Saturday, October 31, 2009

A disappointing day

Well, what can I say, today marks one of the most disappointing days we've had since we've lived here at our place in northern WI. There is a reason for everything but, today's disappointment finds us scratching for answers wondering about the deeper meaning of life and it's seemingly random events.

This has been a tough year of hard work. The weather has been a challenge to say the least with unseasonably cold temperatures most of the summer coupled with dry conditions. On the plus side we planned out this years pastured chicken enterprise to the tee. After last years shortage of baby chicks we didn't want to get caught coming up short two years in a row, so Kelli arranged it in advance with our regional hatchery to have consecutive delivery's of broiler chicks through out the spring and summer. It was working beautifully. We even successfully raised a batch of turkeys the first time since we've been here. We tried turkeys once years ago but they all died within the first few days or so. We found out too late that often you have to teach the babies how to eat and drink by putting their beaks in the water and food dishes. Once we learned that this is sometimes the case it was too late and they all died. This time we did it right and have been eagerly waiting for our first farm raised turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.

Out of a dozen baby turkeys we wound up with 9 adults. We lost three early on. They have been at butchering size for a couple weeks now. Once people found out we had turkeys we had numerous orders for as many as we could spare. We planned on keeping two for ourselves and selling the rest.

Well all summer I've been faithfully tending the turkeys and hundreds of broiler chickens. We ordered the broilers in groups of 30 for every couple weeks or so. That way it's been easier come butchering time so it's not such an all day project. We can process about ten chickens an hour going at a reasonable pace without going at breakneck speed all day long. That's what we have to do when we raise a hundred at a time.

So as the season is winding down we've wound up with one movable pen for the 9 turkeys. And three other movable pens for the remaining chickens. It's been a great year for raising poultry. However, we did have one short stint of hot weather and lost a couple to the heat but, other than that the cool weather has been good for them.

Well, to get back to why this day has been one of our most disappointing times of our lives while living here at our farm. Last night we had a pretty good wind storm. It was raining and it was a little warmer than it has been the past weeks. Kind of felt like summer again. The lights kept flickering and we even had a few brief power outages. We turned off the computer and unplugged the Internet. Just to be cautious I even filled some extra water jugs and made sure the dogs water bucket was topped off. The outside chores we're all done so everything was just fine, we were ready for what ever nature would throw at us.

Well, by the next morning the wind had died down quite a bit and we were surprised to see that our world was white once again with a fresh layering of snow. I wasn't in any hurry to go out and do my morning chores since the temperature had plummeted. A huge change from the previously wet and balmy air the night before. So I was really milking my morning coffee and enjoyed just looking outside at the beautiful fresh snow rather than going out in it.

As I gazed out at the beauty of the morning a movement caught my eye. At first I thought it was the neighbors dog coming for another visit. Then I realized it was a coyote. A very nice looking one that I had seen just down the road a matter of days ago. It appeared to be ea
ting something. By now the whole family was looking out at the preoccupied critter. He was definitely feasting on something. Not a real good sign what with all the animals we have around here. We have sheep and we have lots of poultry. Maybe one of them got out and the wily coyote got it. At this point I thought it highly unlikely that it had gotten in with any of our animals since they are all penned up pretty good.

Even though the coyote was a pretty nice looking animal, in fact it is about the nicest looking one I've ever seen around here, I didn't want to push our luck and let it keep eating whatever it was that it was eating. In all likelihood it was something that belonged to us. So I ran for my rifle and headed outside. It was a little farther off than I would have liked for a good clean shot. And for some reason my adrenaline was pumping pretty good so when I set my sites on it I was shaking quite alot. Too much actually. The critter sensed my presence and he started getting nervous. He trotted over to something else and started nervously eating, again. By this point I'm starting to think the worst. There was now at least two dead somethings out there. Not good, not good at all. So I took aim at it again. It seemed even more imperative now. Once a varmint gets a taste of something they are hooked for life. And they won't stop until there is nothing left for them or they themselves are dead. With coming to this realization my heart started to pound even harder making it even harder to hold my aim on the target.

The coyote new I was there. He was a good sized animal with beautiful fur. He began to eat nervously and could hardly stand still. He was moving about. After every bite he'd act as if he was going to run off. He was wolfing it down. So before I could gain my composure and calm my shakiness I took a chance and pulled the trigger. AND I MISSED! I couldn't believe it. The first time I ever missed a predator since we've been here. I only had one bullet in the gun so I reached for my pocket to get another one. By then he was on the run. He was out of sight before I could get my rifle loaded again. A hard lesson learned, don't go out with just one bullet in the gun. Take the extra time to load it up.

Well, I went out to see what it was the critter was eating and I could hardly believe my eyes. During the night the wind blew over 3 of my movable pens and there was not a living bird to be seen. The things the coyote was eating was not one but, two of our prized turkeys. The wind was so strong the night before that it turned over 3 of our pens tumble weed style. As I assessed the damage I saw not one living bird. I realized that it must have happened sometime before the snow came because there were virtually no tracks in it. Just the ones from the coyote who returned for breakfast. As it went, my family spotted another one that I didn't see at that point, out along the tree line. So there was at least two coyotes. The dead turkey's we're easy to see, their dark bodies against the newly laid snow. The chickens were white and I only saw a couple of them. I figured the field was full of them and I just couldn't see them against the snow.

The gravity of the loss took a little to contemplate. Let's see, "one pen 28 chickens, the other 8 chickens and the third pen 9 turkeys, all together 45 birds gone". Words kept going through my mind like "no sense crying over spilled milk" and "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away".

I was especially saddened at the loss of the turkeys. I babied them all summer and was looking forward to a delicious farm raised Thanksgiving meal. I couldn't believe I was so stupid as to not stake down the pens in that wind. We haven't had wind like that for a long time and I just did not think of it. However the ones that tipped over we're not the hoop style pens. They were 3 that I slapped together with parts I had on hand. They're square. Kind of like Salatin style pens but taller. Taller is the mistake. We get fairly big winds across our quarter mile field and everything should be stream lined out there or staked down. Once again I remind myself "no sense crying over spilled milk." What's done is done. I just really hated losing those turkey's. My parents pastor was even getting a couple for a church dinner.

The rest of the day we kind of did damage assessment as we went about doing the things we do. The snow eventually melted and we only found two chicken carcases and about four clumps of white chicken feathers. There are over 30 birds unaccounted for. I found the remains of almost every turkey. So we wonder where are the rest of the chickens? Someone suggested maybe they are still alive out running around somewhere. Not likely though, because you would think we'd see at least one.

There must have been a pack of coyotes. Which is not uncommon in these parts as we often hear them in the woods at night. And more and more there are wolf sightings in our community. A wolf was spotted just three driveways down from us. Less than a quarter mile away. A few weeks ago I saw a smallish looking female a couple miles down the road. My parents saw one in the same general direction but, farther down the highway. Someone else we know, recently
almost hit one with their car in the same area. And last year friends of ours had a wolf in their pasture lazily laying down and looking in the direction of their cattle. Must of have been trying to figure out if they were big deer or what! It never bothered their cattle however. Which is great!

Our friend with the cattle told someone from the DNR about it and they said there wasn't any wolves in our area. I told my friend that if that's the case then he should be able to shoot that big "dog" that's been eyeing up his cattle. Now don't get me wrong I think wolves and even coyotes are real neat. They have their place in this world for sure. But, not when it comes to our livelihood. My policy is if they don't mess with me I won't mess with them. A friend even chastised me once for not taking a shot at a fox that was passing through. I didn't figure it was hurting anything so I let it be. I could have shot it, but I didn't.

Wolves are getting to be in the news more and more around here. It seems they are killing peoples dogs. In particular hunting dogs. Here's a link to some of that news.
Wolves kill five more hunting dogs in northern Wisconsin by Paul A. Smith of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I read this story the other day. It was written back in September. I was especially taken back by some of the comments that followed the article. One commentor accused the author of being anti-wolf or so it seemed. And more than one expressed anti-hunting sentiments, very strongly. I guess what takes me back is the fact of how people become so impassioned about something that they take leave of their senses. I found myself being annoyed how the pro-wolf people bashed the hunters for not wanting to lose their dogs to wolves. A couple of them painted hunters in some kind of Neanderthal light. And I was irritated by the ones who seemed anti-wolf. People will argue over anything I guess. Just seemed kind of "Jerry Springer" to me. I was very annoyed by all of the comments following the article. I didn't think any of them made very good arguments. But, then again I get annoyed by most comments that follow articles I see in the news. A totally different subject but, I see those kinds of moronic comments as proof that fluoridated drinking water is effecting the population.

Anyway, we had a bad day today! One that will go down in our family archives as one our most disappointing. It's not just the monetary loss which we estimated it to be about $800 worth of meat. But, it is all that goes into it. You take care of something from it's very beginning. Birds are especially fragile as babies. You feed them, take care of them, keep them warm and dry. Keep them safe as humanly possible then in one night after weeks and weeks of care they're wasted!
There's alot of uneaten meat out there but, we just can't get ourselves to eat something after a coyote. There was one turkey that didn't have any thing eaten off of it but, just knowing some critter killed it is was enough for us to lose our appetite for it. If it was a matter of survival that might be a different matter.

Life is full of disappointments and one struggle after another no matter where you live or what you do. Just seems a little more so living this kind of life. There is more opportunity for stuff to happen I think. Something is always against you. Predators, pestilence, drought. Weeds! And and more weeds! The sun, the wind, the rain. The elements are against all of us. Everything you build is immediately becoming undone by all these things.

It seems all our work is a matter of organizing all the battles. We have to fight for what we have and for what we do. For life it's self. I look forward to the coming day of peace when the Prince of Peace comes and every one will "sit under their vine and under their fig tree". Finally, all of creation will live in harmony.
Until Next Time

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snow, greenhouses and sheep pens

Well, it snowed some on Friday and during that night and into Saturday. We had several inches on the ground Saturday morning. Wet and sloppy. Which is good really, because we’ve had a drought all summer. The pond is filling back up and the dry days of summer are getting to be but a distant memory. I am very thankful for the moister but, it does slow down the outdoor work.

We got new plastic on the green house and all weekend we’ve been working on getting the ends buttoned back up. We got some polycarbonate panels from those green houses we tore down in Rhinelander. I’m using them on the ends of our chicken house. Got a great deal on them since they are very pricey if they’re bought new. They are 3’ x 16’ long. The original owner had cut them down from 4’ wide to 3’. I just did a search for polycarbonate panels and found a new price at the greenhouseMegastore for $110.78 for a 48” x 16’ panel. We paid $200 for the whole green house. The polycarbonate panels ran the entire length of the 100’ green house on each side.

It was a major job tearing the green houses down however. If it weren’t for my Dad we wouldn’t have gotten it all taken down. There was three structures all together. We started tearing them down last year as mentioned in a past post in October of 2008. I got one of them torn down myself , friends got the other , and my Dad pretty much single handedly tore down the third one, (shown in the picture).

But, back to the topic of snow. This has been pretty unusual weather for us. It got so dry this summer that the lakes steams and ponds have shrunk considerably. Now in October we are getting rain and snow. All summer it was cool then come September it got warm. One of the warmest on record. Now it is getting like winter. Very unusual.

Yesterday morning was a challenge moving chicken pens and sheep pens in the snow. I built a moveable sheep pen back in the spring. I used 16’ cattle panels (an example of a cattle panel at left) and reinforced them with 2 x 4’s at the bottoms. The panels are all connected with “quick links” (shown in picture at right). I don’t have any pictures of the pen so I will try to describe it. I made a pen 32’ x 16’ long for the ewes and spring lambs. Then I attached another pen 16’ x 16’ to that for our two rams. That pen is divided in two, to keep the rams separated. The entire pen measures 16’ x 48’. I have chains attached to both ends and can pull it with my truck or Jeep either direction lengthwise. The 2 x 4’s are attached to the bottoms of each panel to give them rigidity. On each end of this structure I sandwiched 2 x 4’s at the bottom to give added strength for pulling. Those we’re put together with 4 inch bolts.

This might give you a vague description of what the sheep pen looks like. It held 17 sheep all together. I move it twice a day. I’m guessing it covered about 4 or 5 acres of pasture this summer. I’ve started back at the beginning by now. Actually I’m moving in the opposite direction now into grass that hasn’t been grazed because the previously grazed grass is not as rich this time of year. The un-grazed grass has some good greens in it since it is protected by the tall old dried out stuff. I’ll keep the sheep on that until the snows come for good.

This design has some kinks to be worked out of it. It works very good on smooth level ground. But, on uneven ground I broke several 2 x 4 boards. Also running over small saplings will break boards, which I did a couple times.
Then yesterday in the snow when I tried to move the pen I couldn’t get enough traction with the truck to pull it. The wheels kept spinning. So I went against my better judgment and tried getting a run at it and yanked the pen. Not a good idea because on about the third try I broke some boards. So I had to repair the pen yesterday before I could move it. Actually I did that later in the day and the snow was pretty much melted. I gave them hay in the morning until I could get to it. After I fixed the boards it pulled just fine on the snow-less ground. So lesson learned, I won’t be pulling it again in snow.
Another down side to this design is that the rams have pretty much destroyed their end of it. Especially Dakota our daddy ram. He is relentless. He rams the pen to try and get to his son Titan and he rams the pen to get to the ewes. Also Dakota and Titan bang heads through the dividing fence. A couple weeks ago they actually broke down the steel cattle panel dividing them and got in together. They proceeded to pound the daylights out of each other until I could get them separated. I repaired the panel with heavy wire and built a visual barrier with ½ inch green treated ply wood. That worked fine for the two boys but, then Dakota set his sites on the ewes and almost wreaked the steal panel between him and them. So then I attached another piece of plywood dividing Dakota from the ewes. This has worked to the present but, he still bangs on the plywood and has actually pounded a head sized hole in it between him and the ewes. I suppose next year I’ll keep the rams well away from the ewes in separate pens.

I learned about movable sheep pens from watching a Joel Salatin video. Works great as long as I can keep the pen together. What I built is my own design. I like using cattle panels because they are fairly light. Maybe going to 3, 16' panels long was too much. I really like keeping all the sheep together but, I might have to have a couple or three pens.
I know my description is a bit vague so I will try to get some pictures of the pen before the sheep go into their winter corrals. I should have gotten pictures at the beginning of the season since now it is pretty banged up looking. It would have been nice to take before and after pictures. But, the banged up version will definitely reflect reality. A whole season of heavy duty wear and tear.

Well, I guess this is about all I have time for, for now. I’m surprised that I have made this many posts as of late. It’s the shorter days and wet weather I reckon. More free time.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some bits and pieces

Recently, the fellow that grows sweet corn for us had some major health issues and has been unable to take care of his place, farm, garden, etc. Last weekend I took part in a church sponsored work day at his place. About 20 people were there doing all kinds of jobs that he has gotten behind on.

The church that put this on really did it up right. They had a portable toilet and a out-door wash station brought in for the crew. There was a table set up with food, coffee and other beverages. Potato harvesting was going on in the garden, an upstairs remodeling project was getting worked on with fresh stain being applied to new wood paneling. Ladies were cleaning house and a semi-truck load of logs was being cut up for fire wood and hauled to the basement.

From my dealings of buying corn with this man I feel that we've grown to be good friends. He's a committed Christian and we always have lots to talk about when ever we have dealings. His name is Paul. We're pretty close to the same age. He has developed quite a fondness for my Dad. He always enjoys visiting with my dad. The feeling is mutual I'm sure.

Anyway, most of the morning I was in the basement with Paul picking up fire wood and stacking it as a crew of workers pitched the wood in through the window. We all whiled away the morning joking and conversing the whole time. Tons of fun.

More than once I heard people say that all these people working together reminded them of how the Amish get together for barn raising's and the like. It did feel like that and was quite refreshing to participate in something like this that was so steeped in brotherly love. One time in the past I helped build a barn with a bunch of people but this was especially nice with everyone being of the same faith.

This is just one more thing that I like about living in the country. Oh, I suppose Christian people get together and help folks in the city too, but in this situation there was plenty of country type activities to help out with. Digging potatoes and chopping fire wood isn't the norm in the city that's for sure. At least it wasn't in my experience.

Speaking of fire wood, I've been meaning of telling about an encounter I had a couple months back with a man that visited the farm stand. Now this guy could talk. I remember him well from last year. He's in the heating business and vacations in these parts frequently. Nice enough fellow, with the gift of gab. Has a real appreciation for naturally grown food and I picked up on the fact that he was a bit of an environmentalist. I have a healthy dose of respect for the environment myself but, I'm not anywhere near a radical about it that's for sure. Anyway, with his most recent visit here we were talking and he told me how he's gotten into solar heating and he even got himself a pretty sizable grant from the government to boot. I'm always interested in alternative ways of doing things, especially if it brings a person an element of independence.

Well, I could tell the conversation was running it's course and the fellow started inching his way back towards his truck. It was then that he spotted our large stack of fire wood. He asked me what that was. Wanted to know if we sell fire wood. I pointed to the outdoor wood fired boiler and right off the guy says, "You're killing your kids with that thing!" I raised my eyebrows and let out an uncomfortable chuckle. "Your killing the next generation!!! I'm serious!", he exclaimed. He then went into a 10 minute diatribe into why it was bad to burn wood and why everyone should go solar. He kept making references to his sizable grant and how great our new president is. I had an idea that he leaned towards the radical side but, had no idea just how far he leaned. I was proud of myself for keeping my composure the whole time since I'm not used to people being that incensed about something I was involved with. I wasn't quite sure how to respond. I just kept nodding and shrugging and saying, "oh yeah?" "really?" "OK" "hmm".

As he headed for his big ole pick up truck I thanked him for stopping and told him to drop by again. The whole thing was kind of surreal. Kind of a head trip. I've heard plenty about people with those kinds of extreme views but, never been that up close and personal with it. After he left I began to process his whole line of reasoning.

He said I was killing my kids and the next generation for using an out door wood burning boiler. It's actually my dads but that is besides the point. The man assumed it was mine. And it might as well be because I'm all for it 100%.

He had gotten in his truck and roared off. It was a pretty good sized truck too. Might have been a 1 ton? I think it was a dually as well. I don't pay that much attention to those kinds of things but, it wasn't a small truck by any means. What a trip! The guy was absolutely vehement about burning wood yet drives a big truck to go on vacation. Oh yeah, he does do jobs in these parts when he's here so I guess he can justify the truck. But it just seemed a wee bit hypocritical to me.

For the record I don't not believe for a second that burning wood is bad for the environment. Or that it is harming my kids or the next generation. How in the world has humanity survived to this day, what with all the forest fires and wood fired heating down through the millennium past? And what about volcano's. Those things put off mega amounts of smoke. At that rate we should all be dead. Not to mention the all smoke stacks the world over chugging out all those toxic fumes. I just don't buy into all that. I think the earth is perfectly able to filter out all that smoke.

But, to be fair I realize that out-door wood burners put off lots of smoke and alot could be done to make them more efficient. I wouldn't dream of running one in the city. There are times when they put off way to much smoke to be acceptable in a residential setting, no doubt about it. But, given enough space I see nothing wrong with them. I look at burn barrels the same way. It kind of freaks me out that people can have such extreme view points and will swallow everything they hear hook line and sinker.

Well, the snow I told about in the last post vanished by the next day. The majority of it anyway. There was a little white stuff still left in the shaded area's. But a couple days after that there wasn't even a trace of that left. They were calling for a bunch of snow this Friday actually. Up to six inches. But, they have changed that all ready and it looks like it's going to be just rain.

Our neighbor across the highway has been helping me with the garbage route for the past month and a half. His name is Mike. Known of him for nearly 20 years but, have only gotten to really know him these past 7 weeks. Kind of hard to believe. Before now I only talked to Mike 3 or 4 times since 1990 when we first got this place. We all just live our lives and seldom deviate from our normal routines. Goes both ways I reckon.

Anyway, it's been nice to have the help. I did the route by myself all summer. Didn't feel we could afford hiring someone with all the extra landfill expenses this year. I'm not sure how long we'll keep him on. We may get in a pinch once the seasonal people are all gone I don't know. But, the Lord has been providing. Mike needs a job and it is nice to have the help, so until I get a clear indication as far as our finances go I reckon we'll keep him on. He drove truck for alot of years so it is nice to have someone helping who has driving experience. He's been around the block a time or two, ya know?

Gardening is pretty much wrapped up for the season. But, we still have potatoes and carrots in the ground. Need to get those dug up soon. The farm stand is closed. Sales pretty much died off after Labor Day.

Kelli and I did a big project yesterday that's been way over due. We use a green house as a chicken coop and the plastic gave way a couple winters back. Yesterday we got the old stuff removed and brand spanking new plastic put on. The stuff we had on it before was at least 5 years old when we got it. We used it continuously for 11 years. That's at least 16 years. I think it is actually older than that. I'll bet it is closer to 20 years old. The manufacturers say it's good for only 5. But, I always push stuff to it's absolute limit.

I do the same thing with clothes, shoes and even cars. We have three vehicles with over 200,000 miles on them. Two of those three are work trucks for the business. Our newest vehicle, a 97 Jeep Grand Cherokee, has 176,000. One of those with over 200,000 is a 1994 Jeep Sport that we bought new in 94. It has been one good machine for us. The most serious work I've ever had done to it was to replace a pilot bearing in the clutch. Put a new clutch in then too just because it was all apart, but it didn't really need it. Had to replace some broken leaf springs too, but that is it for the big stuff. The 97 Grand Cherokee on the other hand isn't near the machine that the 94 is. Too many gizmo's to go wrong on it. I always wanted a Grand Cherokee but, I'm disappointed with this one.

I really don't blog that much anymore. With all the sobering news out there it's been harder and harder to cough up a decent post. I don't know why I let it effect me but, it does. Things in the world seem down right bleak sometimes actually. It breaks my heart to see this country going down the tubes like it is. I know that God is in complete control and that nothing happens without His consent but, it is still hard to see nonetheless.

I think one of the things that get to me the most are the fact that we are in not one but, two useless no win wars where it seems the powers that be are just playing games with millions of people lives. These never ending wars are getting down right ridiculous, don't you think? It has gotten way past due for them to either really put the whoop on and win or just get out. But, the sad reality is it looks like Vietnam all over again and someone in high places just don't want us to win. There must be some ulterior motives that the masses are not privy to. What else could it be?

Well before I let this spiral down into a post about doom and gloom I'd better cut it off here. God is still in control! But, I believe He is trying to get everyones attention.

Until Next Time

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Knee deep in snow

It snowed pretty good here yesterday. When I got home from the route I measured 2, 1/2 inches on the hood of our Jeep. Wet snow was hanging on everything.

But, what's this stuff about "knee deep snow" you might ask? Well, let me explain.

Later when I was out doing my evening chores, snow was just sticking to everything, every blade of grass, every branch and leaf. Even the wire on the electric fence. When I walked through the tall grass pretty soon I was covered in snow up to my knees. It was just like walking in knee deep snow! Might as well have been with how much snow was all over me.

So there it is, we had knee deep snow in October if you can believe that! ha, ha

Until Next Time

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weed Control

Video by

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Valley Hope Forgot

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

SWAT raid on food storehouse heading to trial Family sues over confiscation of supplies, computers

I've posted links to this story in the past. Here's an update from WND.

Posted: October 06, 20098:29 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Jacqueline and John Stowers
A lawsuit brought by an Ohio family whose children were held at SWAT-team gunpoint while their food supplies were confiscated is scheduled to go to trial this week.
John and Jackie Stowers are suing the Ohio Department of
Agriculture and the Lorain County General Health District over the raid on their "Manna Storehouse," an organic food co-op that operated in LaGrange.

The Stowers and their 10 children and grandchildren were detained in one room of their home for six hours while sheriff's officers confiscated 60 boxes of fresh farm food, computers, phones and records, including USDA-certified meat from the children's mini-farm, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The state and county are accused of 119 counts, including unlawful search and seizure, illegal use of state police power, taking of private property without compensation, failure to provide due process and equal protection and a multitude of constitutional rights violations, including the right to grow and eat one's own food and offer it to others.
WND reported when the case developed a year ago.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Why is "organic" more expensive?

Why is "organic" more expensive? That is a question someone recently asked. Being familiar with the subject for so long I tend to take it for granted and think that everyone would know the answer to that question. But, as it turns out not everybody does.

So why is it so expensive anyway? To answer that question I think we have to go back to the advent of modern industrial methods of mass production. I would think most people realize how the innovations of Henry Ford did alot to refine the modern mass production assembly line. It didn't take very long before the industrial revolution drastically changed the way farmers grew peoples food. Making obsolete age old, from time memorial, farming methods, almost over night.

What a wonderful boom time it was. For the first time in history people of all walks of life could enjoy the conveniences and comforts usually afforded by only the most elite. Assembly line industrial processes could make almost everything affordable. And with a fairly high degree of quality and dependability.

The demand for products created by highly skilled craftsmen slowly gave way to industrial stamped, molded and formed merchandise. It is easy to see in photographs and films of days gone by how the style of architecture, automobiles, products, clothing, etc. changed with the advent of modern industrial methods.

However the hidden cost of affordability is the sacrifice of a certain degree of artistic aesthetics and quality. This can be seen in the architecture of many 100 plus year old homes where one can see the beauty of hand crafted wood designs and masonry components. Today only the most wealthy can afford such luxurious facades which seemed almost common place around the turn of the last century.

In the relentless rush to produce more and more, at cheaper and cheaper prices, much in the way of quality and dependability is being lost. Planned obsolescence has actually been part of the marketing strategies of many companies even as far back as the past 40 to 60 years. I once learned about a Wisconsin company that manufactured engines. They were so well built that they seldom broke down or wore out. The company went out of business and has been a case study ever since in the argument in favor for planned obsolescence. In order for a manufacturing company to stay in business they must design into their products a certain 'life span' so that replacement of the thing and the sales of parts keeps the business growing and prospering. Seems kind of absurd but, that is life in the modern world.

In the continuing push for more, more, more, and cheaper, cheaper, cheaper as perfected by the big box stores like K-Mart and Wal-Mart it seems a tipping point has been reached and the pendulum is beginning to swing back. People are wanting something better than what is being sold.

It seems we've reached a point in the 21st century that manufacturers are now producing alot of junk! Products that are of such poor quality that reliability and dependability are a thing of the past for far to many manufactured items. This we can attest to with first hand experience while living life on this northern homestead.

While working and spending alot of time outdoors, clothing is the first line of defense and protection against the elements. Wal-Mart clothes simply won't do. They don't hold up and will not withstand the demands of hard work. Maybe for people who do alot of sitting on the couch watching television they're alright but, for those of us who work outside they are a waste of money. In this case cheaper definitely is not better. And, it has gotten to where we avoid the "made in China" stamp like the plague not just for patriotic reasons but, for practical reasons.

Another prime example of the junk being sold in stores these days is with tarp straps. We use quite a few of them in our business and on the farm. The all rubber ones with the S-hooks inserted in each end. Earlier this year I bought some from Menards to hold down a tarp over our movable sheep pen. The tarp is for shade from the sun and shelter from rain in the summer. The first moderately strong wind that blew against that tarp less than a week after installing the new straps broke half of those brand new tarp straps. Total junk. I have rubber tarp straps that I'm still using that I got when we first started hauling garbage back 9 years ago that are just as good today as they were then. They're out in the elements all the time and the sun beats down on them and they still work. Those old straps where made in the USA, the new ones are made in China. We simply are tired of wasting our money.

But, back to the question at hand. Why is organic or naturally grown food so much more expensive? It might not be quite as apparent with industrial manufactured food as it is with manufactured merchandise, that quality is being sacrificed, but it really is. Quality as well as safety is certainly being sacrificed. Industrial farming methods specialize in quantity, cheaper products and ease of production. More, more, more for less, less, less. This has been the only way for farmers to compete. That is, until recent years, with the adoption of "organic" farming methods.

After several generations of industrial food production people are finally catching on to the fact that food isn't as nutritious and healthy as it used to be. "Food" might be cheap and plentiful in modern times, enabling people to keep their belly's full and their waistlines plump, but sacrificed health and well being has been an enormous cost.

Besides modern machinery, the widespread use of chemicals have been the back bone of modern industrial food production. The modern industrial farm cannot function with out chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. These things combined with government subsidies are what give the developed world cheap and abundant "food".

If it wasn't bad enough, what little nutrition might remain in industrial produced food is completely lost with the convenience of prepackaged ready to eat meals laden with all kinds of chemicals, preservatives and additives. Vitamins and minerals actually have to be added back into most packaged and prepared foods. So the pendulum swings back and people are seeking out food that is once again nutritious, healthy and safe.

There has always been a segment of the population that has rejected the modern industrial practices of food production. The back-to-the-landers from the 60's and 70's were among some of the first, until present times where back yard gardeners are becoming more and more numerous. And organic farmers are now trying to meet the demand of a more informed public, those who want safe and healthy food.

Growing food the "old fashion" way isn't easy. Though most organic farmers do not reject modern labor saving machinery like tractors and mechanized harvesters, the use of chemicals is strictly prohibited. However, the purist would use only horses, mules or oxen on the farm. Without herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers the challenges of weed and pest control and soil fertility put the organic farmer at a definitive disadvantage over his industrialized counterparts. Keeping his fields fertile and free of weeds and harmful insects is the number one challenge and adds a considerable amount of labor and cost to his operation. These challenges would be one of the reasons "organic" is more expensive.

From another angle it is no secret that it is getting ever more difficult for modern farmers to stay in business. For many years now the next generations see no future in their fathers and grandfathers profession of farming. The modern farmer is like an endangered species. He has to work more and more for less and less. Perpetually in debt, the modern farmer cannot survive without government subsidies.

A popular avenue organic farmers are taking is that of selling directly to the consumer and eliminating the middle man. Farmers markets, roadside stands and CSA's are great means of direct marketing. In order to make farming a viable enterprise once again selling direct is one way to save this age old and necessary profession. Lets face it folks without a reliable source of good nutritious food civilization is on shaky ground. We have to eat in order to survive! And we have to eat good food in order to thrive. Why shouldn't those who work so hard to provide good food earn a decent wage? Joel Salatin has alot to say about farmers making a decent wage.

Besides all these points people need to evaluate the real value of food anyway. Just what are we buying when we buy cheap supermarket food? What is our health and well being worth? In our experience even the higher cost of good food is well worth the extra price. When comparing the two there is no comparison. Factory food is not even in the same league as home grown or locally grown by a small farmer.

Those who are advocates of factory farming claim that there would be mass starvation without all their modern methods of growing and raising food. I don't believe it. I would bet that the yields of small scale intensive gardening are quite a bit higher per acre than modern industrial methods. To me it is flat out amazing how much food can be raised in a small intensive garden bed. A perfect example of how much food can be grown in a small space can be seen at Path to Freedom .

This is certainly not an exhaustive discussion of why "organic" is more expensive. But, it is a start. I forget that alot of people don't understand why it costs more for good food and products. The rush to make everything cheaper all the time just isn't sustainable. It's not good for either our health or our prosperity. Look at all the heart disease, diabetes and cancer to just name a few. And what about the products we buy. The cheapening of products degrades our society. I remember growing up hearing about the poor quality products communist countries used to put out. They had a reputation for having unreliable poor quality stuff. I'm afraid it won't be too long where we won't be any different and our whole infrastructure is compromised of nothing, but junk. There are hidden costs with all the cheap stuff for sale these days.

There are people I talk to who are conditioned to think that if they buy directly from us here at our farm then they'll get it cheaper. Like it should be at wholesale prices. For example we sell our pasture raised chicken at $3 per pound, which is comparable to a small local supermarket. One man who was interested in our chicken kept saying he wanted quite a few. I told him we get $3 per pound. I didn't want him to be surprised when he came to get them. Well even though I made a point of telling him, he was still surprised. A 4lb. chicken is $12. A 5 lb. chicken is $15. So, he was surprised at the cost and told me so. He was another who thought he was going to get a deal by going directly to the farmer.

It's nice when people 'get it' and we don't have to educate them on the ins and outs of good naturally grown food. Even though it costs more it is still a good value. I would say a way better value in nutrition and quality than the cheap stuff from a factory farm. I would also goes as far as to say that in the end industrial factory farm food is more expensive when you consider the hidden costs.

Until Next Time

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Benefits of goats milk

Here's a link given by Joseph in the comment section of the last post to a web sight that tells the benefits of goats milk. Click here to see the sight.