Sunday, February 26, 2006

A House of Art

Home schooling has it’s advantages in kids being able to develop their interests. Our middle daughter did this pencil drawing. She is a prolific fiction writer and she makes drawings to illustrate her stories. Though this one wasn’t for a story, it is similar to the style in which she draws for her stories. She likes to place her tales in historical time periods.

All three of our kids are artistic and have very creative imaginations. Since we live in an unfinished house, which began as a garage, we have a graffiti wall where they and their friends make all kinds of drawings and writings to commemorate various events in our lives and at the farm. For example there are humorous quotes and pictures of chicken butchering days. Birthdays and holidays are also illustrated with drawings and words.

The way I see it we are surrounded by Gods creative handiwork and we being created in His image it would be natural for us to be artistic as well. We can bring creativity and artistry to all area’s of our lives. Even putting in a simple garden can be a work of inventive and artistic beauty. Work can be a creative spiritual act.

We once saw the Christian musician Fernando Ortega in concert where he spoke of his grandfather who was a farmer in a rural mountain area of New Mexico. Fernando was greatly inspired by his grandfather and his faith and wrote songs about him and the area where he lived a farmers life. He said of his grandfather that working in the fields was to him a “spiritual act of worship”. I new exactly what Fernando meant when he said that, because I have found times in life especially when I am able to be creative where I feel completely in touch with the Lord. Work that feels spiritual is work that isn’t work. It’s pure contentment, pure joy. Being close to the earth is like that. Being close to nature and creativity is like being close to God.

Making music is like that too. Life itself can be like a song. Consider a sunrise or sunset or the beauty of a fresh blanket of snow, when viewed with a pure heart it can be like music to the soul. Not only is God an artist He is a also musician. He created everything so that means he created music too. We are surrounded by beauty , by the artistic song of creation stimulating the senses with awe and wonder for our creative Father in Heaven.

Until Next Time

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My daughter playing the piano

The below audio post is my first attempt to use audio blogger. It is of my daughter playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. It was recorded on a cordless phone which kind of cut in and out a little. And our piano is an old out of tune Sohmer, an upright grand, that was built in the late 1800's. We are very proud of our daughters knack for playing the piano. It comes easily for her. She serenades us nearly everyday. She is hoping to get a better piano someday soon, one that can be tuned correctly.

this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Surviving the Cold

After yesterday mornings low temperatures I was anxious to see how the critters fared during the night. All was well. Today however one rooster is looking like his wattles got bit pretty good by the cold. We'll be keeping an eye on him.

I am always amazed at how well the ducks and geese fare in the cold. We use tubs for water which all the poultry share and the ducks and geese usually pick one to bathe in. Temperatures are considerably warmer inside the green house but, even so, that's got to be a cold bath. They seem happy as could be, splashing and dunking themselves in the chilly water. Sometimes they go out of the green house late at night when the moon is bright,
seemly enjoying wandering about the snow covered yard dusting themselves in the powdery white. They visit with each other quacking and honking under the moon light.

Chickens on the other hand aren't near as hardy as the water fowl in winter. Their combs and wattles turn black on the ends. Those frost bitten spots wither away in time. That usually happens with the ones that have larger combs and wattles. Once they shrink down closer to the body they then do much better. The chickens that have small combs and wattles do the best. We have an aracauna rooster which lost the ends of some toes last winter but, he is no worse the wear and is still going strong. Even without the toes he is near the top of the pecking order.

My Siberian Husky Apollo, does very well in the cold, he seldom goes in his dog house except for the coldest times and if I am out so is he, looking for a walk or treat. I like to have him pull me while I'm on my cross-country ski's.

Being Stretched

The past 3 or 4 months for me have been filled with lots of new possibilities and has been a time of intense soul searching. Last Fall we were looking into expanding our trash business which would require an amount of money to have to borrow. Our criteria was going to be that if we couldn't do it with out mortgaging the farm then we wouldn't do it. We found a bank who would loan us money based on our word and consistent track record. So all I had to do was find the right equipment for the right amounts. The search even took us on a fast trip to Iowa. But, still didn't find exactly what we were after.

Then all in one week I was approached by two different individuals who wanted to sell me their business'. One was exactly the same type of business that we already do and the other was slightly different but, in the same field. So that took us in a different direction at that time, as we had to look into all the ins and outs of buying a business. We had to ask, how much is it worth? We had to look at their profit and loss schedules and so forth. Lots of things to consider and lots of money involved. Again we were committed to not mortgaging the farm. If we couldn't do that then we weren't going to do it.

It was a very tempting thought though, because we would almost certainly get the money if we put up the farm. And the cash flow would have helped us out tremendously. So after many weeks of investigation and soul searching we came to the conclusion that on one of them we definitely weren't interested. The second one, the one exactly the same as our current business, we were interested in. I offered the fellow half what he was asking. That was the only way I could see doing it without taking out a mortgage. Turned out, he wouldn't negotiate because he had someone else who would give him his full amount if we didn't want it. So I told him to go for it. As far as I know the other person is going to buy it. Doesn't hurt my feelings in the least bit.

We had kind of put out a fleece with our criteria of not mortgaging the farm and we felt good about not buying either of the business'. Not that it wasn't tempting. Like I mentioned the cash flow would have been tremendous and not struggling anymore financially seemed mighty attractive.

This was a whole new experience for me personally and it has been a time where I have been being stretched. Wheeling and dealing does not come naturally in the least bit. And I had to do a lot of praying and thinking about my convictions. I had to determine if this was going to put me smack dab back into the rat race or not. If it was, even if the money would have been better, I didn't want to get into it.

Still, we are at a point were we have to get better equipment to take care of our business. At our current rate of growth by July, I figure we won't be able to handle it with the one ton truck we have been using. We have been doing the trash route for over 5 years now and every year has been better than the last. In 2005 we did 21% more business than we did in 2004. Once we got to a certain point it began to increase substantially. One of our customers who roots us on all the time said, it takes 5 years for a business to get off the ground.

So now we are kind of back to square one. I have to regear myself to get back to the previous equipment search all the while prayerfully considering if it is the right thing to do. There is so much we want to do with the farm and still wonder if the trash route is the right direction to go. It gives us a consistent income but does take away from my time at home. One thought has been to expand it enough that I could hire someone to run the route freeing me up to take care of other things. Still there is a lot of responsibility with hiring help as well. The main goal would be to fund our farm endeavors. Yet, if homesteading takes outside funding is that the right thing?

Doing this web logging has also been a time of stretching for me. It requires me to have to really think hard about what I believe and what my values are before I put it down for the whole world to see. I've done lots of journaling over the years but, this is entirely new for me. Although there are many kindred spirits, people still see things from different perspectives and I want to be sensitive to that also. Like my take on the end times. I took it for granted that most folks had the same outlook on it as I do, but come to find out there are other perspectives. The lenses we look at life through, gives us quite different viewpoints indeed. Like me having a premillenial view of the last days makes me look at all this NAIS stuff entirely different than someone who holds to a post millennial position I would imagine. It all depends on perspective. On what angle we are coming from.

This National ID thing has got me thinking a lot too. Gives me a sick feeling in my gut. I want to fight it and I'm doing more to inform people about this than I ever have on any other topic in my life. I think it is going to be bad for all of us, even people who have no interest in growing their own food. We all have to eat. And that's where they'll get us.

Recently, I was contacted by a man who was reading this blog. He is from a group called Twelve Tribes. He and his wife want to come see us. Kind of puts you on guard when a total stranger from the internet wants to come for a visit. He sent me some pictures and some website links that tell what they are all about. They are a group that believes in completely denying yourself and taking up your cross and following Christ. They believe in Christian community. They believe in loving their neighbor. They are trying to get back to be like the first century church in the book of Acts. So far I'm saying, right on. But, then you look a little closer and it seems they are pretty exclusive in their beliefs. Like they are the only ones that are true believers. Seems they are saying that pretty much no one since the days of the first century church have there been true Christians. That is until now. Now that their little group has come into existence about 30 or so years ago.

So at that point it's starting to look like a cult to me. Actually the first impression was that it was a cult, then after looking at all the first century church stuff it seemed like, well maybe they weren't. I'm no biblical scholar by any means, but something seems to be not right with them. I'm not positive if they are being that inclusive or not but, it seems like they are. The cult alarms ringing in my head. Although the couple that contacted us seem real nice, we don't really want to get mixed up with a group like that, so I don't imagine were going to extend an invitation.

So these past months I've had tons of stuff to think about. Everything from business to faith and everything else in between, not to mention an on going family crisis that has taken up much of our attention. I can hardly believe I've found as much time as I have to do all this web logging. The family crisis has settled down for the time being but, I'm not holding my breath.

I'm still enjoying reading all these agrarian blogs. This truly is the information age. One of these days I'm going to see if I can print out some of the blogs so that I can read them without sitting in front of this bloomin computer screen. Can't be good for the eyes. Actually there is lead in the glass to help protect us from the radiation. I learned that from having the trash route. It's an issue getting rid of old monitors because of the lead.

Steven of Mountain Fire Keeper blog said he was already starting seeds. Sounds like a good thing to think about this week. Maybe I'll go plant something.

Until Next Time

Saturday, February 18, 2006


This morning we had -25 on the thermometer. This photo is at -20. Winter has finally arrived in northern Wisconsin. Heard from Mountain Fire Keeper and he had -30, Thursday night. Seems their weather and Minnesota 's eventually drifts over to us here in the great Northwood's. When I want to know what our weather is going to be I just check out Mountain Fire Keeper and Northern Farmers blogs to see what we are in for. That is if they happen to mention it. So far this winter it has been pretty much right on. It will be interesting to see if the same trend continues into the spring and summer months.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Funny Farm

I've often thought that living like we do in this place is kind of like being on a permanent vacation. Though over the past year the trash route is starting to feel more like a job. Whenever I start feeling like that, I remind myself that I would still rather be my own boss than to be punching a clock some place. I like being independent.

Just before getting into the waste hauling business we had a short run at having a petting farm. One day as I was up on a hill over looking the homestead I was observing all the animals that we had accumulated and the thought occurred to me to open a petting zoo. There were two wild life parks in the North Woods but, neither focused on farm animals. They're popular attractions with wildlife you typically find in North America, bears, cougar, deer and so forth.

We got everything cleaned up and presentable for the public, and took out a liability insurance policy. That was to protect from a lawsuit should someone trip and break a leg or have their arm ripped off by one of our ferocious beasts. It was a little intimidating to invite total strangers to come check out our place. With all the horror stories out there it seemed like insurance would like a prudent investment.

I remember well our opening day. All we did was put a small sign out at the road that said, Petting Farm. It is a well traveled highway between two popular Northwoods towns. So, it wasn't long until people started to trickle in. It reminded me of the times we've done rummage sales. Our very first guests were Kay and Dick, a middle aged couple who would become some of our biggest repeat customers. We took a deep breath and welcomed them in. They paid their fee and like children, enthusiastically headed strait for the first pen.

I'll never forget what happened next. It is forever etched in my mind. The way I saw it, was like some slow motion replay. Kay was walking along taking in all the sights and sounds of farm life, eyes fixed on the first exhibit when she stepped in a small dip in the ground. Now, I never noticed that dip before that moment. In that instant, it seemed to me like a pot hole the size of the Grand Canyon. As her foot plunged into the depression she made this ooof sound, as her body distorted to the sudden misplaced step. It reminded me of how I have felt those times I've gotten to the top of the flight of stairs and think there is one more tread to go. It's funny all the things that can go through your mind in a split second. I stood there with my breath held and mouth agape. Hoping with all hope that she was going to recover her stride. My hands extended in some vain attempt to catch her fall but, I was hopelessly out of reach. As the full realization was sinking in that there would be no recovery and yes this lady, our guest, a complete stranger, was indeed going down, all my fears of lawsuits and losing our dreams flashed before my eyes. It seemed like one of those near death experiences you hear about where peoples lives flash in front of them. I could picture my families emaciated faces panhandling in Eagle River homeless and begging for food. The slow motion footage still reeling in my mind I watched as she first went "ooof" then ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh as down ward she plunged. Then back to normal speed as splat, she went face first into the grassy turf.

Wide eyed, mouth still agape, hands still reaching, I arrived in a flash, immediately helping her to her feet and showering her with profuse apologies. She brushed her self off and began to chuckle a bit and said "oh, that's OK, I do that all the time". As I came to the realization that possibly we weren't going to be sued for everything we were worth, a sense of relief settled in. Kay and Dick went on to enjoy all the animals and upon leaving vowed to return again soon, as it was the best time they'd had in a very long time, they said.

We got to know Kay and Dick quite well. They lived up to their promise and returned numerous times becoming very attached to their favorite animals. We offered ice cream cones full of corn which people could feed to the animals. Kay and Dick really got a kick out of that. We all became good friends. One time as the season was coming to a close they showed up and Kay was wearing an eye patch. We asked her what was wrong and they told us how they had been on vacation and she slipped in a swimming pool hitting her brow on the edge. An infection settled in and that's why she had on the patch. As bad as we felt for her, we were a little relieved about her fall that first day, now that it was confirmed that she really was somewhat on the clumsy side. And she did indeed "do that all the time".

We had many more misadventures during the petting farm enterprise which I hope to share in the near future. But all in all it was a positive experience being able to share our lives with people from all walks of life.

Until Next Time

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Sunday Evening Post

Today we worked on getting our website done. We are going to use it to promote our rental cabin. We had one before but, it was rather plain. Took it off line for a remake. We haven’t had a website going for over a year now. We were getting some business through the site but, once we took it off line our rentals dropped off quite a bit. Our daughter has a knack for working with html. I look at all those codes and my eyes cross. It’s going to be a site we are proud of. It has turned out beautifully. This week we will take it to our local internet provider for them to put on line for us.

Our daughter and Kelli created it together. They put in tons of little details. I would come along for awhile giving my input but, they’d be straining over subtle little shades of color here and there and I’d start daydreaming about some project I want to be doing and away I’d go. I’d pop back in to check on progress every 20 minutes or so, unless otherwise being called in for my opinion. This has been in the works for quite some time now but, this is the day the finishing touches were completed.

Earlier this morning we were enjoying a Country Living video that Steven over at Mountain Fire Keeper blog sent us. It was a pleasure watching it. We watched about 1/3 of it and plan to watch the rest throughout the week. Steven and his friends are delightful people with lots of sound and practical advice. We are hoping to find a way to take off and go out to one of his workshops in ND this summer.

Earlier, in between website construction, I was reading Herrick Kimball's Feb. 3rd post and Northern Farmers Feb 4th post. Herrick was talking about the “corporate giant, Monsanto” manufacturer of Roundup. Herrick pointed out how big companies like that will completely forsake the safety and health of people in favor of making the big profits. Northern Farmer had a different theme but, you could arrive at a similar conclusion. The system stinks!

I have a book in my library that I’ve had for many years now called Friends in High Places. If it is even anywhere close to being accurate it really shows how the super rich rule this country and even the world. The book focused on a giant construction company that generated enormous amounts of money through government contracts. It also brought out details of how politicians make closed door deals with mega corporations awarding contracts to their most loyal supporters. A lot of what was in the book might be considered conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theorists seem to have come under a negative light the past 10 or so years. But to me conspiracy is only logical. Why wouldn’t super rich and powerful people sit behind closed doors and discuss how they are going to influence the world with their money, especially to maximize their profits. After all aren’t we doing the same thing. None of us are super rich, in fact some of us are just barely getting by, but we are doing a sort of conspiring. We are conspiring to live a better life. A more biblical life. So really I have no problem with conspiracy theories. Just to lay that on the table.

Reading that book really opened my eyes to what I see going on in the headlines. Much of what we see in the news just doesn’t make sense much of the time. All the little people sit back seeing all the headlines and debate amongst themselves about why gas prices are so high or why the president did such and such a thing. Often times it just doesn’t add up even when they give the official party line. But, really when you follow the money it makes perfect sense. More often than not someone's pockets are being lined and it was all drawn up in some back room deal. So I came up with a saying. “If it doesn’t make sense, it must have something to do with money.” I firmly believe that. People will forsake all morality for the almighty buck. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Northern Farmer said “There is no way a person can be a follower of the Lord and be immersed in this culture.” This is a sobering thing but true. But, don’t most of us agree? The way I see it we are fast approaching a time when we all will be faced with the ultimate choice. A choice like that voiced by Joshua of the old testament so long ago. Joshua came to a place where he had to speak out and say “ Choose you this day who you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He made that choice and for him it was an obvious one I believe. There is fast coming a day when we can no longer be lukewarm. We will have to choose God or the world. Which one will you choose?

Until Next Time

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Chicken Feed Recipe

Here is that chicken feed recipe that I mentioned in the previous post. I was going to edit it into the last post but I changed my mind and decided to make a brand new one instead.

It is a two part system.

Part One
Mash, mixed at this ratio;
40# wheat bran
20# middlings (I have no idea what
middlings are)
20# corn meal
40# alfalfa meal
10# fish meal (replaces

soy bean)

Part Two
Grain Mix
60# wheat
30# cracked or rolled corn
(we use rolled corn since
it is cheaper)
15# rolled oats
15# barley(have been noticing
that they leave behind alot
of this)

We feed these mixes separately. The mash can be fed wet or dry. We have tried it both ways. I think they like it better wet, since it is a little on the dry powdery side otherwise.

I really don't know what the long term effects will be on our flock with these mixes. Right now they seem to be doing well. They are laying good and look good. Make note that these rations do not include sufficient mineral matter, such as oyster shell. We supplement with oyster shell to keep the shells solid and thick.

These mixes came from an old 1912 book called THE POULTRYMAN'S HANDBOOK.