Done with Quicken

Lost the wayWe have used Intuit’s Quicken products for over 20 years.  I tolerated their poor support and inefficient design because I couldn’t find another software that would shake hands with the banks and investment companies that we use and provide the detailed reports we needed for taxes.

One thing that was really important to me was that my data remained on my machine.  I always turned down the requests to store stuff in the cloud.  Given the problems with Equifax this week, one can easily see why.

Well, today, without asking or offering an alternative, Quicken updated me to having to store my data in the cloud.  And to make matters worse, you can’t migrate to an earlier version to avoid the problem.  So, we’re done.

My new financial software will be MoneySpire.

If it turns out that they can’t behave well either, then I can always go back to spreadsheets and databases.

Companies like Quicken may be too big to fail in their world, but not in mine.

Keys to Mineralized Soil at AcresUSA

This email that I received from AcresUSA is so good that I am posting the bulk of here, hoping you will visit their site and subscribe.  This is the most succinct and cogent explanation of how to  farm your soil in a sustainable manner that I have heard in years.

–bon Appetit
John Langlois

Keys to Mineralized Soil

Mineralized Soil Article at AcresUSAMineralized soil has a specific outcome — to produce nu­trient-dense food and animal feed well-endowed with trace elements. To achieve this requires a properly func­tioning soil. Mineralized soil has four basic keys that need to be addressed: soil energy, foundational minerals, humus and biology, and trace elements.

Soil energy refers to a soil’s ability to grow a crop and bring it to maturity. It also takes energy to digest limestone and other rock powders. Soil energy comes from the synchronization that occurs when various fertilizers come in contact with soil and/or other fertiliz­ers. Soil energy is greatly im­pacted by the amount and type of nitrogen in the soil. All soluble fertil­izers will impact soil energy as will so­dium, chloride and other soluble trace minerals. To create min­eralized soil requires a proper amount of foundational minerals that must be digested by soil biology and soil energy.

For all its problems, convention­al agriculture does understand that it takes energy to grow a crop. For the most part conventional agriculture completely misses the importance of the other basic keys and consequently does not grow quality food or animal feed, and many organic farmers suffer terribly in yield because their soil has inadequate energy. When plants are grown in low-energy soil they are not healthy. Rather they are low-Brix and susceptible to every pass­ing insect and disease threat.
Typical products used to create soil energy are calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate, urea, ammonium sulfate, potas­sium sulfate, MAP, super phosphate, liquid fertilizers and sea solids. For organics, nothing beats high-nitrogen fish and Chilean nitrate. Manures and compost will supply some soil energy as well.
Foundational minerals build the optimum environment soil biology needs to flourish and act as the “pre-natal” nutrition needed by soil biology. Foundational minerals refer primar­ily to adequate available calcium and phosphorus. While both calcium and phosphorus can be obtained in the form of commercial fertilizers, these fertilizers do not build a proper foun­dation to construct mineralized soil. If the levels are insufficient, they must be supplied in the form of insoluble rock powders requiring both soil energy and soil biology to break down into an available form.

Spe­cific soil amendments used to build foundational minerals include lime­stone, soft rock phosphate and gyp­sum. Due to their strong focus on humus, or­ganic matter and biology, most organic farmers are short of calcium and often short of phosphorus. Available calcium plays a critical role in determining yield and in the health and quantity of plant roots.

Humus and biology refers to the living, breathing aspect of soil. As soil biology proliferates, they leave behind organic residues or metabolites. These residues increase the humus content of soil. As they decompose, these or­ganic compounds give off carbon di­oxide that plants use to produce carbohydrates, and the cycle starts all over. While conventional agriculture has all but ignored this most impor­tant aspect of mineralized soil, many organic farmers have hailed it as the ultimate panacea with nothing else needed. Both of these approaches are incomplete.

Products used to increase humus in soil include: cover crops, green ma­nures, compost, fresh or aged manures, dry humates and many more. Products used to stimulate soil biology include: microbial inoculants, liquid humates, compost tea, molasses, sugar, biostimu­lants, enzymes and many other propri­etary products.

The final aspect of mineralized soil is the addition of a plentiful supply of trace elements. These include the more commonly recognized elements including boron, copper, iron, manganese and zinc, and the rarer elements such as chromium, molybdenum, nickel, iodine, vanadium, lithium, selenium, cobalt and others. Products used to supply these minerals include the sulfates and chelates of the more com­mon elements, seaweed, sea minerals and various rock powders for broad-spectrum trace elements.

Trace elements bound up in rock powders require soil energy and microbial digestion to release them. They also require a plant to have a good level of calcium in order to pull up the heavy trace minerals. Low-Brix plants (i.e. low-calcium plants) are notoriously low in trace elements whereas high-Brix plants provide an abundance of trace elements.
The optimum food supply for people and animals should be grown on mineralized soil. By giving soil proper stewardship and learning from the wisdom of generations past we hold within our hands the power to help the generations yet to come as well as our own.

For more information about energizing your soil,
subscribe to Acres USA.

A Sad Goodbye to Carter

The Great Pyrenees

Carter The Great PyreneesThe Great Pyrenees is one of the best farm dogs available.
We got Carter 11 years ago when my friend at the Nature Conservancy asked whether we wanted “a great Pyrenees puppy.”  It turned out that the “puppy” was over a year old, but he was so gregarious that we kept him, despite the ehrlichiosis that the vet discovered.
Over the years Carter earned his keep by staying with the pregnant cows whenever they went into labor.
Carter Guards Calf
They didn’t appreciate it, but I did. We have never lost a calf to coyotes with Carter on the job.
Carter wandered the mountains of the farm with my grandson, Cole. For years Carter weighed more than Cole did, but he never threw his weight around. He stayed within “helping distance.”

Avoid Severe Cuts

They don’t need them. Lion Cut
He was so embarrassed that he hid in the shower.

The worst thing we ever did to Carter was a well meant grooming.  It was a hot August and the drought was intense. We thought we would get him groomed.  The groomers found his coat so difficult to work with that they gave him a “lion’s cut.”

12 years is old for a Pyrenees.  During his last few years he slowed considerably.  He basically went from being a “guard dog” to a “guard at the shopping mall” dog.  He would sit on the porch and bark and walk the perimeter once a day.  But his poor eyesight and painful joints made working too difficult.

When it became obvious that his pain outweighed our pain in losing him, we took him to Dr. Williams for the last time.  We lost both of them that weekend.


A Hard Time for a Great Cow

Mastitis problems in Grazing Cattle.

Cow with Mastitis

Cassidy is one our best cows. I measure that judgement by temperament. Because she is so amiable, we nicknamed her girlfriend.

If I were not emotionally attached to her, she would be on the harvesting schedule because she has a persistent birthing problem. When she gives birth, her milk comes in too quickly and in too great a volume.  What that means is that her teats swell up so large that the calf can’t get on them to nurse.

They also get sore, which means she doesn’t want the calf or anyone else touching her.

In the past, we have physically restrained her and milked her until the teats were empty.  I got kicked a couple of times before I figured out how to hobble her, but at least things worked out.

This year things were much worse.  Even though we milked her, the mastitis set in with the swelling. Mastitis has a number of causes and one common to grazing cattle is caused by bacteria introduced into the udder by flies.  Especially in cows leaking milk, the transmission can easily happen. It doesn’t respond very well to antibiotics. 

In severe cases, the udder may swell to the point of bursting.  This happened to two of Cassidy’s teats.  The vet told me not to sew it up.  Rather, try to keep the flies off, which is next to impossible.  What he didn’t tell me was that the teats would slough off.  The mammary glands literally fell out.  The smell was bad, but no gangrene set in.  She appears to be on the way to healing, but I have reservations about her future.


Blueberries Ripen in June in South Alabama

colepicksblueberriesWe all pack up and drive 5 hours South to pick blueberries and Grandmama Dollihite’s home.

We go out early to avoid the bugs and the heat and by 10:00 a.m. we have enough to freeze for the next year.

It occurred to me that part of why we enjoy this so much is the berries taste better than they will taste the rest of the year.

Seasonality depends upon your hemisphere

Depending upon the season, as much as 70% of the fruit and vegetables that Americans eat is imported. That doesn’t mean that American farmers can’t grow food year round. What it means is that certain foods are only available in their ripest, most nutritious form during certain times of the year. But given the American obsession for instant gratification, we expect all fruits to be available year round.

Would you consider planning your “food calendar” around the produce that your local CSA could provide? It would give incentive to your local growers to know there is a market for what they can produce and it would bring the spirituality of delayed gratification to your life.

Why Seasonal Sharing Works

buddhamansmall1). It opens your heart so that the issues of greed, possession and permanence are kept in perspective.
2). It turns the “karma wheel” so that at some point you have a goody “coming your way”.
3). It builds the fabric of community. It may be the one time when “co-dependency” is not a bad thing.
4). It teaches you to respect what others have. Just wait until someone returns “your stuff” in less than a pristine manner to understand what I mean.
5). It teaches creativity.  Our friends gave us “pickled eggs” this year. It seemed a bit exotic, like pickled pork feet or pickled okra. It was real joy that I hope to learn how to do.
6). It paces the order of life.
7). Embracing seasonality tempers the desire for immediate gratification and teaches us temperance, patience and gratitude.

Poop in the Soup

How about some “Poop”in your Soup?

Fecal SoupThis is one of my “awareness posts.” Many people are not aware of how modern food winds up on their plates and it’s my joy to bring you this moment of enlightenment.

Most of us would never knowingly eat food with fecal material in it. (That’s shit in the soup for those who don’t speak Latin) Yet, the USDA allows chicken processors to have up to 15% of the weight of processed chicken to be the fluids that are absorbed in the processing plants.

It took me a while to find the specifications on this.  The USDA says “A process would be considered under control if there is a reasonable confidence (i.e., 95% statistical confidence) that a given package in a lot retains no more water than is unavoidable. That is, considering measurement and processing variables, there should be 95% confidence that the continuing measurements are within 20% of the moisture level determined at that establishment.”

This information can be found in its entirety at

When the chickens are run through automated processing, their bowels get spilled everywhere and the mess is washed off at the end. That’s not the problem.  Something like that could happen when you process a bird at home.

The problem is in the volume of what’s being processed. Processing plants process birds by the minute.  At the end of the line they drop into a chilling tank. Over time the water and feces become “fecal soup” and get absorbed into the tissues of the chicken.

Sure, they put some chlorine in the water to kill the bacteria, but do you really want to eat that?

Heirloom chickens, the kind raised by your grandparents take twice as long to mature, but are twice as tasty as the dull, flaccid gray matter that passes for chicken today. Try some “pastured poultry” from a local farmer who processes each one by hand and you will be startled at the difference.

Yes, they will cost a little more. If that bothers you, you can continue to eat the other stuff. Just be sure to factor in your medical bills and health insurance deductions when you compare the costs. You may be pleasantly surprised. It’s always fun when it actually cost less to have better tasting food.

Local Food Growers Reprint

Local Food Growers in Alabama

Studies have shown that local food can help with locally developed allergies.  This idea is revised for publication 04/28/2013

We have had a few problems getting Facebook to accept the blog posts, so some of our friends have asked that we post a few of them again. You may have read this post in March, 2013.

Local Food Fights Local Allergies

We have always thought that the watermelons, tomatoes and other foods from local food growers in Alabama tasted better. Perhaps it’s because our taste buds are seasoned that way.

Recent studies have shown that animals that are raised within 25 miles of their birthplace thrive better than those shipped across country. We believe that is because they assimilate the nutrients available in the local soil and develop immunities specific to the region.

Vegetable School

It’s harder to measure that idea in humans because we are more mobile. But research shows that items like honey, when made by bees within a local radius, can be more effective in helping one resist allergies.

It makes sense that the plants and animals that survive their time in the “school of hard knocks” are going the reflect their experience. That can be either good or bad, but in a system focused on providing nutrient density, nature leans towards good.

By enjoying fruits, dairy vegetables and meats from a local farm you can see for yourself the superior quality and have confidence in what you feed your family.

“Sustainable farms are to today’s headlong rush toward global destruction
what the monasteries were to the Dark Ages: places to preserve human skills and crafts until some semblance of common sense and common purpose returns to the public mind.”

Gene Logsdon “Living at Nature’s Pace”

Imported foods hurt local farms

Farmers have a right to be angry. Forces and politicians much more powerful
than they are have been manipulating the way they live for generations.

All the component parts of the farming economic equation have been maniuplated for the benefit of large corporations at the expense of the farmers that actually supply the food. Everything from the cost of growing food to the price paid for it has endured intense governmental and market maniuplation.

Consumers have a right to be bewildered. Many grew up never knowing any other ways to acquire their food except going to the grocery store. Many children
think food is “made” at the supermarket.

So, when consumers finally realize that the corporate, large-agricultural food model is delivering inferior food that is lacking in nutrient value, they
begin the search for real food. That leads them to local farmers.

These are the same guys who are still being screwed over by the companies like Monsanto and ADM. So, like you, they have a new learning curve.

You have to learn how to buy food. They have to learn how to provide it.
There’s the rub. They can’t provide the food quality that you want with the same level of convenience the grocery store provides. You have to invest more
time, thinking, preparation and cooking experience into feeding your family.

What the farmer wants to know is “Can you be shown a better way?”

Barter Systems

Barter Systems and Other Forms of Commerce

hayday_600Bartering springs up in modern cultures when the local currencies are no longer valued by the participants in the local economies.  At least, that’s barter from the perspective of an economist.  However, if other values are in play at the time of the exchange, bartering may not be about money.

Why Sharing Works

1). It opens your heart so that the issues of greed, possession and permanence are kept in perspective. In an agrarian society, one can only eat so much.  Likewise, trading has consequences involving storage, loss and valuation.  Therefore, a willingness to part with goods or services keeps avarice under control.  It also keeps you from being overdrawn at the “bank of favors.”

2). It turns the “karma wheel” so that at some point you have a goody “coming your way”.

3). It builds the fabric of community. It may be the one time when “co-dependency” is not a bad thing. The development of mono-cropping agriculture has robbed rural communities of whole systems of support.  I can still see the abandoned buildings of people who use to grind grain for the local farmers.  Local slaughter houses no longer exist.  Community mercantile stores died because they could not compete with the mega-marts. We have a lot of re-building to do on this level.

4). It teaches you to respect what others have. Just wait until someone returns “your stuff” in less than a pristine manner to see this one.

5). It expands your horizons. We are introducing our friends to “red okra” this year. We had never had it before and were excited about the flavor and size. Every year we try to make a new discovery, not just for the sake of the discovery, but to also keep us from becoming jaded.


Probiotics Has Several Meanings

Probiotics are about more than just food.



Media marketing has a way of overwhelming every good discussion.  A few years ago the public began to discover “pro-biotics.” Probiotics became defined in that context as foods that contain beneficial bacteria, which your body needs to survive.  This was no small achievement because the advertising for products like Lysol had so conditioned the general public to fear any and all living creatures smaller than a human hair, that the public had taken on a “war against all creatures that we can’t see mentality.” And so, we made the first step towards sanity about interacting with the world at large.  Granted the nightly news still publishes the “health inspector” scores, not realizing the name “health inspector” is a real misnomer.  How else does one explain things “Mountain Dew” and “Cheetos.” But at least we are learning to probe deeper into the ideas that present themselves concerning food and health.

You Need More Stink in Your Life.

I am always amused when people comment about how “they could never live on a farm because of the smell”. What smell?

Granted, factory confinement facilities stink to high heaven. But a real farm that has the proper “poop to plant” ratio has little odor. Still, there is some. I have always tried to explain to my children that everyone needs “more stink in their life.”

By that I mean that the American illusion of an antiseptic, pristine, odorless world is fine for Disney movies, but far from reality. Moreover, it is not healthy. It is the interaction with all the forms of life that grow in our environment that let us become stronger, healthier creatures.

You don’t need antibiotics and flu shots if your immune system is geared up to fight off the pathogens. It gets that way from good nutrition and from exposure to the real world.

For details See Dr. Mercola. And then, make sure that your kids go outside and play in the dirt.

I was always amused as a child at how television would disparage the open markets of foreign countries as “unsanitary.”  There would be slaughtered ducks hanging in the open stalls, all kinds of foods available in unrefrigerated containers and flies and dust everywhere.  And yet, the general population seemed to be doing well.  Now I am not advocating dirty stores.  One I am trying to illustrate is that these cultures worked because the populations were hardened against pathogens by exposure to them.

Because we no longer see the animals we consume until they are wrapped in plastic and arranged in chilled display cases, we become disconnected from our food, Not only do we lack the benefits of being around the animals, we also lack an appreciation for the lives they lead.

Because we do not pause to reflect on the sacrifices that make our food possible, both animal and human, we become callous consumers.

It is a lazy way to live and as my dad used to say “it’s just sorry.”

How Cows Saved America

Cows Saved America

meetthecowIf you read the histories of the early settlers of America you can’t help but be amazed at how precarious their lives were. Starvation was a real possibility. The one event that seemed to have made the difference was the importation of Jersey Cattle. Their small size, rich milk and pleasant dispositions made them perfect for families needing to insure a steady supply of wholesome food.

300 years later our food supply has been compromised by large agribusiness interests that raise our cattle in confinement settings, feed them grain instead of grass, breed them to weigh 2,500 pounds, instead of 900 pounds and them subject us to the risk of E.Coli 157 through their collective processing. For details read “The Fatal Harvest”.

We have learned from our friends how to recognize what “enough” is.

Enough is being able to eat healthy foods that cost more. Sure, that means we have less money to spend on other stuff, but it is enough. An old friend once told me “godliness with contentment is great gain.” I believe he realized that contentment was the hardest part of that to apprehend.

Cows are amazingly resilient when fed healthy grass and allowed to express their “cow-ness.” They need to roam the fields, play in the sunshine, work out their romances and alliances, establish their social order and plot against the farmer.

I have seen them endure 12 degree weather in the snow and ice. All they needed was a little extra feed and someone to break the ice off the water.

Sometimes they do get sick. And before they do, I recommend you read Dr. Schaeffer’s book, “Homeopathy for the herd.” The hardest part of changing from a traditional medical model is finding the medicines he recommends and a homeopathic vet.

We don’t use chemical wormers on our cows. We use high magnesium mineral supplements, diatomaceous earth and rotational grazing. The cows and bulls have lush coats and strong muscle tone.

A little apple cider vinegar in the water keeps everybody happy.

One procedure I do recommend from the allopathic school is a petocin shot for cows that miscarry or fail to deliver the placenta. Some vets call it “oxytocin.” The shot “cleans things out” and helps her avoid an infection.

Gratitude works wonders.

It is a chicken or egg question. Does escaping the city enable one to see the beauty of life that a farm makes possible or do you have to see it to find the courage to leave the rat race?

On more than one occasion I have mentioned to friends how grateful we are to have had the opportunity to find Foggy Bottom Farms. The farm enables us to put into practice one of my favorite Al-Anon sayings, “Expectations are premeditated resentments”.

We can bring our expectations to the farm, but nature has its own agenda, timetable, rules and routines. The challenge is to learn how to be one with the farm. Life is much more pleasant when we learn to have “fun with the earth.”