Archive for April, 2012

I’m very proud to introduce a Guest Blogger writing an important/must-read piece concerning GMO’s. It’s a fantastic article that could also be titled; Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about GMO’s. Please share with others and leave your comments and questions below, Chris will answer them…..Take it away Mr. Vogliano:

My name is Chris Vogliano and I am currently studying nutrition and dietetics at Kent State University in their Master’s Program.  I am conducting my thesis study on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms related to Dietitian’s knowledge and perception of them.  According to previous research, the public trusts dietitian’s to relay current and scientific information on this controversial topic.  However, as I hope to prove in my research, there is a significant knowledge gap in the perception of what dietitian’s know versus the knowledge they actually hold.

I chose this topic because genetically modified foods is personal and strikes an emotional cord.  Ever since discovering the topic, I have unveiled more and more unsettling information about this complicated and controversial process.

Most of American’s have no idea what genetically modified foods are, even though over 80% of our supermarket foods contain them.  Many American’s believe that simple crossbreeding is the same or at least a similar process to that of genetic modification.  Some American’s place trust in the “assumed” strict regulatory processes of the FDA, USDA, and EPA.

Politics plays a much more pertinent role in our lives than anyone wants or cares to believe, and I adamantly feel this with GMO’s…

The patenting of a transgenic soybean in the early 1990’s has had more of an impact than we would have ever imagined. We have seen a revolutionary agricultural shift in the way we grow our produce form even twenty years ago.  Many see this synergy of biotechnology and agriculture as a positive step towards our goal of creating a more economically sound production method for our food.  Big agriculture business has consolidated hands over the years to just a few large corporations, leading with the illusion of solving world hunger and bridging the world’s nutritional deficits.  As a soon to be dietitian who heavily values nutritional philanthropy, I could not have been more eager to learn more about this technology that could potentially curb our world hunger problems.
Let’s take a step back and look at the role of corporations in our society.

While we all vary on our opinions of specific corporations, deeming some as good and some evil, we have to remember one simple fact.  Through all the humanitarian efforts some might drape over their figurative bodies to display a positive PR image, corporations have one goal and one goal only.

The primary goal of a corporation is to increase profits for its shareholders. Plain and simple.

While some corporations may choose donations and community building tactics to seem selfless, at the end of the day it is simply to make you feel better about being a customer of their product.  This is not to demean the great things some corporations have done, but to call it an altruistic act is not so valid (arguably, is anything actually selfless? a question better saved for your philosophy 101 class).

Back to the grit of GMO’s – The basics of genetically modifying organisms is as follows:

A desired gene from a species not related to the host organisms is transferred into the cultivar or desired product (while sounding simple, this is actually quite a complex process).  The interesting part is that we don’t know how this transgenic, or crossing DNA from one foreign species to another affects humans or the environment.  This technology was developed and implemented into our food supply less than 15 years ago.

Monsanto is the largest corporate sponsor of GMO’s, fighting for their governmental acceptance worldwide ever since their creation.  A quick lesson on Monsanto’s history:

One of the first products Monsanto created was the artificial sweetener saccharin, which we now know can cause cancer

The next major products were DDT, Lasso, and Agent Orange, which we now know are highly carcinogenic.

Now they are trying to sell the idea of “genetically modified seeds” to us as being healthy and safe, when in all reality they are a self regulating organization whose primary interest is not the health of the consumers, but the money in their pocket.

European countries have strict regulatory standards and most countries have stopped the production of GMO’s until further testing has taken place.  Those countries who do have GMO corn must blatantly label their products with the phrase “this product contains genetically modified ingredients”, which protects the integrity of the food supply and the safety of the consumers.

GMO seeds have NEVER been tested in human trials to determine the impact they have on our bodies.

60% of our DNA is identical to that of corn and soy, and we have no idea how this transgenic process of altering genes in our food will affect us in the short term or the long term.

The only test currently being done to determine the safety of these products is happening right now, in our grocery stores.

As American’s, we deserve the right to know what is in our food. There is a serious need for us to take action on this issue that will help define the future of the agricultural food chain. We need the health of our food to lean in our favor, and not that of large corporate interest.

While there has been unethical practices that have been slipped passed the American consumers unbeknownst to them in the past decade, there has never been a more opportune moment to express out opinion than now.  More than ever, people are forming organizations and events to express their desire to have genetically modified foods labeled.  It is out food supply and we deserve the right to know what we are consuming.

think. be educated.

For more information or to get involved (highly encouraged!) visit:





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I had a big rant written but decided to make my Earth Day wish simple…. Let’s all put an end to GMO seeds and food. Here’s what you can do:

1) Urge the FDA to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. You have a right to know about the food you eat and what you feed your family. Go to http://justlabelit.org/ and sign the petition.

2) Do not buy seeds from Companies that sell GMO seeds. Which is basically the majority of them. Here are a couple of links to companies not to buy from: http://myfolia.com/groups/250-life-wants-to-be-free/topics/2867-companies-that-sell-monsanto-products/posts and http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/how-to-avoid-monsanto/

3) Buy locally from Organic Farms – Even if they don’t have the ‘Organic’ label but believe in sustainable farming and do not use GMO’s. I buy from the Amish in my area. They aren’t certified by the government but they also don’t use pesticides.

4) Spread the word. Tell your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Write to your local congressman or state rep.

5) Don’t invest your money in biotech stock. Move it into something else.

  • Genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in the 15 European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries around the world.
  • A recent poll released by ABC News found that 93 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) results from a discipline called Genetic Engineering which involves taking genes from one species and inserting them into another. For example, genes from an arctic flounder which has “antifreeze” properties may be spliced into a tomato to prevent frost damage. It is impossible to guide the insertion of the new gene. This can lead to unpredictable effects. Also, genes do not work in isolation but in highly complex relationships which are still not fully understood. Any change to the DNA at any point will affect it throughout its length in ways scientists cannot predict. The claim by some that they can is both arrogant and untrue. – Baker Creek Seed Website

Next Week: Chris Vogliano from Kent State University will be writing a Guest Blog on Monsanto.

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It’s been a while since I updated everyone on what we’ve been up to and we’ve been busy! [Click on any image to see a larger version.]

The chickens are doing well, I finally captured the mutilator. It wasn’t a coyote it was a raccoon. He’s moved on to greener pastures. Think chickens are dumb and didn’t know a monster was coming at darkness to kill them? Look at the pic below, they were roosting all the way on the very top on an electrical cord. So sad….


We got a tractor! A 1949 Ford 9N. Runs great. I can’t wait to restore it to its old glory. Still need to buy a plow and disc (it came with an auger, Woods mower and a plow for snow). It’s durable, long lasting and easy-to-fix. It’s basically an engine and transmission on a drive shaft with a PTO on the back. Ain’t she a beaut? Thanks Dad!


Built the greenhouse and planted lots of vegetables. Thanks Carrie!


On the non-profit front, Project Garden Share had a seed giveaway at Kent Social Services and it was a huge success. Thanks Dave!


We gave away over 500 Heirloom (Non GMO) seed packets thanks to our friends at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds who donated over $1,000 worth of seed to us. Through my work with PGS, I’ve never dealt with a more generous, friendly and fast acting company. If you need seeds, go straight to Baker and place an order with them. You will be happy you did and their catalog is gorgeous and fun to read.

All of their seed is non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented.

Through my work with PGS, I’ve never dealt with a more generous, friendly and fast acting company. I ask you that if you need seeds, go straight to Baker and place an order with them. You will be happy you did and their catalog is gorgeous and fun to read.

Baker does not buy seed from Monsanto-owned Seminis. They boycott all gene-altering companies. They’re not members of the pro-GMO American Seed Trade Organization! Baker works with a network of about 100 small farmers, gardeners and seed growers.

And they offer over 1300 fine varieties!

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We had a tragedy at the farm the other night; we lost some chickens to what appears to be a coyote or two. Coyotes are part of the natural circle of life and because we as humans basically eradicated their natural enemy the wolf, we’re forced to deal with these predators. Wolves don’t tolerate coyotes. When the wolves are depleted or hunted to near extinction, the more adaptable coyote moves into the niche.

Happier Times, Zoey meets her first chicken.

To be certain, I’m going to spread a bed of fine sand around at night to see what tracks are left or use a game camera. What’s for sure is that, having had a taste of chicken; whatever it is will keep coming back. Here’s a picture of paw prints and sizes to help you figure out what you might have coming to visit your flock.

We’ve had chickens for several years and have never had a problem with any predator, be it; fox, raccoon, hawk, possum, skunk, or what have you. They are fenced in by 5 ½ ’ walls in the run and a pen fully enclosed in the barn except for a small 15” door to the run.

I’m certain it was coyote based on the fur I found on the outer fence and the fact the chickens were carried away with no sign of struggle or mess in the hen house. From now on, we’ll be locking the chickens in the barn at night by closing and locking the small entrance door.

Photo courtesy of linsdomain.com fur on gate I found

List of non-lethal methods to reduce damage done by coyotes:

  1. Use net-wire or electric fencing to keep coyotes away from livestock.
  2. Confine livestock in a coyote-proof corral at night when coyotes are most likely to attack livestock.
  3. Use lights above corrals.
  4. Remove dead livestock so coyotes won’t be attracted to scavenge.
  5. Use sirens or strobe lights to scare coyotes away.
  6. Motion detection lights are also useful.
  7. Use guard animals, such as dogs, donkeys, and llamas, to protect livestock.
  8. Harass coyotes with loud noises, clapping hands, yelling, throwing rocks at them and waving our arms to create fear.
  9. Don’t feed your pets outdoors.
  10. Don’t ever feed coyotes.
  11. Don’t let coyotes have access to rubbish or compost heaps
  12. Don’t feed feral cats / stray dogs / wildlife / anything except your own kids
  13. If you have sheep / goats / cows etc then collect any placentas in the birthing season as these will attract coyotes
  14. Call the local Fish & Wildlife or local law enforcement agency if coyotes attack humans, become too aggressive by approaching humans and showing lack of fear of humans, or if they attack small pets.

My favorite is the donkey. Who’d a thought donkeys are the ass-kickers of the animal world? Get it….Ass kicker? If you have the appropriate fencing, a donkey is worth considering. Donkeys have an unrelenting hatred of anything dog-like and are quite capable of dealing with coyotes and probably even a wolf or two donkeys can’t be fooled by coyotes, who have been known to befriend the farm dog and be allowed the run of the place.

Reinforce your fencing
Bury your chicken wire into the ground, go 18″ or so into the ground and then bend the wire to form an L shape so that a persistent digger digs into the “crotch” of the L and gets no where fast. Otherwise, some animals will dig under your wire even if its two or more feet deep.

Also, you can try running a line of barbed wire at the bottom of your chicken wire fence. That will keep burrowing critters out. Works with wild pigs and they are pretty persistent burrowers.

For diagrams and instructions on livestock fences please reference the following PDF document: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/nreos/wild/pdf/wildlife/COYOTES.PDF

Coyotes are not protected animals. Check your state’s Fish and Wildlife laws to see what is required to hunt coyotes. Some states do not require a license. Coyote are considered non-game mammals and can be taken at any time. In Ohio there is No closed season for hunting or trapping of coyote.

You want to let your flock free range but you have to ensure the safety of the birds. You can’t be upset with the coyote, it’s part of nature, part of farm life but what you do about it is up to you. If you shoot it, more will just take it’s place. I read once that a family had a dog to protect the flock but the coyotes were smart enough to lure the dog away and grab the chickens. It wasn’t until they got 2 Pyrenees dogs that the flock was safe.

Coyote Stats:
Weight: 15-45 lbs.
Length with tail: 40-60″
Shoulder Height: 15-20″
Sexual Maturity: 1-2 years
Mating Season: Jan-March
Gestation Period: 58-65 days
No. of Young: 2-12, 6 avg.
Birth Interval: 1 year
Lifespan: 15 years in the wild
Typical diet: Small mammals,
insects, reptiles, fruit & carrion

Coyote Facts:

  • Only 5-20% of coyote pups survive their first year.
  • The coyote can run at almost 40 mph and can get over a 8′ fence.
  • Coyotes can breed with both domestic dogs and wolves. A dog-coyote mix is called a “coydog.”
  • The coyote is more likely afraid of you than vice-versa.
  • Coyotes maintain their territory by marking it with urine.
  • Urban coyotes survive far longer than their rural cousins. A coyote living in urban Chicago has a 60-percent chance of surviving for one year, while a rural coyote has a 30 percent chance of living for another year.
  • Coyotes also do some good – they help control rapidly growing populations of Canada geese throughout North America
  • Coyotes are found in most of North America, except the cold Arctic tundra. Coyotes can adapt to most climates quite well.
  • Coyotes account for 65 percent of all cattle and calf losses to predators and 61 percent of sheep and lamb predation
  • The coyote is able to detect hunters coming from a mile away or even more.

Have you ever had any experiences with coyotes or other predators? How did you deal with it?

Here is a great link on how to protect your chickens from coyotes: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/coyote-chicken-predators-how-to-protect-your-chickens-from-coyotes

Ohh and thank you everyone for putting our blog past 800 followers. We are so very grateful!

Next Post, I’m going to go over the Poll from a few weeks ago, If you haven’t voted yet, Please do so: If you had all the land you wanted, what livestock would you keep?

Update: I think it might be a raccoon after all but I’ve already completed this piece on coyotes.

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It’s my pleasure to introduce Denise Ellsworth honey bee and native pollinator education from The Ohio State University Department of Entomology. She’s doing a very special Guest Blog today. Please leave any comments or questions for her below and sign up for her blog at the bottom of this piece. Take it away Denise……

in bloom at Toledo Botanical Garden

March days with temperatures in the 80’s brought many of our native bees out of their winter hiding places. On a visit to the Toledo Botanical Garden a few weeks ago to teach a class of new OSU Master Gardener recruits, I was lucky enough to find an area with hundreds of soil mounds created by ground nesting native bees.

hundreds of native bee nests under oak tree

At first glance, the soil mounds resemble ant hills. but they are larger and have a hole in the center about a half-inch in diameter. As I crouched down to observe the mounds, I saw dozens of adult bees flying across the area from one hole to another. These solitary bees aren’t aggressive and rarely sting (unless handled), so I spent several minutes crouched over the nests to capture the bees on film. When I could keep very still, a bee head would slowly start to emerge from the hole at the center of each mound. Once I moved or created a shadow, the individual bee would quickly pull back into the soil nest.

Digger bees, plasterer bees and polyester bees are all native solitary bees that make this kind of soil mound in spring. Typically found in sandy soils on south-facing slopes, the nests are made by the adult bee. She removes sandy soil particles from the nest as she excavates new chambers for her young to grow. The soil is piled up around the nest exit, forming chimney-like mounds. On sunny, warm spring days, the bees are active, emerging from their nests to mate.

ground bee nest, with acorn for scale

chimney-like soil mound from ground bee

Females fly off to forage on blooming plants (lamium, crocus, azaleas, magnolias and cornelian-cherry dogwood were in bloom that day at the Botanical Garden), then bring the pollen and nectar back to the nest. She lays an egg in the chamber she’s excavated and leaves a loaf of pollen and nectar food (also called bee bread) behind for her yet-to-emerge larva to eat. As a solitary bee, this adult doesn’t tend the nest, but instead provisions the chamber with enough food to bring her offspring from egg to adult.

willow flower offers early food source

These ground-nesting bees aren’t the only bees active in early spring. Carpenter bees have just emerged from their tunnels in wood, and will be starting this year’s generation of baby bees. On a visit to the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, OH, last week, I witnessed dozens of carpenter bees foraging on flowers of the three-flowered maple. This native bee is large like a bumble bee, but has a shiny abdomen. The male carpenter bee buzzes menacingly around the nest opening, but can’t harm you because he doesn’t have a stinger. The female can sting, but she’s reclusive and non-aggressive. Instead, she’s busy chewing out galleries in wood for this year’s brood. Like the ground nesting bee, this mother bee will gather pollen and nectar, then bring it back to the chamber she’s chewed with her strong jaws. She lays a single egg in each chamber and provisions the egg with bee bread.

carpenter bee on three-flower maple

The larval carpenter bees develop inside the wood galleries until late summer, when they emerge as adults. Their mother and father have already died; this new generation will spend the winter in the galleries, emerging to mate next spring. Carpenter bees can cause significant structural damage to wood structures, and can be difficult to evict. Adults return to the same galleries from which they emerged, and will continue to tunnel and cause damage. I once had carpenter bees take up residence in a porch area — they were still a problem even after I added vinyl siding to the home. Read more about carpenter bees, and how to keep them from damaging decks, porches and lawn furniture.

adult bee near nest

Even though they can cause damage to wood, carpenter bees are important pollinators. By leaving dead trees standing or providing brushy habitat, our landscapes can be a haven for native bees. These bees play an important role in pollination of garden crops and native plants. Encourage native bees by planting flowers to bloom from spring through fall and reducing or eliminating pesticide use. Early bloomers, like maples and willows, can be especially helpful to emerging spring bees. Gardeners and homeowners can make a big difference in the conservation of these vital insects.

Cornus mas -- corneliancherry dogwood in bloom

Bee fans are invited to join the OSU BeeLab contact list for updates and workshop offerings. Follow my bee blog at www.OSUpollination.com
Denise Ellsworth
honey bee and native pollinator education
OSU Department of Entomology

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