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Eating Meat, Helping the Soil. No Shipping, No Handling

September 21, 2016
Laughing Frog Farm's Freedom Ranger Chickens

Laughing Frog Farm’s Freedom Ranger Chickens

IMG_3204I eat meat. Kenan and I decided that if we were going to eat meat we needed to either raise it ourselves or get it from a farmer that we knew, one that raised the animals with care for the environment, the soils, and the animals themselves. We respect those that have chosen a different diet, but believe that moderate meat consumption is more ecological sound and sustainable. We raise chickens and lamb in a humane, responsible manner.
The industrial model of raising animals, in confined animal feed operations (CAFO), is not ethical nor sustainable. This meat accounts for almost 99% of all meat. It is cruel to the animal, produces a meat that is not healthy and is antibiotic dependent, and is an environmental travesty with the concentrated waste produced, and the chemically dependent grain used as a feed.
Pasture raised, grassfed meat is high in omega-3 fatty acids, beta carotene and vitamins E and low in saturated fat. Livestock raised in an ethical environment must have access to their natural foods, clean water, shelter, protection from predators and room to move in a natural habitat. For pigs it might mean mud, for chickens they need to scratch in the soil. Sheep, cows and goats need a variety of forage eaten while roaming, usually from rotational grazing.
The earth’s ecosystem is supposed to have plant and animal impact with the soil. The animal manure feeds the microbes in the soil that develop the fertility needed for plants to grow nutrient dense food. The impact of the hooves or chicken feet aerates the soil and the grazing animals can turn grass and forbs, inedible to humans, into food. Few inputs are necessary for this type of animal husbandry. We do not have to buy and truck in fertilizer and herbicides. Many of the ethically raised animals are raised on land unsuitable for raising vegetables and many others are used in a rotation with vegetable plantings, like we do at Laughing Frog Farm. Ruminates have a unique ability, with the help of sunlight and water, to turn hundreds of different naturally growing plants into protein while monoculture crops need tractors, fuel and fertilization, to produce their nutrients.
Many vegetables and grains are raised using environmentally destructive methods. In order to grow vegetables we need to add fertility to the soil. The use of manure has traditionally been the farmers go to solution, but with the advent of chemical fertilizers, animals became unnecessary because the farmer can now purchase the fertility. Heavy use of these chemicals is causing polluted water, interrupting the soil food web, and creating dead zones in our oceans. There is evidence that these chemicals are chelating the nutrients in the soil and consequently reducing the nutrient levels in our food.
Compost can add some fertility, but it alone will not provide the nitrogen needed for healthy crops. Many organic farmers turn to cottonseed and alfalfa meals that have been produced, usually, with chemical fertilizer. Furthermore, most of them are now genetically modified, meaning large doses of chemical herbicides have been used, further robbing our soil of its nutrition. Fish emulsion is used extensively in organic farming to raise nitrogen levels. Those fish were often fed GMO corn and soy and, of course, dead fish are not a particularly good vegan option. These amendments are trucked across the country powered by fossil fuels.
Most alternatives to manure, for fertility, have limited availability and high costs in the developing world.
Nitrogen fixing cover crops, vermicastings, mulches and compost tea all are alternative fertility solutions that we use, but most require energy, and labor.
Most of the farm animals would become extinct if farmers quit raising them. These animals have been developed over centuries to provide meat, milk, wool, leather and eggs to humans. Goats, sheep, chickens and cows are not prepared to live in the wild. Pigs have proven they are prepared and have become a nuisance in many parts of the country.
Eating requires taking a life. People just choose where to draw the line. A cabbage is alive. We kill cockroaches and mice. “Vegetarians” often tell me they eat fish or shellfish. Modern vegetable agricultural methods eliminate earthworms, starve monarch butterflies and interrupt the migration of birds.
We know that plants communicate with one another through the soil and that plants have a survival instinct as they struggle to stay alive in bad soil or weather conditions.
Animals are truly an integral part of sustainable agricultural systems worldwide. Of course, we can always raise animals just for their manure and not their meat. Many aquaponics operations utilize goldfish and horse manure is an alternative, as are zoos, though not part of a sustainable agricultural system. Some farmers use animal power as an alternative to tractors but a two oxen will not fertilize a whole farm.
If all animals are to be raised in a pastured, humane way we have to eat less meat and seek out the best places to purchase it. At this point humanely raised, pastured meat is seldom available in a supermarket or a restaurant. Organic, cage free and natural do not mean responsibly raised or humane.
You are what you eat and you are what you eat eats. If your chicken was fed pesticide ridden corn or your farm raised fish was eating GMO soy it will affect the quality of the meat and the quality of the manure we use as fertilizer. Also if your soil was fed chemicals that limit a plant’s nutrient uptake it will affect your health as well.
I honor people who make moral and ethical decisions about how they eat, whether they chose vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.
Remember that the food that nourishes your body is a precious investment in your future.
Don’t eat the cheap, fast and easy American diet.
Don’t be cheap, fast and easy.
Glen Miracle

Putting permaculture to work

August 1, 2016

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.
IMG_5707

Putting permaculture to work

August 1, 2016

ram key.001

chick key.001

We are trying to mimic nature as much as possible here at the farm. It improves the biology of the soil, saves a bit of labor and saves on the purchased organic fertilizers. Nature never pulls out the chemicals or a rototiller or a tractor and everything grows like crazy.
We are working our gardens without tilling. We only plant one of our three gardens at a time and run sheep and chickens in the other gardens or plant cover crops during their off season. It means hoeing, mulching and tolerating some weeds. After the animals leave the garden we do not eat vegetables out of that garden for 120 days, as per organic guidelines, to give the manure time to break down.
Last winter’s garden was very successful but the spring brought in weed competition. That was after the 60 inches of rain from mid April to early June. The rain also made it impossible to bring in loads of mulch.
As you can see below, the winter squash is growing in the company of weeds, but the soil is so fertile that it can feed them both.
After another year, lots more mulch, another cover crop, and 200 more chickens, I hope I can report that it is running smoothly again.IMG_5707

I did not launder the money to import sheep from China. :)

July 13, 2016

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On Tuesday we were scheduled to pickup some Gulf Coast Native Sheep from Sassy Sheep in China, Tx. We are always trying to diversify our flocks and necessarily have to sell a few breeding sheep and buy a few replacements to prevent inbreeding.
I headed to the bank and picked up cash, the most trusted form of payment, on Monday afternoon.
When I got home we had an emergency. One of our ram lambs had been hurt and we had to do a daring rescue. I picked the little 40 pound boy up to take him back to his mother. He peed down my left leg. He peed a lot. That is no big deal, I have been a parent. We reunited him with his mother and I went to change clothes. I reached my hand in my left pocket and pulled out a roll of soaked paper money. We laid the bills out to dry.
On Tuesday we purchased 18 beautiful sheep and paid in the marked, but dry money. By the time we had loaded the sheep we all smelled like money–that money.
When your mother tells you to wash you hands after handling money, remember—-wash them.
The ram lamb is fine and we love the additions to our flock. Thank you Sassy Sheep and Beau-tanicals.

Venezuela–No Farms, No Food

June 24, 2016

0,,19291262_303,00We have all heard the news from Venezuela that the falling price of oil has led to a food shortage. One headline reads “Venezuelan economic crisis leads to food shortage”.
However, I would disagree. Food grows in my garden no matter what the price of oil is.
Years ago, Venezuela, under Hugo Chavez, imposed price controls on food. Neither the farmer nor the market could decide the price of the product, making it unprofitable to grow crops and to feed animals. The farmers hung up their plows and headed to the oil fields where they could earn a decent living. At that point the entire country became dependent on neighboring countries to supply the food, and as long as they were flush with cash, they could make this socially engineered pricing scheme work.
The problem is not just an oil price problem, it is a food production problem. For anyone to be secure, individual or country, they must be food secure.
I am old enough to remember the wage price controls that Richard Nixon imposed in the 1970’s. Ranchers stopped shipping their cattle to the market, and the grocery stores had empty shelves.
Food shortages in the present day United States are unlikely. We produce an abundance of food. However that food is produced in a few localized agricultural regions and is distributed, by trucks, throughout the country.
During Hurricane Ike every grocery store in Houston was mostly empty hours before the storm hit. When Hurricane Rita was forecast to hit Houston, an evacuation stalled in my little town of Hempstead, among others. The traffic jam was so bad that cars ran out gas while idling on the highway. Our grocery stores were totally out of food and water before dark, for a hurricane that was supposed to hit the next day. The hurricane moved east and missed Houston. The trucks came in and resupplied the shelves after each incident.
But what would happen if the trucks could not get back in? We had an example of that after Hurricane Katrina. Food shortages continued for days.
One of the reasons we do not grow more food in the cities of Texas is the state tax policy. Texas has one of the highest property taxes in the nation. Farmers need land. Land is taxed at a high rate. To counter the disincentive this generates, we have a method of adjusting the tax on agricultural land. Currently, county tax assessors require you have at least five acres, which is impossible to come by inside most urban areas. There is a five year waiting period, and usually vegetables and fruit are not considered agriculture, though hay is. This type of government interference in the market keeps urban and small local farmers from providing the food an urban population needs.
Unlike Venezuela, we are not at the mercy of the price of oil to eat, but we are at the mercy of trucks. When trucks quit moving, 5.5 million people in the greater Houston area could be dependent on a few hundred acres of local food. We need to incentivize farming in small tracts to attract more and younger farmers. To get that, we need property tax reform for farmers.
What Chavez did through price controls, America does through taxes and regulations.

Sheep wool for sale

June 17, 2016

Our sheep have been sheared and we have fleeces for sale. This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times.

skein of spun wool from 2014

skein of spun wool from 2014

A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.

A fleece from a sheep named Julia Child.

IMG_5447 The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each Saturday.

Shearing Day.

June 13, 2016

Our sheep will be sheared this Thursday and we will have fleeces for sale. If anyone is interested in witnessing this it will start at 8:00am. If you show up you will be asked to help move sheep around.
This is unwashed wool from Gulf Coast Native Sheep. It came straight off the sheep, into the bag. There will be vegetative matter in the wool. The sheep were not coated and they browsed in the woods at times. These sheep do not have facial or belly wool.
The fleeces weigh between 1 pounds and 4 pounds each. Fiber lengths vary. The price is $10 per pound. I will have some with me at the Eastside Farmers Market in Houston each Saturday until sold out. Customers have been spinners, bedding/pillow makers, and craftspersons.
I would prefer not to ship. I want people who know more than me to see the wool before purchasing it. All wool is from our flock here in Hempstead, Texas. Fiber lengths of spinning wool vary from 3″ to 5″.

Random fiber sample 2015

Random fiber sample 2015

IMG_3204

skein of spun wool from 2014

skein of spun wool from 2014