Hay-Making Adventures

Dateline: 26 June 2007

PLEASE NOTE: Before reading this story I feel I should warn you that it contains a graphic picture of a bloody accident (but don’t let that stop you)….

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, I have a chapter titled, Hay Help. It is one of my favorite stories in the book because it evokes memories of the “hay days” of my youth.

It is because I loved working in the hay that I’m so pleased to see two of my sons, Robert & James, also active as hay helpers. They are on call for three local farmers. In between that, they occasionally help a farmer’s market grower with her field work. In other words, they are busy doing the hard outdoor work of a farmer, even though we do not have a farm. I think it is toil of the most beneficial kind, especially for a youngster.

Yesterday, while James was helping load hay bales in the barn for one farmer, Robert was on a tractor raking hay for another. He happened to be in the field across from our house. So Marlene went out and snapped a couple pictures of her farm boy…

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Later in the day, as the sun was setting and the air temperature cooled, I got a hankering to mow some hay. I don’t have a field of my own but my next door neighbor (who lives up the road aways) does. The field has grown tall, not with hay so much as weeds. But beggars can’t be choosers. I’m thankful to have use of the land.

This field is where I intend to pasture my turkeys as they get bigger. So it needed to be cut. At least a section of it did. With that in mind, I have been seriously considering the purchase of a sickle bar attachment for my BCS walk-behind tractor. I think it would be so cool to mow through the tall grass with such a tool. But I have decided to wait. I’m hesitant to spend the money just to create pasture for 12 turkeys.

So, instead, I took my scythe and sharpening stone in hand and headed to the field. It so happens that using my scythe to mow down tall grass is something I sincerely love to do. I think my appreciation and fascination for this once common, but now almost forgotten, rural skill goes back to when I was a little boy and I once watched my grandfather scythe the tall grass on a steep bank by his house. This primitive skill appealed to something deep within me then and it still does now, more than ever.

It gives me such satisfaction to swing a scythe through tall grass, laying it low, again and again, as I walk head, along the edge of the field. Properly done, the process is less work and more technique. Of course, a good scythe with a sharp edge makes all the difference. And so does practice; the more you mow, the better you get.

My objective when hand-mowing is to establish a rhythm, a cadence of measured steps and overlapping, sweeping, parabolic arcs of the scythe blade. Each cutting motion begins with my upper torso comfortably twisted to the right, the calf-high scythe extended and ready to do its work. My turned body is like a wound spring. As I unwind the spring, turning to the left, I bring the blade down, level with the ground, and through the swath. The sharpness of the blade and the momentum of the movement does the hardest work.

I follow through with the cut. The scythe, like a pendulum in my arms, twists my upper torso to the left. The spring winds again. When a comfortable apex of movement is reached, the spring unwinds back to the right, back to the cutting position. I take a step forward. The cycle repeats. Progress is slow, but sure.

When you mow tall grass with a scythe, you focus not only on the motion but on the plant life before you. You must “read” each swath before you mow it. You do not stop to “read.” It is done as you are moving ahead. If the foliage is especially dense, you may take less of a swath. If you encounter a thick-stemmed weed, you must put a bit more into the swing. And you can not help but see and consider all the different grasses and sedges and weeds that come before you. It is a natural experience that fills your senses.

There are also horseflies, and little black flies, and various kinds of bees that fill your senses too.

Yesterday evening, I mowed for an hour and a half, watching the sun go down. You can’t really watch the sunset while you focus on mowing. But, at the end of each row, I stopped momentarily to hone the edge of my scythe blade. The honing stone is kept in a water-filled sheath clipped into my pant’s pocket. A few careful strokes, maybe 10 seconds worth, serve to renew the tool’s razor sharp cutting edge. Then I can take another 10 seconds (maybe longer) to look at the progress of the sun, and drink in the beauty of the moment, before getting back into the swing of it.

I did something yesterday that I have never done before when scything. I cut myself with my scythe blade. It happened while sharpening the blade. I was holding the snath (handle) and blade steady with my left hand, while running the stone across the blade with my right. A regiment of feeding black flies was flanking my left ear. The attack was serious enough to warrant a quick swat. I took the steadying hand off the blade for a split second while still swiping my honing stone over the steel. Everything went out of alignment, and the middle finger on my honing hand went into the blade. This was the result…


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The blade was so sharp I barely felt it. Fortunately, it didn’t go all the way to the bone. I’m expected to live.

After bandaging the wound, I went back out and mowed until dark. Here is a picture of some of my mowed grass and weeds. In the distance you can see the field where Robert was raking. The farmer baled that field with large round bales.

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Around dusk I noticed “sparks” in the swath as my blade passed through. But I was not striking any stones. For a moment I thought I was imagining things (perhaps hallucinating as a result of blood loss?). Then I realized the sparks were fireflies on the ground.

I mowed until dark. Then I slung my scythe over my shoulder and began to walk, with the satisfied saunter of a scyther, back to my house. But something stopped me in my tracks...

It was the realization that thousands of fireflies were in the air all around me. Their blinking phosphorescence was like sparkling pixie dust in the darkness. It was a magical moment there, alone, in the dark field, watching this amazing display of God’s awesome creativity.

I do not think I shall ever forget the beauty of that moment.

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The above description of scything is in no way intended to be a primer on the craft. For learning how to scythe, and to find yourself a fine scythe, I suggest you go to the Scythe Supply web site.

Getting Started With Turkeys

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We bought twelve, day-old turkeys back in May. They are five weeks old. We are raising them for meat. We have raised chickens for meat for several years, but not turkeys. So this is something new for us.

One turkey will go to our good neighbor who lets us use some of his land (at no charge) for our agrarian pursuits. We may barter one or two birds with friends who raise beef. We’ve done this, pound for pound, with our chickens in the past. We hope to have land to raise a beef or two someday. But we’re doing what we can with what little we have now.

I’ve heard that turkeys are harder to raise than chickens because they are more stupid. Being more stupid than a chicken is really stupid. Now, I’ll bet there are people out there who love chickens and will assert that chickens are actually very intelligent animals. Well, I happen to enjoy and appreciate chickens myself, but I maintain that they are still stupid. Or, to put it more nicely, how about this: they are “brain deficient.” It’s a proven fact that chickens don’t have a brain in their head.

As evidence of this fact, I present the famous Wyandotte rooster, Mike, of Fruita, Colorado.If you haven’t yet heard the story of Mike the headless chicken, prepare to be amazed.

Back in 1945, Mike’s owner, a farmer named Lloyd Olsen, decided to make a meal of Mike. He chopped his head off in the back yard. The bird didn’t die. It walked around like it still had a head. What would you do if you had a headless chicken strutting around your barnyard?

Yes, Mr. Olsen took the bird on tour. He charged people a quarter to see his famous chicken. He made a lot of money off that bird. Mike even made it into Life magazine. He lived for 18 months without his head before accidentally dying in a hotel room in Phoenix. You can learn more about Mike the headless chicken here.

Anyway, I can tell you that young turkeys have a different “personality” than young chickens. For one thing, they are more curious, and stupid. Did I mention that turkeys are stupid?

When we first got the 12 chicks, I put them in my Whizbang Garden Cart Turkey Brooder. That sufficed for a week before they started jumping over the edge of the cart.

The top edge of the cart is about 29” off the ground (or, in this instance, the floor of my shop). The turkey chicks were about 5” high at the time. So they were jumping over the edge and falling a distance six time their height. That’s the equivalent of you or me jumping off a three-story building. Of course, turkeys have wings and we don’t. But at a week old, their wings don’t work very well. They do not land very gracefully. The point is, it’s a stupid thing to do, especially more than once. Somehow, though, they survived.

After a week, I moved the ugly little darlings to a larger enclosure with taller sides inside my shop. We fed them turkey chick starter and made sure they had clean water at all times. In addition to that, we made a point, right from the start, of feeding them comfrey leaves. I was surprised that, at two days old, they eagerly took to the green leaves (I’ll admit, this was an indication of some intelligence on their part).

At first, we cut the leaves into little slivers with scissors. As the birds have grown, I’ve cut the leaves larger. Now that they are out in a chicken tractor, I take whole stalks of comfrey and start at the stalk end cutting chunks off with pruning shears. I switch to scissors when I get to the leafy top. I do this comfrey feeding twice a day and the turkeys swarm over the forage like feathered pigs, gobbling it all down.

And speaking of pigs, we adopted a pig-raising technique from Northern Farmer, Tom Scepaniak. In his Plain Talk interview with Rick Saenz. Tom tells how he introduces soil to newborn piglets in the barn. They can smell it, play with it, and even eat it.

With that thought in mind, I used a shovel to chop out a circle of sod, with long grass and weeds on the top, and I put it in the brooder with the turkeys. They were too yound and weak to peck and eat the greens but they had a lot of fun trying. Every day, I put in a fresh piece of sod and it was a big attraction to the little critters.

When the time came to put them out on “pasture” (otherwise known as our lawn, as seen in the beginning photo) the turkeys were no stranger to the greens and have become good grass eaters.

I’m not an expert on raising turkeys but I’m learning. And, so far, I’m doing pretty good at it. All twelve turkeys are healthy and growing. I really do think comfrey leaves and sod have contributed significantly to this success. It’s something to keep in mind the next time you get some turkey chicks.

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P.S. If you have not yet read my other poultry-related essays, I invite you to do so. Here are the links...

Turkeys in Tractors & Comfrey For Feed

Backyard Poultry Processing With My 11-year-Old Son

My Whizbang Plucker Story

Frequently Asked Questions About The Whizbang Plucker

Introducing My Deluxe Homemade Chicken Scalder

Talkin’ Bout My Chicken Tractor

Talkin' Bout My Chicken Tractor (Part 2)

FREE Chicken Feed

The Next Best Thing To A Whizbang Chicken Plucker

My Chicken Plucker Parts Business

The Best Place to Buy Plucker Fingers

New Discoveries
About My Family History

Dateline: 22 June 2007


Last year I blogged here about my great, great, maternal grandmother Josephine Jordan and her 1892 diary. Something amazing happened as a result. Descendents of Josephine Jordan, cousins I never knew, contacted me. But it was not just hearing from these long lost kin that was so special. The most remarkable thing was the story they told of God’s influence in our family. It was a clear answer to the prayers of Grandma Josephine, as expressed in her diary.

With that whole series of events in mind, I’m pleased to tell you that, once again, I’ve heard from another relative that I never knew existed, and I am being blessed by the experience.

My newfound relative is from my father’s side. The Kimball side. It so happens that we are second cousins, once removed. My great grandfather Leverett Gaylon Kimball was a brother of my newly discovered cousin’s grandfather, Franklin Tyler Kimball.

To preface what follows, I need to tell you that my Kimball family history has never been very clear to me. I know and recall many family members from my mother’s side of the family, and from my grandmother Kimball’s side (the Towles), but the Kimball side is a different story. It has been pretty much a mystery. But that is no longer the case.

My cousin, who happens to live in Canada, informed me that “Richard Kimball is our common ancestor who was born in MA in 1764 and who came to New Brunswick c.1770 with his family and settled in the area near Fredericton, N.B. where his descendants remained until some moved up the St. John river to Carleton County for a couple of generations and then eventually back into the States c.1890.”

I am named after my grandfather, Dr. Herrick C. Kimball. My grandfather died when I was eight years old so my recollections of him are murky and that is too bad. I would love to have known my grandfather Kimball better because, from everything I’ve heard, he was a remarkable man and a highly respected doctor. My grandfather actually founded the hospital in Fort Fairfield, Maine. This is what my cousin wrote of my grandfather:

“Your grandfather, the good doctor, is credited by our family with saving the life of our father back in the mid-forties when he was a patient in his Fort Fairfield hospital. I remember meeting Dr. Herrick in his hospital during that period of time, though I was but ten years or so old. He had a good bedside manner!”

When I recollected to my cousin that I thought my grandfather had a brother who was a Pentecostal minister he responded:

“You're right about Herrick's half-brother Gene Kimball. I well remember him and as a boy, I heard him preach more than once. He had what used to be called a "hell-fire and brimstone" type of delivery. Political correctness wasn't one of his strong suits, but he could sure draw a crowd. He and my father were great friends.”

Then my cousin mentioned to me that his brother Carroll Kimball of Fredericton, New Brunswick, compiled a book of Kimball family history back in 2000. I expressed an interest in the book. He told me he had one extra copy and would send it. I offered to pay for it. He very kindly declined my offer. The book came today. I’ve just spent a couple of hours perusing “Descendents of Richard & Sarah Kimball.”

From the book I have learned some things about my great grandfather and great grandmother that I never knew, and I’d like to tell you about them.

My grandfather's father, Leverett Kimball (b. 1867 in New Brunswick) was a potato farmer and he was married three times. His first wife died less than a year after they married. They had no children.

Leverett’s second wife was Edith Savage. Within a year of their marriage Edith gave birth to twins. Three days later, she died. According to an article from the Fort Fairfield Beacon, “the little babies are strong and healthy.” Yet, according to the family book, one of the twins died young. The surviving twin, Eugene, grew up, farmed for a few years, then became the Pentecostal minister.

Three years after the death of Edith, Leverett married her sister, Elizabeth Savage. They had five children. My grandfather, Herrick, was born in 1902. He had a twin sister, Helen. I vaguely remember Helen. I remember as a little boy thinking that she and my grandfather didn’t look at all alike for being twins.

I can read a lot of sadness into the life of my great great grandfather, Leverett. His first two wives died. He was left to raise twin babies, one of which then died. He was a farmer and I do not suppose he was a particularly prosperous one. Then, to make the story even sadder, in 1910, at only 42 years of age, Leverett got pneumonia and passed away.

He left Elizabeth with five children and she was pregnant with another. The oldest, Gene was fifteen. My grandfather was eight years old. The baby would be born two months later. It was a boy and Elizabeth named him Leverett Gaylon. But little Leverett would live only five months.

Eight years later, at the age of 16, my grandfather graduated from Fort Fairfield High School. I know this because I have his 1918 class ring. With grit and determination my grandfather went on to work his way through Bowdoin College, then Case Western Reserve medical school. He returned to Fort Fairfield where he became a successful and beloved small town doctor. He died, sitting in a chair in the kitchen of his home, at 63 years of age.

I once asked my Grandmother Kimball why my grandfather decided to become a doctor. She told me that his mother was sickly and bedridden in her later years. She said he wanted to help people like his mother. And that is exactly what he did.

But there is something more to this story of my family that I learned from Cousin Carroll’s family history book. There were a couple of little clues into the kind of people that Leverett and Elizabeth were. Clues that, for me, take the sting out of the sadness I read in their history.

An article in the Fort Fairfield Review newspaper (2 March 1910) titled “Death of L.G. Kimball” reveals that, in addition to being a farmer, Leverett was a member of the Fort Fairfield Free Baptist Church. But, more than that, the article states, “Mr. Kimball had been working particularly hard this winter, especially with meetings held in the Mission in Caribou,” and, “About a year ago, Mr. Kimball was licensed to preach … and since has been a power in evangelistic work.”

So, today I discovered that my great grandfather was a farmer/preacher!

Then, of my great grandmother, Elizabeth, who never remarried after Leverett’s death, and who passed away in 1930, I read in her obituary that “She was a great student of the Bible” and “a long time teacher at the Methodist Sunday School.”

While many would glance over such bits of information, not giving them much more than a passing thought, those small bits speak volumes to me about my long gone forbears. To know that both of my great grandparents were Christians, strong in their faith, is to know that, regardless of the difficult trials they experienced in this earthly realm, their faith in Christ sustained them. It is the same faith that will sustain me to the end. I pray that it will sustain my children and grandchildren, unto many more generations.


Planting Potatoes
With A Little Girl

Dateline: 21 June 2007

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I do not have a lot of regrets in life but I do have a few. My number-one regret, by far, is that I planned my family.

Marlene and I have three boys, ages 12 (almost 13), 16, and 19. That three-year spacing did not happen by accident. The birth of each child was “scheduled” according to my plans. We stopped having children after three because I didn’t see how our house would accommodate, or my income support, more than three children.

Marlene was willing to have more children. We should have had more children. God would have provided. I realize that now. I thought I was being wise by planning my family and limiting it. But my wisdom was worldly, and I was clearly being selfish. Don’t anyone tell me I wasn’t being selfish, because I know I was.

Had I been less selfish, more faithful, more trusting in God’s provision, and more obedient to His calling, we might have had a girl, or two, and that would have been pretty special.

I was reminded of this for a couple of months early this year as Marlene took on the job of watching our neighbor’s little girl while both her parents worked. The little girl is four years old.

I was initially reluctant about having Marlene watch this little girl. My wife is, after all, so busy with her different projects and managing our three boys. And the boys are so rough and tumble (frankly speaking, they can be savages). Nevertheless, for a few days a week, the delicate little girl came to our home.

It turned out that my boys were gentle and patient with the little girl. They demonstrated a facet of their character that we rarely see at home. It was refreshing and encouraging to watch. My sons helped Marlene by entertaining the little girl, and keeping a protective eye on her. They lavished her with their attention, and she loved them for it..

For Marlene, watching the child was like having the little girl she never had. Marlene put the four-year-old to work helping to fold clothes and make meals in the kitchen. She was an eager and surprisingly good helper.

When it came time to plant potatoes in the garden, James and the little girl came out to see me. I asked her if she wanted to help. She nodded her head enthusiastically. I showed her a small seed potato cut in half and explained that the flat side goes down. I told her a big potato plant would grow out from the little piece of potato, and the plant would make lots of big new potatoes. She listened intently and I thought to myself, what an amazing story.

Then James took charge. He told me he would show her how it was done and they would work together to plant the potatoes. So I turned my attention to marking and furrowing two more rows, but I was watching and listening, and I eventually went to get my camera.

The picture at the beginning of this story shows James and the little girl planting potatoes. Here’s another picture:



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I was so pleased to see my youngest son patiently instruct and encourage the little girl. He even made a spacer stick for her, as shown in this next picture:

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The two of them slowly but surely planted two 75-foot rows of potatoes. Then they took a break and went back to the house for a strawberry smoothie. Or, as the little girl says, “smoovie.” I finished up planting the third (and last) row, then hoed soil over all the rows, and headed back to the house to see if there was any of the cold, sweet, blended yogurt-and-fruit drink left for me (there wasn’t).

Marlene stopped watching the little girl a few weeks ago, when the farm market season started. But the little girl will be back (she lives just up the road) and she will get to see the potato plants that are now growing out of the pieces of seed potato that she and James planted. When we dig potatoes in the fall, we will give some to her parents. She will see and taste the harvest.

For the little girl, it was her first experience planting potatoes. It may have been her first experience planting anything. Her parents do not have a garden. I wonder, how many modern children in America grow up having never planted a potato, having never seen and tasted the fruit of their efforts, having never participated in the amazing story. Way too many, I suspect. And that is a pity.

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I must admit that four-year-old girls were once something like aliens to me. When the little girl in this story first came to our home, she was shy and reticent around me. I wondered if she was old enough to talk. She soon realized that I was not an ogre. By the time her last day at our house came, she was not only carrying on conversations with me, it didn’t seem like she would ever stop talking. It was a cute thing. It was a delight.

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Lord willing, my children and their wives will, in their time, be less selfish and more fruitful than I. Lord willing, I’ll live long enough to see a good mix of grandsons and granddaughters. Lord willing, I’ll have a healthy body and sound mind and be able to share my life with them, to listen to them, to create lasting memories with them, memories like, maybe, planting potatoes, and then going to the house for one of Grandma’s fruit smoovies.

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CLICK HERE to read the follow-up story to this one: Digging Potatoes With a Little Girl


Introducing
My Homemade
Automatic Compost Sifter

Dateline: 20 June 2007


"It is not absolutely necessary to sift finished compost, but there is nothing so pleasing to the sensibilities of an organic gardener as a soft, homogenous mix of well-rotted vegetation. Sometimes referred to as humus, it is the glorious crowning achievement of all who compost."

That quotation is from my book, The Complete Guide to Making Great Garlic Powder, which was published back in 2003. With sifted compost in mind, I further wrote:

"I have sifted compost manually by shaking a screen-bottomed box over my wheelbarrow. In fact, I’ve probably sifted many tons of compost this way. I can tell you it’s a healthful exercise, particularly for the arms, shoulders and chest muscles. But if your garden gets very big, and your compost piles get to be the size of Volkswagen Beetles, and you need to get the job done fast, you’re going to need some help. Don’t even think about trying to convince your wife and kids that they will benefit from the exercise. It doesn’t work.

The Herculean task of hand-sifting massive quantities of compost inspired me to develop my own mechanical (motorized!) compost-screening machine. It is a continuous-feed barrel design. You shovel the compost in one end, sifted matter falls out the bottom, and all the unsiftables (rocks, sticks, missing spoons from the kitchen, and whatnot) exit the other end. This device is easy to build and fairly inexpensive. I plan to publish the plans one day soon."


Well, I never did publish those plans. But I may yet. The sifter sure does work exceptionally well. I just have to spend some time streamlining the design.

Since 2003 I have continued to use my cobbled-together prototype sifter. In this blog entry I’m going to provide you with some photos of the prototype and an explanation of how it works.


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The above photo was taken by me while standing atop this year’s compost pile (which will decompose down and be sifted next spring). You can clearly see the sifter and my son, Robert, shoveling sifted compost into my homemade Whizbang Garden Cart.

The sifter consists of a modified 55-gallon metal drum. The ends are cut out of the drum and sections of the sides have been removed. 1/4" hardware cloth has been fastened to the inside perimeter of the drum. The sifting drum rests on a stand. What you can’t see in the picture is that the drum is resting on four inline skate wheels. To make the drum spin, there is an electric motor underneath. A long V-belt runs from a pulley on the motor up over the top of the drum. The weight of the motor keeps tension on the belt. So when I turn the motor on, the barrel spins.

The motor spins at 1725 rpm, which is way too fast for the barrel to spin. I know this because I tried it. So the speed is reduced with a jackshaft and pulley arrangement. It now spins at 40rpm, which seems to be just right. If I ever refine this design into a Whizbang Compost Sifter, I willleave out the jackshaft and pulleys and just utilize a 40rpm gearmotor. It will make everything so much easier.

To use the sifter, it is turned on and shovels full of “raw” compost are tossed into one end of the barrel, as shown in this next picture:


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Note the compost pile in the background. It has rotted down very nicely and weeds are growing on the top. The weeds are no problem. The sifter separates them, as you can see in this next photo:


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The sifter barrel is slightly angled so the unsiftables migrate out the opposite end. Weeds, stones, sticks, pieces of plastic, paring knives, little army men; it’s amazing what finds its way into our compost pile, and out the end of the compost sifter.


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Sifted compost falls down under the screened drum onto an angled piece of plywood. I place a tarp on the ground and the compost flows down onto the tarp. It’s a joy to behold.


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The beautiful sifted compost is shoveled into my large-capacity, easy-to-wheel, incredibly useful, homemade Whizbang Garden Cart. From there I use the rich organic fertilizer to grow food for my family. I also use the compost when I plant my yearly crop of stiffneck garlic.

I hope you have been inspired by my homemade compost sifter. You now have the general idea and if you’re handy, you can go ahead and make your own nifty sifter. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until I get the plans together.



"AgrarianChristian" at Yahoo Groups

There is a new discussion group at Yahoo that may be of interest to many of you who read this blog:

AgrarianChristian


Oh, The Joy of Lavender

Dateline: 16 June 2007



Lavender is, to me one of the most pleasing of botanical fragrances. Both the leaves and the flowers are an aromatic delight.

Perhaps this herb appeals to me because of its calming and relaxing effect. Many evenings, before I go to bed, I rub a couple drops of lavender essential oil into the soles of my feet. I do this because I was told it would help me have a deeper and more relaxing sleep, and it usually does. Distilled herbal oils are powerful substances.

I used to think that lavender was a plant that grew only in far away places, like France. But I discovered that it will grow in my upstate New York climate. Winters here can be hard on lavender. Sometimes a plant will die from the cold. But if it survives the winter, lavender will do very well in the growing season.

I bought my first lavender plant, a bare root cutting, from an Ebay seller for a couple dollars. I’ve since bought other varieties of lavendula from local nurseries. Last year, I tried rooting some cuttings and had some success with that.

Lavender leaves and flowers can be cut, dried, and sewed into small "dream pillows." Dream Pillows are around six inches square. You slip one inside your pillowcase. Other herbs, like hops, are particularly effective inside a relaxing and sleep-enhancing dream pillow.

The long, delicate flower stems of lavender can be snipped off the plants, tied into small bunches and hung in your home for a fragrant decoration. I once made several fresh lavender flower bundles and Marlene sold them at the farmer's market.

I really dislike non-functional clutter (i.e., knickknacks) in my home. But objects from nature, like a bundle of lavender flowers, are different. Such things are special because they are actual examples of God’s beautiful creation. All the natural world around us testifies to the glory of God. When we bring portions of nature into our home they serve as reminders of the greatness of the Lord.

Now I am going to share with you a little secret I have discovered for enjoying fresh lavender. I developed this idea while working in my garden. Working in the garden can sometimes be especially inspiring, as you are about to see.

As I often do, I picked a sprig of green lavender leaves, rolled them lightly between my fingers to crush them and release more of the fresh fragrance. I held the leaves close to my nose, savoring the rich lavender essence. Then came the great idea...

Why not stuff the fresh lavender greens in my nose? That way, I could work in the garden while continuing to breathe in and enjoy the lavender fragrance. Why not, indeed. So I lightly packed both nostrils with lavender greens, thus creating a very effective natural lavender inhaler.

This idea worked so well that when my wife, Marlene, and son, James, came out a little later to see me in the garden, I excitedly told them of my new discovery. I demonstrated the special technique. To my disappointment,Marlene frowned and said, "You’re weird," and walked away.

I called after her, encouraging her to gently cram some fresh lavender greens into her nose too, but she refused. James, however, took to the idea and packed both his nostrils with lavender leaves. Upon seeing the sight of my son,a chip off the proverbial block, with lavender up his nose, I said, “Hey, hold on while I get my camera. I’ll blog about this!”

James was reluctant to have a picture of himself with lavender in his nose posted to the internet, where everyone in the world could see it. I offered him a dollar for a picture. But he held out for two. He’s a good sport but he drives a hard bargain.

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When I told Marlene later that I was going to blog about my lavender inhaler idea, she said, "Don’t do that. That’s stupid."

Well, I beg to differ.

But, alas, so many great nonconformist innovators throughout history have been discouraged and ridiculed by those who saw their ideas as stupid. The truth is, as they say, "in the pudding." Or, in this case, in the nose.

Try it sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

It Has Been Some Time….

...since this deliberate agrarian last blogged. And it’s about time I checked in. All is well here and I hope the same is true where you are. We have been busy, busy on various fronts.

My oldest son, Herrick the Third, who we call Chaz has now graduated from high school and is working full time this summer on the local rat farm. It’s actually more of a rat factory than a farm. Thousands of white rats (and mice) are shipped out each week to zoos and labs and anywhere else that needs the little critters. Some are alive. Some are dead and frozen. You can get rats any way you want them.

My 16-year-old son, Robert (who just got his driving permit), has been working hard for local farmers (not rat farmers) picking rocks out of fields, raking hay, and helping unload bale-laden wagons into the barn.

Some of you may recall that Robert has a mail order business selling rubber chicken plucker fingers. Thus far, he has sold almost 10,000 fingers, and we are all amazed at that! The experience has been good for him. It is an educational introduction to having a small business.

My 12-year-old son, James, has been picking rocks and hauling hay bales right along with his older brother. He is also gearing up for selling baked goods at the farmer’s market with his mother on Thursday afternoons through the summer. As in previous years, James will make and sell cookies and quick breads (zucchini, bananna, etc.). He is anticipating a good year. Today happens to have been the first market day of the season.

The Lovely Marlene has been busy making hundreds of bars of her handcrafted soaps to sell. And she is again selling her wholesome homemade breads at the market. She sells cinnamon rolls too and she has something of a following. This year she is going to see how her homemade granola sells at the market.

When farm market season comes, I install an additional oven in the house for Marlene and James. They start baking on Wednesday and things in the kitchen are pretty hectic right up until Thursday afternoon when they pack up and head off to the market.

Me? Well, as Ed Snodderly sings in his "Brier Visions" CD, I’m still “working in the new mine,” which is to say I continue to work my state/factory job. But at the same time I continue to work at least another 40 hours a week at my home business, Whizbang Books. I am, Lord willing, building a small business that will one day help me to break free of the wage slave shackles I find myself in. The business is being blessed with a greater measure of success, due largely to the recent increase in chicken plucker parts sales. I’m thankful and encouraged by it all.

Old Horseshoes
My rock pickin’ sons have, in the course of their field work this year, found three old horseshoes. The rusted relics are reminders of those days, not so long ago, when the countryside was chock full of small family farms. Those were the days when farmers were not dependent on seed companies and fertilizer companies and big fuel-guzzling tractors. Those were the days before the whole economy of our nation became dependent, as it is now, on the free flow of cheap fossil fuels.

Gut-Shot Industrial Age?
Those fossil fuels are no longer cheap, are they? The oil that once flowed freely is now threatened by the specter of Peak Oil. Again, I am reminded of an Ed Snodderly song where he uses the phrase, “Bubbles of blood in the mouth of a gut-shot deer.”

Those high gas prices we are paying these days are, like bubbles of blood in the mouth of a gut-shot deer, evidence of a very grave situation.

Don’t You Hate It When That Happens?
Last month I took my old 4-wheel-drive Ford Explorer to my neighbor Ron, who has a rural home business as an auto and truck and tractor mechanic. I trust Ron to do good work at a fair price and he does. I told him of the many problems with my vehicle and asked if he thought I could get another six months out of it.

Ron checked the vehicle out and called me the next day…

“Were you thinking of trading this vehicle in sometime?” he asked.

“The thought crossed my mind,” I replied.

“Good. Do it!” he exclaimed.

I chuckled and he added, “I’m serious. You’ve got a blown head gasket and transmission problems. You should trade this thing in fast. Like next week.”

He later told me that if I really, really liked the vehicle, I could fix the engine and get a new transmission, and do a bunch of other expensive repairs.

So I Got Rid Of It
When I went to trade it in two days later, the car salesman asked me if there was anything wrong with the vehicle. I said, “Yes, everything is wrong with it.” He laughed. So did I. When he asked me how much I wanted to get for the trade-in, I said, “I harbor no illusions. Make me an offer.” They offered me $1,000. I accepted it.

Little Red
We called that gas-hog-piece-of-junk Ford Explorer “Big Red.” Our other automobile is Little Red.” It’s an older Nissan Sentra with 170,000 miles on it. Little Red has no mechanical problems (except that it has no 5th gear but 4th does the job good enough), sips gas, and cost me all of $600. I’ve had Little Red about a year now and it was the first foreign car I ever bought.

So, do you think I bought another big American SUV to replace Big red?

No way. I was thinking ”bubbles of blood in the mouth of a gut-shot deer” when I traded Big red in on a fuel efficient Honda Accord. We call it "Blue."

Tonic/Adrenal Update
I wrote awhile back about my adrenal fatigue and the distasteful herb tonic Marlene got for me. Now she has me taking a couple of additional drinks. I combine five tablespoons of the vile dark liquids in a shot glass and chug it down every morning. I can take almost all of it in one very big gulp.

I think the stuff is actually doing me some good. I feel much less run-down. And am getting more things done.

My Next Piece of Yeoman Furniture
Speaking of getting more things done, last fall I made a deal with Marlene. Let me focus on my book project (Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart) until it’s done and then I’ll focus on remodeling your bedroom until it’s done.

So when my book was done a few weeks ago, I took a week off from my day job to completely redo the bedroom. Now that it’s done, and Marlene is very pleased, I am thinking of making two bedside stands. They will be another Yeoman Furniture project.

While I was thinking about how I would make these stands and the features I wanted them to have, a unique and, I dare say, brilliant idea came into my mind. It may have been Divine inspiration. Fact is, I’m sure it was. How does this sound to you?....

A bedside table designed to hold a shotgun.

Can you feature it? I think I can and hope to make it before the year is out. Marlene has told me she does not want a shotgun holder built into her bedside stand. No problem. I told her I could make it with a nifty handgun holder. She didn’t like that idea either. So her bedside stand will match mine, except that it won’t accommodate any firearms.


Are you still reading this? My, but I can ramble, can’t I? I have more to share with you in the days ahead. Y’all come back now.

My New Book Is Finally In Print

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I like writing and illustrating and producing my own books. But the best part of writing a book is getting it done!

The above book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart is the culmination of three years of garden cart development and real-world testing on my homestead, followed by several months of focused book-production work. The book is a simple, complete, step-by-step, how-to manual. It has 45 pages and 75 illustrations.

Many of you have purchased a pre-publication copy of this book. I want you to know that I will be mailing your books to you tomorrow. Thank you to everyone! I appreciate your trust in me and your interest in this project. And I hope you will be inspired to build your own Whizbang Garden Carts!

If you have not been over to the Whizbang Garden Cart Blog lately, I have posted several new stories:

Twelve Turkeys in a Whizbang Garden Cart

Add Plywood For A Great Outdoor Work Surface

How Long Does It Take To Build A Whizbang Garden Cart?

How Much Does It Cost To Build A Whizbang Cart?

Here Are The Cart’s Dimensions

All About The Whizbang Cart Tires

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If you would like to learn more about the Whizbang Garden Cart and purchase a copy of the book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Garden Cart, CLICK HERE.

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P.S. I hope to get back to blogging here once again very soon.......