Category Archives: Government

Articles concerning Government, Politics, or Legislation, be it local, state, or nationwide.

Recent Projects…Like I don’t have enough to do!

Getting the garden in place this year has been a real chore with the deluge of rain we have been getting in the Mid-Atlantic Region.  So I have been filling my time, in between raindrops, doing a few little projects that needed done.

First we moved the rabbits out of the greenhouse into their own new digs. The housing use to belong to our chickens, but since we no longer can have them on our property (Thank you Baltimore County), it seemed like a great place to house our rabbits. I just needed to add a small rabbit condo to the mix.

We always have extra wood laying around and in this case I had an old antique secretary desk that was beyond repair. This made for the perfect base and 2 floors for the new rabbit condo. All I really had to do was add a third level (we only have two female rabbits housed here) and some ramps for them to climb.

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Overall I think it turned out pretty good for just a few hours work.

Next I had to take the new chickens-our 6 meat birds-and get them out of the house. They were getting too big too quick for the extra large dog cage we were using. We are going to dispatch them next weekend, so I only needed a couple more weeks. I moved them into the greenhouse where the rabbits were to keep them out of sight of our 1 problematic neighbor.

20160513_164109 20160513_164230They seem happier in the expanded space, I just hope no one tells them about our weekend plans!

Another project I have been wanting to do was make some dedicated space for our potato crop. We have done ok with potatoes the last few years but I am horrible about adding to the hills as they grow, thus reducing my harvest.

This year I decided to do as a friend of mine did last year: grow my potatoes in barrels! I cut three barrels in half, drilled in some drainage holes, and set them along the fence row where they will get plenty of sun all day.

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If you do this be sure to clean up all the little curly plastic or mama gets upset!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once having the barrels set, I mixed some our local dirt (clay), compost, and perlite to formulate a good bedding mix for the new potatoes. I scooped this into each barrel and leveled it at about 4 inches deep. This seemed a good starting point with potatoes.

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I did this a few days ago and I just looked into the barrels this morning and saw several of the potatoes growing. When they get to about 6-8 inches I will add more dirt, burying the plants to about 4 inches again. I have already made up an extra barrel of the dirt mix and have it standing by so hopefully I will add more each week to realize a larger potato crop.

My friend that showed me this method got a great yield from his 1 barrel last year so I am real excited to see how this does for me.

This is just a few of the projects I have done over this rainy period. The last few days, there have been enough dry spells to get the garden in, so I will have several updates in the coming days.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Back Up-Disaster Readiness

I did a post yesterday on Sustainable & Resilient Communities, then thought that I should have started with a post talking about Disaster Readiness  first. The class we are taking, Neighbors Helping Neighbors-Disaster Readiness, sponsored by Baltimore County and Homeland Security, is a step toward preparing one’s family for the eventual emergency situation.  Eventual meaning, not if, but when an emergency occurs. So let’s back up and talk about disasters that can occur.

Most disasters can be broken down into just two categories;Hurricane-Sandy

Natural-Hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, earthquakes, etc

Manmade-train or plane crashes, hazardous material leaks, vehicle accidents, etc.

Depending on the area of the world certain natural disasters are more prevalent. Here on the east coast of the United States our primary concerns lean toward hurricanes and flooding. These are the two predominant forms of natural disasters for our area. Yes we do get a few tornadoes and we are on a major fault line for earthquakes, but these occur much less often.

The U.S. west coast would be more concerned with earthquakes, while the Midwest would be watching for tornadoes. Excessive heat or cold could be a natural disaster. Lighting strikes in excessive heat make for huge natural disasters on the west coast with the spreading wild fires. Of course some of these could be considered man-made as well if started by a discarded lit cigarette.

mdtrainMan-made disasters can be just as devastating as any natural disaster and can occur anywhere and anytime. Here in Baltimore, just this past year was a major train collision with a dump truck in a heavily populated area. The explosion was phenomenal and could be felt miles away. From my house I could see the flames rising above the horizon.

After the initial impact came the threat of an area evacuation because of the potential for a hazardous material spill from a train car. Fortunately there was no spill and no evacuation had to occur.

But what if an evacuation had to occur and we would have to leave our homes for a few days. Would it not be easier to leave in an emergency IF there was already a plan in place and a bag packed for just such an emergency?

That is the goal of emergency readiness! We never know when one of these disasters may occur, but taking steps ahead of time to prepare for the potentiality of a disaster that is predominant to the area just makes sense.

No I am not a “doomsdayer” or “prepper” per se, but being prepared for common to our area emergencies just shows that I care enough about my family, friends, and neighbors to be a help and not a hindrance during troubling times.

I would advocate for every family to take some time to educate themselves about disaster readiness. Take stock of the area in which you live. Do a risk assessment of potential disasters and prepare for eventuality, not just for yourself, but your family, and your community.

Be sure to read Sustainable & Resilient Communities on this blog to see how to prepare a community for disaster readiness. I will be following up with other posts as we progress through the class.

 

Sustainable & Resilient Communities

I have attended a class the last two weeks on Emergency Readiness Emergency responsefor disaster. This is a free five week course put on by the Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. I hope to write a little each week about each class and my take-aways, in the hopes that others will see the importance of being prepared for short term emergencies. This weeks lecture focused on sustainable and resilient communities.

What is meant by sustainable and resilient communities? Here are the definitions as given for this lecture:

Sustainable: People and property kept out of way of disasters.  Building properties that are not in direct line of a potential disaster, or building property with potential for natural disaster to strike. Take for example a waterfront home.  In our area the potential for hurricane damage or flooding is high. So build the home with the necessary precautions to sustain the conditions that may prevail. Of course, nothing can withstand a major hurricane, but upgrading the building and properly aligning the footprint may prevent as much  damage from a lower class hurricane.

Resilient: The ability to react and recover quickly from a disaster. This ties in a little with  sustainable, as if the proper is built to withstand, it will sustain less damage allowing a quick recovery. But resilient goes a step further in that the individuals are prepared to handle these disasters. Knowledge, training, and immediate access to necessary supplies are key as to how an individual will react and recover.

The theory of developing sustainable & resilient communities is:

  •  overall costs will be cut in recovery
  • recovery time will decrease
  • amount of damage to a community will be far less
  • loss of life will decrease
  • Improve strength of communities

To me it just makes sense, that neighborhoods become the first step to strengthening our resolve to quickly and efficiently recover from a disaster-depending less on the ability of a government to step in and do it all.

Making communities sustainable and resilient depends on the commitment of the members of that community. Members must be willing to be involved, share, and help both themselves and others in the community. Commitment and involvement from more members will aid in a quicker recovery to the norm after a disaster.

A small group of individuals in a community can get the ball rolling by:

  • Doing a risk evaluation or identifying potential risks in the community
  • Setting a plan for the community that is both pro-active and reactive
  • Empowering members in the community to be involved
  • Making sure that those active members are organized, informed and trained if necessary
  • Having effective and responsible leadership who inspires members
  • Helping maintain responsible and healthy community institutions, businesses, and services

This, of course, is not an all inclusive list, but it is a starting point for any community to take large steps forward in growing a sustainable and resilient community.  The benefits of community members being involved and working together will significantly increase the chances of that community recovering quickly, with less damage and loss of life.

Read more:

Let’s Back Up-Disaster Readiness

Also a series of articles from a good friend on Mental Attitude for Emergency Readiness

Organic, Food Safety & GMO’s

usda-certified-organic How do you know if the food you are purchasing is genuinely free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and genetically engineered food? How can the consumer rely on the fact that a farmer says his produce is “organic”?  The only way to be sure that it is really an organic product is to purchase certified organic products that have the label USDA/Certified Organic.

In 1990, the Organic Foods Production Act established national standards for labeling found on the USDA website. Businesses cannot claim they are organic without having the USDA certification or they risk a heavy fine.  Farmers apply for “organic” certification. Diligent records must be kept. The land must meet certain standards. The farmland must remain dormant for three years. During this time synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, or fungicides cannot be utilized. Third party inspectors check the fields, and complete stringent soil and water tests.

The USDA/Certified Organic seal may be found on products like meats, milk, eggs, cheese, and vegetables. What do the labels on these products mean?

  • 100% Organic- on the product means 100% organic ingredients. Packaging can display the USDA/Certified Organic seal.
  • Organic on the product means that the ingredients are 95-99% organic ingredients. Product can bear the USDA/Certified Organic seal.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients means that the item contains 70-94% organic ingredients. They cannot display the certified organic label.
  • Other- on the packaging contains less than 70% organic ingredients and cannot bear the certified seal.
  • Natural- should be interpreted as no artificial colors or flavors

Organic vegetables and fruits can be more expensive to buy than traditionally grown produce. If you are not able to grow your own fruits and veggies use this simple trick to decrease your family’s health risk. If you are concerned about the synthetic pesticides that have been used on produce but can’t afford to buy all organic food then consider buying only the organic fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide exposure. Typically, the following produce have the most exposure to synthetic chemicals so consider buying them in “organic.”

  • Green beans
  • Winter Squash
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Red Raspberries
  • Potatoes
  • Peaches
  • Imported Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines

What about GMO’s?

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered through ggmo-1enetic engineering. DNA molecules from different sources are combined into a molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism. This may give the new organism desired traits, such as better disease resistance or withstanding cold temperatures better.

Genes are spliced into the host like tumors invade cells. Scientists can alter an organism by manipulating DNA with cancer causing pesticides in the cells of the plant to produce plants that can withstand greater amounts of pesticide without wilting or dying. Scientists have also crossed tomato plants with fish genes so that tomato plants will become more resistant to cold weather.

These genetically modified organisms contain pollen with the new genetically altered traits. The pollen can be eaten by birds or insects and travel through the wind to pollinate other organisms that have not been genetically altered. The natural species can not survive with the GMO one.   Thus, all of the pollinated plants will produce genetically altered seeds/plants/organisms.

Food labels in the US do not have to inform the consumer that the product has been genetically engineered. But if an item is marked “certified organic” that means the produce is free from genetically modified organisms. Five of the top hosts of GMO are corn and corn products, soy/soy products, rice, wheat, canola and cottonseed oil.

How safe are the new GMO’s that we eat? How long were the GMO’s studied? There are some groups that think that a complete ban on all GM food would be necessary until studied further. Still, others want a least a mandatory labeling of GM food until the long term health effects of eating these foods are known. These products still have some environmental safety issues: possible destruction of entire food chains if the GMO is unleashed to pollinate non GMO produce. Some countries around the world are banning production of any GMO’s.   Some counties in California are putting bans on producing genetically modified food at this time until some of these issues are resolved.

What options do we have? Of course, first and foremost if you have the land, or enough area for a container garden, grow your own. (At least until the genetically engineered foods have been studied longer.)   Growing your own food gives you the knowledge of where your food came from and how it was grown. You can feel comfortable feeding your family and know that you are not eating genetically modified foods.

Secondly, you the consumer can shop at grocery retailers that sell certified organic foods. This segment of foods is growing quickly as more and more consumers turn to a healthier lifestyle. At the time of this writing, these foods are approximately 5-8% higher in price, but as with anything, as demand grows the price will drop.

Personally,  I feel that the consumer should be informed about any foods that contain GMO. That we, the consumer,  should have the  right to decide whether we want to or eat these foods or not.

Mental Attitude for Emergency Readiness-Part 1

The following is a guest post from a close friend. He chooses to remain anonymous on the web, as you may understand from his posts, but his content is on point when it comes to being ready for any emergency situation. This post is the first in what will become a 7 part series.

Right attitude determines your reaction to an emergency
Attitude

It takes much more than knowledge and skills to live through an emergency situation. There are cases where people with little or no training have managed to survive life-threatening circumstances, as have some people with training have not used their knowledge and skills and died. The key ingredient in any situation is the mental attitude of the individual involved. Having knowledge and skills is important but having the will to survive is more so. Without the will to survive; acquired knowledge serves little purpose and invaluable skills go to waste.

This multi-part post will attempt to identify and explain the nature of stress, the stresses of emergencies and those internal reactions individuals will naturally experience when faced with the stresses of a real-world emergency. We are in hopes that the knowledge you gain from this post and others will better prepare you to survive through the toughest of times.

Before we can understand our psychological reactions in an emergency setting, it is helpful to understand a little about stress. We all experience stress. Stress can be described as our reaction to pressure. Stress is the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual response to life’s tensions. Stress is not a disease that can be cured or eliminated, but it can be managed and more importantly can be overcome through proper education and training for stressful situations.

Normal feelings in an emergency situation, like recovering from a natural disaster include: shock & disbelief, horror, sadness, fear, helplessness, guilt, and anger. These each contain a stress level which varies in strength according to the makeup of the person affected and the actual emergency situation to which one is thrown.

Think about how you react to these different feelings in other situations. Which ones make you more stressed? Why? How could you react differently toward these stressors?

In a non-stress situation, taking time to reflect on these stressors and your reactions could significantly improve your ability to handle them under emergency circumstances. Put yourself mentally in various situations: hurricane, blizzard, extended power loss, or any other situation where you feel that your stress would be high and the need for calm, cool decision-making is vital. Play out the scenario, making note of your feelings, the stress level associated with those feelings and how you would react.

What do you feel the outcome of that situation would be playing out the scenario with the decisions you are making? Is it as positive outcome, would you be a survivor? Would you truly be able to make those same decisions if you were actually, not just mentally in that situation? Play out the same scenario with different decisions? Is the outcome the same….better….or worse?

Take some quiet time to run different scenario’s with varying decisions, but always make note of your feelings and how you most normally react to those feelings. Doing this a few times a week will be quite effective in helping to increase your confidence in dealing with very high-stress emergency situations.

There is a psychology to living through an emergency. The person that finds himself in an emergency faces many stressors that can affect their mental attitude. These stressors can produce thoughts and emotions that, if not understood, can transform a confident, well-trained, knowledgeable person into an indecisive and ineffective individual with questionable ability to survive. Thus, everyone must be aware of and be able to recognize those stressors most commonly associated with managing an emergency. In addition, it is important the individual be aware of their reactions to these stressors.

This is the first in a multi-part series on attitude in emergencies. Please follow our blog or rss to be sure you get our latest post’s.

Rest of the series: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

Emergency responseBaltimore County has rescheduled the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Emergency Preparedness class. This is a great free 5 week program for anyone concerned about being ready for natural disasters.

The class will cover:

Natural Disasters and Technological Hazards
This session focuses on the natural and technological hazards most likely to threaten this area.

  • Past disasters in Maryland
  • Preparation of a 72-hour emergency kit
  • Preparation and maintenance of a family emergency plan
  • How to assist people with disabilities during an emergency
  • What to do before, during and after a disaster

Fire Safety and Extinguishers
This session focuses on fire prevention and extinguishing strategies.

  • Types of fires and how they occur
  • Potential fire hazards in the home and workplace
  • Evaluation of fires and assessment of firefighting resources
  • Operation of different types of extinguishers
  • How to decide whether to attempt to extinguish a fire and how to do so safely

Crime Prevention and Awareness
This session focuses on how to identify and protect yourself against potential crime threats.

  • Personal safety techniques
  • Steps to protect homes against break-ins
  • Recognition of suspicious activity and how to report it to 911
  • Learn about “Citizens On Patrol” and how to implement this program in your community
  • Identification of possible terrorist targets

CPR and First Aid
This session focuses on patient assessment and how to administer first aid.

  • Hands-on-only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Treatment of life-threatening conditions
  • Treatment of burns, wounds and bleeding
  • Treatment with splinting of fractures, sprains and strains
  • Treatment of hypothermia and heat-related illness
  • Simple triage

Building Resilient Communities
This session covers ways in which communities can prepare for, mitigate and withstand long-term incidents.

The next session will be from September 10 to October 8, 2015 from 7-9pm each Thursday for the 5 weeks.

Station 6
2815 Sollers Point Road
Dundalk, Maryland 21222
Maximum Participants: 25

Please go to :

http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/neighborshelping.html#form

to get more information and register.

 

Chicken Update-Roo in the Henhouse

Well, we thought through markings on one of our hens that it may be a Roo, so we were finally proven right!

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I had to go over to the coop to reinstall the faceplate on our auto door which we just got back from the company. Wasn’t really expecting to spend much time there, but while I was there, the suspected roo crowed about 6 times. Long, loud crows!

Not only is he loud, he is very anxious to let the hens know he is there. He goes from hen to hen with little break in between.

He had never made a peep that we had heard until that day and now he won’t shut up. As you may know, our coop and chickens are on a friends property about a mile from our house. His property is legal and a roo is no big deal legally, but we don’t want to cause issues with our friends.

We have another friend that bought 4 of our birds and we will see if she wants to take the roo, If not, then I will have a roo available if anyone is interested!

NOTE: We are still fighting to get our girls on our own property. If you live around Baltimore County, I invite you to read the story and join us!

Chickens-Progress?

WHY

Chickens have been an ongoing battle in Baltimore County for the last 5 years. We have stood at the forefront of the battle since losing our backyard flock to county regulations a few years ago. The battle has been hard fought but we seem at this point to be making some progress.

In September of 2013, our county council adopted resolution 73-13 directing the planning commission to research the possibility of allowing backyard flocks on properties smaller than 1 acre. As of yesterday the planning commission finally came up with a set of standards that they are going to put to a public meeting for input.

Proposed Standards: 73-13_Final_Report chickens

The proposal will be viewed and discussed by the planning board on Thursday June 4, 2015, with a preliminary public input meeting on June 18, before being sent to county council. Once at council, a second public input meeting will be scheduled, before being voted on by council.

The summary of the proposal would be:

  • Lot size must be a minimum of 5000sf
  • Coop building would come under the auspices of the local planning/zoning
  • Coop and run would need requird square footage to house amount of birds: i.e. 4 sf per bird in the run, 3sf per bird in the coop
  • No free-range-No roo’s
  • Annual permit and fee
  • limit of 4 hens up to 1 acre

I personally have no problem with the permit and fee, within reason, but limiting of only 4 hens seems a little too strict to me. Baltimore City and Annapolis City, have adopted only 4 birds per yard, but they are primarily row/townhomes with less than 2000sf of land. I have 1/5 ac which could easily handle 4 times that amount without issue.

My current chicken coop (the one that now houses my rabbits, since the county took my girls) was built to accommodate 9-10 hens with plenty of room to spare. Sorry rabbits, if this passes we will have to find you new digs!

Now is the time for Baltimore County residents and surrounding county residents wanting backyard chickens, need to stand together to make a strong show for the approval of any bill put forward. We will still fight for the regulations we would like to see, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

To join our groups on Facebook:

Chicken Revolution in Baltimore County-Closed group, but just request join from admin-all chicken lovers accepted.

Change Zoning Laws in Baltimore County for chickens and small livestock- Open group, just join

UPDATE: 6/7/2015 The planning board meeting on the 4th went without much discussion, just setting the public input meeting for the 18th. Please join and see information in the above 2 facebook groups. Would love to flood the room with supporters that night!

Beyond Eggs and the Roasting Pan-Chicken

There are so many benefits to owning chickens that go far beyond the egg and the roasting pot! I wish we could get our local government board of Baltimore County to see the benefits far outweigh the usual diatribes of the ney sayers.

Here is an article from my friend at Abundant Permaculture that outlines 8 strategies for putting the flock to work.

“I am continually blown away by the working power of chickens on the homestead! They’re such great workers, I would keep them even if I couldn’t eat their eggs or meat. Plus, they reproduce themselves, unlike any man-made tool!

In this article, I’ll explain eight different ways you can put chickens to work. I’ll explain how you can use chickens to provide nitrogen for your compost pile, replace machine tillers, fertilize your garden, turn compost, spread mulch, dispose of your garbage, control pests, and improve the health of your orchard.”

Read the rest of the article here: Abundant Permaculture-8 Strategies

Neighbors Helping Neighbors-Emergency Preparedness

Emergency responseSorry for the late notice but wanted to let everyone know about the upcoming Neighbors Helping Neighbors Emergency Preparedness Class.

It will be 4 Thursdays from 7-9pm starting Thursday April 30, 2015 through Thursday May28 at Dundalk Fire Station #6 2815 Sollers Point Rd. 21222

Session Topics

Natural Disasters and Technological Hazards
This session focuses on the natural and technological hazards most likely to threaten this area.
•Past disasters in Maryland
•Preparation of a 72-hour emergency kit
•Preparation and maintenance of a family emergency plan
•How to assist people with disabilities during an emergency
•What to do before, during and after a disaster

Fire Safety and Extinguishers
This session focuses on fire prevention and extinguishing strategies.
•Types of fires and how they occur
•Potential fire hazards in the home and workplace
•Evaluation of fires and assessment of firefighting resources
•Operation of different types of extinguishers
•How to decide whether to attempt to extinguish a fire and how to do so safely

Crime Prevention and Awareness
This session focuses on how to identify and protect yourself against potential crime threats.
•Personal safety techniques
•Steps to protect homes against break-ins
•Recognition of suspicious activity and how to report it to 911
•Learn about “Citizens On Patrol” and how to implement this program in your community
•Identification of possible terrorist targets

CPR and First Aid
This session focuses on patient assessment and how to administer first aid.
•Hands-on-only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
•Treatment of life-threatening conditions
•Treatment of burns, wounds and bleeding
•Treatment with splinting of fractures, sprains and strains
•Treatment of hypothermia and heat-related illness
•Simple triage

Building Resilient Communities
This session covers ways in which communities can prepare for, mitigate and withstand long-term incidents

Hope to see many of my neighbors there.
Get more information and register at:

http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/emergency_prep/neighborshelping.html