Sunday, May 31, 2009

chickenypoo in the garden ooooh!

i woke this morning pondering this - i thought
it's time to clean out the coops but before i clean out coops i need to take the already composted poops and place them on the garden - this is the time of year when our gardens really need a boost - right before the long hot heat comes
then i got up and that's exactly what i did - well almost -
  • i first visited the gardens and trimmed up a good garden cart full of chard and greens and herby lovlies for the creatures - everybody was happy for the treats
  • i did not get all the coops cleaned out - two of the four are set and ready - two more for later
  • there was not quite enough already composted poops in the two piles to cover all gardens so i had to make choices
  • the tomatoe, cucumber, eggplant and bare soil areas got the high octane composted goodness
  • other bits of the garden got chopped up leaves - still good cover, munchies for worms and helps to keep the soil moist and cool on hot days
i may ask groovy neighbor for a borrowing favor - he's got a great chipper/shredder/chopper. it takes rough composty stuff and makes it fine and fluffy. the fine and fluffy is great for speeding up the composting process and great for keeping good stuffs from matting together in the active pile. i'll be seeing him later today - we'll see.

believe it or not - it's fall planting time here in texas - time to plant more maters, beans, summer and winter squash, eggplant, okra, corn, cucumbers, black eyed peas and lima beans. i've got my black eyed peas ready to go but may wait another week before setting them in.

so i put in
  • bush beans
  • pole beans
  • okra
  • malabar spinach
  • zuccini squash
  • basil three kinds
  • pineapple sage
  • bee balm
  • papaya
i put up another length of vine support for the beans and spinach to climb. i've run short of both vertical supports and trellis netting so i'll have to come up with some ingenious idea in order to finish the job.

the last morning task was to start building up my sponge layer (organic materials) in the dry/hard area of the yard. it is the spot where water collects when it rains. it is also the first spot to dry hard when it is dry - hard to cracking point hard - clay, gotta love it.

so far i've piled up a good 6" of
  • chopped leaves
  • partially composted organic goodies
  • pulled weeds
  • trimmed off branches
  • grass clippings
i had enough to get about half way around the area - i'll just keep adding stuffs to it as i clean up the yard and as materials become available either collected at home or picked up on the side of the road which helps to keep good organic bits out of the land fill. my goal is to go without the big truckload of compost this year. i think i can - i have so far and now would be the time but i think we are good.

less and less - while at home we do more and more on our own
that is the key
time to visit with some folk

Saturday, May 30, 2009

good morning sunshine

beautiful morning this saturday - up before the sunrise - cool-ish air fresh and clean - creatures cheery and bright and the day's song still those of nature and not of man.
soon the lawnmowers will fire up - cars and trucks will pass by - for now i spend my time with the creatures - curious cunning beings that they are.

generation three layers
in this photo from left to right - dodo, weemie, lala and lilly
my socialites - not so shy these days - and always ready for treats
just short of fourteen weeks old and looking quite lovely

these two red headed brown leghorns (dodo and lala) are quite the pair
reminding me here of fred and george weasley
any opportunity for fun and trouble here chickenmama?
weemie is the silver laced in the middle and you can see sisters frankie in background left and gerdie in background right - lilly is giving us a nice but shot on the lower right - thanks lilly

generation four have just hit six weeks
it's time i find them a place to roam in the sun by day
they'll be part of the original crazy coop extension
i've raked back the composted leaves and chicken manure. that's now living under a few happy fruit trees. now it's time for some lumber and sweat. getting close...

wabbit wabbit - still a shock of black with big wide eyes - a darling
he melts all hearts who visit

here he is wabbit wabbit beautifully backed by the early morning sunrise. he's got a new toy - this monkey's knot rope ball of which he thoroughly enjoys knocking about. i recently trimmed the apple trees a bit - their growth really took off. i saved a few sticks from the tree for wabbit wabbit's chewing pleasure - i sure hope he takes the offering. i have had to trim his teeth for him - of which he has proved an excellent sport - as he has not shown to be a big chewer on his own. fingers crossed he gets the urge.
chew baby chew!

oh this poor eggplant. proudly she stands. the leaves were attacked by spider mites of which i recently took to task with a spraying of neem. this lone fruit still hangs on and grows quite a bit day to day. all should be well once the plant has a chance to put on new - unfettered leaf growth.

this is the morning's picks all washed off
it's been a get to the ripe tomatoes before the mocking birds get to the ripe tomatoes week
they know a good looking mater when they see one
the cukes are doing well - they also suffered some spider mite damage but it does not seem to be slowing down production - i think if i keep an eye on the plants and continue the weekly neem sprayings, all will be well.

here the cardoon in flower
oh so beautiful

the flower heads of the cardoon are not edible in the same way that it's sister plant, artichoke flowers, are.
they are none the less lovely for it

toadies favorite pooling spot
basking in calm waters beneath the beauty of flowers
not so bad

Friday, May 29, 2009

careful w/that neem I got me some bees over here!

careful who? careful me? neem where? neem right here in my garden

yes for some odd reason i have been attacked by spider mites - eiiiikk auughhh oohhhhhhh - yes i can hear other gardeners saying nooooooO! not the spider mites. they suck! well in fact they do suck and yes they are in my garden - for the time being anyway - but i am on the attack and my weapon is organically regulated neem oil.

spider mites love hot humid weather and boy oh boy have we got plenty of that down here. the poopy part is that it's seems only to be me on the block that's got the mites. i talked to all my local neighbors and they are clean. you should have seen the look of horror on their faces though as i asked the question. let's go check they all said and we walked out to check the gardens. nope, i'm clean, i'm clean too, me too.
hummphff! oh well, keep your eyes out folk - consider this the warning.

neem works on fungus, mites and insects - pretty good deal. a good thing to remember when working with garden sprays is that more is not always better in fact more can often kill your plants as well as the bugs so read the directions and trust the directions. i got my trusty 2 gallon sprayer out and my trusty neem oil out. 2 tablespoons neem oil per gallon of water - cool - and mix - and keep mixing while spraying. when did i spray? answer - late night - with a headlamp of course - when else?

yeah yeah o.k. why late night? good question. i sprayed late night so as to avoid spraying and/or damaging any of the bee population. neem will kill bees if they come into contact with neem while it is being sprayed and/or when the foliage sprayed is still wet. like chickens, bees settle in for the night once the sun goes down so it's a safe time. spraying at night also means that the foliage will be long dry before morning and the plants once again safe for visting pollinators of the best kind.

i am going to have spray each week now to keep the mite population in control but already this morning the maters and the eggy planters are looking much better - spritely even. some folk spray every 7 or every 14 days. i am going to practice the 7 day cycle until i know the mites are gone baby gone gone gone.

from planet natural - neem
The Neem Tree: A Miracle Plant
By Dr. Tahir Mahmood, Grotek Manufacturing Inc.

Neem is a tropical evergreen tree native to the Indian sub-continent. This tree has a history of growing up to 50 ft. high and has been used for many different purposes for more than 4500 years. The earliest documentation revealed usage of various parts of Neem tree like fruit, leaves, seed oil, roots and bark for their benefits to animals and human beings due to its medicinal properties. Its leaves and extract are well documented as medicine for skin diseases and as the best available tonic for the skin and external subcutaneous tissues. It is popularly known in India as village Dispensary (Medical Clinic). In the first millennium BC it was considered to be the remedy for all sorts of diseases in living beings. As scientists searched in dangerous rainforests and inaccessible areas of the world looking for useful plants, this tree was growing in front yards of houses and colleges, in every town, city and village of south Asia and Africa. It was just the familiarity that left this plants' miracles/importance hidden until a few scientists took a closer look at this ancient tree. After some observation, they found it extremely important in day to day life for curing all types of illnesses in humans and animals. Since then, Neem tree came to the attention of researchers around the world in order to explore its properties and usage in different areas of interest.

Importance of Neem Tree
Out of all the plants that have proved useful for humanity, a few are distinguished by their astonishing versatility. Among these, Neem tree (commonly known as Azadirachta Indica) is one of the most important ones found in arid regions of world. From its roots to its spreading crown, the tree contains a plethora of important compounds useful for animals, people and plants. Neem tree's virtues are, to a large extent, attributable to its chemical constituents.

Different parts of Neem tree and its oil extracted out of seed is being used in different parts of the world for different purposes. Two decades of research has revealed promising results in many disciplines like medicines, cosmetics and agriculture etc. This obscure species may be on the cusp of bringing enormous benefits to countries both poor and rich. Even some of the most cautious researchers are saying that Neem deserves to be called a wonder plant. These days many types of products are being consumed in daily life around the world made out of Neem and it's by-products. I will discuss briefly the usage and importance of Neem tree in some of the disciplines in the following paragraphs.

Herbal medicines are used for treatment of different types of diseases in all parts of world. Neem tree is an important part of these herbal medicines and is mentioned in many ancient texts dealing with medicines. Traditional Indian medical authorities place it at the pinnacle of their pharma copeia. Due to extraordinary properties of Neem, its bark, leaves, flowers, seed and fruit pulp were and are now used to treat a wide range of diseases and complaints ranging from leprosy, diabetes, ulcers to skin disorders and constipation etc. Scientists from the developed world are working extensively in exploring Neem tree and its properties to formulate new antibiotics.

Different parts of Neem tree are being used extensively in manufacturing of soaps, skin creams/lotions, shampoos, toothpastes, beauty aids and toiletries. The Neem twigs are more commonly being used as antiseptic tooth brushes. In most cases Neem oil/extract is being used for making these cosmetics like soaps and tooth pastes etc.

It is in agriculture where most of the scientists focused their research for exploring the benefits of Neem for crop production. Because of those findings, Neem oil, Neem cake, leaves and other parts of Neem tree are being used quite extensively in the agriculture sector in different parts of world. Its main uses in the agriculture sector include being an insecticide in food storage, as soil amendment, fertilizer efficiency enhancer, and very effective foliar pesticide.

Food Storage
In all areas of tropics, much of the harvested food is lost during storage because of worms, beetles and other infestations. People do not prefer to use chemicals insecticides on stored grains in general and more specifically for food stored for their own consumption. For centuries, Neem oil has provided farmers with an effective remedy against such insects. A very light coating of Neem oil protects stored food crops for up to 20 months from all types of infestations with no deterioration or loss of palatability. Neem fresh leaves are also used on small scale for storage of food grain at home quite effectively, but this is being done on a small scale.

Soil Amendment
Neem cake (after the oil is extracted from the seed kernels, the left over material is called cake) has been used for many centuries throughout Indian sub continent as an effective soil amendment. Farmers of this region have learned through experience that using Neem cake in soil produces larger and healthier plants that have few or no insect/disease problem. Several studies were also conducted by different scientists to find out why plants grew better in soil mixed with Neem cake. Their results revealed that Neem cake is richer in plant available nutrients than manures; it killed damaging nematodes, promoted large population of earth worms, helped keep nitrogen in the soil available for plants and provide significant protection from insects. Farmers of that region have a clear idea that by killing nematodes in soil, a major plant pest is eliminated from soil. Nematodes are very harmful for plants. Nematodes suck juice from roots of plants to the point where they are unable to supply sufficient nutrients to the plant. Then the plants look unhealthy, fail to grow and may eventually die despite sufficient food, water and care.

Use of Neem cake in soil also helps keep soil loose by promoting earthworm activities in soil, which helps in absorption of nutrients and water by plants more easily and efficiently. Neem cake allows plants to develop a strong defense system against these pest attacks by initially protecting plants from insect/pest. Secondly, Neem compounds absorbed through soil enhance these natural defense systems with proven nutritive, antifungal and insect repellent properties of Neem.

Pesticide (Insecticide and Fungicide)
Although Neem extract/oil has been under use for centuries for control of insects, the major work on Neem oil and its impact on insects started in 1959. A German Entomologist observed that during a plague of locust in Sudan, the only greenery left untouched despite the devastation by billions of winged locusts was the Indian Neem tree. He noticed that although the locust had landed on the tree and its leaves, they did not feed. The anti-feedant properties of Neem tree, which was well known in India, was the reason. This attracted the attention of the developed world which triggered research on such a powerful tree.

The natural properties of Neem oils pose no danger of toxic reactions in the environment. The seeds and leaves are now the source of a class of pesticide named soft pesticides (Non Toxic and Natural). The main mode of action of Neem oil is anti-feedant. Insects pests usually refuse to eat any plant covered with Neem oil. Its other derivatives include insect repellent and a reducer of an insect ability to reproduce. Its active ingredient, Azadirachtin, is similar to insect hormone (Ecdysones) which have naturally insect growth regulators which then interfere with the molting (shedding and regeneration of outer body layer) and metamorphosis (a process of insect birth). It is natural safe and biodegradable product which is extensively used in various parts of world as insecticide.

Millions of pounds of synthetic insecticides are being used on residential gardens and lawns and crops every year through out the world. Usually they are quick in action and kill any insect on contact, including the beneficial insects. Although these synthetic insecticides are being used specifically for insects, they can harm any living being who lives or pass through that area where spray is being used for insect killing. Almost all manufacturers of the insecticides have a caution of do not step on grass for at least three days after spray and keep pets, children away from that area. On the other hand, Neem oil is non-toxic to animals and people. Areas sprayed with Neem oil are not poisonous areas to be avoided for days. Only insects that are harmful for plant growth are affected by Neem oil, leaving honey bees and other beneficial insects unharmed. In fact, with the spray of Neem oil the average number and size of earth worms increase in sprayed area compared to unsprayed areas. There is growing awareness among people to use safe and natural products that can serve the purpose without effecting the environment.

Neem oil can also provide protection against fungal diseases. Spray of Neem oil (it has been observed with several experiments) on plants prevent the outbreak of Powdry Mildew disease quite effectively and in some cases better than any commercial product. Its use can also stop the production of Aflatoxin (a very toxic Carcinogenic substance in food grains) by inhibiting the activity of mold to produce this substance. It is considered most effective as a fungi preventive and as a cure after the disease is established on plants.

The plant kingdom is a vast storehouse of biologically active chemicals for pest control. Insects are less likely to develop resistance to this botanical control as their activity is multifaceted. Plant based insecticides are safer to non-target organisms. Neem oil is effective in controlling more than 200 species of insects pests reported by various researchers around the world and no other plant or synthetic substance has such a diverse action on insects. Scientists after studying more than 200 plants exhibiting insecticidal properties reach the consensus that Neem is the most effective and environmental friendly cure for the insects and diseases. At the same time no other tree has received as much attention as Neem in recent past. Its popularity is increasing day by day all over the world where people love to have alternatives to chemical/toxic pesticides. Many scientific institutions and agro industries are trying to make more effective pesticides formulation based on Neem. Use Neem Oil type soft pesticides that can not only serve the purpose but also does not pose any threat to the environment.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

and done

this just in - happy dance time!


There has been a lot flying around the ether. Hopefully this will help everyone understand where we are with this thing. First, thanks to all who have called in with your concerns. Your voice is being heard. Legislative offices all over Austin are inundated with calls about this bill from all over the country and all industries.

Since finding out about this yesterday we have been working very hard to get to the problem and the solution. We have several members of our Board of Trustees who have political connections. They have contacted the sponsors of the bill and have spoken directly with the legislators themselves (not staffers). The Bill’s sponsors never intended to have the performing arts impacted by this legislation. This was, as someone said earlier today, intended to be a consumer protection bill, which is needed in an area with a high possibility of natural disasters (tornados, hurricanes). The bill’s sponsors were also upset with the amendment language added yesterday in the senate. While the bill is in conference they are going to try to protect the performing arts, churches etc. Barring that, State Senator Bob Deuell (the bills senate sponsor) sent us an email this afternoon saying:

“Now I am 100% positive the lighting design industry is safe. The Governor's office called this morning and said Governor Perry will veto the entire bill if that language remains in HB 2649. Consider it done. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this language will be removed from this bill.”

Sen. Deuell’s office as well as other offices in Austin have been inundated with calls about this. As I have said, it was never their intent to impact our industry. We will keep you all updated but we are feeling that the crisis has past. We have already started planning on meeting with legislators after the current session has concluded to make sure they understand our needs and keep them in mind while formulating the next piece of legislation.

Again, thanks to all who have called in. Hopefully by this time tomorrow this will be one more bizarre incident in the history of Texas State politics ( which is storied indeed). Hope this helps.

12:30pm success with hb2649

success! the language in hb2649 in regard to "lighting designer" is going to be changed per request from the governer's office. thanks to all folks who made efforts toward the cause. i substantiated this claim myself by calling robert deuell's office.

i have substantiated this with the Deuell and Smith Office. William Callegari's office states that they are in conversation now about the bill's "lighting design" language. I am waiting a return phone call from the Averitt office.

it's not on paper yet but all reports are looking positive.

10:15 am update hb2649

The senate substitute house bill 2649 was rejected in its form at 12.55 am and has gone to committee.
We must act know by calling and going down to the capital they worked late and there wanting to go home!

This committee consists of
  • Wayne Smith Ph.512 4263 0733 office ext.E2.214
  • Robert Deuell Ph. 512463-0102 office ext.E1.706 his chief of staff is Don Forse
  • William Callegari Ph.463-0528 office is ext. E2.806
  • Kip Averitt .Ph. 512-463 0122

meanwhile back @ the homestead

meanwhile back @ the homestead
hippychick carves out time to
  • feed the bees
  • increase the size of the entrance for the bee hives
  • water all the creatures all the time - more heatie heatie more drinkie drinkie
  • pick maters, cukes
  • eat maters, cukes
  • plant more bush beans and pole beans
  • water the garden - similar heatie drinkie effect as with the creatures
  • collect eggs - now six a day - weeee!
  • post a fresh eggs sign on the picket fence - no takers yet then again i have not been home to know better - i have been out fighting house bill 2649 - see below posts for info on that
  • eat chocolate - not exactly home grown but super yummy
  • chat with the creatures in the early morn

activisim tires a girl out - updates for hb2649

uuuuphfff! exhausting day - rallying troops - running both my computer and phone battery dry several times over - making calls and emails in regard to house bill 2649.

i'm checking in with a few folk now to see if today will be another like yesterday. let's hope not. let's hope the voices who all gave their time and efforts to the cause were heard.

if not...
i'll be out there - no question

hb2649 does not appear on calendar for today folks - head scratching -

the history of a bill - it looks as if there were some adjustments made to the bill early today - i'm curious to see the result. follow this web link to see the bill at texas legislature on line. it will be updated throughout the day. click through the various tabs on the page for detailed information.

Bill: HB 2649
Legislative Session: 81(R) Council Document: 81R 10793 BEF-D
Add to Bill List | Add to Alert List
Last Action:05/28/2009 H Senate Amendments printed and distributed

Caption Version:Senate Committee Report
Caption Text:Relating to the regulation and practice of engineering and lighting design.

Author:Smith, Wayne | Callegari


Subjects:Occupational Regulation--Other Trades & Professions (I0541)

Companion:SB 2414 by Deuell, Identical

House Committee:Licensing & Administrative Procedures
Status:Out of committee
Vote:Ayes=6 Nays=0 Present Not Voting=1 Absent=2

Senate Committee:Business & Commerce
Status:Out of committee
Vote:Ayes=7 Nays=0 Present Not Voting=0 Absent=2

Actions: (descending date order)
Viewing Votes: Most Recent House Vote | Most Recent Senate Vote
Description Comment Date Time Journal Page
H Senate Amendments printed and distributed
05/28/2009 01:09 AM
H Senate Amendments Analysis distributed
05/28/2009 12:55 AM
H Senate passage as amended reported

S Record vote

S Passed

S Read 3rd time

S Record vote

S Three day rule suspended

S Vote recorded in Journal

S Read 2nd time & passed to 3rd reading

S Laid before the Senate

S Placed on local & uncontested calendar

S Committee report printed and distributed
05/23/2009 04:03 PM
S Recommended for local & uncontested calendar

S Reported favorably as substituted
S Considered in public hearing

S Left pending in committee

S Considered in public hearing

S Scheduled for public hearing on . . .

S Posting rule suspended
S Considered in public hearing

S Scheduled for public hearing on . . .

S Referred to Business & Commerce
S Read first time
S Received from the House
H Reported engrossed
05/07/2009 09:59 PM 3041
H Statement(s) of vote recorded in Journal
H Record vote RV#647 05/07/2009
H Passed
H Read 3rd time
H Passed to engrossment as amended
H Amendment withdrawn 3-Callegari 05/06/2009
H Amended 2-Callegari 05/06/2009
H Amended 1-W. Smith 05/06/2009
H Read 2nd time
H Placed on General State Calendar

H Considered in Calendars

H Committee report sent to Calendars

H Committee report printed and distributed
04/21/2009 06:42 PM
H Comte report filed with Committee Coordinator
H Reported favorably as substituted

H Committee substitute considered in committee

H Considered in public hearing

H Left pending in committee

H Testimony taken/registration(s) recorded in committee

H Committee substitute considered in committee

H Considered in public hearing

H Scheduled for public hearing on . . .

H Referred to Licensing & Administrative Procedures
H Read first time
H Filed