Thursday, September 20, 2012

Girl Loves Plants

Those closer to me already know, but I really love plants.  I've given up the practice of giving a walking commentary of all plants I see to my wife, but it still goes on in my head.  I particularly love the action of leaves on a tree, and not merely the fall color, but I really love the vibrant green of the first spring flush and the changes in tint when pods and the like pop down. 

My daughter loves them too.  My older son does too for that matter, but the girl is old enough to really dig in.  The amazing thing is is that she's really learned quite a bit already.  She knows how to gently get out small plants from a cell pack without damaging roots, place them in a hole and firm the dirt up around them.  She loves to water them too - they're like her babies.

Talking with Kevin Ford over at site he often says that many people are intimidated to move to the land because they don't even know what a seed looks like.  So here's my point: my 3 year learned a lot already.  Just get out there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Picture Updates


I have a feeling there's going to be lots of posts involving Hank.

Here's how it starts:  I really want cows some day.  There's a pasture on the land where we're staying and its just begging for some cattle.  I want a herd.  Bad.  I realize that just scrounging cash and dumping some out there is not prudent - I've done what modern man calls "research."  Modern "research" means google searches.  My favorite is when its a controversial topic, because then "research" means they searched google and found sites that already agree with their view to find the prefered answer.

So, I've researched cows a bit.  Even read a book or two (actual research), but I just know I'm not ready for it, and I don't have time now anyway with school and work.  But I can schedule time here and there to go learn, and that's where Hank comes in.

I found out where a pretty serious grass-fed operation is happening.  (If you're still eating corn pumped pseudo-cow, do some research).  I went out there, but Hank wasn't there, so we bought some eggs, some chuck and a few organs and hit the road.  I left my number and said I'd like to learn form Hank and in exchange I'll give some labor. 

Hank calls me back, says he is reeeal interested.  I'm pretty sure he mostly heard the "free labor" part.

"I hear you wanna get some experience around the farm," he says.

"No.  I'd like you to teach me and in exchange for your mentorship I'll work.  Will work for food-raising skills." 

[Pause] ... "Sounds good.  I'll be cutting hay until dark the next couple days, meet me at field x [insert country directions about curves and fences and "the" stoplight]."

So I head out there and sure enough, I see some people cutting hay.  Hank's not there, but they don't seem to be bothered by an extra set of hands.  And let me say this, all of the stories about bucking hay and stacking hay and almost dying with a hay bail in hand are all true.  That was some hard work.  And man was it good.  I'm not using gloves for the first month here because I need my callouses back (the office stole them), but that bail twine nearly killed me.  Throwing hay four feet up into a little hole in the barn was very difficult, to put it mildly.  I missed 3 times and the other times were all I had, each time. 

"'Till dark" is what Hank said, but it was the last day so this was "'Till the job's done."  It was well after dark and I was feelin' it.  Hard.  But it was so good.  I only did it for a few hours - the other guys were on there second full day of it. 

We got back to the farm (its common to cut other fields and bring it to the farms where its used) and went inside the office.  Hank pulled up on a tractor, made fun of me a bit and then shook my hand.  If I had seen him first I don't think I would have been so forward on the phone, but I think he respected me already for it, which helped.  He was huge.  Giant.  I'm in the promised land but this giant almost turned me back.

There were two shotguns behind his desk as he sat down.  His wife handed me a glass of sweat tea.  We talked a bit and to shorten the story up, he's very interested in putting cows out where I am.  My overlord said Hank could use my labor to put the rest of the fence up and then it looks like Hank might give me some cows to look after as a learning experience.  And I mean "give" as in watch over and he'll pay me in meat.

And thats what he did that day.  Not only did I learn about hay and how it can burst into flames if the moisture is wrong, but I learned that working for food is a good way to be.  Along with mentoring, I got 4 dozen fresh farm eggs and a big hunk of cow.  So I'm now working my housing and food off, very part-time. 

It really is amazing what happens when you just get out here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Homestead Food

For breakfast I had fresh farm eggs.  For lunch I had fresh bread from the wife and milk from a cow down the road. 

I think the only imported thing I'll have today will be my whiskey, which I brought with me from Colorado. 

I need to find a still...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Transition Kids to a Farm

We've barely been here a week, but as you can guess the transition is edging towards transitioned.  I think my and my wife's thoughts could fill their own post, so I'd like to update you on how the kids are transitioning.  I think it might be helpful for you if you make a move to the land.

First, we have three kids.  The youngest is a baby who is just starting to realize a world outside of mom's bosom, so he's basically normal.  He may be a little stressed because of the natural stress mom has from moving, but all-in-all he's good.  The older two are two and three.  They're close in age but the approaches to handling their behaviors is very different.

The three year old is detoxing from a world of entertainment.  What I mean is that she is used to days that are mostly spent occupied with keeping a three year old occupied.  We by no means spoil her (ok, maybe I do), but the simple fact of living in an apartment in a suburbanized city is that you really don't have anything for her to do other than be entertained.  Even in an apartment she would have chores when she gets older, but three year olds just can't do much (unless you're on a farm, as we'll see in a moment).  She's a child, so play is natural and good, but here I can already see the difference and even the benefit of the farm.  She's learning responsibility and she already cares.  I can see her learning to think of things outside of and bigger than her own whims. 

For example, we have to feed the chickens and turkeys every morning.  We go get their bowls, clean the water and fill the feed.  Simple, but important.  But my little girl sometimes wants to do something else mid-stream.  She started happy and eager, but now she wants to play inside.  I sat her down and explained to her that just like she has to eat every day and moma gets all the food ready for that, we have to make sure the birds are happy and fed too.  They're in cages (chicken tractors mostly), so we have to bring it to them or they'll be hungry.  She got it and is eager to make sure they are fed.  Bam.  Life lesson on day 6 that probably she and I will remember long from now.  

The two year old boy is a different story.  He's simply not used to this.  His emotions are volatile and you can tell that he's just on edge, even if he's mostly enjoying it.  One of the farm dogs ran up to him the first day and about gave him a heart attack.  Dogs at our last house were barely dogs and were led on a leash with baggy tottin owners staring for signs of unloading.  Its a very different story out here where dogs serve a purpose other than filling the child-void of our culture.  That, along with many other things are just hard for him to understand.  For him, explanations are not needed (as with the older girl), he just needs papa or mama to hold him and let him know that it is indeed very ok.  I'm trying to remind myself that he does not know that all of this is ok.  I may have grown up around tractors and equipment, but he only loves them in books, so its ok that he's scared when a loud diesel engine fires up.  It really is ok.

And for those of you out there that are a bit like him in your thoughts of moving to the land.  Its ok.  It is scary.  But he's learning, because that's the potency of our lives.  We're not trapped, and we do have the potency to be free from anti-culture.  You might feel scared the first time a big farm dog bursts up to you, but you'll get used to it.  My son already has. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We Made It Because We Needed People

We're here.

The kids are asleep, the wife just slipped in too and I'll join them as soon as this post and compline are done. 

A few observations on both leaving and going are in order.  First, we really needed people.  We needed help if we were to pack up and leave in roughly a 20 hour period.  We did it, but let us be very clear that without the help we received it would not have been possible (or at least it would have been exeedingly more horrible).  When I met with my [now former] pastor about the prospects of living on the land, hopefully with other Catholics nearby he made a very wise remark.  First, let me say that this man was a direct disciple of John Senior, so his views on my move were very important to me.  I remember that he said, "You know, 98% of attempted communities fail, because they don't really need each other."  He was speaking of a more "intentional" community approach, which I am intentionally avoiding, but I took it to heart.  The people that came to help were real community - from work, school and church.  I could not have done it without them, my plans would have been foiled.  Yet, with them by my side, I was able to leave theirs.  It was a testamtent to community that I had, and I must be honest that it makes the move even harder.  But I'm still in.  Thank you to every packer, benefactor, loader and cleaner on the crew - especially my father who drove the truck behind my vehicle. 

The second observation was the number of people that I saw looking at my packed truck longingly.  They wanted on this train to adventureland.  Many people really do want out of the system that holds them so tight, but loosening the grip is difficult.  I don't want to drag my family through hell or anything, but even if we fail, it'll be worth it for what we and they can learn from it.  As my old boss use to say, quoting one of the many bizleadershipgainhabits books that he oft quoted, "Failure is compost."  How fitting on this adventure is that - compost!  I hope this blog, and another very exciting project soon to be announced, will spark and equip many more to follow.  Learn from my folly dear fellows. 

The third observation was the peace of the move.  I'd like to remind you that we just drove from Saturday night to Wednesday morning with three kids that are three and under.  The drive alone is hard, and I know that from experience.  But from the well-chosen hotels to the stops with friends to the delightfully grungy truck-stops (I love truck stops), it was a good trip. Really good.  The kids had a few moments of whining and crying, which I can't really blame 'em for, and my wife's legs are numb from living in a square foot for days, but I can honestly say that it bordered on fun.  I am "checking out" of many things, and I have long rejected many others, but I am not above hotel pools, portable dvd players and even some cheap food when you're driving across a continent.  Rock on Baby Einstein, even if you're name doesn't make any sense (if my baby was an "Einstein" why would I need their "development" movies? - you should be watching movies of my baby being amazing if he were already an Einstein at 4 months.  They seem to assume that my baby is not an Einstein and I am incapable of teaching them so I need hours of screen time with their miracle product.  Shenanigans).  Back to the peace.  I of course without a shadow of a cucumber think that God is blessing our move.  The only drawback to all of our recent plans was that it has been a bit rushed.  Yet, we have spent hours in prayer and spiritual direction, and my spiritual director was not fond of the idea, but he did eventually give a reluctant blessing because the situation did look like a door providentially opened. His blessing stuck and the trip was blessed.

So, if you're looking at moving to the land, here's some thoughts so far from our experience:

  • Pray, think and talk, but do something.
  • DVDs.  Get some.
  • Drive with your family and have someone else drive the truck.
  • You are not alone.  That's the great American myth ("self-made man").  You need help to make this decision, figure out where to go and how to get there, and you need help making it happen.  The filling of this need will help you see real community, and will be a huge step in a back-to-the-ground-and-community kind of thing - farming communities like the Amish have always had stronger community because they really really need that ogre of a man Jebatoadia to help raise their barn.  Need people, its a good thing. 

Pics will come as soon as we can find the wires and stuff somewhere in one of these unmarked boxes filled to the brim by someone that's not here with us on the other side.