By LYNNE IRONS
I have no business writing a garden column. I should be doing a political blog, as if I knew how to blog. I can barely Google in a pinch.
There. I have set the stage.
Cargill and Tyson, the two biggest meat producers in the country, are lobbying for the National Animal Identification System act to be passed by Congress. This system is to get every animal owner to identify and register their livestock. Supposedly it is to keep us safe in the event of some national Homeland Security risk like bird flu. The legislation would compel animal owners to register their premises and personal information into a federal database, to buy a microchip for every animal, to log every event in the animal’s life, to pay fees for this so-called privilege and to pay up to $1,000 a day in fines for non-compliance.
This is not targeting the big meat producers but rather the thousands of small farmers and even you and me with our tiny flocks of chickens.
The big companies have three reasons to love this proposed system. First, they already are completely computerized and they would only need to register a batch of, say, meat birds rather than every individual. Second, they would be happy to see the small competitors with yet another reason to go out of business. Finally, it looks to the rest of the world like Japan, Europe and other export customers that we are cleaning up our meat industry when, in fact, the health claims of the proposed system are a sham because it does nothing to stop the spread of salmonella, e. coli, listeria and mad cow.
This is like the Biblical story of David and Bathsheba. King David, who had it all, wanted Bathsheba, wife of a poor soldier. He put the husband on the front lines and then was able to take the newly widowed Bathsheba for a wife.
So many big companies have this mindset. They do not want the little guy to succeed. Somehow our government (of the people, by the people and for the people) has changed tactics to support Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Business and Big Pharma. I wonder why we continue to take it? Why aren’t we rioting in the streets?
As far as having a few farm animals around the place, what better way to ensure a fertile garden? I put my pitchfork into a pile of rabbit manure and unearthed hundreds of earthworms on the job.
I would like to microchip, post mortem, the deer around my place. They have been absolutely relentless the last month or so. Granted this is the driest summer since 1883, according to a recent edition of the Boston Globe and they have run out of forage in the extremely dry woods. I can barely keep up with spraying deer repellent. I skipped a section of hosta literally at my front door the other evening and, don’t you know, the plants were all but destroyed by morning. I should have invited them in.
I know some of the farmers in the Midwest have changed the way they now deal with marauding deer in the corn fields. They have found it cheaper to feed the deer. Feeding stations are set up on the edges of the fields. If I do that, will they invite all their up-Island friends and relatives over to my house?
Speaking of up-Island, I went into Spring Point the other day. They use a gray-blue colored gravel on the dirt road. Because it has been so dry, the stone dust is about twenty feet up into the poison ivy, trees and bittersweet along the road. It is completely surreal and other-worldly to be traveling along a gray corridor into the forest.
Rose Treat phoned about the flower bed in her front yard. Her gardener had used chicken manure to beef it up in the spring and now she has great volunteer tomato plants. I have found that my “hitchhikers,” as I call them, actually do better than the ones I fuss over. There is one variety, in particular, Matt’s Wild Cherry, that reseeds like crazy and is simply delicious.
There is a brand-new sign at the Tashmoo Overlook which reads, “Preservation Works! Town of Tisbury! The Tashmoo Spring Building!” This property, which is listed in the state register of historic places, has received an emergency grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Isn’t it too bad that we cannot seem to do anything to preserve the historic view of Lake Tashmoo? It won’t be long before the willow trees at the water’s edge are so big, people will no longer know there is water to be seen from the “Overlook.”