Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Things To Love

I thought of a few more things to love about a wood stove. I can toast marshmallows, make 'smores, or roast hot dogs any time I have a hankerin' for some. It's also very good for keeping children busy with stacking firewood. Actually, any farm work is good for that as well.

Yes, I believe in child labor. I was one of those horrible mothers who lay awake at night thinking of ways to annoy my children. Now that I have a 16 year old grandson who lives with me I can either rely on my past experiences or think up new ones. Being 60 years old I usually stick to the old tried and true methods of keeping children busy. My motto is "Give them enough to do so they'll stay out of trouble till they're 30."

Well, it's getting late and I need to go to bed. Perhaps I can think of something to keep him busy for tomorrow before I drift off to sleep. Of course, giving him work to do also annoys him so I get to accomplish 2 things simultaneously. I love efficiency!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yup, I Know It Makes A Mess

I posted a comment on a friend's blog recently about loving my wood stove and it got me to thinking about just how much I really do love heating with wood. Last year we thought about getting an outdoor wood furnace which would get the mess of the wood out of the house. We decided to keep our wood stove instead. Here are some of the reasons why:

I love the smell of the wood fire when I first walk in the door from being outside. I love how the warmth of the flames gets right into my chilly bones, chases out the cold and wraps me in it's cozy blanket. I love that other areas in the house are cooler. I love how I can just throw another log on the fire if the house seems cold or damp. I love being able to move my reading chair closer, or farther away, to adjust the temperature. I love being able to put a pot of stew or soup on top to simmer all day, filling the house with delicious aromas. I love being able to sit by the stove with hot chocolate in hand and watch winter kept at bay just outside the windows. I love how the light from the fire bathes the great room with it's soft, amber glow, and the reflections dance on every surface.

The wood fire also brings up memories of my childhood and visits to my aunt's farm. When Aunt May knew I was coming for a visit she'd fire up the wood cook stove in the kitchen and fry me up a batch of her famous donuts. Or cook french toast right on the stove's surface or bake bread in the oven. Perhaps it was because I was a child but anything cooked on that old wood stove seemed much better that if would have been cooked on an ordinary gas or electric stove. And that stove, too, bathed the farm house in it's warmth and kept winter's frosty bite far away.

So heating with wood may be messy, not to mention a lot of work. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes it's good to stay with the old ways.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Upside Down

OK, so this Christmas message is a little late. But it was just e-mailed me by a friend and I thought it was so cool I'd like to share it with you. You must listen till the end or you'll get the wrong impression. Hey, just because it's January doesn't mean we can't still say "Merry Christmas".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Carpenter - Moi!

Btw, just thought I'd mention who does what here. Jim does the framing, electrical and plumbing and carpentry that's really high - like putting up a wood ceiling.

I do all the finish work, like you see in the picture of the great room in a previous post or in this picture of the closet I built in the eves of the upstairs bedroom. I even made the doors! Yup, I do it all, window and door trims, installed and finished the wide pine floors, sheetrock mudding, even hung the door on the barn and put up the siding. You name it - if it shows, I built it. Of course there's a down side to being able to do all that. I can't blame DH for the house not being finished now can I?

Monday, January 19, 2009

More Before and After Pix


Ok, I promised to post some before and after pictures of the outside. We haven't done too much there other than finish the railing on the deck, change the color from an ugly cinnamon pinkish to dark brown, and enclose the farmers porch to make it into a 3 season porch (which I don't have updated pictures of yet but will in the spring. Second picture still shows a lot of outside work to do).

Now don't get all excited, the house is not as big as it looks in the pictures. It's only 24'x32'. When we moved here we downsized on purpose. It's been a bit of a culture shock learning to live with less stuff. I spent the first half of my life collecting stuff and I'm spending the second half getting rid of it all. One time when I decided to give a lot of stuff away, my oldest daughter asked me if I was very sick or even dying. She thought that when people are terminally ill they give all their stuff away. I assured her I was quite well and didn't have any plans to leave this earth quite yet.

Sheep Thrills

Try this online sheepdog trial and see how good you are at preventing those pesky sheep from escaping! But be careful not to get run over by a bull. Click your mouse when the sheep gets close to send it back or you'll get run over by the sheep as well. Get a high enough score and you can challenge a friend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Building Our House

We bought our house in the summer of 2001. We had been looking for land to build a house. What we found was a little over 50 acres with a house that someone else had started to build. It was just an insulated shell but if you looked at my original floor plans of the house we wanted, you'd think this was the one. People ask me what kind of house I have and I answer that it's an "except for" house - every room is done except for this or that. Actually, as a decorating style I'm going for the unfinished look - it's the first time I've totally pulled off a decorating scheme. We're now on year 9 of our 5 year plan. But everything is down to just needing finish work - window and door trims, real countertops in the kitchen instead of just plywood, wide pine flooring, finishing the stairs, putting the deck off the 2nd floor bedroom, all of which are time consuming, important but not essential. My guess is that the next person to own the house will have to finish it themselves. Here are a few before and after photos. I'll try to post some outside pictures tomorrow.

Great Room:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Work on the Barn

We started our barn 3 1/2 years ago with the plan to do 1/3 each year for 3 years. We just got the 2nd third done so we're right on schedule I guess. We're also on year 9 of our 5 year plan to build our house. So now we have an unfinished barn to go with the unfinished house. The barn will be 36'x36' and my husband had this great idea to build 1/3 of it at a time - a 12'x36' section with the 2nd 12'x36' section facing it with a 12' isle in the middle, then connect the roof and remove the temporary interior walls. Great plan. So here we are in the middle of a north country winter enclosing the 2nd section. So far we'd had a fairly mild winter but the day after we finished getting it enclosed the snow started. Good thing - don't want to be on a metal roof when it has snow on it. Snow slides off like an egg off greased teflon , and so would the person standing on the roof, which would have been my grandson. Nate climbed around on that roof and on the staging like a monkey. Jim and I are too old to do roof work. We leave that for younger people who bounce better.

The sheep and goats will be extremely thankful in another month or so when they have this nice place to have their babies. And I will be extremely thankful as well since I would have had to move lots and lots of stuff in the previous section to make room for them. AHHH! The convenience of a new barn that hasn't yet been filled up with human stuff. By next year I'm sure I'll be coaxing Jim to connect the roof so I can have the room for the critters to have next spring's babies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Protect Our Food Supply - Stop NAIS

If I learn nothing else in my life I should learn this - whenever "big brother" wants to save me it's not a good thing! Almost every time the government makes more regulations they mess things up. With regard to NAIS - I believe the best and only protection for my food is to buy from the local farmer that feeds his/her own family the same thing they're selling me, or to grow it myself. NAIS will put such a burden on the small producer it will become impossible for them to continue. This is an interesting article that I found cross-posted on one of my e-lists. Sorry it's so long, but I found it extremely informative.

NAIS STINKS! Big government to the rescue again. By Henry Lamb

Some of the world's finest Texas longhorns live in Ohio. And they love it. Rich grass grows belly high; fresh spring water feeds 16 of the 17 lakes and ponds on the nearly 5,000 acre spread; 62 miles of fencing separates 49 pastures; and the four seasons are as distinct and different as the hills and valleys that define the Dickinson Cattle Company.

Darol Dickinson is no newcomer to the cattle business. He grew up in a cattle family in Colorado. He started raising registered Texas longhorns in 1967. But Colorado's bitter winters and windy, dry summers sent him searching for new land from Mexico to Canada, and many places in between. He found in Ohio enough fertile land to do justice to the business he envisioned.

Darol's cattle are prime breeding stock and home ranch for many international champions. His business includes providing semen and embryos to cattle producers around the world. Son Joel is the hands-on cattle manager, in charge of daily operations. Darol's wife of 45 years, Linda, is in charge of administration. She's the one who records everything about everything. She pays the bills, keeps the shipments straight, monitors inventory in every pasture, and documents every vaccination and individual health event.

A few years ago, Darol attended a USDA-sponsored "listening session." A federal employee explained a new program: the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Darol was shocked to learn that the ranch would have to be registered with a new seven-digit identification number in a new government database. He learned that each of his animals would have to have a new identification device bearing a new 15-digit identification number, loaded into another new government database. And he learned that every time one of his animals was moved off the property, the event would have to be reported and recorded in the government database within 24 hours.

"Well, that just left a horrible taste in my mouth," Darol says. "The way it was presented, we had no choice. It was a done deal. We would be forced to sign up."

The USDA spokesman talked about how foot-and-mouth disease would wipe out an entire herd in a matter of hours, and how dangerous anthrax is, and, of course, he talked about the dreaded mad cow disease. This new USDA program would make it possible for the government to trace back any diseased animal to its source within 48 hours, the groups was told. Darol knew something was not right. "It did not pass the basic hubcap sniff test," he says.

He contacted a specialist at Texas A&M, Uvalde, Texas, who confirmed that there had not been a case of foot-and-mouth disease in the United States since 1929. He also learned that anthrax is no longer a problem because ranchers can vaccinate against it for 80 cents a head. Mad cow disease is not a problem because it is not contagious, and the new system would do nothing to stop the disease even if a case were discovered.

Darol's cattle, like most livestock inventory, are already identified quite thoroughly. Every new calf is weighed, given a vitamin shot and tagged, the same day it is born. At weaning, each animal is branded with the famous Paintbrush-D brand, along with a unique identification number and the year of birth. In addition, the USDA tags every female with a number that is recorded in a USDA database, along with an ear tatoo. The other ear is tagged with the critter's registered name, so the cowhands can easily identify the cow by sight.

Wtih all of this proof-positive identification on each cow, and on the ranch computer, why in the world would USDA require another 15-digit number linked to still another database?

Darol sees the NAIS program as a direct and serious threat to his business. The proven growth of the family business is providing foundation stock for new producers.


Darol thinks the NAIS would destroy the family business in five years or less. That's why he has become an outspoken critic of it. He spends from two to eight hours a day doing everything he can to oppose the program. He's even set up his own website: It is full of articles and press releases and other information that traces the flawed development of the program back to 2003.

Darol is not going to surrender to this program without a fight. His resistance, along with a near rebellion by the majority of animal owners, caused USDA to abandon its initial plans to make the program mandatory and, in 2006, the agency announced that the program would henceforth be voluntary. But what USDA means by "voluntary" is anything but voluntary.

Judith McGreary is working on a lawsuit that challenges the authority for the USDA to even engage in the National Animal Identification System. Part of the argument deals with how USDA is funding organizations and states to force participation in the NAIS, while USDA claims that the program is voluntary.

Judith was perfectly content living with her husband, Mike, on their 40 acres just outside Austin, Texas. Mike retired from the Coast Guard, and Judith turned her Stanford BS into a degree in environmental law from the University of Texas. Life was great. They had a couple of Quarter Horses, several lambs, a bunch of barred rock chickens and turkeys, and were well on their way to developing a business providing eggs and poultry and lamb chops to a growing neighborhood market.

"I remember it well," Judith says. "Mike came in and told me he had learned that the government was going to require us to put a microchip into every one of our chickens." That was the day Judith discovered the NAIS. "I told Mike it had to be an internet rumor; not even the government can be that stupid."

Chickens do not require a microchip under the NAIS plan, but they do require an individual 15-digit identification number, along with each of her horses and lambs and turkeys.

"It's just ridiculous," Judith says. "My chickens range over the pasture. They produce far better eggs than the caged factory hens. How am I going to report the death of one of my chickens within 24 hours, if I don't even know about it? When a fox gets a chicken, I might not even find a pile of feathers. It's just ridiculous."

Judith was already concerned about government regulations that seemed to be squeezing small farmers, especially farmers who are trying to use responsible, sustainable, best practices. She had talked to Mike and to some of her friends about the need for an organization to try to deal with some of the legislative issues. When she discovered that the state of Texas was ready to make the NAIS mandatory, the decision was made. She formed Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance

Almost simultaneously, she got involved with the creation of the Liberty Ark Coalition as a founding member of the steering committee. She began researching, writing and helping others get informed about the impact this program would have on all livestock owners.

"It will put us out of business," she says. "And it's not just the cost and aggravation this program will put on us personally, because it will have the same impact on thousands of other small operators. USDA should be encouraging small farmers and homesteaders to produce what they can for local markets. Instead, THEY ARE DELIBERATELY TRYING TO DRY UP ANY COMPETITION TO THE BIG GUYS."

Along with Sally Fallon, president of the Weston Price Foundation, Gary Cox, and a few other attorneys, farmers, and activists, Judith helped to form the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund ( In May, the group sent a 25-page Notice of Intent to Sue to USDA, alleging that the NAIS has not followed proper rule-making procedures, has not met environmental impact assessment standards, has not been subjected to a cost-benefit analysis, and a variety of other short comings.

There are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of livestock owners who do not yet know they are subject to the reach of the NAIS. Everyone who owns even a single horse or chicken or pig or sheep or any of 29 different species will be subject to the NAIS. Even though the program is said to be voluntary, no one believes it will stay that way. In fact, the FORMER SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE HAS SAID THAT THE USDA RETAINS THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE THE PROGRAM MANDATORY WHENEVER IT DEEMS IT NECESSARY.

USDA apparently is not concerned about the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to guarantee that every citizen is "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures..." A mandatory NAIS would force individuals to surrender private, personal information about their property and their movements to the government without probably cause, without a warrant, and for no good reason, as far as many people can see.

Bert "Nevada" Smith is one of those people. Bert is a western rancher who has seen it all. In his part of the country near Layton, Utah, ranches are measure in sections, not acres. His cattle have no need of a government-assigned number, and his ranch has no place in a federal database. Just ask him.

"My brand is enough identification," Bert says. "Every load I sell is certified healthy by a state veterinarian. The USDA's got no business poking its nose around my ranch and my cattle." And he's not at all bashful about telling the USDA so. Bert has been quite outspoken at cattle association meetings in both Nevada and Utah. USDA big wheels invited to promote the NAIS don't escape Bert's withering condemnation of the program."

He has seen the USDA's shenanigans over the years. He is especially skeptical of its claim that the NAIS is voluntary. He remembers when USDA said that signing up for grazing allotments was voluntary, and how ranchers all over the West lost both their water rights and grazing rights when voluntary became mandatory.

Bert really gets upset about the money USDA is paying organizations to promote the NAIS. "Why, it's bribery. What else can you call it when USDA gives the Future Farmers of America $600,000 to teach the kids to persuade their parents to register their premises in NAIS?"


There has been a lot of internet speculation that use of the word "premises" in USDA's registration forms somehow strips constitutional protection from the property owner, or converts the property owner into a "tenant" of the federal government.

Jim Burling, director of litigation at the Pacific Legal Foundation, says, "I can see no way that the use of the word "premises" versus "property" has any impact on the ability of the government to enter property without a search warrant. The underlying nature of the property rights cannot be changed by a label. Referring to a property as the "premises" in no way converts a fee simple property into a leasehold."


Aside from the possible legal hocus-pocus, Bert is convinced that the NAIS is just not necessary. "Animals are already identified with a brand, and they have to be certified healthy before they can be sent to the slaughterhouse. All the NAIS is going to do is put the little guy out of busines," he says.

The opposition to the NAIS expressed by Darol, Judith and Bert is just a sampling of the sentiments expressed by animal owners across the nation. Already, at least 15 state legislatures have responded to appeals from animal owners by entering legislation to prohibit mandatory NAIS at the state level. Four states (Arizona, Missouri, Nebraska and Kentucky) have actually enacted laws to this effect.

USDA claims that the NAIS is needed to provide a mechanism to trace the origin of a diseased animal within 48 hours. But the agency has no evidence that the need for or benefit from this mechanism outweighs the cost. When pressed, USDA EMPLOYEES ADMIT THAT AN ELECTRONIC TRACE-BACK SYSTEM WILL OPEN NEW INTERNATIONAL MARKETS -FOR THE LARGER MEAT EXPORTERS. But even when pressed, USDA HAS NO ANSWER FOR WHY THE REST OF ANIMAL OWNERS SHOULD HAVE TO BEAR THE BURDENS OF COST AND AGGRAVATION FOR THE BENEFITS OF THE BIG EXPORTERS.

It was the big exporters and the manufacturers of the electronic tags and tag-reading equipment - all members of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) - that LARGELY DESIGNED THE PROGRAM AND PREVAILED UPON THE FEDS TO IMPLEMENT IT.

USDA may have miscalculated the strength of the opposition to its NAIS. When first introduced, USDA expected the program to be fully implemented by early 2009. They anticipated that every premises where a livestock animal is housed would be registered; that every livestock animal would be identified, most with a computer-readable tag or chip; and that every off-premises movement would be reported to the government within 24 hours.

Obviously, this is not going to happen by 2009, if ever. The rate of the new signups has slowed, and people were registered are beginning to request that their names and premises be removed from the databases. It's a sure bet that even more states will be introducing anti-NAIS legislation next year.

But the federal government carries the big stick - MONEY. State legislatures are aware that USDA can withhold federal funds if a state fails to knuckle under to the demands of the federal agency. Consequently, the anti-NAIS campaign continues to focus on Congress, as well as on state legislatures.

The jury is still out on NAIS. Whether USDA will be responsive to the expressed will of the animal owners who do not want it, or responsive to the members of the NIAA who do, remains to be seen. One thing is certain: Darol, Judith, Bert and hundreds of thousands of other animal owners are not going to sit idly by and let USDA steamroll over them without a fight. If you're a gambler, be careful which way you bet.

Henry Lamb is founder of the Environmental Conservation Organization and chairman of Sovereignty International.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Making GORP aka Reindeer Food

Yup, Gorp. For those of you who don't know what that is, well, it's sort of like trail mix only sweet instead of salty. We also call it Reindeer Food because when my children were little we'd leave cookies and milk for Santa and a bag of Gorp for his reindeer. Rumor has it that Rudolph was especially fond of the marshmallows, Vixen had a liking for the raisins and Dasher went nuts over the cashews.

We ran out of propane gas this morning. Long story but our former gas/oil company went out of business and didn't come pick up their gas tanks. The new company won't deliver until the existing tanks are removed. So... we had to wait till they were empty, disconnect them, call the new company so they can deliver their tanks. Figures they'd empty on a holiday.

Anyway, had to place the white chocolate (in my opinion, there's no such thing) in a pan of water on the wood stove so it would melt. Hey, here in the boonies there's always a backup plan (at least there'd better be).

Recipe for Gorp
3 lbs. white chocolate, melted in double boiler

Mix the following together in large bowl:

4 cups rice checks
4 cups wheat checks
4 cups honey nut cheerios
2 cups cashews, or peanuts, or mixed nuts
4 cups salted pretzel sticks

Pour melted white chocolate over the top while mixing thoroughly. Place onto several lightly greased cookie sheets until cooled. Then break into chunks. Add the following:

1 package chocolate covered graham cookies, cut into pieces
1 large package mini M&Ms
1 large package chocolate chips
2 cups raisins
1 bag mini marshmallows

Spoon into ziplock sandwich bags.

Of course, the dogs are always willing to lend a hand on cleanup, just in case anything falls on the floor.