Friday, December 17, 2010

Being Nice to Chickens

FARM NEWS from Fred Owens, December 18, 2010

Being Nice to Chickens

But first, the Harvest News. Lots of apples in Washington this year -- 102 million forty-pound boxes are predicted. The mind boggles at that huge number of apples, and they didn't just jump into the box.

Somebody had to pick each and every single apple -- hard work. I hope they were paid well, and the farmer should get a profit too.

Red Delicious is still the dominant variety in Washington, followed by Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious.

These are the "industrial-strength" apples that get shipped all over the world. Persons of more refined taste can shop the farmers markets and buy the tastier varieties.

Oranges. Likewise in California, the orange harvest is underway. Yield is predicted to be 93 million forty-pound boxes.

Just to push this point a little farther -- Every orange you ever ate, somebody picked it, had their hands on it before you did.
May that person prosper, and the farmer who hired him deserves a profit.

Quality is good for California oranges this year. More than 85 percent is good enough to sell as fresh. The rest get sold for juice at a lower price.

And the harvest is running two and three weeks late -- that's because of the cool, wet spring that pushed every crop late this year on the West Coast.

It doesn't matter, early or late, eat your oranges every day, and a blessing for the people who grew them.

Ventura County in California. Strawberries are a big crop in Ventura County, where I am now living. Last year, they harvested berries with a total value of over $500 million. It's kind of hard to visualize how many strawberries that is.

I don't have figures for this year, but it should be in that range.

Again, these are the "industrial strength" strawberries that get shipped all over the world. You could criticize their quality, but it would be better to feel grateful that you have berries at all.

There is no machine that picks strawberries. Somebody had to bend over to the ground or crawl on their knees to pick each and every single berry. Hard work -- you should try it some day.

May the strawberry pickers prosper, and the farmer deserves his profit.

Being Nice to Chickens. We have nine chickens on the farm -- to be exact, we have six hens, two ducks, and one bantam rooster.

It's colder now and the hens are not laying so many eggs, but they are the very best eggs you can eat.

I let the birds out of the coop first thing in the morning and feed them. They also get table scraps and whatever they can find by pecking around.

These are well-housed and well-protected chickens. They move into the coop on their own every evening because they know it's safe inside. Nonetheless, someone closes and locks the door, just to be sure.

Lots of critters around here would love to eat a chicken -- hawks, owls, and eagles ready to swoop down. Raccoons and coyotes too.

Chickens are domestic fowl and we protect them, feed them, and gather the eggs.

Now, if you want to buy eggs as good as what we have, you can find them at the farmers market at $3, $4 or $5 a dozen.

You can buys eggs for a lot less at the supermarket, mass-produced eggs, laid by chickens who don't live the life of luxury like ours do.

That is the problem. Now comes the politics. In 2008, by a margin of 63 percent, California voters passed an initiative requiring poultry farmers to be kinder to their chickens, banning the small confining cages that chickens are often kept in.

"They need fresh air, they need to scratch in the air and flap their wings. They need to live like chickens in days of old, when the housewife went to the yard and scattered her scraps of vegetable parings and bread crusts."

By law! By a vote of the people!

I am very suspicious of efforts like this. I believe that the government ought to have a minimum of regulation against cruelty toward animals.

Because the voters, by and large, simply do no know enough about chickens to have an opinion about how they ought to be cared for.

I don't want to sound like an expert or anything, but I know a happy chicken when I see one. and I know the abuse too, abuse that can arise from carelessness or a wicked desire for profit.

But the government can only prosecute the grossest offenses.

Everybody wants the chickens to be happy. No wonder the proposition passed by 63 percent. Who would vote against it?

But it was not properly worded. It should read, "We favor better care and more freedom for poultry and we are willing to pay more for our eggs."

Not that's being honest.

And this kind of thing is happening all over the country anyway -- people are paying more for eggs from free range hens. More and more people are raising their own birds. Search "urban poultry" on the Internet -- it's everywhere. People doing it themselves, and becoming real chicken people.

We're going to have happier chickens, and we're going to be eating better eggs. But it won't happen by law.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

send mail to:

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257

Monday, December 06, 2010

Back By Popular Demand

A certain lady from Orcas Island has lamented the lack of political content in recent editions of the Farm News. She wants to hear some snap, crackle and pop.

I am not sure what good that would do. Could my remarks possibly improve our nation's circumstance? That is doubtful.

I think it has been good to be quiet for a change. But I have been reading, mostly on the right. My special favorite is the Thinking Housewife, and I often post my own reactions on this blog.

Laura Wood is the hostess at this Internet salon and she invites you to consider a remarkable premise -- that men and women are different, different from each other, or, to put it another way, not the same.

It's an astounding thought, and the discussion is rich. Her conclusions, derived from this premise, are quite conservative, or traditional, as she terms it.

Not me. I'm not conservative. I've decided to call myself a Merry Christmas liberal -- to wit -- I support the extension of unemployment benefits for as long as jobs are scarce.

And how do we pay for that? By jacking up the tax rates paid by wealthier people.

I'm not inviting any disagreement here, I'm just telling you what I think.

That makes me liberal, a Merry Christmas liberal, because I really hate this Happy Holiday nonsense. Christmas is about Christmas, and the other religions can just lay low until it's over. I do not support diversity.

Jews, for instance, have wonderful, meaningful spiritual feasts. Passover and Rosh Hoshannah are world class and deeply impressive, but Hannukah is boring and over-rated.

Kwanzaa is contrived and pointless. And what do the Hindus do in December? Nobody cares.

To be even handed I should now insult Moslems and pagans. Except I do not support "inclusion."

I oppose inclusion. I invite whom I choose to my party, and if anyone was left out, it was deliberate.

Well, that's a part of what I think. Here in California, we have Jerry Brown as the new governor.

Jerry Brown was not the safest choice. In California, being foolish can be the wisest thing to do.

You can hear all about the mess -- the long list of problems. The place is going to hell, it can't be fixed -- just move and get out and put your equity into someplace that isn't so crazy.

Good, I hope all those people leave right now -- maybe they should all go to Texas. Governor Rick Perry would be glad to have them.

But I like California. I'm glad to be here. And I'm going to be a part, a very small part, of what is going to make things better.

That's my attitude -- with a good attitude, you can make plans and solve problems.

And I will keep working on the farm, because that's where a lot of the good energy comes from.

This is another piece from the Thinking Housewife. No politics here, but the very best words to someone facing a life with a chronic illness. I include this because many Frog Hospital readers will find Laura Wood's politics to be very wrong

Laura writes to the woman with a chronic illness

It sounds as if you are thinking about what you
can’t do and not focusing on however little that you can. You have to expect less in every department and remember that no matter how much you can’t do, you are still irreplaceable. Your presence alone matters.

Do as little as necessary to get by. Someday your children will be older and they will help. You should enlist their help as soon as you can. Don’t feel sorry for your children or your husband because they have a sick mother and wife. Don’t feel sorry for them at all. They have you. You have given them life. That is enough. Besides, sickness provides the opportunity for an entire household to slow down and to spend more time talking or doing simple things.

Your illness is not a detour from reality. There’s a temptation to look at the rest of the world, so energetic and vital, and think they are more alive while you live in some kind of lesser, shadow world. This is false. You are more alive at these times than those who are filled with so much vitality. You are closer to the center of things. They cannot see their own mortality and the fact of death. It awaits us all and fortunate are those who see it clearly.

No moment is wasted. No time is lost. You are not on a side path, but on the main road, heading step-by-step to your ultimate destination. When you arrive there, every moment you have loved God despite your misery will be remembered. I don’t say this out of pie-in-the-sky sentimentality or wishful thinking. I say this because it is logically deducible from the facts of our existence, from the laws of nature, from our subjective experience of the world, and even from the love you still feel for your children despite your illness. This love is a form of self-forgetfulness. Where did it come from? It must have come from a Being capable of even more love.

You are confined by illness, but still you are alive and on the move every hour of the day.

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