Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happenings on the Farm

An update on the farm, complete with pictures, is long overdue. I have been kept fairly busy with college courses, but we have made some progress over the past few months. I processed all of my chickens and turkeys before Thanksgiving, and we have begun preparations for next year's season. Now that I have completed my first college semester, I'm free to devote all of my attention to the farm. We have many plans that we are going to be working through this winter, and with God's blessing, we hope to make an appearance at our farmers' market next spring in order to begin serving the large customer base in our county.

I processed my first flock of turkeys a few days before Thanksgiving. Despite a few technical impediments, all of the turkeys were delivered on time. We learned that turkeys are quite different than chickens, particularly in size and strength, but we still look forward to growing more next year. ;)

On my birthday, we hired a trackhoe (and owner) to do some work in our fields. The machine weighs 30,000 pounds, which was quite enough heavy metal to dig out all of our stumps, as well as putting in a drainage trench along our very wet garden plot. Everything looks like a mess, at the moment... but progress can look messy at times.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

SEC Champions 2009!


Let it Snow!

Snow makes this boy very happy. =) (Actually, he smiles whenever he sees a camera.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

This Is Why Teddy Is My Hero

"In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk. The man must be glad to do a man's work, to dare and endure and to labor; to keep himself, and to keep those dependent upon him. The woman must be the housewife, the helpmeet of the homemaker, the wise and fearless mother of many healthy children. In one of Daudet's powerful and melancholy books he speaks of "the fear of maternity, the haunting terror of the young wife of the present day." When such words can be truthfully written of a nation, that nation is rotten to the heart's core. When men fear work or fear righteous war, when women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom; and well it is that they should vanish from the earth, where they are fit subjects for the scorn of all men and women who are themselves strong and brave and high-minded."

Theodore Roosevelt, Speech Before the Hamilton Club
Chicago, April 10, 1899

Monday, November 16, 2009

Of Food, Inc.

After a long, impatient wait- during which our curiosity was only allayed by 3-minute trailers and reviews by real-food lovers- our family has finally seen the documentary Food, Inc. I have been extremely excited that a movie taking the industrial food system head-on was receiving such publicity, and my hopes were very high. I was fully pleased by the movie's presentation of the industrial food process, from chickens to corn to lettuce; the chilling message reminded me of why I feel called to produce good food. On the other hand, the positive side of the film, which presented our alternatives to factory food, did not meet my expectations.

I knew that Food, Inc. would thoroughly expose the industrial system, simply by the fact that Eric Schlosser, Joel Salatin, and Michael Pollan all contributed to the film. I prefer a slightly more rational, and less emotional, presentation of even scary facts, so the horror music and emotional appeal weren't my favorite parts. On the other hand, it is important to take food safety to a personal level, and I believe that the story of the death of Kevin Kowalcyk (caused by E. Coli-contaminated hamburger) made the situation seem much more real and personal. The images of conventional poultry, pork, and cattle production were well contrasted by the Edenic appearance of Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm.

The scenes of poultry, pork, and beef processing were an honest representation and quite appalling. I was glad to see how broad a range of issues the film covered, from contamination of the meat to worker safety. I imagine that the average American consumer seeing this film would be very surprised to see how their meat is processed. The film also reveals just how secretive the food industry is. As Joel Salatin said in the film, (I paraphrase) "If all of the slaughterhouses in the United States were built with glass walls, people would change the way they eat in a heartbeat."

Food, Inc. does not stop by exposing the meat industry; no, that is mere child's play compared to the control of farmers by seed companies the seed company, Monsanto. This "axis of evil" in the agricultural world has not only cornered the seed market, but claims complete ownership of seeds which have been genetically modified to resist Monsanto herbicides and pesticides. The farmers interviewed in the film reveal the legal tactics that Monsanto uses to control their customers, such as filing lawsuits (on grounds of the slightest evidence) against farmers suspected of saving Monsanto seed, even in circumstances when Monsanto knows that they can't win. In one case, Monsanto filed suit against the owner of a seed cleaning business, claiming that he was encouraging farmers to violate patent laws.

The revelation that most of our food comes from corn is surprising for the average eater, I'm sure. The nutritional impact of such a monoculture in food is not discussed in detail in the film, but Michael Pollan goes into greater detail in Omnivore's Dilemma, for those who wish to learn more. In Defense of Food, another of Pollan's books, is also well worth reading; it presents a view of eating that is profound in its simplicity.

This negative information about our food was a very thorough exposé of industrial food processing and factory farms. The other half of the movie presents the positive side of food, the alternative. This is where I was disappointed in the film, as this message of hope is delivered in two very different ways, without ever reconciling them. The first alternative system is espoused and explained by Joel Salatin, who advocates the idea of a food system that is decentralized and comprised of thousands of small farms across the nation. These small farms serve their community with food grown in a sustainable fashion that is humane to both the animals and the farmer, beneficial for the soil, and much more transparent for the sake of the consumer.

The second alternative presented is actually quite different, though someone new to the world of organic food may not have noticed, and the film seemed to blend the two as if they are harmonious. This alternative is what Michael Pollan refers to as "Big Organic", or simply an indutrial system producing food organically. This is certainly superior to conventional industrial food, but if you have a disease, is it better to control the symptoms or remove the problem? The Big Organic side is presented by Gary Hirshbeg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, who has a passion for organics, but believes that the food solution lies in business. His factories are run in the most environmentally conscious way possible, and his viewpoint is that every dollar in organic yogurt that Stonyfield sells is benefiting the earth. Stonyfield Farm yogurt is marketed to Wal-Mart, which Hirshberg sees as a breakthrough for organic food.

Thus, two views are presented: one advocates buying from local farmers and farmers' markets, while the other supports an organic reform of the industrial system. I had hoped that Joel Salatin's vision of a country filled with small farmers who could feed their communities- which, by the way, is also far more economically stable- would dominate the positive message of the film. "Industrial organic" is a compromise that will inevitably reduce quality and transparency, the two great goals of farmers such as Joel Salatin. The Big Organic industry may offer a solution which seems more probable, but it still sacrifices the food independence which farmers and activists are fighting for, it maintains the possibility of mass contamination, it is still highly centralized, and requires a great deal of energy (in the form of petroleum) for the processing and shipping of food.

Despite my disappointment with parts of the presentation, I think this film is a breakthrough in many ways. I highly recommend it to the consideration of a candid world.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

"Happy Birthday!"

Neglected blogs populate the digital graveyards of the internet. Perhaps this is a beneficial problem; there are more than enough well written and edifying blogs to compensate for the failed experiments cluttering the world wide web, now orphaned and dusty. I can understand the reasons that the owners of these blogs might have used to convince themselves that quietly abandoning their sites was the most humane option; there is a certain point at which the embarrassment of reviving the blog outweighs any disappointment that the death of said blog may bring.

Not being easily embarrassed, however, I'm going to bring this blog back to life. I apologize for the long silence, and I hope to have some interesting posts rolling soon. If you are reading this, give yourself a pat on the back for being such a faithful reader. However, you must have been waiting for an update, and you probably need to find a hobby. ;)


Monday, August 24, 2009

Elianna Grace

With grateful hearts filled with joy, we praise God for the newest blessing he has added to our family:
Elianna Grace

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord hath given me my desire which I asked of him." 1 Samuel 1:27

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Stonewall Minute

Well, the public school systems are underway and all of those children are learning the great Marxist and Socialist ideals that our country was founded upon. They'll be either explicitly or implicitly learning about man's creation in order to take God out of the equation: with science, it will be evolution instead of creation; with morality, it will be Fascism instead of Christianity. They'll be having a moment of silence every morning to meditate, recite the Koran, the pledge of allegiance to Obama, etc, etc.

Okay, maybe it's not all that bad, but if the current course continues we're well on the way. I'm reading a book by Jonah Goldberg called Liberal Fascism. One particular point jumped out at me in this book. Goldberg writes: "Crisis is routinely identified as a core mechanism of fascism because it short-circuits debate and democratic deliberation. Hence all fascistic movements commit considerable energy to prolonging a heightened state of emergency." The book points to World War I as giving birth to Fascism, and the American "progressives" as being descendants of the fascist way.

Now, here we are and all I hear from the media is that health care is broken and the swine flu is going to kill us all! This may not be the height of emergency that World Wars afforded others, but it's all the "Administration" has got to grasp for right now. There's no doubt that the swine flu will be an avenue for the "Administration" to attempt to force legislation, or at least coerce the people, all justified by "achieving the common good" (i.e., denying the people their individual rights to choose). It jumped out at me how both the past and current "Administrations" have taken advantage of states of emergency in order to circumvent democratic deliberation.

I just thought you'd like to know that your government is using these same fascist tactics on WE THE PEOPLE. Now with the kids congregating in all the public flu pool schools, keep an eye on how the government plays its "emergency" card. I think it will be very telling of how far we've gotten away from being a free republic, and how close we're leaning towards becoming a socialist state. Think about this the next time the "Administration" mentions the "common good".

Stonewall out

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farm Friday

This week we have continued preparing the fields which we will plant in next year. We have almost finished building a fence to divide our fields from the rest of the pasture. The next step will be to grind all of the stumps and plant a cover crop.

I also planted some late tomatoes in our hoophouse this week. We hope that they will produce late into the fall, and I'm interested to see how long they will last. Some farmers I've talked to have used hoophouses to grow tomatoes right into January.

One of our heirloom sunflowers finally bloomed this week. It turned out to be much smaller than a typical sunflower, but still beautiful.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cuckoo for Clunkers

The Cash for Clunkers program appears to be very popular among the American public, despite a few complaints about the fate of all the poor clunkers. The program is yet another manifestation of the government giving back what it takes. It's easy to forget that any money the government spends was earned in taxes that Americans paid.

This article provides an interesting overview of the program, though it focuses only on the traitorous absurd comments of a "free market" Republican, Larry Kudlow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

College Decisions

I will be beginning my online college courses next week, and that being the case I wanted to write a post explaining my journey from “not going to college” to “enrolling in an online college program”. It all started last October…

I wrote this post on August 21, 2006:

"I... don't plan on going to college… I plan to farm

“College is certainly thought of extremely highly now[a]days. I've discussed with my parents how people will either think that I'm dumb or that I'm wasting my intelligence (wouldn't that be a flattering opinion?). However, I think the wisest way to think about college is how we think of most things. If it looks like it will be beneficial, then invest in it; but it is a waste of alot of time and money to go to college simply to "go with the flow" if it doesn't seem to be beneficial. Therefore, I have decided to invest the time and money in building a business and beginning a family instead of going to college."

Such were my plans until November of last year. I had no intentions of taking even online courses, for a couple of reasons. The first was the time requirement; I wanted the four years that would be required for college studies to be devoted instead to building my farm business. The second reason was the expense. I saw no purpose in sinking at least $15,000 dollars or so into a degree that I might never need, when the same money could go so far if invested in the farm.

For some reason that I can’t recall, I took the ACT test in October. Shortly before my 18th birthday we received my scores, which opened up some opportunities that we had not considered before. We slipped in an application to the University of Alabama (UA in the rest of this post) and another college or two, just before their deadlines, and waited to see what would happen.

It has been a wild ride from there. I was accepted to both UA and my local community college, and offered a full scholarship to either one. We knew that the program would have to be online, as we certainly were not considering college instead of farming, so we drove down to UA and talked to several contacts there. To our chagrin, we learned that the program we were considering (New College), though much more open than traditional programs, still required about half of the credits towards a degree to be taken on campus.

At that point we gave up on UA. We instead looked into a Business program at Wallace State, the community college just down the road from here, which was mostly online. Wallace is just a two-year college, so for the last two years I would have transferred to Athens State, which has an online General Business program but does not offer General Education courses. This would have required me to re-apply for a scholarship when I transferred and was much less appealing than the scholarship that UA had offered.

Our expectations were turned on their head again shortly after Thanksgiving. One evening I was browsing UA’s website and looked at their Business college. There I found a link that said “Online Program”. In that serendipitous way we discovered that UA does, indeed, have some online programs, one of which is General Business. The program is completely online, which seemed like a tailored fit to my situation, and I enrolled in the program. Ironically, not one of the 6 people that we talked to at UA, all of whom knew I wanted to earn a degree online, made any mention of the possibility of my doing so.

Once our need for an online program was met, we spent a few weeks working through the requirements for a scholarship. Scholarships are intended for on-campus students, so my case was presented to the Scholarship Committee. They agreed to grant me the scholarship despite my Distance Student designation; as far as we know, I am the first scholarship online student.

Those are the facts, but they don’t reveal the massive change that it took for my parents and I to decide that pursuing a college degree was the appropriate course for me. I wish to follow the Lord’s leading in all things, and we really felt that these opportunities were doors opened by God and should be utilized. Our decisions were made with much thought and prayer- and struggling, at times.

I plan to continue growing the farm during my years in college, and I hope that the farm is earning enough profit to support a family by the time I graduate. God has blessed me with a multitude of opportunities; my duty for the next few years is to work as hard as I can to make good use of them. As Theodore Roosevelt (one of my heroes) exhorted: I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life.” I expect the next few years of my life to be more strenuous than anything I have experienced, and I have worked to make them so.

Now that we have decided that I will pursue a college degree after all, we find ourselves more honored by some of our extended family. I mourn our culture’s perception of college as the determining factor in whether one is “smart” or successful. My circumstances could have easily led me along the path I expected, of building my farm exclusively. If I had pursued that course, I believe some of my family (having deemed me lost) would have immediately started talking to Smokestack about the importance of college.

At any rate, cultural acceptance played no part in making my college decisions. Our culture also looks down on large families, farming, and homeschooling, so I’ve plunged too far over the ideological cliff to make any peace with the culture, anyway.

I’d like to close with two quotes, both from a President of the United States. Both received a college education, but the latter had a far more rigorous and impressive college career than those seen today. Don't worry, the first quote had no influence upon my decision making, but it serves to illustrate our society's beliefs about college education:

"Education is the currency of the Information Age, no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success but a prerequisite." Barack Obama

The second quote: a Biblical view of knowledge which looks at education with a proper perspective.

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, August 10, 2009


Friday, August 07, 2009

Farm Friday

Our vegetables are at their peak production now, after a very moist July, so we're enjoying cucumbers, squash, a little okra, green beans, peppers, and tomatoes large and small. I measured our tallest corn plant this evening, and found that it is 10 feet and 7 inches from ground level to the tip of the tassel.

I have been presented a couple of new opportunities this week: hoophouse vegetable production this fall, for one. I may be able to grow some vegetables for Birmingham chefs in our hoophouse. I may also have an opportunity to raise poulet rouge (chickens), a French breed of chicken highly coveted by chefs, to some restaurants as well.

I'm afraid I have no pictures; it seems I exhausted my material last week. To compensate, I include a poem composed by master John Bunyan.



The egg's no chick by falling from the hen;
Nor man a Christian, till he's born again.
The egg's at first contained in the shell;
Men, afore grace, in sins and darkness dwell.
The egg, when laid, by warmth is made a chicken,
And Christ, by grace, those dead in sin doth quicken.
The egg, when first a chick, the shell's its prison;
So's flesh to the soul, who yet with Christ is risen.
The shell doth crack, the chick doth chirp and peep,
The flesh decays, as men do pray and weep.
The shell doth break, the chick's at liberty,
The flesh falls off, the soul mounts up on high
But both do not enjoy the self-same plight;
The soul is safe, the chick now fears the kite.


But chicks from rotten eggs do not proceed,
Nor is a hypocrite a saint indeed.
The rotten egg, though underneath the hen,
If crack'd, stinks, and is loathsome unto men.
Nor doth her warmth make what is rotten sound;
What's rotten, rotten will at last be found.
The hypocrite, sin has him in possession,
He is a rotten egg under profession.


Some eggs bring cockatrices; and some men
Seem hatch'd and brooded in the viper's den.
Some eggs bring wild-fowls; and some men there be
As wild as are the wildest fowls that flee.
Some eggs bring spiders, and some men appear
More venom'd than the worst of spiders are.

Some eggs bring pisants, and some seem to me
As much for trifles as the pisants be.
Thus divers eggs do produce divers shapes,
As like some men as monkeys are like apes.
But this is but an egg, were it a chick,
Here had been legs, and wings, and bones to pick.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Make My Day!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Farm Friday

Without further delay, here is the promised Farm "Friday" post. I have tried to make up for my tardiness with a full update on farm life and more than a few pictures.

I started working for three days every week at Birdsong Community Farm in February, where I learned much about running a farm on both the production and marketing aspect. My time there also strengthened my friendship with Josh and family, which is a continuing blessing. I am working solely at our farm now, as Josh has decided to close his farm in order to devote more time to ministry. He hopes to transition his customers over to me, which will be enormously helpful to me as I grow our farm. I'm afraid that it will be a disappointment to our area's local eaters at first, as I am not ready to supply the amount of food that Birdsong has been producing, but hopefully I can catch up soon and provide the fans of fresh, natural, local produce with the food they love.

As if that opportunity was not enough for me, I was contacted a week or two ago by Mr. Hume, a man with another venue for my produce. I had met Mr. Hume at a farm conference in January, where he let me know that he was a friend or acquaintance of many of the chefs in Birmingham. He sells several particular products to fine restaurants (including those of Frank Stitt) and upscale markets, all of which are grown by farmers within 50 miles of Birmingham. When Mr. Hume heard that I was no longer working at Birdsong, he set up a meeting between us (before anyone else could get to me, as he put it :), where he offered to bring me in to the group of farmers that supply his markets.

Thus the Lord continues to bless our farm, and we're working hard to make good use of the opportunities which He has given to us. I have mapped out my fields for next year and we will soon begin to dig out stumps and sow cover crops. I hope to grow about half of an acre in vegetables next year, while continuing to grow chickens, keep layers, and establish a flock of sheep.

Meanwhile, there are 150 meat chickens, 15 turkeys, 30 hens, and 2 sheep on the pasture. Our garden continues to yield a bountiful harvest, in some cases a more bountiful harvest than we can manage. Now we are preparing to plant our fall crops, such as broccoli, lettuce, chard, turnip greens, rutabagas, kale and carrots.

Now for the pictorial tour of the farm. All of the pictures are clickable.

The turkeys should be ready to process soon. I'm going to weigh them tomorrow.

This is Percy, the movie star, with Benjamin (a.k.a. Big Ben) in the background.

I think this is a banana pepper. Many of our peppers lost their labels and were mixed up.

I planted Cucumber-Leafed Sunflowers, and they look like they will bloom soon.

You must click this picture to see what Smokestack is looking at.

This is the Goliath among our corn. We haven't measured it yet, but it's at least 10 feet tall. That's the nice thing about planting old heirloom varieties: you never know quite what you'll get. We planted Texas Honey June sweet corn.

These are Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes. They have a very nice sweet-tart flavor and are extremely prolific.

Here's a random shot of the Matt's Wild cherry tomatoes to prove their prolificacy.

Not all of our tomatoes look like this, but this plant is loaded. These are Homestead tomatoes.

Acorn squash. We ate the first one with lunch today and were very pleased with the flavor and texture. The plants are running way out of their proper bounds and are covered in squash.

I think this is a pumpkin. We didn't plant pumpkins, but apparently some pumpkin seed slipped into the packet of acorn squash seeds.

Watermelon! This one's a Clay County Yellow Meat, developed in Clay County, Alabama.

This is a banana melon. It will turn yellow when it ripens and is supposed to taste somewhat like a banana, but with salmon-pink flesh.

Another watermelon. This one is a Moon and Stars.

This squash must have been missed more than once. I put my cell phone (the only available object) next to it for perspective. I think this is the biggest summer squash we've had.

There are cucumbers everywhere. We've made a gallon and a half of pickles already.

And finally, our Burgundy okra. I love the coloring, but they will turn green when cooked.

Have a great week,