Friday, September 30, 2011

Stacking the Deck Against Small Farms

Imagine owning a Mom and Pop Hardware Store. Imagine that every time you sell a power tool, a dollar is taken from you by the "Hardware Retail Alliance". This money goes to advertise your big box competitors like Lowes or Home Depot.

That is exactly what happens every time our small farm sends a steer or heifer to a livestock auction.Big Companies like Monsanto and Con Agra are using my beef checkoff money to sponsor something called the "Food Dialogues" a faux town hall meeting to try to undo the damage from Movies like Food Inc. and Farmageddon. You can read about is here in at the American Conservative Magazine's website (AmCon is one of the only truly conservative political magazines left in America).

To make things even better, a judge in Wisconsin has ruled that Americans have no right to produce and consume their own food.

I am no libertarian or anarchist. I do not believe rights are absolute; they end where your neighbors' rights begin. If you see my other blog, you may know that a large part of my off-farm professional work deal with balancing property rights against those of a neighbor or a community at large. Local law properly executed can protect private property while minimizing restrictions. What this judge has done is the equivalent of changing a zoning ordinance from regulating the size of a building to mandating the color of the kitchen walls. It may be a reasonable exercise of law to ban selling tainted milk to school children. What is on my dinner plate from my goat or my garden is my own business.

As Walter Jeffries said, we need to start raising a stink. A good start is buying local and ending EVERY FARM SUBSIDY.

Monday, September 26, 2011

New rant at the new blog

I try to write with charity, but I drove by something today worth a rant.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Endings and Beginnings (what happened to granny miller blog)

Update, November 2012 : The site has been restored at

I received a comment today asking about the new site. It is not complete, but it can be found here After years of blogging, I never wrote about how I make my off-farm living. Inspired by my friend Herrick Kimball's wonderful blog about our agrarian past, I will be looking at the prospects for an agrarian future in the midst of urban America.

I also owe many of the readers of my wife's now defunct website a more complete obituary. Early this year, my wife made the conscious decision to spend a lot less time on the web, and more time living her life. As Granny Miller became more popular, it was taking 3+ hours of each day. She really did want to keep the site and videos up until December, but in the midst of this, we had to care for a very sick family member. With my very time consuming business, our farm, and the need to care for a loved one, the accidental loss of the website seemed of little consequence. Since the You tube videos were only an introduction that linked to necessary and more in depth information on the website, she removed them out of a sense of responsibility that someone not misuse something incomplete.

I know there is strong interest out there for homesteading skills. The best advice I can give someone who wants to learn canning and small farming is to find a real world Granny or Grandpa. They are out there, even in cities. Last year I had a fascinating conservation with an older Bulgarian man about food preservation and scything fodder for livestock. We had this conversation on the stoop of a Manhattan apartment. There are people with skills worth learning wherever you live. Go meet them.

When my wife started Granny Miller, there were not as many homesteading sites on the web. It seems there is a new one every day. As someone who was raised on a farm and has consciously practiced homesteading skills for decades, I am not sure this is completely a good thing. The information I see on the web ranges from worthwhile to dangerously idiotic. Bad canning practices will kill you as quick as tainted industrial food.

If you are interested in seriously building agrarian skills, the best information is still in print media. Countryside and Small Stock and its family of magazines is a treasure of good information. I have copies back to the 70's. A small magazine out of Ohio called Farming is also worth its weight in Gold. One of the lessons I have learned from Media Ecology is that we also retain information better from the printed word than electronic media, so the small cost of these magazines is a great investment for any aspiring agrarian.

I also want to let Granny Miller readers know that she is doing well. She is training a rat terrier puppy, learning to upholster furniture, painting our new chicken coop, and cleaning up the last of this year's garden. She is also stumping locally for Ron Paul. Her Internet use these days is limited to Netflix and following celebrity gossip (we all have our vices!). I would be shocked it she ever returns to blogging.

I will continue to write as time permits as my professional obligations keep me at a computer for several hours each day. If you are interested, I look forward to seeing you over at the the Agrarian Urbanist.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

John Seymour Classics Back In Print

My family imparted to me, and later my wife, a great number of practical agrarian skills. However, growing up in an age where the myths of unending progress prevailed, I had to get much of my agrarian philosophy elsewhere. It all started with an Eric Sloane book I found in a used bookstore when I was 16. When I was 18, I found a copy of John Seymour's memoir "Fat of the Land" in the local library. I was hooked. Over the years I have collected many of his 41 books, which was fairly difficult before the Internet. If you are interested in any aspect of self sufficiency, you really need to read John Seymour. He is the father of the modern self sufficiency movement, and his works range from purely practical to some hard hitting social criticism. However, unlike many social critics, his books impart genuine affection for people. He understood that economies, farms, communities, are for PEOPLE, and we should not be mere cogs in service of the great god economy. Along with Gene Logsdon and Eric Sloane, John Seymour's ideas made me (for better or worse) the person I am today. If you are a fan, you may not know that his family has continued homesteading in Wales, and are bringing back some of his earlier works. I just received the news that his memoir of moving to Wales from England (I'm A Stranger Here Myself) has been brought back into print, and promptly ordered a copy. You can visit the family site at carninglipress. They also started a John Seymour quote Twitter Feed