Someday, historians will marvel at how the United States went from a nation of independent farmers to a nation of know nothing slaves. We stand at unique point in history where 99% of our people cannot provide the simple necessities of life. They not only lack the land and tools, but most importantly they lack the simple knowledge that every human had for 6000 years. This fact puts the modern christian agrarian movement at disadvantage compared to the other agrarian and back to the land movements in history. Our ancestors at least had basic skills when they crossed the Atlantic. Even those of us who grew up hunting, trapping, butchering, canning and gardening are light years behind. I was reminded of this the other day when I wore a hole in my wool sock.
Our family some time back took an interest in relearning the fiber arts. My wife was taught to sew as a child but had no experience in knitting or spinning. These things were once common knowledge and basic to survival but our generation got cheated. My wife worked at learning to knit and when she could turn out hats and socks and mittens we decided that spinning should be next. We purchased a simple drop spindle and some prepared wool. Using the internet and some books she began making our own yarn. When she got good with the spindle we made the investment of a spinning wheel. Our next stop on the journey was to learn how to dye fiber naturally like our forefathers did. This project I got involved with as well as the children. We picked flowers and seed pods, learned to make mordants and started turning out hand dyed yarns. The point of the story is this. It has been a several year journey for us to learn something a 10 year old girl of the past would have known how to do. And we are not done yet! Our next step is to learn to prepare raw wool for spinning. What dose this have to do with he hole in my sock? Well, these wool socks were knitted by my wife. This is the first sock made that requires darning. Guess what? Its another skill we were cheated out of learning. Leah is now learning to repair socks.
So dear brothers and sisters, when you feel like progress is slow and it seems to take forever to make half a step ahead in this epic undertaking of agrarianism…..its because it is taking forever! We are doing the hard work now. Our children will not have the disadvantage of being the generation that started from scratch. They will be building on our legacy and taking it to the next level. Keep your hand to the plow!
My wife brought this quote and book to my attention the other day. I shared it on Facebook but thought I would post it here for those who don’t use social media.
“… a plan was made for the farm. We have stuck to that plan….. The essence of it is this: First of all, the farm must furnish food for our own table – not in a roundabout way, mind you, but directly. Ninety percent of the farmers in our neighborhood were supplying their tables from the store – buying canned stuff, buying flour and meal and potatoes and salt meat, buying practically everything they ate. The only way they had of paying their store bills was by selling their corn and wheat – which they did for a considerable loss. Only a few of the farmers knew how to put up sugar-cured ham and bacon. Gardening seemed to be a lost art….
We intended to change that. No matter how much of our land it would take, we meant to make the farm furnish our table directly with milk and cream and butter, the best of meat, poultry and eggs, fruits and garden stuff. Our land must do that for us in the end; so, we argued, why not let it be done directly? In quality and cost we could do better for ourselves in that way than if we got our food second-handed. The largest item in the cost of living must be taken care of first, and in a way that insured the greatest possible economy.”
~Happy Hollow Farm, published in 1914
Download the book for free at this link
Christian Farm and Homestead Radio
Friday Nov 29, 2013
This week Scott is joined by guest Cody Homles. Cody and his family run a 1000 acre grazing operation. At their on farm store, they retail pork, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk and produce. Cody is also the author of Ranching Full-Time in Three Hours a Day. Join us for a conversation about multi-species grazing, marketing and their unique “farm share” program. This promises to be one the best shows we’ve done, packed full of useful information for all. Be sure to log into the chat room if you have any questions for our guest.
Link to the live show (and the archived show after it airs)
I recently had the opportunity to talk with a reporter from a big mainline magazine about the growth of the Christian Agrarian movement. One thing I mentioned was that people were looking for answers, that they realized something was dreadfully wrong with modern life and wanted something better. I mentioned that as America has become more centralized and more technologically advanced, people are unhappier than they have ever been and sicker than they have ever been. The reporter said, “But we live a lot longer now.” My answer was “Not necessarily.”
Living longer is one of industrialism’s favorite lies. It is taught to every child, this idea that modern man lives longer than his predecessors. This supposed “fact” trumps any agrarian argument, so some believe. By the way I’m not saying this gentlemen thought that it would trump anything I said, but many do think so. He was just throwing out what he thought was a fact to consider. If it were true, I would still advocate an agrarian life and economy, but the thing is….it just isn’t true. One area that modern medicine has actually improved life is in the area of treating trauma cases and saving sick or premature babies. This is a fine thing! The problem is the way they calculate life expectancy. They average the age of people when they die, so that as they remove the children who used to die young and the mid-aged folks who survive accidents, they create a slight of hand. All of the sudden it looks like modern man lives longer. They don’t, just less young people die. An example of a more truthful way to judge this question comes from Eric Sloane in his book Season’s of America Past…
The elderly man of today has less chance of living than did his counterpart of the past! In 1832 a special census was taken of all people in the United States over one hundred years old. The possibility of inaccuracies was taken into consideration and hearsay, such as reports of Negro slaves, was ruled out. It was found that at least one person in ever forty five hundred Americans was one hundred years old or more. Today the figure is only one in thirty four thousand.
Sloane continues to explain how industrial food, chemicals and lack of physical work contribute to the fact that modern man lives many less years than the old agrarian farmer. This book was written in 1958! Statistics are a funny thing. Sadly, most people will refuse to believe the facts. If they were wrong, they would not be able to say “at least we live longer” when they thought of the wretched industrial and artificial life they live. That’s a bit too much to ask.
The Sugarmaker’s Companion: An Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup from Maple, Birch, and Walnut Trees
I received an early release copy of this book a few months back. It was a welcome surprise, as one of my favorite activities in agriculture is making sugar. For many years I made maple syrup and sold it retail for extra spending money. It is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done and I have many fond memories of time spent in the woods and in the sap house. Sugar production is often an untapped economic resource on many rural land holdings and could be an important boost to the rural economy.
This book is an excellent introduction to small and medium sized commercial sugar production. If you are only planning to tap a few trees in the backyard, the book still has useful information for you but the general theme is geared more toward building a larger operation. There is plenty of practical information regarding equipment, sugar bush management, marketing and a welcome section on non timber forest products that can be grown and harvested from your woodlot. Farrell also covers birch and black walnut syurp production, which is not something normally found in most sugaring books. I appreciate the author’s passion for making the art of sugar production a profitable endeavor that can help heal the rural economy. All said, this is a valuable book for anyone who is interested in making sugar part of their farm plan. It will also be a great resource for people who are interested in making the forested area’s of the farmstead more profitable.
This week on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio I will be joined by Tracy M. Bunker for a show on homestead rabbit production. Tracy has been raising and butchering rabbits on her family’s off-grid homestead for many years. Rabbits are tremendous animals for efficiently converting feed into meat and producing valuable fertilizer for the garden. Learn everything you need to know about raising rabbits on your homestead!
Remember to tune in Friday Oct 25 for the live show at 8 pm eastern. Log into the chat room and ask questions if you’re so inclined. You can also listen any time after the show airs using the link below.
Here is the link for this episode.
Live Friday Oct 4th 2013
This week’s topic on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio is Herbal Medicine on the Homestead
Join Scott Terry and Cheri Shelnutt for a conversation on medicinal herbs, from a Christian perspective. Cheri has been teaching herbal medicine for many years. Learn about medicinal herbs and their uses. Learn how to make teas, tinctures, poultices and more. A rare chance to learn about herbs without all the new age pagan nonsense so prevalent today. Should be a very informative show. You don’t want miss this one!
Here is the episode link for the live show as well as the archived version.
Friday Sept 27 2013
This week on Christian Farm and Homestead Radio, Wardee Harmon joins us to talk about drying food as a means of preservation. Learn what foods can be dried, how to dry them and how long they keep. I’ll also cover “tools every homesteader should have” at the end of the 2nd hour.
Here’s the link for the LIVE show and also the link for the archived version
The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach
Chelsea Green Publishing
Ben Falk has really written a noteworthy book in The Resilient Farm and Homestead. This is probably the best book on peraculture that I’ve read, a perfect combination of design theory and practical application. I give a big tip of the hat to Chealsea Green for continuing to lead the pack in publishing practical, down to earth permaculture books.
This book is written with the background of 10 years experience implementing permaculture on a 10 acre, formerly run down hill side farm in Vermont called Whole Systems Research Farm. Falk’s farm is a combination of fruiting plants, ducks, nuts, fuelwood hedges, earth inspired buildings, rice paddies and more. I’m impressed with Falk’s attitude and no BS approaches. A practical man who isn’t afraid to tell you that some of his original thoughts and theories had to be revised and reworked when implementing them on the farm, rather than on paper. I really like how he thinks and enjoy his writing style very much.
One very interesting thing mentioned in this book is a compost powered hot water heating system that I think has loads of potential. This high carbon compost pile, covered with hay bales and with coiled plastic piping running through it can heat water to 115 degrees at a rate of 1 gal/min 24 hrs a day! Also, I found the section on homestead scale rice production to be fascinating. I never thought of growing rice in the north east! The book is full of such gems. Tons of practical how-to information along with easy to understand reasoning on theory.
The bottom line. This is an excellent book, whether you have 5 acres or 500 acres there are useful ideas and information to help you build a more stable, sustainable and permanent homestead or farm. Well worth the money.