Friday, November 27, 2009

Catching Up

It has been longer than normal since I updated this journal. A lot of things have happened that I have meant to write about, but events have conspired to keep me from doing so.

We had another successful Appleseed shoot on the farm here in October.

Right after the shoot, my long time Cattle dog companion, Nipper, died.

The small company I have worked for off-farm for decades is closing its doors. I opted to leave early, take a great deal and become totally self-employed.

I renewed the Oath I took in 1986 to uphold and defend the United States Constistution and became an Oathkeeper.

I have been invited to become a member of a new Anglican group blog...The River Thames Beach Party. The party has started and I recomend the site, which you can find here.
I have enjoyed a correspondance with somebody I greatly admire, the Reverend Franklin Sanders, who is another Anglican AND Agrarian.

Most recently, I have been suffering a large and painful Chalazion. My family Doctor, pronounced it the largest he has ever seen. I suspect I have gotten it from an excess of dust, from both poultry and mowing the orchard. I am posting the picture so anyone else who encounters this occupational hazard can see one. I also thought that those seeing it might feel sorry enough for me to remember me in your prayers.

WARNING: Medically GRAPHIC PICTURE FOLLOWS Scroll down if you wish....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Moving a Pole Building

This last weekend I moved a small pole building. It was built for pigs by my Dad and I about 18 years ago. It was no longer in a convenient place for pig raising. This was the second building we have successfully moved, and I thought the operation was interesting enough to give some pointers. My lovely and talented wife made the slide show. The basic technique is to raise the poles with a jack, cut the poles, then nail treated boards on all sides to connect them. The boards act as skids, and remain in place. The building survived a 100 foot trip, and is now completely portable. It is however, now about 3 more inches out of square, but the pigs do not seem particularly upset by this.

Dig generously around the poles, especially if the building is not on level ground.

When raising the building with the jack, be patient, listen for creaks.

I insert bricks to slowly raise the building on each side, then use the jack to go higher. Insert the bricks where they will not interfere with positioning the planks to connect the poles.

Be generous with nails, braces and anything to stabilize the building. It is especially important when bracing shed roof buildings to tie into the roof.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bantam nation

two years ago, I traded a gallon of cider and two Buff Orpington Pullets to a homesteading neighbor for six bantams, (five Japanese and one White Cochin).
There are now somewhere around 45-55 of them running around. I sold two boxes at Rogers Ohio in last year and in June this year. I sold four from an ad at the local mill, The day after I sold them, another four chicks hatched. They are breeding faster than I can get to market. If any readers are in the area and want a FREE starter flock, please email the midlandagrarian at gmail dot com.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A good Essay from Home on the Range

I have been meaning to post this in between garden cleanup sheep work and life.
Big Texas sized Hat Tip to the New Anglican Firearms Enthusiast for spotting this one and to Brigid over at Home on the Range for writing it. This article is important for those who want to maintain self reliance in an evil World and those who love their families enough to protect them, rather than denying the possibility of evil

Click Here to Read it All

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I have been busier than normal

We just finished the first Appleseed event at our farm, It was a great success. You can read about it here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rutherford Institute: Speaking Truth to Power

I became a member of the Rutherford Institute today. As I watch where our society and nation is going, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the loss of traditional civil Liberties in which both of the prominent political parties have been complicent. While our government is not explicitly Christian, our society and culture traditionally were Christian and this influenced politics in many good ways. I thought about this because of our church calendars recent commemorations of William Wilberforce, JS Bach, and Jane Austen. With the efforts to remove all religious references from public education, how can one really understand Wilberforce's tireless effort to end slavery, or Bach's music? What would a Muslim Jane Austen write? A true and lively faith informs all we do and touch.

Conversely, I am not comfortable with a church that associates too closely with the political power structure. The result of such alliances tend to corrupt the church, and the historical evidence for this can be seen from Tsarist Russia to the current timidity among some British Anglican leadership. The late historian Page Smith believed that it was a duty of the church to be the critic of society, especially a free capitalist one. That duty becomes difficult when the church is in the inner circle.

The Rutherford Institute is names after Rev. Samuel Rutherford, author of Lex Rex, one of the great landmark treatises in favor of human equality before the law. Rutherford was not a modern advocate of religious liberty (The concept of the freedom to be wrong had not been born yet). However, he realized the threat of tyranny in a government with unlimited powers, because he understood human nature.

"all kings, since the fall of the father, king Adam, are inclined to sin and
injustice, and so had need to be guided by a law, even because they are
kings, so they remain men. Omnipotency in one that can sin is a cursed

I spent a little time checking out the Rutherford Institute. While it is a specifically Christian organization, it has fought for the right of Muslim prisoners in the US to have access to religious material. Unlike the militantly secularist ACLU (Which seems to want freedom from religion) Rutherford has protected individual religious expression in public settings. The organization seem to have a consistent approach to Civil Liberties, including the lives of the unborn, concerns about the Patriot act,and Real ID. While not specifically a second amendment organization, I read enough of their material to believe they understand its proper role.

Supporting Membership starts with a modest $22. I would encourage others to learn about Rutherford and their work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The "Offensive" Name of Our Lord and Saviour

The name of Jesus, offends the Pa General Assembly (Hat tip to the Beautiful and talented Mrs Powel).

This is more historic amnesia, as we see from this prayer to open the Continental Congress in 1774, taken from one of many sites from New York Patriot Hercules Mulligan. This is a beautful prayer in the Anglican tradition which Quakers, Deists, Presbyterians, and Independents were willing to join in:

King of Kings and Lord of lords: who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth and reignest with power supreme & uncontrouled over all kingdoms, empires and governments, look down in mercy,we beseech thee, upon these our American states who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves upon thy gracious protection, desiring henceforth to be dependent only on thee. To thee they have appealed for the righteousness of their Cause; to Thee do they look up, for that countenance & support which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care: give them wisdom in council, valour in the field. Defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries. Convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause. And if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, O! let the voice of thy unerring justice sounding in their hearts constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their enerved hands in the day of battle. Be thou present, O God of Wisdom and direct the counsels of this honourable Assembly. Enable them to settle things upon the best and surest foundation, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that harmony and peace may effectually be restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety prevail and flourish amongst thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigour of their minds; shower down upon them and the millions they represent(13) such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ thy son, Our Saviour, Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Miss Jane Austen

For someone of my background and sensibilities, it is very easy to become depressed with the state of religion, politics, and culture in our country. I tend to hang onto any hope I encounter. A large source of such hope is provided by the young people I am privileged to worship with every Sunday. When I find out that these young adults are reading Jane Austen, I have a renewed hope for our nation and Christian civilization. I often feel like my generation messed up in so many ways; theological liberalism that destroys the chance to know both ourselves and God, unrestrained greed masquerading as economic liberty, and the sexual "revolution". In short, my generation of both extended adolescence and adolescents (60+ years for some of us) broke the chains of restraint that bound us to both our ancestors and our progeny. We partied on 401ks, easy credit, easy divorce, and rootlessness. The rebuilding is now up to the young. Reading Jane Austen is as good a start to reconstruction as I can think of. For those young men who might eschew Ms. Austen as "girlie lit", I would offer Peter Leithart's, advice that "Real Men Read Jane Austen". If Rev. Leithart is not "manly" enough, how about a half-educated redneck gun nut, sheepherder, and woodcutter who reads and profits from her?

My wife shares a birthday with the anniversary of the death of Miss Austen. While she is not considered a saint officially on any church calendar, many revere her memory as a woman who lived a Christian life and left an exemplary body of writing behind her. At least one Roman Catholic layman, prolific historian Paul Johnson, directly invokes her in his prayers. Anglicans are divided on this devotional practice, but we agree on revering the memory of the faithful departed by thanking God for their lives and contributions. In that spirit, Nicholas from the Comfortable Words recently composed and published this collect.

O ALMIGHTY God, who granted unto Jane Austen varied charms of character, and ennobled her by Christian faith and piety; to whom thou didst give grace to open her mouth in wisdom, and upon whose tongue thou didst set the law of kindness; Grant also unto us both to perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same. For the sake of Thine only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I offer it here in the hopes that it may be of use to others, and trust that Nicholas will not mind it becoming a well worn prayer of thanksgiving for this remarkable young woman. I also commend his recent essay on her, found here, as well as prayers she composed, found here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Season/July 4th Tea Party

This is a very busy time of year. It is haymaking time, garden work is at its peak.
The bantams are hatching chicks,and best of all the wild black raspberries are here. I am getting about 2-3 quarts per hour when I pick. It looks like the blackberries will come on strong this year as well. I love picking wild berries because it was my first agrarian employment. From the time I was about 5, I loved going off to the woods, eating my fill, and bringing berries back for my mom or Granny to make pies and jelly. I still eat at least a pint every time I pick.

It has been a funny spring. We had a very late frost and the past few nights have been very cool (down to about 50 degrees at night. Some of the warm season vegetables are not doing well, not sick-just lacking "bloom". The cabbage and onions are excellent, the broccoli is fair, and the green beans have been ravaged by deer. We will still get some, but myself or someone else will have to get those beans back in the fall-- after they are converted to protein.

There is not a lot of volume in anyone's first cut hay in this area. Many blame the late frost.

I have also been training Bob, a new farm dog we got from the Venango County Humane Society. He is about 2, and I think he is either part English Shepherd or Australian Shepherd. He has been here for three weeks and is still learning basic commands and just being with us. He is just starting to work ducks a bit, helping me pen them each evening. While I would not necessarily start a cowdog on ducks, They are a much quieter way to start a sheepdog.

I did get away from the farm to attend the July 4th Tea party in Mercer Pa. I could not think of a better way to honor our founders than to take advantage of our First Amendment Rights in this manner. There were perhaps 600 people there. I got there a bit late, so I did not get the main speakers name. His main topic was the Constitution and how both parties have been ignoring it for too long on so many basic matters. It was very heartening to see 600+everyday Americans listen attentively to a one hour lecture on our Constitution. They also gave anyone in the audience three minutes to speak so I got to plug the RWVA and Appleseed. The great thing about this event was that the career politicians did not steal the limelight or co opt the agenda. This was pure everyday Americans who know that the Republic is in trouble. By just being there, they were beginning to educate themselves so that once again we might become a people fit for self-government.

As we pass another independence day, I am reminded that our liberties are a gift from God. This does NOT mean that we as Christians seek temporal power as a means in itself. I was privileged to hear Rev. Dr. T David Gordon preach at Grace today, and when I think about Christians and government I always remember this excellent essay of his on the subject. However, we do have some very specific things to say to this culture and place, as Fr. Robert Hart reminds us in this very good sermon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Persecution in Connecticut

This from Chris Rosebrough, the admiral over at Pirate Christian Radio, all Christians need to follow what is happening in Connecticut (as well as growing persecution in the UK) I was actually shocked by the constitutional implications of this state interference in church affairs, and I am pretty hard to shock these days.

You can listen here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Site for Appleseed Range

I have a new weblog for the Appleseed Range. I will continue to post here about the farm and whatever else crosses my mind. I will occasionally cross post in both weblogs. However, I wanted to have a site for anyone planning to attend an Appleseed here and needing practical information without sifting through posts about how to build a sheep feeder, or various events in the life of a small Anglican church.

The new site is here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Appleseed Update

Just a quick post: Readers of this journal may know about our offer to use a part of our farm for the Appleseed program, as well as my own experience in this program, this past Patriot's Day.

It is now official. I am the host of the Timothy Murphy Memorial DAR (Designated Appleseed Range). After a poll of RWVA members, it was decided to name the range after a Pennsylvania born Hero of the Revolution, Timothy Murphy.The story of Timothy Murphy is proof how one common man can make a difference in history. His shot at Saratoga, helped win that battle, and Saratoga was the victory that allowed American diplomats to gain French and other European help.

The first Appleseed clinic will be here on August 15-16. Anyone can register at
the RWVA site. There is free primitive camping here, or nearby motels and full service campgrounds.

RWVA is a nonprofit group, Kids shoot free, Active duty military shoot free, ladies shoot free. Revolutionary War reenactors may also attend and shoot free if they wear their uniform (at least the first day and hopefully explain some of the history of their uniform). For the rest of us, the Clinic is $45 per day or $70 for both days. Register for both days and get a cool free T-Shirt. If the T-shirt is not enough, The combination of safety instruction, marksmanship training and American history is well worth a weekend.

I will be posting much more on this later.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Northern Agrarian Tours the South.

The Month of May is always a busy time, and this May was busier than most, as we traveled a couple of weeks ago. I actually wrote this two weeks ago, but have just had a chance to post it now.

My lovely wife and I are homebodies, but as her family is scattered from Massachusetts to South Carolina, we periodically need to meet various family obligations. So for the first time in two years, we spent a night away from home---actually four nights. Our destination was The South Carolina Low Country between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.

One of the reasons we don't travel much is that we have many responsibilities here. Leaving overnight forces us to call upon friends and family to watch over our livestock. They don't seem to mind, and are competent at the task, but every time I leave I feel like a new mother leaving her baby for the first time. I fret and worry the whole time.

Another reason is that I believe that my home country is superior to all others and I see no reason to leave it. However, I do understand that many other people feel this way. The peculiar love of ones home countryside was understood so well by Kipling:

God gave all men all earth to love,
But, since our hearts are small
Ordained for each one spot should prove
Beloved over all;
That, as He watched Creation's birth,
So we, in godlike mood,
May of our love create our earth
And see that it is good.

So one shall Baltic pines content,
As one some Surrey glade,
Or one the palm-grove's droned lament
Before Levuka's Trade.
Each to his choice, and I rejoice
The lot has fallen to me
In a fair ground-in a fair ground --
Yea, Sussex by the sea!

I rejoice that my own lot has fallen in the middle ground between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

The final reason I dislike travel is I don't ever feel like I have anything to get away from. When I get tired of my off farm job, I work at home in the garden or cutting wood. By the time I am sick of that, its time to go back to my off-farm job.
We don't need to go to the park, because we have our own park at the back of the farm. My wife and I both enjoy being together for simple things: going to town to buy groceries and beer, or going to buy bedding plants. For a big treat we take a day trip.

When we travel, we try to avoid large Cities. We took The Interstate through West Virginia and western Virginia (near Galax. Then we cut through the heart of North Carolina, through towns such as Yadkinville, Salsbury and Rockwell. The area is interesting to me because there was once a fairly prominent Pennsylvania German presence there.

Here is a great country store we stopped at south of Mount Airy; friendly proproetor and a great selection of Case knives.

The South is not ideal sheep country, and we saw more meat goats than sheep in the Carolinas. However, we did see this nice flock that had some Tunis among them. This was interesting to me, as Tunis were the breed of choice in the South before the Civil War.

I find the Low Country interesting, because it is the natural world there is so foreign to me. None of the tree of plant species are familiar.

The soil is very sandy, and I am somewhat amazed that anything grows.

I appreciate the low country, but would have a hard time adjusting my agrarian skills to survive there. However, I do like the local people. On Sunday morning, I attended early Service at All Saints Anglican on Pawley's Island.

The Parish was extremely warm and hospitable. Like many of the parishes in western Pennsylvania, the folks at All Saints are involved in court cases with the liberal Episcopal Church which is more interested in their real estate than their souls. As this parish was deeded by The King for an Anglican church in 1736, I would like to see it stay in faithful hands. However, like many orthodox in the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh, they will continue to meet wherever they can, if they lose.

The church had a fine bookstore, and I spent part of the afternoon reading JC Ryle and John Rocyhana, while perched somewhat unsteadily in a Pawley's Island Hammock.

We also spent about 20 minutes at the beach, and both of us had had enough. While the inland low country is foreign to me, it is a place where real people have lived for generations and built lives. I appreciate that it has its own cuisine, crafts, and local culture. By contrast, the beachfront resort areas are what James Kunstler would call capitals of unreality. People are drawn to live there under an illusion that they can escape from labor and live a carefree lifestyle of golf and parties. Even the old people in the beachfront communities dress (and often act) like graying adolescents. There is too much traffic, too much noise, it looks like one restaurant for every 3 people. I cant help but think that if someone believes that Myrtle Beach is getting away from it all, their life is WAY too hectic. Give me my northern agrarian rat race any day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Small Scale Grain Raising is Back in Print !

There are many helpful gardening and beginning homesteading books. I collect books from library sales and flea markets, and many cover the same ground in different ways. There are many good books to tell someone how to start vegetable seeds, plant a garden. preserve the harvest, and save heirloom seeds, as well as milk a goat, raise chickens or cut firewood. However, if you want to move beyond these common basics into how to raise a patch of wheat and make your own bread, or plant an acre of corn to feed your own chickens, the list grows MUCH shorter.

I commend to anyone interested, Small Scale Grain Raising. Gene Logsdon wrote this classic years ago. There is material in there that can be found nowhere else. Unfortunately, the book is an agrarian cult classic and used copies were trading on Amazon for up to $100. I paid $3.00 for mine, was very stingy about loaning it out, and kept it in a mylar book cover.
It is very exciting to see this come back in print in an affordable edition.

Many of the skills in this book are not hard. Growing grain is very easy. Spill some oats or wheat on the ground at the right time of year and they will grow. The key is processing that grain. Logsdon makes processing small grains like wheat, oats, and buckwheat possible for someone growing on a quarter acre "pancake patch".

The best place to buy the book is from another agrarian-the good folks at Cumberland books. You can find it here

I only have one issue with the 1977 edition that I hope was corrected in the new one. Logsdon uses and discusses the classic American Scythe. I inherited one and used it until I found out about the vastly superior Austrian Scythe. The American scythe is clunky and awkward. The Austrian scythe is a joy to use. I bought mine about 8 years ago from the Marugg Company. I also recommend them.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Agrarian Rat Race

Spring is a busy time on most small farms. We are done with lambing, but with grass now coming on, my inevitably saggy old fences need repaired. They are holding the sheep in more through the custom and good manners of the flock than by design. I need to change the oil in both tractors, do some clean up in the orchard and grape arbor, and I should be cutting next year's wood. We do have sweet and yellow Onions, Broccoli, early cabbage and cauliflower set in. The next month will bring serious gardening, buying feeder pigs, and more tasks than I care to list. I always chuckle inside about those who talk about the quiet lazy life of the countryside.

My Spring rat race is as old as farming, but there is today a more disturbing kind of agrarian rat race. I have seen many small farmers desperately try to break into commercial production to "make the farm pay". They channel enormous amount of energy into livestock or produce that they can sell, and forget to provide well for themselves and their household.

This trend is visible in both traditional commercial agriculture and the newer "sustainable models". On the traditional commercial side, I have neighbors whom I dearly love that are milking hundred of cows but buying their milk, eggs and most vegetables from the store. I have also known farmers who tried various sustainable or organic approaches and literally burned out financially or emotionally. One good man I know went broke following a "sustainable" grass based beef production model as he was trying to get the right cattle genetics and buying expensive New Zealand and Dutch grass seed.

I tried going down this road in my youth. My ambition was to clear most of the woods of the back of the farm and develop a big dairy beef grazing and feeding operation.
We also tried direct marketing vegetables and raspberries. On the former, I lost a pile of money when beef prices collapsed. On the latter my wife and I just burned out, especially her, as she was also baking to add to the lure of our produce. My big goal was to break free from off-farm work and make a full time living on the farm.

I was saved from this treadmill by a bit of luck, as I watched a much better capitalized farm go under. I was also greatly influenced by the writing of Gene Logsdon, who advocates the "garden farm" or "cottage farm approach much more akin to my grandparents farming style. You can read Gene's Blog here. I also recommend all of his books. He tends to have more practical how-to advice than his more famous friend Wendell Berry, and he is more irreverent, earning him the epithet of "the contrary farmer".

The basics of the cottage farm approach are built around the needs of the household. We need vegetables, fruit, meat, and heat in the winter. Meeting these needs diversifies the farm. I find that working at a wide variety of activities takes some skill and planning, but also prevents burnout. We don't make much money but we save money. By way of example, I only drink about a case of good beer a month, but some months the beer bill is as high as the grocery bill.

Cottage Farming is NOT "hobby farming". Our approach to farming allows my wife to stay home full-time. It pays our land and property taxes. Sometimes it allows for a few extras, like a new gun or a check to Ron Paul. It also allows us to eat healthy food, and get beneficial exercise form a variety of work. To trivialize this as a hobby is offensive. I do know real hobby farmers, but that is another story.

The other great thing about the cottage farming model is that it can work on a wider variety of properties and settings than modern commercial farming of either the conventional or sustainable kind. We could do much of what we do on less land than we have and the model would still work. For those with only a couple of acres, there is no better model than Harvey Ussery, a homesteading genius from Virginia.

Any aspiring agrarian should beware of any sustainable farming advice that makes lucrative financial claims. "Make $3,000,000 raising groundhogs on 20 acres" might work in very narrow circumstances, but the promoter has probably made more selling the groundhog raising book and getting speaker fees at organic agriculture conferences. It may very well be possible to make that three million on groundhogs, but the lifestyle it creates may not be a whole lot different from owning a real estate brokerage.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Earth is not G Rated

I have not seen this movie, but just read Russell Moore's excellent comments upon it. You can read it here.
My favorite line:

Being reminded of the wildness of the wild kingdom can be a helpful reminder to followers of Jesus. This universe is not the way its intended to be. It is bloody, violent, and often chaotic. We do not, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, yet see all things under the feet of humanity. But, "we see him who was for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9).

Being a keeper of livestock and plants is a continual reminder of the cruelty and harshness of the natural World. If it is bad, sad, or horrfying, I have seen it without ever leaving the farm. The most recent example: This winter, I lost my old chief Rouen Drake (Captain Jack) to old age (The exception in nature). Subsequently, two of his sons fought for control of the flock until one was so bloody and picked over I had to destroy him last week. This among ducks, which are among the gentlest and most helpless of creatures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Portrait by My Wife

"Any dumb SOB with a Dog and a Winchester can be a Sheepherder"
---old west cowboy proverb

Shepherd's Night Out

Tonight I attended the Annual Mercer County Sheep and Club Lamb Sale. Traditionally, the sale served two purposes, for shepherds to buy breeding stock, and a place for the 4H youngsters to buy club lambs to show for the summer fair season. Over the years, the breeding stock sale has diminished to a shadow of its former self. I believe there were only 68 head this year. I remember over 250 head for sale in the past. The breeding stock sale was over by 8:00, but in years past could go past 10:00 pm.

Some of this is reflective of declining sheep populations. Lamb consumption has declined significantly and a larger share of the lamb eaten by Americans is meat imported from Australian and New Zealand. Ironically, the number of US sheep are in decline, but sale barn prices remain pretty good. At least in my part of the World, sheep are about the last livestock that can reliable make a little profit for a small farmer in a conventional manner. If the lamb crop is OK and the shepherd watches the markets before sale day, he can make a bit of money. By comparison, cattle are like a wildly fluctuating stock market, sheep are like a low interest savings account. A flock of sheep was once common to every farm, but few farmers today seem to want the considerably greater trouble in raising them today. This can create some opportunities for the small farmer; though shepherding has its own set of troubles.

another reason for the shrinking sale is that show breeders do not get prices that meet their expectations. I am sympathetic to this,especially when I see a nice yearling ewe bring less than a market lamb. This means the breeder fed the animal for a year and got less than a 6 month old lamb. Show breeders from western Pennsylvania typically do better taking their stock to big national shows and sales in other states. I also sympathize with the attitude of the local buyer at this sale. A Ewe that might fetch $400-$500 at a big Midwest sale will still only make so many market lambs in her life, and he has to watch the dollars and cents of how much he can afford and still profit. At its worst, the show sale circuit is like the two peddlers in prison selling the same hat back and forth to each other, and inflating the price each time.

I did not go to buy anything, just to eat lamb sandwiches and visit. We live in the northern end of the Pennsylvania sheep belt, but its still a pretty small world. I saw most of the other sheep raisers I know from within a 50 mile radius. The lamb sandwiches are excellent-- $3.00 buys a big roll slathered with tender meat stewed in juice. Some people drive 80 miles just to eat there. After that I like to see what everyone is breeding, especially Cheviots, which we raise. Excuse the Cheviotcentric bias that follows on the breed commentaries.

These are some nice Cheviots from the Misty Acres flock. If I was there to buy, I would have bid on these.

A yearling Cheviot ram from the Diamond C flock. Diamond C used to be our nearest sheep raising neighbors and their adult son now carries on the tradition about a half hour north of us. Another animal worth owning.

This Diamond C Ewe wonders why I am bothering her with a camera

I am personally not a big Hampshire fan, but these are nice ones from the Clark Family's Sonshine acres near Meadville Pa

These Dorset lambs will grow to be good milkers and good mothers. We have had trouble with the breed in the past having bad feet. In my opinion, Dorsets also tend to be a little dumber than other breeds.

This skilled shepherdess shows a club type lamb, that might be bought for breeding stock or a 4H project. Note her control of the animal in the sale ring. These Suffolk type lambs are the most common breed in the US by far. They grow big but require mountains of feed. I like to cross them with Cheviots to produce bigger Cheviot type Ewe that eats less than a pure Suffolk.

This is the head of a Merino buck. The Merino was once the king of sheep in these parts, but that was when wool was worth considerably more. This guy's lambs will make wool soft enough for baby blankets.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Appleseed Project in the News

Here is a news story on last Patriot's Day from the new Appleseed you tube channel.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St George's Day and the Christian Patriot

Today the church commemorates Saint George. Patron Saint of England. There is a good brief account of his life in the always great Ohio Anglican blog here

I always try to keep this day as best I can for two reasons. First, I am of partially English descent. Second, in certain Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox reckonings, St George is considered the patron of Agriculture. As he was a soldier martyr, I have no idea why this is the case. I do know that in Russia, this is considered the day to turn the cattle out to graze. This makes agrarian sense to me, as our grass starts to grow about this time of year.

I thought about Saint George's cross as well this year because our New England ancestors used it on some of their flags in the fight against the crown.
On one level it seemed a little incongruous that I spent the weekend remembering Lexington and Concord right down to shooting at "redcoat" targets. then four days later remember that nation's patron saint. But this brings home the fact that the Revolution was a cousins' war. I discovered this gem of an essay on Christian Patriotism today from one of those now very distant cousins. It can be found here at the comfortable words blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patriot's Day Appleseed Shoot

This past weekend I attended the Patriot’s Day Appleseed shoot in Vienna Ohio. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I got involved in the program and had offered land for a DAR, Ohio, but this was my first shoot.

I am not an intuitive person. In fact, I am excessively analytical. I try not to jump into something with both feet, without thinking it out. With Appleseed I took an unusual risk. I was so moved by what I heard about the program, that I risked committing my farm, peace and privacy to make a part of it available. I made an emotional decision, rather than an analytical one.

My emotions were based upon the tender love I have for my Country, and love can be blinding. This realization makes me second-guess any emotional or intuitive decisions, especially when dealing with relative strangers. By attending the Vienna shoot, I would be able to see for real what kind of mess I might have gotten myself into.

Few things in my life exceed my expectations. This past weekend actually did. The history was presented with passion that made it relevant to today. The instructors were fantastic. The participants were from all walks of life. They ranged in age from 8 to 65. There were experienced shooters and those who never shot a rifle before. From the shoot boss to the most inexperienced shooter, they all shared a certain quality that I cannot describe except to say that these were people I tremendously enjoyed being around.

I was particularly impressed by the the safety system, which was set up to have several redundancies. Rifles remained in cars until the safety briefing. Everyone was given to understand that they were a range safety officer. Between shooting sessions, rifles remained unloaded, with safeties on, and grounded with a chamber flag inserted. Preparation for shooting was divided into a magazine loading period and a preparation period, where the unloaded rifle could be handled but not the magazine. Prior to firing, instructors walked the line and looked for any potential safety problem. I have never seen a mass shooting event where I would feel more confident in allowing an inexperienced shooter to handle a rifle.

Unlike competitive shooting, Appleseed can be shot with any safe rifle from .22 to .30 caliber. I strongly recommend a 22. About half the line was using the Ruger 10-22. I used a Marlin Model 80 bolt action 22. The variety was interesting. I saw a Ruger 77 Varmint rifle in .223, A marlin .22 lever. an FN/FAL in 308, a couple of Ar-15's and even one session shot with a Mosin Nagant 91/30. The program sort of recommends a semi auto .22 but the emphasis is on shooting skills, not choice of firearm.

The history included Lexington and Concord, a great presentation on flags of the Revolution, and I was honored to do a short demonstration with my flintlock long rifle.

All of the history was presented as it should be-the story of those who gave us this country and our obligation to keep and cherish that heritage by becoming active informed citizens.

I learned a lot in those two days. I learned about the "Massachusetts Revolution of 1774" and what it means to the concept of self government. I learned that I am not alone in getting choked up and a little teary eyed over our country's heritage. I learned a lot about speeding up target acquisition and recovering with a bolt action rifle (I need to learn more about this). I learned my decision to jump into this program with both feet was a good one.

How Did I shoot? Well, the Appleseed gold standard is 210 or better on a modified army qualification target (Expert Rifleman). Prior to going, I shot one at home and scored 185 (sharpshooter). Under the constraints of timing I had more trouble. My first target was 155 (marksman). After a cadence drill, I got up to 194. My final two targets were 203 and 205. This improvement was due to the fact that every instructor had something to offer. The instructors (orange hats) also worked with every other shooter to get their skills and scores up. A cousin who attended with me suffers from very bad knees. They worked with him to alter shooting positions to something he might be able to live with.

Riflecraft is an essential part of the agrarian life. Without my rifle, I would not have a garden or any livestock left from the numerous varmints around here. There is no better way to improve riflecraft (and just maybe save a country that is dying from lack of love) than to attend an Appleseed event.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday 2009: Locked in the Grain Shed

In my off farm job, I get a half day off for Good Friday, so I went home to do farm chores before church. Sometimes in the course of getting work done, I make more work for myself. I have a small 12X12 building to store feed grain and a few hand tools. The door was scrounged from somewhere, and sometimes blows open in high winds, so last Fall I nailed a short board beside it to keep it. About 2:00 on Good Friday, I needed a shovel. Because my cowdog was with me, and there was a litter of kittens inside, I did something I almost never do-closed the door from the inside. The minute I did, the homemade keeper on the outside swiveled into locked position.

I was stuck inside. While my dog Nipper is very bright, she is too short to reach the lock. I am not claustrophobic, but I did have things to do. My wife could not hear if I yelled. I had enough tools in the shed to break out, but anything I break, I have to fix.

In the end, I decided that the door was the most expendable part of the building. On the fourth hard kick, it broke enough for me to reach the swivel with a piece of stick. I spent part of the rest of the day fixing my own mess.

Some messes I can fix myself. My legs are strong enough to kick though a decrepit door. One mess I can't fix is the one inside me. As Mike Horton puts it, "We are all trapped in a burning elevator comprised of of our own narcissistic existence and need a rescuer". The message of good Friday and Easter is that someone comes to open a door I can't kick through. He takes the mess of my life upon himself, and ultimately kicks down the door of sin, hell, and death. This lets me out of the burning elevator.

Our Good Friday Service was an occasion of particular solemn joy because our Anglican church was joined by two Presbyterian pastors and their flocks. The church we rent from (Highland Presbyterian) joined us, as did Gateway Evangelical Presbyterian Church . The homily was delivered by Rev. Dr. T David Gordon, who is a PCA minister, also licensed to preach in our diocese.

So our 1928 Anglican prayer book service was conducted by three Presbyterians and one Anglican clergyman. I thought a lot about standing in this little church in my western Pennsylvania hometown, but also at a crossroads of Geneva and Canterbury. Presbyterians and Anglicans, like all parts of the church, have a checkered history. I remembered that Calvinists in 17th Century England used to steal the surplices from Anglican churches and throw them in outhouses. In an attempt to bring episcopal church government to Scotland, many Anglicans persecuted the Presbyterians, including drowning by chaining women out a low tide. Presbyterians hacked apart an Anglican Bishop in front of his daughter.

I know way too much shameful history to romanticize the past of any confession.From the outrageous savagery of the Byzantine empire to the brutality of the English Civil War, The church has proven it is comprised of sinners. I also know there is no better place for sinners to stand together than at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Words I never tire of saying or hearing

At every Communion Service of my Church we confess our sins together. The pastor then reads the words which I never get tired of hearing, known as the"comfortable words" :

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honor and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Priest stand up, and turning to the People, say,

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then shall the Priest say,

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.

COME unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.
St. Matt. xi. 28.
So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John iii. 16.

Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.

Hear also what Saint John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins. 1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

I like this so well that I sometimes look the comfortable words up on google, and read them in different versions of the Bible or book of Common Prayer. I am grateful to God to have lived long enough to see this Internet thing. Otherwise I would never find treasures like this One Recommended reading for Holy Week.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Appleseed Project

More days than not, when I come home from work, my lovely wife has some snippet of Internet news for me. A few weeks ago I came home, and she said, "I heard this on Genesis Communications Radio, you HAVE TO listen to it. You SHOULD get involved in this group". I sat down to listen more as a dutiful husband than with genuine Interest. The Radio host (Alex Jones) was obnoxious, but the guest was awesome. For two hours, I listened to Sam Damewood tell about the build up to Lexington and Concord, and how the men and women of Massachusetts finally took up arms against the British incursion. I knew the story. I have a shelf of books about the American Revolution. I have been to Lexington Green and Concord Bridge (It was very moving experience). However, when I heard Mr. Damewood tell that story, I realized I was listening to someone who believed in our founding values and really gets what America is about. I started to choke up out of gratitude for those who risked their lives to found our country.

Sam Damewood is a member of the American Revolutionary War Veterans Association, a non-profit group that has two functions.

1. Teach Americans the real story of how we became a country, starting on April 19 1775 when a bunch of every day New England farmers and businessmen took on a professional army,nearly destroyed that army, and sent it scurrying back to Boston.

2. Revive the tradition of rifle marksmanship that is an essential part of our American heritage as free citizens.

RWVA does this through Appleseed shoots, two day clinics around the nation. At each event, participants will learn basic gun safety, how to hit a target, and hear the story of what happened on April 19th 1775 at Lexington and Concord.

You can listen to the interview here.

I am not a big fan of the Alex Jones Show, but I am grateful for him having Appleseed on his show. However, one does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to see that something is drastically wrong with our nation. Appleseed is not another political group or party. Appleseed is about the fact that we as lazy 21st Century Americans have allowed ourselves to get in this mess. The solution is to stop,step back and see where we have been. By going back to April 19, 1775, we can take a hard look at how far we have degenerated from our collective ancestors. We can also learn one skill (Riflecraft) that they had, making us more self-reliant. If we can recover something of the spirit of those people, we might again become more like them (I am not a romantic, but they were objectively better people than we are in many ways).

I am at a stage in my life where I am not a great joiner. I vote, and participate in political activities as a citizen, but I don't usually do it in an organized effort. I am a confirmed communicant/voting member of my church. I am a dues paying member of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. I pay my dues to a couple of second amendment organization when I get around to it. That's about it. After I heard Sam Damewood, I joined the American Revolutionary War Veterans Association, and signed up for a shoot.

I am also a private person. My social life is pretty limited to church, family and neighbors. Because I work and farm, we don't travel much. We are of modest financial means. We are however, relatively land rich. My wife and I decided to make 50 isolated acres on our farm available to the Appleseed program, through its Designated Appleseed Range. This gives the instructors a home base for clinics as well as training instructors.

Neither of us relish the idea of strangers on our farm, but we really believe in the mission of RWVA. Here is the part of our farm that will become a Designated Appleseed Range.

The area has a natural backstop for safety.

I am also as busy as anyone I know. Many weeks I work 55 hours off farm and do any garden, livestock, and firewood cutting chores in my "spare" time. The last thing I need is another "project", but when I ponder our collective ancestors that got up to face royal tyranny, I remember they were busier than I. I don't believe for a minute that any of the men of Massachusetts wanted to go stand up to the Redcoats. They had families, businesses, and farms. They had firewood to cut, fences to mend gardens to tend, and obligations to their families, church, and neighbors. To be shot by a .75 caliber musket ball is a serious matter today, in the 18th Century it would mean, likely amputation or death. If unsuccessful, they would likely face treason charges. It would have been easier to "Go along to get along."

The Massachusetts training bands that faced the British were not like other revolutionary movements. They were not led to desperate acts by extreme poverty like the French and Russian Revolutions. They were not wild ideologues that believed that they could make utopia here on earth, like the Nazis or communists. They were middle class people with arguably the World's highest standard of living (Though the closing of Boston's Port by the Crown had badly harmed the local economy). These were men with something to lose. They owned homes, and farms. These men were also grounded in traditional pessimistic Christian anthropology, as taught in the Bible and Saint Augustine. They understood Man's capacity for radical evil, and that concentrations of power equal concentrated evil. They were standing out there staring down professional soldiers because they knew that the royal attempt to exercise power without constitutional restraints was something that had no end.

Here's the deal. Without self government, there is no liberty. Without liberty, nothing you cherish is safe. Your livelihood, your family, every possession, is up for grabs to any "official" strongman. This self government and the liberty that comes with it are intertwined. It cannot be sustained without an active, informed citizenry. Appleseed does not tell you what to do or involve any political platform. Its only agenda is to inspire you to become that active informed citizen, through having some fun, learning, and meeting other everyday Americans.

Read about men like this man, or this one. Then look in the mirror and make a comparison. If you don't like what you see
Get over to RWVA and get signed up.
Perhaps you will sign up and come shoot here. I have a very nice place for a range.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Affordable Homestead Rifle

When I was younger, I bought and sold a lot of guns. As an older guy, I am hesitant to own any one possession that is very expensive. My guns are tools. I cannot bear to strap a $1000 rifle to a tractor fender or throw it in the back of a truck. I don't abuse my guns, but they get used. This means little scratches on the stocks or blueing. For that reason, I mostly own and carry bargain basement guns. One of of my favorites is the Mosin-Nagant M44. It is an accurate rifle that can be bought for $100 or less and the money saved can buy a lot of ammunition to practice rifle craft with. I am posting about it today because it accompanied me on a winter picnic two weeks ago.

I killed my first groundhog of the year with is this weekend.

The M44 was made for the Russian military beginning in 1944. It can be bought in arsenal refinished condition for about $70 (I payed $65 for my handpicked one at a gun show a couple of years ago). It fires a 7.62X54 rimmed cartridge that is basically equal to the 30-06 US round. For around $75 a sealed can of 300 rounds can be bought at a gun show or stocking dealer. I pay about $11 for a box of Russian hunting ammunition at a dealer. The hunting ammunition is a big 202 grain bullet made for hunting Finnish and Russian moose.

The advantages of the M44 are many. It is physically strong and well made. As it was made for military service, it can be dropped without worrying that a fragile part will break. For target shooting, it quickly reloads from 5 round stripper clips.

It is short and handy; about the length of a saddle carbine. In spite of its short length, it weighs about as much as an M-1 Garand. I like this as I do a lot of shooting from a rest. The 7.62X54r cartridge will take any North American game. In military full metal jacket loads it will take out the engine block of most cars. after a century of use, the cartridge remains the standard Eastern European sniper round. The M44 also field strips as easy as any rifle ever made. The bolt can be disassembled for cleaning without tools. You tube has an extensive selection of dis-assembly information. It will kill groundhogs at 100+ yards from prone, and today an easy 45 yard offhand shot. Its accuracy is more than sufficient for practical use with the stock military open sights.

This is not a perfect rifle. The safety is not particularly positive. The safety spring is hard and must be twisted just right or it will click off. I would not trust a youngster with it. Due to the short barrel, the rifle is loud and recoil is sort of stout. The inexpensive ammunition is all from foreign sources. Much of it is corrosive primers, which means the rifle MUST be cleaned within 24 hours of shooting or the agents in the primers will deteriorate the bolt and barrel. The m44 was also sighted to be fired with the side attached bayonet extended. Many shoot slightly to the left (Mine was zeroed at about 6" left at 100 meters unless the bayonet was extended.) unless the shooter either extends the bayonet, learns to compensate, or manually adjust the sights. I have never used the bayonet for anything but a kickstand to keep the rifle out of the dirt. The final disadvantage is again from the foreign ammunition. It is cheap, but not available at Walmart or most sporting goods shops. It may not always be cheap so stock up. Years ago I bought a lot of .303 British surplus ammunition at about $5.00 for 60 round bandoleers. As the surplus stocks dried up, the prices rose. Also, foreign ammunition could be subject to an import ban or our continued good relations with the countries that sell it, such as Bulgaria. If you buy this rifle; use the money saved to buy enough ammunition to last a while. Happy shooting.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sheep Feeder Project

"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly"

-GK Chesterton

When not plowing snow, chopping ice, and cutting firewood, Winter can be a good time to work on homestead carpentry projects. Since we reconfigured the barn, we needed new sheep feeders. When we had a big commercial sheep flock, the feeders were permanently installed They were solid, but the inflexibility of the system made it hard to adjust pen size for lambing, catch pens, moving manure and hay storage. The barn now has only two small permanent pens in the back corner. The rest of the barn has pens made of livestock panels that can be easily adjusted. The new feeders need to be portable too.

We gave serious consideration to buying new metal bunk feeders. However, for our small flock this would have cost us about $900. The metal feeders are really nice, but just not economically feasible. I researched a number of different designs for portable homemade wooden feeders and settled on this one from Canada.
I ended up building it for about $18-$20.

I cannot give you a step by step guide to how I built it, because most of the materials were scrounged. With any project I do, I seldom am able to follow plans to the letter because that would require new materials. I worked with a bunch of free waste lumber I got from a local doctor who was remodeling his office. The boards still had drywall screws in them and some had wiring holes. The other lumber was mostly odd pieces left from other projects.

It takes me much longer to do things this way. I root through piles of wood and try fitting them like a puzzle. I use screws first, before I nail anything, because I may need to take it apart and re-adapt. One adaption with this project was changing some of the width of the lumber to fit the length of a large box of screws I got at a yard sale for $3.00.

The screws only work with one inch stock, so I had to use more one inch stock and consequently more braces to make it sturdy. Here is a castoff clamp that can no longer be used for fine woodworking because the end broke and it mars the wood. I wonder if the sheep will notice?

I thought at this point it looked like weird church pew. The 2x10 on the bottom of the feed trough part and the 2x6 in front are the only pieces of new wood in the picture. I have no idea where the plywood back came from.

Here is a view of the complete feeder. I installed it by skidding it from the workshop to the barn across the ice.

I don't think I will ever be nominated for the fine woodworking hall of fame. However, I was able to save a considerable amount of money and end up with a serviceable feeder that should last for years, even if it was done badly. There is some pride in using castoffs to build something nice. It is also essential to a true agrarian economy.