Monday, May 15, 2006

Living Life

I was reading Herrick Kimball’s May 12th post and read were he is taking some decisive steps in moving towards some long held goals for himself and his family. I always get excited when I see people making plans to step out in faith and do what God has been leading them to do.

In this day and age people so easily get stuck in a rut. I know, I was one of them. I think that is why I in particular, am happy when folks break free from the cultural bonds that hold them to a life of drudgery and meaningless existence. Because I was so stuck before we moved to Wisconsin I can really relate when I see it in others. I’m not saying Herrick was stuck or living a meaningless existence, far from it. I admire all that he has accomplished even while waiting for Gods timing.

But, what happens in this age of artificial reality is that most people just take whatever they can get. When I was a young guy with a new “job” an older co-worker once told me, “get it while you can get it”. In other words make all the money you can and work all the hours you can, while you are still young and able. To me, that kind of advice was a bitter pill to swallow. It was down right depressing. At the time, I didn’t even know how to express the heaviness I felt inside after that statement, all I knew was deep down, that was the farthest thing from what I knew I wanted in life. I always hated the examples I was seeing around me. Work your life away during the best years of your life and then “retire”. Living wasn’t an option until that time. Any dreams you might entertain would have to wait until a distant day way off in the future someplace.

The problem I saw with that kind of plan was there was no guarantee you’d even make till retirement. It seemed you were always hearing about some poor schmuck who put in 30 years only to have the company go under or something and somehow get cheated out of his pension. Or maybe he doesn’t lose his retirement, he loses his life. He’s only got two and a half years to go and then has a massive heart attack or a stroke. Those kinds of stories hung over me like some kind of cloud in those days when I didn’t really know there might be some other way.

Back then there didn’t seem to be any other options. Especially after Kelli and I got married and started our family. She was 18 and I turned 21 two days before our wedding. ( Now at 42 I’ve been married exactly half my life.) Sure I had dreams and goals but, really all the signals around us, all the unspoken rules were, you be a good boy, work hard, do your time and some day you might be free. In many ways I became a very angry and resentful young man from seeing all the walls up around me keeping me bound to a meaningless life. A life of endless repetition doing the same thing day in and day out week after hopeless week.

When I read Ecclesiastes it seems Solomon could have been a modern American. “Meaningless, meaningless all is meaningless“, he lamented. We have so much in this country, but in reality modern life has become so empty and void of any real purpose. Our one aim in life is to make money. All the money we can. A new kind of bread. And Jesus said, man cannot live by bread alone.

Modern men and women find their lives so void of purpose that they throw themselves into whatever they can to dull the ache. They self medicate with pleasure and entertainment or even “work“. All you have to do is look at Hollywood to see what following that kind of life will lead to. You see all those high and mighty people with the whole world at their finger tips, yet living out their days in futility being hooked on drugs and alcohol and leaping from one bad relationship to another, never happy, never satisfied. They live in utter opulence with the ability to have just about any material thing their heart could desire but, it is never enough. Yet the lies that keep them enslaved to sin and depravity are the same lies that infects the entire nation. It keeps everyone running to and fro doing nothing but chasing the wind. Part of the lie is that someday you might actually catch it. The wind, that is.

With that said I want to come back to the gladness I get inside when I see folks stepping out from under the yoke of oppressive slavery and begin to move towards freedom. Being free to live out their lives as God has intended. It is a beautiful thing to see someone working out of and exercising their God given talents and gifts.

I believe that God places in each one of us specific plans to fulfill. We are created for a purpose. What kinds of things do we gravitate towards? For me I always loved animals. When I was a boy our neighbors had horses which were kept in a pasture right next door. I spent countless hours watching them. And I was nuts about dogs. We always had them and I spent most of my youth studying lots about the various breeds and the different activities that you can do with them, such as breeding, obedience, showing, tracking, search and rescue and what not. I was just plain drawn to all kinds of animals. Anytime I spotted a nature show on TV I was stuck like glue. Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins was one of my favorites.

God wires each of us differently in order to fulfill specific purposes. When someone is wired for something you can hardly keep them away from it. Musicians gravitate towards singing and or musical instruments. Artists find things to draw, paint and sculpt. Tradesmen gravitate towards tools and building projects. The mechanically inclined towards cars and machinery. Cooks and chefs towards kitchens and food. The list goes on and on. Sure, people can learn most any skill but the best ones seem to be the ones who are born to it. The tasks are not burdensome, they are a joy.

That is one of the problems with the modern way of things. People for the most part just do whatever it takes to make some cash. The agrarian living of the past provided such a wide outlet for needed skills, people seldom had time to be bored and unfulfilled. Nearly every natural talent can be fully utilized on a farm.

Of course not all people are made for farm life. Ever since the beginning there were people who specialized. There are some folks who are way more comfortable behind a desk than behind a plow. I personally might have a hard time understanding that but, it is true. God designs people to be experts with numbers, finance and all kinds of clerical abilities. And when people are working out of those God given talents that too is a beautiful thing to me.

But, if we look at the things we day dream about, as long as they aren’t unbiblical, then I really think those are the area’s God is leading us to. The sad thing is there are countless millions who are so caught up with this present system they are totally miserable. Sure, everyone has dreams. But, the majority of folks it seems, just let those dreams fade away with time. It’s to risky or they don’t have the money, that’s a big one by the way, or there isn’t enough time. I’ll do it when I “retire”. And it is sadder yet that there is so much that God would do through people but, all these things just always seem to get in the way.

So really what I’m saying is the time is now. Life is short. There is no guarantee that it will wait for “retirement”. I’m not saying eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Far from it. I’m just saying that we need to put away our addictions to stuff and start living out of our hearts. What has God put on your heart to do? And we all know when it is more than just a good idea. The things God has for us to do are “inspired“. When you can see the vision so strongly you can almost touch it. That I believe, is God given. We didn’t come up with it. In fact it’s too big for us to have come up with anyway. That’s how inspiration works.

I’m really glad for Herrick. Glad to see him following the great adventure the Lord has for him. The creative approach he brings to living an agrarian life is very encouraging. And his writings are inspired, that is obvious.

We have some close personal friends in this area that are taking some big steps too. For some reason I just love it. It does my heart wonders to see people stepping out of their comfort zone and living there lives on the cutting edge of Gods will. To quote William Wallace from the movie Brave Heart, “ all men die, but not every man really lives”. Seeing folks exercising their gifts and living life to the full is an exciting and beautiful thing to see.

Until Next Time

Friday, May 12, 2006

Rebecca St.James on

I don't know if anyone who reads my blog is a Rebecca St. James fan or not. She is a very popular contemporary Christian music artist. My kids all have her CD's.

Anyway, my friend John Heise from
MyHomeTownSports had opportunity a short while back to interview her for his website. John is a local sports radio celebrity around here and gets alot of exciting opportunities to interview famous sports figures. This is a little different from his usual genre but, John wants to bring in a Christian element into his enthusiasm for sports.

I know sports is a little off my usual genre as well, but John's a good guy and I know he was pretty excited to get that interview. If you want to go check it out at the above link, when you get to the site click on "Daily Word" at the top left of the website. And while your at it I'm sure he'd love for you to send him a quick
email telling him hello. Tell him you were at my blog and Russ sent you. I think he'd get a kick out of that.

Here We Go Again

It looks like I spoke to soon in my last quick post on the 10th. I said gas prices went down a few cents. Well, today I have to say it went up and boy did it. I wish we would have had our digital camera with us. As Kelli and I were on our way to the landfill we gasped as we passed our local gas station and saw $3.049 for low grade. $3.109 for mid grade and $3.189 for the premium. I'm pretty sure that is the highest it's ever been in our area. I'll have to check my records for the last time it got over 3 bucks a gallon, but I'm thinking this is our all time high. Wisconsin has a gas tax that makes our gas prices one of the highest in the nation.

So much for the lasting effects of Mahmoud's letter to George. I had heard a news report that oil prices dropped as a result of Iran's president writing a letter to President Bush. Then I noticed our gas prices had dropped. I thought, "boy that was fast". So much for wishful thinking. Oh well, just gotta take it as it comes, right?

We've been having beautiful spring weather here until yesterday. We actually got snow. I shouldn't be surprised since after all, this is the North Woods. It's mostly melted today with the rain but, the snow was quite a contrast to the bright green grass.

This is going to have to be another quick post. I hope to sit down sometime this weekend to write something with a little more meat to it.

In the mean time, as another blogger I know says, "keep on keeping on".

Until Next Time

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Fuel/Wallet Gauge

Our friend Stephanie sent this to us via an email. I thought it was funny and very appropriate with the rising gas prices. Actually it went down a few cents in the last week but, still it is over $2.90 a gallon for the cheap stuff in our area.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Hodag Fact or Fiction?

Earlier this year when Rick Saenz came up to Wisconsin and interviewed me for his Plain Talk series he caught me a little off guard when he asked me to tell him about Rhinelander’s Hodag. The Hodag is everywhere in Rhinelander and after you've been here awhile it just becomes part of the fixture of the place and you actually kind of forget about it.

Well, on the recording I didn't think I represented Rhinelander’s mascot very well. I had myself all psyched up to talk about all the agrarian subjects that we all love so much and right away I had to shift gears and try to remember the Hodag legend.

Even though we don't live in Rhinelander our mailing address does carry it's zip code. And we do most of our major shopping there and visit friends in the area regularly. So with this post I'll try to set the record strait for the sake of all those hodag fans out there and to better represent this interesting creature.

Below is a portion about the Hodag from the Rhinelander area chamber of commerce website. For the full story click the sites link at the bottom.

"The Rhinelander area has a rich and unique history. From its logging start to its mysterious hodag, Rhinelander's history is both educational and entertaining for the entire family."

The Living Legend of Rhinelander’s Hodag
by Kurt Daniel Kortenhof

The following is derived from LONG LIVE THE HODAG! THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF EUGENE SIMEON SHEPARD: 1854-1923 by Kurt D. Kortenhof (ISBN: 0-9653745-0-5). To obtain copies of the second edition of this publication published in 2006 please visit Hodag Press online at:
All text within quotation marks is original source material mostly from late nineteenth-century newspapers. For complete citations and bibliography, please refer to LONG LIVE THE HODAG!
The Hodag first made its appearance in the autumn of 1893 near the lumbering frontier community of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Eugene Simeon Shepard (1854-1923), timber cruiser, real-estate broker, and community jester stumbled across the beast while hiking near his Rhinelander home. Although a seasoned woodsmen, Shepard had never before encountered a Hodag, the beast so often spoke of in the lumber-camp bunkhouses. The sighting, however, was unmistakable. Shepard stood face to face with a 185 pound, seven-foot-long, lizard-like beast. Its head was disproportionately large for its body with two horns growing from its temples, large fangs and green eyes. Covered with short black hair, the body appeared stout and muscular; its back was covered with spikes which led to a powerful tail. The four legs were short and sturdy with three claws facing forward and one pointing in the opposite direction. As the beast turned to greet his uninvited guest, its nostrils spouted flame and smoke, and a horrible odor, which Shepard described as a "combination of buzzard meat and skunk perfume," filled the air. Wisely, Shepard retreated in a hurry. Back in Rhinelander he described his encounter to townspeople and lumberjacks. Clearly, Shepard had witnessed the monster that lumberjacks believed embodied the restless spirits of dead lumber oxen--he had seen a Hodag.

Gathering brave townsmen and willing lumberjacks, Shepard assembled a hunting party to capture the strange beast. Armed with "heavy rifles and large bore squirt guns loaded with poison water," the hunting party set out to confront the monstrosity. Discovering the Hodag near where Shepard had first sighted it, the hunting party dispatched a number of dogs to corner the beast. This proved unsuccessful as the Hodag "scattered about the place" small fragments of the hunting dogs. Like the dogs, the hunting party’s weaponry proved of little value in subduing the now irate Hodag. Luckily, the hunters had brought along a large supply of dynamite. After piling birch bark around the cornered beast, the lumberjacks lobbed sticks of dynamite at their prey. The explosions ignited a fire that engulfed the monster and eventually took the Hodag’s life. Although the charred remains of this first Hodag were transported to Rhinelander and displayed, Shepard’s hunters were unable to capture the beast alive.

It was not until three years later that a determined Eugene Shepard captured a live Hodag. In the autumn of 1896, Shepard and a group of lumberjacks surprised a Hodag in its den and asphyxiated the monster with a heavy dose of chloroform. Shepard then transported the Hodag to the Rhinelander fairgrounds and confined it to a pit resembling its den "in order that the animal would not discover the deception being practiced upon him." Days before the opening of Oneida County’s first fair, Shepard announced that he would proudly exhibit his recently captured beast.........
Well, now that your full of all kinds of suspense and anticipation you'll just have to find out the rest of the story by clicking here.
Until Next Time

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian

Back when it was still the middle of winter I purchased Herrick Kimball’s excellent how to book about how to build an automatic chicken plucker called, ''Anyone Can Build a Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker''. It was by far the best how to book I’ve ever read. I also got his other related book about building an automatic chicken scalder, figuring if you’re going to be speedily plucking chickens you’d probably be needing to be speedily scalding them as well. Both are very easy to read and even I could understand plainly how to build these devises after going over these terrific books.

I was wondering if Herrick did such a good job with the how to books, what could he do with a more traditional type book? Well, I got my answer with his latest work called, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. I’m now in the process of reading it and I’d have to say if you enjoy his blog, you’ll love his book. It is written in his typical down to earth fashion and is very eloquently done. Makes a person want to go dig in the dirt just from reading it.

Also I was very pleased to see that in the Foreward, Herrick gave an in-depth description of what exactly an “agrarian” is. When I first stumbled onto this wonderful agrarian blogging community I was a little unsure what an agrarian was. I’d never really heard it before used like this. I pretty much got the gist but, had hoped to find through reading the blogs, if it was something I really wanted to sign on with and adopt it’s usage in my own writing. Well, Herrick has done a fine job in clarifying the definition of what an agrarian is as used in this context. So with that said, you’ll just have to get his book if you’re as curious as I have been about these here Christian agrarians and what it’s all about.

By the way, in case your wondering, Herrick is not paying me to write this review. It’s just that when I find something that’s good I like to share it with others.

If you're interested in getting it, just go to his new website or click on his link at the right hand side bar of this blog under My Favorite Websites.

Until Next Time

A Curious Cat

The day our friend Dan and I set up the bees, one of our cats became very inquisitive about the new arrivals to the farm. It was comical to see him inching closer and closer, seeming to be drawn in by the buzzing sounds. Dan caught the whole thing with his camera. The curious kitty even went as far as to swat one of the busy bees. Something must have told him he’d better be wary of these buzzing little strangers so he high tailed it out of there. But, still curiosity got the better of him, so he decided to keep checking them out only from a safer vantage point as shown in the bottom photo. With animals around who needs to spend money on entertainment! Though this daring feline made out unscathed that day we have had enough experiences with cats over the years to know why they came up with the expression, "curiosity killed the cat".