Sunday, May 9, 2021

Costs of Doing Business - Postal History Sunday

Welcome back to Postal History Sunday, where the farmer takes some time on the Genuine Faux Farm blog to share something he enjoys and we all have a chance to learn something new.

For those who might not have joined us on the blog recently, I continue to recover from surgery to remove my left kidney (Apr 28).  I still find my tolerance for screens and my levels of concentration to be wanting.  So, I'll take a stab at sharing with a little less depth and complexity and we'll see what happens this week.

Mail from the U.S. to Spain 1865

In 1865, Spain was one of the locations in the world that the United States had very limited options for sending and receiving mail.  Of course, that did not stop businesses from corresponding.  And, sometimes we are lucky that a correspondence to a particular business is saved and, eventually, dispersed for collectors like myself to enjoy and learn from.

The business letter sent to Jose Esteban Gomez in Cadiz, Spain shown above, traveled from New York to Queenstown, Ireland and then to London.  From London, the letter traveled through France, likely passing through Paris, on its way to the shared border with Spain. 

As a quick geography refresher, I supply you with the map below that shows the route this letter most likely took as it left London, entered France (at Calais) and then went to the western end of the border shared by France and Spain.  Bayonne would be one of the closest communities on the French side and Irun would be the companion Spanish community.

There are strong connections in postal history to all sorts of other interests, such as cartography (maps), that it is no wonder that I can find it fascinating.  When I find a piece of postal history that goes to or from some place that I am not terribly familiar with, I have a motivation to learn more about that location.  You could think of it as a travel substitute, if you want.  Whatever you call it, it does open my eyes to other cultures and it sure does make it more likely that I'll have some idea where something is on the globe.

Dutton & Townsend of New York sent many business letters to Gomez over a period of ten or so years.  Most of the items available to collectors have had the contents removed.  However, I am lucky to have one that is intact.

Perhaps at a future time, when my brains feel more like concentrating on it, I can give you more information on the content.  But, there is one very interesting highlight:

The author mentions their concerns about the loss of their merchandise at sea, whether it would be due to a storm or because of "rebel pirates."  In early 1865, the threat of Confederate privateers was minimal.  Early enthusiasm for privateering had waned greatly when those private vessels who managed to capture a merchant vessel couldn't get to a Confederate court to collect their reward.  Why take the risk when the award was that uncertain?

Even so, Dutton & Townsend indicated that they had acquired insurance for their cargo.  The account was apparently lucrative enough that it was worth adding this price to the cost of doing business.

What Did It Cost?

In 1865, the United States had no agreement with Spain for the exchange of mail.  This made things a bit more complicated, but the typical solution was to find an intermediary postal service - one that had an agreement with the United States AND an agreement with the destination (Spain).  

France was one such option, and the cost of mail via the French system to Spain was 21 cents per 1/4 ounce.  This item has a 24 cent stamp on it, which would have been enough to cover that postage ... except... this weighed more than 1/4 ounce (and no more than a half ounce).

The second option was to use the agreement the United States had with Britain.  Britain had an agreement with France, who had an agreement with Spain (see how fun this can be?).  The sender in the United States would have to pay for the US postage and the British would worry about securing the postage they needed on the other end. 

In this case, the US postage was 19 cents while 8 reals (8R) were collected from Gomez at the point of delivery.  Of the 8 reals collected, some of that would find its way back to the British and French postal systems via the agreements in place.

This is where I recognize that both Dutton & Townsend and Gomez were not too concerned about pinching pennies when it came to postage.  Nearly every point in time during this ten year period there are options to get a letter mailed for 24 cents or less.  It seems that Dutton & Townsend, just always put a 24 cent stamp on the letter and then let the postal service determine which method would work for the weight of the letter.

The item above must have weighed less than a quarter ounce, so it was sent by the 21 cent per 1/4 ounce French mail option.

And this item was mailed at a later 22 cents per 1/2 ounce letter rate via British mail. 

In every case, there was extra postage paid that was not used.  Depending on the situation, Gomez sometimes had to pay extra postage and sometimes, he did not.  The account must have been lucrative enough that neither party cared to spend the extra energy to save a few pennies on either end.  In fact, some of the letters from this correspondence also show that duplicate letters were often mailed (the word "duplicate" is a docket), perhaps an additional 'insurance' for possible loss at sea?

Whatever the reasons or the logic, I suspect both parties just chalked overpaid postage as a "cost of doing business."

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Thank you for joining me for Postal History Sunday.  As you can guess, this topic could actually go so much deeper and have many more twists and turns.  But, for today, this gives you about as much twisting and turning as I can handle!  Perhaps I will revisit the topic in the future and give it all of the attention it so richly deserves!

Until then, be well and be kind.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Black Beauty

Welcome again to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.

We continue with an offering that was written prior to my April 28th surgery - and this is the last Variety Show post I have in the queue until I can write more.  Assuming all is going well at this point with my recovery, I expect to return to my regular writing efforts and I hope to not miss a Saturday.

Either way, be well and I hope you enjoy what I offer here.

Today we're going to take a look at an open-pollinated zucchini variety called Black Beauty.  I think Black Beauty likely qualifies as a heritage variety since it was developed at the Storrs Agricultural Experimental Station in Connecticut and introduced in 1957.  You can find seed at Seed Savers and a few other seed catalogs today.  

Black Beauty has a bush habit that can get fairly large in size if the fertility is good and they are typically quite sturdy.  After the plants get to a certain size, they tend to "roll" over a bit, but they do stay in their rows pretty well.  Unlike some of the newer hybrids, these plants have plenty of leaf coverage and would not necessarily be called an "open habit" that some commercial growers prize for ease of harvest.

Like most older zucchini and summer squash varieties, the stems are serrated (as are the leaves) enough that you will exhibit their "love" for you on your forearms after a harvest.

The fruit are typically blockier than many of the newer varieties, often flaring out to be slightly wider at the blossom end as it progresses from the stem end.  The picture above shows a fruit from a "Cashflow" variety so it can be compared with the other fruit - all Black Beauty.  There is a light ridge that often follows the length of the fruit.  If you notice any patterning of the skin color it is usually quite faint.

Like many zucchini, Black Beauty fruit can grow rapidly when moisture and temperatures are right.  We've had a few Louisville Sluggers get past us - and it is more likely you will miss a fruit if you have the leaf cover these larger plants often have.

On the other hand, we have noticed that Black Beauty plants tend to live and produce quality fruit longer than most hybrid varieties.  That doesn't mean they produce more fruit than the hybrids, though each plant probably produces about the same amount as most hybrids, in fact.  But, the production is spaced out over time.  This makes Black Beauty a better choice for gardeners or for growers who don't want to mess with multiple successions of the crop.


On the other hand, the larger plant size tends to result in fewer fruit per row foot.  For example, Raven landed somewhere around 6 per row foot in 2008-2010 while Black Beauty tended to be between 3 and 4 fruit per row foot.  We've had similar comparisons in more recent years with Dunja, for example.

We have also noticed that Black Beauty seems to survive vine borers better than many other zucchinis.

The farm has featured a succession of Black Beauty every season since we started in 2004.  I will admit that we often did not rely on this variety as our 'bulk producer.'  We actually thought it as more of a safety net if our bulk producing varieties (Dunja, Raven, Cha-Ching, etc) failed us for any particular reason.  Never flashy, always reliable - just plodding along getting us some zucchini every season.

If you want the best success with Black Beauty, give it a little more space to get big and they do like a bit more fertility.  They like a nice deep watering when they get watered and they seem to really hit their stride when temps are regularly in the 80s.  But, we've seen them extend deep into September if you can avoid a killing frost.

We hope you've enjoyed this week's Variety Show edition.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Life in Fifteens

 Yesterday's post was pretty short and disjointed, but I think it works as an update post.  Let's see if I can do something more for Thursday.

I have been amazed and humbled by the well-wishes and kind words.  But, I'm not yet sure how to answer "how's the recovery going?"  The normal issue of not wanting to overburden someone who was just trying to let me know they cared enough to ask (but didn't' really want much in the way of detail) plays into it, of course.  

The other problem is the fact that my status, from my perspective can be different from moment to moment.  I felt pretty good fifteen minutes ago, so I took a slightly more brisk walk outside.  After the walk, I felt pretty good but was more tired than I had a right to be (my opinion).  A half hour before, my stomach was feeling kind of sour, so you'd have gotten yet another reading.

Recovery is simply a winding road - and it can be hard to accept that.  

Perhaps that's my best answer.

On the whole, I would rather be riding today's 15 minute roller coaster than last Wednesday's (or pretty much any day from then to yesterday).  That must mean things are looking up.

I've really had it on my mind that I've been trying to get through 15 minute chunks of life lately.  Why?  Because sometimes that's about as far into the future I could manage to consider.  

Fifteen minutes in the chair in the recovery room.

Fifteen minutes standing in the recovery room.  

Fifteen minutes pacing in the room, dragging all of the various post-surgery accoutrements with me.  

Fifteen minutes in the chair with my head back, thinking, I have to sleep.

Waking up and thinking, "HA! I got some sleep!"

Then looking at the clock and seeing...

yep, 15 minutes had passed.

Things ARE better than that by a long ways now and I'll take it.

But, I may never look at 15 minutes the same way again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Quick Farmer Rob Updates

 Farmer Rob underwent surgery to remove his left kidney on April 28.  There was a small, encapsulated mass internal to the kidney that prompted the surgery.  As some of you might know, this has been a longer and more drawn-out process than it might normally have been for a number of reasons.

As we approach the 1 week mark, I thought I would offer up a very short update.

- I can not look at screens for very long at this point in time, so I am limited each effort to 15 minutes.  Any blogging will be quick.

- It appears that the cancerous mass was entirely encapsulated, which is good news.  No observed issues with bordering tissues or lymph nodes.

- Surgery apparently took fairly standard time - coming in at a little under 4 hours.

- I still have some digestive issues, which is not at all uncommon for this sort of surgery.  This is probably my biggest complaint at this time.  It makes it hard to get good sleep, which of course limits all sorts of other things.  Pain, in general, has not been a major issue.  (When there is no sense, there is no feeling).

- I was able to return home on the after noon of April 30 and immediately felt much better than I had been.  It doesn't mean it has been smooth sailing.  It just means that was the right choice.

Tammy has been an amazing "Guardian Dragon" throughout.  I am fully aware this is wearing on her and I appreciate all of the help that has been given thus far.

I have also been touched by the gifts of real mail from a number of people.  Thank you.  I actually have been looking forward to going to get the mail from the mailbox each day.  

Like everything in recovery, I'll do a little and then stretch back out.  This is my first attempt.  It'll get better - just as I will.

Be well,

Rob



Sunday, May 2, 2021

They Went Thataway - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to Postal History Sunday on the Genuine Faux Farm blog.

This week we will dispense with some of the introduction and do some housekeeping.  For those who are unaware, I will have undergone surgery on April 28 to remove one of my kidneys, where a cancerous mass was found.  It was important to me that I continue to offer a Postal History Sunday in the weeks that immediately followed that event, so I took the time to select some topics that were easier to write (for me) and got them written prior to the surgery so I could cue them up for automatic release.  Assuming all went well during that surgery, I expect to return to my regular writing after I recover.

Until then, be well and I hope you enjoy what I offer here.

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When I first started doing the Postal History Sunday posts, I have to admit that I did not anticipate that they would get quite as deep as many of them have gone.  If you look at my first PHS entry, you might be surprised if you compare it to some of the more recent entries, such as this one about the use of 1893 Columbian stamps on packages.  There is no doubt that the more recent posts take much more effort than that first one did - but I don't regret doing the work and I certainly appreciate the feedback and kind words that have been sent my way as I  keep this ball rolling.

This week, I wanted to come back to the idea showing you how I "read" a cover so I can learn how it got from here to there. To do that, I offer up this piece of letter mail from 1866 that was sent from Boston to London for a General W.F. Bartlett.  He apparently was not in London at that time so the letter was forwarded on to Paris.

The Letter Enters the U.S. Mail System

The postage rate was 24 cents for a letter being mailed from the United States to the United Kingdom (England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) for any letter that weighed no more than 1/2 ounce.  The 24 cent stamp showed that the sender had paid the postage required.  The postal clerk used a handstamp to deface the stamp with ink to prevent the stamp from being used a second time.  Postal historians and philatelists call these cancellations.  Some post offices used devices to cancel the stamp that had different designs - like the circle of V's shown here.  Some collectors would call this a fancy cancel.

Some collectors love to pay attention to the amazing breadth of cancellation designs that have been used over the years.  In fact, there have been people who have taken upon themselves to study and catalog all of the known postal markings for specific locations or time periods.  For example, there is a book titled "Boston Postmarks to 1890" by Maurice Blake and Wilbur Davis.  By looking at that book I can see that this particular cancellation was used in Boston at the time this letter was mailed.

If I had to take a guess, I would say that the letter was dropped at the main Boston post office where the foreign mail exchange office for that city was housed.  That could explain the absence of a city postmark in black ink that would normally accompany the cancellation on the stamp.  

The U.S. Exchange Office

If a letter was destined to leave the United States, it had to go to a post office that was designated as an exchange office for the destination country.  In 1866, the year this letter was mailed, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and Portland (Maine) were all designated as exchange offices for mail departing to the United Kingdom.  The foreign letter office at these locations would place an exchange marking on the envelope like the one in red for Boston that is on this piece of mail.

An exchange marking often provides us with all kinds of interesting information.  In this case, I can see:

  1. a date that tells us when the letter was scheduled to leave Boston (Feb 20)
  2. Br. Pkt. (British Packet) tells us the ship that would cross the Atlantic was under a contract with the British.
  3. that the letter was PAID in full.
  4. 19 of the 24 cents of postage were to be passed on to the British postal system.

That certainly is a good amount we can learn from one circular handstamp in red ink!  And, speaking of red ink - that was essentially another indicator that the item was fully prepaid.

Once this marking was applied in the Boston Foreign Mail Exchange Office, the letter was placed in a mailbag that would be destined for the ship once the mail collection period closed.  The bag would be closed securely - not to be opened until it arrived at a corresponding exchange office in the destination country.

Crossing the Atlantic

Postal historians nowadays are fortunate that we have reference books to help us find some of the information that would once have required digging through numerous old newspaper archives to find.  I will be forever grateful for the efforts of Walter Hubbard and Richard Winter and the book, North Atlantic Mail Sailings: 1840-1875.  It is because of their work that I can tell you this letter left Boston on February 20 for New York City.  At New York City, it was placed on the Cunard Line's Australasian, which left on its trans-Atlantic voyage February 21st.

Above is the picture of the Australasian as it was rendered in the Illustrated London News of October 24, 1857 (no. 884 vol XXXI).  While the ship did run on steam, it was also outfitted with masts and sails as a failsafe.

The British Exchange Office

If you guessed that London might be a British exchange office for mail from the United States, you get a prize!

Ok.  It was a pretty easy guess, I know.  But good for you nonetheless.

The mailbag arrived in the London Foreign Letter Office and the mailbag was opened.  As each letter was processed, it received a London exchange mark with a date that indicated the day the bag was opened.  There were actually a few different designs in use during the 1860s, but this one is fairly common for 1866.

At this point, the mail would be sorted to go to its various destinations in the United Kingdom.  This was due to be taken to the Baring Brothers - a large financial institution in London that often provided banking and mail forwarding/holding services for travelers.

Baring Brothers Serving as Forwarding Agent for Mail

The Baring Brothers were actually part of a fairly recent Postal History Sunday titled There and Back Again.  But, as a brief recap, many financial firms provided services for travelers in Europe, such as banking services and mail holding or forwarding.  

Putting it simply, a traveler would pay for this service and it would give those who wished to contact them an address where they could send their mail.  It was then up to the forwarding agent (the Baring Brothers in this case) to either hold on to the mail until the traveler came to the offices to pick it up OR send it on to a location left with them by the traveler.  That location was often with ANOTHER firm that also providing mail forwarding or holding services, as well as banking.

It is not hard to imaging that General W.F. Bartlett may well have left an itinerary with the Baring Brothers with instructions for mail forwarding as he traveled.  Apparently, the instructions on March 5 was - "please send it to me while I am in Paris."

British Exchange Office with France

Baring Brothers had their marching orders for any letters to the General.  So, once they had sorted out the mail they had received for their clients, they probably sent one of their people to the post office to re-mail everything that was to be forwarded.

The Lombard Street post office was probably a ten minute walk from the Baring offices in the Bishopsgate sector of London, so it wasn't all that far away.  And, it just so happens that the Lombard Street post office could serve as an exchange office for mails to and from France.  If you look closely at the marking above, the letters "F.O." stand for "Foreign Office."  

Apparently, the Baring Brothers did pay the postage, even though there are no stamps to show the payment.  Instead, this red circular marking AND the red "4" on the front indicated payment - and the amount of the postage required.

Mail from the United Kingdom to France cost 4 pence for each 1/4 ounce in weight (7.5 grams).  This rate was effective from  Jan 1, 1855 to Jun 30, 1870.

It is interesting to note that the mail between the United States and the British system was rated as 24 cents for the first 1/2 ounce.  So, it would have been very possible for someone to send a letter that would have qualified for a single letter that traveled overseas, but then possibly be a double weight letter from the U.K. to France.

Further evidence that this letter was paid in full for its new destination in Paris is the PD in an oval that appears at the top.

The French Exchange Office

By now, you are likely getting the hang of this.  The letter had been placed in a mailbag at Lombard Street with other mail bound for France.  The bag remained closed as it crossed the English Channel and was opened when it arrived at the French exchange office.

The marking placed on the letter is shown above and it reads "Angl. Amb. Calais G (or C)  6 Mars 66."

The "Angl." simply means it was mail received from England and the date was March 6, 1866.  The "Amb. Calais" portion shows us something different than the other exchange markings.  It turns out that this marking was applied while it was on board a mail car on the train from Calais, France to Paris.  The mail convention between the French and British identified this train, in particular as an exchange office so mail could be sorted even before it reached Paris.

The back of this item has a single, weak marking that shows it arrived in Paris on the same day (March 6).  This last marking would have been applied by the Paris post office to indicate its arrival at the destination.

John Munroe & Company - Paris

John Munroe & Co was a banking firm that was established in New York and opened a subsidiary in Paris during the year 1851.  They specialized in transactions between the French, British and Americans, which made their company a logical choice for a traveler from the United States.

This time around, it seems as if the letter was held for General Bartlett until he picked it up in Paris. We cannot be certain that this is the case, because there is no docketing or letter contents to confirm this guess.  But, it is the simplest choice and is supported by other, outside documentation.

General William Francis Bartlett's Travels

William Francis Bartlett (June 6, 1840 – December 17, 1876) turns out to be a fairly easy individual to track down in the annals of history.  The Memoir of William Francis Bartlett by Francis Winthrop Palfrey was published in 1878 and is available for free on babel.  For those who might become interested in his story, I suggest you go there.  I, personally have only skimmed portions of the content as I was looking for specific information.

Bartlett was wounded multiple times during his service with the Union in the Civil War, losing his leg fairly early in the conflict.  Despite this loss, he returned to duty and climbed the ranks, despite having to rely on a prosthetic leg to replace what he'd lost in battle.  He was captured in 1865 when his prosthetic was hit by some sort of opposing fire and he could not retreat with his men.

He was still technically on active duty in 1866, but his command had been "mustered out" (dismantled).  Apparently, he was able to secure leave from then Secretary of War Stanton so he could travel in Europe for six months.  The beginning of his letter is shown below, but the entirety is presented starting on page 168 of his Memoir.

To make the story shorter, leave was granted, probably without pay and Frank Bartlett was allowed to leave the country and travel Europe.

At the time this letter arrived in London (March 5), Bartlett has begun a tour of southern France and Italy, not staying in any one location for terribly long.  He even visited Garibaldi in the latter's home briefly.  He returned taking a route via Switzerland, visiting Geneva along the way.

Because of his transitory nature at this time AND the fact that he was not conducting business other than that of a tourist, it is highly likely mail was held for him during this period.  An alternative, of course, is that a courier carried a packet of letters to some location at a mid-point in his travels, but there can be no proof of that unless there are hints in the Memoir.

note: photo of Bartlett taken from the front of his Memoir as scanned at the link given in the text above.

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Once again, you have spent some quality time - possibly learning something new - while I share something I enjoy with a Postal History Sunday post.  I hope you enjoyed it and that you have a fine remainder of your day!

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Gold Medal

Welcome again to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.

This week we will dispense with some of the introduction and do some housekeeping.  For those who are unaware, I will have undergone surgery on April 28 to remove one of my kidneys where a cancerous mass was found.  It was important to me that I continue to offer some material in the weeks that immediately follow that event, so I took the time to select some topics that were easier to write (for me) and got them written prior to the surgery so I could cue them up for automatic release.  Assuming all went well during that surgery, I expect to return to my regular writing after I recover.

Until then, be well and I hope you enjoy what I offer here.

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This week we're going to take a look at one the heirloom/heritage tomato varieties that has been in our grow list for many years - Gold Medal!


This variety is, according to my records, among a fairly short list of heritage/heirloom tomatoes that have not missed a year of production since our first "official" year as the Genuine Faux Farm in 2005.  It has never been a key for our tomato production, but it still shows up every single season - why is that?

It turns out that Gold Medal is one of the sweetest tasting tomatoes that we've grown.  These larger, beefsteak-style tomatoes are a perfect combination of juicy and meaty and they are a real treat on sandwiches (my opinion).  We like their taste so much that we have made sure to grow a few plants every year, even if we are the only ones who get to taste their goodness.

The highest fruit production per plant was 11 in 2006 - but that was a ridiculous year for tomatoes that probably caused us to over-estimate what we could do per plant for all of our tomatoes every year since that time.  A much more modest three to four decent fruit per plant is a reasonable goal for most years.  Remember, when I give my numbers, I referencing "marketable fruit."  A home gardener might count more simply because they are willing to count tomatoes that are cracked and show other damage.

Plants tend to be larger in size, which makes sense because the fruit are three-quarters pound and larger.  When I say larger, I mean.... larger.  We once brought a Gold Medal tomato to market and someone compared the tomato to the size of their newborn baby's head.  The tomato might have been bigger, weighing in at 3 pounds.  

From a production perspective, if you're a commercial grower, Gold Medal can only be considered a novelty tomato that you can add to the mix.  The size is highly variable, production can be variable and the plants don't like getting too wet or too dry.  Fruit are typically too large for many to want to purchase at a farmers' market unless they are looking for "freaks and oddities."

Even so, we grow them.  They often add a nice balance in a mix with other heirlooms when we make our tomato sauce for freezing each Fall.  Those who have purchased tomatoes for their own canning or freezing usually get at least one of these big tomatoes so they can appreciate the mix as well.

Another thing I appreciate about Gold Medal is the nice, stocky plants they become very early in their lifespan.  If you could pick a plant that just LOOKS good, it would be a Gold Medal, in my opinion.

You know a Gold Medal is ready when the blossom end shows that star of red color bleeding into the yellow.  You can harvest these a bit earlier and let them finish ripening off of the vine with very little taste issues.  In fact, I recommend that so you can avoid splitting and all of the things that seem to happen right at the tail end of the ripening stages in the field.

Have a great weekend and I hope you enjoyed this week's Veggie Variety on a Saturday!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Upcoming

The Genuine Faux Farm blog is going to be a little sparse for a time while I recover from the removal of my left kidney and the cancer that is contained in its tissues.  Perhaps I will be anxious to return to blogging sooner than I think as I recover.  But, I do think it is important that I remove almost daily blogging from my "to do" list for a while.

Here is the good news.  Prior to surgery, I wrote and queued up a Variety Show post for the next two Saturdays and a Postal History Sunday post for this weekend! 

I will make it a goal to write an update blog post one week after surgery on May 5.  It might be short - but it would be something.

Until then, be well.  Be kind to each other.  Remember to stop and greet the flowers when they dress up for you.  Nod a greeting to the bees as they pass you by on their way to work.  Skritch a cat and provide them with taxi service if they ask and you are able.  Patiently listen to a tree as it takes the time to use all of the words it needs to describe something to you.  Really listen to some music or to a bird sing.  Watch the sunrise or the sunset.  Do what you do with integrity and show empathy for others.  Work hard and take care of yourself.  Learn something new.  Share something you enjoy with someone else.  Listen carefully and think well.

And, be the voice that tells someone else that they are loved.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hurry Up and Wait

The month of April at the Genuine Faux Farm is always "Hurry Up and Wait" time.

April weather in Iowa can be beautiful one day and blustery and cold the next.  One moment, you're thinking you could put some tomatoes in and the next you're glad you didn't because those same tomatoes would probably be dead if you had.

If there's anything we've learned - it's that you need to be patient in April.  There's still plenty you can (and should) do.  But, getting ahead of yourself usually just leads to more, not less, work.

This year is a bit different.  With the unfortunate timing of the surgery to remove a kidney, we find ourselves being pressed to get as much as is possible done prior to the surgery - simply in hopes that we can keep up after the surgery.

This is where we should probably be thankful for the cold periods that prevent us from getting TOO far ahead of ourselves.  Except that it will be hard to do some of these things when it does warm up.  I need to remember not to expect too much of myself for a little while.

And, no, I don't have to like it.

Our goals right now include getting the potatoes in and having both high tunnels planted... well, mostly planted.  There are some things that still need to wait.

We'd like to get the hens moved to their Summer Cottage and to a new pasture - but we decided it would be better to wait on that one.  It makes no sense having to deal with all of the little things that happen when poultry experience something new... there's always a bit of work that comes from that.  As a result, we know we won't get the old pasture re-seeded, nor will we get the room cleaned out.

We've already decided that we can't move Eden to the west position - the winds just stayed too heavy for us to move it.  So, we'll grow in the same spot again this year, even though that's not what we want.  But, we did get some help putting some compost into the growing beds, so that will help us deal with the situation.

We make adjustments every single year.  We always accept that some things are not the way we wanted them to be.  This year is no different, even if the challenge presented to us is not quite the same.


We got the next batch of seed trays started and we got Casa Verde (the little green house) recovered so it can be used.  Fields will be prepared for planting and our first batch of bees are settled and doing reasonably well. 

Over the last week, we've done a decent job of getting things done on all fronts.  But, there are simply too many fronts.  So, we'll continue to rush around until the last minute - so we can wait for a while - until our own personal weather system calms and we can walk in the sun again.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Fighting to Wake Up

There was this odd roaring sound and I remember hearing my name being called.  It was a voice of someone I loved, and she sounded scared.

I opened my eyes and nothing made sense.  But, I still found enough voice to say something... I don't remember what.  That seemed to be enough to help.

I made a move to get up and someone told me to stay still.

This is foolish, I can just get up, can't I?  Then I realized that the windshield in front of me was a rumpled and wrinkled web.  That can't be right.  What's going on? 

 

It was one of those gorgeous Fall days in September where the sky is the deepest of blues, there's just a few puffs of breeze and the temperatures were a bit above the norm.  A perfect day to drive up to Decorah and pick up my soon to be partner for life so we could head up to Shakopee and the Renaissance Fair.

We'd been there the previous Fall and I'd really liked it, so Tammy agreed that it seemed like a nice way to celebrate.  We had a cooler in the back seat with some lunch and probably some iced tea.. I don't remember for certain.  The route was familiar, the companionship was comfortable, and it was a beautiful, lazy day.

As we approached Chatfield, a town we knew to be the home of a respected Social Work professor, we were both fighting a little bit of the "sleepies."  So, I put in some music to help me stay awake, but didn't make it too loud so Tammy could relax if she wanted.  A quick gulp or two of iced tea and we were entering the town.  I noticed the familiar landmarks of the town and...

I was fighting to wake up.  There was this odd roaring sound in my head.  I heard a voice of someone I loved.  I spoke. I opened my eyes and nothing made sense....

I was placed in the waiting ambulance and told to lie still.  Someone put their face in front of mine and told me that I had been in a car accident and that Tammy was taking different transportation to the hospital.  They couldn't or wouldn't tell me much else.  

After a little while all I remember is that my body began to rebel.  My muscles were shaking and forcefully contracting.  So much for lying still.  I wanted to apologize, but my teeth were chattering.  They told me I was going into shock, so I started to focus on trying to get my body to STOP that silliness.  At first it didn't listen, but it eventually subsided.  

I remember lying on the gurney in the E.R. for what seemed a very long time.  I seem to recall that I was given some sort of a scan and then I was carted back to the same curtained area I had started in when I arrived.

I stayed still, patiently awaiting further instruction.

They told me to stay still.  Stay still.  Don't move.

How did I get here?  We were driving into Chatfield then.... nothing?  Did I fall asleep?!?  I mean it felt like I was trying to wake up.  Did I fall asleep at the wheel and cause this accident?!?  I don't remember!  I don't remember!

Stay still.  Don't move. 

A police officer comes in.  He looks at me and I see something that is either disgust or ... something... in his eyes.  He asks me what happened and I tell him that I don't know.  

We start going through the details about me.  I can tell him my phone number, where I work, my social security number - or whatever other vital information I was supposed to give.  

That look in his eyes grows more intense.  He asks me again, a bit more forcefully - what happened?

He doesn't understand that I am desperate to remember.  I want to yell at him that I am frustrated because I can tell him all sorts of inane details, like my childhood phone number, my ACT and SAT scores, the date I started my job at Rockwell-Collins - but I could NOT seem to recall anything about recent events.

All I could say is that I thought I could remember Chatfield.  Was it just south of Chatfield?  

"No," he said, "it was north of Chatfield."

I knew he thought I was lying.  I had been judged and been found wanting.  And I wasn't sure why that was - but now I knew I must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Lie still.  Don't move.  Stew in your own guilt.

Maybe I don't want to remember.

It was odd.  Nothing really seemed to hurt except for... well, it felt like I was lying on a bunch of rocks.  And, it was getting uncomfortable.  

But, I had been told to lie still.  So I did.  

Eventually a nurse came in, looked a little startled, and said, "Hasn't anyone come in here to help clean you up a little?"  My reply was that the last I had heard, I wasn't supposed to move....

She was very apologetic and let me know that there had been a rush for the E.R.  The good news, it seems, was that I had nothing serious wrong with me.  A broken collar bone and what would likely be a body full of bruises.  The scans had shown nothing to worry about with the head and neck.

I had to beg to differ.  I told her I couldn't remember what happened.  She told me that was normal and I should be patient.  They let me know that Tammy was going to be ok, but she had received a pretty nasty cut to the head and had taken a helicopter ride to the hospital.  I think it was good that they had just told me she was being taken care of and skipped the details earlier....

As she helped me to sit up, I heard things falling to the floor and she looked surprised and startled again.  I looked down and saw numerous little squares of safety glass... everywhere.  It was in my hair and some trickled down the neck of my shirt.  I had been lying on a bed of broken glass. 

Again, she apologized.  I told her that if others needed her help more and I could wait, I could certainly deal with discomfort.  Miraculously, I had nothing more than a few pinprick cuts from all of that glass.  No harm.  No foul.

Another person came in and they helped me get rid of the glass.  I couldn't use my right arm to help and it was kind of embarrassing to have to have help getting glass out of my shirt and the back of my pants.

They put a harness on me to hold my shoulder in place.  And, of course, the barrage of confirmation questions followed.  What's your name?  Where do you live?  What's your birth date?

I told them.

They both looked at each other when I gave them that last answer and said, "oh."  

"Yeah.  Happy birthday to me." 

=================

Epilogue

Eventually, most of my memory leading up to this accident returned.  I remember going through Chatfield.  I remember coming around a turn and going up a hill, noticing a few cars that had come to a stop.  Someone wanted to turn left at the top of the rise and, obviously, there must be approaching traffic.  I took a quick glance in the rearview mirror and noted a car just entering the base of the hill - still quite a ways back. 

I eased into my place in the queue of cars waiting for the oncoming traffic to pass.  I slowed down and even coasted a little, tapping my breaks - with plenty of room between me and the next vehicle.  I had come mostly to a complete stop.

I remember glancing over at Tammy.  Her eyes were closed and she had her legs up on the dashboard.  Something she liked to do then and something I know now is dangerous to do - especially now that we have airbags.  Yet, it saved her legs that day.

At some point soon after, the roaring starts and .... I was fighting to wake up.  I heard my name....

=================

The newspaper clipping from Chatfield announced that we were the first people to receive the dubious honor of having the "Jaws of Life" used to get us out of the vehicle (probably some of the roaring).  They had just received them not long before that September day.  The clipping also noted that we were wearing our seatbelts and that they saved our lives.

They also reported that I had not noticed the stopped cars and swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid them - only to meet a pick-up truck going the other way.  Well, that explains the judgemental looks and disgust.  Another stupid, young male driver that wasn't paying attention and made a bad decision.

But, it didn't explain why the rear-end of our car was in the back seat.  It also didn't explain why paint from the car I had noted at the bottom of the hill was on our car and paint from our car was on the front of that vehicle.

I hadn't fallen asleep.  I didn't cause a crash that resulted in someone I love being extracted from the vehicle by the Jaws of Life and then flown via helicopter for treatment.

And I didn't deserve the looks I got from people who thought otherwise at the time.

Why Write This Particular Blog?

How many times a day do each of us jump to an undeserved conclusion about someone or something?  How often do we make an incorrect assumption based on a particular characteristic?  This time it was young, male = irresponsible & dangerous behind the wheel.  Next time is it black, male = likely to stick a knife into me?  Is it Asian, female = probably a sex worker?  You fill in your own blanks - then ask yourself how you can change.

We can't deny it - we all have tendencies to make quick judgments.  There are times when it could be a good thing - possibly keeping us out of a dangerous situation.  But, when you let it be the final word, it isn't so good anymore.

How often do we actually take the time to learn more about a person or a thing and give ourselves the opportunity to correct ourselves when it becomes clear that our initial conclusions were wrong?  It's a rare thing and it requires an awful lot of effort (often by someone else) to get us to reconsider.

The Chatfield paper may or may not have corrected the story on a later date.  At best it was a little "correction" on page 9 - buried in column three.  But, it was old news and no one cared now.  I had simply confirmed the stereotype and there was no reason to reconsider.  At least I had people who stood up for me and advocated for some review that revealed the truth of the accident.  The official reports eventually reflected the facts as they were discovered.  I have little doubt that the final accident report would not have changed if there hadn't been a push to investigate further.

I write this blog post because rural EMS services were there to take care of us when a serious accident happened.  They had been able, via donations, to secure a critical piece of equipment to extract us from the vehicle.  Today, there is a bill that resides in the Iowa Senate that would make rural EMS services a required service - thus securing funding.  If we don't do something, there won't be an EMS to save the next person who wakes up, confused, with a web of windshield glass in front of them. If you live in Iowa, contact your state senator.  Last I looked this was the bill being considered.

I also write this blog to remind us all that there are times when a person cannot and should not be expected to be at their best.  This is when compassion, rather than confrontation... or judgement... is needed.  There will be time enough to deal with business.

And finally...

Sometimes the voice of someone you love can make all of the difference in the world.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

By the Sheet - Postal History Sunday

I have been noticing a pattern that has been emerging and maybe you have too.  Every seven days there is a Postal History Sunday post on the Genuine Faux Farm blog.  Huh.  I wonder how that works?

Let's take all those worries and troubles we have and mix them up with some bread crusts and other kitchen scraps.  If we throw all of it to the chickens, they'll have it worried down to nothing in no time!  Meanwhile, we can take a few moments out of our day (whichever day it is when you find yourself visiting this blog entry) and learn something new while I share something I enjoy.

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This week we're going to actually answer a couple of excellent questions regarding the postal rates in the United States in the 1800s.  But, in typical fashion for me, we'll get there in a little bit of a "round-about" way.  

Determining size by the sheet

Postage has traditionally been assessed for mail based on two common variables: 

  1. how far a letter must travel to get to the destination, and
  2. how big the letter is.  

The thing that has changed over time is how postal agencies determined distance and size.  In the early 1800s the United States determined size by the number of sheets of paper that were in a mail item.  As we move to the mid 1800s, the United States changed to a weight-based method of determining size.

The folded letter shown above is dated August 9, 1839 and was mailed from the Washington County Bank in Williamsport, Maryland to the Cashier at the Hagerstown Bank (also in Maryland) whose name was Elie Beatty.

To cut right to the chase, this letter had FOUR sheets, even though I currently only have one sheet with this item in my collection.  That raises the question - how do I know that?

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States May 1, 1816 - June 30, 1845

DistanceRatePer
up to 30 miles
6 cents
sheet      
over 30, up 80 miles                  
10 cents
sheet
over 80, up to 150
12.5 cents           
sheet
over 150, up to 400
18.5 cents*
sheet
over 400 miles
25 cents sheet
      *March 3, 1825                    
    18.75 cents

There it is, the postage rate table for letter mail in the United States at the time this letter was mailed.  The distance from Williamsport to Hagerstown was (and is) about 7 miles.  A "single letter" would require 6 cents in postage.  This particular item has a nice bold "24" at the top right, which is four times the single letter sheet.  Thus, we can deduce that this item had four sheets of paper total (including this outside wrapper).

One sheet - Longer haul

While I do not have many items from this time period in my collection, I do have a couple that I can show here.  The second must have been only a single sheet, but it traveled a much longer distance.


This letter was mailed on August 30, 1819 from Cincinnati, Ohio to Newburyport, Massachusetts, a distance of 915 miles (more or less).  A clear marking reads "25" at the top left, which indicates the postage Stephen W Marston would have to pay for the privilege of receiving this missive.  The rate per sheet was 25 cents if it traveled over 400 miles, so this qualified as a "single letter."

At this point in time, most mail was sent collect to the recipient and very little was prepaid.  I have heard it said by some that the prevailing attitude in some cultures was that it would be offensive to prepay a letter because it might imply that the sender felt you could not manage to pay for your own mail.  While I have no idea if that claim is accurate or not, I can accurately report that prepayment at this time was uncommon.

Major changes - July 1, 1845

Things change dramatically in 1845 when the United States switched the measurement of size from the number of sheets to the weight of a letter.  Now, a letter that weighed up to 1/2 ounce would be considered a single letter.  Each half ounce over that amount would require another rate of postage. 

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States July 1, 1845 - June 30, 1851

DistanceRatePer
up to 300 miles
5 cents
half ounce     
over 300 miles                  
10 cents
half ounce

This brings us to the question about postage rates going DOWN instead of UP (which is what we might consider to be normal in the present day).

The U.S. Postal Service was beginning to see more and more competition from private enterprise that was seeking to provide mail services to the public.  One such entity was Hale & Company, which I wrote about in this Postal History Sunday about Independent Mail.  The biggest difference is that the US Post Office had the support of Congress, which passed laws that made it illegal for these private entities to carry the mail as they had been doing.  At the same time, the same Act of Congress reduced and simplified the postage rates - putting them at prices that were closer to the amounts these private entities had been charging.

The letter above was mailed April 4, 1849 and is datelined from Baltimore with a destination 90 miles away (Martinsburg, Virginia).  A big blue "5" shows the postage due.  This same letter would have cost 12.5 cents under the old rate structure.

The United States issued their first postage stamps in 1847, ushering in a new normal - the prepayment of postage for letter mail.

Unsurprisingly, the two denominations for these stamps were 5 and 10 cents - matching up nicely with the postage rates for mail in the United States at the time.

Encouraging pre-payment of postage

Once we get to 1851, our postal service in the United States begins to look a bit more like the system we are familiar with.  Prepayment is encouraged by setting two different rates for prepaid and unpaid mail.

Letter Mail Rates in the United States July 1, 1851 - March 31, 1855

DistanceRatePer
up to 3000 miles prepaid
3 cents
1/2 ounce     
over 3000 miles prepaid    
6 cents
1/2 ounce 
up to 3000 miles unpaid
5 cents           
1/2 ounce 
over 3000 miles unpaid
10 cents
1/2 ounce 

A letter with the new three cent stamp of 1851 is shown below.  I am unable to determine the year date for this letter, but it was clearly a single rate letter that was prepaid in Boston (on its way to Middlebury, Vermont).

It was at this point in time that the trime was issued to help customers pay for the postage with these new, lower rates.  For those who do not know what I am talking about - I recently offered a Postal History Sunday focused on the three cent rate and the minting of the three cent coin known as a trime or a fishscale.  

By the time we get to 1855, things change yet again!  Prepayment is no longer optional and the rates are adjusted once more.

Letter Mail Rates in the United States April 1, 1855 - June 30, 1863

DistanceRatePer
up to 3000 miles prepaid
3 cents
1/2 ounce     
over 3000 miles prepaid    
10 cents
1/2 ounce 

Below is an example of an item that traveled over 3000 miles and required 10 cents in postage.

This letter was mailed in San Francisco on April 3, 1863 and traveled via Panama, arriving at its destination in Boston.  This letter must have weighed more than a half ounce and no more than one ounce to require 20 cents in postage, paid by two 10 cent postage stamps.

Postage rates from 1863

To answer the question that was asked about postage rates further, here is a table that shows the next several rate periods.  Starting in July of 1863, the distance component was removed from the rate calculation for mail inside of the United States.

 Letter Mail Rates in the United States

Effective Date
RatePer
July 1, 1863
3 cents
half ounce    
October 1, 1883                  
2 cents
half ounce
July 1, 1885
2 cents           
ounce
November 2, 1917
3 cents
ounce
July 1, 1919
2 cents ounce
July 6, 1932                 
3 cents
ounce

The trend for the reduction in postage rates actually continues until 1885.  There is a short interruption during World War I when an increase was used to help fund the war effort.  Once we get to 1932, the trend of increasing rates would slowly begin.  The next rate increase would be in 1958 (to 4 cents).

Because I haven't shown you a picture for a short bit - here is an 1898 example of the 2 cents for letter mail weighing up to one ounce rate.

You asked about letter rates going up and down in the United States and....now you know!

Bonus Material!

Because I am feeling generous right now, I thought I would add a little bonus material to the mix today.

Let me remind you of our first postal history item that I shared at the top of this blog.  It just so happens that there are MANY pieces of mail still out in the world for collectors to find that went to Elie Beatty, Cashier for the Hagerstown Bank.  It is because of correspondences like this one that postal historians are often able to learn more about how the postal services worked during the time the correspondence was active.

The Hagerstown Bank correspondence has value for historians who study banking systems too.  Elie Beatty was a well-respected cashier and was apparently quite talented at his job.  The site linked in the prior sentence gives us this summary:

"The historical significance of the collection lies primarily in the insights it offers to the operations of a prosperous regional bank during a tumultuous period in United States banking history. The antebellum decades witnessed a series of banking crises, most notably the Panics of 1819 and 1839, recurring recessions and depressions, and the famous "Bank Wars." The financial and political upheaval, combined with disastrous harvests during the 1830s, wreaked havoc on Washington County, Maryland, and caused the Williamsport Bank to suspend specie payments in 1839. Despite the prevailing economic climate, the Hagerstown Bank emerged as a stable financial institution with considerable holdings."

Is it possible that the Washington County Bank in Williamsport is one and the same as the Williamsport Bank referenced in this paragraph?  

Elie Beatty's story can certainly be expanded upon, but I will suggest that you can take the link and read the summary there if you have interest.  If there was a doubt as to Beatty's dedication to his job, I will add the following from the site linked above.

"Beatty resigned his position on April 23, 1859, citing "feeble health and the infirmities of age." Beatty died on May 5, 1859 at the age of eighty-three."
One last tidbit comes from the Hagerstown newspaper (The Herald and Torch Light) on April 17, 1878.

Elie Beatty served as Cashier for most of his tenure at the bank, but he was president of the bank for just under two years - being pressed into service at the death of the current president of the bank in 1831.  While it is clear that Beatty was a highly competent individual, is it possible that he was happier with the hands-on management aspect rather than being the person with the final decision making power?  That may be a question for another time and another person - but it is intriguing nonetheless.

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There you have it!  You've just spent some time taking another journey as we explore postal history together on a Sunday.  Whether you are also a postal historian or just an "innocent bystander" who just couldn't help but take the journey with us, I am glad you joined me in the process.

Have a wonderful remainder of the day and a good week to follow.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Blizzard

Welcome to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.

Yesterday, I took the time to remove the covers we put over our crops in Valhalla, the larger of our two high tunnels.  You see, we had some cold (down to 22/23 degrees Fahrenheit) weather that could put those crops in jeopardy and I wanted to do my best to keep them going.

I pulled the cover off of the row of peas we are running in the middle bed and was pleased to see the three inch tall starts looking very healthy.  That gave me the motivation to write about Blizzard snow peas (because that is exactly the variety I have planted out there right now). 


The Year that Set the Bar

One of the most difficult things about farming like we do is the fact that we have never felt that we have had that ONE year where everything seemed to go well.  That's our fault, because we grow so many crops and so many successions of our crops that there will always be failures - and it can be hard to balance the failures with the successes.

However, 2015 was a pretty good year overall AND it was THE year for peas at the Genuine Faux Farm.  We were growing four varieties (Oregon Sugar Pod II, Golden Sweet, Mammoth Melting and Blizzard) and all four did remarkably well.  A fifth variety, Cascadia, actually failed to germinate.. .so I guess it wasn't perfect.

Our workers were dedicated to making the crop work (as were we).  We got them planted at the right time, weeded at the right time and trellised on time.  We stayed on top of the harvest and... well, it was just a really good year for peas.  

We had 450 row feet of peas in the field that germinated and we harvested 445.4 pounds of snow and snap peas (no shelling peas). You need to remember that we do multiple harvests on our farm - this is not a harvest one time with a machine operation!  Even so, we are more used to saying we had a good year if we get about a half pound per row foot versus the full pound we got in 2015.

Blizzard came in at .86 pounds per row foot, which was lower than others in the mix.  But we still gave it the nod as the best snow pea of the batch for two reasons:

  1. They were easiest to pick.
  2. They tasted the best right off the vine (and if you cooked them).

Blizzard actually ended up being our number 1 veggie variety in 2015, beating out a number of worthy competitors.  As I reviewed that list, I realized that 2015 might have been our best growing season in our history.  If only I'd known how good it was at the time!

The peas had us going so much that we even wrote some pun blogs on the topic.  Minding Your Peas and Cukes and Vine-ally! Minding Your Peas and Cukes.  

Why or Why Not Blizzard?

I would like to be able to say that Blizzard has done well for us every season, but that would be an untruth.  There were a couple of instances where the variety was not available to us and we tried to use old seed - which did not work.  There was another year where most of the row of Blizzard peas were not trellised in time and we just gave up trying to harvest them as thoroughly as we should have. (sometimes you have to make choices with your limited labor hours)

But, when they're good, they're good.  Good enough that I purchased too many seed the last time they were available and took care to store them well so I could have them available.  Now, I am even considering planting a few rows so I can save the seed.

Unlike some snow pea varieties, Blizzard does seem to have a peak harvest flush where you could probably pull in most of the harvest in a ten day period.  But, it does have enough of a spread that this is not a deal breaker if you need a longer harvest period for CSA or farmers market.  Since our farm is changing to needing smaller harvest windows, Blizzard fits us well.

Vines are typically four feet tall and do require a trellis.  If you let them do what they want, you'll have a terrible time keeping them cultivated and harvested.  

Vines have strong tendrils and don't tend to let go once they've got a hold of a trellis.  Peas are usually held out away from the vine and they have fewer peas hidden in the depths of the vine.  If you are growing several row feet, this is a huge labor saving characteristic.  Both Mammoth Melting and Blizzard tend to do this, which was part of the reason why we could keep up in 2015.  

Blizzard is a bit less tolerant of heat than Oregon Sugar Pod II (which we think is the best for this), but we are usually transitioning to green bean harvest by the time Blizzard finishes.  From a labor standpoint, this is perfect for us.

--------------------

Thank you for joining me for another offering of our Variety Show on a Saturday.  I hope you found it helpful or interesting.  Whichever fits your need at the moment.  

If you have questions, corrections or suggestions for another veggie type you would like us to feature (we get to select the variety) let us know.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Not Always Bad News

 Here is another example of the kind of work I do for the Pesticide Action Network.  Yesterday, I shared the contents of the most recent Iowa News that I put together for those who have signed up to get PAN mailings and live in the state.  Today, I share with you what a blog looks like when I write it with the PAN "organizational voice."  Essentially, all that means is that this blog is published with no particular author noted.  But, it also means that some of the flexibility that comes along for the ride when I write with my "farmer voice" goes away.  I am now "officially" speaking for... or maybe as... PAN.

The difficulty, for me, with this one is that it focused on a pesticide for citrus - crops I am not terribly familiar with the processeses used to raise them.  But, I learned a fair amount.  The next difficulty is that I have to be much more concerned with brevity.

The best thing about this blog is the ending.  We received good news just as this was being published on the PAN website.  That, of course, required changes to the content (again), but I'll be glad to just have the good news.

=================================

Aldicarb, a pesticide that has seen minimal use in the United States over the past decade, was re-approved for use on citrus crops in January, after a rushed process that barely accommodated the legally mandated public comment period for the re-registration of the chemical.

The new registration will allow 100,000 acres of citrus to be treated with up to 2.5 million pounds of pesticide products that contain aldicarb.  This will put a pesticide that is classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization into use, raising the risks of groundwater contamination, accidental ingestion with food products, and direct exposure to orchard workers and wildlife.

History has the answer

In 2010, Bayer and the EPA agreed to end the use of aldicarb in the United States after finding that its use put infants and young children at risk.  In particular, the application of this product on citrus crops and potatoes provided the most likely vectors for exposure.  Bayer agreed to cancel the use of aldicarb products on citrus immediately, while the use of this product on other crops was to be phased out over a longer period of time.

AgLogic, the sole remaining producer of aldicarb pesticides, applied soon after for registration of aldicarb for a small subset of other crops, such as cotton and soybeans, which was granted.  AgLogic tried to expand on this by seeking approval for aldicarb use on citrus crops in Florida in 2017, but was denied when they failed to show that aldicarb was a superior product for controlling pests than alternative products with better safety records.

The use of aldicarb in the United States has been low since the phased ban that started in 2011, but the chemical was still detected in drinking water in six states from 2015 to 2017.  

Irresponsible use of a dangerous pesticide

Aldicarb is a known neurotoxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor.  Exposure can cause acute symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, tremors, vomiting and, potentially, death in extreme poisoning cases.  Normal brain development can be impaired if infants or children are exposed to this pesticide.

If we check with PAN’s Pesticide Info database, we find that Aldicarb is also known to leach into groundwater, contaminating drinking water.  In addition to all of that, this pesticide is also a known bee/pollinator toxin.

Pesticide Info’s global ban map shows that the concerns about the risks of aldicarb are widespread.  At this time, over 100 nations have banned the chemical, realizing that the risks of this pesticide far outweigh any benefit it might provide.  

History shows us that the use of aldicarb is a bad idea and most of the world is paying attention and has agreed that it should not be used.  The recent move to return to approved use in the U.S. simply defies logic.

What’s next?

Pushback has been swift following this misguided decision. Our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity and the Farmworker Association of Florida, along with the Environmental Working Group, have filed a lawsuit to oppose EPA’s rushed re-registration of aldicarb.  And on March 12, PAN delivered 22,863 signatures to Administrator Regan calling for quick action to ban or restrict some of the most harmful pesticides on the market, which would include aldicarb.

While PAN and partners work to protect our people and the environment by reversing the new approved use on citrus crops, we have our sights set on the long term solution — joining most of the rest of the world and banning aldicarb’s use entirely.

Breaking News

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services denied AgLogic's request to allow the use of aldicarb in the state on April 21, despite EPA's allowance for the chemical.  With this denial, FDACS stated that "aldicarb poses an unacceptable risk to human, animal, and environmental health in Florida, is one of the world’s most toxic pesticides, and is banned in more than 100 countries."  We celebrate this news with renewed resolve to push further toward a full national ban of aldicarb.