Monday, January 30, 2012

Food problems

I am reading Michael Pollan's Omnivores Dilemma, a few years ago I read In Defense of Food by the same author. I find his research of our food chain fascinating and it inspires me to urban homestead.

Essentially Pollan states the soil used to grow our food is sick and depleted, many of our food animals are sick due to eating corn - they were never meant to eat and the majority of the American diet is comprised of corn and soy. (Soy is problematic because it mimics estrogen, not good for men or women in large quantities.) Additionally we damage the environment in the way we grow food by using industrial, un-natural ways to fertilize, protect and ship our foods.

I do not generally buy organic because of price, it's often shipped long distances and because I don't believe it's superior to non-organic. Micheal Pollan's work suggests, in general, my belief is correct. Organic food is industrial grown and not much better off than non-organic food.

Oh and by the way "cage free" means the chickens were kept in a building with slightly more space than a cage but are not outside, "free range" often means the chickens have access to a yard but only for a few weeks and were kept in doors so long they don't want to go outside. Buy "pastured" animal products. Pastured means the animals are grown on grass for the majority of their lives.

Our food animals are generally meant to live on grass so pastured animals are healthier and require little if any man made interventions. Sustainable pastured is even better because the farmer is using plants and animals to create a healthy food system sustained by crop and animal management rather than chemical management. When I have the chance to purchase sustainable food I do. Sustainable food is not necessarily organic however because of the way it is grown the soil is healthier so the animals are healthier.

I love the idea of urban homesteading. Most people are unfamiliar with the term urban homesteading. Urban homesteading is the practice of living in the suburbs or urban environment and using the land to farm on a small scale in order to provide produce and animal products for personal use, think victory garden. Urban homesteaders do not grow lawn.

Lawns were created by aristocrats way back when to show off their wealth. I have no need to show off my wealth in such a way and I would rather use the resource of water and time to grow food than a nice lawn. Gardens take less water than lawn because the grass used to grow lawn is meant to grow several feet and we keep them trimmed to a few inches stressing the plant so the plant needs more water to survive.

I have a good-sized garden I grow in the summer. I have not figured out how to grow the proper kinds of food in the proper amounts. I also have chickens, a lot of chickens. I sell eggs to friends and neighbors earning a very small profit. In the next year or so I would like to dig out a small root cellar and create some cold frames for extending the growing season into the winter. Eventually I would like to have a goat, more fruit trees and some grape vines. I compost leaves, chicken waste, garden waste and food waste and use it in my gardens to keep the soil alive and healthy. I am proud of my black garden soil.

I use the lazy farmer's way of keeping my chickens it's called the deep litter method. Deep litter means the coop is cleaned in the spring and the waste and shavings set to compost another year. This method begins composting in the coop helping the coop stay warm and sanitary all winter long. Because the litter in the coop is composting vitamins are available to the chickens not available by other means.

My hens are pastured and I have not had any problems with disease and because I clean the coop only once a year I do not have a fly problem. I know with all that chicken waste the lack of a fly problem does not make sense. The presence of fecal matter in the coop attracts flies but the consistent presence of the waste also attracts a fly predator balancing out the flies.

I think I will need to move into a different area with more land, possibly in a agriculturally zoned area or at least with a tall fence so no one can see what I'm doing in my back yard.

I think a lot of people are aware farmers are subsidized by the government to keep them in business because otherwise they would not be able to live off the sale of their crop, selling the crop yields little if any profit. Because the government subsidizes farmers for growing specific crops there is an excess of corn and soy grown increasing the use of it in food and non-food after all something has to be done with it before it spoils. Food made with corn or soy is cheap because of abundance fruits and vegetables are not subsidized increasing the cost of whole or unprocessed foods.

Basically our food system is a mess.

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