Cows and Environment


From the LA Times

HUSTONTOWN, Pa. — Jim Crawford was rushing to load crates of freshly picked organic tomatoes onto trucks heading for an urban farmers market when he noticed the federal agent.

A tense conversation followed as the visitor to his farm — an inspector from the Food and Drug Administration — warned him that some organic-growing techniques he had honed over four decades could soon be outlawed.

“This is my badge. These are the fines. This is what is hanging over your head, and we want you to know that,” Crawford says the official told him.

Crawford’s popular farm may seem a curious place for the FDA to move ahead with a long-planned federal assault on deadly food poisoning. To Crawford’s knowledge, none of the kohlrabi, fennel, sugar snap peas or other crops from his New Morning Farm have ever sickened anyone. But he is not the only organic grower to suddenly discover federal inspectors on his land.

In 2010, after a years-long campaign, food-safety activists persuaded Congress to give the FDA authority to regulate farm practices. The next year, an outbreak of food poisoning that killed 33 people who ate tainted cantaloupes put pressure on the FDA to be aggressive.

Now, farmers are discovering that the FDA’s proposed rules would curtail many techniques that are common among organic growers, including spreading house-made fertilizers, tilling cropland with grazing animals, and irrigating from open creeks.

Suddenly, from small family operations nestled in the foothills of Appalachia to the sophisticated organic-grower networks that serve Los Angeles and San Francisco, the farms that celebrity chefs and food-conscious consumers jostle to buy from are facing an unexpected adversary.

They’re fighting back. Even though full enforcement of the rules is still years away, they are warning customers that some farms would have to close.

“They are going to drive farms out of business,” said Dave Runsten, policy director for Community Alliance with Family Farmers in Davis, Calif.

“The consumer groups behind this don’t understand farming,” Runsten says. “They talk out of both sides of their mouth. They demand these one-size-fits-all regulations, then say, ‘I don’t want to hurt those cute little farmers at the farmers market. I shop at the farmers market.’ It is frustrating.”

Many farmers who take part in the locally grown food movement argue that contamination is a problem of industrial-sized farms and that some of the practices the FDA might ban actually make consumers safer.

Food safety advocates have urged regulators to hang tough. “We don’t believe large facilities are the only place where outbreaks are happening,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. Farm-to-fork growers, she said, need to accept that emerging strains of E. coli and other bacteria can just as easily seep into the produce sold at a farmers market as into the batches of salad bagged at giant processing plants, and they need to tweak their methods to protect against it.


I am on the Board of Directors for ECOV  and was recently requested to give a brief bio.

According to our website”ECOV is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to cow protection, local production of food, sustainable housing, alternative energy production and energy conservation. Cow protection includes not sending cows to the slaughter house and letting them live out their lives until a natural death. We are also working towards having active teams of oxen, planting 1000 fruit and nut trees and building earth sheltered low impact housing using recycled or locally produced materials. ”

So applying the filter of what would be relevant to that here goes.

I was raised on a farm. My father put me on a tractor at age 11 in the flat and long fields of North Dakota. By the time I came to New Vrindaban at age  24 I had had my fill of industrial agriculture and wanted to get into a simple living scenario.  In the beginning  I trained a team of oxen, Bala and Deva, and worked the community vegetable gardens.

After a year in 1974 I was approached by the community leaders and asked to take over the field side of agriculture in New Vrindaban. As they wanted to free up labor to work at the Palace I was asked to use tractors and assured it was a temporary situation and we would go back to oxen later. It is now 40 years later and I am still trying to get back there thus supporting efforts to train ox teamsters and oxen and build an ox barn.

In the meantime I have had various services including Purchasing when we had 600 people here and were doing major construction projects many of which  you see  today.  For a couple of year I ran the Finance department of New Vrindaban. I  was also involved in various businesses New Vrindaban did to help support the community, including spending 3 years over a ten year period in New York City.

When I came back from NYC the final time I noted there was zero vegetables being grown in NV and have dedicated a lot of energy to reintroducing growing into NV culture.

I have 5 children and 3 grandchildren and still live in New Vrindaban where I garden, burn wood for heat, support my wife’s crafted gourd business,  and try to enable Srila Prabhupada’s vision for NV of  living simply dependent on the land and the cow.

I have also been keeping a blog  for 8 years that may   give some insight.

bird at suet feeder

Bird at suet feeder.

sunflower feeder

Cardinal arriving at sunflower feeder.   At times there are as many as 40 birds feeding there including a lot of juncos on holiday from Canada.  The snow fence keeps deer and crows from devouring the sunflowers.

bird tracks

We got an inch of snow overnight which I didn’t get around to sweeping off the kitchen steps. By late afternoon it was covered with bird tracks.


Deer highway leading past garden shed to my house


They don’t sleep here every night but it is in an L formed by my house and my detached garage that is sheltered from the wind. At least four of them there at a time.


Here is where they are stomping down the snow to get at plant material to eat.  A lot of work for a few calories.

In the winter their digestive systems convert to being able to eat this past year’s twig growth and buds. That is why they are so destructive to new tree plantings and why I have to shroud my azaleas so I can get blooms next spring.

If this winter keeps up like this for another month the stress on the deer population could  cause a large drop in numbers.

by Zeke Barlow, Virginia Tech

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published today in the journal Nature Communications.

While other sugar batteries have been developed, this one has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled, Zhang said.

In as soon as three years, Zhang’s new battery could be running some of the cell phones, tablets, video games, and the myriad other electronic gadgets that require power in our energy-hungry world, Zhang said.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

In America alone, billions of toxic batteries are thrown away every year, posing a threat to both the environment and human health, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Zhang’s development could help keep hundreds of thousands of tons of batteries from ending up in landfills.

This is one of Zhang’s discoveries in the last year that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

“We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade,” Zhang said.

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are biodegradable.

The battery is also refillable and sugar can be added to it much like filling a printer cartridge with ink.

flatulent cows


Flatulent cows contributed to a fire at a German farm Monday, police said. The gas had built up inside a shed, causing an explosion.

BERLIN — Methane gas from 90 flatulent cows exploded in a German farm shed on Monday, damaging the roof and injuring one of the animals, police said.

High levels of the gas had built up in the structure in the central German town of Rasdorf, then “a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames,” the force said in a statement.

One cow was treated for burns, a police spokesman added.

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