Thursday, April 26, 2007

Back to Basics and Farming with Horses

When a friend of ours first heard about our agrarian interests, he started passing me all sorts of articles and such about farming. They ranged everywhere from boutique farms selling homemade goat yogurt, to one multi-million dollar farm going up for auction in our area. (That 28 acre farm which I mentioned in an earlier post, Death of a Farm, sold for 2.2 million dollars!) That should give you a good indication of why we feel the need to move out of this area if we are going to establish a multi-generational legacy attached to the land.

But one of the earliest things he gave me was a copy of Reader's Digest's Back to Basics. If you haven't seen it, it's a great book. Just about any skill or activity you might be interested in: selecting land, building a shelter, beekeeping, raising livestock, preserving produce, etc. For each activity you get a concise introduction, a general how-to, and usually a list of further reading if you want to pursue the topic more fully — all in a two-page spread.

As I read through all the different areas, I would dream about having the land to start different projects. I would not try to do everything at once, but as my sons showed interest we would add activities, one at a time. I had a lot of different ideas about what I would do if I had the land. I remember thinking what a great idea it would be to farm with horses. After all, you don't have to buy gas and oil, and I haven't heard yet that you can breed tractors when you want another one. Anyway, I was getting excited about this idea, of farming with horses, but didn't think anyone did this anymore except the Amish. And I thought that it was too bad no one else saw the value of work horses.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find a section in this book all about farming with horses! And not only that, there was a sidebar about how a Lynn Miller was able to farm with horses and calculated that it saved him an average of $60 an acre to do so. It also mentioned that Lynn Miller published a periodical called "The Small Farmer's Journal."

Now I was getting excited! Not only did I find that there were others that also saw the attraction of work horses, they were able to show that not only was it feasible, it was cost effective to boot! However, I also realized that the copy of Back to Basics I was reading was over twenty years old, and chances were "The Small Farmer's Journal" was no longer in existence.

After a quick Internet search, I found that not only was "The Small Farmer's Journal" alive and well, they boasted of having an international readership and even hosted annual "Horse Progress Days" around the country. I was so excited that I wrote a letter to Lynn Miller telling him how I found out about him and his Journal, sharing how excited I was to find other work horse enthusiasts.

A couple months passed by with no response, then one day there was a message on my answering machine. It was from a retired NJ state trooper who now lived less than a half hour from me. Turns out he had read my letter which had been published in the journal and had seen the same excitement in my letter as he had felt himself when he took up working with draught horses after his retirement ten years earlier.He invited my son and me to attend a local gathering of about a half dozen different families and their teams. They gathered at one family's farm which had a large riding ring. They fixed up the ring like an obstacle course and let each family put their team through its paces. They had different stations to test the team and the driver's skill. There was one station that simulated driving over a wooden bridge (evidently something some horses can be shy about), one that was a stop sign at an intersection, and one where the driver had to back his team into a parking place. Parallel parking for horses! It was great to see how well these horses would respond to voices of their drivers.

The man that invited us offered to teach me how to be a driver, but I had to say no. At least not until I had finished my fireplace project at home. That project had been hanging over my head for a couple years. In fact, I had originally installed the propane powered fireplace back during the build-up to Y2K, and had never finished closing it in, and I didn't think it right to start pursuing something new until I had it completed.

That was a couple of years ago, and I'm glad to report that the fireplace is finally finished!

Now, I wonder if I still have that man's phone number...?

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Cult of Efficiency and Saving Our Families

I finally posted the third part of Howard King's exploration of the themes raised in Ralph Borsodi's This Ugly Civilization.

In this third installment, The Efficiency Invasion: How Industrialism Destroyed the Traditional Family, King looks at the effect the cult of efficiency, which was born and honed in the factories, had when it was transferred to other institutions, especially the family.

Turns out I never read this article back when I had first discovered Howard King's writings. Perhaps it was longer than I could quickly digest. But I tell you, I think everyone needs to read this one. Agrarians will find great encouragement concerning the road they are travelling, and others will hopefully have their eyes opened as to the great danger their families are in.

It will take me a while to fully digest and inculcate the suggestions King ends the article with as he addresses "Saving the Family". I would be interested in hearing how others are putting some of these principles into practice in their own families.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Easter, Property Hunting and Next Howard King Article

I wish I had the time to make this post longer, and go into greater detail; but I have two boys who want to play a new game with me (one my youngest made up himself) and I have already taken over an hour posting the next Howard King article. As Herrick Kimball mentions, blogging has a dark side, it takes time away from family.

We spent close to a week over Easter to be with family out in western PA. It was a good time of being with family and seeing our new grand-niece (I'm now an official great uncle!). We also got the opportunity to see a couple Amish homes for sale. We are still looking to the Lord for guidance and provision concerning moving out to be closer to family and to get some land debt-free. This all explains why it has been a while since I've last posted.

I wanted to get the next two parts of Howard King's discussion of Ralph Borsodi's This Ugly Civilization up today, but I'll have to settle to just getting the next part up: Industrialism: Rooted in Greed. Hopefully it won't take me too long to get part three up.

Well, I'm off to play my son's new game. It doesn't have a name, but it has Orcs and other such things and seems to be loosely based on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I think I'm in for it though. My sons have already played this game before and are busily creating new armies. I might have a chance, if only I can get a few Ents.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Happy Birthday and Howard King

As a result of my earlier post, "Whatever Happened to Families?" I ended up renewing my correspondence with Phil Lancaster. Besides the joy of catching up with my distant mentor, I was excited to find out that he was willing to send me the different agrarian articles that were published in Patriarch Magazine by Howard King. I think there are seven all together.

It will take me a while to complete it, but I hope eventually to have a fully searchable website up that will be able to host many different articles on Christian Agrarianism and Christian Manhood, listed by categtories with the ability to interact via comments similar to what we can do today with blogs.

My thought is to use a combination of PHP, MySQL as a database back end, and maybe try and figure out Blogger's API to see if it can handle the interactive comments. I'd sure appreciate any recommendations for handling the comments. I don't want to reinvent the wheel if I don't have to (although the experience would be good for me as I prepare for PHP Certification this year).

As today is my birthday, I thought it would be a good time to finally go public with this project. I posted the first article by Howard King called "Families and Machines" over on a new blog Patriarch Magazine Archives. I hope to add a new one of King's articles each week. That will give us time to read them and interact with them. Interspersed with the article posting will be my regular posts.

I'm pretty excited about all of this, and I hope that posting these articles will be a benefit to others as well!