Dear Members of the USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee:
I wrote to you eight years ago to thank you and all the previous committees for your tireless work on the USDA’s dietary guidelines. As I explained back then, your guidelines and the federally approved school lunches based on them are giving my daughters a competitive advantage in life by causing other kids to become tired, experience difficulty concentrating in class, etc.
My prediction that my daughters would bypass most of their classmates is looking pretty good, by the way. My older daughter was recently selected to participate in a math competition. Only the top 50 math students from her high school’s 900 freshmen and sophomores were invited. She ended up with the highest score among the 50.
Granted, her math abilities are largely genetic. But when I see her eating brain-building foods like fatty meats and eggs while so many of her classmates live on “heart healthy” vegetable oils, processed grains and other frankenfoods, I can’t help but think your dietary guidelines tipped the scale in her favor.
But I’m not writing today to thank you for that. No, today I’m writing to thank you for weakening each succeeding generation of Americans so thoroughly, I no longer fear growing older like I once did. Thanks to your dietary advice, you’ve guaranteed that if old guys like me take care of ourselves, we’ll remain stronger and healthier than many guys who are young enough to be our children or grandchildren – and it will stay that way for years to come.
I’m thinking back to a story that hit the news several years ago. Some knife-wielding young punks tried to rob a group of tourists on a bus. The robbery was foiled when a 65-year-old man grabbed one of the young punks and snapped his neck. Later that year, I read a news story about a man in his 70s who cold-cocked a 20-something who attempted to mug him in a men’s room. Just plain punched out the punk.
What is going with these butt-kicking old guys? I thought at the time. Well, now I know. Those young would-be robbers were probably weak, tired, sick, diabetic, soft-boned … heck, there are all kinds of ways your dietary advice could help us old guys come out on top in a physical confrontation.
And thanks to your tireless efforts to convince Americans to cut back on meat, eggs and animal fats and eat even more hearthealthywholegrains!, the weakening of each succeeding generation is continuing. Back in 2012, researchers reported that Baby Boomers aren’t as healthy as their parents were at the same age:
Obesity among baby boomers is more than double the rate of their parents at the same age, and boomers with three or more chronic conditions was 700 percent greater than the previous generation.
It’s all downhill from 27, new research reveals. At least if you’re a millennial, chronic conditions and diseases start to rear their heads in your late-20s, and from there things continue to deteriorate, according to a new Blue Cross Blue Shield report.
Millennials, as a generation, are in overall poorer health than their predecessors, Gen X-ers, with higher rates of depression, hyperactivity, substance misuse, type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, among other chronic conditions.
When the researchers narrowed their focus to older millennials, ages 34-36, they found higher rates of nearly all of the top 10 most common conditions than were seen in generation X at the same ages – despite the fact that 83 percent of millennials think they are in ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ health.
Yup … each succeeding generation is getting fat, sick and tired at a younger age, while testosterone levels among men keep dropping compared to previous generations. I’m waiting for bumper stickers that read 30 is the new 50!
Give it another generation, and your awesome dietary advice will revolutionize sports. Teams will be out-bidding each other for players over 50. People will follow the senior leagues in golf and tennis because the youngsters just can’t compete at the same level.
But sports are just the beginning. Soon we’ll see 25-year-olds in big cities crossing the street to avoid walking past a couple of 60-year-olds lurking on the corner — you can never be too careful with these old guys, you know.
Or imagine an urban road-rage incident: some 30-year-old believes he was cut off in traffic, so at the next red light, he starts to exit the car to confront the offending driver… until his wife yanks on his arm, screaming, “Are you trying to get yourself beaten to death? Look at him – he’s at least 70!”
So thanks again, USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee. I used to worry that I’d feel over the hill by the time I turned 60. But since I ignore your advice and so many young people don’t, I’m looking pretty darned fit and healthy by comparison.
The latest Fat Head Report video is about yet another “meat causes colorectal cancer!” study a reporter for the Telegraph described as “frankly terrifying.” It’s such weak observational nonsense, Walter Willett would no doubt approve.
Here’s why you don’t need to be terrified. Transcript below the video.
Hello, I’m Tom Naughton and this is the Fat Head Report.
Well, I guess I need to create an ongoing segment called Meat Will Kill You.
Meat won’t kill you of course, but there are people who desperately want you to believe it will. So they’re constantly producing studies designed to scare you.
And when I say scare you, I’m not kidding. A writer for the UK telegraph described the most recent meat will kill you study as frankly terrifying.
So let’s take a look at the reason this writer for the telegraph was apparently hiding in her closet, in case her home was invaded by several ounces of murderous meat.
Oxford University research on half a million people found that eating red meat just once a day increased the risk of bowel cancer by a fifth.
Wow, that IS terrifying. Unless you understand how these studies are done.
A study like this is what’s called an observational study. And to explain what that means, here’s a clip from my recent film, Fat Head Kids.
If you conducted the study Dr. Fishbones did, you wouldn’t have to guess who does or does not have a tattoo. So at least you’d be starting with accurate data.
For dietary studies, that’s not the case. To determine what people eat, researchers have them fill out a food survey that looks something like this. Do you see the problem here? These surveys are wildly inaccurate. Some people report eating so little, they couldn’t possibly develop cancer, because they’d starve to death first.
Then near the end of the study, researchers have people fill out the same survey again. And from this, they decide what people have been eating for the previous five or 10 or 20 years.
But let’s suppose people can actually remember how much of everything they been eating and report it accurately. You still have that problem with the confounding variables Mr. Spot mentioned.
And guess what? In this study the people who developed colorectal cancer didn’t just eat more meat. They were also more likely to smoke. They also drank more.
Ah, but wait, the researchers tell us, we adjust our data for lifestyle factors like smoking and drinking.
Well, actually, they adjust the data based on how much people tell them they’ve been smoking and drinking.
But heavy drinkers routinely underestimate how much they drink. And smokers routinely underestimate or just plain lie about how much they smoke – or even if they smoke.
But okay, let’s forget all that. Let’s pretend that by some miracle, the researchers had accurate data all the way through, top to bottom.
In that case, would the higher cancer rate among the heavy meat eaters be frankly terrifying? After all, one-fifth more colorectal cancer sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s look at the data. This was a study of nearly half a million people.
Among the people classified as labeled as lower meat eaters, 5.49 out of every thousand developed colorectal cancer.
And among the people classified as heavy meat-eaters, it was 6.58 out of every thousand.
So for the people classified as heavy meat eaters, the actual increase in the odds of developing colorectal cancer was one in a thousand.
And here’s the final reason not to be terrified. Good scientists don’t accept a hypothesis unless the evidence supporting it is consistent.
So if we say this food or this behavior causes cancer we need to see that result over and over and over.
Which is the case, for example, with smoking and lung cancer. You’re never going to see a study where smokers and non-smokers have identical rates of lung cancer. And you’ll certainly never see a study where the smokers have lower rates of lung cancer.
But in this observational study, people who ate red meat did not have a higher rate of colorectal cancer.
And in THIS observational study people who ate more meat did not develop more colorectal cancer.
And in this observational study it was the vegetarians who had a higher rate of colorectal cancer — 39 percent higher.
If eating meat causes colorectal cancer, how can that possibly be?
Good scientists don’t just pick and choose the results they like. And when it comes to meat and colon cancer, the results are all over the place. Which means it’s highly unlikely that meat causes colon cancer.
I had an interesting couple of days on Twitter earlier in the week. It began with a tweet from the South African doctor I described in this post … the one who insisted that hard-working, professional dietitians would never recommend pancakes as “heart healthy.” As you’ll recall, I posted several hospital menus designed by dietitians listing foods like pancakes and Frosted Mini-Wheats in the “heart healthy” section.
In response to being proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt, The Doc of course tried to change the argument. Twitter trolls never, ever, ever admit they’re wrong — and The Doc is quite a troll. Tim Noakes is one of his favorite troll targets. The Doc must have been beside himself when the dietitian-initiated charges against Noakes were dismissed.
Anyway, as you know, dietitians have tried – and in some cases succeeded – to convince state legislatures to grant them a legal monopoly on dispensing dietary advice. They’re doing this to insulate themselves from competition.
That’s not just my opinion. In a video you can watch on this page, the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics actually encourages people to report “disruptors” to state licensing boards. Here’s the official description of the video:
President Lucille Beseler, MS, RDN, LDN. CDE, FAND, offers members ways to protect the public’s health (and the nutrition and dietetics profession) from “disruptors” – competitors who offer lower-quality care and less-comprehensive services.
Absolutely no doubt about it. Straight from the horse’s mouth: dietitians want these laws to protect the profession from competitors.
“… rather than genuine health and safety concerns, licensed dietitians are mostly just worried about protecting their monopoly status as the only group that can provide nutritional services in states like Missouri.”
That just annoyed the heck out The Doc. He replied to Crossfit’s tweet with this:
This unconscionable slur against mostly hard-working and knowledgeable professionals shows just what a nasty, unscientific little outfit CrossFit is.
Somebody needs to sit down with The Doc and explain that engaging in wild hyperbole doesn’t strengthen an argument; it simply makes the arguer look pathetic. Unconscionable slur? Really?
The first definition I looked up for unconscionable is shockingly unfair or unjust. Given that the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics posted a video stating that one purpose of licensing laws is to protect the profession from competition, I don’t see how The Doc could possibly interpret “licensed dietitians are mostly just worried about protecting their monopoly status” as shockingly unjust or unfair. In fact, it’s clearly fair.
And then there’s the fact that Crossfit was merely quoting an article. How exactly does that show them to be a nasty, unscientific little outfit … ?
So I couldn’t resist. I know arguing with trolls is a waste of time, but I tweeted this reply, which included the graphic below: Crossfit doesn’t want the “hard-working and knowledgeable professionals” who designed this “heart-healthy” hospital menu to have a monopoly on dispensing dietary advice? Why that’s an UNCONSCIONABLE SLUR! Shame, Crossfit!
The Doc replied by calling me a clown and telling me my reasoning is very poor. Heh-heh …. people who want to simply dismiss me after starting an argument they’re going to lose like to point out that I was once a comedian, as if that settles something.
I worked a with a lot of comedians back in the day. If you remove the ones who rely on scatological material to get laughs (what we in the biz call “dick joke” comedians), they were all highly intelligent. Guess what? It actually requires high intelligence to write material that can make a room full of strangers laugh for an hour without resorting to “dick jokes.” And of course, The Doc and other trolls like to conveniently forget I’m a programmer who designs complex systems.
But since The Doc likes to dismiss me as a comedian, I pointed out that his habit of immediately resorting to insults when he’s proven wrong makes for great comedy. I asked if he’d charge a fee for me to quote him directly when I need new material.
When he replied with another insult, I suggested that instead of borrowing his tweets as material, we should work together as comedy duo.
THE DOC: Tom, stop saying dietitians recommend Frosted Flakes as heart healthy. It’s not true!
TOM: Uh, Doc? (Tom holds up big ‘heart healthy’ hospital menu designed by dietitian.)
THE DOC: Your reasoning is very poor.
TOM: Look, Doc, we’ve got people out there recommending Frosted Flakes, Frosted Mini-Wheats and pancakes as “heart healthy.” Shouldn’t we do something about this?
THE DOC: Yes. Give them a legal monopoly on dietary advice.
TOM: But they’ve even got cinnamon rolls and blueberry muffins listed as “heart healthy.” You do see the big threat to public health, don’t you?
THE DOC: Of course. It’s Tim Noakes.
I don’t think The Doc liked my idea to work as a team.
In the meantime, some dietitians chimed in. Turns out they believe (and as Dave Barry used to say, I’m not making this up!) they’re in the same category as doctors. Some of their tweets:
You’re so right! Licensed physicians — who needs em’ for medical treatments and care?
Who needs health care professionals anyway? Lets let blogs & 3rd-party gyms diagnose disease & prescribe meds too.
RDs have a 4-year science-based degree. Regulated professions are regulated for a reason, why is that so hard to get!?
Regulated professions are regulated for a reason? You mean like when Illinois made it illegal to charge a fee for braiding hair without first acquiring a cosmetology license? Yeah, that was certainly to protect the public. Lord only knows how many people were rushed to emergency rooms with bad braids.
Milton Friedman once pointed that people have an inexhaustible capacity to believe that whatever benefits them personally also benefits society as a whole. If you have the I.Q. of an eggplant or happen to be a registered dietitian, I suppose Oh, sure, why don’t just let gyms prescribe medical treatments too! sounds like a sensible argument for regulating who can give dietary advice.
For those whose I.Q. is higher than an eggplant’s (and who aren’t registered dietitians anxious to stifle competition), that argument is laughable.
Hate to break it to you, dietitians, but what you do isn’t at all like prescribing medical treatments. The effects of prescription drugs are often profound. The effects of surgery are irreversible. A bad decision by a doctor – the wrong drug, a mistake during surgery – can maim or kill the patient. Quite often, there’s no coming back from a bad medical decision.
Recommending a diet is like that, is it? Don’t make me laugh. The effects of a diet play out over months or years. Patients can easily monitor many of the effects. Is my weight going down? Are those irritable bowel symptoms going away? Is my skin clearer? Do I sleep better? Do I have more energy? Toss in few inexpensive home testing kits, and patients can also monitor their glucose, blood pressure, A1C, lipids, etc.
If the results of a diet aren’t good, there’s a fix for that: try a different diet. That’s exactly how many of us finally found a diet that works: experiment, monitor the results, adjust the diet, monitor again.
If (egads!) someone takes dietary advice from a trainer at Crossfit and the results aren’t good, nobody was maimed or killed. It means Crossfit has lost a customer. The frustrated dieter will seek advice elsewhere. But of course, that’s exactly what some of these dietitians fear. People who get lousy results following our advice could GO ELSEWHERE?! We can’t let that happen! We need laws to make sure our advice is the only advice! It’s to protect the public!
As you might suspect, some dietitians on Twitter took issue with me posting those hospital menus. No, no, no, those hospital menus weren’t designed by dietitians!
Oh, okay. I guess that explains the text at the top of this menu:
One dietitian began arguing with me back and forth. She eventually tweeted this:
I am sure you have skill in managing the complications of diabetes, medications insulin dose adjustment and nutritional support of the gut microbiota. Maybe I should focus on entertainment.
If only she had any idea how many diabetic readers over the years have described how they couldn’t get their blood sugar under control until they ditched their dietitian’s advice.
I replied: Heh-heh … the hospital dietitian’s “skill” in managing my father-in-law’s diabetes was to tell him to eat at least 30 carbs per meal and then inject more insulin to bring down his blood sugar. The “insulin dose adjustment” is done by my mother-in-law, who measures his glucose, reads a chart, and injects insulin. Not complicated, apparently. And yes, I know how to support the gut microbiota.
She kept coming back for more, so I asked a simple question: I tweeted a link to this post about the dietitian who explained why it’s just crazy to give up sugar, and asked, Seriously, would you want me taking advice from this dietitian?
She ignored the question and changed the subject in her next reply. Troll tactic #4: if someone asks you a direct question and you have no good answer, change the subject.
I replied: Still waiting for an answer: should I take advice from this registered dietitian, since she has all that specialized training and such? I mean, if I had diabetes, she’d give me excellent advice, right?
You have already made up your mind.
Now that’s a truly creative answer. Yes, of course, I’d already made up my mind about whether I’d take advice from a dietitian who says it’s crazy to give up “an entire food group” like sugar, but is also a vegetarian. But that shouldn’t stop the dietitian debater on Twitter from answering my question. One has nothing to do with the other. It’s about as logical as replying, “I’m not going to answer your question because it’s already Tuesday.”
I asked her to stop dodging the question and give me an answer. Should I follow that registered dietitian’s advice? The reply:
Not dodging the question at all. You made a general stereotype about my profession and I took acceptance to it. You clearly have a strong belief system and a business model that runs off it. Good for you. Do I think you should give medical advice about a specific disease- nope
Brilliant. She isn’t dodging the question, ya see, but still refuses to answer it. And somehow the issue morphed into me giving medical advice about a specific disease. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, when I say Crossfit trainers and other non-licensed individuals should be legally allowed to give dietary advice, what I really mean is I should be able to give medical advice about a specific disease.
I tried one more time: Wow. Still won’t answer a simple question — should I follow this registered dietitian’s advice or not? Pointing out what is clearly lousy advice from registered dietitians is not stereotyping your profession. Your profession shouldn’t be immune from criticism or competition.
That brought this reply:
I respect that you have a movie to promote.
Fascinating. Really and truly fascinating. After refusing once again to answer a simple question, she implies I’m motivated by the desire to promote my movie. So let’s see … if you have a movie to promote, your motives are suspect. If your living depends on people paying you for dietary advice and you want to stifle competition, your motives aren’t suspect at all. You just want to protect the public. Makes sense.
Eventually, someone who might be her daughter (same last name, younger-looking picture) chimed in and told me to just give it up already, because I was arguing with the smartest person she knows.
I replied: I already gave up when the smartest person you know refused over and over to answer a simple yes/no question about whether I should follow this woman’s advice because she’s a registered dietitian.
The daughter or whatever replied with something like That’s because internet trolls like you aren’t worth her time.
I say something like because the message appeared for a few seconds, then the daughter or whatever quickly blocked me from seeing her tweets. Now there’s a confident debater. Jump into an argument, fire off a couple of rounds, then block the other person from seeing or replying to what you just wrote.
That bit about internet trolls like you aren’t worth her time made me laugh. I had been replying to The Doc. I’d never heard of Mom The Dietitian. Mom The Dietitian jumped in and started debating me, not the other way around. I asked the same simple question several times, which Mom The Dietitian refused to answer — but she’s definitely not dodging the question! — and yet she kept debating me. Then the daughter jumped in. But I’m the troll.
Man, if I’m not worth her time, she had a funny way of showing it.
Anyway, here’s a quote from the article that prompted this whole Twitter storm in the first place:
Dressing up their concerns in warnings about consumer safety, licensed dietitian groups are quick to invoke images of non-licensed individuals dispensing quack diet advice to uninformed clients. The problem with this argument is that the data utterly fails to back it up.
Dozens of states allow non-dietitians to provide nutritional advice, and there has been no rise in negative health outcomes in any of these states. In fact, there has yet to be a single complaint about bad results from non-licensed nutritional advice in Missouri or anywhere else. This means that rather than genuine health and safety concerns, licensed dietitians are mostly just worried about protecting their monopoly status as the only group that can provide nutritional services in states like Missouri.
Bingo. I’ve been ignoring those highly trained licensed dietitians for years. My diet is high in meat and animal fats. It’s high in cholesterol. I don’t eat “heart healthy” whole grains, whether in pancakes or cereals or breads. I follow the advice I’ve gleaned from reading books, reading studies, attending lectures, listening to podcasts, watching presentations by doctors and scientists on YouTube, etc.
So how’s that working for me? As it happens, lectures like the one posted below (by Ivor Cummins, who isn’t a doctor or dietitian) finally prompted me to get a coronary calcium test this week. The result: ZERO.
The lab couldn’t send the results directly to me, so they forwarded them to my doctor’s office. His nurse called to tell me the happy news and to say, “The doctor says that’s fantastic, and keep doing whatever you’re doing.”
I think I’m doing just fine without the government “protecting” me by limiting who’s allowed to give me dietary advice.
A few years ago, Chareva was in a grocery store looking for a decent canned dog food. She pulled one can after another off the shelf, read the ingredients, and put back the ones that contained wheat and other grains.
A representative for one of the dog-food companies happened to be standing nearby. He asked why she put most of the cans back on the shelf. When she explained that we don’t feed our dogs grains, the representative replied, “But dogs need grains for energy.”
Yes, he said that.
As more and more people are giving up grains and finding their health improves as a result, we’re seeing a backlash from what I call The Save The Grains Campaign. Every so often, they manage to place media articles describing all the horrible things that will happen to you if you stop eating grains – see this post for an example.
In my vet practice, the question about grain free diet for dogs is one of the most common I hear from pet owners. In short, grain free dog food is quite controversial with canine experts that follow an evidence-based approach, but it’s a little more complicated than simple “good or bad.” Overall, there are a few reasons why it may not be the best choice for your pooch.
Ahh, a vet wrote the article. Credentials established. On to the reasons.
1. Food Fraud: It may not actually be “grain free”
Well, that’s convincing. You don’t want to choose a grain-free diet for your dog because the grain-free food might actually contain grains. Makes sense. If I found out foods labeled sugar-free actually contain sugar, I’d of course give up and stop attempting to avoid sugar.
The vet goes on to explain that some “grain free” dog foods contain yeast or rice. Okay, fine. I’ll skip those as well, no matter what the label says.
2. It’s Not Necessarily Healthier for Dogs
First, let’s start with a simple fact: there is no scientific evidence suggesting that grain free diet for dogs is a better option for every pet. In fact, the research that has been done on these diets found somewhat opposite results. A 2014 study concludes:
“Labels that read ‘grain-free’ are more harmful to the dog and should not be given unless required for other specific needs.”
Really? Dogs are harmed by grain-free foods? I scanned that “study.” It’s a college thesis, not an actual study with doggie control groups, and the “harm” mentioned is simply speculation that a high-protein diet is bad for canine kidneys – just like the speculation that a high-protein diet will harm human kidneys. The paper proves zip.
3. Dogs are Not Wolves
Many makers of products included in the grain free diet for dogs promote their foods by claiming that your dog’s ancestral DNA is common with the wolf …. This comparison is flawed in that dogs are a different species from wolves and have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years.
Yes, that’s true. Dogs have gotten used to eating people food to a large extent. So, uh … how has eating grains worked out for the health of people? Do you know anyone who used to be fat and sick, then became lean and healthy and attributed the difference to finally adding grains to his diet? I don’t. But I know plenty of people whose health improved after they ditched the grains.
Eating people food hasn’t worked out so well for modern pets, by the way. A recent article from NBC News, in fact, explains that cats and dogs are developing diabetes at previously unheard-of rates:
“There is no question from what I know that is published in the literature that obesity is on the rise, No. 1, and No. 2, diabetes is on the rise right along with it,” says veterinarian Robin Downing, hospital director of Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo.
And what’s the cure for a fat, diabetic cat?
A change to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet — nicknamed the “Catkins” diet — can promote weight loss and make diabetes more manageable in cats, often sending them into remission so that they no longer require insulin injections. At the Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Colorado, three out of every four diabetic cats have their disease controlled through diet alone, says Downing.
What, you mean a high-protein diet doesn’t destroy a cat’s kidneys?
Anyway, back to the vet’s reasons you might not want your pooch to go grain-free:
4. The Majority of Dogs Can Easily Digest Grains
As dogs have evolved alongside people, their digestive tracts can efficiently digest grain-based calories.
My digestive tract can efficiently digest sugar, too. That doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and certainly doesn’t mean there’s any reason for me to eat the stuff.
5. The High Cost of Grain-Free
If nothing else, the last thing to mention about grain free diet for dogs is their expensive price tag. As you have probably already noted, whether cheap brands or those among the top rated dog foods, the grain free diet for dogs typically commands a higher cost than their grain-containing counterparts.
Uh … uh … yeah, okay. Meat costs more than grains. That doesn’t mean, in any way, shape, or form, that a grain-free diet is bad for your dog. If you can afford to feed your dog meat, feed your dog meat.
That’s what we do. Chareva sometimes adds half a sweet potato to our dogs’ dinners, but the vast majority of their calories come from raw meat and eggs. As for that line about dogs need grains for energy, let me tell you a little story.
Coco and Misha, our two Rottweilers, are seven years old now. The lifespan for Rottweilers is listed as 8 to 10 years, so they’re old for the breed.
Yet somehow, these old dogs occasionally manage to dig under, or jump over, or push aside the fencing that’s supposed to keep them near the house. Then they go off on a great night-time adventure. More than once, Chareva and I have ended up driving around the area at midnight, hoping to find them. Once we were convinced something bad had happened to them, because they still weren’t home by noon the next day … and then around 2:30 PM, they came trotting back onto the property.
A few weeks ago, it happened again: Chareva went to check on them before bed, and they were nowhere to be found. We drove around the area, shining a flashlight into yards and wooded areas. No luck. We went home. Then a woman called to say our dogs were hanging around by her house – she’d persuaded Misha to sit still long enough to read the phone number on the collar.
So we hopped back in the van and drove to where the woman lived. In the meantime, Coco had run off, so we put Misha in the van and hoped Coco would find her way home. She did. Both dogs smelled like skunk, so they apparently did some critter-chasing during their adventure.
In the photo below, X marks where our house is, and Y marks where the woman who called us lives.
That’s a looong way to go tromping through the woods, chasing skunks and other critters. But that photo doesn’t capture the size of the hill they had to climb to reach the woman’s house. This photo does:
Coco had to make that trip both ways, of course, since she didn’t wait around for us to arrive in the van.
I’d say our two old dogs are pretty energetic, wouldn’t you? Good thing we don’t feed them those energy-enhancing grains … if we did, the next person to call and say she’s got our dogs could be living in Kentucky.
That slow hissing noise that sounds like air escaping is the sound of me decompressing. As I explained in a post two and half weeks ago, I was swamped at my programming job and working crazy hours. My employers aren’t slave-drivers or anything. It was just a case of a big-ass project requiring some serious rewriting of a ton of code that I inherited before I could add my own code. We hadn’t anticipated that, which put me way behind.
The project manager offered to extend the deadline by a couple of weeks, but that would have meant juggling everyone else’s schedule for testing, migrating, etc. I don’t like being the reason a project is delayed, even if it’s not my fault. So I chose to go into full-metal-jacket mode instead. I coded from morning until bedtime, including weekends. (I did grant myself permission to relax on Easter.)
The official deadline was Friday. I got ‘er done on Saturday. Close enough. I don’t plan to look at any code whatsoever for a few days. My brain needs a rest. My body, on the other hand, needs to get back to work.
The coding marathon meant putting our double spring project on hold. We did manage to make a bit of progress before the marathon began, however. For the fencing project (the first spring project), I finished cutting down some annoying trees (more like overgrown weeds) that were either in the fence line or just in front of it. Now we have nice, clear path.
The trunks of a couple trees I cut down will make decent firewood after drying out, so we tossed the chunks on the other side of the fence. Those will go in the barn to join the rest of the firewood supply.
We also finished putting up the tall poles to raise a net nice and high over one of the old chicken yards (the second spring project).
That’s Chareva in the picture below, getting ready to flip up a second layer of fence. After taking the picture, I of course assisted. Actually, we had Sara come out to assist as well, since we figured it would take three pairs of hands to flip up a 100-foot fence.
That’s as far as we got before I went off on my coding marathon.
We got lucky with the weather this weekend, so as soon as I wrapped up the coding, it was spring project time again.
Spring definitely sprung during the delay. Take a look at the chicken yard in the photos above. Sure, the grass was growing, but not exactly a jungle, right? Now take a look at the photo below:
That stuff was thigh-high. Along with the grass and weeds, much of it was a cover crop Chareva planted months ago, some kind of red winter wheat. (Don’t worry; we’re not planning to eat the stuff.) It’s kind of pretty, but almost certainly home to countless ticks and chiggers. No point in giving them access to our clothes at nearly waist level, so I planned to take The Beast in there for a feeding frenzy.
Unfortunately, The Beast needs a repair job. Before I even steered it to the chicken yard, the wheels stopped moving. The drive belt is intact, so whatever’s wrong, it’s beyond my ability to fix. So, after uttering ancient curses known only to small-time farmers, I ended up knocking down the tick-and-chigger habitat with the blade attachment on my Weed Whacker.
I’m sure the chicken yard is still full of ticks and chiggers, but now they’re at boot level instead of thigh level. When we work outdoors, we tuck our pant legs into knee-high boots, then spray everything from the knees down with Deep Woods Off. Seems to do the trick.
The job on Sunday, which was sunny and a perfect 65 degrees, was to string paracord to hold up the net. As we discovered when we built the current chicken yard (the first one we got right), these tent stakes slide nicely into the top of the poles. Then we can run the paracord through them.
I held the ladder steady (a not-unimportant job on the bumpy, hilly, rocky ground) and Chareva strung the cord. The first time we used this method to raise a net nice and high, we found the key is to string a lot of cord, with plenty of crisscrossed lines to keep the net from drooping.
Weather permitting, we’ll finally be raising that net later this week. When we dismantled the chicken yard last year, we just rolled up the net and tied it to a fence. Weeds have since grown up into it, we’ll have some de-weeding to do. But give us a couple more good workdays, and we can finally move those chickens to a secure yard with a high net and plenty of fresh ground to peck.