Humans 1, Possum 1, Chickens 0

A lazy possum got tired of fighting the cats for their cat food and went after our two free ranging chickens who sleep in a coop with a busted latch.  One chicken ran away to live to chicken it up another day.  The other did not.  The possum received a bite of chicken and two bullets from my husband, probably not quite the meal before a long rest it was hoping for.

So one chicken is alive somewhere in the trees and the other is dead, along with the predator that came after it.  We have the darnedest ill luck with poultry in winter.

No pictures, and I think that’s for the best.  The sheep are doing all right though.  They like the mild winter.

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Another day, another bramble rescue

Little Shaft, against all sheep sense, got tangled up this morning in a blackberry bush.  I had morning treat out and he wasn’t there with all the others, he was up the hill quietly getting rained on and struggling with the stupid bush.  I had to cut yet more branches out of his fleece, and I thought he was knotted up, but he was actually just stuck to the root of the bush.  I was able to cut that out with the trimming shears pretty easily and then he ran away, shaking himself out and joining the rest of the flock.

I am going back out in an hour or two to see how he is doing, if he can run on both back legs, he was blessedly not stuck very long, maybe an hour or so.  He is so silly, this weekend we have to make yet another pass at his fleece to get the little bits out.  Shearing is not an option because he needs the length to keep the bramble from cutting him.  The crazy part is that there isn’t much bramble!  He just gets tangled in the very few bits that are in that pasture.  We may need to take the brush mower out anyway, though.  We’ll see after we catch up on hoof trimming and fleece trimming.  Again, this very stupid little lamb has an excellent, soft, water-resistant fleece.  I marvel endlessly as I cut little bits out because they’re attached to blackberry branches.  Better the bramble’s in the fleece than his skin, of course.

Sheep!

Fancy city thinking, fancy city problems

To keep this very simple, it is pouring rain right now, we’re utterly wiped out and we didn’t get everyone’s hooves trimmed.  Still two ewes and one of the rams left to take care of.  We will probably have to try tomorrow or even have to push it out to a random day next week.

But the way hoof trimming works if you don’t try to think like a fancy city person is that goats go in stanchions and sheep are sat up on their butts, either by a second person who isn’t the trimmer, or a sort of hammock/chair thing that does it if there’s no second person available.

We put sheep in the stanchion and oh how we paid for it.  In the stanchion you have bucking, frightened sheep that you have to hold down in addition to the stanchion.  Sit a sheep down, though, and you have a calmer animal that is UNABLE to freak out enough to cause trouble and you have an opportunity for the animal to know that you aren’t a predator or a jerk so they will be easier on successive maintenance days.

For some crazy mixed up reason we thought since the stanchion works awesome for goats it would just be dandy mcdandy for sheep.  Even though I can’t recall anyone local using a stanchion for their sheep and none of the sheep books mention stanchions for basic maintenance like hoof trimming.  Yeah, when your references don’t say to do a thing you think is more “logical” and provide an alternative that is easy and fast, they know of what they speak!

We were quite foolish to think changing it up would be easier or better.

Anyway, of the goats and sheep trimmed, the goats were easy, the sheep were hard until we sat the last one down and then it was easy (last one was little bramble-filled Shaft, his hooves were in nice shape and there wasn’t much bramble left to clear, but his fleece has a few burrs in the top layer, not near the skin, that will make spring skirting an adventure).

One sheep got cut (our gray with one udder because a shearer took out the other nipple), and she also has some kind of hoof issue on her front left hoof.  It is neither red nor stinky, the twin signs of rot, but there’s a lot of random hoof badness that isn’t hoof rot, so we’ll have to include her in the roundup of the three sheep remaining and get a better look at it.  It may just be a lot of impacted material from delaying a trim so long.

So we’re not done yet and we may be stuck waiting until next Saturday to finish the job, but we will definitely try to carve some time out ASAP and then we basically have to be very treat-happy for several weeks straight to get everyone used to us, since, you know, we (possibly) knocked up the ewes already and then proceeded to spaz them out.  We really planned this one out with thought and care, you betcha.

Getting past an entitlement mentality in sustainable farming

Courtesy of that farmer I mentioned yesterday comes yet another grist special about farm financing.  I dunno, I see these articles around and about a lot and what it boils down to is that people seem to expect tens or hundreds of thousands (or more) for business models that aren’t likely to pan out.  Like, there is a 5 acre ‘farm’ mentioned in the comments that had trouble getting farm financing.  That ‘s not really a financially viable farm size.  It is fine as a homestead or a hobby, but not a working farm, as a solid rule of thumb.

I do think there is some valid critique about lenders not being open to mixed-use, more diverse farming models, but it’s hard to see past the entitlement mentality.

My husband and I are getting a little homestead together and if that goes well, we’ll try to farm for real, but we worked really hard to save up some reserve to buy equipment, stock, etc. and I never see anyone mention that. It used to be (at least where I grew up) that a farmhand (which is what ‘farm manager’ means in practical terms) who wanted their own set something aside over years until they had some kind of down payment or reserve for equipment/seed/etc., even if they were mostly living off room/board and very small wages. They didn’t go around crying that the USDA wouldn’t lend them the money. But, that was a couple decades ago. Now nobody thinks you need savings to do anything, I guess.

Credentialism will not save our food system

The rise of credentialism has had many depressive effects on economic development, social norms and family formation.  However, instead of recognizing the problems with credentializing everything, all too many folks are doubling down and working to drag credentials into even more places they shouldn’t be.  Like institutional food prep and composting.

Do we who care about sustainability really want to financially support a system where people have to go to community college to be taught composting and kosher fishstick preparation?  I love how the article wraps up with a halfhearted lunge at sensibleness by mentioning that you could do this sort of thing without thousands of dollars of government grants and educational loans, but then you know, you won’t be “upgrayeddin ur skillz”.

This is absurd.  It’s not like we haven’t overprofessionalized other entire sectors of society, like, I dunno, health care with its myriads of paper-pushing, credentialed employees who are not doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, health aides or medical assistants.  Or education.  Or, or maybe we could stop obsessing about how to make everything into an excuse to promote college for all and just focus on getting people out there without the puffery of needing to shell out for a credential.  We don’t all need to go to college to gain middle class incomes and lifestyles if we stop playing this silly game.

Why Urban Farming is Stupid and Evil

If you spend any time in the sustainable farming scene, you will inevitably run into people pushing the urban farming thing. Oh my goodness it is such a horrible horrible idea. It’s one thing to grow a few herbs in a window box– it is a whole ‘nother to pretend a city can self-produce significant portions of its own food.  It’s not sustainable or eco-friendly or green or sound.  It’s mostly political, sadly.  The entire point is to build a working proof that city dwellers don’t need those “Rethuglican” farmers in flyover country, they can hydroponic their way to food sufficiency!

Sometimes people will actually come out and admit this, but that doesn’t help much. Urban farming boosters are very good at not specifying percentages so they can fall back on “We just want people to produce a little bit for their own families, maaaannn” to critics while cheerfully hyping “long term food sufficiency”  or “community food sovereignty” to fellow fans. Sustainable agriculture advocates have to choose.  They can’t on the one hand say that there is a thing such as urban farming and it will aid in food security for poor people while on the other hand claiming that it’s just a fun community project to keep urban teens busy.  Continual talk out of both sides of their mouths on this is one of the many reasons real efforts towards a more diversified, decentralized, robust food production system are not happening.

It needs to be hammered home that if urban farming production isn’t meant to be significant on a local or regional level, then the money going into it really is a complete misallocation of cash, time and labor. And if it is meant to be significant, then we’re back to the craziness of trying to do that in an urban environment when we totally don’t have to and could put the money towards better farming techniques and opportunities for actual farmers instead of the current, well, racist and classist money grab that is urban agriculture.

Speaking of technology, that is usually where urban agriculture boosters start yipping about how improved technological advancements and farming techniques suddenly make “urban farming” a sane thing.  But having better tech just changes the tradeoff calculus. In fact, it can just make some things look falsely feasible when they aren’t really sustainable. Needing fewer people (except of course they never really want *less* human labor, but that’s a digression for another time) doesn’t erase the input and maintenance issues.  Where does the organic material come from?  What do you do when it’s not the political flavor of the month and the grants run out?  Is it really likely there will be an infinite supply of overeducated, mostly white young people to administer and intern for these programs?  And so on and so forth.

The real truth is that having better tech means BETTER OPTIMIZED FARMING OUTSIDE THE CITY. It’s still local if it goes four miles to the city, after all. We can have clean, green cityscapes and also much better food produced near, just not in, the cities. Why waste the tech on urban daydreams when it could be used for improving and optimizing small farm production just outside the cities? Vast quantities of time, money and labor are being diverted to this ideological foofery instead of actually getting people into functioning small and medium farm production.   This is a case in point, misrepresenting history to further the dumb urban farming agenda.

In Detroit right now, piles of money are raining from the government and non-profit sky for delusional implementations of urban agriculture, and it’s still an unpleasant commentary on what people with money to burn think Detroit and its black people are really worth, which is not much more than stoop labor. Only with 20% less dignity.

Urban farming is not a solution to any of the problems facing sustainable production of healthy, nourishing plants and animals.  At best, it is a nice way for a community to make use out of an old parking lot or what have you.  At best.  In general, though, it is a way to actively undermine or prevent small to medium local-regional food production operations from blossoming.  This is too bad, as it is a fine hobby.  It’s just stupid and evil as policy.

Food and Faith: Why Bother?

My dear husband and I are Christians and this is not so unusual in the sustainable farming and food realms.  Farming comes up repeatedly in the Bible, as well as the general principle of stewardship and taking good care of the temporal blessings we’ve been graced with.  For us, growing and raising some of our own food and clothing and energy is part of the big picture of taking care of what the Lord has provided for us to tend.

We’re in it for our posterity.  We want our children to see that hard work can have a connection to a good end result.  We want them to know where food comes from and how it gets all the way to our plates.  We want our children to understand that because we love God and His handiwork, we want to take good care of it, not use it up and toss it out and hope space travel becomes an option.  It is about love and labor, and learning to love labor.  I don’t think everyone needs to farm or homestead, but certainly a few more will have to try.  It is not known how much longer this old rock will last, but in the time we have right now, it seems obvious as a Christian that excellent stewardship of land and the life upon and inside it is part and parcel of walking along His narrow Way.  This is not the only choice a Christian can make to be a good steward, but we hope it can be considered a choice that demonstrates the light and love in our hearts.

So there.