A few years ago we began asking the children this question: “If you could pick one farm project, what would it be?” We got many wide-ranging answers, some realistic, some not. One answer was given by our son – meat rabbits. Our first step was to have him do what free and readily available research he could. Once he exhausted our own home library, we bought the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, a pre-owned copy of course. The Storey’s Guide series are one of our go-to introductions to any topic. They are well-written by experts in the specific topic relevant to each book, they start from the beginning specifically for someone with no knowledge of the topic, and they go into enough detail that anyone could start that project without a more advanced book. Continue reading
Tag Archives: homesteading
“Many hands make light work.” I would argue that many small hands make light-hearted work. Children love to help, and often get giddy with excitement when there is an outdoor job to be done. Many times the job to be done couldn’t possibly accommodate as many workers as have volunteered, so I try to delegate down to the smallest task to involve as many willing helpers as possible. Usually this means the smallest children have completed their part of the job very quickly and move on to asking poignant and sometimes existential questions about the work we are doing, followed by spontaneous outbursts of energy which most times will culminate in a game of tag around the area where I continue to work.
Like the phases of matter, solid to liquid to gas, these phases of children’s helpfulness are just part of the natural order of things. They heat up and cool down, settling back in to take a knee for a couple more questions before exploding outwards at full speed with no warning. If I were to time how long the job would take, I would not be surprised to learn that it took me far longer to complete the work with their help than without, but neither I nor they would have gotten nearly as much enjoyment out of it. Pausing to wipe sweat from my brow becomes a moment of joy, my sore back and aching feet forgotten as I watch the children squealing with joy when a hand just misses its mark or a ball goes flying over a head. They are helping me dig this hole just as much as if they held the shovel themselves.
The concept of crop rotation is not a new idea. It is an idea as old as agriculture. Crop rotation, simply put, is growing a variety of plants in a planned manner to ensure that one species is not grown in the same field for multiple years in a row. It requires a certain amount of diversification, and on the larger industrial scale it can present problems in the need for many different equipment schemes for planting and harvesting. Modern agriculture ‘solves’ this dilemma by ‘scientifically’ replacing, in the form of fertilizer, what it considers to be all of the nutrients that the crop has removed from the soil in the previous year, and replanting that same crop. There are many problems with this plan that are not in the scope of this article to address.
I find it interesting to read agricultural texts from different eras of our civilization. At the present moment I am increasing my collection of USDA Yearbooks of Agriculture, which I would recommend to anyone who is curious about agricultural techniques, policies, and studies. Particularly interesting to me are those books which were published during and directly following the Great Depression. In these years, agricultural science was making great leaps and bounds, not necessarily with new discoveries but with scientific proof that the practices of the preceding millennia were indeed spot-on, and that we should continue following our ancestors’ examples of land husbandry.
When explaining my decision to use only hand tools to accomplish all of my tasks, as an agrarian I could give the simple answer: they guarantee my commitment to hard work. Often times, I stop the explanation there. When approaching a project, I would rather choose the path that puts my body to work, giving my mind time to think while my body completes the task at hand, rather than only using my mind while letting my body languish. It is more satisfying and more healthful this way. I don’t use hand tools just because I enjoy it more, though. It is logic on many levels which led me to this decision. Continue reading
Hard work and faith are choices you must accept to go down the agrarian path. Hard work is just what it sounds, hard. It is grueling, uncomplicated, and satisfying, and the only way to successfully get hard work done is to work hard. Continue reading
Through agrarianism we allow ourselves to transform seemingly hard choices into easily handled decisions. Through our connection with the land, we learn everything that is important, and are then able to infer what is not. We discover lessons that have far-reaching implications through the simple activities we must perform to sustain ourselves, and in so doing, we become strong and truly independent. We learn that we need to provide very little to receive so much. We only need to provide two things: hard work and unwavering faith. Continue reading
I live in a beautiful rural county in Appalachia that few have ever heard of, fewer have seen with their own eyes, and a pittance actually have the blessing to call their home. This county is surrounded and sectioned by the sort of steep but gently undulating long ridges that typify the ancient and amorous Appalachian Mountains. In a narrow highland valley, between two such ridges, on the crest of a supple hill, lies a small town with no traffic light, no gas station, no post office, no commercial venture of any kind, just a grouping of houses smaller than a single block in a standard suburban housing development. Close enough in distance to this town to be considered a resident of it, but far enough distant to be blissfully uninvolved in the geopolitical and social affairs of its few nosy and gossiping inhabitants, my family and I reside on a small farm, and give thanks every day for what we view as a blessed existence. Continue reading