Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Are you AgriTrue?

I am really excited about a new program that's just getting started.  It's called AgriTrue and it's designed specifically for small, local, sustainable producers and their consumers.  The whole idea is introduce a free market system without a bunch of redtape that will give consumers meaningful information.  Right now anyone can slap "all natural" on a product and free range chickens may never actually see sunlight.  Organic designation means that the farmer has done a lot of paperwork and little else.

So, I welcome the concept of AgriTrue.  Here's how it will work.  I have chicken, eggs, and produce for sale.  I meet AgriTrue's basic standards, so I register myself on their website, with details on how I produce things and photos of my operation.  You can hit the website at your leisure or I can post a copy of my certificate with a QR code in farmer's market booth or at my roadside stand.  You, the consumer, gets to know that I've met some minimum standards and you can see exactly how organic, sustainable, etc., my operation is.  I as the producer get free publicity on the site, and I can get a meaningful certification without spending hours and hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Here are the minimum standards (they're still a work in progress) from the AgriTrue FAQ:

The producer must guarantee that they do not use genetically modified seeds.

What are the minimum standards for plant based foods under the AgriTrue name?
  • The producer must guarantee that they do not use chemical herbicides.
  • The producer must guarantee that they do not use chemical pesticides.
  • The producer must utilize methods that improve soil quality from year to year and do not rely solely on chemical fertilizers.
  • No more than 30 percent of the land or space under cultivation can be dedicated to any single crop variety.
  • At least 10 percent of the land under cultivation must be planted with non food crops that provide predator habitat and/or allow for the production of organic matter for soil building.
What are the minimum standards for animal based foods under the AgriTrue name?
  • Animals must be treated ethically. Specific guidelines for individual species are forth coming but all animals must have access to fresh air, quality feed, reasonable space, fresh water and decent living conditions.
  • Animals may not be given antibiotics for preventative purposes, only for acute conditions that warrant antibiotic treatment. Such animals may not be used for production of any food for 21 days after completion of an antibiotic regime.
  • At least 20% of the animals feed must be produced on site, this can be via pasture feeding, harvesting feed for the animals, etc.
If this sounds like something you would be interested in learning about (and even helping design), visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/agritrue.

UPDATE:  A blog post by the founder describing his vision.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

R.I.P Buddy

Life on the homestead is generally a fun, rewarding, and often maddening experience.  It's amazing to be an integral part of the cycle of life going on around you; to know that the food you are putting on the table comes from a developing balanced ecosystem (aka permaculture).  Also, the knowledge that our animals are raised humanely, in the manner God designed them, is a huge blessing.  Not only is it better for the environment and better for the animals, but the food is more nutritious as well.

But, it's not always sunshine and laughter.  I was speaking to a colleague at work who is almost a vegetarian because she just doesn't like the idea of something having to die so she can eat.  Death is always a part of life.  The minerals in your vegetables come from the soil and the soil largely gets it from dead animals.  Accepting that is part of living on a farm.  But, it isn't always easy.....

Buddy's Story

I was out in the garden Thursday morning and got a call on my cell phone.  (I was using its iPod to listen to The Survival Podcast while I was out there.)  It was a post office about 50 miles from our house.  "We have your chicks.  Where is <my hometown>?"  When the post office doesn't even know where you are, that's a pretty bad sign.

I told them roughly where we lived and they hatched a scheme to pass the chicks off from post office to post office to get them to our town.  To me this sounded like a bad idea.  In and out of the A/C; truck to truck, handler to handler.  It sound like a recipe for sick chicks.  So, I piled the kids into the Suburban and off we drove to get them.  The post office had them for about and hour and a half from the time the called me to the time I picked them up.  In that time, 2 Barred Rock pullets succumbed to the cool temps in the climate controlled post office.

Healthy chicks:  to the front is a Rhode Island
Red cockerel, left a Barred Rock pullet, the
others are Rhode Island Red pullets
Another hour and a half and we were home.  The chicks still living were moved into their brooder, but we noticed that one of the Rhode Island Red pullets was having trouble standing.  We decided to brood the bunch inside with our little sick one treated for splayed legs and in her own "hospital box" inside the larger brooder.  (The treatment for splayed legs involves using a band-aid or first aid tape to hobble the legs and bring them under the chick so they can develop the muscle tone to stand normally, if you want more info, comment below and I'll help you out.)  She did well the first day, drinking her sugar water, taking some honey off my finger and eating some.  By day two she was trying to stand, but still having trouble.  She seemed determined to douse herself in her water dish at every opportunity, so we spent a lot of time holding her near the brooder lamp so she'd stay warm enough.  She was noticeably smaller than her brothers and sisters.  My older son named her his "sick little buddy."  So, Buddy she became.

This morning she was still alert but unable to stand.  Thinking that she was likely vitamin deficient at this point, we fed her some more honey and ran out to the feed store and got her some nutri-drench.  My daughter stayed home to rescue her from her tendency to wet herself and get chilled.  When we got home, she was much the same.  My husband picked her up to examine her and noticed she had worn the skin off her knee standing on it and her bone was exposed.  The knee was totally dislocated and there was no sign of the attendant tendons.

So, we decided to put her down.  When you've spent so much energy keeping an animal alive, it's never easy doing what needs to be done.  But, death is always a part of life and little Buddy will become soil soon, to nourish life anew.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Garden Irony

I've been envying my neighbor's sweet corn.  It's tall and a beautiful green and just looks yummy.  All the stalks are the same height and it just looks beautiful.  Your typical chemically fertilized corn.   My corn is a little different in height, not a deep green, and not incredibly beautiful.  Since we've been on vacation it's also very weedy (working on that, promise).  Boy, did I wish that corn was mine, chemicals and all.

At least, that was the way things looked YESTERDAY.  Last night we had a huge storm with tons of wind.  Now my neighbor's corn is a beautiful deep green pile of leaves.  My corn however, is still standing.  Just goes to show you that even when the grass is greener, that doesn't mean it's better.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Framing the debate

I've been thinking this week about abortion. As a child born post Roe v. Wade to an unwed immigrant mother who put her up for adoption, I've been pro-life ever since I knew pro-life existed. My husband was adopted. My grandmother was adopted. My brother was adopted. My best friend in high school was adopted. We all have different stories, but a common thread--any of us could have been killed before we'd been given an true chance at living. Unwed mothers, immigrants, college students with bright futures, drug and alcohol abuse, potential physical deformities, birth defects, a mother who died giving birth, unwanted pregnancy, abuse, poverty; we run the gambit of all the "good" reasons to abort. And yet, every one of us is ALIVE. In every case our biological mothers chose to have us, and every one of us is pretty darn thankful for that. So, pro-life for me is part of my very existence and the existence of many of the people I care the most about. I take arguments in favor of abortion as a personal affront--because what these people are saying is that we SHOULDN'T BE HERE. With the stroke of a "clever" argument meant to inspire compassion for women, my existence is negated. While compassion for women is difficult circumstances is the duty of every Christian, nay, every humane person, compassion for the child is just as important, in some cases more so.

I am the face of abortion.

But recently I've thought about how we throw that word around. "Abort" "Abortion" Even pro-choice advocates use the words all the time. Familiarity breeds contempt. When's the last time you really thought about what these words mean? The World English Dictionary defines abort as:

— vb
1. to undergo or cause (a woman) to undergo the termination of pregnancy before the fetus is viable
2. ( tr ) to cause (a fetus) to be expelled from the womb before it is viable

3. ( intr ) to fail to come to completion; go wrong

4. ( tr ) to stop the development of; cause to be abandoned
5. ( intr ) to give birth to a dead or nonviable fetus
6. (of a space flight, military operation, etc) to fail or terminate prematurely
7. ( intr ) (of an organism or part of an organism) to fail to develop into the mature form

— n
8. the premature termination or failure of (a space flight, military operation, etc)
"abort." Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. 09 Jul. 2011. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abort>.


In addition to the common definitions we think of, abort also means, "to fail to come to completion; go wrong," "to stop the development of; cause to be abandoned," "to fail or terminate prematurely," "to fail to develop into the mature form," and "the premature termination or failure of." Even the very word abort should bring to mind the tragic snuffing of a real person. Because we bandy the word about in political efforts we, in my opinion, cloud these definitions with a convenient short-hand that lets abortionists off the hook.

How many young people today even understand what the word means? It's not some ivory tower description of a simple medical procedure. It's the ending of something special, something magical, something good and blessed. And I weep for those who unwitting support it without ever coming to that realization.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back from vacation

We're big believers in personal security here at the farm.  So, when we go on vacation, I just sort of drop off the map rather than annoucing to the world, "Hey, come rob me and vandalize my yard!"  We've been back from the 5th and I've a lot of things to post about.  Once I get them all straightened out in my head I'll post about them. Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Wow, they'd hate us!

A suburban Detroit family is being prosecuted persecuted for daring to have their vegetables in the front yard.  This is why I will never live in the city.  They don't allow clothes lines anywhere on the property either.  With all the problems the city has, you'd think people would have bigger fish to fry.