The “Cheerio Seeds” Scandal

PlantViewI’m sure most of you have seen that General Mills has been giving out free wild flower seeds in order to help save the bees. The long and the short of the issue is this: Handing out free seeds doesn’t make up for the refusal to stop using the chemicals that are killing bees in the first place.

Let’s back up and look at what glyphosate is. Otherwise known as RoundUp, glyphosate is an herbicide created by a Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970 and was marked in 1974. Glyphosate is such a strong herbicide that it was also harming crops. This stemmed the research and funding for genetically modified plants that could tolerate the chemical in order for farmers to spread massive amounts of the toxin on their crops, killing weeds and not harming the crops at the same time. Eventually bio-engineers began designing “RoundUp Ready” crops which are now used extensively in the US and in a few other countries.

The severe drenching of fields with glyphosate and the engineering of glyphosate into crops has not been studied in full, but the amount of glyphosate “leeching” into honey is alarming, especially given that glyphosate itself has yet to be cleared of possibly be a carcinogen.  The EPA is currently researching this risk, but results won’t be available until sometimes this spring, at the earliest. Coincidentally (or not so), studies have also shown that glyphosate has drastically impacted bees’ memory abilities, hampering the ability to find food and return to the hive, and their appetite, leaving them starving while producing low amounts of honey and with no drive to collect pollen, which in turn means low pollination levels and poor crop yields.

(None of this post takes into account the other environmental impacts of glyphosate of the potential cancer risk, but we’re sticking to the topic of Cheerios and bees here.)

Cheerios has tested higher for glyphosate (RoundUp) than any recently tested food article, with levels over 1,100 parts per billion. Which means that the fields in which the wheat is grown for the cereal is drenched in the chemical. (The oats themselves do not contain glyphosate as there are currently no RoundUp Ready oats. However, General Mills does still produce other cereals with RoundUp Ready wheat.)

So what does the Cheerios branch of General Mills do? They launch a feel-good campaign, which is timed right in parallel with unsealed documents that have been discovered and which raise the question as to whether glyphosate is safe for use. Cheerios decides to give out packages of free wild flower seeds that consumers can plant to help the bee population. There are a few problems with these seeds:

1. The seeds are not marked as non-GMO/organic, which means there is a very good chance that they also contain glyphosate. Planting poison not marked as poison is still poison.

2. Seeds listed in the package are considered invasive in certain areas. The company’s response to this essentially equated to, “There’s still pollen, and that’s what the bees need.” Introducing invasive species only presents other problems. Please check the label carefully to make sure you’re not causing more harm! (For example, Forget-me-nots and California poppies – both in the mixture – are very invasive weeds in certain growing zones.

3. These seeds are not a promise from the company to end the usage of glyphosate. Anyone who has taken Advertising 101 or a comparable course can tell you that this is a “feel-good” campaign in order to raise customer satisfaction and to distract from the new information surrounding the weed killer General Mills uses on the grains that eventually become their cereal, which we in turn feed to our families.

If you would like to plant flowers for the bees, by all means, do so!

Fantastic lists of native plants to grow that will help increase pollination and bee populations can be found at The Xerces Society. Make sure that the seeds you are buying are from a reputable dealer who does not sell GMO seeds, or if they do, make sure it is from a seed company that clearly labels what seeds are GMO and are non-GMO. One great example of a company practising such transparency is FedCo Seeds here in Maine. Everything is clearly labelled in their catalogue and online.

Buy from local seed dealers who will know what will grow well in your area.

Aim for native plants if you are planting only wild flowers.

Grow non-GMO, organic crops if you are gardening.

Do good, but don’t by into the “feel-good” of a company trying to undermine you.

Knowing when to draw a line.

One of the most difficult things about homesteading is knowing when to limit what you’re going to take on each season. I have seen one too many homesteaders who dive in head first, getting all the cannonical homestead animals – chickens, ducks, goats, sheep… – and attempting a full jump into complete and total self-sufficiency all at once. Some of these people have a good chunk of change in the bank for fall back. Some have a rich uncle to bail them out of bankruptcy. Many are leaving a paycheck-to-paycheck situation, tired of having someone lording over them, and with very little in the bank for backup. What they all have in common is diving into the deep end without treading through the shallow water first.

I get it. I do. The self-sufficient lifestyle of a full functioning homestead is very alluring, especially to those of us with that as an eventual long term goal. Unfortunately there are a few rip-currents along the way, and without at least planning for the ones you know will come – set backs in loss of income, seasonal changes and the problems that can arise, the necessary care costs of certain animals – it’s easy to get pulled under and in over your head when you’re being pulled from one rip-current to another. The longer you go without catching your breath, the sooner burnout comes.

This is why, despite how badly we wanted to try our hand at it this year, maple syruping has been put on hold. We’re planning on expanding our gardens this year by adding an allotment on a family member’s property. We have a scheme to actually get blueberries from our own bushes. Our sights are set on high yields in our own backyard gardens. Syruping would have been aiming too far over our heads this season. Maybe next year we’ll test out those waters.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, meet a lovely officer.

Yesterday I was standing at the back door with Little Miss bugging the chickens and practicing different chicken calls. All of a sudden I finally got reaction with the “air raid” call. 

Or so I thought. 

Right in front of my eyes, our little chicken theif walks around the corner of the house. 

“A–! What are you doing?!” He looks at me and keeps following the chickens. I think he was in momentary shock. “Get out of here!” The paralysis dissipated and off he went like a shot – or a six year old trudging through knee deep heavy snow. 


I went to the front door, on my way calling for Little Mister to snag my phone. I snagged some shots of A– and his little brother making their departure. 

“I told you we shouldn’t have tried to steal another chicken!” says the little brother who then promptly loses his boot in the snow. 

After they made their return adventure home, Hubster came home for lunch. I finally had the chance to get outside and discovered Beardie, one of our Easter Eggers, was missing. I wasn’t 100% that they had taken her, as there were no tell tale signs and she was a struggler even with us handling her, but I didn’t know if the younger brother’s comment about “another bird” was referring to the last time they’re stole one or today. Hubster and I discussed the issue and decided a course of action. 

I called our local state police barracks and explained the situation, how he’s stolen a bird before, how I spoke to the mother myself last time and was pressed upon that it wouldn’t happen again, and the young age of the kids. The officer I later talked to was just as concerned about making sure the kids got the message now and not later. “Let’s nip this in the bud.”

The little bugger tried lying to the officer, saying they didn’t come down at all. She took a walk behind the house and saw their tracks, took a couple photos to show them, and they quickly admitted that they came down, but claimed they only wanted to pet the chickens. I don’t buy it, and I don’t think the officer did either. She did say, however, that the mom was livid and the two boys were bawling their eyes out. Here’s hoping they learned a lesson. If not, I’m going to just watch and see if Greenleaf and MacGyver do their job.  

As for Beardie, she showed up about an hour after the boys came by. They spooked her enough that she had hidden out in the brush somewhere. 

Honey Cakes

There’s the cutest little book by Jane Yolen, one of my favourite authors, called Baby Bear’s Books and one of Little Mister’s favourite parts has to do with “dinners all ending with huge honey cakes.” When I was trying to decide what special treat to make for Imbolc, this line came flying into my mind. I scouted out a few recipes, but none of them looked to give the cakes that strong yet sweet honey taste I was thinking of. So, without further ado, I give you one of our original Raymond Homestead recipes.

HONEY CAKES
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 (4 tablespoons) stick of melted butter
1/2 cup honey

Mix all dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredient. (This may take some work, so stretch your arm muscles beforehand!) Combine both wet and dry ingredients until just moist. Bake in a lined or greased muffin tin at 350F for 20-25 minutes.

They were a huge hit! Sweet enough to not need frosting, but not too sweet to make it impossible to eat a second one. ;-)

Spring begins…

 

Yesterday was Imbolc. I count Imbolc as the beginning of Spring, as do many pagan and heathen traditions. It’s the beginning of planting season for many, as we prep and start the seedlings and dreams will become this season’s gardens. It’s a time to fight back the cold of February by tending the fragile new life growing on your windowsill. 

What will you be starting in the garden? For projects? For personal growth?