Monday, January 31, 2011

Found Wood Projects

The following projects were completed with wood given to me from my brother Roland. If I remember correctly, some of it was salvaged by him from a small building his church had torn down and then given to me on one of our trips to NWA to visit. Abby mentioned that "Uncle Boyd needs to come up more often so daddy can get rid of more junk." Thanks Roland!

Cold Frame for our parsley, dill, and leeks

 manger and stall walls

 Pig shelter

 Compost Bin

Milking Stand and stall walls

Boyd's Big List of Famous Irish

13 Pictures of Famous Irish People. Can you name them all? Here are a few hints to help you along. One picture is a four banger. One Picture is an Irishman playing a Scotsman that appears on the Boyd's Big List of Famous Scots. One Irishman is a SAINT, one Irishman is a "saint". One Irishman has been known to get Moody. The Irishman playing the Scotsman also played one of the other Irishman pictured below. One Irishman, if you have trouble, is in two of the pictures. I know you love me. I love you too.

Boyd's Big List of Famous Scots

18 Pictures of Famous Scots. Can you name them all? Here's a few hints. One picture is a two-fer. One Scot is listed twice. One picture shows an Irishman playing the Scot. One Scot is not NOT Mel Gibson. And the older the picture, the more they WROTE.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Atkins is Dead - Eat More Bread

Slow sales week this week- Only about half the orders we normally get. But even that has something of a blessing in it. Patt was able to get out and work with me on some of our farm stuff and the packing and labelling of our sales items - which would take us in a rush, right up to delivery time on Friday - is already done at 8:00 AM this morning. I had time to do some writing and Patt was able to sleep in a little.

One of the big challenges we are facing in our new life is convincing people to actually think about what they are eating. One would not think that food, a primal necessity for the survival of our species, would be an afterthought. Fast Food has made "convenience" insipid and now we do not have to think about the next meal because, given enough cash, we can have meals prepared for us, delivered or picked up at a moment's notice. We don't have to think about what we are going to eat because it is right there for us on a menu and in a styrofoam box. (We are guilty of this some weeks. Rushed to get the food ready to sell and living in the midst of nutritional abundance, we fall to the temptation of getting catfish or barbecue from town.)

One of our customers loves our bread but does not buy it because he is on a no-carb diet. My efforts to persuade him that good healthy carbs, in moderation, say, like one loaf of whole grain bread a week is much better than no carbs at all, have to this point, failed. Even though Atkins died from a disease his diet was supposedly designed to prevent, this customer has bought into a philosophy, he is comfortable with it, though it does not work in real life, and he continues to try to live this unnatural lifestyle. In essence, he has found a place where he does not have to "think about what he eats".

Several of our customers at a local hospital, place orders for our bi-weekly delivery, but frequently do not show up to get their food because something happens at work or they have an appointment they forgot about. I then have to try to track them down or re-sell their items. In cases like this we rely on impulse buying. When people see Patt's beautiful 7 Grain bread they can't resist paying us for it. It gets a sale done but it is antithetical to the Slow Food philosophy. The customers that did not come for their food show us where "food" lies on their list for the day. The customers that buy on a whim are a little better because they are actually increasing our income, but still they are not thinking about their food and what they are going to eat, they just see good food and shell out the money.

One customer buys whenever he gets the chance but because his family doesn't eat the same things he does, he only buys half order size, which we accomodate because half the income is better than no income. So once a week he buys 4 scones (they come 8 to a bag), 3 turnips (they come 10 to a bunch), and a dozen eggs. But still, we do the same amount of work, drive the same amount of miles to deliver, but only bring in half of our projected earnings. This customer is trying to think about what he eats but is victim to his family not thinking about it. Or thinking that they won't like it because it is to natural, or "too farm-y". (The Dirty Life - by Kristin Kimball)

One seller, that we have some how come into competition with (that was not our choice - it was his), saw that his sales were dropping on kale, collard, and turnip greens. He decided to double the amount in his package and halve the price, without improving the quality of the product or adding some value to the product. He now sells greens, stem and all, for $4.00 a pound. Why did he do this? Well, in our effort to improve our sales we decided to wash, destem, and chop our greens and sell them for $4.00 per half pound. Now our high quality greens have added value and we were charging two times what this fella was. But now, because he doesn't know how the "free market" is supposed to work (quality increases, prices go down only when demand decreases and every one has a reasonable share of the pie) I now work twice as hard for half the pay. He did it because he could not (or would not) compete with a higher quality product. Instead of doing what it took to improve the quality of the product, he slashed the price and added more quantity. I am sorry to say that he used the Wal-Mart method to improve sales. But still, the entirety of the blame should not fall to him.

People have grown accustomed to shopping prices rather than quality in their food because "food" (I use the word to describe the stuff many of us eat regardless of nutritional value) is so readily available and is pretty much all the same. A January Tomato is the same at Fresh Market as it is at Wal-Mart or Kroger. What happened in the case of the Greens is we lost some sales initially because customers saw more quantity for less price and assumed it was good. Now when that happened, I am still working twice as hard for half the pay, but now my sales suffered because of a perceived value from the other guy.

What was our strategy at this point? Cut our quantity? Reduce the time it takes us to destem and chop the greens? Add more stems? No. We decided to wait it out, keep our product at its highest quality and regain the sales. It worked. We had to get people thinking about their food. Once our customers saw that they were getting a higher quality product, about the same amount of useable product (all greens no stems), that there was little to no waste they had to deal with (all greens no stems) and they had an eatable, cookable product right out of the package, our price did not seem so bad afterall.

I'll finish with this. Why is local, slow food better for the world? If the marketing of such is handled properly, the farmer gets paid what his time and effort, the use of the land, and all the other overhead expenses he incurs are really worth to him. The customer gets nutrient dense food, bought and sold in a real, cost justifiable economy, grown in the same ground on which he lives, from people he can get to know and trust. Grocery store food has been kept at artificially low prices, quality and nutrition are sacrificed, and convenience is king. For every leaf of greens our customers purchase, not only do they get the nutrition from the greens, they get a shovel-full of composted manure, every strained back muscle involved in tilling, planting, and harvesting, they get every minute of prep time in cleaning, packaging, and labelling, the get an infinite amount of love, philosophy, nurture, that goes into providing this slow local food. They, in essence, buy into an ancient life of renewal, decay, and rebirth. Buying local food, from people they know, they become connected to an ancestral way of living - they become connected to life itself...check the link below for a group of old-school farmers practicing the ancient art of living.

Conway Locally Grown

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Defense of Sarah Palin

I am treading on thin water here. Please do not tell my wife about this post.
I am married to a super intelligent, beautiful, passionate woman, prone to jealousy, passionate in her beliefs, and  genuinely good and kind person though rarely able to mask her reactions in either her facial expressions, body language, or words. Indeed, when upset, her temper remakes the warp and woof of the universe. A ripple in time is caused; something, one can tell, is just not right.

"Time is out of joint. Oh, cursed spite, that I was born to put it right."

So I take a great risk in writing the next few sentences. You may never hear from me again.

I do not hate Sarah Palin. The opinions or emotions I might have concerning the former governor of Alaska and present fame-hound look and feel more like pity than hatred.

Ms. Palin is not intelligent it seems. She is in no way within 100 miles of the intelligence required to hold public office. I don't think anyone can "refudiate" that. And if someone, like Ms. Palin, excuse her making up of words, one would have to wonder at, and be concerned with, what she may "make up" if something were to go wrong, in say, a war in which she was commander and chief -or what she would make up in order to start a war with our "allies the North Koreans".

But Ms. Palin does have at least one redeeming quality. Keep in mind that I am a little old fashioned, feel that I have been born in the wrong century (or millenium some would say), and that I am a bit of a romantic. That quality? She is a woman who looks like a woman. In fact, if I were to vote for a woman for President (hypothetically speaking here) and had a choice between Sarah Palin and Blanche Lincoln, I would vote for Sarah Palin. This is simply because, in spite of her lack of intelligence, fame-mongering, confustication of the issues, lack of experience, and otherwise, air-headedness, she breaks the mold of the protypical female official. I am tired and distrustful of the bobbed-chicken-backside hair style, man-suit wearing, severe foundation-of-plaster face, frown-wrinkled, hate-filled, venom spewing, crow-footed, un-endowed, I-want-to-be-a-man-in-a-man's-world, goose-stepping, unfeminine, man/woman we've been given in the last couple of decades and the clones that have followed them. For example, in the great state of Arkansas we had until recently (in spite of the benefits of her powerful position on the Agriculture Committee in Washington DC) Blanche Lincoln following closely on the former Arkansan, then New Yorker, and current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton who followed in a direct line, the first woman to ever run for Vice-President, Geraldin Ferraro. All three clones of the mannish-mould. I think women sell themselves short when they think the only way they can compete with men is to become like one.
I agree with C.S. Lewis' opinion that it has become a sad state in our society when women refuse to be the wonderful creatures they are and decide to become like men. Again, we men have a big part to play in this state of affairs. Sarah Palin, her great many faults are a disappointment, but she is unapolgetic about her femininity. And if we set all other issues, character, qualifications, intelligence, experience, and talent aside, she would have my vote. For no other reason than, to paraphrase Michelin Flynn in The Quiet Man "When I vote for a woman, I vote for a woman, when I vote for a man, I vote for a man."

Now pray for me as you read this...I may already be dead...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Wisdom of Perelandra (or Having It All Over Again)

Is Life like a circle? Or is Life like a line? Or is Life a series of looping, sometimes concentrice circles traveling in a line?

Perhaps to answer this question we have to ask another...What should Life be?

Or perhaps the Individual life - yours and mine separately- should be divided from the corporate Life of Humanity. One can make an argument fairly easily I think that the Life of Humanity is a Large set of circles traveling along a Large Black Circumference of a Large Circle while the Individual Life is a smaller set of smaller circles traveling along a smaller line. That is, this is how it seems. Perhaps this is the central, or one of the central, questions religion attempts to answer. When confronted with the question "Where am I going?" one has to look at what really is. The evidence is all around and through this life we lead - we but have to look and accept things as they are. Let's explore this a little more.

Have you ever eaten at a new restaurant and come away thinking that you had experienced the best service, the most enticing of atmospheres, the best tastes and combinations of tastes? I can think of one such instance in my life. Patt and I were in Baltimore for one of my business trips BQW (Before Quitting Work). Cinghiale's ( is an establishment along the Inner Harbor of Baltimore featuring a dinner menu comprised of all local ingredients. In fact, many of the ingredients are purchased from the Farmer's Market that sets up just down the street. Just order dinner and see what comes. The menu for dinner is set in advance and is based on what is available at the market during the season. It was one of the most memorable dining experiences we've had. Now this may seem odd, but I can't remember what we had. But the memory is the most important thing, the memory of desire being filled, the memory of absolute satisfaction; the memory that we may never experience that again.

Of course,given enough money and time, we could fly to Baltimore for the express purpose of eating a Cinghiale's again. But something inside me says that it would not quite be the same. We would not experience the surprise of the set menu for dinner; we would not be impressed in the same way as we were at first, by the mostly local ingredients, we would not be as pleased with the courteous and knowledgeable service, or the excellent wine (chosen for us and perfectly paired with the meal). We would not be quite so awestruck of the view of the harbor out of the front windows. Though the desire to have that experience again would still be there; I am sure it would fall short-even if everything was enjoyable and the food excellent.

It is like this in every aspect of our life. The first full-double rainbow one sees becomes common place after the third. The smell of a crisp Autumn morning would be dull and perhaps even loathsome if it were Autumn all year long. This is a curse. The need for we humans to "have it over again"; our insistence that we are going to live this life in a circle; that we, as in the words of C.S. Lewis in Perelandra,

"(go) into a forest to pick food, the thought of the one good fruit you desire is always before your mind. Then it may be, one finds a different fruit than the one first thought of. One joy was expected but another is given. But still the desire for the unfound fruit remains and if one could he would keep it there. You could send your soul after the good one had expected rather than the good one had got. One could refuse the real good and make the real fruit insipid by thinking of the other. Chapter 5.

Lewis, is here, explaining the concept of the circular life. He suggests that our efforts to constantly have pleasant experiences over again is living in a circle or series of circles. He further suggests that life should be lived in a line. Value each positive (and perhaps negative) experience as a step along the line and instead of focusing one's desires on repeating yesterday's joy at whatever the cost, focus one's desires on the next joy to come.

In Perelandra, Lewis postulates that this kind of living is like an audience asking for an encore performance of a symphony one as just heard. The second would not live up to the first. Our desire to "have it over again" gets expensive. Listen to this wisdom. All things are connected. One can not separate money or things, from the rest of life. How much do we spend (of time, money, things) just to repeat pleasures over and over again; pleasures which no longer quite satisfy?

"Money then, perhaps, provides the means of saying encore in a voice that can not be ignored." - Perelandra CH 4

He goes on to say further, "This itch to have things over again, as if life were a film that could be unrolled twice or even made to run backwards. Money (perhaps) is a defence against chance, a security for being able to have things over again; a means of arresting the unrolling of the film" Perelandra CH4

I am convinced, though I do not always live like it, that life is a line and past pleasures and pains are past and can do me no good beyond shaping my next step or providing pleasurable memories. I am convinced that life is a line and the next joy or the next heartbreak is going to be better than any that I would ever try to relive.

In Perelandra, Ransom the main character in Lewis's Space Trilogy, finds himself on an as yet unspoiled planet. He meets there a queen and a king and finds an innocence, a joy, a serious joy, that his own planet has lost. They are still living in a line and each new experience brings a new joy greater than the last. Ransom becomes hungry and goes looking for fruit. He finds berry bushes and bravely tastes a berry from one. It is not bad. In fact it offers a strangely satisfying feeling that he could not explain as "joyous" just satisfying. He eats another and another off of this bush that he has found. His last berry, though is different. It is filled with a red kernel that when eaten gives him such a feeling of elation that he desperately wants another. Something inside him tells him no. He then states that if these berries were on earth, mankind would breed out the satisfying qualities and only propogate the ones with the ecstasy inducing red kernels and then charge more for them. That is the difference. On earth, man would attempt to fit the Life of the Line into one of its circles...Ransom realized the choice he had and the outcome of the possible decision. He could destroy the entire crop of berries in an effort to find the red kernelled ones and thus "have it all over again" or he could accept that joy he felt upon eating a red-kernelled berry and wait expectantly for the next new joy to come.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easier Said than Done

I can honestly say that wanting a kilt...and then actually buying one is a lot easier than actually wearing it out in public.

Eventhough I look the part (the picture of Nordic manliness as my oldest son would say) I was not prepared for the giggles. Oddly enough, the giggles came mostly from my own family.
My first venture into public was into Little Rock to watch a movie. No giggles or ridicule then. Though I did notice slyly cast glances from many women and a few men. The next day I wore into the feed store to get our monthly stock of animal feed. The fella that loaded the truck for me asked, "Is that kilt?" " Yes" says I. "Cool" says he, "can I touch it?" "Sure" says I as I modestly lifted the pleated hem. He reached out and rubbed it between his fingers and then proceeded to inform me of his own family's history. The name Burns and his grandfather's research into their family line.
Then I went to Farmington to visist my wonderful brother and sister-in-law and their two daughters - my always loving and polite nieces.
"Why you wearin' a dress?" "You got underwear on under that thing?" " You should've known that you couldn't wear a dress up here without me saying something?"
"I know, I know. So go ahead and get it out of your system...."
The kilt is very liberating - lots of ventilation and men throughout the ages have opted for the non-bifurcated dress of the kilt or like garment. I can say that my children thought it was okay, at least they didn't laugh at me. As long as my boys are happy. I am happy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Culture of Switches

I noticed in my reading since retiring from the rat-race that no one ever has to turn anything on or off. Other than saddling a horse or hitching it to a carriage; or lighting or extinguishing a candle, their days are free from flipping switches. Of course most of my reading is 18th century or earlier not because I am some kind of genius but because I find modern literature detestable with all of its graphic descriptions of bladders and bowels voiding, mucous, and other bodily fluids. I am also turned off by the abrupt stilted language which tends to be little more than Subject-verb and the subject-verb - "Bill did this" and then "Bill did that". I blame Ray Bradbury for the popularization of this style of action based writing. I enjoy the 3 page paragraphs, the colorful language, the inner-thoughts of the characters, and the use of semi-colon. I could probably trace the decline of our civilazation to the all too infrequent use of the semi-colon; but I digress. (See? Semi-colon!)

I began thinking back to my typical day BQW (before quitting work) once I realized that not only did I not need to know when, how, or where D'Artagnan urinated; but that he never had to spend time away from horseback riding, sword fighting, or Damsel-in-Distress saving, to turn anything on or off before he started on his adventures.

Here's a typical day BQW: (notice the use of two semi-colons and one colon in this post)

PM - turn on the alarm clock.

AM - turn on the SNOOZE (this can be done multiple times especially since I was able to calculate how many times I could take a 9 minute snooze before I really had to get up to go to the office)

Turn off the alarm clock, turn on the bathroom light, turn on the razor, turn on the water, turn off the water, flush (turn on) the toilet. Turn on the shower. Turn off the shower. Turn off the bathroom light. Turn on the toaster, turn on the refridgerator light, turn on the car, turn on the radio, turn on the beeper, turn on the blackberry, turn on the cell phone, turn on several left and right turn signals, turn on the headlights, turn on the gate to the parking deck, turn on the door locks and alarm, turn on the automatic doors with my ID card, turn on the elevator, select which floor. Turn on the light to my office, turn on my computer, turn on all the applications I would use that day, turn on the radio. turn on and off any number of machines, meeting room lights, projectors, laptops, windowshades, etc. Then in reverse order turn on or off just about everything I had operated that morning till the last thing - turn on the alarm.

When did I have time to do anything really productive? Was all of that turning on and off really necessary?

Our culture has become one that is incapable of functioning without the use of switches, valves, handles, and buttons. In a sense we have become a slave to our machines and gadgets. I realize as I am writing this that I had to turn on any number of things to make this blog happen. In fact I am also listening to the football playoffs as I am typing this and I am listening on my MP3 player which I had to turn on before I could use it.

In many aspects of our new life we have eliminated a great number of the machines we use. We make coffee in a French Press, I till my garden with a shovel, and starting January 9th - with the exception of using this PC to update the farm blog, I will be writing letters should I need to communicate with anyone. That should slow things down a bit!

I invite you to join me on January 9th (National Letter Writing Day) to do your best to write a letter to someone - anyone. And to mark the inaugural "Don't Flip a Switch" Day. Try not to turn any thing on or off the whole day and see how you do. Even if we can't make it the whole day, perhaps you'll notice, as I have done, how much time you spend flipping the switches of our masters - the machine.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Legend of The Big Black Hog

The farm finally has hogs on it again. I missed them terribly. Not only do they become pets in a sense but they do alot of work for us (grazing, left-over disposal, compost turning, and garde plot tilling). We bought these two from some internet friends from up around Bentonville and now they are snug in a pen in our barn; a pen we fashioned out of an unused hay-ring.
There is an interesting story behind this particular breed of hog called the Big Black (sows can get up to 800 pounds).
In June of 1859, 13 years after America and Britain signed the Oregon Treaty, Charles Griffin an Irishman under the crown of Great Britain in the Canada terrirtories let his Big Black Hogs run open and graze freely. His hog got into the garden of an American, Lyman Cutler, and destroyed his garden. When Cutler confronted Griffin about this stating, "it's up to you to keep your hog out of my garden!" , Griffin replied in true Irish form, "Well I think it's up to you to keep your garden out of my hog!" Cutler shot the hog.
Cutler appealed to the local American magistrates after Griffin demanded at least $100 for the hog and had reported the incident to the British government. Shortly thereafter, there was a stand off between the two countries, armies, and the farmers. 66 American troops from the 9th infantry were mobilized to protect Cutler's interest in the affair. Britain called forth 3 war ships and dispatched marines to protect Griffin's. After several days of each army hurling insults at each other, cooler heads prevailed. British Rear Admiral Robert Baynes declared that two great nations fighting a war over a pig would be foolish and invoke the ridicule of the entire world. Both armies stood down with orders to protect themselves but under no circumstance should they fire the first shot. The mini-war, called The Battle of the Big Black Pig, ended without a shot being fired. The only casualty was the unfortunate pig.
The incident resulted in President James Buchanan dispatching a general to negotiate peace terms with the British government of the British territory of Vancouver and specifically San Juan Island. Buchanan had more important things to attend to what with sectional disputes throughout his country (Bloody Kansas, etc) and the advent of the soon to come American Civil War. An armistice was agreed to. I have not found any information on what happened with the two farmers or the hog.