Saturday, March 28, 2009

Eruption of Mt. Redoubt 3-38, ashfall.....

has now been reported from south Anchorage to the bases. This is in about four hours' time, and looks to be headed right on up the Inlet to the Valley.

Keep in mind that the areas they specify for ashfall, are based on wind trajectories and not necessarily where (and when) the ash will fall-never mind how much.

When I look outside towards Anchorage, I can see a definite brownish cast to the cloud cover.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Trace amount of ash falling here at work on the Pee Dub. Naturally I checked the NOAA announcements about this, and read that the ashfall advisory for the Valley has been cancelled.

Um, not, lol!!

Very very fine, more like a powder and a medium grey color. Originally I thought it was snow, but nope, snow does not leave a residue on my car windsheild.....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mt. Redoubt blows again-updated 1:15 am

At 9:24 this morning, another eruption occured at Mt. Redoubt, already spewing ash to 65,000 feet in altitude. This is a significant event, and I think it's likely (given the height and volume) that we will get ash fall today at some point.

This is in addition to six eruptions the first day, and two smaller ones yesterday morning.

Do check the Alaska Volcano Observatory website, and the NWS for forecast winds which will have current ashfall trajectories posted.


The mountain began another series of explosive events, beginning just before midnight, and continues at a pretty good clip. No information on the AVO website as to height of plume, but the NOAA has issued an ashfall advisory for the western Kenai Peninsula communities and the Susitna Valley. Check the AVO website for more information.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mt Redoubt is erupting

Yesterday afternoon, on a whim, I checked the AVO website. The monitoring stations placed around the mountain did show elevated activity, and I thought to check it last night. By the time I turned in for the night, it sure looked like it was erupting-

And yes it did-five times at least. The NWS is performing a huge service by plotting out ashfall projections based upon winds at different elevations. Isn't that rather amazing, that they know all these things? While winds near the volcano are mostly north and northwest, surface winds at home were out of just about due north. The only way I figure we'd get serious ashfall here in the Valley is that it would be carried aloft well north, then drop down and be swept southwards. This morning, the local NBC affiliate was reporting ashfall in Willow and Talkeetna. Willow area is not too far north of us, maybe 25 road miles.

Flights into and out of Anchorage are being cancelled. Since Ted Stevens International Airport is the second busiest cargo hub in the nation, I expect this is going to have some ripple effects on air freight for a while.

Whether we get any here or not, that's the question. At home, I was letting the stock tank get down anyway, so I could scrub it out tomorrow. What I can do is simply get out a large bucket and fill that instead, inside the stall for Reba. Where Sully is, all water and feeding areas are under cover so I won't worry about him either. Chickens are under roof too, so the only risk to us is being outside for normal chores-no big deal, I am well stocked on firewood and have been through this before :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Speaking of food-

The first batch of flats is germinated, and planted. About 16 I think, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Since I have them all squeezed onto one unit, that frees up space to do other, maybe its time to dig around in my seed packets and see what comes up :)

The peppers are trying to set their fourth set of leaves, and seem very happy to be under the big light in the pantry. I am still disappointed with the Carmen's, which did not germinate very well. I may try some outside of the flat germinating with those too, and maybe I will get better results. I found a large packet from last year of marigolds-which typically will hold at least a year, so a sprinkling of those are on wet toweling and tucked away....I'll check signs of life tomorrow night.

It may be a pain, pricking loose those sprouted seeds and planting them individually, but it does mean that all the six packs and four packs are full. It's also a bit of a pain to count out the seeds but better to have just enough to fill the flats, than way too few or too many.

As far as temperature goes, its been below zero in the mornings, even if we have been treated to nearly a solid week of sunshine. Those that have heat, are moving into their greenhouses and I am envious of course. One of these days!

Better get back at it, those flats won't fill themselves!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

HR 875 is not the only bill affecting food....

Permission to cross post and forward granted-From the Westin A. Price Foundation


Many of you have been hearing about HR 875, a food safety bill that has been introduced in Congress. Although much of what has circulated the internet is not accurate, HR 875 does pose serious problems for sustainable farmers and their consumers. Unfortunately, there are already four other "food safety" bills that also pose serious problems: HR 814, HR 759, S 425, and S 510. HR 814 is essentially a mandatory NAIS bill, while the others focus on produce, processed foods and game under FDA jurisdiction.

Consumers who buy nutrient-dense foods from local, sustainable farmers can feel secure about the safety of their food. The same is not true for the majority who buy their food in grocery stores from mass-production industrialized operations. We understand the pressure that Congress faces to improve the safety of that mainstream system. But it is critical that the laws not interfere with the right to choose local foods or with our farmers' ability to raise safer, healthier foods!

Small sustainable farms are fundamentally different from factory farms, and should not be regulated the same way! All of the proposed food safety bills suffer from a "one-size-fits-all" approach. And even though the bills' sponsors might intend for them to apply only to food crossing state lines, the federal agencies regularly take a broader view of their jurisdiction. The FDA's and USDA's past actions clearly show that Congress must place strict limitations on these agencies, or they will impose burdensome and unfair regulations and enforcement actions on small farms.

We don't know which of these bills will move forward to committee hearings -- or perhaps another bill, not yet filed, will be the one to move forward. So we encourage everyone to send a clear message: Protect our farms from bad regulation!

TAKE ACTION: Call your U.S. Representative and Senators. If you do not know who represents you, you can find out at or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Ask to speak to the staffer who handles food safety issues.

Talk with the staffer about why you support local foods. Tell them you oppose the five bills listed above. Ask that they support a food safety bill that focuses on the real threats to food safety, such as uninspected imports from China and lax inspections of massive slaughterhouses and other factory processing, and ask that any new laws explicitly exempt small farmers. Explain that this issue cannot be left to the agencies' discretion, and you want a clear focus on the broken factory farm system and not on small, sustainable farmers.

UPDATE: Congressional Hearing on NAIS

Last Wednesday, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry held a hearing on NAIS. The questions and comments of several of the Subcommittee members revealed that they view NAIS as a food safety program and critical for animal health in case of a "catastrophic outbreak." One member said, in essence, that the costs to farmers financially and in loss of privacy must be weighed against the "cost in human life" if NAIS isn't implemented.

Yet USDA continues to provide absolutely no scientific evidence to support the claim that NAIS will do anything at all to improve animal health or food safety! What NAIS will do is impose government surveillance and significant expense on animal owners for no real benefit to the public. The only ones who will benefit from NAIS are the meat packers and exporters, tag manufacturers, database managers and other large corporations.

TAKE ACTION #2: You can send written testimony to the Subcommittee before Friday, March 20. Send your testimony to the Hearing Clerk, Jamie Mitchell, at

Put "March 11 Hearing - Animal Identification Programs" in the subject line. Keep your comments clear, polite, and concise.

And be sure to send a copy to your Representative and Senators! A copy of your letter to the Subcommittee makes a great follow-up to the phone call we suggest above.

Blogger: If you are sitting at your computor reading this, then you are capable of letting Washington DC know your opinions on these matters: NAIS, 875, and all the rest. If you cannot seem to find the correct page for comments, simply go to, or and look for the links. They are prominently displayed.

If you do nothing, these bills will pass. Mandatory NAIS has already been signed, courtesy of the Omnibus Spending Bill 1105, but we can *perhaps* kill this in its tracks with enough input.

A number of organizations are firmly against this across the US, so you are not alone! Please comment as soon as possible. A great quote here:

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Thursday, March 12, 2009

HR 875

This is worth the read, because it contains a great analysis of this bill, now in the Agriculture Committee. Yesterday, I tried to listen to testimony about this bill via my computor at work. It was plain that this bill is going to be railroaded down American's throats without any input from consumers or small farms, ranchers, or gardeners.

When I posted yesterday that we are at the end of the food chain, I am pretty sure most readers thought "yeah, and your point is?"

Here is the point:

- Analysis of H.R. 875 -
A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

On February 4, 2009, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) dropped a bill (H.R. 875) in the House that, if passed, will radically change the lives of most Americans. I have never read a bill so blatantly anti-American, as anathema to freedom and liberty, and so blatantly evil. This bill has 39 co-sponsors, all Democrats; their names should live in infamy:
Rep Berkley, Shelley [NV-1]; Rep Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [GA-2]; Rep Bishop, Timothy H. [NY-1]; Rep Carson, Andre [IN-7]; Rep Castor, Kathy [FL-11]; Rep Courtney, Joe [CT-2]; Rep DeFazio, Peter A. [OR-4]; Rep DeGette, Diana [CO-1]; Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17]; Rep Eshoo, Anna G. [CA-14]; Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17]; Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51]; Rep Giffords, Gabrielle [AZ-8]; Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7]; Rep Hall, John J. [NY-19]; Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22]; Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2]; Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30]; Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9]; Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9]; Rep Lowey, Nita M. [NY-18]; Rep McCollum, Betty [MN-4]; Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7]; Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3]; Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4]; Rep Murphy, Christopher S. [CT-5]; Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8]; Rep Norton, Eleanor Holmes [DC]; Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1]; Rep Ryan, Tim [OH-17]; Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39]; Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9]; Rep Schauer, Mark H. [MI-7]; Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [NY-28]; Rep Stark, Fortney Pete [CA-13]; Rep Sutton, Betty [OH-13]; Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6]; Rep Wasserman Schultz, Debbie [FL-20]; and Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19].

H.R. 875, the so-called Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (FSMA), sounds innocent enough at first blush. This roughly50-page bill would establish the Food Safety Administration within the Department of Health and Human Services, to “protect the public health by preventing food-borne illness, ensuring the safety of food, improving research on contaminants leading to food-borne illness, and improving security of food from intentional contamination, and for other purposes.” What could be wrong with that? Just about everything, as I will illustrate. What follows, though, is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis of this bill. I will only cover what drew my attention, and attendant questions. You may see things I’ve missed, react differently, or have different questions, so I strongly suggest you read the bill for yourself ( and then widely share your impressions and questions.

HR 875 talks about the United States’ failure to protect this nation’s food supply, whether produced here, imported, or exported, placing a “burden” on international trade. It adjures us to protect “all the people” in the United States, and complains that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hamstrung from that duty by an “antiquated law,” the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

The FSMA establishes a huge new bureaucracy, the Food Safety Administration (Sec. 2), transferring functions, personnel and assets from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Commerce (Sec. 102). It establishes an Administrator (Food Czar), and renames the FDA as the Federal Drug and Device Administration (does the FDA want to regulate alternative health modalities?).

Section 3 (10) defines a “contaminant” as “a bacterium, chemical, natural toxin or manufactured toxicant, virus, parasite, prion, physical hazard (?), or other human pathogen that when found on or in food can cause human illness, injury or death.” What about food allergies?

Section 3 (12) defines “food” as “a product intended to be used for food or drink for a human or an animal and components thereof.”

Section 3 (13) defines a “food establishment” as (A) “a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.” Does a farmer “process” eggs from chickens? YES, IF he/she puts the eggs into a container! (19) defines “process” or “processing” as “the commercial slaughter, packing, preparation, or manufacture of food.”

And Section 3 (14) defines a “food production facility” as “any farm, ranch, orchard, vineyard, aquaculture facility, or confined animal-feeding operation.”

Section 202 requires the registration of “food establishments” (domestic and foreign) “engaged in manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding food for consumption in the United States” within 90 days of the enactment of the Act, requiring all use an “electronic portal.” The Administrator shall then “assign a registration number” to each.

Section 203 states the Administrator shall promulgate regulations “not later than 1 year after the date of this Act,” so Congress will have no opportunity to read and comment on those regulations before voting on this bill.

Food establishments will be required to adopt preventive process controls, including implementing recordkeeping and labeling of all food and food ingredients to facilitate their identification and traceability, including instructions for handling and preparation for consumption. This might sound rather reasonable…until you remember the definition of a “food establishment” above.

Immensely telling of how seriously this bill actually takes “food safety,” though, is Section 204 (2) (C), which promises the Administrator will identify the “5 most significant (food) contaminants, and “not later than 3 years after a contaminant is so identified, the Administrator shall promulgate a performance standard...” Gee whiz, what’s the rush?

Perhaps the Administrator’s promulgation timetable has little to do with acting quickly and decisively to protect U.S. citizens (or even all the people in the U.S.) and much to do with the World Health Organization’s stated desire in a 2004 report entitled “FOODBORNE DISEASE MONITORING AND SURVEILLANCE SYSTEMS” that “the objectives and strategies (of food borne disease surveillance systems) established should be acceptable to all member countries (,” which doubtless would take time. Perhaps it is because “studies linking pathogens in food to the disease in humans would help quantify the risk of food borne diseases.” In other words, the WHO cannot prove a significant problem exists in the United States.

Performance standards (Sec. 204 [3] [c] [1]) may include “zero tolerances,” and “in the absence of data to support a performance standard…standard that define required performance on the basis of reliable information.”
Following inspection of a food establishment, the Administrator shall:
· detain, seize, or condemn food…;
· order a recall of food…;
· increase the inspection frequency…;
· withdraw the mark of inspection…; or
· take other appropriate enforcement action…including withdrawal of registration, without which “any farm, ranch, orchard,” etc., may not operate.

Section 205 states the Administrator’s inspection mandates go into effect 2 years after the date of enactment of the Act that detailed records must be created and maintained, and that the Administrator’s authority to share our “data” with “other governmental authorities” is not limited by the Act.

Section 206 gives the Administrator authority to “visit and inspect food production facilities in the United States and in foreign countries…, set good practice standards to protect the public and animal health, conduct monitoring and surveillance of animals, plants, products, or the environment (does this include your HOME?), and collect and maintain information “relevant to public health and farm practices.”

Each food production facility will be required to have a written food safety plan, including “standards related to fertilizer use, nutrients, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, (water, and) minimum standards related to the animal’s health, feed, and environment…”

Section 207 says a “Food Borne Illness Outbreak” exists with the occurrence of “2 or more cases of a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food.”

Section 208 promises “(n)ot later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act” imported food products shall be certified safe “by the accredited foreign government (think CHINA!) or by an accredited certifying agent…” Reassuringly, “(b)eginning not later than 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, food from (foreign) food establishments that is not certified by an accredited entity…shall not enter the United States (unless the U.S. tests it at a designated testing lab). Again, what’s the rush?

Section 210 establishes “traceback requirements” which will “enable the Administrator to retrieve the history, use, and location of an article of food through all stages of its production, processing, and distribution.”

Notably, Sec. 210 (d) (2) (D) suggests the Administrator establish the “national traceability system…consistent with” such existing laws as The National Animal Identification System. (Blogger in-reminder!!! NAIS is *not* the law-yet!!!)

Section 301 states the Administrator shall conduct an assessment of health hazards; such analysis “may include---(A) a comparison of the safety of commercial processing with the health hazards associated with food that is harvested for recreational or subsistence purposes and prepared noncommercially” (think pursuits such as mushroom or wild berry gathering, or home canning).

Section 307 states “(n)ot later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall complete a study on the Federal resources being dedicated to foodborne illness and food safety research and submit a report on the results of such study to the Congress. Again, Congress will have no idea what it would be authorizing when the vote is taken.

“Prohibited Acts” listed in Section 401 include:
· Failure of a food establishment to register, or operating without a valid registration;
· Refusing to permit access and copying of a record;
· Failure to establish or maintain any required record or report;
· Refusal to permit entry to or inspection of a food establishment;
· Failure to comply with a provision, regulation, or order;
· Slaughter of an animal capable for use in whole or in part as human food at a food establishment processing any food for commerce, except in compliance…;
· Transfer of food in violation of an administrative detention order;
· Or any other violation of the food safety law.

Section 402 advises that the Administrator may “administratively detain and seize” any food…for a “reasonable period, not to exceed 20 days (or possibly) 30 days, with provision for an “expedited basis with respect to perishable food.” And you guessed it; such food might have to be “labeled or marked as detained,” and “must be removed to a secure facility, if appropriate.” Further, “(a)ny food condemned shall be destroyed under the supervision of the Administrator.”

Section 405, Civil and Criminal Penalties, is chilling. Sec. 405 (a) (1) (A) states, “(a)ny person that commits an act that violates the food safety law…may be assessed a civil penalty…of not more than $1,000,000 for each such act.” And under (B) (e)ach act…and each day during which that act continues shall be considered a separate offense.”

Sec. 405 (b) advises such a food safety “offense resulting in serious illness” mandates “the person committing the violation shall be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined…or both.” (c) advises an “offense resulting in death” mandates “the person committing the violation shall be imprisoned for not more than 10 years, fined…or both.”

Sec. 405 (c) (1) states “(a)n order assessing a civil penalty against a person…shall be a final order unless the person--(A) not later than 30 days after the effective date of the order, files a petition for judicial review of the order in the United States court of appeals…and (B) simultaneously serves a copy of the petition by certified mail to the Administrator.” Seems to me anyone unable to retain counsel well inside of 30 days is in a serious situation.

Under Sec. 405 (c) (3), “(t)he findings of the Administrator relating to the order shall be set aside only if found to be unsupported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.” And, (d) (2) states, “(t)he validity and appropriateness of the order of the Administrator assessing the civil penalty shall not be subject to judicial review.”

And if you were by now thinking this is about as outrageous as this bill can be, you’d be very wrong. Section 406 clearly states, “(i)n any action to enforce the requirements of the food safety law, the connection with interstate commerce required for jurisdiction SHALL BE PRESUMED TO EXIST.”

Then there’s Section 409, permitting Citizen Civil Actions against anyone “that violates a regulation…order, or other action of the Administrator to ensure the safety of food…”

And again in Section 501 we find that “(n)ot later than 180 days after the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the appropriate congressional committees a reorganization plan regarding the…transfer of agencies, personnel, assets, and obligations…pursuant to this Act (and) (a)ny consolidation, reorganization, or streamlining of agencies transferred to the Administration pursuant to this Act.” So, again Congress will have no specific information of the planned reorganization at the time the vote!

Now, for those who noticed, and questioned, why “foodborne” is spelled as if we reside “on the Continent,” and why the United States government is attempting to implement a “solution” wanting for a “problem” - you guessed it - “Foodborne Disease Monitoring and Surveillance Systems” are a priority with the World Health Organization, to which our national government has committed US through its membership.

The 53rd World Health Assembly in the year 2000 adopted a resolution to recognize food safety as an essential public health function and called for the development of a Global Strategy for reduction of the burden of food borne diseases. The resolution (WHA 53.15) encouraged member states “to implement and keep national, and when appropriate, regional mechanisms for food borne diseases surveillance.” In 2002, WHO published a document, “WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety: safer food for better health” to address this issue.

Under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), WTO Member Countries, including the United States, should ensure that their sanitary or Phytosanitary measures are based on a scientific risk assessment, taking into account the risk assessment techniques developed by the relevant international organizations. In this respect, Codex, which is the international reference for food safety under the SPS Agreement, has adopted the Working Principles for Risk Analysis for Application in the Framework of the Codex Alimentarius, whilst Codex is also developing working principles on risk analysis intended for application by governments. Pure, unadulterated Agenda 21, anyone?
The U.S. is already actively engaged in the PulseNet, FoodNet, Outbreak Alert!, and Healthy People 2010 components of this global effort. And then there is Healthy People 2020, in development.

Apparently our national government believes “(f)ood borne diseases are an important public health problem as it not only affects human health, but also has a significant impact on economic and trade issues. The global changes affecting population growth, lifestyle, international food trade, food production and processing, agricultural and animal husbandry practices and antimicrobial resistance have posed a threat to the emergence of food borne diseases.”

All this, and yet the WHO admits in their 2004 report cited above, “(t)he true dimension of the burden of food borne diseases is still unknown as a result of poor documentation and absence of reliable data, thus limiting our understanding of its public health importance and impeding our efforts to secure the resources and support necessary for effective control of food borne diseases.”

In the year 1900 two of the ten leading causes of death could have been food related (diarrhea/enteritis, liver disease). But the twin leading causes were Pneumonia, followed closely by Tuberculosis. In 2002, WHO listed the leading cause of death in the U.S. ( as Ischaemic heart disease, killing ~ 514,000 people. The second greatest cause was Cerebrovascular disease (stroke), killing ~ 163,000. None of the top ten causes bore any relation to foodborne illness. I believe this ranking is still correct.

In apparent support of all this command and control, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports its estimate that every year in the United States sees approximately 76 million cases of foodborne illness (, with 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths (which equates to one death out of every 15,200 who become ill). Admittedly those 5,000 deaths are significant, and devastating to those involved. But this figure must be put in perspective; we must consider the larger picture.
Perhaps too little known is the fact that “iatrogenic events” - medical errors - kill almost 800,000 each year in the U.S. ( That’s the equivalent of six jumbo jets falling out the sky each and every day, and truth be told, as few as 5% and no more than 20% of these deaths are ever reported.

Clearly deaths resulting from foodborne disease are exponentially lower than these other major causes. This begs an obvious question: If Congress is so very concerned about our health, why haven’t they felt inclined to tackle the much more significant incidence of iatrogenic deaths in this nation? Hmmm?

One need only consider the Healthy People 2010 goals ( to understand the true (A)genda.
H.R. 875 has been assigned to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on Agriculture. THIS BILL NEEDS TO DIE IN COMMITTEE!!!

Blogger back in: You eat, I eat, we all must eat. Do you *really* want to hand total control of your food to the government? Think about it, and get back to me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The end of the food chain

Humans are deservedly described as occupying the "top of the food chain", in the sense that we are the ultimate predator and that our opposable thumbs and cranial capacity allowed us to communicate, fashion tools, form groups for mutual aid, and so on and so forth. But our cranical capacity, that ability to reason, has led to the ability to reason away common sense. But instead of making this yet another political entry, today I am touching on a basic need of human life. Food.

Here in Alaska we really, truly, are at the "end" of the food chain. Over 90 percent of the foods we have on our grocery stores shelves, in our kitchen cabinets, stashed in our pantry or otherwise squirreled away for future use, arrived via barge from the Lesser 48. Anyone who has been here since the 60s or 70s, might recall times when "the barges got lost" as the explanation why there were no fruits or veggies that week, or big empty spots on the shelves of the grocery stores.

As a child I knew this to be true, during our not too frequent treks into Fairbanks for supplies. My mother would sit down with a calendar and plan out three or four months worth of meals, and that is all we brought home-the little VW station wagon loaded to the hilt with boxes, kids and dog for the long drive home. We had fresh eggs for a few weeks, and other perishibles were treasured-fruits (oh yes, fruits! Apples and oranges and whatever was on sale, slightly unripe) fresh vegetables if there were any, etc. I recall clearly how sad we would be, when we ran out of the last of the fresh milk, and had to use boxed powder or canned. The end of the pantry supply always made for interesting eats the week before our next trip into town.....and sometimes we didn't have much at all.

My parents, not exactly farming stock, put in a sizeable garden one year-actually, my older sister did most of the spade work, turning over what I now know as perfectly rotten "soil" with the aim of growing some vegetables. I spent hours with my mother, crouched on my knees, beating clods of lawn free of that precious dirt, and tossing it into the wheelbarrow. Many hours of raking, more shoveling, smoothing, and then finally hilling and the row lay out before a single seed could be planted. We tended this garden carefully, and much excitement was felt when the first bits of our garden showed like-peas and radishes. Towards the end of the summer, the one long row of sugar snap peas became the neighborhood snack bar, as every kid would grab a handful of pods on their way by. Very fond memories, I have of that garden. Included is a vision of my mother, broom in hand, standing up to a cow moose and her calf who had made the mistake of wandering in for dinner....there she stood, in cotton print dress and apron, flat shoes, brandishing the broom and uttering words no mother should let her children hear ;) The moose lost, amazingly enough...and we only lost cabbages.

I have never forgotten going to the grocery store in Fairbanks (was it Foodland?) and finding no boxed cereal at all. I remember seeing nearly rotten vegetables on the displays, because the barge was late or was lost. I remember being hungry for things we did not have, and could not get. I remember how wonderful the taste of sun warmed morsels, plucked right from the plant and savored in our twilight evening hours...and teaching the little ones to wash off their baby carrots before they ate them, in the bucket at the end of the row. The explosion of flavor and sweetness in those pea pods, the tang of tomatoes, the crunch of lettuce and cabbage.....all things my son has learned and enjoys all summer long.

But the memories of being at the "end of the food chain" remain, and haunt me. We are one natural disaster away from chaos, more so than before as our population has exploded since the days when most had homestead gardens. We are one national challenge or executive order away from realizing this is an big way, in a hurry. We have a long list of issues that could arise, from an earthquake, a tsunami, volcanic eruption, North Korea (who is seriously rattling sabers today), a terrorist attack...and many others.

I garden, and plan to expand my small garden patch, so that when the food chain collapses, my family will have something to eat. Something that has not been shipped from the southern hemisphere, is not full of chemicals and pesticides and herbicides, has not been irradiated, picked by the cheapest labor available and shipped without COOL on the box. Something that is not mass produced and carries hidden disease within it, since I will literally have "hands on" control through seed germination, to seedlings in flats, to hardening off, to planting and tending, to harvest and storage. Some of my best summer hours are spent, sitting quietly in my greenhouse, enjoying the scents of growth and checking for the days' rewards-hidden ripe tomatoes, is that pepper ready to eat, and how are the cucumbers doing today :)

Can I grow all my family needs? No, my garden is way too small for that. Is it cost effective? Probably not, but the price of peace of mind is worth a lot. And when the food chain collapses, I will have some small measure of comfort in knowing that I can at least in part, provide for my family's most basic need.

Monday, March 9, 2009

No hope

As I listen, day after day, to the increasingly grim financial news and forcasts, our newly elected President blaring alarm and fear nonstop, and the whopping bail out bills (which we cannot pay for in even two lifetimes), plus the President's pledge to provide health care and a college education to everyone.....I look and look for things to hope for.

I am not finding anything except the coming of spring to Alaska.

Inventories are dropping almost everywhere, as stores are unable to get credit. This is causing a ripple effect as marginally profitable stores fold and more people lose their jobs. WalMart, of course, has increasing sales but eventually they too, will have troubles filling the shelves as their suppliers fail. Locally, I am already seeing a reduction in selection at the grocery store, as less popular items are disappearing, to replaced with multiple facings of recognized brands.

In Washington, a couple of bills that will have a tremendous impact on our nations' food supply are HB 875 and HR 1105.

1105 is the NAIS funding request, which includes language making the program mandatory. This means that every single animal (even exotic animals not normally considered farm animals) must be tagged with an RFID chip, and you must register your "premesis" (farm, ranch, subdivision lot, etc) with the USDA, plus maintain all records and report all movements, under penalty of fines. Fees are not determined yet, but those states with mandatory NAIS are already taking people to court for noncompliance-after warrantless search and seizure, btw. Yes, this means YOU with one chicken! And you must have a scanner to read it too, plus the vet out to put it in, etc. And no I am not crazy, it is actually true. Do read up at, and There is a deadline coming up on the 16th of March for comments. (I will include the text of my letter to Sec. Vilsack below)

Then there is another monstrosity: HB 875. On the surface this also sounds reasonable, especially the title: "Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009".

Isn't that warm and fuzzy? What it does is enact the "Food Safety Administration". This is a whole new government department, geared towards food production. Apparantly the various health departments, APHIS, USDA and assorted other licensing and inspection agencies are not enough-nope, we must have another NEW bureaucracy to make sure they know all about every single place that provides food is categorized and identified.

This means *your* garden, on your property, where you grow greens for a salad, try for the Alaska State Fair title, or just grow flowers to enhance and enjoy.

Like the saying goes: Just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

These two bills, if passed and funded, all control over our own food supply is handed over to the government. NAIS will force the majority of hobbyists and small farms out of business. This will only serve to concentrate the holdings of the large agribusinesses. Centralization of our food is a very risky course to take, and why I must have my own garden registered with the federal government, I do not know.

But this leaves me very little hope.

I do not want to have premesis ID. I do not want to spend over $2000 a year, chipping and reporting on my animals. I do not want the US government to have the power to come onto my property and just take my computor, my records, my animals-without a warrant. I most especially do not want my government to know what I grow in my tiny patch (nothing illegal either!) as I grow to augment my family's diet. Because if they know what I grow, the day will come when they take it-to share with others, because some computor model said I grew more than I needed.

No hope, and very scary times :(


My letter to Sec. Vilsack:

Dear Secretary Vilsack

I am contacting you today, to express my deep concerns over an item hidden within the Omnibus Spending Bill, HR 1105, pertaining to the USDAs National Animal Identification System (NAIS) program.

I have been following the developments of this proposed system for some time, and with increasing alarm. As I watch states enter into Co-operative Agreements with the USDA, accepting funds to implement this, I became aware of the true costs associated with NAIS. And some disturbing consequences associated with its implementation.

Mr. Secretary, are you aware that as a hobbyist, the cost for complying with this is over $1,500 per person per year that owns a single horse, goat, sheep, cow, or chicken in America? (Amortized over three years, mind you).

Are you aware that the Premeses ID contract entered into, has given the USDA the power of warrantless search and seizure of private property?

Are you aware that many people are being "signed up" for this without their knowledge, or consent?

Are you aware that the assignment of a PremesisID is permanently attached to the real property thus identified? In any definition, this amounts to a legal emcumbrance and has not been addressed fully.

NAIS was originally conceived by those that will stand to benefit the most-the large agicultural businesses, companies that sell RFID chips and scanners, data base management companies. There was no input from small farmers or hobbyists whatever. Thus, the cost burden for one laying hen, is the same that a large commercial producer with thousands of animals. Yet, the large commercial chicken operation, gets one single "lot" ID number, whilst a grandmother with three hens, a couple of ducks and a pony for her grandchildren, must have one for each animal. And a computor, internet access, the necessary programs and maintenance of such programs, the veterinarian out to put in the chips, the scanner, and unknown demands on time to report each and every movement within the allowed time. At this time, the fees for each report are unknown, but the fines for noncompliance are very substantial.

This will place a large financial hardship upon hobbyists and animal owners of all types, those with religious convictions which prohibit such "numbering", and will do nothing whatever to provide the "trace back" that is the USDA stated goal. Our nation's largest food threats currently stem from the processing-as evidenced by the number and scope of recent outbreaks and recalls. The millions of dollars allocated to NAIS would be better spent by investing in more trained USDA inspectors and enforcing those regulations already on the books. Traceability already exists, and the hobbyist and small farmer already knows exactly where their animals originated-something our largest CFAO's cannot. The focus here should be concentrated on the large "factory" producer and the processor, not demanding rural Americans enter into contracts that allow search and seizure without warrants (that the USDA can change at a whim), that impose huge fines for noncompliance, and which will not protect our food supply in any way.

NAIS, if implemented, will create a large, expensive bureaucracy to maintain those millions of records-the security of which is marginal at best. In these economic times, the costs outweigh any benefits the public could expect to gain. It is at direct odds with President Obama's goals of encouraging small farming in America, and promoting regional and local food systems.

What NAIS effictively does, is concentrate the nation's food supply (as people leave farming due to the intrusion of government on their activities) into the hands of just a few companies. And their track record is dismal at best.

The long term ramifications of this program are easy to extrapolate: Concentration of the nation's food supply into fewer, larger commercial operations. I fail to see how any reasonable person can conclude this is a good thing for America. Small farmers are the backbone of rural agriculture in the US, and this provides animal population diversity and a measure of safety should the larger commercial producers become a source of disease or outbreak.

Mr. Secretary, this program, with it's unanswered legal questions, does nothing whatever to protect the nation. It does not promote economic development, it does not enhance the security of our food supply, it does not benefit any hobbyist or small farmer at all. And it does not benefit myself, or my family in any way. As it stands now, the costs associated with this, will only serve to enhance the bottom lines of those companies who presented the concept of NAIS. When the legal challenges arise and work their way through the courts, as they surely will, this program will be exposed for the onerous, expensive boondoggle it is.
This is one American voter who is firmly, steadfastly, opposed to this program, and I urge you, in your capacity, to stop this bill in its tracks.


Wasilla, Alaska

Projected NAIS cost:

Laptop, scanner, chips, programs, net access, vet fees, etc: $2,600.00 (7 animals-no reportable events figured)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Changes

Ok, so it is not officially spring yet-but close! Last night was the daylight savings time change over (and a foolish thing for us Alaskans to do with our 5 plus min. gain of sunlight daily) and I spent the first ten minutes awake here, trying to figure out what time it really was, lol

But a lot of changes happening here......

My cousin, the mooch, has moved on to new territory. You know you are not a very good person when your own mother describes you as a lazy freeloader, right? But anyhow, off he went, leaving only one small box of stuff (and a lot of bad feelings) behind. Way too complicated and personal to mention here, but suffice to say, I am glad he left. This has proved to be a miraculous boost to the overall morale here at home though!

I have peppers and tomatoes up in the pantry, yippee! Today we need to move things around to get ready for the "big plant" in about ten days. My lobelia did not hardly germinate, darn it, but that's okay as I am not sure I would have room for the pansy seeds have not arrived so another friend placed a rush order for replacement, I can't wait to get them started.

In other personal news, local readers were probably subjected to a rather puzzling and surprising exchange on a local group between myself and a former friend. THe former friend had obviously been saving up for quite some time, and did not "take it private" as myself and others asked. The misunderstanding referenced in all that crap was very very simple: The former friend thought I knew something I did not. And because I did not know, could not have helped with. There is nothing like a public outburst to show others your true colors :)

The biggest and bestest news I have saved for last:

Sully is in full training. He is now boarded over at one of our best barns, complete with heated indoor arena. He is being worked six days a week, with the aim of taking in a few training level dressage competitions this summer.

Yes, 17 year old halter horse, doing dressage!! Imagine that! He is *digging* it though, and I am thrilled with how far he has come in just a month. The rider has started a blog about this project, complete with photos and some video clips:

Today we hope to get more video and some stills. I am trying to stay out of the way, and listen and learn.....I am delighted that Shelby and I have the same basic theory about movement and how to get there and even happier that she is not rushing him into a false frame. Yesterday I watched him actively search for contact, pick it up, and carry through a couple of transistions! He is learning how to halt with contact too-a new concept for him as I did something completely different.

Anyway, you can read all about her progress and Sully's too, on the blog-happy reading!!