Category Archives: agriculture

Porch Chickens

Chickens,backyard chickens,free range poultry

Truly 'Free-Range' birds

With all the kerfuffle about the meaning or “free range” and setting humane standards for production egg layers and meat birds, I have provided a few images of what a free range bird looks like.

As in free. To range.

These are some of my porch chickens. Because, you know, they’re free, to range…



Free Range rooster in the literal and figurative sense of the word

Looking to score some pesticide free apples...


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Filed under agriculture, Animal Welfare, Back Yard Chickens, Chickens, Chikin TeeVee, Food, Locavore, Poultry, Soup Of The Day, Sustainable Agriculture

Why Mike Rowe is a hero

Mike Rowe

In order to be green, you gotta get brown

I love Dirty Jobs. The TeeVee show and the actual thought of going out and getting my hands dirty.

Let’s face it. When we bought this place, we knew it was going to be hell to pay to get it into any sort of shape for living let alone self-sustenance.

Every time I have to go outside and slog through the swollen creek in fear of losing my garage or free a door for the chickens to roam across the landscape, I think about the millions of unsung heroes, workers across the globe; pressing on in their daily chores to make our lives easier.

In a conversation I was involved in with some associates, I came across this and discovered that Mike is well, interesting. Ever since his episode on the Green movement I figured there was more to this guy than being a talking head.

With candor, he admits to the human failing  of simply being wrong and admits with eye opening clarity the danger of believing everything without question, or experiencing first hand.

Well done, Mr Rowe.  Well done indeed.


Filed under agriculture, Animal Rights, Stone Soup Diaries, Sustainable Agriculture

More Chikin Tales

The girls are in full production now. We are getting on the average, about 2 dozen eggs a day. Occasionally we will get two yolkers, a variety of sizes from very small;

They have even been paying for their upkeep, with 8 to 10 dozen eggs a week going to friends, neighbors and co-workers for donations of a few dollars or egg cartons.
They roam the property eating bugs and grass, help with training dogs not to be rude to fowl and fertilize ground that was otherwise barren and wasted. They fertilize a lot of other places, often discovered too late by the pedestrian as they enter the house and look at the bottoms of their shoes!!

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Filed under agriculture, Back Yard Chickens, Chickens, Chikin TeeVee, dog training, Food, Locavore, Poultry, Stone Soup Diaries, Sustainable Agriculture

Alas, alas. My kingdom for an egg.

So, it’s finally happened. Our 4 month wait for the fruit of our labors.

We had our false starts. A week ago we came upon an empty shell and began combing the grounds for eggs ever since.

So here it is, our little pearl; found nestled atop the straw bales behind the pen.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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Filed under agriculture, Back Yard Chickens, Chickens, Chikin TeeVee, Food, Locavore, Poultry, Stone Soup Diaries, Sustainable Agriculture

Chicken Adventures

Well, I finally did it. I am now the proud owner of 15 baby peeps. Five Black Australorp and ten Buff Orpington pullets.

My son likes them, my dogs wonder if they would be better served on toast or with au jus. My husband is just rolling his eyes at my most recent hair brained scheme…

The dogs slather over the stock tank with the funny noises coming out of it, my Pointer is correct in his assumption that there are birds in there, but doesn’t seem to understand that I do not need them pointed out to me.

The Pug has taken a deep interest in them, not so much as a potential snack as a genuine affinity for their cuteness.

The Lab thought the stock tank was for swimming in, not raising day-old peeps. She is decidedly unimpressed. Although she thinks they look like they could be much fun.

My son has already started naming them. Omelet is the name of the biggest Buff, and Gloria is the name of the smallest Australorp. She is easily identifiable by the quantity of white on her little flight feathers and around her eyes.

The Buffs are gregarious birds, the Australorps are rather shy and reserved, although they are warming up to the physical handling they recieve daily.

For such little things, they sure do eat a lot. And poop a lot. Fellow blogger Heather Houlihan alerted me to the consequences of paste and how to remedy it’s appearance, so I was cleaning peep poos instead of supervising dog poo for their first few days here.

All are well now, eating, drinking and pooping merrily.

They will be living in their new digs as soon as construction is complete. More pictures to follow.

Eventually, they will be joined by about 25 Cornish rocks for the freezer.


Filed under agriculture, Back Yard Chickens, Chickens, Chikin TeeVee, Food, Locavore, Poultry, Stone Soup Diaries, Sustainable Agriculture

Of Interest to Anyone who Eats Food

I was cruising my favorite blogs and came across this from the VIN News Service.

I am in direct opposition to H$U$ and think they are the Devil’s Spawn but at the same time, I have some pressing concerns about the Nation’s food supply.

Other blogs have addressed this better, addressing the discussion to pet food products with a caveat that the food supply in this country feeds us all. Human and animal alike. A Google search for pet food recall or contaminated food conjures up list after list, page after page, of food products that are additives or whole source foods for humans too.

Agri-business has much to atone for with the recent outbreaks of salmonella in the human food supply, from greens to nuts, including my absolute fave, pistachios.

Aw, nuts!

Who can forget the huge expose’ on the pet food industry only a few years ago? Some news services considered the public outcry an “overreaction“. You know, like, it’s just pets and all… So a few people died. Who cares!!

My concern is that it is beginning to appear with a sinister regularity in our headlines. What people are simply failing to understand is that the affected foodstuff is impacting the consumer supply for every domestic animal and human in the nation.

So where does this alarming and remarkable article from VIN fit?

Lifted directly from the article:

Veterinarians spend their lives promoting the well-being of animals. Yet at the same time, activists appear to be guiding America’s attitudes on animal welfare, experts say, working to erode veterinary medicine’s authority on the topic and divide the profession.”

With a correction to it’s authors; H$U$ and PeTA have no interest in ‘animal welfare’. It is all about animal rights.

An example of this from the article:

While the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) carefully weighs scientific evidence to establish opinions on what’s in the best interest of animals, HSUS and its cohorts are preening their message, using emotion to drown out the more moderate voice of organized veterinary medicine.”

There is not a lot of consensus over this or any topic that has more than one set of “experts”. Large animal vets are accused of being deep in the pockets of agri-business while small animal vets endorse more humane practices for animals raised as food.

I am on two sides of this argument:

I could give a rat’s arse about agri-business; they have done more to destroy the fabric of the family owned and operated farms and homesteads (of which I am a product) in favor of mass producing a food supply whose very existence endorses dubious practices in husbandry and safety for the consumers of their products.

So. Does the H$U$ have a point? Sure it does. But should they be the ones dictating the practices of agri-farms and food producers?

H$U$ suggests that animals raised for food should be kept in a more ‘natural state’, enabling them to pasture in open areas, be able to move about freely without restraint. Opposition contends that “…such mandates merely trade one set of welfare concerns for another. Animals housed in open systems are more vulnerable to disease, parasite infestation and injury due to aggressive pen-mates. The system also makes it more difficult track an animal’s medical health and care, AVMA officials contend.”

So, who’s right?

The real fear is the ultimate agenda: “… those who liken HSUS to “PETA-light extremism” fear the organization’s fingerprints on agriculture housing bans are a precursor to the group’s ultimate agenda — to end animal ownership and remove meat from the diets of Americans.”

Jack Advent, OVMA executive director stated, “What we do know is that if there is no dialogue, HSUS has stated that they will simply collect the signatures they need to go to the ballot where the electorate will decide on the issues. We don’t want to close the door to something like legislation, which could be far more palatable than what might be on a ballot initiative.”

H$U$’s strategy has clearly demonstrated superiority in the devious department. They have successfully created strategies by targeting communities with a small agricultural footprint where opposition would not be significant, coupled with their appeals directly to the public instead of through introducing legislation which would have likely been opposed by lawmakers and/or lobbyists.

The article states In 2002, voters in Florida — one of 24 states that allow for citizen referendum — became the nation’s first to enact a ban on swine gestation stalls after HSUS waged a two-year publicity campaign and gathered more than 600,000 signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Five years later, Arizona voters outlawed gestation stalls by 2012. It reportedly cost Arizona’s agriculture groups roughly $1.6 million in a failed bid to combat the HSUS message. Both states have very little in terms of swine operations.”

Wow, huh?

California’s Prop 2 passed in November with over 63% of the vote, which analysts say will devastate “… the future of the state’s egg industry, and many hope that a bill currently playing out in the state Legislature will level the playing field for California’s producers by imposing free-range requirements on eggs imported from other states.”

Peter Weber, executive director of the Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association is relieved that similar legislation proposed in Illinois failed in February, stating that It was abundantly clear that this bill plays to people’s emotions. There just isn’t the science to back the need for it.”

The veterinary community’s decidedly neutral stance is pretty ominous. Their inability to come up with a plan of their own allows for H$U$ to intervene where they truly have no business. That the system needs to be changed is not really the issue. It has been clear for years that it does.

The USDA’s inability to adequately police agri-business lends itself to reform. A more proactive role in the safety of our food supply is necessary to assure it “fit for consumption”.

Food is big business, for ourselves and our animals. The two are related. There is not a lot of oversight in the pet food market and precious little effective oversight in the human consumer markets.

Legislation is becoming increasingly restrictive in the production of low-cost food for consumers allowing the slow food and locavore movements to gain momentum. By providing attractive alternatives to agri-business and the food/animal controversy, a locally produced food source encourages consumers to take a more proactive role in policing their own food supply.

It has a far healthier impact on local economies as well and promotes a broader concern for the welfare and safety of our consumer goods.

Sometimes the old ways are best. Supporting the production of locally raised food products has been a cultural icon of the United States since the beginning of our country’s history. Only since the return of the soldiers from WWII has agri-business forced small family owned farms to surrender to a greater demand for goods and monopolized the production of food for the nation.

The government subsidizing of growing ‘more, faster’ has had a profound impact on our safety, our health and the sustainability of our food supply. With the depletion of the aquifers in the Midwest, we face a far greater danger as the agri-businesses loose their ability to maintain high volume production for a teeming nation of fast food consumers.

It is within our ability to make a statement about our concern for the food we feed not only our animals, but ourselves and our children. At the same time, the dictatorial practices of H$U$ is clearly not the way. In order to preserve our rights as consumers and suppliers we must take a more active role in the production of our food supply.

There has got to be a better way.


Filed under agriculture, Canine Nutrition, Farming, Food, Locavore, Pet Food, Stone Soup Diaries, Sustainable Agriculture

For Barter or Trade….

Won’t be too long now before we hit the streets looking for ways to make a dime or two to pay our mortgages and feed our families.

This whole racket with the ‘bailout’ of Wall Street (which incidentally is being manipulated by the very people who got us into this mess in the first place, and I don’t mean just Democrats or Republicans) is plucking my one last nerve.

As a Sole Proprietor and heavily taxed business owner I am appalled at the actions and activities of our Nations leaders and wannabe’s.

I swear if I hear the term “fundamental” used one more time I am going to scream.

Fundamentally, our only saving grace is that for the day, oil is still under 90$ a barrel and this may save us fossil fuel burners who heat our homes even partially with it. Unless of course you live in the great state of Maryland where it seems that the elected officials deemed it necessary not only to raise taxes but increase the cost of energy.

It is fundamentally NOT OK to strip the nation’s only steadfast resource, the taxpaying public, rendering the ability to save anything impossible with the ever increasing cost of living.

It is fundamentally NOT OK to openly deceive us with this load of crap about the 700 BILLION dollars as being necessary out of one side of their mouths, placing one of the biggest offenders to head it up and tell us we NEED THIS. IT WILL BE GOOD FOR US.

Everyone knows what it’s like going to the dentist as a kid to hear the guy say “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit”. We all know what it’s like to be lied to. What are we going to do about it now?

Tell me, where was due process? Who discussed this and when? They can filibuster on the allocations for Viagra to prisoners in Federal Penitentiaries but go behind closed doors in the dead of night to figure out a way to foist this garbage onto us?

And then have the unmitigated GAUL to load the second attempt with enough ‘sweeteners’ for our ‘leaders’ to be inclined to vote for it. Even after it was criticized by the public (that would be you and me) as not acceptable.

It is fundamentally NOT OK to support a community of people who are within the borders of this country through MY TAX DOLLARS AND YOURS with health care and education incentives when they themselves are not contributing and are at the very least, here illegally to begin with.

It is fundamentally NOT OK to burden the honest, legal citizens of this nation with the cost of a welfare program that rewards drug addiction, poverty and criminal activities as opposed to incentives for obtaining or continuing education and rewarding good honest effort.

It is fundamentally NOT OK to allow the corporate heads of these failed financial institutions to reap the benefits of their failures by rewarding their poor judgment and questionable practices with enormous bonuses, when many in combination exceed several billion dollars.


I may be a lot of things, but stupid ain’t one of them.

What’s that about lipstick on a pig? Seems like the US Gubmint just got a whole load of porkers to dolly up for the Wall Street Ball.

What our politicians have handed us is not salvation, it’s another way to squeeze yet another drop from our wallets into their greedy little hands. This incestuous relationship with Wall Street and Washington dates back for more years than I have been alive and there is not one of them who has not benefited from the excesses from liberating the credit market to individuals and institutions that had no business borrowing in teh first place.

I take personal exception to that. I scrimped and struggled and saved my entire life for what I have and I am deeply resentful of the many who just hold out their hands and expect me and everyone like me to cover their insolvency.


I propose this to every taxpayer across the United States;

Barter or trade your services.

Don’t buy a new car, take what you have and spend it on a used car, spend the additional money to do what work is necessary to keep it road worthy and drive it until the wheels fall off. Force the automakers to make some hard and fast decisions about the products they will be offering in the years to come and the prices they will charge.

Co-op and build community gardens in the spring and raise your own food, or buy local produce from your local farm growers. If you live in urban areas, there are rooftops and window ledges,porches and alleyways that can support vegetable growing even if it’s herbs or one or two tomato plants. Disable the importation of tainted foodstuffs from countries that do not have adequate protocols in place for controlling potential contamination of our food supply.

Grow what your neighbor cannot or does not, and trade.

Purchase your meat in bulk from a local butcher, and co-op it’s purchase with your friends and relatives. If you like your neighbors, include them too. Support the growth of a healthy food supply by controlling what your livestock is fed and how it is cared for.

Pick up a rifle, shotgun or bow and learn how to hunt. Barter for venison from your hunter friends and learn how to cook game meat.

If you have some land or know of someone with some land, co-opt the raising of some livestock for meat and help to support some poultry for fresh eggs. Depending on the county that you live in determines what kind of livestock you can house and how many of each type. Not only are you supporting the growth of a healthier food supply, you get to oversee it’s care in person. No stomach for that? Barter a skill or product to help support it.

If you don’t have access to land but you have a skill; barter or trade the service you can provide for a reasonable percentage of the co-op that it will require to purchase, support and care for the livestock, garden, poultry or whatever.

If you are over 40 and your mother is still alive, pick her brains for recipes that are not only tasty but nutritious, talk to your friends and their families and see if it’s possible to make stone soup once or twice a week. Share.

Support your local businesses and boycott the large box stores or chains. Eat at a local diner instead of a chain restaurant. Take your car to the local garage that your neighbor runs, buy your dry goods at the local market. Recycle things. Instead of buying new furniture, have an upholsterer resurface it for you.

Better yet, if you know a guy who knows a guy who can do these things, ask and trade something of value with him. Or her.

Recycle construction waste from houses being torn down or rehabbed. Take what is usable and create interesting living spaces. Do more of your own work and barter or trade with others for theirs.

Support you local craftsmen or become one yourself. Have a hobby? Exploit your talents for the new free market and trade your goods.

Many years ago when my husband and I first moved to Pennsylvania, we were young and naive but what we lacked in real-world experience, we made up for with the ambition to succeed. For a period of time our lives were pretty rough. We struggled to make ends meet like many young families just starting out and since we had no real network of family or friends having just moved to the area, we struggled with a lot of things. Hell, we struggle now.

We had a nice little bit of ground and planted a garden just about every year. For a while it was just the two of us; I can remember getting creative with rice and beans and what little we kept back from the garden to eek out something over the winters. We never starved. Our big treat would be Ice Cream bars or some other novelty and if we were lucky we could afford to go to the local store and get some “real” food occasionally. We supported the local feed stores, local markets, bought fresh from our neighbor-growers and traded goods and services.

Both of us lost our jobs and things got pretty bad just before the first Gulf War and to make ends meet we sold virtually everything we owned to survive. I cooked Pan Bread and re-baked potatoes to keep us from starving. We ate Pasta Fazule‘ so much I was sweating beans. I learned to cook a feast from rice and sour cream.

And I bartered dog training to repair our furnace, fix our car and even once for a 25 ton load of gravel for the driveway. I bartered photography for vegetables and chickens, dog food and clothing. We shopped at Goodwill and garage sales for everything and in turn sold everything at yard sales and flea markets. The summer before the Gulf War, we sold enough stuff in one month to live for three.

But to do so we had to make the command decision to sacrifice many things.

We used to joke that in the lean times we worked better as a team. It was the times of plenty that got us into trouble.

Here we are having survived the oil embargoes of the 70’s, all of the minor little glitches to the dot com bust at the turn of the last decade and again a humdinger of a problem looms before us.

Again we are faced with the same decisions our parents had to make and their parents had to make during times of great sacrifice and need.

I call it the hierarchy of priority. I won’t be taking that trip to Texas this spring for our annual conference, nor will I be attending too many seminars as a result of the economy. Instead, I will be concentrating on creating some unique ways to conserve finances so I do not have to pass those costs on to my dog training students.

Christmas is before us and although fuel has come down to record low prices since I started this post, it is a hard time for many.

We will celebrate quietly at home, the three of us, feast on grown or captured foods and conserve our money for what may happen at the turn of the new year.

I am plotting my garden now.

Providing of course, we can afford the price of seeds.

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Filed under agriculture, Stone Soup Diaries