Writers Wanted at the Wild Raccoon Farm

I have launched a fiction blog!

Actually, it’s Wishful Fiction blog and a community building/networking tool. If you have an interest in, or a blog about, fiction, Wishful Fiction, intentional communities or farming, I invite you to connect with me on Wild Raccoon Farm.

Most recent posting:

Orchard Air and Errant Children.

The Planet Whimpers

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Amazon.com

It never occurred to us that it might not be a bang, but a whole bunch of whimpers that would do us in: too many cars and too many smokestacks and too many suburbs and too many malls and too many inner cities and too many toxins and too many sneakers made in too many sweatshops and too many mortgages and too many hamburgers and too many antibiotics and too much N-P-K fertilizer and too much pesticide and herbicide and too many rural communities collapsing and too many small and midsize farmers giving up the ghost.”

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered by Woody Tasch

From the introduction:

We have to find a new form of economy, an economy that knows how to govern its limits, an economy that respects nature and acts at the service of man, a situation where political and humanistic choices govern the economy and not the other way around. We have to discover new economic relationships that move at a more natural pace.

The Culture of Agriculture

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Amazon.com

It is a struggle to keep the “culture” in “agriculture.” The modern era is replacing “culture” with “business,” producing a high-yielding hybrid activity called “agribusiness.””

“For multigenerational farm families who have a visceral attachment to and intimate knowledge of a certain piece of land and certain way of life, or, even, a certain variety of peach, the march toward larger farms and larger markets and larger machines comes at a cost for which no financier can compensate.”

“They are the humans who care for the humus…without them, not only soil health, but also cultural health, indigenous culture, and local economies—the social and environmental relationships that promote the health of families, communities and bioregions—all are at risk.”

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered by Woody Tasch

From the introduction:

We have to find a new form of economy, an economy that knows how to govern its limits, an economy that respects nature and acts at the service of man, a situation where political and humanistic choices govern the economy and not the other way around. We have to discover new economic relationships that move at a more natural pace.

Importance of Dirt

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Amazon.com

Beyond a small number of geologists, environmentalists, and organic farmers, the idea of Peak Soil seems as inconceivable today as global warming seemed two generations ago. One is tempted to ask with all incredulity: Could we really run out of dirt? Which leads us back to Question Two in the Terra Madre of All Final Exams. The question is not only a question of erosion, it is a question of fertility.

Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered by Woody Tasch

From the introduction:

We have to find a new form of economy, an economy that knows how to govern its limits, an economy that respects nature and acts at the service of man, a situation where political and humanistic choices govern the economy and not the other way around. We have to discover new economic relationships that move at a more natural pace.

City Rats, Barn Owls and Giant Eyes

During my travels I have utilized hundreds of trains, subways, buses and other forms of mass transportation. I have also gazed upward (tourist-image-be-damned) to take in hundreds (thousands?) of buildings. In every city, as well as more than a few suburbs or towns, I have found myself looking at evidence of the human futility known as rat and pigeon protection. Most of the time these consist of sharp spikes sticking out of building ledges, like the giant fangs of a vicious thorn bearing plant; or metal coverings placed over possible entry points. While it is obvious that none of these things work, the most perplexing among the most frequently recurring options is the giant eye.

Imagine a large beach ball hanging from a ceiling and decorated to look like a brown target with the darkest circle in the very center. It has a vague resemblance to an eye and it is meant to scare away pigeons by imitating the appearance of a bird of prey during an attack. I have yet to see a giant eye that was not covered in pigeon poop or acting as a perch for several pigeons and other random birds.

I really started to think about the giant eye while in the Philadelphia 30th street train station. I was fidgeting away the minutes, waiting for a commuter train, when I glanced up and noticed the poop-covered eye hanging from the ceiling and could not help but wonder how many generations of pigeons had come and gone without ever once encountering a bird of prey – ANY bird of prey. How can you expect a scare tactic to work when the instincts the fear is based in are so far removed from the animal’s reality that they have (literally) been forgotten?

When I ran across this article in Modern Farmer, I immediately thought about the giant eye and all of the pigeons, rats, bugs and heaven-only-knows what else simply waiting to be feasted upon by the first predator with both opportunity and a realistic chance of surviving in the midst of human-only habitation.

Of course, barn owls are interested in rats, not pigeons, but the train stations and subways have plenty of those. It would be an interesting challenge to create a realistic living space that provided the owls a safe place to live, free access to wild food sources and protection from oncoming traffic – including airplanes, trains, trolleys, buses, trucks and cars. I don’t know if it’s possible or practical, but it would be far more effective than the giant eye.

Quotes:

“Unlike other owl species, like great-horned owl or barred owl, barn owls have a heavy preference for rats and mice. And while they might be adorable, they are also natural killers…One barn owl can cover over a mile and will eat between three and six mice each night, approximately 2,000 mice yearly. A family, including chicks, in one nest box, can devour 8,000 mice in one year.”

“So how to get owls to take up residence on your property? Barn owls want homes that are cozy, warm and safe. Many live in rafters, tree cavities and in barns because they do not build nests. This gives farmers the opportunity to provide a home and enable owls to hunt rodents in fields, improving crop production, yield and profit.”

How to Build a Barn Owl Nest, Modern Farmer, by By

 

Fantasy Farming

Amazon.com

I find articles like this one fascinating because I rather enjoy mulling over the possibility of owning my own self-sufficient farm – and all of the decisions that go along with that lifestyle.

The first, and most important, challenge in starting up a farm of any kind is deciding what will be raised or grown on the land. My family owned and operated an apple orchard. This is a far cry from cattle (of any kind) but an easy jump to Maple or fruit trees (of any kind), or even crop-based farming.

Yet, running a farm and running a self-sufficient farm are two very different things; which brings me back to this article: John Seymour was a well known and well-respected expert in self-sufficient agriculture. In these quotes, pulled from his 1976 book The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, he presents a nice illustration of many key items to be considered when establishing a self-sufficient homestead.

Quotes:

“Cow or no cow? The pros and cons are many and various for a self-sufficient homestead.”

“If your garden gets plenty of cow manure, your soil fertility will continuously increase, along with your yields.”

“But a serious counter-consideration is that you will have to take on the responsibility of milking a cow…Milking a cow doesn’t take very long — perhaps eight minutes — and it’s very pleasant if you know how to do it and if she is a quiet, docile cow — but you will have to do it.”

“Bear in mind that practically any garden crop that you grew for yourself would be good for the animals too, so any surplus crops would go to them. You would not need a compost pile — your animals could be your compost pile.”

Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead, Mother Earth News, by John Seymour

 

The Gasoline of Money

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Amazon.com

“At this point Bruce couldn’t afford to buy 8 million pounds of syrup, but he intended to grow into his new basement. “I will be able to fill this cooler in about five years,” he said. “That is, if the bank will give me more gas.” That was how he saw himself, as an engine running on the gasoline of money.”

-The Sugar Season: A Year in the Life of Maple Syrup, and One Family’s Quest for the Sweetest Harvest by Douglas Whynott

Serving The Land

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Amazon.com

“One does not own a ranch—one merely chooses to serve a ranch.”

An old working ranch is the perfect antidote to the futile human expectation of actual achievement.

The land is possessed of some quality that inspires us all to confuse our dreams with the actual physical possibilities that our lives can achieve.

Touching the Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch by Joe Hutto

Befriending Rats

Amazon.com

One of the things that struck me while reading this book was the freedom that comes from being a wildlife biologist – or any outdoors related scientist (particularly a well published and widely respected one, like Mr. Hutto).

In my experience, making friends with rats, squirrels, chipmunks, deer and other ‘vermin’ are something that most farmers and ranchers simply don’t do. If they were to participate in the kinds of activities Mr. Hutto describes, they wouldn’t admit to it publicly (or even privately).

The few wildlife ‘friends’ I’ve seen or heard discussed invariably turned into easy meals for the humans handing out the treats. After all, what better way to fatten up and trap a squirrel than to feed it off the back porch and then shoot the poor thing when it stops by for a visit?

This sounds brutal and, in a way, it is. But farming and ranching tends to be brutal work. At one point Mr. Hutto mentions his relief at being able to maintain the ranch without requiring an income from the effort. In other words, he is not ranching (or farming), he’s living on a ‘hobby farm.’ This is an important distinction because the competition with the animals, both predator and prey, is primarily academic. For people who survive off of a farm (or ranch), competition with these furry friends is primarily economic – and can easily become brutally Darwinian in nature. Some would say this is a matter of good (or bad) farming/ranching practices, others would say it’s God or weather or fate. Regardless, the perspective toward wildlife creeping onto the farm or ranch tends to be the same: it’s us or them.

That said, the book includes descriptions of locals stopping by the ranch and meeting the deer herd Mr. Hutto manages to ingratiate himself with and I do not doubt the reactions he describes are both real and sincere. Being able to touch and interact with a wild animal, without all of the pressures of ranching/farming concerns is more than the wonder of interaction with wildlife, it’s freedom from work and the pressures of survival.

This is the subject that came to mind when I read the following quote because I could not help but see these words being spoken to a collection of ranchers and farmers standing around the local diner (or wherever they gather for casual socialization). In my mind’s eye I saw the listening crowd shaking their collective heads and chuckling while muttering ‘scientists’ under their breath.

QUOTE:

“Leslye has also cultivated a relationship with the remarkable rodent known as the pack rat, which often lives in accommodating rock shelters, but also loves old barns or derelict buildings. Large and beautiful rats with un-rat-like bushy tails, they are extremely intelligent and display a complex social life. Leslye can call a name, and a pack rat will emerge from a hole in a log wall of the barn, walk out onto Leslye’s lap, and casually take a horse cookie.”

-Touching the Wild: Living with the Mule Deer of Deadman Gulch by Joe Hutto

Farmers Economics

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Amazon.com

“We need to make entrepreneurs more like farmers, not make farmers more like entrepreneurs.”

“Want to talk about returns? At 1,000:1 in four months, a tomato seed makes even the highest fliers seem paltry.”

“I prefer butter to margarine, because I trust cows more than I trust chemists.”

Staring the Pig in the Face by Woody Tasch