Gene Logsdon Blog – The Contrary Farmer

Gene Logsdon: The Economy of Eden

 

From Gene Logsdon
The Contrary Farmer
Sun Magazine, January 1996

[Rummaging around in some boxes in the garage I came across this quintessential essay by Gene Logsdon I had copied from The Sun magazine, more than 10 years before we started working together on his blog. -ds]

“I have learned how to grow healthy crops,,” wrote Sir Albert Howard in his 1940 book An Agricultural Testament, “without the slightest help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists, agricultural chemists, statisticians, spraying machines, insecticides, germicides, and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern experiment station.”

If Howard had gone on to write what he took for granted everyone understood — that he had also learned how to grow healthy crops without any help from politicians, economists, churchmen, government subsidies, oil companies, and charitable foundations — he would have written the perfect farmers’ Declarations of Independence for the twenty-first century. For, in truth, not one of these experts is necessary to the production of food. We know how to grow healthy crops from the experience of intelligent gardeners and farmers of today and centuries past. Experience is the best science. There is no big mystery to it. We also know how to craft houses and furniture and clothes and musical insstruments and machines and all the necessary accouterments of civilization without any help from the above-mentioned bureaucratic parasites on the body politic. Howard knew. He was trying to work through the British bureaucracy in India to help that country’s small farmers attain a sustainable, self-reliant, independent system of food production  — Gandhi’s dream. But he soon realized that ‘help’ from the bureaucracy was not needed.

Nor is it today. In America, governmental “help” has only separated us from the necessary knowledge of survival. Abraham Lincoln naively believed people needed a bureaucracy to help them grow food, so he created the Department of Agriculture. Now that we have a Department of Agriculture staffed by thousands of experts, we have two generations of citizens who cannot find a potato in a garden, and who, as Richard Nixon candidly admitted of himself, do not know what a soybean looks like.

The knowledge granted us by our current coterie of university magicians is vastly overrated. The man who built my house never went to college — never read a book, to my knowledge — but you will look long and hard before you’ll find a house as well built for the money. With all our vaunted expertise, we are not even sure how the pyramids were built. Only a tiny number of archaeologists have ever studied the wondrously sophisticated garden farms of the ancient world, which endured for centuries in Mexico, Cambodia, Africa, and Babylon, without even a whisper from our land-grant colleges of agriculture.

I am not a revolutionary; I utter only a plain truth. My wife and I produce most of our food, and some for our children’s families, using knowledge we gained from our parents, and they from their parents, and they from their parents. Not one of our forebears ever cracked an agronomic textbook or knew the Latin name of a single plant. My father and mother, grandfathers and grandmothers, and father-in-law and mother-in-law all held agricultural-extension advisors in disdain. Tradition, supplemented by our own experience and that of other gardeners and farmers, is the key to our food-growing success. Thousands of expert gardeners and farmers are waiting to pass this knowledge on to anyone who wants it. To this day, after forty years of avidlly searching the realms of “modern” agricultural science for information, I have found extremely little new knowledge that helps us to better produce food. The keys to agricultural success, apart from common sense, were articulated by Virgil, and he got them from the Greeks, who in turn got them from the Orient, where for forty centuries China supported a population far denser than ours today, with gardens.

Gardening as it is popular today — that is, as a mere pastime or hobby — is an effete offspring of wealth. The ultimate example of this is Marie Antoinette’s herding a few sheep on her castle lawn, or Louis XIV’s growing orange trees in his Versailles greenhouses while the people of France starved. There are 40 million gardeners in America only because we are the wealthiest nation in the world; half of these gardeners are interested only in flowers and landscaping as an expression of their monied leisure. They are the people who make laws forbidding vegetable plots in suburban front yards.

Effete horticulture is worlds apart from the gardening of Russian peasants, who kept their country from collapse during fifty years of state-run agriculture, and of the working people and aborigines of three-fourths of the world, who practice small-scale horticulture and husbandry to stay alive comfortably. It is high time that we begin to make this distinction between gardeners and garden farmers in America. Garden farmers are not horticultural dabblers but practitioners of an economically sound food-production system that has many advantages over the current agribusiness economy.

Having keenly followed the world of modern agribusiness for fifty years and having been personally involved in it at least part of that time, I am convinced that the present rush to industrialized farms and animal factories of almost unimaginable size cannot sustain itself, and that forced downsizing will occur, as it has in other bloated businesses. It seems entirely possible, based on history and on shifts already in motion, that the food garden and orchard, broadly defined to include small-scale husbandry and forestry, are capable of taking up the slack and staving off a food crisis if or when the present system falters.

But a declaration of food independence such as I suggest would depend upon a deeper and more profound declaration of interdependence. A nation primarily of garden farms (some large industrial farms would and should continue to operate) would mean a realignment of people into smaller and more local trade complexes based upon personal contact between consumer and producer, and upon biological technology rather than machine technology — a new economy, in other words: the economy of Eden. Then we would understand that people matter, and not only people but all living things upon which people depend. Common interest and self-interest would become one, and that is the definition of a real community.

I may appear to suggest a future that is far more idyllic than we are capable of creating. But I coddle no utopian dream when I envision a nation studded with millions of tiny garden farms and small shop factories — where countryside and city are almost indistinguishable. As an economy, this type of “unglobal” village has stood the test of time not only in China, as mentioned, but in Japan, which, on the basis of an average farm size of under ten acres, has become one of the world’s most financially powerful countries. Asia’s economy is supported by one of the largesst numbers of small shopkeepers per capita in the world.

In America, we are groping in that direction now. Many of those millions of gardeners and an unknown number (about 5 million would be my guess) of garden farmers — some so small they are not counted by the USDA census — are out there working unwittingly toward a new economic paradigm. Architects and builders are desperately trying to design new housing developments to look like, and be like, the rural villages that once supported strong, decentralized trade complexes. In manufacturing, large factories are having an increaskingly difficult time staying efficient. More and more, the auto industry is “farming out” the manufacturing of parts to independently owned satellite factories (often in villages) because these smalleer factories are more efficient. People without land are contracting with small, community-supported farms to buy — and sometimes to help grow and harvest  — their seasonal supplly of fresh fruits and vegetables. The mail-order produce business, which allows farms to remain decentralized, continues to flourish.
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I came to my strange notion of garden farming as an economic, if not political, movement not from any of these observaions, however — or even from reading the Wall Street Journal and the Economist, which are full of stories about the treand toward decentralization — but from attending classes in my chicken coop for fifty years. My little red hens understand the meaning of economics far better than humans. For example, they get up at the crack of dawn and roost at twilight so as not to waste electricity on lighting — although utility companies managed to convince several generations of farmers that keeping lights on in the henhouse all night would mean significantly more profit. All it meant was significantly more profit for the utilities. The hens knew. They didn’t ask for lights. They wanted a full night’s sleep so they could live longer and healthier. In thirty years without night lights, I have had exactly one sick hen and have produced just about as many eggs per hen as the experts claim for lighted coops — actually more, because my hens enjoy two or three more years of productive life than public-utility hens.

Yes, the hen is a model of economy. She eats bugs and worms and weeds and grass and table scraps and half-digested grain from cow manure. There is hardly anything she won’t eat, in fact, except citrus. She will keep the barn free of spilled grain that otherwise would draw mice She will even eat mice if she can corner one. She will eat pests in the garden. Three hens can make their entire living off a medium-sized yard plus table and garden scraps and maybe a handful of corn every day. All they need is water, and they can get some of that from dew, rain puddles, and snow. They are much easier to care for than a dog and don’t bark all night. In return, a trio will provide a human family with an adequate annual supply of eggs.

The hen’s chief form of entertainment is singing, and, while she’s no Streisand, her music is so redolent with contentment as to supply more consolation than a hundred-dollar-an-hour psychiatrist. She likes to take dust baths to protect herself from lice, and will make a suitable tub wherever she can find some dry dirt in which to wallow. She goes to her coop dutifully as dark approaches, without any help from her human caretaker other than closing the door so foxes, raccoons, and coyotes don’t get her. (She will even roost in a tree if allowed to.)

In her coop, the hen is a recycler without peer, making better compost of her manure and bedding than a hundred-thousand-dollar compost turner. By scratching furiously in the beddiing under her roost, she mixes her droppings over and over again until the manure and the bedding become an earthy, granulated, dry odorless compost that you can handle with your bare hands. Chicken-manure compost is so rich that it will increase the yields in your garden and thereby decrrease the size of the plot you need to grow the hen’s corn. Is her scratching just a nervous habit? Not a chance. With knowledge no dietician taught her, she scratches through the bedding to consume tiny specks of litter that provide her with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin K. If you feed her eggshells back to her, she also gets the extra calcium needed to keep her future eggshells strong. When, at three to five years of age, she ceases to lay enough eggs, she makes her final contribution to the economy: heavenly coq au vin such as you can find only in famous French restaurants like Parker’s in Cleveland, Ohio. (Parker will supply you with his recipe if you ask.)

Now bear with me as I make a significant point (after all, it took me fifty years to understand this): A three-chicken garden farm requires very little work and makes no negative demands on the environment, yet adds to the ecological health of us all. Assume three chickens are kept by each of 100 million people in the U.S., about two-fifths of our population. Add to that number another 10 million thirty-chicken farms (like mine) callling for two- to five-acre homesteads. Then add to that 3 million hundred-chicken farms, operated just like the smaller ones, on ten- to twenty-acre homesteads. You can still substitute labor for capital for a hundred hens — even if you raise all the grain for them yourself (about an acre’s worth) — without any punishing physical work and with minuscule out-of-pocket costs. Unlike big agribusiness, you are not lashed to the world of finance: no payroll to meet; no interest on investment to pay; no stockbrokers to please; and no fear of what the Chicago Board of Trade or the farm-policy politicians will do tomorrow.

I believe my figures add up to 900 million chickens, or approximately 225 billion eggs a year — at a conservative estimate of 250 per hen annually — and an awful lot of coq au vin and chicken soup. Actually, half of those hens could be butchered young and provide every man, woman, and child in the country with nearly two chickens apiece, and there would still be more than enough eggs to go around. Less than half the population — 113 million — would be involved in production. Many people aren’t able to raise even three chickens for various reasons, and many, I’m sure, could not be persuaded that doing so can be a pleasant, interesting experience. They are the ones to whom the other half sells surplus eggs. Most eggs would reach the consumer never having seen the inside of a truck.

The value of this garden economy becomes clear when you compare it with the animal-factory economy we currently have. About ten miles south of where I live, an international company born in Germany is building a complex of egg factories, each of which will house 2.5 million hens, with four or five such factories planned within about a twenty-mile radius. Counting pullets for reproduction, a total of about 14 million chickens will be needed. Each 2.5 million-hen factory will require forty thousand bushels of corn and 420 tons of soybean meal a week. For 14 million hens, that’s nearly 12 million bushels of corn per year, more than the 8.5 million-bushel annual output of my entire county. Fourteen million hens produce about eighty-four thousand tons of manure a year — as much as 2 million people do. Approximately seven hundred chickens per 2.5 million will die each day from “natural” causes, according to the historical averages of operating such facilities. (The Humane Society reports that 9.4 million factory fowl died unnaturally in the heat wave of 1995. And one of the egg factories this company’s owner operates in Germany lost some sixty thousand hens to salmonella last year.)

All the grain for these hens must be hauled in and waste hauled out at an enormous cost in fuel, and truck and road maintenance. Odor pollution, judging from other large henhouses, would be considerable. If manure is handled properly, there should not be any great risk of water pollution, but past experience with animal factories indicates that is a very big if. Even when regulations are followed, eventually the manure must be hauled farther and farther away, to the point where the practice becomes unprofitable.

A 2.5 million-hen factory uses 180,000 gallons of water a day, plus three thousand gallons a day for egg washing (the latter necessitating a waste-water lagoon, another potential pollution problem). All that water will come from wells, so neighbors fear that their private wells will run dry. More than that, they fear that their property values will decline because of oder pollution. Worst of all, perhaps, is the strife in the community between those who think they will profit from the huge operation and those who think they will be financially and environmentally harmed. This conflict has unleashed a hatred that I fear will never go away.

The payoff? Large commercial egg producers currently clear about a nickel a dozen. My cost is hardly five cents a dozen. In fact, my operation might actually save me money because, if I weren’t garden farming, I would probably be out spending it on travel.

It doesn’t take a genius to begin to see that a garden economy might not be as preposterous as it first sounds.
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I’m a great believer in the pessimistic observation that humans collectively won’t do the right thing unless the right thing also happens to be more pleasurable than the wrong thing, or unless they have no other choice. I do not believe that a significant number of Americans are suddenlly going to roll up their sleeves and start garden farms. But eventually we are going to have to learn to produce food on a small scale, because the alternative is obviously not sustainable. Once the change is forced upon us, people will realize that this new economy isn’t so bad after all. As millions of gardeners will tell you,   horticulture and husbandry on a small scale are quite a bit more enjoyable and interesting than sitting in front of a computer screen for twelve hours a day, or standing on an assembly line for sixty hours a week, or circling O’Hare in an airplane for what seems like half your lifetime, all the while waiting for downsizing to take away your job. All the new economy will require is that you develop a higher regard for manual arts and replace twenty hours per week of your TV-watching time with working in a garden or shop. Those who have made that change already know their lives are better for it.


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Gene Logsdon’s Lovable Fable, The Man Who Created Paradise, Just Out in Paperback…

 

The Man Who Created Paradise was originally published in a hardcover-only edition back in 2001. Ohio University Press continued to field requests when the book was no longer available, but it was a difficult reprint thanks to the square format and the halftone photos. At long last, we’re proud to bring Gene’s inspirational fable back into circulation in an attractive paperback edition.

The Man Who Created Paradise: A Fable, is a short, inspirational book, 72 pages, that tells the story of a landscape despoiled by strip mining. In the book, the narrator drives from Cincinnati to “Old Salem,” Ohio, to meet a correspondent. Along the way he is depressed by the scenery and its industrial heritage. But he ends up meeting a man who has begun reclaiming the land with just a personal mission and a single tractor. The encounter is a tonic to the narrator—he sees the land turned back to fertility and attractiveness, and realizes the man (Wally Spero) is on to something. Many years later, he revisits and finds that the little gem of green Spero created has spread, and now there’s a community of like-minded farmers and craftspeople who have created a vibrant, sustainable local economy.

Available from your local independent bookstores here.
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Gene’s blog posts on this website here.
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What Kind of Tree Do Acorns Grow On?

 

From Our Archives – October 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

A teacher friend called recently with a strange message. “I just found out that a lot of people don’t know what tree acorns grow on.”

He (I will call him John because that’s his name) first became aware of this strange phenomenon after another teacher asked him the question. The other teacher didn’t know. John got to wondering. So he asked one of his high school classes to raise hands if they knew where acorns came from. About two thirds did, so John, long experienced with high school students, asked one of them for the whereabouts of acorns. The student, embarrassed, said he didn’t really know. John addressed the class again: “Perhaps you didn’t understand the question,” and then he repeated it. This time, with the threat of being asked hanging over them, only a handful of the students raised their hands.

Perhaps this class was an exception, John thought. He had the opportunity a little later to ask the question of a larger group— about 250 people. Only a handful knew the answer. Asked John of me: “Are we supposed to believe that people are getting a good education?”

The truth is, many of us, perhaps most of us, are illiterate about the world of nature. Our attention in life is focused elsewhere. Perhaps the way to resolve this kind of ignorance is to make up computer games based on natural history. But electronic games might not be the remedy for this kind of illiteracy. The problem is that the knowledge achieved would be almost entirely virtual. You could have a game based on identifying bird species— call it “Guess The Bird” — but the knowledge gained would be like that of many birdwatchers. They can name the bird they see, or even hear, but they don’t know the least little bit about how that bird fits into the ecosystem, which is the most important part of learning about them. For instance, which birds depend on acorns for an important part of their food supply?

There is nothing wrong with not knowing something that ought to be common knowledge. It is only wrong when people don’t know that they don’t know. Everyone today likes to spout off about how we should manage nature but very few of us know enough about the issues (like population carrying capacity, like climate change) to discuss them intelligently. Not knowing where acorns come from is symptomatic of something very perplexing. A culture which is that ignorant is going to be unaware of a great many more facts about nature and that could lead to environmental suicide. A culture that doesn’t know where acorns come from obviously doesn’t know much about trees at all, and so will go heedlessly on destroying forests until it destroys the ecosystems of about half the earth. If you don’t know where acorns come from, you won’t know that acorn flour was once a staple food of native Americans, especially in California, and could be a staple food again. If you don’t know where acorns come from, do you know where oil and coal come from? Do you know where a healthy environment comes from? Do you know, for instance, that a mature shade tree gives off 60 cu. ft. of pure oxygen every day? Do you know where most of the building material for houses comes from? Where good furniture and tool handles come from? Where most fruit and edible nuts come from? Where rubber comes from? Where coconut, varnishes, nutmeg and turpentine come from? Where millions of acres of fertile land came from? Where hundreds of species of wild animals come from, some of which were probably our evolutionary ancestors? Where the life-saving fuel for many millions of people comes from?

Will a society that doesn’t know where acorns come from really know where humans come from?
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GENE LOGSDON: Easy Way To Start A Grove Of Trees (with Black Walnut Jam Cake Recipe)

 

Public Domain

From Our Archives – December 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

I spent an hour in late November planting two acres of bottom land to trees. If that sounds like a prodigious task to accomplish in such a short time, not to worry. All I had to do was walk back and forth across the plot, dropping black walnuts on the ground in rows about 25 feet apart. I dropped one about every two feet— too thick really but to take into account the possibility that some won’t germinate and that squirrels might eat a few. I had gathered the nuts, still in their husks, from under a mature tree along our creek. When finished, I drove my tractor’s tires over the walnuts to squish them into the soft ground a little so that they would have good contact with the soil. That was all the planting necessary. Next spring, the walnuts will swell and crack open and a root sprout will burrow into the soil so quickly you can almost see it in motion. I admire people who are busting their guts and their backs transplanting thousands of little seedling trees to renew woodland, backyard plantings or urban forests, but it is so much easier to just plant the seeds, and invariably they will surpass the transplants in growth.

In nature, all seeds, including weed seeds, grass seed, etc. fall on the surface of the earth in winter and sprout when weather conditions are right. In the grove of trees our house sits, thousands of maple seedlings that have fallen on the forest floor come up every spring without any help from anybody. Along our creek, black walnut and ash seedlings sprout and grow like weeds from a few old mother trees, also without any help. All oaks, hickories and just about any tree will do the same in their proper climate. Squirrels do bury acorns and nuts, but trees don’t need squirrels to increase and multiply.

In a natural situation, where seed-producing trees are present, seedlings grow thick enough that they will self-prune and prune each other into a stand of nice, clear trunks. Without human labor, they shade out smaller seedlings, their own and each other’s lower limbs and eventually competing weeds and bushes. All that pruning advice that forestry handbooks wax so earnestly about will only gain you about three years, hardly worth the labor for trees that need 50 years to grow to marketable maturity.

GENE LOGSDON: The Lovely, Life-Saving Virtue of Laziness

 

From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

Surprise, surprise. The work ethic, before which our culture bows down in adoration, can result in failure perhaps as often as it does success. I came to that conclusion after many years of trying to follow an ecologically-sustainable lifestyle out on the ramparts of society, and after reading hundreds of letters from others trying to do the same.

Real success in this endeavor (if not all endeavors) comes more often from a healthy dose of shrewd, laid-back laziness. We Americans are just too ambitious for our own good and in an effort to gain success (tranquility being the best measure of a successful life) we carry the habits of the commercial workplace into our private lives and over-extend ourselves with activities that are really unnecessary and even harmful. The only cure for it, at least in my case, was getting older and running out of all that eager energy I once possessed. Nowadays, my first order of business in all homestead endeavors is: “Do nothing you can put off until tomorrow. It might not need to be done at all.” In other words, there are times when “work ethic” is an oxymoron.

Gene Logsdon’s New Book Is Out: Letter to a Young Farmer

 

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Gene Logsdon 1931 – 2016

 

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From Filmers to Farmers

Yes, I’ve read the headlines, and once again – although perhaps a bit more so than previous iterations – the previous year (2016) was one for fawning over many-a-departed pop stars. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and many others. Pop stars aren’t really my thing, but if that stuff floats your dinghy, well, all the best with that. In the meantime, 2016 was also the year that several luminaries with a more agrarian bent also bade their farewell, beginning with the co-founder of Permaculture, Bill Mollison. Just a couple of weeks ago one of Permaculture’s most respected and more recent practitioners and teachers, Toby Hemenway, also made an all-too-early departure. But along with these, 2016 also saw us lose an agrarian outside the world of Permaculture, that somebody being the aptly named Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon.

I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near as familiar with Logsdon’s writing as I am with others of the American Agrarian Crew (as I call them) – Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Gary Paul Nabhan, etc. – or what Logsdon referred to as “the five musketeers, a quintet of somewhat radical thinkers and doers coming together in opposition to the steady consolidation of farming into an international mega-agribusiness monopoly” – Berry, Jackson, Maurice Telleen, David Kline, and himself. Having gone through a heavy and prolonged dose of the aforementioned and other agrarian authors a few years ago, I’d somewhat overdosed on said writing and had to take a break from it all, just as I was getting to Logsdon. I did however read just enough – to go along with a bit of a recent nudge – that I’ve been able to realize that Logsdon left us all with a rich treasure trove of writing to discover.

The first of Logsdon’s writings that I (unsurprisingly?) read – and thoroughly enjoyed – was his book Good Spirits: A New Look at Ol’ Demon Alcohol, but it was then with (misplaced) disappointment that I soon thereafter discovered his book Gene Logsdon’s Practical Skills: A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques and Traditionsin a thrift shop. “Seriously?”, I asked myself. “Did Logsdon actually write one of those hokey ‘101 Ingenious Ways to Using Baking Soda’ type books?” I of course bought it anyways (I probably paid $2.50 for it), and after languishing on my book shelf for a couple of years I one day found myself with nothing to read and so pulled it out.

GENE LOGSDON: The Adventures of Uno the Chick

 

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From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

The odds were against Uno ever coming into existence. With the cost of chicks from hatcheries getting higher, we decided to try to get one of our hens to hatch the few chicks we needed every year to replenish our little flock. But the commercial breeds of chickens we were raising have had the hatching instinct all but bred out of them. Egg factories do not want hens that quit laying every year to hatch out a clutch of eggs as nature intended hens to do. So we started experimenting with old fashioned breeds that still carry the mothering instinct. We tried Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and finally Buff Orphingtons but not with much luck. A hen might start to set on eggs, but grow disinterested before the 21-day hatching period was up. Or if I separated a setting hen and eggs away from the other hens to keep them from bothering her, she would get antsy for company and not stay on the nest.

But this Spring, Buffy, one of our Buff Orphingtons, finally got serious about hatching some eggs. She took over one of the three nests in the coop and would not budge off the eggs in it. Other hens squeezed in beside her and laid more eggs and Buffy appropriated them too. I thought about marking the first dozen eggs and taking out the rest, but I didn’t want to bother her and since we had more eggs than we needed anyway, I just let nature take her course, hit or miss. Eventually Buffy got so cross that the other hens went to the other nests to lay their eggs. By then there were 18 eggs under Buffy, laid over a period of a week or so. Obviously, not all of them were going to hatch at the same time if they hatched at all. How would Buffy handle that?

In the prescribed time, one of the eggs hatched. I knew when I discovered Buffy down on the floor of the coop guarding that one tiny chick from the other hens. How the chick got to the floor, three feet from the nest, I don’t know. The other eggs were in various stages of development, but Buffy was totally taken up with her one chick and no longer interested in them. Out of 18 eggs, one chick. So I named it Uno. Turned out it was a she.

Uno was still in a precarious situation, what with a dozen hens not at all appreciating a cheeping baby in their midst. Uno stayed under Buffy most of the time for the first two weeks, warm, snug, and obviously happy. Often she stuck her head out Buffy’s protective feathers and occasionally, just for fun it seemed, she would dart out and streak around the coop, dodging hens and cheeping piercingly if one of them threatened to peck her. The cheep would bring Buffy to the rescue, her feathers ruffled up threateningly. Uno, back in the safe refuge under Buffy’s wings, seemed to be almost sticking her tongue out at the other hens. I decided to put Buffy and Uno with the pullets separated from the hens in the other side of the coop. The younger chickens were a little more accommodating.

GENE LOGSDON: Oh Deer, What Can The Matter Be?

 

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From Our Archives August 2007
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)
The Contrary Farmer

Thirty years ago, if I saw a herd of twenty or thirty deer grazing in grain fields in our neighborhood, I would have thought seriously about going on the wagon and I don’t mean a hay wagon either. There were no deer in our county then. Today such a sight is common.

Deer are becoming a very big problem but the general populace doesn’t think so yet. Have you ever been at a public meeting where hunters ally with wild animal lovers to lash out against homeowners, biologists, farmers and insurance companies who want to reduce the number of deer significantly? I have. It is not pretty. These people really get angry, shouting and cursing at each other. Ted Williams, my favorite wildlife writer, described in Audubon magazine a couple of years ago a confrontation where a biologist was trying to tell hunters about the depredations that deer were causing to the wild. They “interrupted him by stomping and jeering, … cursed and spat at him, … pushed him and threatened to kill him.”

GENE LOGSDON: Just What We Need, Faster Tractors

 

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From Our Archives
GENE LOGSDON (1931 – 2016)

Ohio’s politicians are considering a bill that would allow giant tractors to go 40 miles per hour on the highway. At present farm tractors are not supposed to be driven over 25 mph on public thoroughfares. The State House of Representatives has passed the bill unanimously and I presume the senators will do about the same. This really cracks me because of a fond experience of my wild oats days. But the law also amuses me considerably just on the basis of its own merits or demerits. For those urbanites who might not divine the reason for this law (if the politicians know, they aren’t spelling it out publicly), farming has become such a wide-ranging enterprise that farmers often rent land far from the home place. The old saying of “trying to farm the whole county” needs to be updated to “trying to farm the whole state.” Getting to the next field sometimes takes more time than getting it planted. Therefore tractors must move faster on the road, (not to mention in the field) or America might starve to death. If that’s not amusing to you, you need to improve your sense of humor.

I wonder if the lawmakers have thought this 40 mph rule through. When behemoth tractors could travel “only” 25 mph, it was easier to pass them in a car than it will be now that they are scooting along at 40. And if they are allowed to go 40, you know for sure they’ll be going 45 or 50 soon enough. That’s one thing but not the whole of the problem. It is daunting enough to see a machine big enough to straddle your car approaching you on the highway at 40 mph., but what if it is pulling some monstrous piece of farm equipment as it certainly will be. Today’s 30 and 40 row planters (or more) take up at least four lanes of highway when fully extended, so of course they have to be swiveled around sideways by the miracle of hydraulic power to be transported over a road. To pass something like that on a highway might take fifteen minutes at legal speeds. Disks and other cultivating rigs are even more daunting. Fully extended, these “tools” are also several lanes wide, so they fold up hydraulically, one wing or arm over the other for road travel. Today’s farm machinery has more hoses on it than a fire truck.