Fighting Big Ag and Globo-Feed-Corp, Part I: plant Catalpa trees

One of my kids needed to grow something from seed for a science assignment, and she could earn extra credit if she planted a tree.  My husband’s second-favorite tree is the Catalpa; we had one growing behind our old house, but we don’t have any growing here on our 10 acres, so I suggested to her that we buy some Catalpa seeds. I was able to purchase a packet of 25 Catalpa seeds from TreeSeeds.com for just one dollar.

Catalpa speciosa (northern catalpa)

She planted them in peat pots that can go right in the ground when the weather is warm; germination has been over 80%!

Catalpa (or Catawba) trees are fast-growing and easy to grow from seed, but the Catalpa tree does not produce fruit or seeds that people or animals can eat, so how would it be fighting Big Ag to plant catalpa trees? Here is how:

First, honey bees will forage on the nectar from Catalpa tree leaves:

In his most recent post at Hawaiian Libertarian, Keoni writes about the smarmy marketing ploys of General Mills and other Big Ag/Big “Feed” companies, noting that:

“…genetically modifying crop plants to withstand inundation with pesticides and weed killing herbicides IS the primary purpose for GMO in the first place… and pesticide-herbicide laden GM corn is the primary source for most Feed ingredients in the processed food industry.

..,Much of the product portfolio of (General Mills) relies on the GM crops that require massive use of pesticides and herbicides that are undoubtedly playing a major role in killing off bee colonies nationwide.”

Planting Catalpas helps bees, but you can also fight Big Ag by eschewing their sugary breakfast cereals, replacing them with eggs, which leads me to the second important use for Catalpas.,,

Catalpa trees have historically become infested with Catalpa worms, which are really the Sphinx moth caterpillar, which ONLY eat Catalpa leaves but do not kill the trees:

Recent reports indicate a precipitous decline in Catalpa worm populations. Pesticides are one suspected cause of this decline.

Catalpa worms have always been prized as one of the best kinds of fishing bait. You can sell them to fisherman or use them yourself!

But not only that: chickens love Catalpa worms! And you can freeze them so that you’ll have Catalpa worms even after their season is done for the year. I am constantly trying to come up with alternative sources of feed for my chickens in order to reduce my need to purchase bags of feed. Though they can’t live on Catalpa worms alone, it’s still one more source of protein that I can harvest from my own land, which our free-ranging hens will turn into eggs with superior nutritional value.

I am fortunate to live near Dexter Mill, a small local feed mill that blends their own feed from locally-produced non-GMO ingredients. However, many people don’t and must rely upon Purina chicken feed.  And friends, Purina is now owned by Nestlé, and Nestlé has a global partnership with General Mills to use the Nestlé brand to market GM breakfast cereals in countries where people don’t tend to eat cereal for breakfast.  And so we are right back where we began, aren’t we.

There is literally no way to escape Big Ag/Big Food’s poisonous tentacles unless you produce every step of the chain right on your own land.  And who among us can do that?

But anyone can grow a Catalpa tree and feed the honey bees.  Anyone can use Catalpa worms to catch a fish or (if you keep poultry) supplement their chickens’ diet.

And everyone can do something to resist the Global Goliaths.

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Thriftiness is a life skill AND a political statement.

We’ve been slowly trying to build up a cash savings sufficient to cover six months’ worth of expenses.  Just the other day, I was remarking to Philip that we were doing so well, almost there.  Just when you’ve gotten prepared for a rainy day, doesn’t it seem like the rain always comes?

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The permaculture principle of “stacking functions” (plus a tree farm recommendation)

This past weekend we cut down a bunch of enormous invasive shrubs on part of our property.  I decided I wanted to plant some sugar maples in their place, with dreams of homemade maple syrup dancing in my head (despite last year’s sad attempt at making syrup after tapping one lonely tree).  I looked on Stark Brothers and on the sites of several other large nurseries I’ve ordered from, and 3-4′ trees run around $18 a piece.  I decided I could afford four of them.

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Women can be hard-working and innovative in their proper sphere.

I read a comment from a man recently on a blog that asserted, possibly somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that the goal of most women is to never work a day in their lives.  All joking aside, while it is no doubt possible to find real life examples of such women, I would assert this is not generally true.

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Grow your own: helpful tools for getting your vegetable garden seeds started.

My kitchen has three large south-facing windows in a sort of bay window configuration.  This area gets lots of sunlight, especially when the leaves are off the trees, so it’s where I start my seeds in late winter.

I’ve gotten basil and parsley started in my toilet paper roll seed starter pots, and I’ll be starting peppers soon.   Continue reading

Snow day

The loveliest kinds of snow days are the ones where school is cancelled the night before to really give you time to savor it.

We were hit by a pretty decent snow storm yesterday and by evening, both the school I work at and my children’s school had cancelled, causing us to have an impromptu celebratory dance party in the living room.  It has happened in the past that my school has cancelled but the children’s has not, which is its own kind of celebration for me but causes them to gnash their teeth at the injustice of this world; it is their sad fate to attend a school district where the superintendent hails from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which means he usually doesn’t see the need to cancel school for anything less than a foot of snow.

Which is close to what we’ve gotten over the past day:

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Our dirt road hasn’t been plowed yet, so I’m spending a pleasant snow-bound day catching up on household tasks and working on starting seeds for the garden.  Also, here is an update for my little countertop water garden:

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The celery hearts are sprouting new leaves.

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There are enough romaine leaves now to make a small salad.

Also, I’ve decided to save and attempt to root and plant the top of a pineapple from the grocery store; apparently this is possible to do and may even result in an actual pineapple fruit growing on the plant.

Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs.

We’ve had some strange weather here the last few days – it warmed up from below-zero temperatures midweek to the 50s on Friday and Saturday, resulting in a fierce wind that sent dried leaves swirling and dancing through the forest, driving our Shiba Inu Ruby mad with delight as she chased them hither and yon.  Earlier in the week it had snowed and even the snowflakes were worth chasing and snapping out of midair:

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Spring is coming, and we’ll make a second attempt at raising poultry; we shall not be deterred by last year’s failure!   Continue reading