Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Last Straw?

It's probably about time to try to talk about what is likely the straw to break the back of Jackson's Corner Farm, before it even officially exists as such. I've wanted to write about this since this last spring, but I'm still not just sure how to start. I guess the only way is to just start typing and see what happens.

I had originally thought to present via images but it will likely soon become clear as to why I've decided to forgo this plan, for now at least.

You see the thread began in the spring of '09 in that as I was driving to the farm one morning I saw that the neighbor was using a massive new tractor. I stopped to snap some pictures as this neighbor exemplifies the modern industrial farming method. This family rents large parcels of farmland in the area, each massive field containing one crop such as barley, wheat, canola. They have a yard down the road that must contain at least $3 to $5 million in equipment and sheds. Then there are at least two massive granary complexes, one in the yard near us and another about 10 miles away. Now these are not as large as a regional shipping facility, but still very large complexes. I cannot begin to imagine what their credit tallies must look like.

Anyway, the point is that this picture is of a massive tracked tractor with cultivator and trailing fertilizer applicator working a specific corner of a field that is adjacent to our last field. Later that year, their field was surveyed and a large section along the train tracks was staked off. Obviously there was going to be some kind of development here but details were sketchy and I didn't personally investigate at all. So this last spring, on a similar trip to the farm, I noticed that work was beginning on the part of the staked area that was in the aforementioned picture. All summer long we watched work progress, and 2 massive steel tanks were eventually built. Everyone in the area wondered what was going on over there, the general consensus being that some kind of asphalt facility was being built. Whatever it was going to be, I doubted it was going to be terribly healthy to live near, never mind grow food beside.

Finally, some signage went up on the chain link fence and sure enough, this is phase one of a Colasphalt facility. Highways are great and all, but I wonder just how many toxic chemicals go into making them. So then we find out through a notice in the newspaper, that they have dug two wells on their property and so they plan to take all their water from less than a mile from us and not far from many neighbors who use water wells.

A small group of these people have come together with various concerns, the more astute of them realizing that there are some significant risks to air, water and soil. Unfortunately, some of the more vocal people in this group are arguing that we must choose between trying to defer the building of the final two phases of the facility, and having any influence over the situation at all. I can't help but find this position terribly frustrating for several reasons, one of the biggest being the fact that this is a huge corporation and I'm hard pressed to believe they will do anything other than cut every corner possible in the interest of maximizing profit.

This might be a bit shallow and perhaps even hypocritical but a large issue, as far as I am concerned at least, is the destruction of property values, particularly for my family as we will now be sandwiched between a landfill sited directly up wind and this asphalt facility. Even if a decision is made to sell, it is seems likely that it will bring but a fraction of what such well kept and formerly well located land should be worth.

All in all, I find it a rather depressing situation. I know it is a situation that is occurring all over the world but it blows my mind and pisses me off royally that so few seem concerned about the situation. I wonder, as I think I've commented before, if the concentration of apathy is not much higher here, being primarily a resource extraction economy. It's time to start thinking more realistically about where to go, what to do. Or maybe I'm wrong. It is possible that peak oil could significantly harm the viability of this facility and if things start to grind to a halt around 2015, perhaps all is not yet lost.

*deep breath*

Ah well, that's enough thinking on it for one day. Peace to all.

Monday, December 06, 2010

No More White Hats

This is hardly a new analogy but when I was growing up, in the late 70's and 80's, it always seemed that WW2 had shown that the world is split into the good and the bad. The White Hats and the Black, if one is a fan of the American Western (as I most definitely must admit to being). The Black Hats were the Fascist and then the Communist countries while the White Hats were worn by the west. USA was The Lone Ranger (with a healthy mix of Jesus) and I guess Britain was Tonto. I think mine was pretty much the last generation to have this image of the US as the rotten parts (being involved in setting up "friendly" dictatorships, for example, no matter how brutal) were starting to become more and more known.

I began to see my own country, Canada, as one of the last White Hats, perhaps even a potential Marshall. But soon enough it became obvious that our proximity to the failing hero was leading to our own corruption. It could be argued that when manufacturing drove the western empire, Ontario was where US influence really took hold in Canada. NAFTA gained its foothold this way and now that natural resources and energy have taken over, Alberta seems to be the strongest connection.

So I look around now and don't see much white anywhere, other than snow...

China looks to be setting itself up as the dominant Superpower, with Brazil, India and Russia looking to show some competition, but can any of these countries be looked to as leaders in the fields of Freedom, Integrity, Wisdom, or Respect (especially for our environment)?

Things are so crazy that before too long we'll probably need to get someone's approval for (and pay the requisite fee/bribe) just to use the analogy of White or Black Hats. Sometimes its awful easy to see why those who remain "asleep" choose to do so.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Man Proves Naked Body Scans AND GropeDowns Are Unconstitutional

Just in case this isn`t all over the news, I figured I would share this little ray of sunshine here.

A traveler with the time and patience seems to have used common sense and civil discussion in order to avoid being naked body scanned OR "intimately" patted down in order to return to the US. It seems that perhaps there is some tiny glimmer of hope in this increasingly insane world after all.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

My Oh My

What a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine and all that jazz.

Seriously, it was an absolutely gorgeous day here in our part of northwest Alberta. Actually, it was an even nicer day two days ago until a strong wind came up and made it kind of miserable. But no such wind today thankfully, just sunshine and a mild temperature.

It wasn't even marred by having my leg gnawed on for awhile by 2 young sows. Nor was it really disrupted by the nasty business that caused my leg to receive the gnawing. The managing factor of our little family farm is not to be discouraged from the necessity of castrating boar pigs meant for slaughter, in order to avoid "boar taint" in the meat, so today was the day to get started. Thank goodness we only have the two young boars.

For those who don't know what I mean, there is a long standing thought that male pig, or boar, meat is not really fit for consumption due to a strong and unpleasant flavor. As such, boars meant to be meat are generally castrated before they reach sexual maturity. But this is a rather barbaric and distasteful action, pretty much the least favorite job for any farmer. So over time, breeding has reduced the occurrence of "boar taint" to the point where many feel castration is unnecessary. There is an excellent post on the Sugar Mountain Farm blog which discusses this topic in more detail. I highly recommend both the post and the blog itself.

But, on our farm, the barbarism continues for now. And with this batch of pigs I think that might actually have been necessary as there is a good chance that these young swine contain wild boar genetics as recently as their father (either that or their grandfather). I know the the boar we operated on today smelled quite strong and it would certainly be bad to have the meat ruined. Luckily, all went as well as possible and the young fellow went right to eating and seems to be recovering well in his spacious and newly constructed pen. Tomorrow or the next day, his pen mate will be done as well and in a week they'll have forgotten the whole affair.

But back to the more pleasant topic, I'm hoping that we'll all have more of this lovely weather to enjoy as it is allowing us to catch up on a lot of little jobs. Usually we have a foot of snow by now and we'd be settling into the winter routine. But this can last until after Christmas as far as I am concerned!

As always, peace and comfort to all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Coca Cola Case

Here is another documentary that should probably be spread far and wide:



I fear it shows what is simply the start of a dire struggle by multi-national corporations (and their millions of shareholders) to maintain the status quo of constant growth. Most disturbing to me is the ideology of the students who seemed so very sure that the murder of workers and union leaders is just a by-product of the invisible hand of the almighty "free" market. Its hard to find any other explanation for this acceptance except that they refuse to see that in our "free" market so many of these entities seem to have reached a point where they can basically do whatever they want...simply ignoring or changing laws which do not suit their desires at the moment. These supporters are apparently content that their acceptance of this situation will give them the opportunity to achieve more power and ability to consume more than enough other people that they feel they are winning. They have chosen to deny the fact that this type of competition holds us back as a species, that it does real damage to the life supporting potential of our world.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Must Be The Anthopper

I have not written in much too long, other than to drop the odd video or something. I apologize for this, but the fact is that I have felt like little would come out but negativity. This is not to say, once again, that I see nothing positive or uplifting. Its just that those occurrences are so rare next to those when I feel almost overwhelming negativity both from close up and far away.

Thankfully, at this time none of this negativity is coming from the direction of family. I'm not sure why but even my father seems...well for lack of a better word, positive. Even after having our combine break down just as it seems as though the weather would let us get off what little crop we have this year thanks to what might be the only drought in Canada this year, followed up by enough regular rain to keep grain harvest at bay. I think that's because he has decided, to himself anyway, that no matter whether I take over or not, next year will be his last year farming. I think he is at peace with that and I can't say as I blame him...although I still think there is enough life left in my parents that they will be around to get a taste of the hardship that is coming. And I so would like to prevent them from suffering from it, if possible.

There is the ongoing negative pressure of trying to exist in an area that is oriented primarily around natural resource extraction, sited next to what is becoming a major regional landfill on one side and a big ass asphalt storage facility on another side. (This is a new development this year and I'm quite sure I will be writing in more detail on this subject soon).

Despite the local worries, my concerns are lately returned to being much more macro in scale. I am finding it difficult to continue to commit to some plan of action in regards to the future, when more and more often the signs show a very dark future looming. Sparks are once again flying pretty heavily between the East and the West and religious bigotry seems to be on a dramatic increase. Our failing global economy, seemingly guided purposefully by a few ultra rich in order to become ubermegaultra rich, is sure to lead to increasing tension and quite potentially both right and left wing despots.

The ever increasing class disparity coupled with and perhaps caused by the ascension of multi-national corporate entities to a place of power rivaling that of perhaps all individual nations, never mind individual humans, means it is arguable that we have created a neo-feudalism. These corporations employ emotional manipulators to advertise us into going to war in order to maintain the freedom to buy more and more "stuff" that is usually of significantly decreasing quality. Much of our very food and "medicine", created by these corporations, are actually proving to be deadly both to humans and our environment. How much chance does there seem to be, that our oceans will contain even a fraction of the life there even now, never mind 5000 years ago? It is our submission to this idea of constant economic growth and the glimmer of "hope" that we might drag ourselves out of the shit in order to reach the heights of the truly "successful" in the world. Those accumulators who now feel their accumulation makes them more finely evolved and thereby worthy of running the world, as if we could ever manage such a thing.

Its often hard to believe they will stop before they kill us all.

It is so tempting to return to seeking as much leisure and relaxation as possible, to just letting the bullshit play out and hoping the end comes fast and without too much misery and suffering for too many people. I try not to forget that this is the path to more misery and suffering eventually. I guess the answer is to try to make myself an anthopper, the best parts of both the ant and the grasshopper.

That cheesy enough for ya?

Ah well, onward and upward eh?

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Invasion of Sweet

I apologize for foisting yet another video onto folks, but this presentation is pretty important. Most of us have heard that High Fructose Corn Syrup is "bad", but how many of us really understand why...beyond the high potential that it contains transgenic modifications? This presentation, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, offers up biochemical understanding of how vitally dangerous is the flood of Fructose and Sucrose into the North American (and more and more the global) diet. There is some good explanation as to why fiber is so important in our diet as well, especially when it is so near impossible to avoid fructose/sucrose nowadays.

The presentation is an hour and a half long but the time goes quite quickly thanks to the skills of a vibrant presenter and the information is vital. It is revitalizing my intention to bring my diet more fully back into proper balance.



Spread the wealth!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another Gift From Mother Nature

Earlier this summer, I saw a creature that I had never seen before. As I was standing next to our little greenhouse, watering some plants as I recall, this curious creature came flying toward me. At first I thought it was a hummingbird but not having seen one of those before, in person, I was not totally sure. Yet the critter hovered around me, there were two large planters of fresh blooming flowers on the table and it flitted from blossom to blossom, giving me a very good view of itself. I noticed that it was not feathered, which discouraged my thinking it was a hummingbird, yet it was of a size similar to my understanding of hummingbirds, and it flew in just the same way...beating its wings so fast as to make them seem just a blur. Instead of feathered, it seemed to have bristles like an insect and it also seemed to furl and unfurl a long proboscis (like a butterfly) instead of having a long beak.

So when I got home that evening I did some research and discovered that I had been graced by the presence of a hummingbird moth:

(Image courtesy of Ontariowildflower.com)

Interesting looking critter isn't it?

Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Some Lighter Notes

As a stagehand and lighting technician I have worked a great number of concerts, from small to quite large. But for all these shows, I have not had the chance to work on a production by what might well be my favorite band of all...and I would never make such a statement lightly.

Anyone who is unaware of the Dave Mathews Band would do well to have a listen, I think. Not only are they fantastic musicians playing some extremely well written music and lyrics, but they are big supporters of Farm Aid. Gosh how I'd love to be able to see them in an agricultural awareness fundraiser on our farm!! I have some neat (although now distant) connections which makes me wonder if I might not have some slim chance to at least get a letter to them.





I think this might be one of the most beautiful, if also most sad, songs of all time. I just love it.



Farmstock 2012...has a neat ring to it huh?

Ahhhh ain't fantasizing fun?

By the way, thanks to those who uploaded the videos and I hope the Band forgives them and me for sharing. I will offer some excellent produce in exchange, if they are willing to pick up!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

View From The Bottom Of The Slippery Slope

If you can, please take 45 minutes of your time to watch this piece; Children of the Secret State.

I hope others will find it as important to spread around as I do. Beyond that, I will only comment in the comment section as I don't want to influence anyone's impression before they watch it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Homo Toxicus

Think the Gulf mess is all but over?



In thinking about a title for this post, I thought I had come up with a clever little idea...Homo Toxicus. Turns out its already been done.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Garden 2010

As promised, here is a quick look at our garden here in NW Alberta, Canada. We`re at about 55 degrees Latitude, for reference. Our soil is decent for the most part, though there is a lot of clay so we have had to add a lot of organic matter.

The pictures were taken in late June, I`m just really late posting them. I will put up some updates soon as there have certainly been changes.



This little patch has always been one of the productive parts of our garden. We could put a lot more into it, but my parents have developed a pattern of spacing wide enough between each row that the rototiller can pass through. I do make little exceptions here and there, like the patch of garlic in the top right corner. It is double rowed and each pair of rows is only spaced about 18" apart, just wide enough to move for weeding and hilling.

The productive qualities of this patch mean it usually gets seeded with things we want to start eating as early as possible and grow 2 or 3 crops. Down at the bottom you can see some weeds left in a row that had contained radishes. By the time this picture was taken we had already consumed two rows of spinach as well as some of the Romaine lettuce which can be seen.


Garlic is a new addition to our garden. I decided to try growing it this year after reading on the Sugar Mountain Farm blog that garlic is an effective de-worming agent for pigs. Plus I am fond of roasted garlic/bell pepper seasoning so I want to try to make my own over the next couple of years.


This view shows most of the rest of the garden, looking north. The picture is taken from the other side of a small cabin that my Granny used to live in. The cabin basically turns the garden into an upside down Y. It does extend further behind where this picture was taken but the ground was wet from the sprinkler so I didn`t go as far back as I could have. There is basically a large patch of tomato sets, some cabbage sets and a couple more rows of radish. Probably something else that I cannot remember as well.


Speaking of the sprinkler, here it is in action. Here you can see our one long row of beets. Up top and to the left are some broccoli and more cabbage. To the right are two long rows of bush beans.



Here are the beans again, then one row of peas (now producing finally!). You can see a couple of volunteer sunflowers as this is where mom had two rows of sun flowers last year. One the other side of the peas are two rows of potatoes, the first ones we planted. They have been hilled well and I wish I had the time to bring more dirt to them to have buried the plants one more time. The soil here is probably the healthiest in the garden right now so I think we could have got a LOT of potatoes out of those two rows. As it is they should still do pretty well. We ought to be eating from them soon actually.


Next are a couple of rows of mom`s begonia bulbs from last year, but they didn`t winter very well and so they are not coming along terribly well either. I think they don`t like such a clay based soil. The picture shows another couple of rows of cucumbers from seed, then a couple of rows of zucchini and pumpkin, both of which are exploding now.


This year`s sunflowers are doing fairly well too. As is the swiss chard next door to them. On the other side of the chard are three more double rows of peas. I still think we should have done a couple more double rows.

There is another patch of potatoes in there but they were quite small still so I didn`t take any pictures of it. Then comes my 2010 corn patch. Last year`s patch produced very well but mom felt that it didn`t freeze very well so we tried a different variety in the big patch this year. The center two rows contain runner beans as well as I had some seed remaining after seeding my Three Sisters mounds. They are out-growing the corn now!


This is the view from the north end of the garden, back towards the south. You can see the small cabin that I mentioned earlier, as well as the Three Sisters mounds down at the bottom of the picture. Down by my feet are about 3 more rows of leaf lettuce and yet a couple more rows of radish.

And that`s basically it. I`ll take some more pictures and update soon.

Peace and comfort.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Positive Report

It has been pointed out to me recently, including a response to one of my recent rants, that (and these are my words) I must find pause to remember the importance of balance. Even as the world goes crazy, on both micro and macro levels, we must not dwell totally on the negative. In my case, I must remember that it is not being unrealistic to look for and acknowledge the positive that is always present.

Now I don't mean to be too hard on myself. This blog is one of my outlets for negativity so there are just going to be times when the tone here is negative, especially as the world grows more dark. And one thing I will never do is sugar coat reality, that is not true positivity.

Yet I must remember to work towards balance, including here. There have certainly been positive occurrences in the time I have been writing here. In terms of the blog itself, I have met many very interesting and relatively like-minded people. This has been so very important when I live in an area where this is so very rare normally. And I am making progress in the last year with a few things that I felt needed changing.

My intention upon returning from Cuba last April was to quit smoking and really make an effort to start getting myself back into better physical condition. I was at a point where I knew I was at least 25 pounds heavier than I should be...perhaps closer to 40 pounds actually. While not what I'd consider obese, I knew I was going to start facing some health issues as I get closer and closer to 4o years old. Plus, I have several pairs of pants that I am determined to wear once more. I will be a 34 waist again dammit! I think returning to a 32 waist is probably just a bit too unrealistic at this point, though.

Luckily, the lifestyle change that was also coming has helped with this immensely.

I started being at the family farm on a full time basis, or more, and I just continued my already established habit of not smoking around my family. I had another aid or two, but this ended up being fairly easy. And I did come back from Cuba with a few cigars that got me through the reeeeally bad moments. Now it has been over a year and, barring just giving up on everything, I feel confidant that my time as a cigarette smoker has come and gone.

One of the reasons I knew I had to ditch the cigs was that I knew I had to get back into shape. As I said, I had gotten much too flabby for my own liking. But in the same time as quitting smoking, I have started to make good strides in reversing that trend as well. I have no idea what I weigh now but I know I am in much better shape. I think I am probably below 200 pounds now, but its hard to say as I have been building muscle as well as burning some fat. But this was the goal anyway. I am naturally a fairly stocky fellow and I suspect that even at 5'7", my ideal weight is around 200 lbs because I am able to carry a good deal of muscle. A body builder roommate I had in college for a year used to give me such a hard time because he had to work so hard to build muscle. I could work out for a couple of days (which did not happen very often!) and show muscle gain/definition.

Now, at 36 this certainly hasn't been as easy or as painless as it was at the time. My joints have not enjoyed the extra attention and for several months one upper body joint and then another would endure a bout of what felt like tendinitis, slowly migrating around my upper body. But this has lessened drastically over the last couple of months. Mind you, now that the manure clearing is mostly done (more on this in an upcoming post), I am not working my joints hard for 8 hours a day either. But be that as it may, I think it was just my body readjusting to the new expectations after several years of fairly sedentary living.

Next is the part I have NEVER liked...increasing my cardiovascular activity. I still have some fat that I need to burn off and I just want to increase my stamina overall. I stay on my feet a lot these days but I am trying to prepare myself to a point where, if I must, I can walk for 8-10 hours a day, at a good pace. And to where I can run for an hour. I'm not sure if I will ever achieve this last goal as I have suffered from extreme shin splints and bad lower legs ever since I was about 17. But the time may come when I must, and I want to be able to do so, if that time does come.

That`s all for now though, I think.

Saludos.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Three Sisters: 2010

I'm taking another shot at the Three Sisters gardening method this year. I took a stab at it last year with little knowledge and had limited success. This year I tried to do it a bit more properly. I laid out a few beds, raking them into raised beds as Three Sisters should be planted in mounds. I seeded runner beans this year, instead of bush beans like last year, and I seeded them after the corn had started out of the ground. And instead of seeding squash, my folks picked up two kinds of sets, although I should have seeded as well, as some mounds got no cover plants at all. This isn't a big loss as two of these mounds didn't germinate anything very well.

But, despite some setback due to late frost again this year, I am quite happy with the progress on 4 or 5 of the mounds. 3 of them are looking quite lush and I'm hopeful of a decent harvest. I think the worm composting is helping as the mounds have gotten a few good dowsings of compost tea and 3 mounds got the remnants of compost that went into making the tea.



I took some pictures of the rest of the garden as well, so I'll try to get them up soon. We're quite happy with the way it is coming this year so I am looking forward to sharing the pictures.

Until then, peace and comfort to all.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

An Important Article

This article is an important read, as I think most will agree.

Stacy Herbert is just brilliant.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Unsettled Continued take 2

*Thought of the Day: Why does it always seem surprising to people that I am so passionate about not just letting shit happen, especially control-oriented shit?*

...

I wanted to spend a little more time on this topic, since it's in my head so much lately. Something I didn't mention in the last post, and I think it probably factors heavily into my recent "unsettledness", is the fact that I feel rather unsure of my own immediate future. I cannot whine too much as my health is fine but I have to admit a certain amount of stress bears on me...as it bears on many I'm sure. I know it bears on my parents at a time in their lives when stress should be less and less of an issue.

In my case, it's that I find myself terribly unsure what direction to head in from here.

The options seem to be:

1) Go back to what I was doing 6 years ago. This would mean a move back to Edmonton and finding somewhere to crash for a few months while I either settled into freelancing or took whatever steady gig I could find. I suppose it could even mean trying to go back into cruise ship tech work or seeing if the Cirque opportunity was still available. The thing is, it would mean going back to looking out pretty much just for me, and having as much fun as I could before whatever end is coming gets here. If you are familiar with Aesop, I see this as my Grasshopper phase. As easy as it would be to return to that and as tempting as it is, I know it would be turning my back on wisdom and balance...again.

2) Accept as reality that we are fighting a losing battle here and make plans to find and relocate somewhere to make a fresh start. This is tempting as well, especially seeing how much ranch land can be purchased for good price in the Caribou region of BC. One could set up one's own operation or purchase a variety of different sorts of already established ones, albeit at higher price. The main drawback here is isolation. Admittedly this would be some benefit as well, I think, but it makes servicing a local food market pretty hard to achieve. It does present some interesting intentional community opportunities though...

3) Dig in here and build infrastructure towards a multi-generational commitment to sustainable food production in this area. I won't elaborate here now as I talk about it often.

...

Ugh, my writing of this post was interrupted by a call from the property manager for my condo, continuing the suite door re-keying fiasco. This Board of Directors/property manager bullshit is certainly not making matter easier. It seems that my pointing out of the fact that this action was reached without due process and is therefore of highly questionable legality is being ignored and the lock company will be changing my lock next week. Luckily I have learned that they are only changing the deadbolt so I will be able to re-key it myself afterward. I will be doing this but I am also pursuing the matter legally. I cannot see the logic in letting them get their legal foot in the door with this issue, even if it may seem a small issue.

By the way, don't expect to call and ask the police to come and arrest someone who says they have the legal right to break into your place and change the locks without legitimate proof that that is so. I think I just about got arrested calling ahead to ask and then wanting clarification for the reasoning. I wonder what would happen if I just stood between the locksmith and the lock though. I would think he'd pretty much have to assault me to change the lock.

...

There are probably more real choices but this interruption has been sufficiently distracting and frustrating to continue the line of thinking just now. But again, it certainly explains the feeling of "unsettledness".

And now my head hurts.

Saludos.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Unsettled

I'm not sure that I know how to write what I am thinking about and feeling anymore. Whenever I sit down to write about anything that is not sharing about the farm or some neat thing that I have seen, which is most of the time, I mostly end up doing a whole lot of backspacing and rarely end up saving any material at all. Like I said, this isn't because I am not thinking or wanting to say things...FAR from it. It's because I just don't know what to say.

Everywhere I turn I see fake order or outright chaos.

Our leaders talk about democracy while protecting the very oligarchical interests which rise up again and again to enslave us. We thought inventing a middle class would solve the problem, allowing the lower class to work their way into the middle class and maaaaybe all the way to the upper class. But all we did was solidify a class structure that must continue to fight itself because it is inherently out of balance.

I feel pity for many of my fellow Canadians who have let themselves buy into this system in order to try to avoid being part of the abhorrent lower class. It is hard to turn the fury I feel, into pity. Fury at how much acceptance there is for the truly Fascist actions of police in Toronto at the G20 conference over the weekend. Fury at the betrayal of our leaders and the weakness in my fellow citizens, who do not recognize the cages slowly but surely being erected around us. Fury that in so many ways, our selfishness and closed mindedness makes us deserve those cages. But does fury get us anywhere? Will pity or forgiveness really get us further?

I guess it should be no surprise that I think both fury and pity must be used, in balance. I see little point in just laying down and giving up what I believe is so valuable...my life and my soul.

So I guess I am able to maintain focus on one line of thinking for a short period of time, but then something else pops up, like the outright chaos that is the havoc caused by our addiction to oil. This is highlighted lately by the mess in the Gulf of Mexico but addiction to oil has wreaked havoc all over the world, all the while remaining fundamentally necessary to maintaining the explosion in numbers of humans over the past 200 years. While I feel for the plight of those around the Gulf of Mexico, it is maddening to see the rage over this disaster, while there remains a near total ignorance of 50 years worth of similar environmental destruction in Nigeria where broken pipelines have been allowed to run for months without repair at times. How many Americans are aware of the damage and suffering that has been caused in and to this region, in order to supply 25% of US oil imports?

And how many Canadians are more than willing to accept similar destruction now, in our own country? The tarsands exploitation is spreading rapidly into Saskatchewan, where the economic benefits are readily accepted just as they were and are here in Alberta. Yet we all know that this is basically open pit mining on a scale larger than anything seen before now and the result is mile after mile of ponds full of toxic tailings and at least near total water depletion or contamination. We hem and we haw and we say the government should deal with it all the while we continue most all of the practices which REQUIRE the continuation of that exploitation. And this is so for most any issue.

It would be funny if it wasn't all so fucking frustrating...and so very dangerous.

So I guess I do still have some things to say but you can see why I don't get a lot of posts out these days. This bit of rambling took over an hour to get out.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Uh Oh, Illinois

I can think of at least one person and her family, in Illinois, who will likely want to know about this article, if she doesn't already know:

It is likely to be of interest to most others as well, as it outlines how the Illinois Teacher's Retirement System has become involved in derivatives...even WRITING them. People don't believe me when I tell them not to be so sure about their pensions. Anyone who has money in a pension fund should be finding out how it is invested.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Chicken Mafia Clamps Down on Traceability

Sometimes it amazes me that the desperately fragile human race has managed to accumulate such numbers globally. After all, there is danger around every corner and, potentially, in every egg. That's right, that miracle of nature, the egg, seems like it must be wreaking so much devastation upon humans, that Canada has decided that every egg, pullet (adolescent hen) and every egg laying chicken must be traceable.

Now I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of safe food systems but I wish to add my voice to those few who are screaming for people to recognize that the ways to efficiently ensure the safety of one's or one's family's food is to grow it oneself or develop relationships with small scale farmers and food processors who will grow and process it for you. I just don't see how adding more and more bureaucracy and complexity to the system will make it safer. That logic just doesn't add up as far as I can see.

I know this likely means higher costing food. Small scale farmers don't have "volume" sales that industrial producers can rely upon, nor do they have access to subsidies that industrial scale producers do. As such, industrial farming makes its money from subsidies derived from taxes, not from fair market pricing reached through a relationship between producer and consumer.

There are so many things in our western society that need fixing, desperately. But I agree with the notion that the most important might be fixing our food systems. To do so would likely relieve a lot of other problems as well.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Grass Fed Grande Prairie Beef

Any of my vegetarian friends and readers might want to skip this post. My apologies if it is offensive but I am more than willing to discuss my omnivorous tendencies and beliefs at a later time.


Well, we now have 4 freezers full of fresh grass and hay fed beef that we need to sell to make some room for the pork that is coming and the broilers that need doing soon. This beef is from a 3 year old bull and is extra lean and absolutely delicious. We have had some of the steak and ground beef and I`m not exaggerating at all when I say it is delicious. It is some of the best tasting beef that I have had. I am sure others will agree.

At the moment we have ground beef, sirloin, t-bone and minute steaks, and a few varieties of roast...all priced below local market prices. It was processed at the local H&M Meats butcher so it is inspected. The ground beef comes in approximately 2lb portions and the steaks are, as I recall, 2 sirloin or minute or 4 t-bone per package.

If anyone in the Grande Prairie area is interested, shoot me an email for more information and pricing:

litetechca (at) gmail (dot) com

As I mentioned above, there will be pork available soon. Two gilts went to the butcher shop on Monday and we are excited to see how they turn out. Apparently our girls were the leanest and healthiest looking pigs of the week`s lot. It`s been years since my family raised pork but most of what is available locally is industrially raised in total confinement. This means pale and fat and chalk full of hormones. Our pigs are penned but have fresh air and sunlight all day every day. They are hand fed grain and grass or hay. We give them treats like coal and various roots as well. These pigs are healthy, lean and have had the best life we could give them, outside of fully pasturing them (which as I have mentioned before, is the plan for the future if I keep at this).

We will also have some free run broilers available very soon. I have been meaning to post about them as well as we are quite happy with their growth. The broiler type is so genetically shallow now and they can be prone to heart problem and limb breakage. But ours get lots of chance to run about and they are brought fresh grass every day, along with their regular diet. This means stronger limbs and healthier birds. I will post some pictures and give them a full post soon.

That`s all for now I think.

Saludos.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Local Governance?!?

I think it is clear that good government must begin locally and spread from there, but one of the biggest reasons that I worry that this may not be possible is how often I have seen local scale government work very poorly.

My first real experience with local government was during college when I was increasingly involved in student government over a 3 year period. By the third year I was student President and that year was focused almost entirely on the job and being involved with college governance as well as a good deal of provincial involvement. I was able to be involved with academic and financial planning within the college and also had the opportunity to be quite active within our provincial student body. I even managed to be a part of meetings with the Provincial Government department that dealt with colleges and universities, Advanced Education, but I was generally steered away from dealings with Advanced Ed, thanks to my outspoken nature (illustrated by my tendency to drop the F bomb when I hear someone spewing total BS and I know they should know better).

But I digress.

What I was getting as is that even at the very local level of college governance, I still saw absolutely ridiculous decisions made which would only hurt students at some point, all to satisfy greed or ego...or both. And now, a good few years later, I see the same thing going on, albeit at a smaller scale, in the condo that I live in (my brother owns our unit). People do not want the slight responsibilities of Board activity so it seems to be usually the case that those who show interest in Board activity are those who have come up with some way to use it to benefit themselves. Back in January through April the Board contracted a property manager to handle day to day management including condo fee collection and scheduling of maintenance like snow removal and repairs. It seemed to me at the time that this was being set up under some slightly suspicious circumstances but not being a Board member there was little I could do.

So now, as of a couple months ago, I receive a notice that the Board has approved a re-keying of all suites to a Master key. I should mention again, at this point, that this is a privately owned condominium unit, not an apartment. I wrote a letter to the Board stating that I was opposed to this action and did not feel that the Board had the power to take such action. The bylaw that is referenced by the Board (and the property manager who obviously asked for the Board action) states:

"An owner shall permit the Corporation and its agents, at all reasonable times, on notice (except in the case of emergency when no notice is required) to enter his Unit for the purpose of inspecting the Unit and maintaining, repairing or renewing pipes, wires cables, ducts, conduits, plumbing, sewers and other facilities for the furnishing of utilities for the time being existing in the unit or common property, or for the purpose of maintaining, repairing or renewing the common property, or for the purpose of ensuring that the Bylaws are being observed."

So now I get to argue that my interpretation of that Bylaw doesn't include my having to accept a Master key for our suite. If that doesn't work, I then have to go through the hassle of stalling the rekeying while I initiate a clarifying Notice of Motion to change the Bylaw to add definitions of "reasonable times" and "on notice". This probably needs to be done anyway, since the Bylaws are a disaster...in my opinion. They are full of these kinds of ambiguous, overly general wordings.

Grrrr, I knew I hated the idea of owning a condominium!!!!

But this hopefully does something to illustrate my concern that people nowadays will be able to form fair and common sense local governments. As much as I have seen or somehow experienced an increase in people who are conscious and interested in more than just themselves and material gains...it remains a very small fraction of the people I see in general. So very many still seem hopelessly lost in a world of text messaging while driving and doing one's hair, or in a world of celebrity worship, or in a world of worshiping the blessed economy (insert appropriate bells and whistles).

I know this doesn't mean that no local communities will have success in creating their own sustainable local governance. I'm just not sure that enough of them will form along complimentary enough lines to make positive "nationalism" or "globalism" possible. Unfortunately, this is a mindset that lends credence to the elitist view that mankind must be controlled and manipulated.

I wonder if this knowledge would be enough to wake people from their self-involved slumber and turn them from sub-consciously directed consuming robots, back into conscious stewards of themselves and the natural world.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Salvation, For Now

We have finally received a bit of a reprieve from a severely dry spring. Two days of rain, followed by a good dump of snow over the third, and ending with more rain on the fourth day, has left us feeling a heck of a lot better about the rest of the coming year. We even narrowly avoided a frost and now everything is absolutely bursting from the ground.

This precipitation was desperately needed, as I have mentioned before. What we received over those 4 days might well assure that we have enough hay for our cattle this winter. The lake our farm sits beside was as low as I ever remember seeing it. Now the water comes to around where I remember it last spring. These are both a huge relief. I just hope that there was enough rain elsewhere to extinguish the fires that have been burning throughout the province.

Back in our garden, we had been watering from the well already but all this moisture followed by a nice, sunny day today has almost everything that we planted now breaking through the soil. The 7 mounds that I built for this year's Three Sister attempt were the first to dry and the corn is already growing there, even though it was planted a day later than the other corn patch. I should be able to seed climbing beans onto these mounds sometime next week, if the weather holds. Shortly thereafter I will be able to add the squash sets that my folks seeded in the greenhouse a couple weeks back.

Speaking of the greenhouse, I should take some pictures to post as I think the folks did a pretty good job of filling it full of sets this spring. If all goes well, there should be need to purchase very few sets this year. We need to start re-potting some things now, as they are not quite ready to move into the garden for a couple of weeks yet. And I need to get some peppers going, thought I worry that I might be too late already. Hopefully we will be able to upgrade to a significantly larger greenhouse soon. It would be so nice to be able to take advantage of all that sun that we seem to get in February and March now.

But back to the topic at hand. The reduced precipitation that we have received in recent years inspires me to look differently at these periods of intense precipitation that we used to receive regularly. Now I see how much rainfall could be saved for use during dry periods. If we stay in this area and shift to more of a market garden farming style, I feel that we must start planning for maintaining surface water in ponds, dugouts, and cisterns. Really though, this is no surprise to me as it is a basic aspect of adopting permacultural techniques.

Until later, brothers and sisters. Be well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SoapBox Thoughts on Arizona

I find it interesting that so many folks who are against police state tactics that claim to be fighting terrorism, also seem to support police state tactics that claim to be cracking down on illegal immigration. This seems a little hypocritical to me, and it makes me wonder if the powers-that-be haven't found a chink in Libertarian armor. If a drug war didn't work, maybe re-igniting race conflict will make the people welcome overt control by the state.

Now, this doesn't mean that I am against regulated immigration. I am certainly not, at least not as our world is currently arranged. Illegal immigration such as the US sees, just supports the exploitation of the illegal immigrant, but cracking down on these immigrants is about as effective as throwing a drug abuser in prison. I say let in those people who really need and deserve the opportunity (if there is such a thing in the US anymore), and crack down on those employers or criminals who exploit illegals as labor or sex slaves.

It also doesn't mean that Arizona isn't in a difficult spot. The drug war has spilled over into that state, in a big way, and many illegals crossing the borders are not doing so by choice. If the DEA in Washington would back off, Arizona could make drugs legal and solve a lot of the problem immediately. Granted, the drug cartels would likely mount a wave of violence in order to try to provoke re-prohibition but at least all the cards would be on the table and Arizona AND the US could go back to seeming like the good guys.

Obviously this is an oversimplified argument but I think the overall logic works. And I do soooooo despise checkpoints and "do you haf your papers please?", which seems to be the only alternative.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One of Those Days

Today was one of those days that really shows how unpredictable it can be to work with animals, even though I spent most of the day clearing barns of manure and bedding that builds up over the winter. More on that "shitty" task another time though.

During one of my breaks, I decided to let our 4 yearling heifers out of their immediate corral so that they could graze some green grass in the temporary outer corral. I wanted to let them have a bit of a graze as well as to perhaps step into the shed in that corral. We are going to have to put them in that shed tomorrow and the 2 heifers that we purchased a few weeks back have never been in it. As such, I thought this would give them a chance to explore these new surroundings so as to be less frightened tomorrow.

Since this is just a temporary corral set up roughly, I stayed with the heifers while they grazed so that I could dissuade them from testing their boundaries too much. But all of a sudden there was a ruckus out of one of the heifers. She was kicking and jumping around, but not moving from the place she was in. Upon closer investigation, I could see that she had somehow gotten a hoof caught between two pieces of steel and in her fright, she was yanking back on her twisted ankle...in real danger of breaking a bone. Thankfully I have been spending plenty of time with these animals so they are used to my presence. I was able to calm her somewhat and when she finally tired and calmed down some, was able to push her forward and slip her hoof from the impromptu trap.

Talk about freaked out. I was quite scared that she would have a broken leg but she seems to have escaped with just a limp that will likely last a couple of days. A few minutes later I was back at forking manure. Whoo hoo!

So after supper I was going to fetch and put in the cow that we are milking due to a lost calf back in February, when I noticed that the whole herd seemed rather freaked and looking off in one direction. All of a sudden I noticed that the excitement was over a pig that was out and running along the lake bank towards me. Shit!!!!

Turns out all four of our gilts, which are just days away from slaughter, had escaped their pen once more. This is the second time they have busted loose in the last couple of weeks. Considering how much space was available to them to run off, including out onto the lake, we had a far easier time getting them back into their pen than might have been the case. About an hour later we had them back inside and their pen patched up.

This escape brings up a sore issue between my folks and I. After so many years of dealing with penned pigs, my folks (primarily my dad) have gotten into the habit of walling the pig pens with plywood. The reasoning is that they are less likely to try to escape their confinement if they cannot see out of their pen. It is more complex than that, however, since our pens are usually rather run down. This is exacerbated by the fact that we penned these gilts in a pen that I repaired last fall...a pen that had not been used in perhaps 10 years, and had not been cleaned out since it was used. As such, many of the lower planks have become rotted and I basically patched it up in order to scrape by until we sold the pigs.

This whole thing kind of annoys me because I know that if we just built the pens large enough that they could exercise their natural tendencies, these pigs would not be so drawn to trying to escape. I also know that if we designed our pens in such a way that they could be cleaned out between uses, we could retain a slat-walled pen that the pigs could see out of but not so easily work holes into the pen, by which they could escape (and which we could easily climb in and out of).

Anyway, the pigs are back in their now re-patched pen. They are still only days away from slaughter but here's hoping I can build something better by the time we get the next batch of young feeder piglets.

One funny aside though:

The second escaped pig that I saw is the one I would most like to keep as a breeder, one who lays down for me to run her back and neck, came running over to me as soon as she saw me. Her excitement was so great and her mannerisms such that I could almost imagine her excitedly grunting out a question of "Hey buddy! What are you doing out here too!"

The whole thing just reaffirms my desire to pasture our pigs, letting them wander within a fenced area and follow their natural habits. I think we'd still need to pen them in a more confined fashion over winter but I'd sure feel a lot better about keeping them that way. The pens we have now are much better than being in a crowded, hot, industrial hog facility but we could still do a lot better.

I think that's all for now.

Peace and comfort.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chemical Submission

"Underkastelsen", or in English, "Submission" is a new or upcoming documentary out of Sweden. It seems to have a look at the 100,000 man-made chemicals in the world, and the effects these chemicals are having on we humans and the world we inhabit. Sounds bloody horrifying and I doubt that I will be surprised by much in it but I will be looking to watch it anyway.

In other news, I was reading an article in a local agricultural paper today. The subject of this article is one that arose almost a month ago, regarding a Canada-EU trade deal which would force Canada into joining much of the rest of the world in bowing to large agribusiness. This would include prohibition against the saving and trading/selling of seed, as well as strengthening intellectual property rights of large multinational agribusinesses like Monsanto. All of these actions have happened in most other parts of the world, with highly dubious results.

I have to look into this more but I am surprised to see the EU attempting to force these changes onto Canada, considering much of Europe seems opposed to GMO seeds and other multinational agribusiness activities like those mentioned above. Canadians have to stand up against these changes or what remains of our small farm industry is quite seriously finished.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Transgenic GMO's Causing Bee Crisis?

Most readers will already be aware of the Honeybee crisis in North America. For anyone who isn't aware, the really short version is that for the 4th year in a row, bee colonies in North America, and elsewhere, have experienced a mysterious loss of an approximate 1/3 of their numbers. This phenomena has been dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and is "very very bad". A great deal of food production, both for we humans and for the rest of the living world, is reliant upon the activities of these little buzzers.

So needless to say, the search has been on the find the cause.

Some reasonable suggestions have been (and any or all may well factor in):
-cell tower interference in bee navigation
-pesticides
-general toxification of the environment
-some new disease
-various other ideas

Well it seems like transgenic GMO's (organisms which have had genetic information from another organism directly added to or replacing its own) might be able to add another horrible side effect to their list of faults. This research article seems to provide evidence that transgenic GMO's could easily be the cause of or contributing significantly to CCD.

Have a look and spread the info!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How Does Your Garbage Mountain Grow?

Last year I did a post around this time of year, about the landfill next to our property and showing the amount of waste that blows off the trash heap and onto our farmland and the lake we both share. This is one of the pictures I took on April 22, 2009.

I thought I would go take some more pictures around the same time this year and try to get an idea of how fast the mountain is growing. So these pictures are from yesterday, about one week later than last year. They were taken from the same general area so you can see just how quickly willows and trash heaps grow.

Interestingly, the pictures look like they were taken on the same day but I promise, it was WAY colder last year. It actually snowed as I was walking back from taking the pictures. This year it was merely cool and trying to rain (luckily, we got some of that today).


At this rate, it is terrifying just how large this thing could get and I cannot believe that people don't seem to find it distressing. I guess it's just far enough out of sight of most to be out of mind as well.

This panorama shows the whole damn thing in all its glorious splendor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bicycle Day (Not Your Kid's Bike!!)

To some people, April 19th is known as Bicycle Day. It was on this day in 1943 that Dr. Albert Hoffman performed the first self experiment with LSD, having discovered it years earlier and accidentally discovering some of its effects the day before. Under the supervision of his lab assistant, Dr. Hoffman ingested an amount of LSD after which he and his assistant bicycled to Hoffman's residence. Upon this "trip" home, Hoffman began to come under the full effects of the psychotropic and so this day holds significant relevance to LSD enthusiasts and all manner of psychedelic thinkers and activists.

A couple of years back, I stumbled across Hoffman's "LSD:My Problem Child", a chapter of which included entries about the accidental discovery of some of the psychotropic effects which he discovered rather accidentally, his intention to perform an experiment in order to delve further into these effects and then of the experiment itself.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Hoffman's journal entry for this experiment shows its commencement at precisely 4:20 pm. Reading the journal, I found this fact interesting because 420 has been a marijuana reference for some time now.

I did not actually recall that the experiment had taken place on April 19 until just today when I came across this NY Times article about Hoffman's death in 2008. The article shares Hoffman's determination that LSD had opened his mind to the importance of truly connecting with nature and our place as humans within nature, that this connection had begun when he was a child and been reinforced and developed through psychotropic-assisted spiritual work.

I find this so fascinating because my own life experience has been so very similar. I had strong connections with nature and an inkling of the importance of balance as a child, but after my first year or so of college I was very much in a space of giving up on humanity, of feeling that all was shot and I might as well have the best time I possibly could before it was too late. But as I have written before, what began as recreational use of psychotropics very much evolved into spiritual reflection and a real sense of the importance of expanding my consciousness. The earliest manifestations from this evolution were to remember that connection to nature, that sense of being part of a very large and very complex system of relationships and a sense of the importance of exploring these relationships and my own consciousness.

I have not read much of Dr. Hoffman's words, other than that chapter, but the NY Times article is filled with quotations that are so similar to my own thoughts and interests. I shall have to find more of his words to read and I think that Bicycle Day will heretofore be of immense importance to me.

Peace and comfort, all.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

One Of Those Moments

Wow, I just learned that Jack Herer, author of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" and perhaps the Grandfather of the modern hemp and marijuana movement, passed away on Thursday, the same day as my granny. And my last post before yesterday was on that very topic, the first time I have written about it specifically.

Talk about coincidence.

RIP Hemperor

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Night Rambling

As with so much of the world, we continue to get very odd weather here in NW Alberta. In our case, this odd weather is manifesting as well above normal temperatures. After a very warm and early spring, we had a short return to normal conditions (around +10C in the daytime, but with very cold winds, and then freezing pretty hard at night), but yesterday the weather shifted into June-type conditions. We nearly reached +20C and today we almost hit +25. I admit that it is absolutely beautiful but this is also rather disconcerting.

If we do not receive a fairly significant amount of moisture throughout the next 4-6 weeks, I fear there will be very little crop this year...if any. We could manage a year with no grain crops, although it would be a harsh blow, but I am not sure we could make it through the winter with no hay.

I am often told, or it is suggested, that I shouldn't be so pessimistic. I appreciate the sentiment and the concern for my mood, but I also know that I don't intend or even like to be pessimistic. My pessimism comes from active observation and assessment of what is being observed, and a desire to move forward from as rational and balanced mindset as possible. Having said that, I do realize and accept that I must find a way to channel as much of the resulting energy as positively as I can, and to release the remainder so that it does not build up and weigh me down.

This is not always easy.

Especially living here where most people just bask in the extra heat and do not realize where it is heading (especially as Peak Oil seems more and more imminent), where most people are concerned pretty much only in themselves and their immediate present. It amuses me that so many of these same people then flock to some church for a couple of hours on Sunday, looking to fill that empty part of themselves that they spend the rest of the week avoiding.

I do not mean the church comment to encompass all those who attend church though, or who belong to some faith or church or what have you. The passing of my dad's mother yesterday (turns out she wasn't made of steel after all), and the subsequent increase in interaction with the many Protestant Christian members of my family and its circle of acquaintances has provided plenty of reminders, both from the past and the present, of the real good and selflessness that I have also seen in the Church.

It has also been a good reminder to me of what I believe is the main, yet most often ignored/forgotten, tenet of Christianity...forgiveness. I think all "faiths" have something to offer, and this is Christianity's real message.

Perhaps that is enough rambling for tonight.

May you be at peace and in comfort now Granny, and may the rest of us find them both as well.

Monday, April 05, 2010

My Relationship With The Marijuana Plant

I've had a relationship with the marijuana plant since I was basically 20 years old.

I always heard that pot was pushed on kids, especially since I had an aunt who was a teacher, but never once was it pushed on me. When I was about 15 years old, some friends on my hockey team offered to smoke a joint with me but when I wasn't interested they were content to smoke in the bathroom with a towel at the door. Now I know why but at the time I thought they were just being very respectful of my wish not to take part...and they never bugged me about not joining either. They were part of the rougher crowd, their parents partied, they partied, they listened to ACDC, Quiet Riot and that kind of thing...I don't think my parents would have wanted me hanging around with them outside of hockey but those were some good guys as far as I'm concerned.

In high school I was sort of an outsider, I was friendly with several cliques but not really a part of any of them. My only social activities were sports and school dances, for the most part. And I was pretty set in my mindset that pot was the same thing as magic mushrooms was the same thing as cocaine was the same thing as heroin, etc etc.

Once I moved into town in my second year of college, I finally had the freedom to spend as much time as I wanted with the group of friends I was developing. These friends came from different backgrounds, more or less well off, some professional parents, some more "working class", but most of these friends had been big partiers in high school and continued to do so in college. I hadn't been able to join in in high school, but I could in college. I learned that they had been smoking pot and sometimes eating magic mushrooms in high school, usually at the odd weekend party at someone's house. From what I had been told by those in "authority", I thought these people would all be junkies and skids by now but many of them were honors students who have now become doctors of this and that, or engineers or teachers or various other typically respected careers. I started to think that perhaps things weren't as black and white as I had been told.

So when I told a small group of good friends that I thought I might try mushrooms sometime, I didn't really know what to expect but they all suggested that I expect to laugh a lot. I won't share the whole story but it was a fantastically fun and laughter filled night that I suspect I will remember for the rest of my life. No damage was done, other than some mustard on the walls.

But when this night didn't leave me insane or drooling with madness in the need for my next fix or suddenly aching with the desire to step through the doorway to cocaine or heroin, I started to think that, at the very least, someone had not been telling me the entire truth. As such, when my roommates knocked on my door a few nights later to ask if I wanted to smoke a joint with them...well this time I was willing to give it a try.

I know, I know..."that's the doorway, you idiot" is what some people might say, so at this point just let me say that in all the 16 or 17 years since then, and for all the times that I have had all different sorts of illegal narcotics offered to me simply because of my looks and my profession, I have never been tempted to try any non-naturally occurring narcotic since then. No cocaine (although I cannot even count the times that I have been around it), no heroin, no crystal meth, etc etc.

I suppose nicotine from cigarettes should fit into that category and I did smoke them from around 19 until a year ago, so I should list that in the interests of honesty. And I should also add that I did try LSD twice in that first year. But I didn't like the fact that it was not naturally occurring or the fact that if someone made a mistake in the lab in making it...I and my friends could, realistically if not very likely, go insane.

I liked the fact that nature created these plants and this connection with humanity. Even though I was consuming them solely as "recreation" at the time (an odd term since it generally involved plenty of sitting), I could feel the deeper connection that they offered. I could feel a significant spiritual aspect to these plants. I could feel my mind opening, and not full of holes but really opening in terms of empathetic capacity and things like the ability to better grasp complexity. I was becoming more aware of systems and patterns rather than individuals and moments. Basically, I could feel my consciousness expanding. Granted, experience itself was a part of this...but these plants helped with how I was interacting with this experience, and how I was integrating it.

In retrospect, I am thankful that I was guided away from experiencing "psychedelic" plants until I was more developed as an adult. I still believe that imbibing these chemicals, even though they are natural, before a certain age and without the right kind of guidance, really can be very harmful. I think our personalities need to be more firmly established before we start fine-tuning, as I see psychedelic experience to be.

But my intention is not so much to write about psychedelics but about marijuana itself.

I wanted to know more about the effects of the plant so I took what chances I could find to read or otherwise learn about the plant and its effects. I learned about a whole intricate web of possibilities that the marijuana plant offers, outside of its psychedelic effects. I learned that it is perhaps the most resilient plant on the planet, capable of growing in a great variety of climates. I learned about its nutritive potential, that its seeds are far and away the most nutritious of the cereals. Anyone who spends some time looking into the nutritive qualities of the hemp or marijuana seed will likely soon find themselves thinking that they seem almost ideally designed for our dietary consumption. Then there is the fiber, which many people are starting to learn to be perhaps the strongest natural fiber on the planet. There are literally thousands of potential and significant uses for the marijuana plant, and its non-psychedelically active cousin hemp.

And we haven't really begun to explore the health potential of marijuana. It seems that the two main strains of marijuana, sativa and indica, each have various potentials so that crossbreeding to produce various mixtures can offer different qualities such as pain relief, appetite suppression OR stimulation, anti-depression, etc. In time, I hope to be able to do some research into these possibilities...or at least to see someone else have the chance to do this research.

I really do feel that marijuana offers an awful big part of our salvation, and perhaps that of the planet.

Here's a nice little video on this subject. I have been meaning to share it for quite awhile now. I re-watch it every couple of months.



I could likely blabber on about this for paragraph after paragraph but I think I'll stop here for now.

Peace and comfort, brothers and sisters. And grow more pot!!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Et Tu, Jon Stewart?

Typically, I am a huge fan of The Daily Show and of Jon Stewart in particular. Over and over this program has cut through the preponderance of bullshit out of the US federal government and the mainstream media. Particularly enjoyable for me was the raking over the coals of Mad Money's Jim Cramer, especially in regards to this interview:



So it has been with great frustration that I have watched the program offer rather one sided support of the "health care bill" that was recently passed and signed. I realize that The Daily Show is not meant to be a real news program yet it has set itself up as, usually with good reason, a source of bullshit-less information...albeit rather limited. But even with the nonsensical arguments offered up by Republicans, fueling the fire of ignorance in so many brainwashed types on the "far right" and causing a good amount of discontent among many more level-headed types, which obviously needed to be ridiculed...I still cannot believe that the very real problems with the legislation were ignored by The Daily Show.

Here is an interview which explains these problems in a far more cognitive manner than this economic layman could:



I guess it was just too easy to pick on the nonsensical opposition, than to share the reality that this legislation is left wing cover for directing money and even more power from the people to the big insurance companies.

Still, it's disappointing on multiple levels. And if I missed where he or his program took the opportunity to share this information...well then, my bad, and my apologies. Otherwise, no Bill Hicks are you!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Three Swans and a Butterfly

At the beginning of March I commented that due to the extremely "lamb"-like beginning to the month I was worried about a potential "saber tooth cat"-like month end. Well despite about a week's worth of the return of winter, spring continues its return earlier and warmer than normal. Many Canada geese have been back for a couple of weeks now, struggling in the still foot-deep snow (in many places), gathering in large numbers on the few fields that are mostly free of snow in order to scratch up a bit of left-over grain from last year`s harvest. Crows and seagulls have returned and the ravens are in aggressive mating mode. But today I saw two especially early returnees.

A familiar noise drew my gaze out over the lake where I saw, sure enough, at least 3 Trumpeter swans flying away. It was a lovely sight, the three large and long winged birds glinting in the sun and flying low over the white of the snow. Then a couple of hours later I was absolutely shocked as a black and red butterfly came fluttering from somewhere. I actually laughed out loud as most of the ground on our farm is still covered in snow, making this a rather absurd sight. Unfortunately, we are still getting temperatures well below freezing at night so I doubt this pretty thing will live longer than the day. I`m thankful that it flitted into my life during its own brief one.

Spring offers so many of these uplifting moments, the return of colors and new life, etc etc. The son is so bright and warm, the sky so blue, that it`s easy to forget that our world continues to grow more and more dark. If we are in balance, we can breathe in the fresh beauty...taking strength to face the growing dark, to prepare ourselves. Those many who seem so very far from balanced, who do not even seem to be awake, revel in these bright novelties. They are a more comfortable sand in which to bury one`s head to the harsher realities.

I am sometimes, ok often, infuriated by this fact. It is the very reason that the world grows more dark. Thankfully this fury is short-lived and then I shift back to a kind of pity. It is a real shame that these people may never truly enjoy the sheer joy of something like three swans and a butterfly on a bright early spring day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sometimes I Think I Need The Couch

The hardest part of returning to the family farm is the reason I left in the first place. My dad and I have a very hard time working together. This is hardly a rare situation but that doesn't make it any easier to struggle through. The only real difference is now that I am well into adulthood, as opposed to the hormone driven 19 year old who walked away those years ago, and now I am at least a little better at not losing my temper. And dad is much older so our confrontations are no longer physical.

I'm not really interested in getting into the psychology of the matter, and there is a lot of it, for both of us...at least not today. In all honesty, the biggest reason I keep this blog semi-autonomous is so that I can speak as openly as I would like to, which I just don't think I could do if I knew that friends and family might wander through at any time. This is an issue upon which I have begun to write many times, but which I am still not quite ready to delve into just yet. But for the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that while I love my father...he is a very difficult man. Its not ALL his fault, I accept my share of our issues, but I feel a significant amount of the fault lies in his family...in his mother (my grandmother) and his siblings (both older). The result is that I have a 70 year old father who can be very juvenile and defensive in his interpersonal dealings, especially in regards to his wife and children.

Now I am not new to our family, I have been handling this situation for years. It was either that or not be around at all...and that's just not in me. But now that we are working so closely together and I am trying to guide us all into moving forward (rather than the "treading water" which has been occurring for at least a decade), well it is sometimes nearly impossible to handle.

Let me give an example or two before I move into the point of the post.

First of all, dad thought that mom and I were full of shit when we started talking about trying to sell the products of the farm as "direct to market" as possible. He didn't think we would be able to find enough customers for eggs or beef. Basically, he is almost totally pessimistic about ideas from anyone but himself or his mother/siblings (whose ideas I think he also resents, I should add) or the very small number of people whose opinion he deems as worthy of concern.

This could easily turn into a psychological discussion here but I will try to avoid that digression for now.

So another example is my search for a breed of pig on which to focus our pork production. This could be a much longer story but the short version is that when I informed him of my interest in Red Wattle hogs, he was against it because when we had two of them years and years ago, someone told dad that he was lucky to be rid of them when we were (0ne died of heart attack and the other was sold soon thereafter). Dad could not remember who had told him this OR what the specific reason was, but it was enough that he was adamant that Red Wattle hogs should not be considered. So I spent a few hours perusing the Web for information as to why this might be the case. Dad had said that he thought it was something to do with the pigmentation of the meat, but I could find literally nothing to suggest that there was some problem with this breed of pig. The only issue I could deduce was that they did not seem to do very well in captivity, especially in industrial conditions. So, based on the fact that we had our Red Wattles in the mid 80's when people were not concerned at all about buying locally or organically or what have you. So the industrial producers controlled the market almost totally. As such, this seemed to me to be the main reason why Red Wattle hogs went out of production, not that there was anything wrong with the meat. Quite the opposite, Red Wattle pork is quite highly rated among chefs, especially those concerned with local food and heritage breeds. But no matter how much research I did and then shared with dad...he was going with what SOME guy had told him all those years ago, the details of which he cannot even remember.

This is the kind of BS that I have been dealing with for years, only now it hits close to home because I have been putting so much energy into learning as much as I can, and sharing. But it is received with resentment and defensiveness. Not so much from my mother, but some. At least with her I can talk about it though, and hear her response. We can both eventually accept if we`ve been the "jerk". With dad that isn't possible...and I have tried and tried and tried. The best you can get from him is usually the odd admittance of being wrong about some trivial thing, in order to later claim to be able to admit when wrong.

So mostly I hope that I am able to start to show the results of my ideas soon, and perhaps avoid doing what I am so critical of in others....unreasonably hoping that the situation just irons itself out, mostly because I just don`t know what to do about it, and because I can`t just say "ok that`s it, I`m taking over". But then I get slapped with another sign of how likely it is that I will one day have to do just that.

Which brings me to the source of this whole jumbled thought process today. When I got out to the farm today, the house was awful quiet. Turns out that mom and dad were both outside, they returned just as I was going out to feed pigs. Dad was carrying a hack saw so I asked what he`d been cutting. They had been clipping chicken beaks since another hen had been cannibalized over night. I didn`t ask or say anything beyond asking how many they had done. The last time they trimmed two hen`s beaks I made it clear that I did not support that action, that I did not feel it was going to remedy the situation and that it was only tortuous punishment for following their nature. I even tried to explain how trimming their beaks this was was akin to our having a thumb, finger or even a whole hand cut off...and that it wouldn`t stop them the cannibalization. And sure enough, it didn`t. But somehow, doing 10 more of them this time is supposed to remedy the situation.

This time I didn`t say anything to either parent about it. They both know what I think and obviously that isn`t enough to sway their reasoning. They don`t see how the extension of their logic says that the only thing keeping us from individually caging each bird would seem to be the initial cost. They don`t seem to understand my reasoning that if we cannot afford to solve what is causing the aggressiveness then we should kill and eat the aggressive birds...not maim them this way in order to retain the egg revenue. I don`t think they even believe my explanation of why a chicken`s beak is akin to our thumb, fingers or entire hand due to its complex network of nerve tissue. Granted, the other two hens seem alright now and I don`t think they are aggressive anymore, but still...I struggle with it.

The same with the sick calf that died. I feel we should have tried to get it some veterinary attention but I know dad did the best that HE was able to do. But at the same time, I can`t help but wonder if it is cost that kept us from that option, or mistrust of unknown people.

And what bothers me the most is the fact that a reasonable solution is impossible. We can`t just talk it through. I`ve tried that route more than once before and I don`t think I can carry it myself. But at the same time, the only other option is to go on as we are now, which is much too similar to the path that he and his mother are on. Her mind finally slipped away to the point where she has to be in a longterm care facility and she never knew it was going on, or never accepted it. No one really tried to tell her and she was far too stubborn to accept it anyway. I don`t know how to tell dad that it is starting to happen with him too, albeit lightly, and he is far too stubborn to accept it...certainly from me.

THIS is the hard part of working towards a future for our farm. All the rest is easy in comparison.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Down Side

I was going to take Saturday off from the farm as I thought it was a light enough day that I wouldn't be missed too much. As it turned out, it was going to be better for my parents if I took Sunday off instead so I headed out for the typical routine. We got another blast of winter recently so the chores would take a bit longer than normal but I wouldn't be doing any extra tasks so it shouldn't have been a very long day anyway.

Unfortunately, that didn't turn out to be the case.

Our very small herd of cattle has become rather spread out in terms of calving schedules but this is the period when most of them are due. Our newest calf had been born the day prior and although it was quite large it seemed very strong and energetic, even running about the barn a bit just a couple hours after being born. But when I checked in on her while doing chores on Saturday, she seemed very listless. When I let her mother back in she did not even get up to feed, but just laid there. I haven't been around the cattle again for very long but I knew this was odd. So I kept an eye on her and when she still had not got up to eat after another hour and a half, and by looking at her mom's udder I did not think she had eaten that morning either, I finally decided to call Dad. Initially he was not too concerned but as I described the situation he decided I should try to milk a bit from the mother and see if I could get the calf to eat, he and mom would head right home.

I didn't have much luck but when they got home, dad and I were able to milk the cow and got some into the calf. It seemed to regain some energy but dad was still concerned, especially as it didn't get any better over night. To make a bad story a bit shorter, when I got out there Monday morning I learned that the young thing had finally died the night before.

This is the downside of raising animals. Birthing is a traumatic process and, sadly, they do not all survive. This is always a blow, both emotionally and financially. Its an extra big blow this time since she was another heifer, so vital when one is trying to rebuild a herd.

As with most things, however, its not ALL bad. Now we have a bit of extra rich, raw milk as this cow is a particularly heavy milker. Too bad we don't have any feeder piglets now!