Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodbye to a bloodhound buddy

We put down one of our bloodhounds today.

Dakota was the most amazing dog.  She worked for many police departments and had put lots of bad guys in prison.  She was ten and 3/4 years old today, which is really good for a bloodhound.  Unfortunately, she got an infection that turned into pneumonia and it was too much for her.

As much love as animals bring into our lives, they also bring pain.  On days like this it feels like it's not worth it, but I know it is.  Dakota made our lives happy and she made the world a better place by what she did.  It's hard to hold onto the good when something bad happens to us, but we have to.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Being a farmer is not an easy job. The enjoyment my family received from having our first wwoofer really made it clear how much we've missed social interactions.  We live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. Our closest neighbors are a half mile or more away and aren't social anyways.  Going to school, I was always surrounded by friends, but as an adult it's more difficult. As a farmer it feels impossible.

Of course it isn't, but it has to have much more effort put into it then perhaps someone living in the city.  That's one of the reasons we invited wwoofers, but we really need something more permanent.  I've begun to be more active in inviting people over for bbqs and such.  Hopefully things will begin to liven up and we can meet our needs for relationships. 

Women farmers are significantly more likely to suffer from depression.  One of the biggest suggestions is to build and maintain relationships.  Without these, really what is the point of working so hard?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Danish Blessing

He's going to tease me so much if he ever sees this blog, but we absolutely loved our first wwoofer.  So much so that when I came home today to an empty house it made me sad and teary-eyed to not see him with a joke to tell and a big smile and that cute danish accent.

Four years ago, my dad left and our family fell apart.  It's been the hardest four years of my life and there has been too little happiness.  I never told Niklas, but I actually decided to invite a wwoofer to stay because I thought, in addition to the much needed help around the ranch, it might be a nice change to cheer everyone up.  We were so scared that it would be a miserable two weeks with this stranger from Denmark and thought it might be pleasant at best.  But it was...I don't even know how to describe it...a blessing.

I'm not usually corny, but it's the truth.  The past two weeks has been the happiest I've been in the past four years.  I feel like I have a little brother now.  I never thought I could grow to like someone so much in so little time.  Not even two weeks really, he was here for a week and a half only yet somehow he managed to wedge his little danish self into my family's heart.  We really needed to be cheered up and, even though I'm totally depressed now because he's gone, it was really really what we needed.  Just a reminder that life is still full of joy and laughter if you can just find it.  No matter how hard it gets with this horrible economy or family problems or all the other millions of things that go wrong, there is always an adorable danish guy around the corner ready to make you laugh.

Friday, March 16, 2012


We got our first wwoofer today at Flip Flop Ranch.  Niklas is from Denmark and is going to stay and work at the ranch for a couple weeks.  Wwoofers are Willing Workers On Organic Farms.  We were a bit scared that he would be an axe murderer, but so far it's been great.  He's funny and friendly and is willing to help out wherever he can.  It couldn't have been better timing as our ranch hand had to quit because of family circumstances and left me to basically do everything by myself.  Ahhh!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sick calf

One of the hardest parts of farm life is when animals get sick...and even worse, die.  I think in this case the worst won't happen.  I'm praying hard and my fingers are cramped from being crossed.  One of our new angus cow babies began to lie down much more often than the other calves about three days ago.  By evening the calf couldn't get up.

After doing some research on the web, my best guess was White Muscle Disease.  This is a nutritional deficiency where the cow is lacking selenium and vitamin E.  It happens when the animal is growing fast or just has no access to the minerals.  In our case, I believe it was the lack of access.  When we purchased the calves, they were emaciated.  They obviously hadn't been cared for appropriately and were sick with a respiratory virus.  I'm not surprised at all that one has succumbed to the neglect the poor things were exposed to.

Not getting enough selenium and vitamin E makes the calf very weak, their muscle wastes away and eventually die.  We've been feeding the sick calf (well, all the calves actually) a selenium and vitamin E supplement.  It appears to be recovering.  Today it really put some effort into trying to get up although it didn't succeed.  Hopefully tomorrow it will be standing.

Note: two weeks after it couldn't stand it is now running around perfectly healthy!

Making Wine

We have four acres of wine grapes at the ranch and are going to start making wine this fall.  I just purchased a wine making kit so I could practice making wine as I haven't done it before.  I'm going to make Merlot.  Mmmmm.

Starting the winemaking process was pretty easy so far.  The kit came with a merlot grape juice so I didn't have to press the grapes and all that.  I sanitized the equipment, poured the juice in, poured some bentonite in (which I guess helps to clarify the wine so it's a clear red), poured some oak powder in to give it that barrel aged taste, mixed it all together and then put the yeast in.  The yeast doesn't get mixed in, it just gets sprinkled on top. 

It will be really interesting to see what happens and how good the wine turns out.  I'm not really a big drinker.  I like a few types of wine, particularly muscato d'asti.  However, a winery is my mom's dream and since this is a family business, we all support each other in their efforts so I'm learning.  I'm even taking some online classes through the VESTA program to learn more about growing grapes and making wine.  Since I enjoy learning new things I'm having fun.  It's amazing how much chemistry is involved, which is of course why my mom loves it so much--she's a scientist.  I'm just happy to do anything that makes the farm succeed and gets the family working together.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Risk Management for Farms: Conference Notes

Farmers face many challenges!  There are many risks such as the fluctuating markets, the amount of competition (think of sayins like “a good year this year is a bad year somewhere else.”  Success in agriculture is short-lived and  risk must be managed.
·      Markets
o   Markets fluctuate and make a big difference
·      Competition
o   Good year this year is a bad year somewhere else
o   Success in agriculture is short-lived
·      Transportation
o   Going to farmer’s markets barely pays for the gas now
·      Labor issues

What is risk?
Possibility of loss or injury, uncertainty
Need to do a SWOT analysis and have a business plan.
Lots of resources for learning about risk management resources
Risk Management Website

Ag in uncertain times
The Agrisk lirary

Managing in tough times

Right risk
You have to manage your risk.  Answering to partners or mentors is important.  When I traveled to chili, I found that the chileans had been successful.  They had traveled the world looking at how to make things successful.  We need to travel around, talk to farmers, most will tell you what they’ve done right or wrong. 
It’s really important to have a plan and how  to implement it.  Not everything works.  We grew blackberries and thought rasberries would go well with it, this was before we had the policy that we needed to have a plan, but of course the rasberries didn’t sell.  There were other competitors who produced and sold them cheaper than us.  You have to be willing to pull the plug, get rid of them and start something new.
Diversification of crops is important.  We have all sorts of citrus so we can supply our markets all year long. Blackberries brought in a lot of cash in the summer when our water bill was higher.  We planted new varieties, blood oranges.  We talked to everyone about varieties…fourth year they weren’t producing.  Everyone we talked to said “oh I forgot to tell you they don’t produce until their fifth or sixth year and then they’re slow.”  We didn’t know and we did our numbers wrong.  You don’t always get it right.
If you can get your market secure, get your name out there.  People will pay more for your products.
The locally grown movement and direct deliver has been a trend of success lately.  People will pay a premium if it tastes good.  That’s why people go to a farmer’s market.  Don’t sell it if it doesn’t taste good. 
Don’t ever buy new
You can buy anything used.  
Know your cost!!!  Know every input, every cost.  Sometiems things that appear to be great and popular are actually making you lose your shirt.  Get rid of it!
Get solar!  When San Diego had a hike in electricity costs, our bill went from $5000 to $20000 over night.  We put in solar and said no one will ever have that kind of control over us.  There are grants and tax rebates.  We got a grant on recovering our reservoir NCRS.
Labor has been risky lately.  We have ventured out to do the H2A program, legal labor from Mexico.  Most troubling process ever been through.  We lost a lot of money in picking because we had to bring in contractors.  You can lose a lot of money on labor. 
Know who your market is before you start any new products.  Start small and see how it goes. 
(produce brokers sell to restaurants, don’t deliver yourself, it’s not worth it unless they’re very closeby)
Kow your strengths, know your weaknesses, and ask people for help on your weaknesses.  Talk to other farmers.

Read the whole farm bill and you’ll find a lot of obscure grants

Golden State Crop Insurance Presentation
Insurance is nothing more than how do I deal with risk?  If we were all Bill Gates, we wouldn’t need insurance.  We’d just take a little of our pocket money to pay for a disaster.  We have to deal with risk and its financial consequences.
Insurance asks how much are you willing to pay in a premium, versus what your cost is if the bad thing happens.  With crop insurance, you have a bit of an advantage because it’s subsidized by the USDA.  Private insurance isn’t.  You’re picking up the full tab.
Some of the things in the insurance world to help farmers:  From a livestock standpoint, you don’t always think of insurance.  If you have 20 lambs, you don’t always think of insuring them.  What if someone steals them?  They are a significant investment. 
Sometimes when you’re farming on a small scale, an evolving hobby farm that is becoming profitable, how you form your crop insurance or your risk package is dependant on who you’re talking to.  GEICO does a great job on your auto insurance, but not necessarily the right thing for your farm.  There are agents who do nothing but farm insurance. 
Talk to your agent on a regular basis and let them know you are going to do something new.  See if it’s covered under your existing package.  You don’t want a gap in coverage.  Every policy has limitations, be aware of them and make business decisions accordingly.
One thing we hear a lot about in the news is food safety and product recall.  The coverage for this in most insurance packages is exorbitantly expensive, but if you have a big risk for this then maybe you don’t need it.  If you’re nation-wide or state-wide and you have crops prone to this, look into it.
There are many different levels of crop isnurance.  One of the limitations in california is the diversity in crops and the kinds of operations.  When the feds invented crop insurance, they thought corns, soybeans and 1000 acres, not you with eight rows of peas and eight rows of potatoes and a half acre of cherries.  There is a catchall, but it is available only in six counties, naap

Get familiar with the farm service agency.

The naap program costs $250-700 a year to insure the crops you grow.  They’ll pick up small acreage crops not insured by federal programs.  If your production is less than 50% of normal production, you will get an indemnity payment.  Not that expensive for $250 a year.  More importantly, by having all your crops insured, you will be eligible to apply for supplemental revenue assistance program.  Sure helps when you have a catastrophic loss, and a revenue of less than 50%.

Naap, not enough boxes, based on yield.  SURE, not enough revenue
Farm bill is in negotiation right now.  Chances are that the subsidies to help farmers are going to dwindle.  The government is broke.
There are other non-federal programs available.  They are more specific and usually focus on a certain peril such as citrus freeze insurance or rain on tomato coverage or raising reconditioning coverage. 
There isn’t a lot of insurance available for a small grower.  You have to get out and do your research.  Find the programs.

True Potato Seeds

This year I've decided to grow potatoes from potatoe seeds or what is called true potatoe seeds (tps).  True potato seeds are the little tiny things that you plant while potato seed is the potatos cut up and the eyes grow into new potato plants.  There's two reasons for this: 1) I'm cheap and I didn't want to purchase super expensive seed potato and 2) if you grow potatoes from true seeds then you can breed a type of potatoe that is adapted to your specific area.  How exciting is that!  

True Potato Seeds (left)  Seed potato (right)
I ordered a few varieties that were supposed to do well in the heat: Chieftain and Juanita, a mexican variety.  I figured these would be good places to start.  Basically, you just wait until the potato plant produces seed pods, collect the seeds and regrow them each year.  Natural selection means that the healthiest plants are the ones most adapted to the local environment, the high desert in my case, while the ones without the appropriate genetics die.  Eventually you create a whole new variety.
I've tried to grow potatoes here in the desert and it just hasn't worked well.  I've managed to pull up some weak, pathetic tubers.  I've spent a ton of money buying seed potatoes from growers in the midwest.  Now I want to grow my own potato.  Maybe I'll call it the Flip Flop Potato.
True Potato Seeds "are the ultimate in food security...Right now, with our commercial varieties, which are propagated by tissue culture in laboratories, we are at a bottleneck of genetic susceptibility.  If you save true potato seed, on the other hand, you are preserving the ancient diversity of the potato.  

Eighty-three percent of modern potato varieties have a sterility problem.  Most of them are not self-fertile like tomatoes.  Many of them don't produce much in the way of flowers or fruit.  After years of breeding for good flower production, I've gotten more free-blooming varieties.  I've had 353 berries on a single plant. You could plant five acres of potatoes out of that single plant!  If you save potato seed, you are prepaying for the future.  You can put the seed away, and it will keep for 20 years."

Seeds have arrived!

I went a little crazy this year buying seeds, but I'm so happy!  Radishes and rutabagas and peas and potatoes (yes I'm going to try growing potatoes from seed).  I got six different types of melons and who knows how many squashes!  This is a bit of an experimental garden.  I'm not sure exactly when things should be grown as we have a unique (i.e. difficult) environment.  If you have any suggestions on when things should be planted, let me know!
I planted tomatoes, onions, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and beats in a seed tray so far.  I've tried planting carrots, radishes, spinach, lettuce, peas outside, but nothing has come up yet since it's too cold-even with plastic over the beds.  I think I need to build a full cold frame if I want to plant in February in the high desert.

Tips for a low water use garden in the California high desert

The total statewide October through December precipitation was 78 percent of average, further adding to our accumulated water supply deficit.  The 2009 Water Year (October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009) was the third consecutive year of below average precipitation for the state. Annual statewide precipitation totaled 76 percent, 72 percent, and 63 percent of average for Water Years 2009, 2008, and 2007, respectively.
On the bright side, January precipitation through the 28th is above average January rainfall.

So what do you do in this situation? Give up gardening all together? Mainstream agriculture uses about twice as much water (and maybe much more!) to irrigate as a small scale, organic and well planned home garden. It almost seems to be a better thing to grow your own vegetables in a drought. But to do it thoughtfully. 
  1. Grow Your Crops Before the Summer Heat Starts – Instead of doing a heavy summer planting, do the majority of your planting in spring with short season vegetables. Plant lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, beets, onions, garlic and broccoli all which thrive in the cooler spring weather. Keep your summer plantings spare and then when fall arrives you can replant the same things you did in spring.
  2. Plant Drought Tolerant Vegetables – Some vegetables don’t need as much water as others. Amaranth, cow beans, corn, mustard greens, purlane, spinach, tomatoes, chard and a few others don’t need as much water. You buy a Drought Tolerant Seed Mix. The Veggie Patch Reimagined has a great list of drought tolerant plants. And you can read more about  drought tolerant vegetables here too.
  3. Herbs-Herbs are the perfect plants to start with when planning on incorporating xeriscaping into the home garden.Herbs are naturally hardy and many are drought resistant due to being native to the hot dry Mediterranean region of the world. Herbs like cilantro, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, bee balm, oregano and sage are perfect for using in a low water usage garden. Herbs are highly adaptable and easy to grow. They don't need much maintenance either other than keeping them from spreading all over the yard.
  4. Double or Triple Dig Your Beds – While double digging is a common idea in America with organic gardening, in parts of Africa they triple dig their beds. Their crops are much more successful than their non-digging neighbors gardens. If you aren’t familiar with double or triple digging, basically you dig out the first layer of soil about one shovel deep. Then you dig out a second layer and if you are really ambitious then you can dig out a third layer. Doing this aerates your soil making it easier for the roots of your plants to grow down, thus making it easier for the roots to pick up the water that is already deep in the soil.
  5. Add Compost to Your Soil – Having your garden beds be composed of at least 2% of compost will help your soil retain a great deal more water.
  6. Mulch – Adding a 3-4 inch layer of mulch to your garden beds will do wonders. I found it amazing what a difference this made to my flower beds years ago. A night and day difference in the health of the plants once dry old August came around. You can use either compost, grass clippings or straw as mulch (there are many more mulch options too).
  7. Water at Night – In thinking of using your water to it’s best advantage, water in the evening. Most vegetables do most of their growing at night and that is when they’ll need the most water. If you water in the morning or mid-day, most of it will evaporate and not benefit the plant at all.
  8. Water the Right Amount - If you are watering from a hose, you should water just long enough for the top layer of soil to look shiny. Once it looks shiny, turn off the hose. It should remain shiny for 3-5 seconds after you turn the water off. If the ’shine’ wears off faster, water a bit more, if it takes longer to soak in, water less.                       
    Critical watering periods for vegetables. You can target the timing and amount of water to add. As a rule of thumb, water is most critical during the first few weeks of development, immediately after transplanting, and during flowering and fruit production. The critical watering periods for selected vegetables follow:

  9. Asparagus needs water most during spear production and fern development.

  10. Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and cauliflower need consistent moisture during their entire life span, especially during head or root development. Water use is highest and most critical during head development.



  13. Beans have the highest water use of any common garden vegetable, using 0.25 to over 0.50 inches of water per day. Beans need water most when they are blooming and setting fruit. When moisture levels are adequate the bean plant is a bright, dark grass green. As plants experience water stress, leaves take on a slight grayish cast.

  14. Carrot and other root crops require consistent moisture. Cracking, knobby and hot flavor root crops are symptoms of water stress.

  15. Corn needs water most during tasseling, silking, and ear development. Yield is directly related to quantities of water, nitrogen and spacing.

  16. Lettuce and other leaf vegetables need water most during head development. For quality produce these crops require a consistent supply of moisture.

  17. Onion family crops require consistent moisture and frequent irrigation due to their small, inefficient root system.

  18. Peas need water most during pod filling.

  19. Potato tubers will be knobby if they become overly dry during tuber development.

  20. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need water most during flowering and fruiting. Blossom-end-rot (a black sunken area on the bottom of the fruit) is often a symptom of too much or too little water. Watch for overwatering.

  21. Cucumbers, summer and winter squash, and other vine crops need water most during flowering and fruiting. Watch for overwatering

  22. Install Irrigation on a Timer – The best way to water plants properly and save the most amount of water is to install some sort of irrigation that is regulated by a timer.
  23. Plant Vegetables Close Together – There are many advantages for planting your veggies close together. But in thinking of water preservation, planting things close together creates a canopy layer over the soil, which shades it and prevents evaporation.
  24. Choose Plants that Produce in Abundance – When water becomes a precious commodity, when it comes to gardening, you want the most bang for your buck. Plant vegetables that produce a copious amount of edibles. Tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplant among many others produce many meals worth of produce. Broccoli and cauliflower both take up a large amount of space and water and only really produce enough for one dinner, maybe two.
  25. Try Dry Farming Your Tomatoes – Some people swear that by dry farming their tomatoes they acheive the best flavor possible. To do this you have to really build up your soil with organic matter by way of adding compost and growing cover crops. Then basically you plant your tomatoes and let them grow without watering. You only water when their leaves start to turn yellow and then you do so rarely and deeply. Once the tomato plant develops fruit you stop watering all together. This allows the plant to focus not on new growth, but developing the fruit. You tomato plants will be ugly and straggly by doing this and your yield will be small, but you’ll have great tasting tomatoes.
  26. Place Drainage Pipes Between Crops – By using the technique that we’ve learned over the years of placing drainage pipes between tomatoes, we’ve been able to cut down to watering our tomatoes only once a week, if that.
  27. Use Grey Water from the House – We’ll be buying some large buckets with sturdy handles and maybe a rain barrel for outside to fill with our indoor grey water. Any water remains from washing things out in the salad spinner, cold water before a hot shower, etc will be put in these buckets for watering the garden.
  28. Don’t use Roof Water – From the reading I’ve done, it is not safe to use roof water collections to water edibles. The water picks up whatever chemicals are in your roofing and make it not such a healthy thing to water your veggies with. Leave that for the ornamentals only. And it isn’t like we are getting much rain to catch this way anyway. We’ll be skipping this step.
  29. Olla gardening - Another alternative to this problem might be "olla" (prounounced oh-yah) gardening. This method was brought to the new world by the Spanish, but is thought to have developed in the deserts and arid regions of northern Africa and brought to Spain by the Moors.
    Unglazed terra cotta pots are porous. Water seeps slowly from them through the tiny pores. In New Mexico and elsewhere, these terra cotta pots are buried, with the top at or just below ground level (this keeps hot sun and wind from wicking the water from around the rim of the pot). If there is a hole in the bottom, it is plugged (marine caulking works well). Edible plants (and ornamentals) are planted in circles around the pots. The pots are then filled with water and covered (old plates, slate, a flat rock, a piece of wood...anything to keep the water from evaporating.)
    The water slowly seeps through the terra cotta into the soil (and the plant roots next to the pots). Very little water is wasted through evaporation. Check the pots every day to check water levels. When a pot gets half-empty, refill it.
    Ollas can be small (eight to 10 inch pots) or very large (a foot or two across). Plant roots benefit from this because all the water is going right where it's needed, and there is little or no evaporation. Also, with the pots, it is easy to maneuver around the garden. You can experiment with several designs.
    The Santa Fe, New Mexico Master Gardeners Association has an Olla Experimental Garden. Here's their website address: When you get to their homepage, click on "Projects", then scroll down to the bottom of the projects. The Olla Garden page link is the last one.
  30. Windbreak - Erect a temporary windbreak next to your garden to protect it from drying winds during extended periods of drought.  I'm also thinking of putting grape trellises overtop the garden to prevent so much sun from hitting it.
  31. Sunken Beds - You can read my article on sunken beds for more info, but basically raised beds serve to dry out plants which is just what you don't want in the desert.  Sunken beds keep them wet longer and conserve the water.
Do you have any water saving tips that we can add to our list? I’d love to hear them…we need all the water tips we can get.

Much of this post is from

Sunken garden beds

I decided to try something different this year with my garden.  Last year I had raised beds.  It worked great for having soft soil and it wasn't too much work because I just dug out the paths and piled it onto the beds so I didn't have to bring in soil from somewhere else.  However, the point of having raised beds is also to keep the plants roots from drowning in excess water.
As you can see, the plants roots are safely away from the water with the freedom to grow down to the water as needed without the roots rotting.
However, I live in the desert where we get an average of 3 inches of rain a year.  Yes, that's right, 3 whole inches.  Occasionally, like this year, we're getting a lot 6 maybe.
So instead of moving the plants away from water that's too close to the surface (because there's so much water in the soil), I'm digging the beds deeper so that the plant is closer to the scarce water, which is further down in the ground.  
Great idea right?  Well, yea it is.  It means we won't have to water as much or as often and it means that the plant gets shaded somewhat from the scorching desert sun...of course, it's also been one heck of a workout digging 2 feet down into the soil.  
It shouldn't be so hard, but I decided to convert a part of the horse area into the garden.  The horses always congregate in this area so it had probably a foot of manure in it.  That's getting way too unhealthy for the horses and the environment, so the best thing to do is turn it into a garden so all that fertilization can turn into nice healthy plants.  The bad thing is that the horses have been standing in that area and compacting it for the past five years.  There were layers of hay and manure, hay and manure until there was about 6 inches of hard as a rock compost.  It's taken me days to break through it in even a few beds.  It'll probably take me a month to break through the first 6 inches in every bed (probably about 20 beds in all).

I've finally broken through to the easy soil on the first bed to the left.  The other beds are in varying levels of progress.  I'm soaking them with water to make it easier.  You can see how well they hold water.  When it rains...if it rains...the water will naturally collect in these areas instead of in the paths as would happen in a raised garden.
Now there have been suggestions to get someone out with a bobcat or a bulldozer.  That would have made this sooooo much easier.  However, bulldozers use gas, which is a precious nonrenewable resources.  Plus, having just gotten over a severe potassium deficiency in which I lost 40 pounds of muscle-I want to do this myself (well, with some help from family and friends).  I'm hoping it'll build back all the muscle I lost...and of course that I'll lose all the fat I gained lol!  There's nothing like gaining 70 lbs in 6 months because an idiot doctor prescribed medicine without having any idea how it worked. Ouch!
So the next step is to finish digging them out, then put all the manure back in that I dug out so that the bed is nice and fertilized.  The beds will be filled up a foot or maybe a foot and a half so that they're 6 inches to a foot below ground level.  Then just let them sit and compost until March or so when the risk of frost has passed.
For now though, I'm going to go take some Advil for my aching muscles...

Check out Growing Radishes in the Desert for more info about sunken beds

Cooking tips for eggs

Just so that everyone knows, whenever you cook eggs make sure that you don't leave them boiling for so long that all the water boils out.  Here's why:


Luckily, I'd NEVER do anything like this.  Some of you might say, but Serina, I've been over to your house and those pictures look JUST like your kitchen.  Weird coincidence, huh?  It looks just like my kitchen and my pots and tea pot, but it isn't because I would never be so silly as to leave a small pot of water with eggs in it boiling while I went out to feed the horses, fence fixes and train one of my horses for over an hour.  Nope, I'd never do that.  So it's just a strange coincidence that the pics look just like my house.

Note:  Also check the ceiling for egg

Farm Therapy decreases stress, anxiety and mental illness

OSLO (Reuters) - Spending time on a farm looking after cows, horses, or other animals can help people with mental illness better manage their anxieties and increase their confidence, according to a study published on Friday.
The findings by Norwegian scientists could further widen use of "Green care", which enlists nature to ease patients' suffering.
"Looking after and having contact with farm animals has some positive effects on psychiatric patients with a diversity of serious illnesses," said lead author Bente Berget of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Aas, west Norway.
She told Reuters that looking after pets such as cats and dogs has long been known to help some psychiatric patients but Friday's study was the first scientific assessment of benefits of working on farms.
About 60 patients who visited farms in Norway showed significant improvements in coping with anxiety and in their confidence in managing new situations, compared to a group of 30 other patients who did not look after animals.
The patients -- suffering from schizophrenia, anxiety, personality or emotional disorders -- visited a farm for three hours twice a week for 12 weeks and worked mainly with dairy cows, cattle raised for meat and horses.
The farms also had other animals around such as rabbits, chickens, cats or dogs.
The improvements were shown by patients' answers to questionnaires before and six months after the farm visits, according to the study in the journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (
"The use of farms in promoting human mental and physical health in cooperation with health authorities is increasing in Europe and the United States, particularly under the Green care banner," a statement about the study said.
"Historically, the approach was associated with hospitals, psychiatric departments and other health institutions but today, most Green care projects involve community gardens, city farms, allotment gardens and farms," it said.
Berget said more study was needed but that looking after farm animals could suit some patients -- unlike pets, farm animals like pigs or sheep do not require a 24-hour commitment.
The study tried to ensure that the patients' positive responses were not caused by the kindness of a farmer or some other factor unrelated to the animals. During farm visits the patients were not, for instance, given coffee breaks.
(Editing by Mary Gabriel)