DECs map of Emerald Ash Borer knows sites and danger zones

DEC's map of Emerald Ash Borer knows sites and danger zones

The Emerald Ash Borer has officially been found in NY state.  This is an invasive exotic, species that lays their eggs in the ash tree and the subsequent larva eat and destroy the trees as the insects grow and develop.  The area this insect was found is approximately 10 miles (as a bug flies) from our farm.   This is devastating news to us.  Not only because it is never good to have an invasive species take over, but because we have many mature ash trees on our property.  So now we are in the position of having to research and learn what we as landowners of forested land with ash should do given that we are in the quarantined area.

I cannot emphasize enough how poorly written legislation can harm the smallest farm enterprises.  Please if you can spare a few minutes, read this letter from PASA and then contact your representatives urging them to support the outlined amendments.  This has the potential to seriously hinder the buy local community farming movements that are taking place if not written well.  I could not do a better job of outlining the concerns so I’ve included the well written e-mail from PASA for you to read.

To: All PASA Members

From: Brian Snyder, Executive Director

Dear friends,

I’m going to make this as succinct as possible, while also giving you enough background to understand what’s going on.  In brief, the Food Safety bill in the House of Representatives (HR 2749) is expected to move as early as tomorrow (if no bumps in the road), but certainly by early next week. The goal of the Energy and Commerce Committee (E&C) is to move this bill under “suspension,” meaning with limited debate and no amendments, which requires a two-thirds vote, and to do so before the August recess starts in two weeks.  Delay of healthcare legislation at this point means they will try to move forward on food safety first, aggressively and somewhat undercover of the healthcare debate.

PASA has been centrally involved in consulting with E&C on this legislation since March, along with our friends at MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc.), NSAC (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition) and others across the country.  Last week, PASA farmer member Nick Maravell (Potomac, Maryland) testified in a hearing on the bill before the House Ag Committee and did an incredible job of raising the most important outstanding issues.

To date we have achieved some things we can be proud of, including exemption for direct marketers from most traceability requirements (including for sales to restaurants and grocery stores), and now including some clear language in the bill to define what on-farm processing activities might be exempt from FDA registration as well.  Things are still in flux as I write, but we believe all such processing will be exempt as long as 50% or more of sales (including by Internet and mail order) are made directly to individuals (i.e. retail, as opposed to wholesale). And a huge gain just this week will likely be another exemption on sales of feedstuffs for livestock from one farmer to another, which had been included in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 (thaaat’s right…) as an activity requiring registration.  There have been other gains in specific wording of the bill, too detailed to enumerate in this email right now.

But we’re still disappointed that the fee being assessed to eligible businesses, including some on farms, will be the flat rate of $500 instead of our preferred sliding scale for smaller operations, including a minimum size below which no fee would be charged.  We in fact would prefer to see a much higher fee paid by the largest food processing companies, from which most food safety issues seem to emanate in any case — but that may not be achievable at this point. We also have other language we’d like to see in the bill that would focus attention on high risk aspects of food production, protect organic farmers from duplicative paperwork and expand the research agenda into more diversified systems.  All of these concerns are contained in an amendment being sponsored by Representatives Farr, Kaptur and others that E&C must deal with if they expect to get their two-thirds vote to limit debate.

So, we’re asking ALL of you to take a little time out of your busy summer schedules to help advance the sustainable farming agenda with respect to food safety even more than what we’ve been able to on our own.  Call your representatives, and maybe a few others, and express strong support for the exemptions now contained in HR 2749 for direct marketing, and ask them to support the Farr-Kaptur Amendment that would do even more to focus food safety efforts on the REAL problem areas.  To be clear, they will need to insist that language of the amendment get into the bill before it is introduced on the floor. Also, let them know what you think of a system that would charge a small on-farm processing operation the same fee as facilities operated by the largest food companies in the world!  Following are links where you can find contact info for members of the House of Representatives:

Find your Rep: http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

Phone listing: http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/mcapdir.html

This has already been a long slog, and if this bill passes we’ll now have to begin working with the Senate, and then a likely Conference Committee, to make further improvements.  As usual, we are greatly outnumbered and outsized ($$) by groups that would rather see sustainable farmers pay the price of food system sins that have originated elsewhere.  But we’ve been here before, and prevailed.  A few minutes of your time today or early tomorrow could make sure that common sense wins out again!

Thanks for your care and attention to this important matter.

Brian Snyder
Executive Director, PASA

While waiting for the electrician I noticed a yellow/orangish colored thing in the grass.  Upon first glance I thought it was a carrot, but then I processed that thought some more.  This *carrot* is nowhere near the garden and why would it be just lying on the ground?  So I decided to inspect further.  Upon initial inspection I realized it was not  a carrot but rather a lightweight hollow *thing.*  It’s flesh, when squeezed, was not unlike a crisp curcurbit flower however it had a most terrible odor.  This thing stunk, the smell reminded me of a long National Express bus journey from Edinburgh to Exeter when a drunk man stinking of stale beer and even more of stale urine sat beside me for the long journey finishing by leaving a puddle of urine in his seat when getting of the bus at Manchester.  That is what this smelled of… dirty Mancunian.  When Ian got home from work I had him give his analysis.  Him being a dirty Wiganer I figured he would know a dirty Mancunian if he saw one…  Well, he had no idea what the thing was but only that it stunk and he thought it looked somewhat phallic.

We had a look around to see if we could find any more of these things and then went home.  I having never seen anything like it, on a hunch looked in my mushroom book.  After perusing all the pages the closest thing I can come up with is the Elegant Stinkhorn.  I’m not 100% convinced because there was no slime on top but it was hollw, simlar colored, the right size, and definately stinky.

Here are some shots I took…Stinkhorn?

Stinkhorn2?

stinkhorn3?

We have taken some time off from the computer and have been spending much more time outside working, all apologies for being lax with the blog.  Things we’ve done or are working on are selling the vast majority of our stock.  We have kept back a few GOS and some of the Tamworths and we have sold most of the goats.  Its been tough because its hard to decide to size down and emotions sometime come into play. We decided earlier this summer to downsize to free up more time to improve infrastructure.  We have dug lines and assisted the electrician in putting in electric to the land. Even the pigs and dog’s joined in.

The pigs helped to backfill some of the trench...

the trench... around 500' of it

Currently, as I type, I’m waiting on the electrical inspector to co

me out and approve the work.Then we will have electric to run some permanent lines and for general comfort issues.

We are still getting quotes on wells so we don’t have to haul water daily allowing us to set up automatic waterers.  The sawmilling has been slow becuase we have not had the tractor freed up from the backhoe attachment and its harder to manuver small paths with the extra stuff on a tractor, plus you can’t really skid logs well with it on.  So as soon as the electrical inspection clears we will be cutting more wood.

I’ve spent the past few evenings reading Michal Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma which is an interesting read.  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in food and agriculture.

We haven’t had the opportunity to see Food Inc. due to the limited distribution however it seems to be along the same vein as the Omnivore’s diemma and something which we hope will be at a theater near us rather soon.

The pigs that we have kept are growing nicely.  We’ve been moving the adult pigs weekly as that had been sufficient given the lower numbers and dry ground.  Now that the rain is back I anticipate our weekend we be spent setting up new paddocks and moving everyone again as the wet ground makes for easy rooting and isn’t able to stand up to pigs as well as the dry.  Whenever I ead back out I’ll try to get a picture of this same view today to show how much it has been trampled since the rains started.

Port-a-huts on pasture..

Port-a-huts on pasture..

So I found out about google books.  It is a wonderful site.  I though I’d give it a whirl as I have been looking for information about what can affect  sex is determination of the progeny of my swine.  The reason being we seem to be having a lot of boar piglets.  So we have an older boar, that is older than the sows, that bred the sows during the harshest most stressful part of the year.  According to this, perhaps that explains why there were so many more boars.

Text not available
Text-book of human physiology including histology and microscopical anatomy with especial reference to the practice of medicine By Leonard Landois, Albert Philson Brubaker, Augustus Adolph Eshner

However, in cattle it has been suggested:

Text not available
Experiment Station Record By U.S. Office of Experiment Stations

I would love to see if if at all mineral needs, overall diet, stress, age, affect and can be controlled to increase the likelyhood of various offspring.  I did find one study showing that social hierarchy can affect the ratios of males to females.

Progeny sex ratio variation in ungulates: maternal age meets environmental perturbation of demography.
Oikos. 94(2):377-384, August 2001.
Saltz, David

Just a quick post.. Saw our first hummingbird of the season this evening… Add put out the feeders to the to do list.

Thanks to some nice weather, we finally got all of the pigs up to the new land.  Its been a long time coming.  5 months of wintertime kept us away.  They loaded on the trailer in less that 5 minutes.  They unloaded well.  The only hiccup was that we had to make a chute out of 1 strand of electric wire (not electrified) which ran 400′ and around a corner to their new paddock.  They moved fairly well however, one section was damp and they decided to have a brief wallow before walking the last 100′ to their home.  I was stuck pushing Charles (the young old spot) up the hill as he was taking his time and rooting and wallowing the whole way.  It was suprisingly un-stressful and it went quite smoothly.  They are now all settled in and loving it.

I love the grass...

I love the grass...

While watching them appreciate their new abode, I was able to get a few pictures of everyone.  I have a wonderful video of Newton (the red pig which is a tamworth boar) walking up to Ian and looking at him then laying down.  Newtown loves a good scratch on his belly and every time he sees Ian he knows he either gets food or a scratch.  If Ian doesn’t have a bucket Newton knows that means the scratching will commence so Newton gets ready by laying down.  If I can figure out whats up with the problem attaching video I’ll put it up sometime.

Most likely due to the nice weather, this weekend was the first time the piglets came out of their huts.  It is also the weekend when we got all of the piglets that we have castrated.  The castration on this batch seemed harder.  I’m thinking it was because the boys were stronger.  It is, however, amazing how quickly they get up an go after being castrated.  I think if I were a male and I had my testicles taken out, I would be so uncomfortable I wouldn’t be moving for a couple of days.  They mustn’t have felt that way because they were out wandering around within an hour.  The first hour was spent in the hut probably afraid to come out again for fear of what they would lose this time.

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

They're thinking..."Oh my god, not her again."

In addition to moving the pigs, we also got the some of the goats up to the new land as well.  They seemed settled in and are liking all of the browse.

We're loving the new scenery...

We're loving the new scenery...

Moving the housing for all of the animals proved to be difficult as the trailers that we have do not fit some of the housing that we had built prior to getting the new land.  We ended up having to use the handy, but very redneck looking truck cap housing for the boars.  The goats got the A-frame since the large goat house would not fit onto anything.   This means we have a wonderfully large dog house that we need to revamp.

The dug spring

The dug spring. Notice the old pipes in the bottom left hand corner.

In other good news, we found why we have a nasty wet section in one of the fields.  There is an old dug spring at the bottom of the hill.  I plan to check the rate of flow this week to get an idea if it will be worthwhile working on it to use for livetock water.  I’m thinking it will be worthwhile by the looks of things.

Where the spring runs out into field

Where the spring runs out into field

We also got the chance to start some plowing.  We got an older john deer 3 bottom plow from the spring consignment auction last year.  It works very well but now we need more implements.

My future veg garden.

My future veg garden.

The only nasty thing to happen this weekend was when one of my goats sucked my finger into her mouth and then bit it.  It happened so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to react.  it hurt like heck but its better now.  It just feels like I whomped it with a hammer.

Nasty Goat Bite

Nasty Goat Bite

Whats more to say… Ian got it stuck driving where he shouldn’t.  Thank god for good family and good neighbors.

Can you spot the front tires?

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Things have been busy here at the farm as is typical at any farm most any time of the year.  We’ve had our goats kid, we have been working on the ground getting ready for planting, the pigs have started to farrow.  On top of this we have had a few mishaps and some around the home appliance malfunctions and this is on top of the never ending cold that I seem to have.  (since end of Feb beginning of March and its not giving up)

With pigs on the mind lately I thought I’d show a few pictures I was able to get of the Tamworth’s and Old Spots to help those who may be farrowing pigs for the first time get a visual of of signs of farrowing.  Emily, the more yellow of the Tamworth’s farrowed the morning that these pictures were taken.  You can see that her teats have dropped and that her vulva is quite swollen.  Compare this to Fran (more red of the Tamworths) Fran is also swollen.  Fran farrowed two days after these picture was taken.  Petunia the Gloucestershire Old Spot, also posed for this indelicate photograph.  Her vulva is not puffy at all.  She has some time to go before she farrows as there is no milk letdown in her teats and she is not poofy yet.

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Emily's vulva the day she farrowed

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Fran's Vulva two day's prior to farrowing.

Another view of Fran's vulva

Another view of Fran's vulva

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks.  Notice the marked lack of swelling.

Petunia is not due to farrow for a few weeks. Notice the marked lack of swelling.

So far we have had two litters both Tamworth X GOS.  The one was a terrible litter of 5, yet all  were born and are still alive.  This mother will get to wean them and have one more go before she is off to slaughter because its not economical to keep her if she is only going to farrow a few at a time.  Plus she is just awkward with the piglets laying the wrong way for them to get to the teats.  She does however have a good length and structure.

The other litter was 1 stillborn, 1 crush, and 9 alive.  This is not bad and she is good mother wise, very attentive and yet friendly with us.  She is a bit shorter in body length but the numbers for her make the difference for us.  She has thrown good sized piglets and tends to be able to raise them well.  I’m excited to see how these TamX GOS grow out as these will be our first litters of crosses.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5.

This is the tiny but healthy litter, only two gilts out of the 5

NY state is decommissioning its prison farm program.

“DOCS runs farm operations at a dozen of its 69 correctional facilities: Green Haven and Beacon (Dutchess County), Clinton (Clinton County), Eastern and Wallkill (Ulster County), Elmira (Chemung County), Greene (Greene County), Groveland (Livingston County), Sullivan (Sullivan County), Wyoming (Wyoming County), and Mid-State and Washington. The farms, which produce meat, milk and vegetables for the production of meals in the prison system, are intended to provide inmates with vocational experience. However, the farms have become increasingly costly to operate when viewed in light of the limited benefit they provide.

Beacon, Clinton and Washington run beef operations. Wallkill has a dairy farm. Elmira, Green Haven, Greene, Sullivan and Wyoming operate dairy farms and milk processing operations. Groveland grows field crops. Mid-State grows field crops and vegetables. And Eastern runs dairy, beef, beef processing and sawmill operations.

The farm operations employ 39 correction officers and 41 full-time civilian employees, and 188 inmates work on the farms. The correction officer jobs will be eliminated through attrition. DOCS will offer the civilian employees other jobs within the agency to the extent possible and will work with those employees and other State agencies to enhance the employees’ opportunities for transfer to other State jobs during the six- to eight-month decommissioning of the farms. The ultimate elimination of the prison farms will produce a net savings to DOCS of $3.4 million annually.

DOCS will work with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to assist in decommissioning the farms.”

As you can see  their explanation is budget justified by limited benefit of farming to the NY prision population.  In a report by WBFO, it was reported that, “.”

Though I was never a 4H kid, this argument runs counter to all research on the benefits of 4H, including coping skills, public speaking, leadership, etc.  Now granted these farm are not running on the 4H model, however there are able to teach many real world skills that in many circumstances, people in prison may not have learned while growing up.  They can learn budgeting, business managment, marketing, inventory, shipping/receiving, general vet tech skills.  The practical skills go beyond learning how to clean a barn.  The DOC’s view on the career benefits alone shows their sterotype of the role of a farmer, that they don’t have marketable skills off the farm.  In my opinion its just the opposite.  To be a successfull farmer, you need multiple skill sets all of which are transferrable to jobs in any sector.

This program, if ran correctly, could provide emotional and interpersonal skills useful to the inmates for life, along with skills that are usable in any 9-5 job.  I truly believe if they ran the prison farms in conjunction with a combination 4H/shock treatment facility model they would be well on their way to reducing recidivism.