Gene Logsdon and Friends

Archive for 2014|Yearly archive page

Love and Hate In the Chicken Coop

In Gene Logsdon Blog on August 13, 2014 at 9:13 am


We are in the process of moving our pullets in with the old hens. No big deal in this case since I am talking four pullets and three hens. The coop is about ten by twenty feet in size, plenty of room for seven chickens. The pullets since birth have lived on one side of a chicken wire fence that divides the coop, with the hens on the other side. All day, all night, since May, they have been able to watch each other closely, smell each other, listen to each other, even able to nuzzle or peck through the fence at each other if they wanted to. The chicks in fact preferred to huddle against the fence, as close to the hens as they could get when I came in the coop. The hens paid the chicks no mind whatsoever.

We all know what happens when you put a strange chicken in with your flock.  The resident birds will attack with a vengeance. I think it says in the bible that humans are the only creatures that will kill their own kind but chickens will too. And even after they have spent a couple months separated by only a flimsy wire fence, the dominant group still attacks the other mercilessly when they are put together. I usually introduce the two groups slowly and tentatively, by way of contact outdoors, where the pullets can escape their aggressors until the two groups get used to each other. In that situation, it always amazes me how the pullets go back into the coop at night with the hens.


Farmers Learned Long Ago How To Handle The Weather 

In Gene Logsdon Blog on August 6, 2014 at 9:21 am


I give Monopoly Farming credit for one thing: it knows what needs to be done to make agriculture as certain of profit as manufacturing can be. Control the weather. That at least would make it easier to sell stock in gigantic farm enterprises. And the kind of mentality that achieves success in manufacturing thinks it knows just how to do that. Turn Big Data loose on weather records so that crops can be planted precisely at the best time and place for profitable yields. All big business thinks it needs are minutely-detailed, computer-collated statistical records on every raindrop, every temperature degree, every whisper of wind, every vortex shift of every pole, every oscillation of every ocean ripple, every zig and zag of every jet stream. Then the farmer will know, unerringly, when and where to plant wheat in Russia, soybeans in Brazil, corn in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, etc. No more guesswork, no more risk. Data will rule. As all successful business people know,  it’s just a matter of having enough facts in your portfolio. The money will roll in. The world will be fed. Heaven will be now.

It is futile to point out to such a glib mentality why that won’t work and how over the centuries farmers learned a more reliable way to deal with uncontrollable weather. If you look at agricultural history the traditional way, More…

The Democratization of Agriculture

In Gene Logsdon Blog on July 30, 2014 at 9:37 am


During the years I worked as a farm journalist, I moaned and groaned over the attitude of agricultural communicators toward the public. We were supposed to write exclusively for farmers, which was understandable, but the definition of “farmer” was limited to those who were good customers of big advertisers. Sheep ranchers, for example, could no longer get a subscription to Farm Journal because they didn’t buy enough farm equipment, something even the Wall Street Journal found amusing enough to editorialize about. If the magazine wanted to charge adverstising rates on the basis of a million subscribers, it had to show that those readers were buyers too, not just people interested in farming. So, perhaps for the first and last time in journalistic history, the magazine deleted thousands of subscribers. The readers who remained became a kind of exclusive club. One suggestion, to charge the “non-buying” group of subscribers more, was not deemed feasible.

This policy could and did backfire on farmers. More…

Old (Farm) Wives’ Tales

In Gene Logsdon Blog on July 23, 2014 at 7:17 am


We are down to only three hens at the moment, thanks to foxes or coyotes exacting their yearly tribute, but we are still getting two eggs every day. One of the two recently was a small, yolkless egg. “Old wives” told me when I was a child that such an egg signals the end of a hen’s laying season until she molts and starts up again. But since that yolkless little egg, we have continued to  get two normal-size ones every day. One might argue, in defense of old wives’ tales, that the third hen started laying the minute she noticed that one of others had laid a small egg. But if something that outlandish could be true then, according to another old wives’ tale, that first egg she laid should have had a little dried blood smeared on the shell which was not the case.

There’s another mystery involved. I asked my sister, the one closest to me in age, if she had heard about this last egg-first egg morsel of folklore and she said no. How could she not have heard what I heard since we grew up together. Perhaps her memory is dimming quicker than mine, although I would not dare say that in her presence. So I ask all of you: have you heard this folklore? Did I just dream it up?

Another quaint belief from the past is the notion that  you should not graze your sheep on red clover because it will cause pregnancy problems. More…

Invasion of the Paranoids

In Gene Logsdon Blog on July 16, 2014 at 9:12 am



Have you been invaded yet? If not, brace yourself because you soon will be. There are so many enemies approaching from all directions that there is no escape. It is not proper for me to make fun of something that is not funny, but since I have been invaded too, maybe I can be forgiven. Currently, my favorite danger of the day is the Invasion of the Tumbleweeds. No, really. It did happen in Colorado and to the ranchers there it’s not a bit funny. I quote from an Associated Press story: “Mini-storms of tumbleweed have invaded the drouth-stricken prairie of southern Colorado, blocking rural roads and irrigation canals…”  I now sing one of my favorite songs with my fingers crossed: “Drifting along with the tum-ble-ling tum-ble-weeds… Cares of the past are behind, nowhere to go but I’ll find, just where the trail will wi-ind….”  Cares of the past are behind? No more. Today, the trail always winds back to more trouble.

If you have not been invaded by tumbleweeds, maybe you are in the path of the feral hog invasion. This too is not at all funny even if I can’t help laughing a wee bit. More…

White Clover Might Be God In My Bible

In Gene Logsdon Blog on July 9, 2014 at 8:46 am


Or at least one of the heavenly angels. White clover brings salvation to the earth by drawing nitrogen from the air into its roots to replenish soil fertility. It lasts nearly forever without any human help, volunteers everywhere, provides nutritious forage  for bird and beast, honey for insect and human, and if you find a lucky four-leaved plant instead of the usual three-leaved version, you just might win the lottery. The accompanying photo is not particularly sensational, surely not photographically, but it shows something very interesting to a farmer, if you know the story behind it. The corn is the open-pollinated stuff I plant every year to keep this particular strain of Reid’s Yellow Dent up to date. (I started out forty years ago to grow the biggest ear of corn in the world and still have hopes.) It is the strip of white clover between the two strips of corn that I want to focus on. I did not plant it. It just came up all on its lonesome. Not a bad stand for being totally natural and independent of the manipulations of human ingenuity.

The reason why the clover is so fortuitous in this particular case is that I actually planned to grow clover and corn in strips like the picture indicates. My intention was a rotation of corn, oats, clover, and back to corn in strips. More…

Have You Seen A Skinny Farmer Lately?

In Gene Logsdon Blog on July 2, 2014 at 9:42 am


Last week when I was researching what a well-dressed farmer of the mid- twentieth century was wearing to work, I paged idly through my old Farm Quarterly magazines from the mid-1950s which, incidentally, I got from Bob Evans of fast food fame.  (He knew a really good farm magazine when he saw one. When he found out that I shared his views on this (and many other subjects) he gave me his collection of old issues.) With something of a shock, I noted that many of the farmers depicted candidly in the magazine were downright skinny. Not just the young ones, but the older ones too. At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but the more copies of the magazine I riffled through, the more starkly apparent was the evidence: farmers, generally speaking, were noticeably thinner three fourths of a century ago.

I don’t intend to be critical of that observation at all. More…

Let’s Train the Next Generation of Farmers…

In Garden Farm Skills on June 25, 2014 at 10:02 am

From Grange Farm School

The crucially important purpose of the Grange Farm School is to help aspiring farmers learn the skills they need to pursue their dreams as small farmers and to provide healthy local food to their communities.

You know the bad news:

America’s farmers are aging, and their children are not replacing them on the farm. American commercial agriculture is good at producing huge quantities of mono-crops laden with GMOs and chemicals; but wholesome, healthy food is hard to come by. And conventional agriculture gulps fossil fuels and water and depletes the topsoil at alarming rates.

Here’s the good news: More…

Sunbathing On The Tractor 

In Gene Logsdon Blog on June 25, 2014 at 9:41 am


It seems to me that more than the usual number of young men are appearing in upscale fashion magazines stripped to the waist. Nudity can hardly prevail in the bodily attire business but I guess it works when said young men are standing next to  young women wearing the latest from Madison Avenue. But bare-chested men are not a new fashion trend. They  were quite common  on the farm even back  in my high testosterone years. The really avant-garde thing to do then was drive a tractor shirtless in the glaring sun all day. When fields were lined with brushy fencerows giving the tractor drivers some privacy from motorists passing on the roads, some females were known to do similarly. I once asked a professor at an agricultural college how he managed to get the female students to do all tedious weeding required in test plots. He shrugged. “We allow them to go bra-less.”

Oh how carefree and sexy it seemed to make us feel. The darker the tan, the better. Who needs  tanning salons. But as a result, various pre-cancer and cancerous skin blemishes are epidemic today and dermatology is a lucrative field of medicine.

Even in those days, there were plenty of warnings against overexposure to the sun. There was talk of how atmospheric changes were making the sun’s radiation stronger than in earlier times. More…

Hanging Out The Wash

In Gene Logsdon Blog on June 18, 2014 at 9:22 am


Several readers recently mentioned that they dried their laundry on a clothesline outdoors which reminded me that I had more to say on that subject than I wrote here a few years ago. It seems to me that drying wash out in the sun is one of the easiest ways to save on energy. It also carries its own reward because of how fresh and sweet sundried sheets smell when you crawl between them. We also dry clothes sometimes next to our wood-burning stove in winter which not only saves on electricity but puts much needed moisture into the air.

But as some of you intimated, not everyone likes outdoor clotheslines. In the subdivision where our daughter lives, they are verboten, which mystifies me no end. Do clothes fluttering in the wind really look ugly to some people? I think a Monday morning backyard of flapping sheets looks lovely and I remember how as children, we used them as sort of impromptu tents to play under until Mom would stop us.

Maybe the problem is that underwear on the line seems a bit lewd to some? Looking at the women’s lingerie catalogs flooding our mailbox these days, I can hardly imagine that.

So what gives here? In a talk a few years ago, I extolled the savings in electricity that could come from using outdoor clotheslines, or even indoor ones in inclement weather. More…