Our Field Day

On April 27 we’ll be hosting a “field day” here at the farm, as part of a series of events being hosted by the farms that are members of Chemical-Free Farms of Southern Virginia.  We’ll also be attending the events hosted by Our Father’s Farm (on April 20), Strawberry Creek Farm (on May 18), Herndon Family Farm (date tba) and Chandler’s Gardens (date tba).

We haven’t finalized the details yet, but there will be fun activities for children as well as farm tours and gardening demonstrations.  If the event is a success we’ll try to do something similar in the fall.

Later in the year we hope to start hosting gatherings of folks who share our commitment and passion for sustainable living.  We’re hoping for something similar to what our friends at Land and Table are doing.  The gatherings will be potluck get togethers at our old farm house and we’re hoping they will involve some combination of music, films, book discussions, poetry and most of all fellowship, oriented around sharing ideas, stories and life in the journey toward living better and more sustainably.

Hoping we plant those seeds well…

Love Wins

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Dreaming of Planting

We’ve bought our seeds and finished our preliminary garden plans.  I’ve mapped out the gardens, in my mind, and I imagine them all prolific and weed-free.

But as I type this the ground is frozen solid and covered in ice and snow.  We won’t be planting any gardens anytime soon.  Now is the time for dreaming of them.

We try to source as many of our seeds from local sources as possible.  But this year we’ve ordered lots of seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and from Johnny’s.  We’re trying lots of new varieties and moving to mostly organic seeds.

We’ll also be doing more of our own starts this year and trying to avoid purchasing transplants. 

The response to the CSA has been excellent.   We have several new folks signed up and we’re excited to become (hopefully) a part of improving the quality of their lives.

It’s going to be a great year.

Love Wins

Hope For Haiti

It’s been a while since I mentioned our heroes in Haiti.  For a while they were regularly featured on this blog and I feel I should return to them on ocassion.

Though the expression is probably overused, our first visit to Haiti was life-changing.  In the years that have followed we have stayed connected, even if not as dramatically as we once thought we would (i.e. we didn’t move to Haiti).

Cherie is now on staff at Danita’s Children, as a volunteer, where she handles and coordinates all mission trips.  It was at Danita’s, in Ouanaminthe, that we met the amazing women there who have dedicated their lives to rescuing and caring for Haitian orphans.  I’ve blogged frequently about the great work being done by them and for anybody looking for a good way to help Haiti and Haitian children, I highly recommend Danita’s.

While visiting Danita’s the first time we were also greatly privileged to be able to meet Pastor Daniel Paul, his wife Clynnie and a young American nurse named Emily who has become a friend as well as one of our most admired heroes.  Pastor Daniel is Hatian, a university-trained agronomist who also has a degree from an American seminary.  He and his wife operate La Maison des Agneaux de Dieu Orphelinat” (MADO) or “The House of the Lambs of God Orphanage” in Ouanaminthe. In addition to their regular educations the orphans there are being taught valuable agricultural skills.  They raise most of the food they eat and sell their surplus.  Pastor Daniel is a great inspiration and if more Haitians followed his lead Haiti would soon be a net food-exporter (as it was until a couple of decades ago) rather than a nation dependent upon foreign food aid.  And the children of Haiti would develop the skills and character to build a strong independent nation.  Sponsoring a child at MADO is a good inexpensive way to help make the world a better place.

We are greatly inspired by the missionaries at Danita’s and Pastor Daniel’s.  It has been a tremendous blessing to get to know them and to ocassionally have a chance to be a very small part of their great work.  One of the highlights of our life here was when Danita and Brenda Sapp visited our farm.  Later were blessed to have Jen Wride visit.  Jen is now working on agricultural projects with Pastor Daniel.  We hope that someday we’ll be fortunate enough to have Emily and Pastor Daniel visit, and if not we look forward to seeing them again in Haiti.

Haiti is a desperately needy place.  But with great folks like these dedicating their lives to changing that, there is promise as well.

Love Wins

RIP Sir Joey Whiteflint

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It just doesn’t seem the same around here.  Our good dog, friend and fellow goatherd Joey has passed away. 

It happened a couple of weeks ago.  I’d noticed that he appeared to be unusually sluggish for a couple of mornings, but (having heard him barking during the night) I just assumed he was tired.  But on Sunday morning he had little energy and I knew he was sick.  I was still hoping it wasn’t anything serious.  But within a few hours he was gone.

Joey walked over the waterer and laid down.  All around him were the goats he’s protected for years, on a day we had lots of kids being born.  He died comfortably, among his friends.

He will be greatly missed.

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Me and Joey

Love Wins

A Day Off, Then Time to Plan

Saturday before last was sorta like a day off for us.  After doing the morning chores we drove to Floyd, which is our state’s mini version of Asheville, North Carolina.  Along the way we dropped off some eggs, then drove over to Coles Hill to have a look at what may someday be the site of our neighborhood uranium mine.  But most of the day was devoted to rest and relaxation.

Floyd is a funky little town in the mountains.  There are a lot of gentle people there, who share our values.  It was a nice place to spend a few hours.  The visit has inspired me to try harder to cultivate a community of kindred souls here.  Maybe this is the year we’ll get that started.

We felt it would be good for us to have a relaxing Saturday, as the next day was devoted to planning this year.  We called it our annual White Flint leadership retreat.  It was just me and Cherie, sitting at the kitchen table taking stock of where we are and making decisions about where we’re going.  I don’t like number crunching, but it has to be done sometimes.  Once crunched, our numbers weren’t pretty.  It is no wonder that so many farms like ours don’t survive.  But the numbers were significantly less ugly than they had been the year before and our honest projections for this year are even better.  So we will press on, and that makes me happy.

We spent a lot of our time doing a seed inventory, ordering new seeds, planning gardens and dividing labor.

Yesterday the seeds arrived.  Today we’ll reconvene our executive committee to have a look at them to confirm we got what we ordered.  We’ll spend some time finishing up our brochure, planning our seed starts and taking care of some unfinished financial and tax stuff.  We’re going to devote part of each Sunday this year to these kinds of administrative things.

We’re looking forward to being able to sit on the front porch while doing it.

Love Wins

 

The Organic Egg Scam

I’ve blogged and podcasted frequently about how industrial agriculture and its marketeers prey on folks who are trying to eat better and do the right thing with misleading claims about the quality of their food.  As I’ve said in the past, this is most egregious in the case of eggs.

Supermarket shelves are lined these days with cartons proclaiming their eggs to be from chickens that are “organic,” “free range,” “cage free” and the like.  They often claim the eggs are high in “omega 3” or even that they are from chickens fed a “vegetarian diet.”  Unsuspecting consumers pay a high price for these eggs, expecting they’re getting chickens raised as ours are.

But the reality is almost always far different.  The factory farms can crowd thousands of chickens into a building with a “porch” and call their products “cage free” and “free range,” even if the chickens never see the light of day, never eat a bug or blade of grass, never take a dust bath, never stretch their wings, etc.  The federal regulations permit the “free range” claim as long as the facility has a “porch” even if the chickens never actually go onto it.

As I’ve said many times, there is a simple way to test the validity of these claims.  Just crack open one of their eggs on a plate and compare it to a farm fresh egg cracked open on a plate beside it.  If the egg is runny and the yolk is pale yellow, the chicken wasn’t raised naturally.  If the egg is firm and the yolk is orange, then it was.  Here’s the photo I took demonstrating this with one of our own eggs compared to a supermarket egg.

I’ve done this for people several times and they’re always surprised.  Then cook the eggs and compare the taste.  That’s where the rubber meets the road.

CBS News recently ran a story about the organic egg scam.  Read it HERE.

Here are some of the “cage free” “free range” hens.

And here they are enjoying the great outdoors.

Sadly, while eggs with these claims may be marginally better than the full-out industrial version, when you buy them you are almost always getting ripped off.

To get the real deal, start raising a few hens in the yard.  If that’s not possible, find a local farm which uses natural practices and get your eggs there.  Localharvest.org is a great resource to help locate a farm in your community.

Love Wins

Condemnation by Category

Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred.  Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.

Wendell Berry

Love Wins