Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Ahh, I just love our tractor. Isn't she lovely? She has the nicest shade of blue, which is my most favorite-est color, and she also has a low, powerful roar when she drives which is music to my country-girl ears.

Most of us in Irish Grove are rookie tractor drivers. I, for one, am extremely slow and cautious when behind the wheel. Even after two years of farming, I always go through my mental checklist before driving: put on seatbelt, engage the clutch, double check the gears, change gears if necessary, lift bucket (while refreshing my memory as to which direction on the handle will swivle the bucket up or down), put the tractor in gear, adjust RPM's, etc. etc. etc.

I'm such a tractor nerd, in fact, that I make sure to turn the radio volume down, so I can listen closely to the hum of the engine. (I'm learning to embrace my nerdiness.)

Marcel, on the other hand, is an expert tractor driver. (I know, I know....what's new?) When Marcel's driving the tractor, we all feel comfortable, secure, and confident that the job's gonna get done, effertlessly executed and in style, I might add. In fact, with Marcel behind the wheel I don't even feel the need to run, duck for cover, whisk my kids to the safety of our porch, or call Olivia away from the scene. Marcel's got it under control.

Which makes me wonder what was in that coffee I drank at lunch yesterday.

Mom wanted to use the pick-up truck, which was parked behind the tractor in the machine shed. So, not only did I encourage (she might say force) Mom to drive the tractor for the first time ever......

but I let my youngest child sit in on the ride!!

What was I thinking????

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Springtime Fun

You just can't beat springtime on the farm.

After an especially long winter this year, the pretty spring flowers breathe life back into our souls and the fresh, breezy days bring out the best in everyone.

My favorite spring flowers are the bleeding hearts. They make me daydream about little flower fairies hosting little flower-fairy parties in my garden, decorating the branches of their favorite plants with sweet heart-shaped jewels and lanterns.

I also love the bright, cheery tulips that bob back and forth in the spring breezes.

Springtime brings the baby chicks, who are always there for you when you need a little cheering up.

And the warmer weather finally allows you to take on a few projects to spruce up the place a bit.

Here's Marcel, giving the house a much-needed face lift. (Which for some reason makes my thoughts immediately jump to that avocado/cucumber facemask I saw in Walgreens last week.)

But the best thing about spring is that the kids can finally get outside and entertain themselves with the simplest of pleasures.

Like Armando with the water hose. Now that's bliss for ya, pure and simple.

Madelina has waited for this moment for 6 months, 2 days, 24 minutes and 11 seconds.

Ana has mastered the art of paper-airplane throwing. Just look at that form.

Paper airplanes are the preferred toys in Irish Grove at the moment. The kids played with them for over 3 hours yesterday, and got cousin Jonathan into the act this morning for another couple of hours.

Jonathan's got a nice, gentle toss that really makes 'em soar.

I just might start a petition to close all of the toy stores over the summer. When you've got fresh air, open spaces, and a happy spring-time heart....who needs 'em?

Monday, May 5, 2008

I do so recall....

Maybe I shouldn't talk about buying meat from your local farmer when we're all out for the year. That's just mean, isn't it?

And yet as I was perusing the USDA website (which proves how lame I really am), I clicked on the Find current food recalls link and was horrified at the sheer number of recalls in the past few months. That's right...I said months. Then I figured out that I was looking at only the open recall cases, meaning the USDA hasn't found all of the recalled product yet. Isn't that reassuring?

There is a second link that leads you to the Recall Case Archive, which means the recall is complete and they've taken all of the product off the supermarket shelves. Phew!

And because I am known to be a caring and generous soul, ahem, I have graciously combined these two lists for your reading enjoyment. (I only included page 1 of the closed cases.)

July 19, 2007, Canned Meat Products, C. botulinum, OPEN

Nov 1, 2007, Totino's and Jeno's Frozen Meat Pizza Products, E. coli 0157:H7, OPEN

Nov 15, 2007, Double B Foods, Inc., Frozen Sausage Roll Products, Listeria, OPEN

Jan 5, 2008, Mark's Quality Meats Ground Beef Products, E.coli 0157:H7, CLOSED

Jan 12, 2008, Ground Beef Products, E. coli 0157:H7, CLOSED

Jan 26, 2008, Chicken Products, undeclared allergen, CLOSED

Feb 1, 2008, Bacon-wrapped Beef Tenderloin Products, undeclared allergen, CLOSED

Feb 17, 2008, Beef Products, problem unstated (which worries me even more), CLOSED

Mar 2, 2008, Frozen Chicken Entrees, Listeria, CLOSED

Mar 3, 2008, Frozen Chicken Entrees, Listeria, CLOSED

Mar 4, 2008, Gourmet Boutique Meat and Poultry Products, Listeria, CLOSED

Mar 14, 2008, Chicken Gibliets, adulturated, OPEN

Mar 29, 2008
, Frozen Chicken Products, mislabeling, CLOSED

Apr 4, 2008, Frozen Cattle Heads, prohibited materials, OPEN

May 3, 2008, Gourmet Boutique Meat and Poultry Products, Listeria, OPEN

Only 16 products in 10 months. Not bad, right? Except that they don't include the sheer poundage of the nasty food that is complicit in the above recalls. Nor do they include the brand names the food is sold under, except for one or two.

So, let's see. I could have a banquet of Listeria, E. coli, and botulism. I could partake in a delectable feast of cow head with prohibited materials. I could ingest a few undeclared allergens...I mean, what you don't know won't hurt you, right? (Right??) Or, I could just eat something that claims to be something else. No harm, no foul.

I read a list like this and never ever want to set foot in the supermarket meat isle again. But when we take ruminants, stick them in a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation), and feed them genetically modified grains, plastic "fiber" pellets, "recycled" chicken manure, distiller's grain (ethanol byproduct), and maybe a little hay here or there, E. coli 0157:H7 is what results. When we lock thousands and thousands of chickens together with only 0.8 square feet of space per bird, who's shocked if a little Listeria winds up on our chicken nuggets? And when we forget about the pots and pans in our kitchen, and only reheat the "canned meat products" on our pantry shelves, we submit ourselves to the industrialized quasi-kitchens that process millions of canned products daily. Who knows what contaminants lurk in those kitchen-factories?

I'm not judging, people. After a quick look at my own pantry, I found canned corned beef, for pity's sake. That stuff looks and smells like dog food when you open it. But for the sake of our environment and our health, we have all got to get away from the sad, demoralizing, inhumane and unhealthy meat industry and back to the small family farms that were traditionally the backbone of our country.

Small farms like ours can have contamination problems...of course! But cleanliness and herd health are much easier to manage when you're working on a small scale. Contamination is easier to track down and correct when things go awry, I might add. I know of not one local farmer who trucks in plastic pellets or chicken manure to feed his beef cattle....these things don't happen on a small-scale farm. They happen all the time on CAFO's. Not to mention the growth-promoting hormones and antibiotics.

Seriously. Find a local farmer. Ask them if you can buy some of their meat, be it chicken, pork, beef, duck, lamb, goat, mouse...OK, not mouse.

Now go. That's right, go.

Go do it. Call a local farmer.

Really. For your sake and mine, for the environment's sake, for the animals' sake, GO!

You can thank me later.