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Mainely Tipping Points

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Turkey Tracks: Baby Chickens

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June 9, 2010

Baby Chickens

Rose called today.  The eggs we’ve been incubating at her house are hatching!!  We have three out already.  We expected them tomorrow.   These are Marans, Wheaten Americaunas, Maran-Wheaten crosses (which will lay an olive colored egg), some guineas, and I’m not sure what else.  Rose said one of the crosses is black!!

I’m going to see them first thing tomorrow!

Life happens!!

Written by louisaenright

June 9, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Tipping Points 11: The Chemical Madness Maze

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Tipping Points 11

The Chemical Madness Maze


Three events in the past few weeks are swirling around in my mind. 

First, blueberries made the “dirty dozen” produce list.  At position 5, blueberries join apples (4) and potatoes (11)—all major crops for Maine farmers.  Being on the “dirty dozen” list is not good for business. 

Second, The President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) released its 2008-2009 report entitled “Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk:  What We Can Do Now.”  Consumers, especially parents, are urged by the Cancer Panel to “buy food that has not been sprayed or grown with chemical fertilizers,” a message that is increasing in frequency and volume these days. 

Nicholas D. Kristof called the President’s Cancer Panel “the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream.”  And, former President George W. Bush appointed the Cancer Panel’s current members:  an oncologist and professor of surgery at Howard University and an immunologist at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.  The Cancer Panel’s report is available on-line:  http://pcp.cancer.gov .  I urge you, especially if you are a parent or are involved in chemical applications, to read it. 

Third, Maine’s Pesticide Control Board (PCB) has scheduled a series of public meetings (May 14, June 24 and 25, and July 23) to discuss the public’s right-to-know about chemical spraying.  Existing law concerning the pesticide registry, where people could register to be notified of spraying, was seriously weakened last year. 

The seven members of the PCB are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Legislature.  Because the constitution of this board obviously was designed for political and perceived economic reasons, board members are expected to defend their particular turfs, which includes chemical farming and forestry and chemical spraying businesses. 

The Cancer Panel report states that our regulatory system for chemicals is deeply broken; that we are putting ourselves and, more importantly, our children at great risk; and that we must adopt precautionary measures rather than using reactionary measures (waiting until sufficient maiming and killing has occurred) with regard to the more than 80,000 improperly tested chemicals we are allowing to be dispersed with impunity. 

 In 2009, the Cancer Panel report discloses, 1.5  million people were diagnosed with cancer and 562,000 people died of cancer.   Today, some 41 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their life times.  From 1975–2006, cancer incidence in U.S. children under 20 years of age has increased. 

The Cancer Panel directly connects cancer and environmental toxins:  “a growing body of research documents myriad established and suspected environmental factors linked to genetic, immune, and endocrine dysfunction that can lead to cancer and other diseases.”  The Cancer Panel is “particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” and that human “exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.” 

The Cancer Panel sums up current problems with our regulatory systems.  Included among the problems are “undue industry influence,” “weak laws and regulations,” and “inadequate funding and insufficient staffing.”  What results is “agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.”

For instance, the Cancer Panel determines that the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) “may be the most egregious example of ineffective regulation of environmental contaminants.”  TSCA “grandfathered in approximately 62,000 chemicals; today, more than 80,000 chemicals are in use, and 1,000–2,000 new chemicals are created and introduced into the environment each year.”   Yet, writes the Panel, “TSCA does not include a true proof-of-safety provision”—which means “neither industry nor government confirm the safety of existing or new chemicals prior to their sale and use.”

TSCA allows chemical companies, reveals the Cancer Panel, to avoid discovering worrisome product information, which must be reported, by simply not conducting toxicity tests.  And, as the “EPA can only require testing if it can verify that the chemical poses a health risk to the public,” the “EPA has required testing of less than 1 percent of the chemicals in commerce and has issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals.”  Additionally, “chemical manufacturers have successfully claimed that much of the requested submissions are confidential, proprietary information.”  So, “it is almost impossible for scientists and environmentalists to challenge the release of new chemicals.”  

In addition, the Cancer Panel notes that the U.S. “does not use most of the international measures, standards, or classification structures for environmental toxins that have broad acceptance in most other countries,” which makes meaningful comparisons difficult.  Further, U.S. standards are “less stringent than international equivalents.” 

In the chapter on agricultural chemicals, the Cancer Panel reports that “the entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which also are used in residential and commercial landscaping.  Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties.”  For instance,” pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides)” approved for use by the EPA “contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic.  Many of the solvents, fillers, and other chemicals listed as inert ingredients on pesticide labels also are toxic, but are not required to be tested for their potential to cause chronic diseases such as cancer.”

The Cancer Panel states that agricultural chemicals do not stay put.  Sprayed chemicals migrate on the air and into the water, creating toxic trespass into other peoples’ lives.  Indeed, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who is quoted in the report, writes in her book LIVING DOWNSTREAM, that “in general, less that 0.1 percent of pesticides applied for pest control actually reach their target pests, leaving 99.9 percent to move into the general environment.” 

Farmers, their families, their workers, and chemical sprayers (including crop dusters) bear the highest health risks, according to the Cancer Panel.   Farm children, especially those living near pesticide use, have consistently elevated leukemia rates.  Exposure to the nearly 1,400 EPA-registered pesticides “has been linked to brain/central nervous system (CNS), breast, colon, lung, ovarian (female spouses), pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma.”  

It is very clear that we cannot continue using untested chemicals.  It is very clear that we are massively harming our children.  It is very clear that we must develop a political will for change and that we must devise ways to help the people caught in the chemical madness maze to escape it without undue financial penalty.       

Therefore, it follows that we must all understand that the problem at hand is not how to organize a chemical spraying registry.  It follows that we must all understand that the problem for individual PCB members is no longer how to protect present chemical practices.  The problem that we must all now face is how to stop the use of untested, toxic, dangerous chemicals. 

Statements to the PCB can be sent to the Director, Henry Jennings, henry.jennings@maine.gov.        

Write the PCB members and tell them that you recognize that they now have an incredibly difficult task.  Tell them that they must understand now that their primary responsibility must be to protect us and to protect themselves and their loved ones.  Tell them that this duty must supercede all other considerations.

Turkey Tracks: Finished and Ongoing Projects

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June 9, 2010

Finished and Ongoing Projects

The garden is all planted now.  We have more tomato plants than I’ve ever planted.  We planted 14 winter squash and pumpkin mounds down in the meadow, and all seedlings there are up and have been thinned.  The potatoes are poking up through the dirt in the upper garden.  The strawberries are full of berries.  Ditto, the raspberries.  The beans are up.  I’ve planted extra Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and kale.  And, we’ve gotten some much-needed rain.  Everything is very green and lush.  I have only to plant some more flower seeds.  And, weeding.  There is always weeding to do. 

Inside, during the rain, I finished two other projects.  Here is Blue Moon December 2010, which is now hanging outside my quilt room.  Roxanne’s lovely art piece moved up to my writing room.

The camera didn’t pick up the moonlight beading that shimmers across the water in the upper pond and along the water, center front to right.  Not many beads, just a hint of silvery light.  This moon was quite spectacular, and I wanted to do something with it from the moment I saw it while going to a local Christmas party. 

And, here is a knitting bag, long enough for knitting needles.



The lining is the polka dot, and the inside pockets, a toile:

This was a very fun project.  Prudy Netzorg had the idea to do it, and we took a class at Quilt Divas together.  Thanks Prudy.

I have Talula’s paper doll quilt all cut out.  Those fabrics came in a kit, and they sent 1 yard of the doll fabric.  It’s impossible to get a variety of dolls without a bit more fabric, so I’ve sent for that.  Meanwhile, I’m working on what I can.  Hopefully, both Wilhelmina (whose quilt is finished) and Talula will both have quilts when they come in July.

I’m knitting an afghan at night.  It’s a lovely shade of soft spring green.  Maryann is knitting one in yellow.  We have size 13 circular needles, and the project was billed as a weekend project.  HA!!  No way, Jose.  And, I’ve already had to undo about 10 inches as joining this very soft yarn in the middle distorted the pattern. 

And, my carry around knitting is a pair of socks for Corinne in a bamboo and nylon blend that should work in Charleston, SC.  Mothers to be need to be pampered!!!!

Written by louisaenright

June 9, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Turkey Tracks: Napolean, The Quilt Room Mascot

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June 9, 2010

Napolean, The Quilt Room Mascot

Carol Boyer visited Coastal Quilters, and did a workshop on Friday, May 14th before our Saturday meeting.   Carol is one of the most creative people I have ever met, and spending time with her is so freeing.  Carol taught art in the public schools, and she is willing and able to try anything to see how it might work.  She is an inventive quilter, but she also makes dolls.  Our workshop was to make a “funky chicken.”  And, she had prepared a hen pattern for us to use.  I had it in my head that I wanted to do a rooster.  No problem.  With a few snips and inserts into the pattern, the hen got a longer neck, bigger comb, and so forth.  A rooster tail?  No problem.  Go home and get some wire…  Here’s what came home with me.

 And, here are his feet, with his awesome toenails:

The real Nappy boy and all his hens are penned now.  He doesn’t seem to mind.  Neither do the Maran hens.  The Wheatens are completely affronted.  And, they escape forthwith is there is any garden weeding going on.  They aren’t too hard to catch as they do get worried when they are separated from Nappy for too long.  It’s fairly easy to pen them against the fence somewhere.

Here is Nappy with some funky chickens:

Here are some of the dolls Carol brought for her trunk show on Saturday:

Thank you Carol for a lovely time!

Written by louisaenright

June 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Tipping Points 10: Meat Chickens

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Tipping Points 10

June 9, 2010


Meat Chickens

 I am helping raise fifty pastured meat chickens with Pete and Rose Thomas of the Vegetable Shed on Route 173 in Lincolnville.  I am mostly a bystander at this stage.  I paid for our twenty chicks when they arrived, am paying for half of the feed as Pete and Rose are doing all the work, paid for half of some of the start-up equipment, and go admire how healthy and beautiful the chickens are about once a week.  I will help slaughter them later this month.

We got twenty pastured chickens in a Community Shared Agriculture arrangement last fall, and we would have done so again.  But, as Pete and Rose helped us acquire and manage our layers, it emerged that they wanted to raise some Silver Cross meat chickens.  They agreed to let us be partners, and we’re all learning a lot as we go along.

After watching the movie JULIE AND JULIA, where Julie Powell cooks all 536 recipes in Volume One of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” (1961) in one year and blogs about the experience, I pulled out my Volume One—nearly 50 years old now and one of the cookbooks I brought with me when we culled books and moved to Maine.  I made the master leek and potato soup recipe.  Delicious!  Next, as I’ve never been a strong baker, I challenged myself with the cake section.  I was amazed at how many eggs and how little flour and sugar the French one-layer cakes contained.  And, real butter cream icing is velvet on the tongue; has an intense, satisfying flavor; and is smooth all the way down.  Yummo!

Then, I discovered the DVD set of eighteen of the early Julia Child television shows, made throughout the 1960s.  One of these shows is “How To Roast A Chicken.”  Julia lines up six chickens to compare their sizes and purposes:  a broiler, a fryer, a roaster, a capon (castrated rooster), a stewing fowl, and an “old lady” hen fit only for soup.  The broiler Julia shows weighs 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds and is 2 to 3 months old.  The roasting chicken is 4 to 7 pounds and is 5 ½ to 9 months old.

Nowadays, we are raising 4 to 5-pound Cornish Cross chickens in six or seven weeks.

And, they are tasteless.  In her memoir MY LIFE IN FRANCE, Julia sums up the problem she encounters in 1955 when she begins to experiment with chicken cookery:  “The American poultry industry had made it possible to grow a fine-looking fryer in record time and sell it at a reasonable price, but no one mentioned that the result usually tasted like the stuffing inside of a teddy bear” (213).

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NCAT), beginning in the 1950s, industry worked to develop a chicken that was meatier, was broad-breasted, grew rapidly, converted feed efficiently, had limited feathering which minimized plucking, and which had “other traits considered desirable for rearing very large numbers of birds in confinement.”  Uniformity dictates this model.  If all the birds are the same size, processing equipment can be designed for maximum technical efficiency (http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/poultry_genetics.html).

In April 2009, Harvey Ussery, in “Backyard Poultry Magazine,” noted that the development of the Cornish Cross has “pushed muscle tissue growth to extremes, at the expense of balanced growth of all other systems—resulting in failed tendons and crippled legs, compromised immune systems, heart failure, and other problems.”  This chicken is given antibiotics and arsenic to “force still faster growth.”  And, since they are raised in “filthy, high-stress conditions,” antibiotics are required from “day one to slaughter” (“Sunday Dinner Chicken:  Alternatives to the Cornish Cross,” Apr/May 2009, “Backyard Poultry Magazine,” www.themodernhomestead.us/article/Cornish+Cross+Alternatives.html.).

Ussery vowed never again to “coddle such a compromised bird” when he lost twenty-two in two hours during a temperature spike.  The distressed birds, wrote Ussery, were at slaughter weight.  And, they “sat…in the shade of their pasture shelter, panting desperately, and died—rather than walk six feet for a drink of water outside the shelter.”  Meanwhile, his group of “young New Hampshires, the same age as the Cornish Cross to the day, [were] scooting about the pasture like little waterbugs, crossing their entire electronetted area when they needed a drink of water.”

Steve Hode of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, who raises chickens in Windsor, Maine, says the flesh of the Cornish Cross chickens is so soft that it dissolves in your mouth without much chewing.  Further, Hode noted, the bones of these chickens, because they grow so fast, never develop the density that makes for mineral-rich bone broths.

The efficient feed conversion factor means that meat chickens are fed, as are industrial layers, 90 percent corn and 10 percent soy.  Feeds, even organic feeds, contain the synthetic protein methionine and an array of chemicals and waste-product oils.  Changing to 70 percent corn and 30 percent soy solves the protein problem, but affects production costs as less carbohydrate (corn) means a longer growth time, more money for additional feed, and more manure (“There’s a synthetic in my organic chicken,” Rodale Institute, 1 April 2005, http://newfarm.rodaleinstitute.org/columns/org_news/2005/0405/methionine.shtml).  A 70/30 mixture does not solve the problem of making omnivore chickens vegetarians, which affects the omega 3 to 6 ratio of the meat.

According to the Lion’s Grip web site, what chickens prefer to eat is much more diverse.  Too see this list is to understand how blighted a diet of 90 percent corn, 10 percent soy, and a bunch of chemicals is.  Chickens need ample grass and living plants, especially clover; subterranean flora and fauna; insects; and protein that raises the omega 3 content of flesh and eggs so that it is equal to the omega 6 content, like fish, meat, milk worms, and nuts.  A grain supplement should only be given free choice and should be based on a mixture of five or more grains.  Legumes should be offered with grain to balance grain proteins.  Salt should come from free-choice kelp, and calcium from oyster shells or grass-fed bone.  Oils, like the highly processed, already rancid waste products from industry, should never be added to chicken feed   (www.lionsgrip.com/chickensidealfeed.html).

We are feeding our chickens commercial organic feed, as we have not yet worked out how else to feed a large flock of organic chickens outside what the so-called free market has standardized.  We do not like giving the chickens soy, synthetic chemicals, and waste products from industry.  But we have not yet located local grain mixtures and protein sources that are economically feasible and not too time consuming to organize.

Four major transnational companies supply 80 to 90 percent of the chicks to the worldwide commercial meat chicken industry, some in the form of hatching eggs sold to independent hatcheries.  Alternatives to the Cornish Crosses are limited, but some of these companies are now offering a slower growing Cornish Cross, like our Silver Crosses, which are slaughtered closer to their sexual maturity.  And, and at least one of these companies, Hubbard, a French company, is offering a chicken sold under the Red Label system in France that is most commonly known here as a Freedom Ranger.  This chicken, apparently, takes twelve weeks to grow, forages pasture well, and is loaded with flavor.

Our Silver Cross chickens come from Henry Noll in Pennsylvania.   While still a Cornish Cross, they are slower growing and will take at least 9 weeks to grow to 5 pounds.  Crossed with a Barred Rock, they are a beautiful silver grey with barred feathers and red combs.  Pete and Rose, who ate one last fall, say they definitely taste better than the flavor-challenged standard Cornish Cross.

Our chickens are very lively and have huge yellow feet and legs.  You can tell which ones are roosters now, and they are, suddenly, looking quite heavy.  However, all of them eat like piranhas.  It’s eerie to watch them eat.  And they are eating us out of house and home.  They will eat the grass and clover in their large, movable pen only if grain is withheld.

So, for fall and the future, we are looking to the Freedom Ranger chicken.  Ussery describes the meat as being “incomparably better.”  And NCAT says the “meat is flavorful and firm, but not tough.”  Freedom Rangers are also good layers.

Do not ask us to sell our meat chickens to you.  We cannot.  The food Nazis at the Quality Assurance and Regulation Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, in the name of food safety and without any evidence of problems, will likely be successful in revoking the 1,000-bird poultry exemption for small farmers.  Now, any farmer who wants to sell even one chicken must build his/her own, very expensive processing facility, which would only be used a few weeks a  year.  Additionally, equipment may not be shared between farmers.

Here’s exactly how government helps the big and uniform get bigger and more uniform.  Here’s how small, local, and diverse gets driven out of the market.  Here’s how tasteless chickens are created.

Turkey Tracks: Coastal Quilters 2010 Challenge Quilt

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June 9, 2010

Coastal Quilters 2010 Challenge Quilt

I finished the Coastal Quilter’s 2010 challenge.  Here is the challenge fabric:

We were to create a 9 by 12 quilt using this fabric in some way.  The orientation was landscape, so the 12″ side would be on top.  We chose this size in case anyone wanted to donate their quilt to Ami Simms Alzeimer’s Quilt Project.   You can see these quilts at http://www.alzquilts.org.    Ami, whose mother died of Alzeimers, has raised almost half a million dollars that she donates directly to research by selling these donated quilts in on-line auctions and at major quilt shows.

Here’s my challenge quilt:

From the beginning, I saw a rooster tail in the fabric.  John printed a picture of Napolean for me in black and white on 8 1/2 by 11-inch paper.  I cut out the shapes, fused them to fabric, recreated the rooster, and quilted it.  As various people came and went and commented, the piece evolved.   Linda McKinney said I needed a white line of stitching between the sky and the land.  Prudy Netzorg said I needed a moon.  (I later changed the moon thread to white.)  The buttons came from buttons collected by my Great Aunt Margaret Phillips, who lived through the depression in Reynolds, Georgia.  She taught in the primary grades in the Reynolds school and walked everywhere as she had no car.  I inherited her button jar sometime over the years, and I use those buttons all the time.  I have added to it, and friend Gina Caceci added her mother’s buttons to it when she passed away.     

All our challenge quilts will hang together at the Pine Tree Quilt Guild show in late July.  I’ll take pictures so you can see what other people did with this fabric.  Each and every quilt is amazingly creative, as you’ll eventually see.

Written by louisaenright

June 9, 2010 at 10:35 pm