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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


This is Nipper, our Amish-bred Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog). She is the most recent of a long line of stockdogs here. We took Nipper in when a young girl could no longer keep her. I have had numerous Border Collies, an Australian Shepherd, and two Blue Heelers. I also had some Blackmouth Curs that would head and heel cattle a little.

Years ago, I used to enjoy going to sheepdog trials and herding events in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. We had a big commercial flock then, and it was kind of a bus man's holiday. I lost interest after a local tragedy that happened to some very nice people I knew from the sheepdog events. The short version is they adopted a very troubled boy, and he murdered his adoptive mother. Years later, I still tend to remember this event when I think about Border Collies My pain has been minuscule compared to that of the family, but evil has a way of reaching out.

A good dog is a nice asset on the homestead. We had some pigs that would probably have had to been shot rather than loaded for sale if it were not for Pete the Heeler. Dan the Border Collie was probably my best sheepdog. He made up for our saggy fences numerous times.

For what it is worth, here is my opinion about various breed for farm work.

Border Collies are loopy workaholics. When Dan had nothing else to do, he would circle the chicken pen, making the hens move from one side to another. He never hurt a chicken, in fact he could sneak up and gently catch loose birds. Jake the Border Collie was a sex maniac. Do not get a Border Collie unless you have a job for it. It is also sometimes difficult to get them to stay with you if you are doing any task they perceive as boring, such as stacking wood. Border Collies tend to be a little soft as well. Dan got kicked by a calf and gave up on working cattle. I understand there are western strains of Border Collies that are tougher.

Blue Heelers are tough. A kick from a calf is not going to stop them. They also tend to stick around their master better. They lack all sense of delicacy though. It is difficult to use a heeler to herd ducks or lambs. Some folks in the next County used heelers for Buffalo. The big drawback can be temperament. I have been bit twice by heelers while visiting other farms. Nipper's hobby is trying to trick visitors into coming close enough to bite their heels.

Australian Shepherds, and their cousins, the English Shepherd, are my ideal of a good all around farm dog. They do not retrieve sheep from a mile away, but our Aussie Roy was invaluable at shearing and foot trimming time. He also worked well in smaller pastures. The big problem with these breeds is finding a good strain. Australian Shepherds were ruined by show breeding. The show bred dog is too heavy boned, and cannot move well enough to work hard. Fifteen years ago, there were five good Australian shepherd working dogs within a mile of here (including Roy). They are now all gone. We tried to breed Roy to one of the older local females before he died. Unfortunately, it did not take, and the strain is gone. One of my Border Collie friends believes that the demise of the small farm has led to the demise of the working strain of the Australian Shepherd as well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Armed Agrarian: Taurus Versus Kel-Tec

Like most Western Pennsylvania Country People, I like guns. Aesthetically, my favorite guns are muzzle loaders, but if it shoots, I am interested.

I know there are many people who do not like guns in the hands of everyday folks. To me, The reality of sin and evil are the only provable points in Christian theology. Creation is fallen.I will not debate the morality of self defense, but would refer the reader to the learned Father Frog on the matter.

Because of our beliefs, both my wife and I keep ready arms in our house, and carry concealed handguns everywhere we legally can. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, open carry is legal without a permit (except in vehicles), concealed carry permits are available to any adult who can pass a simple background test, and thanks to the Pa. Attorney General, a Pa. Concealed Carry hermit is recognized in many other states (Always check the law for yourself-I am not a lawyer)

Being old fashioned, for years I carried revolvers of various sorts. My only auto was a 1911 I traded to a coworker years ago. I bought another 45--a Ruger Blackhawk with an extra cylinder in 45 ACP. I like revolvers.

However, I kept passing the relatively cheap 9mm ammo at gun shows, and decided to get a small auto pistol. I wanted a pistol that could unobtrusively go anywhere. I settled on a Taurus PT 111 Millennium Pro, based upon a very positive experience with one of their Model 94 22 revolvers.

From purchase, the Taurus did not function well. I attributed some of the jamming to break in , but the trouble got worse as I shot more. One spent case actually cracked and scratched the stainless steel coating on the slide. The local dealer sent it back.

While the Taurus was gone, I found a deal on a used Kel-Tec at another shop. I had given Kel Tec consideration based upon a favorable review by this guy in Backwoodsman magazine. The Taurus came back last week, so I have had an opportunity to shoot and carry both guns and offer a comparison. Here's my review:

Overall: Both guns are 9mm, which is considered a minimal caliber for self defense. I am careful to carry only premium ammunition that has a good performance record. However, a 9mm in my pocket beats the 12 gauge at home. Both guns are highly concealable.
However, the Kel-Tec is really concealable. The Taurus conceals well in a shoulder rig or inside the waist band holster. The Kel-Tec conceals anywhere. It is truly pocket size.

Comfort: The Taurus is more ergonomically comfortable. In your hand it feels like a standard pistol. It is very controllable with recoil. The Kel-Tec had a tendency to bite my hand a little in prolonged shooting until I bought a magazine grip extension.

Trigger Pull: The Kel-Tec has a trigger much like a double action revolver. The Taurus has a long mushy feel, unlike any other pistol I have shot. The Kel Tec has no safety (Again like a double action revolver), the Taurus has a left side safety.
I got used to the Kel-Tec Trigger quicker.

Sights: The Taurus has Heinie sights that require holder over the target: not a standards six o'clock sight picture. A coworker thinks they are the best combat sights he ever saw, even better than his Glock. They took me about 300 rounds to get used to, but I know like them OK. The Kel-Tec had the non snag standard three dots.

Reliability: After a return to the factory, the Taurus now functions. The dealer is madder than I am about the way Taurus dealt with the whole affair.They fixed the slide internally, but not the chip in the finish. After 450 rounds, the Kel Tec had one failure to feed that I quickly cleared. Kel Tecs are not pretty, but mine is very reliable.

Overall, I am won over by the Kel Tec. I will keep the Taurus, but will not buy another. The small dealer will no longer sell them, based upon their service. The Kel Tec also accounted for one marauding possum, who was eating the barn cats food. I pray each day, I never need any of my guns for more than that, but knowing the reality of the world, I must remain an armed agrarian.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A simple sheep shelter

A very nice lady who reads my wife's blog recently asked about simple, inexpensive, sheep facilities. Most of our facilities are for our comfort, not the sheep. Sheep do not need indoor barns with electric and running water. They need:

Grass (Hay in Winter)
Protection from predators (including the neighbor's dogs, coyotes, and bears)
A place to get out of the wind, and rain

The building here is not really a sheep shelter. My father and I built it years ago for pigs. My wife and I later learned about using pigs to compost sheep manure, so the building has been underutilized since. It was built on a weekend without working too hard. It is really just five poles in the ground and boards nailed for siding. This design needs no framing lumber, as the siding serves as the framing too. When we first built it, we used cheap rolled roofing. Later, I had enough metal roofing from the new roofing for our house to cover all the small outbuildings, so it got a metal roof. The use of rough cut lumber from a local sawmill also saves a lot of money. sometimes, you can buy up odd lots very cheap.

This building measures eight by eight and would hold 4-5 sheep.

I plan on cutting the poles off, putting it on skids, and moving it this summer. It might become a house for my Rouen ducks, another chicken coop, bachelor quarters for our ram, or even colony housing for our rabbits.