Sun, Sap, A Muskrat & My Favorite Hoes

Oh what a glorious day this was. The sun was shining, the sap was flowing, and I decided to come home from work a couple hours earlier than usual.

Marlene and the kids finished boiling down a batch of maple syrup that we started boiling yesterday. Last night we added lots of wood to the fire under the pan, filled the pan with sap, and went to bed. I woke up at 3:00 to check on things. The fire had burned down to just a few coals and the sap had evaporated down a few inches. I put more wood on the fire, added more sap to the pan, and went back to bed. Then Marlene got up at 3:30 and went outside to check on the pan. She did not know I had already been out there a half hour earlier. When we got up this morning she told me she had gotten up at 3:30 to check things out and was discouraged because the firewood we put on before we went to bed hadn’t burned and the sap was still high in the pan.

Robert and James and Annie (our dog) found a muskrat in the creek behind our house today . They were going to get a camera and take a picture and leave it be but Annie jumped in the water and got the critter. She also got a significant bite on the side of her mouth from it. When I got home, Robert had the animal nicely skinned and washed and he hung it in the sun to dry the fur. This is the first time they have ever gotten a muskrat and I have to say it is the first time I have seen a muskrat up close. The fur is very soft. It is not the fur of a common rat.

But the best part of this day was that I started working in my garden! My garlic has been a couple of inches out of the ground most of the winter. The tops are looking a little drab but they should green up and really start growing now. I decided it was a good day to hoe between the rows. There are no weeds to speak of between the rows now, but I thought it would be good to cultivate the soil a bit after being packed down by the winter snow. The sandy soil was damp and soft but not sticky-- perfect for hoeing.

I have three favorite hoes that hang outside the door of my workshop. I leave them there all year because there is an overhang to protect them from the weather, and I like to look at them hanging there. I ALWAYS hang my hoes back in their place when I am done using them. I do not do this with every tool I own but I do it with my hoes. However, today when I went to get a hoe to work the soil between my garlic rows, one hoe, the one I wanted, was missing.

With three boys around, it is common for a tool to not be where it is supposed to be when I need it. And we have had incidents where I’ve gotten upset because I find one of my tools out in the woods rusting because a boy left it there. Or, worse, it mysteriously disappears... vanishes into thin air, never to be seen again. I think every father with tools and boys has this problem. But everyone in this family knows that my favorite hoes had better be where they are supposed to be because, well, they are my favorite hoes!

I calmly asked Robert if he had used my hoe. He said “no.” I said, “Well, it’s missing. It has been hanging where it is supposed to hang all winter and today, when I want to use it, it’s gone.” He started looking around the shop. I looked around too. My ire was starting to rise but I kept my cool. After a few moments I headed into the house to ask Marlene if maybe she had seen my hoe. Well, it turned out that she had used it to rake coals around in the 55 gallon steel drum that we build a fire in to heat up our maple syrup evaporator pan.

I made a beeline for the sugar shack, thinking that my beloved hoe was probably half burned. I inspected it carefully and, to my relief, found that it was unharmed. So I took it to my shop, clamped the head in my vise and sharpened the blade with a file. A sharpened hoe is a delight to use and I used it for the next hour and a half. It was so good to be back in my garden, working in the sun and the soil. Oh, what a glorious day this was!

Sap, Soap, and the "Patrons of Husbandry" Hall

I think spring has finally come to central New York State. The sap is flowing and we are making maple syrup on our little back yard setup. I've come to realize that our 25 taps do not produce the sap flow that some folks get because our trees are not that old. A few don't give much at all. In any event, we've made 2-1/2 gallons of nice maple syrup so far and there is another gallon+ worth of sap boiling away in the evaporator pan now. When it's done, we pour it hot into pint canning jars and store it in the pantry.

Marlene has soap on her mind these days. She is making it to have for the farm market this summer. And there are a few retail outlets that she will be selling through too. Christina Fuller (KS Milkmaid) is learning to make soap and going through the typical heartache and discouragement that comes with learning the craft. But she will be a real professional at it one day soon! Practice makes perfect.

I had the pleasure of speaking with KS last night when she called to talk with Marlene and I answered the phone because Marlene wasn't home. It was exciting to talk to a famous person. Christina sounded just like she does in her Plain Talk interview!

I also spoke this week for the first time with fellow Christian agrarian, Franklin Sanders in Tennessee. We had a good chat about everything from chicken pluckers to dispensational eschatology to prisons to homeschooling and public schooling to the feminization of boys... and more.

In my last blog entry I told you about how the old Grange hall outside of Moravia is for sale and that we were thinking of buying it. Well, today I gave them a purchase offer for the property. Next Tuesday the 12 remaining members of the Grange will meet to see if they will accept my offer. I'll let you know how it goes.

By the way, I found out that the Grange was also known as the "Patrons of Husbandry." I think husbandry is such a sweet word. It is rarely used these days. I want to be a husbandman of the soil. I guess, in a way, I am. Anyone who actively cares for the land that God has entrusted to them is a husbandman. I think Wendell Berry wrote something about husbandry. I'll have to see if I can find it.

Another sign of spring..... I saw my first farmer out plowing his field this morning on my way to work. The furrows of dark, freshly turned soil were beautiful in the bright morning sun of this promising spring day.

Making "Maple," Hatching Chicks & Buying The Old Grange Hall

We are waiting for spring to get going here and, hopefully, the sap will flow and we will be boiling maple syrup down. We’ve only had enough sap for one boiling and it resulted in 1/2 gallon of wonderfull sweetness, but that was a tease. If we had enough sap, a full day’s worth of boiling would give us one gallon plus. But the trees have not been yielding the sap... yet.

Cold nights and warm sunny days are what bring the sap flow. And the old timers say a coating of snow on the ground helps.

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In other news, Marlene and the boys are gearing up to incubate some eggs in our styrofoam Hovabator incubator. We’ve had the thing for several years and have incubated several times with successes and failures.

Robert, my 15-year-old wants to sell some chicks that he incubates. He did that a couple years ago. We will incubate some of our own chicken eggs but they are mostly “mongrel” chickens. To get some purebred birds, we are getting some eggs from our neighbor down the road who has Marans. The Marans lay the dark, chocolate brown colored eggs. So that’s an exciting thing to anticipate.

This year we have outfitted our incubator with an automatic turner and a fan to circulate air. I actually bought the accessories last year but we never got to use them. Hopefully we will have more successes than failures with a little better equipment.

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I posted a story here awhile back titled, The Wife of My Youth in which I told the tale of how Marlene and I met in high school and how we came to be married. In part of that story I mentioned how we had our wedding reception at the old Grange hall outside of Moravia. And as I reflected back on 25 years of marriage, I noted that a lot of things had changed, but the old Grange hall was still there and looked just like it always has.

Well, now the Grange is selling the building and two acres it sets on. There are not many Grange members left these days. Many are in their 80s. They have not met at the building for many years. These days they meet at Millstream Court, the senior citizen apartment building in Moravia.

Yesterday, Marlene and I and our boys went to look the old Grange building and property over. The Grangers bought the building in 1915. They have made a few improvements over the years, notably the kitchen and dining addition they put on in the mid 1970’s. But the building is not in particularly good shape. The roof is good and the foundation is sound but there are a few leaks and some rot and the paneling on the walls in the dining room has buckled and it smells a bit musty in there.

The building has some nice architectural detail but not much. It’s just a big, plain, practical, box of a place. In some respects, it’s more a barn than a house. It is not a building that anyone would really want to fix up and make into a home. I suppose a couple of apartments could go into it, but it would require a lot of work and money to make that happen. The lot it sets on is very nice. There is a good amount of road frontage, a very big lawn and a stream bordering both sides. In the 1970,s the Grangers built a public park along the larger stream, which rushes down the valley into Moravia, past Millstream Court. A little bit of woods come with the property in the back. More woodland goes on behind that. Fields are on either side and across the street. A modern house is kittycorner across the street.

We like the place and we’re thinking seriously about putting a purchase offer in on it. What would we do with it? Lots. I would till much of the big lawn into garden beds and grow garlic and other “crops.” The kitchen would be utilized by Marlene for her soapmaking and breadbaking, and I would be able to use it for processing my garlic powder. The rest of the upstairs and downstairs could be used as a larger workshop for me and my boys to build things—I’m thinking primarily of the chicken plucker parts I make and sell. And there will be other products related to other planbooks that I hope to publish one day. My small book publishing business is still small but it grows more each year and I have books and boxes and such stuffed everywhere in the small space of our home and my shop where we are now. An official office for Whizbang Books would be much nicer than the corner of our bedroom where I’m writing this blog entry.

The only drawback is that the place is about three miles from our house. But it is on the way to town and just a short ways off the main road. I would not do a lot to the old building. I would keep the grange sign on the front. I would keep the roof repaired. My boys would trap the skunks and other critters that we could see have taken up residence underneath the back of the building. Mostly, I would just keep the place in working repair and use the insides for all our family projects. And there is even plenty of room for a Ping-Pong table inside!

It’s fun to consider all the possibilities with a neat old place like that. Perhaps we will actually buy it and we will preserve a part of this community’s agrarian past. But maybe it won’t work out that way. Either way will be fine. The Lord will guide and direct the final outcome of this little matter and we are comfortable and content to go as He leads us.

My Experience as a Government-School Teacher

It is still cold and snowy here in Central New York state. Not much is happening on our little homestead so I’ll regale you with another story from a chapter in my life....

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Back in 1999 I had been working as a carpenter for 20+ years, the last 10 of which I was self-employed. I enjoyed the physical and mental challenges that came with working in the building trades. But circumstances had left me burnt out and I needed a change. I was praying for the Lord to provide some new opportunity. I really didn’t know what it would be. Nothing much interested me. Like I said, I was burnt out, and a little depressed too. Then I heard that the local vocational high school was looking to fill an assistant teacher position in the building trades program.

I am not a certified teacher. I have only a high school diploma and a few college credits from one year of a two-year program in building trades at a state college. That was, however, enough to get me the job. It helped that I knew the program’s teacher (he called to tell me about the job) and, years before, I had taught adult education classes in carpentry a few times. But I think the real reason I got the job was that they were desperate to fill the position. It only paid $12,000, no one else was interested, and the school year was starting in less than a week.

Back in 1987, when Marlene was pregnant with our first child, a full six years before we would be officially homeschooling that child, we attended our first homeschool meeting. So we were “into” homeschooling long before we actually did it. It seemed kind of ironic that I, a homeschooling father and critic of government schooling, would be taking a job teaching in the government system. Nevertheless, I felt like God had opened a door and He wanted me to take the job. So that’s how I happened to become a government school teacher.

The school was structured such that we had a class of 11th graders in the morning and12th graders in the afternoon. The kids were bussed in from several surrounding school districts. Each student’s school district was referred to as their “home school,” which always sounded weird to me.

There was some classroom instruction and some shop work but much of the class time was spent off campus on a job site out in the community. That year, the class was building a good-size addition on a ranch house.

With the teacher, Mr. Edmonds, and I instructing them, the kids framed the floor deck and walls. We installed roof trusses and sheathing and windows and doors and roofed and insulated and hung drywall. It was amazing, really, what got accomplished, especially considering the workforce.

There were around twenty-five 11th graders and half that many 12th graders. Most of the students were there because the guidance counselors at their home schools didn’t know what else to do with them. They were either not academically smart or had behavioral problems—or both. The trade school was, I’m sorry to say, something of a dumping ground.

I was saddened by what I saw in the kids. There was a lot of anger, confusion, and rebellion. Many of the kids were from broken homes and dysfunctional family situations. One boy came in visibly battered one day and when I asked him what happened he told me his father came home drunk and beat him. One day a police officer came into the classroom and arrested a student. The language I heard was crude and vulgar, even from the girls. The situation was a bit worse than I expected.

There were a few girls in the class and they were more of a distraction than anything else. They certainly were not serious about learning the building trades. Amazingly, at one staff meeting, the school principle (a sincerely decent and dedicated man) explained to us that the N.Y. state education department was very concerned about the low number of girls that were enrolled in certain trade programs. The government officials wanted to see more females enrolled in programs like heavy equipment operation, auto mechanics, welding & machine trades, small engine repair, etc.

There were a couple of 11th grade kids in the class who acted as “normal” as the rest, but they could not read. To “solve” this problem, the school hired teacher aids. Their job was to shadow the students in the class and on the job site and help them as needed. There were two aids in our class. If there was a written test, the aid would read the questions to the student. And if a student did not understand a question, the aid helped him figure it out. I don’t know for sure, but they may have helped them write the answers down too.

I should point out that there were a few really bright and talented students. They were there because they sincerely wanted to learn the building trades and, somehow, they had managed to overcome the objections of their guidance counselors who encourage all bright students to pursue more academic classes and go to college. Unfortunately, those bright and eager-to-learn students were unable to learn as much as they could have because the slower kids and the kids with the behavioral problems brought the whole class down to their level. That is always the way it works in the government school system.

My heart went out to those kids—every single one of them. When I was with them, I tried to connect with them, to bless them by being a good example and an encourager. When I wasn’t with them, I prayed for them. In some instances, I feel like I made a little progress. I felt like maybe I made a little difference. That, and that alone, made my one year of teaching in the government school system enjoyable and rewarding.

I also gained a new respect for teachers and the work they do. Often, in the afternoons, after the kids were gone, Mr. Edmonds and I would visit other teachers or they would stop in and visit us. We would informally discuss the events of the day. I came to realize that some teachers are, essentially, not much more than state workers, just putting in their time. But most of those teachers were dedicated and caring people who were profoundly discouraged but valiantly trying to do something good and positive with the students in their classes. One constant lament was that the state was after them to “raise the standards” but it was obviously impossible to do that with the caliber of kids they had to deal with and the way the system was set up. Nevertheless, every day they did what they could, and it’s my opinion that they were doing an admirable job.

Because of my experience, I am persuaded more than ever of the value and virtue of home education. I am also persuaded more than ever that the government education system is a failure. But I do not think it is a failure because teachers are failing to do their jobs. Surely, that is the case in some instances, but there is a deeper and broader flaw that underlies the entire system. The industrial system simply does not work when it comes to managing, caring for, and educating humans.

Industrialized production certainly can be used to effectively and efficiently and, therefore, inexpensively crank out books and pencils and even school lunches. But the industrial system never has and never will crank out consistent education of people.

In fact, the exact opposite of the desired effect is what you get with industrialized education— efficiency turns into inefficiency; time and money and lives are wasted. The masses become less educated.

And not only are they less educated, they are more easily manipulated and far more dependent on the industrial system and the industrial/government providers. That’s not my definition of good education!

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A couple weeks before the end of that school year, God opened another door for me and I left the teaching position. I went into something even more culturally strange and unfamiliar, where I deal with people even more troubled.

Someday I may tell you a bit about my current job. But it is not something I like to talk about. I’d rather talk about the antithesis of our dying modern culture. I’d rather talk about the beauty of life when it is lived according to Christian and agrarian principles—a life that is family and community and earth and soil centered. It is the life I know and love apart form my “regular” job. It is “the good life” and I so wish that more families could know it.

Trapping Class

My two youngest sons want to trap wild animals, skin ‘em, and sell the hides. I know several men my age who trapped when they were boys. But I grew up as a suburban kid and I didn’t trap any animals. Fact is, I almost never saw a wild animal. So I don’t know a single thing about how to trap and skin and sell furs.

Years ago, it was common for rural men and boys to trap. Trapping is a craft that goes back to the founding of this country. The fur trade was once a vital part of our national economy.

That’s what my boys and I learned a couple weekends ago when we went to an all-day trapping course at a small sportsman’s club in Navarino, N.Y. Marlene had called the N.Y. Dept of Environmental Conservation (DEC) over six months ago to find out about taking the class, which is needed to legally trap and sell furs. She was told that trapping courses aren’t given very often these days because there isn’t a lot of interest. But we were put on a 4-county list— as soon as someone somewhere in the four counties had a class, we would be notified. We signed up for the first class that came up.

So it was on a cold, snowy February morning that Robert (now 15) and James (now 11) and I (now 48) drove 45 minutes to Navarino. There were maybe 25 people taking the class. There were a couple of other dads there with their sons. The rest of the class were mostly average-looking, young and middle age rural guys. A couple were sort of “gnarly” lookin’ rural types— the kind that would scare you if you happened upon them while walking in the woods, especially if the woods was their property.

We had several teachers that day. There was Al and Bill and Bob and Mike and Karl. All of them, with the exception of Mike, were old timers, which means they were older than me. Each of these men were avid trappers and I think they have been trappers most all their lives. Judging from the looks of our trappin’ teachers , I’d have to say that trappers are a special kind of people. They’re not the kind that you’d ever imagine would spend one day working in a Dilbert-style cubicle. They are independent outdoorsmen—there is a old fashioned wildness to them. You might say they are “a little rough around the edges.”

Well, me and my boys learned a LOT that day. Bill, the oldest old timer there (he looked to be in his 70s, and maybe even older than that) showed us all kinds of traps and supplies that trappers use. Al told us about the N.Y. State trapping regulations and safety. Bob, the biggest man of the bunch, wore a vest of shorn beaver fur (absolutely beautiful fur!) and spoke about how to properly “euthanize” a live animal after you catch it. Karl gave us a skunk skinning demonstration. Mike skinned a good-size mink that he saw get hit by a car. He brought it home and put it in his freezer to save it for the skinning demonstration. Mike stretched the skinned fur over a special wood stretcher board and showed how to flesh it and pin the hide down for drying.

When Mike was skinning that mink, one of the trappin’ teachers gave the class some marital advice: “If any of you boys finds a woman that will skin for you, marry her!” This comment met with nods of approval from the trappers and laughter from everyone else. By the way, the only woman in attendance was Bill’s wife, a nice older lady who we were led to believe, helped her husband with his trap line.

A DEC officer showed up and spoke to the class. He said that he had two daughters who spent most of their life at the shopping malls and he thought it was great to see dads and sons trapping together.

Most of our trapping teachers were involved in nuisance animal control (trapping is more like a sport and part-time money making hobby). During breaks, we enjoyed listening to Al regale us with nuisance animal stories. He told us about how suburban people get all upset when a wild animal, like a coon or skunk or fox shows up around their house. He said most of those people don’t even own a gun (to which Mike commented: “That’s why I have 25 of ‘em.”) and even if they did, they can’t legally shoot it in the suburbs. As a result, there’s lots of wildlife control work around.

Coyotes are a big nuisance hereabouts. Sometimes they eat those expensive little suburban dogs. Al says some folks want him to trap the coyotes alive and take them two hours away into the Adirondacks and let them loose. But, he says they would die there because there is very little food for a coyote in the Adirondacks. There is, however, lots of food in the farmlands and suburbs of central N.Y.

Some nights I can hear coyotes yipping in the near distance outside my house. I’m hoping me and James and Robert can trap us one or two next season. That would be a thrill. Al says that coyotes thrive in adversity— you can trap and shoot and poison them and the population increases.

Al also told us about the time he and a friend used an electronic raccoon caller at a farm that had a lot of coon problems. They turned the caller on and Al says the coons came swarming down the sides of the barns and out of the nooks and crannies. They shot 47 of ‘em before his friend’s gun jammed and they hightailed it back to their truck. After getting the gun unjammed, they went back and found the calling equipment had been destroyed by the angry animals. Now that was quite a story! I think trappers have some of the best stories.

After lunch we all went outside to learn how to set traps. It’s not like setting mouse traps in the basement. There is a lot more to learn and know than you might think. It was freezing cold and windy outside. Everyone was visibly chilled and looking forward to getting back inside— except, that is, those gnarly-looking fellows. They had half as much winterwear on as anyone else and didn’t look cold at all.

At the end of the day we took a two-page multiple choice test and we all passed it. So now my boys and me are certified trappers. That doesn’t mean we’re experts, but we know the basic rules and we know a whole lot more about trapping than we knew before. Now we need to get some equipment and actually do it!

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I have to admit that I don’t really have a lot of interest in trapping and skinning wild animals. But, like I said, my boys really do, and that pleases me to no end. Trapping offers adventure, excitement, and reward for the work and effort and skill that is put into it. It gets boys outside in the fresh air. It gives them self-confidence. It teaches them about God’s creation. It teaches them responsibility. The way I see it, there is no downside to lawful and responsible trapping. And when a father and his boys can learn and experience all of this together, that is all the better. It is exactly the sort of thing that fathers and sons need to be doing to build strong relationships and lasting memories. So I’m going to be a trapper next season. Stay tuned.

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If you like hunting, trapping, guns, and stuff like that, I invite you to read some more of my essays...

How Not to Shoot The Bull

The Charging Woodchuck

Going to The Trapper's Convention

Boys Will Be....Warriors (Part 1)

Boys Will Be...Warriors (Part 2)

Rabbit Hunting Boy

Life Lessons From an Old Maine Woodsman

Shootin' Dad's Handgun

Needed: More Americans With Guns

How to Butcher a Chicken

The Fun, Fast Way to Skin a Deer

Crunchy Cons & Christian Agrarians

I stopped by Carmon “Prairie Muffin” Friedrich’s Blog, Buried Treasure Books, this morning and read her most recent post about Crunchy Cons.

Crunchy Cons is the name of a book written by Rod Dreher. Cons is short for conservatives. Crunchy is a reference to eating granola. Crunchy Cons are people who embrace conservative ideology, but do not fit into the dominant conservative stereotype. The book’s subtitle sheds a bit more light on what it is all about:

How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)

Since I just learned about the book this morning, I have not read it. But I did read This Interview which Carmon provided a link to. The interviewer describes Dreher’s book as “a manifesto that celebrates faith, family, community and nature against the forces of greed and lust.” Hey, that sounds a lot like the subtitle found up at the head of this blog!

Though I do not necessarily agree with everything Mr. Dreher says in his interview, he and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to a lot of things. It sounds to me like Crunchy Cons and Christian agrarians have a lot in common. In fact, it would appear to me that, even though he lives in an urban setting, Rod Dreher is a Christian agrarian.

I predict that it is only a matter of time before he and his family start a garden and get a few hens for eggs.

I recommend that you read the interview. But if you don’t have time, here are some quotes to give you a taste of where Rod Dreher and his Crunchy Cons are coming from...

“I'd say that Crunchy Conservatism is nothing new. It's a rediscovery of the kind of traditionalism espoused by Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver and others in the 1940s and 1950s. It's a conservatism that values religion, family, and culture...”

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“The institution most essential to conserve is the family. Beauty is more important than efficiency. Small, local, old and particular are almost always better than big, global, new and abstract.”

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“There are a lot of people out there who don't fit into left-right categories. Robert Hutchins, one of the Christian farmers I wrote about, told me that he sometimes feels that he and his family have more in common with hippy organic farmers than with Republicans living in the suburbs ... and Robert is very Republican.”

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“God did give man dominion over animals, but he didn't intend for us to turn these creatures into widgets. That's what's so foul about factory farming.”

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“I interviewed a woman for the book who lived with her family in Midland, Texas. She and her husband were Presbyterians, and they were church planters there, and they had eight kids, and they were home schooling, and they ate a lot of natural food, and no TV, the whole magilla, and you know she told me, "It's the weirdest thing, we're living in the most Christian, most Republican place we've ever lived, and we look around and we can't see how people's faith affects the way they live their lives at all. They're all captives to the consumer culture. They're all buying their kids the most expensive new things. She said that's not how Christians are supposed to live; that's not how conservatives are supposed to live. They've sold out to the values of the world, and think that as long as they profess to hold the beliefs of the Christian faith, that that's enough.”

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“We live in downtown Dallas, but we get our meat from Christian farmers who live out in the countryside, who raise their livestock without antibiotics, ranging freely, because they believe that's what God would have them do. We love their food, and we love the fact that our dollars are supporting these large, home-schooling Christian farm families.”

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“What we try to do with our kids is teach them the tools they need to spot when they're being manipulated. If parents don't see their role to be actively countercultural—not passively countercultural—then they're going to lose. We see people losing all the time, good conservative people who don't see how the messages of mass consumer marketing work against their values.”

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“I think that as Christians we know that the world is filled with God's presence and everything is given to us as a gift, and perhaps that's the secret to joy—being grateful for everything and taking joy in small things, and realizing through a sacramental mentality that this is how the Lord shows himself to us, through these little things, and we should rejoice in it.”

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“The point is though that if you're going to attract people to a way of life, you've got to show them not only that it honors God and our conservative convictions, but that it's joyful, it's a fun way to live. And I really do think that if you live by the principles I outline in Crunchy Cons, where you place your faith and your family at the center of everything, and you learn how to value things like food and wine, and aesthetic things, beauty as the expression of the divine, then life becomes a lot more colorful and interesting and passionate.”

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“I think only religious faith has the power to resist our very powerful commercial culture.”

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“...Crunchy Cons is not primarily a book about policy; yes I have a few policy changes I'd like to see. I'd like to see laws passed to make it easier for families to homeschool, for families to start small farms and small businesses, but ultimately Crunchy Conservatism is about what Vaclav Havel called anti-political politics. And what he meant was the idea that the only way to rebuild society after the horrors of communism was through individual ethical choices and collective ethical choices made every single day...”

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“I have no illusions that I'm going to be able to change America by what I believe, but I can change my family. I can change my parish. I can change what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" of which I am a part. And I think that's enough. That's got to be enough because that's what I have control over. And maybe other people will see by the examples we live—I'm not talking about withdrawing and becoming neo-Amish—but by making these small changes, by living a good, virtuous life every single day, we can effect a more lasting change, a change that comes from deep within.”

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Okay, I’m back...

Did he say neo-Amish? That’s the first time I’ve heard that term. As a Christian agrarian, I think that withdrawing from the popular culture or, as Pastor McConnell has termed it, cultural secession to some degree is a necessary part of living a successful Christian agrarian life. And I dare say it is part of what Crunchy Cons are also doing.

Whatever the case, it looks like the fundamental beliefs of Christian agrarianism are starting to attract a larger audience and that is a good thing.

Quick Update & A Nice Poem

Things have been busy around here and time to blog has been short. I've been working on a special agrarian project that I hope to be telling you all about sometime later this month.

Last Saturday my two youngest sons and I spent the day at a trapping course. Now we are officially certified New York State Trappers. Yee haw!

We also tapped 25 maple trees in the woods behind our house. The sugar shack is set up in the back yard and we're waiting anxiously for a nice warm day so the sap will flow. Tomorrow & Thursday look promising.

I'd like to share with you the following poem. I love the agrarian analogies. I appreciate the words that celebrate the value of hard, diligent work.... "work that is real."

To Be Of Use
by Marge Piercy
From the book: Circles on the Water

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.