Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NAIS "opt out" clause?

Could the government be listening to the small, local farmers and livestock owners? Dare we believe that our voices have carried on the wind all the way to Washington?

Here's a rather interesting email forward I received today on a local list, especially considering that I just read Joel Salatin's rant about the lack of an "opt out" clause in The Omnivore's Dilemma.

USDA provides an "OPT OUT" procedure for NAIS

In a dramatic reversal of policy, the USDA has decided to provide an "OPT OUT" procedure for people whose premises have been registered in the National Animal Identification Program. Complaints have continued to mount in several states from landowners who have discovered that their premises were registered in the NAIS without their knowledge or permission. On Friday, January 26th, Ben Kaczmarski, a spokesman for USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told the Liberty Ark Coalition,, that the USDA has decided to provide an "opt out" procedure. Even though the protocol has not yet been fully defined, Kaczmarski said the procedure would require a person who wants to opt out, to write a formal request to be removed from the NAIS, to the state NAIS coordinator. This procedure, not yet published by USDA, would require the state NAIS coordinator to confirm the validity of the request, and advance the request to USDA. The USDA will then, presumably, remove the name from the registry, according to Kaczmarski.

State NAIS coordinators can be located at this website:

The new "OPT OUT" procedure was received with enthusiasm, and skepticism, by the farm and ranch community. "Many people are sure to file requests for removal of their premises from the NAIS registry in the coming weeks," said Judith McGeary, a member of the Liberty Ark Coalition Steering Committee. "And we are set up to monitor the process to see just how long it takes, and what bureaucratic obstacles have to be overcome."

"Opponents of the NAIS are skeptical because the USDA has a history of saying one thing to the public," says McGeary, "while doing quite another thing behind the scenes."

Another Steering Committee member, Randy Givens, says: "Everyone in the grassroots community should take heart at this evidence of their joint efforts, but people should also remember that this is a proposed protocol that can be changed at any time. This opt-out procedure is just one aspect of the evolving plans for NAIS at both the federal and state levels."

Opposition to the NAIS forced the USDA to renounce its planned time-line to make the NAIS mandatory starting in 2007. The new USDA policy calls for a "voluntary" NAIS, but behind the scenes, the USDA has poured funds into states that worked to make the program mandatory at the state level.

Another tactic being recommended by the Animal Identification Committee of the United States Animal Health Association is to create a list of "Consistent States" that require official identification of all breeding cattle. States not on that list could face restrictions of interstate commerce. Though this recommendation has not been adopted by the USDA, these behind-the-scenes maneuvers give credence to the concerns of NAIS opponents as to the sincerity of the USDA's announcement that the NAIS is, and will continue to be, a voluntary program.

Pat Stewart

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I've been tagged on two different blogs!

Well, I've already lost this post once, so I'll try again...

Here's the dealio—the idea is to tell 6 weird things about oneself, then tag six people, creating a weirdo ponzi blogoscheme kind of thing.


1) I like to play with words like synonym and cinnamon, saying them alternately over and over again until they become jabberwocky nonsense.

2) I frequently dance with abandon in my kitchen, surrounded by three laughing children and two barking dogs.

3) I like to rock climb, but I'm afraid of heights

4) I don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

5) I have a bizarre skin condition called "dermatagraphia," which means I can write on my skin and have it show up seconds later exorcist style—I definitely would have been burned at the stake in a previous life.

6) I still sometimes get scared at night after I get up to go to the bathroom, so I race back to the bed and dive in as quick as I can, worming my way as far under the covers as possible, just like I did when I was six.

I don't know if I know 6 bloggers who haven't already been tagged—I think our blog circle is becoming too inbred!

I'm tagging Julie, Amanda, Leanne, Jen, Manisha and Vicki

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Seed Frenzy!

Hello, my name is Danielle, and I'm a seed-a-holic.

(C'mon now, say it with me: "Heelllooo Danielle!")

Yes, I confess that I have officially succumbed to the midwinter eye-candy catalogs, though I did all my ordering online. Getting the whole CSA thing up and running this year led to wild and wanton abandon when ordering seeds. By the time I was through, I felt giddy and lightheaded—a sure sign of addiction!

Are you ready for this mammoth list? Really, grab yourself a cuppa and sit down—I'll wait.

Many of the following varieties are heirlooms, though not all, and I ended up ordering from four different sources: Southern Exposure, Seed Savers, Johnny's Seeds, and I ended up getting my horseradish from Gurney's.

  • artichoke, "imperial star"
  • bean, "cherokee"
  • bean, "louisiana" purple pole
  • bean, "Isar" yellow french
  • bean, "genuine cornfield" (also have "kentucky wonder" seed saved)
  • bean, "royal burgandy"
  • beet, "chioggia"
  • beet, "lutz"
  • broccoli, "calabrese"
  • broccoli raab
  • brussels sprout, "catskill"
  • cabbage, "Jersey Wakefield"
  • carrot, "oxheart
  • carrot, "chantenay" red core
  • celery, "conquistador"
  • corn, super sweet bi-color
  • cucumber, "diva" slicing
  • cucumber, "boston" pickling
  • eggplant, "black beauty"
  • horseradish
  • kale, "vates"
  • kale, "hanover salad"
  • kohlrabi, purple
  • leek, "blue solaize"
  • lettuce, "black seeded simpson"
  • lettuce, "oakleaf"
  • lettuce, "red salad bowl"
  • lettuce, "yugoslavian red" butterhead
  • lettuce, "speckled bibb"
  • lettuce, "bunte forrellenschuss"
  • lettuce, "winter density"
  • melon, "hales best"
  • melon, "old tennessee"
  • onion, "new york early"
  • onion, "ruby ring"
  • pea, "little marvel"
  • pea, "amish snap"
  • pepper, "California wonder" red bell
  • pepper, "Gourmet" orange bell
  • pepper, hot serrano
  • potato, "Russian Banana" fingerling (we have "red nordland" and "yukon gold" seed potatoes from last year's harvest
  • radish, "French breakfast"
  • spinach, "bloomsdale"
  • spinach, "america"
  • summer squash, "costata"
  • sweet potato, "beauregard"
  • swiss chard, "brigh lights"
  • tomato, "amish paste"
  • tomato, "sun gold"
  • tomato, "gold nugget"
  • tomato, "sweet olive"
  • tomato, "green zebra"
  • tomato, "German red strawberry"
  • tomato, "Brandywine"
  • watermelon, "strawberry"

  • basil, "Genovese" (have lemon basil seed saved)
  • bee balm, multi
  • borage, white
  • borage, wild blue
  • calendula, alpha
  • catnip
  • chamomile, "bodegold"
  • chives, purly
  • chives, garlic
  • cilantro, "santo"
  • dill, "Hercules"
  • evening primrose
  • lavendar, "munstead"
  • motherwort
  • mullein
  • oregano, Greek
  • parsley, "Italian dark green" curly
  • sage, common
  • sorrel
  • tarragon, French
  • white sage
  • wild bergamot
  • wormwood

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Okay, yah, I admit it—I've been missing in action lately.

First, there was the totally unsustainable vacation we took to Disney World that we all absolutely loved! Of course, the amount of daily waste was absolutely staggering—in Disney, of course, but also at my mom's house where she recycles—get this—absolutely nothing! Yes, you read it right—absolutely nothing.

By the end of the trip, I was physically pained, unable to push the wanton disregard to the back of my mind any longer. Not only I, but the kids as well, as Em made me promise to bring the Lego cardboard surround 1000 miles home to recycle.

There's nothing quite like going out into the real world to realize just how much we are really doing. As a family of five, we put out one garbage can a week, and I wish it were less! It would be if I could get Jim to agree to let me burn more, but he argues that it creates really bad build-up in the flue. We're able to recycle most paper products, though, so it's really only the unburnable stuff that goes into the garbage. I save all the plastic containers that I can't recycle (our county only takes #1 and #2), and I reuse plastic bags whenever possible. Still more work to be done.

The other really big project I've been working on is getting our CSA up and running as a reality rather than a dream: Touch the Earth Farm. I'm really quite pleased with how it's come out, and the kids and Jim are really excited, too.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Year's Reflections

2006 was an incredibly busy year, and I feel like we accomplished so much. But I find myself caught in a philosophical tug-of-war space between the elation of goals met and the daunting reality of how far we still need to move towards sustainability.

Lots of the things we did in '06 were big steps without immediate gratification:

  • we purchased our goats, but still no milk

  • we purchased pigs, but still no pork

  • we planted several fruit trees (in fall of '05 really) that are still years away from bearing fruit

  • we continued creating the infrastructure for homesteading and a farm-based business, but still not making any money (and maybe never will!)

Big goals accomplished:
  • built chicken coop

  • began fencing

  • butchered 20 of our own chickens

  • grew much of our own food

  • froze or put up lots of food

  • bought a side of beef from a local pasture-based farm

Little steps that added up (that I should have done long ago!):

  • improved our recycling thanks to county program expansion

  • switched from paper napkins to cloth

  • switched from paper towels to old hand towels

  • switched over to eco-friendly dishwashing tabs and laundry detergent

  • switched several bulbs over to cfl's

  • joined an organic purchasing club

Goals for 2007:

  • move further towards simplicity and sustainability

  • make Touch the Earth CSA a reality and not just a dream

  • grow more food

  • preserve more food

  • learn to make goat cheese and goat's milk soap

  • further reduce dependency on grocery chains

  • set up home-made pet-poo vermiposting system that I've been designing for ages

  • begin heritage poultry breeding program

  • improve goat breeding program by bringing in new lines

  • set up tamworth breeding program

  • set up heritage duck breeding program

  • start up Touch the Earth's "Vintage Farm" line of products

And I'm sure there's much, much more—there always is!