July 31, 2009

farmers wear so many hats..they are all getting worn

The toil of a summer market garden is rolling to a boil, and its easy to be hurt by insensitive or ignorant customers at the market who think this is expensive or that should be available. Even through the gratitude and encouragement from so many welcoming local customers; unexamined attitudes, classism and entitlement seem to rear up every week: the bunch of carrots wrenched up from the bottom of the pile and thrown violently back on the table when the price (2 bucks) is replied - the derisive reply to why there is no spinach this week "isn't that your job".. is like a slap in the face. Its taking its toll, this toil in full view of an established neighbourhood with manicured lawns. Some neighbours walk by stare and do not wave. How did I get here? I look down to the river, its history, its beauty, and I remember. So my back to the road today and I look to the river, the loons and eagles, the layers of history under this holy place and I pray that not too many farmers have to bear the brunt this Saturday morning, of unexamined attitudes, classism and misplaced entitlements. We need community discussions concerning food security, fair local trade and sometimes its absence stings. The responsibility to educate is very wearisome in the late summer market garden; easier to look up apologetically and say: "yes Em I should do better".

July 29, 2009

tendril's spiral mystery

A listserv to which I am a subscriber posted a question I've always wondered upon myself. Perhaps someone can enlighten:

"My hop vines climb with a lefthand spiral (which seems logical - I figured they would follow the sun as they rise), my pole beans with a righthand spiral. They have the same sun and sky exposure and are close to each other. ...I have not been able to find any references leading to information on the physiological cause for the spiral on plants. If I start a vine in the "wrong" direction, it "corrects" it.
Anyone know what induces the spiral?" Bob

Hat tip to Cathleen

July 28, 2009

Pee Power!

"Urine-powered cars, homes and personal electronic devices could be available in six months with new technology developed by scientists from Ohio University.

Using a nickel-based electrode, the scientists can create large amounts of cheap hydrogen from urine that could be burned or used in fuel cells. "One cow can provide enough energy to supply hot water for 19 houses," said Gerardine Botte, a professor at Ohio University developing the technology. "Soldiers in the field could carry their own fuel."

Forget gas, batteries — pee is new power source

sugar beet mops: radioactive biofuel

"An Irish company, Greenfield Project Management, is proposing to plant sugar beets in the area ( Belarus region contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear accident) and convert them into ethanol. The beets would be radioactive, but in theory, none of the dangerous material would get into the ethanol—it'd get distilled out. (Um, presumably there are ways of checking this.) The radioactive residue could then get disposed in conventional waste-treatment facilities. What's more, the beets themselves should start pulling radioactive material out of the soil..."

read the article here

July 27, 2009

a day off on the farm

I took a day off today- the first in several weeks. I restrung my guitar, sat by the river, painted a picture and took some photos, some of which I share with you here.

I have two markets to pick for, several CSA customers, the cows to move around a limited pasture, hay to get in... and we've had more rain than a duck would appreciate. So it was very good to catch my breath and look up at the very beautiful place in which I live.

There were indeed many agrarians, and gatherers here previously on this land and I can sense the hands that came before me.

And this history gives me courage to carry on.

Tomorrow, its back to it: picking for the wednesday market, seeding more salad and stuff now that the the rain has held off for a couple of days.

Ah but it was good to have a day off.

July 16, 2009

Protect Farmland from sewage sludge

Dr. Murray McBride, professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York,
in rebuttal to N Viro's article outlining the safety of its sludge product (and erroneously quoting him) in the Halifax Chronicle Herald: Protect Farmlands from Sewage Sludge

"Research has also shown that these chemicals can concentrate in the fat tissue of cattle. It is only reasonable to conclude that fire retardant chemicals, and many others, will increasingly enter the human food chain as well as natural ecosystems with continued sewage sludge application on land.

In summary, my position is that sewage sludge products should not be applied to our agricultural lands where food crops are grown. There are far too many unknowns and uncertainties about the amounts, behaviour and toxicity of the thousands of chemicals in sewage sludge products, and the precautionary principle must be applied here.

Farmlands must be protected as the irreplaceable resource that they are — we hold them in trust for future generations".

Also see Inconvenient Poop for more on the Nova Scotian sludge debate and the industry spin on the product.

July 14, 2009

enola who?

An American bought yellow beans at a Mexican market, planted them for a few years and claimed a patent on what he called the Enola bean; it was his new bean, he said. The absurdity of the theft was followed by expensive court proceeding- FIVE appeals, the last this month which resolved once again: common sense says the bean obviously belongs to the campesinos of Mexico, the true innovators of this nutritious, staple bean.
Its an identity theft of a culture's genetic heritage and we need to establish these as big crimes. The patent has been upheld during this decade of appeal, and farmers have paid for it. Biopiracy is too kind a term here: there isn't a hint of nobility or swash buckle - it is pure evil

Read ETC Group news story
Enola Patent Ruled Invalid: Haven’t we Bean here before? (Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.)

July 13, 2009

I stumbled upon the artist Katsuya's webpage whose painting capture the dense and complex hues of a garden, less buoyant and jubilant than is typically conveyed. Check out the website for a collection of powerfully intense garden landscapes.

road map for the nanotsunami

Another example of the scramble to measure and control the nano experiments being trialed now on our planet.

Review article calls for measures to enable safe design of nanomaterials
By Jennifer Marcus
6/19/2009 9:55:00 AM

"The recent explosion in the development of nanomaterials with enhanced performance characteristics for use in commercial and medical applications has increased the likelihood of people coming into direct contact with these materials.

There are currently more than 800 products on the market — including clothes, skin lotions and cleaning products — claiming to have at least one nanocomponent, and therapeutic nanocarriers have been designed for targeted drug delivery inside the human body. Human exposure to nanomaterials, which are smaller than one one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair, raises some important questions, including whether these "nano-bio" interactions could have adverse health effects.

Now, researchers at UCLA and the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), along with colleagues in academia and industry, have taken a proactive role in examining the current understanding of the nano-bio interface to identify the potential risks of engineered nanomaterials and to explore design methods that will lead to safer and more effective nanoparticles for use in a variety of treatments and products".

Read more of the review which acknowledges that: "relatively little is known about the intracellular activity and function of engineered nanomaterials" and its time to stop "waiting for for knowledge to unfold randomly".

July 12, 2009

hoof prints in the soft soil

I spent a few hours shoring up the pasture fencing, putting up a third wire on the electric fence and whacking down tall grasses weakening the charge, because these little fellows have been exiting their green fields to frollic and munch in the lusher patch - ie my market garden. They let themselves out and back in a few times now.

July 9, 2009

fructan beet

The biochemistry of fructan synthesis has been determined,
and the first genes encoding these biosynthetic
enzymes have recently been cloned, opening new biotechnological
opportunities for the use of fructans. Until now
the major obstacles have been the limited availability of
long-chain fructans and the heterogeneity of harvested
fructans. It will now be possible to genetically engineer
plants to produce large quantities of fructans of defined
structure and size. here

Microbial fructan production in transgenic potato plants and tubers

July 7, 2009

this food safety bill means business; HR 2749

If I was an American small farmer, I'd be sure worrying about HR 2749. I read it for myself before reading the tangled spectrum of spin out there in cyberspace. Read it for yourself.. This Bill, unlike its predecessors that have languished around for awhile, is speeding through and is now before the House. The cards are coming down.

The FDA will determine the practises for production of all food, trace what it decides to, conduct warrantless searches, and charge you for it..... small farms get 2 years to get it together. Very small farms get 3.. how very nice of them.

Oh, and no one is paying any attention now because there were just too many food safety bills out there and we are too busy in our freedom gardens, even though there are a few very wise sources and clear bells in the cyber muck.

The maddening thing for me is the lack of common sense and the easy morality cloak that a draconian bill about safe food can inspire. Small farmers aren't objecting to sound agricultural practises and healthy safe food, we are objecting to centralized, corporate dictate of what, how and if we grow food. This is misplaced authority which properly belongs to the community. But we have given over this freedom: the lack of gmo or nanotech labeling classically reminds us. This is precisely why people are massing toward known sources of their food.

A food safety guideline, education and reinforcement belongs with regions of eaters. It iocal politic - local food producers and elders and independent scholars/ investigators, research, regional vulnerabilites (Uranium mines) and infrastructure. They don't belong to the corporate, global persons who will profit from the dismantling of regional foodsheds and the fabulous food and farm renaissaince we have been experiencing - a surge which is threatening the survival of agribus as we've know it.

Interesting that the Big Genes are pairing with Produce...getting in while its good.

July 4, 2009

an eventful saturday

We had two beautiful hours of sunshine at the market sandwiched between 2 thunder storms the fury of which I haven't seen for a long time. It was directly overhead.. big bolts, crash caboom, sheet rain. It was great. I did bring food back home with me however. And yes, it went out under an awning (in the now sunny) yard. No we pick today - perhaps with the pea picking later this week.

Oh, and no sign of the turtles. Although I had nocturnal visitors of a bovine sort, and I'm scratching my head at how they (the calves) got out and trampled my new salad planting...and then let themselves back in the electric fence, the fence that stands the hair up on my head as I'm flying through the air with the impact if I accidently graze it. Little buggers.

July 3, 2009

Not just Ok, but partnered? .. Nano and Organic

The Organic Agriculture Centre has a "select business partner" in Nano-Gro a product of Agro Nanotechnology Corporation.

It is an Omri approved product because they are "just really small particles made naturally and work like homeopathy". OMRI does acknowledges though (in an email, where I heard the previous sentence) that there is confusion and lack of consensus on a definition for nanotechnology.

The company website offers little help in describing Nano Gro:
"Nano-Gro™ is an organic plant growth regulator and immunity enhancer which stands apart from any product in the market.
Unlike a fertilizer, Nano-Gro™ is not a source of nutrients for plants. And unlike other primers it is not composed of proteins derived from bacteria or other pathogens.
Nano-Gro™ does not contain hormones and does not, in any way, change the genetic structure of plants.
Nano-Gro™ helps plants naturally experience improved growth and health.
Nano-Gro™ is a systemic acquired resistance inducer that works unlike any other primer on the market. It works by delivering information to the plant. Using our proprietary formula, when a plant comes into contact with Nano-Gro™ it is compelled to activate a series of natural processes that help the plant achieve its maximum potential".

OK so what is it?

We can't know because it is "proprietary". We have to trust the word of those thus partnered. I guess.

Or not!

Unlike Canada, the Soil Association (Organic Certifying Body) in Britian has banned nanoparticles from Organic Production.

I think its just a matter of time before the economic argument will hold sway.

we(e) pick

I've been picking all day for the market tomorrow. My hands smell good: cilantro and dill foremost. The peas and carrots are almost ready, I'm letting them grow today, which, if you stay very still you can almost see.

I was thinking about opening things up here to the community on Sunday - put a sign up on the road - because I have a lot of food out there and I've harvested alot today and may be over ambitious for market sales: depends on the weather. And people have been asking if I am going to sell off the farm. So I've got a primed sandwich board ready to paint, and I've decided on farm name! I think I'll pick as people arrive - maybe have a few things ready to offer that are out of their beds, their roots cleansed of the soil.....but I was musing about a We Pick (or a wee pick). Perhaps I'll start a trend tomorrow.

July 1, 2009

Organ-ic Food

My Dad has just started blogging. I helped him set it up and while that part was painful, look at him go!:

"There is no doubt that food grown naturally is good for your organs. The organic movement has, by common usage now, co-opted the word that I think in the olden days would have been a misnomer. Organ, is either a musical instrument or a part of anatomy. When I grew up in the small village in Saskatchewan, everyone had a vegetable garden, there were no chemical fertilizers or pesticides I can think of other than Paris Green, and what we grew we ate and canned, or at least my mother did, with glass sealers. There was no plastic. In a sense the organic movement is archaic, of my time and earlier.

The pianist and I went to the farmers market yesterday and bought the most beautiful vegetables, full of sweetness, naturally grown, by slim, healthy, bronzed people. What a pleasure! My daughter is an organic farmer and I know the work entailed to grow that sort of food, in a scrupulous fashion that requires a diligence we never had to provide, in the olden days. There was little or no toxicity then. Though it may, of necessity, cost more than the supermarket, we are so lucky to be able to return to food that is good for our organs."

Molecular Visualization of DNA

To help us understand where everything comes from

Where have I heard the voice in the video before?