Thursday, December 17, 2009


I am currently reading a new book by Eliot Coleman called,

The Winter Harvest Handbook
Year-Round Vegetable Production
Using Deep-Organic Techniques
and Unheated Greenhouses

For years Coleman's writings have been an inspiration to us. This latest book is a real nice addition to our library. I find that it is complimentary to his book
Four Season Harvest. Being filled with the latest updated information it paints a more vivid picture of his year-round vegetable producing techniques. Plus there are quite a number of full color photographs illustrating it beautifully, which also help bring his previous writings more to light.

We've been aiming for a long time to emulate much of how Eliot Coleman grows vegetables. Though it has only been in the past couple years that we have put more of it to practice. We are a long way off but, we are getting closer. To me his techniques are the way to go especially in harsh northern climates. I have yet to find a better way.

Growing up so far removed from this kind of life we poured over all kinds of publications before we even moved here trying to learn as much as we could about how to live off the land. For growing vegetables we turn to Eliot Coleman. For keeping animals we have found
Joel Salatin to offer the most common sense approach. Though I had heard of him for quite a long time it has only been the past several years that we have really gotten aquainted with his methods.
Salatins influence on agrarian culture seems to be quite extensive, as we found we were already practicing a number of the things he does simply from seeing how other people were already imitating him.

For over-all general information on homesteading we turn to
Countryside Magazine.
Ever since my cousin Bob gave me a couple of his older issues both me and Kelli were hooked. We were still in IL at the time and we both found that "homesteading" is what we wanted to do. I never wanted to be a farmer per se. Countryside magazine re-coined the term homesteading. They re-defined it. Before becoming a reader of Countryside I always pictured 'homesteading' more like how they did it in the "old days", where settlers got free land from the government.
But, this new definition really struck a cord with me and Kelli. As defined by Countryside magazine that was exactly what I'd been wanting to do all my life. And Kelli was right on board. It was a God thing I reckon, the fact that I didn't even have to persuade my wife. She was sold right from the start.

Before my cousin gave me my first issue of Countryside, I had dabbled a little with Mother Earth magazine. Although it dealt with many of the topics I was interested in I didn't like the title and it seemed to cater more to the "yuppie" urbanite wanna be homesteader crowd. I considered myself more of a natural born country boy even though I was born in a city. Country life was in my blood. I did grow up on my great-grand parents original 5 acre homestead. By the time I came along it had been divided up into 4 parcels each going to my three great-uncles and my grandma. The oldest uncle got 2 acres. And the rest of the kids got 1 acre. We lived with my Grandma on her acre. But, I still had run of the whole place. In time the city encroached on us and soon we were surrounded by 24 hr. none stop traffic. When I was about 10 years old a horse pasture right next to us was sold and a huge apartment complex went in. Those buildings towered over our back yard. It was horrible and I wanted to leave from that moment on.

After more than 11 years of living here we still subscribe to Countryside magazine. 9 years ago we even named our garbage business after it. We read it from cover to cover every time. and we certainly don't throw it away when were done. We have every issue we've ever bought. That is unless we gave one away to a friend or something.

Before we built our log cabin I had done tons of reading about how to build log structures. Since we fell in love with the early American style log houses Charles McRaven was the authority we settled on for building with logs. He also has he the best books I've ever seen on how to build with stone. We have three of his books in our library. BUILDING & RESTORING the HEWN LOG HOUSE, BUILDING with STONE, and THE STONE PRIMER .
Even though we didn't build our log cabin with hewn logs or use dovetail corners we relied heavily on McRavens writings.
In more recent times of discovering the 'blogosphere' and it's host of agrarian writers has been another source of great inspiration. Northern Farmer was one blog that especially had me right from the beginning. We enjoyed reading about the day to day happenings at this rural Minnesota farm. And of the gritty down to earth style that Tom Scepaniak brought to his blog with his no apologies views on matters of faith, religion and just about any other topic you can think of. Though it was sad to see that he retired his Northern Farmer blog, I think his newest one Christian Farm and Ranchman is even better. We still get to read about the day to day farm life but, matters of faith have gone off the charts as far as I'm concerned. I for one have been moved greatly from a spiritual perspective by much of what Tom is writing these days.

Then there are the writings of Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian blog. In my opinion Herrick is flat out the best 'How To' writer on the planet! He's just a good writer period. But, I especially enjoy his instructional writings. I have purchased several of his books which will always have a place in our home.
Another blog that stood out for me was the one by Walter Jeffries titled Sugar Mountain Farm .
Walter seems like a very interesting fellow. His blog is full of creative and often humorous anecdotes. He also has alot of day to day type accounts of happenings at his farm. For me just hearing or reading about how people do things is a great learning tool. I often derive more information that way than whole books devoted to one subject. Experience is a great teacher.
Also Walter has another blog and very well could be his most important, which is The National Animal Identification System is one of the worst totalitarian idea's that have come along in this country perhaps ever. I am passionately against NAIS so I give Walter alot of credit in keeping this one going. I have seen his blog site referenced to all over the place, in both electronic communications and in print. Go Walter!
The first "christian agrarian" blog I ever saw was Homesteader Life. I was very excited when I found this one. Here was the first time on the Internet that I saw my two main passions put together in one package. Well, actually it wasn't the first time. I found Homesteader Life from a website called Christian Homesteaders Association . Scott Terry the author of Homesteader Life had made a comment at that site. That's how I found him. But, Christian Homesteaders Association website didn't have much activity. Scott Terry's blog was regularly updated. And from there he had links to numerous of other blogs. And each of those blogs had links. Soon I found a whole world of Christian farmer/homesteader/agrarian people. I couldn't believe it. So many in fact, that it just about boggles the imagination. A person can't possibly keep up with it all.
That's why I started my own blog a few years ago. I wanted to get in on the conversations. I felt like I had come home. But, after awhile it was easy to spend WAY too much time checking it all out and conversing with everyone. I had to back off on it and not spend so much time. I think a person could sit at this thing all day long if they aren't careful.
There are many blogs I haven't mentioned and I feel that I have developed a number of good friendships through all of this. And the information and stories are just endless. From time to time I cruise around and check out alot of the blogs and catch up with where alot of them are at. I don't comment much anymore but, I'm still out here "lurking" as Walter Jeffries puts it. I find all the stories and information on the many blogs very inspiring. A great wealth of information is out there in cyber space.
But, the greatest source of inspiration, hands down, comes from the bible. We simply couldn't get by without that! The Holy Scriptures are the greatest "How To" manual to ever be. And it has alot of 'agrarian' references to boot. It answers the questions just about everyone has at some point or another in their lives of "how did I get here and who am I". The bible tells us how we got here. It tells who and what we are. And it tells us where we are going. It teaches us how to find God. It tells us how to get along in this sin cursed world. And above all it shows us how to love. How to love God and how to love each other. The bible says that "God is love" Love is exactly what this world needs. It desperately needs love, it desperately needs God.
Until Next Time

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow Storm

Today we got walloped with a snow storm. It was the first time since we've been picking up garbage that I didn't pick up due to the weather. Our neighbor Mike has been helping me with the routes. He came over at his regular time and wondered if I was still planning on going. It had been snowing all night and there was a good 8 inches on the ground with quite a bit of drifting. My plan was to at least give it a try. Never had a 'snow day' since we started.

Once we got out of the drive way, ( had to take a few runs at it) we set out on our way. The main highway was plowed but, none of the side roads looked touched. The first un-plowed side road we went down helped us decide to call it quits. As long as you kept moving it was alright but, once you came to a stop it wasn't so easy to get going again. If all we had to do was drive, it wouldn't have been so bad but, in this line of work we make a lot of stops. Took us about 10 minutes to get a path shoveled well enough to get a run at it. After that we headed back home. No sense risking having to call for a tow truck. So we'll try it again tomorrow.

Well, we did a last minute impromptu Christmas tree and wreath stand. Our growing partners happen to have Christmas trees and every year they make and sell wreaths. So Kelli was talking with them one day and made the offer for them to set up a Christmas tree lot here at our place. We've talked about it often over the years and now here it is. Just a spur of the moment set up.

We used our farm stand infrastructure. Works pretty good and it is all self serve. They've sold at least 14 trees and numerous wreathes. For some reason the trees are selling better than the wreathes which I think they are a little disappointed in. The wreathes are beautiful so I don't know why they've been slow in selling. They are competitively priced as well so, who knows.
Selling trees and wreathes out here is keeping people looking which is good for the produce stand. A number of people buying trees and wreathes have been vegetable customers.

Yesterday was mine and Kelli's 25th wedding anniversary! We spent the day getting the yard ready for the coming snow storm. Got the sheep all settled into their winter homes. Divided some of the ewes between our two rams so we'll have lambs in the spring. Got all done with that just in time for the snow to start.

We stayed close to home for our anniversary. There is a well known steak house just down the road so we went there. Figured we could always walk home if we got snowed in. Of course it didn't come to that but, I'm glad we didn't have to drive far in that storm. It sure was coming down. Then we spent a quiet evening warm and cozy alone in our cabin enjoying each others company. Usually we end up Christmas shopping on our anniversary so last night was a nice treat. After all it was our 25th. We talked about how it doesn't seem possible that we've been married that long. In some ways it seems forever ago, yet in others it seems just like yesterday. Like we woke up one day and we turned middle aged over night. How'd we get into our 40's anyway? But, we feel greatly blessed to be out here in the country living out our dreams and taking one day at a time seeing what God has in store for us along the way.