May 17, 2008 – First 80 Degree Day in 6 Months

Today it reached 80 degrees for the first time in about six months. The first 80 degree day is usually in mid-April, not mid-May. It was like a blast furnace, along with a 30 mph wind – clothes on the line dried in about 15 minutes, much faster than the dryer.

We got six lambs today – here’s three of them, appreciative of the lush grass, so appreciative that the one on the right is leaving a fertilizer deposit!

The starts look good – they are outside hardening off before getting planted – here is a flat of celosia.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #72″

May 16, 2008 – Tyson’s “Natural Raised Without Antibiotics” NOT!

It was much heralded when Tyson Meats came out with a line of “chicken raised without antibiotics” last year. Pay very close attention to the wording of the claim. Americans, led by doctors who see increasing cases of antibiotic resistance in human patients, have become more aware of the importance of not ingesting antibiotics as a course of daily life, thus the press release from Tyson announcing the new line of chicken.

Now, Tyson’s biggest competitors have taken Tyson to court. First, for labeling their chicken “raised without antibiotics” because it infers that other chicken is not as good. There have been a number of cases of “food disparagement” mainly against organic or natural food companies whose mainline competitors claim that making a statement that milk is free of rBSt or free of antibiotics disparages other foods and the courts have been sympathetic and ruled against the labels. The organic meat company I had the privilege of serving on the board of directors ran into this when a few years ago we wanted to test every beef animal for BSE at the company’s cost and put on the label “each animal tested for BSE,” but that would have been big trouble because it implies that other meat is not safe. The USDA forbid us in this case.

I always thought that this was a law aimed directly at small and organic companies from the big food corporations. After all, virtually any marketing claim implies that one product is better than another. Take Campbell’s Soup “Mm-Mm Good” – doesn’t that imply that other soups are not good? Or doesn’t “Good to the Last Drop” imply that other coffees beside Maxwell house are not good to the last drop.? Or perhaps closer to Tyson’s case is that “Finger Lickin’ Good” KFC chicken claim means that other chicken isn’t. I think you probably get my point.

The only difference with the latest Tyson case was that it was a big company suing another company for food disparagement. Tyson’s main competitors Smithfield and Perdue have lost $10’s of millions to Tyson as a result of consumers running to Tyson’s new “raised without antibiotics” label. In the course of the lawsuit this bit of Pulitzer-quality deceptive language came out of Tyson’s regarding their “raised without antibiotics claim:”

Then during trial in federal court in Baltimore, Tyson officials acknowledged they also inject eggs several days before they hatch with antibiotics that are approved for use in humans. Dave Hogberg, Tyson’s senior vice president for consumer products, said it is a common industry practice.

Hogberg said injecting eggs with antibiotics did not undermine the “raised without antibiotic” label because the term “raised” is understood to cover the period that begins with hatching.

More consumers are becoming concerned about the use of antibiotics in poultry, swine and cattle because they and many public health experts think that it contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant viruses in humans.

So, watch the language carefully – injecting the eggs with an anti-biotic bath means “raised without antibiotics!”

one year ago…”Technical Communication Conference”

May 14, 2008 – Blog Problems

Recently I noticed that the blog was being invaded by link spammers. It wasn’t visible on the pages you see, but it was in the code (index.php for you programmers) and as a result, when someone did a search and returned a result from high hopes gardens, links to various pharmaceuticals and other typical spam were in the search results.

I found out that it was a result of a security hole in the older version of WordPress I was using. It was a bit complicated to upgrade as I also use a custom theme and couldn’t do a quick and dirty update. But I managed the update fine and then went looking for add-ons to improve security. I found one that added another level of password security anytime someone touched a file on the web server. So I installed that and I was immediately password protected out of my own stuff! I could not access any of the administration panels to delete the add-on. So, while my blog looked fine to the outside world, I could not add or delete anything to it on the server, even if I FTPed and deleted the folder that held plug-in. I was stuck in the deep mud. Messages to Yahoo, the add-in community, and WordPress did not help me, although I did find out the reason it did not work was that the add-in was only designed for a web server running a certain kind of software – nowhere in the instructions did it tell you this – so my web provider did not support one of the needed files, so I was in never-never land.

After a few days of waiting and searching for an answer, the only way I could get back was to delete everything from the web server and reinstall everything from backups and new install packages. But now we’re back!

one year ago…”Emma’s New Fun”

May 13, 2008 – Queueing Up the Next Project

I hired out siding the 3rd story east and west dormers and while the guys were here, I had them frame up a new exterior wall for the old machine shed.

Last year I reroofed about half the building, but the half that is over me in the photo is beyond repair – so the new exterior wall will go on this framing. I’m debating saving part of the back wall and make a smaller open-ended shed for implements that will allow me to back into and detach implements and keep them out of the weather. However, taking part of it apart, may be tricky, so it may be a total tear down and rebuild. I’m still mulling it over. I’m not sure why the original machine shed was built so tall.
one year ago…”The Tempest”

May 12, 2008 – Peaches!

In addition to Reliance peaches, we recently planted some “Iowa Peaches” which are evidently smaller and white-fleshed. They bloomed for the first time this year.

The blossoms of the Iowa Peach are much larger and deeper pink than the Reliance peach.

Here’s a “starter” bird nest. It’s nestled in a sturdy place, but at about 18 inches off the ground, probably isn’t in a very safe place from cats and dogs.
one year ago…”Putting the Lambs to Work”

May 11, 2008 – Finished in 18 Months!

The attic remodel is now complete – it was a long, slow project, about as long as two pregnancies, but it is now nearly ready to accept furniture! We just have some touch-up painting, another coat of floor paint, and some insulating in the storage areas behind the bookshelves.

This is how it looked after we removed all the “storage” and took the chimney out. You may notice the place where the chimney went through the roof in the upper left and through the floor. It wasn’t the greatest time tearing it out and hauling the bricks down two flights of stairs, but it made a good family project.

Steven of Two Friends Farm was the brains behind the project – here I am testing the reinforced rafters that added strength and additional depth for insulation.

As the old layers of shingles are torn off the house, the opening for the south dormer is apparent.

Here’s the view of the same dormer after the window is in and the insulating starts.

Finally, the completed south dormer! The black floor grate was salvaged from the old house and covers the hole where the chimney was and is now a new heat run.

The existing west dormer in process…

The completed west dormer, taken a bit further back than the previous shot.

The view to the north, during the insulating phase. This was not a fun time as the distance between the rafters varied from 13 inches to 23 inches, with very few 16 inches, so standard insulation widths didn’t fit and each piece had to be custom measured and cut – not to overlook all the triangular pieces due to the three dormers and no flat ceiling anywhere.

The completed view to the north, the only side without a window. There’s great views and great cross-ventilation and wonderful light up on the third floor.

Finally, a look to the east. The railing around the staircase was original – everything else is new. It was a challenging project to trim, with all the weird angles and inherent unsquareness of the old house.

One of the features I like the best are the built-in bookshelves we added – three of them built into the storage space behind the walls in the east and west dormers. I was going to square off the tops, but decided to follow the roofline and I think the top shelf will be nice to accept both tall and shorter books without wasting a lot of space. We originally thought we’d send a daughter up there, but decided it has Mark and Linda’s bedroom written all over it!

one year ago…”Little Projects”

May 10, 2008 – Glorious Spring

We’ve reached a spring day worth living! Most of the fruit trees are in full bloom, the weather is beautiful, and it was dry enough to get some onions in the ground today.

The pinks and whites of the emerging apple blossoms are hard to beat.

Of course, the shy little violets tucked under the apple tree do their part to announce spring as well.

The cherry blossoms outdo nearly every other tree is sheer volume of blossoms.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #71″

May 7, 2008 – Shiitakes!

Today we found that the mushroom logs we had “planted” with shiitake mushroom spawn decided this wet spring was a good time to pop.  Earlier we showed the process to innoculate the logs by drilling plug spawns into logs.

Here’s a couple growing on a log.

Finally, here are a few in the kitchen on the cutting board.  We are looking so forward to trying some. Waiting a year after planting these is kind of like waiting 9 months to have a baby – you can’t believe it when they really arrive!

one year ago…”Trailer Guy”

May 6, 2008 – Out with the Old, In with the New

Late last fall the old electric fence charger gave up the ghost.  I didn’t go to great lengths to investigate why it stopped working as it looks as though it dates to only a few years after the invention of the incandescent light bulb. 

I didn’t go to great lengths to investigate why it stopped working as it looks as though the charger dates to only a few years after the invention of the incandescent light bulb. 

Here’s the replacement tucked away inside the chicken coop all rewired and ready for action.

one year ago…”Portable Fencing”

May 5, 2008 – Fruit Tree Blossoms

The first fruit trees, mainly the plums and apricots are in full blooming regalia. 

The scents catch you in unexpected places and gently remind yo to notice the wind direction and sweetness of the season.

I’m cheating here by putting this picture from May 6 in today.  Just after sunset a big line of storms moved through to the north.  Emma and I were out on the gravel road watching the huge outflow boundaries of the storm and looking for tornadoes as one had been associated with the storm just one county away (that’s within sight distance out here).  One second we were basking in the warm, humid south breeze and just like someone hit a switch, we felt the cold north wind rush past.

After years of waiting, the first pear blossoms grace the farm!

one year ago…”These Boots Are Made for the Hen House”

May 4, 2008 – Finally Something in Garden

Finally, the potatoes that sometimes get planted in March, most times get planted in April, this year didn’t hit the ground until May.  The wet, cold spring is delaying all planting.

Potato planting is greatly simplified with the trencher attachment on the tractor.  Linda also got small amount of the usual early season crops such as radish, lettuce, spinach and the like.  I spent most of the day battling tillers, bit finally got rolling.

one year ago…”House Under Cardinal Attack”