The Campfire

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I’d cleared away a spot and threw together a quick ring of stones from the immediate vicinity. The sun was setting a little faster than I’d anticipated. It wasn’t the best place in the world to set up camp but I’d spent the night in worse spots. I reached into my coat pocket and retrieved a handful pine needles, a pine comb and some dried up lichens that I’d found on a rock that I sat on to rest earlier in the day. Within arms reach there was a nice length twig of of dry white pine. I snapped it into smaller pieces and arranged them into a tee-pee. I reached into my breast pocket to grab my matches and found a piece of birch bark. I left it there for another day and took hold of the match case. It’s one of those plastic tubes with a rubber O-ring under the lid and a striker on the bottom. I’ve had it 15 years or more. I struck a match and gently touched it to the pine needles. Immediately, a wisp of smoke began to rise and as the flame touched the pine comb it flared up catching the twigs within seconds. I started adding fuel, little by little. A piece of maple twig, a little bigger piece of bur oak and then some bigger stuff I had gathered and piled up. As I rolled out my Hudson Bay wool blanket, the flames danced and jumped at the harvest moon. Crimson and yellow, blue and gold. As the flames leaped to the heavens, my mind began to drift to days since passed.

Standing outside the trapping cabin in Copper River country of Alaska
Watching the northern lights and listening to wolves
Clearing away the breakfast dishes, so we could skin some mink while we finished our coffee
Dead Man’s Cabin
Picking low bush cranberries
And moose

Then I remember the Bad lands
South Dakota in fall of the year
Drinking coffee and watching bison graze the prairie grass

The Black Hills in Wyoming
Waking up with an inch of snow over my sleeping bag
And warming up by the fire

I’m snapped out of my trance
A Whip-poor Will calls
An owl hoots
A coyote yips
And then howls

A man can’t live in the past but it is nice to take the memories out every so often and remember. I take the pistol out of the holster and lay it within arms reach. I take a deep breath and look around the camp. Nothing soothes the soul like a night in the woods. Campfires are great therapy for a weary mind. Politicians, the economy, the price of milk and cattle, cars and traffic….these things seem a world away. The lust of the madmen for power and control, the effects of a sinful generation multiplied by ten; all seem so far away. Just the night birds and coyotes to sing me to sleep and a sneaking suspicion that I was born a 100 years to late.

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A Strong Agriculture, the Foundation of a Free and Independent Nation

Currier and Ives, American Farm Scenes

It is no coincidence that the decline of our liberty, wealth and independence coincides with the decline of agriculture in the American republic. Those who ponder the loss of their freedom, the inability to make ends meet and growing influence of internationalism and creeping socialism would be wise to notice the crumbling barns and empty fields around them.

From the very beginning, America’s founders realized that a strong and decentralized agriculture was essential for the maintenance of a free and independent republic. The reasons being many.

Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. they are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to it’s liberty & interests by the most lasting bands. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Agriculture … is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness. ~ Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington

First, the freeholder and small farmer was understood to be the guardian liberty. Providing for his families most basic needs, the freeholder was not worried about “biting the hand that fed him”. He was his own man and guarded his precious rights of a free Englishmen, the birthright of the Magna Carta. His allegiance was first to God, second to his family and next to his country. The early American farmer had crossed an ocean and turned a wilderness into a garden, through blood, sweat and tears. He saw this, first and foremost, as a biblical mandate and the highest calling aside from being a minister of the Word. No one had stronger ties to the land, a stronger love for independence and civil liberty than the farmer. This of course is why collectivist tyrants throughout the ages, have first and foremost sought to destroy the independent farmer. Whether through regulation, taxation, economic warfare or simply murdering him…the freeholder must be eliminated before a free and independent people can be enslaved.

America’s founders understood that real wealth comes from the ground. The only real economic growth is that of agriculture. Without a strong agriculture, the national economy is built on lies, theft and fraud. Benjamin Franklin in his “Positions to be Examined” (April 4, 1769) made an very keen observation…

Finally, there seem to be but three Ways for a Nation to acquire Wealth. The first is by War as the Romans did in plundering their conquered Neighbours. This is Robbery. The second by Commerce which is generally Cheating. The third by Agriculture the only honest Way; wherein Man receives a real Increase of the Seed thrown into the Ground, in a kind of continual Miracle wrought by the Hand of God in his favour, as a Reward for his innocent Life, and virtuous Industry.

Today bankers create money (actually debt) out of thin air and then tell us it’s “wealth”. The moment that our people bought into this lie and ignored the real wealth creator, agriculture, was the moment that real wealth was sucked from their pockets and replaced with an IOU. When a cow eats grass and produces milk, this is economic growth. This is wealth creation. When a man plants a seed and it grows into a plant producing twenty seeds, this is wealth creation. When a banker creates money out of thin air, the value of your “wealth” decreases. You have been robbed and plundered. When market bubbles are inflated, the wealth is make believe. When the bubble pops, the loss is make believe. You either have an agrarian economy or one that is make believe.

Here is a fact that should be understood by all. Any nation that wishes to remain independent must be able to provide for itself, food and fiber. The strength of a nation, when the SHTF, comes down to the abilty of that nation to feed and cloth itself. In the age of “free trade” we are told that this is of no concern. We are told that agriculture is an old and dirty occupation. We are told that we should buy these things from other countries (even our enemies) and not worry about doing it ourselves. What could possibly go wrong??? Anyone that tells you these things, whether they claim to be “conservative” or “liberal” are your enemies. As America produces less from the earth, it becomes more dependent and beholden to outside interests. First our economies are gutted through “free trade” pacts and treaties. The economic bocs such as the proposed North American Union gradually become political blocs with the end goal of merging the regional blocs into a centralized global government. Countries that import their food and fiber can easily be forced into going along. Starvation is powerful persuader.

What shall we do?

While the political machine has been used to destroy agrarianism through regulations, property taxes and legal tender laws; it would be fool hearted to spend all of our efforts to correct our trajectory in the political realm. Now, this is not to say we should not seek reforms when possible, especially at the local and county level. But the great need at present is a return of the people to the land. Reversing the trend of urbanization is key to regaining our liberty. As Jefferson wisely predicted, the nation would only remain free and prosperous if it remained agricultural and would fall into corruption if the mass of the people populated cities. The first step toward an agrarian restoration primarily rests on individual families taking steps toward self-sufficiency and returning to the rural areas. These families lead by example and help others to transition back to the land. Communities are formed and localism begins to take root once more. We must build up a resilient agriculture that is family scaled and less dependent on inputs. One that feeds itself and fuels it’s own region’s economy with real wealth and growth. It is a long row to hoe, but it must be done.

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Some Pig

Gloucester_Old_Spot_painting

I always love to read accounts of extraordinary livestock. I was recently reading a great classic, The Illustrated Natural History of Selborne, which is a collection of letters that Gilbert White wrote to several naturalists about his home area in Hampshire England. The book is treasure trove of information about wildlife, soil types, plants, birds and livestock around Selborne. I happened upon this story of a grand old sow. I think you will enjoy it!

The natural term of a hog’s life is little known, and the reason is plain-because it is neither profitable nor convenient to keep that turbulent animal to the full extent of its time: however, my neighbour, a man of substance, who had no occasion to study every little advantage to a nicety, kept an half bred Bantam-sow, who was as thick as she was long, and whose belly swept on the ground till she advanced to her seventeenth year; at which period she shewed some tokens of age by the decay of her teeth and the decline of her fertility.

For about ten years this prolific mother produced two litters in the year of about ten at a time, and once above twenty at a litter; but, as there were near double the number of pigs to that of teats, many died. From long experience in the world this female was grown very sagacious and artful; – when she found occasion to converse with a boar she used to open all the intervening gates, and march, by herself, up to a distant farm where one was kept; and when her purpose was served would return by the same means. At the age of about fifteen her litters began to be reduced to four or five; and such a litter she exhibited when in her fattening-pen. She proved, when fat, good bacon, juicy, and tender; the rind, or sward, was remarkably thin. At a moderate computation she was allowed to have been the fruitful parent of three hundred pigs: a prodigious instance of fecundity in so large a quadrupled! She was killed in spring 1775.

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It’s Time To Think About Clipping Pastures

mowedncf

The lush pastures of spring are now behind us and summer time brings new pasture management challenges. By this time of year, two things are happening in the paddocks that need to be addressed.

First, the grasses that the cows missed (for whatever reason) are now mature. These grasses are now headed out and have lost both nutrient content and palatablity. At this stage dairy cows will not eat it and every clump of mature grass means lost grazing potential. Some paddocks might only have half the useable grass that it had in the spring. The best option to correct this is to clip off the pasture and wait for a good rain. The mature grass will grow back and the cows will happily eat the new growth. The clipped grass will fertilize the paddock as well.

The other thing that is happening this time of year is that the weeds are blossoming and getting ready to go to seed. Now is the time to get them clipped off before they go to seed and multiply their presence. On our farm the prime weeds that need clipping are milkweed, golden rod, canada thistle and buttercup. None of these plants have any value as livestock feed and should be eliminated. Clipping your pastures before they go to seed, if done every year, will eventually get rid of these weeds.

So now is the time to check each paddock. Are there mature grasses past their prime? Are there weeds that are getting ready to go to seed? If so, you might want to consider clipping them off.

brush hogNFC

The brush hog we use to clip our pastures.

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How To Use a California Mastitis Test

CMT_NCF

The California Mastitis Test (CMT) is very useful tool in detecting mastitis in dairy cattle and goats. It is inexpensive and easy to use. I will walk you through the process of using a CMT test kit in this post.

The CMT test kit has 2 basic elements, the test paddle and the test solution. The test solution comes in a concentrated form and must be diluted with water. Follow the directions on the bottle and dilute the solution. The solution is then put in a dispensing bottle. The paddle has 4 compartments, one for a sample of each quarter.

First, strip and discard several squirts of milk from each quarter. The first squirts of milk are higher in somatic cell count and will throw off your results. You can now squirt milk from each quarter into the four separate compartments on the paddle. Tilt the paddle and drain off the excess so you have equal amounts of milk in each compartment. Now squirt the test solution into each sample, making sure that you add an amount of test solution equal to the amount of milk. You then swirl the samples in a circular motion. An infected quarter will be visibly thicker than the other quarters. See the video clip for an example…

Some good dairy deals on Amazon.com….

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Save $5 on Canning DVD

Just wanted to let everyone know about this $5 off coupon code for Kendra’s “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond” DVD.. If you need some great instruction on home canning, this is a great deal. Use the code LEARN2CAN for the discount!

canning$5

Click here to purchase At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond.

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Wild Low Bush Blueberries, A Health Packed Foraging Opportunity

blueberries

Summer time in the north country means it’s time to start foraging for Vaccinium angustifolium, known by us common folks as wild low bush blueberries. Low bush blueberries are much smaller than their cultivated high bush cousins. They can grow to be 60 cm tall, although they are usually 35 cm tall or less. They like rocky, wooded, semi-open areas with acidic soils that are well drained. They are stimulated by fire and the Indians used to burn areas to stimulate blueberry growth and production. Our berries grow on the bare rock areas on the farm in amongst various mosses and lichens. The leaves are blue-green in the summer and purple in the fall and the blossoms are white.

wild blueberriesNCF

These blueberries are higher in antioxidants than the larger kinds that are cultivated. One reason is that the berries being smaller, give you more skin per pound and less pulp. The antioxidants are in the skin! In fact, wild blueberries give you twice as many berries per pound and that means a more nutrient dense food. Less pulp and juice also means they freeze better than the larger types. Wild blue berries also are high in the trace mineral Manganese.

You can find these plants growing wild in eastern and central Canada, the northeastern United States (as far south as West Virgina) and also in Minnesota and Manitoba. Keep your eyes open for these tasty, healthy, fun to pick fruits. Grab the children and head for the woods, they’re free for the picking!

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Leatherman Super Tool 300 Review

A lot of the things have changed in my life over the past 15 years but one thing hasn’t. I’ve been carrying Leatherman multi-tools for all of those years! I still remember the first time I saw one. I was working on some piece of farm equipment, that was giving me fits, and a friend had stopped in to chat. I crawled out from under it and said, “I wish I had brought a phillp’s head screwdriver with me.” My friend reached in his pocket and handed me his Leatherman tool. At first I was skeptical and then I was in awe. What a handy, well made little tool! I bought one the next the day and I’ve had one in my pocket ever since. For the last 5 years or so I’ve had a Super Tool 300 and its my favorite model. Whether working in the barn, trapping in the Alaskan backcountry, or running machinery out in the fields, my Super Tool 300 has saved the day on many occasions.

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Here are a few things that I really like about this model.

The wire cutters on this model are best on any multi-tool I’ve seen. These are super strong, I cut barbed wire with ease. Try doing that with a cheapy tool and see what happens! These wire cutters are replaceable so when they where out you can change them out and be right back in business.

The wire stripper works great, as does the crimper. I like being able to do most emergency wiring jobs around the farm without walking anywhere to grab tools. Everything I need is right in my pocket, whether its fixing an extension cord, replacing a recepticle or a switch.

The screw drivers are all good quality and there are 3 flat heads and a phillips. I seldom run into a screw that I can’t use these pliers on.

The tools LOCK. This is a big deal, and if you’ve ever used a multi-tool without a locking mechanism I’m sure you have scars on your knuckles to prove it.

The saw is the best I’ve ever seen on any multi-tool of any price. This sucker will saw through tree limbs, plastic pipe and I’ve even used it on steel hose clamps that were seized up. I seldom carry a saw when fixing fence because I can cut through most limbs that need cutting just as quick with these.

A useable file. Many multi-tool files are just for show. These actually do a pretty good job. I’ve filed a bunch of stuff with mine and they are still going strong. They are handy for points and brushes on silo unloader drive rings, cleaning up ground rods on fencers, making a quick adjustment on a leghold trap’s dog or any other thing that might come along.

The pliers are big enough and strong enough to tighten most nuts on the farm. This really saves me time when I find a loose nut on a piece of equipment. I can tighten it up on the spot without having to run for a wrench and I don’t put it off and then forget about it.

The can opener is a working can opener. I’ve opened countless cans with mine, its lightning fast and will open a bottle of beer.

A few things on negative side of the ledger

Its a big tool and its heavier than your average multi-tool. It weighs 9.6 oz and is fatter than other models so people with smaller hands my find it harder to use.

Being larger and heavier it wears holes in your pockets faster too. It really pays to use the belt pouch with this one and save your wife some sewing work.

The locking mechanism is easier to use than old Super Tool 200, but in my opinion, not as strong, .

The Bottom Line

This is a working man’s tool. The pay off for it being bigger and heavier is that you can get more done with it. This tool has all the most important and most used tools that farmers, trappers, homesteaders, hunters and handy men need. I have made emergency repairs on rifles, scopes, tractors, snow machines, traps, electrical wiring and switches, automobiles and more. I have dug holes with it, skinned deer with it, sawed small poles for shelters with it and more. There are few things I can’t be without but my Leatherman is one of them.

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Agrarian Fringe Benefits

I suppose that there’s a better way to make a living
To make money
So I could live in luxury
But a job behind a desk, in a building
Would be like a prison sentence to me…
~Chris LeDoux

There isn’t much money in the agrarian life. Truth is, if you scratch a living from the land, breaking even every year is considered success. Those living in the urban/industrial paradigm kind of look down on us “poor country folks”. But I tell you the truth… we agrarians are much wealthier. Part of the problem in the whole who’s rich, who’s poor debate is defining the terms. Industrialists see wealth and money as synonymous but agrarians know that there are some things that you just can’t put a dollar value on. I was reminded of this this morning while out rounding up the milk cows. It was dark out but the huge, full moon flooded the pasture and lane way with filtered light. Watching the cattle walk single file to the barn with snipes calling in the background just overwhelmed my senses. I chuckled to myself, “Hey city boy, the view from my “office” is better than yours”. I might not have much money, but dog-gone it, you just can’t put a dollar amount on the joy I get from living this kind of life.

What kind of value do you put on sitting down to rest next to a baby whitetail fawn while fixing fence in the spring? I had the occasion to do just that, not once but twice this year. ;)

fawnNCF

fawn2NCF

What about deciding out of the blue (on a week day) that after the evening milking is done you are going to take the children out to the woods to spend the night?

campNCF

Sit around a campfire and listen to coyotes and night birds sing until you drift off to sleep?

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Take a break from whatever you are doing to forage wild blueberries?

wild blueberriesNCF

Take your kids to “work” every day?

Esther MilkingNCF

Oh sure, it ain’t all fun and games. There is plenty of blood, sweat and tears. Sometimes stuff like this happens

Stuck

But at the end of the day, it’s worth it. You can keep your money, your corner office, your 401K and the rest of your high society crap. I’ll have none of it. As long as I’m still kicking, you’ll find me in the fields, barns, and backwoods trails. You might not even notice I’m there, because you won’t see me from the road.

I hate to tell you, rich city boy, my fringe benefit package is a heck of a lot nicer than yours. ;)

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Raised Bed Trials (a quick look in early July)

As I mentioned on the radio show, I got fed up with trying to garden in this wet north country clay. Our farm is always wet and if you know anything about wet clay, you know that it spells poor yields and frustration. It was the 2nd week of June and still to wet work any ground. I’d tried heavy mulch/no till with mixed results. I decided to cut the garden back and start building some raised beds. Even though I would not be able to build very many the first year, I figured the better yields would make up for it. I started by gathering up scrap 2X6 and 2X8 boards. The first two beds I made were 4ft wide by 10 ft long. These I used for tomatoes and beans. I made some other beds that were 4X8 with a trellis along the long edge for cukes and peas. As I mentioned on the show, I was able to fill the beds with a mixture of composted hay and manure that we got from areas where we had fed cattle round bales a few years ago.

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Some of the beds had newspaper laid down to suppress the grass and weeds. I filled them with a “beaterless” manure spreader that worked like a walking floor trailer.

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Here is 10X4 tomato bed being filled with my special black gold

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The planting crew got 26 plants in.


We decided we better stake the plants a few weeks after we planted them

Sam
Here are the tomatoes on July 9th. They have received no fertilizer but I did mix 20lbs of lime in when we filled the box. Sam just turned one on the 4th and is already a garden helper!

Bean#1
Bean bed mid-June

Beans
Beans on July 9th

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Summer squash in a tractor tire

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Herbs, peppers and cucumbers mid-June

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Herbs, peppers and cucumbers on July 3rd

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Cabbage

Family
Wife and children :)

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