We have 22 nursing kids on the farm right now and they really are a joy. Folks who’ve never seen young goats before are usually surprised at how playful and friendly they are. We love seeing them jumping, frolicking and playing with each other.
Yesterday we saw them all playing king of the hill on a dirt mound topped by an old stump. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera. But I did get a shot later of a few of them playing on a log.
The situation with little Heeza and Sheeza has improved. They’re getting enough milk from their mother now that we only have to supplement with the bottle. Lately Sheeza doesn’t even take it. But her larger and always hungry brother will.
The sight of kids at play is something I hope I never grow tired of, or take for granted.
The shocking facts are well-known by now to those who have not chosen to remain in denial. 1/3 of American adults are obese, as are 17% of our children. Over the last 30 years adult obesity rates have doubled and child obesity rates have tripled. Whereas just 20 years ago no state in America had over 20% of it’s citizens overweight, now that is true in EVERY state in America. A mere ten years ago there there was only one state in the country (Kentucky) in which over 40% of adults were obese. Amazingly, ten years later that is now true in 39 states. It is as if our nation is suffering from a slow-acting disease, an epidemic, which is destined to kill of millions of us, afflict a generation of children with diabetes and devastate our already-overloaded health care system. It is perhaps the greatest health crisis we have ever faced.
And it is all because of ignorance, overconsumption and an absence of self-control.
It is particularly shocking that the rates of obesity are greatest in the states where church attendance is the highest. I’m not convinced that there is any correlation between going to church and being obese, but I am convinced that there has been a monumental failure on the part of the clergy to shepherd their congregations on this.
But there is a change in the air. At the conference we attended last Thursday we heard wonderful stories of congregations and churches stepping up to address the crisis, across all denominations and all across the country. Churches are putting in community gardens, they’re hosting parking lot farmer’s markets and CSA drop-off points, they’re implementing health and wellness programs, they’re educating their children and their congregations, they’re calling out the industrial food system for the creation-killing death-machine that it is. They’re proclaiming the truth that disrespect for creation (including our bodies) is disrespect for the Creator.
For those who want to learn more about how to incorporate these issues into a church or faith-based group, here are some great resources from the North Carolina Council of Churches: http://www.nccouncilofchurches.org/food-curriculum/
We have lots of herbs growing on the farm. Dill, cilantro, parsely, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives. But we couldn’t resist the urge to add more. So yesterday we planted peppermint, french tarragon, pineapple mint, lemon thyme, oregano, pineapple sage and basil.
We potted some and we added a couple of additional raised beds. And we’re looking forward to abundant harvests.
I don’t know much about herbs, so (as I do with so many things) I rely on Cherie to plan that part of our farm operation. She’s leaving today to go spread goodness in Haiti with our friends at Danita’s Children, so I’ll be on my own for a while. I’ll miss her of course, but I’m very glad she’s part of something so good.
And she did remind me to keep the herbs watered.
In the 18th century American Quakers refused to buy sugar. They refused because it was raised and harvested by slave labor and their consciences prohibited them from contributing to the profits of slave masters, thereby keeping their brothers and sisters in slavery. Quakers liked the taste of sugar. They would have loved to eat sweets. But they valued the freedom of the slaves more than the taste of sugar. Had others followed their lead, slavery on sugar plantations would have ended. The Quakers walked the walk, but few followed. What was true then is still true in the 21st century. If we buy products made with slave labor, we contribute to the profits of slave masters and we announce that we prefer the stuff they make to the freedom of the slaves, who are usually children.
Many of the places in America where food insecurity is the worst are places where agriculture is the most signficiant economic activity. How can that be?
I recently learned that Greensboro NC is ranked third in the nation in food insecurity, yet it sits in the middle of a state whose number one industry is now and has always been agriculture.
In our own area we have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation, yet most of the farm labor is done by Mexican seasonal migrant workers. We have hungry and malnourished people, yet we are surrounded by some of the finest farmland in the world. We have rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes far greater than the national averages, yet an abundance of good, healthy, life-sustaining and life-enriching food is available with hardly more than a few garden tools and a little physical effort.
Why does this happen? Why are these farms and these gifts being neglected?
We need to look around and ask ourselves, WTF? Why this failure? Where’s the farms? Where’s the farmers? Where’s the food? Where’s the future?
This is the time of year when hens tend to go broody–meaning they decide to hatch some of the eggs rather than let us eat them all. When a hen goes decides she wants to sit (our colloquial way of saying “goes broody”) she loses the feathers on her breast and hunkers down over a clutch of eggs. In this way she keeps the eggs warm enough to incubate the eggs. Normally skittish or docile hens become territorial when they’re broody and will try to peck us when we go for the eggs. Once she starts sitting in earnest the hen will stay on the nest for 21 days, rarely leaving it for a drink of water or a little food, until the eggs hatch.
These two hens have gone broody and have chosen nesting boxes in the henhouse to sit in. When that happens we make sure the hens have a dozen eggs under them and we mark them. This way we’re able to remove any eggs that don’t belong in her clutch, while making sure we don’t eat any that are being incubated by the hens.
Sometimes we’ve had hens make nests in the barn or shed. As long as she’s safe from predators those sittings usually go fine and the mama returns to the henhouse in a few weeks being trailed by a dozen chicks.
Hatching eggs in the henhouse is more problematic. Often a hen will force her way into the nesting box the broody hen is sitting in (probably because it’s her favorite place to lay). She’ll lay an egg on the clutch then leave. Meanwhile the sitting hen (who has a very tiny brain, after all) will relocate to a different nesting box, leaving the eggs she’s supposed to be hatching uncovered. We have to police this kind of thing or the eggs will go cold and won’t hatch.
Not many people still hatch chicks this way. Of course on the industrial farms they use large incubator machines. Even small scale farmers often use incubators to make sure they get a good hatch and to avoid taking layers out of commission for so long.
But we prefer to let the hens reproduce as naturally as possible. And we love seeing a mama hen teaching her chicks to forage for food and gathering them under her wings at night.
Hopefully, if our hens will just act right, we’ll have a bunch of new chicks on the farm in a few weeks.
We added two piglets to the farm this week. We don’t breed pigs here, so I got these little gilts from a neighbor.
We’ll keep them in a barn stall for a couple of weeks, at the most, until they’re used to us and tamed. Then we’ll put them out in the pasture where they’ll be able to roam freely around six acres, living the kind of lives pigs were intended to live. I’m sure I don’t need to remind y’all of how the vast majority of the pigs in this country are treated and raised.
A recent visitor to our farm said, “If I had to be a farm animal, I’d want to be one here.” I agreed with her.
These little piglets got lucky.