent basis and not degrading the land.”  “includes GMO crops, chemical herbicides and pesticides.”

My definition:  Utilizing nature’s own mechanisms for control of pests and invasive weeds without the use of fossil fuels or other limited quantity substances.

Here is Wikipedia’s take on Sustainable Agriculture.  I really like what it says there.  I suspect the other guy wouldn’t disagree too much with it either.  We have commonalities in our goals.  I want to make money at farming.  I want to improve my soils and provide for my children.  I’m choosing a vastly different path.

Our beliefs about this definition don’t come from our politics necessarily, but the same mechanism has created a gulf in our vocabulary that makes it difficult for our minds to meet.  How do we bridge this gap as a nation or as just humans and work past it to make a better world with better soil?  We all want to feed people, we all want to provide.  We are the nurturers and the farmers and the keepers of this earth.  How do we bridge the divide in our current culture?  I find this a monumental and sad question that I have no answers for.