Friday, December 26, 2008

Nipper catches Christmas Dinner

A few days ago, I lost one of my Rouen ducks to the bane of poultry keepers-predators. By the leavings of the kill, I surmised it was most likely raccoon, but possibly opossum. I set traps,but nothing returned, most likely due to an ice storm. The next evening , I went into the barn and ran into a large male opossum on the top of a twenty foot stack of first cut hay. He was an easy shot with the gun I was wearing, but the idea of a 9mm sized hole in the roof of my barn was not very appealing. I went to the house for a .22 rifle but could not find an angle to make a safe shot. I let our old blue heeler, Nipper, through the sheep pens and she climbed the stack and caught the intruder in short order.

Nipper is an excellent huntress of groundhogs and other small mammals, but a bit feral. She rightly assumes anything she catches belongs to her. She also hunts for both sport and food. While she will share her kills with me, if I set it back down she regards it as dinner. Normally, I take her kills back when I find them, because her culinary habits are disgusting. However, this one she got to keep. After all, it is Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dorothy Sayers

Yesterday my church calendar commemorated the life of Dorothy Sayers. If you have heard of her, it was probably as a mystery writer. However, she was as clear an apologist of basic Christianity in the Twentieth Century as CS Lewis.

Dorothy is also a model for us because she did not lead a "perfect" Christian life here on earth, as none of us will. However, through these failures and struggles she grew in faith. As a young single woman, she had an affair that ended in a child out of wedlock---a greater scandal in her day than today. Like CS Lewis, she married a divorcee, and was unable to have a regular marriage in the Church of England.

Her theological writing is centered around the heart of the orthodox Christian faith,the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. She had little time for either the liberal approach of negating the reality of sin, or the pietistic approach of reducing Christian life to middle class morality. She coined the phrase "seven deadly virtues" to address the latter. These deadly virtues are Respectability, Childishness, Mental Timidity, Dullness, Sentimentality, Censoriousness, and depression of the Spirits. I think also because of her own struggles, she wrote an essay called "The six other Deadly Sins", as in her lifetime, morality had been reduced to a single thing.

For an agrarian, she also has much to say in her essay "Why Work?"

"A society in Which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded upon waste and trash, and such a society is a house built on sand".

She railed against the waste she saw in England before the second World War, in light of the privations felt by the English People during the war. "Can you remember....the stockings we bought cheap and threw away to save the trouble of mending?...the fresh peas we could not bother to shell and threw aside for something out of a tin?....we have had to learn the bitter lesson that in all the World there are only two sources of wealth, the fruit of the earth and the labor of men, and to estimate work not by the money it brings the producer, but by the worth of the thing that is made". The entire essay is as applicable for 21st Century Americans as her wartime British audience.

Like Martin Luther she also emphasized the value of all good work as Christian work, and refused to allow the church to usurp the inherent value of all honest toil.

"Let the church remember this: that every maker and every worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade-not outside it........ the Official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work-by which she means ecclesiastical work".

Sayers is also responsible for much of the modern revival of classical approaches to learning, particularly education based upon the Trivium of Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic. She is strong minded, and often satirical essayist, but like a true prophet, her criticism are tempered by love of a wayward people. She is among my favorite writers, and I will close with the collect of thanksgiving for her life.

O Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Dorothy L Sayers special gifts of grace to understand and teach the truth as it is in Christ Jesus: Grant, we beseech thee, that by this teaching we may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Big Vegetables

I took these pictures at the end of the garden season, but never had time to post them until now. I am only posting these to show off--forgive my vanity. The pepper weighed in at 14 ounces. I did not weigh the sweet onion but is was tasty. The onion was raised where the 2007 meat chicken pen was, and the pepper was raised where the ducks wintered.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pig Sticker

I have been reflecting recently on how many of the tools I use on our homestead have been around this farm my entire life. The peavey I roll logs with belonged to my grandfather. The hatchet I cut ice from the animal's water tanks with was my Dad's trapping ax. When I was about five, I stole it out of the back of his 1952 Chevy and tried to cut down one of the yard maples. I got in some trouble for that.

One of the tools I used recently was my Dad's Kabar knife. It has been used by three generations for certain butchering tasks and it has a story. At the end of World War Two, a retuning sailor who was a friend or relative gave it to my then teenage dad. I am sorry I cannot remember who. I am also sorry I never asked my Dad if he chose to take it with him when he was drafted in 1951.

While the Kabar was designed as a fighting knife, Dad used it as a boy kill chickens for the table, and his dad used it to stick pigs to bleed them out. Dad had to butcher one chicken every Sunday for Sunday supper. Sunday supper was always chicken and jello, both regarded as treats by his mother. My dad hated both as an adult.

During my childhood, the Kabar lived most of the year in a drawer in the basement. When I was old enough, my dad showed me how to use it in lieu of a cleaver to butcher deer. He never carried it hunting, as a pocketknife is adequate to gut, and he had another knife to skin.

As an adult who returned to the family farm, dad showed me how to flick the Kabar to cleanly decapitate a chicken. He also showed me how to quickly stick a hog after shooting it to bleed out the animal properly.

The sailor also brought my dad another gift; a portable airfield light that ran on 12 volt car batteries. While heavy, the light was portable and very powerful. Dad put it to less mundane use than the Kabar. His sister Irene had a boyfriend and Dad had my family's perverse sense of humor. One night he hid in one of the outbuildings with the light and a shotgun while Irene was out with her beau. He waited until the beau walked Irene to the porch for a goodnight kiss. At that moment, a very bright light struck the lovers and a shotgun blast exploded in the air. The beau took off and Irene eventually married another.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Landlord comes to Grace Church

My parish only has a church home due to the graciousness of the Highland Presbyterian Church. Tonight the landlord showed up, and was the guest preacher, though "guest" may not be the best phrase for someone preaching from their own pulpit. I was a little nervous about what we might hear. There are some big differences between a conservative Anglican and a conservative Presbyterian, but by sticking to the Gospel, he delivered a sermon that would have been well received in any church that believes we are sinners in need of a Savior. He stuck to the material in proclaiming the Word to those of us who need to hear it.

However, I am saddened to learn that the National Presbyterian Church is seeking to follow the Episcopal Church down the road to theological liberalism. The national church body has approved changes to the basic confessional documents that would remove references to certain politically incorrect sins. The local Beaver-Butler Presbytery is much more conservative than the national church. The Landlord is trying to return his church to repentance and its basic confessional roots. He has a blog about it here. I wonder whether more congregations or the entire presbytery will not depart PCUSA and reform or realign with a more conservative Presbyterian body.

This part of Pennsylvania is known as the Presbyterian Valley. As the landlord says, you can throw a dead cat in these parts and be pretty sure it will land on a Presbyterian. We live in a rural township, but are an easy walk to two Presbyterian churches, and a bit longer walk to a third. I am not a Presbyterian because of differences of belief, but I honor the heritage of that church body. We would not have a country were it not for Presbyterians and other Calvinists. Any honest reading of American History will acknowledge this. The Presbyterian emphasis on education is one of the bright spots about this area, with institutions like Geneva and Grove City Colleges. It would be a sad thing to see this heritage lost in the mire of the postmodern incoherence of theological liberalism. The landlord is in my prayers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Agrarians, Biblical Agrarians , Farming, and Homesteading

Reader Linda recently asked these questions, There are some things that confuse me. What is an "agrarian"? Why do some call themselves "biblical agarians"? What constitutes a "homestead" and why is that different than a farm?

She also has a fine blog and lives in my neck of the woods. I have answered below, but I would love some input from others on these questions.

Here are some attempts at an answer to these very good questions.

What is an agrarian? I pulled my copy of American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, off the shelf. Here is the start of the entry for agrarianism. "Agrarianism, posits that the practices associated with the agricultural life are particularly, and on some cases uniquely-well suited to yield important personal, social, and political goods".
The article then goes on to explain various schools of agrarian thought and their differences. Kind of an egghead philosophical definition that runs over three pages.

I like Herrick Kimball's definitions better, from the forward of his book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. I bought the book at Lehman Hardware a couple of years ago, but I did not see it last time I was there. Here are a couple of excerpts.....

"Agriculture-the cultivation of the earth and animals to produce food is fundamental to what is means to be an agrarian...closely related to the act of producing food is the agrarians' reverence for creation in its many forms". Herrick also makes a simple but profound statement that "The interconnected relationships and dependencies between land, family, local community, and the local church which were once so strong and central to the everyday existence of godly people, have virtually disappeared in the modern age".

Here is my poorer definition.

An agrarian is someone that ascribes to a belief that the family household is the basic unit of society (not the state or the government), and that the household should produce as much of its own food, fuel, and other necessities as possible. After the household, needs should be met from within the local community. Farming is prominent in agrarianism because we all need to eat, and most of us like to eat several times a day. This makes food production the most basic of those material needs. This does not mean everyone needs to be a farmer. Those that cannot farm can still garden. Those that cannot garden can still cook (And buy food from real farmers)

Why bother with all that work?

1. Industrial prepackaged food is unhealthy and often inferior in taste.
2. Self dependency will see a family through hard times
3. Frugality is still a virtue, in spite of what advertisers say.
4. It is satisfying to provide much of our own heat and food
5. Strong families will build strong communities, which results in a strong nation

What is a Biblical Agrarian?
A Christian Agrarian or Biblical Agrarian ascribes to these same things based upon their understanding of the Bible and Christian theology. A key verse would be 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Some Biblical Agrarians believe in varying degrees of separation from society at large. In our area, the Amish would meet this definition pretty well.

I have to confess here that I am not a "Christian Agrarian" or "Biblical Agrarian". I am an Agrarian, and I am a believing Christian. I am very hesitant to mix my belief in Christ crucified for my sins with ANY other philosophy or political economy. My calling is to stay in this place and garden, tend flocks, and cut wood. I would never presume to believe that my calling is necessary for anyone to be a Christian.
What is the difference between Farming and Homesteading?

Farming is part of what we do for money. We sell cows, timber, cider, hay or market lambs and get paid in the Federal Reserve notes that pass for money these days.

Homesteading is what we do for ourselves. We raise a lot of stuff we never sell, such as blueberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, cabbage, etc. I think the term "homesteading" as used today comes from the excellent Countryside Magazine, billed as the journal of modern homesteading. Homesteading includes not only raising, but preserving and cooking the food. I think "homesteading" by the Countryside definition is the essence of agrarianism:

It's not a single idea, but many ideas and attitudes, including a reverence for nature and a preference for country life; a desire for maximum personal self-reliance and creative leisure; a concern for family nurture and community cohesion; a belief that the primary reward of work should be well-being rather than money; a certain nostalgia for the supposed simplicities of the past and an anxiety about the technological and bureaucratic complexities of the present and the future; and a taste for the plain and functional.Countryside reflects and supports the simple life, and calls its practitioners "homesteaders."

Years ago, I tried more farming than homesteading. Government policies deflate the value of farm commodities. We refuse to accept subsidies. Money is worth less each day. I learned we are economically better off growing more for ourselves and less to sell. This is a story unto itself that I will tell sometime.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

An Agrarian Dog

Last night my wife an I drove 20 miles north to an Amish Dairy farm, and brought home a Rat Terrier puppy. My wife and I considered the matter carefully following the death of our beloved German Shepherd. We both like having a watchdog-not an attack dog; just a dog that lets us know that someone is in the driveway. A watchdog gives us time to see whether putting on an extra supper plate, or grabbing a shotgun is in order. My cowdog is too old and set in her routine to live indoors. We decided a smaller dog would be a nice change for our small house. We were looking for a Feist or rat terrier, which are really two strains of the same dog.

I believe the pup is the 23rd dog I have owned in my life. When I was a little agrarian kid, we always had at least a couple of rat terriers around, often with a touch of beagle blood. Unlike Jack Russell Terriers, the Rat Terriers always seem to be more calm and biddable. Yet they still have courage to spare. My childhood dogs would flush the pheasants that were plentiful then and push rabbits from the brush piles. Unlike a beagle,they would come home when I was ready to quit hunting for the day. We seldom had cats, but the dogs would chase mice and rats with glee. Nobody pulled in the driveway without their yapping, and they were clean house dogs. These dogs were a multi generational part of life here. The oldest picture I have of my father shows him at about age five with a litter of terrier pups. I have an older picture of my grandfather and my oldest uncle, probably about 1915, with a little feist type dog in the picture.

In reading the history of these little dogs, I learned that my family was not exceptional in keeping them. They were an integral part of traditional American small farms across the country. Their heyday lasted until the 1940's and 1950's when chemical rat poisons began to replace terriers on farms.

So what to name an agrarian dog? there seemed to be one obvious choice---Wendell.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tractor trouble

Recently the larger of our two tractors failed to start after loading wood. It is a JD 990 that has performed flawlessly for the past 6 years or so. My first guess was the 15 amp fuse, but it seemed to be more of a battery problem. I took the battery to a local chain store, and they tested it and said a cell was dead. I bought a new battery, went home and installed it and the tractor still would not turn over. I then became worried. When I was a little agrarian kid, we always had old tractors and lots of mechanical problems. Some of my earliest memories are serving as a human work light for my Dad, holding the flashlight while he cursed at a stubborn part or broken bolt. Repairs cost money; even if you or a friend to provide the labor, tractor parts are frightfully expensive.

I called a more knowledgeable friend, and we proceeded to analyze the alternator, wiring and fuses. Two hours later, he came to the last possibility; the new battery was not working. After two more trips to the battery store, I finally ended up with a battery that would start my tractor.

While this time and trouble was upsetting, it was less so because we have two tractors. Our second machine is a little New Holland TZ18 we bought earlier this year. While messing around with the battery store, I could still haul wood and do basic chores. My lovely wife and I both agree we would give up the second car before the second tractor. With a wife like that, I am a lucky man.

The TZ18 mows the lawn, and the loader moves manure and other loose materials.

The 990 plows, disks, brush hogs, does hay work,spreads manure, and moves most of the firewood. Here are some "plow cam" views I took back in September.

Here is the 990 plowing the garden last spring.

Many small farmers like animal power. I have a cousin that prefers draft horses and mules to tractors. Others like the older gas tractors, such as the Farmall, Allis Chalmers, and Ford models from the 1940's and 1950's. I am not a generally a believer in progress, but I like modern diesel tractors.compared to a horse, my tractors have never kicked me, bit me, jumped a fence and tramped through the neighbors yard, or taken off in terror upon seeing a bird. My nostalgia for the old gasoline tractors of my youth vanished after the third time we replaced the same parts on our old Ford NAA.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Saturday, my wife and I ran over to the local dairy where we buy our raw milk. We drink about two gallons of milk a week, unless we are making cheese or cooking a lot. The dairy is a nice 15 minute country drive, and the milk is $4.00 per gallon. Over the past few weeks, I have been noticing more cars with Ohio plates, and more people buying LOTS of milk. Last Saturday, this culminated in a woman buying somewhere around 40 gallons of raw milk to take back home to Cleveland. We, and two other local people waited patiently while this lady filled her 40+ jugs one at a time from the bulk tank. She will drive the 90 miles home and fill her freezer, then thaw the milk as she needs it.

The State of Ohio, in its infinite wisdom has deemed raw milk too dangerous a substance to be sold to the general public. Our local licensed raw milk dairy is the nearest place these poor people can come to legally get milk that has not been pasturized and homogenized so it can taste like swill and probably lose its nutrients. I keep telling the dairy to send a Christmas card to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. ODA might miss the card, because they seem to be busy conducting undercover stings against anyone who would sell raw milk.

I have a strong taste preference for raw milk. I also like that I can look inside the dairy and see how the cattle who are giving me their milk are treated. I like seeing that the milking parlor and milk house are clean. I like not having to milk a goat twice a day (Which we used to do) and still having decent milk. However, I can only enjoy this because of my good fortune at being born a few miles east of the Pennsylvania-Ohio line.

I have been to Youngstown, Ohio. It is a heartbreaking place. The main businesses seem to be selling illegal drugs, drug addict women selling their bodies,auto lots with cheap cars to leave town. and bars to drown out the reality of living in Youngstown. I would think that the law enforcement resources of the state of Ohio might be better put to a place like that than undercover sting operations against dairy farmers. However, I suspect ODA's undercover goons are too cowardly to go up against real criminals.

As the lady pulled away, I remembered the old time moonshiners, running cars full of whiskey. I like to think of her as a "Cowshiner" a kind of 21st Century suburban moonshiner. I hope the ODA doesn't pull her over, dump the milk and Taser her. I hope that mini van can go fast enough to outrun them. Good luck cowshiner lady.

Some of the girls who keep us in milk.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Anglican Awakening

A week and a half ago I attended the Anglican Awakening in Akron Ohio. This event was meant to bring together the various groups of Anglican jurisdictions who have been scattered recently by the liberalism of the Episcopal Church USA. For about ten years now, bishops from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South America, and Southeast Asia have been consecrating missionary bishops for the US. In essence, the USA is now a mission field, because the oldest protestant denomination in the country is now so morally and theologically bankrupt. Partnerships have also been formed with other groups who left the Episcopal Church with their orders intact earlier. The purpose of the gathering was to pray together, learn together, and join together for Holy Communion. The gathering was held at Saint Luke's Church, a large vibrant suburban parish. Here is an Icon of Saint Luke in the church

While this had celebratory aspects, The themes of the conference that meant the most to me were about suffering and repentance. Bishop Alexis Biladabago was the first teacher I heard. As a Rwandan, he knows about both the reality of suffering and the transformative power of Jesus Christ. Bishop Alexis has spoken on suffering from the US to Australia. He was once confronted by a high ranking Australian Government official who had many accusatory questions about how anyone could believe in a benevolent God in a world full of pain and suffering. This Bishop who personally suffered the horrors of the genocide said that he did not have all the answers, but he wanted his questioner to be able to know Jesus Christ so that they could stand together in heaven and ask about these things.

Since meeting him, I have been reading about the Rwandan Genocide. Rwanda was a Country where 90 percent of the people were Christian, yet unspeakable horrors happened. As "enlightened westerners" we can write of the genocide as an act of primitive African tribalism, but that answer is not good enough. It will not explain the horrors perpetuated by "advanced" peoples. How did sophisticated Weimar Germans degenerate within a few years into industrial scale butchers? How can 21st Century Americans leave the babies from botched abortions to die in hospital closets? The answers to Rwanda, the Nazis, and ourselves lie in the human heart.

One aspect of Rwanda is that the churches became institutionalized. Membership had certain social advantages. A comfortable Church will not rock the boat or threaten the status quo.

Here is Bishop Alexis

Here are Bishops John Guernsey (Uganda) Bishop Martyn Minns (Nigeria/CANA) and
Bishop Robert Duncan (Pittsburgh/Southern Cone) checking the news.

I am not a very good photographer. most of my pictures from the liturgy got the back of folks' heads. There are many better pictures at Father Richard Dalton's site, which is worth checking out anyway.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Milk drenched food--does anyone else do this?

My Lovely wife recently made two wonderful apple pies with traditional lard crust. They are delicious. However, she finds it curious and somewhat distasteful that I can only eat pie when drenched in milk. I do this to all pies except mincemeat and pumpkin. I drench other desserts, such as strawberry shortcake and chocolate cake in milk. All the men on my Dad's side of the family did this. Some of the real country diners around here make provisions for this, by offering milk with such desserts as apple dumplings. My wife never saw this foodway before she moved to Western Pa.

I have tried researching this custom on the web. I did not find a lot of information. Some people said it is an English custom. However, my mother was from a family of fairly recent English immigrants, and she found it as unusual when she married my Dad as my own wife found it strange. My mom thought it was simply a disgusting way to use up the surplus of skimmed milk that old-time farmers had from the days when cream was sold.

Is this just a western Pennsylvania thing?
Is it a country custom?
Is it just a dairy farmer thing?
Is it just a bad habit?
I would appreciate any other knowledge or experience with milk drenched food.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bishop Henry Scriven Visits Grace Church

This Sunday, was the final visit of the Rt. Reverend Henry Scriven to Grace Anglican Church. Bishop Henry will be returning to his native England to continue missionary work. Because our church is now a parish of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, we technically have no Diocesan Bishop right now. Thus Bishop Henry came to preach, teach, confirm, and celebrate Holy Communion, but he came without his normal episcopal regalia. Our beloved priest was not there for the best reason in the World to miss Church-He and his wife just had a baby girl!

Father Paul Cooper from Saint Christopher's Church came to assist.

Bishop Henry proclaims Grace Church as a parish of the Diocese, assisted by a deaconess from Saint Christopher's.

I still find it nothing short of miraculous that our Anglican parish in this small town can can fill the pews of a rented Presbyterian church, worshiping with the 1928 prayer book. God's Grace for repentant sinners through Word and Sacrament is powerful indeed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Dogs in Heaven

This was a very sad day here, as we buried our faithful German Shepherd, Riko. For me, grief is always a cause for reflection. There is an emptiness in our house, as Riko was a particularly fine companion. For quite a while I will expect his bark when I come home, and look for him out of the corner of my eye to be laying on one of the rugs. I never wanted him; but my wife did. I thought German Shepherds were "Robot Dogs". Riko taught me different. He was very playful and affectionate. He was honest and good natured.In many respects, his character reflected the monks from whom we got him.

I have had dogs my entire life. Growing up, my family always had a small pack of Feist dogs around, as well as the occasional spaniel and farm collie. Later I kept my own packs of hunting dogs and started a number of Border Collies for sheep herding, some for a Border Collie Rescue Organization. Every one of them (save one) has broken my heart to one degree or another by dying. For a Christian Believer in this time and place, this always raises the question of whether our animals will join us in heaven.

I don't worry a lot about heaven. I am holding out for the general resurrection that many Christian confess in the creeds but few spend much time talking about. God enables us though breeding animals and plants to be a kind of co-creator with him. While everything dies as a consequence of the corruption of the fall, this creation is no more in vain than our death is the end of our creation (which was also a co-creation between God and our parents). I think God allows us this tremendous privilege because in spite of our sinful fallen natures, he really loves us. I believe that every flower we plant, every dog we breed, every picture we make, and every other work we do in truth and beauty will somehow be a part of that new creation when Heaven and Earth meet. Spirits floating around are not good enough for me. I want a body to see, hear, and touch the bodies of those people and things I love. I plan on hugging Riko again, and my Dad, and my wife. We have a prayer in my church's services of evening prayer thanking God for our creation and preservation in this life, but also "for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the World by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory. . I take this pray at its word, that our Lord will redeem everything, and I place a great hope in that glory. I hope that this might sooth some who worry about the question of "animals in heaven". If you do not want to believe a poorly educated Pennsylvania farmer in this matter, I might recommend the online lectures and books by Bishop NT "Tom" Wright, in particular Surprised By Hope. Many of the early church fathers also had similar insights.

At the same time, our time and culture sometimes places too much affection into pets. I have seen dogs made to suffer because their owners cannot cope with their death. I believe that sometimes veterinarians are willing to encourage people into extraordinary measures for their pets that sometimes prolong the animal's suffering for this same reason. I think some wisdom from Riko's previous owners are in order. New Skete is a remarkable community, working for the reform of monastic life, much like the original monasticism was a reform movement for a church that was growing corrupted by its recent alliance with Roman authority. They love their dogs,but suggest a balance wherein the dog knows its proper place in the family. They also have have little use for paid pet cemeteries and some other modern affectations. While Riko is gone, and we will miss him, we also live in a world of great pain and tragedy. For right now, our job is to dry off our tears, get up and go on creating in goodness, truth, and beauty, and to do what we can to alleviate some of the misery and pain around us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Realignment Saturday

Saturday was a beautiful Fall Day. I did my normal chores, went to the feed mill for 100 pounds of chicken feed and 100 pounds of sheep feed, then went to breakfast at our township's little general store/diner.

My day's chores were to pick apples, but my heart and prayers were in Monroeville where our regions' churches was voting whether to leave the Episcopal Church to realign with a more orthodox Anglican Church. Before we left for the Cider press, I checked the Web and found the vote had been successful, thanks be to God. Later that night, I received our Parish notices via email, with the following:

Today, the Diocese of Pittsburgh voted by a large majority to 'realign' itself out of the Episcopal Church and into the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (an orthodox province of the Communion which includes Argentina, Honduras, Chile, Paraguay, etc.). This is a temporary measure until a new, orthodox Anglican Province can be created in the United States. This realignment was in response to the Episcopal Church's unorthodox views regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, the authority of the Bible, human sexuality, and their unethical use of litigation toward and suppression of orthodox believers in the US. In many ways, this is a joy-filled day--we are freed from the ties to a denomination that has in large measure abandoned 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' In other ways, this is a sad day--sad that it had to come to this, and sad that some relationships will be strained. So how will realignment affect GAC? It won't really; at least not on a daily basis. But realignment will help prevent the meddling and negative affects of the National Church. We at GAC will keep doing what we've been doing, and will expand our ministry to Slippery Rock and beyond. Let us pray that realignment will open up new doors for the Gospel!

While I spent my first Sunday as a member of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone puking and shivering with the flu, I am excited. I am looking forward to getting on with the mission, and joining over a thousand of my brothers and sisters at the Great Lakes Anglican awakening in Akron. Our own Bishop Duncan will be the keynote speaker.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update on Bishop Duncan

In Richard Baxter's words, a "hereticating majority of Bishops" has acted. I found the best analysis here.

There is a bright spot..............

As was resolved by resolution made at the Provincial Synod in Valparaiso last November 2007, we are happy to welcome Bishop Duncan into the Province of the Southern Cone as a member of our House of Bishops, effective immediately. Neither the Presiding Bishop nor the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church has any further jurisdiction over his ministry. We pray for all Anglicans in Pittsburgh as they consider their own relationship with The Episcopal Church in the coming weeks.

Archbishop Gregory Venables.

Lord willing, our Diocese will vote to follow him October 4.

Ember Day Prayers for my Bishop

This is one of the seasonal times of Ember Days, meant for prayer, fasting, and ordination. The ember days are a part of each of the four seasons, and seem to be a uniquely Celtic/British contribution to the western calendar of the Christian Year. Later today, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church is also meeting in Utah to consider the removal of Bishop Robert Duncan as Bishop of Pittsburgh for "Abandonment of the Communion"

Such a charge is laughable, and underlies Bishop Bob's real crime, of leading the Diocese of Pittsburgh out of the the Episcopal Church into a closer relationship with our sister Anglican churches in other countries that still believe strange things (In the eyes of the revisionist liberals who are in charge of the national Episcopal Church)What are some of the strange things that Bishop Bob teaches?

That all men are sinners.

That Jesus Christ died for sinners, rose from the dead and through this offers forgiveness of sins.

That the Bible is the inspired word of God for his people.

That God intends marriage as a sacramental relationship between one man and one woman, rather than two men or two women.

That though we are all sinners, unrepentant active homosexuals should not be ordained as clergy.

That the Church is a community of shared faith, and it is his obligation to work to unite orthodox believers.

I must confess a low opinion of Bishops in General, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran or Anglicans. Many are arrogant, concerned about their own power, and many are unfortunately corrupt. If I did not believe in the reality of the sacraments and apostolic succession, I would be another kind of Christian. Bishops like Robert Duncan are men worthy of the pastorate, risking all in order to lead their flock to safe grounds. He has already faced ridicule, hatred, and lawsuits. There will be more in the months to come, as the diocese of Pittsburgh votes in early October to re affiliate with the Anglican Diocese of the Southern Cone, and part of the larger worldwide fellowship of confessing Anglicans. Please pray for him, and his flock.

The psalter reading for this Ember Day in the Prayer book is Psalm One Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Bishop Duncan has declined to attend the House of Bishops meeting for his own deposing without trial.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflections on Septermber 11th

September 11, 2008 passed here in Western Pennsylvania as a beautiful day, though the skies were not as bright blue as that day in 2001. Like many Americans, that day still effects me profoundly.

When I am upset, I pray. I started the morning with the prayers posted on the Ohio Anglican Site (Thanks Again Brother!) and went to work. My off farm work sent me on a journey though the countryside about 80 miles away. Being Restless all day, I stopped on my return journey in the town of Kitanning in the hope that The town's conservative Episcopal church would be open. Nobody was there, but the door was thankfully open. Reading the psalter out of my prayer book and saying some of the funeral prayers in such a beautiful Anglican church was a great blessing to me. I left feeling not exactly refreshed, but comforted.

Some years ago, I heard a talk on 9/11 by my favorite Eastern Orthodox Theologian, Father Thomas Hopko. Father Thomas is very Cross-focused. I still remember a few things from this talk:

1. We cannot allow terrorists to fly airplanes into buildings and hurt innocent people. We must fight to stop this in any way we can.

2. At that same time, we must recognize the evil in ourselves--including that of our nation. A country that aborts so many of its own babies cannot simply call itself good, and the terrorists as evil. (while not part of the talk, I was reminded of a quote by Peter Kreeft from long before 9/11, "If God spares New York City, he owes an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah")

3. Everything comes from God. God calls some of the wicked kings in the Bible "his servants"

4. EVERY DEATH is a tragedy, but for Christians, the ultimate manifestation of God's Love is a dead Jew on a cross.

As a Christian, I still grieve for every one of those innocent people, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, who were killed going about their daily business. As an American, I want the terrorists and those who supported them brought to justice for their murder. However, I also want us to become a better people. My grief is reserved for the lives lost. As an agrarian, I think the Towers as buildings were vanity and monuments to Mammon. I think we were a better Country when the tallest buildings in every town were church steeples.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Porches are useful for more than sitting

Our house was built by my Great-Great Uncle in 1892. Over the years, a large family, some poverty and time took her toll. The House is built like a bank barn, in that the front grade is 6 feet lower than the rear. This design allowed a nice big front porch to be about 7 feet above grade. The porch was pretty deteriorated when we decided to remodel the house, so we replaced it, and actually made it a bit larger. It now measures about 10X28 feet.The height lets us store unsightly stuff below it, like coal, firewood, and ladders. The railing is made from rough cut local hemlock, and are large enough to store tomatoes, winter squash, or other vegetables for curing. My Lovely and Economical wife has a clothesline on for drying on days when it just might rain a little. We use it to process things like tomato juice that would mess up the kitchen. She often stores big pots of soup to cool there in the colder months, as the dogs cannot reach it. The decking is local rough cut White Oak. Because it is elevated and does not touch the soil, the decking does not need to be treated. Over the years it has gotten hard as stone. There is a trapdoor to get to the storage area below, or throw firewood up for our parlor stove. The porch is actually an invaluable working part of our homestead, though we do have a wooden bench large enough for the occasional nap as well. I hope to die here, but; should I ever design a house, I think it would include some kind of covered workspace like this.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Spurious Jefferson Quote?

My wife and I discussed the Jefferson quote in yesterday's post, and she was the first to point out that it may be one of those falsely attributed ones.It is widely quoted on many Black and Tan hound sites.

After a little research tonight, would state that it probably is falsely attributed to Jefferson. I read a couple of entries in the Thomas Jeferson wiki site run by Monitcello, as well as our copy of Mark Derr's Dogs History of America. Neither mentions Jefferson as a houndsman, though George Washington was a lover of hounds. More about this if I hear back from the Monticello folks.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Coonhunter's Festival

"How one deals with their Coonhound's slobber is the most telling way of how one deals with everyday problems"

Thomas Jefferson, Third US President and Coonhunter

As a young person, I loved coonhunting. The woods at night are a very different place. Even with a light, familiar places become very different in the dark. Because the hunter follows the voice of the hound, the hunter finds himself in thickets and brambles where no sane person would willingly go. I have been lost, scratched, fell in a creek in cold weather, missed being sprayed by a skunk (My three dogs got it), and nearly bit by coons several times.

These days my coonhunting is the armchair variety, due to other commitments of life and the death of my father, but I still enjoy seeing and hearing hounds. So I was happy when a friend asked if I would take one of his boys to the Mahoning County Coonhunters festival last weekend. I had not been to this annual event in about 12 years. It is a combination flea market (mostly hunting,trapping, and dog supplies)hunters' reunion, and a water race. There were about 4000 people there by my estimate; about 10-15 percent were Amish, so I tried to be careful with the camera.

Here is a part of the flea market

There was everything for sale from Indian Artifacts

to poultry

There were also many dogs for sale,beagles of every age, squirrel dogs, Treeing Walkers and Blueticks. Whet I was surprised not to see were the older breeds of medium nosed hound (like the Redbone) or the older type Black and Tans. Even the Blueticks look leggier and more like Walkers. It seems the sport has really split between hide and meat hunters, who now use Cur Dogs, and competition hunters, who are using mostly Walkers. The Water Race dogs have always been a breed apart, having a little greyhound in them. The water race works like this:

A cable contains a float cage with a Coon. This cable is drawn across a pond with the dogs in pursuit. The lead dog wins and I believe first tree bark wins.

The winners enjoy a cash purse and races are accompanied by Calcutta style wagering.

Here is a closeup of a water race dog

My delight in this festival is seeing the young people interested in the outdoor sports,including a few young trappers and fur hunters. My young friend's older brother was there stocking up on supplies for fall trapping. In my own youth, trapping and fur hunting made money. AS a 12 year old kid, I made $15-20 a day with a small trapline during school holidays and weekends. The furbearing predators were kept in check, and the ones we caught were beautiful and healthy, unlike the diseased one I often have to kill out of pity today. The countryside needs more trappers and fur hunters and less citified Cabela-clad trophy deer hunters.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Poultry Market

Last Fall I traded a gallon of cider and two Buff Orpington pullets to a neighbor for six bantam chickens. We have had chickens for years but never bantams. I have fallen in love with the cute little birds (One Cochin and the rest Japanese Bantams). They seem to be smarter than full size chickens, and are especially prolific. While I lost one to a fox, the remaining two roosters and three hens have given me 18 new chicks this year. I kept back two pullets and gave two roosters and two hens to a neighboring youngster to start his flock. We also had some excess cockerels from the Orpington Hatch, and already have a freezer full of chicken. I decided to take some of our excess to the market in nearby Rogers Ohio.

Rogers is hard to describe; part carnival, part farmers market, part auction, and part flea market. Every Friday this sleepy little Ohio town attracts a thousands of buyers and sellers in a day of pure capitalism. There are city folks from Youngstown and Pittsburgh; recent immigrants from Latin America, Asia and the middle East; many Amish and Mennonites, and my own people (upper Ohio Valley Rednecks). There are usually dozens of produce dealers; three or four Amish bakers; large buildings with used books, car parts, hardware, and knick-knack dealers. There are food trailers with the usually carnival food. People often sit near the main restroom area and offer free puppies. Others sell purebred puppies. There are pony rides for the kids. The flea market outside has hundreds of dealers on a good day.

I went with a shopping list:

A wooden sheep crook to replace one I broke
Smoked cheese
Chocolate walnut fudge for my lovely bride
zinc jar lids for our old time canning jars

I found everything but the jar lids, and also got a good deal on some Roma tomatoes, (which we did not grow this year) a few pounds of green beans (ours are played out),
a military first aid kit (Useful for chainsaw accidents), An Amish shoofly pie and some scented soap for my wife. Prices are usually well below stores. If we did not garden but wanted to preserve food, I would make the trip to Rogers several times a season for this purpose. A young family could save considerable money on their groceries if they lived nearby.

What I find most remarkable about Rogers is how Americans of very different backgrounds meet in the market place on equal terms. There are buyers and sellers of every race. I overheard an older Italian man ask a Latin American produce vendor his nationality. The vendor replied "Italian" The older man began joshing him , and accusing him of "swimming the River" This was in jest on both of their parts, and in the equality of buying and selling, differences are set aside. I talked with a Coptic couple from Egypt who sell copies of Egyptian antiquities. Urban black families meet Amish ones. I am sure you can find trouble at this large market, but I am often amazed how so many different people actually get along so well. I have never seen any security or police there.

The poultry Auction starts at 6:00 pm. I would guess they sold about 300-400 head of poultry, 75 rabbits and maybe 40 goats. The birds range from poor old worn out leghorn laying hens to well started and well bred young stock. Many people buy chickens there for butchering. The average seemed to be $2,00 to $4,00 per head, dependent upon quality. Rabbits bring about the same. Young turkey were brining about $10.00 each. A few of the bantam pens were bringing $35.00+;especially young chicks and a mother with chicks. I need to exercise restraint around poultry sales. I was tempted by a pair of American buff geese (Winning bid $36), a pair of tufted Roman geese and the bantam call ducks. I confined my bidding to a trio of Red Cochin bantams which I did not win. However, since I was actually going to SELL chickens, I am not too sorry I did not BUY any more. However, Seeing all the different Bantams for sale did feed my interest in breeding and expanding my flock of these miniature chickens.

Friday, August 22, 2008

news to cheer the heart

I do not spend much time with the news. I get most of it filtered through
issues etc or from my lovely wife. However, once in a while I run into something that cheers my heart.
congratulations to David Hayes and granddaughter Alyssa!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

sweet corn snobbery

I have been eating sweet corn since I had teeth, but this weekend I bought my first sweet corn. I was raised to pick the corn right before supper; preferably after the water was already on the stove.

The reason I bought the corn was that two sons of a good friend decided to sell some of their excess sweet corn. It was three dollars a dozen. We have had our own corn for two weeks, but I wanted to support the boys entrepreneurial effort. They picked ten dozen and had their dad drive them to their grandma's house on a busier road than their small farm. Turns out I was their only customer. I paid them the three dollars and put the corn in the fridge. My lovely wife cooked six ears tonight. One ear was OK. the others were too starchy and went to the chickens.

If you do not raise your own corn, make a friend who does. If the corn is more than one hour from the stalk, its hog feed. I am glad I helped the boys, but I am going back to picking my own. I know that snobbery of any sort is unappealing, but I will remain a sweet corn snob.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

beans, lambs, and hot weather

Last week the heifers were loaded and went down the road to the neighbors. I was our intention to start a small beef herd, but between our inadequate facilities and rising feed costs, I know it was the right decision.

The heifers are having a good time at their new home, as you can see in the photos on my lovely wife's blog. I am proud of how well they grew, but just as happy to concentrate on sheep, our myriad of poultry, and the gardens.

About a month ago, the ram lambs that were getting too precocious were separated from the ewes. Yesterday, they got turned onto the now empty cow pasture and seemed to really appreciate some new grass. They also met electric fence for the first time. As they grazed up close, they hit the wire with their noses and learned the boundaries. Three hot wires is really minimal for sheep, but they are trained to follow us in at night to a more secure paddock. The most important part of sheep fencing is not keeping the sheep in-it is keeping predators out. the worst predator in this area is the domestic dog allowed to run free. Coyotes will also take sheep, especially small lambs. The best defenses are fences, a good farm dog, and a handy firearm.

The meat chickens were running loose, enjoying the grass and bugs until it got hot, then they started looking for any shade. A couple of them found shade under the bucket of the front end loader while I was taking a break.

We also got the lambs vaccinated, and I also got a first nice picking of green beans. God willing, we will have a freezer full of lamb and green beans on the menu for Winter.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

death of a dream

I realized that again, I have not posted in a month. Life is busy.....
In the average week I work 45-60 hours at my off farm job. sometimes it requires evening travel. This crimps my agrarian ventures, as well as attempts at frequent blogging. However,in the past couple of weeks:

The sheep were all sheared
Gardens were weeded
late oats were seeded
Barn was cleaned for hay storage
last years ram was sold
I attacked the mess in the machine shed, watched the rain and waited to make hay.

Sometimes in the midst of this, there was real excitement. Monday night a week ago, I got home from work after dark. The Cows were still out on a pasture fenced with temporary electric fence. When I tried to bring them across the lane they missed the gate to the barn and headed down the lane towards the road. One got to the edge of the busy road we live on. The road used to be a country lane. About 12 years ago the Township repaved it and ever since is became a busy shortcut. drivers fly up that road talking on their cell phones. I have a mortal fear of one of these drivers hitting a cow. I got them herded away from the road and back to a hayfield behind my mother's house. 3 hours later, I got the last one in. Herding black cows in the dark is tough.

Monday night this week, I ran into a poor mangy fox in the back pen of the barn. He had killed Spotty, one of my pet bantams. My Lovely wife tells the story better than I can.

The Fox problem is a typical challenge of stock raising. A keeper of flocks has an obligation to protect his charges. The Cow escape issue is my lack of ability to manage them. We have had three escapes in 6 months. Right now we lack the money or time to fence the front line. I have a choice of either worrying about the next time this happens or selling the cows. I mad ea deal to sell the cows to a breeder at the other end of the Township. Selling the cows is a kind of setback to me, but I can't do everything. Selling the cows is the temporary death of a dream to breed and build up a little, but high quality beef herd. I try to avoid allowing the death of the dream to be too overtaking by cultivating gratitude for what we have, including:

40+ fruit trees
A large grape arbor that had been feeding my family for decades
2 productive vegetable gardens
Blueberries, black and red raspberries
80+head of various sort of poultry for meat, eggs, and beauty
12 sheep
Enough woodland for a lifetime supply of firewood.
Good hay ground and a good solid barn to store the hay for sale or feeding

Last but not least, a long marriage with someone who largely shares my dreams and the way I prefer to live out my earthly time.

I have also had dreams die before. We used to have a very large flock of sheep, around 70 brood ewes, and a 150%+ lambs crop. Five years ago, I had a virus settle into my heart, and ended up in the emergency room. Due to my health, we had to sell every animal on the place except for a few chickens and ducks. I simply could not care for them.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with nearly complete recovery, so I started looking fo livestock, but on a smaller scale. In some respects, we are now stuck between a very large self sufficient homestead and a very small commercial farm.

After some discussion we have decided to again focus wholly on sheep for our livestock. We are going to look to pick up a few more head and expand from there. There are some good reasons for this. I have greater confidence about realizing profit from sheep than cows. In an expensive grain market,we can feed sheep cheaper, especially Cheviots. Our main barn was built for sheep, as were most of the fences.

We are people of modest means. While I love my heifers, I cant afford the time or cash to ensure they have the facilities they need. Because I did not plant any corn feed costs may become a problem. Sheep and Goats are often better livestock for poor country people.

While I am an unapologetic carnivore, I am delighted that the heifers are going to be brood cows--not steaks. I hope they know they are going to a good home so they go on the trailer easy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Spring Flush

I realized I had not posted a blog entry in over 30 days. This is really a busy time of year around here. My list is long:

Clean out barn
Fix manure spreader
Shear Ewes
Plant oats for summer grazing
Repairing and expanding fences
Build new chicken tractors
Set up new breeding stanchion/Cow pen in barn
Clean down trees from edge of hayfield

In addition to the normal stuff of mowing, basic spring clean up and the vegetable garden, and a busy off-farm job. When I get overwhelmed, I remember what is done.

The orchard is pruned and was sprayed with dormant oil the apples look good.
We transplanted black raspberries, red raspberries and strawberries
most of the garden is set out
Spring clean up is proceeding well
There is more than a cord of firewood for next year

The grass always grows faster than the animals can graze this time of year. With fewer animals than we used to have, I try to hand cut some of the odd corners and small areas that the haybine won't reach with a scythe and feed it as green chop. Our cows love it. I bought the scythe from Marugg Company about 5 years ago, and really prefer it to a weed eater. It cuts best in the early morning when the grass is wet. It is silent. It is graceful to use. I can cut a wheelbarrow load in about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rogation Day Prayer

These are the rogation days, and the prayer book collect is thus:

ALMIGHTY God, Lord of heaven and earth; We beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and to give us a fruitful season; that we, constantly receiving thy bounty, may evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Right now this is a most personal prayer for me. Our orchard has partly come into bloom due to last weeks warm weather and there is danger of frost tonight. A bad frost will mean few or no apples this year.

However, we do not live on apples alone. The cool weather and rain has helped the strawberries and raspberries we transplanted. Until the rain the other day things were a little dry. The cooler weather is easier on the Cows (No flies and no need bother the girls with fly spray). The grass is growing well for hay and pasture. The Lord will provide.

Guns and Bibles

Maybe our guns and religion in small town Pennsylvania is not such a bad spite of the recent Obama comments. Thanks to the folks at Stand Firm in Faith for publishing the story.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sort of Purebred Sheep

Yesterday, we turned the sheep our for the first time this Spring. This was a little later than usual, but they stayed on the pasture until December last Year. When My lovely wife returned from her travels, she remarked what a unremarkable bunch of lambs we had this year. Unfortunately, I had to agree. They are not really crummy, but they are just not nice examples of the breed.

We used to have a much bigger flock of sheep-about 60-70 ewes. Some were registered, some were grades of definitive type, and some were crossbreds. Over the years we had Shropshires, Finnsheep, A Border Leicester, a couple of Highland Blackface crosses, Grade Suffolks, Lincolns and grade Cotswolds, and many Cheviots. Over the last few years, nearly every Ewe was exposed to a Cheviot Buck, and the flock evolved from mostly black face or broken faced ewes to grade cheviots.

Five years ago, We sold all our sheep after I had a viral infection of the heart. The Winter before last, I returned to full health and we decided to get a few real nice purebred sheep. We decided again on Cheviots, which are very pretty, and normally pretty maintenance free. The downside of the breed is slow growth on the lambs to reach market size. We decided if we were only going to keep a few to keep them registered and breed for good type. I have one non-Cheviot Pet Ewe, a Suffolk named Big Girl.

We went to an honest local breeder, and bought registered ewe lambs. We went to a well established local breeding stock sale and bought a good registered young ram.
Hence the problem. We are seeing black spots, pink noses, and wool on the head between the ears. All of these are major faults in the Cheviot Breed-in some cases actually rendering them disqualified to be registered. I spoke to the breeder of the ewes about this. They had the same problem this year.

Because the show ring emphasizes height and size, some Cheviot breeders are slipping a little Montadale into their programs. The Montadale is a breed created though a cross of Cheviot and Columbia. WE are seeing the Colombia breeding in the pink noses, and wooly head. I have nothing against either Columbias or Montadales, but I would rather not see them in our little Cheviot breeding program.

There is a lot of dishonesty in the big time sheep show circuit, but eventually, the genes will tell the truth about an animal's origin. This is a bit of a disappointment, but not a disaster for us. We have three choices:

1. Try a different registered ram in the hope the genes "nick" better with our ewes.
2. Try the same cross again and hope for the best.
3. Take the best of our "MontaCheviot" ram lambs and use him on some ewes, and breed for performance, thereby saving money on registration.

I think we will probably end up choosing number three. Sometimes you just need to ride the horse the direction he wants to go.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


When the seasons change, I often re-read parts of an Elizabethan Agrarian Poem by Thomas Tusser- 100 Points of Husbandry. You can find the whole poem on several websites, but the Book Lost Country Life by Dorothy Hartley includes many amplifications for the modern reader. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how our European ancestors maintained their household economies. Here is some Tusser:

A hundreth good pointes, of good husbandry,
maintaineth good household, with huswifry.
Housekeeping and husbandry, if it be good:
must love one another, as cousins in blood.
The wife too, must husband as well as the man:
or farewell thy husbandry, doe what thou can.

Each month is a chapter on the farming year. This is from March

In Marche and in Aprill, from morning to night:
in sowing and setting, good huswiues delight.
To hoe in their garden or some other plot:
to trim up their house, and to furnish their pot

Right now my good huswife is still away, so I am preparing for the sowing and setting. This time of year a 24 hour workday would be a good start From "morning to night" does not seem like enough. There are fences to fix, gardens to till, sheep to shear, manure to haul, and a small patch of corn ground to plow up. There is still time for pleasure though, and seeing the heifers on grass is a real pleasure to me. My wife always delight in the flowers. I am not much for flowers, but I like daffodils, due to their association with Celtic Saint David. I built the stone wall about ten years ago. It is 35 feet of wall and needed a tremendous amount of stone. I enjoyed it, but don't know if I have another wall in me or not.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Anglican Friends of Issues Etc

A big thank you to the folks at Radio Free Wittenberg and Wittenberg Media for beginning the work of uploading issues etc archives. I am listening and grateful.

There are obviously conflicts within LCMS that I will not weigh in on. Everyone knows my own faith tradition is pretty much a mess right now. There is an interesting and insightful comparison of the respective "issues" on this site.

For right now, I have added a link list I call "Anglican Friends of Issues Etc"-sites of orthodox/reformed Anglicans who are blogging about the demise of this great show. If there are others, please let me know. I would also encourage other Non-Lutherans to do the same, so we can have "Presbyterian Friends of Issues etc", and more. If the old show could morph into something new, this could help those of us who are not part of the Wittenberg trail keep up with changes, as well as support Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz.

Please also consider donating to meet the material needs of these good men as well.

St. Paul Lutheran Church
Box 247,
Hamel IL 62046
Mark it Wilken/Schwarz Fund

Batching It

My lovely wife has gone to help take care of our new grandchild, so for the next 21 days I am batching it. I miss her. I like being married. We have our differences, but we have been married a long time, and I truly believe we each make more of the other. I believe she was a gift from God to me and I treasure her for love, counsel, and friendship.

On the farm, I am a good lifter of heavy objects. I do most of the routine livestock chores, especially in bad weather. I cut the firewood. I am good at cobbling together the numerous homestead projects. I do the taxes. She is the better gardener by far. She is a much better nurse of small sick living things. She also makes the house a place of beauty and warmth.
One of our differences is that she is really neat and tidy, a classic hausfrau. While my last name is German, my ancesters have been interbreeding with the English, Scots Irish and probably a few Indians for at least nine generations. The orderly Teutonic genes are pretty well gone, replaced mostly by what my wife calls "dirty English".
The neat housekeepers in my family are somewhat exceptional.

Towards self improvement,and a better marriage, I am fighting these genes. The two photos are days one and two from "the kitchen sink cam". Let's see if I can make the next days better. In my defense, it was a lovely day to spray dormant oil in our orchard.

Friday, March 28, 2008

A non-Lutheran Perspective on the Issues Etc cancellation

I am not a big media user. We do not have a TV. I used to listen to a bit of talk radio and NPR, but find myself more and more in silence, listening to various kinds of traditional music, or lectures from ISI or sometimes Ancient Faith Radio. One of the few shows I really enjoyed was Issues, etc. It was relevant, intelligent, and through it was squarely in the heart of the Lutheran Tradition,it was a show that any thinking Christan could profit from. On Holy Tuesday last week, the show was abruptly canceled.

I hesitated to Blog about this, because I am not a member of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). Most of what I know about LCMS comes from blogs like Pastors Alms and Weedon, and a decent and remarkable LCMS pastor I met a few years ago. However, I decided to write about this after reading the explanation of the cancellation from the authorities thanks to this site.

What I am most struck by, is that after the salutation ("Dear Christian Friend") the complete text of the letter could be taken straight from the corporate boardroom. The letter talks about ratings, profitability and market share. This is not the language of the Church. Because of this, it lacks credibility.

Regardless of denomination, most churches are now being run by "organization men". They might wear a collar or mitre, but their main paradigm is the same as corporate America. Like Corporate America, their concerns are perpetuating the organization for its own sake. They hire "directors of development". They embark on "programs" and new strategies. They are easy to pick out by their language- whatever management buzzwords are popular in the business world, will peeper their speech. "New Paradigm" "Tipping Point" "Managing Change" "Emergent Markets". These kind of leaders love "branding" as well- from "America's Best Kept Secret" (to market Eastern Orthodoxy) To the current LCMS "Its not your Grandfather's Church". Unfortunately, reliance on the norms of corporate America will also lead to a perception of credibility likened to corporate America. Those who live and act like a CEO should expect to be trusted like a CEO. CEOS may have sycophants, they may be feared, but they are not trusted.

The main leadership paradigm from Christian History is the Shepherd ("Pastore"). As I recall, Our Lord and Savior used this as a model repeatedly. I am a keeper of flocks, and perhaps sometime I will blog about that for non-agrarian readers. There are plenty of good examples of shepherds of souls. Even the concept of a "CEO of souls" really creeps me out.

The "Pastore" is supposed to feed the sheep. Issues, ETC fed me well, and I miss it. Thank you Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwartz for such a good show. I am sorry the organization men got you. I hope and pray you gain all things good.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bishop Wright slams Genetic Engineering

My lovely wife has informed me that GMO sugar beets are being commercially planted in the US for the first time in human history. The UK is attempting to change legislation relative to embyo cloning. Fortunately, some Christian leaders, like Good Pope Benedict and the Anglican Bishop of Durham, NT "Tom" Wright, see through it. Here is an excerpt from Bishop Wright's Easter message:

"First, the current controversy about embryo cloning. Our present government has been pushing through, hard and fast, legislation that comes from a militantly atheist and secularist lobby. The euthanasia bill was another example; defeated for the moment, but it’ll be back. The media sometimes imply that it’s only Roman Catholics who care about such things, but that is of course wrong. All Christians are now facing, and must resist, the long outworking of various secularist philosophies, which imagine that we can attain the Christian vision of future hope without the Christian God. In this 1984-style world, we create our own utopia by our own efforts, particularly our science and technology. We create our Brave New World here and now; so don’t tell us that God’s new world was born on Easter Sunday. Reduce such dangerous beliefs to abstract, timeless platitudes. The irony is that this secular utopianism is based on a belief in an unstoppable human ability to make a better world, while at the same time it believes that we (it’s interesting to ask who ‘we’ might be at this point) have the right to kill unborn children and surplus old people, and to play games with the humanity of those in between. Gender-bending was so last century; we now do species-bending. Look how clever we are! Utopia must be just round the corner.

Have we learnt nothing from the dark tyrannies of the last century? It shouldn’t just be Roman Catholics who are objecting. It ought to be Anglicans and Presbyterians and Baptists and Russian Orthodox and Pentecostals and all other Christians, and Jews and Muslims as well. This isn’t a peripheral or denominational concern. It grows directly out of the central facts of our faith, because on Easter day God reaffirmed the goodness and image-bearingness of the human race in the man Jesus Christ, giving the lie simultaneously to the idea that utopia could be had by our own efforts and to the idea that humans are just miscellaneous evolutionary by-products, to be managed and manipulated at will. The Christian vision of what it means to be human is gloriously underscored by the resurrection of Jesus, and we as Easter people should make common cause with all those who are concerned about the direction our society is going in medical technology as in so much besides".

As Wendell Berry reminds us, Life is still a Miracle

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

Yesterday was Good Friday for all of those Christians who follow the Western Pascal Calender. My off farm work closed for a half day in honor of this. The mission church I attend does not have services until 7:00 pm, so I went home to face one of the tasks I hate during the farm year-cleaning up orchard trimmings. I rate job this below cleaning manure from pens or weeding onions. I only do it because:

1. The orchard has been my wife's labor of love, and speaks of the permanence of our marriage and life together here.
2. I have an inordinate love of apple cider
3. Washington State apples in local grocery stores are $1.79 per pound

A retired orchardman from across the border in Ohio comes to prune our orchard. He is an interesting and saintly man, and reminds me of the "dressers of vines" from the Old Testament.The first year, I thought I would haul the trimmings away as he cut. I soon found it was impossible to keep up with a man who arrives at the job with three chainsaws ready to go. As soon as one saw ran out of fuel, he picked up the next.

In the wake of his creative destruction, I must deal with the trimmings. Some of it makes good firewood. I get a few walking sticks and tool handles. However, most of it heads for a burn pile. To prevent disease, it must be hauled some distance away. First I go through and trim the firewood. I tend to dull more chainsaw blades than working in the woodlot. Apple wood grows at right angles, and many odd shapes. As I load the brush on a cart, the whip ends slash my ears and poke my eyes. The cart holds too little, because the apple wood will not stack like other brush. I could cut it smaller, and dull more chains, or haul bigger pieces and get whipped in the ear more. I once tried loading a hay wagon instead of the cart, but the wagon would not fit in the orchard rows.

There is no way around this job. While I do it, I try to focus on a future beatific vision of a Fall day, when we take a load of apples to the commercial press down the road. I look forward to pressing a small load at home with my friend and neighbor, a local dairyman. We do this the old fashioned way for the pleasure of catching up with each other in our busy lives, and enjoying good food. I remember with gratitude that we actually own these trees and the land underneath. And finally, being Good Friday, I recall that a poke in the eye and a stinging ear are only dust in the face of betrayal,scourging, mockery,and crucifixion for the sins of the whole world. I have no case.