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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Parasitic Experiences

Parasitic Experiences

by Catherine Bennett of Heuvelton, NY

It all started with a sign.

“We Have Worms”

It’s not complicated to make — I tore the cardboard box, handed it to Andy, and he wrote on it with a black magic marker and hung it in the store window. Everyone knows what it means, it means that if you’re not gonna go diggin’ for the earthworms yourself, you come in and and buy bait from him. It’s a seasonal sign; we scrap it every Autumn. No biggie.

But then… Davey’s cousin come up, and he — well, we all know Davey’s a lot smarter than he looks — or acts — I just didn’t expect Hank to be quite so… stupid. The way Davey tells it, he was driving Hank to his place, and Hank took one look at Andy’s sign and speed dialed a parasitologist, convinced we all had freakin’ tapeworms. Davey had to spend a half hour convincing him the water was safe.

The problem was, once Hank managed to grasp this concept, he went nuts. He started calling every friend he had in the city, urging them to come on out here. “You’ve gotta see this,” he says, “these people have worms.” And they show up, carrying USA Aid-style briefcases, and the cows can’t stop rolling their eyes because they’ve never seen anything less practical on two legs. I mean, they step out of their huge freakin’ cars, okay? Land in a pile o’ horse crap, and can’t figure out why the pigs are eating dead chickens. And I ask them, do you eat yours live?

So they have to see Andy’s place, and he thought it was the craziest thing, said that he was never sure if they were gonna buy some’in’t or just swab for the E.coli. But he did some business. It just felt like we were the tourist attraction and they were snatching at the souvenirs.

And so to pretty much everybody’s surprise – including, I think Hank’s – they stayed. Oh, they didn’t buy a house. But a few of ‘em found an apartment, raved about how cheap it was, called their investors and said they found a new market.

Parasitic Experiences

Before long, the tourists started going from asking the difference between a chicken and a turkey to yes, testing the water. They made calculations; they surveyed and analyzed and estimated. They started whipping out their phones at our well pump and telling me about the fifty bucks I could spend on a solar panel that’d take just fifteen minutes to install! No more hand pumping! I asked them if they’d ever actually set up a solar pump and while they hadn’t, they were quick to assure me that a short Youtube video’d cover it all. I gently reminded them that we didn’t have Youtube at the house, that fifty bucks was more than we make in a month, and that they were blocking the sun. They suggested we apply for a loan.

Once they figured out which end of a hammer you use, it got worse. “Wouldn’t it be easier if you mowed the field in May? Or September? It’d be cooler out, right? Less work?” “Hey, if you just set up this blog, you’d have followers in NYC who would want to buy your produce! And you could get a better deal! Sell to restaurants! Have you ever tried that?” Mmmmhmmm. There is no hay in May, honey. Or September. And sure, as soon as I’ve finished butchering those thirty birds and helping those two sows pig, I’ll start a blog about it. And the last time our neighbors tried selling anything to a city, they drove eight hours to have the sous chef reject their best radishes. Go ahead. Try it. I’d pay to see it happen. It’s not like I’m cynical, I swear, and if you can come up with a better way, I will take it. You just haven’t found one yet.

But they wouldn’t stop. And they begin to feel unmovable. Fixed. Like they’d dug their way into our skins and latched their tiny little jaws… It was ridiculous, Kate at the diner had to ask them to stop taking up two booths every night. Hank had left his cousin’s house and was living with his friends; I asked Davey what he thought. “They’re drivin’ me nuts,” he says, “keep telling me how big and beautiful this place could me. And I’d tell ‘em how beautiful it already is, but they’re… they don’t listen, they get a kick out of this place. It’s just one big feast for them. And I only have so much energy. I wish they’d leave, but it’s like they’re determined to ‘fix us’ with their big cars and their pinkie rings and their smartphones. They spend more money on clothes than I make in a month, in a year sometimes.”

And that was just it. After they stopped ogling the tomato plants and running away from th’ bees, all Hank’s friends wanted to do was teach us how behind we were. Technology would save us all! Food rots, so it has no value! And if they were exhausting Davey, it was no wonder most of us were feeling leached. They were in Andy’s store two, three times a day; they wanted an electronic welcome sign for the fire department, the town border, the school. They had to ask for directions to the church, but they showed up and preached the glories of electronic cars — six people walked out after explaining to them that growing your own peppers and carrots was better for the planet than such stuff.

***

City slickers don’t like t’see death, and I don’t expect we’ll see much of them past lambing season — we’ll lose a few babies, we always do, and most unaccustomed folks can’t comprehend it. We’ll explain the circle of life, and they’ll pack up after learning that placenta is edible and good for the soul. They’ll get confused when we mention stolen land or that world hunger is a myth. They’ll figure out that we’re not a new market, we’re just trying to survive the best way we know how. They’ll stop calling their investors, stop trying to put my house up on AirBnB, perhaps stop seeing us as a tourist attraction, but I don’t think they’ll ever see us as people.

I guess I just keep laughing, because — what drug the fancy tourists here was a belief in our dying guts. We had “tapeworms,” and they were here to save us. We were fine, doing quite well this year, as a matter of fact, whereas they – they’ve become the very thing they fear. At least eventually, a tapeworm will become someone else’s food, a hookworm eats histamines. Nothing will break down the electronic bulletin boards they wanted to replace our wooden ones – an unknown object, the environment can’t cope. And Hank and his friends were so busy fiddling with such crap that it never occurred to them to look at themselves. Worms, they are. Each and every single one of them. We don’t want them here, stripping the good out of our daily activities, just as one can resent parasites, taking meds to keep them at bay. The difference is that the tapeworms I had when I was two loved a healthy environment. These guys just want to kill it.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Week in the Life of D Acres

Week in the Life of D Acres

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D Acres of New Hampshire in Dorchester, a permaculture farm, sustainability center, and non-profit educational organization, is a bit of a challenge to describe. Join us for this week-in-the-life tour, a little of everything that really did unfold in this manner. Extraordinary, perhaps, only in that these few November days were entirely ordinary.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

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One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.

To Market, To Market, To Buy A Fat Pig

Within so-called alternative agriculture circles there are turf wars abrew

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Cultivating Questions Cultivator Setups and Deer Fencing

Cultivating Questions: Cultivator Set-ups and Deer Fencing

We know all too well the frustration of putting your heart and soul into a crop only to have the wildlife consume it before you can get it harvested let alone to market. Our farm sits next to several thousand acres of state game lands and is the only produce operation in the area. As you can imagine, deer pressure can be intense. Neighbors have counted herds of 20 or more in our pastures.

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

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After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

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Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Sustainable

Sustainable

Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

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The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

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from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT