April 16, 2011 – More Depressing News – Soil this Time

The information from the Iowa Daily Erosion Project paints a grimmer picture than a recent assessment by federal officials. The U.S.D.A’s 2007 National Resources Inventory, released last year, estimated that erosion in Iowa averaged 5.2 tons an acre each year. That was slightly higher than the five tons per acre that the department estimated was a tolerable annual rate of erosion for most Iowa soils.  (Soils “regenerate” 0.5 tons per year, so even our “acceptable” levels lead to a net loss of 4.5 tons per acre per year.)

While the federal report estimates average rates of erosion for states and regions over a full year, the Erosion Project uses detailed information on rainfall and field conditions to estimate soil loss in 1,581 Iowa townships — nearly all of them — after each storm. Last year, according to Erosion Project data analyzed by the Environmental Working Group, the average estimated rate of erosion exceeded the sustainable level in 133 townships. In 2009, an estimated 641 townships exceeded the sustainable rate, including nearly 400 that had double or more that rate.

The project also provides a picture of the erosion caused by severe storms, like the one that dumped more than seven inches of rain in parts of southwest Iowa in May 2007. In a single day, the figures show, 69 townships had average estimated soil losses of more than 10 tons an acre. Of those, 14 townships were estimated to have an average loss between 20 tons and nearly 40 tons per acre. The 2007 storm was exceptionally damaging, but severe storms are becoming more frequent, according to a state report on climate change submitted in January to the Iowa Legislature and governor. (Around here, it pains me to see after every 2-3 inch downpour in the growing season when the crop canopy isn’t full (Oct-June) to see the gullies deepen.  Finally, when it gets hard to get equipment across the gullies, the farmers get out blades and push surrounding soil into the gullies, so it can wash out again during the next big storm.  These farmers don’t ever plant grassy waterways – and they are getting your tax dollars!)

But agronomists say that heavy erosion in unprotected areas can significantly diminish crop yields, and, over time, land that is not well cared for can become depleted. That means farmers must use more fertilizer to increase yields. (On our farm, there is a noticeable drop from our land to the adjacent crop field – most people estimate that half the original topsoil is already gone.)

More than anything else this year, farmers are making decisions based on how they can best take advantage of corn and soybean prices, which have soared in recent months. Dr. Cruse said that creates a paradox. When crop prices are low and farmers are scraping by, many say they cannot afford to take steps to protect their fields from erosion. Now, he said, they say they still cannot afford it because there is too much profit to be made from farming every bit of land. The same incentives have landowners clearing steep hillsides or converting pasture to cropland to cultivate or rent out. (Last year 17 acres of steep pasture adjacent to our farm was plowed up into cropland.)

Seeing the richest soil in the world washed away by careless practices is one of the hardest parts about driving home.  It might not affect the current generation much, but it can’t continue if we are to maintain the ability of the land to produce crops for those that follow us. It also pains me to know that many (in this county alone) of those farmers have received millions of dollars out of the public treasury.

Maybe tomorrow we can return to prancing lambs or budding branches.

(From an article in NY Times, italics mine)

one year ago…”Sometimes the Middle Child Lucks Out”

April 15, 2011 – Antibiotic Reistant Staph on Meat Samples

A new report, saying that risky forms of Staph bacteria are showing up in supermarkets at “unexpectedly high rates,” is raising concerns about whether the US meat and poultry industries are relying too heavily on antibiotic drugs.

Nearly half of meat and poultry samples in the nationwide study — 47 percent — were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that medical experts link to various human diseases. Of that amount, more than half the bacteria were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.

The group said its findings raise concerns that widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed makes industrial farms breeding grounds for drug-resistant bacteria that can move from animals to humans.

“The fact that drug-resistant [Staph] was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” Lance Price, senior author of the study, said in a statement released with the report.

Microbiology experts including Dr. Price worry that the rise in drug-resistant bacteria makes it harder to treat Staph-related diseases. “Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics — like we saw in this study — that leaves physicians few options,” Price said. The research institute notes that proper cooking kills the bacteria, although it can also pose a risk “through improper food handling and cross-contamination in the kitchen.”

Researchers collected and analyzed 136 samples–covering 80 brands–of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C.. DNA testing suggested that the food animals themselves were the major source of contamination. The study was funded through a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.

The American Meat Institute issued a news release saying the nation’s meat and poultry supply is “among the safest in the world.” The association, representing red meat and turkey processors, took special issue with the size of the study: “It is notable that the study involved only 136 samples of meat and poultry from 80 brands in 26 retail grocery stores in five U.S. cities.  This small sample is insufficient to reach the sweeping conclusions conveyed in a news release about the study.” The statement also says that when raw meat is handled properly and cooked thoroughly, heat will destroy bacteria whether or not they are resistant to antibiotics.

However, Caroline DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C., said the study results suggest that consumers might benefit by wearing gloves when they handle raw meat. “It’s making us rethink our advice to the public,” she said.

(The content above originally appeared in the LA Times.)

So, now is the penalty for an undercooked burger or having a paper cut when handling meat a staph infection that is resistant to up to nine different antibiotics? I’m not comfortable starting to don a hazmat suit when handling red meat. I’ll continue to get my beef from the neighbor down the road and local locker and my poultry from the back yard!

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #204″

April 14, 2011 – Thingamajig Thursday for Carl

No thingamajig Thursday today in honor of Carl. I’ve worked with Carl for most of my years at Wells Fargo, most recently sitting adjacent to him. He was 56 and passed away on Tuesday. Carl loved trivia and word puzzles, marching bands, traveling and he was a converted Hawkeye fan that turned into the most fervent Cyclone fan I know. Carl led the way for me to wear Hawaiian shirts and vests to work.

Carl was a regular blog reader and loved the Thingamajig Thursday feature.

Carl Anderson, 56, of West Des Moines passed away April 12, 2011 at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. The son of Marion and Lucille (Mitchell) Anderson, Carl was born on July 19, 1954 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. He grew up in Olds, Iowa where he was active in church, band, sports, and scouting activities. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

Carl graduated from Iowa State University. He continued to return to play in the alumni band and attend sporting events. He also loved the St. Louis Cardinals, golfing, Jimmy Buffett, wine collecting and travel. He has worked the past 13 years for Wells Fargo Mortgage in West Des Moines.

Carl was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Diana; sisters, Mary Lou and Margaret (Kris Yarbrough); step-daughters, Julie Melberg (Ben Garcia) and Dottie (John) Walker; and seven grandchildren. He was a loving man and he will be missed.

Memorial services will be 11 a.m., Saturday, April 16 at West Des Moines United Methodist Church (720 Grand Ave., West Des Moines). The family will greet friends from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday evening at the church. Memorials may be made to the Iowa State University Foundation to be designated for the Marching Band Fund (2505 University Boulevard, Ames, Iowa 50010).

one year ago…”Spring Flowering Begins”

April 13, 2011 – The Streak Continues – 4 Days in a Row

Our ewe Gabby gave birth today.  We can officially blame Martin for the fact that she only dropped one lamb.  The night before she became a mom, Martin asked if ewes ever only had one baby.  We told him not very often and we’ve never had just one.

boy with lamb

So Gabby made liars out of us.  When she was labor, she REALLY wanted to be a mommy!  I moved one of the ewes out of the mommy-baby pen in anticipation of Gabby and her babies needing the space.  As soon as Gabby saw the other lambs from another ewe, she started licking and nursing them as her own while her own birthing process was beginning.  I separated her quickly as to not get everybody mixed up on who’s who.

one year ago…”New York Farm Workers Bill”

April 11, 2011 – U2 Gives Birth

Our 2nd ewe (also known forever after as U2) dropped her lambs today.  I went back to the back pasture to continue tearing down the old granary.  Smart mommy U2, dropped her lambs out int he pasture in a sunny spot, in the lee of the strong wind near the granary.

It took some convincing to get her into the pen in the barn to bond with her babes and for her owners to insure she’s nursing for a day or two before being allowed back outside again.

one year ago…”New Front Door”

April 10, 2011 – First Ewe Drops Triplets

As is usual with our goats and sheep, Sunday morning is a traditional time to drop babies.  Our first ewe to drop lambs this year followed in that tradition.

No sitting around watching and wondering if everything’s ok – just lambs walking around when we check on them.  We’re generally not fond of triplets, but our Kahtadin ewes have done fine with them so far.

one year ago…”Getting Garden Started”

April 9, 2011 – 27 Years Later, UMD Hockey Champs!

As a native Duluthian and an alum of UM-Duluth, and a season ticket holder from 1981-1984, I was pleased to witness the Bulldogs win their first NCAA hockey championship.  In 1984, after the Bulldogs painful 5-4 loss in four overtimes in the NCAA championship game, if you would have told me that in 27 years I’d be taking my son to the see the championship game, visiting my oldest daughter in college, and married to Linda (who I knew then and wanted to know much better, but she was already with boyfriend), I would have been overjoyed.

There it is 3-2 UMD in overtime over Michigan.

Martin in his seat at the Xcel Energy center.  I’m thinking the millions the power company spent on advertising was missed on Martin as he asked me “Dad, is this arena related to Microsoft?”   I asked him why he thought it might be and he replied that the name of the arena was a spreadsheet.

The Xcel center is a great place to watch a hockey game – ESPN The Magazine has ranked the venue six years among the top three for “Best Stadium Experience” in all of professional sports. Xcel Energy Center was named “Best NHL Arena” by Sports Business Journal and recognized for the “Best Fan Experience” by Forbes magazine.  Sports Illustrated named the arena its “top choice” among NHL buildings. But until today, I didn’t know what extremes the facility went to make the fan experience so great.

For example, after talking up the guy sitting next to me, he revealed that he was Gregg Moore, who played for UMD the same time I had season tickets.  Not only did he play there, he had 206 career points, which makes him the 4th highest scoring player in UMD history!  Needless to say, there was much happiness in our row.  Gregg’s time ended in 1983, one year before the famous 4 OT championship game at Lake Placid, but he was there to watch it on a break from professional hockey in Europe.

Here’s the obligatory celebration following the sudden death victory.  The game had a storybook ending as the player who scored the winning goal was voted the “most underrated” college hockey player just a few days ago. Kyle Schmidt, only one of four seniors on the team, directed in the winning goal in OT.  He is a hometown boy, growing up a few miles from the campus.  Also, all the team dyed their hair blonde, except for Kyle, whose fianace wasn’t keen on a badly dyed blonde husband in summer wedding photos!

Next year, when the Frozen Four is played in Tampa, there’ll be another banner hanging from the ceiling.

one year ago…”Claire’s College Search is Over”

April 8, 2011 – Parts Package

I’m always thrilled to see good directions with a product.  So really, that means I’m hardly ever thrilled.  Typically the directions seem to be poorly translated from another language, or vague with poor or no drawings.

That’s why I was excited to see this new format in parts packaging (for a new office chair).  Labeling and packing the parts with their corresponding section of the directions, rather than having a big bag of nuts and bolts was a bold new step.

However, the written instructions were not good.  There were parts and steps that were not mentioned in the directions and were left unused and there was a part that was needed that was not listed in the directions.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #203″

April 5, 2011 – Old Fence!

I think in this photo you can see an old woven wire fence that a tree has grown around.

Not only has the tree grown around the fence, on the top of the photo, you can see that the tree has also grown around the fencepost that used to support the wires.  Replacing this small section of fence is the last remaining tree clean-up task as I had a hard time laying down this section of the fence before the tree came down.

one year ago…”Linda’s Speaking Gig”

April 4, 2011 – Marshalltown Hy-Vee (file under: rant)

During piano lessons, I thought I’d run to the grocery store (Hy-Vee) to get some milk. At the beginning of the frozen food aisle was a table with paper grocery bags and a sign that said “All the frozen items that you can fit into a paper bag will be 10% off!

I grabbed a sack and found just a lot of processed foods until I came to the tilapia fillets. I threw a bunch in the bag, grabbed some milk and a six-pack of a new micro-brew and hurried to the check-out. The frozen fish did not ring up with the 10% off. I asked why the frozen fish didn’t ring up with the “sack attack” discount. With a friendly smile, the checker told me with a slight hint of impatience “Frozen fish is considered to be meat and not frozen food.” The sign did not say “excludes meat.”

Using the logic that frozen fish in the frozen foods section is not frozen food, I wondered if frozen vegetables are considered produce? Is ice cream considered dairy? Is there any thing in the frozen food aisle that wasn’t something else before it was frozen?

I’m not so burned about the couple of bucks I didn’t save, but rather the thousands of others in Hy-Vees across the land who fell to the same trick. I also recall learning that Hy-Vee’s definition of “fresh meat” means meat that has only been frozen once. Perhaps what Hy-Vee really needs is a English/Hy-Vee dictionary so we can not be confused what “frozen” and “fresh” mean to Hy-Vee!

one year ago…”Signs of Early Spring”