Monday, May 27, 2013

Who is Monsanto?

Who is Monsanto? This  is a question neither of us expected to hear in the 21st century, but yesterday the question was asked by three separate people, two who were observing the march against Monsanto in Galway asked Simon this question, he was staggered to say the least, the third person was a fairly new acquaintance who we consider intelligent and who grows his own veg Organically. Given all the publicity that there had been a few years ago about Monsanto and GMO's I just do not understand how anyone can not have heard of this evil company.

World wide the reported figures for the march are around two million which took place in four hundred and thirty odd cities, which average's out to  just under 5000 people per march, clearly there must have been some big marches somewhere BUT there has been no mainstream media coverage of the event at all. Is this a coincidence or the power of Monsanto being wielded ? There are now plans to make this a yearly event until someone listens, maybe next year the press will cover it but I will not be holding my breath.
At the Galway march there were about 100 people, it was heartening to see so many young people there so maybe all is not lost, after all it is their future and their lives that will be most effected. In Dublin it is reported that around 300 people attended. Do people really not care what they are eating or what the future holds if Monsanto and other similar companies are not stood up to.
It is now thirty one years since Monsanto first genetically modified seeds and thirty years since the first field trials, yet they still have to spend millions in publicity campaigns to try to persuade people of their safety, 120 million in 2010 for example. If the products they produce are so safe why do they fight heaven and earth and spend millions to stop the labelling of their products, surely they would be proud of what they produce if they were safe.
 But who in their right minds would trust such a company, one responsible for DDT, Agent Orange and PCB's. A company that uses the revolving door as a means of controlling the US government, Michael Taylor is the first name that springs to mind but there are others. In the three decades that they have been producing these seeds they have promised higher yields, drought resistant, flood resistant and higher vitamin content, any higher yields that have been reported are minimal with higher yields coming from selective breeding, as for the rest of their promises, they are just that.
Meanwhile back on the holding the duck eggs have hatched, only four out of the twelve set, two were infertile, two addled and four had disappeared, no doubt taken by the Magpies who we are now waging war against with the help of a Larson trap. The next duck eggs are due later on this week, they are under a broody hen, hopefully we get  more than just four from the twelve eggs.
We have now eaten the last of the La Bresse that we did last year, so chicken is off the menu until this years birds are ready, so far we have hatched eighteen this year with a further batch going in the incubator later this week.
Slowly the garden is catching up, with the broad beans well in flower but with the lack of bees we might end up with no crop at all. All the fruit trees are well in bloom but again we need some real warmth to bring out the pollinators.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cuckoo's have arrived.

I had given up on hearing the Cuckoo's this year but at last they have made it, six weeks later than last year, everything seems to be six weeks late,
1st Strawberries this year.
today I picked the first of our Strawberries, last year it was early in April, the other thing I have noticed is how tall the plants are, reaching for the light I suppose, the light density has been very low for weeks now and the temperatures are still struggling to make double figures.
A carpet of Bluebells.
The bluebells are now blooming, again six weeks later than last year. A lot of damage has been done to the plants and trees by late frosts and the easterly wind that we had for weeks.
The Irish Bee keeper association are predicting that there will be little or no Irish honey this year with an estimated loss of 76% of the hives. I have seen just two bumble bees and no hover flies at all, it is not looking good for crops that depend on insect pollination this year.
Whether the change in the climate is due to man or natural climate change or weather manipulation is anyone's guess. It used to be that the weather forecast could predict the weather for the next couple of days at least, now it seems it is impossible to predict more than a few hours in advance even  with all the technology that is around, maybe it's time to go back to the old seaweed method, at least that could predict a day ahead.
Sligo Co.
We had a trip to the neighbouring county a couple of days ago and although further north was far more advanced than where we live, presumably it is more protected by the mountains and is closer to the Gulf Stream.
Lough Arrow on a dull day.
Co. Sligo is a beautiful county, we always enjoy visiting it, it is full of magic. We lived there for a number of years, but we decided we wanted flatter ground as we were getting older.
Swan id the reeds.
This year there seems to be even more swans than other years I think we have two different types, I'm sure one of them is the mute swan the other ones either the Hooper or Bewick, I must read up on them, such beautiful creatures.
DIY road repairs. Any lingering doubts I had about our governments' sanity has now gone, the latest scheme they have come up with is community DIY road repairs, the councils will provide the material, a bit of gravel and if you're lucky some tar, the community to provide the labour and equipment to do the job. This scheme does not seem to have been well thought out, who would be responsible if a 'worker' injured his/herself ? And should the job not be carried out correctly and an accident occurred, again who would be held accountable? Considering we pay one of the highest road taxes in the EU, and we have been subjected to a property tax, and now the household charge, they now want free labour. I wonder what other scheme they can think of to squeeze more blood out of a stone. They could reduce unemployment or social welfare payments to people who grow their own food, this had actually been suggested some twenty years ago but thankfully came to nothing, however the State TV channel recently did a news feature on people in Dublin who were growing their own on allotments for which there is a waiting list, how long before some bright spark in the Dail decides this would be a good way to take money away from people who need it the most.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Glimpses of Summer.

The weather continues to be unpredictable or rather I should say it's predictably unpredictable. It might be the second half of May but temperatures are struggling, we wake up most mornings to brilliant HOT sun, our bedroom faces east, but by ten in the morning the temperatures have dropped. The sunroom temperatures start the day at 25c and by midmorning are down to 15c, outside it struggles to make double figures.
The wind also continues to blow, great for getting the washing dry but plants don't like continuous wind  the bulbs have all taken a sever battering. We have now invested in a second roll of wind break fencing which has helped to cut down the wind speed, once we manage to get our shrubs and trees established we will be able to re-use this netting elsewhere.
The fruit trees and bushes are now in bloom, however there is a lack of bees, we have a couple of regular bumble bees in the back garden but I'm not sure if they have found the fruit trees yet, we will assume that they have not and go round the trees with a soft paint brush to pollinate the blossoms.
As yet there are very few butterflies around, we have seen a couple of Peacocks and small whites but nothing more so far. We are also missing the sound of the Cuckoo, not one has been heard here.
We have seen a few Swallows passing through but none stopped to investigate our barns possibly they were put of with the amount of Crows, Ravens and Magpies that we have nesting close by. We have a pair of Magpies nesting in an ash tree, not doubt the young are being taught about stealing our eggs.

All the chick's are thriving, Matilda has turned out to be a wonderful mother although she was so clumsy with her eggs breaking four.
The older La Bresse are all gaining weight well, they are now outside in their own run, I think there are just two pullets and the rest are cockerels. I haven't sexed the youngest ones yet but they are not quite two weeks so I will leave it a couple of weeks.
The next batch of Quail are due to hatch this Sunday, hopefully we will get a good hatch as we have an order for fifty birds oven ready and we need about the same amount for ourselves.
The last of our female rabbits, Goldie from last year has now gone to her new home, hopefully pregnant, the new buck Bobby knew exactly what to do and got on with the job very quickly, however today we put our own doe, Flopsey to him and she refused to be mated, she had been plucking herself over the last few days, in fact since we moved the rabbits out into their outside runs, plucking would normally indicate that the doe is pregnant and due to give birth, which in this case is not possible, she just thinks she is, we will try them together again at the weekend.
 On a trip out today taking a friend to the airport we were delighted to see Cowslips growing along the grass verge, once this beautiful plant could be seen everywhere, now it is  a rare find, we also could not resist taking a photo of some lovely Kingcups growing close by.
Our nearest airport is only a fifteen minute drive from here and it is a very pleasant drive with superb views from the airport grounds, but we seldom drive in that direction, there is a big drive to promote Knock Airport which opens up the West of Ireland to visitors, the airport it's self is still small and friendly, and was the inspiration of Father Horan, there is now a  bronze statue erected in memory of this far seeing priest.
It came as no surprise that the UK voted against the banning of Neonicotinoid pesticides, their current Minister of Agriculture Owen Patterson must be the worst one they have ever had, I was a little surprised that Ireland sat on the fence and abstained on the vote, no doubt not wanting to upset the UK.
 The UK are planning to have referendum on whether so stay in the EU or not, should it not be more of a question for the other member states as to whether they want the UK to remain as part of the EU, after all the UK has refused to be European in just about every way, they still talk in miles,  pounds and ounces, they cherry pick from EU regulations, abide with what they like and ignore what they don't, and blame the EU for anything that goes wrong. High time Britain was kicked out and become a fully paid up member of the US and become the 51st state.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Back to GMO's

During the past week we have contacted six of the major supermarkets in the UK  regarding their abandonment of sourcing GM free feed for their meat and dairy products, (as far as I am aware we have had no ban on GMs in animal products in Ireland) Out of the six we contacted only two acknowledged our email, and Sainsbury's was the only one to reply. Their answer was far from satisfactory and it seems that they are willing to put their faith in the latest scientific research and the government say so that there are no safety issues. The scientific research is not independent, it is carried out by the GM companies themselves and when it comes to the likes of Monsanto I would not believe anything that they say including that the  sky is blue and the earth is round.
Below is part of the email we received from Sainsbury's.
The latest scientific research and current Government advice is that GM ingredients do not present any risks to human health.  We do of course acknowledge the concerns of our customers, and therefore do not permit the use of GM crops, ingredients, additives or derivatives in any Sainsbury's own label food, drink, pet food, dietary supplements or floral products.
This is merely part of their published press statement so in fact we have not had the curtsy of a personal reply. I also find it very strange that Sainsburys do not allow GM's in their own brand animal food.

It would seem to us that these supermarkets are working as a cartel which I believe is illegal, it seems strange that they should have all changed their policy's at the same time.
We are lucky, we have land and grow  most of what we eat, including eggs and poultry, we now have a barter with a new friend for trout in exchange for feathers and plants, and the few additional items that we have to buy such as milk and butter are Organic, but for people who live in towns and have no access to a garden to grow in and a limited budget their options are limited.
During the last two decades food intolerances have increased, as has obesity and certain types of cancer, the powers that be blame the obesity on junk food and no one would disagree that junk food can cause obesity but there are many people who do not eat junk food yet are obese, as no monitoring has ever been carried out on humans who eat GMO's it is impossible to prove that these are the cause, although when fed to animals numerous health problems arise. Why should people suddenly start having food allergies when they have not chanced their diets? Why should there be an increase in certain cancers? The only think that has really changed in the last two decades is the introduction of GM's into peoples diets.
If the day ever comes that these food stuffs are PROVED safe to eat I might reconsider my views, but as this is very unlikely to happen I think I'm, on a safe bet.

Things are moving at last in the garden, the main crop potatoes are up,  the broad beans  are in bloom, and the small transplanted cauliflowers and Brussels are doing fine. Peas and French beans are through in the tunnel, and the early potatoes have had their first earthing up.
 All of our seed is Organic including the potatoes, the same variety as we have grown for the last few years, as there are blight resistant potatoes available I wonder why the Irish Dept of Ag, decided to grow GM potatoes on their research site in Carlow although people protested against this once again the people were ignored.
On the 25th May there is to be a world wide protest against Monsanto, the one in Ireland will be held in Dublin, starting at the Peace Garden at 2 pm and ending at the Dept of Agriculture. I have posted a link .

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

1st day of summer. Happy Beltaine.

Today is the first day of summer according to the Celtic calendar, and the weather did not let us down.  We awoke to a bright warm sunny day and it has remained so, in fact the sun was hot.

The trees seemed to have come into leaf overnight, and the primroses and dandelions seem to be brighter. The grass is growing , everything is bright , clean and new life is around us everywhere.
 A horse in a nearby meadow had her fowl yesterday, it is a beautiful little thing, all legs and shy, we stopped to take a photo of it, it immediately went to mum for reassurance.

Matilda with three of her chicks.
Our live stock has multiplied with a total of twenty four new chicks in the last week, eighteen from the incubator, 100% success and six out of the remaining eight eggs from Matilda. We now have a break for a couple of weeks before anything else is due. 

At last some good news from the EU, they have imposed a moratorium of three years on the use of pesticides containing Neonicotinoids despite protests from the UK and Germany and the  agri chemical companies.
 However the UK still plans to plant more GM wheat come the Autumn despite the people saying NO. The peoples voice is clearly no longer heard or counted.
Eighteen balls of fluff.

We went to a neighbouring town today for a country market which is held every year on the 1st of May, we were hoping to get some fertile duck eggs for our other broody duck, but the people selling had no idea  what type of duck or even hens eggs they had, there was a lot of poultry for sale, mainly mixed breeds, and a lot of elderly cocks, most were in very poor condition even the chicks and ducklings, we left without buying anything and were very disappointed that apparently no effort had been made by the sellers to bring good stock with them.