Category Archives: Life

Can you Smell It?

The crisp smell of Fall is in the air. Wood smoke from a distant chimney mixes with the smell of leaves and the residue of rain which is trailing off.

Nope, that’s not what I smell. I smell Horse Stuff. We have gotten several loads of Horse Stuff. Horse Stuff is good for our flowers in the spring, so right now, we tell ourselves that Horse Stuff smells like fresh flowers. We are very glad to get Horse Stuff.

The Horse Stuff is good for flies, if you like flies. We are very much excited for our temperatures to drop down to encourage the flies to move further south.

Can you smell it?

Farmer

I hopped on Linkedin – a business networking site on Saturday, and was prompted with a notification that several people had looked at my profile page. This is common, as many recruiters and companies will often reach out when they have need to ask a question or maybe see if I am interested in changing jobs.

As we are chronicling here, I’m undergoing a bit of a transition. After almost 30 years in Technology, I’m looking at other options about how I can serve in this world, and best use the talents I have. My profile description on Linked is: Team Focused IT Executive, Market and Flower Garden Farmer. I’ve gone through the description several times, trying to put the right title onto the page.

This time the search results were different though. Most of the searches were based on the word Farmer. That kind of surprised me.

Its been amazing to April and I as we go into this journey the number of people who not only don’t disapprove, but are seeking the same kind of future. We used to whisper our dreams – I, uh am going to be a flower farmer, wow this weather has been crazy right. Lately though, we have gone from whispering our goals, to finding a voice that reinforces the dream.

So the search results showing more people looking for farmers than for project management, or Team Focused, or IT Management still floored me.

But really should it. Joel Salatin, a vocal farming advocate asks the question – Do you know your farmer. Go by any farmers market and then run by the local grocery store. 10 at the grocery story to 1 at the farmers market – I’ll guarantee it. Most people (myself for years as well) would rather go get anonymous food than spend a little more to get fresher food. Or better yet – to grow your own fresh tomatoes or greens. Thats a rant for another day.

I feel like I am not ready to give advice or be available to be the FARMER for those who were seeking on LinkedIn. I have a lot to learn, and continue to be amazed at the people who keep our country fed. I will get there, and am enjoying sharing the voyage with you.

Windy Night

There is a clear feel that winter is on its way. The leaves have begun to wind their way from tree to forest floor. The grass is slowing its growth, and the animals seem particularly diligent in getting items set aside for winter.

Our part of Tennessee is immune to many of the hard winter concerns that other homesteads might have. While we will get cold, usually our cold sticks around for a week, maybe two and moves on. Likewise snow or ice. Our difficulty in both snow and ice is simply the hills and ability to clean out in a short time.

Tonight just felt like a soup kind of night when I left work. A hearty stew to take the chill away, and to stick to the ribs.

We tried to prepare for the upcoming winter season this weekend by taking down a couple of troublesome trees that were near the barn, by taking down fence that we should have not put up (at least until we had cleaned the woodline to remove shadows in the late day), by cleaning up the gardens to put out a cover crop, and by tightening up the chicken coop.

Part of me was very critical of the idea of bush hogging the garden. Seems like a decent farmer keeps the grass at bay, so at the end of the season, you don’t have to cut the jungle back. In the end, I reconciled that the garden provided what we needed, and was there for utility, and not just for looks. Bush hogging is ok.

The winds continue to switch direction and the back door shivers from the blowing north wind. Should be a great night for a book and sleep.

Sometimes men just need to create something on their own

I listened to Dick Proenneke’s great book Alone in the Wilderness this weekend. What a great listen. One lesson Dick shared was that we were built to create.

“I realize that men working together can perform miracles, such as sending men to walk on the surface of the moon. There is definitely a need and a place for teamwork, but there is also a need for an individual sometime in his life to forget the world of parts and pieces and put something together on his own – complete something. He has got to create.”– Richard Proenneke, Alone in the Wilderness

What a great observation. That is one of the items that I like about the self reliant lifestyle – the desire to create and support alone or with a small support system.

If you have not read the book Alone in the Wilderness, you owe it to yourself to read it, or might I recommend the audio version.  If ever there was a better advocate for simplifying, creating, and enjoying the wilderness, it has to be Dick Proenneke.  His exuberance and excitement is contagious and speaks more clearly as life becomes more complicated.

These are the people in your neighborhood

We’ve noticed an increase in the people in our neighborhood – specifically skunks and raccoons.

Over the last week the musk of skunks, the chatter of raccoons and the tell tale digging of possums have shown up on the homestead.  We are letting the garden flame out and will be tilling up to put out a cover crop next week.  In the meantime, the neighbors are taking advantage of the melons, tomatoes, and squash.  They are also making their presence known in most unpleasant ways.

My exultation at his expiration was quickly shortened by his exhalation.

Lots of reasons for the flame out of the garden, but primarily time.  Like most things on the farm, time is a precious commodity.  Our garden slipped away from us in mid July, and we never really recovered.  With a house for sale, job pressures and a kingdom to run, we were simply swamped.

Which brings us back to the neighbors.  They are preparing for winter and using our place for logistics support.  I’ll be more careful in putting up the chicken food and bird seed.  And I’ll hold off on grilling for a couple of weeks.

I can’t really show you the pictures I have of the skunks and raccoons, but I can show you pictures of our other neighbor – Mr. Deer.

Just in time for the Eclipse

I had been watching a small patch of sunflowers in front of the barn, hoping that they would make it in time for the eclipse. They came in perfectly, and didn’t seem to freak out too bad when the total eclipse happened down our way in Tennessee.

The chickens on the other hand freaked out!

So my impression on the Eclipse was it was much better than I thought it was going to be, and I was really surprised to see lightening bugs.  It was very cool.

Friendship Tree

Few things in this world are more pleasant than friends. While much of the work that we do on the farm is solitary, both April and I are people people. We enjoy sharing our journey with those whom we come in contact with.

While most of us would agree that our job, is well work, we can also hopefully say that in that job there are people who make it worth coming in, and who its enjoyable to work with. A friend who I have at work, and who shares much of the frustration that I have at work gave me one of the kindest gifts the other day – a Cleveland Pear Tree. The Cleveland Pear Tree is a fast growing flowering pear tree that will make a nice front border to our homestead.

From the road, our home is fronted by lovely (not) Privet Hedge, which has grown to near 16 feet tall. Its bushy greenery obscures the front of the house. We can’t wait to cut it down – but I had set a condition of cleaning up the bushes we had already cut down, prior to cutting anything new. Well we did that a couple of weeks ago, and are now ready to clear that Privet. I’ll bring out the Stihl on Saturday for more Chainsaw therapy, and we will open up the front of the yard.

The Pear Tree is a perfect gift, as it is something that will outlast both the giver and recipient (hopefully – I’ve watered it well), and it will always cause a fond remembrance of the gift, and time that it was given.  Its also a perfect gift for folks who spend time working outside as a way to remain connected with friends on the journey.

Chainsaw Therapy

My grandmother had a saying – you can let a lot of stress out the end of a hoe. With three boys, I imagine she understood that better than many.

For me, I find that a little chainsaw therapy goes a long way. That said, Saturday was a full bore release. I had a friend from church over, and we cut down 12 trees.

 

Our woodlot has not been managed for a long time, so much of our work was cleaning the undergrowth to allow the sun to reach the more viable trees. Most of the trees were poplars, but there was a nice hickory, which will make good wood for smoking next spring.

I have a theory about the stress properties of chainsaw therapy. Working with a chainsaw can be very dangerous. You have to be alert to all that is going on around you.

We had a situation on Saturday where one of the trees didn’t take the cut, and leaned in a dangerous direction. We had to stop with the chainsaw to put leverage on it with a rope.

Lots of stuff on the homestead, like the chainsaw, requires your concentration. It’s not hard, it’s just that you have to focus on it to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.

In that focus, there is relief from those things which seem important, but really steal your energy, and cause stress.

The recent storms have pushed a couple of trees that were standing dead on down, covering a couple of our trails.  That means more chainsaw time and despite the fact it is only Tuesday, I already need another therapy session.

Nothing wrong with that

I’m sitting here watching a brush pile shrink from a 4 foot high pile of dry wood, to ashes. The fire is dying down now, the chickens are settling into their coop, and the lightning bugs are coming out.

There are a hundred things that need to be done.  I need to clean up around the carport, patch the chicken coop roof, get new soil for the high tunnel, and work on the barn to name a few.

For fifteen minutes though, I’m going to sit here and watch this fire and here is nothing wrong with that.

Little Tomatoes

Do the hard stuff first. This is advice that I have heard in a number of venues. The idea is really to focus your efforts on getting more done. As I reflect on that advice, like many, I wonder what the easy stuff is. It seems like everything that I do is hard stuff. Wonder why that is?

Thomas, our 22 year old son and I were about halfway through a particularly tough slog in the field processing chickens on an especially hot June weekend.  Please understand that I am not Joel Salatin (not yet) and we were going for about 15 minutes per bird.  We had a couple more hours of work, and had been steady for hours. Trying to encourage him, I said that we chose to do the work that was not easy, precisely because it was not easy. Many folks want the easy stuff – and are looking to let someone else do the hard stuff.

Sometimes consultant types will phrase it as putting the big rocks into the jar first, so you can fit more of the little rocks and sand in.  Big rocks can be hard projects, family, or things that are important, while sand and small rocks are the daily headaches, or people who take too much time.  Whatever the analogy, the idea is the same, and applies to tomatoes as well.

Put the big ones in first (special request for green ones)

And then fill them in with the little ones.  And wow, are those little ones sweet, and absolutely more fun than listening to management types exhorting you to add more rocks to your jar!