GMO Self Regulation

According to Grist, the USDA announced in The Federal Register for April 7, 2011 its intent to let the GMO biotech industry conduct its own environmental impact studies, or pay other researchers to conduct them.  Here’s more from Grist

Spring snow melt

New data collected by the Iowa Daily Erosion Project (IDEP) strongly suggests that the vast crop acreage within the state is eroding at rates far greater than USDA estimated. The IDEP data is derived from new modeling techniques that for the first time estimate the soil lost to individual storm events.  Topographic and land use information captures the damage caused by high impact events.  Environmental Working Group concluded that the USDA underestimated the erosion rate on more than 10 million acres of Iowa’s farmland.  Here’s the site that updates the erosion maps daily

Click here for more info

Bald Eagle watching over the farm

The Eagle’s Spirit

This past week we’ve enjoyed watching the live internet stream of the eagles nest at the Decorah Trout Hatchery.  The eaglets hatched and the parents had a rabbit along with a collection of small birds to feed them.  Here in north east Iowa  bald eagles are prevalent.  All winter there are a pair of eagles at our farm.  In the spring they relocate to their nest along the Turkey River.  They hunt in our area throughout the year.  As a result, we’ve had to alter our plans during the hatching and farrowing season.

Our sows use to farrow in the pasture.  Between the owls hunting at night, the eagles by day, we were loosing piglets.   Farrowing later in the spring is safer for the piglets.  The bald eagles don’t travel far when their eaglets are very young, instead they hunt closer to their nesting areas.  After ten days the shoats (piglets are called shoats) are too large for predatory birds to carry off.  We have great respect for the bald eagles.  It’s both fascinating and thrilling to see them up close.

A couple of years ago Keith and Cookie were fortunate observers of a ceremony to release a bald eagle back into the wild.  The eagle had been caught in a net, injured, and rehabilitated.  This event was in Blue Mound, Wisconsin, along the banks of the Wisconsin River.  There was a crowd of spectators (mostly boy scouts), a DNR agent. Two Native Americans (father and son) were performing a ceremony to release the eagle back into the wild.  The son explained that his father would be speaking to the Great Spirit and the spirit of the eagle.  His song would unite the soul of the bird with the Great Spirit.  As the Native American elder began singing the crowd became silent.  The eagle, which had been agitated and restless, stopped his movements and focused intensely on the singer.  As the song progressed the bird never diverted his gaze. The DNR agent removed the leather straps that tethered the eagle to her arm.  Now, completely free, the bird remained still and focused.  After several minutes the song ended. Remaining still for a moment longer, the eagle shifted his gaze, then lifted into the sky.  He flew across the river, and alighted into a tree branch on the river’s edge.

For a brief moment in time Keith and Cookie were privileged witnesses to a melding of two spirits.  Our family has a story to pass along; the story of a regal Native American who joined the spirit of heaven and earth and through his song became the conduit for both.

      “I am tired of fighting.  Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead.  The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say “Yes” or “No”. He who led the young men (Olikut) is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever”.  –Chief Joseph (Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt) speech at Bears Paw Battle Oct. 5, 1877

The way that Native Americans were treated is a shameful chapter in American history.     During the plains wars the soldiers justified their actions claiming the Indians were “heathens”.  This couldn’t have been further from the truth. For years the polluting of our fields and waterways were abusive to wildlife. Thankfully the use of some of those pollutants has been eradicated.  Sadly, we may discover too late the harmful effects and the full spectrum of disorder that today’s defoliants/herbicides has caused.  The proponents of factory farming insist that organic practices aren’t practical for feeding the world.  If one's actions require justification perhaps one isn’t acting “justifiably”.

To view theBald Eagle on her nest here’s the live stream

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Which one is real?

It’s April first again.  Much to the dread of the family. I love April Fools Day.  I dish out pranks pretty well, but I have never enjoyed being on the receiving end.  So, as the saying goes, “Fool me once shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.” This year, shame on our boys.  They’ve fallen for the same trick, again.

A few years ago, when they were much younger, I took a piece of styrofoam to the bakery and had it decorated to look like a cake.  It was beautiful.  It had white icing, multi-colored flowers, and piping along the edge.  It was truly spectacular.  After one of their favorite dinners I asked Cookie to cut pieces of cake for everyone.  Goober got out forks, napkins, and plates. He instructed his big brother on how to cut the cake.  He also instructed Cookie on which piece of cake he wanted.  As cookie was cutting he kept looking up at me and insisting that the cake was “really tough”.  When he cut through the first piece, and placed it on his brother’s plate, he cried out, “It’s a fake!”  Curious, younger son examined his slice, then he burst into tears.  My fatal error that year was that I didn’t have a backup cake. A real cake.  Every year, when it gets close to April fools day, they remind me of how mean I was.  “That was the stupidest April Fools prank Ever!” they say.  I laughed and still laugh about it.  As a matter of fact, I’ll be laughing again tonight.  I just picked up my two styrofoam cakes at the bakery.  Keith and I will have real cake.  The boy’s will have foam. This year the edges of the cakes are foam and the center is real.  They both like corner pieces.  When they storm off to pout Keith and I will cut into the real cake.  Sorry boys.

“April 1 This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.”  Mark Twain

"Hey, They taste like chicken!"

 

The boys and I headed to Florida at the end of February, Keith held down the fort. Our vacation was too short, as all vacations are.  We visited with my parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We ate, enjoyed the sunshine, played on the beach, ate more, swam, laughed, played tourist, ate even more, and finished our vacation at Universal Studios.  Because we were driving (I love driving trips), we had to watch the weather very carefully.  Keith, my dad, and the Weather Channel kept us posted on an ice storm consuming the midwest.
On our way through Georgia we stopped at a rest area to view the live weather radar. Standing in front of the screen was a very tan gentleman. He was shaking his head, despondent.

“Headed back north?” I asked.

“Yep.”

“Look at all the pink and white on this weather map! It’s sad, isn’t it?” I commented.

“Yep.”

“On the bright side, spring is just around the corner.”  I tried to sound enthusiastic, I really wanted to head back south.

Giving me a sideways glance he said, “I spent a month in Florida.  Everyday I went fishing.  Each morning I got up, grabbed my pole, put on flip flops, packed a cooler, and tackle box.  From the beach I’d cast my line and sit in my chair. I fished nearly naked.  Now I am headed back to northern Minnesota.  Do you see all the white on the radar?  That’s where I’m headed.  Back to the white.”  Tears welled in his eyes. “Do you know how I’ll fish when I get back home?”

I shook my head from side to side.

“I’ll get up, put on long johns, two pairs of socks, pants, two shirts, down jacket, coveralls, gloves, hat, boots.  I’ll grab a bucket, auger, tip-ups, and get into my truck, which I’ll have warmed up for ten minutes.  I’ll drive onto the ice.  I’ll drill a hole, sit on a bucket, skim ice from the hole. I’ll blow warm breath onto my frozen hands. Then I'll wait for a damned fish!”  He was becoming animated so the boys and I slowly inched our way towards the door.  With every syllable he pointed to Minnesota on the map. “I - am - going  - back - there!” He shouted,  “I am going home... to that massive front of white! Why?  Why am I going back?”

As we got to the door I turned and said, “Your going back home to be with family and friends. I started running and then I called out,   “You know, misery loves company!” For all I know he’s still staring at that map, waiting for all traces of white to disappear.

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Let it snow, let it snow, let it...Stop!

The Blizzard of 1888

Without moonlight to guide us, our path was lit by the illumination of farm lights. We walked through the hills of St Olaf the night before Thanksgiving.  It was a surprisingly pleasant evening for a walk, temperatures near 30 degrees, very little wind, the drizzle was nearly over.  We had to watch our footing carefully, a layer of ice covered all surfaces.  A mild night for late November.  But still, I thought of our comfortable family room where we had read The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin.  Because we homeschool most of the books we read are biographies, history, historic novels, and of course, National Geographic. We read in the warmth of our wood stove during the winter months.  As we walked, I recounted the the Blizzard of 1888. January 12, 1888.

They buried themselves in haystacks, huddled together in darkened classrooms, or froze to death on the prairie while searching for shelter.  These were the fates of the children caught in the blizzard.

After weeks of bitter cold temperatures, moderate warming was a welcome relief.  Farmers ventured out to replenish supplies of hay and visit town to conduct business.  Children, lightly dressed, walked to school. They were eager to see friends, play outdoors, and enjoy the comparatively balmy weather. Temperatures approached near 40 degrees Fahrenheit on January 12, 1888.

There were twenty-two weather stations, overseen by the Signal Corp, scattered throughout the country in 1888.  Weather was recorded and sent by Western Union to data stations; it was analyzed, graphed, and translated.  This information was relayed to sixty “Flag Stations”.  On this day, though, the message to fly the “cold wave” and “blizzard” flags never reached the volunteer flagmen. Warnings never came, or it arrived too late for the pioneers and settlers of the Dakotas and Nebraska.  They were caught off guard. Iowa fared better, the storm didn’t rage here until dusk, when chores and errands were done for the day.

In the Dakota Territory, the lunch hour had just passed.  Children were returning to their desks when the wind began to howl in an eerie wail.  A dark cloud descended rapidly from the northwest.  Within minutes the sun disappeared; by all accounts nightfall had arrived.  Ice crystals and snow blasted the clapboard and sod buildings.  Snow swirled in through every crevice.  The wailing wind was deafening.  Gale force winds of fifty miles per hour gusted to nearly eighty.

Many pioneers who had lived through the blizzard of 1873, and the “snow winter” of 1880, where thousands of cattle froze to death on the prairie, had never seen a storm arrive with such speed or violence.  Visibility was so poor you couldn’t see the hand in front of your face.

Many teachers, not much older than their students, released school. These children became disoriented and couldn’t find their way home.  In other schoolhouses, teachers kept their students inside. Praying for rescue they clung together for warmth, surrounding cold stoves that had exhausted their supply of coal, school books, and desks.

In Keokuk, Iowa the temperature plummeted 50 degrees in eight hours.  Company B, Second Regiment from Davenport, Iowa was headed to Des Moines to escort William Larabee in his inauguration parade.  Larabee was beginning his second term as Iowa’s governor.  Company B, trapped by the storm, did not arrive.

Parents anxiously awaited the arrival of their children.  Groups of men braved the elements in rescue parties to search schools and bare prairies.  Hope of finding loved ones faded.  Mothers stood in doorways calling out for their children.  When their voices were exhausted they rang cow bells or beat pots with spoons hoping the sound would act as a beacon bringing their children home.  The wind chill was now 30 degrees below.

Farmers, walking their cattle to water or out gathering hay from their stacks were caught by the storm.  They knew from experience to get “under the storm”; visibility was better close to the ground. They crawled to find shelter.

The weather term for such a storm is anticyclone.  Winds spiral inward toward the center of low pressure in a counter-clockwise pattern.  The lowest air pressure was over Iowa and Nebraska.  Higher pressure over North Dakota and Montana caused a vacuum effect over the mid-section of the country.  Cold rushing air caused great friction and static build-up.  Snow thunderstorms raged across the plains.  A phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire created static build-up. The air was electrified. Sparks emitted from people when they approached their stoves and caused hair to stand on end. The shocks were so fierce and the pioneers were so afraid they refused to add fuel to fires.

     …People who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very  often find their prayers answered. –Harold Kushner

On Friday, January 13, 1888 the air was bitter cold but the skies were clear.  Relieved students and teachers were grateful to be found alive.  One teacher, who had ventured outdoors with her seven students found safety inside a haystack.  They huddled together, prayed and sang songs; most of them suffered frostbite. They were alive, barely. Another teacher acted swiftly when the storm tore the door of their schoolhouse from its leather hinges; she nailed the door shut.  Moment’s later part of their roof blew away.  Tying a makeshift rope out of torn cloth, she tied her students together. Walking in a line, eyes frozen shut, they hit the side of a building.  Other unfortunate children caught in the storm were found frozen to death.

Between 250 and 500 fatalities littered the prairies, most of them children. Countless survivors of the initial storm succumbed to infection when frostbitten limbs were later amputated.  Still others perished from pneumonia.

Today we seem prepared for any malady Mother Nature may affront us with.  We have cell phones, GPS, four wheel drive, medical and rescue assistance, and accurate weather forecasts.  A false sense of security blankets our instinct to avoid dangerous situations. On Saturday night, when our truck came to rest at the side of the road (no longer able to compete with the ice), we packed our gear, commenced on our night hike. We discussed survival skills and common sense ideas…like staying home.

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Successful Farming Magazine’s May-June issue, had an article titled “Midlife Weight Gain Cuts Life Span.” Considering the information presented in the article, I have less than six minutes to live. Beginning in1976 researchers studied 122,000 women between the ages of 30 and 55. The research reveals that women who lived to at least age 70, without major chronic disease or serious health problems, did not gain weight between ages 30 and 55.
For each 2.2 pounds of weight gained, the chance of healthy survival decreased by 5%. Other studies show that the location of excess weight makes a difference. A waist circumference exceeding 28 inches indicates excess fat around major body organs. This is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes.
In a study that I will be conducting, researchers, who report on women with waist circumferences greater than 28 inches, will have greatly impaired health due to tar and feathers that clog their pores.

Monsanto spent $2.46 million lobbying in the first quarter
Monsanto Co. spent $2.46 million in the first quarter of 2010 to lobby the federal government on a proposed change to agricultural issues that could affect the worlds largest seed company, according to a disclosure report. Monsanto’s lobbying expenditures are up from the $1.28 million they spent in the same period last year. At issue are seed patent laws that the Department of Justice is investigating to see whether antitrust laws were violated.

We Have A gift For You, But It’s Deadly
On another related note, Monsanto donated 475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetables to Haitian farmers. “A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Jean-Baptiste Chavannes of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news of the donation. The seeds are treated with highly toxic pesticides, the MPP has committed to burning the donated Monsanto seed. Jean-Baptiste called the entry of Monsanto seed into Haiti as “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds ...and on what is left of our environment in Haiti”
The corn seed is treated with the fungicide Maxim XL, and the tomato seeds are treated with thiram. Thiram belongs to a class of highly toxic chemicals called, ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). The EPA determined that EBDC treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them.
Source: Acres USA, July 2010

Capitalize on your assets

Toby Grimes* was legendary as the dumbest kid to ever walk the halls of Ogden Avenue Elementary School. Older students would bait him into situations highlighting his lack of common sense. Toby was the older students' favorite muse. He never seemed to mind being pointed out as an idiot. He would smile and nod as the older boys would offer him a choice of either fifty cents in coins or a dollar bill. Toby appeared to weigh his options carefully, but in the end, he always chose the coins. “Two coins is better than one bill, I’ll take the coins!” He’d announce. The older boys would always roar with laughter and point out Toby’s mental short-comings. Laughing they'd handed him the change.
When we, Toby’s classmates, pointed out that he was becoming a laughingstock, he’d just smile. “I may be a laughingstock, but the day I take the dollar over the coins, the game will be over. If those boys want to offer me money to prove that I am more idiotic then they are, so be it. My dad says if I keep this up, by the time I reach eighth grade I’ll have enough money saved to pay for college.”

The easiest way to live within your income is to have a big one. -unknown

The other boy who stands out in my memory, Harold Tinkler* was the most enterprising boy in our junior and senior high school, although I didn’t realize it at the time. He had nerdiness down pat. Pocket protector, slide rule, thick glasses; he was the epitome of a nerd. He worked hard in school, always earned top honors, and was born to succeed. He lacked social graces; most of the girls thought he was creepy. Despite his social failings he was an entrepreneurial success.
Harold is a real estate investor and owns a few very lucrative properties. I hand’t seen, or heard from Harold in years. At our last High school reunion he shared the secrets to his success. His financial acuity started when he was young, Harold explained, “When we were in junior high and high school everyone played Spin the Bottle at parties.” He continued, “I showed up at all the parties, ready to play. The girls would cringe when I’d walk in, but they never refused to let me play. If a girl’s spin would point to me, I’d offer her the choice of either kissing me, or paying me a dollar. They always chose to pay the dollar.    By the time I was sixteen I bought my first rental property. My portfolio grew from there.”

Misers aren’t fun to live with, but they make wonderful ancestors. –David Brenner

This year our greatest asset is grass, lots and lots of grass. We’re thankful for a plentiful hay crop, we’ll continuing to dodge the rain and make hay when we can. We’ll capitalize on the benefits of a successful growing season and store extra hay for dryer days ahead.
Enjoy the sunshine and the rain!

*These characters are fictitious*

Making Hay

 

©Glenda Plozay, Forest Hill Farm Products,LLC

Flowers
Summer flower Garden

It's April First, Again. A few years ago we had experienced a very mild winter and exceptionally early spring.  Around St. Patrick’s Day we tilled and planted our garden with cool season seeds. I should probably qualify this story and explain that Keith had never been involved in the early stages of garden preparation and planting but embraced the task with enthusiasm.  The variety of peas we selected boasted claims of, “fast germination, earliest to produce, and large yield”.

Every afternoon, when he would get home from work, Keith would run down to the garden to look for new growth and see if any seedlings had sprouted. Watching his exuberance inspired an idea for an April Fools trick.

My dad loves Keith and loves playing tricks on him. He helped me paint bunches of plastic plants in bright green; we had a variety of leaves and plastic stems of all shapes and sizes.  We planted our painted beauties in the same rows as our seedlings and laughed all the while thinking of Keith’s reaction.

As usual, Keith visited the garden when he got home. Watching him from the window we saw him turn toward the house. Keith was clapping his hands and running.  Flinging open the door, he cried, “Holy Cow (or something to that effect)! You won’t believe how much everything has grown.”  We followed him back outside, pinching ourselves to keep from laughing, We were grinning from ear to ear as we watched his reaction.  Bending forward  Keith rubbed a leaf, shook his head and began to laugh.  There’s great joy in a good natured joke that plays out well.  Over the past twenty-one plus years I’ve played several April Fools jokes on Keith, he’s always a good sport.

This weekend as I plant the garden I’ll be snickering to myself as I recall that April Fools prank.  My parents will be home from Florida within the next few days and when they come to visit I’ll show them this year’s garden and we’ll all laugh as we remember our painted garden.