Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Worth Repeating

"Agriculure is the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man."
George Washington

"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
Booker T. Washington

"Let us never forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization."
Daniel Webster

Saturday, February 19, 2005

We moved and.... Index Cows vs Real Cows

We finally made the big move! In spite of the local building Nazis (I am supposed to have an "occupancy permit") we have moved to the new homestead up on the hill. We have electric but no phone or water yet. My posts will be less frequent for a spell, because I have to go to my inlaws to use the internet. It has been an adventure, like everything else we do around here. Today I got the gas lines put together and working, so we can once again cook hot meals. We had some heating problems but are alright now. The farm has been keeping me busy, it seems like everything falls apart at the same time around here. You name it, its broke! I can't wait for spring. We had a nice calf born that is sired by Rapid Bay Just Wait. She may be the nicest calf this year. Christy, a Top Prize out of a EX 91 cow that has since past away, had 99 pounds of milk for the tester. Not bad for the daughter of a bull that is minus 1500 pounds. USDA index numbers are a load of crap! Only some over educated simple minded know-it-all from Cornell could come up with such a bass akward way to evaluate cows. Elsie, the Queen of our herd, is over 13 years old. She has well over 150,000 pounds of lifetime production. She is scored EX 90. I just got some papers in the mail from US Jersey with the "numbers" for our herd. Her predicted transmitting ability for milk is minus 1209 pounds. Some 2 year old out of an inferior sire that won't last to be a 3 year old will be plus 2300 pounds. Even though she is scored Ex 90 and her udder is still above her hocks she is also minus for type. We have heifers that are scored in the low 80's that are plus for type. To top it off, all the experts agree....index bulls are better. We wonder why cows don't last anymore!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Should I Ditch the Car?

I hate spending money on insurance, gas, inspections and all the rest. I have an idea. I'm not sure how long it would take to make the 30 mile trip to church, but I could get to the barn pretty quick. Can you picture me pulling up in the Crown and Covenant parking lot driving THIS?

Acting on Convictions

I have been reading a book by Wendell Berry called The Unsettling of America, culture and agriculture. Mr.Berry points out the fact that Americans (not just Christians or Agrarians) do a poor job of acting on their convictions. He used as an example some environmentalists groups that have their money invested in strip mines and pesticide companies. We are not much different. We love to talk about the evils of fractional reserve banking, but we take part in it every day. We may buy gold or silver, but very few of us use it to trade or barter with. If we are to build Covenant Agrarian Communities that are truly set a part and a Godly example of how to live, then I think we must eventually support some for of localized currency. One example that I found is the Liberty Dollar. I don't know if liberty dollars are the way to go or not, but they are a step in the right direction. As far as the world of investing goes, why not invest in our local communities instead of multinational companies; who have no vested interest in our ideas(and are working against us). I would be interested in any input or ideas.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Traditional Barn

Gene Logsdon Writes about old barns

Old barns seem to stand on the landscape today mostly for the purpose of being photographed. I wonder sometimes if camera supply businesses will not at some point find it profitable to build replicas of traditional barns along the interstates to boost sales of their products. I think of Don De Lilo’s classic bittersweet question, in his novel, White Noise: “What was the barn like before it was photographed?”

What was it like? Or perhaps: What is it like? The magnificent traditional barns of the agrarian age that peaked about 1900 in America are dwindling away, but many are kept alive as working barns, or as historic sites (or even as restaurants!), and others are still being built. A farmer with a well-managed woodlot or with access to used lumber can build one of these barns, or one modeled on them, cheaper than he can buy from the metal merchants or the lumber yards. Traditional barns are deemed too expensive to build today only because modern society has forsaken common sense in favor of a money prosperity that never quite seems to make it around the proverbial corner. A farmer knocks down a woodlot to grow corn. The corn is only sometimes profitable and often only if the government subsidizes it, whereas the woodlot can continue indefinitely to make lumber for buildings whose worth far exceeds the yearly possibility of a few dollars profit per acre in corn. Animals housed in the barn can then eat the corn and make it profitable too. For practicality and efficiency, there's no experience quite as enlightening as watching an Amish community erect a post and beam, mortised and pegged, three-story barn using lumber from their own woodlots. With concrete foundations in place, I once watched an Amish crew start on a barn in the morning, and, as they had promised me, hay could have been put in it by the afternoon and filled with livestock the next day. If that is old-timeyness, give us more of it.

Continue reading Here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

We've got to let those kids bend over some nails!

Joel Salatin writes......

Daniel is our outdoorsman. He taps the yard trees for maple syrup. He's been doing this now for several years. He takes the maple sap and boils it down.
We try to encourage them to scrounge, but the other thing is that we make sure they have the tools to do the things they need to do. Nothing is as frustrating to me as to be in the situation where the 30-year-old son is working for a 55-year old dad, and the 30-year-old son has to ask Dad if he can use a board.
We've got to let those kids bend over some nails! Take that prime board we were saving for a project and rip it up! The value in those children is giving them tools for things, letting them experiment and be creative, and channel their energies and their creative gifts and talents. It'll come back a million times more the value of those bent nails and those unsquare corners and those boards they took off the board pile.
We went and had a nice pan made out of steel. Daniel got book and read out how to do this, and made a couple gallons of maple syrup. Instead of selling the maple syrup for $35 a gallon (chip off the old block) he said, How can I make this more valuable? So that's what he does. He makes maple syrup donuts, and sells about $600 worth of donuts out of those 2 gallons of maple syrup at the farmer's market in the spring.
He also does a rabbit project. This year he'll produce about a thousand rabbits at $8 apiece. It's not a bad project for a 16-year-old. We home school, so he has time to pursue these interests instead of being locked up behind some academic desk all day. This allows him time to be creative and tap into those opportunities.
He designed these hare pens himself. These are floorless pens we put out on the pasture. One acre of grass put through rabbits is worth $4500 a year. Who says you got to have a lot of land to make money farming?
He got a hold of an old magazine article about what folk people used to do when they had rabbits before Purina and all these feed store pellets came along. Turns out that what they used to feed rabbits was mangels--kind of a sugar beet. So next thing he did was find some seed, planted some, and he now supplements the rabbits with mangels. His goal is to actually get to where he feeds mangels all through the winter to supplement his grass and his pasture. He's cut his feed bill in the wintertime--as long as the mangels last--by 85 percent. It also makes a healthier, better rabbit, so everybody wins. So the rabbits are his enterprise, his deal.
One of the best things we can do when we talk about diversifying is to free this next generation up to pursue some of their own interests. One of the worst things we can do is lock the next generation into doing exactly what we're doing.
Let them have their own enterprises they own. I had my first layers when I was ten years old. Dad didn't know anything about laying chickens.
I don't know anything about rabbits. So if somebody wants to know something about rabbits, I don't try to answer their questions. I say there's the guru right there, ask him. You cannot imagine what it does to the self-esteem and self-worth and the creativity and the enthusiasm of a young person to be the resident expert when they are ten or eleven years old.

This is from the article Diversifying for profit, pleasure, and production. Click and enjoy.

People, Land, and Community

I recently found a new magazine that is well worth getting. Farming is a magazine for those of us that farm because we love the life it provides our families and communities. Over the past few years there has been a real void in this area. I just get depressed reading most of the Ag magazines out there now. The last issue of Dairy Herd Management that came had an awful article on how we dairymen have "evolved". It sought to make fun of "farmers" who wore bib overalls, kept cows on grass, had barn cats, and get this one........Who's wives cooked them breakfast! Well, this one is different. Farming Magazine celebrates the joys of farming well and living well. It celebrates People, Land, and Community. The first issue just came and it has articles on small dairy coops, the heritage of stone fences, a look at traditional barns, the loss of small slaughterhouses, and some good poems and opinion pieces. My only gripe is that it only comes 4 times a year. I wish it was a weekly!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Garden Idea

I've made up my mind. This years garden is going to be different. Time for an experiment of sorts. This will be the first year up on top of the hill. If you know anything about the hills of Nanti-choke, you know that they are real light on topsoil. The growing season is pretty short as well. A guy down the road who dose alot of organic gardening was telling me about his garden. At first I was skeptical, but after seeing it........I'm sold. Its the best soil building idea I've ever seen. You have to ask, "why didn't I ever think of this". He started with layers of old hay, kitchen scraps, leaves, manure, anything that you would use to make compost. Year after year he just keeps layering this stuff. The top layer is old hay and straw. He plants the plants right in there and leaves the hay on top for a mulch. No weeds...... and it holds in the moisture. Planting seeds......just scrape away the hay and plant them. You no longer have to till the dirt at all. He has the best vegetables in town. I should have started the layering last fall. I didn't, so I'm going to start this year with a layer of 3 year old rotted manure from a pile I had to make when the snow was to deep to spread it in the field. I'll put a small layer of topsoil on it and then start rolling the round bales of hay on it. I think this will get us out on it sooner in the spring. I'll keep you all posted on how it works.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Grass, Walmart, and an Exciting Crop

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, Psalm 104-14

It has been a couple of years now since we switched our dairy herd over to a grass based system. As long as the green grass is growing our girls are rotated through over 100 acres of pasture. The pasture is divided into 2 acre padocks. The cows are healthier, we make less milk- but more profit, and the work load is alot less. When the idea that perhaps it would be best to let cows be cows started getting attention, all the "experts" had a stroke. "It will never work" they said. "You can't farm without loads of debt, a fleet of tractors, expencive buildings, and a plan to grow by 10% a year." Well my, have they changed thier tune. I'm seeing stories about grazeirs in "mainstream" dairy magazines, the know-it-alls from Cornell are now studying it to death.....thats right, the same crowd over at "Uncle Ezra's Daycare" that brought us the "world according to Galton" now has a army of grazing advocates. News flash.......we got along without you this long, please stay out of our way.

WalMart Cares?

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard all the ads and such. Walmart cares. They are so wonderful that only modesty prevents them from telling you just how great they realy are. Funny thing is....... I still have my memory. When WalMart made the choise to sell only New Zealand lamb, US lamb farmers went to the company on bended knee. They begged and pleaded for shelf space. They didn't ask for any special treatment, just a trial run of being on the same shelf with a chance to compete. The answer was NO. They "cared" more about the mighty dollar then giving their own countrymen a chance.

A way of life

Its no secret that farmers don't do it for the money. Its not that we would not like a profit, its that it is rare treat......and not much more. I don't hate money, I just don't make an idol out of it. I farm becouse I love the life. I like the smell of fresh mowed hay. I love to see a hawk snatch a mouse out of the feild I'm working in. Newborn calves on wobbley legs, sweet blackcaps in the woods, fresh air, sunsets, and being your own boss are just a few things that make it so fun. I always say "I've never worked a day in my life" me its just what I've always done, and Lord willing always will. There are so many little treats to working close to the land. I liked this article by Gene Logsdon,Our Most Exciting "Crop". It highlights just one of the many interesting sidelines in our work as farmers.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Wealth, Trade, and Property

And I for one do not believe that there is any way out of the modern tangle, except to increase the proportion of the people who are living according to the ancient simplicity. Nobody in his five wits proposes that there should be no trade and no traders. Nevertheless, it is important to remember, as a matter of mere logic, that there might conceivably be great wealth, even if there were no trade and no traders. It is important for the sort of man whose only hope is that Trade Is Good or whose only secret terror is that Trade Is Bad. In principle, prosperity might be very great, even if trade were very bad. If a village were so fortunately situated that, for some reason, it was easy for every family to keep its own chickens, to grow its own vegetables, to milk its own cow and (I will add) to brew its own beer, the standard of life and property might be very high indeed, even though the long memory of the Oldest Inhabitant only recorded two or three pure transactions of trade; if he could only recall the one far-off event of his neighbour buying a new hat from a gipsy's barrow; or the singular incident of Farmer Billings purchasing an umbrella.
As I have said, I do not imagine, or desire, that things would ever be quite so simple as that. But we must understand things in their simplicity before we can explain or correct their complexity. The complexity of commercial society has become intolerable, because that society is commercial and nothing else. The whole mind of the community is occupied, not with the idea of possessing things, but with the idea of passing them on. When the simple enthusiasts already mentioned say that Trade is Good, they mean that all the people who possess goods are perpetually parting with them. These Optimists presumably invoke the poet, with some slight emendation of the poet's meaning, when he cries aloud, 'Our souls are love and a perpetual farewell.' In that sense, our individualistic and commercial modern society is actually the very reverse of a society founded on Private Property. I mean that the actual direct and isolated enjoyment of private property, as distinct from the excitement of exchanging it or getting a profit on it, is rather rarer than in many simple communities that seem almost communal in their simplicity. In the case of this sort of private consumption, which is also private production, it is very unlikely that it will run continually into overproduction. There is a limit to the number of apples a man can eat, and there will probably be a limit, drawn by his rich and healthy
hatred of work, to the number of apples which he will produce but cannot eat. But there is no limit to the number of apples he may possibly sell; and he soon becomes a pushing, dexterous and successful Salesman and turns the whole world upside-down. For it is he who produces this huge pantomimic paradox with which this rambling reflection began.

G.K. Chesterton
Taken from an essay titled "Reflections on a Rotten Apple"

Hearts Made Glad

After a night of bottling homebrew with my friends and family, my mind has been thinking about God's fine gift of drink. For some great conversation on the subject you should visit ST Anne's Public House and download there latest collection titled "Hearts Made Glad: A Tribute to Wine". You can sign up to get tapes mailed to you. The tapes are free, so they always need donations when you can afford to give. They also say...." And hey, if money is tight but you still want to do your share, we also cheerfully accept jars of home-canned peaches, packages of habanero beef jerky, and other consumable love-gifts."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Covenantal Agrarianism

Though Covenantal Agrarianism can’t be explained on a bumper sticker and demands thought, it does advance a fresh and sharpened focus to our theology for Kingdom living. It is largely the old vision of 'the good life' – a refined medieval vision for a bountiful life, joyfully relished within Creation, community and this body of flesh. Though not hastily addressed, this does not mean we remain silent. Budding Agrarians mustn't resign themselves to despondent sighs and resignation like, 'let them alone, let'm go to Wal Mart.'
What follows is by no means an exhaustive theological argument. That must wait for providence and more able theologians. Christian Agrarians are still finding their voice and learning to integrate Agrarianism within a Christian world view. Here, I simply hope to lay some foundational pilings, or pillars which establish a prima facie credibility of Covenantal, or distinctively Christian, Agrarianism..........

By David E. Rockett (January, 1999)

This is part of the introduction to an essay titled The Prima Facie Credibility of Covenantal Agrarianism. Take the time to read it, you'll be glad you did. Mr. Rockett is a visionary.