Tuesday, November 22, 2005
For the last few weeks, we've been busy at every opportunity setting fence posts for approximately 600 feet of new field fence. We have been accomplishing this at a pretty decent rate using one of man's greatest inventions; the post hole digger. For those of you who are familiar with this tool, it will rapidly develop bulky triceps, deltoids, and pectorals, especially when used following 5 weeks of minimal rain. The ground has been hard as a rock, so some of these holes have been a bit difficult. But, despite the hard ground we've been making good time and I must say, have dug some of the truest and and most precise fence post holes around.
That brings us to this weekend. With only 10 holes remaining, a neighbor of mine realizes that we are setting fence posts. He tells my wife to have me come to his house and get his tractor with the post hole auger attached. Now my neighbor is a great guy and lets me use whatever I need off his farm. He has every implement and labor saving tool known to modern farming and has 4 tractors with different implements installed so he doesn't have to change them as often. He simply does not understand why anyone would attempt to do something by hand that could be done with a machine. He tells me when I come over, "you can't dig holes in that ground with post hole diggers, ground's just too hard". Now remember, I've already set more than 20 by hand. So, long story short, I agree to take his auger back over to finish. I figure maybe it'll speed things up and I can get my fence stretched a little sooner.
I proceed back to my farm riding on my neighbor's tractor which is missing on at least one cylinder, but in general running well, and head out to the field behind the house. I retrieve two of my sons to assist and we quickly get our last line strung and post positions marked. All we have to do is start drilling. First hole starts well but won't go below a foot or so deep. Being the physics minded guy that I am, I tell son #1, grab a post and use it to apply a little leverage with your weight to force the auger down. Good idea, but he simply doesn't have enough gravy and biscuits in him yet. So we trade places and I apply the weighted leverage, lo and behold down it goes. By the way, I've ridden bulls that were smoother. We pull the auger out, move the tractor and check our hole. There's quite a bit of loose dirt, but easily removed with the post hole diggers. What's this? My hole is crooked. Much to my chagrin, I discover that despite starting plumb, as the auger encounters harder layers of soil, it seeks the path of least resistance and goes that way. I spend 10 minutes plumbing up my hole. With what? You guessed it, post hole diggers. Oh well on to the next hole. This time, the auger won't go past a foot, no matter how much weight we apply. It hit a hardened surface that it won't penetrate. Another 10-15 minutes with the post hole diggers and a little muscle to break up the hard clay and, voila I'm done with the second.
Each of the next three holes offered similar challenges up to and ending with the fifth hole. I say ending with the fifth hole, because this is when the tractor ceases to operate. Despite, my neighbor installing new plugs and messing with it for a half an hour, it won't run. By this time, I've got to stop for the day because of a previous planned event with my family. I must call it a day with my holes not complete and my neighbors tractor parked in my field with the auger still inserted in a hole.
I have no problem with using tractors or implements when it is wise and good for my farm. But, it is not always best to look to avoid work. This day's events left me with several lessons. In this situation, the equipment and technology I was using was not more efficient because of the relatively small size of the job, and the soil conditions were not optimal for this type of auger. My holes were much truer and clean and didn't require any rework, like that of the auger. My body was getting a good workout during hand digging unlike the breathing fumes and doing very little real work while using the tractor. When digging by hand, I enjoyed the quiet of the countryside and either spent time meditating on things or talking to a family member. Using the tractor, I couldn't hear anything and had to constantly yell to communicate with my sons. When all was said and done, this was a job that would have been best left to muscle and sweat. I could have accomplished the task, most likely in less total time, better than the machine, and with greater benefit to my mind and body by hand. There's a lot to be said for doing things the old fashioned way.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
We made good progress Saturday on our conversion of a pasture to food plot. The area that I discussed a few days ago is the future home to several fruits, vegetable plots, raised beds, etc. We would also like it to be a pleasant, beautiful place to escape to for quiet times. I've posted a few pictures of the area as we are setting fence posts. You may notice our bee hives in the picture on the left.
My two oldest sons, my wife, and myself spent most of Saturday working on the fence line. This fence has to be in before we continue, in order to keep our horses out. It will also allow us to remove a chain link fence from our backyard that we consider an eyesore, as well as making the backyard too tight for us.
Me and my oldest son Matt.
Well, I must get to bed. Check back in tomorrow, maybe I'll have more thoughts than pictures, guess I'm just too tired to think tonight. It's good to be tired. God bless.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
My thoughts are somewhat scattered today, much as "Tnfarmgirl's" a few days back. I have been reading many of the agrarian based blogs and find that there are many out there who think like we do. But, it also leaves me longing that much more for the life that I hope to lead. As each day passes I seem to be less and less content with my current state. I have always tried to do well for my employers, it's the right thing to do. But, I am absolutely sick of the system that I am part of. Read "Agrarian Life vs. Industrial Life" at "The House of Degenhart" if you don't know what I mean. I know that I must remain in this system for now, but I pray that God would make a way for me to escape sooner. I know that He will, and for that I am thankful.
Our pursuit of a debt free life has also been on my mind today. We are headed in the right direction, as we have spent a great deal of time lately evaluating our current financial state, budgeting, and making tough decisions. One of the decisions we are on the verge of making, is to eliminate credit cards from our life. We've had them our entire marriage, and to be honest it's a bit scary thinking about living without them. They have always been a security blanket and we've always come up with an excuse to hang on to them. Pray for us as we walk through this.
Time has been on my mind as well. Specifically, time with the love of my life, my beautiful wife. When you have five children, two jobs, homeschool and a fledgling farm, it can be difficult not to neglect the most vital relationship God has given us. We are very much in love, but our time together often takes a back seat to everything else. We have begun forcing ourselves to take this time. If nothing else, we slip away for a couple of hours to have a cup of coffee in town. Sometimes we simply go walk our farm together or do some fun farm work alone (brushing horses). As a husband and wife, we are formed into a new creation with God, two people fused together with God, hence the title of our blog, a Three Fold Cord. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says that a three fold cord is not easily broken. The marriage we have on Earth is symbolic and representative of the relationship of Christ to the Church bound by the Father. Of all relationships we have on Earth there is none that compares, we should treat it appropriately. I may expound on this in a future post, there is an awesome revelation found in this concept.
Well, I'm done. It always feels nice to voice (in this case type) what's on our mind. I feel much more organized now. Hope my babbling blesses someone. By the way, I'm urging my wife to get busy with her first post, I'm anxious to see what it will be about. Help me to egg her on.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Directly behind our house is approximately 1 1/2 acres of cleared land that is currently pasture for our horses. We decided that this site would become our family food site. It will be home to raised beds for vegetables, fruit trees, blueberries, grapes, etc. But, the first step was new fencing which would keep livestock and horses on one side and our German Shepherd on the other. And, that began yesterday. I set the first few corner posts late yesterday afternoon and will continue work today. We hope to post pictures of our progress over the next months and even years. Its fun to share with others and it may inspire someone who wants to do the same. I know that I have often enjoyed seeing the progress of other agrarians, and pick up many good ideas and tips simply from the pictures. Check in often and look for posts on our family garden.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Avoiding all the painful details, let's just say that Julie and I have incurred enough debt over our 18 and half year marriage to classify us as average Americans. This is the result of both, lack of discipline, and a few times, out of necessity. Despite both of us being raised in good Christian homes, proper handling of finances was not a well taught subject in either of our families. Needless to say, we had to figure it out for ourselves. Thank God, we now know what to do, and how to do it, but it is far more difficult to recover from debt than to have avoided it in the beginning. In our pursuit of Christian-Agrarian self sufficiency the top two items on our list were; (1) eliminate debt and incur no more, and (2) provide all the food in our house from our own farm or friends and neighbors' farms. Both can be accomplished at the same time, but the former was deemed our highest priority. Credit debt was in direct opposition to self sufficiency, so we decided it had to go now.
To accomplish this goal, we took on some off farm business to make an immediate impact. In addition to my engineering job, we teamed up with a friend and purchased a couple of fixer upper homes to remodel and sell. We have completed one of the homes and it's currently on the market, and have begun work on the second. It's not ideally what we would like to be doing right now, but we saw no other way to attack the debt without some fairly large amounts of money. God has blessed us with loyal, trustworthy partners that have made this possible, and we are thankful for them. Much of our time has been consumed; time that we would prefer to invest in our farm, but we realize that this extra work will make our dreams possible.
Living this way is painful, but it is the reward for our actions. All that spending must be paid for at some point, and we are at that point. Years of justifying purchases for various (often impatient) reasons are now causing us to wait on a Godly and wise move in our life. We are developing much virtue, finally. Oh, how much better it would have been, had that virtue been instilled by our parents. Which brings me to the point. As parents, one of the most important areas of teaching in our homes should be financial planning and understanding. We see an area where our parents erred and must not allow that error in our house. I intend to prepare my children with excellent knowledge of economics, purchasing, and financial planning. But, most importantly, imparting Godly Wisdom, on how to apply that knowledge.
Many view debt as a curse, I don't know if I agree with that or not, but it does feel like a curse when it is passed from generation to generation. I choose to take a stand and break that curse in my house, and free my children to live free of dependency on man's systems and be in deeper relationship with God.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
We have a mile long list on our farm of things to do and are in the beginning stages of several agricultural ventures as well as finishing up a couple of off farm jobs. Taking in to account my full time day job, spending time with family, and completing the off farm business, I've not got much time left for completing my farm jobs. I find myself grabbing a bit of time here and there to work on my list. Even though it's usually hard work, I find myself looking so forward to doing it. Recently, it has been clearing a roadway and potential new pasture of dead trees and brush.
Our small woodlot makes up about half of our 18 acre farm. The majority of it is yellow pine with a decent sampling of hardwoods. A pine beetle infestation from a few years ago left a great deal of pines dead and they are now falling. Fortunately for us, the trees most affected were grouped together on about 2 acres and are adjacent to another 2 acre pasture already existing. So we've gotten busy cleaning up our roadway into it and clearing this area, so as to create some needed pasture for the future. And on the side we've been finding the occasional downed hardwood and cutting some firewood.
At the end of our last outing, my wife commented about our fresh stack of firewood. She was amazed at how gratifying it was to walk out to our carport and see that neatly stacked wood. Our whole family had taken part and it felt good to be outdoors, accomplishing something useful, and sharing time together as a family. Each of our children took part, and we even took our less than obedient German Shepherd, (on a nice long tether of course). Each child did their part, except for the 19 month old, who basically sat in the cab of the truck pushing all the buttons he could find, including switching from the front fuel tank to the rear, which was empty. That took us a few minutes to figure out when the truck wouldn't start. My oldest son, the fitness nut, learned what an intense workout swinging a twelve pound splitting maul can be. And my wife managed to sneak in a school lesson or two on wood characteristics and tree growth. It's always fun conducting school when they don't know school is in session.
All in all, it was good day. I felt more fulfillment from my afternoon on the farm, than I get in a month at my job. I had done something real, that added value to my life and to my farm. My list hadn't gotten much shorter, but a lot had been accomplished!