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Friday, October 30, 2009

Not one, but two!





I am getting not one, but two prize winning Jersey heifers! Mike and I will be picking up Emmy and Apple at the end of November.

Photos courtesy of Damon Folmar

Ben Does Not Like the Rain

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Books are Like Old Friends

I wanted to use this post to write about some of the books and magazines that have influenced my life.

Before I was old enough to read to myself, I remember my mom and my grandmother reading to me. I loved to hear them read the stories in my Golden Books. It was always the stories involving animals that stole my heart. Some of my favorites were THE LITTLE RED HEN, THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY, and THE ANIMALS OF FARMER JONES. For those who also loved the Little Golden Books you can view a timeline with information on the books here and a history of them here.

I remember the day when with wonder I stared at a letter my mom was reading from my grandmother and realized those little squiggly things on the paper were words! I couldn't wait to go to school and learn to read. I remember applying myself when I got old enough to attend school so that I could finally read books on my own.

Some of the books I read as a child and a young teen that made an impression on me were the Little House on the Praire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. How I dreamed of some day growing up and moving to a homestead where I could practice all those skills I read about in the series. Of course, my favorite book in the series was Farmer Boy written about Almanzo Wilder's childhood on a farm in New York. As I like to tell everyone, I finally grew up and married my very own farmer. The Little House books are such a favorite of mine that I can't tell you how many times I have read them through. When my children were small, and we lived in little cabins in Alaska and were practicing our homesteading skills, I would read the books to them at night before they went to sleep.

Another favorite of mine in those early years was Heidi. As a child and young teen, I could not think of anything I would have liked better than running with the goats in the beautiful Swiss Alps, eating roasted homemade cheese with grandfather, sleeping on a pile of straw in the loft, and having a friend just like Peter.

My childhood and teen years were filled with more adventures than I could ever begin to recount thanks to the volumes of books that I read. It was not unusual for me to read at least a book a day. Every spare second I could find, I had my nose stuck in a book. Of course, because I loved the outdoors so much, many times one would find me reading out in the cow pasture or in my favorite spot in the woods.

As an adult, I mostly enjoy reading real life adventures. While I don't mind reading a good fiction every now and then, it is the biographies, autobiographies and memoirs that bring me the greatest pleasure. A few of my all time favorites include Tisha the story of a young teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness. Adventure stories set in Alaska always warm my heart as I was fortunate to be able to live my own adventure there for almost 13 years.

Another book that not only is a well written, interesting read but also happens to be written by a lady that I have met on several occasions and whose father was a friend of my grandparents is Road Song by Natalie Kusz. Natalie writes a heart warming story of her family's struggles in the Alaskan Wilderness while being very honest about the trials that they faced.

Another homesteading book that I have read several times is We Like It Wild by Bradford Angier. It is the story of a young couple who left the city life to live in the wilderness of British Columbia.

There are a multitude of books that I could mention but these are just a few of my all time favorites.

In addition there are a few books that have helped me tremendously with both my homesteading ventures and farming. I have been reading and referencing the Foxfire books since I was but a young teen. Not only is there a wealth of information in the series, but so much of what is written reminds me of my Granny who lived in the mountains of North Georgia and practiced many of the skills mentioned in these books.

Carla Emory's Encyclopedia for Country Living is a must have for anyone who wants to live the simple life. Some friends in Alaska gave me a copy of this book and I can't tell you how many times I have referenced it over the years.

While I do not adhere to everything that Joel Salatin says or does, he has written some great books that I have enjoyed reading that have inspired and encouraged me to be the independent farmer that I am today. Joel, whose farm is within 20-30 minutes of our place, is a vocal advocate of eating and buying local and has done a lot to bring awareness to the issues of family farming and keeping the money we spend on food within the local community.

Stillroom Cookery by Grace Firth is a gem of a book I found at our local book fair. Ms. Firth explains the importance of the "stillroom" in days gone by and gives a variety of homestead type recipes including chapters on Cheese and dairy products, yeast breads, beverages, vinegars, cured meats, fish and fowl, garden foods, dry staples and energy savers, and preserving stillroom produce.

If anyone is interested in owning a family cow, an absolute must read is the book Keeping a Family Cow by Joann Grohman. I did not have this book when I started with my family cows, but have purchased multiple copies since. Reading the book is like sitting in a comfortable chair beside the author and talking to her about the important issues regarding one of my most valued possessions..........my family cows.


There are, of course, a lot of magazines that are being published but a few of my favorites are Hobby Farms Magazine, Countryside and Small Stock Journal, and Mother Earth News.

Maybe when the snow flies this winter, I can pull out some of my favorite books and read them over again. Reading them is like hanging out with old friends. It's both comforting and inspiring.

Eating Animals is Making Us Sick

A friend sent me this article and I thought it was important enough to share on my blog. While I am not a vegetarian, I can certainly understand why folks become vegetarians, especially if they have ever been exposed to "feed lots" and "factory farming". It took me years to be able to even eat chicken after working in a commercial poultry house as a young teen, and I still have a hard time getting my mind around it.

Even closer to home, is the interesting observation that when Mike and I eat out, we almost always end up having some sort of stomach problems. We have long associated that with the fact that the food we raise for ourselves is so much more healthy than the stuff we are getting when we are eating out. It makes me feel good to know that the animals that we raise are raised humanely and not given routine antibiotics. Perhaps this article explains in part why we find it difficult to transition from our good, homegrown meat and veggies to the occasional meal we eat out.

Eating Animals Is Making Us Sick

Editor's note: Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of the critically acclaimed novels "Everything is Illuminated" and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." His latest book, the nonfiction "Eating Animals," (Little, Brown and Co.) will be published November 2.

New York (CNN) -- Like most people, I'd given some thought to what meat actually is, but until I became a father and faced the prospect of having to make food choices on someone else's behalf, there was no urgency to get to the bottom of things.

I'm a novelist and never had it in mind to write nonfiction. Frankly, I doubt I'll ever do it again. But the subject of animal agriculture, at this moment, is something no one should ignore. As a writer, putting words on the page is how I pay attention.

If the way we raise animals for food isn't the most important problem in the world right now, it's arguably the No. 1 cause of global warming: The United Nations reports the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

It's the No. 1 cause of animal suffering, a decisive factor in the creation of zoonotic diseases like bird and swine flu, and the list goes on. It is the problem with the most deafening silence surrounding it.

Even the most political people, the most thoughtful and engaged, tend not to "go there." And for good reason. Going there can be extremely uncomfortable. Food is not just what we put in our mouths to fill up; it is culture and identity. Reason plays some role in our decisions about food, but it's rarely driving the car.

We need a better way to talk about eating animals, a way that doesn't ignore or even just shruggingly accept things like habits, cravings, family and history but rather incorporates them into the conversation. The more they are allowed in, the more able we will be to follow our best instincts. And although there are many respectable ways to think about meat, there is not a person on Earth whose best instincts would lead him or her to factory farming.

My book, "Eating Animals," addresses factory farming from numerous perspectives: animal welfare, the environment, the price paid by rural communities, the economic costs. In two essays, I will share some of what I've learned about how the way we raise animals for food affects human health.

What we eat and what we are

Why aren't more people aware of, and angry about, the rates of avoidable food-borne illness? Perhaps it doesn't seem obvious that something is amiss simply because anything that happens all the time -- like meat, especially poultry, becoming infected by pathogens -- tends to fade into the background.

Whatever the case, if you know what to look for, the pathogen problem comes into terrifying focus. For example, the next time a friend has a sudden "flu" -- what folks sometimes misdescribe as "the stomach flu" -- ask a few questions. Was your friend's illness one of those "24-hour flus" that come and go quickly: retch or crap, then relief? The diagnosis isn't quite so simple, but if the answer to this question is yes, your friend probably didn't have the flu at all.

He or she was probably suffering from one of the 76 million cases of food-borne illness the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated happen in America each year. Your friend didn't "catch a bug" so much as eat a bug. And in all likelihood, that bug was created by factory farming.

Beyond the sheer number of illnesses linked to factory farming, we know that factory farms are contributing to the growth of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens simply because these farms consume so many antimicrobials.

We have to go to a doctor to obtain antibiotics and other antimicrobials as a public-health measure to limit the number of such drugs being taken by humans. We accept this inconvenience because of its medical importance. Microbes eventually adapt to antimicrobials, and we want to make sure it is the truly sick who benefit from the finite number of uses any antimicrobial will have before the microbes learn how to survive it.

On a typical factory farm, drugs are fed to animals with every meal. In poultry factory farms, they almost have to be. It's a perfect storm: The animals have been bred to such extremes that sickness is inevitable, and the living conditions promote illness.

Industry saw this problem from the beginning, but rather than accept less-productive animals, it compensated for the animals' compromised immunity with drugs. As a result, farmed animals are fed antibiotics nontherapeutically: that is, before they get sick.

In the United States, about 3 million pounds of antibiotics are given to humans each year, but a whopping 17.8 million pounds are fed to livestock -- at least, that is what the industry claims.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that the industry underreported its antibiotic use by at least 40 percent.

The group calculated that 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics were fed to chickens, pigs and other farmed animals, counting only nontherapeutic uses. And that was in 2001. In other words, for every dose of antibiotics taken by a sick human, eight doses are given to a "healthy" animal.

The implications for creating drug-resistant pathogens are quite straightforward. Study after study has shown that antimicrobial resistance follows quickly on the heels of the introduction of new drugs on factory farms.

For example, in 1995, when the Food and Drug Administration approved fluoroquinolones -- such as Cipro -- for use in chickens against the protest of the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of bacteria resistant to this powerful new class of antibiotics rose from almost zero to 18 percent by 2002.

A broader study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed an eightfold increase in antimicrobial resistance from 1992 to 1997 and linked this increase to the use of antimicrobials in farmed chickens. As far back as the late 1960s, scientists have warned against the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in farmed-animal feed.

Today, institutions as diverse as the American Medical Association; the Centers for Disease Control; the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences; and the World Health Organization have linked nontherapeutic antibiotic use on factory farms with increased antimicrobial resistance and called for a ban.

Still, the factory farm industry has effectively opposed such a ban in the United States. And, unsurprisingly, the limited bans in other countries are only a limited solution.

There is a glaring reason that the necessary total ban on nontherapeutic use of antibiotics hasn't happened: The factory farm industry, allied with the pharmaceutical industry, has more power than public-health professionals.

What is the source of the industry's immense power? We give it to them. We have chosen, unwittingly, to fund this industry on a massive scale by eating factory-farmed animal products. And we do so daily.

The same conditions that lead at least 76 million Americans to become ill from their food annually and that promote antimicrobial resistance also contribute to the risk of a pandemic.

At a remarkable 2004 conference, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) put their tremendous resources together to evaluate the available information on "emerging zoonotic diseases" or those spread by humans-to- animals and animals-to-humans.

At the time of the conference, H5N1 and SARS topped the list of feared emerging zoonotic diseases. Today, the H1N1 swine flu would be the pathogen enemy No. 1.

The scientists distinguished between "primary risk factors" for zoonotic diseases and mere "amplification risk factors," which affect only the rate at which a disease spreads. Their examples of primary risk factors were "change to an agricultural production system or consumption patterns." What particular agricultural and consumer changes did they have in mind?

First in a list of four main risk factors was "increasing demand for animal protein," which is a way of saying that demand for meat, eggs, and dairy is a "primary factor" influencing emerging zoonotic diseases. This demand for animal products, the report continues, leads to "changes in farming practices." Lest we have any confusion about the "changes" that are relevant, poultry factory farms are singled out.

Similar conclusions were reached by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, which brought together industry experts and experts from the WHO, OIE and USDA. Their 2005 report argued that a major impact of factory farming is "the rapid selection and amplification of pathogens that arise from a virulent ancestor (frequently by subtle mutation), thus there is increasing risk for disease entrance and/or dissemination."

Breeding genetically uniform and sickness-prone birds in the overcrowded, stressful, feces-infested and artificially lit conditions of factory farms promotes the growth and mutation of pathogens. The "cost of increased efficiency," the report concludes, is increased global risk for diseases. Our choice is simple: cheap chicken or our health.

Today, the factory farm-pandemic link couldn't be more lucid. The primary ancestor of the recent H1N1 swine flu outbreak originated at a hog factory farm in America's most hog-factory-rich state, North Carolina, and then quickly spread throughout the Americas.

It was in these factory farms that scientists saw, for the first time, viruses that combined genetic material from bird, pig and human viruses. Scientists at Columbia and Princeton Universities have actually been able to trace six of the eight genetic segments of the most feared virus in the world directly to U.S. factory farms.

Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science, that something terribly wrong is happening. We know that it cannot possibly be healthy to raise such grotesque animals in such grossly unnatural conditions. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film.

We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory -- disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat, we live on tortured flesh. Increasingly, those sick animals are making us sick.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Safran Foer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Independent Farmer

I think I have found a word that finally fits!

We have all these buzz words that seem to have various meanings depending on who you talk to: organic, sustainable, family farm, pasteured, free range, uncaged, grass fed.............and the list goes on and on.

The conventional farmers look at me and shake their heads and wonder why in the world I would choose to milk five cows, drink raw milk and have "cow shares". They also wonder why we would work our behinds off growing enough produce to feed our friends and neighbors who stop by to purchase right off the farm. And who in the world lets their chickens run around all day without a fence! And, to top it all off, we don't run our farm on government subsidies. Some of these folks tend to label me an "organic freak" but more often than not, just a freak!

Then, there are the die hard organic folks who shake their heads because I am just not organic enough for them. They whisper the words "conventional farmer" under their breath and shake their heads in disgust because everything I do, does not fit their label.

I heard there was a "good ole boy" club for farmers, but I have yet to be invited. Maybe that's because I am a woman. But that can't be it, because my husband has not been invited either.

Guess we won't worry about the labels, or lack thereof. We will just work hard so that we can continue farming. After all, it's what my husband's family has been doing for generations.


Independent

Yes, I think I am an independent farmer.


Independently Mike and I work hard together to live the life we love!

(Note to readers: Please don't take this post too seriously as it is all written in fun! It's good to be able to laugh at one's self! Don't you agree?)

Jackson


Great picture sent to me by Willie in Knoxville of Jackson!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ben at four months

Liza Jane


Mike brought Liza Jane up from the other farm yesterday. She is seven months old and 50% miniature Jersey. I am going to use her in the breed to pure program. She is very short and very adorable. She is 1/4 Charolais, 1/4 Angus and 1/2 Miniature Jersey.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apple's results




Recent competition Results on the new heifer, Apple, I am purchasing. If all goes well, she will be competing in Louisville the first week in November.


From the Alabama National Fair show week:

*******************************************************
District Dairy Show

2nd place Summer Yearling: Avonlea Apple of Pine Creek


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State 4-H Show

2nd place Summer Yearling: Apple


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State Open show
Mike Stiles judge


1st place Summer Yearling: Apple



*******************************************


Pictures courtesy of Damon Folmar. Damon's daughter AC is showing Apple in these competitions and doing an outstanding job!

Maya's Bull Calf




Maya gave birth last Friday to a bull calf. It was a big surprise to us as we did not think she was due until November at the earliest. With all that was going on, we did not even notice her being ready and Mike found the calf when he went out to milk Friday afternoon. Both mom and baby are doing great.

Puppy Pictures




Here are a few pictures of two different puppies. Ben is resting on the pillows and modeling his new coat.

Gabriella and Jackson are working on learning manners.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

God Save the Family Farm

Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens ~ Thomas Jefferson

Great video of a family running a small family farm and making cheese. To me, this is what farming is all about...........Family.

To view video, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jackson & Gabriella


My dad and uncle came to visit us and we had a wonderful time. I don't get to see them often, so when we do, it's a real treat. They took the last puppy, Jackson, to his new home in Knoxville. I am happy to report that he is doing well and loved by his new owner, Gabriella. Gabriella's mom trained dogs professionally and they are considering showing Jackson in some of the local competitions. Zoie, the little female I kept, is lonely for her brother and does not quite know about all the adult dogs that she is mingling with. She would rather be in my lap.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ben Meets Rosemary Freeman

Wow! What a day I’ve had. Larry took me over to the Old Town Dog School for my second day of Puppy Head Start. Sandy took us for the longest walk, all the way down to the river, then down almost to King Street , and back to the school. In the park by the river, we practiced call and response. That’s when Sandy would let me run around a bit and then toot her whistle twice. The two toots were my signal to come back for a treat. I had so many, Larry didn’t give me lunch.



Back at the store, Larry bought me a harness and a car seat. I like the car seat, but you can have that darn harness. The car seat is really plush, and if I want it’s high enough that I can see out. Otherwise, I’m too darn short. I rode in it all the way home. I was so very tired, I just zonked out on the way home and didn’t see a durn thing. Oh, I forgot to tell you, on our walk back I got to meet Abigail, a nine month old black and tan cousin. I really liked her a lot, and I’d like to see her again, and mebbe again. I think I just might be in love.



We shopped for a coat for these cool mornings, but we didn’t like anything that was out on the shelves. Sandy ’s gonna keep her eye out for something especially nice. And we got a new collar, too. I’m outgrowing the one I have now. When I’m full grown, we’ll get some with nice patterns so that I can look good when I see Abigail again. And Larry bought a whistle. You just know I’m gonna get tired of that.



Tomorrow, I go to the vet. I think I’ll try to hide under the bed so that I don’t have to go. I just know they’ll get out that dang thermometer again. I mean, like, don’t they have anything else to do? Yep, they do. More shots. Ugh! Then Wednesday, we go out to Paris to meet Aunt Julia and Great Aunt Helen. I plan to give them lots of kisses. I hope they’re wearing tie shoes. I just get off untying shoe laces.



This last week has been great. I saw some squirrels. They don’t play fair, climbing up in trees like they do to get away and then just sitting there and chattering to taunt me. I like to listen to the birds tweet-tweeting, but I like to chase them, too. They’re worse than the squirrels and just fly away when I try to check them out. But the best thing yet: I’m just about potty-trained. Every single time I go outside I run over to Larry right away, and he gives me a liver treat. They’re tasty! You should try one.



I met Rosemary Freeman last week. She owned the Hill’s best known coonhound, but he died last year. They were inseparable. After meeting me, she decided she can’t wait any longer to get another dog. She lives over on A Street , and we’re invited to go visit any old time. Isn’t that great? Rosemary and her coonhound were written up in Sunday’s Washington Post. Larry showed it to me. It’s the bottom column on the OpEd page. You should look it up.



Bye for now





Your Little Ben

A Picture Of Ben


For all of you fans of "Ben" and his wonderful letters, here is a delightful picture of him.

Fun Photos of me with my Favorite Farmer!



Friday, October 2, 2009

The Farmer's Creed

This is an early version of The Farmer's Creed, circa 1915. It is well written, but the life of a farmer has certainly changed since 1915.


The Farmer's Creed



I believe in a permanent agriculture; a soil that will grow richer rather than poorer from year to year.

I believe in 100-bushel corn and in 50-bushel wheat, and I shall not be satisfied with anything less.

I believe that the only good weed is a dead weed, and that a clean farm is as important as a clean conscience.

I believe in the farm boy and in the farm girl, the farmer's best crops, the future's best hope.

I believe in the farm woman and will do all in my power to make her life easier and happier.

I believe in the country school that prepares for country life and a country church that teaches its people to love deeply and live honorably.

I believe in community spirit, a pride in home and neighbors, and I will do my part to make my community the best in the State.

I believe in the farmer, I believe in farm life, I believe in the inspiration of the open country.

I am proud to be a farmer, and I will try earnestly to be worthy of the name.

--By Frank I. Mann.



This is the famous 1975 version, that was originally run as an ad for New Holland machinery. It has been re-used, re-printed, misquoted, and misused ever since. While this does strike a chord with many farmers, it was an ad.




Farmer’s Creed




I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity and that no calling bestows this more abundantly than farming.

I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.

I believe that farming, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth.

I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in ways money can’t buy.

I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in no other way.

I believe farming provides education for life and that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways.

I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, and the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring.

I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feels the pride that springs from their shared experience.

I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it; an honor that does not come to all men.

I believe my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellow man, and by this standard I fear no judgement.

I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived.

I believe in farming because it makes all this possible.



This was written for New Holland, 1975, author unknown.



Farmer’s Creed 2008


I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity, which is hard to maintain when you earn less than the kid pumping over-priced gas into your rusty pickup, yet know that you feed him.

I believe hard work and honest sweat are the reason farmers have to have a shower before going to town.

I believe that farming, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth, if farmers would stop polluting rivers, infecting people with e-coli, feeding their livestock hormones and antibiotics, using genetically modified crops, mistreating animals... wait, what happened?


I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in ways money can’t buy, which is good because money is out of the question.


I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in no other way and that just because their friend has an X-box, it doesn't mean they need one too.


I believe farming provides education for life and that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways, but that doesn't mean you can call your teacher "one nice heifer"'.

I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, and the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring, and it's a good thing they're free, because the line of credit is full.

I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feels the pride that springs from their shared experience, just don't forget sunscreen. Farmers have a high rate of skin cancer.


I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it; an honor that does not come to all men. I also haven't paid taxes in 12 years, so that's good too.


I believe my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellow man, which is feed them for nothing, and by this standard I fear no judgement other than by the department of the environment or the federal auditors. (see tax thing above)


I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived. He should be able to, but he can't because his knees are shot and it's a 24 month wait for surgery.


I believe in farming because it's in my blood so I can't be happy doing anything else.



Mr Greenjeans

(Credits)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Color Green

View from my Kitchen Window


It promises to be an absolutely beautiful fall day. I love that crisp feeling in the mornings and afternoons that are "warm enough" but I can still do outside chores without breaking a sweat. While I am stuck inside freezing broccoli, it's nice to be able to watch some of my Jersey girls enjoying fall as well. I spend so much of my time when I am inside in the kitchen. I love being able to see my cows while I work!