In Gene Logsdon Blog on May 22, 2013 at 7:47 am
David Fast Food
From GENE LOGSDON
I will probably get beaten over the head with one of the best-selling diet books, but I really doubt that we can eat our way to good health. I don’t want to sound opposed to the idea of food as medicine. I just don’t believe it anymore. I made it to 80 in fine shape and what ails me now is something no food faith healer has a diet to counteract.
I have put my faith in fresh food from my own farm and garden, untouched by the factory food industry. But of course, I sin regularly by eating at fast food restaurants all over. Bob Evans was a friend of mine and when we ate at one of his establishments, it was so amusing to see how he would go through the menu and tell me what he considered to be good and what was not so good. He lived into his 90s on all that fat pork sausage he became famous for.
Organic farming is surely the more economical and environmentally sane way to raise food. But I do not think that certified organic food is necessarily any more healthful than other food which gets me in real trouble with the members of my own choir. If Carol sprinkles insecticidal powder on the potato plants or else we won’t have any potatoes, our garden food can’t be sold as certified organic. I understand the necessity of the rules to keep everyone honest, if only they did, but I surely doubt that our 90 percent organic vegetables are any less healthful, all things considered, than food shipped in, courtesy of fossil fuel, from a “certified organic” farm 2000 miles away. I guess I’m a food atheist. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on May 15, 2013 at 6:04 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Rain and good old-fashioned laziness kept us from mowing the lawn until the first week of May this spring. By then the yard was so beautiful with wild flowers, I didn’t want to mow, but if I waited any longer I’d have to make hay out if it. As the photo above shows, major parts of the lawn had exploded in yellow dandelions, purple violets, whitish spring beauties and pinkish Quaker ladies. Other areas were blooming with wild phlox, grape hyacinths, daffodils, white violets, trillium, toadshade, mertensia, bluebells and even some vagrant tulips. I daresay no horticultural display, requiring hours of skilled work, could have produced a flower garden any prettier. In fact, I doubt very much that human handiwork could achieve such a garden, no matter how much effort and skill were put to the task. All these flowers come up every year without any help other than not mowing them until they are mature. Only nature could produce such a striking carpet of gold, blue, purple, white, pink, maroon and green grass. Who could want to mow such a lovely landscape?
Almost everyone would, that’s who. The Lawn Culture of modern civilization forever amazes me. Green swards of clipped grass are beautiful, no doubt about it, and quite necessary in many instances. Wherever we quit mowing close to the woods we live in, sapling trees spring up five feet tall in two years. But like all things good in the human world, we carry our love for manicured grass to extremes. There are more acres in lawns in the U.S. than in commercial food crops and in fact lawns are the largest irrigated “crop” of all. If you look at the figures, like on Google as I just did, the amount of water, gas, and pesticides we put on our lawns is ridiculous. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on May 8, 2013 at 9:48 am
From GENE LOGSDON
I was sort of shocked by an ad in a recent New York Times Sunday magazine which I read regularly. It showed photos of a magnificent new high rise apartment and the surrounding skyline of the city, also magnificent. The building’s form was awesomely grotesque with the floors seemingly piled on top of each other rather haphazardly, not stacked straight and square, jutting into the sky as if in a careless, random flirtation with the natural environment. Most of the walls were glass which added to a feeling that this was not a building at all but just a dream of a building. I am sure the whole affair was a triumph of architectural design but instead of being awed by it, I felt fear and discomfort. The building looked like it was going to topple over in the first strong wind. In fact the whole scene suggested impermanence and instability to me. My main thought was wondering where all the power came from to energize those zillions of electric lights sparkling unnecessarily across the cityscape.
As I studied the photos, my agrarian upbringing struck me with renewed conviction. City splendor means nothing much good to me, even though I am a peasant with lots of higher education. I am not at all comfortable with cities or being in them. To me they are the final heartbeat of a civilization reaching climax and about to crumble. Walking on sidewalks More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on May 1, 2013 at 7:19 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Both political parties and both capitalism and socialism spout lots of support for “small business.” Maybe this is where we can bring the country back together again. But I put quotes around “small business” because the Census Bureau and the Small Business Administration have exceedingly murky notions about what “small” means.
By the Census Bureau’s way of counting, there are some 27 million small businesses in the U.S. Among these, there are various yardsticks by which to tell if a business is small enough to fit the category. To be considered “small,” a business in the service sector or in retailing can’t take in over $21 million. A farm business is small if it takes in less than $9 million. If you want to use number of employees as a measure, a business is small if it hires no more than 500 people. In manufacturing, you are still small with 1500 employees.
You can see my problem(s). There is certainly a big difference between having four employees and having 1500 or between taking in a half million dollars in receipts and $21 million. A fresh market farmer who has sales of several hundred thousand dollars surely is going to have a different notion of smallness than the grain farmer who is taking in $9 million. This all becomes more than something just sad or laughable when the government, deftly run behind the scenes by corporate business, starts handing out tax breaks and subsidies.
I think maybe the SBA should divide up this thing called “small business” into some more meaningful categories, like maybe Wee Little Small Business, Small Business, and Rather Large Small Business. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on April 24, 2013 at 6:43 am
From GENE LOGSDON
A clear spring bubbling up to the surface of the earth was once one of nature’s greatest gifts to humans, holy wells by whatever meaning you give those words. Having your own clean, unpolluted water “on tap” without much effort or expense was a priceless treasure. Significantly ancient sacred springs honored in “pagan” rituals remained holy even after they and the people who used them were Christianized.
I honor all springs as holy. It is one of the few things I have craved to own all my life, even more than a rather unholy Thunderbird in 1955. I had a better chance of owning a spring too, and came close. In college days, our seminary buildings were surrounded by a huge marsh along the Minnesota River that was entirely fed by clear, clean, cold spring water full of trout and watercress. All our water came from there. We also used it occasionally to cool the forbidden beer we “borrowed” from the faculty’s supply.
Springs to this day ooze up rather invisibly in the bed of the creek that runs through our farm and that is why it does not dry up in August like other creeks in the neighborhood. In earlier days, the land roundabout the creek was a veritable paradise of springs and the creek was full of all kinds of aquatic life, even mussels that only disappeared a few years ago. These springs dried up before my time or were in the process of doing so, but my kinfolk of earlier generations pointed out their locations to me. They are also marked on the old maps. One was right across our property fence line in what we call “Albert’s Woods” and the depression where the water once bubbled to the surface is still there. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on April 17, 2013 at 7:28 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Over the years, gardening and farming have taught me to be pessimistic. I’m the guy who invariably says, when a really nice day arrives, “we’ll pay for it.” We are not in control. How often I have seen two farmers do the same thing but on different days. One makes a profit and the other doesn’t. The one is considered smart and the other not so smart when much of the time it’s pure luck.
So when nature allows me to look smart, I play the part with gusto while I can. Tomorrow it might all blow up in my face. At the moment I am basking in the sunshine of having put one over on my archenemy, chickweed. No significant event here, but satisfying nonetheless.
Optimists should love chickweed. It has many quasi advantages. If I had a washout I’d seed it to chickweed and stop the erosion in two years even if it were big enough to swallow a school bus. To the optimist there is no better winter cover crop than chickweed and if you are very clever, you can sometime use it for pasture here in our godforsaken cold northern winters. Also, it makes a decent salad and an effective salve for skin rashes.
So why do I hate the stuff? It’s taking over our garden, that’s why. Unlike good, honest weeds, it will grow whenever the temperature gets much above freezing and so luxuriates when the ground is too wet to cultivate with anything except maybe dynamite. I know gardeners who are otherwise mild, patient and forgiving enough to endure even jayhawker politicians, but who have finally resorted to flamethrowers to annihilate the weed. Doesn’t work very well however. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on April 10, 2013 at 6:33 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Despite the scolding some of you have given me, I still don’t think science has explained worldly global warming any better than religion has explained otherworldly hell. But the debate has taught me something. While scientists like to point out, correctly I think, that theologians are influenced more by ideology not facts, when I accuse them of falling into the same trap, they don’t like it one bit.
Allan Savory is a world-recognized expert and advocate of scientific pasture farming. Lots of you have heard him speak or read his writings, I’m sure. He has recently given a profoundly awesome speech (posted on Ukiah Blog and above). He admits in his talk that he once made a really terrible scientific mistake. (How often will you ever hear a theologian say that?) He lives and works mostly in Africa in the vast arid regions there that to an Ohioan look like desert. Quite a few years ago now, he and fellow scientific experts on desertification became convinced that overpopulations of wild animals were overgrazing these dry regions (rain falls four months and then eight months of no rain) causing the grasslands to deteriorate into barren desert. They made a decision to kill 40,000 elephants and did it. But instead of improving the grassland, desertification got worse. Once more the scientific faith in the infallibility of numbers was proven wrong.
For years, Savory has tried to find the right answer. He now thinks he has found it, and believe me, it will pickle your brain. I can’t believe that he is totally correct but his evidence is rather convincing. The way to turn deserts back into green grass and flowing rivers, he maintains, is to fill this land with cows, like it once was with wild animals. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on April 3, 2013 at 7:05 am
From GENE LOGSDON
I often wonder if the people who read my meanderings through the pastoral world care about news about big farmers going broke. We probably should care, but I wouldn’t blame those who didn’t. Big business, big government, and big farmers have forged an agricultural economy that is not sustainable. Everybody knows it. We have watched economic bust follow every economic boom regularly over the years. Why not just accept it all as the price of human greed and go our separate ways. But I can’t help being fascinated, the way rattlesnakes fascinate me.
What brings me to this subject (again) is the news that a huge farm— the Stamp Farm of 46,000 acres in Michigan— declared bankruptcy recently. I watch DTN/Progressive Farmer on the Internet for my daily information on farming. Its report, “No Farm Too Big To Fail,” by Marcia Karley Taylor, March 25, 2013, gives the names and numbers and details but I’ll just dwell on the part that is of interest to me. The farm grew to this huge size with borrowed money. The last couple of years, economists have assured us that the farm expansion to huge size was nothing to worry about because farmers were buying land with saved money, not borrowed money. That was not the whole truth (I don’t think it was even half true and said so often). Not taken into account was the huge amount of money farmers were borrowing that was going into land rents and new equipment. These big, fast-growing farms are called, in ag circles “alpha” farms to distinguish them from big farms that have grown large more slowly and conservatively with mostly earned money, not borrowed money. So we have the same old story, over and over again, of people borrowing too much money. Thus it shall ever be, I guess. More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on March 27, 2013 at 7:09 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Recently, as everyone knows by now, horse meat was found in Swedish meatballs being sold in various parts of Europe, and the Great Horse Scandal of 2013 was off and (pardon me) galloping. From the consternation being voiced in some quarters, you would think that human flesh had been found in the sausages. Of course if the label says the meat is all beef then it ought to be all beef, not flecked with pork to incense the Muslims and Jews, and definitely not contaminated with old Dobbin’s remains to send British and American eaters gasping to the vomitorium. Also, there’s a possibility that the horsemeat might come from a horse that had been treated with the anti-inflammatory medicine, phenylbutazone (bute), which is verboten for human consumption. But as I read the fine print from the FDA, you have a better chance of being hit by a pebble from a passing meteor than getting stoned by bute in horsemeat-“contaminated” meatballs. Did anybody get sick? Did the meatballs taste bad? Did they maybe taste better? Did anybody know they were eating horsemeat until they were told?
Nothing is so fascinating as the way human culture tries to manipulate the food chain to serve whatever religion or tradition is in vogue. In France, horsemeat is served in fine restaurants. In England a chef would have better luck serving up hedgehog than horse.
Humans will eat anything to make a point or to avoid going hungry. Being ultra-omnivorous is probably why we have lasted so long in the food chain. In Frank G, Ashbrook’s “Butchering, Processing and Preservation of Meat,” the book I use as a guide when butchering everything from hogs to raccoons and muskrats, the author describes More…
In Gene Logsdon Blog on March 20, 2013 at 7:32 am
From GENE LOGSDON
Mud is the most appropriate icon (how I hate that overused word anymore) of the struggle between humans bent on making money in farming and a nature bent on stopping them. Mud in springtime turns barnyards into forbidding quagmires that can swallow pigs. I say this with some authority. As a child I got stuck in the mud behind the barn and had to wait, screaming in panic, for my father to extricate me. Many years later, a farmer told me, aghast, about visiting a neighboring farm where a cow was standing up to her belly in mud. She was dead.
Mud is the main obstacle to success in year-round pasture farming. Heavy cows can turn a thawing pasture sod into a sea of quicksand in March. And now that tractors have four wheel drive, they will haul hay out to cattle without getting stuck. Instead they cut big ruts and ruin the pasture that way.
So acute is the problem of burying monster farm machines in muddy fields that the Purdue Extension Service has put out a 96 page manual called “Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely.” I can give you a two-sentence summation of what it says: When you bury a huge tractor or combine, call in a professional wrecking crew to pull it out even though it will cost you hundreds of dollars. It serves you right for being so stupid.
Tractors are powerful enough now that when used to pull out other big powerful tractors or combines, the cables or straps or chains used to do the pulling break, fly back, and may kill or injure anyone standing nearby. Farmers are not used to the awesome power of their big machines but experienced wrecking crews are supposed to take that possibility into account. In some cases, it is easier and safer to lift the machine out with a crane rather than try to pull it through a sea of mud. More…