Skip to content

Save The Honey Bees

Save the honey bees

They're vanishing at an alarming rate.

Lets pretend that in your line of work the numbers started to change. There's a sudden decline in people needing your services. Lets pretend that you're a teacher.

One morning you walk into the school. Something's wrong, you can feel it. When the bell rings one-third of your students are missing.

A few minutes later the principal walks in and asks to speak with you. She shares that in each classroom thirty percent, and in some classrooms seventy percent, of the students are missing. The trend continues day after day. The declining enrollment is alarming. And it's not just your school. This is happening at all the schools in your state.

In the coming months you learn the trend is happening globally. 30 - 70% of school-aged children have vanished. What's causing this and where have the children gone?

Now it's getting personal. The decline is affecting your contract. Lower school enrollment equates to lower numbers of teachers. How will you meet your financial obligations and feed the family?

Seems far-fetched, right? Well, this is exactly what's happening to the bees. They're vanishing without a trace. Beekeepers have lost 30% of their colonies. In some areas the numbers are closer to 70%. Remember; one out of every three bites of food requires bees for pollination.

In the book, More Than Honey , (there's also a video available) Markus Imhoof and Clause-Peter Lieckfeld use a similar scenario;

If 70 percent of all cattle or 30 percent of all chickens were to die annually, states of emergency would be declared everywhere. The death of bees is at least that dramatic and with even more far-reaching consequences.

Vanishing Bees is a Global Crisis

The more personal an issue is the more meaning it has for you. The declining bee population does directly affect you. One of the reasons for the decline is due to herbicide and pesticide use. Studies show that when hives are located close to genetically engineered crops both honey and pollen contain toxic levels of chemical residue. Bees suffer with memory loss and nervous system disorders after visiting plants genetically engineered with systemic pesticides (neonicotinoids). The toxins create confusion, the bees can't find their way back to the hive.

Save The Honey Bees

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has a free publication; Cover Cropping for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects.

Planting a cover crop of Buckwheat is great for honey bees and other pollinators. It will improve your garden, too.

Please,  Save the honey bees.

August 20, 2016 is National Honey Bee Day.

Poultry Feed

Poultry feed

I love this picture. The grasshopper catcher is a perfect example of Necessity being the Mother of Invention. Insects are a great source of protein. Free range poultry fill up on grasshoppers keeping the pests under control. It's a seasonal feast, though. The pioneers solved this by catching grasshoppers in the hayfield and drying them for winter feed. This is just one example of alternatives to corn and soybeans.

Summer through fall our chickens, ducks and turkeys move through the pasture catching insects and eating greens. Take advantage this summer and send the kids outside with a net and a bucket. Let them catch bugs. Have them turn over rocks and look under logs. They'll find plenty to feed the chickens.

A couple of years ago I heard about the benefits of goji  berries so I planted some. They're full of vitamins but they taste terrible. Now, instead of using them myself, I dry them for chicken feed. Apparently the chickens don't mind the bitter flavor. Goji berries are easily dried and stored for year round use.

In certain areas of the country its not easy to buy small grains. Here in Iowa corn is king, followed by soybeans. Finding wheat is tough – no one grows it commercially in this area. There's no market for it here. Growing food plots gives the flock both exercise and superior nutrition. Plus, you'll have healthy eggs and meat. A food plot of small grains; wheat, oats, and barley inter seeded with clover and alfalfa provides a balanced diet when grazed green or cut and dried for winter feed. These plots are terrific for growing chicken feed.

This is the time of year to think about feeding the flock in the winter. Learn to sprout grains or grow fodder. The nutritional value of the two is quite different. In sprouted grains the white tap-root is full of enzymes. Once a green shoot develops the enzymes are lost to the sprout, but the green sprout is full of health qualities, too. Your hens will be healthier with the forethought.

And, if you'd like healthy meat and you're not raising poultry yourself we'd be happy to have you as a customer.

Muscovy Duck Can FlyMuscovy Duck Can Fly

Keith hung up the phone, “Are we missing a duck?”

“I don’t think so, why?”

“Robin called, there’s a duck sitting under her pine tree. She said two eagles were attacking it as it flew into her tree this morning.”

Robin lives across the field and down the hill from us. It’s a good distance from our farm.

I checked the barnyard. Sure enough, one of our Muscovy hens was missing. I called Robin back. She explained that she saw two eagles chasing after a white bird. Looking closer she realized they were attacking a duck. The duck flew into the center of the pine’s branches. The eagles alighted at the top of the tree. Eventually the duck fell to the ground and rested under the tree where the branches camouflaged her from the eagle’s view. She sat quietly at the tree’s base.

Earlier in the morning Maisey was sitting under our pine tree barking at a bald eagle perched above her. Miley sat off to the side, eyes fixed on the bird. These two dogs keep the farm safe from predators, however, they're not equipped for airborne assaults. Neither was the duck.

Muscovy duck can fly. They don’t usually fly very far. They’ll fly from the barnyard to the pond or just circle the barn a time or two.

Once the hen was back home we gave her a thorough exam. She’s missing a few primarily flight feathers and was in shock, otherwise she seemed fine.

She’s started laying eggs again. More than likely she’s grounded until her ducklings hatch. So, until then, Maisey and Miley are on guard.  Eva and Spike don’t pay attention to eagles and Grant’s the most likely to get carried off. His saving grace is the fact that he’s exceptionally heavy, which is a nice way of saying he’s fat.

New calves, kid goats and lambs

When there are new calves, kids or lambs the entire herd likes to check out the newest members. The bull calves and 'freemartin' bull calves are wearing red tags this year, the heifer calves have yellow tags.

Sorting Sheep

Some friends called and asked if they could stop by on their way home from picking up their new puppy, of course they could.  I love my friends and puppies. The eight week old pup explored the yard. She ran from a curious hen, chewed on everything she found, and then fell asleep on a blanket in the car.
As they were getting ready to leave the couple looked at each other with curious expressions. Through a few not so subtle head nods and eye rolling maneuvers they finally asked the question I suspect was the real reason for their visit.
“Could you tell us if we have a male or female puppy?”
“Really, you can’t tell?” I started to laugh, “It’s a girl.”
The were relieved, they’d wanted a female. The confusion came from the puppies pot belly with a protruding naval stump.
We all laughed. Sometimes what seems obvious, isn’t.

My friend is not perfect - nor am I - and so we suit each other admirably.  - Alexander Pope

sorting sheepLambing season is almost finished, just a couple of ewes to go. Keith leaned on the gate and looked over at me, “See that sheep over there. She’s never going to have lambs.”
I looked at the sheep he was pointing at,  “How do you know? She’s a healthy ewe, maybe she was just a late breeder.”
“Nope. It’s because she is a he,” Keith chuckled.
Sorting sheep is a big deal. In the fall we move the sheep  through a series of pens to separate the females from the wethers (castrated males). Not only are the sheep separated into pens but they’re identified with livestock marking paint. Each sheep is cross referenced according to their ear tag. Throughout the sorting process each animal gets examined no less than four times as they move through the pens.

Despite this ‘fail safe’ system all four of us misidentified him. I looked at Keith and laughed, “Really, you can’t tell it’s a boy.”
What seemed obvious, wasn’t.

Here's more information on organic grass-fed lamb

'Know Your Farmer Know Your Food'

'Farm to Table'

Really great slogans.  But, what’s really  happening on the farm that’s producing food for your table?

Close your eyes. Imaging a farm. Do you see lush pastures. Animals grazing. Pigs sleeping in the warm sunshine surrounded by shade trees and green grass.

I drove past a farm yesterday with a new van parked out front. The signs on the side read, 'Farm to Table’ and ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’. This particular farmer has several confinement hog houses.

Do they qualify for the ‘Farm to Table’ campaign? Of course. They’re farmers. They sell direct from their farm to customer’s tables.

Do they fit the model for the ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’ campaign? Yep, they do.They sell at farmers markets. Customers get to know them.

But, DO YOU, as a customer picture something different when you support a farm?

Are you thinking of pigs in a pasture or hogs crowded inside of a building.

Are you thinking of cattle grazing under a blue sky and sunshine or steers stuffed under a shed roof with just a few square feet to move around.

Across the mid-west farmers markets are re-opening for the season. I suggest that you really get to know your farmer. Ask questions. Things aren’t always as they seem

How familiar are you with these terms:
Free Range vs Cage Free

Pasture raised vs Confinement

Organic vs 'Beyond Organic'

The California Supreme Court ruled that producers who mislabeled products as organic are open to lawsuits as protection from fraud in the organic industry.
I’m not sure whether the farms that label themselves as ‘Beyond Organic’ will have to change their advertising but it 's food for thought.

And remember; If we are what we eat most of us are fast, cheap and easy. Lets change that!

Know Your Farmer Know Your Food

 

How to Improve Soil Nutrients

Salt the Earth

I spent the last couple of days getting the garden ready. The asparagus bed, pumpkin patch, vegetable garden and orchard trees have been salted to Improve Soil Nutrients.

I read about how to improve soil nutrients and the benefits of sea salt for boosting trace elements in an article from Acres USA, January 2003. This winter I re-read the book Sea Energy Agriculture by Maynard Murray, M.D.

Dr. Murray presents evidence of the declining trace elements of soil. When commercial fertilizers are applied only the basic elements are returned to the soil. The abundance of these; nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime initially increase crop yield, however, they block uptake of necessary elements.

The science behind Sea Energy Agriculture is that the chemistry of sea life is naturally disease resistant and nutritionally superior. Sea salts added to soils are properly balanced between trace elements and sodium chloride. The application rate is important, too. The application is reasonable to restore the soil’s missing elements without rendering it useless like Carthage after the Romans salted the earth.

The best defense against disease is good nutrition. That nutrition starts in the soil. Plants take up the minerals which are then distributed to the end consumer whether human, livestock or wildlife. These end crops are nutrient dense and superior in trace elements.

In the past I’ve tried getting the geese to weed the asparagus beds. Instead of pulling out the grass they pulled up all the strawberry plants in the next bed over. This year I’m experimenting by using a high rate of Redmond Salt  to kill the grass in the asparagus bed. The heavier application won’t hurt the crop, instead it will restore elemental nutrients while inhibiting the invasive grasses.

Both  SEA-90 and  Redmond Salt are certified organic (OMRI listed). The difference is where the sea mineral solids are sourced. SEA-90 is from an estuary where sea water is captured and dried. Redmond salt is sourced from deposits in Redmond Utah.

As an experiment both products are being applied separately to the orchard trees and garden. Here on the farm there are two areas with heirloom apple trees, two areas with peach trees and one group of cherry trees of three different varieties. I don’t know whether the difference between the two products will be significant, we’ll find out at the end of the growing season.

Redmond salt is sold by a local supplier, which is convenient. There aren’t any SEA-90 suppliers in our area so I bought enough for half of our vegetable garden and half of the orchard trees through Amazon.

Last fall the pastures were salted with Redmond salt, 50 pounds per acre, to improve the balance of the soil.  This spring we’ll repeat the salt application. We’ve seen great promise in pasture growth using sea solids and the livestock prefer grazing the fields where it’s been applied.

How to Improve Soil Nutrients
Peach Trees

A new Study on Organic Farming confirms quality is the key ingredient.

A newly released study concluded that Organic meat and dairy products are healthier; more nutrient rich than meat and dairy products from conventionally raised animals.

Professor Carlos Leifert of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at the University of Newcatle reports that Organic meat and dairy has 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are linked to better immune function, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved neurological development.

Researchers, led by Leifert, found that organic crops had 60% higher key anti-oxidants and lower levels of the toxic metal cadmium than conventionally produced crops.

We're organic farmers because we believe it's the right way to farm, not because it's the popular way. In fact, it's only become popular in the last few years. Organic farming is about quality over quantity. Organic farming is better for the animal, better for the environment, and healthier for the consumer.

“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Additionally, other studies have shown that Organic grass-fed beef is the best source of lean protein.

Did you know that the average Weight Watcher customer looses six pounds in two years? That’s less than half a pound per month. They count calories, buy expensive pre-packaged food and anxiously step on the scale.  They’d get better results by switching to grass-fed beef.  And they wouldn’t have to make any other dietary changes. I highly recommend reading  Pasture Perfect, by Jo Robinson.

Organic, grass-fed beef is better for kids, too. Studies show that pesticides lower IQ scores. Evidence suggests that genetically engineered food may contribute to Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, and allergies in children. Organic food is clean. It's pesticide free.

Read the study on organic farming here:

Nafferton Ecological Farming Group

study on organic farming

Learn Beekeeping. Want to be as busy as a bee?

It’s beekeeping time. Yep, even with snow on the ground - now is the time to get started.

Winter beekeeping is relaxed, it’s about learning, dreaming and planning. It’s the time for researching and experimenting.

It's the perfect time to build hive bodies, supers, and frames. Painting them is fun too. Spring doesn't seem so far away when you're busy.

I was reading about an experiment published in the Fifth Annual Report of the State Bee Inspector for the year 1916.  It was reported that hives painted darker colors
outperformed hives painted white. Our hives have always been white. Boring. Not this year, though. The new hives are bright colors. Vibrant and happy colors. It will be interesting to see if these hives are more productive than the white ones.

Another experiment this spring will be splitting hives using strong brood frames and swarm cells containing new queens.

When the hives were closed up for the winter there was plenty of honey and pollen for feed. This is a critical time of year. Bees can easily starve late in the winter or early in the spring. In the next few weeks the queen will start egg laying again, she'll build up brood.

It was warm enough to open up the hives the other day, just for a quick minute to add pollen patties. The bees were clustered, they looked healthy.

This is a great time of year to learn beekeeping.

Sign up for beekeeping classes, they’re starting soon. There’s plenty of time to learn by taking classes and reading books.

Here are a couple of good books on beekeeping:

Natural Beekeeping by Ross Conrad
The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture Forty First Edition published by The A.I. Root Company
Bee Keeping for Dummies by Howland Blackiston and Null
Here’s a list of classes in Iowa and Illinois:

The Iowa Honey Producers Association
The Illinois State Beekeepers Association

Here's a list by state:

The American Honey Producers State Organizations

Learn Beekeeping

 

 

 

4

Red Meat - In The News

The safety of Red meat is in the news, again. Health concerns about red meat, along with processed or grilled meats is brought up periodically. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) is weighing in -

As an organic meat producer I believe our farm is distinctly different; Organic, grass- fed beef is healthy.  The practice of MIG grazing improves meat quality, restores the environment, and is beneficial to the life-cycle of livestock, crops, and soil. Quality is more important than yield.

A  customer shared this podcast from WGN Radio in Chicago. The guest, Dr. Michael Fenster is a cardiologist and chef. This doctor highlighted interesting issues and omissions in the latest study. Some of these include:

Antibiotic use in animal feed
Dying gut bacteria
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef
Heritage breeds of pastured hogs
Artificial additives in food
Genetically engineered crops and Glyphosate
Hormones in meat
Safe Food Labeling; House Resolution 1599
and much more...

The connection between healthy food and overall health continues to grow. Our herd continues to grow, too. The steers are sold out for this year. In January we'll start taking orders again. The details will be posted in the January newsletter.

Listen to the podcast here